This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

A Woman Undressing (1896)

A Woman Undressing is apparently the oldest known piece of British film erotica. Filmed in 1896 by Esmé Collings, it is almost exactly a minute of a woman undressing, although, such was the clothing style at the time, that’s still not enough time for the woman to actually get undressed.

I very much like the matryoshka element of the display, dresses under skirts under dresses, some sort of Hadean nightmare where no matter how many layers you remove you’re never any closer to getting ready for bed.

So wonder she sits down and sighs at the end. She’s probably got another fifteen slips to remove before she can leave.


1. I watched this on the BFI site as usual.

2. I was somewhat afraid to google for alternate links

3. But it turns out it was okay

4. Although the youtube version I found has the world’s worst musical accompaniment.

5. When obviously it should have been this


Film Information

Title: A Woman Undressing
Director: Esmé Collings
Year: 1896
Duration: 1 minute
Watch: BFI Player; youtube

This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

Falling Leaves (1912) / La Fee Aux Choux (1896/1900/1902)

Falling Leaves is a short drama about a woman dying from TB, and her younger sister’s determination to save her. It was directed in 1912 by Alice Guy-Blache, the pioneering French filmmaker, who was, it seems, the first person who ever thought to actually make scripted narratives (the faintly terrifying La Fee Aux Choux), rather than using cameras purely for capturing documentary footage.

The centrepiece of Falling Leaves is the wonderful scene where the ailing woman’s young sister over hears the doctor saying that she’ll be dead by the time the leaves have fallen from the tree, and so decides to try and tie the leaves to the branches, so that her sister can live on (and she does!)

Sorry, that was a spoiler.

Now, like I said, La Fee Aux Choux is thought to be the first scripted narrative on film. The original is lost, unfortunately, but Alice Guy-Blache remade it twice (in 1900 and 1902), and it’s that 1900 version that I watched here (although the youtube versions all label it as the 1896 version). The film’s only a minute long, and features a fairy plucking new born babies from the cabbages they grew in.

Anyway, it’s terrifying. It really is.



1. I watched Falling Leaves on blu-ray, as part of this excellent BFI box set.

2. But as I don’t have a blu-ray player in my laptop, the screenshots came from youtube.

3. The disc version had a really great soundtrack (by Serge Bromberg).

4. Which the youtube version sadly lacks.

5. I watched La Fee Aux Choux on youtube though.

6. In super blur o vision, unfortunately.

7. You might be able to find better quality versions out there somewhere

8. But I could not.


Film Information

Title: Falling Leaves
Director: Alice Guy-Blache
Year: 1912
Duration: 12 minutes
Watch: youtube; Internet Archive

Title: La Fee Aux Choux
Director: Alice Guy-Blache
Year: 1896/1900/1902
Duration: 1 minute
Watch: youtube