This book provides a comprehensive study of the cinema of Philippe Garrel,
placing his work within the political context of France in the second half of
the twentieth century (including the tumultuous events of May 68) and the
broader contexts of auteur cinema and the avant-garde. Challenging the
assumption that Garrel’s oeuvre exists in direct continuity with that of
Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut et al., this study locates a more radical
shift with Garrel’s predecessors by observing the eclecticism of the influences
absorbed and exploited by the director. In doing so, it explores contexts beyond
French cinema in order to interpret the director’s work, including avant-garde
movements such as the Situationists, Surrealism, Arte Povera and the American
Underground. Acknowledging Garrel’s role as an unofficial historian of the
so-called ‘post-New Wave’, the study equally considers his relationship with
other members of this loose film school, including Jean Eustache, Chantal
Akerman and Jacques Doillon. The book is structured according to both a
chronological and thematic reading of Garrel’s oeuvre. This method introduces
different conceptual issues in each chapter while respecting the coherence of
the various periodisations of the director’s career.
This book presents Germaine Dulac as one of the few women pioneers of cinema and a committed feminist. It draws on a wealth of archival material – both films and documents – to study Dulac’s ‘behind the scenes’ work on filmmaking and her social/political activism in the field of cinema. The biographical and historical introduction contextualizes Germaine Dulac’s situation at the heart of the avant-garde. Three chapters organize her films and career around the three kinds of cinema that she especially promoted: ‘psychological’, ‘pure’, and ‘documentary.’ The conclusion contrasts Dulac’s contributions with those of Alice Guy Blaché, another early women film pioneer, highlighting their differing paths to recognition.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Claire Denis' first film, Chocolat, was a deceptively gentle family
chronicle set in colonial Africa. She focuses on ordinary people, men and women,
black and white, homosexuals and heterosexuals, whom displacement and difference
have set apart, relegated to the outskirts of society and to the margins of
representation. In her films, the perception of the Other is always complex and
ambiguous. This book outlines the multi-faceted, poetic vision of the
contemporary world that emerges through Denis' filmmaking to date and to
bring to light its main thematic, temporal, spatial and stylistic implications.
The analysis presented focuses on her fictional feature films, which form the
main body of her work and have generally become easily accessible in video or
DVD format. In her first feature, Chocolat, the director's early
experiences made her sensitive to oppression and misappropriation, exile and
racism, alienation and transgression. Location and space emphasise a sense of
displacement and function as metaphors for the process of potential exclusion of
the individual (body) from society. But the metaphor also evokes an inner sense
of exile and longing, a feeling of foreignness that is played out at the level
of the individual and of the individual's body through relations of desire,
fear and rejection. Denis' work stands apart from a tradition of screenplay
and dialogue-based cinema that defines much of France's auteur as well as
of its popular production. Denis' work has an echo of a wide range of
contemporary thought and the traces of influential aesthetic and genre
Claude Chabrol's films break down the dubious critical barrier between art
cinema and popular cinema. Rejecting the avant-garde and the experimental,
Chabrol chooses to work within the confines of established genres. He has in
fact filmed farce, melodrama, fantasy, war films, spy films and glossy literary
adaptations. Chabrol has excellent new-wave credentials and is in some ways a
representative figure for this innovative film movement in French cinema. For
the small budget of 32 million old francs, he was able to shoot Le Beau
Serge over nine weeks in the winter of 1957/8 and film it in what was
essentially his home village. Chabrol has known periods of great success (the
launching of the new wave in 1958, the superb Hélène cycle of the late 1960s,
including his most famous film Le Boucher for his return to form in the
1990s). He also has had periods of inactivity and failure. His depiction of the
middle classes usually concentrates on the family. Le Cri du hibou begins
as Masques ends, with a framed image from which the camera slowly tracks
back to reveal the presence of a spectator. Given that in Chabrol's cinema
women are often lacking in financial or social power, there are limits to the
ways in which they can either define themselves or escape their situation. This
is spelled out most clearly in Les Bonnes Femmes, where the potential
escape routes are sex, marriage into the bourgeoisie, a career, romance or
The study of film as art-form and (to a lesser extent) as industry, has become a popular and widespread element of French Studies, and French cinema has acquired an important place within Film Studies. The adoption of a director-based approach raises questions about auteurism. This book aims to provide informative and original English-language studies of established figures, and to extend the range of French directors known to anglophone students of cinema. Chris Marker began his career as a writer. He entered filmmaking in the first instance as a writer. His finely tuned skills in this capacity are evidenced from the outset in the richness and beauty of his poetic commentaries. The first decade of Marker's filmmaking career encompasses what Chris Darke terms the 'lost period' of his oeuvre. He co-directed one film with Alain Resnais (Les Statues meurent aussi) and directed five of his own (Olympia 52; Dimanche à Pékin; Lettre de Sibérie; Description d'un combat; and Cuba Si!). Marker's idiosyncratic documentaries reassess what the term 'documentary' means. Two key essayist interventions, Lettre de Sibérie and especially Sans Soleil, have earned him a stellar reputation in the manipulation of this personalised form. The rethinking of filmic time and alternative lives in his many and varied works is enabled, rather than blocked, by an engagement with death and stasis. There is certainly something of this in Marker's oeuvre, which aches at times for what was and what could have been.