When I read that there were “alternate versions” of some of the famous Lumière films shown at Salon Indien du Grand Café in Paris, I figured we were talking about re-takes, where the Lumières just made back-up copies for safety. It turns out that they were closer to being re-makes, with completely new set-ups and locations in some cases, as in this one.
The film itself is, as usual, fifty seconds of workers leaving a factory gate. But, it is distinctly different from the original, which was shot in front of the Lumières’ own workshop, and showed mostly women leaving, as well as (famously) a dog and a horse cart. Here, nearly every figure is male, many of them have bicycles, and the setting is distinctly different. This is not a simple re-framing of the Lumière factory, it appears to be an entirely different factory (at minimum, it is a different exit to their factory), with different workers in the shot.
As we expect from early film, many of the subjects look at the camera with interest. Some even stop and stare, although only for a few seconds each, perhaps because the cameraman instructed them to move out of shot, or because the crowd hurried them on. A couple of women do pass through the shot (apparently walking along the street from some other origin), and the men remove their hats as they pass. Most of the men are in work clothes, but these seem very formal compared to modern dress, and everyone wears a hat or a cap. One man pushes a wheeled basket that could be (?) a pram.
It’s interesting to speculate as to why Lumière chose to remake this movie. Perhaps the response to the first was so positive that they felt the need to provide more versions. Perhaps their limited ability to duplicate meant that they needed extra movies for distribution purposes. Perhaps they wanted to see how it worked under different lighting conditions or there was something of interest to them about the location. Or, perhaps they were simply shooting anything they could think of at the time, to get the most use out of the new camera possible.
Director: Auguste and Louis Lumière
Camera: Auguste or Louis Lumière
Run Time: 50 secs
You can watch it for free: here.