Jean Epstein

(Updated on 10/28/2012)

Epstein was born in Warsaw in 1897, to a French-Jewish father and Polish mother. After his father died in 1908, the family relocated to Switzerland, where Epstein remained until beginning medical school at the University of Lyon in France. While in Lyon, Epstein served as a secretary and translator for Auguste Lumière, considered one of the founders of cinema.

Jean Epstein is a pioneering filmmaker. A key figure in early French cinema, both as a director and a film theoretician, Epstein is known today primarily for THE THREE-SIDED MIRROR (1927) and his adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER (1928).

Jean Epstein was also extremely productive throughout the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, making more than two-dozen short- and feature-films, which together comprise an astoundingly inventive, eclectic, and vibrant body of work.

He was both filmmaker and film theorist: there is never a moment in his film practice when Epstein is not also writing about his conception of cinema. Several of these writings are featured in a new anthology of work by and about Epstein, JEAN EPSTEIN: CRITICAL ESSAYS AND NEW TRANSLATIONS (edited by Sarah Keller and Jason Paul, Amsterdam University Press, 2012). He is often associated with French Impressionist Cinema and the concept of Photogénie.

Epstein died in 1953 from a cerebral hemorrhage.

A comprehensive retrospective took place at the Anthology film archives. First part was in June 2012 and the second one in September 2012.

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