Jean Epstein
Born(1897-03-25)25 March 1897
Died2 April 1953(1953-04-02) (aged 56)
Occupation(s)Film director, film theorist, literary critic, novelist
Years active1922–1953

Jean Epstein (French: [ɛp.ʃtajn]; 25 March 1897 – 2 April 1953) was a French filmmaker, film theorist, literary critic, and novelist. Although he is remembered today primarily for his adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, he directed three dozen films and was an influential critic of literature and film from the early 1920s through the late 1940s. He is often associated with French Impressionist Cinema and the concept of photogénie.

Life and career

Epstein was born in Warsaw, Kingdom of Poland (then a part of Russian Empire) 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.

Epstein started directing his own films in 1922 with Pasteur, followed by L'Auberge rouge and Coeur fidèle (both 1923). Film director Luis Buñuel worked as an assistant director to Epstein on Mauprat (1926) and La Chute de la maison Usher (1928). Epstein's criticism appeared in the early modernist journal L'Esprit Nouveau.

During the making of Coeur fidèle Epstein chose to film a simple story of love and violence "to win the confidence of those, still so numerous, who believe that only the lowest melodrama can interest the public", and also in the hope of creating "a melodrama so stripped of all the conventions ordinarily attached to the genre, so sober, so simple, that it might approach the nobility and excellence of tragedy".[1]

He made several documentaries about Brittany. These include Finis Terræ filmed in Ouessant, Mor vran (The sea of the crows, in Breton) filmed in Sein, L'Or des mers filmed in Hoëdic, Le Tempestaire filmed in Belle Île.

Chanson d'Armor is known as the first Breton-language film in history. His two novels also take place in Breton isles: L'Or des mers in Ouessant and Les Recteurs et la sirène in Sein. In August 2005, his films The Three-Sided Mirror (1927) and Le Tempestaire (1947) were restored and re-released on the DVD collection Avant-Garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920s and 1930s.

Epstein died in 1953 from a cerebral hemorrhage.[citation needed]


  • Cuor di vagabondo (1936)
  • La Bourgogne (1936)
  • La Bretagne (1936)
  • Vive la vie (1937)
  • La Femme du bout du monde (1937)
  • Les Bâtisseurs (1938)
  • Eau vive (1938)
  • La Relève (1938)
  • Artères de France (1939)
  • Le Tempestaire (1947)
  • Les Feux de la mer (1948)
  • Efforts de productivité dans la fonderie (1953)


Literary and film theory


Film scenarios


  1. ^ Jean Epstein (1924) "Présentation de Coeur fidèle", in Écrits sur le cinéma, 1, 124 (January 1924), quoted in Richard Abel, French Cinema: the first wave 1915-1929 (Princeton University Press, 1984), p. 360.

Further reading