CHAPTER 5 / Part 1


Table of Contents

Table of Contents




Let’s return for a moment to a sequence in R.W. Paul’s The (?) Motorist, which we discussed in Chapter 3.1. Recall our description of the point at which the car, though its path seems to be blocked by the façade of a building, nevertheless drives “up” the wall in apparent defiance of the laws of gravity. We can divide this sequence into three events:

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          R.W. Paul, The (?) Motorist, 1906

  1. The car approaches the wall.
  2. The car drives up the wall.
  3. The policeman who’s been chasing the car re-enters the scene from the bottom of the frame.

Ignore, in other words, the fact that numerous stop-motion shots are used to give the illusion of a single shot tracing the car’s progress up the wall. Ignore, too, the fact that in this sequence of stop-motion shots, a miniature is at one point substituted for a real car. The three events of the sequence appear to be given to us in one continuous shot but are in fact joined by changes of shots on either side of the middle event; our ostensible “shot” is really a composite of separate shots. The illusion, however, is effective to the extent that the seams between the shots are imperceptible, and two factors contribute to its effectiveness:

  1. The continuity of the action shared by the three shots.
  2. The continuity of framing maintained despite the cuts between separate shots.

Accompanying these cuts have also been shifts in camera placement—namely, from a direct frontal view of the façade (when the car approaches the wall), to a direct downward view of it (when the car climbs it), and back again to the frontal view (when the policeman enters). Continuity of action and framing mask the difference in camera placement. Obviously, however, the cuts between shots have not been made in order to relate separate images more clearly to some larger spatial whole. Quite the contrary: the seams between shots have been constructed so as to deny that any spatial fragmentation has occurred at all.

“The Cinema of Attractions”

Like the trick films of Méliès, observes Tom Gunning, a film such as The (?) Motorist displays a “fascination with the thrill of display rather than the construction of a story.”[1] Gunning concedes that if we’re looking forward to the techniques of narrative filmmaking, then we must look forward to the techniques of the classical system of continuity: the use of such devices as editing and camera distance to present causal information and to convey narrative by manipulating audience attention.[2] “Coherence of story and storytelling,” says Gunning,

allows the classical mode to fashion a unity from a proliferation of viewpoints and shots, through identification of the camera with an act of narration. The classical film can absorb sudden ubiquitous switches in viewpoint into an act of storytelling, creating a cinema whose role is less to display than to articulate a story. The continuity of classical cinema is based on the coherence of story, and the spectator’s identification with the camera is mediated through an engagement with the unfolding of the story (emphasis added).[3]

“The Ability To Show Something”
  But the concerns of The (?) Motorist are not those of narrative cinema. Like the visual sleights of Georges Méliès (see Chapter 3.2), those of The (?) Motorist belong to what Gunning calls the “cinema of attractions,” which is distinguished by—and takes advantage of—the cinema’s “ability to show something. . . . This is a cinema that displays its visibility, willing to rupture a self-enclosed fictional world for a chance to solicit”—that is, to attract—“the attention of the spectator.”[4] A close look at two films, both British and both made at the turn of the century, will help us better appreciate both the efforts of the early practitioners of the trick film in displaying the versatility of their medium and their ingenuity in harnessing it as a “cinema of attraction.”

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            Cecil Hepworth, How It Feels

                  to Be Run Over, 1900

The Camera Ponders Its Own Point of View: How It Feels to Be Run Over
  Cecil Hepworth’s How It Feels to Be Run Over (1900) establishes the importance of the camera by establishing and commenting upon its point of view. A camera is positioned to film vehicles approaching it on a road. The first vehicle to pass by is a horse-drawn cart that ambles past the camera’s vantage point and out of the frame. Its function is to confirm the precise whereabouts of the camera, which remains stationary as it’s approached from the distance by an automobile. The viewpoint of this stationary camera, however, while seemingly duplicating that of the spectator in a theater, is fixed for another purpose altogether: namely, to reduce to the absurd the notion of such a unified and unflinching viewpoint, which is revealed to have certain drawbacks in a medium that’s capable of presenting motor-powered vehicles bearing diagonally from the background to the foreground of a non-theatrical frame: the car runs over and demolishes the camera (Figure 5.1).[5]

Moreover, in the process of ridiculing the fixed unity of camera and spectator points of view, Hepworth’s gag may also be played at the expense of the camera itself—or at least of its use in the earliest cinema: its immobility—or perhaps its stubborn refusal to move—suggests that, for its own good, it should develop further its capacity for creating something more ambitious than fixed-frame trick effects.

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  James Williamson, The Big Swallow, 1901

The Spectator Gags on the Joke: The Big Swallow
  In order to appreciate James Williamson’s The Big Swallow (1901), it helps to understand that at this stage in their development, moving-picture exhibitions often depended on lecturers like those who had provided running commentary for magic-lantern and stereopticon shows. The detailed description of this film in Williamson’s sales catalogue suggests the need to explain it to both lecturers and itinerant showmen who typically bought films sight-unseen:

Gentleman reading finds a camera fiend with his head under a cloth, focusing him up. He orders him off, approaching nearer and nearer, gesticulating and ordering the photographer off, until his head fills the picture and finally his mouth only occupies the screen. He opens it, and first the camera, and then the operator, disappear inside. [The gentleman] retires munching up [the photographer] and expressing his great satisfaction [Figure 5.2].

As in How It Feels to Be Run Over, the gag here depends on the fixed point of view of the camera (and cameraman). In The Big Swallow, however, the “attraction” lies in the filmmaker’s insistence that cinematic trickery expose—and perhaps further examine—the different levels of meaning that can be attached to images manipulated on the screen rather than continue to profit by their mindless reiteration.

In concentrating on the gag and the technique used to execute it (the cut to and from an inserted blackscreen-background film-within-a-film), we may tend to forget that The Big Swallow begins with the gentleman’s resistance to being photographed: his threat to “eat the camera first” is inspired, we may assume, by his objection to the camera’s all-devouring look. The gag, therefore, may be a little metaphor for the danger entailed by the making of cinematic images—or, more precisely, for the danger of persisting in a penchant for performing tricks upon the very subjects to whom one intends to purvey the record of the joke.[6]

“The Subject Did Not Matter”: “Living Pictures” at the Fairground
  The trick film, argues Gunning, “is itself a series of displays, of magical attractions, rather than a primitive sketch of narrative continuity. . . . Such viewing experiences,” he adds, “relate more to the attractions of the fairground than to the traditions of the legitimate theater” (see Figure 5.3).[7] Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that James Williamson had once been both a magic-lantern lecturer and a chemist who processed photographic film, or that Cecil Hepworth, the son of one of the most renowned magic lanternists of the day, worked as a traveling showman himself. Nor should it be surprising that, like Williamson and Hepworth, many of the first moving-picture practitioners drew upon the conventions of both photography and magic-lantern presentations.

Hepworth provides a lively account of an evening in the life of a purveyor of attractions:

[T]hough my first attempts at the traveling show business consisted of a half a dozen forty-foot films from [R.W.] Paul’s junk basket, plus a little music and a hundred or so lantern slides, it required considerable ingenuity to spin that material out to an evening’s entertainment. I showed the films forwards in the ordinary way and then showed some of them backwards. I stopped them in the middle and argued with them; [I] called out to the little girl who was standing in the forefront of the picture to stand aside, which she immediately did. That required careful timing but was very effective.

Such showmanship enabled Hepworth to hold his own among the various attractions available at English fairgrounds, “but with it all,” he adds, “I very soon found I must have more films and better ones.”[8]

As for Williamson, he reports that in the earliest days, when moving images themselves were a sufficient attraction, “the subject did not matter. To see waves dashing over rocks in a most natural way, to see a train arriving and people walking about as if alive was admitted to be very wonderful.” At the same time, however, moving pictures, as fairground and music-hall attractions, still competed with lantern lectures, stereographs, and photographic spectacles ranging from the dioramic to the panoramic.[9] “It has to be remembered,” says Williamson,

that the public up to this date had been accustomed to looking at lantern slides of exquisite photographic quality—single pictures upon which much time and skill had been spent. It was not easy to persuade people that photographs fit to look at could be produced by the yard by simply turning a handle.[10]

Diversity and Contrast Building to a Climax
  Eventually, the makers of motion pictures would distinguish their unique form of entertainment by exploiting its capacity to tell stories—by creating fictional worlds that supported themselves as entertainment. Up until about 1905, however, the moving picture could be found most often on the vaudeville or music-hall program, from which the motion-picture exhibition itself took its model: namely, from what Gunning characterizes as “a mass of unrelated acts in a non-narrative and even nearly illogical succession of performances.” On the one hand, a trick film might be part of a show that also included scenes of local interest, domestic and foreign actualities, comic episodes, and even “erotic” shorts. The governing principle would be variety—diversity and contrast building to a climax. On the other hand, the moving-picture program, sandwiched among farces, skits, and sketches illustrating popular songs, was a competitive attraction in its own right. Moving images were a popular novelty, and for a time, in fact, the motion-picture machine itself was promoted as an attraction (see Figure 5.4).[11]

Reading 5.1, “Jump Cut: ‘The Greatest Attraction of the Century,’” examines the appearance of an early motion-picture attraction in a contemporary film, Francis Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). Coppola uses the sequence to enhance the theme of contradictory desires: the desire, on the one hand, to “demystify” our experience and the desire, on the other, to believe in forces that transcend normal space and time.

G. A. Smith and the Multishot Attraction


                     G. A. Smith

The impulse toward narrative is evident in the emergence, at the turn of the century, of the multishot film as the norm rather than the exception. The linking of multiple shots, of course, calls for some form of “editing”—the joining of one filmstrip to another—but in the “cinema of attraction,” the effect of the edited film is mainly to draw attention to cinematic ingenuity and so to enhance visual delight, not to articulate the fine points of a narrative.[12]

Important examples of this impulse can be found in the films shot by G[eorge] A[lbert] Smith (1864-1959) between 1900 and 1903. Smith was a member of the British Royal Astronomical Society and a connoisseur of “attractions”: since 1895, he had maintained a miniature carnival (a gypsy fortune teller, a cave-dwelling hermit, and other exhibits) outside his home at St. Ann’s Well Gardens.[13] Like Williamson, Smith worked on the south coast of England from about 1900, when he built his first studio in Brighton (Figure 5.5 [14]), and because the area was home to other pioneers of the British moving-picture industry, there arose the notion of a “Brighton School.” In reality, the term was a convenience for later commentators; British film production was not centralized around London until about 1915, and enclaves of independent producers could be found not only on the south coast but in almost every other part of the country as well.[15]

Point of View; Or, Showing What the Cinema Can Do
  Grandma’s Reading Glass (1900) is a simple exercise in point of view as an attraction: each time a little boy views an object through his grandmother’s magnifying glass, the film “cuts” away to show, in masked closeup, what it looks like to him. As you can see in Figure 5.6, there is little effort to make any fine distinctions in the sizes of the images that the boy sees; they’re “sized” simply so that agreeable closeups can be composed in the center of a circular mask—a shield placed before the camera lens in order to block out part of the image and temporarily change the shape or dimensions of the screen.

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                    G.A. Smith, As Seen

              through a Telescope, 1900

The nature of the point of view is also determined by an optical device in As Seen through a Telescope (also 1900). This film can be characterized (albeit generously) as a three-shot comedy:

  1. Looking through his telescope, an old man spies on a young couple (Figure 5.7/Shot 1).
  2. As the young man helps the woman with her shoe and she hikes up her skirt to permit a caress, a closeup highlights the caress; this is what the old man sees (Figure 5.7/Shot 2).
  3. When the couple resume their stroll past the old man’s position, the boyfriend chastises the voyeur with a solid blow.

The closeup of the caressed foot is not technically presented as a point-of-view shot: because it’s obviously photographed against an unmatched interior background, it destroys rather than heightens the illusion of a spatial area which, according to the eventual rules of “classical continuity,” should remain unified despite its breakdown into separate shots.

Smith regarded such inserts as those in these two films—which merely juxtapose “general views” with “close views”—as borrowings from magic-lantern practice, and as Gunning observes, “many of the closeups in early film differ from later uses of the technique precisely because they do not use enlargement for narrative punctuation, but as an attraction in its own right.”[16]

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   G.A. Smith, The Kiss in the Tunnel, 1899

An Intimation of Continuity
  Smith’s approach to scenic construction is much more obvious in The Kiss in the Tunnel, which he concocted in 1899 and which is more aptly regarded as a commercial experiment than as a film. For at least two years, filmmakers on both sides of the Atlantic had been distributing views of so-called “phantom rides,” which were made simply by mounting cameras on the front of trains about to enter tunnels. As the market became glutted, Smith shot a scene of himself and his wife exchanging a stolen kiss against a painted backdrop designed to simulate a railroad carriage. He then recommended in his catalogue that exhibitors insert the scene into their own “phantom-ride” footage—between a shot of the train’s entry into the tunnel and a shot of its exit on the other side—so that the kiss appears to be stolen while the train passes through the dark (Figure 5.8).

Arguably, because Smith refers explicitly to the cut from kiss to “phantom ride” in his sales catalogue, he had some idea of how to create action and continuity when going from one shot to the next. At the same time, however, his independently executed shot was destined to function not as a match to heighten the illusion of spatial continuity, but rather as an “attraction” to freshen a shopworn idea.

By around 1900, G.A. Smith had developed a close working relationship with the Warwick Trading Co., a producer, distributor, and equipment manufacturer, and its managing director, Charlers Urban. For information on Warwick and the career of Urban, see Biographical Sketch 5.2: Charles Urban.


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         G.A. Smith, The Sick Kitten, 1903

In 1903, Smith produced The Sick Kitten, which was actually an exact remake of a 1902 three-shot film called The Little Doctors. The “little doctors” are two children, seen in medium long shot in the first and third shots. In the first shot, the seated girl takes a kitten in her lap, and the little boy enters with a jar labeled “Fish.” When the girl spoon-feeds the kitten from the jar, Smith cuts to a medium closeup of the kitten as it laps the food from the spoon. The third shot is another medium long shot of the two children (Figure 5.9).

The visual strategy in The Sick Kitten features two noteworthy departures from that of earlier multishot films like Grandma’s Reading Glass and As Seen through a Telescope:

  1. The circular black mask highlighting the closeup frame-within-the-frame has been eliminated.
  2. The action transpiring across the cuts appears to be uninterrupted.

The cut, in other words, has all the earmarks of a continuity or matching cut—one that emphasizes an unobtrusive transition as it condenses time and space (see Chapter 4.2). The question still remains, however: Did Smith actually have continuity in mind or a mere succession of shots? Did he feel that the manipulation of space and time—the cut from the more distant to the more intimate view without disrupting the temporal coherence of the scene—was crucial to the most effective narration of the event? Or did he merely feel the need to vary a general view with a closer view, in the tradition of the magic-lantern presentation?

Point of View and the Appearance of the Surreptitious Camera

We’ll return to these questions shortly. At this point, however, let’s emphasize that the elimination of masks to frame the inserts points the way toward an important development. In both Grandma’s Reading Glass and As Seen through a Telescope, these masks announce what we now call point-of-view shots—shots that show us what a character sees. When they’re “announced”—when our attention is drawn to them as examples of the filmmaker’s manipulation of his medium—they function primarily as “attractions,” not as clarifications of narrative situations.

Note, too, that there are two qualitatively distinct types of images in both Grandma’s Reading Glass and As Seen through a Telescope:

  1. What the camera sees, particularly when viewing a character who also happens to be looking.
  2. What the character sees as a result of his looking.

Moreover, the insertion of masks to frame the second type of image distinctly distinguishes the two types as belonging to two qualitatively different narrative categories. In As Seen through a Telescope, for example:

  1. The narrator sees Image 1 (an old man with a telescope).
  2. The character—and the narrator only through the character—sees Image 2 (a man caressing a woman’s foot).

In The Sick Kitten, however, only the camera sees—whereby the two types of images now belong to the same narrative category. The camera has entered the scene surreptitiously and assumed the prerogative of narrating everything directly, without mediation.[17] When this process occurs, the cinema has developed an important tool for fashioning the language of a narrative art form.

Classical Point of View and Eyeline Matching
  What does a point-of-view shot look like when it’s been constructed according to the principles of classical continuity? As we’ve seen, the effect of a matching shot is generally twofold:

  1. It presents causal information and enhances narrative by controlling audience attention.
  2. It makes an unobtrusive transition as it condenses time, space, or both.

See the excerpt


           David Lean, Great Expectations,

                      Great Britain, 1946

Figure 5.10 presents a sequence of four consecutive shots from Great Expectations, British director David Lean’s 1946 adaptation of a Charles Dickens novel.[18] The scene takes place in a graveyard, and a ghostly wind is blowing. An apprehensive young boy, pausing before a tombstone, turns his head to the right (Figure 5.10/Shot 1), where he sees tree branches rattling in the wind like skeletal hands (Figure 5.10/Shot 2). Then he turns further to the right and looks upward (Figure 5.10/Shot 3), seeing this time a tree trunk from which a sinister face seems to be looking at him (Figure 5.10/Shot 4). The narrative strategy here is typical of what we’ve called the “classical” system of continuity: it’s effective because the director’s camera has unobtrusively and temporarily—surreptitiously—taken up the function of the character’s glance.

Note also that, in each case, the shot of the object seen creates an eyeline match with the previous shot of the point-of-view character: because the character’s glance cues the point-of-view shot, Lean sets the camera so that its axis is parallel to the character’s eyeline, which is at a steeper angle in the second pair of shots than in the first pair. But note, too, that the camera doesn’t necessarily assume the precise position of the point-of-view character. In revealing a portion of the offscreen space at which the character is looking, the camera frames it for narrative effect; in both instances, the distance between the character and the objects seen is contracted so that those objects are closer than they would be if they were being glimpsed across real space.[19]

Reading 5.2, “Jump Cut: ‘The Purest Type of Cinematic Idea,’” discusses Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) to examine the argument that, as a narrative art form, cinema evolved out of the development of such classical shot sequences, which make it possible for the filmmaker to narrate scenes, sequences, and whole films primarily by controlling the viewer’s attention.

In such a film as The Sick Kitten, of course, the development of the insight into the point-of-view shot is elementary, and its impact was not felt immediately. In fact, instances of its use over the next half decade—whether by Smith or by others—seem to be relatively rare. Note, too, that at the end of The Sick Kitten, the little boy acknowledges the camera as witness to his good deed by clowning in front of it. We’ll also return to this detail below.

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     G.A. Smith, Mary Jane’s Mishap, 1903

Signifying the Stupid: Mary Jane’s Mishap
  First, however, let’s examine Mary Jane’s Mishap Or, Don't Fool with the Paraffin (also 1903—Figure 5.11), in which Smith offers his version of an old joke about the ignorant Irish maid who blows herself up when she lights flammable paraffin in the oven. The view of Mary Jane’s activities in the kitchen is depicted in a series of alternating medium long shots and medium closeups, most of the latter used to highlight the mugging of Mrs. G.A. Smith in the role of Mary Jane. An interesting question thus arises: Does it make sense to say that in Mary Jane’s Mishap, Smith “was the first to synthesize scenes from near and far shots”?[20] In order to address this question, let’s consider, first, the fact that after Smith has the maid locate the paraffin in long shot, he twice inserts medium closeups as she proceeds to pour it into the oven. In both instances, the actress winks broadly at the camera as if to underscore the joke by confirming her simple-minded complicity in her own fate.

Second, let’s regard Mrs. Smith’s burlesque glance at the camera as a simple signifier: a graphic or gestural sign (Mary Jane’s witless winking) that relates to a mental representation of a thing (Mary Jane’s limited intelligence) that we recognize because it reflects socially or historically identifiable behavior (the putative tendency of Irish servants to perform tasks in the least laborious way without considering the possible pitfalls). At the risk of oversimplifying, we can say, by way of linguistic analogy, that the signifier is the sound and that what it signifies—the signified—is the sense.[21] In this respect, the insertion of the closeup of a winking Mary Jane signifies lazy, stupid Irish servant—which is, unfortunately, the “meaning” of Mary Jane’s Mishap. It’s a signifier, however, which has been inserted into the narrative and which belongs to the cinema of attraction, not to the narrative cinema. “[T]rue narrativization of the cinema,” argues Gunning, resulted from a

transformation of filmic discourse [that] . . . bound cinematic signifiers to the narration of stories and the creation of a self-enclosed . . . universe. The look at the camera becomes taboo, and the devices of cinema are transformed from playful “tricks”—cinematic attractions—. . . to elements of dramatic expression, entries into the psychology of character and the world of fiction.[22]

The wit and wisdom of Forrest Gump notwithstanding, “stupid is as stupid does” does not qualify as an entry into the psychology of a character in a fictional world.

Découpage Classique and the Criterion of Synthesis

According to the criterion of continuity, however—which includes the use of camera placement to guide the viewer’s attention—Mary Jane’s Mishap seems to stand on the verge of “classical” narrative filmmaking: the camera is inserted into the story for the purpose of condensing time and space unobtrusively, shifting its distance in order to narrate everything directly. But if these shifts in distance are motivated by the desire to insert “attractions,” then the contradiction reveals the fact that Smith’s continuity of “near and far shots” is not really a “synthesis.” The insertion of Smith’s medium closeups of Mary Jane’s winking face is hardly surreptitious, and Smith’s visual highlighting of its importance as a signifier violates the continuity of camera perspective: the surreptitious camera that locates the character in the kitchen can hardly remain surreptitious if the character proceeds to interact with it.

In other words, once the camera has been inserted into the scene, continuity cannot be preserved merely by the competent condensation of space and time: the continuity of camera perspective—the hallmark of “narrativized” cinema—must also be observed. In this case, camera perspective has been violated in the most fundamental possible way: a surreptitious camera has become a conspicuous camera.

This principle—which governs the sequence from Great Expectations in Figure 5.10—has been codified in the Hollywood stylebook under the principles of découpage classique: the seamless arrangement of shots by which a scene, sequence, or whole film is narrated. Figure 5.12, for example, is the schematic of a scene whose components include a room, two people (Character A and Character B), two tables, and a door. Imagine that Character B will enter the room through the door unnoticed by Character A. Effective découpage calls for three shots:

  1. An establishing shot that locates Character A in relation to the two tables but not to the door.
  2. A closeup of Character A as he looks somewhere other than toward the door—say, down at something on Table 2. (Note that this shot adds no new information.)
  3. A medium long shot that looks past Character A to locate Character B, who enters through a door whose whereabouts is only now revealed. Note that this same shot, while introducing us to Character B, is also a closer shot of Character A than is Shot 2.

The gist of the action—and thus the detail of interest—is Character B’s undetected entrance into the room. Technically speaking, therefore, the point of view cannot be that of Character A. Rather, the camera has entered the scene and established its own perspective—that is, its own prerogative in narrating everything directly.

A Logic of Synthesis
  But why is there a second table in the room (Table 1), which is located behind Character A? What’s its function? Would the filmmaker’s task be simplified if it were removed? To answer these questions, we must first remind ourselves that our sequence takes a standard approach to continuity:

  1. We introduce the scenic space by establishing a topographical relationship between the actor (Character A) and the setting.
  2. Then we single out a detail of interest (the physical relationship between Character A and Character B).

In between these two shots, however, the detail of interest must be located in its setting. That’s the purpose of Shot 2, which redefines the space of the room by “moving” Table 1 from its original placement (behind and off to Character A’s left) to a new placement (shifted leftward so that it occupies the background just beyond the figure of Character A). In Shot 3, when we see Character B and the door, the portion of Table 1 that we saw in Shot 1 but no longer saw in Shot 2 (the half to our right) will have given us a more accurate impression of the distance between Table 1 and the wall containing the door through which Character B has entered.

“All the editing practices of the Hollywood grammar,” we’re told in one of the best textbooks on the subject of “reading” movies, “were designed to permit seamless transitions from shot to shot and to concentrate attention on the action at hand. What helped to maintain immediacy and the flow of the action was good, what did not was bad.”[23] This is certainly true, but more than “immediacy” and “flow” are at stake here. The illustration encapsulated in Figure 5.12 reminds us that the logic of camera perspective cannot be maintained if the logic of space is ignored. If necessary, then, space must be properly “transformed” in order to legitimize camera perspective.

The use of the eyeline match, as in Figure 5.10, is one means of transforming space for this purpose. In Figure 5.12, such a transformation takes place when Shot 2 redefines the relative position of Character A and Table 1. Moreover, the relationship between space and perspective is commutative: maintaining spatial relations—that is, the space which is narrated by the camera—without maintaining camera perspective amounts to a failure to synthesize all the elements that are inextricably bound up in the concept of continuity. The same is true if the filmmaker maintains camera perspective without maintaining spatial relationships. And because the details in a scene can move about or otherwise change, the relationships that include time—which, as we’ve seen, can also be condensed and thus transformed—should adhere to the same commutative principle of synthesis.

Which brings us back to G.A. Smith, his sick kitten, and his little boy mugging for the camera. We can pose our original question again, in slightly modified form: Did Smith actually have in mind the concept of continuity or a mere succession of shots? Certainly he did not conceive of a complete synthesis of the elements involved in continuity: the little boy’s playing to the camera indicates that although Smith’s camera enters the scene in order to narrate it directly, he does not seem to have conceived of camera perspective as a fundamental corollary of his treatment of the scene. Again, the change in camera perspective is from surreptitious to conspicuous.

See the partial moving Picture


    James Williamson, Attack on

        a China Mission, 1900

What to Do about the Woman on the Balcony: Attack on a China Mission
  Even more so than The Big Swallow, James Williamson’s Attack on a China Mission—Bluejackets to the Rescue (1900) appears to be a film intended for clarification by a lecturer. As we know from the description in the distributor’s catalogue, this reconstruction of an event during the Boxer Rebellion of 1899 was originally a little more complex than what’s left in surviving prints. A gang of Boxers (rabid Chinese nationalists bent on driving Westerners from their country) attacks a mission, where the missionary defends his family within. A troop of British soldiers arrives, advancing from the foreground, pouring into the yard, and firing to dispel the revolutionaries (Figure 5.13), and as the attackers are subdued, an officer on horseback rescues a young woman.[24]

One film historian suggests that Williamson need not have worried about any confusion on the part of his audience because he

could still rely on the circumstance that any ambiguities in the action of his film could be cleared up for its audience in the commentary of the master of ceremonies. . . . [Such] stories were meant to be listened to, the pictures merely forming the illustrations for this spoken narrative.[25]

At the same time, however, the film clearly depends on action to maintain viewer interest and features some rudimentary crosscutting—the alternating of shots to suggest parallel action—either to relieve visual monotony or to heighten dramatic conflict. In resorting to such a technique, Williamson may indeed have risked confusing viewers. According to Michael Chanan, Williamson’s audience would have had certain expectations about dramatized spectacle, and these expectations would have conformed to “the idealized paradigm of the tableau vivant”—mute and motionless stage scenes presented for viewing by equally mute and motionless spectators. “Consequently,” says Chanan,

we must be prepared to acknowledge that with early films, consisting very largely of panoramic views, in which the camera has not yet learned to center its (and the viewers’) attention on significant detail, the lecturer was necessary to point it out, to organize the viewers’ attention for them before it was too late and the action had passed (emphasis added).[26]

There’s a moment in China Mission, just preceding the soldiers’ arrival, when the missionary’s wife appears on the balcony, waving a handkerchief to signal the approaching rescue party. If the model of the film is the “illustrative”—in which the purpose of the moving pictures is to accompany a lecturer’s verbal account—then the appearance of the woman on the balcony is apparently supposed to serve as some sort of dramatic link between the scene that illustrates the attack on the mission and the scene that illustrates the rescue. One could even choose to regard it as an insertion of the “human element” into a melodramatic spectacle illustrating historical forces at work. Clearly, however, it’s not very effective, and the reason is obvious: as you can see from Figure 5.13, it’s far too inconspicuous to serve any practical dramatic purpose.

On the most elementary level, the filmmaker’s failure here is a failure of emphasis. If the point were dramatic impact, the most obvious solution would have been to cut to an interpolated closeup or medium shot of the woman. This strategy, however, would have entailed more than a mere adjustment in tempo and the distance of the image from the camera: it would have entailed a transformation of cinematic space, and such a transformation could be achieved effectively only if perspective had been given over to the camera. This is a development in technique for which Williamson was clearly not yet prepared: the perspective that he’s established is still modeled on the proscenium arch of the theater. It’s equally clear that crosscutting to lend equal dramatic weight to more than one narrative component is not enough to “narrativize” a fiction film.

James Williamson and the Intimation of Plastic Space

It is, however, a start. Unfortunately, according to British film historian Roy Armes, the creators of such films as How It Feels to Be Run Over, The Big Swallow, Grandma’s Reading Glass, As Seen through a Telescope, and Sick Kitten explored potentially breakthrough devices “in the context of short films which had at best only minimal narrative content and did not point the way to equally exciting developments in the story film.” At the same time, moreover, such potentially useful devices as the closeup and subjective camera were deemed suitable only for fantasy films featuring visual illusions and other tricks. Fortunately, however, the path toward narrative ran in a more “realistic” direction, and Armes observes that “devices which could be incorporated in the dominant mode of realism remained in widespread use.” The realistic mode, as exemplified by

numerous tales of daring rescues or exciting chases, was far more inventive and pointed the way more clearly to the future. The importance of such films lay in the fact that whereas more pretentious subjects prompted filmmakers to offer scenes that were merely illustrative of stories narrated essentially by the titles [or lecturers], the chase and rescue films were conceived directly for the screen and relied simply on action. It is in such films, therefore, that we find the first successful attempts to dispense with written explanation and to carry the action from shot to shot.[27]

Trial and Error in Continuity Management
  Working out of the English seaside town of Hove, where he eventually built a studio and film-processing facility (Figure 5.14), James Williamson (1855-1933), a chemist with an abiding interest in the technical aspects of photography, emerged as a pioneer of the rescue and chase genres.[28] We can observe three relevant features in two films, Stop Thief! and Fire!, that Williamson made in 1901:


               James Williamson

  1. Both of these films announce their “realistic” intentions through an attention to naturalistic detail that goes beyond the surface verisimilitude of China Mission; in fact, most of one and all of the other are filmed on real locations.
  2. Much of the action is designed to accommodate diagonal movement across the frame, so that there appears to be at least a rudimentary sense of the relationship between character movement and editing.
  3. Most importantly, both hint at the intuition that screen space is “plastic”—that it can be shaped or formed to the demands of the “plot.” It’s malleable in dimensions other than size, and it can be shaped to suit needs other than those of clarifying a whole when seen both in a general view and in its (roughly) proportional parts (as in Grandma’s Reading Glass, As Seen through a Telescope, and The Sick Kitten). It consists of views that vary in place, and those places are available both to characters on the move and filmmakers with a need to move them.

An Exercise in Primitive Construction: Stop Thief!
  In Williamson’s Stop Thief! (1901—Figure 5.15), one of the earliest chase films to be preserved, a tramp seizes a leg of lamb from the basket of a passing grocer, who proceeds to chase him (preceded by a growing contingent of dogs) past the doors of some row houses and into a field where there happens to be a large barrel. This three-shot film seems “primitive” because no facet of its construction has yet been conventionalized. In particular, entrances and exits from the frame are not calculated to preserve spatial integrity. In Shot 1, for example, the characters cross the frame from right to left, re-entering Shot 2 by a reverse movement from left to right; Shot 3 is then entered by another reverse movement from right to left.

See the moving picture


       James Williamson, Stop Thief!, 1901

Such construction may make sense in terms of theater, where a chase must be staged so that it runs either back and forth or round and round. At issue, however, is not simply the size and shape of the stage: in the theater, of course, the spectator is also stationary. As we saw in our discussion of a three-shot schematic in Figure 5.12, a key problem in managing cinematic continuity is the fact that when camera perspective results in a change of the spectator’s position, space changes its configuration—while demanding nevertheless that its logical integrity remain intact. Such changes in position and perspective violate the spectator’s objective experience, but the intuition that physical space can be rearranged—an intuition evident in the three-shot composition of Stop Thief!—issues from the realization that the spectator will accept psychologically valid appeals to his mental processes (which, as in this case, understand implicitly that when there’s a straight cut from one shot to another, the two running figures in the second shot are the same as those in the first).

Temporal integrity is also observed only loosely in Stop Thief!. Judging from the distance between the thief and his pursuer as we see it in Shot 2, we’re surprised at the length of time separating the thief’s arrival in Shot 3 from that of the pursuing grocer (an interval that leaves enough time for the appearance of yet more excited dogs). For the modern viewer, the straight cut from Shot 2 to Shot 3 splices together contiguous moments in time. In other words, they share a boundary which is not violated or tampered with; one follows the other immediately and with no modification such as “meanwhile” or “later.” If the action transpiring across two moments is for some reason protracted, the logic of space and time requires a dramatic explanation of the protracted time frame—namely, in the form of additional shots through which the camera is allowed to perform its function of synthesizing all of the elements that it’s responsible for narrating. If the camera shows us nothing to cause time to be protracted, we can only assume that the action was coextensive with those events to which the camera was privy. Conversely, if the camera has been denied access to certain relevant events, its perspective has been violated. “Narrativization” of the cinematic action, therefore, has not been achieved: in the “narrativized” cinema, the perspective of the camera is an inherent function of its capacity to synthesize all of the elements involved in the concept of continuity.

See the moving picture


            James Williamson, Fire!, 1901

The Troublesome Logic of Space and Time: Fire!
  Williamson successfully addresses some of these issues in Fire! (also 1901—Figure 5.16). In Shot 1, a policeman, discovering a house on fire, rushes to summon the fire brigade, exiting the frame left to right. He enters Shot 2, which shows the Hove Fire Station, from the same left-right direction (Figure 5.16/Frame 1)—that is, as if the change in perspective were entailed merely by the distance that had to be traveled. Likewise, the fire brigade exits the frame right to left—still in Shot 2—as if following the policeman’s directions back to the burning house. The cut to Shot 3 then reveals the horse-drawn fire wagons as they approach the camera from our left to right (Figure 5.16/Frame 2); the point of view is still that of the camera, which, as in the cut from Shot 1 to Shot 2, has changed positions in order to clarify the larger spatial organization of the action.

Shot 4 takes us—suddenly though not without adequate logic—inside the burning house, where a man is trapped in a smoke-filled bedroom. Through a window in the rear wall, we see a fireman breaking his way into the room (Figure 5.16/Frame 3). He enters, gathers up the prostrate victim, and begins to escape through the window, all within Shot 4. Williamson now cuts to an exterior shot (Shot 5) in which we see the fireman descend a ladder and deliver the unconscious victim to safety (Figure 5.16/Frames 4,5). In this case, temporal logic fails Williamson: although the straight cut between Shots 4 and 5 denotes two contiguous moments in one continuous movement, the fireman, who was last seen in Shot 4 as he first set foot out the window, has, in Shot 5, already descended two or three rungs down the ladder, thus violating the perfect illusion of a continuous movement.

See the moving picture


              Georges Méliès, Le Voyage

               dans la lune, France, 1902

Exploring Pro-Filmic Space
  This miscue aside, however, the sequence is worth a closer look. We might, for example, compare it with the two shots in which Méliès depicts the arrival of the moon rocket in Le Voyage dans la lune (see Chapter 3.2). Recall that Méliès relies on “overlapping action”:

Continuity and Psychology
  This peculiar device was a fairly common means of linking shots during this period. It may have resulted from filmmakers’ desire to emphasize an event while still preserving the all-important establishment of pro-filmic space—the fictionally created space that stands in for and denotes spatial reality.[29] In any case, overlapping action fails—it looks peculiar—for the simple reason that the spectator won’t accept it as a psychologically valid interpretation of his mental processes. In his treatment of the fireman’s exit from the burning building, however, Williamson attempts something that closely resembles what we have already described as a continuity or matching cut—a cut that emphasizes an unobtrusive transition as it condenses time and space. In order to characterize this approach adequately, we must amplify our definition so that by matching cut we also understand a splicing of two shots according to a logical parallelism, usually visual, which eliminates any inconsistency that we would not accept as psychologically valid. Ordinarily, a matching cut will simultaneously create both spatial and temporal continuity. If an action carries across the cut, we assume that both time and space are continuous, and therein lies the psychological validity of the matching cut.

Look, for example, at Figure 5.17—a two-shot sequence in which we see a character approaching a staircase.[30] The first shot is taken from a camera setup directly behind the character; the second shot is taken from a camera setup to his right, at the foot of the stairs. We cut away from Position I before the character reaches the point at which Shot 2 will pick him up—that is, at Position II, where he’s already on the stairs.

Now, remember: the cut transpires in 1/24 of a second—the amount of time that it takes one frame to replace another at standard (sound) projection speed. How could the character possibly traverse the distance between Position I (the position at which we leave him in Shot 1) and Position II (the one at which we find him in Shot 2) in a mere 1/24 of a second? In real time and space, of course, he couldn’t. Unfortunately, following him in one shot the entire distance from the point at which Position I locates him, through the point at which Position II relocates him, and then as he goes up the stairs would make for tedious onscreen action. Thus we condense time. Pro-filmic space, however, retains its integrity because we accept the action as continuous—the character is merely going up the staircase that we’ve already seen him approaching—and overlook the literal discontinuity in the presentation of space. The classical continuity system, therefore, does not reproduce literal time-space relationships: it reconstructs them in a manner that’s valid as long as it doesn’t violate the spectator’s psychological perception of a logical time-space relationship.

In Fire!, the fact that the matching cut between Shots 4 and 5 is imperfect indicates that the filmmaker doesn’t fully understand the problems entailed in managing the relationship between continuity and mobility in pro-filmic space. Nevertheless, Williamson’s attempt at a matching cut, however imperfectly executed, must be regarded as extremely significant.


cinema of attractions  Tom Gunning’s term for a mode of cinema distinguished by the medium’s self-conscious ability to show something that will attract the spectator’s attention

classical system of continuity  Use of such devices as editing and camera distance to present causal information and to convey narrative by manipulating audience attention

crosscutting  Alternating of shots to suggest parallel action

découpage classique  Seamless arrangement of shots by which a scene, sequence, or whole film is narrated

eyeline match  Type of point-of-view shot in which the camera axis is parallel to the point-of-view character’s eyeline

mask  Shield placed before the camera lens in order to block out part of the image and temporarily change the shape or dimension of the screen

point-of-view shot  Shot that shows what a character sees

pro-filmic space  Fictionally articulated space that stands in for and denotes spatial reality

signifier  Graphic or gestural sign relating to a mental representation of a thing that we recognize because it reflects socially or historically recognizable behavior


[1] “‘Primitive’ Cinema—A Frame Up? Or The Trick’s on Us,” Cinema Journal 28 (Winter 1989) p. 9. As a tool for understanding the nature of early cinema and its role in film history, it’s impossible to underestimate the influence of the concept of the cinema of attractions. The term was coined in the 1980s by Gunning and French critic-historian André Gaudreault: see Gaudreault and Gunning, “Early Cinema as a Challenge to Film History” (1986), trans. Joyce Goggin and Wanda Strauven, in The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded, ed. Strauven (Amsterdam: Amsterdam Univ. Press, 2006), pp. 365-80, at (accessed June 18, 2016).

In addition to “‘Primitive’ Cinema,” key works by Gunning include the following: “‘The Cinema of Attraction’: Early Film, Its Spectator and the Avant-Garde,” Wide Angle 8:3/4 (1986), pp. 63-70; rpt./rev. in Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative, ed. Thomas Elsaesser (London: British Film Institute, 1990), pp. 56-62; rpt. in The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded, ed. Strauven, pp. 381-88, at (accessed June 18, 2016). “An Aesthetic of Astonishment: Early Film and the (In)Credulous Spectator,” Art and Text 34 (Spring 1989), pp. 31-45; rpt. in Film Theory: Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies, Volume 3, ed. Philip Simpson, Andrew Utterson, and Karen L. Shepherdson (London: Routledge, 2004), pp. 78-95, at (accessed June 18, 2016); rpt. in Viewing Positions: Ways of Seeing Film, ed. Linda Williams (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1995), pp. 114-33; rpt. in Film Theory and Criticism, 6th ed., ed. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1995), 862-76. “‘Now You See It, Now You Don’t’: The Temporality of the Cinema of Attractions,” The Velvet Light Trap: A Critical Journal of Film and Television 32 (Fall 1993), pp. 3-12; rpt. in Silent Film, ed. Richard Abel (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1996), pp. 71-84. “The Whole Town’s Gawking: Early Cinema and the Visual Experience of Modernity,” Yale Journal of Criticism 7:2 (Fall 1994), pp. 189-201. “Attractions: How They Came into the World,” in The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded, ed. Strauven, pp. 31-39 at (accessed June 18, 2016). See also Gaudreault, Film and Attraction: From Kinematography to Cinema (2008), trans. Timothy Barnard (Champaign: Univ. of Illinois Press, 2011).

[2] This definition is adapted from David Bordwell, Janet Staiger, and Kristin Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960 (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1985), p. 174. See also Bordwell, Narration in the Fiction Film (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1985), esp. Ch. 9.

[3] “‘Primitive’ Cinema—A Frame Up?” p. 9.

[4] See “‘The Cinema of Attraction,’” Wide Angle, pp. 64.

[5] See Gunning, “‘Primitive’ Cinema,” pp. 8-9.

[6] On How It Feels to Be Run Over, see James Leo Cahill, “How It Feels to Be Run Over: Early Film Accidents,” Discourse 30:3 (Fall 2008), pp. 289-316, at (accessed June 18, 2016); Gregory Robinson, “Oh! Mother Will Be Pleased: Cinema Writes Back in Hepworth’s How It Feels to Be Run Over,” Literature/Film Quarterly 39:3 (2011), pp. 218-30, at (accessed June 18, 2016).

See also Robinson, “Writing on the Silent Screen,” in A Companion to Literature, Film and Adaptation, ed. Deborah Cartmell (Malden, MA: John Wiley and Sons, 2012), esp. pp. 34-36, at (accessed June 18, 2016); Michael Chanan, The Dream That Kicks: The Prehistory and Early Years of Cinema in Britain (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980), pp. 275-76, 281; Karen Beckman, Crash: Cinema and the Politics of Speed and Stasis (Durham, NC, and London: Duke Univ. Press, 2010), pp. 29-32; Frank Scheide, “The Mark of the Ridiculous and Silent Celluloid: Some Trends in American and European Comedy from 1894 to 1929,” in A Companion to Film Comedy, ed. Andrew Horton and Joanna Rapf (Malden, MA: John Wiley and Sons, 2013), esp. pp. 20-21, at (accessed June 18, 2016); François Jost, “The Look: From Film to Novel: An Essay in Comparative Narratology,” trans. Robert Stam, in A Companion to Literature and Film, ed. Stam and Alessandra Raengo (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004), esp. pp. 74-75; Michael Brooke, “How It Feels to Be Run Over (1900),” Screenonline (BFI Screenonline, 2003-2014), at (accessed June 18, 2016).

On The Big Swallow, see Chanan The Dream That Kicks, pp. 281-83; Jennifer M. Barber, The Tactile Eye: Touch and the Cinematic Experience (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 2009), pp. 157-60; Pasi Väliaho, Mapping the Moving Image: Gesture, Thought and Cinema circa 1990 (Amsterdam: Amsterdam Univ. Press, 2010), pp. 87-89, at (accessed June 18, 2016).

[7] “The Cinema of Attraction,” p. 65. Also consulted: Alex Rankin, “Chapter One: Earliest Beginnings to the Boer War (1896-1900)” (2001), The Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture (2008), at (accessed December 12, 2011).

[8] Came the Dawn (London: Phoenix House, 1951), p. 33.

[9] See Christopher Kent, “Spectacular History as Ocular Discipline,” Wide Angle 18:3 (1996), esp. pp. 6-11. See also Rachael Low and Roger Manvell, The History of the British Film 1896-1906 (1948; rpt. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1973), pp. 36-39.

[10] Both Williamson quotes are from Roy Armes, A Critical History of the British Cinema (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1978), pp. 37, 39. On the role of itinerant showmen in the exhibition practices of early English cinema, see Chanan, The Dream That Kicks, esp. pp. 232-38.

[11] “The Cinema of Attraction,” pp. 65-66; Charles Musser, The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1990), pp. 179-80.

[12] See Roberta Pearson, “Early Cinema,” in The Oxford History of World Cinema, ed. Geoffrey Nowell-Smith (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1996), pp. 19-21.

[13] For a detailed survey of the films of G.A. Smith, R.W. Paul, Cecil Hepworth, James Williamson, and other British filmmakers from 1896 to 1906, see Low and Manvell, The History of the British Film 1896-1906, pp. 51-110.

On the life and career of G.A. Smith, see Frank Gray, “George Albert Smith,” Who’s Who in Victorian Cinema (British Film Institute, 2016), at (accessed June 18, 2016); Gray, “Smith, G.A. (1864-1959),” Screenonline (BFI Screenonline, 2003-2014), at (accessed June 18, 2016); Gray, “From Mesmerism to Moving Pictures in Natural Colours—The Life of G. Albert Smith,” in John Barnes and Gray, The Hove Pioneers and the Arrival of Cinema (Brighton, UK: Univ. of Brighton, 1996); Gray, “Smith the Showman: The Early Years of George Albert Smith,” Film History 10:1 (1998), pp. 8-20; “Pioneers of Early Cinema: George Albert Smith,” National Media Museum (Bradford, UK, 2011), at (accessed June 18, 2016). See also Gray, “George Albert Smith’s Visions and Transformations: The Films of 1898,” in Visual Delights: Essays on the Popular and Projected Image in the 19th Century, ed. Simon Popple and Vanessa Toulmin (Trowbridge: Flicks Books, 2000), pp. 170-80; Gray, “The Kiss in the Tunnel, G.A. Smith and the Emergence of the Edited Film in England,” in The Silent Cinema Reader, ed. Lee Grieveson and Peter Krämer (London: Routledge, 2004), pp. 51-62, at (accessed June 18, 2016).

[14] See Chanan, The Dream That Kicks, pp. 231-32.

[15] For a history of filmmaking in the Brighton-Hove area, see David Fisher, Cinema-by-Sea: Film and Cinema in Brighton and Hove since 1896 (London: Terra Media Ltd., 2012). A concise timeline of key events in the development of cinema in Brighton-Hove can be found at Fisher, “Brighton and Hove from the Dawn of Cinema,” (October 2013), at (accessed June 18, 2016).

On the development of editing and the multishot film in the Brighton-Hove cinema, see Jean Mitry, The Aesthetics and Psychology of the Cinema, trans. Christopher King (1997; rpt. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 2000), Ch. 3, esp. pp 92-94; Per Persson, Understanding Cinema: A Psychological Theory of Moving Imagery (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003), pp. 50-56; Don Fairservice, Film Editing: History, Theory and Practice: Looking at the Invisible (Manchester, UK: Manchester Univ. Press, 2001), pp. 21-26. On the relationship between photography and the trick film in the Brighton-Hove cinema, see Chanan, The Dream That Kicks, pp. 281-91.

[16] “The Cinema of Attraction,” p. 66. See also Michael Brooke, “As Seen through a Telescope (1900),” Screenonline (BFI Screenonline, 2003-2014), at (accessed June 18, 2016). On Grandma’s Reading Glass, see William D. Routt, “Demolishing a Wall,” Senses of Cinema 14 (June 2001), at" (accessed June 18, 2016); Brooke, “Grandma’s Reading Glass (1900),” Screenonline (BFI Screenonline, 2003-2014), at (accessed June 18, 2016). Jonathan Freedman compares Smith’s use of masked closeups in As Seen through a Telescope and Grandma’s Reading Glass with the American novelist Henry James’ technique of rendering visual and perceptual ambiguity: see “Henry James, the Novel, and the Mediascapes of Modernity,” in The Oxford History of the Novel in English: Volume 6: The American Novel 1870-1940, ed. Priscilla Wald and Michael A. Elliott (Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press, 2014), esp. pp. 246-50.

[17] See Chanan, The Dream That Kicks, pp. 295-96. On The Sick Kitten (and The Little Doctors), see also Bordwell, Thompson, and Staiger, The Classical Hollywood Cinema, pp. 198-99; and Barry Salt, “Film Form 1900-06,” Sight and Sound 47:3 (Summer 1978), p. 50.

[18] This example is adapted from Karel Reisz and Gavin Millar, The Technique of Film Editing, 2nd ed. (New York: Hastings House, 1968), pp. 237-41. For Lean’s account what he wanted accomplish in this scene, see Kevin Brownlow, with Cy Young, David Lean (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996), pp. 209-11.

[19] On the historical and theoretical ramifications of the concept of the eyeline match, see the following: Bordwell, Staiger, and Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema, pp. 57, 207-08; Noël Burch, Theory of Film Practice (1969), trans. Helen R. Lane (New York: Praeger, 1973), esp. pp. 9-11; Edward Branigan, Point of View in the Cinema: A Theory of Narration and Subectivity in Classical Film (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1984), pp. 130-32; Jacques Aumont et al., Aesthetics of Film (1983), trans. and rev. Richard Neupert (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1992), pp. 230-32.

[20] Ivor Montagu, Film World: A Guide to Cinema (1964; rpt. Baltimore: Penguin, 1968), p. 100. On Mary Jane’s Mishap, see also John Barnes, “Mary Jane’s Mishap: An Early British Film Re-examined,” Film History 16:1 (2004), pp. 54-59; Mark Duguid, “Mary Jane’s Mishap or, Don’t Fool with the Paraffin (1903),” Screenonline (BFI Screenonline, 2003-2014), at (accessed June 18, 2016); British Film Institute, “Mary Jane’s Mishap” (n.d.), at (accessed June 18, 2016). On the role of Laura Bayley (Mrs. G.A. Smith) in her husband’s films, see Tony Fletcher, “Laura Bayley,” Women Film Pioneers Project, ed Jane Gaines et al. (New York: Columbia Univ. Libraries, 2013), at (accessed June 18, 2016).

[21] The concepts of signification, signifier and signified were introduced into film studies primarily through the work of the French theorist Christian Metz, who is the subject of a detailed discussion in Reading 8.2. See esp. The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema (1977), trans. Celia Britton et al. (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1982), esp. Chs. 2 and 24. See also Metz, “The Imaginary Signifier,” trans. Ben Brewster, Screen 16:2 (Summer 1975), pp. 14-76; J. Dudley Andrew, The Major Film Theories: An Introduction (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1976), Ch. 8; Daniel Chandler, “Semiotics for Beginners,” The Media and Communications Site (Aberystwyth, Wales: Aberystwyth University, 2014), at (accessed June 18, 2016); Stephen Heath, “The Work of Christian Metz,” Screen 14:3 (1973), pp. 5-28; Alfred Guzzetti, “Christian Metz and the Semiology of the Cinema,” Journal of Modern Literature 3:2 (1973), pp. 292-308.

[22] “The Cinema of Attraction,” p. 68.

[23] James Monaco, How to Read a Film: The Art, Technology, Language, History and Theory of Film and Media (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1977), p. 184.

[24] On Attack on a China Mission, see the following: Chanan, The Dream That Kicks, pp. 275-81; Frank Gray, “James Williamson’s ‘Composed Picture’: Attack on a China Mission—Bluejackets to the Rescue,” in Celebrating 1895: The Centenary of Cinema, ed. John Fullerton Sydney: John Libbey Publishing, 1998), pp. 203-11; Philippe Gauthier, “Crosscutting Revisited: The Impact of Historical Research into Early Cinema on a Key Element of Classical Narrative Cinema” (2006), ANCZA (Australia/New Zealand, August 2010), at (accessed June 18, 2016).

See also Elizabeth Chang, Britain’s Chinese Eye: Literature, Empire, and Aesthetics in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press, 2010), pp. 174-75, at (accessed June 18, 2016). For Williamson’s complete catalogue entry, see Low and Manvell, The History of the British Film 1896-1906, p. 70, or “Attack on a China Mission (1900),” Screenonline (BFI Screenonline, 2003-2014), at (accessed June 18, 2016).

[25] Quoted by Chanan, The Dream That Kicks, p. 278.

[26] The Dream That Kicks, p. 280.

[27] A Critical History, pp. 38, 41.

[28] On Williamson, see the following: Martin Sopocy, James Williamson: Studies and Documents of a Pioneer of the Film Narrative (London: Associated University Presses, 1998); Sopocy, “James Williamson in Hove,” in The Hove Pioneers and the Arrival of Cinema, ed. Barnes and Gray; Sopocy, “Postscripts to James Williamson,” Film History 22:3 (2010), pp. 313-28. See also Fairservice, Film Editing, pp. 23-26; Sopocy, “James Williamson,” Who’s Who in Victorian Cinema (British Film Institute, 2016), at (accessed June 18, 2016); Frank Gray, “Williamson, James (1855-1933),” Screenonline (BFI Screenonline, 2003-2014), at (accessed June 18, 2016); “Pioneers of Early Cinema: James A. Williamson (1855-1933),” National Media Museum (Bradford, UK, 2011), at (accessed June 18, 2016).

[29] See Pearson, “Early Cinema,” in Oxford History, ed. Nowell Smith, p. 19. For a discussion of pro-filmic space, eyeline match, and matching in general as functions in “the dominant system of editing/camera placement” and “the codes of découpage,” see Noël Burch, To the Distant Observer: Form and Meaning in the Japanese Cinema, ed./rev. Annette Michelson (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1979), esp. pp. 20-23, at (accessed June 18, 2016). On découpage, see Burch, Theory of Film Practice, Ch. 1; and Bordwell, Thompson, and Staiger, The Classical Hollywood Cinema, esp. pp. 60-66.

Numerous studies have been conducted into the psychological validity of various techniques that fall under the heading of classical continuity. See, for example: Todd Berlinger and Dale J. Cohen, “The Illusion of Continuity: Active Perception and the Classical Editing System,” Journal of Film and Video 63:1 (Spring 2011), pp. 44-63; Joseph P. Magliano and Jeffrey M. Zacks, “The Impact of Continuity Editing in Narrative Film on Event Segmentation,” Cognitive Science 35:8 (2011), pp. 1489-1517, at (accessed June 18, 2016); Tim J. Smith, “The Attentional Theory of Cinematic Continuity,” Projections 6:1 (Summer 2012), pp. 1-27, at (accessed June 18, 2016).

[30] This example, including Figure 5.17, is adapted from Reisz and Millar, The Technique of Film Editing, pp. 230-31.

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