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The Weird World of Eadweard Muybridge 

Pioneer photographer, forefather of cinema, showman, murderer - Eadweard Muybridge was a Victorian enigma. He was born and died in Kingston upon Thames, but did his most famous work in ... See full summary »


Jill Nicholls


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Episode credited cast:
Alan Yentob Alan Yentob ... Himself - Presenter
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Marta Braun Marta Braun ... Herself - Ryerson University, Toronto (as Prof Marta Braun)
Philip Brookman Philip Brookman ... Himself - Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington
Peta Cook Peta Cook ... Herself - Curator, Kingston Museum
Ann Dumas Ann Dumas ... Herself - Curator
Stephen Herbert Stephen Herbert ... Himself - Historian
Richard Jones Richard Jones ... Himself - Historical Photographer
Jonathan Miller Jonathan Miller ... Himself (as Sir Jonathan Miller)
Andy Serkis ... Himself - Reader
Rebecca Solnit Rebecca Solnit ... Herself - Writer
Herb Westfall Herb Westfall ... Himself
Rachel Williamson Rachel Williamson ... Herself - Horse Trainer
Michael G. Wilson ... Himself


Pioneer photographer, forefather of cinema, showman, murderer - Eadweard Muybridge was a Victorian enigma. He was born and died in Kingston upon Thames, but did his most famous work in California - freezing time and starting it up again, so that for the first time people could see how a racing horse's legs moved. He went on to animate the movements of naked ladies, wrestlers, athletes, elephants, cockatoos and his own naked body, projecting his images publicly with a machine he invented and astounding audiences worldwide with the first flickerings of cinema. Alan Yentob follows in Muybridge's footsteps as he makes - and often changes - his name, and sets off to kill his young wife's lover. With Andy Serkis as Muybridge Written by Press Office

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Release Date:

30 November 2010 (UK) See more »

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Good TV Biography of Muybridge
12 November 2013 | by CineanalystSee all my reviews

For an hour-long television-show episode, "The Weird World of Eadweard Muybridge" does a good job of covering the life and work of the photographer. It especially covers his still photography and his murder trial well. Some demonstrations are made of the challenging wet collodion process that he used for most of his career and how its limitations led to the common 19th Century practice of touching up the images. They say, for instance, that the sky would appear white in the photographs, so clouds were added in for dramatic effect. Aside from Muybridge's photography and Zoöpraxiscope exhibitions, the most interesting part of his life is probably the fact that he killed a man who may've fathered Muybridge's wife's son and that he was acquitted on the basis of justifiable homicide.

Some of the right people are interviewed, too, especially Rebecca Solnit (author of "Motion Studies: Time, Space and Eadweard Muybridge" and "River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West"), Stephen Herbert (also an author and whose websites on Muybridge and Victorian cinema are wonderful resources that I visit frequently) and Marta Braun (author of "Picturing Time" and "Eadweard Muybridge"). Braun provides a brief overview of the enlightening observation she's made in her books that Muybridge's work, contrary to what others have thought and to how they were advertised, served little to no scientific purpose and, instead, he constructed "little stories". On the other hand, Jonathan Miller comes off as oddly dismissive. Andy Serkis (the Gollum from "The Lord of the Rings" movie trilogy) seems to be here only because the show wanted a celebrity to read Muybridge's writings and quotations; this is done in such an overwrought manner that it's sometimes unintentionally laughable.

Brief mention is made of the significant impact—covered better in some books on Muybridge—his photographs had on art—even if making the connection to Andy Warhol still seems a bit much to me. It's also suggested, although not well defended, that the animations of the Zoöpraxiscope discs influenced early cinema animation. A more interesting comparison is made between the battery of cameras Muybridge used for his instantaneous serial photography and the "time-slice photography", or "bullet time" visual effects, in "The Matrix" (1999). These comparisons also entirely undermine the host's dim comment when viewing the Zoöpraxiscope discs projected on a screen that, "It's really not cinema. You're only seeing about a half second of a story. It's not one point of view like cinema would be." Understanding, first, that cinema is not restricted by time, number of cameras, storytelling, or, as today's computer-generated digital films indicate, by the material used, one might find it more difficult to deny Muybridge's prominent place in the invention of cinema.

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