Emblematic Close-ups

She Would Be an Actress
Dir. and actors unknown. P: Lubin Manufacturing Company. USA 1909

“Many emblematic close-ups featured actors gesticulating for the camera, the direct address to the camera reinforcing their function as attractions. (…) Such unmoored close-ups of faces continue to appear in 1907-8, but by 1909, the approach to showing closer views of performers changes markedly. The close shot still marks the end of the film, but filmmakers reinforce connections to the diegesis by curbing direct address, encouraging the performers to ‘stay in character’ and sustaining narrative action from the previous shot. Equally important, such shots became literal cut-ins as the camera moves in slightly, typically preserving total replication of mise-en- scène if not exact continuity of action. One film from 1909, Lubin‘s She Would Be an Actress, still uses an emblematic close-up while also providing an example of its successor: the first shot features a close view of a woman reading a book entitled ‘How to Become an Actress’, with the surrounding décor of the following shot fully visible in the background; the last shot, which succeeds the narrative’s resolution in the prior shot, is a closer view of the same woman and her husband smiling at the camera in front of a neutral background. Whereas the first instance of the closer shot provides visual information that a longer shot would not and also contributes to the subsequent unfolding story, the latter is purely emblematic and an auxiliary to the narrative. Not long after this, filmmakers would find it untenable that both options for the close shot could coexist.”
Charlie Keil: Early American Cinema in Transition: Story, Style, and Filmmaking, 1907–1913. University of Wisconsin Press 2001, p. 167-169

An Unexpected Guest
R: Unknown. D: Unknown. P: Lubin Manufacturing Company. USA 1909

“Lubin had abandoned the busy painted drops that characterized his earlier studio product. He put out several films in 1909 that faced the camera into a corner: She Would Be an Actress (the opening scene in the couple’s dining room) and An Unexpected Guest (both the nurse’s home and the young doctor’s study). (…) All of these (…) examples use painted flats rather than backdrops to achieve a three-dimensional corner (…). The set in She Would Be an Actress contains a real china cupboard which is present purely for realistic effect; it never figures in the action.”
Kristin Thompson: The formulation of the classic style, 1909-28. In: David Bordwell, Janet Staiger, Kristin Thompson (ed.): The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960. Routledge 2003, p. 314

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