Louis Le Prince – moving image pioneer – 1841 to 1890

I suspect that most of the Friends are familiar with this C19th inventor who, in 1888, produced what is the earliest surviving example of a strip of moving image; scenes shot on a single lens camera of people in a Roundhay garden and then of people and traffic on Leeds Bridge. The second Leeds International Film Festival was, in his centenary year, a celebration of Le Prince’s achievement. And Blue Plaques commemorate his pioneer work on Leeds Bridge and the site of his workshop on Woodhouse Lane. Now a new study has appeared, ‘The Man Who Invented Motion Pictures’ by Paul Fischer, published by Simon & Schuster this month, in 2022, [ ‘The Genius, Secrecy and Disappearance of Louis Le Prince’]. Helpfully, a condensed version of the publication was premiered by BBC’s Radio 4’s ‘Book of the Week’; five episodes of 15 minutes each and available on BBC Sounds.

The book adds to the available studies of this important pioneer of what became cinema. There is Christopher Rawlence’s ‘The Missing Reel’ [Collins 1990): there is Rawlence’s documentary dramatisation of the book, made for Channel 4 in 1990, but not apparently available: David Wilkinson’s 2015 The First Film, more an argument for Le Prince’s recognition that a documentary [available on MUBI]: a detailed Wikipedia page links and detailed references: archive material at Leeds Industrial Museum and at Bradford’s National Media Museum Insight collection: interesting discussion of Prince’s achievement on a blog devoted to William Friese-Greene: and the Louis Prince Leeds Trail. YouTube has transfers of Le Prince’s moving images and a number of short video pieces on him; some have debatable claims.

The title is slightly over the top. The 1880s was a time when a number of pioneers were experimenting with developing photographic technology into a format for moving images. The author does detail the way that Le Prince worked at developing camera and projector for moving images. His descriptions in the BBC extracts are clear and understandable. However, all that survives are examples of what Le Prince filmed and one of his model cameras. As Fischer points out these are the earliest surviving examples of projectable moving images. However, there is no clear evidence that Le Prince successfully projected these. And after his death, when his family attempted to prove his prior claim to the patents of Thomas Edison, they failed; partly because what Le Prince patented did not offer enough detail.

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The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017): A Friends Festive Screening

Sunday 12th December 3.30 pm at Leeds University.
Members can claim up to 2 free tickets for this special festival screening

Film poster featuring Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce in The Man Who Invented Christmas. How Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol and created a tradition

The man in question is, of course, Charles Dickens; and his invention is his novella ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1843). This must be the most famous contribution to the festive season in modern times. There are likely two dozen adaptations of the book on film plus others on television, radio and in the theatre. And its influence can be seen in many other tales rolled out every year; it has always seemed to me that It’s a Wonderful Life works by inverting the earlier story. The smart variation offered in this movie is the portrait of Dickens writing his masterwork in the last weeks of 1843.

It is a dramatisation and whilst much of it is accurate it also includes invention and embroidering; check out ‘History vs Hollywood’ which examines some of these issues. The six week time period of the film is accurate; in that year Dickens was seeking an elusive popular novel and also worrying over financial problems. Meanwhile the Victorian Christmas was emerging; the 25th became a Bank Holiday in 1834; whilst Boxing Day and Bob Cratchit had to wait until 1871. The source for the movie was US writer Les Standiford who produces historical non-fiction and had the bright idea of presenting both how Dickens produced his famous work but also its influence on the increasing importance of this festival.

The film depicts Dickens drawing on his own life experiences to dramatise a tale of ‘light’ and shadow’; incorporating already existing practices such as the large fowl for dinner and the succulent pudding. He also added family get togethers and carol singing. The film tends to emphasise the sentimentality that was part of Dickens’ writing. There is less emphasis on the darker aspects of Victorian Britain; aspects written about vividly in the same period by Frederick Engels (‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’, 1845).

In the course of the film we see Dickens (Dan Stevens) tussling with the  characters he develops, including Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer); receiving inspiration from those about him including an invented Irish maid Tara (Anna Murphy): and revisiting his past and family, including his father John (Jonathan Pryce). He also has to tussle with publishers, printers and illustrators as the novel takes shape and prepares for publication.

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Jozi Gold Director’s Discussion

Jozi Gold (2019) was screened at Leeds University Union as part of the Hyde Park Picture House On The Road programme in conjunction with the UK Green Film Festival on Sunday 7 November 2021.

Following the film was a discussion with host Sai Murray and film director Sylvia Vollenhoven (who joined via Zoom from South Africa). Capturing the urgency of the current conversation around climate change and the deep links between UK politics, policies and institutions and the impact this has on other countries. The discussion was recorded and here we have a transcription for you to enjoy.

You can watch the film here: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/jozigold

SM: Sylvia is not only a filmmaker, an award winning journalist, playwright, writer and knight fellow. Her book about identity, the Keeper of the Kumm won the award for literature, and her dance drama adaptation of the book was showcased on the main programme at the South African National Arts Festival, nominated for various awards – best director, best documentary, playwright, award for human rights in the arts etc.. Individual artist, activist and it’s our real pleasure to welcome you to this screening. Brilliant so we have a select audience gathered here today who I’m sure have questions and responses but I’d also like to begin by thanking you for such an inspiring film, a very provocative film and a really important film. Some really really interesting facts and also the way the film was put together and characters. I guess my first question comes from a conversation I had around the film with one of the people who invited me here today who is from South African heritage and who’s here. Our reaction I guess to knowing this film was about Johannesburg, about mining and your choice to follow this character – because we begin with the stilettos, with the very ornate dressed individual of the white woman but you being a black film director, that was not what was expected but she is such an interesting and intriguing character who has done a lot of good and her activism is having a lot of results. So could you speak about the choice to follow this individual and how you perhaps first became aware of her activism?

SV: Greetings! Thank you for screening the film and thank you for this opportunity. How I first got to hear about this is there’s a tiny magazine in South Africa that is small in numbers and audience but very very powerful. It’s an investigative journalism magazine called Noseweek and the editor of that magazine and I have worked together at different media houses and I’ve always been following his work and I’d seen so much of Mariette Liefferink’s activism in Noseweek. In fact, we feature in the film that Superwoman power image – that came out of Noseweek! The editor also has a son who is a journalist and Adam Wells had been following Mariette’s story and filming and he’s more of a print journalist rather than a filmmaker and he was following her around for 4 years. He has a friend who’s the director of a film in Norway and spoke to Stephan about finishing this film that he had been filming for four years but didn’t know how to structure and didn’t know how to put it all together. Stephan said well I have a friend in Sweden, Frederick Garrington[?] At WG Film would be very interested in the story, and Frederick said I’ll get on board if Silvia is the South African producer and my co-director because Frederick and I have been working together for many years and we also are very close friends for decades, having covered apartheid together and I used to be a correspondent for a Swedish outlet. So that’s how it came about. But I must say when Adam Wells, the South African journalist, came to see me and said Frederick said he’s on board if you become the South African director I was not agreeable! I just had not met Mariette and I thought I’m not going to sit here so many years after South African democracy and allow a white Africans woman to tell us what is wrong with South Africa. It just didn’t sit well with me. But then I went to Johannesburg and in Cape Town at the time and changed my mind completely. There were two things that changed my mind mainly, there were lots of little things, but the two main reasons were her integrity and her passion and the second reason was that being an activist myself I knew how important it was to have an image that was out of the ordinary, that would stop people in their tracks, and not only did she have this exotic image that was attention getting and we could use to our advantage for the activism that the film is hoping to elicit but also in the mining industry, dominated by men, and a certain kind of patriarchal class, they don’t see her coming, and by the time they sit up and take notice she’s already in the Supreme Court with a huge court case. So I thought well given my activism background I could really work with this woman.

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Hebden Bridge Picture House Centenary

This surviving independent cinema in the Calder Valley opened its doors on July 12th 1921. A year of celebration starts this Saturday, July 10th, with an evening event this Saturday, starting at 7.30 p.m. and including a screening [digital] of Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid (1921). The Picture House has many affinities with our own Hyde Park Picture House. Both are supported by the local council: both have an active support of a society of Friends: both have histories written and published by the said Friends: both can screen 35mm and digital, even 16mm: both have traditional auditoriums with proper masking and a low level of illumination during screenings: and both have a varied programme including mainstream titles, art and foreign language titles and early films with live music accompaniment.

Hebden Bridge’s first cinema was a wooden structure which opened in 1911. In 1913 the nearby Co-op Hall also started screening the new ‘moving pictures’. Following World War 1 a purpose built cinema was proposed and approved. The rather large building for a small town had a classical exterior and the auditorium boasted a balcony. The opening ceremony included travel and topical pictures and musical quartet. The first features at the new Picture House were two British dramas of the period. Torn Sails (1920) was a tragic romance set in Wales. The Iron Stair (1920) was a crime drama. They were followed by a film directed by Cecil Hepworth, Anna, The Adventuress, a drama of changed identity set in Paris. Hepworth also directed a film using locations around Hebden Bridge, Helen of Four Gates (1920), though that film was screened at the Co-op Hall.

The Picture House flourished through the 1930s to 1950s. There was a period closure in the 1960s and again in the 1970s. But then it came under the control first of the local council, then the Metropolitan Council and finally Hebden Royd Town Council.. It continues furnishing theatrical entertainment for the area though it has suffered in local flooding, most recently in 2016. In the year of celebration there will be screenings of titles from its history, 35mm prints and ‘silents’ with live music..

There is a programme with The Adventures of Prince Achmed / Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed, a dazzling animation by Lotte Reiniger from 1926 using silhouette techniques. In December there is a screening of Pandora’s Box / Die Büchse der Pandora; G. W. Pabst’s film version of Franz Wedekind’s famous or infamous play. The film is illuminated by the luminous Louise Brooks in the main role. And the year ends with a screening of Helen of Four Gates; a print of what was though a ‘lost film’ was discovered in Canada in 207 and has now been fully restored.

The cinema is only ten minutes from Hebden Bridge railway station on the line with regular services between Leeds and Manchester. The balcony is rather cramped with wooden seats; however, the ground floor of the auditorium spacious and comfortable with a commendable low level of illumination during screenings. And the foyer offers real cups of tea with homemade cakes. So a trip to see ‘reel’ film in a real cinema should help assuage the absence until 2022 of our own Picture House.

 

The Future Of The Friends – Open Meeting Monday 29th March

On Monday 29th March at 7pm we will be holding an open meeting online to explore and take forward ideas and proposals for developing the work of the Friends. This meeting is open to current members, past members and others in any way connected
to, or interested in, the Cinema and its contribution to community life.

There will be a brief introduction on progress so far including the main areas of work that we have identified: Social Activities, Online Activities, Outreach, Heritage and Study Groups.

There will be opportunity to discuss these areas and any other ideas that come up. We’ll also be inviting people to get more involved if they think they can help in a particular area.

For more details please see our Open Meetings page. If you are interested in attending please complete the RSVP form so we can send you the Zoom meeting details.

Special General Meeting – 1st March 7pm

The Friends of the Hyde Park Picture House online Annual General Meeting on February 1st 2021 was attended by 42 people. It was good to have so much interest. However this number fell below the quorum we needed to make formal decisions. We went through all agenda items and recorded your views in the draft minutes (which will be available soon).

We have arranged an online Special General Meeting on Monday March 1st at 7pm to take the formal decisions needed, guided by the AGM discussions. This time the quorum will just be the number of people attending rather than a set figure.

This shorter than usual Special General Meeting will be followed by discussion of ways ahead for the Friends over the next few years and beyond. We look forward to your contributions on ideas for future activities, working groups and Committee membership, the relationship of the Friends to the Picture House, and what membership of the Friends means. If you would like to raise anything ahead of the meeting please contact us.

Instructions on how to join the meeting will be sent to members via email nearer the time.

More Festive Fun

Unfortunately we haven’t been able to put on our Christmas screening this year but there are other events and festive treats to be found online. Heart’s Lockdown Film Club continues on Fridays (see Bill’s post for details), the Kennington Bioscope seasonal special is happening tonight (7:30pm Youtube) and Carol Morley is bringing her Friday Film Club back for a festive special this Friday (18th December) at 8pm.

Director Jeanie Finlay has visited the Picture House a few times with Sound It Out and most recently Seahorse. Her 2015 film tells the story of how a small community theatre fights to keep afloat in austere times so is perhaps even more relevant today.

“The film captures magnificently the spirit of the production in all its chaotic, funny, joyful and exhilarating glory”

THE TIMES

“Wonderfully uplifting”

RADIO TIMES

A link to watch the film for free will be available on Friday (see @CarolMorley‘s Twitter page or the #FridayFilmCub hashtag for more details ), the idea is to watch at the same time and then go on Twitter to discuss the film. If you’re not on Twitter you can still watch the film and tell us what you thought in the comments below.

We’ll keep an eye out for any other online events or great films that available to watch at home over the festive period and hope that you all manage to still find a way to enjoy the holiday period.

Lockdown Film Club

I remember the last picture show. It was on Friday the 13th, or maybe 28 days later. Life became rocky and I started feeling dazed and confused. I took a hard look in the mirror and vowed to never say never again. While it was not exactly a matter of life and death, I was in a lonely place until I joined the Lockdown Film Club. That was a night to remember. Now all is well. Life is beautiful. Members are happy together. So don’t be clueless! No titanic effort needed. Do the right thing and get in touch with the Lockdown Film Club (details below). You will find that you don’t look back.

Steamboat Bill, Jr

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Lockdown Film Club

Our friends at HEART have been organising a weekly online film discussion club during the lockdown.

LOCKDOWN FILM CLUB with Gurj Kang meets on Zoom on Fridays from 7pm

We are a friendly group who discuss films that have been keeping us going through Lockdown. We have a theme each week such as comedy or rom coms and you are encourage to nominate two favourites in advance.

To give you an idea of the variety, rom com favourites included:

  • Bringing up Baby (1938)
  • Notting Hill (1999)
  • When Harry Met Sally (1989)
  • ChungKing Express (1994)
  • Her (2013)
  • Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down (1989)
  • Say Anything (1989)
  • Gregory’s Girl (1981)

The film club is organised by HEART, the arts, enterprise and community centre in the middle of Headingley run by the community for the community.  HEART will be the venue for Hyde and Seek family friendly films and for Memory Matinees (screenings inclusive for people with dementia) as the Lockdown ends. There is no charge but members are encouraged to support HEART’s work through Just Giving. https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/heartheadingley

The theme for May 8th is music-related films. To get the Zoom link and password email centremanager@heartcentre.org.uk


Bill Walton

Christmas Screening Suggestions

Now October is here it’s time for us to start thinking about Christmas. Every year the Friends organise a free Christmas screening for members and this year we’d like your help to select a film. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a Christmas film but should be one that captures the festive spirit. Our recent screenings (see below) have tended towards classic films but there have been a lot of new festive films recently. It’s likely to be the last Friends event before the closure so it would be good to make it special.

Leave a comment, contact us or post your ideas on Facebook or Twitter and we’ll collate all the suggestions and see what we can do. Please let us have your suggestions by Sunday 20th October and It’s A Wonderful Life will be having it’s traditional screening at the Picture House so we (probably?) won’t be showing that.

Previous Christmas Screenings include: