Archive for January 20th, 2010

by Allan Fish

(France 1919 130m) DVD1

Aka. I Accuse

I am accusing war…I am accusing man…I am accusing universal stupidity

p  Abel Gance  d  Abel Gance  w  Abel Gance  ph  Léonce-Henri Burel, Marc Bujard  ed  Andrée Danis, Abel Gance  m  Robert Israel (DVD restoration)

Séverin-Mars (François Laurin), Romuald Joubé (Jean Diaz), Marise Dauvray (Edith Laurin), Angèle Guys (Angèle), Maxime Desjardins (Maria Lazare), Mancini (Maman Diaz), Elizabeth Nizan, Pierre Danis,

The tagline was Abel Gance’s famed response to the general who, upon seeing the soldiers being formed to spell out the letters of the title, asked “who are you accusing?”  Over the years Gance’s reputation has dimmed somewhat, and his later failed historical extravaganzas have led to charges of vulgarity and naivety in their plots and narrative structure, and even their sentiments.  The very opening title card, “a tragic film of modern times”, might seem somewhat archaic ninety years on, and yet at the time it was the height of both realism and cinema with a message.  It’s a film that was shot in the closing months of the war, often containing footage of real life soldiers on the front line.  True, I cannot argue against some of the charges laid at Gance’s feet, and yet the same can be said to be true of other major silent milestones, from The Birth of a Nation to Metropolis, as that’s the very nature of the passage of time; tastes change along with techniques.  J’Accuse remains every bit the milestone in cinema history it always was, a mixture of Victorian melodrama and 20th century malaise.  (more…)

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