Germaine Dulac and the Avant-Garde

In the article by Germaine Dulac entitled, ” The Works of the Cinematic Avant-Garde: Their Destiny before the Public and Film Industry”, what avant-garde is to Dulac and how it interacts with what she deems “commercial cinema” is outlined. Dulac gives her working definition of avant-garde as, ” any film whose technique, employed with a view to a renewed expressiveness of image and sound, breaks with established traditions to search out, in the strictly visual and auditory realm, new emotional chords” ( Dulac 653). This seems to be a condensed definition, but Dulac goes on to explain that another fundamental quality contained in avant-garde cinema is that it posses’ the “seeds of the discoveries which are capable of advancing film toward the cinematic form of the future” (Dulac 653). Essentially an essential part of avant-garde cinema is an emphasis on advancing cinema as an art, often times ignoring what a potential audience would desire and even having an outer surface that some may deem “inaccessible” or impossible to interpret. The antagonist to avant-garde cinema( concerned with artistic advancement) is commercial film. Dulac defines commercial film as films whose main concern is to reach the public and turn as large of a profit as possible( Dulac 653). Dulac also gives a timeline of cinema and the stages of development it has gone through. Stage one was cinema was thought of as a photographic means to show literal mechanical movement of life. Stage Two was that a certain accepted rhythm was born out of the pacing of images in order to convey a narrative, less emphasis on mechanical.  The third stage was the birth of the “psychological film” , films that examined thoughts, feelings, etc. of characters. This is when she says avant-garde activity began to take place. Dulac seems to be make a similar point to Epstein, that movement is important to the essence of cinema.She says ” to strip cinema of all those elements which did not properly belong to it, to find its true essence in the understanding of movement and visual values: this was the new esthetic that appeared in the light of a new dawn”( Dulac 655). This to me means that true avant-garde cinema intends to draw out emotions based not on learned narrative rhythms, but on the emotion that can be drawn directly from the images. The idea of cinema as a ” network of sensations to experience and to feel” without regard to story is interesting, but is it possible to have a film that does follow a story, but still envelops the viewer in the sensations of experience and feeling? Or is it not possible because with a story present most viewers will look passed the sensations of the images and attach themselves directly to the events of the story?  

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