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[b]J'Accuse[/b] (1919) comments....?


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This is why ?The United States of America? were different from the beginning. They were not like the ?Always Warring States of Europe?.

 

A few years ago some guy from Belgium was saying some bad things about the US on a newspaper message board. He said that most Americans don?t have passports, implying that we are stupid and don?t travel. I told him that when our country was established ? unlike in Europe ? we required no passports to travel between our states. We could also go to Canada, Mexico, and several Island countries without needing passports. Up until a few years ago, everyone in Europe needed passports to travel more than about 200 miles.

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>There was an article in a major paper or magazine last winter that said there are less than a dozen veterans of World War I still alive.

 

Dang, I must be getting old. When I was a kid there were hundreds of Civil War vets still around, and as a child in Montana I saw old Indians introduced at big rodeos who were vets of the Battle of the Little Big-Horn.

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Two things have helped post WW2 Western Europe, that wasn't available to post WW1 Europe:

 

America staying and providing a protective military umbrella; it kept the Europeans from getting unruly with one another, and

 

Supranational entities like the Common Market, the EU and NATO that fostered economic and military cooperation rather than rivalry. No effective trade alliances emerged after the First World War that might have prevented a second.

 

J'Accuse shows an era where European powers had to fend for themselves, and where US superpower was still in its infancy.

 

Thelma

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J'Accuse (1919) had a strong visual impact on me, (I swear I dreamt of skeletons dancing ring around the rosy last night). It struck me that Gance was a bit like Von Stroheim, in love with moviemaking as a form of personal artistic expression, and someone whose love of gadgetry may have overwhelmed his storytelling technique at times. Maybe he needed an editor or a strong hand like Thalberg to make his grand vision practical (and profitable?) and a bit more concise. It did seem as though some of the points the filmmaker made in J'Accuse were a bit repetitious, but the film's power did build to a great climax, and maybe I'm looking at the movie from too much of a 21st century perspective.

 

Could the film have served as an epiphany for the French audiences viewing it just after the end of the wanton destruction of an entire generation? While I'm aware that there were those who recognized the artistic value of J'Accuse at the time of its release and it was a box office smash, did the average French filmgoer find it too painful? How was the film received in the other Allied nations and in Germany & Russia by general audiences? I'd love to know how the contemporary audiences reacted.

 

The scenes that affected me the most were those that depicted the apparent heartless brutality of Francois, (S?verin-Mars) which gradually emerged as his "coping" mechanism to mask his deep love for (or was it possession of?) of poor, benighted Edith (Maryse Dauvray). I particularly like the moment on the train to the front, when Francois tenderly fingered her comb and a bit of lace that was hers. At first I thought that Francois was going to be a stock villain, but the way that his character became more subtly shaded as the movie went on was very effective.

 

By the end of the film, my sympathy was largely with his character. Francois was one of those people destined to go unloved and because he hadn't experienced love, he couldn't express his own tenderness adequately, though the closest he would come seemed to be in the alliance he formed with his perceived enemy, Jean (Romuald Joub?). I realize that male friendships were viewed as sometimes "purer" than that of a relationship between a man and a woman, but do you think we were supposed to see an element of homosexuality in their bond--or am I again looking at something with jaded 21st century eyes? I also kept hoping that Edith might ditch all three guys (dad, hubby and lover) and hit the bricks, but that again is probably modern poppycock. In the context of her times, was Edith's refusal to kill herself before or after her forced submission to the Germans and her even more bold love for her baby (Angele Guy, who was darling) the only act of rebellion that she could be expected to make, or not?

 

The most powerful sequence by far was the climactic rising of the dead asking if their sacrifice had been worth it. That whole part of the movie would have been a masterpiece in itself, though I doubt if it would have had the same emotional impact without all that had occurred previously.

 

I can't help but wonder if others think Abel Gance was as successful at capturing quiet moments between people as he was when photographing spectacles? One more question: why did Edith & Jean, who were obviously so compatible not marry? Could it be because Jean Diaz's family was Jewish? I noticed that there was a candelabra in the Diaz household that might have been a menorah and that no priest attended Mama Diaz (Mancini) when she was ill and dying.

 

During the film, I also noticed that Edith's militaristic father (Maxime Desjardins) kept eyeing his map of *Alsace-Lorraine*, which had been lost to the Germans in 1871 during the Franco-Prussian War. It dawned on me that without that event driving my grandfather's family from the former French province, I wouldn't even exist. Not of worldwide significance, I grant you. But of some importance to this rather bleary-eyed viewer.

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A nice and observant post from Moirafinnie. There was so much going on with this film visually and in terms of subject. A far deeper film than most anything coming out of Hollywood at that time. It wasn't until "All Quiet on the Western Front"(1930) that Hollywood started to deal with similiar themes. It could never be the same thing on this side of the pond though; the US emerged victorious from WW1 and its territory was relatively unscathed. France was merely a "technical" victor, and was a physical wreck.

 

Thelma

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ThelmaTodd,

 

Sorry, but I disagree to some extent. To me Rowland V. Lee's BARBED WIRE (Paramount 1927) with Pola Negri, and Clive Brook, is a much better film than Gance J'ACCUSED. It is far more concise, and basically covers most of the same ground, in less than half the time, and more effectively!

 

BARBED WIRE successfully leaves you with a powerful lasting impression, and moves you deeply without your wanting to go out and commit suicide after it is over with! That's how depressing I found J'ACCUSED! And for that matter LA ROUE! When the Boy died it all seemed so completely senseless! I just can not understand how Gance could film such a sequence? Even if it were in the original Novel???

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J'Accuse was contemporary to the violence and carnage of the war, which was 4 brutal years of stalemate and bloodletting. If one finds it depressing to watch today, imagine how depressed the original target audience of Frenchmen and women felt after 4 years of the real thing! J'Accuse reflects the angst of the war, and much of what was depicted there had a real life parrallel. The original audience was not in the mood for fairytales.

 

European film making was not commercialized and so relentlessly box office driven as it's American cousin. The American film magnates quickly learned that mass audiences wanted to see happy endings, a formula they have stuck to for almost a hundred years. Directors in Europe were not so afraid to make sad flicks with unhappy endings.

 

Thelma

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Well I'm glad extra threads are not being created, when it's just as easy to comment on this thread.

 

I enjoyed "J'Accuse." Very long, but very powerful and the message is still apropos. War sucks!!

 

(When the dead started getting up...I freaked)

 

J'ACCUSE!

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I think the film illustrated well what was going on in French society as a result of the war. The celebration at war's outbreak, the long dreadful toll on life, the disturbance in human relations, the effect of separation between men and women- it is all there and well portrayed. The film also showed the pressure men feel to become participants, as much of the plot dealt with a pacifistic poet who finally felt that he had to join the army

Thelma

 

I just watched "My Boy Jack" last night,(Masterpiece Theater) and it ties in completely with what you are discussing. Rudyard Kipling's son joined the British Army, in large part because of his father's rampant beliefs, even though he was almost blind without glasses. It was, as is *"J'Accuse"*, devastating.

 

Whether or not you enjoyed the two Gance films, at least they were presented so the viewing public can discuss them. Thanks, TCM.

 

Nancy

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I just watched it last night. The camera work was obviously WAY ahead of it's time. Some of the quick cuts even resemble stuff done today.

I liked the way he used the "iris" to illustrate the difference between "dialog" and "emotion".

Another thing that I was drawn to was the lack of gaudy make-up that was so prevalent in American films of the day.

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I'm glad TCM showed this 10 hour event, including the encore of the two-and-a-half hour J'ACCUSE. This was still far less programming time on geniune and rare classics than TCM devoted to MEN IN BLACK, VOLCANO, TERMINATOR and all the new films they're wasting time on while so many other stations (TBS, USA, A&E, AMC, Bravo, SPIKE, TNT) are showing those, too.

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Hi Mickeeteeze,

Your comment about the innovative, even modern camera work in *Gance*'s films caught my attention. When introducing *La Roue*, Robert Osborne mentioned that *Gance* spent a four month period on a visit to the U.S. in the early '20s to promote *J'Accuse*. Apparently, according to Mr. Osborne's remarks, Gance spent much of that time consulting with *D.W. Griffith* about American techniques, particularly in editing. I was a bit puzzled by this, since, my impression was that it was *Gance* who could've taught the Americans a great deal about technique and about developing some more truly adult themes on screen.

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Ummm. I haven't watched 'La Roue" yet, but I do have it in the box. Not having seen RO's comments, all I would guess is the feeling had to be somewhat mutual, something like two good authors exchanging notes. But....I'm only guessing.

Something in your revue caught my eye, as well. I'm doubting a "gay subtext" in this film. Gance having been in the trenches himself, probably was aiming for an "Esprit de Corps" type relationship.

That is a relationship full of contradictions in and of itself, and would have played well to it's 1919 audience.

I think.

I'm looking forward to seeing the next one!

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mickeeteeze,

 

 

Don't overlook some American directors of the Teen's and eary 20's such as Alan Dwan, Marshall Neilan, Rex Ingram, Sydny Franklin, and even De Mille! Their camera work was very accomplished and innovative as well.

 

Personally, I think in the same time-frame as J'ACCUSE, and LA ROUE, Ernst Lubitsch films were just as advanced technically, if not more so than Gance's were. He was also a far superior Story-teller. I invite you to take a look at Lubitsch THE OYSTER PRINCESS, a German Comedy of 1919. You simply will not believe your eyes! Same with THE WILDCAT released in 1921. Speaking of which, last night the French Channel ARTE premiered the brand new restoration of Lubitsch MADAME DUBARRY (1919), with Emil Janning's and Pola Negri.

 

Furthermore, if you have seen Brownlow's CINEMA EUROPE, you would be literally astounded at many of the effects that you would be seeing in the clips from the French Pathe, and British Luminier shorts. They are quite jaw-dropping! Libel in-fact, to make you re-evaluate everything you thought you knew about the early cinema.

 

Scenes of people opening living letters, moving post-cards, Little tiny people being watched by giant people, playing on tables, and all sorts of stuff you never expected to witness. A French comedian, in one of the P?t?'s in 1905 or so, accomplishes a sequence virtually on a par with Buster Keaton's Multi-double exposures in his classic short THE PLAYHOUSE of 1922. Even the setting is the same , and old vaudeville, or Music Hall Theater.

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Well I went to the IMDB website to study up on Abel Gance and the amount of films he wrote would keep TCM busy for a couple of years!!

 

I learned that J"Accuse was remade in 1938. The movie Napolean was made in 1927 and was remade in 1934 under the title Napolean Bonaparte. What I read the 1927 version Nepolean is the top best he has done but what about the rest of his films. The last reel of Nepolean was done in a process called Polyvision the first attempt at widescreen. What would cinema history would have been like if the entire movie was shot using this process?

 

Seeing Nepolian would greatly make up for La Roue.

 

I have never heard of Abel Gance until this last weekend and what would he think if he was around to hear the praises he has been receiving in the 21st Century.

 

Another person to add to my list of "newly" discovered old films. Wow, what else is out there ??

 

Message was edited by: hamradio

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>What I read the 1927 version Nepolean is the top best he has done but what about the rest of his films. The last reel of Nepolean was done in a process called Polyvision the first attempt at widescreen.

 

I saw one of the early restored prints of this film when Francis Ford Coppola arranged for a showing at a large old theater in San Francisco in the mid-70s. The theater had a giant old Wurlitzer organ. The film was about 6-1/2 hours long and had a full score for the Wurlitzer.

 

For the last reel of wide screen, Coppola had mounted two extra 35mm movie projectors on each side of the rear of the balcony. He had also added two large full-sized side screens. The two extra projectors and the main central projector were all turned on at the same time, and the images filled all three screens at the same time. Many of the scenes were full panoramas. The Wurlitzer was playing La Marseillaise full blast, and the audience was cheering wildly. We all were preparing to march off to invade Italy, but the movie ended after the last reel, and we all went home.

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"Personally, I think in the same time-frame as J'ACCUSE, and LA ROUE, Ernst Lubitsch films were just as advanced technically, if not more so than Gance's were. He was also a far superior STORYTELLER."

 

I certainly believe that. While watching "J'Accuse", I was aware of how much really could have been edited out. I think he still could have packed his punch with a good hours worth chopped out. But, then again, once I caught "the rhythm", I was able to appreciate the extra "textures".

It was new for me, though, and very fascinating.

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While we all might consider these rare old French films to be ?artistic?, the world finally decided to go with American films -- especially in the old days -- because, overall, they were better, easier to understand, and generally more optimistic.

 

I remember being in Managua, Nicaragua, in late 1979, just after the Sandinistas had won their revolution and had ousted the evil dictator Somoza. While driving around town, I saw a long line of Sandinista troops and their girlfriends lined up outside one theater, waiting to get in. There must have been 300 of them, all carrying their rifles and machine guns into the movie theater. I had just a moment to glance at the poster for the film being shown and it was an old Henry Fonda western.

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