I. Jean Epstein’s La Glace a Trois Faces (1927) is the cinematic equivalent of a piece of modernist fiction by Gertrude Stein or Virginia Woolf: jagged, angular, elliptical. Epstein, whose most famous film remains his evocative adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher (1928), was one of the key figures of the French avant-garde; slightly less well known than Usher but just as striking in its design, the forty-minute La Glace premiered at Paris’ Studio des Ursulines, a salon for Surrealist cinema. Based on a story by Paul Morand, it’s comprised of three movements, each one a flashback, in which a vain young lothario reflects on three lovers he has used and discarded as he hurtles toward his death (a suicide?) while driving down a country lane. Epstein’s experimental use of editing and scrambled chronology produces a dizzying series of narrative refractions—hence the film’s title, which translates to The Three-Sided Mirror.
|The ladykiller: René Ferté with Jeanne Helbling.|
|Male eros: Un Chant d'Amour.|
|Love and death: an image from La Jetée. The film, which is actually billed as a "photo-roman", is composed almost entirely of still images.|