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Author: Brigitte Rollet

Coline Serreau is one of the most famous female French directors alive, not only in France but also abroad. This book is devoted not only to some relevant biographical aspects of Serreau's personal and artistic life, but also to the social, historical and political context of her debut. It deals with the 1970s' flavour of Serreau's work and more especially with the importance of politics. Taking intertextuality in its broadest sense, it assesses the strong literary influence on the tone, genre and content of Serreau's films and dramas. The book is concerned with the cinematographic genres Serreau uses. It provides a description and an analysis of Serreau's comedies, within the wider perspective of French comedies. The book also deals with the element of 'family' or community which is recurrent in Serreau's films and plays. During the 1980s, Serreau's career moved towards fiction, and she worked both for the cinema and the theatre. Serreau often underlines her family's lack of financial resources. The book considers the specificity of French cinema in the 1970s before analysing in more detail Serreau's first film. Serreau's work on stage and on big or small screens was strongly influenced by the political mood which succeeded May '68 in France. The book also discusses the idea of utopia which was the original theme of Serreau' first documentary and which is central to her first fiction film, Pourquoi pas!. Female humour and laughter cannot be considered without another powerful element: the motivation of often transgressive laughter.

Brigitte Rollet

It runs in the family: Serreau’s family background Coline Serreau is one of the most famous female French directors alive, not only in France but also abroad. She is the only woman with a film figuring in the list of the twenty most popular French movies since the start of the Fifth Republic (1958), reaching fourth position with Trois hommes et un couffin. Coline Serreau was born in Paris on 29 October 1947, the daughter of Geneviève Serreau (1915–1981), a writer and translator, and of Jean-Marie Serreau (1915

in Coline Serreau
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Brigitte Rollet

Coline Serreau’s career makes her in many respects a typical ‘product of her time’. A strong believer in 1970s’ ideologies and ideas such as Marxism and feminism, she directed her first two films in the mid- and late 1970s, and reflected not only the concerns of the decade, but also the cinematographic choices made by many filmmakers – and more especially women – of the time. A decade later, and at a time of collapsing ideologies – culminating with the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 – her interests seem to switch

in Coline Serreau
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Brigitte Rollet

From rebellion to consensus or vice versa? When I asked Coline Serreau the question which opens this conclusion, she objected to the word consensus, claiming that she had not stopped what she started more than two decades ago. Indeed, she still feels very strongly about her initial beliefs and thinks that her work still conveys them. Besides her films, the stage appears to have become for her a platform where she can continue to express her desire for change. When, talking about feminism, she mentioned Trois hommes et

in Coline Serreau
Coline Serreau and intertextuality
Brigitte Rollet

greatly, the term always implies commitment to a cause. Coline Serreau, like some of her contemporaries, can be seen as an indirect heir of those for whom to write and to film is to act, and for whom Sartre would say, ‘la parole est action’ (to speak is to act). What makes her career both interesting and original is the ‘double’ inheritance of her work: as well as the wish for social justice (to which she adds sexual justice) and the rewriting of society, both of these central to the work of eighteenth-century philosophers, Serreau also

in Coline Serreau
Comedy and humour
Brigitte Rollet

Coline Serreau objected to my categorising her films as comedies since it was in her view a reductive label. It is true that her films do not always observe the conventions of comedy and embrace elements not usually associated with it. However, this illustrates in my view the wider issue of definition of the genre. Although comedy has always been an important feature of early European cinemas, attempts to define this hybrid genre have often failed. ‘There is no formal body of theoretical works or poetics explaining the

in Coline Serreau
Questioning gender roles
Brigitte Rollet

Since the beginning of her success as a filmmaker with Trois hommes et un couffin, Coline Serreau has often said in interviews that she considered family and children as a key aspect of society and of life overall. Although she does not specifically refer to women’s role, their role and place in the family unit is self-evident. This kind of statement might come as a surprise from someone who in 1978 professed her faith in feminism and the women’s movement, and her wish to link feminism with Marxism. It is worth

in Coline Serreau
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Coline Serreau and politics (1972–96)
Brigitte Rollet

Coline Serreau’s work on stage and on big or small screens was (and still is) strongly influenced by the political mood which succeeded May ’68 in France. Her debut was clearly motivated by the sense of deep changes French women felt at the time. Although she did not actually join any of the various women’s groups and movements, the films she made in the 1970s reflect most of their concerns. From the 1970s onwards, she has remained faithful to her initial beliefs, even if the changes within French society in the past

in Coline Serreau
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Brigitte Rollet
in Coline Serreau
Guy Austin

’s publications’ (Forbes 1992 : 77). Subsequently, in 1972, the French women’s movement – the MLF – was launched, and in 1974 a women’s film festival (in later years held at Créteil) was established. Many first features were made by women in this climate, such as Yannick Bellon’s Quelque part, quelqu’un (1972) and Coline Serreau’s Mais qu’est-ce qu’elles veulent? (1976), as well as militant documentaries on feminist issues, the

in Contemporary French cinema