Greta Garbo

Monday, January 30, 2023

Scott Lord Silent Film: The Great Train Robbery (Porter,1903)


Vladimir Petric in A Visual/Analytical History of Silent Film (1895-1930), Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, notes Porter's "The Great Train Robbery" as a "primitive use of parralel editing to dramatize the narrative". Not only is this in sharp contrast to the earlier cinema of attractions that relegated storytelling to the act of display, but the film is significant as the first film made in the Western genre. It is uncanny that the closing shot, as a subjective shot, is an attraction, something static and something dispalyed, urging the spectatator to draw and shoot back. Patric Vonderau and Vinzenz Hedigar have written, "The visuality of the display, however, is still indispensible to its effect."- albeit their recent volume, Films That Work, is primarily concerned with international industrial films.

Whether crosscutting began with Edwin S. Porter and "The Great Train Robbery", a film which is attributed as having used croscutting in the volume The Film Idea, written by Stanley J. Solomon, or whether it was more properly developed by D.W. Griffith around 1908, as with the parallel editing in the 1907 films "The Greaser's Gauntlet" and "The Fatal Hour" (Phillipe Gauthier, Harvard University), author Stanley Solomon points out that crosscutting was intrinsiclly cinematic, rather than dramaturgical or theatrical by describing it as "a technique suitable to the form of cinema but unnatural to the form of nineteenth century stage drama, which was at that time a significant influence on the new media." A recent online film class on how to "read" a film from described the film as being comprised of "seperate shots of non-continuous, non-overlapping action" while being careful to designate the film as an early example of crosscutting.

Film historian Charles Mussur, in Before the Nickelodeon :Edwin S. Porter, writes, "Porter's film meticulously documents a process...The film's narrative structure, as Gaudreault notes, utilizes temporal repetition with an overall narrative progression." As narrative it was essentially a reenactment film. He adds that "Porter exploied procedures that heighten the realism and believabilty of the image" (David Levy).

Silent Film Silent Film D. W. Griffith

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