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Alice Guy Blache and the Birth of Film Narrative


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The birth of narrative film; the birth of synschronized sound; film narrative grows up; the birth of the studio system; the transition to features; Guy Blache's feminist film aesthetic.

About the Author

Alison McMahan is a Mellon Fellow in Visual Culture at Vassar College. From 1997 to 2001 she ran the MA program in film and television studies at the University of Amsterdam, where she taught early cinema and new media. She has published widely on early cinema and has carried out research for documentaries such as The Lost Garden: The Life and Work of Alice Guy Blache (1995, National Film Board of Canada) and for the Emmy-award winning Into the Light ('State of the Arts' series, New Jersey Network, 1995). She was interviewed as an early cinema expert for the documentary Reel Models: The Women of Early Film which first aired on the American Movie Classics Channel in 2000.


Oddly enough, the life and work of the first woman filmmaker has received little attention. McMahan redresses the oversight by critically and comprehensively analyzing the contributions of Alice Guy Blach (1873-1968). A filmmaker herself and one of the foremost authorities on the subject of early cinema, McMahan examines the themes of the few remaining Guy Blach films, the techniques of her actors, and the evolution of a film "language" in the director's choice of shots. In her quest to uncover her subject through contact with original primary sources, McMahan reveals why research into early cinema can be problematic: it is difficult enough even to locate material, much less ascribe attribution. The author's firsthand "discoveries" also have implications for the conceptualization of early cinema. Meticulously documented, this book tells not only what this film pioneer did but also why her work is important. Anecdotal nuggets make the study compelling for general readers, too. Recommended for film history collections. Jayne Plymale, Univ. of Georgia, Athens Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"An obsessively detailed history of a true motion-picture pioneer."
'An obsessively detailed history of a true motion-picture pioneer.' American Cinematographer
'McMahan has done a monumental job of excavation to locate her subject's place in the history of the cinema A major feat of enlightened - and enlightening - scholarship.' Los Angeles Times

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