There have been vigorous debates about the condition and prospects of auteur cinema in France over the last decade, debates that seem mostly to have gone unreported in anglophone criticism of francophone cinema. But these have been paralleled by a revival of international debate about the status of the auteur: in their extended chapter on auteur cinema added to the second edition of Cook's The Cinema Book, Pam Cook and Mieke Bernink observe that this was definitely underway by 1995. This book summarises the development of auteurism as a field up to the 1990s, drawing particularly on Wright Wexman's historical overview. Georges Méliès was the first auteur. Following the advent of structuralism and structuralist approaches to narrative and communication in the mid 1960s, a type of auteurism was born that preserved a focus on authorship. The book presents an account of the development of Olivier Assayas' career, and explores this idea of what one might call 'catastrophe cinema'. Jacques Audiard's work reflects several dominant preoccupations of contemporary French cinema, such as an engagement with realism (the phenomenon of the 'new new wave') and the interrogation of the construction of (cultural) memory. The book then discusses the films of the Dardenne brothers and their documentaries. Michael Haneke's films can be read as a series of polemical correctives to the morally questionable viewing practices. An introduction to Ozon's films that revolve around the centrality of queer desire to his cinema, and the continual performative transformations of identity worked within it, is presented.
By focusing on the issue of auteurism in
the introduction to this book, I left unmentioned other parallels and
intersections between the films of Assayas, Audiard, the Dardennebrothers,
Haneke and Ozon. One is that the long-standing binary opposition between
‘European’ (for which read ‘art-house’) and genre
cinema is thoroughly deconstructed in the work of these directors, who have
The Dardennebrothers first achieved
major critical recognition with La Promesse (1996) and have confirmed
their status as leading international filmmakers by twice winning the Cannes
Palme d’Or, the first time with Rosetta (1999), the
second with L’Enfant (The Child, 2005). Coming between the
latter two films, Le Fils ( The Son, 2002) was also a striking
critical success. The four films
television companies, such as France 2 Cinéma. Where the Belgian
Dardennebrothers (to whom I shall refer as one director, given the
near-interchangeability of the directing and producing roles of Jean-Pierre
and Luc Dardenne on their four features to date) and Michael Haneke are
concerned, however, the picture is more complex, and probably more
indicative of current trends in francophone cinema.
All four of the Dardennebrothers
’s Dogme manifesto in 1995, jeune
cinéma has tended to rely on handheld cameras and ambient sound,
while often avoiding sound-track music in order to maintain the realist
illusion (as in the films of the Dardennebrothers). After ten years or so
this style of filming has become widespread, and functions to present the
moral choices and social struggles experienced by its characters without an
ironic or critical distance. In
they no longer want to continue (‘shall we continue?’, a question in
so many films), or when they die. This unique project, invested in a
group of people rather than in an art form or industry, explains why
Guédiguian would divide film-makers into those who are ‘inside’ the
cinema (like the Dardennebrothers, whom he admires) and those
like him: ‘In my relation to the cinema I am inside/outside all of
the time’ (Danel 2008: 79–80). We enter easily into Guédiguian’s
narrative world, but we find there an enduring monument to something outside, larger than
(accessed 29 April 2017).
Shohat Ella ( 2004 ) ‘ Sacred Word, Profane Image: Theologies of Adaptation ’ in Stam , Robert, and Raengo , Alessandra (eds) A Companion to Literature and Film , Oxford : Blackwell , pp. 23 – 45 .
Slater-Williams , Josh ( 2016 ) ‘ Interview: Eugène Green Talks The Son of Joseph, Compositions and the DardenneBrothers ’, Vodzilla.co , 14 December. Online at: http://vodzilla.co/interviews/interview-eugene-green-talks-the-son-of-joseph-compositions-and-the-dardenne-brothers/ (accessed 1 July 2017).
Sobchack , Vivian ( 1995
paralysis’ and ‘playful repetition’ which, according to Berlant, ‘has become a
convention of representing the impasse’ in the 1990s ‘cinema of precarity’ that
she discusses.31 In fact, as she demonstrates, this ‘cinema of precarity’ deals
specifically with the experience of living in an ‘impasse’.
In her analyses of films by the Dardennesbrothers and Laurent Cantet,
Berlant focuses mainly on the way ‘[p]eople are destroyed’ and ‘discouraged’
in this impasse, and how they try ‘maintaining … things’ despite the difficulties that they encounter. She acknowledges
Lettres françaises, 9
Cerbone, David R. (2006) Understanding Phenomenology, Durham, Acumen.
Cohen, Steven (2005) Incongruous Entertainment: Camp, Cultural Value and the
MGM Musical, Durham and London, Duke University Press.
Cooper, Sarah (2007) ‘Mortal Ethics: Reading Levinas with the DardenneBrothers’, Film-Philosophy, 11 (2): 66–87.
Deleuze, Gilles (1985) Cinéma 2: L’image-temps, Paris, Les Éditions de Minuit.
Duras, Marguerite (1986) ‘Il n’est jamais trop tard pour découvrir Demy’,
Libération, 22 July 1976.
Dyer, Richard (1986) Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and
political system as it is ] (Beugnet 2000 : 47). The pessimism that is apparent in certain
films of the jeune cinéma could be said to derive from exactly
the same source: the protagonists of realist dramas such as Y aura-t-il
de la neige à Noël? ( Will It Snow For Christmas? ,
Veysset, 1997) and Rosetta (Dardennebrothers, 1999) are largely
unwilling or unable to change the system in which they find themselves. The