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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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Carrie Tarr

Diane Kurys' first film, Diabolo menthe (Peppermint Soda), made in 1977, depicts the lives of two schoolgirl sisters growing up in the early 1960s, a period which coincides with Kurys' own adolescence. Kurys' films are of interest not just as projections of individual preoccupations but also because their focus on girls and women of the baby-boomer generation produces a symptomatic text for analysing wider issues relating to female identity. Her work needs to be understood within the specific context of French cinema and French culture, in which the concept of the auteur, if ostensibly ungendered, remains resolutely masculine. The commercial and critical successes of Diabolo menthe and Coup de foudre, Kurys' two most incontrovertibly women-centred films, coincide with the period when the women's movement in France had its greatest impact on social and political life. In the light of recent gender theory which insists on the fluidity and constructedness of gender positions, Kurys' signalling of 'femininity' in François Truffaut's films might be considered progressive. Diabolo menthe was a huge success, well received by the majority of critics and the highest grossing French film of 1977, at one point coming second only to Star Wars. Cocktail Molotov focuses on a trio of teenagers who miss out on what was going on. Un homme amoureux, Après l'amour and A la folie are some other films that are discussed in this book.

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Derek Schilling

The book aims to provide a balanced appraisal of Eric Rohmer's oeuvre in historical context. Although interpretation of individual films will not be its main objective, representative examples from the director's twenty-five features and fiction shorts will be presented throughout. The focus is on production history and reception in the mainstream French press. This key stylistic editing trait cannot be appreciated without reference to André Bazin's concept of ontological realism, of which Rohmer was a major exponent at Cahiers du cinéma. To establish the intertexts and artistic principles his films put into play, the book reviews the abundant critical writings Rohmer published in France from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. It explores how sound and image are configured, and to what effect. The book then broaches issues central to the director's finest work for the screen. 'Seriality and theme', devoted to the Contes moraux, Comédies et proverbes, and Contes des quatre saisons, looks at how Rohmer's decision to work by thematic series forces the viewer to intuit relations of complementarity, identity, and opposition that lend each cycle a complex, musical texture. It pays close attention to four of the director's costume films. The book concludes with a brief excursus on le rohmérien, that inimitable, instantly recognisable variant of the French language that spectators come to love or to hate.

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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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Keith Reader

Lacanian discourse has a complex and multiplies determined relationship with Catholicism, and Robert Bresson has the reputation of being the cinema's greatest Catholic director. Few Catholic artists, however, have found the institutional life of 'their' Church a congenial or inspirational topic, and its declining importance in Bresson's later work is not of itself particularly surprising. Pascal's wager on the existence of God has what contemporary linguistics might call a performative effect, for it is only thanks to the wager that God's existence becomes certain and available to the believer. Bresson's first film, Affaires publiques, is in many ways as unBressonian a work as could be imagined. Bresson from Journal onwards works to all intents and purposes outside genre, with the exception of those parts of Pickpocket and the inserts in Le Diable probablement that are close to the documentary. In 1947, Bresson went to Rome to work on a screenplay of the life of St Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, which was never to be filmed. Un Condamné à mort s'est échappé, released in 1956, was and remains Bresson's most commercially successful and critically best-received film, though curiously for a very long time it was unavailable in Britain. Bresson's next two films, his first in colour, are also his first true adaptations from Dostoevsky. Bresson's final film, shot in the summer of 1982 and released in 1983, brought to an end the longest gap in his work since that separating Journal from Les Dames, more than thirty years before.

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Martin O’Shaughnessy

Jean Renoir is widely seen as the greatest French director and one of the major figures of world cinema. This book introduces Renoir's life and his highly uneven career. It demarcates his vision of his films, craft and ideological evolution and draws substantially on his writings and interviews. As he made films addressing different audiences with varying degrees of freedom in shifting production and socio-historical contexts, the book identifies the periods when the contextual factors remained relatively stable. Pierre-Auguste Renoir, mon père is the text most frequently drawn upon to fill in his early years. The book deals with Renoir and his leftist critics and the auterists. He is a challenge to auteurists because of his commitment and his many changes of direction. Cahiers was a polemical journal, and the Cahiers critics were far from uniform in their general outlook or their specific response to Renoir. It then considers the films that Renoir directed during his first decade as a film-maker. They are considered in two groups: the silent films and those that followed the introduction of sound. Critics seem to assume a dehistoricised and homogenised America that is somehow the antithesis of France. Perhaps this is because 'Renoir américain' was seen on European screens when the cold war was raging and the world seemed polarised between two monolithic blocs. The book also deals with Renoir's late films after his return to France in 1951, after an absence of more than ten years.

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Douglas Morrey

Jean-Luc Godard enjoyed a comfortable and cultured upbringing, acquiring a literary sensibility that would inflect the whole of his career in the cinema. Godard began to study anthropology at the Sorbonne, but dropped out, and the subsequent decade of his life was spent drifting between various occupations. It is this period of Godard's life in particular that has given rise to speculation, rumour and apocryphal stories. Along with other critics at Cahiers du cinéma, including Truffaut, Rivette, Chabrol and Rohmer, Godard's writing on film in the 1950s played an important role in shaping the canon of great film directors that would influence the development of both French and anglophone film studies. A mixture of playfulness and reverent cinematic homage is to be found in the film language that Godard employs in A bout de souffle. The film became famous for its use of jump-cuts, and it may be difficult for today's viewers, familiar with the ultra-rapid editing of music videos and advertising, to appreciate how disruptive this technique appeared to contemporary spectators. Vivre sa vie, like Le Petit Soldat, appears, in places, to appropriate a kind of existentialist narrative form, only to move beyond it into something much stranger and more troubling. Jean-Luc Godard's Masculin féminin is about young people in Paris in the winter of 1965-1966. Godard in the 1970s is doubtless addressing issues such as the nature of capitalism, and the possibilities for revolt. France tour détour deux enfants is a fascinating glimpse of what television could be.