The Future of Celluloid Film is dim. So they said in 1910. The death of film has been proclaimed over and over again – so argues this piece from the Village Voice.
That the American cinema is deader than Dillinger is a fact no right-thinking observer unwilling to be laughed out of the room would even think of denying today. To do the current round of think piece writers one better, we will add that not only are the movies dead, but they also died in the cradle, and they’ve only been getting deader since—occasional signs of life having likely only been gas leaving the body.
1910s: Invented at the turn of the last century, the movies fail entirely to develop to their potential as a vehicle for narrative art, remaining instead a disreputable fairground attraction appealing only to the illiterate, scrofulous, and ill-bred. They’re also life-threatening at both ends of production, a fire risk when projected on silver nitrate while equally perilous for performers in front of the camera. (The San Francisco Chronicle of March 30, 1913, warns that “Dangers Lurk in Film Posing.”) Taken as anything but novelty, films themselves are, alas, “elementary peoples’ pleasure,” according to the Los Angeles Times: “The highbrows who do not want baby food, naturally enough, leave such [photo] plays alone” (July 23, 1919).
1920s: Radio arrives, tethering many entertainment-seekers to the parlor—and close behind looms the specter of the “Telechirograph.” According to the November 2, 1925, L.A. Times, this new German device will use wireless technology to project films “through the ether,” thus eliminating 35mm prints and the business of film distribution. Just as well. The screen drama persists in plying heretofore unimaginable levels of banality: ” missing-twin plots,” “sloppy endings,” “custard-pie throwers,” “tears and horseplay and melodrama” (L.A. Times, July 10, 1921). The following year, a critic in the same paper isolates “The Predicament of the Minority”: “They always felt that higher standards in the cinema art as in other lines of creation or production would at last prevail—that some time the golden age would arrive. Fatuous hope!”
The Village Voice | Read the Full Article