Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cinematheque - Museum of Cinema

One day at Musee d'Orsy. One day at the Louvre. One day at the Cinematheque. Rebecca and I told Bonnie that though it is incomprehensible that we would now choose a smaller museum, that is what we have done for the day. Rebecca, a teacher of film, and me, a student of film, and Bonnie, a cinephile … well, we wanted to go the film museum -- 58 Bercy Road, a museum out of the way and not one ranking with the museums of the two days before.

Of the day in the film museum Rebecca says, "It was like touching history. Just wonderful to see so many of those pieces alongside each other. And to get a sense of the ways that economy and war and leisure and science were all drawn together at the turn of the 20th century. It was so great watching the old film clips. I have seen most of them in books, but the pictures there don't move. We got to see the head of Mrs. Bates from Psycho protected and preserved under glass. How wild was that. I will be thinking about it for some time. I am so tired tonight, I can't even think to say one more word. But I will remember the day for a long time."

Early on our visit at the Cinematheque we used our audio guides until Bonnie found a class of English speaking students who were getting a tour from one of the English-speaking curators. At that point we gathered 3 of the folding stools and went along with the class, setting up our positions somewhere where we could see the face of the lecturer as we peered between the bodies of the students. We watch as she demoed the first of the movie projectors. We saw the Zoeytrope, the Kinetiscope wi its Niclodian film (by Thomas Edison, circa 1894), Cinematograph (by the Lumiere brothers, circa 1895) the early peep boxes. We heard her description of the Nickelodeon. The odeon was the name for a theatre. The price of seeing a show was a nickel. So there you have it -- see a show for 5 cents.

And of course the economics made total sense. Do you take money from each person and show them the show one at a time, rewinding between each showing. Or rewind your film only once, and give everyone the social experience of seeing the film together, laughing together at the same joke at the same time.

Rebecca and I thought about the movie called Hugo that we saw only a few years ago, a fictive portrayal of the early years of film making, but still such a sweet one that gave the story of film a new life for both of us.

I took The History of Film one year -- my way of entertaining myself in the cold winter months in Calgary. Now I had the bonus of wrapping up those 3 months of study by seeing all of the machines I had read about, had talked about. All of the short anecdotes about early film came back to me. Well, maybe not all, but I was overwhelmed with the knowledge coming back to me, overwhelmed with all of the little side stories I could remember. Who invited film? The Lumiere Brothers? Edison?

When one of the early film makers was ready to test his invention, he just had two guys from the office come in and dance together to see if he could make his machine do the filming he had planned, having them dance to music. So there we saw it -- the two of them awkwardly trying to dance together and then an office cleaner just walks through the room and thus, into the film, pushing his broom ahead of him, caught on celluloid . So all three of them now have their moment of fame which has turned into more than 15 minutes for each of them.

Our last act before leaving the Cinematheque, the Museum of Film, was to visit the film bookstore and library. I was running my hand over beautiful books, not so much wishing to buy them, but wishing for the time to read them. At that point an office cleaner walked out of a room, a turban on her head and she was pulling a large vacuum behind her oblivious to the rest of us. I wondered if I had returned to the early days of film. Was there some dancing going on somewhere that would catch her forever on celluloid as well?


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