Thursday, 7 June 2007

The First Documentary

In the seventh district of Lyon, close to Mon Plasir, is the Lumière Museum. Here we celebrate a technology that really changed the way we see the world. The Museum is a marvellous building, a castle-villa, filled with cameras and projectors, 360 degree panoramic photographs; and upstairs a research library. The real inspiration, however, is seeing how the Lumière brothers utterly reworked how we see cities - thanks to the "cinematograph".

Their work is about "real life"; they sit in symbiotic relationship to George Méliès fantasy: palying Stendhal to Méliès' Jules Verne. "Sortie des Usines Lumière à Lyon" (Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory) is the first ever 46 seconds of "documentary".

Connie and John don't watch television: they download what they want, and watch on their computer. The last two "documentaries" they've seen are "The Corporation", and the PBS programme, "The New Heroes: Social Entrepreneurship".

The Lumière brothers led on to the "realism" of film makers such as Robert Bresson, Jean Renoir, Maurice Pialat and - in a way - Bernard Tavernier, a fellow Lyonaise.

The museum is on the site of the Lumière's factories. Next door in what was once the warehouse is the Lumière Institute cinema: it is showing a season of Woody Allen films.

I guess he changed the way we see quirky relationships and self-centred angst-ridden issues of self-identity, so he gets his slot.

On the Gilles Peterson show he reminds listeners to send in their "Video Diaries" of the concert he played last week. Everyone is a Lumière now. I wondered what Tom would have caught on his digital camera?

Of course the Lumière Brothers are on You Tube.

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