Antoine, André


Antoine, André
(1858-1943)
   Director and film pioneer. André Antoine came to the cinema late in life, at the age of fifty-two. By that time, he was already a celebrated stage director and producer. He was also the founder of the Théâtre-Libre, a realist, naturalist theater in early twentieth-century Paris that circumvented censorship by selling tickets through subscriptions only. The cinema, for Antoine, brought together two great passions, the theater and photography (a passion inspired by his friend Émile Zola). Moreover, Antoine had many connections in the cinema, having trained a number of leading actors who had, themselves, gone on to become filmmakers, including Albert Capellani and Léonce Perret.
   Antoine made nine films in France, all between 1915 and 1922, most of them for either the Société Cinématographique des Auteurs et des Gens de Lettres (SCAGL), which was Pathé's film d'art division, or for la Société d'Éditions Cinématographiques (SEC), which succeeded it. His films were for the most part literary adaptations: Les Frères corses (1916) adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, Quatre-Vingt-Treize (made in 1915 but not released until 1920) adapted from Victor Hugo, La Terre (1921) adapted from Émile Zola, and L'Arlésienne (1922) adapted from the novel by Alphonse Daudet, for example.
   This tendency toward literary adaptation, however, was the only aspect of Antoine's filmmaking that could be considered consistent with the film d'art vision. In place of formal, theatrical style, Antoine often sought out unprofessional actors, average people on the street, to include in his films. In place of the studio and costumes of film d'art, Antoine took his actors and film crew outside into nature or onto the streets. Antoine's filmmaking was influenced far more by his experiences working in avantgarde naturalist theater than they were of any film d'art credo. In the end, this is what did him in. He was, probably, too visionary for his time, and certainly for his studio. His final film, L'Hirondelle et la Mésange (1920), was not released because Pathé so disapproved of it (the print was later found and distributed by Henri Colpi in 1938).
   For Antoine, this rejection was a last straw. He could not and would not work in film under censorship when he had refused to work in the theater under such terms. He gave up filmmaking and became a film critic.

Historical Dictionary of French Cinema. . 2007.

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