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From lost sites to reclaimed images
Guy Austin

A loss of identity and a sense of dispossession are two related and painful threads that run through modern Algerian history. Dispossessed in a variety of ways, predominantly uprooted from rural communities in the massive urbanisation that followed independence, Algerian audiences are offered a return to the land, to memory and history by the cinema of Hakkar and Mokneche. Viva Laldjérie presents the struggle of both Papicha and Goucem to reach a form of individuation that acknowledges but moves on from the past. In a culture that Stora has associated with silence and secrecy, where the mass deaths of the civil war are represented by a single photograph, and the mass deaths of the liberation struggle remain uncounted and consigned to the 'garbage bin of national history', the role of cinema as a listening and a seeing that re-presents the bodies of Algeria's subaltern masses is therefore an urgent one.

in Algerian national cinema
Guy Austin

In Algeria the 1990s are known as 'the black decade', a period of widespread terror and trauma. The cultural historian Benjamin Stora has called the black decade a war without images, 'an invisible war' fought within a 'culture of silence'. A key concern of the films made after the end of the 'invisible war' is to make it visible. In L'Arche du désert, for example, a young boy flees an oasis where the villagers have been massacred to walk, right-to-left, into the desert. And in Rachida, a young female teacher is determined to teach again after an attack on her village. Finally, in Barakat!, evokes an eternal space, whose existence allows one to think beyond the temporal frame of the conflict. In 2004, the year of Bouteflika's first controversial re-election, Belkacem Hadjadj's film Al-Manara places a female protagonist at the centre of an account of the black decade.

in Algerian national cinema
Guy Austin

It has become a commonplace that 'Algerian cinema was born out of the war of independence and served that war'. Film in Algeria also preserved the memory of that war, legitimising the FLN regime after independence by mythologising the liberation struggle. The integration of Algerian land and Algerian people, a reaction against the violent dispossession enacted by colonialism, is at the heart of Le Vent des Aurès, in particular via the village scenes and the harvest sequence. This early example of the Eastern Bloc's involvement in independent Algerian cinema was followed by significant influence on the work of Mohamed Lakhdar Hamina. Jamila Bouhired, for instance, the subject of Chahine's film, was not celebrated in Algerian cinema, although her example was used in FLN propaganda during the war. Cinemagoing in Algeria peaked in 1975 with 45 million film tickets sold across a population of 20 million.

in Algerian national cinema
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Guy Austin

Claude Chabrol's depiction of the middle classes usually concentrates on the family. Ten Days' Wonder invokes that basic paradigm of family tensions and of mystery thrillers, the Oedipus myth. In contrast with Ten Days' Wonder and Les Noces rouges, Chabrol's subsequent film does not concern murderous bourgeois families. Folies bourgeoises is an outlandish parody of Les Innocents aux mains sales and Les Noces rouges; hence, the plot centres on a love triangle and an impotent husband. Like Les Noces rouges, and many of Chabrol's films since Les Biches in 1967, Les Innocents aux mains sales explores the changing power relations within a triangle of characters. The theme of repetition which characterises Chabrol's representation of fatherhood in Blood Relatives is echoed in the narrative structure. In Ten Days' Wonder, Une partie de plaisir, Blood Relatives, Poulet au vinaigre and Inspecteur Lavardin, the house is also a patriarchal space.

in Claude Chabrol
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Guy Austin

Women in Claude Chabrol's work are often trapped, frustrated or disadvantaged. It seems that Chabrol chooses more and more to base his films on stories of women because he shares the traditional view that they are more enigmatic than men. The case of Violette Nozière, which Chabrol filmed in 1978, is notable in that, unlike the others, it concerns the relationship between a young woman and her family. In many ways, Une affaire de femmes is a companion piece or sister film to Violette Nozière, di fait divers in which a woman is found guilty of a crime against the family. Even Madame Bovary could be said to have a fait divers at its origin. Betty, like Madame Bovary, is a faithful adaptation of a novel, telling the story of an unsatisfied young woman who seeks to define herself outside the social and familial roles offered her.

in Claude Chabrol
Guy Austin

Claude Chabrol's La Cérémonie can be considered the pinnacle of his career so far. But not only is La Cérémonie a masterful film in its own right, it can also be seen as a compendium of some of the motifs that characterise Chabrol's work as a whole. Above and beyond individual cases, the fait divers as a form can be usefully compared to Chabrol's cinema in general. The film thus functions both as a thriller and, in a political sense, as an illustration of the class war which Chabrol continues to observe in French society. The representation of Sophie, Violette and Julie as variations on the femme fatale is partly dependent on Chabrol's use of the expressionist mise en scène associated with film noir. Ambivalence characterises Chabrol's male characters, for example the noble avenger-cowardly liar Charles in Que la bête meure or the white knight-greedy manipulator Wolf in Masques.

in Claude Chabrol
Guy Austin

The gaze simultaneously demonised and celebrated in Masques is that of the apparently all-powerful game-show host, Legagneur. The conflation of the gaze of God and the gaze of television, explored by Claude Chabrol briefly in Inspecteur Lavardin and at length in Masques, is embodied in Dr M by the media tycoon Marsfeldt. Masques continued Chabrol's mid-1980s renaissance under the auspices of the producer Marin Karmitz. But Karmitz refused to produce or even distribute three of Chabrol's next four films, Le Cri du hibou, Dr M and Jours tranquilles à Clichy. In terms of both style and theme, L'Enfer is cinematic where Dr M is televisual. L'Enfer concludes with two endings, one in which Paul kills Nelly, and one in which he fantasises her murder, then recovers his lucidity long enough to realise that he can no longer tell what is real and what is imagined.

in Claude Chabrol
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Guy Austin

By virtue of being Claude Chabrol's fiftieth film, Rien ne va plus is an important auteurist landmark. Rien ne vaplus does include self-conscious, auteunst references to Chabrol's earlier films, such as Juste avant la nuit, Les Noces rouges and Betty. Various interviews and reviews have quoted Chabrol's assertion that Rien ne vaplus is his first autobiographical film. Common with the James Bond series and Chabrol's mid-1960s work such as the two Tigres and La Route de Connthe, Rien ne va plus features exotic locations, elaborate scenes of pursuit and interrogation, outlandish thugs and an eccentric crime lord. Like the archetypal Bond film, it begins in a casino and ends in a remote, romantic hide-away. Above all, the film refers back to Chabrol's 1965 spy spoof, Marie-Chantal contre Docteur Kha. Like Chabrol, Victor is a professional, a craftsman, who steers away from grandiose projects and prides himself on his pragmatism.

in Claude Chabrol
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Guy Austin

The Hélène cycle, strictly speaking, comprising La Femme infidèle, Que la bète meure, Le Boucher, La Rupture and Juste avant la nuit, sees Stéphane Audran cast repeatedly in the central role as the often inscrutable Hélène. It is characteristic of Claude Chabrol, particularly in the carefully crafted Hélène cycle, to include in his films miniature versions of the main narrative. Barely used before Chabrol's period of technical experimentation in the mid-1960s spy films, zooms are central to his film style in the Hélène cycle. L'Express, Le Nouvel Observateur and Cahiers du cinéma all remained blind to the sly critique of the bourgeoisie in films such as Les Biches and La Femme infidèle. They chose instead to detect in Chabrol's work a celebration of the middle classes. La Rupture crystallises the melodramatic tendencies of the Hélène cycle and the inter-class tensions implicit in Les Biches and Le Boucher.

in Claude Chabrol
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Guy Austin

Claude Chabrol has excellent new-wave credentials and is in some ways a representative figure for this innovative movement in French cinema. For the small budget of 32 million old francs, he was able to shoot Le Beau Serge over nine weeks in the winter of 1957/8 and to film it in what was essentially his home village. To make his first film, Chabrol returned to the scene of his wartime childhood, the village of Sardent in central France. The reason for this was mainly financial: he had intended to shoot Les Cousins first, but that story was set in Paris and would have been twice as expensive to film. The reception of Les Cousins was, however, in one way problematic, and was a sign of things to come for Chabrol.

in Claude Chabrol