Whether one 'likes' his work or not, Bertrand Blier is undisputably an
important and influential presence in modern French film-making. For those who
would understand the nature and function of popular French culture, it has now
become impossible to ignore his work. Blier's career began in 1957 as an
assistant stagiaire, as it was still relatively conventional in the
French film-making tradition. This book hopes to be able to start formulating
some answers to the puzzle that is Blier's work. The aim is to identify
strategies for finding one's way through a body of work, which has
disconcerted spectators, to identify some reference points that the curious
spectator can use as a map to navigate through Blier's preferred themes and
stylistic techniques. One way of understanding the system of dramatic cohesion
that unifies the action of Blier's films is to read it in terms of an
'absurdist' conception. The comic momentum of Blier's films
relies on the elaboration of a system of images which might be termed
'festive-ludic' or 'anarchocomic'. His deliberate attempt to
go beyond the conventional limits of gender representation is as important
example of the many processes of narrative subversion. Discussions reveal that
the key tropes around which Blier's work is structured point to an
engagement with a tradition of popular discourse, translated into both content
and form, which finds an echo in the wider cultural apparatus of the post-1968
period and which is all the more significant for its location in mainstream
The director BertrandBlier has, over a
thirty-year period, come to be acknowledged as one of the most enduring and
challenging talents of French post-new wave cinema. In that time, he has
enjoyed a fruitful, if volatile, relationship with both critics and the
viewing public, being variously feted and derided, applauded and jeered for
his provocative approach to modern film-making. His commercial success
BertrandBlier was born in Paris on 14
March 1939. As was still relatively conventional in the French film-making
tradition, his career began in 1957 as an assistant stagiaire
(trainee assistant). Promoted by Serge Vallin, a friend of his actor father
Bernard Blier (a well-known and well-loved character actor with a long and
distinguished career in France) and assistant to leading directors such as
That BertrandBlier is misogynistic in
his film-making has increasingly come to be a given of Blier criticism and
reviews. Indeed, in a review of Gaston Haustrate’s monograph on Blier,
published in the French Review, John Anzalone noted that ‘with the
exception of Eustache and Pasolini, Blier has probably produced more films
deemed offensive than any other mainstream European director’ (Anzalone, 1990 ). This
Alion , Yves ( 1986 ), ‘ Entrenen avec BertrandBlier ’, Revue du cinéma 417 , June .
Audé , Françoise and Jeancolas , Jean-Pierre ( 1989 ), ‘ Entretien avec BertrandBlier ’, Positif, May .
Austin , Guy ( 1994 ), ‘ History and Spectacle in Blier’s Merci la vie ’, French Cultural Studies 5 , 73–84 .
Bazin , André ( 1994 ), Qu’est-ce que le cinéma?, Paris , Editions du Cerf .
Blier , Bertrand ( 1980 ), Buffet froid, Avant
remarkable in the way in which it challenges ingrained perceptions of modern
popular cultural expression as inherently apolitical.
An early version of parts of this chapter appeared
in Chapter 8: ‘The people’s film-maker? Théâtre populaire and the
films of BertrandBlier’ in Perry and Cross ( 1997 ).
and Popular Culture: BertrandBlier’s Les Valseuses (1973) ’ in Susan Hayward and Ginette Vincendeau , French Film: Texts and Contexts, 2nd edn, London and New York , Routledge , 213-26 .
Lefèbvre , Henri ( 1968 ) La Vie quotidienne dans Ie monde moderne, Paris, Gallimard .
Rigby , Brian ( 1991 ) Popular Culture in Modern France: a Study of Cultural Discourse, London and New York , Routledge .
Ross , Kristin ( 1996 ) Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the
generic traditions are created. One can
argue, for example, that Tango (1992), far from being just a road
movie, uses techniques of parody, pastiche and intertextual citation (from
the bande dessinée and from the cinemas of BertrandBlier, Luis
Bunuel and Alfred Hitchcock) to reflect upon both the construction of
masculine archetypes and attitudes in twentieth-century culture, and upon
conventions of filming. The blend of