The Belle Époque of Scientific Cinema: Attraction, Vulgarisation, Avant-garde
Keywords:Scientific Film, Popular Science, Attraction, Film Screening, Avant-garde
This article examines the circulation of the first scientific films at the turn of the XXth century, primarily in the French context, when one could witness their sporadic diffusion in entertainment venues and a growing enthusiasm surrounding the reception of the first popular science series. Following the unearthing of some traces of scientific films in the cinéma forain, this article focuses on the reception of scientific series by Charles Urban, which were screened at the London Alhambra Theatre in 1903, and of the first micro-cinematographic films (1908) by Jean Comandon. Thus, the article provides a brief review of scientific films’ positioning within the screening programming practices of the 1910s, revealing that, in those years, scientific films continued to be perceived as “highly attractive” spectacles. In conclusion, by analyzing these films’ resonance in the press, the article will identify several tropes of estrangement. These tropes borrowed from the tradition of the magic lanterns’ scientific projections, which will reappear shortly thereafter – carrying new meanings – within the theories of the medium specificity in the 1920s, when scientific films were integrated within avant-garde screening practices.
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