Children of Montmartre
(La maternelle)

Screening on Film
Directed by Marie Epstein and Jean Benoît-Lévy.
With Madeleine Renaud, Alice Tissot, Paulette Élambert.
France, 1933, digital video, black & white, 83 min.
French with English subtitles.

After writing scripts for her brother Jean Epstein (Coeur fidèle, Le double amour, Six et demi onze),Marie Epstein launched into a sixteen-picture collaboration with Jean Benoît-Lévy, including the co-direction of this incredibly moving story of a destitute young woman working at a daycare in poverty-stricken Montmartre. Epstein worked in what might be called the style of poetic realism, with a concern for challenges faced by women in her contemporary France, but she often employed avant-garde micro-montage and multiple exposures to achieve emotional effects, an inspiring and liberating hybrid of approaches. The print I once saw of this film had English subtitles charmingly jammed into the frame where they would best suit the composition, sometimes above the characters, sometimes beside them, not just along the bottom. It seemed like Epstein had something to do with that odd graphic gesture, so assuredly did I feel her hand in the making of this little masterpiece.

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