This book aims to demystify the place and power of the screenwriter within French film production, in creative and artistic terms, but also in the context of film criticism and film discourse more generally, whether that be in mainstream, popular or auteur cinema. Critical discourses on French cinema have tended to consider words to be of secondary importance to the image, regarding screenwriters as either over-dominant or completely eclipsed. The reality is, of course, that screenwriting has remained an integral part of the industry since the coming of sound. This book takes a number of key figures in the history of French screenwriting from the transition to sound to the present day, in order to explore the shifting function and position of screenwriters and major trends in screenwriting practice. It considers the industrial categorisation of screenwriting as adaptation, script development and dialogue writing, and explores creative practices around these three specialist areas – which are rarely as clearly defined as film credits might have us believe. It addresses and questions the myths that have emerged around certain writers in critical discourses, as well as the narrative mythologies that these writers have helped to shape in their films: from fatalism and the working-class (anti)hero to the small-minded petit bourgeois; from the neurotic protagonist to the naive fool of comedy. In doing so, it also reflects on the methodological challenges of screenwriting research, and the opportunities opened up by shedding light on these frequently neglected figures.
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'.
Cinema's engagement with 1968 was perhaps most in evidence in the auteur sector of the French industry. This book presents a study that aims to consider the ways in which the shake-up in French perceptions transferred itself to French cinema screens during the following decade. The emphasis is in the changes which occurred during the 1970s in the French output of films which could be seen by an average metropolitan cinema-goer without making such special efforts as joining a cine-club or seeking out films shown in community centres or to special interest groups. The most frequently noticed effect of the new post-1968 climate on the French cinema was a change in the nature of the thriller. The book focuses on three 1970s political thriller: série-Z, Yves Boisset's L'Attentat, and René Gainville's Le Complot. It looks at some films of the early 1970s which retain a consciously politico-social approach to their protagonists' problems, which conform to the broad description of 'new naturalism' in terms of narrative and protagonist. The 'New Naturalism' movement outlived its connection to 1968, and in the course of its development launched some of the most significant new film-makers to come to prominence in this decade, such as Jacques Doillon, Jean Eustache or Claude Miller. It concentrates on the two very different cinematic Utopias imagined by Claude Faraldo: Bof! and Themroc. The book also considers two film-makers: William Klein and Alain Tanner, whose work encapsulates many of the currents and issues.
imports from the United States and Germany, Les Films Marcel Pagnol was one of only a few French companies to maintain an efficient organisational structure and a healthy bottom line. The success of Pagnol’s business model was unmatched in 1930s French cinema, offering industry insiders and the general public welcome proof that their nation could not only defend its unique cultural identity against
2 A brief history of multilingualism in French cinema F rench multilingual cinema is primarily a contemporary pheno menon. Not only have vastly more multilingual films been released in France since 2005 than in any earlier period, but a far greater number of contemporary films engage with multilingualism in profound ways than ever before. Multilingualism is a central aspect of these films’ dialogues and narratives. However, it would be misleading to present multilingual cinema as a phenomenon invented in the twenty-first century. The twentieth century may
the first auteur in French cinema (see below). He seems to have recognised this himself when declaring that the success of film as a medium was due not to its inventors the Lumières, but to those who used it to record their own personal productions (Sadoul 1962 : 8). Early French cinema as a global force Following Méliès’ lead, the cinema entrepreneurs Charles Pathé and Léon Gaumont built
4 The banlieue in French cinema of the 1930s Keith Reader La banlieue est multiple. Le film de banlieue ne constitue pas un genre. Il n’a ni règles, ni codes. Il se définit par un décor, un climat, c’est un cinéma de situations.1 (Narvalo 1981: 3) The above was written, in a magazine published by the Maison Populaire de Montreuil, well before the cinéma de banlieue symptomatised by La Haine (Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995) emerged as a genre in its own right. Films de banlieue, indeed, have a history almost as long as that of cinema itself, as Annie Fourcaut notes in
The great American film critic Manny Farber memorably declared space to be the most dramatic stylistic entity in the visual arts. He posited three primary types of space in fiction cinema: the field of the screen, the psychological space of the actor, and the area of experience and geography that the film covers. This book brings together five French directors who have established themselves as among the most exciting and significant working today: Bruno Dumont, Robert Guediguian, Laurent Cantet, Abdellatif Kechiche, and Claire Denis. It proposes that people think about cinematographic space in its many different forms simultaneously (screenspace, landscape, narrative space, soundscape, spectatorial space). Through a series of close and original readings of selected films, it posits a new 'space of the cinematic subject'. Dumont's attraction to real settings and locality suggests a commitment to realism. New forms and surfaces of spectatorship provoke new sensations and engender new kinds of perception, as well as new ways of understanding and feeling space. The book interrogates Guediguian's obsessive portrayal of one particular city, Marseilles. Entering into the spaces of work and non-work in Cantet's films, it asks what constitutes space and place within the contemporary field of social relations. The book also engages with cultural space as the site of social integration and metissage in the work of Kechiche, his dialogues with diasporic communities and highly contested urban locales. Denis's film work contains continually shifting points of passage between inside and outside, objective and subjective, in the restless flux.
6 Margins and thresholds of French cinema: Ménilmontant, Le Sang des bêtes, Colloque de chiens Erik Bullot French cinema since the New Wave has repeatedly manifested a desire for a juste milieu by seeking to strike a balance between artistic ambition and the ability to connect with a wider audience. This balance contributed in part to its singular wealth. As recently as the mid 1970s idiosyncratic filmmakers working on the margins of the industry, such as Philippe Garrel or Jean Eustache, had been able to create radical, almost experimental films, and into the
Who were the French who wouldnt go to movies? The question was a vexing one in France after the Second World War, to which the film industry and the national government sought answers. In 1948 the Gaumont Film Company commissioned a survey of who went to the movies, who didnt, and why. In 1954, the Centre National de la Cinématographie, acknowledging La crise du cinéma, published an ominously titled Inquest about movies and the French public. Thus audience studies in France took on national importance, and created a sociological and psychological profile of viewers that could be used to enhance business practice and government policy.