The Explanation
(for those who require one)

And, of course, that is what all of this is -- all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs -- that song, endlesly reincarnated -- born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan, or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it. That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses, that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train, that Rocket '88', that Buick 6 -- same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness."
-- Nick Tosches, Where Dead Voices Gather

Seminal Image #648

The Musketeers of Pig Alley
(D.W. Griffith; 1912)

(extravagant thanks to the inimitable Jeff Duncanson for this here image)


Vanwall said...

One of the greatest images from film, IMHO, regardless of genre and year. The sequence itself takes on greater significance with every passing year - it was one helluva shoot.

Jeff Duncanson said...

Yes, it is. I wonder (and perhaps Tom would know), if this is the earliest use of the close-up shot in cinema history? In any case, looking back at these shorts really points up what a visionary Griffith was.

PS - It's neat seeing Harry Caray as a bit player. (He's the guy in the background)

Tom Sutpen said...

I could be wrong, but I think it was the first instance where a face got in that close to the lens (I know Griffith used a quite similar shot in an earlier film whose name escapes me, but that was a more conventional closeup; not as startling in its menace as this one), but depending on your definition of a close-up . . to me it's any shot where the camera is close enough that facial features are clearly discernible to even those most distant from the screen . . . there'd been numerous examples prior to 1912; probably the most famous being 'Broncho Billy' Anderson's at the conclusion of Porter's The Great Train Robbery (Kevin Brownlow and David Gill's series on Griffith even shows a close-up of the man himself in a film from his time as an actor at American Biograph).

But like I said . . . I could be wrong.

Vanwall said...

This is one of the great meldings of art and film, a brilliant, deliberate artistic compostion that must've seemed like night and day to any critical eye back then, at least I hope so - film wasn't seen as a serious art form very much back then, I gather. In only a spare, quarter of an hour's running time, the real birth of film-noir, the flair for defining a kind of social realism, acting that was light-years ahead, the first conscious artistic use of the close-up, appear ALL IN ONE SHORT FILM, and all done with visionary eyes - Loos and Bitzer had a hand in this, remember, and it shows - not to mention a crackerjack cast. Nothing like it before or since.

rfkeser said...
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