Tonight, Silent Films by Pioneering Lady Filmmaker Alice Guy

09/29/2009 8:26 AM |

The month-long Crossing the Line 2009 festival at the French Institute Alliance Française may be winding to a close, but there’s still plenty of mixed media events going on this week, including the Alice Guy Blaché Film Score Project tonight. Co-presented with the Whitney Museum of American Art (who will also be honoring her in November), the event pairs the pioneering works of Alice Guy Blaché with new musical works by Tender Forever, Du Yun, Tamar Muskal and Missy Mazzoli.

Originally a secretary for France’s Gaumont company, Alice Guy became one of the first female filmmakers when she began shooting movies in 1896 to help advertise the company’s new line of cameras.

She eventually becoming the head of production for the studio, training the likes of Louis Feuillade (Les Vampires and Judex). Later, she and husband Herbert Blaché relocated to America, where she commanded her own studio, Solax, in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Film historian Anthony Slide praised her forward-thinking conception of “the director” in his study The Silent Feminists: America’s First Women Directors:

While she had a thorough knowledge and understanding of the mechanics of cinematography, Alice Guy Blaché left the handling of the camera to others and virtually single-handedly established the concept of the director as a separate entity in the filmmaking process.

Exploring different genres, from the “actuality” to the trick film to comedy and drama, her work was a crucial, foundational element for both French and American cinema, and while historians have praised her work in the past, it is only now becoming more widely available to the public, though events like this, as well as the recent Gaumont box set from Kino.