Early Women Filmmakers: An International Anthology Dual-Format Edition
DVD + Blu-ray
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Early Women Filmmakers: An International Anthology Blu-ray/DVD Dual-Format Edition
More women worked in film during its first two decades than at any time since. Unfortunately, many early women filmmakers have been largely written out of film history, their contributions undervalued. This necessary and timely collection highlights the work of 14 of early cinema's most innovative and influential women directors, re-writing and celebrating their rightful place in film history.
International in scope, this groundbreaking collection features over 10 hours of material, comprised of 25 films spanning 1902-1943, including many rare titles not widely available until now, from shorts to feature films, live-action to animation, commercial narratives to experimental works. Directors include Alice Guy Blaché, Lois Weber, Mabel Normand, Madeline Brandeis, Germaine Dulac, Olga Preobrazhenskaia, Marie-Louise Iribe, Lotte Reiniger, Claire Parker, Mrs. Wallace Reid (Dorothy Davenport), Leni Riefenstahl, Mary Ellen Bute, Dorothy Arzner, and Maya Deren.
These women were technically and stylistically innovative, pushing the boundaries of narrative, aesthetics, and genre. Going back to the beginning of cinema, this collection makes visible the tremendous directorial contributions women made all around the world. Beautifully restored in high definition, Early Women Filmmakers features new scores by Sergei Dreznin, Frederick Hodges, Tamar Muskal, Judith Rosenberg, and Rodney Sauer and the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.
This anthology is dedicated to the memory of David Shepard (1940-2017), without whom these films along with countless others would simply not have been made available in such beautifully-restored editions. The collection represents one of David's final produced works, completed in collaboration with several film archives, including the French National Center for Cinematography and the Moving Image (CNC), the Film Studies Center at the University of Chicago, and the Library of Congress.
Bonus Materials Include:
- Booklet Essay - By film historian and Women Film Pioneers Project Manager Kate Saccone.
- Audio Commentary - For Lois Weber's The Blot by author, professor, and expert on women and early film culture Shelley Stamp, courtesy of Milestone Film and Video.
Complete List of Directors and Films Included:
Alice Guy Blaché: Les Chiens Savants (1902), Une Histoire Roulante (1906), La Barricade (1907), Falling Leaves (1912), Making an American Citizen (1912), The Girl in the Armchair (1912)
Lois Weber: Suspense (1913), Discontent (1916), The Blot (1921)
Mabel Normand: Mabel's Strange Predicament (1914)
Madeline Brandeis: The Star Prince (1918)
Germaine Dulac: La Cigarette (1919), La Souriante Mme. Beudet (1922)
Olga Preobrazhenskaia: The Peasant Women of Ryazan (1927)
Marie-Louise Iribe: Le Roi des Aulnes (1929)
Lotte Reiniger: Harlequin (1931), The Stolen Heart (1934), Papageno (1935)
Claire Parker: A Night on Bald Mountain (1933)
Mrs. Wallace Reid (Dorothy Davenport): The Woman Condemned (1934)
Leni Riefenstahl: Day of Freedom (1935)
Mary Ellen Bute: Parabola (1937), Spook Sport (1939)
Dorothy Arzner: Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) (excerpt)
Maya Deren: Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)
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The first disc is devoted to the two best known pioneer directors, Alice Guy-Blache' and Lois Weber. Both of these women have had books written about them and have had a number of DVD/Blu Rays devoted to their movies. Guy-Blache' is represented by a number of short films including her best known, THE MAKING OF AN AMERICAN CITIZEN (1912). Lois Weber has a couple of short films including the ground breaking SUSPENSE (1913) and her last independent feature THE BLOT (1921). Mabel Normand's 1914 short MABEL'S STRANGE PREDICAMENT, which introduced Charlie Chaplin's tramp character, closes out Disc 1.
Disc 2 focuses on 3 little known women directors. Although I have been a serious silent film enthusiast for almost 30 years, I had never heard of Madeline Brandeis, Germaine Dulac, or Olga Preobrazhenskaia. American filmmaker Brandeis' THE STAR PRINCE (1919) tells a fairy tale with all the roles (even the adult ones) portrayed by children. French director Dulac has two offerings. The first LA CIGARETTE (1919) concerns an antiquities professor who believes his younger wife is having an affair while LA SOURIANTE MME. BEUDET (1922) focuses on a woman trapped in a loveless marriage. The disc closes with the real gem in this collection IMO, THE PEASANT WOMAN OF RYAZAN (1927) by Olga Preobrazhenskaia, a powerful story of Russian village life which is stunningly photographed and edited.
The final disc showcases several short sound films by 8 directors. Marie-Louise Iribe's LE ROI DES AULNES is a live action version of Goethe's ERLKONIG (The Erl King) ballad. Then there are 3 Lotte Reiniger silhouette pieces including one on Papageno from THE MAGIC FLUTE. Claire Parker's pinscreen animation version of NIGHT ON BALD MOUNTAIN (before Disney) will leave you breathless. The longest offering is THE WOMAN CONDEMNED, the last work directed by Dorothy Davenport who is billed as Mrs. Wallace Reid. A short piece from the controversial Leni Riefenstahl, two animated works by Mary Ellen Bute, an excerpt from Dorothy Arzner, and Maya Deren's MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON from 1943 finishes out the set.
As I stated earlier, this collection will have a much greater appeal to those interested in the history of film rather than the general public. A few of the films are in less than ideal condition but then that's all there is. I found some of the musical accompaniment to be a little lackluster but it was never inappropriate. Ultimately this is an extremely valuable set that will continue to pay dividends for those interested in the history of early cinema and women's contributions to it. It is also, sadly, the final offering from celebrated film preservationist David Shepard who died earlier this year. For the record the total running time of EARLY WOMEN FILMMAKERS is 653 minutes.