Nov 2, 2014

Review: Lumière et compagnie [Lumière and Company] (1995)

Lumière and Company is definitely an interesting documentary from the perspective of a cinema lover. Gathering 40 renowned directors from around the world, they're given the chance to shoot a short film with the original Lumière cinematograph. This was among the first few movie cameras invented in the 1890's and even doubled as a projector. However, three rules had to be followed:
  1. The film must be 52 seconds long
  2. No synchronized sound allowed
  3. Three takes max
I'll be the first to admit that I know less than one third of the directors featured in this film. I suppose that is because of the fact that most of them are from outside of North America. I feel like I should know more of them but I suppose that it just gives an idea of how much movies and directors are out there. It's all the same an all-star cast of directors as far as I can tell.


Genre: documentary
Directed by: Theodoros Angelopoulos, Vicente Aranda, John Boorman, etc.
Produced by: Neal Edelstein, Fabienne Servan-Schreiber, Søren Stærmose, etc.
Written by: Philippe Poulet  
Music by: Jean-Jacques Lemêtre
Running time: 88 minutes
Production company: Cinétévé, La Sept-Arte, Igeldo Komunikazioa, etc.
Distributed by: Pierre Grise Distribution, Alta Films, Fox Lorber, etc.
Country: France, Denmark, Spain, etc.
Language: French, English, Danish, etc.
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Merzak Allouache, Theodoros Angelopoulos, Youssef Chahine, James Ivory, Spike Lee, David Lynch, Ismail Merchant, Idrissa Ouedraogo, Liv Ullmann, Yimou Zhang, Sarah Moon, Gabriel Axel, Vicente Aranda, Bigas Luna, John Boorman, Alain Corneau, Costa-Gavras, Raymond Depardon, Francis Girod, Peter Greenaway, Lasse Hallström, Michael Haneke, Hugh Hudson, etc.



The original Lumière cinematograph is a bit like the Holy Grail in Christianity. Forty directors were challenged with filming a 52 second film with it, pretty much given the freedom to do whatever they wanted. They're also asked questions about why they like to film and if film is ever going to die in the future.


So despite not knowing the majority of the directors in this film, that didn't stop me from really enjoying them do their work. It's really fascinating watching them freak out over the cinematograph and then watch as they film their short film with it. Right away we get to see the finished product and there are definitely some interesting results.

Some of the short films are definitely more interesting than others, but they all pretty much have something to say if you enjoy trying to figure out messages and such. Probably one of the most interesting ones is Patrice Leconte's. He does a re-shoot of The Arrival of a Train from 1896, one hundred years after it was originally shot. Other shorts vary in terms of funness and seriousness. All in all there's some pretty cool stuff.

In terms of the answers that the directors give to the questions they're asked, to be honest I find it all pretty silly. I guess some of it is inspirational and insightful, but at the same time it doesn't really feel real. The problem I suppose is trying to fit in forty directors in an almost 90 minute time frame. It's not easy, so content can't be all that deep.

From a film lover's point of view, Lumière and Company is an interesting documentary. It's interesting to watch the directors tackle their challenge, but I wish more time had been dedicated to just that. Asking them about why they film is good and all, but I would've loved to see more of the behind the scenes in the making of the shorts. It's amazing that they've been able to gather such a significant amount of good directors and I would've wanted to see them at work more. However, LaC is still very nice to watch for that inside look.



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