Film History Essentials: La Rosace Magique (1877)

(English: The Magic Rosette)

What it’s about:

A wheel spins, and suddenly, a rainbow of vibrant colors appears before you, and the hypnotic shape of a rose draws your eye as it pulls inward towards its center, only to be replaced by a new bloom following it down from the outer edges in an endlessly repeating pattern.

Why it’s essential:

In the mid-1870s, Charles-Émile Reynaud was giving scientific lectures accompanied by magic lantern slides, a long-standing tradition of screen practice and one of several from which cinema emerged. That all changed when he had an idea for an improvement on the zoetrope that he would ultimately patent as the praxinoscope. Reynaud’s invention replaced the slits, through which the zoetrope’s illusions of moving images appeared, with a series of mirrors that brought the simulated animation into the center of the device, and could even be modified to project it onto a screen. This early piece of proto-animation is particularly beautiful in its kaleidoscopic abstractness. Almost no one would say “color” comes to mind in association with early moving pictures, and yet this 145-year old piece of art is alive with glorious shades of red, yellow, blue, etc. It shows that moving images don’t have to tell a story, or even be terribly sophisticated, to be enchanting.

Why you should see it:

It will take no time at all to watch this several times in a row and lose yourself in the swirling colors and intricate patterns, the mathematical precision and creative imagination of its maker.

~ by Jared on January 2, 2023.

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