Cinema of Attractions: The Features of 1906 Cinema Essay

Cinema of Attractions: The Features of 1906 Cinema Essay

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According to Gunning (1986), spectacle dominates narrative in the early film-making industry (p. 59), whilst this is the most significant feature in the conception of “cinema of attraction”. When film-making is still at the exploration stage, attempting to play with the new technology and produce films of different genres, most of the works before 1906 present the characteristics of “cinema of attractions” introduced by Gunning. Cinema pre-1906 attempts to show the actuality or perform directly and explicitly to the spectators, instead of narrating a story. Film makers tend to play with the technology and create visual impact to the spectators. Moreover, cinema pre-1906 is a cheap entertainment for people to meet friends and have fun after working. It allows the spectators to get distracted during the screening; in the meantime they are amused by the films. Thus, again, narrative is not important.
It is “an exhibitionist cinema” (p. 57): performers often use an exaggerating body movement mainly to attract the spectator’s attention in the theatre. They solicit the spectators to watch their shows using histrionic style of performance as if they are acting on the stage. Comparing to narrative films which rely more on scenario and performers’ facial expression, long shots are often used in cinema pre-1906 in order to capture the whole image of the scene. Long shots also allow the performers to utilize the entire frame since they emphasize more on body movement. In Uncle Josh at the Moving Picture Show (Porter, 1902), the way the performer acts is as mentioned in Gunning’s thesis. Even though the camera position is static with long shot and long take, the performer has succeeded to draw spectator’s attention by jumping here and there,...


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...in film-making and thus, they play around with the technology. This results in the visual impact created which give the spectators a new sensation towards this new art. Cinema pre-1906 is somewhere for the people to take a rest and to have fun with friends and families. They visit there merely for entertainment and cheerfulness. They are not required to think and analyze the films; instead they need only to sit back and relax, and to perceive the series of views with amusement. These features build up the cinema pre-1906, which is also the “cinema of attractions”.



Works Cited

Brooke, M. (n.d.). Santa Claus (1898). Retrieved from http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/725468/
Gunning, T. (1986). The cinema of attractions: Early film, its spectators and the avant-garde. In T. Elsaesser (Ed.), Early cinema: Space, frame, narrative (pp. 56-62). London: BFI.

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