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Mozgó fényképek. The scandal and debate around moving images in early Hungarian cinema

ABSTRACT This paper traces the Budapest staging of a very popular German play in Europe and US at the end of the 19th century that can be regarded as one of the earliest narratives of the cinematic experience in Hungary. Originally published with the title Hans Huckebein in 1897 and written by Oscar Blumenthal and Gustav Kadelburg, the play remained outside the horizon of early cinema scholars, although it is a rich inventory of different modes of using and interpreting moving images. The Budapest performance of the play incorporates the screening of a cinema program, including a hitherto unknown (Lumière?) film commissioned by the theatre. The characters and the theatrical audience become film viewers, and this experience is extensively debated on stage. Instantaneous photography and moving image recording allowed for trespassing the boundary between private and public, since the model’s consent was not technically required for the recording process. The ‘scandal’ staged by the play is the presentation of a (moving) image ‒ considered personal and private ‒ in the public space of the cinema. The debate around this scandal contributes to the redefinition of both personal identity, construed increasingly as an image, and the public sphere as a realm of censored images. The article sets out to map the variability of practices and cultural codes ‒ such as theatrical plots, practices of instant and studio photography, personal image protection, copyright ‒ that affected the interpretation and uses of moving images.

An amusing optical toy for the hands?: reassessing nineteenth-century British paper peepshows through embodied knowledge

ABSTRACT My article examines the structure of the nineteenth-century British paper peepshow and the experience of using it. Inspired by the agenda of media archaeology, I argue that an analysis of this medium that goes beyond excavating details of an obscured optical recreation can bring new insight into our understanding of peep media and nineteenth-century visual culture. By discussing the origin and circulation of the paper peepshow and detailing the clear distinction between it and media like the peepshow box and pop-up books, I detach the paper peepshow from the genealogy of these media while stressing the significance of its intermedial relationship with other nineteenth-century visual entertainments. I then adopt the notion of embodied knowledge to explore users’ engagement with this medium, drawing from personal handling experience in archives as well as theoretical conceptualisations. My article argues that peering into the paper peepshow should be understood as an act of creativity and imagination, and that the tactile played a crucial role in users’ interaction with this medium. This study thus fits well in debates about the embodied or multi-sensory vision in the nineteenth-century context, and functions as another example that affirms the active agency of users of visual recreations of this period. Overall, by analysing significant features of the paper peepshow and the experience of peeping into it, my research also constitutes a small but important expansion in the current understanding of peep media.

The spectacle of the moon conquest: how visual culture shaped Méliès’ Le voyage dans la Lune and its anti-imperialist satire

ABSTRACT It is well-established that Jules Verne’s De la Terre à la Lune and H. G. Wells’ The First Men in the Moon inspired Georges Méliès’ Le voyage dans la Lune. At the same time, though, the film’s written sources cannot fully account for its iconographic, aesthetic, and semantic stratification. For this reason, the survey will include a set of still neglected or underestimated references of this pioneering work in motion picture art, especially its visual antecedents. More precisely, elaborating on Tom Gunning and Andre Gaudreault’s notion of ‘cinema of attractions’, the central argument is that visual culture and pictorial tradition, together with non-traditional theatre paradigms, concurred to determine Méliès’ unique cinematic spectacle at least as much as its literary models. These considerations are equally valid for the satirical content of the film. In fact, written, visual, and spectacular sources are combined in what David Sandner describes as Méliès’ ‘imperial farce’ which critically engaged with the nineteenth-century French colonial aspirations and their ideological and cultural background. Based on these assumptions, this paper aims to explore the thematic and iconographic premises of Méliès’ Le voyage dans la Lune, relating them with nineteenth-century imperial culture, as well as to its critical revision within post-colonial studies. Lastly, the analysis is focused on the protagonists’ double role, that of the scientist-explorer since, as I will demonstrate, their parodical depiction retains a primary role in structuring the film’s anti-imperialist satire.

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