Today I learned that the first real movie star, Florence Lawrence, committed suicide with ant poison, that the first close up in cinema featured a sick kitty, and there was some hot erotic dancing going on in the silent movies.
Of course, the history of cinema is comprised of much more than the stuff of cocktail conversations. It’s a vast collection of stories that have impacted each and every one of our lives.
THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY (2011) is a 15-part, 15-hour documentary exploring the convergence of technology, business, intelligence, and vision that has created the remarkable and powerful art of cinema.
THE STORY OF FILM is quietly narrated by its creator, film critic and historian Mark Cousins. Part I of STORY includes “The Birth of the Cinema (1900 – 1920)” and “The Hollywood Dream (1920s),” which provides a sequence of mini tales featuring the inventors, the stars, the breakthroughs, and the innovations that started it all, from the Lumieres to Lloyd. The segments on the evolution of film editing are particularly strong.
Like a professor, Cousins will periodically veer into non-essential territory (like fretting over the glamour and the glossy veneer of Hollywood), which doesn’t particularly add to the narrative, but no matter. He has compiled an anthology of information and resources that will be turned to again and again.
Of course, because of the sheer breadth of material, Cousins must alight on some topics for only moments of time, leaving us wanting more. After seeing the shocking clip of Asta Nielsen’s erotic dance from the 1910 silent film THE ABYSS, for example, I am hoping that someone has created a documentary on THE HISTORY OF EROTIC DANCE IN SILENT FILMS.
(You can view the entire film at http://archive.org/details/Afgrunden_1910. The dance begins at 20:11 and there’s much more to it than in the clip above.)
Music Box Films is distributing the documentary, and Chicago’s Music Box Theater has just begun its multi-week screening of this ambitious effort. The DVD will be released in November 2012.