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Essays

Stella F. Simon

Wild, Jennifer

Stella F. Simon and Miklos Bandy’s 1927–28 16mm film, Hands: The Life and Love of a Gentle Sex, is a short, experimental, feminist film whose aesthetic is drawn from American and European modernist photography movements and early avant-garde film traditions. The film’s underlying melodramatic narrative formula is complicated by the use of hands as both protagonists and as the central aspect of its modernist mise-en-scène. However, as with so many of the women who collaborated with men in the silent era, official credit did not go to Simon but to Bandy. The titles on all of the extant film prints credit Bandy as the film’s director, but attribute the idea to Simon. When it published four frame enlargements from the film, the British art film journal Close-Up equally attributed the film to him “after an idea by Stella F. Simon.” However, a review published the following month praised “Miss Simon’s” experiment with abstract, constructivist “scenery” (Blakeston 137). This August 1929 article, therefore, becomes the first source in new research that supports Simon as the film’s principle director (Richter 1971, 44; Barr 21; Horak 1995, 43-44; Wild 93-105). Little is known about Bandy, who was the author of one of the first articles in France to discuss Swedish abstract experimentalist Viking Eggeling’s short film Symphonie Diagonale (1924) in Germaine Dulac’s journal, Schémas. Modernist composer Marc Blitzstein wrote and performed the film’s original four-hand mechanical piano score and made a composite recording of it in March 1936 at the behest of RCA and the Museum of Modern Art (Lehrman 35).

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Academic Units
Film
Libraries
Series
Women Film Pioneers Project
Published Here
October 15, 2019