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>TOPAZ is from 1969.  Probably the most famous freeze-frame ending I can
think
>of predates that by a decade: Truffaut's THE 400 BLOWS.
 
Earlier freeze-frames:
MAN WITH THE MOVIE CAMERA (Vertov, 1927 or 29). The action is frozen several
times in the middle of the film, we are shown filmstrips, and then the film
editor making cuts with a scissors.
VORMITTAGSSPUK (GHOSTS BEFORE BREAKFAST) (Hans Richter, 1927-28). In early
dada and surreal film, many effects like this were used. In this case, four
men walk out of a barn and sit down around a table to drink coffee. They are
choreographed to make the same gestures in unison, and periodically the image
freezes for a few seconds. This film also uses slow motion, backwards motion
and pixillation.
There are also freeze frames in early animation, though this may not count as
a freeze-frame, since it is all filmed frame-by-frame anyway. Examples
include most early abstract animation such as DIAGONAL SYMPHONY (Viking
Eggeling, 1921). There were projects by painters, such as Corradini and then
the futurists in Italy around 1912, and by Leonard Survage in 1914, that
included freeze frames, but these were either never made or have been lost.
In narrative film, I can think of an example as early as 1930, but it's a
Jean Cocteau film, so he may need to be considered experimental.
 
-Pip Chodorov
 
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