Manchester Film Studies

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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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Voices from the Maghreb

From Le Thé à la menthe to La Fille de Keltoum

Carrie Tarr

This chapter aims to assess the extent to which the inscription of displacement and identity in films by émigré Algerian filmmakers overlaps with or differentiates itself from that found in beur cinema. The émigré filmmakers take a more light-hearted approach, constructing Maghrebi immigrants/visitors as likeable, streetwise young people, from Abdelkrim Bahloul's Le Thé à la menthe and Merzak Allouache's Un amour à Paris in the 1980s to Allouache's Salut cousin! in the 1990s, a film which can be compared with La Faute à Voltaire by Abdel Kechiche, a beur filmmaker of Tunisian origin. The major theme of recent émigré Algerian cinema in France is the representation of Algeria itself, to be found in Allouache's L'Autre Monde, Mehdi Charef's La Fille de Keltoum, Nadir Moknèche's Le Harem de Mme Osmane and Bahloul's Le Soleil assassiné.

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Susan Hayward

All Luc Besson's films have violence at the core of the narrative. In Besson's films technology functions as an extension of this violence and it is a two-way system of surveillance and counter-surveillance that often involves death. This chapter examines questions of violence, particularly in relation to the so-called youth in crisis and discusses these issues within the context of surveillance and technology. It looks at Besson's films as the mise-en-scène of the double cult of technology and commodified capitalism within the context of technology and the body. Display and excess are fundamental aspects of Besson's characters' performance. Besson's films hold the adult gaze up for inspection and, in so doing, they serve to expose, as it were, the politics of youth-as-spectacle and the system of labelling them as outsiders. The politics of youth are then to do with the politics of spectacle.

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James S. Williams

This chapter examines Jean Cocteau's six major films in groups of two, each group constituting a specific set of problematics. The films include: L'Eternel retour, La Belle et la bête, L'Aigle à deux têtes, Les Parents terribles, La Villa Santo-Sospir, and Le Testament d'Orphée. The first film of each cluster represents the extreme of a formal tendency, the second functions as its virtual resolution, albeit provisional. La Belle et la bête may be said to operate meta-cinematically as a statement on the nature of film and its dual capacity for reality and fantasy whereby the filmic reel is always nothing less than a vehicle of the real. The ultimate proof of the real in Le Testament lies in the film's recording and projection of acts. For Cocteau, time and space were really one and the same, and it is only our human laws that separate them.

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Theatre of the absurd

Arthur Miller’s Everybody Wins (1990) and Samuel Beckett’s Act Without Words I (2000)

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Colin Gardner

Everybody Wins was adapted by Arthur Miller from his own two-character, one-act play, Some Kind of Love Story, which was first presented in tandem with Elegy for a Lady in 1982. Much of the film's post-structural enigma lies in the fact that, as Karel Reisz himself puts it, 'The event, the violence, the betrayals, are largely offscreen'. The story is about the undercurrents, the things undisclosed - what seems is not always what is'. Similar to Samuel Beckett's first published balletic mime, Reisz shot the sixteen-minute Act Without Words I, with no dialogue at all. Beckett's protagonist's struggles and inventions fail, all the better to produce an artistic success as pure line of flight, much like the pure freedom of Nietzsche's Zarathustra. It is as if Reisz were saying, when all else fails, we always have the boundless absurdity of art itself to help us fail even better.

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Lynn Anthony Higgins

All of Bertrand Tavernier's characters move in explicitly delimited historical contexts. This chapter focuses on his use and philosophy of history, his historiography. Tavernier's historical fictions reconcile lyrical character portraits with the crusading spirit that is equally close to his heart. The chapter first discusses his Daddy nostalgie, and shows that through the lens of melodrama, his nostalgia comes into focus not only as an emotion but also as a historical dimension and a gateway to social engagement. It portrays the restoration of authority and social stability in La Fille de d'Artagnan and its meltdown in La Passion Beatrice. Further, it examines the five remaining historical melodramas in light of their more subtle critiques of patriarchal masculinity: Que la fête commence, Le Juge et l'assassin, Coup de torchon, La Vie et rien d'autre, and Capitaine Conan.

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Lynn Anthony Higgins

This chapter presents introductory remarks on the French filmmaker, Bertrand Tavernier, and his works. It also highlights the key concepts discussed in other chapters of the book. Tavernier has made twenty-one feature films, six documentaries, and several short films. Tavernier's oeuvre is unified by a recognizable constellation of ideas at its core. Born in Lyons, and cinephile from an early age, Tavernier is possessed of an 'invraisemblable culture cinématographique'. He grew from a voracious moviegoer, through a film critic, to a director's assistant. He possesses the legendary Lyonnais gourmandise matched by an appetite for knowledge, for books, for movies, for experience, for friends, for conversation (especially about the cinema), and for involvement in controversies. The chapter discusses his Lyon, le regard intérieur, and his 'merveilleux lyonnais' ties filmmaking to the magic of childhood. The chapter also looks at his works as a literary filmmaker.

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Story as space

Space as story

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Douglas Morrey and Alison Smith

There are certain kinds of spaces which seem particularly suited to Rivette's quest for the hidden narratives which an alert storyteller can extract from the geographical logic of their surroundings. This chapter is concerned with two examples of such spatial narratives, explored and reexplored by Rivette: firstly the city, and more particularly the city of Paris; secondly the bourgeois house in its many different but comparable forms, all of which speak of a certain conception of family organisation and of the hierarchy of human activity. Rivette's first feature film is programmatic from its opening. The connection between the 'plot' and the city is explicit in Out 1. The 'domain' of Secret Défense is quite literally 'my father's' for the protagonist, Sylvie. In Céline et Julie vont en bateau and L'Amour par terre, there is no prospect of inheritance and no implication of ownership when the protagonists enter the house.

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Sight and sound

Harmony in counterpoint?

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John Phillips

Robbe-Grillet admits to a strong interest in film soundtracks and the possibilities that these offer for experimental approaches. He argued in his early theoretical essays that writers are drawn to work in film precisely because it is a medium that combines both dimensions. This chapter examines the innovative manipulation of sound and vision. It first examines his approach to the visual medium of film and how he works creatively at this level. Robbe-Grillet's use of sound and musical effects is, unsurprisingly, of a piece with his identity as a modern artist for whom improvisation, spontaneity and the random selection of disparate objects and sounds creates new meanings. Use of music will no doubt be more successful, although there are notable exceptions. The visual and audial scaffolding of the films is probably best experienced on a sensorial rather than an intellectual level.

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A sentimental education

The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981)

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Colin Gardner

Almost thirty years before the release of The French Lieutenant's Woman, Karel Reisz published an essay 'Substance into Shadow', in which he called for a creative dialogue between novel and film in an attempt to formulate a workable cinematic strategy that would allow the filmmaker to push the parameters of his art without undermining the essence and narrative content of his literary source. The film circumscribes the issue of existentialism as another form of self-delusion. Instead of tracing the evolution, in the Darwinian sense, of a man who discovers a nascent existentialism ahead of his time, the film is essentially a double love story, the sentimental education of a decent Victorian chap. In the film, acting combines with montage to deconstruct authentic identity, while at the same time returning it to the protean, transformative power of art.