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|Directed by||Abel Gance|
|Written by||Abel Gance|
|Produced by||Charles Pathé|
|Music by||Arthur Honegger|
|166 minutes (2008 restoration)|
|Languages|| Silent |
J'accuse is a 1919 French silent film directed by Abel Gance. It juxtaposes a romantic drama with the background of the horrors of World War I, and it is sometimes described as a pacifist or anti-war film.  Work on the film began in 1918, and some scenes were filmed on real battlefields. The film's powerful depiction of wartime suffering, and particularly its climactic sequence of the "return of the dead", made it an international success, and confirmed Gance as one of the most important directors in Europe. 
In a Provençal village in the south of France, the villagers welcome the declaration of war with Germany in 1914 and flock to enlist. Among them is François Laurin, a man of jealous and violent temperament, who is married to Édith, the daughter of an upright veteran soldier Maria Lazare. François suspects, correctly, that Édith is conducting an affair with the poet Jean Diaz who lives in the village with his mother, and he sends Édith to stay with his parents in Lorraine – where she is subsequently captured and raped by German soldiers. François and Jean find themselves serving in the same battalion at the front, where the initial tensions between them give way to a close friendship that acknowledges that they both love Édith.
In 1918, Jean is discharged through ill-health and returns to the village, to find his mother dying. Édith reappears from captivity, now with a young half-German daughter Angèle. Her father, Maria Lazare, immediately leaves to avenge the shame to the family name. When François comes home on leave, Jean and Édith fear his reaction to the illegitimate child and try to conceal her from him, which merely revives his jealous suspicions of Jean, and the two men fight. When the truth is revealed, François and Jean agree to seek their vengeance in battle and both return to the front.
In a great battle, in which a mythical figure of Le Gaulois leads on the French forces, François is wounded and dies in the field hospital. Jean, meanwhile, is so shell-shocked that he becomes insane. He returns to the village and gathers the inhabitants together to tell them of his vision on the battlefield: from the graves of the dead, soldiers arise and gather in a great cohort that marches through the land, back to their homes. Jean challenges the villagers to say whether they have been worthy of the men's sacrifices, and they watch in horror as their dead family and friends appear on the threshold. The soldiers return to their rest, and Jean goes back to his mother's house. There he finds a book of his own poems which he tears up in disgust, until one of them, his Ode to the Sun, drives him to denounce the sun for its complicity in the crimes of war. As the sunlight fades from the room, Jean dies.
Abel Gance had been drafted into the French Army's Section Cinématographique during World War I, but he was later discharged because of ill-health, a piece of good fortune to which he later said he owed his life.  He had already formulated the idea for J'accuse, influenced by the constant news of the deaths of friends at the front, and also by the recently published book Le Feu by Henri Barbusse, and he succeeded in persuading Charles Pathé to finance the film.  Filming took place between August 1918 and March 1919.  In order to film the battle scenes, Gance asked to return to the front and was re-enlisted into the Section Cinématographique, with the result that he found himself in September 1918 filming in the battle of Saint-Mihiel alongside the United States Army. His authentic footage was edited into the final section of the film. 
The sequence of the 'return of the dead' at the end of the film was shot in the south of France, using 2000 soldiers who had come back on leave. Gance recalled: "The conditions in which we filmed were profoundly moving... These men had come straight from the Front – from Verdun – and they were due back eight days later. They played the dead knowing that in all probability they'd be dead themselves before long." He then claimed that "within a few weeks of their return, eighty per cent had been killed." 
For the film's opening title, a large group of soldiers, filmed from above, is formed up to shape the letters J...A...C...C...U...S...E. In the middle of preparing the shot, a general asked Gance what was happening. Gance stalled until the shot was complete, and then explained to the startled general that he was "accusing the war... accusing men... accusing universal stupidity".  In the final scenes of the film, Gance's accusations, through the mouth of Jean Diaz, seem to be levelled against those who have not cared enough – the civilians who enjoyed another life, or those who profited from the war, or who simply forgot what it meant. The soldiers risen from the dead are said to be content to return to their rest once reassured by the living that their sacrifice has not been in vain. Diaz's final accusation is made against the sun for being a mute witness to so much horror.[ citation needed ]
Asked whether he regarded J'accuse as a pacifist film, Gance replied: "I'm not interested in politics... But I am against war, because war is futile. Ten or twenty years afterward, one reflects that millions have died and all for nothing. One has found friends among one's old enemies, and enemies among one's friends."  Not all critics however have been convinced of the focus of Gance's argument: "Seemingly critical of a patriotism that blindly ignores the death it causes, J'accuse ends up celebrating the dead's sacrifice as a form of patriotism".  Others have noted that J'accuse mixes pacifism with nationalism, pointing to Gance's inspirations which included not only Henri Barbusse but also Emile Zola and Richard Grelling.  While German imperialism was a target of Gance's film, so were ordinary French citizens: "His fiery tirade is directed at those within France who have betrayed the soldiers and their fight for civilization: a terrifying accusation against not only the onscreen audience, but also against Gance's offscreen audience in 1919." 
The technical quality of the film was impressive, especially the cinematography of Léonce-Henri Burel with its subtle use of lighting effects and a mobile camera.  For the battle scenes in the last section of the film Gance also introduced some of the techniques of rapid editing which he would develop much further in his later films La Roue and Napoléon . Gance's assistant director was the writer Blaise Cendrars, who had lost an arm while fighting in 1915, and who also appeared as one of the dead soldiers rising from the battlefield. 
The cost of making the film was 525,000FF, a considerable sum for the time. By 1923 it was reported to have earned 3,500,000FF. 
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When J'accuse was first shown in France in April 1919, it was a great success with the public, whose mood in the aftermath of the war it seemed to capture.  Its acclaim continued when it was shown in London in May 1920, at the Philharmonic Hall with a 40-piece orchestra and a professional choir (and without being shown to the British Board of Film Censors).  The reviewer in The Times, while finding it "a trifle uneven", noted that familiar incidents of war stories were "set forth with more conviction, and at the same time with more bitterness, than they have ever been before". He was also deeply impressed by the vision of the awakening of the dead from the battlefield, and paid it the final tribute that "a film has caused an audience to think".  Gance received a telegram from Pathé's London agent saying, "Your name in England is, at present, more famous than Griffith's". 
Pathé initially had no success in selling the film for distribution in the United States, where its references to pacifism were unfavourably regarded, and in 1921 Gance went to America hoping to launch it himself. He arranged a gala screening in New York to an audience which included D. W. Griffith and Lillian Gish. Griffith was greatly moved by the film and arranged for its distribution through United Artists.[ citation needed ]
Author and film critic Leonard Maltin awarded the film three and a half out of a possible four stars, calling the film "[a] vividly filmed classic".  On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 100% based on 5 reviews, with an average rating of 7.4/10. 
Gance frequently revised and re-edited his films, and several different versions of J'accuse came into existence. It was originally said to be in four episodes (film length 5250 metres), but was then reduced to three episodes (4350 metres).  It was re-edited into a shorter version entitled I Accuse, released in 1921 and intended for American audiences, with a less universal anti-war slant, a more anti-German stance, and a happy ending. The surviving prints show many other variations. A new restoration of the film was produced by Lobster Films Studios, Paris, working in collaboration with Nederlands Filmmuseum and Flicker Alley. They culled materials from the Lobster Collection, the Czech Film Archive in Prague, the Cinémathèque Française, and the Nederlands Filmmuseum to make the best possible and most complete edition of the original film (3525 metres).[ citation needed ] This was issued on DVD in 2008. In 1938, Gance made another version of J'accuse , this time with sound and looking ahead to the imminent outbreak of World War II.[ citation needed ]
Napoléon is a 1927 French silent epic historical film, produced, and directed by Abel Gance that tells the story of Napoleon's early years. On screen, the title is Napoléon vu par Abel Gance, meaning "Napoleon as seen by Abel Gance". The film is recognised as a masterwork of fluid camera motion, produced in a time when most camera shots were static. Many innovative techniques were used to make the film, including fast cutting, extensive close-ups, a wide variety of hand-held camera shots, location shooting, point of view shots, multiple-camera setups, multiple exposure, superimposition, underwater camera, kaleidoscopic images, film tinting, split screen and mosaic shots, multi-screen projection, and other visual effects. A revival of Napoléon in the mid-1950s influenced the filmmakers of the French New Wave. The film used the Keller-Dorian cinematography for its color sequences.
Abel Gance was a French film director and producer, writer and actor. A pioneer in the theory and practice of montage, he is best known for three major silent films: J'accuse (1919), La Roue (1923), and Napoléon (1927).
Carl Davis, is an American-born conductor and composer who has lived in the United Kingdom since 1961.
Kevin Brownlow is a British film historian, television documentary-maker, filmmaker, author, and film editor. He is best known for his work documenting the history of the silent era, having become interested in silent film at the age of eleven. This interest grew into a career spent documenting and restoring film. Brownlow has rescued many silent films and their history. His initiative in interviewing many largely forgotten, elderly film pioneers in the 1960s and 1970s preserved a legacy of early mass-entertainment cinema. He received an Academy Honorary Award at the 2nd Annual Governors Awards given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on 13 November 2010. This was the first occasion on which an Academy Honorary Award was given to a film preservationist.
J'Accuse…! is an 1898 open letter by Émile Zola concerning the Dreyfus affair.
Polyvision was the name given by the French film critic Émile Vuillermoz to a specialized widescreen film format devised exclusively for the filming and projection of Abel Gance's 1927 film Napoleon.
Hand-held camera or hand-held shooting is a filmmaking and video production technique in which a camera is held in the camera operator's hands as opposed to being mounted on a tripod or other base. Hand-held cameras are used because they are conveniently sized for travel and because they allow greater freedom of motion during filming. Newsreel camera operators frequently gathered images using a hand-held camera. Virtually all modern video cameras are small enough for hand-held use, but many professional video cameras are designed specifically for hand-held use such as for electronic news-gathering (ENG), and electronic field production (EFP).
The Fall of the House of Usher is a 1928 French horror film directed by Jean Epstein, one of several films based on the 1839 Gothic short story The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe.
Cinema Europe: The Other Hollywood (1995) is a documentary film series produced by David Gill and silent film historian Kevin Brownlow. It is a follow-up to their 1980 documentary film series, Hollywood.
French impressionist cinema refers to a group of French films and filmmakers of the 1920s.
Le Giornate del cinema muto is an annual festival of silent film held in October in Pordenone, northern Italy. It is the first, largest and most important international festival dedicated to silent film and also is present in the list of the top 50 unmissable film festivals in the world according to Variety. The Pordenone Silent Film Festival is a non-profit association, whose president is Livio Jacob. The director from 1997 until 2015 was David Robinson. In 2016, Jay Weissberg became director. Other members of the festival board are Paolo Cherchi Usai, Lorenzo Codelli, Piero Colussi, Luciano De Giusti, Carlo Montanaro, Piera Patat.
End of the World is a 1931 French science fiction film directed by Abel Gance based on the novel Omega: The Last Days of the World by Camille Flammarion. The film stars Victor Francen as Martial Novalic, Colette Darfeuil as Genevieve de Murcie, Abel Gance as Jean Novalic, and Jeanne Brindau as Madame Novalic. The plot concerns a comet hurtling toward Earth on a collision course and the different reactions people have to the impending disaster. Scientist Martial Novalic who discovers the comet, seeks a solution to the problem and becomes a fugitive after skeptical authorities blame him for starting a mass panic.
J'accuse! is a 1938 French war film directed by Abel Gance and starring Victor Francen. It is a remake of the 1919 film of the same name, which was also directed by Gance.
Vénus aveugle is a 1941 French film melodrama, directed by Abel Gance, and one of the first films to be undertaken in France during the German occupation.
Léonce-Henri Burel was a French cinematographer whose career extended from the silent era until the early 1970s. He was the director of photography on more than 120 films, working almost exclusively in black-and-white.
Walter Percy Day O.B.E. (1878–1965) was a British painter best remembered for his work as a matte artist and special effects technician in the film industry. Professional names include W. Percy Day; Percy Day; "Pop" or "Poppa" Day, owing to his collaboration with sons Arthur George Day (1909–1952) draughtsman, Thomas Sydney Day (1912–1985), stills photographer and cameraman, and stepson, Peter Ellenshaw, who also worked in this field.
Romuald Charles Eugène Gaudens Jean Sylve Joubé was a French stage and film actor whose career on the stage and in films lasted approximately thirty years.
Photoplay Productions is an independent film company, based in the UK, under the direction of Kevin Brownlow and Patrick Stanbury. Is one of the few independent companies to operate in the revival of interest in the lost world of silent cinema and has been recognised as a driving force in the subject.
Nelly Kaplan was an Argentine-born French writer and film director who focused on the arts, film, and filmmakers. She studied economics at the University of Buenos Aires. Passionate about cinema, she abruptly put her studies on hold to go to Paris to represent the new Argentine film archive at an international convention and later became a correspondent for different Argentine newspapers. She met Abel Gance in 1954, who gave her the opportunity to work on the film La tour de Nesle.
Abel Gance was a French film director and producer, writer and actor. A pioneer in the theory and practice of montage, he is best known for three major silent films: J'accuse (1919), La Roue (1923), and the monumental Napoléon (1927).