By Paul Cuff
This e-book explores the construction and destruction of Abel Gance’s such a lot formidable movie undertaking, and seeks to give an explanation for why his meteoric profession used to be so approximately extinguished on the finish of silent cinema. via 1929, Gance used to be France’s most renowned director. Acclaimed for his technical innovation and visible mind's eye, he used to be additionally admonished for the over the top size and fee of his productions. Gance’s first sound movie, La Fin du Monde (1930), was once a severe and monetary catastrophe so nice that it approximately destroyed his profession. yet what went improper? Gance claimed it used to be advertisement sabotage while critics blamed the director’s inexperience with new expertise. Neither excuse is passable. in keeping with wide archival learn, this booklet re-investigates the cultural historical past and aesthetic results of Gance’s transition from silent filmmaking to sound cinema. La Fin du Monde is printed to be just one section of a rare cultural undertaking to rework cinema right into a common faith and propagate its energy throughout the League of countries. From unfinished movies to unrealized social revolutions, the reader is given a desirable travel of Gance’s misplaced cinematic utopia.
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Extra resources for Abel Gance and the End of Silent Cinema: Sounding out Utopia
The film’s most original sequence depicts the performance of Damor’s ‘Tenth Symphony’, which is visualized through elaborately hand-coloured visions of a dancer superimposed over lyrical natural landscapes. LA DIXIÈME SYMPHONIE marked the stylistic highpoint of Gance’s early career, and its critical and commercial success encouraged him to resume work on his religious trilogy. Renaming the three episodes ECCE HOMO, LE ROYAUME DE LA TERRE, and LA FIN DU MONDE, he developed the first of these into a full script.
The character of Diaz was resurrected in order to play a central role in a trilogy of films about the Great War: J’ACCUSE, LES CICATRICES, and LA SOCIÉTÉ DES NATIONS. At around the same time, Gance envisaged a trilogy that focused on religious themes: SOLEIL NOIR, LES ATLANTES, and LA FIN DU MONDE. Here, the leading character was to be a prophet named Novalic—a male version of Anne from Gance’s pre-war scenario. The 1917 Novalic is Diaz’s brother, preaching to the poor and declaiming the rich. In SOLEIL NOIR, he goes mad and Diaz must fight to fulfil his brother’s testament.
It was also a reaction against the perceived moral stagnation of French political culture during the immediate post-war decade: By the end of the 1920s it was painfully apparent that the political being of the Third Republic was suffering from a grave deficit of great men, as much as it was of great ideas. […] The populace loathed the politicians; the politicians loathed each other. (Horne  2007: 61, 101) Through its portrayal of the French Revolution as a struggle for universal equality, NAPOLÉON seeks to reignite public faith in the power of individuals and nations to shape their destiny for the greater good of humanity.