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Ben McCann

This book is the first ever English-language study of Julien Duvivier (1896-1967), once considered one of the world’s great film filmmakers. It provides new contextual and analytical readings of his films that identify his key themes and techniques, trace patterns of continuity and change, and explore critical assessments of his work over time. Throughout a five-decade career, Duvivier zigzagged between multiple genres – film noir, comedy, literary adaptation – and made over sixty films. His career intersects with important historical moments in French cinema, like the arrival of sound film, the development of the ‘poetic realism’, the exodus to America during the German Occupation, the working within the Hollywood studio system in the 1940s, and the return to France and to a much-changed film landscape in the 1950s.

Often dismissed as a marginal figure in French film history, this groundbreaking book illustrates Duvivier’s eclecticism, technical efficiency and visual fluency in films such as Panique (1946) and Voici le temps des assassins (1956) alongside more familiar works like La Belle Equipe (1936) and Pépé le Moko (1937). It will particularly appeal to scholars and students of French cinema looking for examples of a director who could comfortably straddle the realms of the popular and the auteur.

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Joseph Mai

This book provides a comprehensive account of Robert Guédiguian’s numerous films since 1980, combining stylistic analyses with historical, political, and generic context. More importantly, it makes the case that Guédiguian’s work represents one of the most discretely original but radical projects of contemporary French cinema: to make politically committed films with friends, predominately in a local space, over a long period of time. The book starts with a consideration of the philosophy of friendship and its relation to politics, relation, difference, time, and space. It concentrates on Guédiguian’s early life in the Estaque neighbourhood of Marseilles, where he became politically active and developed the friendships that would continue in his filmmaking, as well as Guédiguian’s disillusionment with the Communist Party. It then examines the political pessimism of the 1980s through Guédiguian’s four early films. The book examines the turn toward local activism and utopianism in the 1990s, and follows Guédiguian’s work as it spreads into diverse experimentation with genres and registers in more recent work. It emphasises Guédiguian’s political assessments and his frequent meditations on history, violence, and utopia. But it returns consistently to the underlying themes of friendship, and thus intervenes at the crossroads of affect, politics, philosophy, and art.

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Douglas Keesey

This book discusses Catherine Breillat's films in thematic groupings. It examines Breillat's relation to some of the most important women in her life, including her mother, her sister, and fellow director Christine Pascal, whom she considered to be a kind of second sister. It explains the impact of a gender-conservative family environment and a strict religious upbringing, and then the countervailing influence of the Women's Liberation Movement on Breillat when she moved from the provinces to Paris. The discussion of Breillat's films connects them to feminist writings as well as to male gender studies. The book also explores the extraordinarily varied cultural context of Breillat's work, including the literature, films, paintings, photos and pop music that have influenced her films. Special attention is devoted to discussion of the complex relation between Breillat's films and patriarchal pornography. The book first considers her three female coming-of-age films including Une vraie jeune fille, 36 fillette and A ma soeur!, with Sex is Comedy, a movie about the making of A ma soeur!. Then, the book examines Breillat's three movies about masculinity in crisis, including Sale comme un ange (with a look at its early avatar, Police), Parfait amour! and Breve traversee. The book also examines Tapage nocturne, Romance and Anatomie de l'enfer, the three films that Breillat has made about the sexual odysseys of adult women. Finally, the book looks at Breillat's relation to and influence on other contemporary directors before turning to a discussion of her latest film, Une vieille maitresse.

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Darren Waldron

Few directors are as ambiguously placed in the French popular imaginary as Jacques Demy. With nine shorts and thirteen full-length features, Demy's filmography is solid. Although he died in October 1990, Demy's legacy as an iconic director for generations of admirers and filmmakers endures. This book examines Demy's relation to the French New Wave (Nouvelle Vague). It probes Demy's 'musicals', Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, Les Demoiselles de Rochefort and Une chambre en ville. The book shows how the films comply with and deviate from the codes and conventions of the Hollywood staple, producing a specifically Gallic and 'Demyesque' twist on the genre. It is a commonplace of writings on Demy to highlight his 'monde en-/ enchanté', meaning both 'expressed through song' and 'enchanted'. The book examines Demy's adaptations of fairytale (Peau d'âne), fable (The Pied Piper) and myth (Parking). The representations of gender and sexuality in Demy's cinema, with particular attention to Le Bel Indifférent, La Naissance du jour L'Evénement le plus important depuis que l'homme a marché sur la lune and Lady Oscar are analysed. Finally, the book reveals how his final feature, Trois places pour le 26, establishes the foundations of his posthumous myth, which Agnès Varda and other directors have affirmed and supplemented since his death. Beneath the apparently sugary coating of his films lie more philosophical reflections on some of the most pressing issues that preoccupy Western societies, including affect, subjectivity, self/other relations and free will.

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Jean Epstein

Corporeal cinema and film philosophy

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Christophe Wall-Romana

Jean Epstein, born in Warsaw, was raised in Switzerland, but it was Brittany where he made some of his best films. He was famous yet misunderstood, original yet held to be idiosyncratic and poetic to a fault, consistently referred to by most critics as a key theoretician. Using familiar genres, melodramas and documentaries, he hoped to heal viewers of all classes and hasten social utopia. This book offers the first comprehensive introduction to and preliminary study of Epstein's movies, film theory, and literary and philosophical criticism in the age of cinema. Diluted into a single word, photogénie, his aesthetic project is equated with a naïve faith in the magic power of moving images, whereas Epstein insistently articulated photogénie in detailed corporeal, ethical and political terms. While Epstein scarcely refers to World War One in his writings or film work, it is clearly from this set of urgent questions that he began reflecting on art and literature. The New Wave movement in France in the late 1950s, put melodrama and avant-garde together feels oxymoronic if not sacrilegious. Epstein's filmography contains roughly an equal number of films that can be labelled fiction and documentary, a little over twenty, in each category. Epstein has opened the way for a corporeal cinema predicated on cinematography and montage rather than narration and mise-en-scène. Epstein's work in cinema, film 'theory', and philosophy, offers today a surprisingly contemporary set of movies, cinematographic idioms, and reflections on all the phenomena of cinema.

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Five directors

Auteurism from Assayas to Ozon

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Edited by: Kate Ince

There have been vigorous debates about the condition and prospects of auteur cinema in France over the last decade, debates that seem mostly to have gone unreported in anglophone criticism of francophone cinema. But these have been paralleled by a revival of international debate about the status of the auteur: in their extended chapter on auteur cinema added to the second edition of Cook's The Cinema Book, Pam Cook and Mieke Bernink observe that this was definitely underway by 1995. This book summarises the development of auteurism as a field up to the 1990s, drawing particularly on Wright Wexman's historical overview. Georges Méliès was the first auteur. Following the advent of structuralism and structuralist approaches to narrative and communication in the mid 1960s, a type of auteurism was born that preserved a focus on authorship. The book presents an account of the development of Olivier Assayas' career, and explores this idea of what one might call 'catastrophe cinema'. Jacques Audiard's work reflects several dominant preoccupations of contemporary French cinema, such as an engagement with realism (the phenomenon of the 'new new wave') and the interrogation of the construction of (cultural) memory. The book then discusses the films of the Dardenne brothers and their documentaries. Michael Haneke's films can be read as a series of polemical correctives to the morally questionable viewing practices. An introduction to Ozon's films that revolve around the centrality of queer desire to his cinema, and the continual performative transformations of identity worked within it, is presented.

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Andrew Asibong

François Ozon was born in Paris to René and Anne-Marie Ozon on November 15, 1967. This book takes as one of its points of departure the idea that Ozon has consciously styled his œuvre thus far around a number of recurring tropes and themes, one of the most striking of which has been the emergence of adult sexualities and relations from out of the spectral carcasses of real or fantasised family members. Kinship, desire and violence thus structure the narratives of all the films under discussion, and can be seen to stamp Ozon's repertoire of images firmly with the mark of a self-styled auteur. The book discusses considers the majority of Ozon's short films together with his first feature Sitcom through the lens of desire, and demonstrates the extent to which Ozon's vision of human sexuality can be described as a fundamentally 'queer' and 'post-modern' one. It focuses on four of Ozon's simultaneously most accomplished and misunderstood films and approaches them via the perspective of the power relations they depict. They are Regarde la mer, Les Amants criminels, and 8 femmes. The book surveys a number of Ozon's films from the 2000s: Sous le sable, Swimming Pool, 5x2, and Le Temps qui reste. Sexual desire as represented by Ozon is almost always multidimensional and consistently astonishing in its capacity for boundless reinvention. His films frequently employ household servants among their cast of characters. Ozon uses tools borrowed from the toolbox of three genres: namely, horror, melodrama and musical.

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Kate Ince

The life of Georges Franju belonged to the cinema. Although he was recognised as an important director as soon as his first significant short, Le Sang des bêtes, was shown in Paris in 1948, his reputation as a film-maker has often been and remains eclipsed by the place accorded him in cinema history. In the 1930s, and Franju became the Executive Secretary of the Fédération Internationale des Archives du Film (FIAF), an organisation founded on French initiative. Early in 1940, two years after his appointment as Executive Secretary of FIAF, Franju also co-founded another organisation devoted to the promotion of cinema, the Circuit Cinématographique des Arts et des Sciences. Franju's place in French film history is inseparable from the shape of his career, a long 'apprenticeship' in short films that preceded the eight features he made between 1958 and 1973. This book examines the production context of Franju's courts métrages and offers readings of thirteen of these shorts that group them by theme, rather than chronologically. It comprises preliminary readings of all the longs métrages through the prism of the issue of genre, an approach that has never been applied to most of them. The book tackles the area to which the bulk of existing studies of Franju are limited, his cinematic aesthetics, although it attempts both a new synthesis and an expansion of this field of study. Finally, it investigates gender identities, the structure of the family, and sexualities in Franju's cinema.

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Michael Temple

Film history rightly remembers Jean Vigo for his short and remarkable career as a filmmaker from 1929 to 1934. But the story of his life before cinema, especially his family circumstances and childhood experiences, is no less extraordinary, and it throws an interesting light on the creative years that followed. This book conveys a sense of the awe and enthusiasm that those four films, À propos de Nice, Taris ou la natation, Zéro de conduite and L'Atalante, have inspired among filmmakers, critics, historians, archivists and fans, ever since the tragic death of their creator in 1934. It commences with the key biographical features of Vigo's early life, in particular the traumatic events of his childhood and the violent death of his father. In the following chapters, we shall focus on the quartet of films one by one. The book then discusses how the two short documentaries, À propos de Nice and Taris ou la natation, were an experimental apprenticeship in the art of filmmaking. It also analyses his semiautobiographical fiction Zéro de conduite as a fable of libertarian revolt. The book proceeds to examine how Vigo attempted the transition to mainstream cinema with L'Atalante, his only full-length feature film, discussing some of the most significant reactions that it provoked. Finally, the book situates in post-war French film culture the exceptional critical fortune of quartets, which has transformed the slender corpus of a once almost unknown film-maker into one of French cinema's greatest names.

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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.