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The Picturegoer in Paris: Inside French Cinema 1923
Transcript of The Picturegoer in Paris: Inside French Cinema 1923
a fan magazine established in 1921, artistically analyzed popular films of silent era. At its peak, readership was at 500,000 with each issue, and through its incisive commentary, it helped solidify film as a medium (Historical Journal of Film, R.adio and Television p 555).
Exploring the Best of 1923 French Cinema
"It can be analysed as a representation of popular film culture in wartime, and one that was, itself, popular"
Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television
"The Picturegoer in Paris"
Setting the Stage: Paris 1923
Writer Oscar M Sheridan cinematically sets the stage : bolstered by visionary directors and an eager public, France took cinema to new heights, both artistically and commercially.
catered to an audience filled with enthusiasm for the medium, and Sheridan exaggeratedly discribes this in the opening of his article.
Sheridan begins the article with a review of Perret's
. The 1920s saw numerous Romance and War genre films, two common subdivisions of Postwar French filmmaking.
melds these two genres into a big-budget period film that was critically acclaimed for its advances in film techniques; namely, lighting, staging, and cinematography.
as cinematic genius. Yet, it criticizes protagonist's Jaque Catelain's acting. Catelain was the archetype lead role in French Romance films of the era; and although
condemns Catelain's acting for being over exaggerated, Catelain's performance was conversely seen as a step away from vaudeville performance style and a move to a more realistic, natural performance. Critic Louis Delluc noted that Catelain's performance style was progressive for cinema as it moved away from theatrical acting tropes (Marcel L’Herbier: The Art of Cinema p 122).
Perret was an eminent director in the early era of French cinema. As the director, he imposed his unique sensibility onto Koenigsmark. His films were known for their "beautiful cinematography, including skillful location shooting and an unusual use of backlighting" (Thomson, 50). His technical skills were unsurpassed in the silent film era, where cinema was very much so a visual medium (Thomson, 50).
is not as highly regarded in the article, and the actors are emphasized the most. The film stars Sessue Hayakawa--thought of as the most aesthetically pleasing actor of the era.The article's attention to the star coincides with the demands of its female audience (Historical Journal of Film, Television and Radio p 457).
Epitome of Photogenic
Women found a type of escapism through the magazine. Many readers could not afford the expenses of cinema palaces, and merely read about the films in
(The Historical Journal of Film, p 456). Famously known as the first film star to be defined as photogenic, Hayakawa provided a type of voyeurism in his films. He sex appeal was capitalized film journals of the era and loved by the female demographic (Lecture Notes, Sept 28, 2015).
, the cinematography was revolutionary in the
. And through its iconic formalities, the film perfectly epitomizes French Impressionist film making. Crafted under the Impressionistic style of Abel Gance,
experiments with elliptical point-of-view shot sequences, rapid montage, and staging (The Oxford History of World Cinema). The film's attempt to portray emotional impressions makes it iconic of the French Impressionism era (Film History: An Introduction, p 75).
The Problem with Gance's Film Making
Though his films categorized an era, many picturegoers found his work too lengthy. As Sheridan points out in his review, "The only thing against it is that it is far too long." This not only bothered audiences, but producers were weary of his productions because the length equated to higher expenses. Nonetheless, producers such as Pathé still took the risk (Film History: An Introduction p 76).
The magazine was hyper-focused on the ‘new middle class’ of this period, specifically female homemakers. Advertisements for home goods and fashion trends signaled that the magazine was aimed at women with disposable income (Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, p 456). Additionally, many articles reflected awe-inspiring male stars and their photographs were splashed largely across the pages of the magazine. Not only was there a large demographic of female readers, but many female writers started working for
during this decade (Watson).
Figures 1 and 2 taken from January 1924 edition of
Introduction to "The Picturegoer in Paris"
The January 1924 edition of
highlighted 1923's greatest films. Specifically, "The Picturegoer in Paris" reflected the three best Parisian films that year according to writer, Oscar M. Sheridan:
Koenigsmark, La Bataille
The article heavily praises the visual stylization of the aforementioned films. This type of analysis reflects the French Impressionist Era and the importance of visual design during this time.
AN EXAGGERATED DEPICTION
The French Impressionist
1920's feminist movements brought a new
aesthetic for women of the time -- flappers. These women were beginning to fully
embrace their sexuality
and made up a large demographic of readers (The Threat of Americanization in the 1920s).
"These women are readily identifiable as
‘Jazz Age’ flappers: their hair is bobbed, they wear dresses cut in the ‘schoolboy shape’,
and they go out in the evenings unchaperoned."
- The Threat of Americanization in the 1920s, p. 473
A type of voyeurism is emulated in
review of sensual male celebrities such as Sessue Hayakawa
"Throughout 1920s productions was in a crisis [...] a crisis that plagued the film industry"
- Film History: An Introduction, p. 71
Although Sheridan paints an appealing picture, 1920s French productions were facing uphill battles against competition with Hollywood (Film History: An Introduction).
shows the qualities of the 1920s French Impressionist movement in cinema. Filmmakers craved the
of Hollywood films and implemented an intense pyschological exploration seen their works (Film Hisotry: An Introduction).
The visual aspect of film was critical during the silent era. "The Picturegoer in Paris" reflects the importance of this aesthetic as seen through the enormity of photographs embedded within the article. As shown above, Jaque Catelain dominates the center of the page
Both Perret and Catelain represent this new movement in French film making; Perret paved the way for French Impressionist with his visually stimulating style, and Catelain explored new performance methods to compliment this
e epitomizes French Impressionist formalities and feautures
, who explifies beauty on camera--similar to Hayakawa
Ivy Close was named The Worlds Most Beautiful Women in 1908 by British tabloid
Overall, her appearance in this film satisfies filmgoers's cravings for visual pleasure
Although film has advanced both formally and thematically, cinema still reflects society's obsession with the aesthetically pleasing. As important as sound design and dialogue are in the medium, audiences remain inclined towards the same visual satisfaction as depicted in films of the silent era. Today, postmodern, big-budget films favor the high tech style -- just as in 1923, we are still hyper-focused on the visual experience of the cinematic arts.
The history of cinema has evolved from a medium that explored the technical advancements of capturing movement, to a medium of storytelling, and now back to a medium of pure visual expression. We have nearly come around full circle; we desire films that give us a
kinetic experience. Big-budget 21st century films such as
The Avengers, Jurassic World, and The Dark Night
are all examples of films that satisfy our craving for intense visual design. This full circle history of the cinematic arts proves society's innate love for the aesthetically pleasing, and the individual's stagnate obsession with beauty.
This exaggeration creates an air of excitement around the article. This elaborate diction is meant to draw in viewers. Though entertaining, Sheridan's description of Paris does not accurately depict the turmoil of French film industry at this time