See the moving picture


How (and Why) to Keep Your Distance

Mary Jane’s Mishap, or Don’t Fool with the Paraffin

G.A. Smith, Great Britain, 1903

Although it also features a trick effect (superimposition) to introduce a ghost and two wipes (an optical effect in which one image seems to “wipe off” the preceding image) to change scenes, this film is better known as an early instance of a filmmaker’s effort to engage and inform the spectator by varying the distance of his shots. On the left is a long or medium-long shot that establishes the setting and situation. The next two frames give us two of the three medium closeups that clarify the premise of the story (or, more precisely, the gag). The matching is a little careless, but the action across shots is clearly continuous.

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