February 17, 2005

Louis Feuillade: A Sampling of a Master

I'm going to miss it all, unfortunately, but the Museum of Modern Art in New York is featuring films from one of my favorite pioneers:

Louis Feuillade (1874–1925), a French filmmaker who wrote and directed approximately 800 shorts, features, and serials in his eighteen-year career, was a pioneer of narrative film. Together with his contemporary in America, D.W. Griffith, Feuillade developed a language for the modern art of the moving image. Feuillade’s cinema transcended the conventions of the proscenium stage; he exchanged theatrical artifice for both realism and the freedom of open-air shooting. As a journalist, he recognized cinema’s potential for storytelling and reportage. In 1905, he met Alice Guy, head of production at Gaumont. Within a year, he became Gaumont’s principal director. In addition to short social dramas, chase films, comedies, and popular series with the precocious child characters Bébé and Bout de Zan, he made mysteries that later evolved into fantastic serials like Fantômas (1913), Les Vampires (1915), Judex (1917), and Tih Minh (1919); shot on locations throughout France, they thrilled the Surrealists with their sense of menace and embrace of modern technology. The exhibition opens in February with four programs of shorts and feature films, and continues through June with four serials, shown one per month.

I've been watching a chapter of Judex every other night the past week, and while it doesn't quite equal Les Vampires, it's still an engaging work, one that has a jaded, 21st Century man wondering, at the end of each chapter, "What happens next?"

Posted by Ideofact at February 17, 2005 11:10 PM

Speaking of Les Vampires, have you seen Irma Vep?

Posted by: tm at February 17, 2005 11:56 PM

I haven't yet. I'd like to see it, but the only way to do so, it seems, is to buy it, not something I necessarily mind doing (I bought Judex and also the laughably bad "Shadow of the Vampire" DVD out of curiosity) but I guess I'd like to know whether it's insufferable French stylized cinema or, shudder, worse...

The unseen movie I'm most likely to buy to see (since renting does not seem to be an option) is Steve Buscemi's film Trees Lounge, which is supposed to be wonderful and features, among many other fine performers, Eszter Balint, of Stranger than Paradise fame.

Posted by: Bill at February 18, 2005 12:46 AM