Deco Redux

Courtesy Lobster Films

Forgotten for nearly a century, an avant-garde masterpiece is reborn.

“It is to French cinema what Metropolis was to German cinema in the ’20s,” says producer Serge Bromberg of L’Inhumaine (The Inhuman Woman), Marcel L’Herbier’s much revered yet little-seen Deco-era tour de force. “The ambition went far beyond just being
 a film. It was a meeting point and milestone for everything in art at the time.” The creative team was a who’s who of the French avant-garde: backdrops by Cubist painter Fernand Léger, costumes by leading designer Paul Poiret, a score by modernist composer Darius Milhaud. The set was something of a clubhouse as well: Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, and James Joyce are rumored to have been extras. And yet the film—the story of a famous opera singer who is killed and then reanimated—was “so delicate, so exquisite, it missed a connection with the general audience,” Bromberg says. Thanks to the efforts of the French Cinémathèque and Bromberg’s Lobster Films, L’Inhumaine will live again, albeit for one night only. In a vividly restored print shown for the first time in its original tints, the film will be screened at the Théâtre du Châtelet with a live score (of bits and pieces by Milhaud and new segments by Aidje Tafial) performed by a seven-piece ensemble.

On March 30 at 2 Rue Edouard Colonne, Paris;