Film, Media and Music

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Introduction

Genesis of Carax’s system

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Fergus Daly and Garin Dowd

This introductory chapter on Leos Carax first deals with the early years of the French film director and writer and his auteurism. Carax's early career was in two complementary ways conducted under the scrutiny of the French film journal Cahiers du Cinéma. The Carax of the short films is already amassing the elements designed to authenticate his claims to auteurism: common band of artists and technicians; thematic consistency and credible intertextual references. From a set of basic conceptual operators, his film worlds are built up stage by stage. For filmmakers, the pressing problems were to do with dealing with the ambient 'crisis of representation'. Herman Melville is a resource for Carax and other like-minded filmmakers. Due to his baroque tendencies, Carax is often described by his supporters as a visionary. The chapter also presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of the book.

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Elizabeth Ezra

If movement was the feature of film that set it apart from photography and painting, then it was the key factor in the development of the tourism industry, and in the transportation revolution inaugurated by the invention of the automobile and the airplane. This chapter examines several of Georges Méliès's voyage films, which suggested that the developing technologies of motion that were bringing people closer together did not put an end to the social. Made in 1902, Le Voyage dans la lune was the film that first brought Méliès international fame, and it is the film that is the most widely recognized of Melies's works. In Méliès's voyage films, the old world is shown in confrontation with the new; the inevitable collisions depicted in these films. The smashing of cars into buildings, the crash landings of airbuses and rocket ships, suggest the collision of different cultural traditions and collective identities.

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Steve Chibnall

This chapter discusses J. Lee Thompson's The Guns of Navarone, which was a Second World War movie based on Alistair MacLean's tale of a desperate mission to destroy German cannon on a Greek island. Guns' prologue is set on the Acropolis where this story's connection to classical myth is emphasised with a voiceover which refers to 'the legend of Navarone'. Carl Foreman's screenplay attempts to develop psychological complexity and dramatic tension in its reconstruction of Maclean's band of saboteurs. Similarly, it seeks to widen and intensify the discursive elements of MacLean's text, sharpening its moral issues and underlining its allusions to classical mythology. Lee Thompson introduced audiences to what cinema would become in the age of the multiplex. He was aided by some immaculate cinemascope photography from Oswald Morris, who had learnt how to shoot seas.

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Georges Méliès

The birth of the auteur

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Elizabeth Ezra

Georges Méliès is universally acknowledged to be an early film Pioneer. However, his work has often been dismissed as simplistic, both narratively and technically. This book primarily aims is to give an idea of the complexity and the modernity of his work. It also aims to dispel a number of myths about Méliès's contribution to film history. For a long time, Méliès's work was cited as the foremost example of 'primitive mode of representation'; films made before around 1906 were characterized by four traits. These are 'autarky and unicity of each frame', or framing that is selfcontained and unchanged throughout the scene; 'the noncentered quality of the image', or the use of the edges of the frame as well as the centre; 'consistent medium long-shot camera distance'; and the 'nonclosure' of the narrative. The book examines individual scenes of some of his films using a model of structural analysis designed for narrative films. It outlines the technical function of the major special effects, or trues, used by Méliès. The book also considers Méliès's treatment of the relationship between fantasy and realism, first by examining a selection of films that explicitly thematize representation, and then by discussing several of the actualités reconstituées. It examines the ways in which Méliès's films blur the boundary between realism and illusion, by examining first a selection of trick films. This examination is followed by several actualités reconstituées or early docu-dramas, culminating in an extended discussion of Méliès's most influential L'Affaire Dreyfus/The Dreyfus Affair.

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Diana Holmes and Robert Ingram

François Truffaut's attitude to genre and the questions it posed for French film-makers is neatly summed up at a very early point of his career in the juxtapositioning of two short sequences in Les Mistons. Truffaut's exploitation of genre is not as straightforward as it at first appears. If his genre films are, with one exception, films noirs or thrillers, this is attributable in large part to the influence of the films of Alfred Hitchcock. The first two films, Les Mistons and Les 400 Coups, although they contain references to genre, are resistant to classification by genre. Tirezis the first of his genre films, it is equally one of his most artistically successful and one of his most innovative. The last of the three genre films which Truffaut produced between 1964 and 1967 was another film noir, La Marìée était en noir (the second film in the group, Fahrenheit 451).

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Steve Chibnall

Lee Thompson was born in Bristol just before the First World War. By the time Thompson left school his ambition was to be an actor, and he joined Nottingham Repertory, making his debut in Young Woodley in 1931. His first 'association with the cinema' had been as an actor in Carol Reed's solo directorial debut Midshipman Easy made at Ealing Studios in the summer of 1935. Lee Thompson's second significant assignment away from Elstree's scriptwriting department was as a 'dialogue coach'. The Hitchcockian influence emerges clearly in the adaptation that Lee Thompson worked on immediately after his secondment to Jamaica Inn. Unlike No Place For Jennifer, which had been a considerable box office success, Last Holiday fared badly with the critics and struggled to find an audience. Lee Thompson's opportunity to direct came when he received an offer from Hollywood for the film rights to his play Murder Without Crime.

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Diana Holmes and Robert Ingram

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.

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Feux d’artifice

Les Amants du Pont-Neuf and the spectacle of vagrancy

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Fergus Daly and Garin Dowd

Leos Carax's overbudget film of 1990, Les Amants du Pont-Neuf, has tended in many accounts to be read as an allegory of social exclusion. This chapter proposes that the haste with which the film has been categorised and in certain quarters thereby dismissed, combined with the spectacular budget catastrophe and the myths developed around the on-set events, contributed to a widespread misunderstanding of the film, as well as to a certain blindness among critics as to the merits. It also offers an alternative to straightforwardly symbolic readings of the film by means of situating it within the context of those philosophical and aesthetic debates with which it maintains continuity. Although fireworks served to display a surplus, which is converted into a transient wasteful display of artifice (feux d'artifice), Carax makes the fireworks sequence the centrepiece of the film.

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Elizabeth Ezra

Georges Méliès's stage illusions had caused spectators to question their own grasp of reality: what they saw before them appeared to be real, yet it was clearly not so. This chapter considers Méliès's treatment of the relationship between fantasy and realism, first by examining a selection of films that explicitly thematize representation, and then by discussing several of the actualites reconstitutees, or filmic reconstructions of actual events. It examines the ways in which Méliès's films blur the boundary between realism and illusion, by examining first a selection of trick films. This is followed by several actualités reconstituées or early docu-dramas, culminating in an extended discussion of Méliès's most influential actualité, L'Affaire Dreyfus/The Dreyfus Affair, which heralded film's accession to the historical role once performed exclusively by writing. The chapter also examines the extant actualites reconstituees in chronological order, with the exception of L'Affaire Dreyfus.

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Steve Chibnall

In the 1950s, 'family entertainment' was still the cinema's core business, and it was inevitable that a promising new director would be pressed into the service of the mass market for insubstantial comedy and undemanding music. It was time for J. Lee Thompson to pay his dues to light entertainment. The themes of confinement and liberation, elaborated by a discourse of moral dilemma, are worked through the contemporary preoccupations of British social life, just as they are in his more serious films. Thompson's films contain post-war housing problems and the spread of new social mores (For Better, For Worse); the impact of foreign cultural forms on the British way of life (As Long As They're Happy); the megalomania of media tycoons and the dangers of materialism (An Alligator Named Daisy); and the erosion of small-scale modes of entertainment and the sense of community they engender (The Good Companions).