Luis Martinetti (1894)

by popegrutch

Luis Martinetti

AKA: “Luis Martinetti, Contortionist”

For this post once again I am returning to an early Edison Kinetoscope shot in the Black Maria studio. Luis Martinetti, as will be very obvious, was a contortionist, and performs a small sample of his act on gymnast’s rings, suspended above the ground. Again, this is only a few seconds worth of movement, but it was probably believed that the lithe movements would demonstrate that motion picture film could capture reality in ways that still photography never could. A still image might catch Martinetti in one or another bizarre position, but it couldn’t show how easily he moved through them. Again, I find myself thinking about the very rigid moral standards of the era and the fact that these circus performers are wearing scanty or form-fitting outfits that would rarely be seen in another context. Unlike Sandow, Martinetti isn’t showing flesh, however, and his one-piece leotard seems to have the effect of nullifying his gender, as it were, by making his crotch appear as smooth as a doll’s. Nevertheless, this is a very sensual display, with the audience more intimately close than they would likely be in an arena or other performance venue, possibly an additional appeal to this film.

Director: WKL Dickson

Camera: William Heise

Starring: Luis Martinetti

Run Time: 16 seconds

You can watch it for free: here or here.