Contemporary French cinema

An introduction

Author: Guy Austin

This book provides an introduction to French film studies. It concentrates on films which have had either a theatrical or video release in Britain, or which are available on video or DVD from France. Most avant-garde film-makers, including Germaine Dulac, were unable to continue in the 1930s, faced with the technical demands and high production costs of the sound film. Exacerbated by the Depression, and above all by the financial collapse of both Gaumont and Pathé, film production fell from 158 features the previous year to only 126 in 1934, and 115 in 1935. While poetic realism was at its height, a talismanic figure in post-war film was faced with a generally lukewarm reception from critics and audiences. Thanks largely to German finance and also to an influx of filmmakers replacing those who had departed, after 1940 French film. If 1968 marked a watershed in French cinema's engagement with politics and history 1974 did the same for representations of sexuality. In that year, pornography entered mainstream French cinema. Although film-making remains male-dominated in France as elsewhere, 'more women have taken an active part in French cinema than in any other national film industry'. A quarter of all French films made in 1981 were polars, and many of those were box-office successes. French fantasy has had a particular national outlet: the bande dessinée. The heritage film often takes its subject or source from the 'culturally respectable classicisms of literature, painting, music'.

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