Reviewing Abel Gance’s Filmography (1889-1981)

Abel Gance (1889-1981) had always wanted to be “the Victor Hugo of the screen.” Born the illegitimate son of a prosperous Parisian doctor, he was raised by his maternal grandparents before returning to his mother and her new husband, a mechanic and chauffeur. Mr. Gance became a young stage actor and worked a variety of odd jobs before turning to film after narrowly surviving a case of tuberculosis, a disease which killed far too many in those days. Along with a group of friends, Mr. Gance established a film production company, Le Film Français, working alongside the likes of Pierre Renoir, son of the great impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir and elder brother of the great film director, Jean Renoir. After Gance was rejected for military service during WWI owing to his poor health, he began creating experimental films for a new film company, Le Film d’art, and quickly began working on larger epic films. Generally speaking, his three most influential films to our world today include the epics: J’accuse (1919), La Roue (1923), and Napoléon (1927). Each film is rich with subtext and filled with numerous experimental innovations to the cinematic art. Each film rightly justifies Gance’s place among the best of the groundbreaking trailblazers of early moviemaking, perhaps alongside the likes of D.W. Griffith, George Melies, Giovanni Pastrone, Sergei Eisenstein, and others. After the end of the silent era, Mr. Gance continued making movies until his death in 1981 at the age of 91. Sadly, none of his latter films reached the heights of his early masterpieces.

My Reviews of Abel Gance’s Essential Filmography

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