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New Left Review 109, January-February 2018

emilie bickerton


One of cinema’s first images is of workers leaving a factory. The young women come out first, in their long dresses and summer hats. It is the end of their day, they look delighted, they link arms with friends, they have plans for that evening, they chat animatedly. Young boys run off, a dog jumps up to greet his owner, some people glance at the camera and smile. The joyful atmosphere in La Sortie des ouvriers de l’usine Lumière, first screened in Paris in 1895, is typical of the work of Auguste and Louis Lumière. The brothers liked to capture—and create—typical moments in a day busy with life. In another of their short films we see a very different group of people, this time disembarking from a riverboat. Distinguished gentlemen pour up the gangplank in elegant coats and top hats, some doffing these cheerfully to the camera as they walk past; the ladies are clutching handbags and parasols. Le Débarquement du Congrès de Photographie à Lyon is reminiscent of Sortie de l’usine in form: the still camera set a few metres away from the action, fully visible to those it is filming, unmoving, recording the crowd. The working class and the bourgeoisie, represented on screen in the same way.

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Emilie Bickerton, ‘A New Proletkino?’, NLR 109: £3

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