Live-blogging The Great Train Robbery (Edwin S. Porter, 1903, 12 minutes)
0:05 - Hey, I’m finally watching a real western!
0:49 - Oh man, what a beautiful fall. None of this ‘softening the landing with your hands’ amateur nonsense.
2:58 - Gotta love that death. ACTING!*
3:56 - Stop! Stop, he’s already de-e-ead.
5:24 - How many people are on this train, jeez.
5:46 - Another great death. Subtlety is for jerks.
6:28 - Something you don’t often see in modern westerns: everyone rushing to help the wounded.
7:47 - I love how each character crosses the little stream in a different way. Nice way to cram in some characterization with such limited opportunities.
8:05 - And then the one guy who can’t get on his horse! I bet that’s the same one who fell in the stream. He’s my favorite now. I’m already imagining him being played by Sam Rockwell.
8:26 - Again! Flat on his face! Wonderful.
8:41 - Is that Suzy Bishop in her raven costume? What’s happening right now?
9:20 - The music is suddenly very inappropriate.
11:11 - William Blake enters stage left.
11:27 - This guy!*
*Thorburn used the film to illustrate two points: first, the way in which early film acting imitated theater acting because the possibilities provided by a camera instead of a stage were still being discovered (hence, the overacting so the folks in the back can see you). And second, to showcase that fellow at the end, who has no place in the narrative. He exists solely to dramatically illustrate, to an audience who still didn’t fully comprehend what moving pictures were, the divide between film and reality. This concept is especially fascinating if you try, really try, to imagine what it would have been like to experience this phenomenon for the first time. It must have seemed to be nothing short of magic.