Ben McCann
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1946–56: darkness and light
in Julien Duvivier
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This chapter traces Duvivier’s return to France in 1945, and his difficulties in readjusting to a new film-making climate that now feted new directors and emphasised authentic, location-filmed reality. The chapter pays close attention to one of Duvivier’s key post-war films, Panique (1946). Although the film was a failure – critics likened it to pre-war poetic realism, a style and sensibility not in vogue in the changed artistic and political post-war landscape – Panique cleverly incorporates the pessimism of Duvivier’s 1930s films, while grafting on a new set of political and social contexts. Like David Golder and the figure of the Jew, Panique sheds light on another problematic representation in Duvivier’s oeuvre; it stands as an exemplar of viciously misogynistic ‘réalisme noir’ which seemed to scapegoat women for wartime collaboration.

The chapter also looks at the different films Duvivier shot at this time. As well as darker works like Panique and Voici le temps des assassins (1956), Duvivier also made broad comedies, an adaptation of Anna Karenina, and intimate chamber pieces. One of his least known films – La Fête à Henriette (1952) – will be analysed to showcase Duvivier’s deft visual and narrative touch.

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