World War I, which took place between 1914 and 1918, had a devastating effect across Europe, thus affecting its film industry. France, the birthplace of cinema, which since 1907 had Pathé as the largest film company in the world (besides the equally important Gaumont), has seen its production catastrophically slow down and the export of films, its biggest source of profit, has almost disappeared. Many European studios are used for other war-related purposes.

The demand for American films to supply this lack of European productions has made American films become the majority and the US has become the largest exporter in the world, a title that until then was French. It is in this crisis scenario that the Impressionist movement in French cinema arises. You can go to the visit here.

The Society At the Large at the Cinema

The bourgeoisie frequenters of attraction fairs, popular theaters and vaudevilles saw cinema as popular entertainment of the lower classes. This thinking changed only after the French came into contact with American films, which revealed new hitherto unknown forms of cinematic exploration, allowing the vision of a new language and form of expression as an alternative to American cinema.

  • The pursuit of non-French films helped to create French national cinema, as well as the production of many films from small and medium-sized producers and few from large producers gave hope for success in competing with the Americans.
  • There were few investments in domestic production, as it was cheaper and easier to import an American film, which also guaranteed a great financial return. This led many producers to demand laws limiting the importation of films, but as it was the most powerful distributors and exhibitors who made such imports, the requirements were not met.

With this American hegemony, poets Guillaume Apollinaire and Blaise Cendrars see in the crisis an opportunity to change the way of production, trying to make French cinema become and be considered an art, such as painting, theater and the music; but it was with the adhesion of Louis Delluc, Marcel L’Herbier, Jean Epstein, Abel Gance and Germaine Dulac that this ideal came true. For them, cinema and theater should take opposite paths and the advantages of the former over the latter should be taken advantage of. With the camera, it is possible to say without words, and the French were the most profound in this respect: they left the “spectator camera” aside and entered the scene with it, as well as penetrating the character’s own mind and externalizing his feelings, senses, yearnings. Always seeking to innovate in this sense, the directors of this period bring a new cinematic vision that leads the audience not only to see and feel the character but often to be the center of attention himself.

Impressionist movement

The term “impressionism” is first applied to an aesthetic movement of painting. Radical in their day, the Impressionists violated the rules of academic painting: they created free-stroke paintings, thus excluding lines and contours; They also used realistic scenes of modern life as their theme and were mostly painted outdoors. Before them, it was normal for still lifes, portraits and even landscapes to be produced in studios. Impressionist painters found that they could capture the momentary and transient effects of sunlight in the open air. They portrayed the visual effects rather than the details, using composite (mixed) colors and pure brushstroke colors, and did not use smoothing and shading effects, as was done previously, to achieve intense color vibration effect.