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HUMA 2740

Lecture 3

Short Lumiere Brothers Films

- Exiting a factory (1895) – Brothers set up a camera and just filmed

their employees, showing what working life is, mostly women, few
men, unique dresses
- Arrival of a train at La Ciotat (1895) – subject matter of earliest films
were about technology and industry (railroad most important form of
transportation in 19th century)
- Film is volatile – didn’t last long – these were a recreation (found
photographs in copyright archives and historians began to
- Simple and single shots, no editing
- The apparatus capable of shooting 45 seconds of film (one reel),
- Actualities (representation of the real world) – this is what early films
were called and now called documentaries
- Only when editing appeared, filmmakers realized that the film making
process could be planned – will displace non-fictional films in around
1907 (fiction films replacing non-fiction with editing)

- Early scenes short in length

- Showed life and documentaries
- With editing, filmed in segments that were put together to show
fictional films
The Great Train Robbery

- 1903 made by Edison company

- Ran for around 2 years
- Controversial in the sense that crime was shown
- Debates around censorship began – desire by government,
individuals and religious organizations to protect content
- Used to handpaint white and colour frame to make colour (no colour
film yet, not developed until 1920s and real colour technical process
in 1935)
- Lots of editing – creating a story cutting back and forth between
different scenes
Generic Hybrid—The Conspiracy Film

- Traditional American film detective was often a loner, an outsider who

used his intuition and street smarts to get the job done
- The figure of the private eye, an individual entrepreneur was often
contrasted with the publicly funded detectives of the police force who
were shown to be far less attractive
- Private eye was often an ex-cop who left the force because he
couldn’t stomach the corruption and ineptitude of the force
- 70s – this traditional detective story combined with the political thriller
genre to form a new generic hybrid, the conspiracy film
- The Manchurian Candidate (1962) – made unavailable for 25 years
as its producer and star, Frank Sinatra, withdrew it from circulation
because of the similarities between its story and the events
surrounding the assassination of US Pres Kennedy a year later
- When conspiracy film reappeared in 70s, it was radically unlike the
two genres from which it draws its conventions
- Doesn’t work to reaffirm American institutions and individual heroism
in way older detective and political films did
- In the traditional detective story, the detective is tasked with
uncovering some truth
- The quest, undertaken by a private eye or a report, is usually small
and local—the identity of a murderer, the location of a statue or an
individual, etc.
- In the end, he is usually successful
- Search for truth in an increasingly complex world becomes next to
impossible in a number of films in mid-70s – bleakest period for
American film narratives
Unlike later conspiracy films like Enemy of the State (1998) that
pushing bad individuals and affirmed American institutions, films like
The Parallax View suggested that the source of evil was the
institutions themselves
- Film appeared at a time when there was a convergence of a number
of events that led to a general mistrust of govt and business—the
political assassinations of the late 60s, Vietnam, Watergate, a
protracted economic crisis and a number of sensational corporate
- Jameson – triumph of the collective values of modern capitalism over
old style American individualism
- Generic and formal structures of film narrative can no longer contain
the traditional styles of storytelling
- The result is a crisis of the hero figure
- Only during 80s with the political and cultural triumph of conservative
ideas (especially during the Reagan Administration) that we see a
rehabilitation of the hero figure
- In The Parallax View, there is evidence of the infiltration of capitalist
values into every aspect of social life; even murder and assassination
become a service to be bought or sold
- Faceless Parallax Corporation triumphs over the rebel hero/detective
- Conspiracies don’t happen among criminal individuals or within govt
bureaucracies but are something that has been delegated to the free
- Collective power of a capitalist world system greatly over matches the
investigative powers of the hero/individual
- Only see the number of employees whose titles or positions in the
corp are unknown since the structures and workings of the Parallax
Corporation are so opaque
- Most unsettling aspect of the film is that we never find out who runs
the corp
- The conventional narrative promise of the film, to have everything
explained, is thwarted
- Everything is generic, and even the political parties and politicians
aren’t identified, suggesting there is no difference, that there is
nothing to distinguish them
- This element of facelessness of those in power is reinforced in the
cinematography of the film, particularly

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