Lumière, Louis

views updated May 21 2018


Nationality: French. Born: Besançon, 5 October 1864. Education: L'école de la Martinière, Besançon, degree 1880; attended Conservatoire de Lyon, 1880–81. Career: Chemist and inventor, son of an industrialist specialising in photographic chemistry and the making of emulsions; after seeing Edison Kinetoscope demonstrated in Paris, developed with brother Auguste Lumière (1862–1954) the "Cinématographe Lumière," incorporating invention of claw driven by eccentric gear for advancing film, 1894; projected first film, showing workers leaving the Lumière factory, 1895; projected first program for a paying audience at Grand Café, Boulevard des Capucines, Paris, 28 December 1895; Société du Cinématographe Lumière formed, 1896; projected film onto 16–by–21–foot screen at Paris Exposition, 1900; company ceased film production, 1905; subsequently invented and manufactured photographic equipment; worked on stereo projection method, from 1921; première of "cinéma en relief" in Paris, 1936. Died: In Bandol, France, 6 June 1948.

Films as Director:


Directed about 60 films and produced about 2000, mostly documentaries


or 95 La Sortie des usines (version no. 1)


La Sortie des usines (version no. 2); L'Arroseur arrosé (LeJardinier); Forgerons; Pompiers; Attaque du feu; Le Repasde bébé (Le Déjeuner de bébé, Le Gouter de bébé); Pêcheaux poissons rouges; La Voltige; Débarquement (Arrivéedes congressistes à Neuville-sur-Saône); Discussion de M.Janssen et de M. Lagrange; Saut à la couverture (Brimadedans une caserne); Lyon, place des Cordeliers; Lyon,place Bellecour; Récréation à la Martinière; Charcuteriemécanique; Le Maréchalferrant; Lancement d'un navire àLa Ciotat; Baignade en mer; Ateliers de La Ciotat; Barquesortant du port (La Sortie du port); Arrivée d'un train à LaCiotat; Partie d'ecarté; Assiettes tournantes; Chapeaux àtransformations (Trewey: Under the Hat); Photographe; Démolition d'un mur (Le Mur); Querelle enfantine; Aquarium; Bocal aux poissons-rouges; Partie de tric-trac; LeDejeuner du chat; Départ en voiture; Enfants aux jouets; Course en sac; Discussion


Barque en mer; Baignade en mer; Arrivée d'un bateau àvapeur; Concours de boules; Premiers pas de Bébé; Embarquement pour le promenade; Retour d'une promenade en mer; Marché; Enfant et chien; Petit frèree et petitesoeur; Douche aprés le bain; Ronde enfantine; Enfants aubord de la mer; Bains en mer; Touristes revenant d'uneexcursion; Scènes d'enfants; Laveuses; Repas en famille; Bal d'enfants; Leçon de bicyclette; Menuisiers; Radeauavec baigneurs; Le Goûter de bébé


Inauguration de l'Exposition universelle; La Tour Eiffel; LePont d' Iéna; Danses espagnoles and other films shown on large screen at Paris Exposition 1900


Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat and other films presented in "cinéma en relief" program


By LUMIÈRE: books—

Cinématographe Auguste et Louis Lumière: Catalogue des Vues, first through seventh lists, Lyon, France, 1897–98.

Catalogue des vues pour cinématographe, Lyon, 1907.

By LUMIÈRE: articles—

"Lumière—The Last Interview," with Georges Sadoul, in Sight andSound (London), Summer 1948.

"Bellecour—Monplaisir," with H. Bitomsky, in Filmkritik (Munich), August 1978.

On LUMIÈRE: books—

Kubnick, Henri, Les Frères Lumière, Paris, 1938.

Bessy, Maurice, and Lo Duca, Louis Lumière, inventeur, Paris, 1948.

Leroy, Paul, Au seuil de paradis des images avec Louis Lumière, Paris, 1948.

Sadoul, Georges, Histoire générale du cinéma vols. 1 and 2, Paris, 1949.

Pernot, Victor, A Paris, il y a soixante ans, naissait le cinéma, Paris, 1955.

Mitry, Jean, Filmographie Universelle vol. 2, Paris, 1964.

Sadoul, Georges, Louis Lumière, Paris, 1964.

Chardère, Bernard, and others, Les Lumières, Paris, 1985.

Rittaud-Hutinet, Le Cinéma des origins: frères Lumière et leuropérateurs, Seyssel, 1985.

Sauvage, Leo, L'Affaire Lumière, Paris, 1985.

Redi, Riccardo, editor, Lumière, Rome, 1986.

André, Jacques and Marie, Uns Saison Lumière à Montpelier, Perpignan, 1987.

Lumière, Auguste, and Louis Lumière; translated by Pierre Hodgson, Letters: Inventing the Cinema, New York, 1997.

On LUMIÈRE: articles—

Browne, Mallory, "Artisan in Light," in Christian Science Monitor (Boston), 7 August 1935.

"Lumière Jubilee," in Time (New York), 18 November 1935.

Deutelbaum, M., "Structural Patterning in the Lumière Films," in Wide Angle (Athens, Ohio), no. 1, 1979.

Decaux, E., "Lieux du cinéma: lettre du Chateau Lumière," in Cinématographe (Paris), January 1979.

Vaughan, Dai, "Let There Be Lumière," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1981.

Dubois, P., "Le gros plan primitif," in Revue Belge du Cinéma (Brussels), Winter 1984/85.

Rinieri, D., "Lumière fut," in Cinématographe (Paris), September 1985.

"Louis Lumière: 8 Films de la soirée du Grand café," in Avant-Scènedu Cinéma (Paris), November 1984.

Masson, André, "Lumière!," in Positif (Paris), January 1986.

Chardère, B., and others, "Les Droits des films Lumière," in Filmèchange (Paris), Autumn 1986.

Gorki, Maxim, and P. Delpeut, in Versus (Nijmegen), no. 2, 1988.

Chardère, B., "Les sorties des usines Lumière. Jamais deux sans trois," in Positif (Paris), June 1989.

Caron, D. "L'in(ter)vention Lumiere," Cinématheque (Paris), no. 5, Spring 1994.

Desbenoit, Luc, "Les envoyes des Lumiere," in Télérama (Paris), no. 2349, 18 January 1995.

Labarthe, Andrés, and Jean Breschand, "Les frères Lumiere, cinéastes phares," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), no. 489, March 1995.

Gardies, André, "La cité Lumiere," in Cinemaction (Conde-sur-Noireau), no. 75, April 1995.

Gaudreault, André, and Germain Lacasse, "The Introduction of the Lumiere Cinematograph in Canada," in Canadian Journal ofFilm Studies (Ottawa), vol. 5, no. 2, Fall 1996.

* * *

Few directors since Louis Lumière have enjoyed such total control over their films. As inventor of the cinématographe, the first camera-cum-projector, he determined not only the subjects but also the aesthetics of early cinema. A scientist devoted to the plastic arts, Lumière initially specialised in outdoor photography. This experience, coupled with an appreciation of framing, perspective, and light values in a composition, informed his pioneering films.

To promote the cinématographe, he made demonstration shorts which, because of the camera's limited spool capacity, lasted less than a minute. If art refines itself through constraint, Lumière's films are excellent models. He overcame the cinématographe's technical limitations to achieve tightly structured views of contemporary life, both public and private.

Though Lumière's role in establishing the cinema has been dutifully recorded together with the audience's thrilled disbelief at his moving images, his contribution to film practice deserves more recognition. His first film, La Sortie des usines, pictures employees leaving his photographic factory. Framed by the open gates, they disperse before the camera set at a medium close-up distance, and with the closure of the gates the sequence ends. The film does not result from a casual pointing of the camera at the chosen subject: all has been pre-planned, from the placing of the hidden camera to the squaring of the action's duration with the available footage.

Over the next two years or so, Lumière experimented with diverse subjects and filming techniques. His themes reflect an unquestioning confidence in the permanence of contemporary political and social structures. Whether recording aspects of city life or the calmer pleasures of the seaside, the work of the artisan, fireman, or soldier, more personal family subjects or rehearsed comic episodes, his films imply a well-ordered, contented society where individuals cheerfully perform their allotted roles. Images of social deprivation or discontent are noticeably absent.

Scenes featuring family or friends are often filmed in medium close-up, with the single framing here reinforcing the intimacy and denying a world outside. Immaculate children, invariably in white, are shown feeding (Repas de bébé), learning to walk (Premiers pas de bébé), playing with toys (Enfants aux jouets), arguing (Querelle enfantine), dancing (Bal d'enfants), or delightfully trying to catch goldfish (Pêche aux poissons rouges). In Concert, Madame Lumière plays a violin, while card games involve family friends (Partie d'écarté and Partie de tric-trac). A cat lapping milk (Déjeûner du chat) is filmed in close-up and in Aquarium the fish tank fills the frame to create the illusion of underwater photography.

In films such as Place des Cordeliers and Place Bellecour the atmosphere of public squares alive with horse-drawn carriages and bustling crowds is captured, while in films such as Baignade en mer the novelties of sea-bathing are recorded. Other films prefigure newsreels by documenting particular events. The first of these, Débarquement, records photographers arriving for their conference and was projected the next day. Similar events include a street sack race (Course en sac), the demolition of a wall (Démolition d'un mur), the launching of a ship (Lancement d'un navire à La Ciotat), and various arrivals or departures, such as Touristes revenant d'une excursion, or Arrivée d'un bateau à vapeur. An early triumph was Barque sortant du port, where glistening waves and a sudden swell rocking the boat impressed themselves on a public familiar only with static images. Sequences capturing movement were an immediate attraction.

Lumière's most celebrated arrival subject was the train entering La Ciotat station (Arrivée d'un train à la Ciotat). Here the dramatic resources of depth of field are exploited, with the platform and the track forming strong diagonals reaching into the distance. The train, first pictured in longshot, thrusts itself towards the camera to create a dynamic close-up. So powerful was the illusion of the train's immanence that the first audiences reportedly feared for their safety. The creative use of perspective was also fundamental to the depiction of ploughing in Labourage and to the sack race in Course en sac. Documentaries concerning artisans or the military reveal a studied composition. The camera is positioned to make actions comprehensible, whether in terms of shoeing horses (Maréchal-ferrant), shaping iron bars (Forgerons), or horsemanship (Voltige). Cooperation with the fire service produced a more substantial documentary. Recognising the dramatic potential of his subject, Lumière portrayed a full-scale fire practice in four linked films: Sortie de la Pompe, Mise en Batterie, Attaque du feu, and Sauvetage. Comic sketches required careful preparation. In L'Arroseur arrosé a young prankster soaks an unsuspecting gardener by interrupting, then releasing, the water supply to a hose. All is tightly organized in time and space to meet the limitations of the fixed camera. In Photographe the innocent subject is again drenched, while in Charcuterie mécanique (which ridicules American mechanisation long before Tati's postman in Jour de fête) a pig is converted into sausages which then magically transform themselves into a pig again. Although Lumière renounced filmmaking, he extended his influence through trained operators, such as Promio, Mesguish, and Doublier. His impact on early cinema is evident in the way others, notably Méliès, imitated his subjects. His abiding presence in French film culture is witnessed in various homages: in Les Mistons Truffaut affectionately alludes to L'Arroseur arrosé, while in Les Carabiniers Godard parodies L'Arrivée d'un train à la Ciotat and Le Repas de bébé.

—R F. Cousins