This collection is devoted to three luminaries of early French cinema: Alice Guy, Louise Feuillade, and Leonce Perret. Although they may not be as well known as their peers the Lumiere Brothers and Georges Melies, the body of work found in this three-volume set proves their talent and influence on later directors.
DISC 1: ALICE GUY
Few individual artists have exerted as profound an influence upon the evolution of cinema as Alice Guy (later known as Guy-Blache). With this collection of more than 60 films, culled from the world's leading archives and carefully mastered, Guy may no longer be seen as a (woman filmmaker.) These films, produced by Guy for Gaumont before she moved to the US, reveal her to be an unqualified pioneer whose work stands alongside that of the Lumiere Brothers, Georges Melies, and Edwin S. Porter, in cinema's rapid growth from an optical illusion to a storytelling medium to an art form. Among the highlights are a 19th-century serpentine dance, early (trick) films, experiments with hand-coloring and synchronized sound, comedies, social commentaries, and (as the collection's centerpiece) a 33-minute religious epic: The Birth, the Life and the Death of Christ (1906).
DISC 2: LOUIS FEUILLADE
Best remembered today for his espionage serials Les Vampires and Fantomas, Louis Feuillade had a more varied and profound influence upon French cinema than many of his followers realize. For more than a decade, he was the artistic director at Gaumont, encouraging the rise of such filmmakers as Abel Gance and Leonce Perret. This collection of films offers a wider view of Feuillade's directorial efforts -- but, admittedly, it is only a small portion of the nearly 800 films he is believed to have directed. These films run the gamut of ribald comedy (The Colonel's Account), charming fantasy (Spring), tragedy (The Heart and Money), social commentary (The Defect) and historical epic (the remarkably poignant The Agony of Byzance). No Feuillade collection would be complete without a sampling of thrillers. To that end, we offer The Trust: Or the Battles for Money and The Obses-sion, which are characterized by the brisk pacing and diabolical tone for which he would become famous.
DISC 3: LEONCE PERRET
Until now, the films of Leonce Perret have been virtually unseen in the United States, yet he was a hugely influential figure in the growth of the French film industry. As an actor, he appeared in more than 100 films from 1909 to 1916, including the long-running series of (Leonce) comedies. But his greater contribution was as a director. Working at Gaumont under the supervision of Louis Feuillade, Perret set the standard to which other French filmmakers aspired. His films had a technical mastery and aesthetic grace that allowed them to reveal subtleties of character and meaning. Perret's artistic maturity is beautifully represented in the influential feature The Child of Paris, a naturalistic drama reminiscent of Emile Zola. Of this film, critic Georges Sadoul proclaimed, Leonce Perret was able to render a graceful and lively story by using an extraordinarily refined cinematic repertoire: backlighting, low-angle shots, close-ups, moving shots and numerous other innovations, all of which Perret implemented with flair, in stark contrast to...the still somewhat primitive technique of David W. Griffith at that time. Perret made a number of self-referential films, in which the medium of cinema is a component of the plotline. In The Mystery of the Rocks of Kador, an amnesiac woman undergoes a sort of cinematic hypnosis as a means of recalling the details of a tragic crime.