Review: Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy Blaché

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On Sunday I went to the New York Film Festival to catch a screening of Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy Blaché. This is a new documentary by Pamela B. Green about the first female film director, a young Parisian woman who began making films in 1897, just as film cameras were being invented and refined. Not only was she the first female director, it’s possible that she was the first narrative director, period. And yet, her contributions have been lost to history, while the achievements of the men she worked with have been lionized.

Co-written by Joan Simon, who curated an exhibition of Blaché’s films at the Whitney Museum, this is a documentary that aims to be accessible to someone who knows nothing or very little about Blaché — so, perfect for me. Although I’ve now seen a few of her films, I discovered her when I was looking for a title for this blog and wanted to find another female film pioneer to go with Thelma — preferably someone with a two-syllable name. Yes, my search was exactly that superficial, but sometimes the best bits of research are happy accidents.  Discovering Blaché has brought me back to the birth of cinema, something I’d never given much thought to — and it’s been a delight to find that someone like Alice was there at the beginning. Continue reading “Review: Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy Blaché”

A Glimpse of the films of Alice Guy Blaché

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Since starting this blog,  I’ve been meaning to find out more about the life of one its namesakes: Alice Guy Blaché. I got a great jumpstart over the weekend, when I went to a screening of some of Blaché’s early films, included as part of BAM’s series devoted to female directors in the early days of filmmaking: Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers.

The screening I attended was introduced by film scholar Shelley Stamp. I’m going to borrow from her intro to give a little background on Blaché, who was not only the first known female director, but possibly the first person to make a narrative film. She directed her first movie in 1896, shortly after film equipment was invented. She also worked with sound films in 1905, long before they were developed for commercial markets. Continue reading “A Glimpse of the films of Alice Guy Blaché”

Alice Guy Blaché at BAM

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I just learned, via Manohla Dargis’s excellent review, that BAM Cinematek will be showing films directed by Alice Guy Blaché, one of the namesakes of this blog. She’s believed to be the first female director, and a person who helped to shape cinema from its earliest days. Her films will be shown on Saturday as part of a series, Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers.

Because her movies are so old, dating back to the 1910s, and it didn’t occur to me that I would ever have the chance to see her films outside of a museum. So, I’m thrilled that I’ll have the chance this weekend. They’ll also be available this fall in a boxed set produced by Kino Lorber and the Library of Congress. (The photo above, by the way, is of Alice on her wedding day, borrowed from the website of the author Alison McMahan, who has written a scholarly study of Blaché’s films.)