Preview: ‘Alice Guy: First Lady of Film’ Shows Us A Pioneer’s Vision And Journey From The Early Days Of Cinema

by Richard Bruton

SelfMadeHero, José-Louis Bocquet, and Catel Muller combine for an essential history lesson in cinema with Alice Guy.

 

Over the years, SelfMadeHero have made a name for themselves, particularly here in the UK, with a diverse, eclectic, and generally rather excellent graphic novels. They’ve also got a history of picking up some truly magnificent European works for translation and publication. And that’s exactly what it looks like here with Alice Guy: First Lady of Film.

Authors José-Louis Bocquet and Catel Muller have gone back in time here to tell the extraordinary story of the first female filmmaker in cinema history, Alice Guy.

Just one year after the Lumiére brothers’ 1895 invention of the cinematograph, the 23-year-old Alice Guy made La Fée aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy), a 60-second movie, for Léon Gaumont, before going on to direct over 300 films before 1922. Yes, 300+ films in 26 years.

Simply put, Guy’s life IS a history of cinema, with her invention and inspiration for filmmaking an essential part of these early years of a newfound medium and artform, one beautifully captured in this graphic novel telling the story of both her life and the creation of a whole new medium and artform.

 

Initially working for another pioneer of the film industry Léon Gaumont as a secretary, Guy was quick to both envisage and develop the filmmaking art after seeing the Lumière brothers’ first demonstration of film projection in 1895.

It was Guy that first understood and imagined that this new medium could be used not just for documenting real life but could also incorporate story-telling, fictions, into the films. She took her ideas to Gaumont and he readily agreed, resulting in 1896’s La Fée aux Choux (The Fairy of the Cabbages) and setting Guy off on an inspirational career that would revolutionise filmmaking.

As you’d expect from her trailblazing status, Guy was a free and independent woman who had numerous firsts in her long and rightfully lauded (although, as with all things to do with female pioneers in any artform, the accolades and recognition came way too late), and she is credited with defining the professions of screenwriter and producer, directed the first feminist satire, the first sword-and-sandal epic, before crossing the Atlantic in 1907 to become the first woman to found her own production company in New Jersey, where she made the film A Fool and His Money, probably the first to have an all-African-American cast. Guy died in 1969, predictably excluded from the annals of film history until recently.

 

In 2011, Martin Scorsese honoured this cinematic visionary:

Forgotten by the industry she had helped create’, describing her as ‘a filmmaker of rare sensitivity, with a remarkable poetic eye and an extraordinary feel for locations.

And it’s all of that, the invention, the vision, the sensitivity, the poetic eye, and the extraordinary feel for locations that Catel and Bocquet’s graphic novel will cover. And from the looks of the pre-publication material and sneak peeks, it looks like the graphic novel captures the very essence of this inspiration woman pioneer.

José-Louis Bocquet is a novelist and comic book writer whose work has included collaborations with the artists Serge Clerc, Arno, Max, Philippe Berthet, Francis Vallès, Andréas Geffe, Stanislas, and Steve Cuzor.

But for Alice Guy, Bocquet combines once more with the exquisitely talented Catel Muller to give us the visual delight that you can clearly see from just the few images of the book thus far. Aside from her award-winning collaborations with Christian De Metter (Le Sang des Valentines), Véronique Grisseaux (Lucie), and Fanny Joly (Marion), Muller’s artwork has brought to life three other extraordinary women, Kiki de Montparnasse, Olympe de Gouges, and Josephine Baker in her first three collaborations with Bocquet.

 

Alice Guy: First Lady Of Film – Words by José-Louis Bocquet, Art by Catel Muller

Published by SelfMadeHero on 16th August 2022

For more on the incredible life of Alice Guy, do have a look at this NYT piece and this piece from the Women Film Pioneers Project.

Now, a quick preview from the Alice Guy: First Lady of Film graphic novel…

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