Abel Gance is Film History!


"Shakespeare, Rembrandt, Beethoven will make films . . . all legends, all mythologies and all myths, all founders of religion, and the very religions . . . await their exposed resurrection, and the heroes crowd each other at the gate"
--- Abel Gance (1927)
from Le Temps de l'image est venu. L'Art cinematographique*, Vol. 2, pp. 94

Kevin Brownlow as a film historian...

La Roue (1922) with Kristin Thompson

At the rate from one to ten, ten being the highest admiration, and one being the opposite, disregarding post-structuralist condition of binary opposites (dear lord), I would rate Abel Gance's works a ten, the highest level, mainly for his contributions to the development of the film language: the ever eponymous camera movements of Napoleon (1927) and the superpositions and influential editing in La Roue (1922). The last three directors that I gave a ten for admiration is of course another French director of the French Impressionist Era, Jean Renoir, the Japanese Zen master, Yasujiro Ozu, and the Iranian director, Abbas Kiarostami. Of course, Andrei Tarkovsky is a nine and Akira Kurosawa is a nine and a half. In whatever aspect Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin (1925) has become the 'it' of silent cinema, La Roue is arguably the most original to attempt the style, as they call it 'the Soviet Montage'. Kevin and Kristin discusses further the notion of both the camera movement/placement and the famous cut of Abel Gance. For the meantime, enjoy the videos and some films of Gance below!

La Folie du Docteur Tube (1915)
notice the distortion of the lens to enunciate hallucination
This is way to early for Inception (2010)

J'accuse (1919)
An Anti-war silent film of Gance that propelled his career to heights.

Excerpt from Napoleon (1927)
Gance's masterpiece!

Some Presentation
Some links to Abel Gance:

Walter Benjamin's The Work of Art In the Mechanical Age of Reproduction [PDF]

Monograph to Abel Gance and Napoleon (1927) by Philip Kemp on World Film Directors

Roger Icart, "Abel Gance, auteur et ses films alimentaires", in 1895, n°31, (Abel Gance, nouveaux regards), 2000. pp.81-87. [in French]

A collection of readings from Shooting Down Pictures on La Roue (1923)

TSPDT Abel Gance's Page

Interview of Louella Parson's with Directors (scroll down for Abel Gance)

Film Reference Entry of Abel Gance

A fat article on Abel Gance by William M. Andrew