Rarely does a collection like Cinema’s First Nasty Women come along. In fact, I can’t think of another one that accomplishes as much as this one does. Showcasing ninety-nine silent films from Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK, and the US from 1898 to 1926, this collection is a tour de force of painstaking archival work, film restoration, and original scoring. In short, it’s a significant landmark of film scholarship. As a recovery project of forgotten cinematic texts, it warrants the gratitude and respect of the scholarly community. Yet it does more: it frames this important swath of early cinema in terms of issues of race, class, and gender that are central to contemporary cultural inquiry. Thus, like the most successful works of history, it shows an appreciation for the past and an awareness of its resonances with the present.

The reissuing of these lost films prompts a...

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