Friday, February 09, 2007

Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer (1975)

Concise, well-constructed documentary on the title fellow, whose experiments with sequential photography can be construed as the first attempt at making movies. Director Thom Andersen fills us in with some brief biographical information at the outset; his main interest, though, is not in the man's life but in his work. Muybridge's photographs, though imperfect (analysis reveals that the photos would miss something like two-thirds of the actual movement), were groundbreaking in their study of musculature and action, and it's Muybridge's creation of a zoopraxoscope (a viewer to sequentially display recreations of said photographs) that may have in part led to the modern movie camera. Thus, it seems only natural when Andersen ends the film by putting Muybridge's photographs into balletic motion, thereby explicitizing the link between zoopraxography and cinema while simultaneously broadening his subject so that the film serves as an examination of the nature of film. It's painstaking, exhaustive and all pretty damn awesome; considering that those terms also describe the work which it's about and of which it is mainly comprised, Andersen would have to try pretty hard not to make something interesting out of them.

Grade: B+


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