December 28, 1895 [First public exhibition of le Cinématographe Lumière]

A permanent shift in the position of the moving picture has occurred at Paris' Salon Indien du Grand Café with "la première séance publique"—and there again is that word, in English evocative of the spirit-world, and for me increasingly apt to describe moving pictures—especially now, as Auguste and Louis Lumière present their Cinématographe, which projects the images onto a flat surface, larger than any Edison Kinetoscope peepshow. And while I've lost the intimacy of the individual viewing—my eyes against the opening, the small images looming as large as anything in my view, with nothing else to intrude—and the experience becomes more "theatrical," at least with the sheer size of the pictures and the shared responses of other viewers (an audience, no less) promising new possibilities.

I may not be completely happy that the theater has joined with the peephole, but I am excited that the Cinématographe provides a scope and size—and new opportunities for the makers of these "épreuves instantanées" to profit by their work (and thus increase their production). The peepshows are dwindling in popularity; and while I continue to enjoy them—despite the charge that they are entertainments for fools and vulgarians (and so be it: I'll join them, and we shall see where it leads)—I must admit that they grow monotonous, not merely in their subjects, but in their mode of presentation. More and more, I feel I am bending over to peer at something incidental, more transient than ephemeral. But with the projected image, I feel close to something—I will use the word "monumental," as ridiculous as that may seem, if only to convey the sense that moving pictures act as monuments themselves, imposing (in various senses of the word) records of the everyday and the outré, often both at once, especially now, as the small things in life expand, at times exceeding the persons and objects themselves—or, if smaller on the wall, captured in motion, both photographic and theatrical, implying in their very presence a significance beyond themselves. The viewer, then, is both encompassed by and in command of the picture—and my desire finds yet another opportunity to swell.


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