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Essential Films Canons

Best Film

Worldwide | France | United Kingdom | United States | 1890 | 1888 | 1887 | 1880

Best Artist

Worldwide | France | Germany | Malta | United Kingdom | United States | 1890 | 1889 | 1888 | 1887 | 1886 | 1885 | 1884 | 1883 | 1882 | 1881 | 1880

Best Company

Worldwide | United Kingdom | United States | 1890 | 1889 | 1888 | 1887 | 1886 | 1885 | 1884 | 1883 | 1882 | 1881 | 1880

Best Direction

Worldwide | France | Germany | United Kingdom | 1890 | 1888 | 1887 | 1880

Best Actor

Malta | 1890

Best Cinematography

Worldwide | France | Germany | United Kingdom | 1890 | 1888 | 1887 | 1880

Best Editing

Worldwide | France | 1888

Best Debut

Worldwide | France | Germany | Malta | United Kingdom | United States | 1890 | 1888 | 1887 | 1880

Gaston Paulin

Composer | | 1839-1903

Film has been living in our imagination always in the company of music. Even when it comes to early silent works we still hear a quiet piano in the background. Synchronised recorded music to film did not appear until 1920s, but in 1892 Gaston Paulin had given the world of cinema its first soundtrack.

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Carmencita (1894)

William K.L. Dickson |

Carmencita, the Spanish Gypsy dancer nicknamed the "Pearl of Seville", was the first woman to appear on celluloid in the United States. Watching her dance is still a pleasant experience more than 100 years since the film was shot. Even in silence, we could sense the rhythm of the music.

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Émile Reynaud

Director | | 1844-1918

Many a masterpieces have been lost in time, but it is quite sad when they disappear as a result of the author’s deliberate desire to destroy them. Eight years prior to his death, in a moment of insanity most probably, Charles-Émile Reynaud threw most of his entire life’s work into the waters of Seine.

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The Barbershop (1894)

William K.L. Dickson - William Heise |

Following on the footsteps of Blacksmith Scene (1893), The Barbershop is William K.L. Dickson’s and William Heise’s attempt to explore staging and narrative in film. “The latest wonder – shave and hair cut for a nickel” reads the poster above the barber’s counter. For us, the wonder is that of cinema.

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Essential Films - Chapter IV: Pauvre Pierrot (Poor Pierrot)

Émile Reynaud | | 1892

During a quiet night, Harlequin jumps the fence to enter Columbine’s garden. This first sequence of rudimentary images is the earliest proof of an animated moving picture. The director was the celebrated French inventor Charles-Émile Reynaud, the man that gave the world the first animated public projection, the same man that was to die in utter obscurity over a quarter of a decade after that.

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Blacksmith Scene (1893)

William K.L. Dickson |

What a genuine sense of fun lurks in this picture! Three blacksmiths go about their business, hammering intensely on a metal rod. The job says that the metal should be cooled from time to time, and the blacksmiths believe that the human body needs its own refreshment.

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Edison Manufacturing Company

Production Company - Distribution Company | | 1894-1911

Edison’s flavour for technology could hardly miss the temptation to embark on the development of moving images. The early patent war with the European inventors has hardly put the avaricious businessman in a good light in contemporary criticism. But, with the opening of the Black Maria studio in West Orange, New Jersey, Edison has truly created a new type of organisation.

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Wordsworth Donisthorpe

Director - Cinematographer | | 1847-1914

Wordsworth Donisthorpe started with a wool-combing machine and ended up by making his own moving picture camera. In retrospect, it is easy to see the resemblance in the mechanism between the two machines, but it is surprising that the inventor was a graduate from Cambridge University who qualified as a barrister, that dedicated his life to political activism.

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Pauvre Pierrot (Poor Pierrot | 1892)

Émile Reynaud |

The history of motion pictures is not all about moving photographs. Before Muybridge and Le Prince, there were numerous experiments in reproducing movement that primarily involved painted images. Given the popularity of magic lantern shows and the plethora of early inventions, it is not surprising that in 1892 it was an animation projection that became the first cinematic public experience.

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Essential Films - Chapter III: Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge

Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince | | 1888

In the history of early film, the cinematic output of Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince is of a seminal value. His Roundhay Garden Scene (1888) is the first film shot with a single-lens camera, but many historians and film critics still consider the twenty frames of Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge as the most important of his works.

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London's Trafalgar Square (1890)

William Carr Crofts - Wordsworth Donisthorpe |

The ten remaining frames of London's Trafalgar Square are still the oldest moving footage of the capital of the United Kingdom, but also the first footage in the world featuring a capital city. This is also the only remaining film shot with the kinesigraph by Wordsworth Donisthorpe and William Carr Crofts.

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William Carr Crofts

Director - Cinematographer | | 1846-1894

The history of early film is full with forgotten faces and lost talents. Individuals seem to be vanishing behind other names and other inventions. In time, recorded history makes it almost impossible not to exclude certain pioneers from the cinematic canon. William Carr Crofts appears by now as a mere footnote in the history of the medium.

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William Heise

Cinematographer - Director - Producer - Actor | | 1847-1910

The German-born American filmmaker William Heise can easily be considered the first professional director of photography. He shot nearly 150 short films in the last decade of the 19th century, yet it is surprising how little biographical evidence is currently available in relation to him.

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William K.L. Dickson

Director - Producer - Cinematographer - Actor | | 1860-1935

Born in France of Anglo-Scottish descent, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson can easily be considered the most important individual in the history of motion pictures. His pivotal role in the development of the craft can be exemplified by just a few achievements: he made the first camera to record moving images that went into industrial production.

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Essential Films - Chapter II: Dickson Greeting

William K.L. Dickson | | 1891

There are multiple debates concerning the origins of film. Photographers in the nineteenth century were anxious to find a way to capture movement, almost from the moment they discovered the art of photography. It took less than half a century, and by the 1870s Edward Muybridge has already made significant advances, managing with the use of the zoopraxiscope to exhibit successfully a series of moving images.

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