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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In Abel Gance's 1917 J'accuse, for instance, the "villagers" run away from the reborn soldiers and are not, contrary to expectation, overjoyed to see their fallen sons once more.
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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(In a sort of homage to Abel Gance's film J'Accuse, Roth's film producer in the Hotel Savoy is named Abel Glanz.) Brik tells of a dog thrown to a brutal death in a garbage heap and smothered with broken glass.
This week's film is "Lucrezia Borgia," directed by Abel Gance. Room 100, Willamette Hall.
He appeared in twenty films, including Abel Gance's Napoleon (1925) and Carl Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc.
In the 1920s Blaise Cendrars' editing of racing train wheels and driving pistons in La Roue (Abel Gance, 1922) furnished a montage paradigm for films from The Iron Horse (John Ford, 1924) to Speed (Jan de Bont, 1994).
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He began in the 1980s with his score for the six-hour version of Napoleon by the late Abel Gance.