Richard Abel – French Cinema: The First Wave, 1915-1929 (1984)

A monumental work of scholarship on one of the most important and neglected areas of film history, Richard Abel’s massive study is already clearly destined to occupy a position of deserved pre-eminence in relation to all foreseeable future work done on this seminal period in French cinema. At once a work of critical synthesis and a compendium of infor-mation containing much original research, it remains indispensible less for its overall critical argument than for its wealth of data, making it more valuable as a reference source than as a “definitive” history. The book is divided into four sections, any one of which contains enough important material to constitute a significant book in its own right: “The French Film Industry,” “The Commercial Narrative Film,” “The Alternative Cinema Network”and “The Narrative Avant-Garde.” — Jonathan Rosenbaum


Introduction xi
Acknowledgments xvii
Note on Terms xxi

I. The French Film Industry
Introduction 5
The War: Collapse and Reconstruction 7
Production: From Independent Artisan to International Consortium 15
Distribution: The Divided Country 38
Exhibition: “We’re in the Money” 49
Silence in the Face of Sound 59

II. The Commercial Narrative Film
Introduction 69
Serials 71
Bourgeois Melodramas 85
Realist Films 94
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Fantasies 138
Arabian Nights and Colonial Dreams 151
Flistorical Reconstructions 160
Modern Studio Spectaculars 205
Comics and Comedies 220

III. The Alternate Cinema Network
Introduction 241
The Beginnings of a Film Criticism 241
Film Journals 245
Cine-Clubs 251
Specialized Cinemas 257
Proliferation and Crisis 260
Preservation 272

IV. The Narrative Avant-Garde
Introduction 279
The Alternate Cinema Network, Auteurs, and Genres 282
Stylistics and Subjectivity 286
The Fields of Discourse and Narrative 290
J’Accuse (1919) and Rose-Franee (1919) 295
L’Homme du large (1920) and El Dorado (1921) 305
Fievre (1921) and La Femme de nulle part (1922) 313
La Roue (1922-1923) 326
La Sounante Madame Beudet (1923) and L’lnondation (1924) 340
L’Auberge rouge (1923) and Coeur fidele (1923) 351
Le Brasier ardent (1923) and La Fille de I’eau (1925) 367
Paris qui dort (1924) and Entr’acte (1924) 377
L’lnhumaine (1924) 383
Memlmontant (1926) and Rien que les heures (1926) 395
En rade (1927) and Llnvitation au voyage (1927) 408
Feu Mathias Pascal (1925) and Maldone (1928) 415
Napoleon, vu par Abel Gance (1927) 428
L’lmage (1926), 6V2 X 11 (1927), and La Glace a trois faces (1927)
La Chute de la maison Usher (1928) and La Petite Marchande
d’allumettes (1928) 463
La Coquille et le clergyman (1928) and Un Chien andalou (1929) 475
La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (1928) 486
Finis Terrae (1929) and Gardiens de Phare (1929) 500
LArgent (1929) 513

Afterword 527
Notes 531
Bibliography 601
Filmographies 631
Index 641


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