Taking its title from the French Symbolist Charles Baudelaire‚Äôs poem of the same name, on one level Dulac tells the story of a bored housewife and her fantastical night time adventures in an extraordinary cocktail lounge populated by androgynous customers and magical effects. But the film moves beyond the generic narrative description of conventional cinema, into a stunning, purely poetic and symphonic vision, challenging expectation on every level.
Germaine Dulac was a key figure in the French avant-garde during the 1920s, and its only female director. Considered the first feminist filmmaker, Dulac was also a rigorous theorist and promoter of the cine-club movement. Prior to making films she was the editor of La Fran?ßaise, the organ of the French suffragette movement, and wrote regularly theater and cinema criticism. In 1915 she formed, with her husband, the engineer-novelist Marie-Louis Albert-Dulac, a small production company, Delia Film, and began directing herself.
Working across narrative, avant-garde, and documentary genres, Dulac used femininity as a strategy to explore women's fantasies and desires. Here celebrated films include La Souriante Madame Beudet/The Smiling Madame Beudet (1922) an impressionistic study of a woman trapped in a loveless marriage and in 1928 she made La Coquille et le clergyman/The Seashell and the Clergyman, based on a scenario by Anonin Artaud which is considered the first surrealist film.