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Posts Tagged ‘Alice Guy Blaché’

In our series of posts about Women Pioneers of the Cinema, a few years ago we highlighted the work of one of the most important filmmakers in movie history: Alice Guy Blaché.  For some further information about this groundbreaking creator and studio head, you can check out this brief piece with video links from Open Culture.  Or, you can go straight to this short but informative video.  It is titled “The First Woman Filmmaker Nobody’s Heard Of” — well, that might be the case unless you learned about filmmaking and media literacy from Moving Images and mediateacher.net.  

And do you want an exciting piece of news?  There is a documentary in the works about this inspiring pioneer: Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché, directed by Pamela B. Green.

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varda_art3In earlier posts, a variety of exemplary female filmmakers have been discussed, from early pioneer Alice Guy Blaché to cinematographer Ellen Kuras to screenwriter Pamela Gray to casting director Marion Dougherty and many more.  This year has seen more inspiring landmarks and creations in the exceptional life and career of Agnès Varda, one of the featured directors of Chapters 5 and 6 of Moving Images (and who showed notable generosity towards our project).  From the Moving Images text, “director Agnès Varda has maintained a long career in which she has led her own production company and has made films that have established her highly personal integration of community life and a spontaneous method and style in her movies.  Varda has created some of the most innovative and free-spirited short and feature films of her time shooting with an impressively wide range of approaches: feature productions in 35mm; documentaries in 16mm or other platforms; commercials and public service announcements; journal type projects in videotape and digital video, among others.”

3boutonsAt the Cannes Festival this past May, Varda received a lifetime achievement award — only the fourth given in the history of the festival — and more recently, she premiered a lively short film starring teenager Jasmine Thiré — Les 3 Boutons — that provides a neat introduction to her original approaches to moviemaking and storytelling.  From casting to locations to editing to narrative digressions, it is pure Varda and a treat. She is a master of cinematic language through both image and sound.  The Criterion Collection has also released a new box set of some of her less known work, and it includes such important and innovative shorts as Uncle Yanco and Black Panthers.  

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A still from Alice Guy Blaché’s groundbreaking short “Madame Has Her Cravings”

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.

Director and actress Julie Delpy’s followup to 2 Days in Paris

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.  

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