Recent releases of Alice Guy-Blaché films (1897-1918)

One of the world’s first film directors has been receiving some much-deserved attention lately, due to the 2018 documentary Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché (1873-1968). Here is a list of just over 100 of her films that you can find pretty easily today on DVD or Blu-ray disc.

Alice Guy, 1906 (source)
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A Life in Film – my Letterboxd stats

I was recently inspired by the stats visualizations on Letterboxd.com, a movie review website. The stats page is available for Pro subscribers only, but I’ve enjoyed Letterboxd as a free subscriber since 2013. Now that I’ve paid for a year of Pro, I can actually look at stats for each of the years that I’ve used the service.

This overview of Letterboxd stats will serve as my 2019 in review, but I’ll also point out some of the “all-time” stats features.

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Video clips and history of world cinema: 1918-1927

10 Years 10 Films (10Y10F) is a project to display embedded YouTube selections of cinema history. This is Part IV of a series that gives the viewer a quick time-lapse view of how movie technology and style has developed throughout the world – one clip each year – from 1888 through 2017, starting with the foundations to see how filmmakers build or deconstruct them.

World cinema 1918-1927

As “the war to end all wars” came to a close in 1918, the destruction in Europe shifted the center of the film world to Hollywood. By 1928, the “Big Five” studios had been established and they dominated the artistic and economic production of films in the United States.[1] This was particularly stifling for women directors as alpha males created a toxic environment on set.[2]

Despite – or perhaps because of – their lack of resources, German filmmakers in particular were especially creative during this time. Foreign language films were rarely exhibited in the States, but as the political situation worsened, several directors from Europe and Russia were recruited to Hollywood.

This is an era that continues to be revered today, with frequent exhibitions of classics like Metropolis, Within Our Gates, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, The Gold Rush, Battleship Potemkin, Nosferatu, and The Mark of Zorro to name a few. Read more Video clips and history of world cinema: 1918-1927

1920’s Painlevé nature films on new Criterion Channel

While browsing through the oldest films available on Criterion’s new streaming service, I noticed several by Jean Painlevé.* These are from a DVD collection released in 2009 called Science Is Fiction: 23 Films by Jean Painlevé (parts also released earlier by BFI). From 1925 to 1982, Painlevé directed hundreds of short films, most around 10 minutes long.

The mesmerizing, utterly unclassifiable science films of Jean Painlevé (1902-89) have to be seen to be believed: delightful, surrealist-influenced dream works that are also serious science. The French filmmaker-scientist-inventor had a decades-spanning career in which he created hundreds of short films on subjects ranging from astronomy to pigeons to, most famously, such marine-life marvels as the sea horse and the sea urchin. This definitive three-disc collection brings together the best of these, and also includes the French television series Jean Painlevé Through His Films, rock band Yo La Tengo’s eight-film score The Sounds of Science, and an essay by film scholar Scott MacDonald.

The Criterion Collection
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114 Lumière shorts now on Amazon Prime

It’s been more than 20 years since we’ve seen a home video release of the inventors of cinema, Auguste and Louis Lumière. Their catalogue was produced between 1895 and 1905, so what could have changed in the past 20 years? In 2015, the Institut Lumière led an effort to release many of their films through new 4K scans (nearly 4 times the detail of Blu-ray, and 24 times the detail of DVD), now that the technology is more affordable. The fruits of their effort has finally come to Amazon Prime streaming (in 1080p), with English subtitles for the commentary. Simply entitled Lumière!

Baby’s Tea Time (Louis Lumière on left)
Read more 114 Lumière shorts now on Amazon Prime