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Andy Bluff the Film Buff

The Story of Cinema, Part I

by Andrew Smith

The story began far back in time, before dinosaurs roamed the earth with their mighty noses and clompety feet. Ok, not quite that far, but to an era when for one guinea you could travel to Australia and back on a whippet and still have enough change for a house, a car, a pot of mushy peas and a trip to the brothel. So that's about 100 years ago, and it started with a man called Darren Sony.

Darren, a precocious young fellow from New Jersey in the state of New Jersey near Paris in Guatemala was given a chemistry set for his 15th birthday. Within a year he had produced the world's first ever camcorder, which he named the Sony DCR-PC100 Digital Camcorder. The device boasted 1,070,000 pixels, providing stunning detail and clarity, with exceptional video and still image performance; a Mega-Pixel CCD combined with Advanced HAD design technologies giving awesome video performance in excess of 500 horizontal lines of resolution; high quality Advanced HAD design CCD imager that reduced noise in the video signal to improve signal-to-noise ratio by up to 6db, 2x better than a standard CCD (particularly effective when shooting in dark situations); and a quick and easy interface for PC and camera, with convenient manipulation and catalog features.

But Darren chose to put this aside and concentrate some piece of shit that couldn't record sound and made everything look really quick. He showed this to his dad's friend, a Communist infiltrator named Charles Chaplin, and thus the silent movie was born.

Charlie Chappers was the main man, though rivals Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd ran him close. Their métier was slapstick, and audiences loved it - indeed many laughed so much that their heads fell off. This was because movie theatres churned out laughing gas into the auditorium through ventilation pipes, a ploy suggested by Chaplin, mindful that his films were not particularly amusing. Even so, you have to remember that to a whole generation the idea of watching moving images on a big screen was totally new and amazing. They could have been watching their families being slaughtered and they'd still have loved it. Indeed some years later, they did. The film was called Pathe News.

This isn't to say the silent movies are of any worth - they aren't. They lack two crucial things: colour and sound. Something had to give and when a Mr Wayne Dolby Sr. introduced the spoken word into films, silent cinema died a silent death, and Chaplin et al silently pissed off back to their mirth-free silent little holes.

The seeds, however, had been sown. Cinema ruled; the moving imaged rocked.

And by now, Hollywood, that mythological palace of dreams in the smog-ridden sprawling hellhole that is Los Angeles, had the world in its specious grip.

Everyone wanted to be a film star. Sensing this, Hollywood began limbering up, became the ruthless, greedy, obsessive publicity machine we know it as today, a place where those of little talent can make it big by virtue of looking rather fetching on screen. The Hollywood we see now, sitting smugly in Bel Air Mansions and fenced-up Beverley Hills hideaways within miles of poverty-fuelled suffering and interracial murders, the same Hollywood that sneaks out once a year to Democratic conventions promoting welfare aid, the stinking hypocritical obscene Hollywood that cares for nothing but feeding its fat bloated belly till it bleeds the earth dry... sounds all right to me. When can I have an audition?

But that is enough about the distant past and the inglorious present. I intend to skip four decades to the 1970s because, let's face it, there's not much made before then that's worth watching. I do recall liking The Wizard of Oz as a child, at least up to the anticlimactic point when you discover that the all-powerful wizard is a bloke in a kiosk with a tannoy system. I suppose Hitchcock made a few watchable flicks too. In general, though, my point holds true.

For in the 1970s a breed of exciting new filmmakers arrived, quite literally, on the crest of a wave. No one know from whence they came, or how they learned to be such good surfers, but when they crashed simultaneously onto the golden shores of Malibu, CA, to the astonishment of baffled onlookers, only one thing was certain: they all had facial hair.

Their story must wait another day.

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