Abel Gance


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Abel Gance
Birthday
BirthplaceParis, France
Died

Gance, Abel,

1889–1981, pioneering French filmmaker. He acted on the stage in the early 1900s and appeared on the silent screen. From 1911 he wrote and directed several films; his first important film, the pacifist J'Accuse (1919, remade with sound, 1938), introduced montage. In La Roue (1923), a melodrama of railway workers' lives, he refined montage, quickly cutting from scene to scene. Gance's Napoleon, originally released (1927) as Napoléon vu par Abel Gance [Napoleon as seen by Abel Gance], used many experimental techniques to portray the sweep of Napoleon's life and of history itself, and took several years to complete. His innovations included a perfected use of montage, close-ups, and tracking shots, sequences in color (produced by hand-tinting the film) and with a three-dimensional perspective (later cut), superimposition, enormous battle scenes filmed with three cameras and shown with three projectors on a curved screen (prefiguring Cinerama and other wide-screen processes), and stereophonic sound (added in 1934). Originally more than six hours long, the film was edited and reedited over the years; in the early 1980s four hours of the original were reassembled and shown with orchestral accompaniment. Gance's later sound films include the sci-fi flop La Fin du monde (1931), the ambitious Un Grand Amour de Beethoven (1936, The Life and Loves of Beethoven), Paradis Perdu (1940), La Tour de Nesle (1954), Austerlitz (1960, The Battle of Austerlitz), and Cyrano et d'Artagnan (1963).

Bibliography

See studies by S. P. Kramer and J. M. Welsh (1978) and N. King (1984).

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Which cinematic technique did French director Abel Gance introduce in 1927?
In the superb 1927 silent film "Napoleon", by French director Abel Gance, there is a curious moment when the Corsican hero of the film, portrayed by Albert Dieudonne, muses prophetically that one day Europe will be united by neither cannon nor cavalry charge but by treaties and pieces of paper.
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Director Abel Gance underscored this development when he remade his anti-war film "J'accuse" (1919) as "That They May Live" (1938), in which disfigured World War 1 veterans literally rise from their graves to protest the gathering storm of yet another world war.
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One day, I hope it will happen again, as Abel Gance did a long time ago with Napoleon.
Jean-Luc Godard praised him as a director ``rich in invention and bursting with daring conceptions'' whose approach to filmmaking reminded him ``of the extravagances of Abel Gance and Erich von Stroheim.
THOUGH NOT QUITE AS EPIC in proportion, the tortuous history of the production, exhibition, and preservation of Napoleon vu par Abel Gance (1927), the most ambitious project of the French silent cinema, mirrors the saga of its protagonist.
They had tried it on a big screen with Cinerama in the 1950s, but we were really looking back to Abel Gance who shot Napoleon using three screens in the late 1920s.