J’Accuse, Gance’s extraordinary breakthrough work, is a World War I drama considered to be one of the most technically advanced films of the era and the first major pacifist film. It was referred to by Gance as “A human cry against the bellicose din of armies.” This seminal cinematic achievement stars Marise Dauvray as Edith, a young woman who is unhappily married to an older man, François (Séverin-Mars), but is actually in love with a young poet, Jean Diaz (Romuald Joubé). Both Jean and François end up on the front lines of World War I while Edith is captured by German forces and suffers atrocities at the hands of the soldiers. Gance contrasts individual human suffering with the larger horrors of war, depicted with stark realism. J’Accuse introduced such technical advances as rapid-cut editing and highly expressive camerawork and lighting. Gance, who had served briefly in the military, returned to active service in order to film real battle scenes to include in the project. The film became a huge international hit, prompting one journalist to write that if the film had been shown in every town in the world in 1913, war might have been averted. In the early 1920s, Gance revised the plot, titles, and editing for “peacetime” presentation. That had been the only version of the film available until now. This new French-titled, tinted edition is a reconstruction of the film’s original 1919 montage. It contains many original art cards with optional English subtitles by film historian Lenny Borger, and features a new symphonic score by Robert Israel. Experience once again what film historian Georges Sadoul called “a fevered, monumental epic on the terrible wastage of war.”
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“We enthusiastically recommend it — not only for its tremendous disc production but also for this full-length version of this highly-prized film.”
– Silent Era
“The Flicker Alley DVD is a labor of love completed with the participation of Turner Classic Movies . . . Numerous copies of varying lengths were used, including a single surviving tinted nitrate copy, a single reel of original camera negative and a reconstructed print made by the Cinemateque Francais in the fifties, to reconstruct the longest and most complete version possible. ”
– Sean Axmaker, TCM.com
“Fertile to a fault, Abel Gance’s films seldom settle into a single format, style or genre. J’Accuse, the French pioneer’s raging 1919 classic, is as much a celebrated anti-war tract as it is a romantic melodrama and an expressionistic horror movie. ”
– Slant Magazine