USA 2018

Running time: 99 mins

Be Natural

the untold story of Alice Guy-Bache

Director : Pamela B. Green

Summary :
Alice Guy was a French pioneer of film working with Gaumont she became the first female film director (and producer) in the world and made the first narrative films.
Country:
USA
Setting:
Europe & US
Mono

Last seen:
Sat 12th Jun 2021

Synopsis

Alice Guy has been almost completely written out of the history of cinema. Where she is mentioned her role has been downplayed. It turns out she was a hugely significant figure. Gaumont, Pathe, and Lumiere developed the technology, Mieles developed special effects, and Guy created the tools and techniques of dramatic storytelling.

Alice trained as a stenographer in early 1890's and obtained a job as a secretary for Henri Gaumont's company in Paris to support her widowed mother. Secretary was a good professional middle class job. Gaumont was a manufacturer of photographic equipment and in the race to develop a workable commercial moving picture system. Alice went with Henri to show their developments at the professional body (Academy of Sciences?) where they saw the first private demo of the Lumiere Brothers system and Alice was blown away by the potential.

Gaumont needed demo films to promote and distribute the cameras, and rather than just making stock shots of everyday things (Train Leaving Station etc) Alice started making little fictional vignettes, thus inventing the narrative cinema. Her first, The Cabbage Patch Fairy, was made in 1896 on the terrace of the Gaumont building.

From there she rapidly developed into effectively inventing the role of film director, the techniques of production from scripting through to managing actors and editing. She made over 1000 films, initially distributed by Gaumont, and later she moved to the states where she set up her own studio (Solax) in New Jersey where the nascent film industry was based.

She disappeared from view after WW1, and returned to France with her two children.

The documentary explores her story, including interview with her on film in 1950's and audio only in 1960s.

Film Category

Reviews

A film about researching a film

by rogerco on Sat 12th Jun 2021. DVD proj @ home

Firstly the sound balance on this DVD was appalling with the music backing track, whilst not intrusive, muffling the voice-over for much of the time.

Secondly there seems to be very little in the way of examples of Alice's actual films - possibly because so few have been found, although the film implies that many are available in archives (although possibly still on degraded and dangerous nitrate film-stock). Actually if you took all of the clips together and threw away much of the padding about researching the film it might be quite interesting.

A lot of the film seems to be taken up with graphics of animated dotted lines on a map illustrating the links between Paris and New jersey and Hollywood and all the places in between where Pamela Green went to talk to children and granchidren of Alice. A lot more is taken up with a mosaic of clips of people, presumably all 'film people' saying they've never heard of her, and then how wonderful she was for unspecified reasons.

The best bits are when we see clips of her films and how the ideas have been recreated in later films - including the famous pram scene in Battleship Potemkin; it seems a young Eisenstien saw an Alice Guy film and it made a big impression on him.

All in all this could have been a really good 30 minute documentary about Alice Guy including a more chronological use of the available clips and without all the stuff about Pamela Green's research methods (she uses the internet, gasp!!!)