Kaplan, Nelly

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Nationality: Argentinian. Born: Buenos Aires, Argentina, 11 April 1936 (some sources say 1931 or 1934). Education: University of Buenos Aires, studied filmmaking under Abel Gance, 1954–64. Career: Began as a film archivist, went to Paris as a writer for Argentinean film journals, met and collaborated with film director Abel Gance, 1950s; journalist for various Argentine newspapers; Cythere Films, Paris, France, assistant director, 1957–64, director, 1967—; scriptwriter; also a writer, under the pseudonym, Belen. Awards: Golden Lion, Venice Film Festival, for Le Regard Picasso, 1966; Medaille d'Or, Venice Film Festival, for La Fiancee du Pirate, 1969; Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, 1970; Officier des Arts et des Lettres, c. 1983; Chevalier dans l'Ordre du Merite, 1989. Address: Cythere Films, 34 Champs Elysees, 75008 Paris, France.

Films as Director:


Gustave Moreau


Abel Gance et Son Demain


Les Années 25


La Nouvelle Orangerie


Le Regard Picasso


La Fiancée du Pirate (A Very Curious Girl, The Pirate's Fiancée, Dirty Mary) (+ sc)


Papa les Petits Bateaux


Néa: A New Woman (A Young Emmanuelle) (+ sc)


Charles et Lucie (+ sc)


Abel Gance et son Napoleon (+ sc)


Plaisir d'Amour (The Pleasure of Love) (+ sc)

Other Films:


La Tour de Nesle (La Torre del Piacere) (Gance) (ro as Alice)


Austerlitz (The Battle of Austerlitz, Napoleone ad Austerlitz) (Gance) (asst d, + sc)


Cyrano et d'Artagnan (Gance) (ph)


Il Faut Vivre Dangereusement (You've Got to Live Dangerously) (Makovsky) (pr + sc)


Les Mouettes (Chapot) (for TV) (sc)


Honorin et l'Enfant Prodigue (Chapot) (for TV) (sc + ro as Dora)


Polly West est de Retour (Chapot) (for TV) (sc + ro as Salomé von Jung)


By KAPLAN: books—

Le Manifeste d'un Art Nourveau on "Magirama," Paris, 1956.

Le Sunlight d'Austerlitz, Paris, 1960.

Le Reservoir des Sens, (under pseudonym Belen), Paris, 1966.

Le Collier de Ptyx, Paris, 1972.

Un Manteau de Fou-Rire ou les Memoires d'une Liseuse de Draps, Paris, 1974 .

Abel Gance's Napoleon (film history), British Film Institute Classics, 1994.

By KAPLAN: article—

Martineau, Barbara Halpern, "Nelly Kaplan," interview in Notes onWomen's Cinema, edited by Claire Johnston, London, 1974.

On KAPLAN: book—

Sebbag, George. Le Point Sublime: Andre Breton, Arthur Rimbaud, etNelly Kaplan, Paris, 1997.

On KAPLAN: articles—

Johnston, Clare, "Myths of Women in the Cinema," in Women andthe Cinema: A Critical Anthology, edited by Karyn Kay and Gerald Peary, New York, 1977.

Hatch, Robert, "Charles and Lucie (review)," in The Nation, 24 May 1980.

Kuhn, Annette, Women's Pictures: Feminism and Cinema, London, 1982.

Straayer, Chris, "Sexual Representation in Film and Video," in Multiple Voices in Feminist Film Criticism, edited by Diane Carlson, Linda Dittmar, and Janice Welsch, Minneapolis, 1991.

Fincendeau, Ginette, "Fathers and Daughters in French Cinema: From the 20s to 'La Belle Noiseuse," in Women and Film: A Sightand Sound Reader, edited by Pam Cook and Phillip Dodd, Philadelphia, 1993.

* * *

Nelly Kaplan's work has been marketed and promoted frequently as soft-core pornography, but that perhaps only illustrates the scarcity of strong women's voices in world cinema. That scarcity, extreme when Kaplan first began creating films, still exists at the beginning of the new millennium to an astonishing degree. Apprenticed to such dynamic and sensually open French filmmakers as Gance, Resnais, and Truffaut, Kaplan began her work as a director when the first stirrings of second-wave feminism were beginning to be felt. Her films, though often marketed under lurid advertisements, and given leeringly suggestive foreign titles, were most definitely a part of that movement.

That Kaplan's films are erotic is beyond question, but they are much more than pornography, and to dismiss them as such is to deny the woman's voice that speaks through her work. Kaplan's films are radical precisely because they are erotic and that eroticism is presented from the female point of view and speaks to the female audience. Though some have called her films anti-feminist because they are often blatantly sexual, many feminists have claimed her as a powerful spokesperson because she gives women a sexual voice.

Her first internationally famous film, A Very Curious Girl, tells the story of a town slut, victimized by the appetites of the local men, who claims control of her sexuality by becoming a prostitute. She not only begins to profit from what she once gave away for free, but begins use the power of her new position to exact revenge on those who humiliated her, turning her staid, patriarchial village upside down. Néa: A New Woman, sometimes more suggestively titled A Young Emmanuelle, tells the story of another empowered victim, this time a young girl whose hypocritical father governs her life with an iron hand. To escape, she begins to experiment with the idea of sexuality, finally writing an erotic novel under a pseudonym. Kaplan, who wrote short fiction and erotica under the pseudonym of Belen, might have tucked some of her own history into the story of Néa's reinvention of herself. Charles et Lucie, about a couple who rediscover love after they have lost everything else, and The Pleasure of Love, about the lives and loves of three generations of women, continue Kaplan's trend of highlighting the female experience.

The tone of most of Kaplan's films is comic and positive, and the transformation of her female protagonists comes when they claim and control their own sexuality. This fact alone made Kaplan's work notorious in the 1960s and 1970s, and she continues to hold that feminist viewpoint throughout her work. She has been compared to such French feminist filmmakers as Diane Kurys and Agnes Varda, who also began creating their films during the early days of modern feminism.

Kaplan's documentary work has also been praised, particularly her work about her mentor Able Gance, Abel Gance et son Demain and Abel Gance et son Napoleon. Picasso himself is said to have admired her documentary about his 1966 Paris exhibition, Le Regard de Picasso.

—Tina Gianoulis