See the moving picture


Unmasking the Voyeur

The Gay Shoe Clerk

Edwin S. Porter, Edison Manufacturing Co., USA, 1903

The “gag” on which Porter is playing a variation has most of its motion-picture precedents in point-of-view shots that use masks to isolate the object or scene being viewed. Porter’s version, however, dispenses with the mask. Moreover, the closeup is not intended to be anyone’s point of view: the angle is the same as that of the “master shot” containing the whole scene (left). The match on action (the clerk’s hand) is fairly good, and, conceivably, we could regard the cut as an attempt at continuity. Unfortunately, the removal of the background from the closer shot (right) destroys the necessary illusion of a homogeneous area of space viewed from two simultaneously operative perspectives.

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