Eat My Shorts – Trains on Film


“In their first appearance together at the Smith Rafael Film Center since their initial “dialogue” series in 2009, David Thomson, celebrated film critic and historian, will join award-winning novelist and poet Michael Ondaatje for an entertaining weekend of screenings and discussions around trains as cinematic subject and stimulus.


Thomson is the author of more than 20 books, including a number of biographies, Moments That Made the Movies and The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, which, in a 2010 poll, was voted the best film book of all time – and his newest How to Watch a Movie. [Excerpted this week in EDF.] His books are available at your local book store and can also be purchased from independent book store via Indiebound or Amazon.

Two articles by Thomson appear in this week’s issue of EatDrinklFilms.

Ondaatje is the author of several novels, including The English Patient, Anil’s Ghost, and The Cat’s Table, as well as his interview book The Conversations- Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film. His books are available in local book stores or from Indiebound and Amazon.

They will also engage the audience in their discussions.

David Thomson, recipient of the Mel Novikoff Award at the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 24 - May 8, 2014

From the Presenters:

“Trains on film? Trains in film? Or maybe just trains and movies as motion dreams that enthrall us, and take us somewhere else while we’re sitting in apparent safety and comfort. From the Lumière brothers to Hitchcock and beyond, movie-makers have loved to get on trains. The two machines are escape fantasies with the same reliance on desperation and bliss. Trains are contained worlds, furious energies racing towards death and climax, and journeys that mimic the destinies of life – they are our kind of thing. This series grows out of our fascination with the kinship of the two and our shared desire to transport viewers.

“Our selection has to omit many great films, but these champion loco features will be hurried along with shorts, clips, extracts and collisions that will come as surprises and delights. All aboard!”

The complete schedule is here.

Eat My Shorts presents posters and trailers for the films in this series and a few surprise bonuses.

the train






EDF FilmStrip

Our bonus goodies


One of the first films ever shown to an audience was the Lumière Brothers’

Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station.

“According to the famous urban myth, during the premiere of this 50-seconds-long film in 1896 in Lyon the audience was so terrified of the image of the arriving train that many people leaped up from their seats, screaming, and ran to the back of the screening room. That myth may or may not be true, and yet, it appears certain that Auguste and Louis Lumière, when they captured the approaching train on film at the most expressive angle they could think of, did expect to elicit strong emotional reaction from their audience. This was the likely reason why they didn’t stop the camera immediately after the train arrived to the platform, but kept rolling to record the hubbub of disembarking passengers and people greeting them on the platform: the pre-climactic buildup of the locomotive filling the screen was too powerful and needed a relatively longer period of relief.


Lumiere trainPeople at the premiere of the film knew that the train was merely an illusion, a sequence of photographs projected onto a white screen – and yet their reaction to the illusion was real. Seeing the arriving train made people tense up, hold their breath, perhaps even gasp, their heartbeat quickened, the palms of their hands moist, their mouths dry – or, if the legend had any basis in reality, maybe some of the viewers did scream and run in panic.  Whatever the reaction was, it was intended by the Lumières, the masters of illusion.“

The complete essay by Dimitri Vorontzov is here.



“Replete With Thrilling and Exciting Incidents in Fourteen Scenes, The Great Train Robbery…has been posed and acted in faithful imitation of the genuine ‘Hold Ups’ made famous by various outlaw bands in the far West, and only recently the East has been shocked by several crimes of the frontier order.” So said a 1903 advertisement admonishing the nascent movie-going population to fork over their hard-earned coins to see Edison Films’ production of The Great Train Robbery, a one-reel milestone of cinema history, photographed and produced by Edwin S. Porter… the last shot of the film is quite literally the last “shot” of the film; actor Justus D. Barnes, playing the head bandit Barnes, points his gun directly at the camera/audience and unloads. He continues pulling the trigger even after the chamber has been emptied. Labeled “realism” in the accompanying notes for The Great Train Robbery, this extra shot, having nothing whatsoever to do with the story, could be placed at either the beginning or the end of the film. As one historian noted, “the shot added realism to the film by intensifying the spectators’ identification with the victimized travelers.”

Excerpted from Scott McGee’s Turner Classic Movies article.

Read Filmsite’s discussion of the film, its making and impact.


Toccata for Toy Trains “delves into the world of toy trains, which Charles Eames loved long after boyhood.  The work features toy trains of various vintages, styles, sizes, and materials to tell the simple story of a journey; it starts in a rail yard, continues to the countryside, moves through villages, and culminates at a station.” Check the Eames Official site for more.

And we couldn’t end without a cliff-hanging serial. Enjoy Chapter One.


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