Recently, an old friend of mine and a brilliant artist (George Vitorovich) turned me onto an amazing visual find that he came across on slate.com
It’s clip from a very early, full-color Kodachrome film made by Kodak in 1922 to test new film stock and color processing.
Not only is it mesmerizing to view a color film from ninety-one years ago, but the gesturing of the actresses themselves are equally compelling.
A studio actress mugs for the camera 91 years ago
I feel that I can trace this current in my work to my experiences as a young child be absolutely captivated by the imagery from the silent films that were shown on the local PBS affiliate.
In the early days of film, actors had a completely different way of interacting with the camera than we are used to experiencing today. Every movement and facial gesture held meaning.
Whether this way of gesturing and posturing before the camera arose organically from the stage or whether it came forth via instruction being shouted through a directors megaphone, I can’t say.
But, it’s undeniably there captured on film.
One can’t help but be pulled into the performances by the actresses. The line between a color test and a surreal voiceless yet visual message from the past becomes blurred when watching the clip.
These performers seem to be reaching into your psyche and tapping you on the shoulder with a soft celluloid touch. In essence, these women with their fluttering eyes, fragile smiles and vamping longing are colorized ghosts from a distant cinematic past beckoning to connect to your emotional essence.
Perhaps, the non-vocalized emotions are buried yet even still deep within our being. There must be some connection as it is easy to identify what the characters are emoting in the clip even without scripted words. That recognition arises from internal knowing. This clip is emotionally akin to blowing off the dust from the cover of an old book found on the back of a forgotten shelf.
The pages may be dull and yellowed, but the words are still crisp in your mind as you read them. The only difference here - there are no words to read…
View the clip here and you’ll experience the odd, surreal and potentially magical sensation for yourself…
While the first “talkie” film appeared in 1927 and the majority of studio films followed suit by the middle of 1929, the manner of interacting via exaggerated before the camera continued for several years until actors began to reevaluate to the new technology and their relationship to it.
Eventually, the ever evolving relationship between the actor and the camera has taken us to where we are today. Though hard to believe, eventually, our current cinema will inevitably fade into the past and prove to be the fascinating fodder for distant generations.
Until then, we can feast upon this treasure of a clip which indeed truly is “bewitching”.
The full length article on salon.com can be found here:
This 1922 Kodachrome Test Footage is Strangely Bewitching