Women, Film Pioneers

From Alice Guy to Agnès Varda : the first cinema inventors

6 films

From the very beginning of cinema, women have been writing, directing and producing films. From documentary to fiction, from short to full-length, they have invented forms and narratives; their artistic legitimacy is undeniable, their contribution to cinema is immense. They are, however, the great forgotten ones in the history of the 7th art; The French Institute has brought together in this programme the most outstanding works of six French pioneers, offering them international recognition.

Women, Film Pioneers
  • Comedy
  • 1898
  • France
  • 50min
by Alice Guy

Program of 13 short films by Alice Guy made between 1898 and 1907. She is the first fiction filmmaker in the history of cinema. It was she who suggested to Léon Gaumont that he abandon simple animated views to shoot small scripted stories. Authorization is given to her to direct, and this is an exceptional fact in a profession reserved for men. Until 1907, she will reign over Gaumont's production as director, artistic director, screenwriter, experimenting with faking and special effects...

  • Comedy-drama
  • 1923
  • France
  • 42min
by Germaine Dulac

Desperately unhappy in her marriage, Madeleine Beudet takes refuge from her bourgeois existence in piano-playing. One day, her husband receives tickets for a performance of Faust. She refuses to go with him and he locks the piano. Left alone in the house, Madame Beudet attempts to flee reality with the help of her imagination, but memories of her husband get in the way. Her yearning for escape becomes a desire to murder. Often presented as the first truly feminist film.

  • Drama, Literary adaptation
  • 1921
  • France
  • 1h30
by Musidora and Jacques Lasseyne

In the French Basque Country, in 1875, a young official finds himself caught up in rivalries between the authorities and supporters of the pretender to the Spanish throne. Trapped by the muse of the Carlist uprising, he ends up joining her cause. Based on a novel by Pierre Benoit.

  • Literary adaptation, Fantasy and science fiction, Drama
  • 1930
  • France
  • 52min
by Marie-Louise IRIBE

As a young father carries his ailing son to their lodgings on horseback, the child repeatedly hears Death, whom he sees as the Erl-King, calling to him. The Erl-King features in a number of German poems and ballads as an evil being who haunts forests and lures travellers to their deaths. The film is based on a poem by Goethe.

  • Classics, Historical film
  • 1946
  • France
  • 1h22
by Nicole Vedrès

A chronicle of life in Paris between 1900 and 1914 using documents from the time and excerpts from over 700 films, often held up as a example of how to edit. Alain Resnais worked on the film as assistant director and production supervisor. "Nicole Vedrès and her little unit have achieved something immensely beautiful that shatters the visual conventions of cinema as profoundly as Marcel Proust's oeuvre succeeded in transforming the novel." (André Bazin) "I owe everything to Nicole Vedrès." (Chris Marker).

  • Drama
  • 1962
  • 1h30
by Agnès Varda

Cleo, a young and pretty singer, waits for the results of medical tests. From superstition to fear, from the Rue de Rivoli to the Café du Dôme, from coquetry to anxiety, from her apartment to Parc Montsouris, Cleo lives through ninety peculiar minutes. Her lover, a musician accompanist, a female friend, and then a soldier open up her eyes to the world.

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