In the late 1980’s, I studied at the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris while completing research on French director Marcel Carné for my senior thesis at Princeton University. There, in a course taught by French film scholar Michel Marie, I was particularly interested by a story that I had never heard of in any of the film histories I had read until then: the cinematic legacy and amazing life of director Alice Guy Blaché. Since then, major biographies (most significantly, Alison McMahan‘s Alice Guy Blaché: Lost Visionary of the Cinema) and articles have been published on this inspiring pioneer, and evidence of her work has been unearthed in film archives and dusty attics from around the world, allowing for more thorough investigation of her achievements. At the last Directors Guild of America Awards ceremony in New York City, the DGA offered a posthumous award to Alice Guy Blaché presented by Martin Scorsese. Currently, her feature The Ocean Waif is available on DVD in partial form along with another feature directed by a woman, Ruth Ann Baldwin‘s 49-17. For Guy Blaché’s short films, there is a Gaumont Treasures DVD set that features a number of her French movies from 1897-1907. Online, many of her shorts are available streaming such as Falling Leaves, a 1912 movie produced by her own Solax Studios in New Jersey.
Study of Alice Guy Blaché in the classroom can involve many interesting topics for students. These include the development of visual storytelling (see Chapter 7 of Moving Images for the “alcoholic mattress” example from the work of Guy Blaché), the prominence of independent studios in film history such as Guy Blaché’s Solax Studios in New Jersey, and the changing roles of women in movie production, particularly the entrenchment of a “males only” world of film production in Hollywood studios after the first decades of the cinema. Today, France has many active female directors, including Julie Delpy, Agnès Jaoui, Claire Denis, Noémie Lvovsky, Tonie Marshall, Danièle Thompson, and pioneer Agnès Varda who is among the featured directors of Chapter 5 of Moving Images.