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I N T R O D U C T I O N American Cinema Emerges (1890–1909) ANDRÉ GAUDREAULT AND TOM GUNNING ■■■■■■■■■■ The So-Called Invention of So-Called Cinema Peter Bogdanovich: Was it true that one director told you not to call them “movies” but “motion pictures”? Orson Welles: . . . Nowadays, I’m afraid the word is rather chic. It’s a good English word, though—“movie.” How pompous it is to call them “motion pictures .” I don’t mind “films,” though, do you? Peter Bogdanovich: No, but I don’t like “cinema.” Orson Welles: I know what you mean. (Bogdanovich and Welles 23) This book deals with a very special topic: the beginnings. The beginnings of cinema, some would say. The beginnings of moving pictures, others would say. Or, to use less familiar terms—but terms that would have been familiar in the period covered by this book—the beginnings of animated views or animated pictures. The choice of words in the question we intend to formulate here is important, because each could give rise to a different answer. The answer to the question “Who invented the movies?” is not necessarily the same as the answer to the question “Who invented cinema?” or “Who invented moving pictures?” Generally speaking, these terms all refer today to the same phenomenon, but each of them involves a series of specific meanings, especially if we delve into the history of the invention of the various processes that gave rise to what we now call “cinema.” The problem of the invention of what we today call “cinema” is certainly complex, but we are obliged to address it here before setting out, if only because it will enable us to put into perspective some of the conditions in which the new technology emerged. We must first of all determine who invented what, and when. The present volume could very well have begun with the year 1895. That would have been the result of a different editorial choice than the one 1 we have made here. Doing so would not have been completely foolish or mistaken, because, as we will see below, this truly was the year in which the projection of photographic moving pictures on two continents (Europe and the Americas) began, in the form of a variety of devices and processes. But is the projection of photographic moving pictures essential if we are to speak of “cinema”? Immediately, the question we formulated above returns: what do we mean by “motion pictures,” by “cinema,” by “moving pictures”? Are we necessarily talking about a projected image? Is the simple viewing of photographic moving images in itself, without projection, sufficient for cinema to exist? What really is “cinema”? Or, more precisely: When is there cinema? These are entirely relevant questions, because the invention of cinema is a topic on which there is far from unanimous agreement. This was true at the time of its invention and it is even truer more than a century later. These questions about origins, it must be said, also carry with them a certain degree of subjectivity (and emotions and nationalist sentiment sometimes enter into the matter as well). In fact, one’s position about the invention of cinema rests on one’s choice of a supposed “inaugural moment .” In the historical continuum, what is the most important thing to enable us to claim that, before the intervention of some event or another, there was no cinema? And that after this event there was cinema? What exactly was this great “inaugural moment” that determined the “birth” of cinema? Was it when such-and-such a device was invented, making possible the dissemination of animated pictures? Or was it, rather, such-andsuch a demonstration, in the course of which animated views encountered an audience for the first time? These are seemingly simple questions, but they open up a true Pandora’s Box, because the debates they give rise to call into question a great number of “certainties” about the invention of cinema and invariably ruffle various nationalist sentiments. And these are not the only questions that come to mind when we try to determine who invented cinema, a question that is simple only in appearance, because it opens onto numerous avenues and has given rise, for more than a hundred years, to many sharp words and passionate debates. Thus one scholar will see Eadweard J. Muybridge’s first projections using his Zoopraxiscope (the name it is known by today; Muybridge...


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