Nazi-occupied France, 16 July 1942. The French police arrest 13,152 Jewish residents of Paris and hold them at the Vélodrome d’Hiver before facilitating their deportation to extermination camps, over two-thirds to Auschwitz. Not until 1995, on the fifty-third anniversary of the Vél’ d’Hiv roundup, was the French authorities’ complicity in this event officially acknowledged in a speech by newly elected president Jacques Chirac: ‘France, land of the Enlightenment and of Human Rights … France, on that day, committed an irreparable act.’ Reframing remembrance: Contemporary French cinema and the Second World War argues that Chirac’s speech marked a shift in the way French society, and its filmmakers, commemorated the Second World War. By following Henry Rousso’s model (outlined in Le syndrome de Vichy), viewing historical films as vectors of memory, this book analyses cinematic representations of the Occupation as expressions of commemoration. It charts the evolution of Second World War stories told on French screens and argues that more recent films are concerned with the collective experience of the Occupation, the pedagogical responsibility of historical films and with adopting a self-reflective approach to their narrative structures. With its catalogue-like structure and clear thematic analysis of key concepts such as resistance, collaboration and legacy, Reframing remembrance is an informative and accessible investigation into French cinema and its treatment of the Second World War.
Lucie Aubrac, Bon Voyage, Les Femmes de l’ombre and L’Armée du crime
1940, was for many of our compatriots the wake-up call, the starting point for a vast movement of resistance.)
Introduction: resistance on screen
French cinematic representation of the Second World War is dominated by images of resistance. This is particularly true for films from the late 1940s through to the 1980s. Films, functioning as cultural acts of commemoration, were deployed to reinforce the Gaullist myth of universal Frenchresistance during the
, ‘Costa-Gavras Seeks His Eden through Film’, Neos Kosmos (2009).
2 See video interview inside ‘Costa-Gavras on Being a Political Filmmaker’, Criterion : www.criterion.com/current/posts/3584-costa-gavras-on-political-filmmaking (accessed 21 August 2019).
3 Maya Jaggi, ‘FrenchResistance: Costa-Gavras’, The Guardian , 3 April 2009.
4 See Isolina Ballesteros, Immigration Cinema in the New Europe (Bristol and Chicago: Intellect and University of Chicago Press, 2015), pp. 175–203.
5 Costa-Gavras was born in 1933 in Greece. During the
's government-in-exile in London) and Vichy (Petain's government in Vichy), made its situation, if not entirely distinct, at least an extreme version of what others went through in terms of internal battles’ ( 2008 : 2). This French identity crisis thus led to a fragmented society and a Franco-Français conflict, but the lines that divided society into two groups (resistants and collaborators) were not so clear-cut.
The Franco-Français conflict meant that the Germans were not the only enemy to Frenchresistance groups. Your identity was determined by the
Regarde les hommes tomber, Un prophète and Un héros très discret
which he and his mother reluctantly shelter villagers in their basement
during a bombing, when he meets his future wife, Yvette (Sandrine
Kiberlain). During the war, he does not even notice that Yvette’s
family have been secretly contributing in their own small ways to the
Resistance movement. But following the Liberation in 1944, the ignorant
Albert learns about the FrenchResistance for practically the first
In addition, Robert Klein himself symbolizes Losey’s
own psychological fracture and historical displacement in the form of Alain
Delon’s sophisticated Parisian art dealer. A politically non-committed
aesthete who exploits fleeing Jews by buying up their art treasures at
rock-bottom prices, Klein encounters and pursues his own namesake in the
form of an activist Jewish member of the Frenchresistance. This
Les Misérables, La Rafle and Elle s’appelait Sarah
French identity during the Second World War was commemorated. The challenge to the previously dominant myth of universal Frenchresistance was the factual presence of French collaboration at almost every societal level. Not until December 2014 was there an exhibition dealing exclusively with French complicity at the National Archives, La Collaboration (1940–45). The exhibition's curator, Denis Peschanski, highlighted that:
‘La collaboration fait maintenant partie de notre
II resistance fighters against Vichy, coming after the radical shift
in politics of May 1968. French art historian Rose Valland documented in
Le Front de l’art (1961) the extraordinarily dangerous subterfuge of railway
and Frenchresistance fighters and their eventual reclamation from the Nazis
of the modernist masterpieces, which John Frankenheimer filmed as an
astonishing action film that involved the actual collision of real locomotives
in The Train (1964).
The release of adaptations of classical and popular French literature has
continued since the late 1960s
an unremarkable young man who, in the aftermath of the Second World War,
reinvents himself as a member of the FrenchResistance. Third, Sur
mes lèvres ( Read My Lips ) of 2001 is an immersive,
sensorial thriller about a hearing-impaired woman, Carla (Emmanuelle
Devos), whose ambiguous relationship with her assistant Paul (Vincent
Cassel) draws her into a world of crime in which her lip-reading skills
FrenchResistance docu-fiction La Bataille du rail (René Clément, 1946). So great,
in fact, was the uproar that Lotar’s documentary was removed from Saturday and
Sunday screenings (Marion 1946).
Even after the Zone’s physical disappearance, the genre lived on. Casque d’Or
(Jacques Becker, 1952) owes to it little more than highly codified characters such
as the ‘Apaches’ and immoral gigolettes; it otherwise alternates between the décors
of Belleville – a faubourg annexed to Paris in 1860 – and the airy environs of
Joinville-le-Pont, in the meanders of the