Jean Epstein had a theory. The star of his theory was the machine -- an anti-hero, a character the audience loved to hate. Epstein recognized the machine as an extension of humans, who manipulate objects, but magnificently immortal. A filmmaker, Epstein... [more]
Jean Epstein had a theory. The star of his theory was the machine -- an anti-hero, a character the audience loved to hate. Epstein recognized the machine as an extension of humans, who manipulate objects, but magnificently immortal. A filmmaker, Epstein cast the camera, his own personal extension, in the role of the machine.
"Coeur Fidle " (1923) was the most successful visual manifestation of his 1921 theoretical treatise, "Bonjour Cinema ." The text is a rant on the evils of narrative cinema, the endless possibilities of time-lapse and, of course, "the machine technology of civilization." From the beginning of his career, Epstein abhorred the narrative form and its restrictive reliance on chronological events and meaningful subjects. He wanted film that was completely devoid of thematic boundaries -- no historical, social, or romantic themes allowed. An extreme formalist, he trumpeted a nonrepresentational cinema that let the camera be the guide.
And so the camera led him to Edgar Allen Poe. Despite his hatred of all things narrative, Epstein, along with sidekick Luis Bunuel, threw a melange of loosely adapted Poe stories up on the screen. A commercial and critical success, "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1928) escaped narrative "oppression" by varying its temporal structure via time-lapse techniques. With keen editing, Epstein had revolutionized cinema.
Once sound invaded the silent world of cinema, Epstein slipped from behind the lens to the writing table. The decision to devote his time to film theory turned out to be a smart one. A few years later, during the Nazi Occupation, he was barred from the studios and arrested by the Gestapo, but he eventually escaped deportation. Surviving became his new triumph. He died some years after D-Day, in 1953. [show less]