The Lumière cinematograph

The Lumière cinematograph

  • The Lumière cinematograph.

    AUZOLLE Marcelin (1862 - 1942)

  • The Lumière cinematograph.

    BRISPOT Henri

The Lumière cinematograph.

© BIFI Film library - French Cinémathèque

The Lumière cinematograph.

© BIFI Film library - French Cinémathèque

Publication date: July 2015

Historical context

The origins of cinema

The constant fascination of men for moving representations has led many scientists of the modern age to design devices that can project a succession of still images. Already famous for his photographic research, this scientist relied in particular on the work of Emile Reynaud, Etienne Marey and Thomas Edison, the respective inventors of the praxinoscope (1877), the chronophotographic rifle (1882) and the kinetoscope (1891) , to achieve projecting moving photographic images on a screen, by means of a mechanical camera and projection device capable of driving a tape.

Image Analysis

The first film screenings

After having filed a patent on February 13, 1895 for "a device used for obtaining and viewing chronophotographic prints", the brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière, partners in their profession, organized in Paris on March 22 a first public screening of the film. movie Exit from the Lumière factories, which immediately met with real success. This is how commercial exploitation of the device officially began on December 28, 1895, when the first paid public session was held in Paris, in the Indian Salon of the Grand Café, boulevard des Capucines. Numerous documents from the period attest to the public's enthusiasm for this technological innovation. The posters in particular, which capture the entertaining aspects of the Belle Epoque, have helped to introduce cinema into manners, making it part of the entertainment industry. Thus a brightly colored advertising poster by Henri Brispot depicts the crowd of spectators who throng in front of the narrow entrance to the Indian Salon, while in the foreground a guard tries to dissuade a priest from joining the public, as if this new distraction couldn't concern him. The haste of these men and women of all ages and professions, most of them dressed in Belle Epoque fashion, stems from the fact that, for the first time, the cinematograph gives to the images, projected in life size, the appearance of reality and that he manages to record an event in its duration, creating an effect of illusion then perceived as magical. This is how real enthusiasm drives the viewers of the film The watered sprinkler (1895) in a second Auzolle poster, dated 1896. Their various reactions - outstretched hands, serious, amazed or joyful faces - to the comic scene unfolding on the screen express the liveliest general satisfaction, while underlining how this film, the first to introduce some elements of fiction, manages to capture the attention of the public. At that time, the films made by Louis Lumière, although they mostly showed familiar scenes taken from life, nevertheless had a great power of seduction. This comes not only from the novelty of the process, but also from the plastic qualities of the image, which accentuate the impression of reality. The filmmaker, who is indeed distinguished by his ability to distribute the masses on the screen, to frame the scene and to play on the light effects, endeavors to present reality, which he embellishes very slightly, without however transform it.


The expansion of cinematography

In front of the triumphant reception of the public, the Lumière brothers extended the commercial exploitation of cinematography by sending their operators in 1896 to broadcast it throughout the world. At the same time, the production of Lumière films reached its peak between 1896 and 1897, only to experience a recession due not only to the end of the exploitation of cinematography in the United States, but also and above all to the lack of renewal of the repertoire of films. filmed scenes. In fact, Louis Lumière, who saw cinema not as a spectacle but as a technological conquest, soon refocused his activity on photography. Continuing his technical research on the quality of the photographic image, in 1903 he succeeded in perfecting autochromy, a very elaborate process which allows the reproduction of colors, while large companies created by Charles Pathé and Louis Gaumont among others embarked on film production. Until 1914, filmmakers explored different avenues. Thus Georges Méliès, who became fully aware of the aesthetic importance of the new process, made films in which reality disappears in favor of fantasy and poetry. The gradual introduction of fiction and the development of its own writing thus allowed cinema to gradually emerge from its origins and reach maturity, becoming an art in its own right.

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Bernard CHARDERE In the land of light Paris, Actes Sud, 1995.Bernard CHARDÈRE Le Roman des Lumière: live cinema Paris, Gallimard, 1995.Vincent PINEL Louis Lumière, inventor and filmmaker Paris, Nathan, 1994.Vincent PINEL The Century of Cinema Paris, Bordas, 1994.Jacques RITTAUD-HUTINET The Lumière Brothers: the invention of cinema Paris, Flammarion, 1995. Georges SADOUL History of world cinema Paris, Flammarion, 1966.

To cite this article

Charlotte DENOËL, "The Light Cinematograph"


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