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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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Christopher Lloyd

Despite his controversial reputation and international notoriety as a filmmaker, no full-length study of Henri-Georges Clouzot has ever been published in English. This book offers a re-evaluation of Clouzot's achievements, situating his career in the wider context of French cinema and society, and providing detailed and clear analysis of his major films (Le Corbeau, Quai des Orfèvres, Le Salaire de la peur, Les Diaboliques, Le Mystère Picasso). Clouzot's films combine meticulous technical control with sardonic social commentary and the ability to engage and entertain a broad public. Although they are characterised by an all-controlling perfectionism, allied to documentary veracity and a disturbing bleakness of vision, Clouzot is well aware that his knows the art of illusion. His fondness for anatomising social pretence, and the deception, violence and cruelty practised by individuals and institutions, drew him repeatedly to the thriller as a convenient and compelling model for plots and characters, but his source texts and the usual conventions of the genre receive distinctly unconventional treatment.

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Bill Marshall

This is a full-length monograph about one of France's most important contemporary filmmakers, perhaps best known in the English-speaking world for his award-winning Les Roseaux sauvages/Wild Reeds of 1994. It locates André Téchiné within historical and cultural contexts that include the Algerian War, May 1968 and contemporary globalisation, and the influence of Roland Barthes, Bertolt Brecht, Ingmar Bergman, William Faulkner and the cinematic French New Wave. The originality of his sixteen feature films lies in his subtle exploration of sexuality and national identity as he challenges expectations in his depictions of gay relations, the North African dimensions of contemporary French culture and the centre–periphery relationship between Paris, especially his native southwest and the rest of France. The book also looks at the collaborative nature of Téchiné's filmmaking, including his work with Catherine Deneuve, who has made more films with him than with any other director, and the role of Philippe Sarde's musical scores.

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Marja Warehime

One of the most gifted directors of the post New Wave, Maurice Pialat is frequently compared to such legendary filmmakers as Jean Renoir and Robert Bresson. A quintessentially realist filmmaker, who, like Bresson, was trained as a painter, his particular form of realism influenced an entire generation of young filmmakers in the 1990s. This study of Pialat's cinema in English provides an introduction to a complex and difficult director, who saw himself as a marginal and marginalised filmmaker, but whose films are deeply rooted in French society and culture. Pialat was long considered the only major filmmaker to portray ‘la France profonde’, the heart of France—the people who, as he put it, ‘take the subway’. Taken as a whole, his work can be seen both as an oblique autobiography and the portrait of a fundamental institution—the family—over several generations, from the Third Republic through the end of the nineties. The power of Pialat's realism has often overshadowed his formal originality, and this study gives equal attention to formal issues, including the crucial role of montage in the elaboration of his filmic narratives. It provides a brief biographical sketch of the filmmaker, situating his work in relation to the New Wave and the popular Saturday night cinema of his childhood, as well as giving an overview of the major themes and formal preoccupations of his work. Subsequent chapters provide readings of each of Pialat's full-length films.

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Martin O’Shaughnessy

Laurent Cantet is of one France’s leading contemporary directors. He probes the evolution and fault-lines of contemporary society from the home to the workplace and from the Republican school to globalized consumption more acutely than perhaps any other French film-maker. His films always challenge his characters’ assumptions about their world. But they also make their spectators rethink their position in relation to what they see. This is what makes Cantet such an important film-maker, the book argues. It explores Cantet’s unique working ‘method,’ his use of amateur actors and attempt to develop an egalitarian authorship that allows other voices to be heard rather than subsumed. It discusses his way of constructing films at the uneasy interface of the individual, the group and the broader social context and his recourse to melodramatic strategies and moments of shame to force social tensions into view. It shows how the roots of the well-known later films can be found in his early works. It explores the major fictions from Ressources humaines to the recent Foxfire, Confessions of a Girl Gang. It combines careful close analysis with attention to broader cinematic, social and political contexts while drawing on a range of important theorists from Pierre Bourdieu to Jacques Rancière, Michael Bakhtin and Mary Ann Doane. It concludes by examining how, resolutely contemporary of the current moment, Cantet helps us rethink the possibilities and limits of political cinema in a context in which old resistances have fallen silent and new forms of protest are only emergent.

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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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Lisa Downing

Patrice Leconte appears to the world as a Janus-faced figure. On the one hand, he seems to wear the mask of the populist comfortably. On the other hand, one might argue, his credentials could not be more highbrow. He served an apprenticeship at the prestigious IDHEC (Institut des hautes études cinématographiques) and spent his early days working as a critic for Cahiers du cinema. This book explores Leconte's use of comedy as a strategy for negotiating and navigating the subject's passage through the world. It examines Leconte's representations of masculinity in relation to the rich and under-explored concept of the 'masculine masquerade', a term taken from psychoanalytic theory. During the year of preparation for the concours, he enjoyed rich pedagogical experiences, including visiting lectures by canonical names of French cinema such as Jean-Claude Carrière, and he relished the hands-on approach to the study of cinematography. The book also examines the criticism often levelled at Leconte's cinema that it is excessively fetishistic and reveals a bias of misogyny. It focuses on Leconte's most recent films, La Fille sur lepont, La Veuve de Saint-Pierre, Felix et Lola and Rue des plaisirs, which have in common a focus on unconventional relationships between men and women. For many film critics and cinemagoers , Leconte's corpus divides neatly between the comic films of his 'apprenticeship', such as those made in collaboration with the Splendid company, and his mature, 'serious' output, usually thought to begin with Tandem in 1986.