Search results

Abstract only
Author: Renate Günther

Marguerite Duras embarked on a second career as a film director in the late 1960s; by then was already a well-known and highly acclaimed novelist and playwright. Bearing in mind this dual influence, this book presents an outline of Duras's early life and of her later political preoccupations, highlighting the relationship between these two dimensions and her films. Duras's aim was to transcend the limitations of both literature and cinema by creating an écriture filmique. Working within the 1970s French avant-garde, Marguerite Duras set out to dismantle the mechanisms of mainstream cinema, progressively undermining conventional representation and narrative and replacing them with her own innovative technique. The making of Nathalie Granger in 1972 coincided with the period of intense political activity and lively theoretical debates, which marked the early years of the post-1968 French feminist movement. India Song questions the categories of gender and sexuality constructed by the patriarchal Symbolic order by foregrounding the Imaginary. Agatha mirrors transgressive relationship and quasi-incestuous adolescent relationship, as the film resonates with the off-screen voices of Duras and Yann Andréa who also appears on the image-track where he represents Agatha's anonymous brother. Her work, both in literature and in film, distinguishes itself by its oblique, elusive quality which evokes her protagonists' inner landscape instead of dwelling on the appearances of the external world.

Abstract only
Author: Will Higbee

The book begins with a consideration of the origins and influences that have shaped Mathieu Kassovitz's development as a director, but also the cultural context within which he emerges as a filmmaker. It argues new realism, the banlieue. The book examines the American influences evident in all of Kassovitz's films to date as a director and explores the continuity and difference between his films as actor and director. The first phase of Mathieu Kassovitz's career comprises his short films and feature films up to and including Assassin(s), engages in an often provocative way with socio-political debates in contemporary France through an aesthetic mode of address designed to appeal primarily to a youth audience. The second phase, post-Assassin(s), appears to be marked by a conscious shift towards bigger-budget, more unashamedly commercial, genre productions. The book explores the cultural context within which Mathieu Kassovitz emerged to direct his first three short films, concentrating in the second half on key transformations relating to that have taken place in relation to French popular culture. What Kassovitz offers is not social realism, but rather what might be termed 'postmodern social fables'. Assassins, Les Rivières pourpres, Fierrot le pou and Cauchemar blanc, Métisse, La Haine are some films discussed extensively. In a national cinema that has made strategic use of the auteur's cultural cachet in order to mark its difference from Hollywood, Kassovitz is seen by many to side more closely with the American 'invaders' than the defenders of French cultural exception.

Dominique Cabrera, Noémie Lvovsky, Laetitia Masson and Marion Vernoux
Author: Julia Dobson

This book aims to provoke increased interest in the work of the four directors: Dominique Cabrera, Noémie Lvovsky, Laetitia Masson and Marion Vernoux, although some of their early works have become more difficult to access, most of their films remain commercially available through French distributors. The four directors are not new arrivals and began making films in the early 1990s, yet they have received scant critical attention in both popular and academic film criticism. They share similar profiles in terms of box office success, number of films made and generational affinities and, shorts and feature films in France. They make films that straddle boundaries of categorisation and therefore escape the quickly established and self-perpetuating groupings that serve as powerful frameworks for popular access via DVD distribution, critical canonisation and academic curricula. Whilst Cabrera attests her sanguine awareness of the discriminatory treatment of women in all areas of the film industry she rejects the suggestion that the process of her filmmaking is determined by sexual difference or a gendered creative identity, asserting provocatively. The book discusses Masson's use of romance and detective narratives to debunk the former and subvert the later. The career path of Lvovsky remains distinctive from that of other directors. Vernoux's oeuvre maintains a coherent focus on the modes of transgression present within the generic conventions of comedy and romance in films which exploit the common narrative device of the encounter to propel narratives and characters across social boundaries within a dominant generic focus on romantic comedy.

Abstract only
Author: 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.

Abstract only
Author: 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.

Abstract only
The birth of the auteur
Author: Elizabeth Ezra

Georges Méliès is universally acknowledged to be an early film Pioneer. However, his work has often been dismissed as simplistic, both narratively and technically. This book primarily aims is to give an idea of the complexity and the modernity of his work. It also aims to dispel a number of myths about Méliès's contribution to film history. For a long time, Méliès's work was cited as the foremost example of 'primitive mode of representation'; films made before around 1906 were characterized by four traits. These are 'autarky and unicity of each frame', or framing that is selfcontained and unchanged throughout the scene; 'the noncentered quality of the image', or the use of the edges of the frame as well as the centre; 'consistent medium long-shot camera distance'; and the 'nonclosure' of the narrative. The book examines individual scenes of some of his films using a model of structural analysis designed for narrative films. It outlines the technical function of the major special effects, or trues, used by Méliès. The book also considers Méliès's treatment of the relationship between fantasy and realism, first by examining a selection of films that explicitly thematize representation, and then by discussing several of the actualités reconstituées. It examines the ways in which Méliès's films blur the boundary between realism and illusion, by examining first a selection of trick films. This examination is followed by several actualités reconstituées or early docu-dramas, culminating in an extended discussion of Méliès's most influential L'Affaire Dreyfus/The Dreyfus Affair.

Abstract only

Jean Cocteau, the first French writer to take cinema seriously, was as old and young as cinema itself; he made his first film in 1925 and completed his last film when he was 70. This book first deals with the issue of the type of film maker that Cocteau was: as a auteur, as a collaborator, as an experimenter, and as a theorist. It takes the pulse of Cocteau's cinema by examining in detail his ground-breaking first film Le Sang d'un poète', and argues that the film offers a vision of the potential of film for Cocteau. The book traces the evolution of realism and fantasy in Cocteau's work by introducing a main element, theatre, and assesses the full gamut of Cocteau's formal inclinations: from the legend and fantasy of L'Eternel retour to the spectacular fairytale of La Belle et la bête; from the 'film théâtral' of L'Aigle à deux têtes to the domestic melodrama Les Parents terribles which 'detheatricalises' his original play. In Le Testament d'Orphée, all the various formal tendencies of Cocteau's cinema come together but with the additional element of time conceived of as history, and the book re-evaluates the general claim of Cocteau's apparently missed encounter with history. The book considers whether the real homosexual element of Cocteau's cinema surfaces more at the most immediate level of sound and image by concentrating on the specifics of Cocteau's filmic style, in particular camera angle, framing and reverse-motion photography.

Abstract only

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.

Abstract only

Jacques Rivette remains undoubtedly the least well known of all the major figures in French cinema associated with the New Wave of the late 1950s and early 1960s. This is demonstrated by the fact that, although retrospectives of Rivette's films have been held in London, Paris and New York in recent years, the first book-length monograph on Rivette's work was only published in 2001 and, until now, none has been published in English. In the 1970s, Rivette directed his best loved and most enduring film, the inexhaustible, irrepressible Céline et Julie vont en bateau. This book begins with a consideration of Rivette's work as a film critic. It focuses on the apparently paradoxical nature of much of Rivette's criticism, a quality perhaps best captured in the seemingly opposed universes of two of Rivette's favourite directors: Roberto Rossellini, on the one hand, Fritz Lang, on the other. The existence of conspiratorial organisations is often suggested only to be denied in Rivette's narratives (Paris nous appartient, Out 1, and Le Pont du Nord), but frequently the atmosphere of unease generated by the film's visual and aural register serves to maintain questions and uncertainties in the mind of the spectator. The function and significance of the jeu de l'oie, and its eerie similarity to the map of Rivette's beloved city/labyrinth, have been amply discussed. The book also includes discussions on Rivette's works such as Histoire de Marie et Julien, L'Amour par terre, La Belle Noiseuse, and Secret Défense.

Abstract only
Author: 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.