Notes on Short Film

Lengthy diatribe on brief cinematic experience.

Posts Tagged ‘Vaudeville

The Sealed Room (1909)

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D.W. Griffith, the grandfather of cinema that made one of the most controversial and racist films ever made (The Birth of a Nation), showcases a bit of his own black humor with this film. He was one of the first filmmakers that translated the idea of “connecting space” to the screen, building the concept of continuity that we now see as a necessity in believable film. This film includes examples of eyeline match, where the characters eyes look right and indicate that the next scene takes place to the right of the current scene. A tragic story like this one would have been rare in the early cinematic days, and this one is done with some of the same Vaudevillian melodrama that defined American comedies of the time.

PBS’s American Masters series says of Griffith: “Griffith’s films became part of history in the making—unleashing the power of movies as a catalyst for social change. More than anyone of the silent era, he saw film’s potential as an expressive medium, and exploited that potential.”

You can learn more about his life and work on the PBS website.

Written by Alisa Hathaway

February 21, 2011 at 7:31 pm

The Chemist (1936)

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Buster Keaton is renowned in the archive of early American cinema for daring train scenes, unbelievable gags, and the ability to go beyond what people imagined film could do. The narrative quality of The Chemist exemplifies how far film had come in just a few decades. With the inclusion of dialogue, Keaton executes an absorbing plot, holding the audience through a longer “feature” film that we may still classify as a short today. The official running time is nineteen minutes. In that short time, Keaton includes unprecedented special effects with the main character’s growing powders and explosive powders as well as the physical gags audiences of the time expected in a picture show. The chemist of the title is the classic comedic character of the clueless smart guy – the character who’s obliviousness gets him into Vaudevillian hijinks, but he’s able to outsmart a group of mobsters in the end. This film directed by Al Christie is proof positive that Keaton and his peers set the standard for thousands of films to come.

Written by Alisa Hathaway

February 13, 2011 at 10:00 pm

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