Germaine Dulac

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Germaine Dulac
Germaine Dulac.jpg
Born Charlotte Elisabeth Germaine Saisset-Schneider
(1882-11-17)November 17, 1882
Amiens, Somme, Picardy, France
Died July 20, 1942(1942-07-20) (aged 59)
Paris, France
Occupation Film director, Screenwriter, Producer
Years active 1915–c.1934
Spouse(s) Louis-Albert Dulac (1906–1920)

Germaine Dulac (French: [dylak]; born Charlotte Elisabeth Germaine Saisset-Schneider; 17 November 1882 – 20 July 1942)[1] was a French filmmaker, film theorist, journalist and critic. She was born in Amiens and moved to Paris in early childhood. A few years after her marriage she embarked on a journalistic career in a feminist magazine, and later became interested in film. With the help of her husband and friend she founded a film company and directed a few commercial works before slowly moving into Impressionist and Surrealist territory. She is best known today for her Impressionist film, La Souriante Madame Beudet ("The Smiling Madam Beaudet", 1922/23), and her Surrealist experiment, La Coquille et le Clergyman ("The Seashell and the Clergyman", 1928). Her career as filmmaker suffered after the introduction of sound film and she spent the last decade of her life working on newsreels for Pathé and Gaumont.

Biography[edit]

Germaine Dulac was born in Amiens, France into an upper-middle-class family of a career military officer. Since her father's job required the family to frequently move between small garrison towns, Germaine was sent to live with her grandmother in Paris. She soon became interested in art and studied music, painting, and theater. Following the death of her parents, Dulac moved to Paris and combined her growing interests in socialism and feminism with a career in journalism.[1] In 1905 she married Louis-Albert Dulac, an agricultural engineer who also came from an upper-class family. Four years later she began writing for La Française, a feminist magazine where she eventually became the drama critic.[2] Dulac also found time to work on the editorial staff of La Fronde, a radical feminist journal of the time.[1] She also began to pursue her interest in still photography, which preceded her initial entry into filmmaking. Dulac and her husband divorced in 1920.[3]

Following her long and influential cinema career, Dulac became the president of the Fédération des ciné-clubs, a group which promoted and presented the work of new young filmmakers, such as Joris Ivens and Jean Vigo. Dulac also taught film courses at the École Technique de Photographie et de Cinématographie on the rue de Vaugirard.[1] Following her death in 1942, Charles Ford called attention to the difficulty the French Press had with printing her obituary:

"Bothered by Dulac’s non-conformist ideas, disturbed by her impure origins, the censors had refused the article which, only after vigorous protest by the editor-in-chief of the magazine, appeared three weeks late. Even dead, Germaine Dulac still seemed dangerous..." [4]

Career[edit]

Dulac became interested in film in 1914 through her friend, actress Stacia Napierkowska. The two women traveled to Italy together shortly before World War I; Napierkowska was to act in a Film d'Art film, and Dulac learned the basics of the medium during that trip. In the early 1900s through the late 1920s, Dulac frequently opposed the modernity of the French capital to the provincial nature of rural France, a common dichotomy in her films.[5] Soon after her return to France she decided to start a film company. Dulac and writer Irène Hillel-Erlanger then founded D.H. Films, with financial support provided by Dulac's husband. The company produced several films between 1915 and 1920, all directed by Dulac and written by Hillel-Erlanger. These included Les soeurs ennemies (1915/16; Dulac's first film), Vénus Victrix, ou Dans l'ouragan de la vie (1917), Géo, le mystérieux (La vraie richesse, 1916), and others.[6][7]

Dulac's first major success was Âmes des fous (1918), a serial melodrama written by Dulac herself. The film features an early appearance of actress Ève Francis, who introduced Dulac to her friend (later husband) Louis Delluc, filmmaker and critic. A short time later Dulac and Delluc collaborated on La fête espagnole ("Spanish Fiesta", 1920), another film featuring Francis, which was proclaimed one of the decade's most influential films and, allegedly, a major French Impressionist Cinema work. However, only a few excerpts from the film exist today. Dulac and Delluc went on to collaborate on a number of pictures.[6]

In 1921, Dulac reflected on a meeting with D.W. Griffith in an article she wrote entitled "Chez D.W. Griffith." In the article, Dulac presented two popular themes which arise in many of her films:[1]

  • Autonomy for the cinema as an independent art form free from the influences of painting and literature.
  • The importance of the filmmaker as an individual artistic and creative force.

She continued her career in filmmaking, producing both simple commercial films and complex pre-Surrealist narratives such as two of her most famous works: La Souriante Madame Beudet ("The Smiling Madame Beudet", 1922/23) and La Coquille et le Clergyman ("The Seashell and the Clergyman", 1928).[6] Both films were released before the epoch-making Un Chien Andalou (1929) by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, and La Coquille et le Clergyman is sometimes credited as the first Surrealist film; however, some scholars, such as Ephraim Katz, consider Dulac first and foremost an Impressionist filmmaker.[citation needed] Dulac's goal of "pure cinema" and some of her works inspired the French Cinema pur film movement. Her other important experimental films include several shorts based on music: Disque(s) 957 (1928/29; based on Chopin) and Thème et variations (1928/29; classical music), and others from the same period.

With the advent of sound film, Dulac's career shifted. From about 1930 she returned to commercial work, producing newsreels for Pathé and later for Gaumont. She died in Paris on 20 July 1942.

Filmography[edit]

The exact chronology of Dulac's oeuvre has not yet been established. The dates given here are from the list compiled on IMDb

Year Film Also known as Credits
1915 Les soeurs ennemies Director
1917 Venus Victrix Dans l'ouragan de la vie Director
1917 Géo, le mystérieux Mysterious George, True Wealth Director
1918 La jeune fille la plus méritante de France Director
1919 Le bonheur des autres Director
1919 La cigarette The Cigarette Director
1920 Malencontre Director
1920 La fête espagnole Spanish Fiesta Director
1920 La belle dame sans merci Director
1920 Âmes de fous Director
1922 Werther Director
1923 La mort du soleil The Death of the Sun Director
1923 La souriante Madame Beudet The Smiling Madame Beudet Director, Writer
1923 Gossette Director
1924 Le diable dans la ville The Devil in the City Director
1924 Âme d'artiste Heart of an Actress Director, Writer
1926 La folie des vaillants The Madness of the Valiants Director
1927 Le cinéma au service de l'histoire Director
1927 Antoinette Sabrier Director, Writer
1927 L'invitation au voyage Invitation to a Journey Director, Writer
1928 Thèmes et variations Director
1928 La germination d'un haricot Director
1928 Disque 957 Director
1928 Danses espagnoles Director
1928 Celles qui s'en font Director
1928 Mon Paris Supervisor
1928 La coquille et le clergyman The Seashell and the Clergyman Director, Writer, Producer
1928 Princesse Mandane Director
1929 Étude cinégraphique sur une arabesque Arabesque Director
1932 Le picador Supervisor
1934 Je n'ai plus rien Director

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Flitterman-Lewis 1996
  2. ^ Williams 1992, 144–47.
  3. ^ Pallister 1997, 64.
  4. ^ Charles Ford 1968
  5. ^ Tami Michelle Williams, pg 104
  6. ^ a b c Williams 1992, 146.
  7. ^ Dates from Pallister 1997, 64.

References[edit]

  • Germaine Dulac, Ecrits sur le Cinéma (textes réunis par Prosper Hillairet), Editions Paris Expérimental, 1994

ISBN 2-9500635-5-1

  • Flitterman-Lewis, Sandy (1996). To Desire Differently: Feminism and the French Cinema. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-10497-5. 
  • Pallister, Janis L. (1997). French-Speaking Women Film Directors: A Guide. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. ISBN 978-0-8386-3736-4. 
  • Williams, Alan Larson (1992). Republic of Images: A History of French Filmmaking. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-76268-8. 
  • Williams, Tami Michelle (2007). Beyond Impressions: The Life and Films of Germaine Dulac from Aesthetics to Politics. University of California Los Angeles. p. 366. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Dozoretz, Wendy. 1982. Germaine Dulac : Filmmaker, Polemicist, Theoretician. Diss., New York University, 362 pp.
  • Flitterman-Lewis, Sandy. 1996. To Desire Differently: Feminism and the French Cinema. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-10497-5
  • Ford, Charles. Germaine Dulac : 1882 - 1942, Paris : Avant-Scène du Cinéma, 1968, 48 p. (Serie: Anthologie du cinéma ; 31)
  • Katz, Ephraim; Fred Klein, Ronald Dean Nolan (2005). The Film Encyclopedia (5th Edition ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. ISBN 0-06-074214-3.

External links[edit]