Be Natural: The Untold Story Of Alice Guy-Blaché – Official Trailer
Narrated by Jodie Foster
Alice Guy Blaché (1873 – 1968)
One of the first female film directors and a pioneer of the art, Alice Guy Blaché is largely unheard of today. Her debut works were short films made whilst working as the secretary for a camera manufacturer and presented a different approach to filmmaking from the rigid, cliché style that dominated the mainstream film industry. These first films watch almost like short plays where archetypes of gender, labour and family roles are questioned and a new space for not just entertaining, but empowering cinematic art was born. Alice Guy Blaché brought a nuanced and arguably feminine perspective to popular culture of the late nineteenth century and beyond, and to the man’s world of filmmaking.
She went on to direct, produce and supervise over 1000 films first as head of film production for Gaumont, and then at The Solax Company which she established in 1910 with her husband Herbert Blaché. She played an instrumental role in most of the films produced by the Solax Company, editing scripts or directing screenplays and often directing and producing at once. She presented strong female characters and her vision for cinema and the actors she worked with to ‘be natural’ became something of a mantra in her studio, and is evident in the less demonstrative tone of her feature films in comparison to most popular cinema at the time. Her influence is said to have been ground-breaking in the formation of cinematic narrative and she was skilled at presenting some of the best storyline and character development in mainstream cinema. Alice had a preference for filming scenes on location as opposed to using expensive backdrops and her direction of screenplay in works such as The Life of Christ applied still photography practices to motion picture. Her oeuvre is not limited to silent films, and she worked with the first lip-synching practices of cinema using new synchronized sound systems to create over one hundred photoscènes.
Despite having had a prolific career working for two world renowned film production companies, much of Alice Guy Blaché’s work has been lost over time, with only 130 of her films found today and many of these credited under the names of her assistants or trainees. However her history is becoming rediscovered and celebrated through studies, documentaries and exhibitions, including a retrospective of 80 of her silent films held at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2009-2010. The work of Alice Guy Blaché continues to be exemplar in cinematography, and her talent for directing relevant and entertaining films has been foundational in the world of filmmaking we know today.
By Ruth Miller
Alice Guy Blaché featured in the prologue of our online film festival.