As far as cinema is concerned, the French can be considered to be the pioneers. It won’t be wrong if they claim to have invented the very concept of filmmaking. Film historians arguably consider ‘The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station’, a fifty-second movie by the Lumiere brothers that was screened in 1895, to have given birth to the medium of cinema.
A brief history
Late 19th century or early 20th century was the time when the French film industry is believed to have begun. The period between 1896 and 1902 was ruled by four production companies namely the Lumieres, Pathe Freres, Gaumont Film Company and Georges Melies. Melies, apart from inventing various cinematic techniques, can also be credited for the first sci-fi film ‘A Trip to the Moon’ which was released in the year 1902. The first woman filmmaker was also a French lady called Alice Guy Blance who made ‘L'enfant de la barricade’.
French cinema during the silent era
One of the greatest examples of French cinema during this time was ‘Napoleon’ by Abel Grance, which was released in 1927. It was a six-hour long biopic on the life of Napoleon. Some other examples of movies made during this time are ‘L'Atlantide’ in 1921 and ‘Faces of Children’ in 1925. The period also saw some avant-garde short films like ‘A Propos de Nice’ in 1925, ‘The Seashell and the Clergyman’ in 1928 and ‘Un Chien Andalou’ in 1929.
The early sound years
A deluge of talent was seen in the early sound years. It is during this time that dramatist Marcel Pagnol reproduced his plays into films, like Marius in 1931, Fanny in 1932 and César in 1936. René Clair’s musical ‘Under the Roofs of Paris’ was made in 1930. However, what succeeded during the era was ‘poetic realism’ which was championed by Julien Duvivier, Vigo, Marcel Carné, Jean Renoir etc.
The interwar period
During this time came the harsh satire of Vigo called ‘Zero de Conduite’ which was released in 1933. This was followed by another masterpiece, the lyrical ‘L'Atalante’ in the year 1934.