Film Scholar Tom Gunning Screens Rare Films at the Bijou

Film theorist and scholar Tom Gunning visits CalArts tomorrow evening (Tuesday) to lecture on the topic of Structuring Strategies at the Bijou Theater at CalArts. He’ll also screen several rare films from the early 1900s, including rare D.W. Griffith Biograph films. Gunning, who’s finishing his term as a Scholar in Residence at the Getty Research Institute, has authored several key books on early film history, among them, D.W. Griffith and the origins of American Narrative Film.

An excerpt from Gunning’s introduction, which explains a shift in cinema during Griffith’s era:

I maintain that early cinema did not see its main task as the presentation of narratives. This does not mean that there were not early films that told stories, but that this task was secondary, at least until about 1904. The transformation that occurs in films around 1908 derives from reorienting film style to a clear focus on the task of storytelling and characterization. In this work, I will describe the move from what I call a “cinema of attractions,” which was more interested in the display of curiosities, to a cinema of narrative integration which subordinates film form to the development of stories and characters. It is this move to a cinema of narrative integration that Griffith’s first films exemplify.

To illustrate that statement, we’ve posted Griffith’s The Unchanging Sea, with its (melodramatic) narrative, against an early Lumière Brothers film, Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (1895):

Structuring Strategies: Tom Gunning, Getty Visiting Scholar
Tuesday, Dec. 8
CalArts’ Bijou Theater
7 pm

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