A little quiz for you. I’m planning assorted future strands for The Bioscope, and as a taster for one of these (while also thinking of the views of the cinema from elites evidenced in the Stephen Paget essay yesterday), here are six quotations. Each is a response to silent cinema, and the authors are all connected in some way. I’ve given the dates of the utterances, but can you guess who they are? Answers tomorrow…
Quotation no. 1 (1907)
I have gradually slid down until I have ceased to take any interest in any subject. I look at God and his theatre through the eyes of my fellow-clerks so that nothing surprises, moves or excites or disgusts me. Nothing of my former mind seems to have remained except a heightened emotiveness which satisfies itself in the sixty-miles-an-hour pathos of some cinematograph or before some crude Italian gazette-picture.
Quotation no. 2 (1908)
If I had my way, I would build a lethal chamber as big as the Crystal Palace, with a military band playing softly, and a Cinematograph working brightly; then I’d go out in the back streets and main streets and bring them in, all the sick, the halt, and the maimed; I would lead them gently, and they would smile me a weary thanks; and the band would softly bubble out the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’.
Quotation no. 3 (1913)
Was at the movies. Wept. Lolotte. The good pastor. The little bicycle. The reconciliation of the parents. Boundless entertainment. Before that a sad film, Catastrophe at the Dock, afterwards the amusing Alone at Last. Am completely empty and meaningless, the electric tram passing by has more living meaning.
Quotation no. 4 (1922)
With the decay of the music-hall, with the encroachment of the cheap and rapid-breeding cinema, the lower classes will tend to drop into the same state of protoplasm as the bourgeoisie. The working-man who went to the music-hall and saw Marie Lloyd and joined in the chorus was himself performing part of the act; he was engaged in that collaboration of the audience with the artist which is necessary in all art and most obviously in dramatic art. He will now go to the cinema, where his mind is lulled by continuous senseless music and continuous action too rapid for the brain to act upon, and will receive, without giving, in that same listless apathy with which the middle and upper classes regard any entertainment of the nature of art. He will also have lost some of his interest in life.
Quotation no. 5 (1924)
In spite of my earnest resolution never again to waste time at a cinema I have spent both yesterday and this afternoon in that unprofitable way. I am ashamed and more than ever strengthened in my resolution.
Quotation no. 6 (1926)
People say that the savage no longer exist in us, that we are at the fag-end of civilization, that everything has been said already, and that it is too late to be ambitious. But these philosophers have presumably forgotten the movies. They have never seen the savages of the twentieth century watching the pictures. They have never sat themselves in front of the screen and thought how, for all the clothes on their backs and the carpets at their feet, no great distance separates them from those bright-eyed, naked men who knocked two bars of iron together and heard in that clangour a foretaste of the music of Mozart.
Quotations 1 and 2 comes from letters, quotations 3 (in translation) and 5 are from diaries, quotations 4 and 6 come from essays.