Honor Your Mother

The legacy of Alice Guy Blaché

Nov 17, 2004 at 4:00 am
FRI 11/19

Long before Barbra Streisand bulled her way into the Hollywood men's club as a director/writer/producer, Alice Guy Blaché had already been forgotten. Back in 1896, while employed as a secretary at a French photographic- equipment manufacturer, young Alice Guy suggested to her boss, Leon Gaumont, that perhaps she could film "a little play" with Louis Lumiere's new invention, the 60-millimeter camera. Monsieur Gaumont acquiesced, on the condition that her experiment not interfere with her secretarial duties. Guy's resulting one-minute film about a fairy creating children in a cabbage patch, La Fee aux Choux, is considered by some film historians the first instance of narrative film.

Guy went on to make many more films for Gaumont-Paris (at the steady rate of two two-reel productions a week) before marrying Herbert Blaché and moving to America to found the Solax Company so she and her husband could produce their own movies. Guy Blaché wrote and directed at least 35 films for Solax, in which she experimented with sound accompaniment and early special effects, such as double exposures and running film backwards. Sadly, her marriage to Herbert fell apart, and Solax dissolved as well. Over time Guy Blaché -- and her pioneering work -- faded from public memory.

But now Rita Csapo-Sweet seeks to restore Guy Blaché to the public eye, at least for one night. Csapo-Sweet, associate professor of media studies at the University of Missouri- St. Louis, curates "New Music Making an American Citizen," a special screening of three of Guy Blaché's shorts at 7 p.m. at the Tivoli Theatre (6350 Delmar Boulevard; 314-516-7776; $7 to $9), as part of the St. Louis International Film Festival and UM-St. Louis' yearlong Women in the Arts celebration. Alison McMahan, author of Alice Guy Blaché: Lost Visionary of the Cinema, presents a brief program about Guy Blaché prior to the screening of The Making of an American Citizen, which is accompanied by a brand-new score composed by UM-St. Louis' Dr. Barbara Harbach and performed by the Quartet Seraphin. Ladies, secretaries, artists: This is your chance to honor one of your own and to right a wrong that has festered for too long. -- Paul Friswold

Stewart of Ornamentation

Oh, Martha! We're totally freaking out! Why did you decide to spend Christmas in jail? Why?! How's the office going to know how to decorate its gray and purely utilitarian cubes for the holidays? Maybe visiting Habitat for Humanity's Christmas display at the Foundry Art Centre (520 North Main Center, St. Charles; 636-255-0270 or www.foundryartcentre.org) Friday through Sunday (November 19 through 21) will help our coworkers festify this boring place. From 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, the decorating-challenged can check out what the non-imprisoned decorating-skilled can do with a Christmas tree. Admission is $4 to $6 for you and yours -- we bet Santa gets in free. -- Alison Sieloff

Winter's Bounty

Tired of ho-hum holiday traditions like cranberry sauce from a can? Get your organic, fresh-foods groove on this yuletide season by pit-stopping for Turkey Day provisions at the Winter Pantry -- just like the weekly summertime farmer's market held outdoors in the Schlafly Bottleworks' parking lot, except now it's inside the restaurant/brewery (at 7260 Southwest Avenue). From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, November 20 (and again on Saturday, December 18), stock up on fresh veggies, jams and preserves (which make lovely stocking-stuffers, n'est-ce pas?) or purchase locally raised, antibiotic- and hormone-free meats from vendors such as Walnut Grove Farm and Heritage Acres. Admission is free; call 314-241-2337 for more information. -- Rose Martelli

The Jesse Thomas Show

SAT 11/20

It has been more than two years since artist Jesse Thomas last showed his work at Fort Gondo, but he's been pretty busy during that span. In addition to becoming a father, he's cranked out three distinct series of new works. The first, Thomas' Genealogy of North American Bushes and Shrubs, features portraits of right-wing leaders painted on old textbooks; his High Fashion Cubism paintings meld the style of Braque with the stylized beauty of various fashion models; and then, by Thomas' own admission, there are the "ill-advised dabblings in the third dimension" of his Sculpturds and Mockettes. So, in addition to having a serious work ethic, Thomas has a great sense of humor. Thomas' unnamed show is on display from 7 to 9 p.m. at Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts (3151 Cherokee Street; 314-772-3628). -- Paul Friswold