Film, Media and Music

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Lynn Anthony Higgins

All of Bertrand Tavernier's characters move in explicitly delimited historical contexts. This chapter focuses on his use and philosophy of history, his historiography. Tavernier's historical fictions reconcile lyrical character portraits with the crusading spirit that is equally close to his heart. The chapter first discusses his Daddy nostalgie, and shows that through the lens of melodrama, his nostalgia comes into focus not only as an emotion but also as a historical dimension and a gateway to social engagement. It portrays the restoration of authority and social stability in La Fille de d'Artagnan and its meltdown in La Passion Beatrice. Further, it examines the five remaining historical melodramas in light of their more subtle critiques of patriarchal masculinity: Que la fête commence, Le Juge et l'assassin, Coup de torchon, La Vie et rien d'autre, and Capitaine Conan.

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Lynn Anthony Higgins

This chapter presents introductory remarks on the French filmmaker, Bertrand Tavernier, and his works. It also highlights the key concepts discussed in other chapters of the book. Tavernier has made twenty-one feature films, six documentaries, and several short films. Tavernier's oeuvre is unified by a recognizable constellation of ideas at its core. Born in Lyons, and cinephile from an early age, Tavernier is possessed of an 'invraisemblable culture cinématographique'. He grew from a voracious moviegoer, through a film critic, to a director's assistant. He possesses the legendary Lyonnais gourmandise matched by an appetite for knowledge, for books, for movies, for experience, for friends, for conversation (especially about the cinema), and for involvement in controversies. The chapter discusses his Lyon, le regard intérieur, and his 'merveilleux lyonnais' ties filmmaking to the magic of childhood. The chapter also looks at his works as a literary filmmaker.

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Sight and sound

Harmony in counterpoint?

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John Phillips

Robbe-Grillet admits to a strong interest in film soundtracks and the possibilities that these offer for experimental approaches. He argued in his early theoretical essays that writers are drawn to work in film precisely because it is a medium that combines both dimensions. This chapter examines the innovative manipulation of sound and vision. It first examines his approach to the visual medium of film and how he works creatively at this level. Robbe-Grillet's use of sound and musical effects is, unsurprisingly, of a piece with his identity as a modern artist for whom improvisation, spontaneity and the random selection of disparate objects and sounds creates new meanings. Use of music will no doubt be more successful, although there are notable exceptions. The visual and audial scaffolding of the films is probably best experienced on a sensorial rather than an intellectual level.

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Sado-eroticism

Trans-Europ-Express, L’Eden et après, Glissements progressifs du plaisir

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John Phillips

Up until the 1980s, critics generally espoused the view, encouraged by the author himself, that the world created in Robbe-Grillet's work bore little or no resemblance to the real world, and the text was to be regarded as non-mimetic and non-referential, as art not life. Robbe-Grillet's sexual obsessions led him to draw heavily in his cinematic oeuvre on popular cultural sources, particularly on 'softcore' films of the 1960s and 1970s. Pornography is conventionally distinguished from erotica as a form of low or popular as opposed to high culture. Robbe-Grillet himself always spoke of eroticism and not pornography, a choice of language designed to position his work ultimately in high culture, satirical intentions justifying the presence of explicit sex and nudity. L'Eden et après, Robbe-Grillet argues, attacks the very stereotypes that imprison women in roles constructed by men. The chapter pursues this argument with reference to Glissements progressifs du plaisir.

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Lynn Anthony Higgins

Bertrand Tavernier's oeuvre contains a self-reflecting dimension, and many of his characters are artists. This chapter discusses on Tavernier's portraits of professional artists, focusing on Des enfants gâtés, Un dimanche à la campagne, and Autour de minuit. In these films, all the artists portrayed are fictional, although most took inspiration from real historical models. Tavernier's portraits of the artist also function as self-portraits. Des enfants gâtés gives us a middle-aged scriptwriter who rents an apartment away from his family in order to complete a screenplay. He is soon caught up in a renters' dispute. Un dimanche à la campagne portrays an elderly painter provoked by a Sunday visit from his children and grandchildren to reflect upon the artistic compromises he has made. In Autour de minuit, an aging African-American bebop saxophonist, making a comeback in 1959 Paris, is rescued from self-destruction by a French fan, himself a graphic artist.

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Polanski’s Deneuve

‘Frigidity’ and feminism

Lisa Downing

It was in 1965 that Roman Polanski would cast Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion, described by one critic as a 'one-woman show', in a role that would effectively create a persona which would resonate throughout her future film career. The British-made Repulsion was Polanski's first English-language film and his second feature. This chapter contends that Repulsion can be read against the grain to offer a surprisingly sympathetic account of what happens to a young woman of the sexual revolution generation who rejects the imperative of heterosexual activity. It assesses and critiques the reception of Polanski's film Repulsion with regard to its portrayal of female subjectivity, arguing that Deneuve's presence in the film works to disrupt rather than to confirm straightforward stereotypes and codes of femininity. The chapter discusses the significance of this film for the development of Catherine Deneuve's screen persona.

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Playtime

L’Homme qui ment, L’Eden et après, N. a pris les dés, Le Jeu avec le feu, Un bruit qui rend fou

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John Phillips

Indeed, there is a self-conscious playfulness in the ways in which Robbe-Grillet's novels and films return obsessively to the same themes and motifs. This intertextuality is a theme, informing many important aspects of the filmic uvre, and forming part of a ludic tendency shared by other exponents of the new novel. Robbe-Grillet is conscious of this wider tendency among other authors of his generation, and in a sense pays homage to it in his own work. The structures that Robbe-Grillet draws from expressionistic and pop art and from contemporary music may be considered as expressions of a playful approach to art. The ludicity of Robbe-Grillet's work does not stop at the narcissistic self-mirroring of a personal or interpersonal intertextuality, but extends to the experimental use of game structures within the filmic work, and to their employment outside it as an approach to the making of the films themselves.

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John Phillips

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Lynn Anthony Higgins

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Of faces and roles

Deneuve–Téchiné

Bill Marshall

Catherine Deneuve has made five films with André Téchiné, more than with any other director she has worked with in her long career: Hôtel des Amériques, Le Lieu du crime/Scene of the Crime, Ma saison préférée/My Favourite Season, Les Voleurs/Thieves and Les Temps qui changent. In order to investigate the meanings of this connection, this chapter examines the established literature in film studies on Deneuve's star persona. The relationship between art and popular cinema in Deneuve's output can also be expressed in terms of the distinction between 'star' and acteur fétiche. Aspects of the pre-existing Deneuve persona (autonomous, empowered) happily encounter Téchiné's narratives of change, transformation, plurality, and becoming. Finally, and to take a distance from questions of stardom and acting technique, it is possible to see in the supremely cinematic Deneuve face one of the best examples of what Deleuze and Guattari call visagéité, or facialisation.