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Elizabeth Ezra

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Steve Chibnall

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Fergus Daly and Garin Dowd

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Steve Chibnall

For the first twenty-three years of his career, J. Lee Thompson's film-making activities were confined to England. The nearest he came to an overseas location was visiting J. B. Priestley on the Isle of Wight. Given the popularity of the genre during the 1950s, it is surprising that it took until 1957 for J. Lee Thompson to make a war film. Sea of Sand has a small platoon with a mission, feuding officers, battle scenes, a largely unquestioning commitment to the war, and a faceless enemy interested only in the destruction of the film's protagonists. North West Frontier opened at Rank's flagship Odeon in Leicester Square, London, to a chorus of approval from the popular press which saw it as a worthy successor to The Bridge on the River Kwai. Manchester Guardian gives '"fair do's" all round' in the classic liberal manner, while acknowledging the untenable nature of imperialism.

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Phil Powrie

Bereavement after IP5 turned Jean-Jacques Beineix away from feature filmmaking, despite several propositions from American producers, Alien Resurrection and The Avengers among them. During 1999 Beineix worked to raise money for his long-standing project, the comic vampire film based on Marc Behm's novel. However, a new feature film was planned, as alluded to by Beineix in the foreword to this volume, Mortel Transfert, based on a novel of the same name by Jean-Pierre Gattégno. This was a co-production between Cargo Films and Odeon, one of the contributors to the funding of the vampire film. Mortel Transfert went into production in April 2000. It was subsequently shown at various festivals: the polar festival at Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines and the Berlin festival. The general reaction to the film was that its mixture of genres, thriller and comedy had not gelled in quite the way Beineix had intended.

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Elizabeth Ezra

Although the perception of Georges Méliès as essentially a man of the theatre who happened to point a camera at the stage has long held sway, this chapter intends to provide a more complex assessment of Méliès's film techniques. The chapter examines individual scenes of some of his films using a model of structural analysis designed for narrative films. The aim of this exercise is two-fold: first, it reveals the narrative complexity of Méliès's films; and, in so doing, it demonstrates that early cinema need not be excluded from analysis using the tools of modern film theory. The chapter outlines the technical function of the major special effects, or trues, used by Méliès. It then progresses to a structural analysis of the narrative components of Méliès's films, by adapting Christian Metz's model known as la grande syntagmatique to a spatial model of mise en scène.

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Magic mothers

The sexual politics of Truffaut's films

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Diana Holmes and Robert Ingram

One of the authorial signs that circulate from one François Truffaut film to another is the question (sometimes formulated in the affirmative, as a statement): are women magic? Truffaut's sexual politics, or more accurately those of his films, have been condemned by more than one feminist critic. Truffaut's first feature film, Les 400 Coups, is the most directly autobiographical of his works. The chapter aims to marshal the counter-evidence, the aspects of Truffaut's cinema that argue against their straightforward relegation to the (crowded) ranks of misogynist cinema. Geneviève demonstrates that despite the preponderance of a male viewpoint in Truffaut's films the expression of female subjectivity has a place. One such sign is the inclusion of mise en abîme scenes, brief, condensed, often humorous moments that mirror and foreground the gender dynamics at work in the film.

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Les Mistons

An introduction

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Diana Holmes and Robert Ingram

When challenged by Anne Gillain to explain his motives in making Les Mistons François Truffaut was somewhat vague and unhelpful, deflecting the critic's attention to the short story on which the film is based. An interesting aspect of Les Mistons is that of gender representation. The construction of masculinity is nevertheless a feature of Les Mistons and is articulated mainly in terms of the contrast between Gérard and the five kids. Frame composition makes a significant contribution to Les Mistons, reinforcing one of the main features of the film: the age gap separating the couple from the boys. The chapter also presents some of the key concepts discussed in this book. The book provides a closer analysis of one film, Jules et Jim, both as a means to discuss more precisely Truffaut's style of film-making and to provide an example of how a film may be 'read'.

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Fergus Daly and Garin Dowd

Leos Carax's early career was in two complementary ways conducted under the scrutiny of the French film journal Cahiers du Cinéma. In his 1999 television interview with Pierre-André Boutang, Carax touches on many of the qualities of a still developing personal mythology. Carax's first finished film, Strangulation Blues is in the director's own words the student film he never made. The 'autistic' part of 'autistebavarde' as this persona populates the films of Carax must be differentiated from this metaphorical usage. The typology developed by Carax contributes to the characters' withdrawal from verisimilitude; they are presented to us less as formed, reified types, or exemplars than as 'supple individuals'. This book performs a minute dissection of the heterogeneous elements shaped by Leos Carax into works of great complexity and élan in order to isolate the true singularity and originality of his 1980s films, Boy Meets Girl and Mauvais Sang. The haste with which Carax's overbudget film of 1990, Les Amants du Pont-Neuf has been categorised and in certain quarters thereby dismissed, combined with the spectacular budget catastrophe and the myths developed around the on-set events, contributed to a widespread misunderstanding of the film, as well as to a certain blindness among critics as to the merits. The title of Leos Carax's Pola X was an acronym of the title in French of Herman Melville's novel of 1852, Pierre, or The Ambiguities, that is, Pierre, ou les ambiguïtés.

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Phil Powrie

More than any of the films of the cinéma du look, La Lune dans le caniveau exemplifies the characteristics Bassan enumerates: a mise en scène which privileges exuberance, light, movement, especially the curves and curls of the camera, and an emphasis on sensation. This chapter explores the language and the way it generates a particular type of nostalgia unanchored in the real, unlike, say, heritage cinema. It locates the film's visual style and its narrative concerns in a genre which reviewers have on the whole not mentioned in relation to La Lune dans le caniveau. The chapter explains why the main interest of the film beyond its re-articulation of melodrama is the way in which Depardieu-as-star is reconfigured in the film, his iconicity questioned: he is de-iconised and re-iconised by the film in a gesture towards an impossible authenticity.