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The first film director was French. The extraordinary fate of Alice Guy

The world’s first female film director, a staunch feminist, made several hundred films in the early 20th century.e century. This pioneer, who was robbed of his work, was finally found again today. Story told by Virginia Giraud*.

A face with youthful curves, lilac blue eyes, foamy hair, a long dress decorated with lace… No, Alice Guy, director and screenwriter, is not preparing for the Cannes Film Festival, she ends up posing in a photographer’s studio. of the 19th centurye century. Lovers of 7 todaye art (re)discover the name of the world’s first female film director, director Celine Siamma praises her way of shooting (preface to the autobiographical story Alice Guy, Tale-Movie, Ed. Gallimard), the graphic novel brings it to life, with great success (signed by Catel & Bocquet, Ed. Casterman).

In the video, Portrait of a girl burning on fireBy Celine Ciamma, trailer

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For this pioneer with five hundred films, it all began on the rue Saint-Roch in Paris in 1894, when Léon Gaumont took a job at the Comptoir Général de la Photographie as a shorthand typist. After the Lumière brothers perfected the cinematograph the following year, Gaumont began film production. Secretary Alice Guy has an overflowing imagination. He convinces his boss to let him make short films. Gommon admits, as long as she doesn’t fall behind on her work, she can act out her feminine fantasies… That’s how she sees things.

At this dawn of XXe century, cinema seems to be a craft. The Alice films, shot in just one day, are successful. Society is jovial in the fair’s display rooms. Before that, the young director, who was often plagiarized by his colleagues like Georges Méliès, made sketches based on situation comedy, as the fashion of the time demanded. But after her first works, Alice wants to use laughter to offer the audience a feminist reflection, she who is the only woman in a man’s world.

We are in 1906. At the new Gaumont studio in Belleville, the filmmaker directs. The results of feminism. Mute doesn’t enforce silence around the set. The actors develop in a happy atmosphere in the scenery painted on the canvas, especially since Alice’s script pushes them to overdo it. he asked men to behave like women and vice versa. These gentlemen have delicate gestures, take care of the children, sew and iron the linen, while these ladies flirt with them by pinching their cheeks or buttocks. Then, finally, the men rebel and throw the bar patrons out the door, a toast to the reconquest of this masculine space that is the bistro. The natural order of things returns, but the film subtly makes the viewer question the absurdity of gender roles. In the early 1910s, Alice Guy, an elderly maid who had given in to the temptations of marriage a little earlier, moved with her husband to New York, where she founded her own manufacturing company, Solax.

But her husband ruins her friendship and leaves her for a young actress, with whom he flees to Hollywood, the new Eldorado of cinema. Alice Guy is broke. While still in France, at the age of 46, after the First World War, he noticed that his name had been deleted from Gaumont’s catalogs. Men have appropriated his films, and the former boss does not intend to judge him.

Until the end of his life in 1968, Ellis Guy never stopped reorganizing his stolen filmography. It is time to recognize her as the first international female director.

*Virginie Giraud has a doctorate in history. Find him on the podcast At the heart of the story From Europe 1 Studio, on your favorite listening platform.

Source: Le Figaro

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