The Kiss (1896) Poster

(1896)

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6/10
A snippet from a famous Broadway play
silentfilm-230 January 2005
There is not much to this film. It was made for Kinetoscope parlors with peep-show machines, and was probably rarely shown on a big screen (at least in the 1890s). It features May Irwin and John Rice in a short scene from their Broadway stage success THE WIDOW JONES.

The important thing about this film is the camera placement. Intead of seeing the actors full-length as if photographed on a stage, the photographer placed the camera near them so that we can clearly see their faces. The actual kiss is an innocent kiss as an old husband would kiss his wife. However, the closeness of the images disturbed many Victorian era people who felt a kiss was a private moment and should not be seen in public. While neither Irwin or Rice went on to make many more films, they were certainly some of the first celebrities to be immortalized on film. Looked at in this context, it is certainly an interesting little film.
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Interesting Historical Landmark
Snow Leopard6 September 2005
As short and simple as it is, this is still an interesting historical landmark, as one of the first movies to be surrounded by public controversy. Some of the other early movies are remembered for the initial surprise they caused (for example, the fear that some audiences felt when they first saw footage of a train coming towards the camera), but the reaction to this movie was different.

Given the accounts of the reactions that it caused, the footage itself seems surprisingly innocuous. The participants in "The Kiss" are neither young nor attractive, and their feelings towards each other seem more affectionate than sensual. That it caused such comment in its time no doubt speaks in part to what that generation was concerned with, but even at that, surely most persons had seen this kind of behavior before.

What made this different was that it was projected on a large screen for all to see, and that an intimate moment had been captured in a form that could be preserved forever and replayed over and over. Unlike a stage scene, a movie is never really over and forgotten, since audiences can still see it many decades later. Also unlike a stage scene, a movie camera could capture the scene in a (medium) close-up, bringing the viewer much closer to the kissing couple.

A movie also captures the entire sequence of events, so that the impression of what is happening is fleshed out in its entirety, making it more memorable than even the most well-chosen moment for a still photograph. All of these thoughts may not fully explain it either, but the fact remains that, though there are certainly some different things that other media can do better than cinema, this was an early example of what movies can do to a degree that other art forms cannot quite rival.
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7/10
One of the first motion pictures to hit cinemas!
caspian197811 September 2001
The Kiss is simple that. It's about 20 seconds long, each second pure and innocent as your first kiss. Even the way it is filmed, very close and personal, that it makes you feel like it is the first time you are witnessing a kiss. You're never going to see this unless you take a History of Film class. Make sure you're there for the first day of class because that's when they're going to show this flick. It stands today as one of the first motion picture shorts in America.
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7/10
Historically important early short
BrandtSponseller14 March 2005
One of the earliest shorts, The Kiss is a 20 second film produced by Thomas Edison, showing the ending kiss in John J. McNally's play The Widow Jones between the titular character and Billie Bikes.

This short is remarkable for a couple reasons. One, it was one of the first publicly exhibited films, and two, it caused a minor scandal because of its "indecency". The scandal seems ridiculous now, although its not far removed in attitude from current cries for censorship in the media.

The film itself, although understandably jumpy and scratchy, is remarkable for its clarity, especially when compared to many photographs of the era. The scene depicted is amusing for the two characters talking while their faces are pressed together.

You should be able to find this short on DVD on a number of different anthologies of early films.
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Vitascope's Megahit
Cineanalyst17 December 2007
There are a few historically interesting aspects concerning this film, "The Kiss". It is, perhaps, the earliest filmed kiss. Supposedly, it created some controversy. Later in 1896, "Fatima's Coochee-Coochee Dance", another Edison film, indeed, was censored via white crossbars covering her chest and hips. Furthermore, the framing of this kissing scene is from a medium close-up. The Edison Company had used the medium close-up before, such as in "Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze", which wasn't released commercially, but the photographs of it appeared in a "Harper's Weekly" article.

This scene is also from the conclusion of the musical comedy "The Widow Jones", a play by John J. McNally that had premièred the previous year. The Edison filmmakers were obsessed with vaudeville performances, especially dancing, and Alfred Clark had already introduced professional theatrical actors to film with his few historical reenactments, such as "The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots" (1895). Nevertheless, "The Kiss" was new territory for the Edison Company in that it's based on a theatrical play and featured credited professional actors. More than a decade later, various filmmakers attempted to marry cinema and the stage and essentially make film a travesty of theatre.

Most remarkable of "The Kiss", however, is that it was a very popular scene. Charles Musser has claimed it was their most popular film of 1896. A March 1898 Catalogue indicates it had an even lengthier period of popularity: "This subject has met with unequaled success on the Kinetoscope or projecting machine." It remained in the Edison catalogues until at least 1901, it appears. The rather new subject matter, its theatrical source and the use of the medium close-up surely led to its popularity. The film must have been quite a novelty when projected on the screen to patrons whose experience, if any, heretofore had been with long shot framing of film subjects.

William Heise photographed "The Kiss" in April 1896 at the "Black Maria" studio. The Edison Company made the film at the behest of "The New York World" newspaper, and the photographs appeared in its Sunday edition on 26 April. It nearly took up a page under the article "The Anatomy of a Kiss". As the article demonstrates, May Irwin and John C. Rice rehearsed the scene, especially the timing, before being filmed. The film appeared on the screen during the second week of the Vitascope's New York run. It was a hit; contemporary reviews paid it special mention similar to that of another blockbuster film of the time, "Rough Sea at Dover". Contemporary reviews also note that it appeared prominently at the beginning or end of exhibitors' programs.

According to Musser ("Before the Nickelodeon"), Edison Company film sales soared during 1896-1897, from $18,616 in 1895-1896 to $84,771. By 1898-1899, sales had fallen to $41,207. These numbers are surely tied largely to the novelty of the Vitascope and then the fading away of its novelty, but it's interesting to note how they also correspond to the circulation of "The Kiss", which, indeed, has been claimed to be the company's bestseller during the period.

Another thing I've noticed about "The Kiss", but for which I haven't found mention of elsewhere, is that there are two versions of it available today; they appear to be mirror images of each other. The Library of Congress paper print features Rice to the left of Irwin, but another print features him to the right of her. Perhaps, the latter is a result of mishandled copying of an original print. Musser has mentioned that the film was photographed only once, and "The New York World" article seems to support that statement. Moreover, the prints appear too similar for one of them to have been a remake. In 1900, however, the Edison Company would remake "The Kiss", but with a different couple. The kiss has been a movie staple ever since.
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7/10
They get ready to kiss, begin to kiss, and kiss and kiss and kiss in a way that brings down the house every time.
Ziggy544627 June 2007
In 1896 the Edison Company purchased the rights to a motion picture projector that had been invented by C. Francis Jenkins and Thomas Armat. The projector was renamed the Vitascope and had its commercial debut on April 23, 1896. During its first year the most popular film shown using the Edison vitascope was the May Irwin Kiss.

May Irwin who was a Canadian actor, comedienne and singer. Her first starring role on Broadway came in 1895 in a musical comedy created for her by J.J. McNally, called The Widow Jones. In one key scene at the end of the play, Irwin and her co–star, John C. Rice, kiss each other with something of a flourish. Many were scandalized when they recreated their stage kiss for Edison's camera the following year, and one clergy member denounced the film as "a lyric of the stockyards". Critic Herbert Stone complained, " . . . neither participant is physically attractive and the spectacle of their prolonged pasturing on each other's lips was hard to beat when only life size. Magnified to gargantuan proportions and repeated three times over is absolutely disgusting!" Despite, or perhaps because of these derisive reviews, the May Irwin Kiss became the most popular film produced that year by Thomas Edison's film company.
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10/10
A most indelible kiss!
rudy-4611 January 2004
This very small piece of film history is a real cinematic treasure. We are very fortunate it is still with us to be enjoyed and appreciated, for a kiss has become almost synonymous with the birth of cinema. When one thinks of the movies' beginning, the image of May Irwin and John Rice come to mind. These very early films were typical of the period, the decade of the 1890's. Very short films lasting under a minute designed for the Edison kinetoscope to be viewed in "peep show" parlors. This film is not only important for its historical value, but we get the rare privilage of seeing the fabulous Broadway actress, May Irwin repeating for the camera a scene from the popular play "The Widow Jones". Miss Irwin was a very prolific actress of the late 19th and early 20th century. To my knowledge she made only one other film, 1914's "Mrs. Black is Back". Though her presence in "The Kiss" is very brief, we get a big glimpse of an eminent actress.
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9/10
Historical Landmark
love_platipus28 February 2009
Hearing what a scandal this caused, you have to wonder what the 1890-oids would think of what goes into movies today. But considering its only about 10 seconds long, you really have got to see this movie. Its a historical landmark. First romance ever filmed people, are you really going to miss that??

Imagine if kissing on screen was still a social taboo? Imagine every romance movie ever made ( Casablanca, Titanic, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Romeo and Juliet, etc. ) minus any physical affection whatsoever. it would be a lot more weird and a lot less fun. Think of what we owe to this film. I think we kind of owe these guys aprox. 10 seconds of our time.
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A first in more ways than one.
Nozze-Foto13 February 2002
I discovered silent movies one day when I was too sick to go to school and the local educational TV station ran several of them. That was where I was exposed to this early Edison short. Later I discovered this simple film, showing nothing more than 2 people kissing, was blasted by clergyman who used such terms as "A lyric of the stockyards" to describe this intimate act blown up larger than life and projected on a screen. Here moving pictures were still in their infancy and already certain people who let zealotry replace common sense were calling for censorship! Some things never change! We are lucky that so many Edison shorts survived for us to see these days. You have to wonder what all the fuss was about.
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3/10
impossible to rate on IMDb!
MartinHafer24 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This "movie" is an 18 second clip shown in Nickelodeons across the country in 1896. It consists of a rather ugly older couple getting frisky with each other and culminates in a brief but sweet kiss. THAT'S ALL!! And yet, when it appeared it was considered "smut" and there were widespread cries for censorship!!! It just goes to show you how much things have changed over the years! It's a very important movie historically and I have shown it to my history classes when we discuss American cinema. If anyone cares to see it, it's available on the Internet and is available in Quicktime, MPEG and other formats. Give it a try--it won't take up much of your time!

PS--This film is also known as the MAY IRWIN KISS and is not the same as the 1900 film THE KISS--a knock-off film also made by the Edison Studio, but with more intense kissing and a more attractive couple.
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7/10
Quite funny actually
rbverhoef2 August 2006
A popular short film from the Edison Manufacturing Company is 'The Kiss', which stars Broadway stars May Irwin and John C. Rice shows these two people kissing as in their musical 'The Widow Jones'. It was the first kiss in the movies, causing immediate controversy (some found it pornographic) and the first call for censorship. Seeing it today we can hardly understand that; the two look rather innocent. The scene itself is even a little funny.

From its first film the Edison Manufacturing Company has produced over a thousand of short films. The most famous is probably 'The Great Train Robbery', considered to be the first western, even though it was shot in New Jersey. The Brothers Lumière and Georges Méliès did their part in developing the cinema in France, Edison and later D.W. Griffith were their American counterparts.

As for the single shot films from the Edison Manufacturing Company, they are all historically interesting. For some reason those from Lumière have a higher entertainment value, if that's what you should call it, but that does not mean they are more important (and 'The Kiss' is an exception actually). The Edison Manufacturing Company's short films existing out of multiple scenes belong to the highpoint of American cinema.
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9/10
Scandal?
mirosuionitsaki223 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is a very interesting film. It is one of the earliest romance films. Actually, it is the first.

This film caused a minor scandal back in the day, which right now we can safely laugh at.

This helped in making many other films. It's quite interesting how romance this day has changed only little. This film is scratchy and is of poor quality, but you must understand. This film is made almost two centuries ago.

The film was produced by Thomas Edison, with the two actors of the day May Irwin and John C. Rice. This is one of many of other Edison's films which are now in museums everywhere.
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10/10
I love it
musashinwari1924 April 2020
Honestly these few seconds kiss is still better than whole twilight saga
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8/10
'The Kiss' (1896): A Review
werlingjakob3 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
The story surrounding the early 1896 short-film 'The Kiss' is a little strange: it was made at the dawn of cinema and was one of the first films shown to the public. It was also a collaboration between the incredibly-influential early filmmaker William Heise and, yes, the legendary inventor and on-and-off filmmaker Thomas Edison (who was quite an influential early filmmaker in his own right too, as well as an inventor of a couple different pieces of filmmaking technology who eventually founded his very own film production company called Thomas A. Edison, Inc.). The film (or, the more appropriate label, short film as the movie is only around one or two minutes long) depicted a kiss between at-the-time popular Broadway actor John Rice and at-the-time popular Broadway actress May Irwin- a snippet from a play they both acted in together called 'The Widow Jones.' At the time of its release, 'The Kiss' was incredibly controversial because a lot of people held the view that a kiss was a private moment which should not be filmed and distributed for people to see and enjoy and that the short-film was "indecent and pornographic" (which just comes to show just how much people's views and society's standards have changed over around 120 years later). But origin story and stupid controversy aside, a question remains. Which is, "why should you watch this short-film?" And the reason is because even though it lacks a plot, dialogue, has very little acting, has close to no music, and lacks so many of the other elements required in movies and even though it is ridiculously short and simple, it did however introduce a lot of influential filmmaking techniques to cinema that are commonplace in movies today- such as the close-up camera angle seen throughout the movie and clear, nonstop kinetic movement of the actors seen in the movie, which was something a lot of film projectors couldn't do at the time. Also, the film was filmed in one-shot I believe, which is kind of cool too. But another two reasons why this film was important was because it was one of the first films ever made, which makes it important to see regardless of quality, and also because it managed to capture a kiss- which is an intimate and romantic moment- on screen for everybody to see, so it basically introduced the romantic movie genre to cinema as well. It was also an early example of what movies could do that other art forms couldn't, as the film managed to capture an important though everyday moment in motion, and preserving it for all to see. Though I should add that this movie is best viewed in a historical context due to its shortness and simplicity and because it is not very entertaining. Though it does have its merits and is still important for everyone to see because of the influential filmmaking techniques that it demonstrates and because it is an early example of what movies could do that other art forms couldn't do- and because it also technically introduced the world to romance movies and was also one of the first films shown to the public. A must-see for anybody studying the history of cinema and a must-see for any film fanatic in general.
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9/10
What Else Can Anyone Say
Hitchcoc5 April 2019
Apparently this little 35 second offering was taken during a performance of a play. The kiss is only significant because it was first shown in 1896, at the dawn of cinema. I have to say the quality is wonderful and it is quite charming. They play for the camera and pull it off. Must have been quite the thing back then.
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6/10
Not much to watch, but at least, this silent short film is accurate. The first kiss is indeed, always awkward.
ironhorse_iv22 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
When Broadway sensations May Irwin and John Rice recreated their kiss from the hit play 'The Widow Jones', in front of a camera at Thomas Edison's Black Maria Studio. That footage directed by William Heise became a notorious special attention for many years. Now, some modern day viewers might be rolling their eye on the idea that this 18 second film clip was something truly special, back in the day, but it was. People in 1896 really did want to see it! Sometimes, they paid a ticket to watch it in groups, on a projector in a really cold or hot tent at the local public park. Other times, audiences went to stag parties to watch it, alone in a room on a Kinetoscope. Either way, Edison made money. It was the most popular short film, in Thomas Edison Vitascope library. It was so famous that it caused a scandalized uproar and occasioned disapproving newspaper editorials and calls for police action in many places where ever the footage was shown. It even got the Roman Catholic Church's attention, as the pope call for censorship and moral reform, when it comes to the film. It was that scandalous. You might be asking, why. It's just a harmless kiss. Well, it's because kissing in public at the time was viewed as a physical and mental disorder. It was disturbance that people often view, would bring moral chaos to marriages and sexual diseases to the common household. Such acts were forbidden & inappropriate, and if acted, could lead to prosecution. Prim and proper prudish society was really that strict. However, it wasn't only snobbish moral code culture that had a problem with the film. The movie also got in hot water with some nonconformist, free-spirit bohemian critics as well; as they found the two leads, physically-unattractive & lacking chemistry with each other. They didn't find the short film, cute or sexy. They found the public display of affection, a very disgusting piece of art, as the kiss didn't feel genuine. Still, the way John Rice prepares his moustache before the act is quite funny. So, at least, it had that, going for it. Regardless, the kiss does look fake. In response in that, Edison Studios & director, Edwin S. Porter remade the short clip for the general audience in March 9, 1900, with two more attractive younger, leading performers with on-screen chemistry. This time, they made the embrace seem more heart-warming by having them, seem playful and flirtatious cuddling, rather than 'forceful pull you in' nuzzling intimacy, like it seem in the original clip. From what I've gather, this short film was released without any controversy. It even please the church. I suppose as far as early silent era, short film, exclusively about two people kissing goes, the 1900 version is certainly better than the original movie. Still, I have to somewhat agree with some modern viewers, that both short films are not much to look. It's really not that romantic or entertaining as a popcorn flick, nor does it bring a good enough insight on how life is like, back then, as a hard-hitting documentary. In the end, the films falls into mediocracy. Films like 1899's British short silent comedy film, produced and directed by George Albert Smith, 'A Kiss in the Tunnel' are far superior; with its innovating ways of narrative editing. The act of splicing stock train footage with clips of two performers, Laura Bayley and the director, himself, kissing onboard was ground-breaking. Also the use of point-of-view (POV) shot from the "perspective" of a moving train was outstanding. Regardless, all this films deserve some praise, as they were generally considered to be among the first romantic films in movie history. All of them are remarkable. While, 1896's 'the Kiss' is understandably jumpy and scratch. I just surprise, a highly flammable nitrate film clip, this old, is still watchable. Most short-length footage from this era, were destroy by accident fires or on purpose, in order to make room for vault space, as short clips perceived as having little or no commercial value after the end of the silent era. There was no thought of ever saving these films. Lucky for us, 1896's 'the Kiss' is one of the films that continues to be shown. In 1999, the short was deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. The original rare footage had a strong case of surviving for many years to come. Even with that, the copies of this short movie is easy to find. You should be able to catch this short on DVDs on a number of different anthologies of early films. If not, you can search for it on the internet. There is tons of footage of this short on YouTube, along. So, nothing really stopping you. It's the question, if you really want to watch this short film. While, 1896's 'the Kiss' isn't really entertaining. It's still, worth watching for anybody curious about the early days of film. So, check it out, if you really want to.
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One of the First 'Censored' Films
Tornado_Sam30 October 2017
It was just like the Edison company to create a big scandal by filming a couple kissing in grotesque closeup view. From the beginning, they had never really been an especially 'clean' company, in the sense of keeping with the moralities of the time. (Instead, if you want to know the truth, they were actually just the opposite). You had the boxing films, scandalous enough already considering how illegal the sport was at the time; you had cockfights, a despicable sport similar to bullfighting; you had dancers like Annabelle Moore showing their ankles and belly-dancing, etc. And what did they do to demonstrate the first use of film editing? They reenacted the beheading of Mary Stuart. So it's no surprise that when it came to picking a scene from the famous Broadway musical "The Widow Jones", they of course chose the kissing bit. Today, it's a fairly innocent kiss, not a romantic movie star kiss, not a quick peck, just a sweet little display of affection. Unfortunately, such displays of affection, famous Broadway musical or not, just weren't acceptable at the time--and as result of the film's release, there were cries of censorship.

Furthermore, that's not the worst of it. After news of the scandalous feature spread throughout the cinemas, it appears to have inspired further remakes, including Edison's own "The Kiss" of 1900. So I guess, thanks to Edison, this 20-second clip is the big reason why Hollywood and the other companies all around the world went perverse on us and to this day indulge in violence and sex. Sad, but so true. Who would have though a brief kiss on the lips inspired all the garbage shown in movie theaters today?
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6/10
Makes A Mystery of Sorts
gavin694220 January 2016
Two people kiss, and this was one of the first films ever shown commercially to the public. The film is around 18 seconds long, and depicts a re-enactment of the kiss between May Irwin and John Rice from the final scene of the stage musical, "The Widow Jones".

The kissing scene was denounced as shocking and obscene to early moviegoers and caused the Roman Catholic Church to call for censorship and moral reform - because kissing in public at the time could lead to prosecution. As shocking as this seems today (2016), it is quite true.

What is most interesting about this short film, I feel, is that the couple is clearly speaking to each other. Maybe there are lines in the original play. I have no idea. But I am not a lip reader and I cannot make out what is being said... indeed, it is a mystery, and adds a little something to this otherwise (in my opinion) tame picture.
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6/10
Milestone for romance movies
Horst_In_Translation6 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is American movie pioneer William Heise eventually on his own, without his regular partner from earlier works, William K.L. Dickson.

"The Kiss" is as short as it's beautiful. The real kiss only appears right before the film ends, and the couple, a well-groomed gentleman and his rubenslady wife are fooling around from the start already. While he goes for the kiss already, she is playing a bit hard to get and keeps talking instead. Maybe telling him her idea of what the kiss should look like. Actually, I do prefer the preparation to the real kiss in the ending. It's really cute and, after all, isn't anticipation the highest form of joy? Upping the mustache one last time and there they go. Really worth the watch, especially with a melodic little musical piece to accompany.
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8/10
It looks really gross but . . .
cricket3028 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
. . . if youv ever been in a sports stadium with "kiss cam," I'm sure youv seen worse. Pablo says to give it 8 of 10 since it's the first porno flick ever. I find it hard to believe this caused a "scandal" in 1896, if it was merely putting a scene from a publicly performed play into a kinetograph peep booth. I mean, those Suffragette temperance women must have seen French post cards and stereopticoron "3D" nude pix, mussent they uv? For gosh sakes, these senior citizens are fully dressed in some sort of formal wear! At any rate, what I wonder is why there are none of the old-timey title cards explaining what the geezer says to the old bag, or what she says back to him. I mean, there's about 14 seconds of jibber-jabbering and one second of kissing, so what the heck is all the talk about??
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First Kiss
Michael_Elliott30 December 2008
Kiss, The (1896)

**** (out of 4)

Once again I wouldn't call this film "entertaining" but it is very important on a historic level. Also known as The May Irwin Kiss or The Rice-Irwin Kiss, this Edison short is the first movie to feature a kiss. Not only is this film interesting for being the first kiss but it's also worth noting that many protests were held towards this film as various religious groups felt that kissing on camera was a major sin and just more proof of how dirty and evil these moving pictures were. It's funny to think that this would garner so much hatred at the time but today this is a very charming film. I've seen it four or five times now and each viewing puts a smile on my face as the two actors just appear to be having fun. Neither are all that attractive but that makes the film seem more real to me.
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