Panorama of Beach and Cliff House (1903)    3 Stars


Panorama of Beach and Cliff House is quite an interesting study of a turn of the century San Francisco beach scene. The camera is there on the crowded beach, and curious onlookers stare openly as it pans around them. One man attempts to look casual as he walks briskly to keep himself in the picture for a while. Another man, chewing gum or tobacco, stares insolently and resembles Nick Nolte in Q&A. The majority of people on the beach are men, and they are all dressed in their Sunday best. The camera continues to pan, dwelling on some capering children in the lapping tide with the breath-taking Cliff house balanced precariously on the cliff edge behind them. It looks bizarrely incongruous, as if whisked from some salubrious city quarter to be planted on the edge of the sea. Although it looks fragile, the house survived the 1906 earthquake only to burn down a year later. A fascinating film.

(Reviewed 20th May 2009)