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Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory in Lyon: Watch the Film That Invented Cinema (1895)

Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory in Lyon: Watch the Film That Invented Cinema (1895)
Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory in Lyon: Watch the Film That Invented Cinema (1895)


The broth­ers Auguste and Louis Lumière are often referred to as pio­neers of cin­e­ma, and their 45-sec­ond La Sor­tie de l’U­sine Lumière à Lyon, or Work­ers Leav­ing the Lumière Fac­to­ry in Lyon (1895), is often referred to as the first film. But his­to­ry turns out to present a more com­pli­cat­ed pic­ture. As pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture, Louis Le Prince’s Round­hay Gar­den Scene pre­dates the Lumière broth­ers’ work by six and a half years. But it is La Sor­tie that cin­e­ma his­to­ri­ans regard as the more impor­tant pic­ture, and indeed, as “the inven­tion of movies for mass audi­ences.”

So writes Ryan Lat­tanzio at IndieWire, who goes on to explain that “the Lumière broth­ers were among the first film­mak­ers in world his­to­ry, pio­neer­ing cin­e­mat­ic tech­nol­o­gy as well as estab­lish­ing the com­mon gram­mar of film.”

In an essay re-print­ed on Sens­es of Cin­e­ma, the direc­tor Haroun Faroc­ki frames La Sor­tie as hav­ing estab­lished the grand sub­jects like reg­i­men­ta­tion and indi­vid­u­al­i­ty with which motion pic­tures have dealt ever since. “For over a cen­tu­ry cin­e­matog­ra­phy had been deal­ing with just one sin­gle theme,” he writes. “Like a child repeat­ing for more than a hun­dred years the first words it has learned to speak in order to immor­tal­ize the joy of first speech.”

Faroc­ki also draws an anal­o­gy with “painters of the Far East, always paint­ing the same land­scape until it becomes per­fect and comes to include the painter with­in it.” And just as Hoku­sai paint­ed sev­er­al dif­fer­ent ver­sions of his famous The Great Wave off Kana­gawa, the Lumière broth­ers did­n’t shoot just one La Sor­tie, but three. Though each one may look the same at first glance to the eyes of twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry view­ers, they’re actu­al­ly dis­tin­guished by many sub­tle dif­fer­ences, includ­ing the sea­son-reflect­ing attire of the work­ers and the num­ber of hors­es draw­ing the car­riage. And so, if we choose to cred­it the Lumière broth­ers with invent­ing cin­e­ma as we know it, we must also cred­it them with  a more dubi­ous cre­ation, one we’ve come to know all too well in recent decades: the remake.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Watch the Films of the Lumière Broth­ers & the Birth of Cin­e­ma (1895)

Icon­ic Film from 1896 Restored with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence: Watch an AI-Upscaled Ver­sion of the Lumière Broth­ers’ The Arrival of a Train at La Cio­tat Sta­tion

Pris­tine Footage Lets You Revis­it Life in Paris in the 1890s: Watch Footage Shot by the Lumière Broth­ers

See 21 His­toric Films by Lumière Broth­ers, Col­orized and Enhanced with Machine Learn­ing (1895–1902)

The Ear­li­est Known Motion Pic­ture, 1888’s Round­hay Gar­den Scene, Restored with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence

The His­to­ry of the Movie Cam­era in Four Min­utes: From the Lumière Broth­ers to Google Glass

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.



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