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Which was the first flicker film?

My favourite film genre is the flicker film. In case you’re not very familiar with experimental film, a flicker film is a film with fast changes between light and dark frames. That creates a strobing effect.

If you need something more visual to understand what I’m talking about, this is Arnulf Rainer (1960) by Peter Kubelka, my favourite flicker film.

I’ve read a lot of times that Arnulf Rainer was the first flicker film, but that’s not true. I believed it for some time because that’s what most books say, but years ago I discovered Color Sequence (1943) by Dwinell Grant.

Some parts of Color Sequence are too slow to be considered a flicker, but other parts are definitely flickering. Anyway, this isn’t the first flicker film either.

The first flicker film, at least that I know of, is An Expression by Shigeji Ogino (you can watch the film on the link).

Shigeji Ogino was a Japanese filmmaker who started making movies in the 1920s. His filmography is really diverse. He made home movies, travel diaries, animation, and experimental films.

An Expression is a 4-minute long silent film. It’s an abstract film, we only see shapes. However, it’s also a narrative film. Ogino tells the story of a meeting between a man from the city—the triangle—and a woman from the countryside—the circle.

Ogino shot the film in black and white using alternating red and green filters. One frame is red and the next is green (complementary colours), which generates entoptic phenomena. Entoptic phenomena are images whose source is within the eyes themselves. This means that sometimes you see colours, spots, shapes, etc. that are not really in the film.

I love doing research, so maybe one day I’ll find an oldest flicker film, or maybe someone will talk me about another one. Who knows…

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