Film, Media and Music

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Douglas Morrey

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.

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Introduction

Joseph Losey and the crisis of historical rupture

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Colin Gardner

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book. The very structure of Joseph Losey's cinematic language, as well as his narrative style and content, are directly related to the artist's attempt to create a new, post-Cold War vision for radicalism and social change, as well as a personal atonement for the mistakes and misjudgements produced by the Old Left's dogmatic loyalty to an inhuman Stalinism. The chapter first explores the issue of film language. Having forged a cinematic connection between immanence and impulse, the chapter turns to their relevance to the Cold War politics of dislocation. While his The Boy with Green Hair constructed an ambivalent tension between the naturalism of absolute goodness and the spectre of violent impulse, the remaining films from Losey's brief stint in Hollywood, from 1947 to 1952, are largely devoted to analysing the psychology of this dark flipside.

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Introduction

Pagnol as auteur

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Brett Bowles

For Marcel Pagnol, cinema was the middle stage of an extraordinarily long and diverse career that began in boulevard theatre and ended in novels and memoirs. He excelled in all four genres, making him one of twentieth-century France's most popular and versatile dramatic authors. This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book. The book offers the first comprehensive, scrupulously documented, and unapologetically critical reading of Pagnol's cinema. It highlights his singular contribution to classic French film as an auteur and businessman while at the same time evaluating the larger cultural and aesthetic stakes of his movies. The book also offers a reading of style and technique that links his theories on film, theatre, and the primacy of dialogue over image with French economic and social anxieties triggered by the arrival of talking cinema and the Great Depression.

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Hugo Frey

This chapter presents some key concepts discussed in the book. Louis Malle's films are a body of work that most film critics around the world recognise as being one of the most productive in post-war international cinema, including as it does triumphs such as Ascenseur pour l'échafaud; Le Feu follet; Lacombe Lucien; Atlantic City USA; and Au revoir les enfants. Malle's work attracted intense public controversy. Viewed in historical retrospect, Malle is a director who was consistently in the eye of the storm. This chapter highlights four turbulent periods that mark out the career: the New Wave; May '68; the 1970s; and finally Malle's experience of filmmaking in the USA and his return to work on selected projects in France (1978-95). The historical and cultural analysis positions Malle in relation to the dominant social and cultural forces of his times in the two countries in which he worked.

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Douglas Morrey

Godard in the 1970s is doubtless addressing issues such as the nature of capitalism, and the possibilities for revolt. After Six fois deux, France tour detour deux enfants was Godard and Mieville's second attempt at making a television series. Consisting of twelve 26-minute episodes, France tour was conceived in order to be broadcast, like any other television programme, one episode at a time during prime-time on France's second state TV channel, Antenne 2. The work's actual broadcast history proved rather different. Based around interviews with two children, Arnaud, aged 9, and Camille, 11, each of the twelve episodes follows the same format. France tour détour deux enfants is a fascinating glimpse of what television could be: a powerful medium for the study of human interaction, capable of showing the reality of political lives with an immediacy and a subtlety that all the rhetoric of theory can only dream of.

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Harold Pinter’s time-image

The Servant (1963), Accident (1967) and The Go-Between (1971)

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Colin Gardner

This chapter discusses three films in which Joseph Losey collaborated with Harold Pinter. Pinter's characters use language to mock and punish each other, not to find common emotive ground. Yet this is never a direct assault, for Pinter's conversation often comes across as light, oblique badinage, a verbal smokescreen designed to block communication rather than encourage it. This accounts for Pinter's fondness for both verbal and physical games the improvised ball game on the stairs in The Servant, and the recurring tennis and cricket matches in Accident and The Go-Between that are ideal, playful fronts for expressing his characters' more Machiavellian strategies. While Pinter softens Losey's didactic tendencies, teasing out the director's love of ambiguity and nuance while adding a spice of mordant wit to his Puritan dourness, Losey takes Pinter outside the confines of locked rooms into closer contact with the real world.

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Gender matters

A Doll’s House (1973), The Romantic Englishwoman (1975) and Steaming (1985)

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Colin Gardner

Joseph Losey's world is often inhospitable to women, but this does not necessarily mean that his films condone this hostility. Most of his work directly explores and addresses the ideological interpellation of women by analysing the cultural assumptions that both construct and perpetuate it. This is specifically true of the three films discussed in this chapter: A Doll's House, The Romantic Englishwoman and Steaming. These works explore and celebrate women's will-to-power and also its inevitable, almost fateful circumscription by the ideological forces of patriarchal capitalism. More seriously, in the case of The Romantic Englishwoman and Steaming, these forces recruit the creative medium of art itself, foreclosing Losey's usual Nietzschean escape hatch by co-opting the imaginary into the dominant discursive formation. In A Doll's House, Losey transforms a somewhat contrived and simplistic plea for the emancipation of women into a more insightful, albeit more pessimistic, examination of bourgeois hegemony itself.

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From theatre to cinema

Pagnol, Paramount, and Marius on-screen

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Brett Bowles

Marcel Pagnol's status as the country's most popular playwright put him in an ideal position to denounce talkies, but he took the opposite position, announcing its superiority to both live theatre and silent cinema. Throughout his career as a playwright Pagnol had disliked the inauthenticity of theatrical sets, especially the use of painted canvas scenery to represent outdoor locations. Pagnol's controversial declarations had the effect of a marketing prospectus, attracting contract offers from several studios. Among them was Paramount, which in late April 1930 had opened a massive new production centre in Joinville-le-Pont, located 25 kilometres east of Paris. Marius had initially caught the eye of a Paramount story scout in Paris only days after its premiere in March 1929, but the idea of making a screen adaptation for the American market was rejected because of the play's 'slowness in action, unsatisfactory romance, and unhappy ending'.

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Epilogue

Pagnol’s legacy

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Brett Bowles

In the interval between his retirement from filmmaking in 1955 and his death in 1974, Marcel Pagnol solidified his status as a French national icon by reinventing himself yet again in two new modes of storytelling. Pagnol's work returned to the big screen for the first time in over a decade thanks to Daniel Auteuil's remake of La Fille du puisatier. In a larger cultural perspective, the strong renewal of interest in Pagnol over the past two decades can be appreciated as a reaction against the perceived dilution of French national identity in the middle of intensifying globalisation and the creation of a supranational European Union (EU). The purge of social conflict and performance of consensus that characterises nearly all of Pagnol's films has served as a kind of screen onto which French spectators can project their desire to reaffirm the traditional bonds of family, community, and nation.

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Douglas Morrey

Jean-Luc Godard's Masculin féminin is about young people in Paris in the winter of 1965-66. As the title suggests, Masculin féminin is principally concerned with the sexual relations of these young people. The opinion of young people is constantly surveyed with regard to their sexual behaviour. Meanwhile, the steely monochrome photography places Masculin féminin much closer to the grim realism of Vivre sa vie than to the wild romanticism of Pierrot le fou. La Chinoise documents the activities of a group of young Maoist revolutionaries, centred around the apartment belonging to Véronique (Anne Wiazemsky)'s parents where they hold their meetings. There is a degree of uncertainty as to what the ' elle' in the title of Godard's 2 ou 3 choses que je sais d'elle refers. The jarring violence of Week-end's film form its brutally confrontational style makes it an ultimately irrecuperable work.