Film, Media and Music

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Phil Powrie

After making Le Chien de Monsieur Michel in 1977 and winning the first prize for it at the Festival de Trouville, Jean-Jacques Beineix decided to stop work as an assistant director and prepare a script with Olivier Mergault whom he had met on set. This was the story of a honeymoon gone wrong, with the newly-weds grounded in Paris by a strike. Diva was released in March 1981. Many reviewers pointed out the newness of Diva's style, which was felt to reflect a contemporary aesthetic. Diva is the only film by Beineix to have solicited considerable scholarly attention. Partly no doubt because of the film's success in the USA, it drew the attention of one of the foremost theorists of the postmodern, Fredric Jameson. He points out that the film marks a turn which corresponds to the accession to power of the left for the first time in thirty-five years.

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Steve Chibnall

By 1958 British production houses were becoming increasingly conscious of the importance of continental as well as American markets. Woman in a Dressing Gown and Ice Cold in Alex had both been premiered with striking success at the Berlin Film Festival, and Rank had begun to use German stars to ease its product into European cinemas. Impressed with his success in Germany, Wintle and Parkyn approached Lee Thompson to direct a vehicle for another 'Deutscher Star', Horst Buchholz. I Aim at the Stars gave Lee Thompson the opportunity to work with another 'Deutscher Star', Curt Jurgens, who played von Braun with a 'quiet, persuasive intensity'. Von Braun might be looking at the stars, but London critics judged that Lee Thompson was definitely standing in the gutter. Tiger Bay began filming only a few days after white youths in London's Notting Hill had mounted well-publicised attacks on the area's black residents.

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Diana Holmes and Robert Ingram

François Truffaut's films provide little explicit commentary on the social or political questions of their times. One way of approaching the films' system of values is through the underlying tension between what Truffaut tends to term 'le définitif' ('the definitive', 'the absolute') and 'le provisoire' ('the provisional', 'the impermanent'). La Nuit américaine expresses Truffaut's immense delight in the process of fictionalising reality into film and in the power of the medium to reverse the flow of time and to refuse the definitive nature of the past. Made five years after La Nuit américaine, La Chambre (based on a Henry James story) presents Truffaut in a role totally opposed to that of the film-director Ferrand. One of the films that has been most reproached with a failure to address socio-political issues is Le Dernier métro, set under the German Occupation and thus unavoidably referring to a contentious period in French history.

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The context

Cinema saved my life

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Diana Holmes and Robert Ingram

François Truffaut's work invites biographical readings. This chapter provides a brief account of Truffaut's early life in post-war France. At the time of the Liberation in 1944 Truffaut was twelve-years old, a precociously literate and knowledgeable filmgoer, intellectually and emotionally committed to cinema, thus far primarily French cinema. The end of the Occupation left the French film industry divided, disorganised and lacking in resources. The work done by Cahiers du cinéma in the 1950s was central to the development of film theory and criticism not only in France but also in the USA, Britain and the rest of Europe. The Cahiers team were united in their Bazinian respect for a particular kind of realism, their enthusiasm for Hollywood genre films and their dislike of the kind of cinema that was dominant in France.

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Elizabeth Ezra

This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in this book. The book aims to re-evaluate Georges Méliès's place in film history by examining some of the myths surrounding his work. These myths have been all-pervasive, leading many film students and scholars to accept them unquestioningly. However, by acknowledging Méliès's status as an auteur working independently to make a distinctive mark on the films he wrote, designed, directed, edited, produced and starred in, it is possible to replace these myths with a more accurate assessment of Méliès's legacy. The book shows that Méliès's films lend themselves to narrative analysis. What is most clear is that Méliès was a Janus-faced figure linking two centuries: he drew upon and developed the theatrical traditions of the nineteenth, but he also had a profound influence on cinematic art of the twentieth.

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Phil Powrie

This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the key concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book shows how Jean-Jacques Beineix's films form a coherent body of work and sketches out a psychodrama formed by Beineix's feature films. It depends largely on the idea that a director's films, however heterogeneous in appearance, nevertheless have themes and styles in common which suggest the worldview of an auteur. It is likely that for the youth audiences of the cinéma du look, the notion of the auteur played little part in their appreciation of Beineix's films, as the difference in audience figures between Diva and La Lune dans le caniveau suggests. It is ironic that Beineix's films have been seen principally as part of the modernisation which the multiplex and a new type of audience might be considered to represent.

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Diana Holmes and Robert Ingram

This chapter provides the reader with an overview of François Truffaut's films from a number of perspectives. An initial discussion of critical evaluations of his work is followed by an examination of some of the ways in which the films can be grouped and categorised. This leads into a chronological review of 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. From a relatively early point in his career, Truffaut had found his way to America: to see Helen Scott and Hitchcock in order to work on what he often referred to as the Hitchbook; to attend the New York Film Festival; and for English lessons in Los Angeles. As his reputation grew and particularly after he won the Oscar, he received invitations, from those 'nice Americans', to make a film in the USA.

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Fergus Daly and Garin Dowd

There has been a general flattening by critics of heterogeneous forms, problems, concerns and types of filmmaking of the 1980s. For this reason many diverse and disparate strands of filmmaking need disentangling. This chapter undertakes such a task by performing a minute dissection of the heterogeneous elements shaped by Leos Carax into works of great complexity and élan in order to isolate the true singularity and originality of his 1980s films, Boy Meets Girl and Mauvais Sang. In terms of Carax's allegiance to the nouvelle vague, there is little doubt that he drew great stylistic inspiration from Jean-Luc Godard. If the Carax-Godard link is examined in detail, it is possible to isolate the following overt influences of Godard on Carax's first films, for the purposes of illustration placing particular emphasis on how Bande à part resonates in Boy Meets Girl.

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Phil Powrie

One of the key features of Jean-Jacques Beineix's relationship with the film image is the notion of seduction and the erotic. Beineix's screen career began in 1969 as a trainee for a long-running television comedy series, Les Saintes Chêries, directed by Jean Becker. This chapter explores the concept of the postmodernism, first in general terms, then in relation to film, before passing on to the specifically French focus on advertising. Beineix and Luc Besson's films also managed to reflect the contemporary mood of cynicism and alienation prevalent in the youth class, which felt disenfranchised, as films like La Haine in the 1990s have continued to underline. Several reviewers had used the word baroque in relation to Diva in 1981. It was not until 1989 that the issue was explored in some depth by Bassan, writing for the Revue du cinéma.

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Elizabeth Ezra

This chapter takes up Georges Méliès's treatment of gender roles, focusing specifically on the fairies and other airborne women who people his films, which reflected attitudes towards women that were prevalent in French culture at the turn of the century. In France at the turn of the twentieth century, flying women were all the rage: they were, quite literally, dans le vent. The flight of fancy is an illusion: the flying woman tells decorative lies with her body. The chapter explores the nature of this illusion as it is evoked in Méliès's films, while examining the contradictions encompassed by the flying woman as she united opposites in an age of transition. The most visible function of flying women in Méliès's films, of course, was that of sex appeal: they provided an excuse to show young women clad in tights and diaphanous garments.