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The Intelligence of Cinema: Masterpieces of Jean Epstein

A poet, writer, and an early and prolific film theorist and filmmaker, Jean Epstein (1897–1953) lived in an era of bourgeoning technological advances and multiple aesthetic currents—futurism, Surrealism, Dadaism—to which his work responded. He directed a mixture of often-experimental documentary and narrative films from the 1920s until his death. Throughout his life, Epstein encountered significant figures and moments in early film history: he worked as an assistant for Auguste Lumière, was a friend of Jean Cocteau, and briefly had a young Luis Buñuel as assistant director while navigating the transition from silent to sound films. He also collaborated frequently with his sister, Marie Epstein, a writer, actress, and filmmaker in her own right.

Epstein was invested in recognizing the camera’s technical capabilities and dissecting cinema’s practical and theoretical implications through his countless contributions to contemporary publications, nearly a dozen books, and dozens of films. Techniques common in today’s cinema—slow and reverse motion, close-ups, superimposition—were partly his innovations.

This program is part of the Walker’s partnership with the Pacific Film Archive and its annual academic partnership with the University of Minnesota Department of French and Italian, Moving Image Studies, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Department of Art, and the Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature.

Free Related Talks at the University of Minnesota

  • The Cinematic Sense: Light Vision Texture Movement
    Tom Gunning, University of Chicago
    Thursday, October 22, 4 pm
    100 Rapson Hall, 89 Church Street SE, Minneapolis

  • Cinema, Nostalgia, and the Apocalypse
    Sarah Keller, University of Massachusetts-Boston
    Tuesday, October 27, 5 pm
    135 Nicholson Hall, 216 Pillsbury Drive SE, Minneapolis

These talks at the University of Minnesota are free and open to the public.