La Fête espagnole

La Fête espagnole is a 1920 French silent film directed by Germaine Dulac and written by Louis Delluc. It was cited by critic and film historian Georges Sadoul as being first in ushering in French impressionist cinema.[1]

La Fête espagnole
Directed byGermaine Dulac
Produced bySerge Sandberg, Louis Nalpas
Written byLouis Delluc
StarringÈve Francis
CinematographyPaul Parguel, Georges Raulet
Distributed byUnion-Eclair
Release date
  • 1920 (1920)
Running time
67 mins.
LanguageSilent film


During a festival day in a small Spanish town, lifelong friends Miguélan (Jean Toulout) and Réal (Gaston Modot) return to visit with their shared object of affection, the dancer Soledad (Ève Francis).[2] Faintly amused, she cares for neither one of them, but proposes that they should fight to the death for her hand. As the two friends struggle, Soledad pursues Juanito (Robert Delsol), a young man caught up in the drunken whirl and excitement of the festival.[3]



Ève Francis had already starred in Germaine Dulac's earlier serial Âmes des fous (1918). In either late 1918 or early 1919, Francis asked if she could bring by her fiancee, Louis Delluc. At their first meeting, Delluc—who was already a respected, up-and-coming film critic for Paris-Midi—read his scenario "Le Fandango," reputedly written on the cut-out section of a paper tablecloth.[4] Dulac was impressed and agreed to direct the production, which commenced in late August 1919 at the site of the future Victorine Studios in Nice; Louis Nalpas agreed to back the production as long as it was shot there, though some additional material was filmed in the Basque border town of Hondarribia. For the duration of the shooting, which concluded in November, Delluc was only seen intermittently on the set. He was, however, fully involved in editing the film with Dulac. It was screened for critics on March 17, 1920, and went into release either March 31 or May 7, 1920.


La Fête espagnole was praised as something vital and new in French cinema, although—as observed by Tami Williams[5]—the was praise directed toward Delluc, and not Dulac. For Delluc's part, he never avoided praising Dulac's contribution to the success of the film, stating that it was "a rare example of complete cooperation in French cinema. Author, director and actors have agreed, through their specific affinities and willingness to work, to seek the absolute realization of the chosen theme."[6] Ève Francis commented that La Fête espagnole "had a staggering effect on the filmmakers then. The accelerated movement of this synthetic drama, suffused with poetry, was an unprecedented novelty." Delluc's original screenplay consisted of 217 numbered scenes, with each scene indicated by single line of text, and a gradual acceleration in the pace of these shots is observed as the film progresses. Henri Langlois commented that La Fête espagnole was "the key film of French film history: as important as Eisenstein's Strike."[7] Despite its influence on other filmmakers and favorable critical appraisal, the moviegoing public ignored the film, and it was banned in Portugal.

Delluc's screenplay was one of three published under the title Drames du Cinema in 1923.[8]

Preservation status

Only 8 minutes of La Fête espagnole, which originally ran 67 minutes, have survived. According to Williams,[9] this consists of three or four short and disconnected sequences from throughout the film. These nitrate negative fragments were acquired by Henri Langlois in 1938 from Éclair, and were transferred to safety film in 1948; nothing else of La Fête espagnole has turned up since then. Nevertheless, this film remnant is still shown periodically in retrospectives of Dulac's work and was included, in 2012, in the Cinémathèque Française's festival Toute la mémoire du monde.

Alternative titles

  • Spanish Fiesta
  • Spanish Festival


  1. Georges Sadoul, "French Film." Falcon Press, London, 1953
  2. Cinemathèque Française, "La Fête espagnole"
  3. MUBI, "Spanish Fiesta"
  4. René Jeanne, Interview with Germaine Dulac, Du journal à l’écran, Ciné-club No. 6, March 1949, p. 5
  5. Tami Williams, "Germaine Dulac: A Cinema of Sensations," University of Illinois Press, 2014
  6. Louis Delluc, from an article published in Paris-Midi, May 4, 1920, in Ecrits cinématographiques III, Drames de cinéma, Cinémathèque française et Editions de l’étoile/Cahiers du cinéma, Paris, 1990, p. 27
  7. Eric Rohmer and Michel Madöre, Interview with Henri Langlois, Cahiers du Cinéma No. 135, September 1962.
  8. Louis Delluc (1923). Dranes du Cinema. Paris: Editions du monde nouveau. p. 130.
  9. Tami Williams, "Germaine Dulac: A Cinema of Sensations," University of Illinois Press, 2014
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