Turner Classic Movies: Unseen Cinema

08 May

On April 3, TCM aired a not-so-rare television special. This one, however, was different than most. The special is, according to TCM, “a 2 ½ hour collection of 16 experimental, mind-bending works from the early days of cinema.”

The event was an attempt to show the world TCM’s extensive film archives, and bring to light the fact that a high percentage of classic films are nearly impossible to view, due to damages. According to TCM, over 80% of film made before 1930 is damaged beyond repair. Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant Garde Film 1894-1941 hoped to expose film fans to as much film from that time as they could. The point of Unseen Cinema, in TCM’s own words:

This night of rare movie treasures is the latest demonstration of TCM’s commitment to film preservation and to showcase the efforts of the world’s leading film archives. With as many as 80% of all pre-1930 films lost or damaged beyond repair, Fragments stands as a testament to cinematic treasures that have been claimed by the ravages of time. And celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, Unseen Cinema provides a look at some of early film’s most imaginative visions, most of which have never been presented in a major public forum.” – Robert Osbourne, TCM Host

The Unseen Cinema special followed another, similar special, titled Fragments, which we will look at later. The film I will review from the 16-short special is entitled Annabell Dances and Dances, and it is a true example of a rare gem.

Annabell Dances and Dances:

This film is from 1894, and you can tell. It is not much by way of content, but its very easy to value this if you can imagine what a sight moving picture must have been before 1900. It seems, to me, like the filmmaker created a moving picture just to prove that it was possible. You see all the classic staples of early film that we talked about in the beginning of the year: Stationary camera, single light source, one subject. As boring as I found the film, I can definitely see why it is important. Movies like this are the fossils of film, and should be preserved as long as possible.


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