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October 23, 2007

The French New Wave: A New Look: Naomi Greene

The French New Wave: A New Look: Naomi Greene 2007 Wallflower Press: A Critical Review

Cover for Greene French New Wave






For visitors wanting an historical overview of European cinema







Introduction


About two weeks ago one of my intellectually inquisitive sixth-formers commented that she didn’t think that much of Godard’s iconic New Wave film: A bout de soufflé (Breathless). Last week she handed back to me City of God with the words “it nearly made me cry at the end”. New Waves are primarily understood about cinema and youth, about trying to create new cinematic forms and represent the World in new ways. I shall be examining the possibility that the notion of the  'unexpected' is an historiographical concept that can be applied to cinematic new waves. I shall also be noting some of the areas where the films remain unavailable and there is a certain amount of critical underwriting proffering new opportunities for research. 

Both City of God and Breathless are films which are part of their respective cinematic New Waves with the former being a part of the current Latin American New Wave. Serendiptiously on returning home I found a copy of Naomi Greene’s newly published The French New Wave: A New Look from Wallflower Press waiting for review. This provides an opportunity to reflect upon what has changed so much and what might be different within the disparate New Waves which had elicited very different responses from a smart 18 year old.

Although I shall make some opening sceptical comments which indicate that the notion of the French New Wave could usefully be deconstructed, I found the book a clear and insightful summary written by an academic very at ease with her ideas and well able to communicate them to the chosen target audience. As I read through it stimulated me to follow up some ideas and strands of thought as I scoured the Web for cheap versions of a book on Henri Langlois and also ordered Jaques Rivette’s Paris nous appartient which I hadn’t noticed that the BFI had released over a year ago:a film which, says the blurb: brilliantly captured the mood of paranoia and uncertainty of that Cold War period. Rivette's rarely seen debut is one of the most important and far-reaching of the early New Wave films. After reading Greene’s analysis it became a ‘must see’. Indeed it is this analysis which forms a part of her ‘New Look’ for it is a film which has received little critical analysis in the mainstream accounts of the New Wave.

The book is ideal for undergraduates and much of it is accessible to A2 students who may be studying new waves for their World Cinema Unit. It will also act as a good companion for those who are new to this area of cinema. In this it is in keeping with the tradition and standards established by the Wallflower Press Short Cuts series. It is certainly a useful book for film and media studies lecturers and teachers and for libraries. 





Nazi Officer silence de la mer

Melville's Le Silence de la mer 1949 was an important precursor to the French New Wave.

Cinematography was by Henri Decae





What might a "New Wave" be?


This is a rather harder question to answer than appears at first sight. My own perspective is that one must apply SPECT (Social Political Economic Cultural Textual) methodology to the analysis. Greene is quite specific about this too and adds ‘Historical’ to the methodological equation although I must admit I was taking that for granted and certain historiographical issues which arise will be considered:

…using a lens that is at once social economic ,cultural and historical (Greene 2007 p 3), Greene sets out to examine the nature and influences of the Nouvelle Vague for whatever one thinks of the films it has exerted an enormous influence within cinema for as Greene points out:

…up until now at least, there has been relatively little disagreement about the importance of the New Wave, but critics are not always in accord when it comes to the precise contours or its internal coherence.” (Greene 2007, p3).

The usual idea is that younger people (usually male cinephiles) were interested in filmmaking across a post-war Europe in which countries had been more or less bankrupted by the war and were trying to develop new identities which incorporated space,place and form. They valued difference between countries but respected them. to some extent there were generational differences. Neorealists had many who were involved in filmmaking before the war and in France Melville and the Left Bank generation were older than the Cahiers group. As such they had a different perspective on the world. Younger critics and filmmakers  also raise a range of different challenges to the previous generations who had led them into the European 30 Years war of the 20th century (1914-45). Italian Neorealism was undoubtedly the leading element however groundbreaking films had emerged in Britain and Poland as well as France well before the Cannes festival of 1959 brought Truffaut into the limelight. Those groups of films which now become categorised as new waves tend to work within these parameters but often fall short of serious political critique.

Historiographical interpretation is a difficult game and I have concerns that European cinema is often represented as one of movements which are largely autonomous and often entirely separate to other developments. It is also a methodology which focuses upon National cinema often at the expense of considering an international cross-cultural artistic reality which is harder to measure.  In Britain for example, running in parallel to the work of Free Cinema there was a lot of social realism in mainstream feature films and this has tended to put Free cinema into the critical shade compared to the French ‘New Wave’ which is represented as markedly different from mainstream French cinema. The fact that British Free Cinema showed large numbers of Polish and French films as part of its series of 6 programmes  points to a lot of international collaboration amongst the film-makers and cross fertilisation of ideas. One of the issues raised in this review is the importance of surrealism as a subterreanean strand of representation which in cross-national and transhistorical inter-ruptions are largely underwritten in academic circles.





Alainj Delon in Plein Soleil

Alain Delon in  Rene Clement's Plein Soleil  (1960)

Delon came to the fore at the time of the  New Wave. The cinematography of Plein Soleil was again by Henri Decae. Decae was not above working with somebody castigated by Truffaut as part of cinema du papa! Decae had already been the highest paid person on 400 Blows and was in demand. This was Delon's most important film at the time. He went on to be a leading actor in Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers (1960) and The Leopard (1963) as well as being in Antonioni's L'Eclisse (1962). 









Arguably cross fertilisation and changing ideas were already present in mainstream French cinema at the time of the Nouvelle Vague when one notes the date of Rene Clement’s Plein Soleil (1960) and its use of Nouvelle Vague favourite cameraman Henri Decae by this representative of Cinema du papa. Perhaps the reality on the ground is not always quite so clear cut. Decae had already cut his teeth on the thriller genre by filming Melville’s Bob le flambeur [Bob the Gambler] (1955) and then Malle’s 1958 release Lift to the Scaffold.




Moreau in Lift to the Scaffold

Jeanne Moreu in Louis Malle's 1958 Lift to the Scaffold

Cinematography by Henri Decae 






It might well be that a unifying theme amongst the avante-gardists of European post-war cinema was the representation of space and place which was far more celebratory and far reaching than the mainstream. Space and place are inherently imbricated with the construction of identity and one might usefully compare the Rome of Rossellini (Roma citta aperta), De Sica’s Umberto D, Visconti’s Bellissima and Fellini’s La Dolce Vita as bearing witness to a changing Italian identity all of which relied to a large extent on location shooting.  Core differences between Plein Soleil and the French Nouvelle Vague films is that it was relatively high budget and was decidedly international in its scope dealing with Americans in Italy and creating more of a tourist's gaze than a local's gaze. The surreality of Truffaut and Godard's cinematic visions and the play with a knowing audience were also absent. 

The Precursors of the Nouvelle Vague

Greene sets out her stall very clearly although  a little disappointingly she doesn’t challenge the concept of the French New Wave as a critical construction. Historiographically there is some case to be made for challenging the dominant discourse which surrounds this ‘cultural moment’ to the exclusion of other tendencies emerging in parallel, perhaps some revision is overdue. Examples include the British Free cinema movement while arguably the great Italian directors moving into their post-neorealist phase were making far more interesting and challenging films than either tendency. The Polish cinema of the time also needs to be considered although I'm personally unfamiliar with the content. What can be said is that European filmmaking in the 1950s was in a state of change far beyond the borders of France. 

This gripe aside Greene's book is perfectly pitched for its lay / undergraduate audience: it is written clearly by a leading scholar of French cinema and is very well informed. It places the Nouvelle Vague in its French cinematic context and there is some reference – not enough in my opinion – to the wider history of postwar France - and it clearly summarises the range of critical opinions in the discourse of the French New Wave. Greene’s book Landscapes of Loss really teases out the problems of post-war French identity and the ways in which this is represented within the cinematic culture of France. In her introduction to this latter book she notes the entry of L’histoire de France au cinema which comments that “cinema is, in fact, a more sensitive barometer than literature or school curricula”,(my emphasis). She proceeds to note the film maker Bertrand Tavernier’s comment that:

filmmakers are seismographs of their epoch. They bear witness, even unconsciously, to everything that surrounds them”. (Greene 200, p 5).



Bearing in mind Tavernier’s comment it is clear that that moment of 1959 when Truffaut gains recognition at Cannes for 400 Blows is when youthful French cinema comes to the notice of both the French nation and the world at large. Arguably this ‘new wave’ as cinema was already in existence but its widespread cultural recognition was as a result of hype from the French Media combining with the desire of many who were dissatisfied with the postwar republic and the failures of France to reassert its place in the World and it is this aspect which Greene underplays. Furthermore there was a growing concern with American ‘cultural imperialism’. A re-establishing of a French cultural identity for the modern period was sorely needed.





The independent auteurs which the Nouvelle Vague places on the map bringing the notion of auteurism as a critical concept to the fore were already in existence. Primarily they were the left bank, left wing documentarists such as Chris Marker and Alain Resnais and Agnes Varda. Greene has written particularly well about Resnais in her Landscapes of Loss and in a short book she does manage to include a lot about the Left Bank filmmakers which is good because even now getting hold of the documentary work of Resnais in the UK is pretty much impossible. Availability of films is partially down to critical discourse because the early work of Truffaut and Godard is readily available whilst the availability of the work from the Left Bank directors and even the early Rivette and Chabrol as well as Franju is not. The importance of reviewing critical discourse at a time when new technologies make the ‘Long Tail’ of cultural output far more accessible than ever before should not be underestimated.

The work of Louis Malle is sidelined in this book to some extent; he is seen as peripheral to the New Wave yet the content and methods of film making of his early films were fundamental to the changing ‘structure of feeling’ – to call upon Raymond William’s useful concept - which was running through French society at the time. Lift  to the Scaffold is an excellent film which in the guise of a thriller brings in a critique of French society as the murdered husband is an arms dealer, which can be read as a thinly veiled reference to French colonial struggles the growing crisis in Algeria, the failed attempt to control the Suez Canal and the debacle in Vietnam which the Dennis Grunes blog discussing Malle’s film is at pains to mention, unlike some of the academic books:

Don’t laugh at wars. You live off wars. . . . Indo-China; now Algeria. Respect wars; they’re your family heirlooms.” Julien is killing Carala because he is in love with the old man’s young wife, Florence; but his political remarks add to our understanding of the disgust with which Carala fills him. Because Tavernier is Carala’s employee, his disgust includes a measure of self-disgust…” (http://grunes.wordpress.com/2007/02/23/elevator-to-the-gallows-louis-malle-1957/)

The methods of film making anticipate and perhaps better the work of Truffaut and Godard’s early work as well. The following quotation about the musical collaboration between Malle and Miles Davis says a lot about the way in which the spirit in which the film was made:

The connection between Miles Davis and Louis Malle is one of general artistic integrity, for each creator is a master of their medium before the specific ideas that they are representing is even considered. This is where the idea of “jazz” as a mode of creativity is most clearly seen. Forget the meaning of “jazz” as a musical genre for one moment and try to see the interconnectedness between all artists of all mediums. It seems that once an artist has been working in their field for long enough to learn all of the necessary elements of their trade that it is only their individual ability to improvise that makes their work different from others and either a master or another artist. It is a sensation that is obvious to those who have begun the search for this divine level of creation. Malle and Davis certainly can see the respective vision of the other’s work and in their collaboration on Elevator to the Gallows the direct relationship between the scene and the music is a finely balanced expression of both artists. There is a definite freedom that Malle entrusts in Davis to create at his own will, which is undoubtedly a result of Davis’s success and mastery of his art. The connections are distinct and calculated, but this is not a dynamic that can be created by any two artists. Collaborations can fail even when it seems evident that a relationship or similarity is present between artist’s modes of representation. (My emphasis, http://instruct1.cit.cornell.edu/courses/music270/projects/s2005/ebb32/Frantic.html)

This blog is especially useful to check out because there are some useful video extracts of the film which show how effectively Malle has filmed the street using all the outdoor location techniques associated with the New Wave.

Critical focus has been on the Cahiers critics turned filmmakers – a sceptic might conclude that inside every critic there is a director trying to get out! But this was nothing new, many of the Neorealists were involved on the same critical magazine and after them Lindsay Anderson and Karel Riesz were involved with Sequence in Britain.

Perhaps undue attention has been paid to Truffaut’s infamous slating of the “Tradition of Quality” especially the scriptwriters Aurenche and Bost in “A Certain Tendency of French Cinema” written in 1954. Critics offer no real evidence of how seriously this article was taken by either audiences or those in the cinematic establishment at the time. One wonders how seriously the article would have been taken by cinematic critics if Truffaut hadn’t made 400 Blows. This is clear evidence that there was a rapidly changing ‘structure of feeling’ (Raymond Williams) within France which Cahiers critics were a part of. Their elevation to world view could be seen as a political sleight of hand for in many ways 400 Blows was less challenging to French traditional identity than Lift to the Gallows which would seem outrageous to the Catholic right and its family values as well as promoting Miles Davis a black American jazz musician - hardly the epitome of French cultural values.

Miles Davis Lift to the Gallows


Malle’s next film ‘Les Amants’ was also a huge challenge to the mores of society. De Gaulle would hardly like to be associated with a film which challenged family and Catholic values even more than Escalator to the Scaffold. Both De Gaulle and a renewed French identity based partially upon a cultural Renaissance could safely focus upon the critics and emerging new directors of Cahiers du Cinema who with the exception of Pierre Kast were largely apolitical. They were clearly opposed to the Stalinist left who were in cosy collusion with the industrial leadership of cinema creating the cinema du papa of which Cahiers had been so critical. By comparison 400 Blows challenges older stuffy attitudes particularly in relation to the state and education which seemed more Victorian than anything else. In this it chimed with the popular Existentialist concepts of ‘Freedom’. Its autobiographical nature meant that the film was one which had an audience who could readily identify with the values represented in the film. It was the right film for the right time.

Les Amants 1


Luis Malle's Les amants (1958) 




The Origins of the term Nouvelle Vague

Greene does pay attention to the origins of the expression Nouvelle Vague which are embedded in the journal L’Express. Greene notes that prior to this the journal La Nef had a special edition in 1955 which started to carry investigations into the growing influence of the post-war generation of youth a decade after the Second World War just as the long boom starts to take effect and post-war reconstruction is beginning to turn towards a consumer society. L’Express founded in 1954 and modelled on American News Magazines was itself very much a child of its time. Inevitably it was going to play a part in the emerging discourses linked to disappointment and a need for a clearer post-war identity for France which had failed to rediscover the Grandeur beloved of De Gaulle, was on the back foot in all its colonies, was deeply divided once one scratched the surface over the “Dark Years” of the War which was pretty much a three way split between communist Left / Catholic loyalists in the resistance and collaborators in the Vichy regime.


Truffauts 400 Blows

The Wave breaks with Truffaut's Les 400 coups (1959)

Hope for the future was seemingly being placed increasingly upon the young. The New Wave was an expression which developed from a large poll into this new generation organised by L’Express in 1957. By the following June (1958) notes Greene: “The term had gained such currency that L’Express began referring to itself as le journal de la nouvelle vague”. (Greene p 12). In this section it is possible to conclude that the French ‘New Wave Cinema’ can be defined as representative of the changing ‘structure of feeling’ as France adapted to post-war modernity which created a cultural moment allowing the youthful generation to identify with a newly emergent France under the leadership of the recently appointed Charles de Gaulle. It was of course a very limited representation of the French film industry which privileged the directors and critical discourses around Cahiers du Cinema above other tendencies within non mainstream cinema as it was a much safer cinema both politically and socially.

I would suggest that this is why A bout de soufflé compared with City of God fails to bring a contemporary 17 year old to the brink of tears. City of God explores the political and socio-cultural spaces of a Brazilian city in a way which no French New Wave film even dreams of attempting. Anyone who visited the recent Tate Modern exhibition on Global Cities and saw the juxtaposition of the mega rich and the totally impoverished will be familiar with the realism in terms of underlying social truths which City of God takes on. It is a long way from the notions of ‘truth’ which were promulgated at the time by the iconic director / thinkers of Cahiers du Cinema. Where the French New Wave is largely associated with form, City of God seems more concerned to combine form with content.




City of God


City of God by Mireilles. Part of the recent Latin American 'New Wave' its form combined a surrealistic mode with MTV style camerwork linked to a brutalised content that makes some viewers tearful. A tourists gaze of Paris it is not!









The Structure of Greene’s Book

Whilst Greene’s book falls short of reconfiguring the critical space of French New Wave discourse it will be extremely helpful in allowing readers to get to grips with the main strands of critical discourse surrounding the French New Wave for whatever my criticisms there is no doubt at all that what is commonly understood as the French New Wave and the critical discourses surrounding it have exercised enormous influence within cinematic culture as a whole.

Greene’s first chapter defines the traits of the New Wave, further chapters proceed to “What is Cinema: reflections upon film”, discuss the experiments of the 1950s and then in turn discuss the “Euphoria” of the moment and the “Aftershocks”.

The chapter on “Defining Traits” usefully examines the historical and critical discourses and provides the reader with a series of critical possibilities in terms of defining the New Wave from an extreme at one end of the critical spectrum embodied in the work of Marie who argues that the New Wave can be defined as a “School”, to the much looser definition of Williams in his synoptic history of French cinema Republic of Images” where he describes the New Wave as a “brief period of upheaval and innovation”. There is a general acceptance that it is a cinema of youth and that it broke down the entry barriers and reshaped the French film industry. Certainly there was a considerable outpouring of film making in the years immediately following 1959 with double the number of films being made. However this also coincides with slumping box office takings and following 400 Blows and Breathless the films of Truffaut and Godard respectively didn’t achieve box office success. Their films emulated those of Rossellini one of their inspirations for after his war trilogy box office success also eluded him. For Rossellini and the other Neorealists the political shift to the right and the domination of US films were the issues. By the time the New Wavers had gained wider cinema across the US and Europe was already declining as a mass entertainment medium as TV combined with increasing disposable income led to other more expensive leisure pursuits being followed.

In her second chapter What is Cinema, clearly titled after the work of the leading French Critic Andre Bazin, Greene usefully examines the theoretical and critical backdrop to French cinema since the end of the Second World War. There is a section on Henri Langlois and the importance of the Cinematheque as a pedagogical inspiration to young cinephiles helping to groom the next generation of filmmakers. Although a relatively short section the emphasis on the deliberate pedagogical nature of Langlois’ project was made very clear which it often isn’t.








Musee du Cinema Langlois


Musee du Cinema  Henri Langlois


Current Cinematheque by Gehry

The current Cinematheque in a building designed by Frank Gehry










The importance and role of Andre Bazin is then considered, and the relationship of both Bazin and the “Young Turks” of the New Wave to Italian neorealism is explored. Whilst Bazin considered de Sica as well as Rossellini to be very important those such as Truffaut and Godard privileged Rossellini. I have yet to discover anything which might be understood by the Cahiers group as inspirational from the work of Visconti, Antonioni or Fellini. The Catholic liberalism and possibly the private life of Rossellini which challenged the moralists had enough radical appeal without going near the more overtly political work of Visconti for example despite the fact that he had clear links back to Renoir who was a favourite of the New Wavers.

Next comes  a summary of the importance of Alexander Astruc and the ideas behind the camera-stylo or cinema as a form of writing which combined with ideas of the director as an auteur as camera-stylo meant that the director was ‘writing’ cinema by playing with cinematic form and visual modes of communication.

The next critical influence Greene deals with is Eric Rohmer who writing under his original name (Maurice Scherer) in the magazine La revue du cinema in 1948 discusses the role and importance of cinematic space. The article is a careful critique of the 'Tradition of Quality' whose reliance upon the script has led to films being constructed without due attention to modes of seeing thus failing to utilise and develop a truly cinematic language related to space and the construction and role of mise en scene. Jacques Rivette as early as 1954 also writes about mise en scene as:

‘a precise complex of people and decors, a network of relations, a moving architecture of relationships somehow suspended in space’ (Rivette cited Greene 2007 p 25).

Greene then moves on to the well known grouping around Bazin’s Cahier du Cinema placing some of the critical ideas such as Truffaut’s “A Certain Tendency” into context thus completing the critical backdrop to the ideas of the future New Wave Directors.

Film Experiments of the 1950s & Thoughts on Historiography

In her chapter Film Experiments of the 1950s Greene usefully covers a range of important filmmakers including Melville, Jean Rouch, the Left Bank film makers with sections on Agnes Varda and Chris Marker and then moving onto Roger Vadim and Louis Malle. Greene notes how much Truffaut liked Les Amants linking it to the spontaneity of Renoir. Of course this (deserved) appreciation of Renoir links back into the issue of French identity for Renoir’s films from the Popular Front period represent an assertion of national solidarity is ways which Neorealism functioned for Italy. Even in Britain this more spontaneous type of filmmaking had a route through Humphrey Jennings to Lindsay Anderson and Free Cinema which again links into national identity which cuts across class divides whilst at the same time being part of an internationalist tendency:

Geoffrey Nowell-Smith has argued that Jennings' work is better situated in the context of experimental film and the European avant-garde than within the documentary movement.

Jennings' own films, like those of European documentarists Joris Ivens, Henri Storck and Jean Rouch, discover the surreal in the everyday as opposed to the artistically contrived. (http://www.screenonline.org.uk/people/id/453623/)

Greene spends quite a lot of time covering Jean Rouch who gets little mention in Williams (1992). This ethnographic approach with a clearly identified link to Jennings points to a pan-European cienamatic cultural movement which emerges unevenly. I must confess I haven't seen any of his work however a quick search of the web shows that there seems to be nothing available on DVD currently. This points to the need for a more co-ordinated European approach to its cinematic heritage. Greene's scholarship here should help to raise a greater awareness of this filmmaker. I did discover that there have been a couple of academic conferences on him in the UK in recent years sadly this hasn't raised an interest in republishing his work. 


The New Wave had a marked distance from the powerful continental communist parties of the 1950s who had a strong influence within French cinema. All three national film trajectories were wary of right-wing nationalism on the one hand and strong Stalinist influences on the other nevertheless the trajectory of the cinema of all the countries was markedly different. Rather than just looking to the influence of French films of the 1950s with nods to Rossellini and Renoir it might be better to place the French New Wave as another eruption of European modernist avant-gardism in the duree of the 20th century. The seemingly inevitable disjunctions between art and politics have been noted by Ellis in relation to the British Free Cinema as well:

The politics behind this commitment were not particularly radical, perhaps best expressed again by Lindsay Anderson: "But one thing is certain: in the values of humanism, and in their determined application to our society lies the future. All we have to do is to believe in them." It led, however, to a brief association by the Free Cinema with the New Left, and with Universities and Left Review which ended in disillusion when it became clear that their interests in the cinema were fundamentally different. Uninterested in making propaganda films for Right or Left, the Free Cinema group wanted films which were not only socially committed but were also art. (Ellis 1977).

Here cultural historiography needs to balance the straight jacketed methods emanating from a 19th century style of teleological history to one which takes on board the fragments and ruptures which critics such as Walter Benjamin espoused where there is more emphasis on the concept of the unexpected which will be discussed briefly below.

Euphoria

This chapter is useful as it chooses some of the classics of the New Wave to make small case studies including: Le Beau Serge and Les Cousins by Chabrol, 400 Blows by Truffaut, Hiroshima mon amour by Resnais, and A bout de soufflé by Godard. What is strange in this chapter is that Greene flags up Marcel Camus’ Black Orpheus shown at the 1959 Cannes festival and understood as a part of the New Wave it then disappears from view and remains one of the underwritten films of the period as the focus still remains primarily on the Cahiers group. It is nonetheless a useful chapter to those new to the period and provides a useful stepping stone for further investigation.

Aftershocks

Greene’s last chapter focuses upon the longer term influences of the French Nouvelle Vague and cites directors as seemingly distanced as Martin Scorsese and Abbas Kiarostami as being strongly influenced by this movement or tendency. Kiarostami notes that the willingness to ‘break the rules’ was an important influence upon him but when one follows the hypothesis suggested here that there are stronger links with European Surrealism than is usually thought about, this ‘breaking of the rules’ can be understood as more embedded in a subversive tradition of seeing things differently.

Cultural Historiography: Tafuri's Recerca

As the French Nouvelle Vague becomes history rather than a contemporary cultural movement it becomes more important to place it within a wider historical framework whilst recognising that history itself is necessarily an interpretive act concerning the past. Here it is useful to borrow from the work of architectural historian Manfredo Tafuri. I have recently come across the recent translation of his important last work Ricerca del Rinascimento with an English title of Interpreting the Renaissance. Of course there is a loss through translation of the meaning of the term Ricerca which Hays his translator goes to some trouble to explain more fully. The term has several connotations:

  • Research

  • Inquiry

  • Constant revision of hypotheses in the light of new evidence

  • An understanding of historical time as a fractured continuum, a dialectic of sudden events and long periods

If we apply this term to the French New Wave I argue that it is best to place it within a wider history of European cinema, itself related to the cultural twists and turns of a tumultuous period of global history. Perhaps what is needed for a reassessment is a cinematic history which is modelled on Tafuri’s openly revisionist (in a positive sense of the term) of Italian Renaissance Architecture which has as its objective explains Hays:

…providing a comprehensive reassessment of Italian Renaissance architecture…Rejecting the conventions of the exhaustive survey, Tafuri’s book is instead a series of in-depth, interconnected studies that present the architecture of the period not only as a manifestation of its cultural circumstances, but also in terms of its artistic practices designed to reinforce, challenge, and transform dominant ideologies, thereby changing the context of its reception.” (Tafuri 2006: p XVII)

So far in my cross-national comparisons I have discovered not only a lack of Jean Rouch aqnd early Rivette but an underwriting of the British Free Cinema movement programmes. This is important to raise here because of its commitment to showing French films from directors who presumably were to become stalwarts of the French New Wave. This is a serious flaw in writing European cinema from a perspective dominated by notions of national cinema for it can provide an unwelcome straitjacket. The blurb on the BFI DVD notes that Free Cinema 5 was on French Renewal and included Chabrol and Truffaut but it goes no further. It notes that Free Cinema 2 screened the work of Franju amongst other French filmmakers. Fortunately I discovered some intersting work on the web:

Cinema 4 introduced to Britain for the first time two directors of the French New Wave - Claude Chabrol (with Le Beau Serge) and François Truffaut (with Les Mistons)( Lindsay Anderson Programme notes: https://secure.bfi.org.uk/features/freecinema/archive/anderson-77prognotes.html


This article by John Ellis makes a useful series of links between Free Cinema and continental and American art tendendencies:

The second, fourth and fifth programmes contained films which the group felt were madealong the kind of lines it was pursuing. Included were two American documentaries, LeSang des Bêtes by Georges Franju, a series of Polish films including ones made by Borowczyk, Lenica and Polanski, and a programme called 'French Renewal' with films by Frangois Truffaut and Claude Chabrol. Even with the British-made films there were many differences; they were made over six years between 1953 and 1959. The films were not made in collaboration but rather emerged as a group following their inclusion in the Free Cinema programme. (Ellis 1977 see link below).

Greene tends to downplay the importance of Franju who was involved with both documentary and fictional film making yet Anderson et al would have been attracted to Franju because his surrealistic links which would have placed him on a par with Humphrey Jennings. That Franju was intimately involved with the establishment of the Cinematheque along with Langlois is important and Williams covers Franju in reasonable detail in his Republic of Images.




Henri Langlois 2


Henri Langlois & George Franju cofounders of the Cinematheque

Georges Franju










Conclusion

Overall this opportunity for critical reflection has helped to identify several aspects of French and European film culture which need to be unearthed and made more publicly available. Greene has written up Jean Rouch and created a greater focus on Rivette but perhaps underwritten Marcel Camus and George Franju but in a short book there will necessarily be gaps.  It would be unreasonable to review Green’s necessarily brief summary of a movement in this way however there is always a danger that publishing becomes an essential support of a pre-established discourse often linked to increasingly highly structured aspects of educational curricula. Green’s book clearly is in accordance with a very specific target market and achieves its end very effectively.

Hopefully the enthusiastic filmgoer will take it as a useful first step upon a wider cultural and intellectual journey rather than a tick box “done the French New Wave”! As time passes I suspect that more will be made of the underwritten links with European cinematic surrealism and that what is known as the Nouvelle Vague will be understood as a surrealistic inter-ruption which would support the sort of historical methods espoused by Tafuri and Benjamin amongst others. It is strange that Greene specifically draws upon the surrealists in interwar France as an example of “…an intertwined flowering of French film and film criticism” repeated by the Cahiers group of film makers as well as others in the French cultural avant-garde of the 1950s.





The Dreamers 1


Youthful joie de vivre in Bertolucci's France 1968 revisited film  The Dreamers. Remind you of Jules et Jim anybody?


The Dreamers 2






Return of the Repressed?  


Perhaps we should leave our thoughts with Bertolucci whose film The Dreamers in some sense links an artistic politics to a material politics yet recognises the ultimate disjunction between them for the film notes the importance of Godard and Truffaut in defence of Henri Langlois and his position in the Cinematheque. It was March 1968 when the government tried to remove Langlois that the Cahiers cavalry came to the rescue. It was a surrealistic prelude to the uprising and strife of May 1968. Bertolucci was himself strongly influenced by Godard and was also in Lacanian psychoanalysis, and Lacan was very interested in surrealism. With the 40th anniversary of this we can reflect upon an “understanding of historical time as a fractured continuum, a dialectic of sudden events and long periods.”

Bibliography

Greene, Landscapes of Loss: The National Past in French Postwar Cinema. New Jersey: Princeton University Press

Greene, Naomi. 2007. The French New Wave. London: Wallflower Press. ISBN 978-1-905674-12-1

Tafuri, Manfredo. 2006. Interpreting the Renaissance: Princes, Cities, Architects. New Haven: Yale University Press

Williams, Alan. 1992. Republic of Images: A History of French Filmmaking. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press

Webliography

http://filmstore.bfi.org.uk/acatalog/info_129.html

http://instruct1.cit.cornell.edu/courses/music270/projects/s2005/ebb32/Frantic.html

http://grunes.wordpress.com/2007/02/23/elevator-to-the-gallows-louis-malle-1957/)

BBC guide to George Franju http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A893441

Senses of Cinema on Georges Franju’s remake of Judex providing a strong link into European Surrealism: http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/05/35/feuillade_franju_dvd.html

Taken from Ellis John (ed.), 1951-1976: British Film Institute Productions, London: British Film Institute, 1977: https://secure.bfi.org.uk/features/freecinema/archive/ellis-freecinema.html





October 20, 2007

Georges–Henri Clouzot (1907–1977)

Georges-Henri Clouzot (1907-1977)

wages_of_fear.jpg


Clouzot made 10 feature length films four of which won international prizes. Clouzot was born in the south-western provincial town of Niort. In 1922 his father’s bookshop went bankrupt and the family moved to Brest in 1922. Here Clouzot tried to join the navy but was rejected due to myopia. Clouzot then tried to study diplomacy in Paris but quickly found that he was from the wrong class, he was ‘quickly made aware that one doesn’t belong’. Clouzot then turned first to theatre as a playwright and then to cinema to screen writing. At the beginning of the 1930s he worked for the Paris based office of Ufa (the German film company). By 1932 he had moved to Babelsberg making French-language versions of German box-office successes. It was here that he met Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau, who were then at Ufa, experimenting with the Expressionist chiaroscuro lighting designs which strongly influenced Clouzot's later films noir. Clouzot moved back to Paris after 2 years as he had become too friendly with a Jewish producer.

Clouzot was often in ill health throughout and his return to Paris saw him coming down with pulmonary TB. Clouzot was confined to a Swiss sanatorium for three years supported by friends. During this time he voraciously read popular romans policier. This love of crime thrillers strongly influenced his future output.

In 1938 Clouzot returned to Paris meeting Pierre Fresnay who helped him get back into cinema. Clouzot also met the actor / singer Suzy Delair who sustained a relationship with him for 12 years finally leaving him after working with him on Quai des Orfevres (1947).

1940 saw the occupation of France with Germany taking over the film industry under the aegis of Continental Films as a part of it’s wider aims to establish a European wide counterweight to Hollywood. Alfred Greven headed Continental and knew Clouzot from his days in Germany. Initially Clouzot declined however hunger drove him as well as others into Greven’s power. Clouzot became director of screen writing first adapting Simenon’s Les inconnu dans la maison (1942) Henri Decoin. Already Clouzot started to make the film darker than the original story setting a trend for his later films. The author Stanislas-Andre Steeman L’Assassin Habite au 21 and Quai des Orfèvres commented that Clouzot would rebuild the story ‘after having contemptuously demolished any resemblance to the original, purely for the ambition of effect’ [1] This commented was indicative of both an auteurial appraoch and also a sense of violence which later became apparent in Clouzot’s misogynistic treatment of his women actors a tendency he shared with Hithcock: In order to get the effect he wanted (be it anger or tears) he would quarrel with actors, slap them - in short, shock them into the mood required. ... He was the boss, and he was tough and a perfectionist.’ [2]

Dissatisfied with Les inconnu dans la maison Clouzot turned to directiong completing his first feature, L’Assassin Habite au 21 (1942). With resources being extremely restricted Clouzot learned to plan his films very tightly working from a very tight story board to organise shooting time and space. Shortages of film meant there was a maximum of two takes. The film was completed very cheaply in only 16 days.

Le Corbeau (1943) was his second feature. It earned him the title of auteur-metteur-en-scene. The term came from Jean Cocteau because he considered Clouzot to be both a master of mise-en-scene as well as being the author of his film text. This was a position developed well before the auteur debates which developed during the 1950s. By comparison the actor Louis Jouvet discerned a a tension for Clouzot between the need to resolve technical issues and keep to his text simultaneously. Some argue that this underlying artistic tension helps bring the edge to Clouzot’s films that they are renowned for. Discussion of Le Corbeau is dealt with in the separate case study. Suffice it to say here the content of the film resulted in Clouzot being controversially banned from film making for 4 years after the liberation by the ‘Cleansing committee’ which found him guilty of collaboration.


Quai des Orfevres


Quai des Orfevre (1947)




Despite the ban Clouzot worked on his next film Quai des Orfèvres (1947), in which Suzy Delair and husband Bernard Blier are the chief suspects of the inspector played by Louis Jouvet following a killing at a downmarket Parisian music-hall. Clouzot further developed his skills at suspense. Clouzot also developed his skills at directing his actors gaining a reputation for explaining the scenes very lucidly and making the actors feel very secure according to Jouvet[3]. The film was extremely successful gaining best Director Award at Cannes and a box office of 5.5 million.




Manon

Manon won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival 1949




Clouzot followed this film with Manon (1949) which received the Golden Lion award at the Venice film festival and a box office of 3.4 million. Clouzot’s next film the period comedy Miquette et sa mere (1950) an adaptation from a theatre play was something of a failure. However it was during the filming of this that Clouzot met his future wife Vera Gibson Amadeo a Brazilian.

The Clouzot’s then went to Brazil for a time and the knowledge gleaned from this visit strongly influenced the making of The Wages of Fear (1952). Vera had an important role in producing the film as Clouzot established Vera Productions as a finance vehicle and Vera herself was involved in production until she died a premature death from heart attack in 1960. A very tense thriller based on a book by Georges Arnaud filmed in the Camargue region to simulate Venezuela it kept the cost down. Due to a bout of illness combined with bad weather it took much longer to shoot than originally planned. The film won the Grand Jury prize at Cannes in 1953 gained an audience of 6.3 million in France and did well internationally.

Les Diaboliques



This was followed by the very successful Les Diaboliques (1955) with a box office of 3.7 million was a film noir to end film noir as it has been described. The mystery was adapted from the novel Celle Qui N’Etait Pas by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, whose D’ Etre les Mortes was later brought to the screen as Vertigo by Hitchcock. But the connection with Hitch doesn't end there, as Clouzot clearly shared his contempt for his casts. Simone Signoret his leading actress complained, “He does not ask you to do things, he demands that you do things... Clouzot does not really respect actors. He claims he could make anyone act.”

Hayward (2005) argues that Clouzot was never again to attain the heights he achieved with these two films which can be reduced to two primary factors. Firstly rather than further capitalising on the thriller genre Clouzot made a film of his friend Picasso Le Mystere Picasso (1956). Clouzot was also getting out of touch with the changing cultural climate of France which was beginning to modernise and develop a youth generation which was to culminate in la nouvelle vague.




Clouzot with Picasso

Clouzot with Picasso






Les Espions (1957) a cold war thriller (1.8 million box office) was something of a disappointment by Clouzot’s previous successes. Critics, including François Truffaut, who were keen to consign Clouzot to their 'Tradition of Quality' / cinema du papa. Generically the film had much that was influenced by Les Daiboliques and the plot and characterisation failed to convince.

Despite the damage that had been done to Clouzot's reputation the courtroom thriller La Vérité (1960) co-scripted by his wife just before she died was successful at the box office starring Brigitte Bardot and Sami Frey it appealed to younger audiences with 5.7 million at the box office. Nevertheless it received a cool critical reception and he went eight years without completing another feature La Prisonniere (1968). Illness had intervened again and Clouzot suffered a heart attack soon after starting to film L'Enfer, which he began filming in 1964. Claude Chabrol his successor as a master of suspense eventually filmed the story in 1994. Chabrol made clear his indebtedness to Clouzot in the DVD extras when it was released. Hayward comments that he was: Old fashioned, stuck in his practices and uninventive and seemingly having lost his touch, the nouvelle vague consigned him to the purgatorial ranks of the cinema du papa, and Clouzot was an auteur no more’ [4].

Hayward’s monograph on Les Diaboliques is a sustained attempt to argue that Clouzot was in fact an auteur and to point out that history has seen him as being accepted as one. Clouzot’s sense of humour is darker than Wilder’s or even Hitchcock’s being 'slightly nasty’. His development of mise en scene is bleaker and more detailed than Hitchcock’s as well as being seedier the glamour of both settings and characters in the later Hitchcock’s is missing. Arguably the horror is darker than Hitchcock. with whom he is probably most usefully compared.

In terms of his status as an auteur the standard benchmarks of auteur status are largely present. Clouzot had overall control of his films from script from stroy board to the shooting. He usually radically altered the original stories to make the text his own and here the complaint of the author Stanislas-Andre Steeman mentioned above corroborates the cinematic qualities of the films. This can be compared to Truffaut’s criticisms of a Aurant and Bost that they didn’t allow for cinema in their adaptations. Clouzot also shot in both studio and on location again circumventing another of Truffaut’s complaints abut cinema du papa being studio based. Furthermore many of the technicians and the production team were constants on Clouzot’s films. Armand Thirard was Clouzot’s director of photography in seven out of ten of his features and William-Robert Sivel was the sound operator in 9 out of ten of the films [5]. Many of the actors he used appear in many of his films and his brother collaborated in the screenplays of 4 of his films. Clouzot’s artistic vision in the realm of suspense and persuading the audience to suspend disbelief also arguably increased at least up until Les Diaboliques. On these grounds whether Clouzot should be consigned to the ranks of cinema du papa is a highly suspect charge.



1 [1]Cited Hayward 2005 p 3.

2 [2]Hayward 2005 p 3.

3 [3]Hayward 2005 p 5.

4 [4]Hayward 2005 p 8.

5 [5]Figures taken from Hayward 2005 p 9.



The Heritage Film in France

The Heritage Film in France

Introduction

In Britain the critical definition of the ‘heritage genre’ was first used by Andrew Higson who argued that it takes its subject from ‘...the culturally respectable classicisms of literature, painting music’ (Higson, 1993: p113). Higson also identifies this type of film with a particular aesthetic which tends towards linear narrative structures and a filmic style which is pictorialist, utilising crane shots and high angle shots which separate the spectator from the character point of view and allow for a spectacular and sumptuous mise-en-scene. The framing of these films tends to be reliant upon long takes, deep focus, long and medium shots rather than using close ups and rapid cuts. Higson’s analysis was immediately followed by many critics who readily identified a genre which was being associated with a conservative retrenchment of the 1980s. There is currently a re-evaluation of this term which was normally a disparagement. The re-evaluation is being led by the work of Claire Monk. The term is associated with a range of films which can cover historical biographies, costume dramas, canonical literary adaptations and historical re-enactments. In Britain at least, the perceived emergence of this type of film was also associated with a range of cultural industries under the term ‘Heritage industries’. Austin suggests that the heritage film is closely linked to la tradition of qualite in France and emerges in parallel to the heritage film in Britain marked by most critics by Chariots of Fire 1981.

What Created the Conditions for the French Heritage Film Industry?

It is often considered that heritage / historical type films are commonly associated with a crisis in national identity. France like Britian in the 1980s was facing the pressure of de-industrialisation. With rising unemployment as globalisation and the introduction of new informatio technologies started to take effect it certainly seems as thought the socio-cultural conditions were ripe to support an audience for this type of film.

Austen (1996) suggests that the refining of the avances sur recettes by Jack Lang made the ‘culturally respectable heritage genre the major beneficiary’, although young directors such as Beneix and Besson along with older auteurs such as Varda, Resnais and Bresson also benefited. In 1984 Lang chose the publisher Christian Bourgois to head the avance sur recettes system with a brief to target ‘culture’. This enabled Berri to fund his Pagnol adaptations. Marcel Pagnol had been highly successful as both film-maker and novelist. In 1986 over 6 million saw Jean de Florette and over four million saw the sequel Manon des sources made at the same time. Lang’s conception can be seen as one of high culture for the masses mediated through the cultural industries. In the late 1980s when the socialists were temporarily out of power Lang’s successor Francois Leotard suppressed aid for ‘artistic’ films. On his return to office Lang reintroduced the aid which included direct aid for 10-15 high quality films per year according to Predal (1991).

Two French Cinemas in the 1980s?

Powrie (1999) suggests that two types of cinema rather than genres became dominant in the French cinema of the 1980s measured by indicators of audience and media coverage. Powrie identifies these as the cinema du look which had played itself out by the early 1900s and heritage cinema. These types of films which unsettled the classic distinction of French cinema as being divided between the generic dominated by polars or thrillers alongside comedies on the one hand and the auteurs on the other. While cinema du look took a back-seat, the heritage film continued to grow in strength. Powrie argues that this type of film became hegemonic although its focus shifted from the 1980s to become ‘less idyllic and more problematically nostalgic.

Since 1991 Powrie notes that French audience figures have been rising from around 35 million to approximately 50 million by 1998. Powrie explains this by noting that a survey of audiences of over 500,000 for films showed that the average age of spectators had increased to over 31 years old breaking with the results of previous surveys which saw film going as primarily an entertainment for 15-24 age bracket. This provides at least a partial explanation for the success of cinema du look during the 1980s. Powrie argues that the popularity of the heritage film provides a partial explanation for the changing age profile of the audience. Clearly more research work needs to be done on this issue to get a better idea of the changing composition of the audiences. Perhaps those attracted into the cinema by cinema du look broadened their cinematic horizons? Perhaps those not impressed by cinema du look were attracted back into the cinema? In so far as heritage is strongly inter-linked with notions of national identity doubtless many were attracted to representations of the past from those who were not interested in standard Hollywood fare and had tired of the home-produced genre output. Powrie also notes that the comedy genre adapted to the heritage output as forms of pastiche. Powrie admits that this notion of ‘heritage pastiche’ is contentious however his edited work on French Cinema in the Nineties carries separate readings of Ridicule (Leconte, 1996) a costume comedy, Le Bonheur est dans le pre (Chatiliez, 1995) a postmodern Almodovarian style comedy and Les Visiteurs (Poire, 1993), which has a play on notions of medieval heritage and with 14 million viewers is the second most successful French film of all time.

Powrie contends that there is a ‘cartography’ of heritage cinema in which there are three broad categories: ‘official’ heritage; ‘postcolonial’ heritage; ‘Vichy’ heritage. Representative of official heritage is Germinal (Berri: 1993). In 1992 three films appear which can be read as mourning ‘the loss of an era, of a colonial empire, of a utopian world; the loss of France’s influence and prestige’ (Norindr, 1996:140). Films of this ilk are L’Amant, (Annaud), Indochine (Wargnier), Dien Bien Phu (Schoendorffer). The third type, ‘Vichy‘ heritage is like the ‘postcolonial’ ‘anchored in a move by historians to review the past which came to haunt the French with highly public trials of Vichy officials in the 1990s...’ (Powrie, 1999: p 6).

Heritage cinema is important in terms of constructions of cultural citizenship and is something which French cinema is having to come to terms with. The main focus of French cinema in the 1980s and 1990s became the ‘Heritage’ film in which Jack Lang promoted a policy of investment<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[1]<!--[endif]--> which agrees with Powrie’s definition of ‘official’ heritage. This policy has run in parallel with promotion of the system of co-production which is considered in more detail in the chapter on UK cinema. The turn to the costume drama was seen as a way of utilising heritage to produce bigger budget films which could also gain a market share in the USA. There is a deep irony that many of the French directors who made this turn were originally an important part of the nouvelle vague which had rebelled against this sort of cultural conservatism in the late 1950s and 1960s. Chabrol is a good example, making the literary adaptation Madame Bovary (1990). This type of film was also encouraged in the moves towards co-production. Condron argues, albeit in an exaggerated way, that this strategy was by no means always successful with Berri’s version of Germinal (1993) being one of the most expensive French films ever made yet falling flat at the box-office released in direct competition to Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993). Condron’s description of the film is a little misleading for Germinal became a film embroiled in the GATT treaty debates of 1993 and was a key element in the argument advanced by Mitterrand for ‘the cultural exception’ meaning that countries had a right indeed a duty to resist the unregulated free market and be able to produce, distribute and exhibit representations of themselves.

Germinal a Case Study

Cousins (1999) considers the term ‘heritage cinema’ disparagingly and makes the following comment upon Germinal:

...Germinal embodies many of the Genre’s defining characteristics: a French literary classic as source material; a conscientious, though unchallenging rendering of the narrative; a carefully researched authentic period recreation; high production values with an emphasis on spectacle, an inherent sense of Frenchness conveyed through national stars and French locations; an anodyne account of French social history with an emphasis on aesthetic values rather than political content.’ (Cousins, 1999: p 35).

Cousins goes to reasonable lengths to compare Berri’s version with previous versions as well as the original Zola novel to show how the film has been produced as more of a consensus style of film moving away from Zola’s representations of an evil and polarising form of capitalism pervading the 19th century French coalfields. It is worth noting at this point that this argument is in slight contradiction to Cousins contention that ‘the heritage genre requires all but total submission to the literary source material, privileging author over film-maker especially where the writer enjoys canonical status’. Yet Berri argues that it was not a slavish adaptation and further more the subsequent critique by Cousins shows that to be the case noting that Zola was making a didactic case whilst Berri’s is merely mimetic, also arguing that Zola had a ‘multilayered account’ of conditions whilst Berri’s is ‘less resonant’. Cousins makes a convincing argument about this specific film however there is an important point to be made here that there is a danger of overworking the methodology of genre. Clearly Berri was not that strongly bound by the original text and makes a film which is less sharp edged about social polarisations at a time when Northern France including the coal mines have seen a process of de-industrialisation. Berri’s need to keep important financial backers on board may have compromised the film politically for it was at that time the most expensive French film ever made, upping the ante over Les Amants de Pont Neuf. As a film relaying concerns of national identity its significance is highlighted by the fact that Jack Lang sent free videos to all schools.

      Whilst Condron has argued that the film didn’t do well compared with Jurassic Park in fact it made its production money back in just seven weeks attracting over 5 million spectators. It had been something of a ‘quasi-national’ project with a special TGV carrying Mitterrand, Jack Lang , Jacques Delors and other high profile leaders to the premiere. Jurassic Park which it was symbolically set against nevertheless outstripped the audience for Germinal by the end of the year. Cousins argues: ‘ The reasons for the relative failure of Germinal to see off the Hollywood super-production may lie in the undemanding narrative conventions of the heritage genre with its attendant self-serving ideology.’ (Cousins, 1999: 28). This mono-causal argument seems more motivated and aimed as a critique of the despised heritage industry rather than a proper evaluation of the reception and types of audiences that were attending these respective films. It is a case of comaring apples and pears: Jurassic Park was about family entertainment and about the most impressive CGI special effects ever produced at that time. Many young people would have gone to see the film twice, which seems unlikely with Germinal, a film which was bound to have appeal to an older and more sophisticated audience. It seems reasonable to argue that the film was remarkably successful in terms of overall box-office. What indicators ‘success’ is measured by is a problem of method which needs to be more fully developed in cinema studies, rather than pure box office alone. If for example longevity, long-term financial returns, cultural acceptance educational use etc were taken into account rather than immediate box-office success then a more accurate assessment of how successful a film is can be made.

What the criticism below highlights is the importance of placing a film within its cultural context of the time. Cousins is scathing about the quality of the film but notes how the context of the timing of its release not only epitomised Jack Lang’s policies of cultural renewal but became a tool of cultural politics as well. Whilst Cousins sees this as somewhat fortuitous the prevalent attitude of Hollywood in relation to its exports of films has been little changed at a strategic level since the 1920s. Given the levels of official backing the film received it might be better considered as being deliberately timed and designed to ‘coincide’ with GATT 1993. The position of Germinal was exceptional as it became catapulted into the limelight as it:

...had unintentionally crossed the boundaries of conformist domestic heritage cinema to enter the unmapped and dangerous domain if international cultural politics . In doing so Germinal became a political statement in itself and a rallying point for the embattled French film industry, thereby enjoying a critical attention which it scarcely merited either in terms of film-making or of the vacuity of its sanitised political content.’ (Cousins., 1998:p36)

Another film from this official heritage stable which involved Berri was La Reine Margot (1994) directed by Patrice Chereau. Adapted from a novel by Dumas this high budget ‘historical’ costume melodrama despite winning a Grand Jury prize and a best actress award was little more than using the infamous St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre as a vehicle to follow the plotting and intrigues of a misogynistically portrayed Catherine de Medici salaciously spiced with implications of incest. It can be seen as a film which was retrogressive in relation to the sentiments of the new historicism of the 1970s and early 1980s. However it has been argued by its star Isabelle Adjani, as well as by Chereau, that the film was a reflection on the Bosnian war <!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[2]<!--[endif]-->. Some critics linked the film to the ‘new violence’ wallowed in by Tarantino, arguably preceded by Besson. Powrie reflects that the film could also have been about the last years of the Mitterrand regime and the political troubles of the moment.

La Reine Margot

Whilst some of these films have been commercially successful some French critics have seen this as a sign of stagnation which is not only culturally conservative but has cut off sources of funding for emergent directors. Greene (1999) places this film in the framework of a range of films that have ‘continued to reveal a transformed vision of the national past.’<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[3]<!--[endif]--> However what Greene describes as ‘the shock of the past’, in which bodies are piled up in the streets is more than balanced by the gruesomeness of the poisoning by arsenic and the sweating of the blood. These instances are less a ‘shock of the past’ than a cinema of ‘shock’, more an ‘auteurist’ trademark of Chereau if ‘Intimacy’ (2000) is a good example of his film-making. This shock empties out Greene’s impression of a ‘darkened vision of the national past’ instead promoting pure spectacle in a contemporary visit to the stock in trade genre of the heritage film.

The Role of Co-production

       La Reine Margot was not only a co-production but managed to elicit money from the Eurimages fund. There has been an unfortunate tendency within European cultural funding to keep within a narrowly defined ‘heritage agenda’ whether this is about architecture or films. This amounts to a failure to come to terms with a wider vision of a future European culture, remaining anchored in a badly historicised past which has been unable to develop a notion of future based upon an examination of past mistakes. The treatment of the St. Bartholomew’s day massacre was a great disappointment as it failed to deal seriously with issues of difference in ways which might have been of relevance to today’s multi-faith and multicultural Europe.

       Recent French cinema post 2000 includes co-productions with Italy, such as Morretti’s The Son’s Room (2002). This follows a tradition of co-productions with Italy in the post-war period to help resist the influx of American imports. Morretti’s film explores the effects of grief which break up a previously happy family after the son’s accidental death. Given the power of psychoanalysis within the intellectual and critical tradition in France there are certain ironies that the father is a psychoanalyst. The wife and daughter externalise their grief whilst the father broods on his. Philip Kemp reads the film’s ending as one which ‘holds out the possibility of grief fading and lives repairing themselves’ <!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[4]<!--[endif]-->. Rather than the past being another country as suggested at the level of trauma a better understanding of psychoanalysis recognises that time can become frozen unless the talking cure of psychoanalysis can be taken. In that sense the film is about power control and masculinity.

       Bertrand Tavernier’s Laisser-passer (2002) is a very recent historical film with a difference and could be seen as a late addition to the ‘Vichy’ heritage type of film. Based on the experience of members of the industry with whom he has collaborated in the past on other projects Tavernier has made a film which through the film industry itself and its relationship to Nazi occupation deals with issues of what is collaboration, survival and resistance which in previous well known films dealing with the period has not been handled. Reader <!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[5]<!--[endif]--> notes that by dealing with very specific people who were criticised by the critics on Cahiers du Cinema as being stagnant and reactionary and involved with the derisively named Le Cinema de qualite. Reader considers that the film can be read as a defence of those earlier standards. Here the notion of standards needs to be considered as one incorporating ideological concerns not simply production standards and aesthetic considerations. The current Cahiers du Cinema didn’t treat the film kindly on its release, although many of those involved in the nouvelle vague had effectively taken up less modernist film-making by the 1980s. As a film dealing with the cultural history of French cinema it is also important and taken in the light of the 1970s historical films it appears to be dealing not only with ordinary people but opening up windows on a period of history which sits uncomfortably in the French cinema psyche as Malle’s Lacombe Lucien showed approximately 30 years.

Heritage and the Struggle Over History

       The term heritage cinema seems overdue a revaluation for it can incorporate such a wide spectrum of films that its original formulation of being suspect of inherent conservatism is worthy of question. How far for example can the films of Visconti be described as ‘heritage’ cinema on the basis of this definition, yet films such la Terra Trema, The Leopard, Death in Venice which all conform to the heritage definition of canonical literary adaptations. In the case of The Leopard it entirely conforms to the argument that the spectacular is an important component of the genre and even utilises the Hollywood star system function as critiques of capitalism and modernity. Sally Potter’s Orlando from a classical literary text by Virginia Woolf that was radical in its time manages to also be radical.


History itself has been problematised yet again in recent years and those films which constitute representations of the past do allow audiences to be engaged in a discourse of re-evaluation and re-visioning of the past. This is inevitably going to be a contested one and thus ‘heritage film’ could be construed as a healthy activity which is no more inherently conservative than it is radical. There is much work to do on cinema and its relationship to history which is a necessary part of developing cultural citizenship itself.

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<!--[if !supportLists]-->1 <!--[endif]--><!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[1]<!--[endif]-->Condron, Anne Marie.1997, p 213.

2 <!--[endif]--><!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[2]<!--[endif]-->Austin, Guy, 1996: p 168.

3 <!--[endif]--><!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[3]<!--[endif]-->Greene, Naomi. 1999, p 23

4<!--[endif]--><!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[4]<!--[endif]-->Kemp, Philip. ( 2002 ) Sight and Sound review March issue 3 p 56.

5<!--[endif]--><!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[5]<!--[endif]-->Reader, Keith. ( 2002 ) Sight and Sound review November issue 11 p 50.

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October 19, 2007

Chronology of Important European Films

A Chronology of Important European Films  1918 - 2003


Introduction 

This page is work in progress. Many links have been made to in site or external reviews or places where the film can be purchased; films post 2003 are now being  added. Gradually in site 'hubs' are being developed for specific national directors so that clicking on an entry will allow the visitor to access the hub where links to more specialist information on the directors will become available. This is currently a long process and will take many months. The development plan for this aspect of the site work is to open up director based pages which will provide links to the currently best available relevant web sites based upon a Google search  of normally up to page 20.

Objective 

The primary purpose of this entry is to allow visitors to start to make comparisons across national boundaries by gaining a more synoptic view of cinematic developments in parallel countries. This accords with the main cinematic purpose of the blog which is to contribute towards an understanding of European film history in the five major industrial countries of Europe since the end of the First World War.


Many directors worked in a number of countries and, as in any other cultural industry, there are plenty of crossovers becuase cultural workers such as directors and cinematographers are often chosen for specific skills or want to work in a different country to gain a more cosmopolitan experience. Visconti, for example started working with Renoir in France before the Second World War, Emeric Pressburger worked in Berlin before choosing to escape Nazism and coming to Britain. Cavalcanti worked in France and then Britain was brought up in Switzerland and was of Brazilian origin. Truffaut worked with Rossellini briefly. This is of course the tip of the iceberg and signifies the importance of cross-cultural influences within the growth of European cinema. A tradition that carries on to this day.   


Uses For This Page 

This page should help a wide range of people who have an individual, academic or film programming interest in European cinema. First of all, my apologies to visitors who are disappointed because their country is not included in the list. I have chosen to focus on the five major industrial countries of Europe as my main area of research and development. All five are currently members of G8 the World's largest GDPs. Compared to the United States all these countries struggle to get a thriving independent film which has a large audience in its own country. This basic fact about issues of the cultural representation of a range of cultures is an important aspect of what can be termed cultural citizenship.

The definition of cultural citizenship is one which argues that people from different places are able to represent themselves to the rest of world. Out of the Western European countries studied here only France has managed to maintain a very powerful indigenous film culture largely because of its film policies which necessarily extend into the sphere of exhibition and distribution.

To develop more work on more European countries is beyond the scope of an individual blogger. This huge absence points the way to thinking about how to develop a much more powerful pan-European film culture which takes on board the need to develop audiences as well as exhibition, distribution and production systems. For those interested in current institutional initiatives please link here to the European Film Institutions page

Hopefully this blog and page will contribute to this greater idea. For any interested visitors the page should contribute to gaining an overview of European cinema as it has developed since World War I. This date has been chosen as it was a turning point in World history marking the transition of global power from European Empires to the United States although of course it took many decades to complete the transfer.  

The page should help those running film clubs and societies who are trying to work out their programming, it should also help students and those independently interested in European cinema to quickly develop ideas and themes which can then be followed up. 


Underwritten Films and Directors 


One reason for doing this undertaking was to discover which films / directors were underwritten on the web. Whilst most searches will turn up highly specialist articles in small academic journals which require users to be members of a subscribing university there are sometimes very few well informed and well written in depth articles about certain films and / or directors. As I gradually make my trawl  I will note here where there seem to be weak spots in web coverage. This might stimulate interest in the films and ensure that they still remain available.

Taviani Brothers: For most of the films I have been searching so far there is relatively little quality in depth material to recommend. They have made a lot of powerful films in Italy and deserve more serious web recognition. 

Francesco Rosi: This is another director who remains underwritten on the web. Again he has made a lot of important films about Italy frequently with a strong humanitarian / political edge. 

Luchino Visconti: Regarding his 1976 film L'Innocente there is little of any use on a Google search at present. The link I have goes to a Google sample of Henry Bacon's book - this is highly recommnded by the way. The English entries via Google on Senso are generally weak despite the importance of the film as recognised by Nowell-Smith and Dyer.

Rene Clair: Le Silence est d’or there is very little available in English on a Google search.

Guiseppe de Santis: One important point to note is the fact that Bitter Rice has not been available in the UK for a considerable period of time. This is surprising to say the least because not only is it seen as an important film in the canon of Italian neorealism but it was also one of the most commercially successful of the neorealist canon. 




The Chronology


Year

France

Germany

Italy

Soviet Union / Russia

United Kigndom

1918

Dulac: Le Bonheur des autres

Gance: Ecce homo

Gance: J’accuse

L’Herbier: Phantasmes


(Weimar Cinema  until the coming of Sound: An Overview)







1919

Dulac: La Cigarette

Dulac: La fete espagnole

Lang: The Spiders

Lang: The Plague in Florence

Lubitsch: Madame Dubarry

Wiene: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari







1920

Dulac: La Belle dame sans merci

Dulac: Malencontre

Gance (-1922) La Roue

Wegener: The Golem







1921

Dulac: La Morte du soleil

Lang: Destiny

Murnau: Nosferatu







1922

Dulac: Werther (Unfinished)

L’Herbier; Don Juan et Faust

Lang: Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler







1923

Clair: Paris qui dort

Dulac: Gossette

Dulac: La Souriante Mme Beudet

Gance: Au secours

Lang: The Nibelungen







1924

Dulac: La Diable dans la ville

Renoir: La fille de l’eau

Leni: Waxworks

Murnau: The Last Laugh




Eisenstein: Strike

Protazanov: Aelita



1925

Clair: Le Fantome de Moulin Rouge

Dulac: Ame d’artiste

Dulac: La Folie des vaillants

Gance (-1927): Napoleon vu par Abel Gance

Gance(-1927) Autor de Napoleon

Gance (-1928) Marine

Lang: Metropolis

Wiene: The Hands of Orlac



Eisenstein: Battleship Potemkin

Kuleshov: The Death Ray



1926

Clair: Le Voyage imaginaire

Dulac: Antoinette Sabrier

Gance (-1928) Danses


Fank: The Holy Mountain

Murnau: Faust

Murnau: Tartuffe



Kuleshov: By the Law

Pudovkin: The Mother

Vertov: A Sixth of the World

Hitchcock: The Lodger

1927

Arrival of sound In USA

Dulac: Le Cinema au service de l’histoire (Compilation)

Dulac: Invitation au voyage

(Online screening available) 

Renoir: Charleston

May: Asphalt

Ruttman: Berlin Symphony of a City


Eisenstein: October

Pudovkin: The end of St. Petersburg

Shub: The End of the Romanov Dynasty

Shub: The Great Road


1928

Dulac: Germination d’un haricot

Dulac: Le Coquille et le Clergyman

(See under Invitation etc for online screening) 

Dulac: La Princesses Mandane

Gance: Cristallisation

L’Herbier: L’Argent

L’Herbier: Un Chapeau de paille d’Italie

Renpoir: Marquetta

Renoir: La petite marchande d’allumettes


Lang: Der Spione

Pabst: Pandora’s Box



Pudovkin: Storm Over Asia

Shub: The Russia of Nicholas II and Lev Tolstoy



1929


Bunuel: Un Chien d'Andalou & L'Age d'or

Dulac: Etude cinegraphique sur une Aaabesgue

Dulac: Disque 927

Dulac: Themes et variations

Renoir: Tire-au-flanc

Renoir: Le bled

Pabst: Diary of a Lost Girl

Siodmak et al: People on Sunday



Dovzhenko: Arsenal

Eisenstein: Old and New or The General Line

Kovinstev and Trauberg: The New Babylon

Protazanov: Ranks and People

Turin: Turksib

Vertov: Man With a Movie Camera

Asquith: A Cottage on Dartmoor

Hitchcock: The Manxman (His last silent film) 

Hitchcock: Blackmail

1930

Cocteau: Le sang d’unpoete

Gance: La Fin du Monde

Gance: Autour de La Fin du Monde

Vigo: A Propos de Nice

Von Sternberg: Blue Angel



Dovzhenko: Earth



1931

Clair: Sous les toits de Paris

Clair: Le Million

L’Herbier: Le Parfum de la dame en noir

Pagnol: Marius (Technically directed by Korda)

Renoir : On purge bebe

Renoir: La chienne

Vigo: Taris

Lang: M

Pabst: The Threepenny Opera

Sagan: Girls in Uniform



Vertov: Enthusiasm



1932

Clair: Le Quatorze juillet

Gance: Mater dolorosa

Pagnol: Fanny (Technically directed by Allegret)

Renoir : La nuit du carrefour

Renoir: Boudu sauve des eaux

Dudow: Kuhle Wampe

Lang: Das Testament das Dr. Mabuse

Riefensthal: The Blue Light



Eisenstein: Que Viva Mexico!



1933

Pagnol: Le Gendre de Monsieur Poirier

Pagnol: Jofroi

Renoir: Chotard et cie

Vigo: Zero de Conduite

(Nazi Film Genres)



Ophuls: Liebelei

Steinhoff: Hitler youth Quex

Zeisler: Viktor and Viktoria




Kuleshov: Velikii uteshitel' (The Great Consoler)

Korda: The Private Life of Henry VIII

1934

Gance: Poliche

Gance (-1935) Napoleon Bonaparte

L’Herbier : Le Scandale

Pagnol: L’Article 330

Pagnol: Angele

Renoir: Madame Bovary

Renoir: Toni

Vigo: L'Atalante

Trencker: The Prodigal Son (1933-34)


Wegener: A Man Must go to Germany



Vasiliev Bros: Chapayev

Hitchcock: The Man who Knew Too Much

1935

Gance: Le Roman d’un jeune homme pauvre

Gance: Jerome Perreaux, heroes de barricades

Gance: Lucrece Borgia

Pagnol: Merlusse

Pagnol: Cigalon

Renoir: Le crime de Monsieur Lange

Renoir: Toni

Riefenstahl: Triumph of the Will

Blasetti: Old Guard

Dovzhenko: Aerograd

Kosintsev and Trauberg: The Youth of Max

Cavalcanti: Coalface

Hitchcock: The Thirty-Nine Steps

1936

Carne: Jenny

Gance: Un Grand amour de Beethoven

Renoir: Partie  de Campagne





Dzigan: We From Kronstadt

Eisenstein: Alexander Nevsky

Hitchcock: Sabotage

1937

Carne: Drole de drames

Gance: Le Voleur de femme

Pagnol: Regain

Renoir: La Grande Illusion



Gallone: Scipio the African




1938

Carne: Hotel du Nord

Carne: quai des brumes

Gance: Louise

Pagnol: La Femme du boulanger

Renoir: La Marseillaise.

Renoir: La bete humaine.

Froelich: Heimat

Reifenstahl: Olympia

Alessandrini: Luciano Serra Pilota



Asquith: Pygmalion

Hitchcock: The Lady Vanishes

Saville: South Riding

1939

Carne: Le Jour se leve

Gance: Le Paradis perdu

L’Herbier: La Brigade sauvage

L’Herbier: Entente cordiale

Renoir: La regle du jeu








For contextual links  and more films see: British Cinema and Society: Chronology 1939–1951


British Cinema of the Second World War


Hitchcock: Jamaica Inn


Korda: The Four Feathers

Reed: The Stars Look Down

Woods: They Drive by Night

1940


(French Cinema in the Second World War

Gance (-41): La Venus aveugle

Pagnol: La Fille du puisatier

Harlan: Jew Suss

Hippler: The Wandering Jew
(on arrival go to p 147) 


Mauder & Sessner :The Attack on Fort Eben-Ebel





Hitchcock: Rebecca

1941

L’Herbier: Histoire de rire

Liebeneiner: I Accuse

Ruhman: Quax the Crash Pilot





Powell and Pressburger: The 49th Parallel

1942

Carne: Les visiteurs du soir

Becker: Dernier atout

Gance (-1943): Le Capitaine Fracasse

L’Herbier: La Comedie du bonheur

L’Herbier: La Nuits fantastique



De Sica: The Children are Watching Us

Rossellini: L’uomo dalla Croce

Visconti: Ossessione

(Intro to Neorealism

(Thinkquest site "by student team on Neorealism



Cavalcanti: Went the Day Well?

Howard: First of the Few

Lean: In Which We Serve

Powell and Pressburger: One of Our Aircraft is Missing

1943

Becker: Goupi main-rouges

Bresson: Les anges du peche

Carne (-1945) Les Enfants du paradis

Clouzot: Le Corbeau

Von Baky: Munchausen

Rossellini (43-44) : Desiderio



Arliss: The Man in Grey


Powell and Pressburger: The Life & Death of Colonel Blimp


Launder & Gilliat: Millions Like Us

1944

Gance: Manolette





Eisenstein: Ivan the Terrible Part 1

Batty: The Battle for Warsaw (UK / Poland)

Asquith: Fanny by Gaslight

Clayton: Naples is a Battlefield (Documentary)

Lean: This Happy Breed

Olivier: Henry V

Powell and Pressburger ; A Canterbury Tale

Gilliat: Waterloo Road (Spiv)

Reed: The Way Ahead

1945

(French Cultural Policy After WWII

Becker: Falbalas

Bresson: Les Dames du Bois du Boulogne

Carne:Les Enfants du Paradis

Harlan: Kolberg (1943-45)

Rossellini: Roma citta aperta

Eisenstein: Ivan the TerriblePart 2

Arliss: The Wicked Lady

Boulting: Journey Together

Crabtree: They Were Sisters

Lean: Brief Encounter

Powell & Pressburger: I Know Where I’m Going

1946

Carne: Les Portes de la nuit

Cocteau: La Belle et La Bete

L’Herbier: Au petit bonhuer

Staudte: The Murderers are Among Us

De Sica: Shoeshine

Rossellini: Paisa


Crichton: Hue and Cry (Ealing Comedy)

Jennings: A Defeated People

Lean: Great Expectations

Powell & Pressburger: A Matter of Life and Death

1947

Clair: Le Silence est d’or

Lamprecht: Somewhere in Berlin

Rossellini: Germany Year Zero


Boulting Bros: Brighton Rock (Spiv)

Cavalcanti: They Made Me a Fugitive (Spiv)

Hamer: It always Rains on a Sunday (Melodrama / Social Real)

Powell and Pressburger: Black Narcissus

1948

Cocteau: L’Aigle a deux tetes

Cocteau: Les Parentes terribles

Renais: Van Gogh (Short)

Tati: Jour de fete




De Santis: Bitter Rice

De Sica: Bicycle Thieves

Visconti: La Terra Trema



Asquith: The Winslow Boy

Lean: Oliver Twist

Powell & Pressburger:The Red Shoes

Reed: Fallen Idol

1949

Becker: Rendez-vous de juillet

Melville: Les enfants terribles

Melville: Le Silence de la mer



Rossellini: Strombli: Terra di Dio



Reed: The Third Man

Cornelius: Passport to Pimlico

Hamer: Kind Hearts and Coronets

Mackendrick: Whisky Galore

1950

Carne: La Marie du port

Clair: La Beute du diable

Cocteau: Corolian (Short)

Cocteau: Orphee

Genet: Un Chant d'amour

Resnais: Gaugin (Short)

Resnais: Guernica (Short)





Antonioni: Cronaca di un amore

De Sica: Miracle in Milan

Fellini : Variety Lights

Rossellini: Franscesco guillare di Dio



Lee: The Wooden Horse

Deardon: The Blue Lamp (Social Problem Films)

Odette (Biopic / War)

1951

Bresson: Le Journal d’un cure de campagne

Cocteau: La Villa Santo-sospir

Staudte: The Subject (GDR banned FDR)

De Sica: Umberto D

Fellini: The White Sheik

Visconti: Bellissima



For contextual links and more films see: British Cinema and Society: Chronology 1951–1964


Boulting: High Treason (Anti-Communist)

Boulting: The Magic Box

Crichton: The Lavender Hill Mob

Mackendrick:The Man in a White Suit

1952

Becker: Casque d’or

Pagnol: Manon des sources

Tati: Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot



Antonioni: I vinti


Rosi:Camicie rosse (Red Shirts)


Rossellini: Europa ‘51





Asquith: The Importance of Being Earnest 

Lean: The Sound Barrier

Frend: The Cruel Sea (War)

1953

Carne: Therese Raquin

Clouzot: Wages of Fear

Gance: La 14 juillet 1953

L’Herbier: Le Pere de madamoiselle


Antonioni: La signora senza camelie

Fellini: I vitelloni


L. Anderson: O Dreamland (Social Real)

Cornelius: Genevieve

Crichton: The Titfield Thunderbolt (Comedy)

Gilbert: The Cosh Boy (first Brit X Rated Film) 


Reed: The Man Between (Anti-Communist)

1954

Becker: Touchez pas au grisbi

Carne: L’Air de Paris

Gance: La Tour du Nesle

Varda: La Pointe courte

Kautner: Ludwig II

Kautner: The Last Bridge

Fellini: La strada

Rossellini: Viaggio in Italia

Rossellini: Fear

Visconti: Senso


Hamilton: The Colditz Story (War)

Asquith: The Young Lovers

1955

Clair: Les Grands Manoeuvres

Clouzot: Les Diaboliques

Dassin: Rififi

Renais: Nuit et Brouillard (Short)


Antonioni: Le amiche

Fellini: Il bidone

De Sica: Two Women


Anderson: The Dambusters (War)

Mackendrick: The Ladykillers (Comedy)

1956

Bresson: Un Condamne a mort s’est echappe

Gance: Magirama

Resnais: Toute la memoire du monde (Short)


Fellini: Le notti di Cabiria

Risi: Poor but Beautiful

Chukrai: The 41st

Romm, Mikhail: Murder on Dante Street

Romm, Mikhail: Ordinary Facism

Gilbert: Reach for the Sky (War)

Together (1956) Lorenza Mazzetti

(Free Cinema) 

Momma don't Allow Karel Reisz  and Tony Richardson

(Free Cinema) 

1957

Clair: Porte des lilas

Malle: Lift to the Scaffold

Melville: Bob le Flambeur

Truffaut: Les Mistons (short)

Resnais: Le Mystere de l’atelier (Short)

Rivette: Le Coup du berger (Short)

Reitz & Dorries: Schicksal einer Oper . (57-58)

Antonioni: Il grido

Visconti: White Nights

Kalatozov: Cranes are Flying

Boulting: Lucky Jim

L. Anderson: Everyday Except Christmas (Free Cinema)

Lean: Bridge on the River Kwai (War)

1958

Becker: Montparnasse 19

Carne: Les Tricheurs

Chabrol: Le Beau Serge

Malle: Les Amants

Resnais: Le Chant du styrene

(Short)

Tati: Mon Oncle




Rosi: La sfida (The Challenge)

Abuladze: Someone Else’s Chidren

Gerasimov: And quiet lows the Don



1959

Bresson: Pickpocket

Cocteau: Le Testament d’ Orphee

Gance (-1960): Austerlitz

Resnais: Hiroshima mon amour

Truffaut: 400 Blows

Reitz: Baumwolle (Doc)

Rosi: I magliari (The Weavers)


Rossellini: Generale Della Rovere

Chukrai: Ballad of a Soldier

(British New Wave)

Boulting: I'm Alright Jack

Boulting: Carlton-Browne of the FO


Clayton: A Room at the Top

Greville: Beat Girl 

Hamer: School for Scoundrels

Reed: Our Man In Havana

Richardson: Look Back in Anger (Social Real)

Reisz: We are the Lambeth Boys (Free Cinema)

Thompson: Tiger Bay

1960

Becker: Le Trou

Carne: Terrain vague

Clement: Plein Soleil

Godard: A Bout de souffle

Godard: Le Petit soldat (released 1963)

Rivette: Paris nous appartient

Truffaut: Tirez sur le pianiste

Lang: The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse

Reitz: Krebsforschung I & ii. (doc short)

Antonioni: L’avventura

Fellini: La dolce vita

Visconti: Rocco and His Brothers

Tarkovsky:The Steamroller and the Violin

Dearden: The League of Gentlemen

Green: The Angry Silence


Powell: Peeping Tom (Thriller/Horror)

Reisz: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Social Real)

Gilbert Sink the Bismark (War)



1961

Clair: Tout l’or du monde

Godard: Une Femme est une femme

Truffaut: Jules et Jim

Resnais: L’Annee derniere a Marienbad

Varda: Cleo de 5 a 7

Kluge: Rennen (Short)

Reitz: Yucatan (Short)

Antonioni: La notte

Fellini: Boccaccio ’70 (episode)

Pasolini: Accattone

Rosi: Salvatore Giuliano

Chukrai: Clear Skies

Dearden: Victim (Social Real)

Richardson: A Taste of Honey Social Real)



1962

Bresson: Le Proces de Jeanne D’arc

Godard; Vivre sa vie

Marker: La Jetee

Melville:Le Doulos

Oberhausen Manifesto: New German Cinema directors


Kluge: Leher im Wandel (62-63) (short)

Antonioni: L’eclisse

Bertolucci: La commare secca

Pasolini: Mama Roma

Taviani Bros: A Man for Burning

Visconti: The Leopard

Tarkovsky: Ivan’s Childhood

Lean: Lawrence of Arabia (War)

Schlesinger:A Kind of Loving (Social Real)

Dr. No (Spy)

Forbes: The L-Shaped Room (Social Real)

1963

Godard: Le Mepris

Franju: Judex/Nuits Rouge

L’Herbier: Hommage a Debussy

Resnais: Muriel



Fellini: 8 1/2

Taviani Bros: Outlaw of Matrimiony

Rosi:Le mani sulla città (Hands Over the City



Anderson: This Sporting Life

Brooks: Lord of the Flies

Losey: The Servant

From Russia with Love (Spy)

Schlesinger: Billy Liar (Social Real +)

Richardson: Tom Jones (Literary Adaptation)

1964

Gance: Cyrano et d’Artagnan

Godard: Bande a part

Rouch / Godard / Rohmer et al.: Paris vu par



Antonioni: il deserto rosso

Bertolucci: Before the Revolution

Pasolini: The Gospel According to St. Matthew

Rosi:Il momento della verità (The Moment of Truth

Visconti: Sandra

Kosinstev: Hamlet



Lester: A Hard Day’s Night (Swinging Sixties)

1965

Carne: Trois chambres a Manhattan

Clair: Les Fetes galantes

Gance (-1966): Marie Tudor

Godard: Alphavile

Godard: Pierrot le fou

Kluge: Yesterday Girl (65-66

Schlondorff: Der junge Torless (65-66)

Bellocchio: Fists in the Pocket

Fellini: Juliet of the Spirits

Pontecorvo: The Battle For Algiers





Boorman: Catch Us if you can (Swinging Sixties)

Furie Sidney J: Ipcress File (Spy)

Lester: The Knack (Swinging Sixties)

Polanski: Repulsion (Horror)

Ritt: The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (Spy)

Scheslinger: Darling (Swinging 60s)


Loach: Up the Junction

1966

Bresson: Au hazard Balthazar

Godard: Deux ou trois choses que je sais d’elle

Resnais: La Guerre est finie

Reitz: Mahlzeiten (Mealtimes). (66-67)

Pasolini: The Hawks and the Sparrows

Tarkovsky (released 1971) Andrei Rublev

Anderson (Michael): The Quiller Memorandum

Antonioni: Blow Up (Swinging Sixties)

Hamilton: Funeral in Berlin

Narizzano: Georgy Girl


Alfie

Polanski: Cul de Sac

Reisz: Morgan: a Suitable Case for Treatment

Zinneman: A Man For All Seasons

1967

Bresson: Mouchette

Gance: Valmy

Godard: La Chinoise

Godard: Week-End

Pagnol: Le Cure de Cucugnan

Resnais: Loin du Vietnam (Part of a collective work)

Herzog: Signs of Life

Kluge: Artists at the Top of the Big Top: Disoriented

Pasolini: Oedipus Rex

Taviani Bros: The Subversives

Rosi: C'era una volta(Once Upon a Time)

Visconti: The Outsider

Askoldov: The Commissar

Losey: Accident

Loach: Poor Cow

1968

Carne: Les Jeunes Loups

Renais: Je t’aime, je t’aime

Rohmer: Ma nuit chez Maude

Herzog: Fata Morgana (68-70)

Syberberg: Scarabea

Bertolucci: Partner

Fellini: Histoires extraordinaires (Episode)

Pasolini: Theorem

Taviani Bros: The Magic Bird

Taviani Bros: Under the Sign of Scorpio


Anderson: If

Lester: Petulia

Reed: Oliver

Richardson:Charge of the Light Brigade (Swinging Sixties)

Donner: Here We go Round the Mulberry Bush

1969

Bresson: Une Femme douce

Costa-Gravas: 'Z'


Gance (-1971): Bonaparte et la Revolution

Melville: L'armee des hombres

Fassbinder: Love is Colder Than Death

Herzog: Even Dwarfs Start Small (69-70)

Kluge: The Big Mess (69-70)

Sanders-Brahm: Angelika Urban, Verkauferin, verlobt (Doc)

Wenders (69-70): Summer in the City

Fellini: Fellini Satyricon

Pasolini: Pigsty

Pontecorvo: Qiemada

Rossellini: Acts of the Apostles

Visconti: The Damned



Hamilton : Battle of Britain

Attenborough: Oh what a Lovely War

Loach: Kes


The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

1970

Carne: La Force et la droit


Melville: Le Circle Rouge

Rohmer: Le Genou de Claire

Fassbinder: The American Soldier

Bertolucci: The Conformist

Bertolucci: The Spider’s Strategem

Fellini: I Clowns

Pasolini: Medea

Pasolini: The Decameron

Rosi:Uomini contro

Rossellini: Socrate

Motyl: White Sun oft he Desert (Red Western)


Roeg: Performance

1971

Bresson: Quatre nuits d’un reveur




Losey: The Go-Between

1972



Fassbinder: The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

Herzog: Aguirre: Wrath of God

Sander: Does the Pill Liberate Women? (Doc).

Syberberg: Ludwig: Requiem for a Virgin King

Wenders: The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty

Wenders: The Scarlet Letter

Antonioni: China

Fellini: Roma

Rosi: Il caso MatteiThe Mattei Affair) (


Visconti: Ludwig

Tarkovsky: Solaris

Kubrick: A Clockwork Orange

1973



Fassbinder: Fear Eats the Soul

Sander: Male Bonding

Wenders: Alice in the Cities

Bertolucci: Last Tango in Paris

Fellini: Amacord

Moretti: La sconfitta

Rosi: Lucky Luciano



Roeg: Don’t Look Now

Anderson: O Lucky Man

1974

Bresson: Lancelot du lac

Renais: Stavisky

Rivette: Celine and Julie Go Boating

Fassbinder: Fox and His Friends

Herzog: The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser

Syberberg: Karl May


Moretti: come parle,frate?

Pasolini: Arabian Nights

Taviani Bros: Alonsanfan

Visconti: Conversation Piece

Mikhalkov: At Home Among Strangers, A Stranger at Home



1975



Schlondorff & von Trotta: The Lost Honour of Katerina Blum

Wenders: False Movement

Wenders: Kings of hte Road

Antonioni: The Passenger

Pasolini: Salo

Rossellini: The Messiah

Mikhalkov: A Slave of Love

Tarkovsky: Mirror

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

1976

Carne: La Bible

Renais: Providence

Fassbinder: Chinese Roulette

Fassbinder: Satan’s Brew

Herzog: Heart of Glass

Herzog: Stroszek ((76-77)

Reitz: Stunde Null (Zero Hour)

Sanders-Brahm: Shirin’s Wedding

Syberberg: Our Hitler (76-77)

Bertolucci: 1900

Fellini: Il Casanova di Frederico Fellini


Moretti: Io sono un autarchico

Rosi: Cadaveri eccellentiIllustrious Corpses) (

Visconti: L'Innocente (The Intruder)





1977

Bresson: Le Diable probablement

Kluge: The Patriot (77-79)

Schlondorff / Fassbinder / Kluge/ Reitz et al : Germany in Autumn

Schlondorff: The Tin Drum. (1997098)

Von Trotta: The Second Awakening of Christa Klages

Wenders: The American Friend

Taviani Bros: Padre, Padrone

Mikhalkov: Unfinished Piece for a Mechanical Piano

Jarman: Jubilee

Winstanley

1978



Fassbinder: The Marriage of Maria Braun

Herzog: Nosferatu

Fellini: Prova d’orchestra

Moretti: Ecce Bombo

Olmi : Tree of Wooden Clogs

Mikhakov: Five Evenings

Harvey: Eagle’s Wing

Parker: Midnight Express

1979



Schlondorff: The Tin Drum

Schlondorff / Kluge / Aust von Eschwege : The Candidate. (79-80)

Von Trotta: Sisters or the Balance of Happiness

Bertolucci: La luna

Fellini. Prova d'orchestra

Rosi: Cristo si è fermato a EboliChrist Stopped at Eboli) (

Taviani Bros: The Meadow

Konchalovsky: Sibiriade

Menshov: Moscow Does not Believe in Tears

Mikhalkov: Several Days in the Life of I.I. Oblamov

Tarkovsky: Stalker

Monty Python’s Life of Brian

1980

Renais: Mon oncle d’Amerique

Fassbinder: Lilli Marleen

Herzog: Woyzeck

Reitz: Heimat (80-84)

Sander: The subjective Factor (80-81)

Sanders-Brahm: Germany Pale Mother

Antonioni: Il mistero di oberwald

Fellini: City of Women



Roeg: Bad Timing

1981



Fassbinder: Lola

Fassbinder: Veronika Voss

Syberberg: Parsifal (81-82)

Von Trotta: The German Sisters

Bertolucci: Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man

Moretti: Sogni d'oro


Rosi: Tre fratelliThree Brothers) (


Taviani Bros: Night of the Shooting Stars

Mikhalkov: Kinsfolk

Reisz: The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Hudson: Chariots of Fire

(Start of Heritage Cinema?

Gregory’s Girl

1982



Fassbinder: Querelle

Schlondorff / Kluge / Engstfeld: War and Peace (82-83)

Von Trotta: Friends and Husbands

Wenders: The State of Things

Antonioni: Identificazione di una donna



Anderson (Lindsay): Britannia Hospital 


Greenaway: The Draughtsman’s Contract

1983

Bresson: L’Argent

Renais: La Vie est un roman

Herzog: Fitzcarraldo

Reitz & Kluge: Biermann -Film (short).

Schlondorff: Swann in Love

Von Trotta: Rosa Luxemburg


Moretti: Bianca

Mikhalkov: A Private Conversation

Tarkovsky: Nostalgia

Gilbert: Educating Rita

Leigh: Meantime

MacKenzie: The Honorary Consul

Local Hero

Potter: The Goldiggers

Eyre: The Ploughman’s Lunch

1984

Renais: L’amour a mort

Reitz: Heimat Part 1

Syberberg: die Nacht (84-85)

Rosi: Carmen


Taviani Bros: Chaos



Joffe: The Killing Fields

1985

Varda: Sans toi ni loi

Lanzmann: Shoah

Kluge: The Blind Director

Sanders-Brahm: Old Love (Doc)

Schlondorff: Death of a Salesman


Moretti:La messa e finita



Bernard: Letter to Brehznev

Frears: My Beautiful Laundrette

Lean: A Passage to India

1986

Barri: Jean de Florette

Berri: Manon des sources

Resnais: Melo

Sanders-Brahm: Laputa





Cox: Sid and Nancy


Douglas:Comrades

Ivory: Room With a View

Jordan: Mona Lisa

1987



Herzog: Cobra Verde

Kluge: Odds and Ends

Wenders: Wings of Desire

Olmi: Long Life to the Lady!

Rosi: Cronaca di una morte annumciata (Chronicle of a Death Foretold)


Taviani Bros: Good Morning Babilonia

Mikhalkov: Dark Eyes

Little Dorrit

Ivory: Maurice

Frears: Prick up Your Ears

Wish You Were Here

Robinson:Withnail & I

1988



Von Trotta: Three Sisters





Greenaway: Drowning by Numbers

Leigh: High Hopes

Sammy and Rosie Get Laid

1989



Wenders: Notebook on Clothes and Cities

Fellini: Intervista

Moretti: Palombello rossa



Greenaway: The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and Her Lover

Julien: Looking for Langston

1990



Von Trotta: Return

Fellini: La voce della luna

Moretti: La cosa

Rosi: Dimenticare Palermo (To Forget Palermo)

Taviani Bros: The Sun also Shines at Night

Mikhalkov: Autostop

Leigh: Life is Sweet

Minghella: Truly, Madly, Deeply

1991

Carax: Les amants du Pont-Neuf

Jeunet & Caro: Delicatessen

Pialat: Van Gogh

Wenders: Until the End of the World



Mikhalkov: Urga: Territory of Love

Loach: Riff Raff

1992




Reitz: Heimat Part 2


Rosi: Diario napoletano (Neapolitan Diary)



Ivory:Room With a View

Ivory: Howard’s End

Neil Jordan : The Crying Game

1993

Kassovitz: Cafe au Lait / Blended


Kieslowski:Three Colours: Blue

Kieslowski: Three Colours White (Co-pro)


Muller: The Wonderful Horrible life of Leni Riefenstahl


Von Trotta: Il Lungo Silenzio

Wenders: Far Away so Close


Taviani Bros: Fiorile

Mikhalkov: Anna 6-18

Leigh: Naked

Loach: Raining Stones

Potter: Orlando

1994

Chereau, La Reine Margot


Kieslowski: Three Colours Red (Co-pro)

Von Trotta:die Frauen in der Rosenstrasse

Von Trotta: The Promise

Wenders: Arisha, the Bear and the Stone Ring


Moretti: Caro diario

Moretti: L'unico paese al mondo

Mikhalkov: Burnt By the Sun

Chada: Bhaji on the Beach

Newall: Four Weddings and a Funeral

1995

Kassovitz: La Haine

Mimouni: L’Appartement

Wenders: Lisbon Story

Antonioni ( +Wenders) : Beyond the Clouds



Boyle: Shallow Grave

Winterbottom: Butterfly Kiss

1996


Wenders: Lumiere de Berlin

Moretti: Opening day of 'Close-Up'

Rosi: La tregua (The Truce)

Taviani Bros: Chosen Affinities


Boyle: Trainspotting

Herman:Brassed Off

Lee: Sense and Sensibility

Leigh: Secrets and Lies

Minghella: The English Patient

1997

Kassovitz: Assassin (s)

Wenders:Alfama

Wenders: The End of Violence





For contextual links and more films see: British Cinema and Society: Chronology 1997–2010




Boyle: A Life Less Ordinary

Madden:Mrs. Brown

Potter: The Tango Lesson

Prasad: My Son The Fanatic

Ramsey: Kill the Day

Winterbottom: Welcome to Sarajevo

1998


Von Trotta: Mit 50 Kussen Manner Anders

Moretti: Aprile

Taviani Bros: You Laugh

Mikhalkov: The Barber of Siberia

Kapur: Elizabeth

Leigh: Career Girls

Ritchie: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Sofley: Wings of a Dove

1999



Twyker: Run Lola Run

Benigni : Life is Beautiful



Jordan: The End of the Affair

Leigh: Topsy Turvey  

Michell: Notting Hill


O'Donnell: East is East

Ramsey:Ratcatcher

Rozema: Mansfield Park

2000

Chabrol:Merci pour le Chocolat.

Chereau: Intimacy

Godard: Histoire (s) du cinema

Haneke: Code Unknown(French co-pro) 


Ozon: Water Drops on Burning Rocks




Frazzi & Frazzi:The Sky is Falling




Contemporary
British Directors Hub Page


Pawlikowski: The Last Resort

2001

Denis: Trouble Every Day

Godard: Eloge de l’amour

Haneke: The Piano Teacher

Jeunet: Amelie

Ozon: 8 Women

Tavernier: Laissez-Passer

Hirschbiegel: Das Experiment


Moretti: The Son’s Room



McGuire: Bridget Jone’s Diary


Winterbottom: 24 Hour Party People

Loach: The Navigators

2002

Breillat: Sex Is Comedy

Philibert: Etre et avoir

Dilthey: Das Verlangen (The Longing)




Sokhurov: Russian Ark

Chadha: Bend it Like Beckham

Greengrass:Bloody Sunday



Hüseyin: Anita and Me

Mackenzie: Young Adam

Leigh: All or Nothing

Loach: Sweet Sixteen

Ramsey: Morven Callar

2003


Rohmer: Triple Agent

Becker: Goodbye Lenin!

Reitz: Heimat Part 3


Bellocchio: Good Morning Night



Frears : Dirty Pretty Things

Hodges: I'll Sleep When I'm Dead 

2004
Hirschbiegel:Downfall


Leigh: Vera Drake

Loach: Ae fond Kiss

Gleenan: Yasmin

Pawlikowski: My Summer of Love

Potter: Yes

2005

Haneke: Caché


Rothemund:Sophie Scholl

Weingartner:The Edukators




Dibb: Bullet Boy

Frears: The Queen

Mireilles: The      Constant Gardner

Winterbottom: A Cock and Bull Story

Wright (J): Pride and Prejudice

2006
von Donnersmarck:The Lives of Others


Arnold: Red Road

Loach: Wind That Shakes the Barley

Meadows: This is  England

Williams: London to Brighton

Winterbottom: The Road to Guantanamo

2007



Broomfield: Ghosts

Corbijn: Control

Gavron: Brick Lane

Kapur: Elizabeth the Golden Age  

Loach: It's a Free World

Winterbottom: A Mighty Heart

Winterbottom: Genova

Wright: Atonement


2008 Assayas: Summer Hours




Davies: Of Time and The City

Herman: The Boy in Striped Pajamas

Leigh: Happy-Go-Lucky

Maybury: The Edge of Love

Meadows: Somers Town






October 07, 2007

Claude Lanzman’s Shoah: Key Essays. A Review

Libeskind The Jewish Museum Berlin

Daniel Libeskind on his Berlin Jewish Museum project representing absence:

The third aspect of this project was my interest in the names of those persons who were deported from Berlin during the fatal years of the Holocaust. I asked for and received from Bonn two very large volumes called the 'Gedenkbuch'. They are incredibly impressive because all they contain are names, just lists and lists of names, dates of birth, dates of deportation and presumed places where these people were murdered. I looked for the names of the Berliners and where they had died - in Riga, in the Lodz ghetto, in the concentration camps.



Claude Lanzman’s Shoah: Key Essays.  Edited by Stuart Liebman, Oxford University Press: 2007

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Shoah is available from Masters of Cinema @ Eureka Video



Introduction


The publication of this book this year is a timely one coming not long after the Eureka release of Shoah on DVD. There is increasing interest at an academic level in representations of the Holocaust (Shoah) / and the Nazi Concentration Camp & Death Camp systems as a whole. The latter is well represented by another book of essays edited by van der Knaap “Uncovering the Holocaust: The International Reception of Night and Fog" published by Wallflower Press in 2006 which will be reviewed in due course. Originally I was going to review them together but on reading them both I decided both deserve their own space particularly in the light of the argument of Shoah and the discourses surrounding it which make the case for highlighting the attempted eradication of European Jewry as an act which isn’t as yet taken fully into account by the majority of European countries. The argument of Shoah is that it is a crime which is on a scale which outweighs the other horrors committed by the Nazi precisely because of its specificity and the corresponding doubt which it which it created in relation to the future and nature of humanity itself. Lanzmann himself describes it as : ”Their extermination is a crime of a different nature, of a different quality; it is a nameless crime, which the Nazi assassins themselves dared not name, as if by doing so they would have made it impossible to enact. It was literally an unnameable crime.” (Lanzmann in Liebman, 2007p 28).

This book of essays covers an interesting range of ideas, perspectives and reactions. These range from articles like Gertrude Koch’s which are highly academic to the experience of how the distribution of Shoah was arranged in the United States to ensure the widest possible audience in a country where Hollywood output and the corresponding cine-machine rules out the exhibition of 9 ½ hour films. Given the range of different discourses which have emerged directly from the film it is difficult to give a clear overview of the disparate ideas which cohere in the field of Shoah. The fact that they do so bears witness to the power and integrity of Shoah itself. Even defining exactly what the film is difficult because its approach certainly redefines the idea of what a documentary is, indeed it is sen by Lanzmann as a performance.

I will therefore comment upon several of the essays which hopefully will attract the reader interest this book deserves and by inference encourage people to view the film itself for otherwise much of what is written remains largely meaningless. I have covered many of the points made by Stuart Leibman in his introduction in the first part of the expanded review of Shoah elsewhere on this blog. It is a powerful piece and is available in an abbreviated version with the Eureka DVD of Shoah. This book is thus an extension of the film and is the next place the viewer should go to deepen the viewing experience further.

The book is split into three parts. The first deals with its inception through production and distribution. The second section is comprised of appreciations, close readings and celebrations. The final section is called ‘Controversies and Critiques’. I have chosen two essays out section 1 and one out od the other two sections. All are useful essays and also accessible to the lay reader in ways which more specific essays such as Gertrude Koch’s about aesthetics are not. I have decide to deal with the essay Closely Watched Trains by Marcel Ophuls who made the powerful documentary about The Sorrow and The Pity which was very controversial because it attacked the mythology which surrounded the Gaullist construction of resistance and in part dealt with the role of the Vichy in collaborating with Nazism in the Holocaust. An interview with Lanzmann himself by Chevrie and Le Roux working for Cahiers de Cinema comes next. Daniel Talbot’s article about the distribution of Shoah shows the importance of the power of distribution in the chain of cinema itself as well as providing a moving account of committed engagement to ensure that it was seen, against the odds. Finally I have chosen a very interesting essay on gender issues and Shoah written by Hirsch and Spitzer both professors at Columbia University.


Closely Watched Trains: Marcel Ophuls


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I simply had to read this essay early on partially because of the obvious link between Shoah and Different Trains by Steve Reich. Somehow it is the trains which come to symbolise the depth of organisation and also the depth of collusion in with the Holocaust. The eerie rhythm of the trains running on a parallel but unseen and unacknowledged timetable of eradication, an industrialised death machine feeding the Moloch which is presaged in Lang’s Metropolis is a sort of haunting embedded into the film. Here it is worth focusing on Lanzmann’s basic premise which he seeks to expose through his film.

Whilst Siegfried Kracauer can be accused of being teleological in his analysis of German cinema representing the almost inevitable path of Germany’s fall into Nazism there are strong anti-Semitic strands which can be discerned within Weimar cinema itself such as Nosferatu. Certainly there was a powerful structure of anti-Semitic feeling in Germany itself. This upholds Lanzmann’s idea that the Holocaust was not an aberration. It relied on: firstly “the basic consensus of the German nation” (remember the massive resistance against forced of disabled euthanasia was partially successful); secondly, it “relied on the existence of an aggressively anti Semitic world: Poland, Hungary, Romania, the USSR not to mention others.” (Lanzmann p 31) [self-explanatory and historically accurate]; thirdly, it was also made possible because “nations washed their hands of the Jewish persecution”. Countries such as Britain neither stood up firmly enough for the Jews of Germany nor did they rush to the rescue Lanzmann cites Lord Moyne High Commissioner in Egypt referring to the possibility to take in 1 million Hungarian Jews “what am I to do with 1 million Jews” (p32).

Ophuls puts his finger on the pulse of Lanzmann’s film instantaneously:

How can the unspeakable horror, the memories of total evil and complete degradation that the survivors themselves feel cannot be communicated, be forced back into the collective awareness, into the conscience of mankind.” (Ophuls in Liebman p 77).

Ophuls is very honest about his immediate reactions to being asked to watch Shoah. He states that he generally dislikes documentaries for reasons ranging from the hi-jacking of a popular art form ‘the movies’ into the service of a cause to the fact that he doesn’t trust the makers of these who often defend the form under the aura of a bourgeois respectability. However having experienced it he openly states that he considers “Shoah to be the greatest documentary about contemporary history ever made, bar none, and by far the greatest film I’ve ever seen about the Holocaust”.

Ophuls focuses on the issue of whether the film can be deemed to be ‘anti-Polish’ a reaction from the Polish authorities at the time the film came out. As Ophuls points out Lanzmann expected to find non participating witnesses to the arrival of the trains, to the herding of Jews into gas chambers:

That some of the farmers profess compassion while obviously contemplating every detail of the proceedings with barely concealed relish is not the director’s invention. “ (p 81)

Ophuls also points out the toughness of Lanzmann’s exposure of the true underlying process. In response to the comments of a reviewer called Murat who at times thought Lanzmann a ‘benevolent torturer’ who he wanted to ‘reach out and slap’, Ophuls is scathing:

If being a gentleman is a documentary filmmaker’s top priority he’d better get into some other line of work.” Lanzmann he notes attempts no charm or ingratiation of the audience. However as Ophuls points out correctly there is no ‘intimidated awe’ which is an approach with which people usually approach the Holocaust and is an approach which Lanzmann is entirely counterpoised to.

Ophuls praise the subterfuge which Lanzmann at times resorts to when interviewing some executioners. Criminals are ‘outed’ why should one be critical of this? He asks rhetorically. A more effective justice system would have / should have dealt these people a far harsher hand.

Ophuls tries to attenuate Lanzmann’s critique of the TV series ‘The Holocaust’ which was broadcast in the states. For Lanzmann it was rather pusillanimous to say the least. Effectively He ended up being on the same side as nationalistic Germans who were doing their best to stop it being broadcast in Germany at the time. Ophuls makes an interesting and important point when he comments the Edgar Reitz’s Heimat coming in at around 16 hours ‘was a deliberate effort to defend the memories of his childhood against the foreign invasion of Holocaust’. Then Ophuls has a swipe at several directors not renowned for their right-wing ideals. Fassbinder’s Lilli Marlene he describes as ‘neo-fascist indulgence’ and Pontecorvo’s (maker of the Battle of Algiers) Kapo he describes as ‘crass voyeurism’. I’ll bear those comments in mind when I get to see the latter. The former I can barely remember but it didn’t strike me as neo-fascist at the time.

Finally Ophuls identifies with Lanzmann’s filming experience the moral catastrophe he has found in his filming in places like Latin America which is “murderous indifference”. With Lanzmann says Ophuls

Beyond the urge to persuade, and even the need to testify, I suspect that a new state of mind has come to guide and sustain this magnificent achievement: not resignation but defiance! (p 87).



Site & Speech: an interview with Claude Lanzmann by Cahiers du Cinema

This interview opens with a prelude where Lanzmann declares that he wishes to talk about the film as a film. In the interview which takes place in 1984 he talks about a book which he will bring out on Shoah commenting that:

Certain people…… are so overwhelmed by the horror that they develop a kind of sacred and religious attitude towards it and do not see the film itself. One has to understand why and how this horror is transmitted. (Liebman p 37)

The interview proper starts with a straightforward question about how the project began in the first place. Lanzmann started out by reading a lot about the Holocaust as well as going through photo archives. He faced a fundamental problem when he needed to ask for money to make the film. The problem is the Catch 22 of making cinema and being reliant upon commercial production practices. Unsurprisingly he was always asked “what is your conception of the film”. Lanzmann comments that this was: … the most absurd question: I did not have any conception. Initially Lanzmann comments that he proceeded to collect theoretical knowledge he then started to find witnesses specifically “those who had been in the charnel houses of the extermination” (ibid p 38). It was when interviewing these witnesses that Lanzmann discovered:

…an absolute gap between the bookish knowledge I had acquired and what these people told me. I understood nothing. (ibid p 38)

This is already an effective underpinning of qualitative research methods and begins to highlight his unusual methods. At times they come close to a psychoanalytic method. Lanzmann discovered that a core problem for his film making was that the experiences the survivors had undergone were so extreme that they couldn’t communicate anything. Lanzmann discovered that a sense of place, a sort of geography of extermination, was required to start to make sense of the whole un-representable process. By visiting core sites of the extermination he discovered a sort of dialectic of cognition: one needed to know to see, and to see to know:

If you go to Auschwitz without knowing anything about Auschwitz and the history of the camp, you will see nothing. In the same way, if you know without having been there, you will also not understand anything. (ibid p38).

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Lanzmann clearly states that the film is about site, about topography and about geography. Because there was a process of effacement of sites like Treblinka the places were becoming sites of non-memory. Accordingly Lanzmann had models made of the gas chamber at Treblinka moving from the landscape to this model when he was shooting in order to imbue the film with a sense of power created through the act of connectivity.

At this point in the interview Lanzmann is very scathing about the American TV series produced in the early 1980s called Holocaust which he accuses of being idealist. Here one is reminded of the concern voiced by Ophuls as discussed above.

There are many ways to communicate and many different levels of communication. Like Ophuls I would argue that productions like Holocaust have their place especially in education because they can allow some critical space to open up for new audiences.

Another comment made by the Cahiers interviewers was that the film was made “in the face of its own impossibility”. For Lanzmann the film was especially problematic to make because of the disappearance of the traces of the extermination and also because of the sheer impossibility of getting survivors to speak about it because of the un-nameability of the whole process of extermination.

The Lack of Archival Images

Contrary to some opinions the programme for the extermination of the Jews was not visually archived meticulously by the Nazis as Lanzmann points out the situation was quite the opposite. There is almost nothing:

About the extermination strictly speaking there is nothing. For very simple reasons it was categorically forbidden… the problem of getting rid of the traces was therefore crucial in every respect. (p 40).

At this point Lanzmann goes into some important aspects of film and documentary film making for even if there had been archival materials available he would not have used them:

I don’t like the voiceover commenting on the images or photographs as if it were the voice of institutional knowledge that does not surge directly from what one sees; and one does not have the right to explain to the spectator what he must understand… That is why I decided from very early on that there would be no archival documents in the film” (My emphasis p 40).

Here there is an important argument made for Lanzmann’s artistic method for instead of being set in the present the film “forces the imagination to work”. Lanzmann’s method became more akin to a sort of psychoanalytic method of reliving the traumatic experience so the one could speak it, where “speak” can sometimes mean body actions and non-verbal communications. For example, relating his experience with the barber when he placed the barber in a real barber’s shop with a real customer.

And from this moment on, truth became incarnate, and as he relived the scene, his knowledge became carnal. It is a film about the incarnation of truth.” (p. 40).

Framing and Mise en Scene

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At this point the Cahiers interviewers discuss the issue of mise en scene and its inter-relationship with the methods so that form and method can be seen as entirely intertwined. The interviewers suggest that truth doesn’t emerge from archival images rather it emerges from a restaging of events and practices. Lanzmann explains how he rented the trains which became so symbolically powerful within the film. The boxcars at Treblinka station were actually the same ones that were used at the time. Here the underlying philosophy driving his method clearly emerges. By getting into the boxcars and filming:

The distance between past and present was abolished, and everything became real for me. The real is opaque; it is the true configuration of the impossible.” (p. 42).

It was only during the making of the film that Lanzmann became fully aware of the importance of site. When he initially visited Poland Lanzmann didn’t know what he wanted from the visit. He had arrived with the notion that Poland was a, “non-site of memory”, and that this history had been diasporized”. (p43)

It was when Lanzmann was in Poland that he noticed that the Polish people who had been witnesses to much of the extermination began to speak of their experiences: I perceived that it was very alive in their conscious’s, that scars had not yet formed”. As a result Lanzmann set about filming these witnesses without telling them what he was going to be filming in advance. When he filmed one of the train conductors who had helped to transport the Jews Lanzmann put him into the cab of the railway engine he had rented and told him they were going to film the arrival at Treblinka. It was on arrival at Treblinka that:

…he made this unbelievable gesture at his throat while looking at the imaginary boxcars (behind the locomotive of course there were no boxcars). Compared to this image archived photographs became unbearable. This image has become what is true. Subsequently when I filmed the peasants, they all made this gesture, which they said was a warning, but it was really a sadistic gesture.” (p 43)

For Lanzmann this became a cinematic method which meant that Shoah became a film that was fictional but deeply “rooted in reality”. In this way it crosses the boundary between fact and fiction just as it crosses the temporal boundary between past and present. It was a method in which they had to act out “they had to give themselves over to it “. (p. 44). It was through this method that speech communications thus came to carry an extra charge going beyond the talking heads approach of more conventional documentary making. The film thus becomes a “reliving of history in the present”(p. 45)

Some Polish Witnesses

Some Polish witnesses. 




The Distribution of Shoah in the USA

I found the chapter on distribution and exhibition of Shoah in the independent sector particularly interesting. Even though films by their nature are slightly less ‘prisoners of measured time’ than TV, there are clearly defined norms beyond which distributors and exhibitors will not go. Both arms of the industry are concerned with reducing risk as much as possible. In this type of climate being an art form comes a poor second. Great films of the past have suffered at the hands of industry manipulation such as Lang’s Metropolis and Visconti’s The Leopard. What would happen then to a nine & a half film made with no stars and by a little known director? Shoah can hardly be said to be a genre which has mass audience appeal either. Daniel Talbot’s methods were inventive and original and had everything with the film being so successful in the USA.

Daniel Talbot became responsible for distributing Shoah in the USA nevertheless he made a success of the task and became so convinced by the film that about six months after opening Shoah he thought about abandoning film distribution altogether : …for everything after this film would be anti-climactic, trivial, depressingly boring. (p 53).

Talbot and his wife went to Paris to view the film with a proven record of successful distribution of European ‘Art House’ movies in the USA. They immediately signed a deal and ordered one 35mm subtitled print. These prints were of course very expensive at around $15,000 each a lot back in the early 1980s. Talbot needed to connect intimately with his target audience which was the American Jewish population. Initially he screened the film for Lucjan Dobroszycki an important New York archivist who had published a book on the Lodz Ghetto 1941-1944 the previous year. Having made an impact this started a word of mouth chain and several screenings were held at the Gulf + Western facilities for important members of New York’s Jewish community.

Talbot had taken over a small cinema in 1976 splitting into 300 seat and 185 seat theatres which had built up a regular clientele of more arts oriented New Yorkers. Talbot opened the film and Lanzmann came over to speak. It had enormous critical success with the exception of Pauline Kael. The film ran for six months playing to an older audience than usual. As a result of this initial success Talbot generated a lot of interest and started to publicise it more widely and launch specific marketing initiatives. He invested in another 6 prints reinvesting the proceeds of the six month run.

Of course he still needed to develop a different distribution strategy which didn’t follow the normal pattern of NY followed by LA and then other large regional cities. With only six prints available Talbot chose to target the cities with large Jewish populations. He was also faced with the problem of not being able to afford long runs because of the wear and tear on the print and the enormous expense of replacing them. Talbot thus pursed a strategy of offsetting risk onto the exhibitor. Exhibitors were carefully chosen on the strength of them being able to attract a strong Jewish audience. The exhibitors also only had two weeks in which to make a profit and the film was sold to them at a high $20,000 flat rate. In return Talbot allowed them to raise money from the films for local Jewish charities. Lanzmann again came over to speak about the film visiting many American cities. Overall the film played in over 100 cities.

This huge success for a film which seemed unmarketable led to a campaign to get the film onto the PBS TV Network This required them to raise $1.5 million. Fortunately they were supported by many very wealthy backers which allowed them to meet the target. As a result over 10 million saw the film on TV. Hitler’s attempts to erase the Jewish people from history were thus entirely defeated.

Gendered Translations


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Hirsch and Spitzer make a very useful critical contribution to the discourses surrounding the film and by doing so very firmly put issues of gender very firmly on the map of the Holocaust. They start from a position which notes how myriad reports of the Holocaust have managed to de-gendered the history. The dehumanising language of the perpetrators usually talks not of bodies but of “figures and junk”. Descriptions of the transportation of Jews across Europe resorts to clichés about being packed like Sardines, after being murdered they are laid out in mass graves ‘like herrings’. Jews become a ‘load’ in the train wagons. Whilst this use of language is dehumanising it also strips out all reference to difference. Hirsch and Spitzer thus comment:

“Ironically Lanzmann’s film itself also eradicates gender differences among the victims of the “Final Solution”’. (P 176).

In the film the experience of the Jewish women is represented by others and women survivors only appear fleetingly. Perhaps surprisingly there are a number of witnesses amongst the Polish and Germans interviewed who are women:

But among the Jewish survivors who speak and give their account in the film, the erasure of difference and particularly, the almost complete absence of women are striking”. (P 177).

They comment that for Lanzmann that gender is irrelevant to the death machine which is designed specifically to de-gender, declass and dehumanise and then destroy the traces.

Lanzmann therefore backgrounds the subjective experience of the victims. Yet they note that in other accounts of the Holocaust significant gender differences do emerge where:

… women speak of the effects of ceasing to menstruate and the fear that their fertility would never return, they speak of rape, sexual humiliation, sexual exchange, abuse, enforced abortions and the necessity of killing their own and other women’s babies.(P 177).

For Hirsch and Spitzer it is clear that the extermination selection process meant that maternity was a greater liability than paternity so they argue that the focus and method used by Lanzmann does enact an erasure of women ‘however’, they comment, “…traces of gender difference are nonetheless re-inscribed in his film.” They took as their task in this article to job differences making the gendered translation described by the title of the article.

Most of the women such as Paula Biren disappear after a brief interview unlike the male survivors. Only one women ain the film goes through Lanzmann’s methods of “reliving” of “experiencing in the present”. This was Inge Deutschkron who returns to Berlin. “Women are thus relegated to the background in roles of “hiding, passivity, lament, invisibility” (p 180).

At this stage Hirsch and Spitzer point out that Shoah’s equalisation of difference “extends to the realm of morality as well.” Here we are dealing with what Primo Levi described as a ‘moral grey zone’. This can be applied to those Jews who survived because they became Kapos and participated in work details. Lanzmann avoids dealing with the implications of this participation. Although differences in testimony appear, differences in experiences are downplayed.

The highly gendered approach which has been identified in Lanzmann’s work perhaps reflects the gendered nature of Judaism itself. Hirsch and Spitzer comment on the reports in the film about Jewish leaders during the Holocaust Freddy Hirsch and Czerniziow who by committing suicide:

“…act out the masculine response to the realisation that there is no future left.”

This is a privileging of a male perspective within the film. By comparison Shoah only deals very briefly with the suicide of female suicide, yet the women’s suicides seem less self-centred than the men’s:

“For these women death is an act of final resistance: escape for themselves and their offspring from prolonged suffering at the hands of their oppressors.” (P 184).

Hirsch & Spitzer then proceed to argue that in Shoah the double position which women have in societies observed in a cross-cultural way - citing the anthropologist Maurice Bloch- has been reduced. This double position is one of representing both death and generativity:

“The feminine connection to generativity, is eradicated, which seems to make the first connection to destruction doubly terrifying. Within the context of the film women come to represent death without regeneration.” (p 184).

This insight leads them to re-examine events in terms of the Greek myth of Orpheus. On this reading Shoah is composed of a ‘bearing witness’ from inside hell or Hades in a way which is redolent of Orpheus. In the myth he has a hauntingly beautiful voice and he also leaves a woman behind. To develop this insight they turn to the work of Klaus Theweleit which examines Orphic creation as a form of false creativity. Thus the creativity of the Jewish survivors creating a range of institutions is an artificial ‘birth’. In the Orpheus myth women play the role of ‘media’ the intermediaries acting as voices and translators not as primary creators or witnesses. They argue that in Shoah it is Lanzmann and his male participants who give birth to a story which never should have been heard:

In a modern manifestation of Orphic creation, together with these “Orphic” male survivors of the journey to Hell, Lanzmann circumvents women and mothers and initiates and new form of transmission for modern Jewish history”. (p 186).





A Mediating Daughter


The daughter of a survivor mediated so that her father would speak the unspeakable.






By relying on the women in Shoah who can virtually not be seen the process of inquiry – the methods – become a gendered translation – of events. Women in Shoah remain, “ … shadowy intermediary voices between language and silence, between what is articulated and what must remain unspeakable.” (p 186).

Hirsch and Spitzer also make another link to mythic structure of Shoah in relation to Medusa who:

“calls into question the very act of looking: to look is to be possessed, to lose oneself, to find oneself pulled into the absolute alterity of death. In that sense Medusa is the figure most endangering for cinema, especially for the cinematic evocation and representation of death.” (p 187)

They note that Lanzmann insists that his film is a performance not a documentary but “women are left out of these remarkable performances.” They conclude correctly that Lanzmann’s film has succeeded in bearing witness to the – event –without – witness, but that it erases the difference between past and present and that it has the mythic and artistic force of Orphic creation whilst revealing the politics of this mythology ‘by replicating the sacrifice of Eurydice and the slaying of Medusa”.

Conclusion


It has been the intention of this review to tackle a few of the contributions in depth rather than skim briefly over many. Those who are interested will I’m sure be prepared to persevere with the other essays for the book as a whole is full of fascinating and frequently poignant comments. The introductory essay by Liebman is very good and raises many interesting questions about the role of memory within history itself, a question which is outside of the scope of the review. For those interested in the cinema of the Holocaust and also those interested in documentary film making methods this book is a must.



August 23, 2007

Moreau, Bardot, Karina, Deneuve

Under construction

This is entry is still being developed however the links may be helpful. They will be added to gradually.  Unfortunately some writing got lost in a hard drive crash and will have to be redone. 


Women Stars of the French New Wave

Anna Karina Band a Part



Jeanne Moreau, Bridgitte Bardot, Anna Karina, Catherine Deneuve 

Introduction  

Moreu Elevator to the Scaffold




Jeanne Moreau


Jeanne Moreau Jules et Jim



Bridgitte Bardot

Bardot God Created Woman 1



Anna Karina


Anna Karina Band a Part 1


Catherine Deneuve 

Katherine Deneuve Parapluies de Cherbourg


Webliography 


Katherine Deneuve

http://news.independent.co.uk/people/profiles/article2336132.ece

http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/02/23/deneuve.html

http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_Deneuve

http://arts.guardian.co.uk/filmandmusic/story/0,,1971917,00.html

http://www.filmreference.com/Actors-and-Actresses-Da-Ea/Deneuve-Cath-rine.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/5083180.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/2228766.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/2512073.stm

http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,1979859,00.html

http://ftvdb.bfi.org.uk/sift/individual/11918?view=credit

http://books.guardian.co.uk/reviews/biography/0,6121,1207697,00.html


Anna Karina

Cinema and the Female Star 


French Postwar Cultural and Film Policy Overview


French Postwar Cultural and Film Policy Overview

Introduction

This article provides a brief overview of French Post Second World War Film Policy. It is a small section of my overall project which is to provide a synoptic overview of the history of European cinema in the major  European industrial countries.  It skims over  the background political developments of this period as well. As this blog develops there will be the capacity to zoom into to resources and articles on individual films / movements / directors and to zoom out to gain an overview of developments at a synoptic level.




De Gaulle as Leader of the Free French

After the liberation of France in 1944 Charles de Gaulle (above) the leader of the Free French becomes leader of the provisional government. This is replaced by the Fourth Republic in 1946. 

Finally, in October 1944, Roosevelt and Churchill recognised the French Committee of National Liberation as the provisional government of France and de Gaulle as its leader. De Gaulle curtly responded, 'The French government is happy to be called by its name'. De Gaulle had won and, in the process, inflicted on the American President his greatest personal defeat of the Second World War. (BBC The Allies at War)






French Cultural and Film Policy

French cultural policy has historically been strongly centralised and interventionist. From 1960-1993 France has been Europe’s leading film-making country which Graham[i] attributes to three interrelated factors; the cultural policy environment[ii], interacting with a large pool of talent and a receptive public[iii]. The argument here is that the latter conditions are dependent upon the cultural policy framework for without this structuring feature local talent would be attracted either abroad or to other industries such as television which would provide a more secure income.

The construction of a receptive audience is more complex requiring considerable sociological research to provide more substantial reasons for the existence of particular audiences. The Cannes film festival was founded in 1946 primarily as a showcase for French films functioning as the tip of a lively film festival culture.  The role of cultural policy and planning initiatives in ensuring that these festivals are financially sound is  beyond the brief of this work. When Cannes was started Venice was the prime festival venue in Venice, but, over a period of years Cannes managed to reach the position it still holds today has as the premier European film festival.

An important aspect of the development of French cinema is in the highly ambiguous relationship which exists betwen France and the USA. In hindsight it can be seen that French cinema has acted synechdocally, as a part signifying the greater whole, for this relationship which is also coming to terms with their own post-colonial past and issues of modernisation. While it is hard to evaluate there is also the issue of French national identity and repairing national pride. France’s international reputation regarding cinema had come to be built on what has developed as an 'auteurist-industrial' mode of production.

Film as an Assertion of National Identity 

The cultural strands of auterism existed before the war, however Nazi and Vichy controls had limited this aspect of French cinema which was an important source of cultural pride amongst the intellectual elites. In the wider cultural sphere the Second World War saw the global pre-eminence of France in the field of fine arts almost entirelydisappear . Modern art and modern artists moved to the USA, New York has since become the pre-eminent centre of contemporary fine arts successfully encompassing abstract-expressionism, pop-art and a range of post-modern art movements. The Guggenheim and Peggy Guggenheim foundations are now extending their reach into Europe and have become the first transnational contemporary art museum complex with a permanent collection which can better most national collections. Furthermore they have a museum complex second to none. There are now many books being produced upon the importance of art and national identity. Since the growth in popularity of impressionism Paris was the global leader in art until 1939. Film was to become a way of re-inventing and re-asserting national identity and a way for France to make a significant cultural impact on the post-war world.

France's Position in a Changing World 




French Troops Algeria 1954

French troops in Algeria 1954





The French relationship with America was not just in the realm of arts and cinema. The history of the 20th century itself is the story of America coming to reach hegemony as a power with a global reach which has never been seen before. This was at the expense of the European empires of which France was one. France had always been been behind in the empire-building stakes. Prior to the rise of America Britain had held pride of place. During the 20th century France has been invaded twice and rescued largely by the Americans. It had failed to modernise prior to WW II which can be seen as partially being responsible for its defeat. This was taken on board as a primary task by de Gaulle’s provisional government 1944-45 and then the post-war Fourth Republic[iv]. Women  - whose position in society is a powerful indicator of the rate of progress of a state - didn’t have the vote until after the war for example.




Vietnamese Victory Dien Bien Phu 1954

Vietnamese soldiers hoist a victory flag at the battle of Dien Bien Phu 1954






France had been largely marginalised in the establishment of post-war Europe, primarily conducted between Stalin and Roosevelt then Truman with Churchill having some say. The French empire started collapsing around it immediately afterwards. The huge defeat at the hands of the Vietnamese nationalists at DienBien Phu in 1954 led to the establishing of an independent Vietnam organised into northern and southern zones. Morocco and Tunisia were also awarded their autonomy by 1956. This was the year in which the 1954 revolt in Algeria had turned into war. 1956 was also the year in which both Britain and France had become involved in the Suez crisis, an incident which politically sealed their fates as leading players on the world geo-political scene and effectively marked the end of European imperial ambitions. The hostility of the United States towards this adventurist action led to ignominious withdrawal and governmental crisies in both countries. The routes taken by France and Britain were quite different. France eventually installed General de Gaulle (08 / 01 / 59) as an archetypal strong leader in 1958 with the ability to change the constitution approved by referendum. [de Gaulle biography]




De Gaulle becomes President 1959

De Gaulle becomes President of France January 1959 (Above)




From the end of the war a tension between France and the USA emerged around cinema. The trade agreements established between France and the USA included film export quotas as part of the agreement for delivering Marshall Aid. Marshall Aid was the funds which the USA made available to help fund post-war reconstruction in Europe and thus stabilise the region conditional upon providing support for liberal democratic politics. These quotas were to prove a symbolically important bone of contention. The history of protectionist measures instituted by the French to ensure the survival of their own film industry go back to 1928 the Herriot Decree introducing a quota system. Following this a ceiling was created of 150 American films per year in 1936. In 1952 this was lowered to 110. In May 1946 the Blum-Byrnes agreement was established which stipulated that that French films must be screened for at least four out of every thirteen weeks - equivalent to slightly less than one third of available screen time.

This created a strong negative reaction amongst the French film industry who felt extremly threatened by the immediate post-war ‘swamping’ - or massive popular demand depending on your point of view! - of French screens with American output. Arguably this represented huge pent-up supply and demand. The French film industry which had been largely unchallenged during the occupation started a defensive mobilisation at the end of 1947 and early in 1948. As a result there was a demonstration from all parts of the industry in Paris of approximately 10,000 people. This accompanied a vigorous publicity and lobbying campaign. As a result of the pressure the quota was renegotiated giving French films a minimum of well over 40 % of available screen time, five weeks out of twelve.

Of course read through eyes which are not driven by self-interest or nationalist hubris it could be argued that the French general public much preferred the output of Hollywood, its narratives and its content. Hollywood for millions of ordinary people across Europe signified progress and liberal democracy firing idealism and hope at a time of reconstruction and revelations about the horrors and deep traumas of war in general and the Holocaust in particular.

The First Plan of the post-war republic between 1947-1950 incorporated concerns about cinema and proposed to reduce taxes on the cinema, build studio capacity, to modernise and rebuild cinema theatres and establish a specialist body to co-ordinate cinema. As a result as early as 1946 the Centre National de la Cinematographie ( CNC ) was established. In 1947 it took over responsibility for the film festival at Cannes. In 1948 the loi d’aide was set up. This didn’t provide any subsidies but ensured that a proportion of profits from the industry were reinvested in the industry.


Financial assistance was also offered to producers in proportion to receipts of the last film they had made. This policy was an attempt to ensure continuing financial support for the creation of new French films. The policy was moderately successful and during the 1950’s it provided approximately 17% of the total investment in film production in France. This system was reliant upon high attendance figures to be successful. However many of the films failed to receive critical acclaim and audiences began to decline partly due to the mediocrity of the products. As a result the French parliament in 1953 set up a development aid fund which was designed to promote higher quality and innovation. Projects were to be: “French and of a kind to serve the cause of cinema or to open new perspectives in the art of cinematography[v]. Speakers in the National Assembly also argued for the importance of education over pure profits. This position was clearly a conflation of aesthetics and national identity. This added selective aid to that of automatic aid designated in 1948 thus making available funds for low-cost independent film-makers also coincided with much lighter and more effective cinema technologies made production cheaper and location shooting possible.

Postwar French cultural Policy & the Links to Vichy France

Whilst the aesthetic nationalist traditions can be traced to 1918, the industrial cultural policy framework influencing present day France has its origins in Petain’s Vichy collaborationist government. A new ruling body for the industry was established in Paris the Committee for the Organization of the Cinematographic Industries (COIC). The regulations they introduced laid the basis for a more stable financial structure, policies to boost short film production, establishing controls oer box-office receipts and establishing a new film school IDHEC (Now Femis).

The convergence of political and financial support alongside technological innovation provided the basis for the emergence of the ‘New Wave’ in 1958 coincided with the recent installation of the Gaullist regime which was concerned with protectionist ideas particularly in relation to cultural concerns and considered Hollywood as threatening to dilute the culture, as it was increasing its market share of cinema takings. Government aid to the industry came through establishing the avance sur recettes (which still exists) system. This advance on potential takings acted as a form of subsidy to those films which didn’t become profitable and acted as a soft loan for those films which did move into profits as some of the profits was used to pay back the advance. Acting as a form of underwriting this enabled many people to become directors for the first time stimulating production.

The inception of the Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) [Sample chapter available here!] allowed space for critics and policy-makers to support cinema in the form of the ‘art film’. As a cinema for audiences with considerable cultural capital and those concerned with increasing their cultural capital and the financial means to do this, French government policy enabled indigenous cinema to compete against Hollywood at a time when TV was beginning to erode the mass-audience base of cinema. On average between 30-40 films a year received the avance, which represented approximately a quarter of the production.




Truffauts 400 Blows

Francois Truffauts 400 Blows (1959) was the film which announced the arrival of the Nouvelle Vague only months after de Gaulle came to power.






Falling Box Office Receipts and Audience

In common with cinema in general there was a continuous steep decline in cinema-going dropping from around 400 million attendances in 1959 to around 180 million by 1969. The context had moved from a crisis of production to one based upon exhibition, a crisis which was general in western countries at this time largely because of the impact of TV. French cultural policy had to adapt to the changing circumstances and in 1967 the first step to try and halt the decline was put into place by allowing exhibitors to benefit from the development funds through the Fonds de soutien. This helped to modernise cinemas but benefited larger chains rather than smaller independents leading to rationalisation and concentration, a process which happened amongst the distributors thus reducing the numbers of films available. This could be seen as bad for consumers by limiting choice but it signalled a clear problem of supply outstripping demand.

Furthermore there is the issue of the viewing experience! The rapid improvements in TV technologies and the failure to re-invest in making cinema an attractive outing was a failure to adapt to newer audience requirements. Consequently from some consumer points of view consolidation of exhibition space was beneficial to consumers. The financial support for exhibitors helped to establish multiplexes in the larger towns and cities. This reflected an international tendency to make widespread releases of films in order to increase the speed of receipts on a given film thus amortising the costs of production quickly.

Alongside the specific help given to exhibitors the relaxation of censorship after 1968 which was general across the west encouraged both the production and exhibition of sex films and it wasn’t until 1976 that a law was passed preventing sex-films from benefiting from government support. At the same time new taxes were instituted on the production and exhibition of these films. The intention was to reign in the pornography market back to the approximate 10% of market share which had always sustained it.

Throughout the period of the 1960s through the 1970s TV ownership blossomed as it had done over the rest of Europe. As disposable incomes rose leisure other leisure pursuits developed reducing audiences. In parallel to this TV became an important exhibitor of films. Between 1965 and 1975 the number of films screened on TV doubled. Films were a relatively cheap way of filling up continuously expanding broadcasting schedules, and the French TV monopoly ORTF was broken up into seven separate companies. This was partly motivated by an attempt to control costs making a proportion of each channel’s income dependent upon viewing numbers to increase competitiveness. Popular films which were also cheap were popular with schedulers too. This led to the numbers of art films which had received the avance de recettes being shifted from prime-time viewing.

TV also steadily became important producers of films and there was a special budget allowance of 8 million francs allowed for film production in 1979 for the TFI and Antenne 2 channels which joined the 2 channels which had had a production license since 1974. By 1982 the Bredin report on French cinema pointed out that joint production and advance sale of broadcasting rights had significantly transformed film production and distribution. Becoming exhibition-led rather than production-led, the influence of cultural policy that was directly intervention declined changing to a more regulatory role, whilst TV has taken over as the ‘effective controller of the industry’ suggests Forbes.[vi]

In many respects Forbes’ analysis effectively shows that the processes of globalisation, in the form of centralising capital were gradually becoming focused upon media concerns. Cultural policy at the level of state control was being eroded. Historically it is likely that the period of French film history from the inception of the nouvelle vague to the awarding of several TV companies with the rights of film production will go down as a period when the auteur film flourished in a way that no other single country has ever seen or is likely to see. These films were somewhat elitist in that they were made for a largely intellectualised audience, it is nonetheless important to ensure that cinema seen as a form of public sphere operating at levels of both form and content should have some relative autonomy from purely commercial concerns. Arguably the way forward for European cinema and the institutional frameworks supporting it needs to be multiperspectival utilising some of the insights which informed French cinema policy.



1 [i]Graham, Peter. 1997 p

[ii] Forbes, Jill. 1992, p 2 makes a stronger case arguing that the audience has been constructed and maintained by ‘supporting the production of films that are intended ot for the mass audience but for the smaller , educated, middle-class

2 audience which has continued to frequent the cinema in the post-war period.’

3 [iv]Joll, James.1990, p 448.

4 [v]Forbes, Jill. ( 1992 ) p 6.

5 [vi] Forbes ( 1992 ) p 10 .


Rossellini and the French New Wave

Roberto Rossellini & the French New Wave 

Roberto Rossellini


It is generally acknowledged by most critics that Roberto Rossellini was an enormous influence in the development of the French New Wave. Andre Bazin considered that Rossellini was hugely important in the development of a realist aesthetic within cinema and his viewpoint strongly influenced the young critics cum filmmakers especially Truffaut and Godard. McCabe in his recent biography of Godard emphasises the point:

It is impossible to overstate [the] Rossellini’s importance for both Godard and the Nouvelle Vague. Bazin’s theories are unthinkable outside of a continuous dialogue with Rossellini’s brilliant war trilogy, but he was also the director for the young critics in the fifties... Roberto was sans pareil. He was the man who had not only provided a totally new film-making practice for Europe in the postwar years but who had gone to Hollywood and won the most beautiful of Hitchock’s actresses, Ingrid Bergman. The series of films he made with her... For Cahiers were the very definition of modern cinema. (McCabe, 2004, p 161)

          McCabe argues that it was Voyage to Italy that was the most admired. McCabe notes that Le Mepris by Godard can be read as a remake of Voyage to Italy although of course the endings are radically different with Rossellini being immensely optimistic at the end whilst for Godard there is death. I argue elsewhere on this blog discussing Visconti's Bellissima that Godard's metacinematic approach to Le Mepris links his work to that of Visconti as well.  

Bergman and Sandrs in Voyage to Italy



          The connections between Truffaut and Rossellini are if anything even stronger as Ingrams and Holmes (1998) point out. Bazin had introduced Truffaut to Rossellini in 1954 and Truffaut worked with him ‘intermittently’ as an assistant director between 1955-1956. Rossellini didn’t make any films in these years but Truffaut gained experience of pre-production in the preparation of scenarios rather than the process of practical production.

Andre Bazin



          The recent re-release of Voyage to Italy from the BFI with a commentary option by Laura Mulvey opens up an opportunity to reassess Rossellini’s work and its influence upon the Nouvelle Vague Cahiers critics. For Rossellini location shooting was a pre-requisite of cinema and although he used the well established Hollywood lead actors Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders part of the reason that they were affordable was because they had already peaked in Hollywood. Mulvey notes that Rossellini gave Sanders a hard time during the shooting and that Rossellini was seeking to breakdown the Hollywood professionalism of Sanders and to get the real Sanders to come through. As for the rest of the cast it was a mixture of minor actors non-professionals and friends. The music was scored by Rossellini’s brother who had worked with him on many occasions. This then was a classic authorial approach to production. With regard to the realism of the shooting it is worth noting the many shots taken from the point of view of the car and in the car. There is a marked contrast between the way these are shot and the studio work of Clouzot’s car scenes in Les Diaboliques made two years later.

Ingrid Bergman in Voyage to Italy


          Apart from the actual conditions of film-making the film can be marked out as distinctively modernistic in terms of how it treated narrative. Mulvey emphasises this aspect of the film describing it as ‘the first modern film’. By this she means that the film is resistant to a modernity marked by its instrumentalism and its emphasis on driving forward narrative goals in a way which emulated the instrumentalist ethic of capitalism itself. By comparison Rossellini had chosen a short story by Joyce upon which to base the film. As such the film meanders, there are cinematic asides such as Mr. Joyce’s little adventure to find some wine during siesta time. Mulvey notes that this scene was cut by many distributors when the film was released. The narrative itself marks time and the content at this point highlights the northern Protestant impulse ‘to do’ marked against the different Neapolitan time. This attitude to time is something which Mulvey sees as an elemental theme throughout the film. The narrative structure itself still seems to fall within the schema suggested by Todorov who argues that stories have distinct phases in which the balance of equilibrium is upset, there is a recognition of this and eventually a balance is restored. In Voyage to Italy the equilibrium of the London life is upset by the dislocated space of holiday and the chance for self-reflection by the couple. The crisis develops is identified and then in this case somewhat miraculously the couple are brought back together again.

          Mulvey also emphasises that in Voyage to Italy it is Naples itself that is the star of the film seeing the film as largely an excuse for Rossellini to film in and around Naples. This is of enormous importance when one comes to think about the representations of Paris in the work of the New Wave for most of the early films of the Cahiers group were shot in and around Paris. In a bout de souffle Belmondo specifically enters into a verbal architectural discourse. The full length feature films of Truffaut also resonate with the sounds and the feel of Parisian streets.

Rossellini and Bergman



          It is in the representations of cityspace that a sceptical or nostalgic form of modernism is given reign. There is a certain nostalgia for the old which in Voyage to Italy becomes quite literally archaeological whilst the archaeology is more metaphorical in the Nouvelle Vague. It is the ambiguities of modernity that are also explored in Tati’s satirical cum slapstick films with Mon Oncle (1958) being a fine example of the juxtaposition of the modern Corbusian ‘machine for living’ set against Hulot’s labyrinthine pre-modern living space which is softer, more human and more in touch with nature itself where a song-bird sings when the sun shines on it whilst the fish fountain a modern vanity only comes to life when the visitors bell is pressed.

Bruno Atlas of Emotion


For more on notions of cityspace try the work of Guiliana Bruno 


August 22, 2007

Shoah: Claude Lanzmann: (1985)

Follow-up to Shoah: Claude Lanzmann (1985). Part 1 from Kinoeye

Review of Shoah Disc 1

First Era Part 1




Treblinka Train


Different trains by Steve Reich was first performed in 1988  by the Kronos Quartet


Perhaps the most haunting Reich work to date is Different Trains......It stemmed from the memory of those long rail-road journeys of childhood, and also from the adult reflection that if Reich had been a child in Europe in the 1940s his fate might have been different. "As a Jew, I would have had to ride on very different trains". The elecronic component mingles voices of African-American Pullman porters with those of Holocaust survivors and the neutral voice of train whistles. As the instruments sing along to these memory-shrouded sounds, they don't tell us what to feel; they set forth a glistening grid, on which we can plot our own emotions. The result is a music of precision and tears.


(Alex Ross 2006, Introduction to Steve Reich Phases Nonesuch 7559-79962-2 






How to review a film of such magnitude. Listening to Steve Reich's piece Different Trains before bed I decided I would just respond to what was on screen in the first instance to give a sense of the feel of it and how it works on the viewer. Of course every viewer will make a separate negotiation with the text especially with so many different experiences and levels of knowledge about Shoah.



The film opened with script rolling up a black screen. The story was starting in Chelmo in Poland 50 miles North West of Lodz.

Chelmo was a killing field where Jews were first exterminated by gas on December 7th 1941. Here I paused for although this was a commonly accepted fact at the time my understanding is that the first  organised gassing was in mobile gas chambers in Lithuania by the regional Einsatzgruppen only a few days after the Nazi invasion of Operation Barbarossa in the last week of June 1941. This was a detail probably not available to Lanzmann at the time. It was a way of building up the Holocaust. Reactions could be tested... How acceptable would it be to the German population? 

In Chelmo over 400,000 Jews were murdered in small gas chambers. There were only 2 survivors...





Chelmo Survivor: Simon Srebnitz

In 1945 Simon was executed by shooting two days before the Soviet Army arrived in 1945. Astonishly the bullet missed all the crucial parts of his brain and he survived eventually moving to Israel. Lanzmann persuaded him to return to the site of Chelmo. simon was by then 47.

Mise en scene

Simon was known to be a good singer, a factor which may have saved him from gassing. He was used to go and pick alfalfa under guard for the Nazis. He would sing in the boat. 

The opening shots are of Simon singing in a puntlike boat on a slow flowing river on a bright high summer day on a tree-lined verdant river. A pastoral idyll...

Voice-over a local inhabitant reports that hearing his voice immediately brought her to relive those times....

Cut to a backwards tracking along a long unmetalled track in the forest. In close up Simon glances at the camera and then glances around hessitantly: It is hard to recognise but it was here ...


Immediately the viewer is drawn into an understanding that a process of erasure is underway.

Speaking in German he confirms: Yes it is the place....

The camera cuts away and pans slowly around the large clearing surrounded by tall, thick, pine forest.

It reminds me of visiting Belsen just after 'O' Levels. Heat and silence just the buzzing of insects and ominous mounds which marked the mass graves... a sense of the incomprehensible...


The camera shows the remains of the stone foundations of the long narrow huts which housed the temporary residents...  The only clear visible evidence of the history of the place.


Simon explians the impossibility of actually comprehending the enormity of what happened at the site - literally unthinkable.


A long shot of Simon walking down the top of the foundation walls stretching into the distance evokes an imagination of the starved and beaten victims, freezing in winter, deep snow perhaps? sweltering in summer... rank stench!  NO MERCY.

Flames and the stench of the ovens reach up to a darkening night sky....





December 1941 Nazi voters are preparing for Christmas the war has gone well for the Nazis so far. Troops are at the gates of Leningrad and Moscow. In Leningrad the inhabitants are just beginning to starve and freeze. Eventually children will be lured by the unscrupoulous for food...


No rationing for Nazis in winter 1942... They sing a different song to Simon: Silent Night




Simon comments that even when burning 2,000 Jews per day the camp was always silent just like his present visit. They just got on with their work.





Only 10 minutes of the film have passed, I have been pausing and writing already nearly 40 minutes  have passed. In some strange wat the film does create a differetn temporality. 9 hours 20 minutes to go and even that is only a minute snapshot of all the millions of lives and experiences, the totality does seem beyond comprehension at this point...


Can't deal with every episode however as the film progresses characters reappear the editing is making a sense out of this patchwork of experience which is non-chronological non-linear yet bristles with meaning 





We soon meet Hanna Zaidl in Israel. Her father is a survivor, she explains how she saw little of him as a child however once more adult she continuously questioned hi:

Until I got at the scraps of truth he couldn't tell me

In the room he was silent at that point. He was a survivor of the Vilnius Jews in Lithuania but was then Poland.


The camera cuts to an Israeli forest. It reminded him of the Lithuanian forest at Ponari where the Vilna Jews were massacred - but not so thick and with more stones.  






Cut to the forest in winter at Sobibor in Poland.  A local  witness comments that the only hunting in  the forest at that time was 'man-hunting'. Mines would go off in the forest - sometimes a deer sometimes a Jew trying to escape. cut to a high angle shot of the forest, it is thick and verdant the wind lightly rustles the trees, the slow pan and tilt shows the wider view which stretches as far as the eye can see.


Cut to ground level Medium Long Shot. Slow Zoom out to reveal another peaceful clearing. Once it was full of screams / barking dogs / shots...

The memory of it was engraved in the minds of the local inhabitants.

                                Erasure 

There was a revolt at Sobibor. The Nazis tried to erase the camp afterwards destroying the buildings and planting 4-5 year old pines.  



 

The camera cut back to Michael the sencond lone survivor of Chelmo. Earlier he hadn't wanted to talk,  but now the interview becomes an exorcism his  previous smiles just a facade - the tears roll down his face ...





There is a cut to a forest in winter, bare silver birch in the foreground a thick background of pines, a thin layer of snow...


In a temporal shift we discover that in winter 1942 bodies were buried not burned.


The camera pans to a clearing with more hut foundations. They are slightly overgrown signifiying an archeology of erasure.

The crew drives by the wall for many seconds. Only three metres wide but how long must it have been?

Battery house of death / dehumanisation / indusrtrial killing machine.

We are in present day Lithuania near Vilnius, back with Hanna Zeidl and her family. A shift in policy from burying to burning meant that the remaining Jews had to dig out the  bodies with their hands. A friend also at Hannah's recognises his whole family...............

This is the story of Isaac Dugin. The filming situation becomes unheimlich for there is the sound of plates being cleared and washed up in the background. It is the ontology of their everyday life.... unspeakable but present.

Suddenly I understood at a visceral level the need for an Israeli state to exist!

We are taken through the details of the disinterrement - all the time the plates are clattering -

They work without tools / bodies moved by hand / spontaneous sobbing causes the guards to beat them sometimes nearly to death / the bodies are crumbling / the bodies at the bottom are squashed nearly flat / don't say victims or bodies you are beaten / Call them rags, puppets, figuren / TWO DAY DEADLINE Systemic clock time is all = DEHUMAMISATION 

There are over 90,000 corpses but after burning no SIGN 

                                    ERASURE 





Cut to Treblinka.



An account of the fires in the camp. These started in November 1942 for the first time.


The bodies were piled inot huge pyres / petrol was poured on / flames touched the sky / ALL IMAGINABLE COLOURS / Burned for 7-8 Days / Bones were crushed / Bone Powder was chucked in the river.....


                                    ERASURE 





Entrance to Auschwitz

Only now do we come to the bitter icon of Auschwitz.



The Original town of Auschwitz was about 80% Jewish

The Jewish Cemetry is shut there is no use for it now

The old synagogue was eradicated


Lanzmann is interviewing old Poles who were young witnesses at the time.





Another Polish Town Wlodawa to Solibor = 10 miles


The large Jewish poulation ended up there





It is a grey damp late autumn day in Kola where there used to be more Jews than Poles. locals were again interviewed.



Jews were herded together to the station some were beaten to death on the way.

The train took them to Chelmo it:

Happened to all the Jews in the area





The camera takes us to Treblinka on a steam train:



Treblinka Steam Train 2

Voiceover it wasn't even a small village as we cut to a survivor by the sea in Israel - Abraham Bomba.

Local Polish farmers and peasants are interviewed. you could go right up close or view from a distance. You weren't supposed to look: The Ukrainian guards took potshots at you if you did.

Some time is spent interviewing locals  trying to establish a feeling for the situation.


We eventually cut to a polish farmer being interviewed against a background of a goods train slowly chugging past a static train in front of it.




Surely Steve Reich was inspired by this film?

                    DIFFERENT TRAINS




THE CONVEYS CARRYING JEWS TO TREBLINKA

                           HAD 60-80 WAGONS


                    THERE WERE TWO ENGINES




Mise en scene: A goods trains reverses very slowly over overgrown tracks, the long grass is full of plants with small white flowers - Trembling





Trains often took over 24 hours to arrive. There was no water. sometimes Poles would give them water at great risk to themselves as the trains waited just outside Treblinka.


In Winter it is -15 / -20 degrees, in summer + 30. Many died on the way and many committed suicide.





Some Poles commented on how inconceivable it was that humans could do such things






Abraham Bomba reports that many Poles they could see through the cracks enjoyed the spectacle of the Jews being 'resettled'.






The man in the image above was a Polish driver forced to drive the trains. They were paid in vodka. The Nazis kept them drunk.



They would even buy extra vodka: it helped fend off the stench at the camp.








More Polish rail workers are interviewed soon there is a secretly filmed interview with an ex SS Camp guard who had been an NCO. 


He went into gruesome detail about the stench and clearing the bodies. He didn't want his name mentioned but it was. He said it stank for kilometres aqround depending upon the wind direction.















August 21, 2007

French Cinema and World War Two


French Cinema in World War Two 

Introduction


The Nazi invasion of France and the rapid capitulation of the French resulted in the division of France into an occupied zone in the north and west with an unoccupied Vichy controlled collaborationist zone in the south. The Vichy period lasted from 17th June 1940 - 24 August 1944.




Vichy France


Map of France showing the arministrative set up after the occupation by the Nazis. The Vichy part of France was administered by Marshal Petain. The main parts of France were under direct Nazi control. 

(Map sourced from Michael Williams' website on Oradour-sur-Glane)




After the fall of France approximately 1,500 artists and intellectuals  escaped into exile helped by the Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC) a privately funded American organisation. Many within the film industry including Jean Renoir, Rene Clair and Max Ophuls benefitted from this. Many important figures in the French film industry stayed in France and worked relatively smoothly under the new regime, suggests Vincendeau (1). There were political differences about whether it was better to stay. The Communist run Resistance paper L’Universite libre argued that France’s culture shouldn’t be left to the Nazis. It must, of course, be remembered that at this time the Soviet / Nazi pact was still operational seriously distorting the political field.

The complexity of the situation is epitomised by nationalists supportive of Petain such as the Catholic playwright Paul Claudel. Claudel was nevertheless highly critical of outright collaboration and castigated the open support of the Nazi anti-Semitic programme, only allowing a play of his to be performed providing the music of the Jewish Darius Milhaud could be performed (2). Claudel became increasingly critical of Petain.

Whilst many argued that no work should be published under the Nazis even Sartre had a play performed in Paris. There were also different attitudes dependent upon which zone people were in. Louis Aragon had developed a notion of ‘contraband literature’ which argued for creative work to be coded with messages of resistance.

Nazi Attitudes to Cultural Production


The Nazi attitude to cultural production emanated from the basic positions that no anti-German sentiments were allowed and that any Jewish presence should be eliminated. French cinema prospered but few of the films were direct propaganda. This is consonant with the argument that the Nazi use of popular narrative features were deliberately kept away from real issues.

To gain a fuller understanding of the times the whole context of viewing needed to be taken into account (3) . Vincendeau comments on the emergence of the rare appearance of the ‘fantastic’ trend in French cinema which in fact accords with the content of Nazi feature films made in Germany especially as the war progressed and the general construction of narratives needs to be seen within this Nazi context.

The complicity between the Nazis and the French film industry can be read either as a survival strategy for the industry or opportunism, for French cinema did well under the temporary hegemony of Nazi cinema in mainland Europe in terms of producing films and generating audiences.  The French industry was clearly not unaware of the  likely industrial outcomes of any invasion.

Many French directors had been working in Germany since 1933. The fact that there was significant collaboration on co-productions is evidence that many in the French film industry were strongly aware of the sort of conditions which pertained in Nazi Germany and that would ensue in France with the onset of occupation. Yet it appears that relatively few members of the French cinema industry chose to flee to America rather than collaborate with Nazi cinema. The fact that some did flee especially Jewish personnel focuses on the need to study the motivations and opportunities for those who remained.

Film production and audiences during the period


The Vichy government under Petain created a new ruling body for the cinema, the Committee for the Organisation of the Cinematographic Industries (COIC) based in Paris. Vincendeau maintains that this was part of an endeavour to limit German control over the industry  however it did impose the elimination of all Jews from the cinema, as well as overhaul the industrial organisation of French cinema making it far more efficient.

Very few films were produced in Vichy France the vast majority were produced in Paris. This was partly because initially no French films were allowed to cross the demarcation line. When the ban was lifted in 1941 films passed by the German censors could be distributed in the South without any restriction. But this created a difficulty for films initially produced in the South and only 35 were produced there. The Germans also established Continental films in Paris, which made 30 features out of the total of 220 made in the course of the war. By comparison only 22 were produced by the Pathe and Gaumont companies which were still the largest indigenous French companies. 

American and British films were banned and French movies dominated the screens, so, although output was lower, there was increased profitability. German film distribution grew from 5% of the market  during the previous decade to 56% in 1941, settling to 22% by 1943. Attendance was very high as cinemas were warm and relatively safe places to be. In 1938 attendances were 220 million rising to over 300 million in 1943.

The strategic film policy established a sounder financial framework, control of the box-office and a boost for short film production were amongst the measures introduced. How far this was shaped by the Nazi exhibitionary policy of newsreel and documentary shorts as an accompaniment to feature films is something else which needs greater research. Armes comments that these were so unpopular that  to deter disruptions the lights were left dimmed so that troublemakers could be spotted.

Regulations requiring professional accreditation were part of the legislation designed by the Vichy government to exclude Jews. Other measures included censorship to protect under 16s, the double-billing of features was eliminated and fostered short and documentary production. A grand prize for artistic film was established as was the national film school IDHEC initially under director Marcel L’Herbier.

Film Genres



Tournier Maurice La Main du Diable

Poster of La Main du Diable by Maurice Tournier (Father of Jacques Tournier), a 1942 horror film 







The content of the films produced during this period is best understood as ambiguous and paradoxical. In common with much of the German cinema of the period Jews were not represented whilst hostile representations of Jews were common during the 1930s. In Germany anti-Semitic sentiments were projected onto particular characters who were developed in a very unpleasant way such as intellectuals and small businessmen. 

Detailed comparative research with cinematic output of France and Germany during this period might reveal homologies between the projections and structured absences regarding Jewish people in both countries.  General antagonism towards foreigners was considerably reduced. Many films can be read as representing Vichy conservative values.


The shift to the genres of the fantastic was important utilising magical and legendary subjects such as Carne’s Les Visiteurs du soir and Cocteau’s L’Eternal Retour (1943) directed by Jean Delannoy which was a reworking of Tristan and Isolde while the former was about the devil visiting a mediaeval court . The positions taken in regard to this generic outpouring range from Bazin’s notion of a Cinema of Evasion, to allegory, to approval from collaborationist critics such as Rebatet who supported this trend as a return to a ‘pure’ French cinema free of foreign influences such as Jews and Hollywood.

   A new genre was the rise of the ‘woman’s film’. These were melodramas from well established directors such as Gance’s La Fille du Venus aveugle (The Blind Venus, 1940), Jean Gremillon’s Le Ciel est a vous (The Sky is Yours, 1943), Pagnol’s La fille du puisatier (The Well-digger’s Daughter, 1942). Readings of these films vary: some see these films as reactionary representations of women as they represent the Vichy ideology of domesticity, sacrificial motherhood and patriotism a new form of oppressed role.

Other readings argue that they are positive films because they featured strong women which wasn’t the case pre-war. Perhaps the reason for this, ventures Vincendeau,  is because of the larger numbers of women in the audience. Women tended to become the centre of the narratives of the comedies produced at the time for example.

In the case of the Vichy style melodramas strong women would have been necessary to the plot, and their roles require further analysis than merely evaluating the position of women in this way.  These could be seen as mirroring the changing status of women in Nazi genre cinema   After the war the representation of women slipped back to a pre-war mode.

It has also been argued that high quality production of French cinema was an assertion of vitality of 'Frenchness' against the odds. As Jackson points out this needs to be read against Nazi cultural policy objectives. For them it was necessary to try an ensure docility of the local populus however there were dreams of establishing a challenge to the previous Hollywood stranglehold over the European film industry. Jackson following Erlich argues that :

Conscious of the greater popularity of French over German films the Propaganda Ministry authorised the export of French films to other  Axis-controlled countries: France would play the role of entertainer in a Europe where power lay with Germany.

This suggestion needs to be evaluated in the context of long-term industrial links between the German and French film industries going back to the days of UFA in the Weimar during the 1920s including attempts to establish ‘Cinema Europe’ to determine the exact strategy being developed to oust the power of Hollywood. Jackson sees the Continental film company under Greven as a strategic player in this ambitious strategy.

Continental Films




Laissez Passer

Laissez Passer Bertrand Tavernier (France 2001) provides an excellent introduction to the role of the German run Continental Films  in occupied France.  As such this film  is a metacinematic one.





Continental films was established under the leadership of Dr. Alfred Greven in 1940 once the occupation was established, Greven remained there for three years. Greven established himself as the central producer allocating groups of films to directorial teams based upon year long contracts. (Crisp p 280). Crisp argues that Continental clearly moved towards the central production concept with the main directors Henri Decoin (3 Films), Maurice Tourneur (4 films), Andre Cayette (four films ), and Richard Pottier (5 films). Greven would read all production reports and scenarios. 


Continental was better resourced and ironically was less censored than the French companies. More liberal sexual attitudes were allowed and films such as La Symphonie fantastique had French patriotic overtones. There was  a complex battle to develop the dominant discourse. Jean Gremillon’s Le Ciel est a vous for example was very warmly received by both Vichyites and the Resistance press with the conjunction of approval being distinguished upon lines of French identity.

By comparison Le Corbeau was based on real events in the conservative provincial Tulle in 1922. At this time poison-pen denunciatory letters were being circulated about the inhabitants.  The Vichy authorities saw this as an unhealthy representation of Frenchness furthermore the Vichy was dependent upon these denunciatory letters to help maintian control through fear. Louis Malle's representation of this aspect of Vichy life can be seen in Lacombe Lucien (1974), a film which touched raw nerves when it was released.  In Germany it was considered as a critique of delation - an essential aspect of Nazi control - and remained unreleased. It may well be that the Vichy response was underpinned by this although it was left unstated. The resistance press were also highly critical on the grounds of representing 'Frenchness' unfavourably. 



Ambiguities in production and reception


Armes  argues that there were a considerable number of ambiguities contained within the films produced in the Vichy period and that it is important to avoid over-simplistic evaluations. Some directors, like Daquin, were working but were also members of the resistance within the industry. In the post-war period Daquin became a militant trade-unionist. Daquin’s fourth film of the period Premier de cordee ( 1944 ), involved making a mountain film, a tale of courage against diversity. It can be seen as an expression of French resistance but it also contains elements of Petain ideology, with return to the land and a struggle against nature.

Armes argues that the output can’t be usefully taken on a film by film basis but is better evaluated over the range of films produced by any one film maker. Delonnay for example produced one film hailed as a fine resistance film Pontcarral (1942), while L’Eternal Retour (1943) was received as an apologia for Aryanism. 

What place should the documentaries have in film history of the period?


Jackson raises the issue of the content of the documentaries produced during this period. Over 400 were made however few seem to have survived:

... they remain the hidden face of the Occupation cinema. The available evidence suggests they were fairly anodyne, but not without ideological significance.

A fuller picture of developments within French cinema of this period requires considerably more audience research whilst those of the period are still alive to provide ethnographically based accounts.

Le Corbeau (1943): A Case Study in Cultural Schizophrenia

Doctor and Raven

The place of production, the content, and the importance of the surrounding political and social context, particularly in matters of an ideological nature are all factors which can influence the reception of a film and the construction of its dominant readings. These factors played an important role in the critical reception of Le Corbeau ( The Raven, 1943 ) directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot. On release it became popular amongst the occupation French film-goers. It was immediately banned after the liberation. More controversially there were punishments meted out to most of the people involved in the film’s production. Amongst the most vituperative critics there were calls for execution of the most important people involved. The recent release of the film on DVD with an English commentary by Ginette Vincendeau brings in a range of possible readings which are not raised in the main general histories of French cinema. At the time of writing a forthcoming monograph on Le Corbeau in the new but excellent Cinefiles: French Film Guides series should prove very interesting.

These attacks were the result of two major political forces playing for the hearts and minds of the French people. They had little to do with the content of the film which can be read as the most strongly anti-facist film of occupied France. The film is also opposed to the authoritarian moral and political values of the French Right. It does not offer any solutions to the corrupt society it depicts - it was after all, produced under conditions of occupation. Fictional films and other art forms are not political programmes and do not have to be prescriptive, arguably they can be more powerful when they are not prescriptive but raise issues to be worked through. People who can reach their own conclusions about subsequent proceedings.

Le Corbeau’s content was anti the authoritarian right. It also struck a sour note with the voices of the French resistance which had a very strong core element belonging to the Stalinist communist party and the aesthetic of socialist realism. For both Communists and Gaullists the immediate post-war aims were to excise the shame of occupation. Anything which could be deemed to have been an aspect of collaboration was seen as anti-French. The Stalinist left considered the film as ‘decadent’ and ‘demoralizing’.

‘Clouzot’s image of a France in which only a few outcasts and malcontents could behave with a semblance of morality and good will was completely unacceptable for those trying to promote a very different image of a nation capable of unity, collective heroism and self-sacrifice in the face of a powerful enemy.’

(Williams, 1992: p 261 )

As a result of this criticism Clouzot was banned from film making for two years after the war. He made a successful return making popular suspense thrillers which owed much to the style of Le Corbeau which Williams (1992) describes as a ‘masterpiece’.

The initial reception of the film and the continued popularity of Clouzot after his exile show that a significant membership of the French public was voting favourably with its feet. They were making readings of the film which fitted neither Nazi, Stalinist nor traditional French authoritarianism. Artistic considerations of life do not always fit easily into ideological schemas and a wide range of readings of a cultural object can be produced. The conditions of reception influence the creation of a dominant reading.

The film was produced by Continental Films, the German run production company established in the early months of the war. Films produced by this company received constant criticism from the underground press organised by the resistance.

The film itself consistently denounced bourgeois values by mocking the leading citizens of a small town in France. The scriptwriter Louis Chavance had worked with Jean Vigo the anarchist filmmaker on L’Atlante as the film’s editor. The script had first been drafted by Chavance in 1933. The production designer was In 1943 André Andrejew. It was based upon a true story of a woman in a small town who had deluged it with poison-pen letters. It was continuously rejected as too risky on commercial and political grounds. Ironically if it was not for the existence of Continental films and its policy of creating and supporting a strong French film industry the film would never have been made. Filmmakers working with Continental suffered less censorship and had better budgets than the Vichy controlled production companies.

The contents of the film would have been unlikely to pass French film censors as the film was anti-authoritarian, anti-Vichy as well as anti-Nazi in a number of ways. The plot features a doctor who was an abortionist as its leading actor, this in itself could only offend the Catholic right. The doctor’s lover who was rather promiscuous had a minor deformity of the foot. These meant that the film offended both Vichy moralism and Nazi eugenics theories and practices. The plot is about a person in the village who writes anonymous letters which eventually lead to suspicion, a suicide and ultimately a murder.

The perpetrator of the letters -a seemingly respectable citizen- is finally revealed as a mad intelligence in the form of the psychiatrist. The film openly asks a question which many in France may have found difficult to stomach at that time. Questioning the easy division of life into issues of good and evil a lamp is swung which creates differing patterns of shadow and light. The commentary asks where the borders between good and evil are, asking whether people know which side they are on ?

Any film at the time would be seen as having an allegorical reference to the occupation. It could be seen as avoiding crucial issues which combined with the gloomy mise en scene and the atmospherics of violence present within the film were interpreted as very pessimistic by many left film critics. Perhaps its popularity at the time of release struck a chord with the French viewing publics who had to adjust to the realities and difficulties of occupation, which threw up in real life a continuous series of unwelcome situations requiring decisions to be made about the depth and breadth of compliance necessary.

The film certainly touched upon the reality of the Occupation. Many millions of letters of denunciation were sent to the Vichy and Nazi authorities. The issue was to remain a highly sensitive one for decades. In the early 1970s a representation of this in Louis Malle’s film Lacombe Lucien raised a storm of protest not least from critics such as Foucault who dubbed the film as a right-wing plot. Foucault’s libertarian politics has always been suspect and showed just how difficult it was for the French to work through the realities of the occupation years.

A Film Noir



 Le Corbeau A noir style shot

Film Noir is renowned for its occluded mise en scene many shots taken with blinds, through fencing which distances the subject of the camera adding to the chiascuro effects, making all not seem quite as it is. 



Le Corbeau  can be read as a film noir style thriller . What is interesting about the concept of Film Noir is that the original term was invented by French film critics who viewed the backlog of American thrillers such as Double Indemnity and Laura immediately the war was over. They considered it as an American ‘genre’ with antecedents in German expressionist cinema. This ignored the development of the French poetic realist pre-war films and also ignored the fact that many German film makers spent some time in France before going to Germany. Europe can be said to have made a strong contribution to the development of film noir during the war through Clouzot’s Le Corbeau and also Visconti’s Ossessione. Arguably the French critics of the time were in denial of the French wartime experience and with Clouzot in the dog house they preferred to ignore these strands to the genre. The existence of this European strand of noir in Europe itself and the ways in which it developed allow us the opportunity to develop a reading of the noir thriller as being not a so much a critique of modernity and the city as an allegory for the shadow of fascism and Nazism which fell over the whole of Europe.

Le Corbeau Noir style shot 2

Gender Relations



Ginette LeClerc as the town playgirl

Paul Fresnay and Ginette Leclerc (Filmography)



Vincendeau’s 2005 comments on the DVD develop an interesting range of comments on how the film can be read as a crisis of masculinity for the French male. Neither the Doctor played by the important star Pierre Fresnay nor the psychiatrist come across as powerful men in control of their work, destiny or the situation. The psychiatrists betrayal of the town and his wife could easily be linked to Vichydom whilst Dr. Germain could be seen as a failed example of French leadership. The character of the town playgirl played by another French star Ginette Leclerc is a spirited one and far from being a typical femme fatale who is ultimately punished for her ways it is she who realises who the Raven actually must be.  Her sexuality, intelligence and honesty about herself shine through in the film against the weaknesses and dishonesty of the male characters.

Bibliography

See main French bibliography

Webliography

http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continental-Films

http://books.google.com/books?id=6HpNM68U2nkC&pg=PA280&lpg=PA280&dq=continental+films+greven&source=web&ots=ywylwwIpDT&sig=XyWePt23qgd_TiqrlA0crd2iOuk#PPA279,M1

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/5041828.stm

http://film.guardian.co.uk/News_Story/Critic_Review/Guardian_review/0,,1005149,00.html

http://ftvdb.bfi.org.uk/sift/title/29981

http://www.press.uillinois.edu/s07/mayne.html

http://www.kinoeye.org/02/04/lafond04.php

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/cup/catalog/data/023105/0231059264.HTM

http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20021104&s=kauffmann110402

http://ija.cgpublisher.com/product/pub.85/prod.99

http://www.kinoeye.org/02/04/lafond04.php


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