French Impressionist cinema is a style of film-making that was developed in France in the 1920s.

Originally, French Impressionist Cinema was used to describe a group of films made by French directors in the 1920s that shared similar aspects of visual style such as rapid editing.

The term was first used by British film critic Paul Rotha to describe a group of films that included:

  • La Chienne,
  • Boudu Saved from Drowning,
  • L’Atalante,
  • Zero for Conduct, and
  • A Day in the Country.

Later, other critics and historians would use it to describe a broader range of films.


French Impressionist Cinema

What Is French Impressionist Cinema?

The French impressionist cinema is a period of time from the late 1920s to the mid 1930s.

French Impressionist Cinema is something of an umbrella term for a wide variety of French films made between WWI and WWII that defy the conventions of classical Hollywood cinema.

This was a period in which many filmmakers were working against the rules and conventions that had previously been established. They were making movies that challenged both their own audience and the types of movies that were being made in Hollywood at the time.

These films have become known as impressionist because they tended to emphasize mood over story and took on a more subjective perspective than was common at the time.



What Is French Impressionist Cinema?

The style achieved its height of popularity and critical acclaim during the 1920s and 1930s, when it was practiced by some of the most well-known filmmakers in history.

French impressionism is noted for its use of close-ups, fixed camera shots, and long tracking shots.

It is often regarded as a maturing stage for cinema, which sets the groundwork for later styles such as Italian neorealism.

The visual style of these films included:

  • Rapid editing allowed information to be delivered quickly and the audience kept engaged.
  • Dissolves and superimpositions gave the film an abstract feel.
  • Cinematography which made use of high contrast between light and dark.
  • Changes in camera speed which increased or decreased the duration of certain scenes.
  • Non-linear narratives which created an ambiguous atmosphere and challenged traditional filmmaking techniques.

French impressionist cinema was developed during a time when the technology of filmmaking was rapidly changing.

Advances in technology allowed filmmakers to experiment with more complex techniques and more diverse subject matter.

The movement’s first major influence came from director Georges Melies, whose use of special effects and cinematic techniques inspired many future filmmakers while they were still students.

Directors such as Louis Lumière, Ferdinand Zecca, and Jean Durand created some of the earliest examples of French impressionist cinema.

However, it was Louis Delluc who established many of the formal elements that would come to define the genre in his 1919 film “Au pays d’exquise” (“In the Land of Marvel).

Roger Odin defines the movement in a rather broad sense as “a set of related but non-homogeneous cinematographic practices which share their rejection of the continuity and realism of mainstream cinema.”

French Impressionist Cinema Filmmakers

The French impressionist cinema filmmakers were among the first to use features of film that are still being used by directors today.These techniques included using camera shots from unusual angles, using movement in the frame to convey mood and setting up shots for a long period of time before filming them.

Telling a story through film had not yet been established as an art form, so the impressionist filmmakers were explorers of their medium.The people who made the films were also exploring their own imaginations and emotions through the stories they told.

They expressed themselves through creative and innovative ways, making their films more personal and intimate than many of those that would come after them.The term impressionism has its origins in art; it was a reaction to romanticism in art.

It was a time when artists began focusing on smaller details of an overall piece rather than on the big picture. Impressionists focused on what they saw as essential elements in their masterpieces, such as color, light, shape and texture.

Film is similar; it is a series of images strung together. The French impressionists focused on small moments within these images and created short films that conveyed large themes within very short periods of time.

French Impressionist Cinema Films

Abel Gance (La Dixième symphonie 1918, J’Accuse 1919, La Roue 1922, and, above all, Napoléon 1927).

Jean Epstein (Coeur fidèle 1923, Six et demi onze 1927, La Glace a Trois Face 1928, and The Fall of the House of Usher 1928).

Germaine Dulac (The Smiling Madame Beudet 1922).

Marcel L’Herbier (El Dorado 1921).

Louis Delluc – (La Femme de nulle part 1922).

Jean Renoir (Nana 1926).

French Impressionist Cinema Films is a French film movement that started in the late 19th century. In its early years, it was an avant-garde movement, but there are many films that have been made that still stand up today.

French Impressionist Cinema Films have several different directors and actors. Early French Impressionist Cinema Films used real locations and natural lighting, along with acting techniques inspired by theater.

This movement challenged the limits of how films were made at the time and helped to develop the art form. The three most important French Impressionist Cinema Films directors were George Melies, Louis Feuillade and Jean Epstein.

The first popular French Impressionist Cinema Films was created by Louis Feuillade in 1905. Feuillade’s works were known for their action sequences, use of special effects and fast pace.

Before making French Impressionist Cinema Films, he worked as a stage actor.His most popular work is Les Vampires, which is about four criminals who act as vigilantes.

The main character kills people she believes to be evil or corrupt and uses their money to help those less fortunate than her. The vigilante theme was popular during this time period because of an increase in police corruption in France.

French Impressionist Theory

French Impressionist Theory was a movement in art that began in the late 1800’s. It was a revolutionary way to view art and is considered to be the beginning of modern art.

The French Impressionist Theory was initially introduced by Monet, Pissarro and Renoir.These painters were inspired to create their work after seeing Japanese wood block prints and lithographs.

They were struck by these particular pieces because they were simple in design and depicted everyday settings. French Impressionist Theory paintings are characterized as having visible brushstrokes and an overall lack of detail that gives the piece a sense of timelessness.

There is no restriction on color usage, allowing the artist to paint any scene or subject in any manner they see fit. The subjects of these paintings are typically landscapes, still lifes or portraits which are painted with a loose, free-flowing style that allows the viewer to interpret their own version of what they see.


French Impressionist Theory artists were also known for their use of color, which gave rise to the name “Impressionism”. They would often paint scenes as they appeared to them during certain times of day as opposed to painting it while looking at it directly under natural lighting conditions.

Because of this technique, many of their paintings appear faded.

History Of French Impressionist Cinema

 For the most part, French impressionist cinema is an independent film movement that began in the late 1940s and became popular in the 1950s.The filmmakers’ goal was to create a language that allowed the camera to capture reality as it was perceived by humans.

Lumiere brothers had made first movie, “Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory” in 1895 but that was single shot, non-edited and non-synchronized film.Truffaut’s first film and one of the most important films of postwar France was The 400 Blows (1959).

It was also Truffaut’s first major success.In 1958 he made an early short film about Antoine Doinel, which eventually became this movie.

He filmed in 16mm format on location with unknown actors and natural lighting.The 400 Blows became a great success.

It pushed the boundaries of cinematic language by using jump cuts and flashbacks.Francois Truffaut is considered one of three original New Wave directors.

Other two are Jean-Luc Godard and Eric Rohmer who both made their early films in 1960s as well as Truffaut. But they were opposed to each other’s way of filmmaking throughout their careers.

Importance Of French Impressionist Cinema

French Impressionist Cinema is a genre of film which started in the late 1890’s and lasted until the 1920’s. These films were much more experimental than those found in the preceding decades as well as the succeeding ones.

The films tended to be more artistic and often contained longer shots without any editing, giving them a stilted and non-linear feel. They also had a lot of camera movement, unlike most films of the time which tended to be shot from a stationary position.

Some of the most famous French Impressionist filmmakers included: Georges Melies , Andre’ Segaud , Louis Feuillade , Germaine Dulac , Marcel L’Herbier , Abel Gance , Jean Epstein , Jacques Feyder , and Germaine Dulac .Many consider the French Impressionist movement to have started with director Georges Melies, who released A Trip To The Moon in 1902.

This was his most famous work and is considered by many to be one of the first science fiction films ever made, though it was not called that at the time (it was, however, heavily influenced by Jules Verne ‘s From The Earth To The Moon).It was an immediate success both critically and financially, but it would take about 15 years for this style.

The End Of French Impressionism

French Impressionist paintings have been described as a “revolution” in the art world. The movement was not initially welcomed by the French art community, but it gained momentum when it reached the United States.

French Impressionism was an artistic movement that emerged in France in the late 19th century and became well-known internationally for its unique style, which features light and color. The artists used vibrant colors to depict scenes set in rural France, particularly landscapes and cityscapes.

This style of painting is called impressionism because it creates a subjective effect on the viewer by conveying emotions through broad strokes and vivid colors.The French Impressionist movement was born out of frustration with the existing artistic trends in Paris at the time.

Artistic innovation was no longer encouraged and many artists were turning to other countries to create their own styles.Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley and Paul Cezanne all lived in Paris during this period of creativity and change, but they abandoned traditional methods of painting to pursue newer techniques including impressionism.

This group of painters became known as the Impressionists, named after their style of painting. The rejection of these two paintings prompted other artists to show their work outside of the Salon.

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