L'Inhumaine, quintessentially avant-garde 1924 film



Marcel L'Herbier's 1924 film L'Inhumaine is considered to be a triumph of avant-garde culture, a strange science fictiony story with cubist sets by proto-pop art painter Fernand Léger and pioneering modernist architect Robert Mallet-Stevens. According to L'Herbier, his goal was to present "a miscellany of modern art." Indeed, legend has it that Pablo Picasso, James Joyce, and Man Ray were extras in the film. I've never seen the whole film, but there are clips online like the YouTube clip above. It also plays art houses and festivals occasionally, including last month at Berkeley's Pacific Film Archive which prompted an article about it in the San Bay Guardian:

L'Inhumaine reflects its moment as much as the next year's Battleship Potemkin (1925). That it was received more like 1923's Salome – the infamous Rudolf Valentino-funded Art Nouveau version of Oscar Wilde's play, which for reasons both credible and malicious was branded a "riot" of homosexual aesthetics – laid in the extreme disconnect between cutting-edge techniques and woozily old-hat theatrical content. There's no denying the film is whopping camp, albeit camp curated (as L'Herbier intended) to complement the hugely influential International Exhibition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts opening in Paris in 1925.

"Gleaming the Cubist" (SFBG)

L'Inhumaine (Wikipedia)

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