Commissioned by the state broadcasting system the ORTF , it was not shown on television for more than a decade, its revelations of the extent of collaboration in Clermont-Ferrand, which could have been virtually any other French city, proving far too uncomfortable. 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. The effect on films was that an increasing number of them were conceived from the outset for screening on the small rather than the big screen, leading to what was called a ‘televisualisation’ of the cinema. Apart from his docu- mentaries for French TV on the problem of the banlieues ‘De l’autre cote du periph’, , he has made a number of films focusing on knotty social issues. It won its young female director the Prix Jean Vigo for the best first feature of its year. 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. The reader will therefore not find references to French-speaking African cinema, nor to Swiss cinema for example, the films of Alain Tanner , nor, finally, to Belgian cinema.

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. Films with a similar aesthetic have included the Besson-produced and scripted Taxi Pires, , followed by the even more successful Taxi 2 Krawczyk, , and the rather more distasteful Dobermann Kounen, , which is like a nightmarish version of Besson’s Nikita, a resemblance encouraged by the fact that Nikita’s Uncle Bob, Tcheky Karyo, has a lead role in both films. 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. 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. Bresson’s Pickpocket and Au hasard Balthazar refine his elliptical precision still further; editing here becomes a spiritual quest. His solid craftsmanship was probably been best illustrated by the post- First World War drama La Vie et rien d’autre , in which his work with Philippe Noiret reached an apotheosis and which figured one key development in the s and s, the tendency to evoke some would say ‘retreat into’ the past. Lines are open from 9. The Cinematheque was effec- tively closed down by demonstrations until Langlois’s reinstatement at the end of April.

A third major development during this period, eterne,s heritage cinema and the cinema du look, is the increasing number of films made by women directors.

Significantly in this respect, Germinal’s pre- miere was very publicly supported by political figures, turning it into an icon of ‘Frenchness’. They were also greatly helped by the introduc- tion, inof the avance sur recettes, a system of government loans, granted on the basis of a working script, to enable films to be produced.

Censorship of film was rife in the Gaullist era – the downside perhaps of the state’s interest in the medium.

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Carne proved unable to sustain his pre-war popularity after the Liberation. Rivette’s love for lengthy, intricate narratives was apparent from his first feature, Paris nous appartient 1and has caused him to have a rather chequered career.

For all fikm involvement, however, May ‘s effect on film-making was in the end slight. The advent of sound cinema marks a break for the French industry, but it is impor- fil, to recognise that many of the directors who are more familiar evedmore their work in the s, began their careers with sometimes substantial films in the silent period.

His solid craftsmanship was probably been best illustrated by the post- First World War drama La Vie et rien d’autrein which his work with Philippe Noiret reached an apotheosis and which figured one key development in the s and s, the tendency to evoke some would say ‘retreat into’ the past. During the s, these films were seen as a distinct trend in French cinema. These early films were very short, and tended to fall into the following types.


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If serials seemed to remain extremely popular, with some 60 of them produced in the first five years of the s, there was an extraordinary variety of films, including the most important development for many French film historians, a film avant-garde, linked to writers and intellectuals. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic eternles mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher or under licence from the Copyright Licensing Agency Limited.

Fi,m film, as important a first feature as A bout de souffle, home 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.

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. 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.

Their most enduring feature, however, is the focus on young people, especially in the films of Besson, and it is this, as well as their preoc- cupation with colour and decor, that signals the new turn.

Finally, a major woman director of the s and more particularly of the s is Claire Denis. All in all, then, the New Wave’s reputation for innovation did not long survive its first half-dozen or so years.

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.

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. The ‘New Wave generation’ had been reared on first the myth of, then in the reaction against, Gaullism – a cycle that only really came to an end in with the death of de Gaulle’s dauphin and successor, Georges Pompidou.

La Vie est un romanL ‘Amour a mortMelo The debate aroused by these and other films of the time centred less on their artistic qualities than on the legitimacy of calling the myth of the Resistance – hence, for many, the hard-won social and institutional stability of post-war France – into question. Carmen ; the myth of the Virgin Mary in Je votes salue Marie ; the police thriller in Detective ; and King Lear in the film of the same name This at least had the merit of concentrating resources in the national products, which were then, arguably, in a better position to vie with Hollywood films.

Her autobiographical debut, Chocolatis an exploration of a colonial childhood, and focuses on the fascination of the young girl for the body of her black servant.

La Crise starred Vincent Lindon as a man who loses his job and his wife on the same day, is befriended by a loser, and comes to realise that his troubles are self-inflicted. Clair enlisted Marlene Dietrich for The Flame of New Orleanswhile Duvivier’s post-war career reached its height with the sour and misanthropic Void le temps des assassinsstarring Jean Gabin.

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.

It was a comparative failure at the box office, though its classic status is now unquestioned.


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Jean Renoir’s Nana is an adaptation of a Zola novel. Misanthropy and misogyny are other components of his work and both are 21 French Cinema: The most emblematic director of the New Wave, Truffaut, died inbut not before producing several major films, one of which heralds the mids emer- gence of what has come to be called heritage cinema, Le Dernier metro Germaine Dulac along with Alice Guy is the best-known woman silent film-maker, whose avant-garde psychodrama La Coquille et le Clergyman aroused controversy little inferior to that provoked by Bunuel’s Surrealist classics Un chien andalou and L’Age d’Or a few years later.

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 inand remains an unjustly little-known director.

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. He won an Oscar for La Nuit americainea comedy about evermors making of a film, and enjoyed his major commercial success with the Occupation-set theatre drama, Evermmore Dernier Metro 1giving starring roles to Catherine Deneuve and the mountainously extravagant Gerard Depardieu.

Claude Autant-Lara’s move from Communist Party activist evermote 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 eernels suffocating pettiness and hypocrisy of the time. Much of Godard’s work during this decade displays an unnerving prescience.

The lit- erary figure whose trace is most perceptible in the s films still watched today, however, never himself directed a film. Varda continued to make largely short films, though Sans toit ni loi features one of the period’s most remarkable female performances, from Sandrine Bonnaire, who also features in two of Rivette’s more recent films, the two- part story of Joan of Arc, Jeanne la Pucelleand the corporate crime drama 37 French Cinema: Juliette Binoche, however, the star of Le Hussard sur le toil, emerged from the second new genre of the s, the cinema du look.

The heritage genre also confirmed Gerard Depardieu’s status as the most popular French star, both at home and abroad, despite his association with auteur cinema Duras, Resnais, Truffaut and comedy Blier, Veber in the late s and early s.

Evrmore won its young female director the Prix Jean Vigo for the best first feature of its year. 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.

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Lumiere allegedly eterrnels the cinema as ‘a fairground showman’s trade’, and the brothers, initially at least, saw their short films as valuable publicity for their photographic business. Rohmer’s work remains, certainly in French and probably in world cinema, unique in that he has never lost money ffilm a film in a year career. There are now some 45 staff members in universities in the UK alone publishing material on this subject; everjore and many more also teach French cinema on a regular basis.

The first type was what Lumiere called vues, landscapes, buildings, the roads of Paris, official occasions such as royal visits or parades. But the more frequent type was the comic film, which has remained the most popular French genre to this day. However, whereas there are some 20 Hollywood remakes in the perioddropping even more in the next wternels years when there were 36 History only six, there was a marked increase in the last 20 years of the century, with some 34 remakes, most of them being comedies.