In 1920, Ricciotto Canudo (1877-1923), the man who first used the expression “the seventh art” to describe cinema, launched aserialization of his short novel L’Autre Aile in the December pages of Le Figaro, subsequently published in book form by Eugène Fasquelle in 1922.The story forms part of what the author called “les romans des foules nouvelles” (“novels of the new crowds”), using a sparse, summary writing style unburdened by descriptive passages, and focused on “modern” life, its technology, speed, and new modes of transportation. [...]
Canudo’s novel and the film both echo the fascination exerted by pioneering aviatrixes such as Raymonde de Laroche (whose beautiful attire recalls the dresses created for the film by Paul Poiret),Marie Marvingt, and Adrienne Bolland, who flew across the English Channel in1920. Yet beyond the depiction of a strong and independent female character, Canudo paints a portrait of a society in decay, four years after the end of the war, in which the aviation heroes of yesteryear are forced to survive as machines to be exploited, and where memories of shared suffering are submerged by the interests of capitalism – and sometimes love. Even if Andréani chose not to present a direct evocation of this darker side, he selected actors such as Jean Murat, himself an aviator during the war, and the twice-wounded Charles Vanel, men who embodied the experience of “the war to end all wars”. Flashbacks of their wartime past only become more pregnant with meaning.
L’AUTRE AILE came out just after Canudo’s death in November 1923, and made the cover of Ciné-Miroir, but the film was criticized by Cinémagazine for lacking originality and under-using its actors. However, it remains striking for its numerous aerial scenes, extensive location shooting at Le Bourget airport, and the lavish wardrobe designed by Paul Poiret, in addition to a special attention to colour, and art intertitles featuring aerial motifs (airplanes, motors, etc.). The transformation of the heroine from a tearfully elegant woman to a person of action, able to cope on her own, lends the film an entirely individual energy.
Wafa Germani, LeGiornate del cinema muto catalogue, 2017, pp. 232–233