Born in Paris, Gance’s ambitions lay in the direction of literature and theater.
While a stage actor and dramatist, he was already writing and directing films for extra cash. In his 1915 film "Lafoliedu Docteur Tube" he used distorting mirrors to present images from the perspective of a madman; all his life he would continue to seek such innovations. Mater Dolorosa, in 1917, firmly established him as a bankable director. Toward the end of the war he directed Taccuse, a powerful antiwar drama in which he utilized real soldiers, most of whom werekilled in battle days later, in a sequence in which the dead rise from the battlefield to question the t value of their sacrifice.
In 1921 he made "La roue". After an interlude directing a short comedy for Max Linder, Gance embarked upon his most ambitious project, for which he is still best known. "Napoléon" brought together all the dazzling technique he had developed with the addition of Poly- vision, and a triple-screen system that allowed him to give his five-hour epic a hitherto unimaginable sweep.
Much of Gance’s promise was unrealized in the sound era. "Un grand amour de Beethoven" was one of s his better efforts during a period that saw him f remaking his silent succcses as talkies, often utilizing the old footage. In the 1950s he unveiled a color version of Polyvision as Magirama. Well into his eighties he was still tinkering with his obsession, combining new material with his silent and sound Napoléons, to produce "Bonaparte et la Révolution".
His last years enabled him to bask in the adulation of a new public that had thrilled to film historian Kevin Brownlow’s restoration of the silent "Napoléon", complete with triple-screen effects and a newly composed orchestral score.