By Oliver Gaycken
Devices of Curiosity excavates a principally unknown style of early cinema, the popular-science movie. basically a piece of cinema background, it additionally attracts at the insights of the heritage of technology. starting round 1903, quite a few manufacturers made movies approximately clinical issues for normal audiences, encouraged by means of a imaginative and prescient of cinema as an academic medium. This publication lines the improvement of popular-science movies over the 1st 1/2 the silent period, from its beginnings in England to its flourishing in France round 1910.
Devices of Curiosity additionally considers how popular-science movies exemplify the circulate of data. those motion pictures in the beginning relied upon prior traditions akin to the magic-lantern lecture for his or her representational innovations, they usually consistently had recourse to validated visible iconography, yet additionally they created novel visible paradigms and resulted in the production of formidable new movie collections. eventually, the ebook discerns a transit among nonfictional and fictional modes, seeing affinities among popular-science motion pictures and likely points of fiction motion pictures, really Louis Feuillade's crime melodramas. this type of stream is necessary for an knowing of the broader relevance of early popular-science motion pictures, which impacted the formation of the documentary, academic, and avant-garde cinemas.
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Additional resources for Devices of Curiosity: Early Cinema and Popular Science
This concept of “sugarcoated science,” which Percy Smith would echo, encapsulates how popularscience films appealed to both the sensuous and the intellectual faculties. One reaction to this dual appeal was discernment, an attempt to parse the cultural elements that The Unseen World fused. ”32 Instead of being seen as a compromise, however, the show’s mixed appeals also could be appreciated as having a peculiar power, as the reviewer for the Morning Post recognized: As a music hall turn, last night’s production was an unqualified success.
26 This emphasis on movement both recalls the reactions to the earliest cinematic projections and extends those reactions into new optical realms. The sense of the familiar mingled with the novel evoked echoes of older entertainments as well. While stressing the show’s originality, the reviewer for the Free Lance also connected it to a mid-nineteenth-century popularscience venue: “All last week the house was crowded nightly and this I should think is largely due to the novelty. ”27 Another review referred to the Polytechnic as well: I wonder who remembers that the original Alhambra was a competitor of the old Polytechnic, called the Panopticon, opened with prayer, operated under a Royal charter, and filled with scientific toys?
A microscopic examination of the former, magnified to the size of a Bioscope screen, revealed one of the most blood-curdling pictures imaginable with mites of various shapes and sizes, but all equally hideous, prowling around in the most businesslike manner. 49 Instead of providing views of grotesque but recognizable creatures from the visible universe, Cheese Mites and The Fresh-Water Hydra revealed an invisible world that was both fascinating and threatening (Fig. 5). The extension of the boundaries of the visible resulted in a defamiliarization of everyday objects, like cheese and water, which Bernard Lightman and Melanie Keene have shown was a widespread component of nineteenth-century popular “Revealing Nature’s Closest Secrets” 29 fig.