Epstein, Jean

(1897-1953)
   Director, film theorist, and screen-writer. Jean Epstein was born in Warsaw, Poland. He later immigrated to France with his family. Epstein, like his contemporary Louis Delluc, was extremely literate and had an intellectual and philosophical as well as aesthetic engagement with film. Like Delluc, Epstein began by writing criticism and then went on to make films on his own. Epstein's theories, which have been ignored for long periods, were at odds with the strongly realist and mimetic trends that dominated cinema from the beginning. He wrote about film's ability to comment on, interpret, and distort reality, through the manipulation of the image and through editing techniques and special effects and later through sound, but he was not a proponent of film's ability to capture or reflect the real. His theories have influenced filmmakers as diverse as Jean Vigo, Marcel L'Herbier, Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, and the filmmakers of the Cinéma du look, such as Léos Carax.
   Epstein's own films were, obviously, avant-garde. In his early films made during the silent-film era, the image dominates. These films are deeply psychological and visual and often border on expressionism. They typically use effects such as montage, rapid cuts, or multiple exposure to convey emotional or psychological states of characters or to create such emotional or psychological states in the spectator. Films from this early period include Les Vendanges (1922) and Pasteur (1922), both of which are documentaries, and Coeur fidèle (1923), La Belle Nivernaise (1923), L'Auberge rouge (1923), and La Chute de la maison D'Usher (1928), an adaptation of the Edgar Allen Poe story. He was assisted in some of these first film-making efforts by his sister, Marie Epstein.
   Epstein's attempts to render the psychological visual in film are evident from his first narrative film, Coeur fidèle, in which the use of the close-up, in particular, becomes a device for conveying the psychological and emotional rather than the seen world. These techniques are developed in L'Auberge rouge. Without doubt, however, it is La Chute de la maison d'Usher, considered one of Epstein's greatest films, in which Epstein's techniques reach a level of mastery. The film conveys not only character emotions and psychology, but also captures the eerie and tense atmosphere of the original Poe story through Epstein's visual presentation and through the film's unusual use of time. Luis Bunuel, who worked as Epstein's assistant director on the film, was profoundly influenced by his experience.
   Shortly after making La Chute de la maison d'Usher, Epstein spent a significant amount of time in Brittany, particularly on coastal islands and in rural areas. Finis terrae (1929) was the first of several documentaries in which Epstein tried to capture life as he found it in that very undisturbed region of France. Breton documentaries include Mor Vran (1931), L 'Or des mers (1932), and La Bretagne (1936).
   With the arrival of sound, Epstein sought new ways to experiment with film. His later films include L'Homme à l'Hispano (1933), La Châtelaine du Liban (1934), Coeur de gueux (1936), and La Femme du bout du monde (1937), all of them crime or espionage films. The most notable of Epstein's later films is the experimental Breton documentary Le Tempestaire (1947), in which Epstein attempts to use sound to recreate the natural environment of the Breton landscape, particularly the sea and the wind.
   World War II, and specifically the Nazi Occupation, more or less put an end to Epstein's film career. He was prevented from working, suffered constant persecution, and only narrowly escaped deportation (due to the influence of friends in high places). After Liberation, Epstein became a professor at the Institut des Hautes Études Cinématographiques (IDHEC), where his students included Resnais, a filmmaker on whom Epstein had a profound influence.

Historical Dictionary of French Cinema. . 2007.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • EPSTEIN, JEAN — (1897–1953), French director. Epstein was born in Warsaw but lived and worked in France. As a young man the experimental cinema attracted him, and he directed his first film, Pasteur, when he was 25, thereafter working largely in the realistic… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Epstein, Jean — (1897 1953)    Director, film theorist, and screen writer. Jean Epstein was born in Warsaw, Poland. He later immigrated to France with his family. Epstein, like his contemporary Louis Delluc, was extremely literate and had an intellectual and… …   Guide to cinema

  • Epstein, Jean — (March 26, 1897, Warsaw, Po­land April I, 1953, Paris, France)    The son of a French Jewish father and a Polish mother, he left Warsaw in 1903 with his mother and sister after his father died. He was a schoolboy in Lausanne, Switzerland, until… …   Encyclopedia of French film directors

  • Epstein, Jean — • ЭПШТЕ ЙН (Epstein) Жан (26.3.1897 2.4.1953)    франц. режиссёр, теоретик кино. Занимался эстетикой. Развил выдвинутую Л. Деллюком теорию фотогении. Опубликовал кн. Сегодняшняя поэзия и Здравствуй, кино (1921), Лирософия (1922). В 1922 пост. (с… …   Кино: Энциклопедический словарь

  • Jean Epstein (cinéaste) — Jean Epstein Pour les articles homonymes, voir Epstein. Jean Epstein Naissance 25 mars 1897 Varsovie {Pologne} Nationalité(s) …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Epstein — (Jean) (1897 1953) cinéaste français: la Chute de la maison Usher (1928). Essai: Bonjour cinéma (1921) …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Jean Epstein — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Epstein. Jean Epstein Données clés Naissance 25 mars 1897 Varsovie Pologne Nationalité …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Jean Epstein (éditeur) —  Pour l’article homonyme, voir Jean Epstein.  Jean Epstein, contemporain de Théophraste Renaudot, est l’un des premiers journalistes et éditeurs de presse français, fondateur des Nouvelles ordinaires de divers endroits. Histoire… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Jean Epstein — Nombre real Jean Epstein Nacimiento 25 de marzo de 1897 Varsovia, Polonia Fallecimiento 3 de abril …   Wikipedia Español

  • Jean Epstein — (* 25. März 1897 in Warschau; † 2. April 1953 in Paris) war ein polnisch französischer Filmregisseur und Filmtheoretiker. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben 2 Filmografie 3 Schriften …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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