Jump to content

Germaine Dulac

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Germaine Dulac
Charlotte Elisabeth Germaine Saisset-Schneider

(1882-11-17)17 November 1882
Amiens, Somme, Picardy, France
Died20 July 1942(1942-07-20) (aged 59)
Paris, France
Occupation(s)Film director, screenwriter, film producer
Years active1915–1935
SpouseLouis-Albert Dulac (1906–1920)
RelativesCharles Schneider[1]

Germaine Dulac (French: [dylak]; born Charlotte Elisabeth Germaine Saisset-Schneider; 17 November 1882 – 20 July 1942)[2] 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 Beudet, 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.


Germaine Dulac was born in Amiens, France into an upper-middle-class family of a career military officer. Her mother, Madeleine-Claire Waymel came from a middle-class family of mainly career soldiers and industrialists. Her father, Pierre-Maurice Saisset-Schneider, was a captain of cavalry in the Second Army Corp.[3] 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.[2] 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 edited by Jane Misme where she eventually became the drama critic.[4] Dulac also found time to work on the editorial staff of La Fronde, a radical feminist journal of the time.[2] She also began to pursue her interest in still photography, which preceded her initial entry into filmmaking.

Dulac and her husband divorced in 1920.[5] After that, she began a relationship with Marie-Anne Colson-Malleville that lasted until the end of her life.[6]

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.[2] 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...[7]


Before her filmmaking career, Dulac wrote articles for the feminist magazine, La Fronde, from 1900 to 1913. In 1909, she began writing for La Française as a journalist, then later as an editor until 1913. Here she interviewed a plethora of established women in France with the intention of solidifying women's roles in French society and politics.[8] One of those women was Anna de Noailles, a french poet, as her first assignment. However, when Dulac got to her door, she panicked and interviewed Noaille's valet de chambre. Soon after, she moved to theatrical criticism, but still occasionally contributed to La Fronde. Her experience as a theatrical critic sparked her interest in film and kickstarted her career in film.[9]

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 contrasted the modernity of the French capital to the provincial nature of rural France, a common dichotomy in her films.[10] 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 Sœurs ennemies (1915/16; Dulac's first film), Vénus victrix, ou Dans l'ouragan de la vie (1917), Géo, le mystérieux (ou La vraie richesse, 1916), and others.[11][12]

Dulac's first major success was Âmes de 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 more 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.[11]

In 1921, Dulac reflected on a meeting with D.W. Griffith in an article she wrote titled "Chez D.W. Griffith." In the article, Dulac presented two popular themes which arise in many of her films:[2]

  • 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.
The Seashell and the Clergyman (1928)

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).[11] 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.[13] 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.

In 1929, she was awarded the Legion of Honor in recognition of her contributions to the film industry in France.[14] With the advent of sound film, Dulac's career shifted. From 1930, she returned to commercial work, producing newsreels for Pathé and later for Gaumont. She died in Paris on 20 July 1942.


The exact chronology of Dulac's oeuvre has not yet been established.[15]

Year Film Also known as Credits
1915 Les Sœurs ennemies Director
1917 Géo, le mystérieux Mysterious George, True Wealth Director
1917 Venus victrix Dans l'ouragan de la vie Director
1918 Âmes de fous Director
1918 La Jeune Fille la plus méritante de France Director
1919 Le Bonheur des autres Director
1919 La Cigarette The Cigarette Director
1920 La Fête espagnole Spanish Fiesta Director
1920 Malencontre Director
1921 La Belle Dame sans merci Director
1922 La Mort du soleil The Death of the Sun Director
1922 Werther Director
1923 Gossette Director
1923 La Souriante Madame Beudet The Smiling Madame Beudet Director, Writer
1924 Âme d'artiste Heart of an Actress Director, Writer
1924 Le Diable dans la ville The Devil in the City Director
1925 Le Réveil Director
1926 La Folie des vaillants The Madness of the Valiants Director
1927 Antoinette Sabrier Director, Writer
1927 Le Cinéma au service de l'histoire Director
1927 L'Invitation au voyage Invitation to a Journey Director, Writer
1928 La Coquille et le Clergyman The Seashell and the Clergyman Director, Writer, Producer
1928 Danses espagnoles Director
1928 Disque 957 Disque 927 Director
1928 La Germination d'un haricot Director
1928 Mon Paris Supervisor
1928 Princess Mandane Director
1928 Thèmes et variations Director
1929 Étude cinégraphique sur une arabesque Arabesque Director
1930 Autrefois, aujourd'hui Director
1930 Celles qui s'en font Director
1930 Ceux qui ne s'en font pas Director
1930 Jour de fête Director
1930 Un peu de rêve sur le faubourg Director
1932 Le Picador Supervisor
1934 Je n'ai plus rien Director
1935 Le Retour à la vie Co-director


  1. ^ Tami Williams, Germaine Dulac: A Cinema of Sensations. Champaign, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2014. p. 164. [1]
  2. ^ a b c d e Flitterman-Lewis 1996
  3. ^ "Dulac, Germaine (1882–1942) | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 25 April 2023.
  4. ^ Williams 1992, 144–47.
  5. ^ Pallister 1997, 64.
  6. ^ Philippe Azoury; Elisabeth Lebovici (8 June 2005). "Germaine Dulac sauvée des eaux". Archived from the original on 1 June 2020. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
  7. ^ Charles Ford 1968
  8. ^ Flitterman-Lewis, Germaine (1990). To Desire Differently. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. p. 48.
  9. ^ "Dulac, Germaine (1882–1942) | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 25 April 2023.
  10. ^ Tami Williams, Germaine Dulac: A Cinema of Sensations. Champaign, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2014. p. 104.
  11. ^ a b c Williams 1992, 146.
  12. ^ Dates from Pallister 1997, 64.
  13. ^ Ephraim Katz, The International Film Encyclopedia. London: Macmillan, 1980. p. 362.
  14. ^ Williams (15 June 2014). Germaine Dulac : a cinema of sensations. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-252-09636-5. OCLC 886945327.
  15. ^ The dates given here are from the lists compiled on IMDb and Ciné-Ressources.


Further reading[edit]

  • Dozoretz, Wendy (1982). Germaine Dulac : Filmmaker, Polemicist, Theoretician. Diss., New York University, 362 pp.
  • 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). New York: HarperPerennial. ISBN 0-06-074214-3.
  • Williams, Tami (2014). Germaine Dulac : A Cinema of Sensations. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-07997-9

External links[edit]