Review: A cinematic pioneer nearly forgotten is brought back to the forefront

By Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News
Alice Guy-Blache's unknown story is told in "Be Natural: the Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache."

To that long, long list of women whose achievements have been buried beneath dark mountains of sexist history add the name Alice Guy.

Thanks, at least in part, to Alice Guy we have The Avengers. And Butch and Sundance. All those crazy things Tarantino has done. And, perhaps most appropriately, Wonder Woman.

Alice, you see, was responsible for the idea of bringing stories to film. When cinema was just starting out the science nerds responsible for the technology were content to just film trains going by, performers doing physical stunts, exotic locations.

Alice was not a science nerd, she was a science nerd's secretary. And she had the idea to film a fairy in a cabbage patch pulling babies magically from the garden. So she did, in 1896. And then she filmed more and more stories, becoming the first female writer-director-producer of movies and even running her own studio in New Jersey.

Technically her legal name was Alice Guy-Blache but her married moniker was really just one more abuse: For a long time her cad of a husband was given credit for some of her films, as were male assistants.

All of this is laid out nicely in “Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache,” a documentary that more than makes the case for Alice. It's narrated by Jodie Foster and features a conga line of film notables (Geena Davis, Julie Delpy, Ava Duvernay, etc.) commenting on her importance and the criminal (if typical) way she was overshadowed by men and then nearly forgotten.

Alice's career went into limbo in her 40s; only at the end of her life did people begin to realize her impact. Next time you go to a movie, think of and thank Alice.

“Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache”


Not rated

Running time: 103 minutes