Film, Media and Music

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A question of background

class and the politics of impulse in Time Without Pity (1957), The Gypsy and the Gentleman (1957), Blind Date (1959) and The Criminal (1960)

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Colin Gardner

Although Joseph Losey was ambivalent about how to represent an active class consciousness, as he focused exclusively on the foibles of the bourgeoisie through the representation of hermetic upper- and middle-class milieu, this limited focus starts to expand later. Losey introduces some form of class analysis into each of his next four films, Time Without Pity, The Gypsy and the Gentleman, Blind Date and The Criminal, his first English features released under his own name. Each represents an initial stab at exploring the complex codes and mores of the British class system, a project that will reach full fruition in the Harold Pinter-scripted films of the 1960s. Usually in Losey, the victims of impulse resort to an over-reliance on the structure of segmented time as a security blanket against the annihilating effects of non-linear duration. The irony is that in Time Without Pity the situation is reversed.

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Hugo Frey

This chapter focuses on Louis Malle's Au revoir les enfants. Psychoanalytic interpretation of Au revoir les enfants reveals many important insights, not least those suggested by Lynn Higgins in her discussions of Mallean cinema and the primal scene. However, the chapter also demonstrates that Malle is too complex to be explained by one theory or interpretation, however tempting its conclusions. Other forms of psychoanalytic reading, not so directly related to trauma or the idea of the primal scene, can be applied. Malle's work such as Zazie dans le métro and Le Voleur display an almost obsessive preoccupation with teenagers, their youth and corruption and reverberate with disturbed adolescents, social worlds at their breaking points and so many failed escapes. The chapter concludes by returning to a more politically informed consideration of Au revoir les enfants.

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Martin O’Shaughnessy

During the mid-1930s, Jean Renoir made a decisive move towards the political left. This chapter follows the Popular Front's fortunes through the mood of Renoir's films: the radical upcurve before and immediately after electoral triumph (Le Crime de Monsieur Lange, La Vie est à nous and Les Bas-fonds), a tame downcurve as the Popular Front fragmented and lost all momentum (La Marseillaise) and post-Frontist despondency as gains were clawed back (La Bête humaine) culminating after Munich in an embittered assault on a society unwilling to renew or defend itself (La Règle du jeu). Le Crime de Monsieur Lange was made during the heady early days of the Popular Front and brought Renoir together with the radical leftwing theatre company. If Une Partie de campagne and Les Bas-fonds are considered together, the more broadly progressive of the two films is the more regressive in gender terms.

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Martin O’Shaughnessy

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Douglas Morrey

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Colin Gardner

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Hugo Frey

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Brett Bowles

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Brett Bowles

The success of Marcel Pagnol's business model was unmatched in 1930s French cinema, offering industry insiders and the general public welcome proof that their nation could defend its unique cultural identity against Americanisation and could compete economically with foreign pictures at home and abroad. From Louis Lumière's invention of the 'cinématographe' in 1895 through the end of the First World War, French films accounted for roughly 80 per cent of all those in circulation worldwide. At the peak of the crisis between 1933 and 1936, some 260 French producers declared bankruptcy and the cinema industry operated at deficit. With a large reserve of capital at his disposal from his career as a playwright and the immensely successful screen adaptations of Marius and Fanny on-screen, Pagnol was uniquely positioned to implement an artisanal model of filmmaking that was immune to the problems plaguing the rest of the industry.

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Douglas Morrey

The separation of Godard's early career into two distinct categories of film is an artificial and a necessarily unsatisfactory gesture. The domestic scenes between couples recur in both of the films À bout de souffle and Le Mépris. The films discussed in this chapter are characterised by an interest in political and social issues that would become more marked in Godard's cinema of the late 1960s: the Algerian war and prostitution. Le Petit Soldat, made after À bout de souffle but banned from release until 1963, could be looked upon as an existential drama. There is a general impression of a poor fit between the reality Bruno inhabits and reality as it exists in his head. Vivre sa vie (1962), 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.