Today, I received an e-mail from noted cinema enthusiast and pundit Bill Dever celebrating the 125th anniversary of film exhibition this week. Dever writes "This week marks the 125th anniversary of moviegoing. In 1894, in Paris, French industrialist Antoine Lumière discovers Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope, a precursor to what we would think of as a peepshow decides that the future of this medium requires a form of projection on a big screen. Antoine's sons Louis and Auguste removed the strip of film from Edison's invention and devised the machine to project the film strip. They call their invention a cinematographe, which means "writing the movement" in Greek. This was a device that could both be used as a camera and projector.
"On Dec. 28, the Lumiere's invited an audience to the Salon Indien du Grand Café in Paris. They charged for admission and there were only 33 people in attendance the first night. The word of mouth around the screening was huge and crowds hastened to the Grand Café in order to witness the miracle of "le cinematographe". The screening featured ten minute long movies, one right after the other. The Lumiere's would go on to produce over 1500 such movies. Georges Méliès, the innovative magician who would create the first science fiction and fantasy movies was in attendance.
"It was in Paris, in December 1894 that cinema was born. The invention of cinema is not just due to the imagination and efforts of the Lumieres. Cinema has many fathers (and mothers) including, Etienne-Jules Marey, Eadweard Muybridge, Emile Raynaud, and grudgingly Thomas Edison.
"This event began our passion for and our need for a cinematic tradition in our culture. It is a need that still exists today."
In honor of this today's Rialto Recommends is Martin Scorscese's 2011 film HUGO which though it is set in Paris in 1931 is a valentine to George Méliès and the magic of cinema. Orphaned and alone except for an uncle, Hugo Cabret lives in the walls of a train station in 1930s Paris. Hugo's job is to oil and maintain the station's clocks, but to him, his more important task is to protect a broken automaton and notebook left to him by his late father. Accompanied by the goddaughter of an embittered toy merchant, Hugo embarks on a quest to solve the mystery of the automaton and find a place he can call home. HUGO is an extravagant, elegant fantasy with an innocence lacking in many modern kids' movies, and one that emanates an unabashed love for the magic of cinema. The Washington Post raved "If ever the movie gods were to smile on an adaptation, it would be Scorsese's take on Selznick's bestselling book, a valentine to the cinematic artists whose work the filmmaker has toiled so tirelessly to champion and preserve." The New York Times said "It's serious, beautiful, wise to the absurdity of life and in the embrace of a piercing longing." And its worth quoting the Boston Globe here as well "Yes, HUGO' is a family film and, yes, your children and your inner child stand to be enraptured, but the family Scorsese really made this for is the 100-year-old tribe of watchers in the dark." HUGO is streaming on Netflix or available to rent for a modest fee from Amazon, GooglePlay, YouTube, Vudu, Apple and others.