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Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché (2018)

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Pamela B. Green's energetic film about pioneer filmmaker Alice Guy-Blaché is both a tribute and a detective story, tracing the circumstances by which this extraordinary artist faded from memory and the path toward her reclamation.

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Pamela B. Green
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2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Alice Guy ... Herself (archive footage)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Richard Abel Richard Abel ... Himself
Marc Abraham ... Himself
Stephanie Allain ... Herself
Gillian Armstrong ... Herself
John Bailey ... Himself
Cari Beauchamp ... Herself
Lake Bell ... Herself
Peter Billingsley ... Himself
James Bobin ... Himself
Serge Bromberg ... Himself
Kevin Brownlow Kevin Brownlow
Jon M. Chu ... Himself
Diablo Cody ... Herself
Bobby Cohen Bobby Cohen ... Himself
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Storyline

Pamela B. Green's energetic film about pioneer filmmaker Alice Guy-Blaché is both a tribute and a detective story, tracing the circumstances by which this extraordinary artist faded from memory and the path toward her reclamation.

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She saw the future through the Camera Lens

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Documentary

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Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

7 December 2018 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Be Natural: A História não Contada da Primeira Cineasta do Mundo See more »

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User Reviews

 
An unsung trailblazer finally gets her due
18 November 2018 | by wmorrow59See all my reviews

One evening in Paris in March of 1895, cinema pioneers Auguste and Louis Lumière hosted a special event, the very first public screening of projected motion pictures. In the audience that night were Leon Gaumont, maker of cameras and photographic equipment, and his secretary, 21 year-old Alice Guy. What they saw were "actualities," basic documentary works that were brief and simple, such as the now-familiar scene of workers leaving the Lumière factory. Guy was impressed, but felt the subject matter could be improved upon. So she sought permission from her employer to make her own motion pictures -- ones that told stories -- and it was granted. Her film-making career was underway.

The Gaumont concern became a motion picture plant, and from 1896 to 1906 Alice Guy was the company's head of production. Dozens of short films were made under her direction, in every genre: comedies, dramas, fantasies, Biblical epics, and even Westerns. She experimented with special effects, including double-exposure and synchronized sound. She married Herbert Blaché in 1907 and the two worked together, first in France and then in the U.S. They co-founded the Solax Company on the East Coast; Alice now ran her own studio.

She continued making films of all kinds, including features, eventually in Hollywood. But for a number of reasons, both personal and professional, the filmmaking career of Alice Guy-Blaché came to a premature halt shortly after the First World War. She returned to France in 1922 and made no more films. And for the rest of her long life, Guy-Blaché struggled to establish her place in motion picture annals. This proved to be a battle, for most of her films were lost or unavailable, and film historians tended to overlook her achievements or ascribe them to others.

Pamela Green's fascinating new documentary should help rectify the injustice done to this pioneer. I happened to see it the same weekend I caught Peter Bogdanovich's new Buster Keaton documentary, and the difference between the two is striking. While I enjoyed the Keaton tribute, it's traditional in every way, following the standard format for such works as it cuts back and forth between film excerpts, photos, and interviews. And of course, Keaton's life story and his comedies are familiar to buffs. But Green, whose subject is far more obscure, takes a more audacious approach: she gives us not only biographical material about Guy-Blaché, complete with the expected footage and photos, but also details her own efforts to dig up material on Alice Guy-Blaché and complete the documentary. This is illustrated throughout with lively animated graphics, which help clarify complicated details and keep the viewer engaged.

Happily, in addition to the excerpts from Guy-Blaché's films, Green also found two interviews with the filmmaker from her later years. It's fascinating to hear the woman herself discuss her life and career. We get the sense she was somewhat frustrated but nonetheless even-tempered and philosophical about setbacks as she describes her ongoing efforts to locate her surviving work and establish her claim as a genuine pioneer. A videotaped interview with Guy-Blaché's daughter conducted in the 1980s helps fill in some of the gaps.

In sum, this is a captivating story, told in a fresh, innovative fashion. It's must for anyone interested in the birth of the motion picture as an art form and an industry.


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