Film, Media and Music

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Brett Bowles

The early works of Marcel Pagnol exemplify the twin creative strategies that would subsequently define his dramatic writing: embellishing pre-existing stories and character types from various narrative traditions with references to his own experiences and Provencal culture. There is no mention in Pagnol's voluminous autobiographical writings of his ever having any interest in or exposure to cinema prior to an unexpected transfer to Paris in mid-1922. He was initially drawn to cinema not as a technology or a form of artistic expression, but as an expedient way to make money. While extricating himself from Fortunio Pagnol was still searching for a style of his own between classicism and modernism. For Pagnol Topaze marked the emergence of a clear personal style that successfully resolved the tensions present in his earlier work: vaudeville versus social realism; critical respect and artistic integrity versus commercial success; classicism versus modernism.

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Martin O’Shaughnessy

This chapter considers the films that Jean Renoir directed during his first decade as a film-maker. They are categorised into two groups: the silent films and those that followed the introduction of sound. The chapter begins with Renoir's two silent films: Charleston, evoking colonial themes, and Le Bled celebrating the centenary of the colonisation of Algeria. La Fille de Veau combines an entirely conventional melodramatic narrative with avant-gardist visual effects. Renoir's early sound films were literary adaptations. The chapter explains the adaptations of boulevard comedies all of which stage the collision between a disruptive character and a constraining social frame. It then looks at Madame Bovary and La Chienne both of which show the destruction of a self-deluding individual by a corrupt society. The chapter also looks at La Nuit du carrefour and Toni, two films that stage the collision of tradition and modernity while foregrounding migration and xenophobia.

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Dystopic malevolence and the politics of collusion

Evan Jones’s The Damned (1961), Eve (1962), King and Country (1964) and Modesty Blaise (1966)

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Colin Gardner

There was an experimental, writer-oriented focus in Joseph Losey's later work, opening the way for collaborations on a more equal footing. This found Losey increasingly willing to push conventional narrative beyond the exigencies of the realist action-image to a more radically modernist appreciation of ambivalence and discontinuity. Perhaps the most underrated of these 'writerly' collaborations are the four films that Losey made with the West Indian screenwriter Evan Jones in the early 1960s: The Damned, Eve, King and Country, and Modesty Blaise. What specifically unites these films is not simply Jones's reiteration of Losey's habitual concerns with impulse and dislocated time, but his exploration of the cynical collusion between naturalism's two outward symptoms. These are: masochism and the institutional dystopia that exploits and exacerbates it. The Damned is a vastly over-determined tragedy, pushing the dystopic malevolence of the state-machine to its ultimate extreme.

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Martin O’Shaughnessy

This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the key concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. Produced with a range of different collaborators, in widely varying circumstances and production contexts, Jean Renoir's work must be located in a world undergoing massive and often traumatic change, one rent by competing ideologies and war. Rather than seeking some impossible synthesis, it is better to trace its evolution, identifying periods of relative consistency and crucial turning points that gave it a new direction. The silent period films are interesting for their technical innovation and visual inventiveness. The early 1930s are dominated by adaptations of novels and boulevard theatre and take from them a critique of the bourgeoisie that is at times gentle and at times acerbic but always inwardlooking. Some of Renoir's Hollywood output explores tensions in American mythology to a limited degree without ever subverting it (Swamp Water, The Southerner).

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Douglas Morrey

This chapter demonstrates how the development of Jean-Luc Godard's thinking about cinema have constantly mirrored wider trends in continental thought. The phenomenological method of Godard's early films interrogated the relationship between language and the reality perceived through our senses, the director's innovative approach to sound and image repeatedly questioning the nature of representation and its ability to circumscribe the real. Godard's cinema accompanied the renewal of Marxist thought in France, from Michel Debord's critique of spectacle, through Michel Foucault's analysis of power, to the determined unpacking of the harsh realities of postmodernism by the likes of Jean-Francois Lyotard. Godard followed philosophers such as Georges Bataille and Gilles Deleuze, in a tradition of thought inherited from Friedrich Nietzsche, in denouncing the nihilism of a society that smothers the vitality of life beneath the reifying discourse of truth, and in defending desire against the curmudgeonly categories of psychoanalysis.

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Colin Gardner

This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the key concepts discussed in this book. It discusses a particular sequence from Joseph Losey's The Servant. This sequence is a perfect example of Losey's expressive genius with discordant space as an objective correlative of shifting identities and class relations. As Roger Greenspun noted in relation to Secret Ceremony, 'among filmmakers Losey is the greatest poet of mirrors, greater even than Cocteau, because he knows they are environments in their own right, accepting, changing, and never quite giving back the world they reflect'. This facility for creating complex spatial depth helps explain the MacMahon critics' lionization of Losey less as a true auteur than as a metteur-en-scène. In contrast, the skills of metteurs-en-scène lie in their performative qualities, their ability to transpose a pre-existing script, book or play into specifically cinematic codes.

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Hugo Frey

This chapter presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in the book. In dissecting a lifetime of ambiguity, the book has shown that there are few critical certainties when it comes to Louis Malle. This is the most fascinating quality of Mallean cinema. Malle's childhood experience of January 1944, the founding trauma, its working-through in the eventual completion of Au revoir les enfants, provides one coherent and important way to debate the director and his work. There is Malle the 1950s playboy celebrity, the soixante-huitard activist, the Frenchman at home in the USA, the professional cinéaste, producer, and documentarist. Classical realism, surrealism and cinéma direct continue to be a powerful combination that defies simplistic aesthetic classification. In filming Au revoir les enfants he systematically asserted a defence of artistic liberty against unthinking authoritarianism. Mallean film was also a journey of repeated reinvention.

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Brett Bowles

Despite their mutually lucrative partnership in making Marius, Marcel Pagnol ran afoul of Paramount over the adaptation of Topaze in early 1932 as the worsening of the Great Depression threatened the solvency of the Joinville complex and made reducing expenses more imperative than ever for the American juggernaut. The team of colleagues Pagnol recruited was composed primarily of old friends from Marseilles - former stage actor Charles Corbessas as accountant and business manager; former Fortunio board members Marcel Gras and Arno-Charles Brun, as production and script managers, respectively; and caricaturist Antoine Toé as advertising director. Released in mid-December 1933, Monsieur Poirier was an inauspicious debut that fell far short of Pagnol's aspirations and failed to apply the lessons of his apprenticeship under Korda and Allégret. Despite his disappointment in Monsieur Poirier, Antoine defended Pagnol's theory of cinématurgie in the strongest possible terms.

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Colin Gardner

There is a large chronological gap between Joseph Losey's first American staging of Galileo in 1947 and the release of his filmed version in 1974, reflecting almost thirty years of frustration on Losey's part, in terms of both finding financial backing for the picture and obtaining English-language rights from Bertolt Brecht's widow. In the 1974 film, people are in no doubt that beneath the dialectical surface of ethical and political responsibility lies the immanence of nuclear destruction itself. Losey equates this 'road to perdition' with both time and space, expressed through sound and depth of field. The tolling church bell, a favourite Losey device for expressing the immanence of ineffable time, runs throughout Galileo as a leitmotif signalling the crystalline nature of the scientist's twin multiplicities. Losey produces a less ambiguous effect from his use of depth of field.

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Brett Bowles

Marcel Pagnol's rural melodramas moved him closer to writing directly for the screen by drawing inspiration from literary sources rather than transposing pre-existing plays. While his first cycle of rural films, Jofroi, Angèle, and Regain, were largely faithful adaptations of texts by popular Provençal writer Jean Giono, in each case they incorporated elements specific to Pagnol, especially performative speech and comedy, that made the work inimitably his own. In addition to winning over reviewers who had previously dismissed Pagnol's work as canned theatre, these films occupied a unique place within the style known as poetic realism and appealed strongly to Depression-era spectators as an antidote to France's perceived cultural decadence. In late 1936 Pagnol took his aesthetic of ethnographic melodrama to new heights by adapting Giono's novel Regain, an elemental parable of civilisation-from-savagery in which an isolated man and woman come together to rebuild a crumbling rural village.