Film, Media and Music

Catherine Deneuve has appeared in at least one major film every year since turning 50 in 1993, often starring in several works in the same season in a career which has encompassed, and continues to encompass, work with leading French auteurs. This chapter focuses on three of Deneuve's films: Belle Maman, Dancer in the Dark, and Le Vent de la nuit/Night Wind. It offers an examination of the varied portraits of older women and of the processes of ageing offered by (and indeed to) Deneuve. Through an examination of Deneuve's roles in these three very different films, there will emerge a vision of her portrayal of gendered ageing as multilayered and complex. Deneuve's roles in these three works engage at once with established on-screen images of both maternity and sexuality while posing a series of challenges to the perceived status of '50 plus' actresses on the international screen.

in From perversion to purity

Catherine Deneuve's Italian career is relatively brief: she made three films in the early 1970s, and ten years later participated in one further production. This chapter identifies and analyses the star qualities of Catherine Deneuve as they are manifested in these films. Career profiles of Bolognini and Monicelli show that her work with them can be located exclusively within the traditions of Italian national cinema. The chapter shows that Deneuve's most significant Italian films are those she made with Marco Ferreri, in particular La cagna Ferreri, is a filmmaker much more difficult to classify as belonging within a single national cinema. Through close scrutiny of the individual film, it argues that the discourse of the film offers a complex nuancing of Deneuve's star image. At the same time, the chapter demonstrates that nevertheless, questions of continuity and difference of image inevitably inform any critical analysis of her Italian career.

in From perversion to purity

This chapter examines the predilection for documentary modes of representation that runs through Bertrand Tavernier's career from its beginnings. He navigates generic parameters so as to privilege what we might call his documentary gaze on the world. Tavernier's passion for documentary helps explain, and resolve, his perennial disregard for generic coherence and narrative continuity. Although La Mort en direct/Deathwatch is a fiction, its photojournalist protagonist shapes the film into a parable or meta-documentary. The first documentary to invite that Algerian war's ordinary French soldiers to share their memories, La Guerre sans nom is credited with breaking the silence of repression and taboo. A number of works can hardly be classified as documentaries, but they are not entirely fictional either. L.627, L'Appât, Ça commence aujourd'hui, and Holy Lola scrutinize crises in the respective realms of narcotics police, juvenile delinquency, a school in a poor community, and international adoption.

in Bertrand Tavernier
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Jean-Luc Godard is interested in matters anal, of course most graphically in films like Numéro Deux, Sauve qui peut (la vie), and Passion, and like Jean Cocteau acknowledges the centrality of violence to the artistic process. Godard's erotic play with Cocteau installs Cocteau as a guiding principle for his experimental practice such that Cocteau himself becomes a primary agent of sublimation for Godard. The resurrection of flowers in King Lear is an utterly concrete demonstration of Cocteau's filmic process of thinking through one's hands, an act to which Godard directly aspires through means of montage. In his valedictory film Le Testament d'Orphée, Cocteau cut a solitary figure. Cocteau functions for Godard as both sublime and abject, ideal and false, as suggested even by Godard's early review of Orphée when he refers to the film as 'poésie de contrebande' and to Cocteau's confessional statement that he entered the cinema fraudulently.

in Jean Cocteau

Critics and historians of French cinema have marked out 1995 as the year of the banlieue film, the most significant of which was La Haine, directed by Mathieu Kassovitz. This chapter aims to compare and contrast the representation of ethnicity in La Haine with the representation of ethnicity in Kassovitz's first feature film, Métisse, made in 1993. One of the links between the two films, however, is the privileged role of the white youth. La Haine takes as its topic the cycle of hatred and violence which tends to characterise relationships between young people and the police in the working-class suburbs of France. Métisse is an allegory about the possibility of racial tolerance and integration, which depends not simply on the assimilation of the ethnic other, but on the overthrow of conventional attitudes to love, parenting, and race. The chapter offers a challenge to dominant notions of French national identity.

in Reframing difference
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The study of secret societies and other such conspiratorial communities may have something to tell us about the nature of community itself. The community was traditionally organised around a sacred centre, the site of both strict prohibition and devout veneration. The narrative of Secret Défense is based around a series of crimes in which the murderer or the victim takes the place of someone else. Perhaps one of the finest cinematic illustrations of this belief in the productive power of desire is to be found in another of Rivette's films that deals with a family secret, Céline et Julie vont en bateau. Family secrets already provide the intrigue in some of Rivette's 1970s films. In Merry-Go-Round, Léo learns that her father's death may have been faked, whilst in Céline et Julie vont en bateau, the eponymous heroines seek to rescue a young child from the family.

in Jacques Rivette
La Belle captive

As a modernist, Robbe-Grillet had paid lip-service to the notion that any work of art is a collaborative process. The growing eroticism of his films, in particular, which provoked a negative reception in feminist circles and some censorship, seemed to require a defence on artistic grounds. While this imagery appears to expose the social, psychological and religious processes of control that lead to the dangers of sexual repression, it also seems to express a preoccupation with the threat of disorder. The most memorable symbol of fetishism in Robbe-Grillet's cinema is perhaps that of the leather-clad Sara Zeitgeist in La Belle captive. The film is based on the Greek legend of the fiancée of Corinth which inspired Goethe's Elegie and a chapter of Michelet's La Sorcière. A love-hate relationship with the feminine, expressed in the extreme form of a sado-eroticism, may be the pathological manifestation of an anguish.

in Alain Robbe-Grillet

Relations between generations are a central concern in all Bertrand Tavernier's work. This chapter explores the significance of generations in Tavernier's films and in his career. The notion of generations has far-reaching implications in his work, ranging from literal families to successive 'waves' of filmmakers in the history of French cinema. The chapter examines this pervasive network of themes, reveals Tavernier's social, political, and affective worldview, and identifies him in terms of what historian Pierre Nora calls 'generational consciousness'. It discusses how L'Horloger de Saint-Paul presents itself as post-war, post-colonial, post-1968, and post-New Wave. L'Horloger de Saint-Paul suggests that the theme of conflicts between generations may ultimately be a red herring. Tavernier works instead to reconnect generations, showing that rebellion, solidarity, influence, and even memory are two-way streets. Throughout his career, it seems that Tavernier is actively engaged in constructing the identity of his generation and his era.

in Bertrand Tavernier
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body and sexuality in reverse motion

Steven Shaviro's 'cinematic body' brings out the truly radical nature of Jean Cocteau's investment in reverse-motion photography as an 'image-en-procès' whereby film literally regresses and provides disturbing glimpses of primary erotic matter. More crucially, zones of uncertainty and ambiguity exist within Cocteau's cinema that are simply left out of the exclusively thematic accounts of sexuality and (sado)masochism, however compelling. In fact, Cocteau's moments of reverse motion bring the viewer face to face with an otherness which he or she can neither incorporate nor expel. The secret knowingness of male characters by means of objects is tied up directly with a Cocteau film's own playful, erotic knowledge of itself when it goes into reverse motion and makes objects out of human forms. Frederick Brown talks of Cocteau's belles dames sans merci who unsex men as another instance of his decadent romanticism and his vocation for ecstatic self-martyrdom.

in Jean Cocteau
Momma Don’t Allow (1956), We Are the Lambeth Boys (1959) and March to Aldermaston (1959)

Given their common roots, the evolution from Sequence to Free Cinema, from Karel Reisz's career as a critic to that of amateur film-maker, seems both logical and, with the 20-20 power of hindsight, smoothly preordained. Reisz's Momma Don't Allow is a prime example of the 'story documentary' form, in order to set up a series of binary juxtapositions, all the better to contrast but also deconstruct class stereotypes. Although We Are the Lambeth Boys represents a major step forward artistically and technically, particularly in its use of faster Ilford film stock and synchronized sound, its incorporation of several of Gavin Lambert's dialectical suggestions and the use of an overly didactic commentary created some serious aesthetic shortcomings. Reisz and Lindsay Anderson became directly involved in developing New Left strategy with March to Aldermaston, which focuses on halts in the march to the atomic weapons factory in Berkshire.

in Karel Reisz