Simon - Swiss, but at the very antipodes of the anodine cleanliness normally associated with that country - is the great visceral star of classic French cinema. Even at his most benignly disruptive, as in this film or Renoir's Boudu sauve des eaux , there is something satyr-like and perturbing about him; in Carne's he Quai des brumes , where he plays the monstrous Zabel, driven nearly mad by his quasi-incestuous fascination with his goddaughter, his performance evokes depths of which scarcely any other French actor was capable.
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L'Atalante is among the most visually striking films of its period, thanks to the superb camerawork of Boris Kaufman in the night-time and dream sequences in particular. It was a comparative failure at the box office, though its classic status is now unquestioned. Much more of a journeyman than either Clair or Vigo was Julien Duvivier, whose La Belle Equipe features one of the definitive performances from the working-class hero of the time, Jean Gabin, and replicates the debates and uncertainties surrounding the Popular Front government in its two alternative endings - one affirmative of solidarity, the other homicidal and elegiac.
Duvivier's artisanal competence and lengthy career, much of it in Hollywood, make of him, as it were, the anti-Vigo, and there has perhaps been a consequent tendency to under- rate his work, which does a film like the Algiers-set drama Pepe le Moko little service. Pepe le Moko, like La Belle Equipe, stars Gabin, who in the later film dies a violent death as he was so often to do on screen, notably for Carne in Le Quai des brumes and Le Jour se leve The critic Andre Bazin memorably described Gabin as 'Oedipus in a cloth cap' - a reference to his archetypal role as a decent man of modest origins driven to madness and despair by the malignity of fate.
Celebrated for his on-screen outbursts of anger, he was to undergo a class meta- morphosis after the war, featuring significantly thicker-set in more bourgeois roles and thus becoming an icon of social change in France. The relationship between literature and the cinema became an increasingly complex one during this period. Marcel Pagnol not merely adapted many of his own works for the screen such as Cesar, , later to be 'adapted back' into a stage play , he was also to become one of the most important producers of the classic years, and an early practitioner of location filming.
Sacha Guitry's coruscating the- atrical dialogues made his plays natural choices for screen adaptation; the use of 9 French Cinema: A Student's Guide off-screen sound in Le Roman d'un tricheur and his free reworking of French history in Remontons les Champs-Elysees illustrate how his early disdain for the medium gave way to an innovative use of it, by turns frolicsome and sardonic.
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His career, like a great many others, never fully recovered from his collaboration with the Germans under the Occupation. Jean Cocteau's later interest in cinema was prefigured by Le Sang d'un poete , one of the most celebrated cinematic products of the pre-war avant-garde. The lit- erary figure whose trace is most perceptible in the s films still watched today, however, never himself directed a film. Jacques Prevert, Surrealist expulsee and Marxist fellow traveller, made his name as a writer of film scripts before becoming even more widely known as a poet in his own right.
His best-known work was for Marcel Carne, the apostle of what Andre Bazin was to dub 'poetic realism'. This term relates to an aesthetic that has much in common with the Hollywood genre of film noir, not least in the jadedness and pessimism of the world it evokes. Jouvet's sardonic, haughty demeanour here perhaps figures his slightly condescending attitude towards the filmic medium, for he had long been renowned as a serious theatre actor, above all in the works of Jean Giraudoux, and came belatedly to the cinema, which he always professed to regard as a commercial rather than an artistic medium.
Le Quai des brumes and Le Jour se live, both starring Gabin, take place on studio sets designed by Alexandre Trauner in which every detail is at once plausible and charged with poetic significance. The mists that cloak the port of Le Havre in the earlier film, like the wardrobe with which Gabin walls himself up in his attic room in Le Jour se leve, suggest a mood of exhaustion and defeat over and above their realistically motivated place in the films. Gabin's nemesis here is the splendidly yet repulsively oleaginous Jules Berry, star also of Le Crime de M. Lange and Carne' s Les Visiteurs du soir Carne has become a byword for cinematic fatalism, the doomed love so characteristic of his work being associated by Edward Baron Turk with his homosexuality.
The three years that separated La Belle Equipe, in its happy ending at least the apotheosis of Gabin triumphant, from the same actor's tragic demise in Le Jour se leve were the years during which France slid from the initial optimism of the Popular Front to the verge of war, a congru- ence of cinema and history that powerfully reinforces the individual fatalism so clearly present in much of Carne's work.
Yet viewing his films is a less uniformly 10 History dispiriting experience than this may suggest, for their dialogues are studded with the mordant wit so characteristic of Prevert. This is still more in evidence in Prevert's only script for Jean Renoir, almost uni- versally regarded as the greatest of French directors. Le Crime de Monsieur Lange, about a publishing firm whose workers form themselves into a cooperative when their dastardly boss Batala Jules Berry absconds owing money, is both one of Renoir's finest works and the film that most clearly embodies the exhilaration of the early Popular Front period.
This shot evokes the sense of community and solidarity that motivates Lange's shooting and, thanks largely to Bazin's masterly analysis of it, has become a classic of political cinema. Renoir's subsequent work may lack the overt ideological edge of Le Crime de Monsieur Lange, but as a cinematic anatomy of a society, and a class, on the brink of collapse it is without rival. La Grande Illusion counterposes the realities of national rivalry between France and Germany with those of class conflict.
Set in a German prisoner-of-war camp for officers during the First World War, it strikingly prefigures the conflict that was to erupt two years after its making. The 'illusion' of the tide thus seems to be that national loyalties are more important than those of class, yet the film's setting, and continuing relevance in the Europe of today, suggest that questions of nationhood are not to be so easily discarded. La Marseillaise 1 - designed as the apotheosis of the Popular Front, in fact its artistic swansong - depicts the French Revolution as the achievement of ordinary women and men, in a reaction against the 'great names' school of history that places it at the opposite extreme to Napoleon.
Renoir's filming is characterised by a stylistic openness and a collaborative use of actors that enable him to articulate the social contradictions of his time with remarkable subtlety. Martin O'Shaughnessy's observation that La Marseillaise can be seen as 'the welding together of two conflicting gendered stories' - a 'male nar- rative of coming of age' and one in which 'women are seen to play an assertive, powerful and violent role' O'Shaughnessy, - foregrounds the otherwise largely neglected importance of gender in Renoir's work.
These potential conflicts, in addition to the pervasive theme of class, help us to understand what Renoir meant when he said of France before the Second World War: 'We are dancing on a volcano. An aristocratic country-house party is the setting in which all manner of repressed conflicts - sexual, social, ethnic, class-based - come to the surface. This happened in the cinema too; riots broke out on the film's first screening in Paris and it was banned successively by the pre-war and by the Vichy and Occupation governments.
The savagery with which Renoir anatomises the hypocrisy and bad faith of pre-war French society may take some time for a contemporary audience to appreciate. The film features no truly major star Gaston Modot, Julien Carette and even Marcel Dalio were all minor ones at best , relying rather on the group dynamic that, from Le Crime de Monsieur Lange onwards, is so characteristic of Renoir's work. The world it evokes will seem impos- sibly stylised and mannered to most contemporary audiences, for whom elaborate amateur theatricals and the etiquette of pheasant shooting are unlikely to be famil- iar territory.
The film's visual verve, however, is apparent at first viewing, notably in the rabbit hunt scene near the beginning and the frantic chase through the cor- ridors of the chateau towards the end, two scenes that echo and mirror each other. Hunting is a leitmotif of La Regie dujeu, all at once visually as in the two scenes just mentioned , emotionally to the pursuit of game corresponds the pursuit of love, both likely to lead to bloody consequences and in the wider social context the pursuit of territorial ambition was even as Renoir filmed pushing Europe towards war.
The film's astonishing unity-in-diversity helps to explain Pierre Billard's judgement that Renoir's 'freedom kills the myth of representation', so that he 'takes his place in the cinema of modernity twenty years ahead of his time' Billard, Neither truly 'classic' - though the summit of the French cinema that generally goes by that name - nor yet 'modern ist ', La Regie dujeu marks the tran- sition par excellence from one kind of cinema to another.
That judgement, of course, is necessarily influenced by the immense historical rupture brought about by the outbreak of war, which makes La Regie dujeu's tran- sitional status only too apparent. It was one of 5 1 French films - along with Le Quai des brumes and Renoir's Zola adaptation La Bete humaine - to be banned by the censor just before war was declared, while the first Cannes festival, due to take place in September , had to be cancelled.
The decade that was ending so omi- nously had nevertheless been a productive one for the cinema. The Conseil superieur du cinema, set up in , had shown the beginnings of state and governmental 12 HISTORY interest in this comparatively new art form, and the founding of the Cinematheque frangaise in went on to reinforce this, providing the institutional context within which generations of young critics and film-makers would get to know not only French, but European and American cinema.
Between 94 and films were produced each year during the decade not counting which, for obvious reasons, was 'incomplete' , and something of the order of admissions were annually recorded. It might have been thought that the social and economic disruption caused by wartime and the Occupation would have a calamitous effect on the nascent industry, but as we shall see that was to be only part of the story.
The unavailability of American films meant that the French industry had the field to itself far more than in normal circumstances; a character in Jean-Pierre Melville's Resistance epic L'Armee des ombres says that France will know she is free when it is possible to watch Gone With The Wind on the Champs-Elysees, which poignantly suggests the cultural deprivation of which French film-makers were able to take often against their will advantage. The Occupation cinema was brought under central - i. German-dominated - control in a way that severely restricted freedom of expression, but also introduced the first system of advances to producers and made the industry much more efficient.
If this sounds suspiciously like a variant of 'Mussolini made the trains run on time', it should be borne in mind that many of the structures of post-war state aid to the cinema were modelled on those imposed under the Occupation. Against this has to be set, of course, the loss of key personnel to the industry. Many of the leading producers, being Jewish, were not permitted to work. Renoir left for the USA where he was thenceforth to spend most of his time; Clair and Duvivier, more briefly, did likewise. Renoir's American work is by common consent less out- standing than his great films of the 1 s, not least because he was working within the constraints of the Hollywood system and had lost the acute sense of French society that makes La Grande Illusion or La Regie dujeu so remarkable.
Even so, the moody evocation of the Deep South in Swamp Water and the black comedy of The Diary of a Chambermaid remain powerful. His work of the s and 1 s, less mordant than that of the pre-war years, is nevertheless recognisably by the same hand. Clair enlisted Marlene Dietrich for The Flame of New Orleans , while Duvivier's post-war career reached its height with the sour and misanthropic Void le temps des assassins , starring Jean Gabin.
The loss or diminished glory of these figures, and of others, was in a sense replicated on a smaller scale at the Liberation, when such figures as Guitry, Arletty and the actor Robert Le Vigan - a prominent collaborator who was never to work in France again - were tried and briefly imprisoned.
The leading pre-war director to remain in France was Carne, who worked in the Victorine Studios in Nice - thus within the Vichy zone. The first of his two wartime films, both scripted by Prevert, Les Visiteurs du soir, is a surreal medieval fantasy, fea- turing Arletty as the duplicitously androgynous emissary of Jules Berry's camp Devil in knee-breeches. This film, for all its visual extravagance, is alas characterised by some rather listless acting - something that is emphatically not true of Carne's best-known and most ambitious work, Les Enfants du Paradis released in though shot in , set in the Paris theatre world of the s see Figure 1.
Superb performances from such as Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault and Pierre Brasseur have helped to make it probably the best-loved of French film classics, along with the richness of its mise-en-scene of the world of popular entertainment, which owes much to the magnificent sets designed by the Hungarian Jew Alexandre Trauner, working for obvious reasons clandestinely. Its at first tenuous-seeming relationship to the society of its time has of course to do with the omnipresence of censorship, but Edward Baron Turk finds liberating possibilities in its sexual poli- tics: 'By calling into question the authority of the family, the repression of sexual deviance, rigid gender roles, and the dependence of women on men, Les Enfants du Paradis assailed the foundation of Vichy's social order' Turk, Two of the outstanding film-makers to have made their mark under the Occupation were Jacques Becker whose Goupi Mains Rouges of 1 is an almost Gothic drama of peasant life and Jean Gremillon, for whom Prevert scripted Lumiere d'ete This film, about a Regie dujeu-like tangle of love and class rela- tionships in the Midi, was along with Gremillon's aviation drama Le del est a vous among the few major Occupation films to present a critical view of contem- porary society.
Le del est d vous, indeed, has often been seen as a parable of the solidarity of the Resistance. Gremillon's post-war career was a sorry catalogue of aborted or curtailed projects; he was to make only three feature films between and his death in , and remains an unjustly little-known director. Collaborators, as we have seen, found their careers blighted or destroyed, while the disappearance of the protected domestic market seemed briefly to threaten the very foundations of the French industry.
The Blum-Byrnes agreement of May allowed American films unrestricted access to the French market, but also introduced a quota of French films to be screened - initially 30 per cent, rising to 38 per cent in The agreement, widely denounced at the time as an act of treachery, appears in retrospect not only highly realistic, but premonitory of subsequent French cultural and cinematic relations with the USA, seeking accom- modation of the 'cultural exception' within an American hegemony the French industry could not hope to vanquish.
Along with the nationalisation of large exhibition circuits at the end of the war and the continuation of 'outrageously pro- tectionist' Crisp, 77 government advances and funding, the agreement protected the industry far more effectively than might have been thought at the time. The Centre national de la cinematographie CNC was set up in to oversee film finance - a striking example of the readiness the French state has always shown to intervene in cultural matters - and in established a fund to assist French film production and distribution, which has been largely responsible for the indus- try's high international profile ever since.
Squeezed between the heyday of the classic cinema and the burgeoning of the New Wave, it remains, in both senses of the word, largely invisible. Not a single film by Claude Autant-Lara, Jacques Becker or Christian-Jaque, three of the period's major directors, is available on video in the UK, and only one example of those directors' work - Becker's Casque d'or - has been shown on British television. Such neglect, while comprehensible, is scarcely justifiable.
The period in question also marked the beginning, or culmination, of three of the major post-war directorial careers. Robert Bresson's eschewal of professional actors and refusal of psychological depth in favour of an austerely materialist Catholic spirituality first becomes marked in his Bernanos adaptation Journal d'un cure de campagne Bresson's second feature, Un condamne a mort s'est echappe , details the escape based on real life of a Resistance detainee from Montluc prison in Lyon, presented as a sustained and suspenseful exercise in the operation of grace.
Jacques Tati once said that he would like to work with Bresson - an odd remark considering the conspicuous lack of humour in the latter's films, but less anomalous than it might appear if we bear in mind the meticulously choreographed style and innovatively dislocatory use of sound that characterise Tad's work. His three fea- tures of the period - Jour de fete , Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot and Mon oncle - are among the most acute satires of the galloping modernisation that in some 30 years transformed France from a largely rural into a primarily industrial economy.
The cults of speed explicitly linked with the USA , the seaside holiday and household gadgets are his targets in the three features; to describe M. Hulot as a 'reflection of the increased standardization of daily life in France' Ross, , however portentous it may sound, says a good deal about his enduring appeal and relevance. Cocteau's two best-known films are La Belle et la bete and Orphee , imbued with the spirit of what, in a doubtless conscious response to Carne and Bazin, he dubbed 'magical realism'.
The earlier film's evocation of the world of Dutch painting and Orphee's sumptuous special effects have lasted rather better than the matinee-idol narcissism of Jean Marais in the leading roles. The 'real objects' in these films may appear to be very far removed from the France of the time at which they were made, but this would be to disregard the strong homosex- ual element in La Belle et la bete's 'love that dare not speak its name', or the allusions to the heavily coded world of the Resistance in Orphee's abundance of seemingly nonsensical passwords.
Jean-Pierre Melville in directed by all accounts with considerable interfer- ence from the author the cinematic adaptation of Cocteau's best-known text, Les Enfants terribles. Melville's place in the history of French cinema, however, rests less on this or his earlier literary adaptation, of Vercors's Le Silence de la mer , than on the influence of Hollywood 'action cinema' on his work.
The work of directors such as Howard Hawks and Samuel Fuller, with its stress on laconic, often violent action and its narrative terseness, was to have a major effect on the New Wave film- makers of the succeeding generation - an effect for which Melville was in large part responsible. He was also the first major French director after Pagnol to set up his own production company, operating artisanally on the fringes of the industry.
This 17 French Cinema: A Student's Guide enabled him to reconcile financial autonomy - if he and the New Wave directors so admired the 'action cinema' school it was largely because it had been able to produce memorable films often on very low budgets - and a degree of artistic inde- pendence that for his critics verges on the mannered. Bob le flambeur was the first of his gangster movies, a stylised riposte to the production-line serie noire films, often starring Eddie Constantine, that constituted the French mainstream cinema's first response to the influx of American productions after the war.
The film-makers so far mentioned in this section are all in greater or lesser degree atypical of the dominant Fourth Republic cinema. That cinema's frequent recourse to literary adaptation, its reliance on careful scriptwriting often by the duo of Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost , its general air of businesslike professionalism and sup- posed unadventurousness, were all laughed out of fashion by the New Wave, but have in the past decade or so staged a resurgence through the popularity of the 'heritage film'. The strictures of Truffaut may well have been applicable to the jour- neyman work of such as Jean Delannoy, who signed forgettable adaptations of Cocteau L'Eternel Retour, and Sartre Les Jeux sont faits, , but two film- makers of the period at least display subversive and ironic qualities that should not pass unnoticed.
Claude Autant-Lara's move from Communist Party activist after the war to Front National MEP in the mids scarcely did him credit, but the dozen or so films he made under the Fourth Republic often give a mordant por- trayal of the suffocating pettiness and hypocrisy of the time. Le Diable au corps and Le Ble en herbe , adapted from Radiguet and Colette respectively, both deal with burgeoning adolescent sexuality and caused scandals through their depiction of relationships between a younger man and an older woman.
Le Ble en herbe was among the first post-war films to fall foul of the power exercised by French mayors to ban from their cities films that had received the national censor's authorisation. La Traversee de Paris teamed Gabin and Bourvil in a tale of black-marketeering in occupied Paris - the forerunner of the determinedly unheroic view of the Occupation years that was to come to the fore in the s.
More bilious and misanthropic still is the work of Henri-Georges Clouzot, who found himself for a while banished from the industry at the Liberation because of the harshly cynical view of provincial life in his poison-pen drama, Le Corbeau Le Salaire de la peur sustains for more than two and a half hours the suspense of its tale of European expatriates driving lorryloads of nitroglycerine over treacherous Central American roads to quench an oil-rig fire.
Yves Montand, first drawn to public attention in Carne's Les Portes de la nuit 1 , gives one of the defining performances of his career here. Most frightening of all his works perhaps is Les Diaboliques , with Simone Signoret in one of her best-known roles. The 18 History film's sadistic martyrisation of the character played by Vera Clouzot the director's wife becomes even more chilling when we know that she suffered in real life from a weak heart that was not long afterwards to kill her.
The film's ending clearly inspired that, more than 30 years later, of Adrian Lyne's Fatal Attraction, but in its manipulation of actors and audience alike is surely closer to Hitchcock - a major influence on the New Wave, present here too in what it would be quite unjust to dismiss as cinema de papa. Rene Clement is the other directorial name most often associated with the cinema of this period.
Jeux interdits tells of the impact of the war on two young children who create an animals' cemetery before being roughly separated from each other. The film's view of childhood, while less barbed than that of Vigo, is nevertheless a determinedly unidealised one, a very long way from the Hollywood of the time.
Clement's other major work of the period took the form of literary adaptations, from Zola Gervaise of or Marguerite Duras Barrage contre le pacifique of Carne proved unable to sustain his pre-war popularity after the Liberation. Les Pontes de la nuit was severely criticised as dejd vu, the doom-laden Prevert script and heavy fatalism with which it is imbued not suiting the more upbeat expectations of the post-Liberation era.
Thenceforth his career tailed off sadly, the Zola adaptation Therese Raquin being his most successful later film, thanks largely to Simone Signoret's vampish performance in the title role. Becker produced at once his most lyrical and his most doom-laden film with Casque d'or, a reconstruction of the nine- teenth-century Parisian underworld, as well as such realistically observed dramas as Rue de VEstrapade , a forerunner of the New Wave.
Signoret gives what is probably the performance of her life, and Serge Reggiani as her doomed young lover exudes tragic intensity. Becker went on to give Jean Gabin one of his great post-war roles as the portly gangster yearning for retirement in the serie noire Touchez pas au grisbi This director's reputation is less by some way than it deserves to be, for he died prematurely in , just before the release of the prison escape drama Le Trou, which remains among the finest French films of its period.
Industrially and aesthetically alike, the 'Fourth Republic years' were, it is now beginning to be recognised, richer and more complex than might at first appear.
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Yet - with the handful of exceptions already mentioned - it lacked the innovative verve of earlier and later periods. It was a time of reconstruction and consolidation for the industry, which for most of the period succeeded in attracting more specta- tors to French than to American films. The seeds of innovation were being sown elsewhere, in the pages of the new cinematic journals that appeared during and after the war.
L'Ecran francais began clandestinely in and lasted ten years, 19 French Cinema: A Student's Guide during which it brought to the fore notions of the cinema as a vehicle for ideologi- cal engagement and as a language in its own right. Alexandre Astruc's 'Naissance d'une nouvelle avant-garde' 'Birth of a new avant-garde' inaugurated a mode of writing on the cinema which the journals Positif and Cahiers du cinema were to continue into the s.
It is in a sense provocative to bracket those names together for, in their earlier days at least, the two journals cordially detested each other. Positif was sympathetic to Surrealism and to the French Communist Party, while among the major influences on Cahiers was the existentialist Catholicism of Andre Bazin.
Haifa century on, both journals still exist and thrive, albeit with much ideological passion spent. If Cahiers remains to non-French audiences at least much the better known, this is because so many of those who wrote for it went on to direct films in their own right. Chabrol, Godard, Rivette, Rohmer, Truffaut - the patron saints of the New Wave - all began as Cahiers critics in what remains the most striking mass migration from writing- about to writing-in film history has to offer.
Their interest in low-budget American cinema led them to pursue with zeal the politique des auteurs - a pantheonisation of figures such as Howard Hawks and Samuel Fuller, whose individuality in making 'their' films in the teeth of studio-imposed constraints was lauded in a sometimes extravagant manner. Positif 's favourite sons, such as Otto Preminger and Raoul Walsh, have lasted somewhat less well by comparison. It exemplifies a tendency in French cultural life - illustrated at very much the same time by the work of such 'new novelists' as Alain Robbe-Grillet and Nathalie Sarraute - for critical and theoretical reflection to stimulate and feed through into artistic pro- duction.
It illustrates the importance of political loyalties, or their absence, already marked in the cinema of the Popular Front era, in informing aesthetic and cultural debate. For reasons we shall now explore, was the year in which all these trends converged to inaugurate what was rapidly recognised as a new era for the French cinema. The major intellectual and personal influence on them was the critic Andre Bazin, a passionate advocate of 'realism, mise-en-scene, and deep focus which he saw in opposition to montage ' Monaco, 6 , and of the politique des auteurs.
European art-house directors, such as Renoir or Rossellini, had traditionally been treated as the 'authors' of their films, in much the same way as Balzac or Baudelaire were of the literary texts they signed. The American low-budget cinema, on the other hand, tended to be thought of as a commercial and studio-based product, to which Godard pays homage in his dedication of A bout de souffle to Monogram Pictures.
Cahiers' innovation was to treat film-makers such as Hawks or Fuller as the authors of their films in much the same way as their more 'respectable' European counterparts. The New Wave directors, like their Hollywood predecessors, worked individually and creatively within often severe budgetary constraints and the conventions of studio genre.
Their films were frequendy self-referential Godard making a brief Hitchcock-like appearance in his own A bout de souffle, Truffaut's Les Coups containing an obvious visual quotation from Vigo's Zero de conduite , as though to assert the value of film as a form of artistic expression on a par with the novel or the theatre. Allusions to art cinema and Hollywood action film sat side by side in a manner that, nowadays, with the erosion of the barrier between 'high' and 'popular' culture, seems unremarkable, but was extremely innovative at the time. The literary adaptation and the costly studio set-up were anathema to these film- makers, whose use of hand-held cameras and location filming gave their work a constant charge of the unexpected.
They were also greatly helped by the introduc- tion, in , of the avance sur recettes, a system of government loans, granted on the basis of a working script, to enable films to be produced. One in five French films benefits from this funding, though only one in ten of these has been sufficiently successful at the box office to pay off the loan in full Hayward, The system thus effectively works as a source of subsidy, another reason for the often- remarked thriving independent and experimental sector known as art et essai of the French industry.
The influence of Hitchcock is marked in the exchange of roles between the central characters in both films played by Gerard Blain and Jean-Claude Brialy , the latter of whom represents Parisian would-be sophistication against the provincial benightedness of the other. Chabrol has had a wildly uneven career, often filming neither wisely nor too well, but at his best he is the master denouncer of the hypocrisy and pretentions of the bour- geoisie.
Misanthropy and misogyny are other components of his work and both are 21 French Cinema: A Student's Guide plain in Les Bonnes Femmes , about the varying fortunes and ambitions of four young women who work in an electrical shop, an emblem of the modernisation of French society. Les Biches features a bisexual love triangle in Saint-Tropez, probably the first major French film to deal overtly with lesbianism, albeit in a manner that changes in sexual politics have caused to appear dubious.
The year - annus mirabilis of post-war cinema - also saw the feature debuts of Truffaut and Godard. The former's Les Coups remains among the cinema's most touching evocations of a less-then-happy childhood, modelled in many ways on Truffaut's own. This earned an unprecedented standing innovation at the Cannes festival, from which Truffaut had a few years before been banned, and the all-but-envious homage of Renoir. The homoerotic intensity of the relationship between Jules and Jim, mediated it would be possible to argue through their shared passion for Catherine, now gives the film a strikingly modern feel.
The theme of tragic or impossible love, and its close linkage with death, recurs in more conventional format with La Peau douce , generally regarded as Truffaut's most Chabrolesque work. Le Mepris gives Brigitte Bardot her major serious dramatic role, and stages an eloquent enactment of the contradictory pressures on the film-maker to make money and produce significant art.
Much of Godard's work during this decade displays an unnerving prescience. Bande apart alludes to the genoci- dal conflict in Rwanda 30 years before it came to widespread attention. Masculin feminin pre-echoes the debates about gender and sex roles that were to achieve such importance in succeeding decades. Pierrot lefou suggests much of what was to follow in Godard's subsequent work, with its strikingly poetic use of colour, its use of mockingly didactic, quasi-Brechtian tableaux and its references to the Vietnam War.
Rohmer's work remains, certainly in French and probably in world cinema, unique in that he has never lost money on a film in a year career.
His low-budget approach, reliance on highly crafted dialogue and fondness for ironic philosophis- ing make a 'Rohmer film' instantly recognisable, and in these respects he can, even by those not uniformly enthusiastic about his work, be seen as the supreme auteur. Le Signe du lion is his most savage work, about an over-trusting bohemian's destitute summer in Paris.
His work for the remainder of this period took the form of short films, often made for television, a further illustration of the economic awareness that informs his work. Rivette's love for lengthy, intricate narratives was apparent from his first feature, Paris nous appartient 1 , and has caused him to have a rather chequered career. La Religieuse , his only other feature of the period, was briefly banned by the censor for its supposedly scandalous evocation of convent life, and authorised to be exported only under the distancing title of Suzanne Simonin, la religieuse de Diderot, much as Godard's La Femme mariee had to be retitled Unefemme mariee before it got past the censor.
Resnais, the great cineast of memory, remains unique in his exclusive use of pre-written scripts, the basis for the most extensive formal experimentation with montage among contem- porary film-makers. Novelists Marguerite Duras and Alain Robbe-Grillet, both themselves to go on to direct films, scripted respectively Hiroshima mon amour and L'Annee derniere a Marienbad Hiroshima intertwines the horrors of the nuclear bomb and its central female character's love affairs with a German during 23 French Cinema: A Student's Guide the war and a Japanese afterwards, broaching at once political and ethnic taboos.
Nowadays, with a more widespread awareness that 'the personal is political', its 'dime-store novel' plot as the central character, played by Emmanuelle Riva, her- self describes it appears less audacious than it did at the time, when its sympathetic evocation of a love affair with the enemy was moving into largely uncharted terri- tory. The film, as important a first feature as A bout de souffle, makes vivid, often startling use of subjective visual flashbacks, cutting back and forth between the Hiroshima of 1 and the French provincial town of Nevers under the Occupation. L'Annee derniere a Marienbad see Figure 1.
It is impossible to tell whether its love story, with Delphine Seyrig as the object of two men's desire, is past, present, future, fantasy, or all or none of these. In this respect the film is analogous to the experiments of the 'new novelists' - including Robbe-Grillet - with subjective, fragmented or even contradictory narration.
A strikingly, even flamboyantly, modern work, it is also an evocation of and homage to the golden age of black and white film-making; there is scarcely another film it would be so difficult to imagine in colour. Muriel , also starring Delphine Seyrig, ran into censorship difficulties because of its refer- ences to torture in the Algerian war, much as Godard's Le Petit Soldat had done three years earlier.
Censorship of film was rife in the Gaullist era - the downside perhaps of the state's interest in the medium. Officially instituted for the first time during the Occupation, it continued in force thereafter, to such an extent that during the eight years of the Algerian War 'not a single film on the Algerian question was granted a visa' Hayward, Not until Giscard d'Estaing became president in did it all but disappear. The succes de scandale enjoyed by Louis Malle's second feature, Les Amants , is there to remind us that sexual censorship was scarcely less to be reckoned with though less specific to France in this period than its political counterpart.
Les Amants stars Jeanne Moreau as a bored bourgeois trophy wife who leaves her family and lover behind after a night of love with a young student she met on the road. The aforementioned succes de scandale pertained to the film's inevitably discreet depiction - or evocation - of cunnilingus, but more profoundly shocking than this might be the wife's seeming abandonment of not only her husband, but her young daughter.
Malle's role as starmaker was reinforced by Vie privee of , with its barely disguised references to the real life of its star, Brigitte Bardot. Varda is beyond doubt French cinema's leading woman director. The number of films directed by women in France has increased exponentially over the past decade in particular, but until the post-war period a woman director was a rarity, 24 Image Not Available Figure 1.
Cleo de 5 a 7 tells in real time the story of a singer who suspects she may have cancer. Hope and encourage- ment are given to her by a young conscript soldier she meets in the Pare Montsouris while waiting for the result of hospital tests - a scene given particular poignancy by the fact that he is at the end of a period of leave from Algeria. The counterposing of a life under threat from within and one under threat from without figures the interplay of the personal and the political we have already seen at work in Hiroshima mon amour, as well as suggesting how film-makers found ways of incorporating references to the Algerian War into their work without falling foul of the censor.
Varda's other work in this period was in the short or documentary format, apart from the ironic love triangle Le Bonkeur of Demy Varda's husband made two major films during this period, Lola and Les Parapluies de Cherbourg Set in western French seaports Nantes and Cherbourg respectively , they refer, in a perhaps deceptively lighthearted way, to the twofold processes of modernisation and decolonisation under way in the France of the time see Ross, , for a masterly analysis of these.
Lola's eponymous heroine, played by Anouk Aimee, oscillates between a French and an American lover before her first love returns driving a vast American car to reclaim her at the end. Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, for all the frothiness of its entirely sung dialogue to music by Michel Legrand , actually offers a serious treatment of the effects of modernisation along with those of the Algerian War.
Catherine Deneuve, in her first major role, becomes pregnant by the man she loves the night before he leaves for Algeria; on his return he finds her married off to a wealthy local jeweller, in part because her mother does not believe that a garage mechanic would be an acceptable match for her. The irony of this, in the increasingly motorised French society of the time, becomes manifest in the film's final sequence, where we see Michel as the proud owner of a large and gleaming garage.
Bresson, Tati and Melville, all of whom had come to the fore in the war years, pro- duced arguably their finest work during this period. Bresson's Pickpocket and Au hasard Balthazar refine his elliptical precision still further; editing here becomes a spiritual quest. Pickpocket's anguished Dostoevskyan hero is never 'analysed' a term anathema to Bresson in any detail. His compulsive thieving is observed in tight phenomenological detail, and only in the film's final sequence, where in prison he is visited by Jeanne for whom he realises the depth of his love, does it dawn on him and the audience that it has represented his way to redemp- tion.
Au hasard Balthazar realises the tour de force of making the tribulations of a 26 HISTORY donkey its central 'character' into a spiritual odyssey - Bresson's rejection of the very idea of the actor carried to its furthest extent - while also offering a surpris- ingly barbed view of modernised France through the presence of the villainous blouson noir Gerard. Tati's only feature of the period, Playtime , is a prodi- giously choreographed near-silent comedy, which lost a vast amount of money and all but ended his career. Nowadays, it appears not only as his finest work, extraor- dinarily intricate in its complexity of visual organisation, but also as a striking prefiguration of the postmodern era in which everywhere looks like everywhere else.
The film follows a group of tourists as they journey round a concrete and glass Paris whose iconic landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower, are visible only in travel agency posters. Melville's masterpiece Le Samourdi carries his stylisation of the gangster movie to iconographic lengths, in a pared-down narrative with minimal dialogue sustained largely by the androgynous performance, by turns violent and vulnerable, of Alain Delon.
By the end of our period the New Wave as any kind of unified movement or entity had ceased to exist some would situate its demise as early as The film-makers associated with it were pursuing widely divergent paths - from the increasingly politicised experimentation of Godard to the more commercial work of Truffaut or Chabrol - all with significant success.
Part at least of the reason for this had to do with the actors and actresses their work brought to the fore. Jeanne Moreau has tended to evoke a more sophisticated, upmarket sex appeal, exempli- fied not only by her roles in Les Amants and Jules et Jim but also by her periodic forays into independent and avant-garde cinema, such as Peter Brook's Duras adaptation Moderate cantabile The key icons of masculinity during this period were Delon and Belmondo.
The former's 'demonic presence beneath the disguise of an angel' Passek, was not to be deployed by a New Wave film-maker until and Godard's Nouvelle vague, but his work for Melville, Rene Clement Plein soleil, and the Italian directors Visconti and Antonioni made him an international art-house superstar. Belmondo's craggy vulnerability made him the ideal interpreter for the two key Godard roles already referred to. He was to oscillate throughout his career between overtly commercial roles in which his credibility was vastly enhanced by the fact that he insisted on doing all his own stunts and appearances for 27 French Cinema: A Student's Guide 'respectable' directors including - as well as Godard - Chabrol, Resnais and Truffaut.
In , French cinema, like the society in which it was rooted and which it repre- sented, appeared to be quietly prosperous and securely grounded. Yet a crisis that occurred in February of that year suggested that this impression might not alto- gether conform to reality. The Paris Cinematheque, co-founded in by Georges Franju and Henri Langlois, had during the 30 or more years of its existence become one of the world's leading film archives, where as we have seen the New Wave directors and many others received much of their cinematic education.
Langlois's energy and commitment were immensely important in its success, despite his often anarchic curatorial methods. It was these latter that led, in February , to his dismissal by the Culture Minister, Andre Malraux, in an attempt at increasing already pronounced governmental control over the world of culture, which sparked off a massive wave of protest. The Cinematheque was effec- tively closed down by demonstrations until Langlois's reinstatement at the end of April.
The 'Langlois affair' now appears as an obvious precursor of the 'events' that were to shake France to the core the following month - events that, as we shall see, were to have a major cultural and political impact in which the cinema would have its part to play.
The Langlois affair, as we have seen, was a pre- figuration of this, and the 'Estates-General of the Cinema', set up during the events by the film technicians' union, discussed various possibilities for the restructuring of the cinema industry in the revolutionary perspective dominant at the time. For all this involvement, however, May 's effect on film-making was in the end slight. More significant for the industry, though not necessarily for film as an art form, was Giscard's abolition of censorship, spearheaded by his Culture Minister, Michel Guy.
This led to a burgeoning of pornographic films, which were more heav- ily taxed than other films and thus cross-subsidised the 'legitimate' industry. They to some extent helped to stem a decline in cinema attendance which nevertheless, as everywhere else, proved to be inexorable, owing above all to the pervasiveness of television. Even so, the French industry was to prove, as it has done ever since, the envy of many others in its ability, thanks to state intervention, to keep 28 HISTORY its head above water, instanced during this period by the continuing success of the major directors from earlier years and the coming to the fore of new film-makers.
The major impact of May on film-making practice is undoubtedly to be found in the work of Godard. We have seen that La Chinoise and Weekend, made the year before the events, were a striking prefiguration of them.
Godard also worked for television, unsurprisingly encountering problems with its state-dominated apparatus, before returning to his country of citizenship, Switzerland, in the late s. Sauve qui peut la vie was his most 'main- stream' film for some considerable time, situating its political involvement at the level of interpersonal and particularly gender relations rather than of the class struggle.
In its diversity of institutional contexts, its engagement with video and television, its passage through a vehemently committed Marxism to a more diffuse and labile view of what constituted the political, Godard's work of this period serves as a remarkable crystallisation of the wider cultural and ideological evolution of the France of these years. That evolution, we shall see, was to culminate in the election of a Socialist president - Francois Mitterrand - in and the dwindling of May's revolutionary optimism into diverse movements for other forms, notably ethnic- and gender-based, of social change.
He won an Oscar for La Nuit americaine , a comedy about the making of a film, and enjoyed his major commercial success with the Occupation-set theatre drama, Le Dernier Metro 1 , giving starring roles to Catherine Deneuve and the mountainously extravagant Gerard Depardieu. Yet the exploration - ambiguously complicit or critical - of 'Donjuanism' and gender relations in L'Homme qui aimait lesfemmes , and the death-haunted central character of La Chambre verte , played by Truffaut himself, in different ways give the lie to this view.
La Chambre verte appears particu- larly poignant in the light of Truffaut' s tragically early death from a brain tumour in Chabrol went at the provincial bourgeoisie with a will in Le Boucher and Les Noces rouges , among more ephemeral ventures. Le Boucher shows the influ- ence of Hitchcock in its metaphysical echoes, notably the possible transference of guilt for the village butcher's murders on to the school teacher Helene played by Chabrol's then wife Stephane Audran , who has rejected, or at least refused to con- front her love for, him.
The previous year's Que la bete meure! Rivette enjoyed the biggest success of his career with the screwball-influenced Celine et Julie vont en bateau , while making almost certainly the longest French feature film ever, Out One of the same year, which ran for 12 hours and 40 minutes and was understandably only ever screened once in the full-length version.
Rohmer's Ma nuit chez Maud , one of his 'Six Moral Tales' series, is probably his defining work, in its use of intellectualised irony here rooted in a reading of the seventeenth-century philosopher Pascal and investment in talk as alternative rather than preliminary to sex. Le Genou de Claire and L' Amour I'apres-midi , part of the same series, likewise deal with temptations to infidelity or sexual transgression that are resolved through language rather than action.
At a time when Lacanian psychoanalysis, with its stress on the inextricable interplay of lan- guage and desire, was carrying all before it in French intellectual life, it is perhaps not fanciful to suggest that Rohmer's films, for all their evocation of the early Enlightenment world of Marivaux's comedies, were more in tune with their own period than might at first appear.
Resnais enjoyed less success in this period than previously, though Mon oncle d'Amerique is a masterly mise-en-scene of the technocratic modernisation of France in the s. The social transformations of the Giscard years, fuelled by growing Americanisation and issuing in measures ranging from the abolition of censorship to the legalisation of abortion, have tended to be somewhat overshadowed by the earlier hegemony of Gaullism and the largely unrealised hopes invested in the Socialist victory of Yet they were considerable, and Resnais's chronicle of the changing and intertwined fortunes of his three main characters traces them in fascinating detail.
In Lancelot du lac , he constructs a bleak and pitiless Middle Ages from which any sense of faith or purpose has been evacuated, and the same is true for his evocation of suicidal contemporary youth in Le Diable, probablement The redemptive possibilities of Journal d'un cure de campagne or Pickpocket seem definitively banished from an increasingly pessimistic body of work. All in all, then, the New Wave's reputation for innovation did not long survive its first half-dozen or so years.
Its swansong - by one not even considered a New Wave director - has to be Jean Eustache's La Maman et la putain , three and a half hours of sexual and philosophical agonising, which take apart the aesthetic, emo- tional and political hopes of the generation see Figure 1. The film stars Jean-Pierre Leaud in probably his greatest role, as a posturing pseudo? The disillusionment that followed the extravagant hopes aroused by the events of May is matched and paralleled by the film's drawing out of New Wave stylistic trademarks - black and white location filming, dialogues that sound improvised though they were not , the use of iconic actors - to something like a point of no return.
His documentary films renew his work on the political transformation of landscape, as they endeavour to collect the traces of an uncertain future. He has directed two short films, Zone of initial dilution and Le Plein pays , Best Documentary at Entrevues , which received awards in many festivals. South to North Water Transfer, winner of the [Films en cours] award in , is his first feature film.
Ebensee is a small Austrian town surrounded by mountains. In a radical right-wing incident took place during the annual memorial service in the former concentration camp of Ebensee. It was caused by local teenagers. Since , he has directed short, experimental video works under the pseudonym Fordbrothers with Thomas Draschan.
Und in der Mitte, da sind wir is his second feature film, after Muezzin , and premiered at the Berlinale Forum Section in He is currently enrolled at Le Fresnoy — Studio national des arts contemporains. Katrin Thomas started her career as a photographer in New York, in the early 90s. Her work has been published internationally.
She is currently a professor of photography at the BTK Berlin. A Tale is her first short film. Athens, As a student, she directed Ici rien, an experimental documentary recorded in Exarhia, the capital of Athenian contestation. In , she entered in le Fresnoy Studio national des arts contemporains. Mathilde has not yet taken the monastic vows, but she already lives with the sisters of the community which she has chosen to join.
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Before answering to this radical and irrevocable calling, she receives a visit from her mother. Il finit par trouver Akane Okai. Et vous, connaissez-vous Akane Okai? He finally meets Akane Okai. And you, do you know Akane Okai? Do You know Akane Okai is his first short film. Visions, and a bodyless voice mingle in the fever and the dark of the night. Her films explore the blurred territories born from the experience of exile, oscillating between documentary and fantasy tales. The film offers a selection of local stories whose fictional characters are portrayed by inhabitants living in the neighborhood.
A retrospective of his work has been organized at the Vivo Art Center Vancouver in Hillbrow was presented in film festivals including the FID Marseille. That night, thirteen year old Victor no longer wishes to go back home. Sandrine, thirty-five, is postponing her return to her solitary apartment. Night is falling, it is Christmas eve. Unemployed, he reluctantly takes a job at a kids attraction venue. There, he will come across constant obstacles, characters and unexpected situations that will bring light to the emotions in his life. She has written and directed Kill , which obtained several prizes at international film festivals.
She is also a world-renowned DJ and electronic music producer. While their older cousin is sunbathing in the garden, they run away and steal a donkey from a barn to go swim near the dam. On the way to the dam, they stop in a graveyard, where they catch sight of an old woman dressed in black…. Sol Branco is her first short film. A disaffected Old Order Amish girl escapes her hometown in Pennsylvania to live at an upscale country club in Palm Springs, California. Topsy est son premier film.
Topsy is his first film. The portrait of a little catholic community in Northern est en vue… Germany. We see kids in an open air pool provoking a traf- Luka moves to a small coastal town to live with his aunt, fic jam in a water slide, adolescents observing a practicing while his parents are in the middle of a divorce.
A sense of soccer team, teenagers on skateboards gliding through the numbness seems to hang above the town, but there is also town center as if there were no boundaries. The film is a Jana, a girl from the neighbourhood who loves to sunbathe. Steffen Goldkamp is 26 years old. In , he started working as an art director in advertising, then in he began to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Hamburg.
Wallenhorst is his first short film. He now lives in Belgrade. Zakloni is his second short film, after Intro Il sait bien que tout film est un manifeste, et il a choisi son camp. Ils cassent le rythme, brisent le flot de la foule. Ils sont la fausse note sur la partition. Ils sont le mouvement qui, en cassant les lignes, en trace de nouvelles. Mais alors, pourquoi ne pas transformer ce fardeau en don, et le pessimisme en passion? Tony Gatlif avril Tony Gatlif dossier de presse du film, La famille de Caco a une dette de sang envers la famille des Caravaca. Son handicap, le flamenco le lui rend bien.
Comment expliquer? Et Orestes le sait, le sent. Je devenais le flamenco. Tony Gatlif propos recueillis par Jacques Maigne, Tony Gatlif mars Et ceci est valable pour tous les pays du monde. Vladivostok, Russie. Scott, Stuart A. En ce sens, License to Live et Cable Hogue sont identiques. Akatomy Sancho does asia, avril Je me suis clairement dit que quelque chose allait prendre fin.
Dans la banlieue de Tokyo, Jun et Koji forment un couple sans histoires. Dans les films japonais, il veut juste vous faire peur. Kent Conrad Exploding Goat, Janvier Lifeforce est un film magnifique. Vivants mais sans expression, ne pouvant transmettre leurs modes de perception. Jared Rapfogel Sense of cinema, juillet Mima, la chanteuse de Cham! Et pourtant Satoshi Kon ne sombre jamais dans le cynisme. Rob Nelson Village Voice, mai VIN P. Il y a un voyageur. Qui est ce voyageur?
Son voyage dans le temps est une drogue.
Pour le retrouver, elle devra voyager dans le temps et sauver la vie de trois personnes. Michel Ciment Fritz Lang, le meurtre et la loi, Gallimard, Keogh Gleason, Edwin B. Un grand film onirique. Raphaelle Pireyre Critikat, avril Ballard New Worlds, juillet Jean de Baroncelli Le Monde, 17 mars Le montage joue les virtuoses. Henry Rabine La Croix, mai Vincent Ostria Les Inrockuptibles, 24 juillet Et si H.
Jean-Baptiste Morain Les Inrockuptibles, juin Campbell, Robert R. Dominique Jamet Le Quotidien de Paris, novembre Cyril Beghin 13 octobre Serge Kaganski Les Inrockuptibles, janvier