A leading member of the French cinema’s avant-garde movement and the director of the Impressionist classic Coeur fidèle (1923), Jean Epstein broke with his more modernist colleagues in the late 1920s to make documentaries and fiction films grounded in the realities of everyday life. Before that evolution, however, Epstein filmed this adaptation of two Edgar Allan Poe stories: “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839) and “The Oval Portrait” (1850). The film’s significance lies not so much in its fidelity to Poe’s stories as in its atmospheric evocation of the author’s gothic sensibility. Misty, fog-shrouded scenes, slow-motion photography, markedly low camera angles, unhurried panning and tracking shots, intricate lighting, and numerous other camera tricks lend themselves to eerie supernatural effects. “Since the French Impressionist school has always considered the cinema to be like a visual symphony, we might call this film by Epstein the cinematic equivalent of Debussy’s works,” observed Henri Langlois, film historian and founder of the Cinemathèque Française, in Paris. “The actors were merely objects.”
Publication excerpt from In Still Moving: The Film and Media Collections of The Museum
of Modern Art by Steven Higgins, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2006, p. 130.
2.24GB | 1h 05m | 1920×1080 | mkv