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Verisimo presents: The "Dangerous" Germaine Dulac - pioneer of surrealist films

What makes a woman dangerous? For Germaine Dulac it wasn't any threat of violence or physical assault, it was her mind. Germaine Dulac was ahead of her time both in her views of society and as a filmmaker. Dulac was a feminist and an artist who believed in extending the range and power of the film. Her works critiqued society, the effects of conformity and authority on society, and explored bourgeois life, and marital discord, often drifting into delirious evocations of dream states and abstract angst. She dared to question. She dared to take risks. She was dangerous.

Germaine Dulac, born in 1882, was a French filmmaker, film theorist, journalist and critic. She had a career as a journalist for a feminist magazine in Paris and later became interested in film. She founded a film company and explored impressionist and surrealist film techniques. She was a pioneer of many of those techniques used in avante-garde films.

In 1909 she began writing for La Française, a feminist magazine edited by Jane Misme where she eventually became the drama critic. Dulac worked on the editorial staff of La Fronde, a radical feminist journal of the time.

In an article she wrote, Dulac presented two popular themes which arise in many of her films: autonomy for the cinema as an independent art form free from the influences of painting and literature; and the importance of the filmmaker as an individual artistic and creative force.

She continued her career in filmmaking, producing both simple commercial films and complex pre-Surrealist narratives such as two of her most famous works: La Souriante Madame Beudet ("The Smiling Madame Beudet", 1922/23) and La Coquille et le Clergyman ("The Seashell and the Clergyman", 1928). Both films were released before the epoch-making Un Chien Andalou (1929) by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí. La Coquille et le Clergyman is credited as the first Surrealist film; however it is overshadowed by Bunuel and Dali’s work. Dulac's goal of "pure cinema" and some of her works inspired the French Cinema pur film movement. Her other important experimental films include several shorts based on music.

Following her influential cinema career, Dulac became the president of the Fédération des ciné-clubs, which promoted and presented the work of new young filmmakers, such as Joris Ivens and Jean Vigo. Dulac also taught film courses at the École Technique de Photographie et de Cinématographie on the rue de Vaugirard.

Following her death in 1942, Charles Ford called attention to the difficulty the French Press had with printing her obituary:

"Bothered by Dulac’s non-conformist ideas, disturbed by her impure origins, the censors had refused the article which, only after vigorous protest by the editor-in-chief of the magazine, appeared three weeks late. Even dead, Germaine Dulac still seemed dangerous..."

She dared to question. She dared to do. She dared to risk. They deemed her dangerous.


Join us February 10th in the Old Port at Anticafe to celebrate the impressionist and surrealist works of this incredible pioneer. Entry is $15 and includes free coffee beverages, tea, and pastries from the cafe. Show starts at 8pm. If the price of the entry makes this performance inaccessible to you feel free to contact us and we will try to make other arrangements. It is our belief that finances should never limit the exposure to art and live performance.

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