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Brigitte Rollet

Women of more ordinary physique were to occupy a new space, first of all on the stage, and sometimes on the big screen, since many plays mounted by the Splendid Company were to become films. Female humour and laughter cannot be considered without another powerful element: the motivation of often transgressive laughter. This chapter examines a few examples of Coline Serreau's humour in her comedies in order to assess whether or not she offers an alternative to the traditional male comedy, before considering in more detail and from a more general perspective the devices she uses to create humour. The golden age of French comedy was cut short by the First World War. Although the comedy was by and large a minor genre in the cinema of the Occupation, other forms of light film entertainment either remained (the farce) or emerged (the film zazou).

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A rebel with causes

Coline Serreau and politics (1972–96)

Series:

Brigitte Rollet

This chapter considers the specificity of French cinema in the 1970s before analysing in more detail Coline Serreau's first film. Serreau's work on stage and on big or small screens was strongly influenced by the political mood which succeeded May '68 in France. In France, the Utopian tradition in literature is particularly marked in the period preceding and following the 1789 Revolution. The presence in the background of a huge reproduction of a painting by the French seventeenth-century painter Lorrain reinforces in a way the idea of performance since the rebellious artists appear in some long shots to be part of the painted background. What J. P. Jeancolas calls the 'vague contemporary', which for him characterises French cinema before the 1970s, became much more precise afterwards. The 'contemporary' was mostly expressed through socio-political films.

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Series:

Brigitte Rollet

Abstract only

Series:

Brigitte Rollet

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book is devoted not only to some relevant biographical aspects of Coline Serreau's personal and artistic life, but also to the social, historical and political context of her debut. It deals with the 1970s' flavour of Serreau's work and more especially with the importance of politics. Taking intertextuality in its broadest sense, it assesses the strong literary influence on the tone, genre and content of Serreau's films and dramas. The book is concerned with the cinematographic genres Serreau uses. It provides a description and an analysis of Serreau's comedies, within the wider perspective of French comedies. The book also deals with the element of 'family' or community which is recurrent in Serreau's films and plays.

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From the Age of Light to the limelights

Coline Serreau and intertextuality

Series:

Brigitte Rollet

This chapter begins with the idea of utopia which was the original theme of Coline Serreau's first documentary and which is central to her first fiction film, Pourquoi pas!. The 'community' created by the three bachelors could be seen as another alternative to accepted gender roles, and a variation of the ideal society created by the trio of Pourquoi pas!. The chapter examines the ways Serreau endlessly rewrote and re-created her ideal communities from one film and one play to the next. Taking intertextuality in its wider sense, the chapter analyses the direct and indirect influences and quotations from the 'philosophical century' and to a lesser extent from the seventeenth century. It demonstrates Serreau's originality and skilful synthesising of a number of inherited genres, from the conte philosophique to the fairy-tale.

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Family matters and matres

Questioning gender roles

Series:

Brigitte Rollet

French feminism contains a diversity of positions on the family as on other issues. Since the beginning of her success as a filmmaker with Trois hommes et un couffin, Coline Serreau has often said in interviews that she considered family and children as a key aspect of society and of life overall. In order to confront men with parenthood, Serreau puts the unwilling men in the position of fathers. This idea of performing gender roles is quite obvious in the film. The influence of women's actions and concerns regarding motherhood and family after May '68 are to be found in Serreau's films made in the 1970s. By the time she directed her first fiction film, the mood had changed and utopia prevailed. It is true to say that Serreau's films closely followed, and sometimes preceded, major social and sexual changes in France during the 1980s and 1990s.

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Series:

Brigitte Rollet

Despite her established reputation as a successful filmmaker, Coline Serreau could not find a producer to support her project for a silent film called Chari-Bohu in 1990. In the conclusion of her book on French Women's Writing 1848-1994, Diana Holmes emphasises the dilemma women writers were confronted with and which many women filmmakers in France have encountered in their career. More important perhaps is the emergence of filmmakers coming from outside the traditional film circles, whose social and ethnic background contrast with their elders'. The success of Y aura-t-il de la neige à Noël? shows that the 'feminisation' of French cinema seems to go beyond the increasing number of female directors within the French film industry. The huge difficulties most women filmmakers faced to finance their films meant that, when they could find a producer, they were (are), willingly or not, reduced to making cheaper films than their male counterparts.

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Series:

Brigitte Rollet

Coline Serreau is one of the most famous female French directors alive, not only in France but also abroad. This chapter presents the director's films in chronological order and situates them in their political, social and cultural context. During the 1980s, Serreau's career moved towards fiction, and she worked both for the cinema and the theatre. Serreau often underlines her family's lack of financial resources. Serreau's reputation as a serious feminist documentary filmmaker was reinforced in 1979 by her contribution to a series produced by the Institut National de l'Audiovisuel and devoted to grandmothers. She was awarded 600,000 French francs which allowed her to finish the editing of Mais qu'est-ce qu'elles veulent? The chapter considers the way her films epitomise the evolution of French cinema and society. May '68 is considered by historians as a watershed in French society as well as in French culture.

Abstract only

Series:

Brigitte Rollet

Coline Serreau is one of the most famous female French directors alive, not only in France but also abroad. This book is devoted not only to some relevant biographical aspects of Serreau's personal and artistic life, but also to the social, historical and political context of her debut. It deals with the 1970s' flavour of Serreau's work and more especially with the importance of politics. Taking intertextuality in its broadest sense, it assesses the strong literary influence on the tone, genre and content of Serreau's films and dramas. The book is concerned with the cinematographic genres Serreau uses. It provides a description and an analysis of Serreau's comedies, within the wider perspective of French comedies. The book also deals with the element of 'family' or community which is recurrent in Serreau's films and plays. During the 1980s, Serreau's career moved towards fiction, and she worked both for the cinema and the theatre. Serreau often underlines her family's lack of financial resources. The book considers the specificity of French cinema in the 1970s before analysing in more detail Serreau's first film. Serreau's work on stage and on big or small screens was strongly influenced by the political mood which succeeded May '68 in France. The book also discusses the idea of utopia which was the original theme of Serreau' first documentary and which is central to her first fiction film, Pourquoi pas!. Female humour and laughter cannot be considered without another powerful element: the motivation of often transgressive laughter.

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Jane Roscoe and Craig Hight

This chapter suggests possible 'precursors' of the mock-documentary form. It outlines a number of the significant strands within cinematic and television media, in the United States and Britain in particular, which have fostered the creation and continued growth of the mock-documentary form. Dr Strangelove might appear to be an obscure choice to include within this list of genealogical precursors for mock-documentary, but we include it here because it features elements of style and rhetoric which reappear within the mock-documentary form. Orson Welles appears within the list of genealogical precursors not only for his 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds but for this film, which does not sit easily in the categories of either documentary or fiction film. Steven Spielberg has offered significant additions to the development of the cinematic tradition.