The Gay Shoe Clerk
R Edwin S. Porter. Edison Manufacturing Co. USA 1903

049-The Gay Shoe Clerk-2

“True, the young man not only sees but touches and even kisses the young lady, but his transgression is promptly greeted by a bash on the head from the chaperone. Meanwhile, the male spectator enjoys the woman’s ankle and the shoe clerk’s chastisement. In fact, both pictures suggest that cinema, by removing the spectator’s physical presence from the scene, allows the (male) viewer to take pleasure in what is otherwise forbidden. The close view of the young lady’s ankle is shown against a plain background to further focus the viewer’s attention, suggesting the subjective nature of the shot and abstracting it from the scene. Not only does this second shot have a different background, but the female customer probably had a stand-in. Her dress, at least, is different: the far shot does not reveal the white petticoats, which are prominently displayed in the closer view. Porter and other early filmmakers obviously anticipated the editorial principles of the artificial woman articulated by Lev Kuleshov. The ankle is also isolated in an abstracted space. While Porter seems to have been concerned with matching action, the cut did not involve a seamless “move in” through a spatially continuous world but functioned within a syncretic representational system.”
Charles Musser: Before the Nickelodeon. Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company. Berkeley-Los Angeles-Oxford 1991, p. 246 ff.

The Library of Congress paper print edition: