Friday, March 6, 2009

The Fall of the House of Usher (Jean Epstein) **1/2

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Director: Jean Epstein

Cast: Jean Debucourt, Marguerite Gance, Charles Lamy, Fournez-Goffard

Background: Epstein was a veteran French director at the time of making this film, and he brought then newcomer Luis Bunuel on board as assistant director. Bunuel was furious over Epstein's decision to ignore/change Poe's story, and eventually quit the film. Among the cast, Marguerite Gance was particularly notable for being the wife of famed French director Abel Gance.

Story: Roderick Usher (Jean Debucourt) is an artist who paints images of his now sick wife, although each pose begins to wear her down. In the company of his friend Allan and a doctor, Roderick goes mad and refuses to accept the events that unfold.

Thoughts: Not much going on here, but a series of admittedly haunting images. Since it doesn't really follow the original story, it might have been nice if the film made some kind of narrative sense. Without that, it seems more like experiment for the filmmaker. Nothing wrong with that, but this was pretty short and a minor amount of structure certainly could've been added to make this work. If you're into really abstract filmmaking, you might like this, because it has some nice cinematography, but by the end I just couldn't care to make out what was going on.

Postscript: Epstein continued directing for another 20 years, but it was Bunuel that hit it really big and became a huge influence on world cinema over the next four decades. Marguerite Gance would not make another film.

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