phone mail2 facebook twitter play
Experimental Motion, Brighton Museum
Image Credit: James Pike

Experimental Motion, Brighton Museum

28 December 2016 | Edd Elliott

Say Brighton and cinema and you envisage a baby-faced Richard Attenborough scowling down from his battered bed-sit in Brighton Rock. Or maybe you think of Quadrophenia and a squadron of mod-mounted scooters roaring down the front and into a throng of rockers. On screen, the home of seaside saunters and rabid seagulls has had some star turns. Few, however, can name Brighton’s famous faces from behind the camera – a state a new display hopes to redress.

Experimental Motion, the latest offering from Brighton Museum, showcases the city’s long and vibrant history of cinematic innovation. The whistle-stop exhibition rattles through over a hundred years of local screen pioneers, racing from the advent of British motion pictures through to Brighton-born director and up-and-coming star Ben Wheatley. Filmmakers’ technical wizardry earns particular pride of place. Display cases feature rare antique editing and cinematographic equipment alongside interactive exhibits demonstrating some of cinema’s slipperiest slights of hand. There is also a chance to see recent additions to Brighton’s cannon, with instillations screening the work of local residents Tula Parker, Anna Weatherston and Choi Sai-Ho.


Finding Fanon: Part 2. Larry Achiampong & David Blandy.
 
It’s a sad reality of cinema that what goes on behind the camera is rarely as interesting as what we see on screen. Special effects, when the production processes are explained, seldom seem that special – particularly in this era of mass-regurgitated CGI. Experimental Motion has its work cut out, then, if it is trying to convince us of the thrills of aperture innovations and editing techniques.
 
At first glance, the opening exhibit doesn’t raise expectations. A selection of black-and-white fuzz-fests showing women on bicycles and men in baths: this is hardly Avatar 2.0. Beneath the grit and the grain, however, is an intriguing story of British Cinema’s alternative origins. The selected clips feature the work of George Albert Smith, Brighton’s first filmmaker, and one of British cinema’s foremost innovators. Smith was the first British director to combine multiple perspectives cuts in one film. The picture in question, The Kiss in the Tunnel (1899), features as Experimental Motion opening.
 
Academics describe the draw of early movies as “the cinema of attractions”. Early films presented a visual spectacle, much like a magic trick, avoiding the long-winded stories we now expect from the screen. A former showman and hypnotist, Albert Smith understood these pleasures well. The Kiss in the Tunnel to contemporaries was near miraculous: you saw from one perspective, and then suddenly jumped to another. It would have been one of the greatest illusions ever created.


A Kiss in the Tunnel. Image Credit: BFI National Archive.
 
The “attractions” of George Albert Smith’s films, however, weren’t just in technological sorcery. The Kiss in the Tunnel displays the Victorian equivalent of a bawdy joke. A young couple sneaks a smooch in a train carriage, the darkness of a passing tunnel concealing them from the disapproving eye of the accompanying matron. Another of George Albert Smith’s features, As Seen Through a Telescope, displays similarly racy tastes. An upright gentleman stands testing his new magnifying device with the audience viewing from his perspective. The sight reveals a young lady mounting a bicycle and exposing her bare leg in the process – very lewd for the times. The peeping tom gets his comeuppance: a passerby thumps him with a newspaper. The audience, however, gets off scot-free. Brighton’s early films, it appears, are the forgotten ancestors of the saucy seaside postcards of the 1940s.
 
It was the southern sun, not it’s scantily clad followers, however, that drew Smith, and his contemporaries Alfred Darling and James Williamson, to Brighton. The light on the south coast was brighter and lasted longer than anywhere else in the country, a vital resource for a film industry yet to invent sets and lighting. Some of Experimental Motion’s modern films utilise the same asset. Tule Parker and Anna Weatherston’s Beach Jam presents a toy car racing down a shoreline, past a row of model traffic, before taking off into the sea. Jeff Keen’s 1964 The Pink Auto uses two screens to roam the sunny streets of Brighton to the grand film scores of 1950s film epics.
 
The display continues with a similar range of exploratory short films and collectors’ items. At times the assortment can feel a little eclectic and disparate – a few movies from the 1890s, a camera from 1924, art film from the sixties, and computer game graphics from the mid-00s. If you broaden your outlook, however, and go along with Experimental Motion’s offbeat rhythm, you’ll likely discover some fascinating stuff. Each article is one-of-a-kind – particularly George Albert Smith’s features – and places a dot on Brighton’s cinematic timeline.

Experimental Motion runs until 4 June. More information is available on Brighton Museum's website.

Tell us what you think

You may also like

Win Free Entry to The Canterbury Tales Experience

The Canterbury Tales - Win Free Entry to The Canterbury Tales Experience

We're giving away the chance to win free entry to an interactive tour through Chaucer's tales, meeting costumed characters and pilgrims along the way.

Bristol’s Hidden Gems: Alternative Date Ideas

Bristol’s Hidden Gems: Alternative Date Ideas

We’ve put together a round up of some of the best unusual date spots and activities across the city...

Constable and Brighton at the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery

Constable and Brighton at the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery

When you think of John Constable your mind might wander to Suffolk fields and sleepy bays, or images of Hampstead Heath when it truly was…

An Interview with James May

An Interview with James May

He is recognisable around the world as Captain Slow, the methodical foil of first BBC’s Top Gear and now Amazon’s big-budget The Grand Tour. But it is…

A Culture Calling Guide to the Brighton Fringe

A Culture Calling Guide to the Brighton Fringe

Don’t look now but May is almost here, and in Brighton that can mean only one thing. The Brighton Fringe returns again this year (5 May-4…

FILM REVIEW: A Quiet Passion

FILM REVIEW: A Quiet Passion

Not many would have thought that coming round to the ripe old age of 70, Terence Davies—the eternal sage of British cinema—would be entering the most…

British Sea Power: An Interview with Yan Scott Wilkinson

British Sea Power: An Interview with Yan Scott Wilkinson

Enigmatic indie six-piece British Sea Power return after a four-year hiatus with a new album – ‘Let The Dancers Inherit The Party’ – and a nationwide tour…

A Guide to May Day in Oxford

A Guide to May Day in Oxford

For those outside the Oxbridge axis, the last night of April will mean very little. For an Oxford local, however, it’s one of the most fun…

A Guide to the Dutch Season at the Brighton Fringe

A Guide to the Dutch Season at the Brighton Fringe

The very best of the Netherlands’ comedy, theatre and dance join the Brighton Fringe this year for the new ‘Dutch Season’. Fifteen of the most unique acts…

Love in the Time of Tinder: Chris Sherwood Interview

Love in the Time of Tinder: Chris Sherwood Interview

The Institute of Art and Ideas (IAI) have a new event scheduled for the end of April. Love in the Time of Tinder is a…

Most popular

Win Two Tickets to the Brighton Fringe’s Spiegeltent and a Meal for Two!

Brighton Fringe - Win Two Tickets to the Brighton Fringe’s Spiegeltent and a Meal for Two!

Roll up, Roll up! We're giving away two tickets to a fantastic evening at the Brighton Fringe’s Spiegeltent, plus a delicious meal!
Win Free Entry to The Canterbury Tales Experience

The Canterbury Tales - Win Free Entry to The Canterbury Tales Experience

We're giving away the chance to win free entry to an interactive tour through Chaucer's tales, meeting costumed characters and pilgrims along the way.
A Guide to the Dutch Season at the Brighton Fringe

A Guide to the Dutch Season at the Brighton Fringe

We celebrate the best of Holland's cultural offerings at the Brighton Fringe.
A Guide to May Day in Cambridge

A Guide to May Day in Cambridge

The May Bank Holiday is upon us, so experience it Cambridge-style.
A Hangover Guide to Brighton

A Hangover Guide to Brighton

Here are the greatest hangover cures following a night out in Brighton.
Win a Family Stay at Marwell Hotel and Zoo

Marwell Wildlife - Win a Family Stay at Marwell Hotel and Zoo

Looking for a family weekend this summer? We’re giving away a family stay at the amazing Marwell Zoo’s on-site lodgings, the Marwell Hotel.
Top 5 Sunday Roasts in Nottingham

Top 5 Sunday Roasts in Nottingham

We've scouted out the best roasts Nottingham has to offer.
5 Things You Didn’t Know About Oxford’s History

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Oxford’s History

We've compiled 5 of Oxford's lesser-known historical facts.
Bristol’s Hidden Gems: Alternative Date Ideas

Bristol’s Hidden Gems: Alternative Date Ideas

Here's a selection of some of the best unusual date spots across Bristol.
A Weekend Away in Arundel

A Weekend Away in Arundel

We spend a weekend in the beautiful Arundel, West Sussex.

Your inbox deserves a little culture!