First avant-garde (cinema)

The term avant-garde refers, in the history of cinema, to the French school of the early 1920s , which was formed as an innovative trend in commercial cinema.

The first vanguard

This movement, also called “French Impressionism” (legitimated name, after the fact, by Henri Langlois ), as opposed to German Expressionism , groups around the critic and director Louis Delluc , filmmakers Germaine Dulac , Marcel L’Herbier , Abel Gance , Jean Epstein , René Clair . It is for them to make cinema a radically new art, turning away from theater and literature. In reaction against the abuse of literary adaptations, they want specially written scripts for the screen.

Historian Noureddine Ghali writes:

“First of all, one wonders when the first mention of the term” avant-garde “appeared in the writings of critics. As far as we know and at the end of our research in this field, the name of “avant-garde”, as far as the cinema is concerned, appeared towards the end of the war (1918) under the pen of “La femme de nowhere, “a weird pseudonym that seems to be that of Eve Francis , unless it is simply that of Louis Delluc , who later realized a film bearing precisely this title. This “woman from nowhere” writes: “Directors avant-garde, enjoy this beautiful summer to attach to the really French landscapes. Your scenarios will gain in style,2 . “

For the filmmakers of this impressionist school, the visual language is primordial, often more important than the subject. They explore the visual possibilities of the film through framing, movements, rhythms, plays of light and shadow, symbolism. Their films tend to become real visual symphonies. The most representative films of this school include El Dorado de L’Herbier, Germaine Dulac’s Spanish Festival , Abel Gance’s Wheel , Jean Epstein’s Three-sided Ice , and René Clair’s Sleeping Paris .

From the end of the 1920s , this first avant-garde came to an end. His filmmakers fall back to a compromise: without renouncing the artistic invention, they now want to spare the public and trade in the film. René Clair explicitly states: “The main task of the director is to introduce, by a kind of cunning, the largest number of purely visual themes in a scenario made to please everyone.”

To this first cinematographic avant-garde, sometimes called “avant-garde narrative”, then succeeds a second avant-garde, dadaist and surrealist , with Fernand Leger , Man Ray , Luis Buñuel , joined by René Clair and Germaine Dulac . This film production, formal short films financed by the patronage system: The Return to Reason ( Man Ray , 1923), Entr’acte (René Clair, 1924), The Mechanical Ballet ( Fernand Léger and Dudley Murphy ), Cinq minutes of pure cinema( Henri Chomette , 1925), Emak Bakia ( Man Ray , 1926), Anemic Cinema ( Marcel Duchamp , 1926), La Coquille and Clergyman ( Germaine Dulac , 1927), An Andalusian Dog ( Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí , 1928) will form , with the contemporary German abstract films, Opus 1 ( Walter Ruttmann , 1921), Rhythm 21 ( Hans Richter , 1923), Diagonal Symphony ( Viking Eggeling (1924) …, the base of the future experimental cinema international.

Notes and references

  1. ↑ The wife of nowhere , 1918
  2. ↑ Noureddine Ghali, the cinematographic avant-garde in France in the twenties , pages 32 and 33

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