The echoes of May
Author: Alison Smith

Cinema's engagement with 1968 was perhaps most in evidence in the auteur sector of the French industry. This book presents a study that aims to consider the ways in which the shake-up in French perceptions transferred itself to French cinema screens during the following decade. The emphasis is in the changes which occurred during the 1970s in the French output of films which could be seen by an average metropolitan cinema-goer without making such special efforts as joining a cine-club or seeking out films shown in community centres or to special interest groups. The most frequently noticed effect of the new post-1968 climate on the French cinema was a change in the nature of the thriller. The book focuses on three 1970s political thriller: série-Z, Yves Boisset's L'Attentat, and René Gainville's Le Complot. It looks at some films of the early 1970s which retain a consciously politico-social approach to their protagonists' problems, which conform to the broad description of 'new naturalism' in terms of narrative and protagonist. The 'New Naturalism' movement outlived its connection to 1968, and in the course of its development launched some of the most significant new film-makers to come to prominence in this decade, such as Jacques Doillon, Jean Eustache or Claude Miller. It concentrates on the two very different cinematic Utopias imagined by Claude Faraldo: Bof! and Themroc. The book also considers two film-makers: William Klein and Alain Tanner, whose work encapsulates many of the currents and issues.

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Author: Alison Smith

The study of film as art-form and as industry has become a popular and widespread element of French Studies, and French cinema has acquired an important place within Film Studies. Agnès Varda's reputation in Britain rests largely on a handful of major films, which are far from indicative of the scope of her work. Varda's best-known films come into the category 'fiction' with the exception of Jacquot de Nantes, and indeed they represent her entire fictional output with the exception of two fiction films released in conjunction with documentaries In 1994, Varda published a book about her life and work, Varda par Agnès, in conjunction with Cahiers du Cinéma. This book presents an overview of how her early interest in art history has had a great influence on her vision. Varda's background, before La Pointe Courte, was in the still image and the theatre. The sense of place is a constant throughout Varda's films. At different times she has explored the South of France and the châteaux of the Loire Valley, the streets of Paris or of Los Angeles. Varda's films show the still image to be connected to the object. Her œuvre is exceedingly varied, comprising documentaries and fiction films, short films and features, and also a large number which lie between the two, since Varda's care to give appropriate formal expression to what she has to say includes a determination not to add padding in order to make up for the required length.

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Alison Smith

Cinema's engagement with 1968 was perhaps most in evidence in the auteur sector of the French industry, although of the established stars of the Nouvelle Vague and its satellites only Jean-Luc Godard really registered a change in his trajectory. Jean-Pierre Mocky's anarchic political thriller, Solo represents an extended day-dream regarding May '68, and as the title suggests it is a distinctly uncollective daydream. It seems that Mocky wished with all his heart for Solo to be considered as revolutionary, despite its simplistic politics. The only political thriller to refer specifically to the events of 1968, Solo presents them as a form of individualist, romantic wishfulfilment, projected onto an isolated, and disaffected, individual. Philippe Defrance in 1976 saw 1968 as a positive force, albeit an almost spent one, and he gives little indication that there is any source of revolutionary energy available other than by a return to that source.

in French cinema in the 1970s
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Alison Smith

Cinema's engagement with 1968 was perhaps most in evidence in the auteur sector of the French industry, although of the established stars of the Nouvelle Vague and its satellites only Godard really registered a change in his trajectory. Jean-Pierre Mocky's anarchic political thriller, Solo represents an extended day-dream regarding May 1968, and as the title suggests it is a distinctly uncollective daydream. Despite his claims, Mocky's image of May is in many ways a caricature. In Cocktail Molotov the events of May are little more than a backdrop for the escapades of the young protagonists, whose conquest of independence and maturity is explicitly divorced from their influence, since they are continually in another place. Romain Goupil set out to make a film-biography both of the May events and of the lycéen leader Michel Recanati, a personal friend.

in French cinema in the 1970s
Alison Smith

The most frequently noticed effect of the new post-1968 climate on the French cinema was a change in the nature of the thriller. This chapter focuses on three 1970s political thriller: série-Z, Yves Boisset's L'Attentat, and René Gainville's Le Complot. The term série-Z had been coined by Nouvelle critique to describe the New Thriller, and adopted by Guy Hennebelle in Ecran 72. The most persistent face of the série-Z was Jean Bouise, who appeared in L'Attentat, Dupont Lajoie, Le Juge Fayard, Z, L'Aveu, and Section spéciale. The chapter considers the debate which was provoked by the intrusion of radical politics into a popular genre, and the disquiet that this caused among the defenders of both genres of film. Costa-Gavras' politics are international; indeed, only the 'historical' Section spéciale relates to France, a fact which was not neglected when his impact on the politicisation of French cinema was considered.

in French cinema in the 1970s
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Alison Smith

This chapter looks at some films of the early 1970s which retain a consciously politico-social approach to their protagonists' problems, which conform to the broad description of 'new naturalism' in terms of narrative and protagonist. The 'New Naturalism' movement outlived its connection to 1968, and in the course of its development launched some of the most significant new film-makers to come to prominence in this decade, such as Jacques Doillon, Jean Eustache or Claude Miller. Eustache, Doillon and Miller, all cited by Télérama as significant exponents of the genre, all rejected the label and denied that their manner was in any way 'naturalist'. The extent to which the films broadly grouped by Télérama and others in the category of the Nouveau Naturel gave their social observation a politically analytical slant was also very varied.

in French cinema in the 1970s
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Alison Smith
in French cinema in the 1970s
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Imagining the new society
Alison Smith

The creation of filmic Utopias was often criticised as actually reducing the inclination of the audience to seek change or as underestimating the difficulties involved. This chapter concentrates on the two very different cinematic Utopias imagined by Claude Faraldo: Bof! and Themroc. Among the films dealing with individual Utopias, Bof! stands out firstly in that its subject is the formation of the community in revolt, rather than its functioning, secondly in that its protagonists are firmly anchored in an ordinary working life. Themroc has a good deal in common with Bof!. The chapter also concentrates on the exuberant universal renewal created by Jacques Doillon and his numerous collaborators in L'An 01. Doillon's L'An 01 proposes a re-formulation of society across the whole world, simultaneously, and it presents itself as part of a project dedicated to its own fulfilment.

in French cinema in the 1970s
Alison Smith

Jean-Luc Godard is an intriguing exponent of cinematic theory; he almost never wrote books on the cinema, and expressed a certain friendly disdain for theoretical discussion. After he made his first film in 1959, he practically ceased publishing articles; most of his published 'work' relates to specific films and is in the form of interviews. Godard described himself as an 'essayist', and the films which he made with the Dziga-Vertov group from 1969 to 1971 are the cinematic equivalents of articles in political or critical magazines; they are all theory. La Cecilia is the story of a revolutionary experiment that fails. Since La Cecilia is a historical film, there is tension between the terms of 1976 and those of nineteenth-century anarchism, available to the historical protagonists. One of the few 'unfavourable' criticisms received by La Cecilia, André Cornand's article highlights a gap between Jean-Louis Comolli's theory and his practice.

in French cinema in the 1970s
Alison Smith

The basic Marxist concept of 'history', the wider context of social and cultural change in which it is necessary to understand one's present experience, was an essential tool for a whole current of cinematic thinking. The history of Les Camisards took place in 1702. In Les Camisards the treatment of the historical signifier is complex, both regarding René Allio's treatment of the objects of history and even the relation of the scenario to history or to fiction. Within the body of film theory represented by Cahiers du cinéma, the problem of the representation of the historical past was conceived as specific, at least from the appearance of Les Camisards in 1971. L'Affiche rouge is a cinematic representation of the arrest and trial of the Groupe Manouchian, a detachment of Resistants composed mainly of immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean.

in French cinema in the 1970s