Le repas de bébé
Louis Lumière, France, 1895
The fact that the Lumiere filmmakers work was limited by the need to keep their cameras still, and only having 50 seconds of film available to them meant that they had to use as many means as they could to bring their shots to life: a flow of vehicles and people passing by; the clear gestures of those on screen; placing the camera on a moving vehicle; short scenes etc. Weather proved a part of their visual toolkit, rendering their 50 seconds more visually interesting.
In Baby’s Breakfast Louis Lumiere filmed his brother Auguste with his wife and their daughter outside their family home. The principal subject of the shot is the feeding of the baby, but the wind in Lyon was blowing sufficiently strong enough that day to create a second level of visual interest for the viewer. Perhaps unintended by Louis, the wind moves the branches of the trees in the depth of the shot, the plants shake in their pots, and even little Andrée’s dress shoogles in the breeze. An instance of visual weather distracts from the moment the filmmaker was intending to capture. This caused Henri Langlois to note that the corresponding movement in art at this point was impressionism, meaning that the first moments of cinema as filmed by the Lumieres were themselves impressionist. Cinema, by its birth and by the essence which defines it, is, by its very nature, impressionist.