Jan-Christopher Horak Reviews Joan Simon (ed.), Alice Guy Blaché: Cinema Pioneer.


I just noticed this review in Screening the Past, the international, refereed electronic journal of screen history. I've only met Horak a few times, but he was the archivist at the Munich archive who helped me identify Alice Guy  Blaché's Solax film Cupid and the Comet, one of her funniest cross-dressing films. He's reviewing the catalogue that Joan Simon edited for the Whitney Exhibit, to which I contributed, but he took a sentence or two to say a few things about my books, The Lost Visionary:


Historians now agree that Alice Guy Blaché is the most important woman director of the early 20th century, but her film career was virtually unknown until the late 1970s. Indeed, at the time of her death in 1968, Guy believed that only three films of hers had survived. In the wake of the burgeoning women’s movement and feminist film studies, Guy Blaché’s autobiography, Autobiographie d’une Pionière du Cinema (1873-1968) was first published in France in 1976, followed quickly by translations into German (1981) and English (1986), - the former inexplicably missing in the present publication’s bibliography – and interest in Alice Guy increased dramatically. However, only a handful of films had been identified in the archives, making further research challenging. And while the French ‘Films des femmes’ Festival (1994) presented several programs of Alice Guy films and hosted a conference, and the ‘Giornate del cinema muto’ in Italy (1999) screened as many as eighteen Alice Guy films in their ‘Un tresor dans une amoire’ series, publications about the director remained few and far between, except for Victor Bachy’s little reviewed and even less well-known book, Alice Guy Blaché (1873-1968): La Première Femme Cineaste du Monde (1993). It was Alison McMahan’s absolutely ground-breaking study, Alice Guy Blaché: Lost Visionary of the Cinema (2002) that made the greatest impact on film historiography. Indeed, all of the authors in the present volume credit McMahan, not only with jump-starting research on Alice Guy, but also with single-handedly finding, identifying, and animating the international film archive community to preserve the more than 130 titles now surviving, while more than 1,000 films have been identified. McMahan’s reworked dissertation remains the gold standard, while here she contributes an essay which summarizes and slightly updates her previous work.

See the full review here. The book he is reviewing is:

Joan Simon (ed.),
Alice Guy Blaché: Cinema Pioneer.
New Haven/London: Yale University Press, in association with the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-300-15250-0
US$40.00 (hb)