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With: Gillian Armstrong, Lake Bell, Peter Billingsley, Serge Bromberg, Kevin Brownlow, John M. Chu, Diablo Cody, Geena Davis, Julie Delpy, Ava DuVernay, Peter Farrelly, Elsie Fisher, Jodie Foster, Janeane Garofalo, Catherine Hardwicke, Michel Hazanavicius, Cheryl Hines, Gale Anne Hurd, Ben Kingsley, Patty Jenkins, Kevin Macdonald, Walter Murch, Mark Romanek, Andy Samberg, Marjane Satrapi, Julie Taymor, Kathleen Turner, Agnes Varda, Evan Rachel Wood
Written by: Pamela B. Green, Joan Simon
Directed by: Pamela B. Green
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 103
Date: 08/20/2019

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché (2019)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Picture This

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Going into the documentary Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache, I already had some idea of who Alice Guy-Blache was, although apparently quite a few of the folks interviewed for this documentary did not. For the record, she was a French filmmaker (1873-1968) considered to be the first woman director in history. So filmmaker Pamela B. Green decided to frame her film as a kind of mystery, including a great deal of her own research and legwork as part of its fabric. (I hadn't known that many of Guy-Blache's films were not credited to her, and that many corrections needed to be made.) Fortunately, she also provides an aesthetic appreciation of Guy-Blache's directorial style, highlighting her early use of visual effects and her unique framing and rhythms that, undoubtedly, influenced most other filmmakers of the time, and, thus, many filmmakers today. Gillian Armstrong, Lake Bell, Diablo Cody, Geena Davis, Julie Delpy, Ava DuVernay, Catherine Hardwicke, Patty Jenkins, Marjane Satrapi, Julie Taymor, Kathleen Turner, Agnes Varda, and Evan Rachel Wood are among the women briefly interviewed for this enlightening documentary, which is highly recommended to any cinephile. (Men are interviewed too, including Andy Samberg, who is gobsmacked that one of his SNL sketches was unknowingly stolen from a Guy-Blache film.) Jodie Foster narrates, showing off her impeccable French pronunciations. Kino Lorber released the documentary on DVD, as well as the Blu-ray/DVD box set Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers, that features several Guy-Blache films. (Flicker Alley released a similar box set, Early Women Filmmakers: An International Anthology, also with several Guy-Blache films.)

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