October 20, 1901 [Pan-American Exposition by Night]

I've seen panoramic photographs, and I'm particularly fond of the gigantic ones that line entire circular rooms, so that everywhere one looks there is nothing but the smoothly flowing scene—thankfully broken by the seams that show where one photograph ends and the other begins, a hint of much-needed reality in that enclosed space, where fire has ruined a city or mountains loom like threatening giants.

It seems logical for cinema to appropriate the panorama, with a fluid camera slowly moving along the wide expanse, each rock-solid or fairy-tale-ephemeral building at the Exposition passing by even more smoothly than my eye managed in the circular room. The Exposition, in this long gaze, becomes its own city, and the only thing we can see.

Then something uniquely "cinematic" occurs: The scene shifts suddenly to night-time, and we receive the same sliding view, but in darkness—lit brilliantly, yet another testament to Edison's immeasurable influence on the modern world, mere spectacle becoming something more: the night-time sequence re-enacting the daylight one, as though they were interchangeable, captured as a single gesture, the Exposition re-imagined as a single moment, time erased but the world still intact, all for a nickel.


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