The ‘official’ story of film
noir, enshrined in Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton’s seminal
Panorama du film noir américain (1955), and subsequently
endorsed by both Frenchfilm history and accounts of American film noir,
resolutely leaves French cinema out of the picture, dismissing any possible
influence. The ‘dynamism of violent death’, the ‘strange,
oneiric’ 1 atmosphere and
Laurent Cantet is of one France’s leading contemporary directors. He probes the evolution and fault-lines of contemporary society from the home to the workplace and from the Republican school to globalized consumption more acutely than perhaps any other French film-maker. His films always challenge his characters’ assumptions about their world. But they also make their spectators rethink their position in relation to what they see. This is what makes Cantet such an important film-maker, the book argues. It explores Cantet’s unique working ‘method,’ his use of amateur actors and attempt to develop an egalitarian authorship that allows other voices to be heard rather than subsumed. It discusses his way of constructing films at the uneasy interface of the individual, the group and the broader social context and his recourse to melodramatic strategies and moments of shame to force social tensions into view. It shows how the roots of the well-known later films can be found in his early works. It explores the major fictions from Ressources humaines to the recent Foxfire, Confessions of a Girl Gang. It combines careful close analysis with attention to broader cinematic, social and political contexts while drawing on a range of important theorists from Pierre Bourdieu to Jacques Rancière, Michael Bakhtin and Mary Ann Doane. It concludes by examining how, resolutely contemporary of the current moment, Cantet helps us rethink the possibilities and limits of political cinema in a context in which old resistances have fallen silent and new forms of protest are only emergent.
This book provides an introduction to French film studies. It concentrates on films which have had either a theatrical or video release in Britain, or which are available on video or DVD from France. Most avant-garde film-makers, including Germaine Dulac, were unable to continue in the 1930s, faced with the technical demands and high production costs of the sound film. Exacerbated by the Depression, and above all by the financial collapse of both Gaumont and Pathé, film production fell from 158 features the previous year to only 126 in 1934, and 115 in 1935. While poetic realism was at its height, a talismanic figure in post-war film was faced with a generally lukewarm reception from critics and audiences. Thanks largely to German finance and also to an influx of filmmakers replacing those who had departed, after 1940 French film. If 1968 marked a watershed in French cinema's engagement with politics and history 1974 did the same for representations of sexuality. In that year, pornography entered mainstream French cinema. Although film-making remains male-dominated in France as elsewhere, 'more women have taken an active part in French cinema than in any other national film industry'. A quarter of all French films made in 1981 were polars, and many of those were box-office successes. French fantasy has had a particular national outlet: the bande dessinée. The heritage film often takes its subject or source from the 'culturally respectable classicisms of literature, painting, music'.
This book considers Marcel Carne's films within the broader social and political context. It reinvestigates Carné's highly contested position within French film history, and in particular how his films relate to major moments of French cinema such as poetic realism, the tradition of quality and the French new wave. The period from the late 1920s to the end of the 1930s was crucial in Marcel Carné's career: he entered the French film industry, made films now considered his masterpieces, and achieved significant box-office success. The book reflects on the main developments in his career, from his early work as a journalist, amateur filmmaker, and assistant director, to his production of his first feature films, Jenny and Drôle de drame. It also discusses his contributions to poetic realism at the end of the decade, Le Quai des brumes, Hôtel du Nord, and Le Jour se lève. The book also re-examines how Carné fitted into both popular and artistic French cinematic traditions, and his identity as a 'populist filmmaker', an area that has not received sufficient analysis. Redressing the neglect of Carné's postwar work, it highlights its value in bringing about greater understanding of Carné's cinema per se, but also its relationship with broader social, political and cinematic contexts. The book also focuses on charting the main developments that led towards the production of these films, and explains what was specific to Carné's own particular inflection of poetic realist cinema.
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 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.
Debates about (and resistances to) France's changing identity as a plural, multi-ethnic society are thus at the forefront of public preoccupations. This book aims to assess the ways in which filmmaking in France might contribute to such debates by foregrounding the voices and subjectivities of ethnic others and thereby reframing the way in which difference is conceptualized. The core focus is the appearance and after-effects of two related phenomena in the history of French cinema, cinéma beur and cinéma de banlieue. The book traces the history of beur filmmaking practices from the margins to the mainstream, from low-budget autobiographically inspired features to commercial filmmaking, and assesses their effectiveness in addressing questions of identity and difference. It attempts to gauge the significance of place in the construction of identity through an analysis of films set in the multi-ethnic banlieue. The book also assesses the extent to which the inscription of displacement and identity in films by emigre Algerian filmmakers overlaps with or differentiates itself from that found in beur cinema. For filmmakers of Maghrebi descent, filmmaking is more than just a question of representation, it is also a way of negotiating their own position within French society. Bensalah's Le Raïd demonstrates how the themes of beur filmmaking can be recuperated by beur filmmakers as well as by white filmmakers. Ameur-Zaifmeche's difficulties in making Wesh wesh illustrate how beur filmmaking may still take place in the interstices of the French film industry.
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.
This book presents a study on François Truffaut's films. It reviews the body of work which foregrounds the main themes and discusses Truffaut's working practices as a director, drawing on his own writing about his film-making. The book commences with an introduction on his first film, Les Mistons. The energy and resilience of children act as vital counters to a morbid preoccupation with death, visible here in the fatal ending to the couple's romantic idyll. By choosing as subject for his film an exploration of the young male's sexual awakening, by situating it in a French provincial town and by adopting the realist mode, Truffaut was making an important statement. The book seeks to situate Truffaut both historically and culturally and the second aiming to give a broad overview of his films and their critical reception. It then provides a closer analysis of one film, Jules et Jim (1961), both as a means to discuss more precisely Truffaut's style of film-making and to provide an example of how a film may be 'read'. The book discusses the 'auteur-genre' tension, the representation of gender, the relationship between paternity and authorship and, finally, the conflict at the heart of the films between the 'absolute' and the 'provisional'. Truffaut's films display mistrust of the institutions that impose social order: school (Les 400 Coups), army (Baisers volés), paternal authority (Adèle H.) and the written language.
Jean-Luc Godard enjoyed a comfortable and cultured upbringing, acquiring a literary sensibility that would inflect the whole of his career in the cinema. Godard began to study anthropology at the Sorbonne, but dropped out, and the subsequent decade of his life was spent drifting between various occupations. It is this period of Godard's life in particular that has given rise to speculation, rumour and apocryphal stories. Along with other critics at Cahiers du cinéma, including Truffaut, Rivette, Chabrol and Rohmer, Godard's writing on film in the 1950s played an important role in shaping the canon of great film directors that would influence the development of both French and anglophone film studies. A mixture of playfulness and reverent cinematic homage is to be found in the film language that Godard employs in A bout de souffle. The film became famous for its use of jump-cuts, and it may be difficult for today's viewers, familiar with the ultra-rapid editing of music videos and advertising, to appreciate how disruptive this technique appeared to contemporary spectators. Vivre sa vie, like Le Petit Soldat, appears, in places, to appropriate a kind of existentialist narrative form, only to move beyond it into something much stranger and more troubling. Jean-Luc Godard's Masculin féminin is about young people in Paris in the winter of 1965-1966. Godard in the 1970s is doubtless addressing issues such as the nature of capitalism, and the possibilities for revolt. France tour détour deux enfants is a fascinating glimpse of what television could be.