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 odd jobs before turning to film after narrowly surviving a case of tuberculosis, a disease which killed many in those days. 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 making experimental films for a new film company, Le Film d’art. Generally speaking, his three most influential films include the epics: J’accuse (1919), La Roue (1923), and Napoléon (1927). Each film is rich with subtext and filled with experimental innovations to the cinematic art. Each film rightly justifies Gance’s place among the founders of early moviemaking, alongside D.W. Griffith, George Melies, Giovanni Pastrone, Sergei Eisenstein, and others. 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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