West Virginia University in Vendée, France
July 5, 1999
It was in the year 1896 that the living image was first projected onto the screen before a live audience. Since the movie house had not been invented this event occured in a café on the boulevards of Paris. The technology of this new super fast photography had evolved from the work of Nicéphore Nièpce and Louis Daguerre in the 1830's and '40's, and was "perfected" by two brothers from Lyon named ... Lumière. No name could have been more appropriate to the mission: "Lumière" means "light" in French, and to many it seemed that man himself had finally become a true creator. Of course, "Let there be light" is among the first miraculous works of our universe, but it seems that ever since the recreation of light has been a primary goal of French civilization. I suggest as examples the stained glass of the first Gothic cathedrals, the work of the Impressionist painters, the invention of the cinema, and of course the Futuroscope. Located just outside the city of Poitiers and in a complex that houses main offices and research facilities of the immense French Ministry of Education, the Futuroscope is dedicated to the future of the image. Each of the amazing architectural structures here is in the end simply a movie house -- but what movies!!!. This final field trip of WVU-V 1999 brings us to a site that is dedicated to the support and exposition of the latest experimental technologies of the motion picture.
None of my pictures here could begin to do justice to the vast array of images we are witness to today. Each of our WVU-Vendéens below can attest to that. They are about to witness a truly amazing film by the director Jean-Jacques Annaud (Seven Years in Tibet, The Lover, The Name of the Rose, The Bear, and two of my truly favorite films, Quest for Fire and Black and White in Color). The spectacle today is surely the best example of high quality three-dimensional cinematagraphy any of us has ever seen. It is the story of Henri Guillaumet and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (the famous pilot, author, and figurehead of the fifty franc bill) during their first attempts to establish airmail service across the Andes of South America.
After Annaud's marvelous demonstration, we are ready for many more adventures in the future of the living image.
Here, we head toward an unbelievable film on the marvels of Egypt. Again, simply indescribable.
We take a moment away from the screen to ascend the tower overlooking the grounds.
Our perspective here is from the spriral room that overlooks the Futuroscope and the battle field where in the 732 Charlemagne's grandfather, Charles Martel, defeated the Moors and decided the destiny of Europe. As we know from the current situation in Kosovo, the wars between Christian and Moslem have not yet seen their end. The position of France in this modern conflict, is of course radically different from that of 1200 years ago.
I did steal one decent photo of the moving image. The film below recounts the life of the monarch butterfly. We follow this creature from its origins in Canada all the way to its breading grounds in Central America. The flight is represented on screens that rise high over our heads and that open up far below our feet.
At the end of the day, the tears in our eye are surely a result of excessive visual stimulation. It is only incidental that this is the moment of departure for several of our 1999 WVU-Vendéens. Below, our Vendée-Mobile delivers these brave adventurers to the bus stop of the Futuroscope. In a short time they will be on the TGV back to Paris where they will catch their return flight for the States tomorrow. Yours truly and the remaining Vendéens now take their own return route to Les Sables d'Olonne.
Stay tuned to WVU-V!
Go on to July 6, 1999
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