The Beginnings of Film in France

The Lumiere brothers, Louis and Auguste, started creating their own filmed material in France following work produced by the Edison Manufacturing Company. They built the Cinematograph, a more advanced filming device that allowed for multiple viewers to watch the film on a large screen; and perhaps most notably, their film Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (1895) scared an audience that expected a train to burst from the screen.

Another Frenchman, Georges Melies, developed his own camera (a type of Kinetograph) and set up the first European film studio in 1897—one that made use of artificial lighting and retractable blinds. Melies was unique in his use of stop-action, fading and trick-photography (as special effects); his setup of narrative scenes and character development; and his themes of horror, science fiction, and fairy tale. His 1902 14-minute film A Trip to the Moon was his most popular work, presenting the iconic image of a rocket ship landing in the eye of “the man on the moon.”


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