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.
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.
The Musée d’Ennery and the Shifting Reception of Nineteenth-Century French Chinoiseries
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.
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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.
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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.
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. That also enabled the calling into question of the myth of omnipresent and heroic resistance to the Occupation on which Gaullism had been founded. Marcel Ophiils's docu- mentary Le Chagrin et la pitie suggested the first stirrings of this.
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. The can of worms opened by the film was still alive and writhing in the s, as illustrated by the revelations about President Mitterrand's collaborationist past and the imprisonment of former Giscard minis- ter Maurice Papon for his part in the deportation of Paris Jews.
Where the documentary film had led the way, the feature was soon to follow. Louis Malle's Lacombe Lucien gave the first moderately sympathetic portrayal of a collaborator, in the person of its central character who joins the Milice only when 31 Image Not Available History rejected by the Resistance and helps to save the life of the Jewish girl with whom he falls in love see Figure 1. 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.
This was at the same time a debate around two divergent views of history - one the classic 'classroom' kind grounded in great names and dates, the other more popular, anecdotal and concerned with the study of attitudes and phenomena rather than landmark events. The second view, pro- moted first by the journal Annates in the post-war period, then by the immensely influential philosopher and historian of ideas Michel Foucault, became extremely influential in the aftermath of , with its stress on the need to give excluded or marginalised voices a hearing.
Rene Clement's Paris brule-t-il? Cinema was to have a greater impact on French society and in the wider sense politics through its role in these debates than through the politically fuelled formal innovations advocated by Cahiers du cinema in the s. In part because of 's limited direct influence on film-making practice, but more significantly in response to the challenge of television and the increasing multinationalisation of the industry, the film-makers who began to build careers for themselves in the s tended towards more conservative models and techniques than their predecessors.
Bertrand Tavernier's low-key social realism, as in the Lyon-set L'Horloger de Saint-Paul and Une semaine de vacances , is a good example of the resurgence of a kind of film-making the New Wave had fondly imagined dead and buried. That Tavernier's major scriptwriter is Jean Aurenche - he of the Aurenche and Bost reviled by Truffaut and others as epitomising the cinema depapa - shows how tenacious such cinema was to prove, reaching its finan- cial if not always artistic apotheosis in the 'heritage movies' of the s and s.
Maurice Pialat began to make his reputation with the terse realism of early works such as L'Enfance nue and La Gueule ouverte , which established him as a venomously anarchistic dissector of the nuclear family and its discontents. Pialat's reputation as all but impossible to work with has never ceased to dog his relation- ships with producers and actors alike, at the same time as whetting audiences' appetites to see films whose on- and off-screen tensions are reputedly almost indis- tinguishable.
Depardieu had become known a few years earlier for his work with Bertrand Blier. Blier's mixture of misogyny and carnivalesque parody was to make him, along with Tavernier and Pialat, the key director to emerge in the s. In this he was greatly helped by the team of actors who worked with him, many of them coming from the world of cafe-theatre.
Les Valseuses is a road movie, but breaks with one key convention of that genre in that its central characters played by Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere are in no sense concerned with self-discovery through travel. Their sole concern is sexual and material self-indulgence, in which they are helped by major actresses from different generations - Jeanne Moreau and Miou-Miou. The entirely male focus of this chapter - at least so far as directors are concerned - will not have escaped the reader, the more so since Blier's sexual politics have been the target of frequent, and sometimes well-justified, criticism.
It was not until the s and s that women directors were to become an everyday phenomenon in the French cinema, but significant figures began to make their mark in the pre- vious decade. Coline Serreau's love triangle comedy Pourquoi pas? The films discussed here were not, of course, the French productions actually watched by most French people during the period under discussion. That distinc- tion went to Just Jaeckin's Emmanuelle , most notorious of the soft-porn features that followed the disappearance of censorship, and Gerard Oury's Les Aventures du Rabbi Jacob Oury had enjoyed even greater success in with La Grande Vadrouille, like Les Aventures du Rabbi Jacob starring two of France's best- loved screen comedians of the time, Bourvil and Louis de Funes.
Both, like the more internationally known Dewaere and Depardieu later on, came from the world of the stage and the music hall - evidence that for all the specificity of film as art form so vaunted by the New Wave, the French cinema remained profoundly dependent on other types of popular performance art, not always of a kind that travel well. The 'Mitterrand years', as we shall now see, were to develop and extend that vigilance, even if it was often to be a question of running fast to stay in the same place.
Some of these changes were common to other developed countries in Europe. 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.
A second major change, which occurred in other countries as well, was the rise of the multiplex. This had started as early as the beginning of the s, supported by state funding. However, in the mids, Pathe and Gaumont, the main distribu- tors in France, came to an agreement that led to the expansion of such complexes.
A greater number of film theatres meant that distributors were less likely to take risks, and would screen the same film throughout the country with a vast advertis- ing campaign, leading to ever more expensive films. 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.
The third major change was the shift by French audiences away from the national product to the increasingly globalised and even more heavily marketed Hollywood product. Unsurprisingly, this led to the gradual waning of the more popular French genres such as the police thriller and the comedy. In their place came new genres in the s, which, with the exception of mainstream heritage films, one could call the 'cinemas of the marginal', suggesting that French cinema, much like the French press, was diversifying in an attempt to find niche audiences, at the very same time as it was being absorbed, one might argue, by the curious phenomenon of the Hollywood remake.
Remakes are of course a frequent phenomenon in the history of the French cinema. However, whereas there are some 20 Hollywood remakes in the period , dropping even more in the next 30 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. This led many commentators, on both sides of the Atlantic, to talk about the inferior quality of the remakes as well as the paucity of the industries that somehow could not manage to find outlets in any other way.
What it signals, rather more importantly perhaps, is the increasingly globalised nature of some film-making, as we shall see when we allude to particular directors such as Besson and Jeunet, although it would be equally important to recognise the attempts by certain French stars to make a career in the USA.
The move across to the USA was not confined to the two major stars, however. Despite these moves by stars in the last decade of the century, suggesting the increasing visibility of the French industry abroad, directors associated with the New Wave or with the s continued to produce films of great interest and quality, and it is worth reviewing their output before turning to the new types of cinema more readily associated with the s and s.
“La Couronne théâtrale” : Les comédiennes françaises, figures publiques après le Concordat ()
The most emblematic director of the New Wave, Truffaut, died in , but 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 Godard's films during the s were frequently deconstructions of well-known stories or genres: the Carmen story in Prenom: 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 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 Pucelle , and the corporate crime drama 37 French Cinema: A Student's Guide Secret Defense Rivette's more remarkable achievement in this period, however, is the long film about the creative process, La Belle Noiseuse , star- ring Emmanuelle Beart and Michel Piccoli, which won several prizes, including the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes that year.
Rohmer, perhaps the most literary of the old New Wave directors, continued the light touch with heavy dialogue in a number of award-winning films concentrating on relationships, usually between young people. These sometimes irritate, particu- larly when Rohmer allows his actors to improvise, as in the case of Pauline a la plage or Le Rayon Vert , but more often than not elicit remarkable perfor- mances, as was the case with Pascale Ogier in Les Nuits de la pleine lune During the s, Rohmer completed a cycle of four films, the Contes des quatre saisons.
During the s and s, Resnais worked with what was essentially a repertory group of actors - Fanny Ardant, Pierre Arditi, Sabine Azema and Andre Dussollier - in a number of films scripted by Jean Gruault who had scripted many of the great films of the New Wave directors : La Vie est un roman , L 'Amour a mort , Melo His most talked-about film of the s was the comedy musical tribute to UK play- wright Dennis Potter, On connait la chanson , scripted by one of the key part- nerships of then current French cinema, Jean-Pierre Bacri and Agnes Jaoui. If we turn to directors who came to prominence in the s, Maurice Pialat's career took off after Loulou This was followed by what is perhaps one of the key films of the s, A nos amours , the analysis of a dysfunctional family, headed by a father, played by Pialat himself, and focusing on his daughter, played by Sandrine Bonnaire, who has many transient sexual encounters.
As with his pre- vious film, this is a trenchant critique of the amoralism of French society, and in particular of French youth, acting as an interesting counterpoint to similar con- cerns, at least narratively, in the cinema du look, which we shall consider below. In Police , Depardieu plays a cop who falls for a gangster's moll, the theme again being problematic identities in an increasingly amoral society. Bonnaire and Depardieu teamed up with Pialat in his hard-hitting adaptation of Bernanos's novel, Sous le soleil de Satan , which won the Golden Palm at Cannes.
Blier, much like Pialat, produced two key films during the s, both starring Depardieu. In Tenue de soiree , Depardieu plays a gay burglar, and in Trop 38 History belle pour toi , he plays a businessman happily married to a beautiful wife played by Chanel model Carole Bouquet , who falls for his dumpy secretary, played by Josiane Balasko. If Pialat's s films with their melodramatic realism questioned youth identities, Blier's films, founded, as his earlier films had been, on provocative black humour, questioned the fragility of male identity.
His s films, the first three of which star the woman who was to become his partner, Anouk Grinberg, and who is regularly abused in these films, did less well, their provocative misogyny now out of kilter with the times. The other major s director whose career took off in the s was Tavernier.
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. This has become known generically as the heritage film, one of the most dominant genres in the s, as elsewhere in Europe see Vincendeau, Period films with high production values and based on literary masterpieces the more obvious hallmarks of the genre had appeared before.
This was particularly the case in the s, in the tradition de qualite films so detested by Truffaut; but it was also the case in the early s, as can be seen with Tavernier's homage to the tradition de qualite, Un dimanche a la campagne , for example, based on a short novel by one of the main screenwriters of the tradition de qualite, Pierre Bost, or the European co-production Un amour de Swann Schlondorff, , based on part of Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu. Nevertheless, the heritage genre proper could be said to have established itself with the immensely popular Claude Berri films Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources.
Berri's films both appeared in , based on a novel by Marcel Pagnol; another Pagnol pair appeared in , Yves Robert's La Gloire de mon pere and Le Chateau de ma mere. Much like Merchant and Ivory in the UK industry, however, it is Berri who stands out as the main director of heritage films in France, with Uranus and Germinal amongst others. Jean-Paul Rappeneau directed two popular heritage films, Cyrano de Bergerac , an adaptation of Rostand's nineteenth- century verse play, which enjoyed immense worldwide success, and Le Hussard sur le toit Log out of Readcube.
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