THE LUMIÈRE(S)

Le Village de Namo: Panorama pris d’une chaise à porteurs (Indochina, 1899)

This film was shot by Gabriel Veyre, one of the most widely travelled Lumière operators. An online exhibition of his autochromes and films can be found here.

The film poses a number of interesting problems to auteurist celebrations of/engagements with Lumière, including the recent collaboration between Dr. Richard Koeck and the Museum of Liverpool.  Koeck reconstructs Alexandre Promio’s 1897 city stroll with four cinématographes from the Lumière archives. Koeck has sewn these scraps together for a touristic encounter that closely resembles turn-of-the-century Hale’s tours/phantom rides.   For Koeck, these four minutes map both the city of Liverpool and the living, breathing body of a visionary (early) filmmaker.

Although the industrial aspects of the Lumière operation alone would seem to trouble the specificity of Promio and the impulse to create wholes out of its archival fragments, Le Village de Namo presents an altogether different set of visual, bodily challenges to Koeck’s entertaining empiricism.

Whose and how many bodies can we map in this fifty-second sliver?  Must we limit ourselves to the venerable Veyre holding the camera?  Or can we also include the porters who bear his weight?  Koeck invites us to experience four minutes of one day in Liverpool; in “Village de Namo” we can experience fifty seconds of colonial force and human servitude. This film encourages viewers to pivot their perspectives between the porters and the ported, between the body who sees and the bodies who work.

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