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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.



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






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 .


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


August 19, 2007

Bellissima: Luchino Visconti

Bellissima: Luchino Visconti (1951)

Bellissima outside Cinecitta

A bleak view of Cinecitta as Maddalena and Maria return from the screenings with hopes dashed


(Visit Visconti web-hub)

Introduction

The September 2007 release of Bellissima (1951) by Luchino Visconti in the ‘Masters of Cinema series from Eureka video is nothing short of a red letter day for followers and students of Visconti and his oeuvre. It is a film which is sadly underwritten in English. Before any critical comment is made it is important to note that this film makes for excellent viewing. Visconti's direction is superb and Anna Magnani excels in the leading role.  

The well known post-war history Italian Cinema by Peter Bondanella surprisingly fails to mention the film at all. This film is very important for a number of reasons. It marks a transition from Neorealism to post-neorealism within Italian cinema; it is a meta-cinematic film which deals in a biting comedy a critique of the institution of cinema itself – it thus predates Fellini’s well known La Dolce Vita (1959) by several years; it can be taken as a strong indirect critique of the political direction Italy was taking at the time as well as a critique of the Christian Democratic government's relationship to America  it gives many insights into the way Visconti worked as a director with his performers (Anna Magnani & Alessandro Blasetti); lastly and by no means least as a film it is good viewing – it appears as a favourite of Richard Dyer’s in one of Sight & Sound's surveys about favourite films of critics.

This article cum review of the DVD will firstly place the film in its historical context and then provide a brief synopsis of the film. I will then follow this with an analysis in relation to the key writing in English on Bellissima by the leading critics Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, Henry Bacon and Millicent Marcus all of whom are very positive about the film in general whilst all providing a range of different insights into Bellissima. I will then provide a few comments on the Eureka DVD itself which contains a useful booklet with comments from Nowell-Smith amongst others as well as a documentary as an extra. I have also provided a webliography based upon a ‘Google’ up to page 20 of a search in English only. The results are generally disappointing and reinforce the notion that this film is much underwritten in the English speaking world. Hopefully this posting and the DVD will encourage more engagement with Visconti’s work and also provide some impetus for translation from the work of Italian critics making this available to a global audience. Nowell-Smith commented many years ago that this film was underwritten perhaps because it is the most ‘Italian’ of Visconti’s films. He has commented that this is to miss out on an important film:

But it is the most subtle and elusive thing of all, the element of self-criticism and irony and the expense of its own ‘Italian’ quality, which has most effectively prevented it from being assimilated and appreciated by foreign audiences.” (Nowell-Smith, 2003, p 45).

Generically Bellissima is a sub-genre of comedy which is called neorealism rosa or pink neorealism. As such it makes for good viewing and importantly helps to undermine the commonly held stereotypes within the discourse which has developed around Visconti. This is a point which Nowell-Smith brought out in the first edition of his book many years ago:

The commonly held stereotypes about Visconti are that he is totally humourless and incapable of self-irony, that his imagination is sensual rather than intellectual, and that he is a crude social-realist with a taste for ‘positive’ heroes, and an anti-feminist who neither likes nor understands his women characters. (Ibid)

These aren’t stereotypes that I recognise within Visconti’s oeuvre however if these are widely held today then this welcome release of Bellissima will hopefully lead to a greater understanding of a director whose contribution to the development of cinema has yet to be fully recognised in the English speaking world. Certainly Eureka has done the world a favour by releasing this film in its most prestigious series giving Visconti the recognition he fully deserves.


Italian Cultural Policy & Political Context

Out of the three main critics referred to here Henry Bacon has usefully provided the contextual background to Bellissima. Released over three years after La terra trema (1948) Italy had undergone significant political change which strongly effected the cultural policy background of the production of Bellissima, indeed Bellissima can be read as an indirect political response to this changed political environment.

The Christian Democrats had won the 1948 elections. At the same time the Vatican excommunicated all those who had voted communist or had collaborated with communism – one wonders if they cared! – Films with a left-wing social agenda were now deemed to be very risky investments without government support; furthermore, there was a strong risk of the film being confiscated by the authorities. The Christian Democrats controlled the production grants and also the mechanisms for exporting film. Overall this control acted as a de facto form of censorship. The neorealist movement was itself branded as left-wing despite the fact that directors such as Roberto Rossellini were politically quite close to the Christian Democrats. The then Undersecretary of State Giulio Andreotti specifically attacked De Sica’s Umberto D as unpatriotic:

…De Sica has done a disservice to his country, if people around the World begin to think that Italy in the twentieth century is the same as Umberto D. (Cited Bacon, 1998 p53).

Neorealism as a form was also under attack from elements of the Left. The great Soviet filmmaker Pudovkin took the Stalinist social realist approach to filmmaking at a meeting in Perugia exhorting filmmakers to focus on content rather than from and to generate ‘positive heroes’.

As if this wasn’t enough to deal with, a key problem for the Italian industry as a whole as well as the neorealist elements was the rapidly increasing domination of the cinema by Hollywood productions. In 1946 Italy had managed to produce 65 films even in the aftermath of the war. By 1948 this had dropped to 49. Between1945-1950 they controlled 60%-75% of the market share.

One response of Italian filmmakers to this changing environment was to use aspects of Hollywood within their own cinema. Increasingly the features of Hollywood gangster movies appeared in post-neorealist films. Another important development was the development of a comedy sub-genre called neorealism rosa (pink neorealism). It was a genre with its roots in pre-war light comedy of the fascist period and according to Bacon had a similar social message which was keep to the status quo and forget ideas of social mobility and egalitarian society. This sub-genre developed the use of highly eroticised stars such as Gin Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren. Bacon comments that the films were rather more successful than true neorealist films in creating a wide audience for Italian cinema.

During the period between La terra trema and Bellissima Visconti had returned to the theatre. Bacon (p 51) suggests that this was because …he wanted to create something grandiose , to take some distance from realism. Visconti was accused by the purist wing of the neorealists of betraying neorealism however Visconti himself saw neorealism as a method and in response called for the use of fantasy as a complete display of liberty (Bacon, 1998 p 52). It was during this period that Visconti met Thomas Mann, a writer Visconti held in enormous respect. Visconti gained Mann’s permission to create an opera-ballet using Mann’s novella Mario & the Magician. Sadly this was postponed several times by La Scala and was only finally put into production after Mann’s death.


Synopsis




Bellissima Maddalena and Maria

Maddelena (Anna Magnani) is projecting her desires for success onto her daughter Maria




Working class Maddelena Cecconi hears a request from the film director Allessandro Blasetti for the prettiest young girl in Rome to star in a film he is making. Maddelena takes her child Maria to Cinecitta and joins the crowds of middle class mothers and their daughters in the herd to get an audition. Maria is chosen as a finalist and Maddelena sacrifices everything to train Maria up for the audition including lessons in acting and ballet. She also goes to dressmakers and hairdressers to prepare Maria for the big day to put Maria on a par with her better off peers. During this time she has fallen in with a local hustler who promises to get her the right contacts for a fee. He then starts to make sexual advances towards Maddelena. All the time relations with her non-aspirational husband deteriorate. Maddelena gains access to the projection booth during the viewing of Maria’s screen test. Maria is in tears and the film production team watching become intensely derisive of the small girl. Maddalena is outraged and despite the part being offered to Maria Maddelena has had an epiphany and understands that she has ignored the needs of her daughter by substituting her own desires. She refuses to sign the contract and returns chastened to the family home.




Bellissima Ballet Lessons

The scene in which Maddalena takes Maria to get ballet dancing lessons is very poignant. Maria is identified as being only 5 in the film whilst the casting is for a little girl of between seven and eight. This age and size difference becomes a visual trope throughout the film to emphasise the impossibility and impracticality of Maddalena's desires.  This impossibility is emphasised in the ballet school by the tiny figure of Maria at the bar. The emphasis within the mise en scene between Maddalena and the fashionably dressed middle class mothers who have been taking their daughters to ballet lessons for three years emphasises the class divide which is at the core of this film. It is the illusion of possibility of entering this world of illusion as a route out of poverty which is being thoroughly critiqued. It is a theme which Visconti would return to when dealing with the illusions of boxing in Rocco and His Brothers (1960).














Critical Analysis

For a person who can't keep up with very fast often histrionic Italian which has many local references to such things as the local Rome football teams having this film available on DVD is a huge benefit. The possibility to return quickly to repeat particularly dynamic moments of interaction is essential. In this sense Nowell-Smith's explanation that this film is the most 'Italian' of Visconti's films and most difficult for a non-Italian to watch is relevant. 

The film itself is a joy to watch. The power and charisma of Magnani in full-flight drags the film along in her wake, however, this power is more than just a diva taking control and totally dominating, it is a performance which brings out the best in those around her. For those who have seen Rome Open City (1945, Rossellini) or the later Mamma Roma (Pasolini, 1962) this will come as no surprise.   Visconti himself notes this in his interview with Michele Gandin:

...Magnani's improvisatory flare has natural instinct behind it, not theatrical artifice. Moreover she knows how to place herself on the same level as her fellow performers, and she also knows how to carry them along with her - how to raise them up to her level as it were. I wnated this particualr - and extraordinary aspect of her personality, and I got it. (Bellissima booklet p 24) 

Metacinema


Bellissima is the first of the postwar Italian films to be metacinematic in others words to be providing a critique of the institution of cinema itself. Fellini and Lattuada's film Variety Lights (1950), had already begun a reflexive exploration of the illusion / reality of performance and entertainment exploring the creation of an opportunistic singer to become a stage diva.  Much of Fellini's later work was to continue in this reflexive vein commenting critically on film and media, perhaps most notably in La Dolce Vita (1959). Of course Godard's Le Mepris(1963) is also a metacinematic representation, dealing with divisma and an inceasingly tawdry Cinecitta as well.

Bellissima was very much the initiative Salvo d’Angelo who had lost money on La terra trema, nevertheless he still retained confidence in Visconti’s abilities as a filmmaker. Initially Visconti was disinterested in the project and wasn’t impressed by Zavattini’s original script, however when he was offered the opportunity to work with Anna Magnani the much loved Pina in Rossellini’s Rome Open City (1945). The inclusion of Magnani as the leading lady:

…would allow him to build a self-conscious reflection on the workings of divismo (stardom) and the power of spectacle into the very structure of his film. (Marcus, 2002, p 40).

The inclusion of Magnani would also help to target a much wider audience for she was widely identified as a ‘woman of the people’ after her role as Pina. Using her as a lead would help considerably in subverting the neorealism rosa and using comedy: in a way that is consistent with the director’s ethical commitment. (Bacon,1998, p 54).

The Importance of Performance & the Role of Anna Magnani

Of the three critics referred to here it is Marcus who draws out the importance of the use of Maganani most effectively and she specifically cites an interview with Visconti which shows the underlying importance of Magnani to the project:

“I was interested in working with an authentic “character”, with whom many more interior and meaningful things could be expressed. And I was also interested in knowing what relationship would be born between myself as director and the “diva”Magnani. The result was very felicitous.” (Visconti cited Marcus, 2002, p 40).

(This interview is available on this Eureka DVD in a new translation).  

Henry Bacon also refers to the importance of Magnani to the success of Visconti's wider project of providing a critique of the illusory aspects of mainstream cinema: “On the whole, Magnani amply demonstrates how theatricality and stylization can be used to reveal aspects of reality that might otherwise remain hidden. (P 57).

The tension between mainstream Hollywood cinema - which Maddelena is besotted with - and the losing struggle of Italian cinema especially the neorealist ideal is highlighted when Maddelena is watching Howard Hawks' Red River from the yard outside their basement flat where they can overlook screenings of an outside cinema. This outside cinema firmly places the importance of cinema in the lives of working class people and shows the illusory  and exotic world which can be projected. It is a theme which reappears in Umberto D (1951) which was also scripted by Zavattini.  It is clear that some of those involved with the neorealist movement were adapting to the political shifts and cultural in Italian society and fighting something of a rearguard action against the incursions of Hollywood. 

Visconti is astutely working within this tension and the use of Italy's most universally loved star allows Visconti to make a very powerful film which would be full of very specific meanings for the contemporary local audiences. Magnani herself is clearly aware of the ironies for her own position as a diva was clearly threatened by the increasing incursions of Hollywood into mainstream culture and corresponding shrinkage of the Italian industry. Her own background was from the working class and her own history of success within the entertainment industry undoubtedly gives her an edge in this performance. At the time her personal life with Rossellini who had gone off with Hollywood Star Ingrid Bergman providews another very personal take on the powers of Hollywood. 

Another point  which was probably attractive to Visconti was that Magnani was the epitome of the organic intellectual in Gramscian terms. With a working class background and total dedication to  professionalism she was the embodiment of a popular figure rather than a populist one. Visconti was highly sceptical of  idealist versions of neorealism which solely promoted the use of the non-professional actor. More minor characters such as Spartaco (Maddalena's husband were ordinary people. Walter Chiari (The Hustler) was a rising star and according to the DVD documentary interviews with Zefirelli and others from the production team Chiari was needed as Maganani at that time didn't have the pulling power any longer.  


The Politics of Mise en Scene 

The importance of mise en scene within Visconti's political critique is very marked. The working class environment of Maddelena's home in a basement where she can be spied upon by boys in the neighbourhood and which is full of blaring loud music raises the general attitude of the environment to a cacophony at times (it is an early version of the banlieu in Kassowitz's La Haine).In Bellissima escape is provided by the outdoor cinema, whilst in La Haine the lads attempt a more physical escape. The protagonists are in both films faced with class barriers. 

Maddelena is differentiated immediately from the middle class mothers and their children who flock to  Cinecitta to propress the future of their daughters. The size and age of Maria in contrast to the middle class girls one of whom was eleven in the first audition emphasises class difference. The representations of Cinecitta itself as a tawdry site of dream production can be contrasted to representations of Hollywood where entrance to the studios is always guarded and stars appear in chauffeur driven cars driving through gilded gates. The dreams manufactured in Cinecitta can only be second rate ones anyway, Visconti seems to be implying.

The basement flat which Maddelena's family occupies is bare of food and comforts. They are planning to escape as a family anyway as they want to move into a new house symbolised by plans. The patients whom Maddelena administers injections to are a mixture of genuine cases and pampered hypochondriacs. It appears as though Maddalena as a nurse isn't paid on a regular salary but on the work completed. Administering another course of anti-biotics will allow her to buy a coat. Her income  is unstable and insecure and this seems to link intertextually to Bicycle Thieves (De Sica: 1948). There is an important point to be made here because several of the critical writings have identified Maddalena as somebody who just goes around giving  injections to diabetics and associate her with a kind of charlatanism which is just as illusory as cinema itself. Certainly the dressmakers are cynical about what she does a reference to a scene where she administers an unnecessary injection to a lazy and overfed woman who lies around in bed a lot who Maddalena teases mercillesly in a scene played for laughs. Then she has to go to see the Commendatore a diabetic who also needs a course of streptyomycin prescribed by the doctor. This will allow her to afford a coat. 

The use of cinematic spaces - particularly the ballet class scenes alluded to above - emphasise the huge class differences and the real lack of social mobility within the system. This can be read as a clear critique of the Christian Democrats who have deliberately and systematically closed down the routes to social equality which were ideals at the heart of the solidarity combining national identity and meritocracy at the heart of the neorealist idyll. Again the use of particular stars and their performance is all part of mise en scene understood in its wider meaning. The star persona of Magnani  precisely embodied the possibilities of social mobility and success which she had achieved in her own life adding a rich layer of interpretive possibilities for audiences who would have been highly aware of these changes in the Italian environment as well as the filmic references.


Visconti's Ending & Zavattini's Ending

The ending of the film really emphasises Visconti's political agenda and shows how the whole film uses cinema itself as a synechdoche for the changed class and power relations in Italy. His ending is in marked contrast to Zavattini's original script. Zavattini's approach often seemed to be pessimistic and fatalistic with the structures of society set to overwhelm individual agency forever leaving the suffering individual on the margins of society. Nowhere does this seem so marked as in Umberto D. The original script of Bellissima written by Zavattini was generally pessimistic. Maria was to be turned down by Blasetti end of story.

Visconti's ending was far better. Not only did it give Maddelena moral power at a personal level but this power needs to be understood as an embodiment of national identity for it is  precisely her iconic status as the visual trademark of neorealism (Marcus, 2002 p 41) which she earned as the character of Pina being ruthlessly gunned down by the Nazis in Rome Open City which allows her to become a form of critique in itself. In this sense Bellissima is where her star status carries over character martyrdom to elide into a personal martyrdom in her relationship with Rossellini ousted by a Hollywood star. Magnani as off screen persona / on-screen persona is a double signifier of invasion and a compromising of Italian identity firstly with the Nazis and then with the power of the USA and its influences on Italian society in the immediate postwar period as it helped to undermine the communist and left political agandas. 




Bellissima Maddalena and Maria Projection Room


Here Maddalena and Maria are pictured in the projection room secretly watching the initial screenings of the children for the role. The is the second part of Maddalena's initiation into the workings of the cinema as an institution. The editor Iris who has smuggled them in had herself played minor roles but explained to Maddalena that this was luck and that she had been consigned to the editing room. clearly this is a possible outcome for Maria. 

The whole of Maria's screen-test is fascinating as it leads Maddalena towards her epihany. Maria is too small to blow out the candles on a cake. The gradual snuffing out of the candles a projection of Maddalena's emotions as her dreams are slowly snuffed out as well. She isn't going to taste the cake of success just beyond her reach. Then the mood changes from disappointment to one of shock as Maria bursts into tears because she has forgotten the lines of her poem. This creates a ripple of ruthless laughter around the theatre amongst the men in power. The mood again shifts as an  enraged Maddalena bursts in on Blasetti and his production team. Maddalena's barging past is again an intertextual reference to Rome Open City where the Nazis line up the occupants of the appartment block to conduct a search and ther is much pushing and shoving. 






Visconti's ending resulted in Blasetti offering the role to Maria. Maddelena turns down the contract. At one level this gives her a moral credibility on a par with Pina as Marcus has noted. However it goes much further than this, because the ending isn't just a simple closure. It leaves the audience with the question as the the last shot focuses upon the sleeping innocent child: what will the future then be for Maria? - again her role is synechdocal for the future of Italy itself. This shot can also be read intertextually for the role of children and the closing shot of children in Rome Open City as the way to the future is clearly referenced. 

Rather than struggling to join a world of petit-bourgeois parents endlessly scrapping to crawl up the ladder using their children there has to be a way which doesn't complacently accept the status quo in the way that Maddalena's husband is doing, nor does it mean sacrificing the genuine needs of ones children to the illusory world of show business and entertainment parasitically built on the dreams and incomes of the working classes. The promise Maddalena makes to her husband is that she will work hard on her own merits to earn them their new house. There is of course a jokey reference made to giving the population of Rome diabetes but this can be overread as a form of illusion on a par with cinema. 

The end scenes have an even greater irony in them than intended because as Maddalena jokes about Burt Lancaster as being such a nice star to tease her husband about her recently lost fantasies about Hollywood today's audience is aware of how Burt Lancaster was initially foisted onto Visconti to play the lead role in The Leopard (1963).Lancaster again appeared in Conversation Piece (1974) this time as a friend of Visconti's. 

It seems that Visconti is thowing problems at the audience, they are being seduced in the short-term, but there is no clear future for Italy if they follow this path. The path for the country is dependent upon solidarity and hard work but it will provide more stability and more satisfaction in the future.  The open ending requires the audiences to participate in making thier own future or else the illusionists would pull the strings. This reading of the ending differs considerably from Nowell-Smith's who reads the film  as  a  straightforward criticism  of the cinema  as an industrial  and social process (Nowel-Smith, 2003 p 55). Nowell-Smith then argues that Visconti doesn't have the open endings of the type which Antonioni uses rather he relies on a rigid and self-contained structure. (ibid). Here Nowell-Smith reads the husband as a concrete pole of attraction which allows Visconti to clearly treat the central theme. Bacon too argues that the ending is one of family unity, unique amongst Visconti's films. Here I would suggest that it is a return to class and that a sense of solidarity is represented through the family which would seem to be an excellent way of passing on a coded political message in a censorious cultural environment promoting 'family values'. Here it would be interesting to undrstand how audiences of the time read this. 


Gender Relations


One issue which none of the three main critics of this film writing in English have dealt with in depth is that of gender relations. Maddalena clearly suffers some degree of physical abuse although this is unseen.  There is a furious argument in the flat when the dress is delivered and in front of the other women in the flats who come to rescue her she complains of being bruised. Again in the final scene she admits defeat to the husband and says that he can give her the usual four slaps.

Unsurprisingly it is Marcus who raises the issue of gender and notes that Visconti exposes the self-serving notions of motherhood by reversing the gender roles in the Cecconi household... (2002, p52-53).  Certainly superficially he takes some care of Maria, undressing her and promising ice-cream but for him there is no discussion about Maria's future he doesn't say that that Maria's future should be in the school, rather it is Maria who wants to go back there. Rather it is better to read Spartaco's role as one of acceptance of the status quo with a few dreams about a better place to live if he works steadily. This isn't an Italy that Visconti wanted any more than an Italy in thrall to America (it must be remembered here that the "Economic Miracle" was underpinned by Marshall aid).


Spagnolo’s survey on the consequences of this American conception of economic assistance on home affairs is straightforward. The CDs’ role accounts for the economic policy they attained in the short run. U.S. grants were used to fund productive investments rather than to foster industrial investments with a clear employment-creating effect as the American authorities in Europe suggested.  (Selva  2004 p 4).

Marcus talks of Maddalena's parental failure, but rather than failure it is a missplaced energy put into illusions of cinema which we can see as an allusion to Christian Democracy and its American backers. It is the false dreams of American capitalism as Visconti saw it which was the core issue. Arguably it was less Maddalena living vicariously through her daughter as a genuine but missplaced attempt to ensure a better future for her daughter. Her reaction when Iris the editor tells her of her failure to become an actress and her being cast aside that genuine doubt emerges and a recognition that all is not what it seems becomes apparent. Bacon notes that the role of Iris was played by Liliana Mancini and that this was very much what had happened to Mancini in real life. (Bacon 1998 p 57).   

Gendering is clearly apparent in the control of power in the film and here the industry / country is clearly run by men. Arguably here Visconti is again challenging the return to family values being promoted by the Christian Democrats in which women are returned to the family by utilising the iconic status of Magnani again. Solidarity in Rome Open City was through both genders as epitomised by Magnani.  Again the dynamism of Magnani and her committment to the future of Maria / Italy meant that she would be developing a different route, not selling out to Cinecitta / American capitalist ethics.  


Conclusion

There are many more things which can be discussed about this film and Marcus, Nowell-Smith and Bacon all provide useful insights. The suggestion that there is a class position being indirectly  proposed  is my own.  Whatever thoughts turn out to be if you are interested in Italian cinema or european cinema at all the release of the imprtant DVD for the English market is an opportunity not to be missed. 



The Eureka Masters of Cinema DVD of Bellissima


bellissima_10.jpg


Section under construction awaiting copy of the DVD 

Advertised Extras include:

A PROPOSITO DI BELLISSIMA [31:42]. This is a useful documentary and consists of interviews with the Rosi, Zefirelli, Ceccho D'Amico and others on the processes of making Bellissima

• Video interview with Bellissima co-screenwriter and assistant director Francesco Rosi [10:31]. This interview is a useful extract taken from a longer interview with Rosi who also worked with Visconti on La terra trema. It gives some useful insights into neorealism.

• Original theatrical trailer [3:51]

• 32-page illustrated booklet containing the chapter by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith from the 2003 3rd edition of his well known book on Visconti. This is an important and useful bonus. The booklet also features a short interview with Visconti with Michele Gandin in a new translation by Bert Cardullo, Professor of American Culture and Literature and author of Vittorio De Sica:Director, Actor,Screenwriter. 




Key Production Details (taken from Henry Bacon, 1998)

First performance: Italy, December 28th, 1951

Length: 3,162 metres

Duration 113 minutes

Director: Luchino Visconti

Assistant Directors: Francesco Rosi, Franco Zeffirelli

Scriptwriters: Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Francesco Rosi, Luchino Visconti. (NB Interestingly Bacon has acknowledged Zavattini as being the original scriptwriter in the text but hasn’t included him in this list presumably because as he points out the final script moved so far away from the original and included so much improvisation that Zavattini’s contribution was obviated.)

Leading Actors: Anna Magnani (Maddalena Cecconi), Walter Chiari (Alberto Annovazzi), Tina Apicella (Maria Cecconi), Alessandro Blasetti (As himself).

Bibliography


Bacon, Henry. 1998. Visconti: Explorations of Beauty & Decay. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-59960-1 (Pbk)

Marcus, Millicent. 2002. After Fellini. Baltimore & London: John Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-6847-5 (Pbk)

Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey. 2003 (3re). Luchino Visconti. London: British Film Institute. ISBN 0-85170-961-3 (Pbk) 

Selva, Simone. 2004.State and Economy in Italy before the EconomicMiracle: Economic Policy and International Constraints from the Reconstruction through the Pre-Boom Years. Business and Economic History Online.



Webliography


http://eurekavideo.co.uk/moc/catalogue/bellissima/


http://www.italica.rai.it/eng/cinema/film/bellissima.htm


http://ftvdb.bfi.org.uk/sift/title/26611?view=credit


http://www.bfi.org.uk/features/visconti/filmography.html


http://www.bfi.org.uk/features/visconti/resources.html


http://www.dvdtimes.co.uk/content.php?contentid=65606


http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0015-1386(196021)13%3A3%3C11%3ALVATIC%3E2.0.CO%3B2-S


http://www.altfg.com/blog/film-festivals/anna-magnani-at-lacma/


http://www.mml.cam.ac.uk/italian/courses/ugrad/it9.html


http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/directors/03/rosi.html


http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/03/26/journey_italian.html


http://www.italiamia.com/cinema_magnani.html


Return to Visconti Web-hub






July 08, 2007

Francois Truffaut's New Wave Films: Issues of Youth, Sex, Stars & Gender

Introduction



Of all the new young French directors who came to prominence between 1958-1964 Francois Truffaut is currently the most written about. Truffaut’s key films from this period are 400 Blows (1959), Shoot the Piano Player (1960) and Jules et Jim (1961). In 400 Blows the character Antoine Doinel a schoolboy, who is at odds with his parents, school and society  is introduced. The film won Truffaut the best director’s  prize at Cannes in 1959 and firmly placed him on the map of French film directors.  Below some of the circumstances of these films are explored. Firstly the article notes the position of the changing representations of youth, it then develops some issue, themes and concerns within Truaffaut's three key films of the Nouvelle Vague. Finally the article relates these films to issues of gender and the specific kind of femininity represented in the New Wave. It also questions whether Truffaut's films can be understood as being misogynistic.  

A Celebration of Youth Begins

In Europe  and the USA the phenomenon of youth as having a separate cultural identity had started. 400 Blows gains much of its vibrancy from a representation of youth which is totally different to anything which had come before. How far its elements are autobiographical are unclear however this to some extent irrelevant for Doinel acts as an allegory for the position of youth in France. France in this representation was seen as repressive and thoroughly hierarchical suffering the hangovers of an imperialist nation which had been invaded and was undergoing severe post-war stress as problems in Algeria and Vietnam started to emerge.   

There is something of the freshness and vigour of both Vigo the pre-war French director and the neo-realist approach of Roberto Rossellini in Truffaut’s approach - Truffaut had worked for Rossellini who was even a witness at his marriage.  In Rossellini's Roma Citta Aperta (1945) a young tearaway and his followers played an important role in symbolising resistance to Nazi occupation and the closing scene of children walking into a future Italy was symbolically powerful. 

400 Blows is not so clearly optimistic as Roma citta aperta. It challenges the audience through its open ending.  Antoine having successfully escaped from the institution and standing at the seaside is in a state of confusion: where next? is the question posed by the closing shot on his face. The shot begs the question what is the future of this boy. Does the audience want him to go back to the reform school, how do they want Antoine’s life to proceed? are his parent’s good influences? There are no straightforward answers for Antoine is in a very confused and ambiguous position. Antoine has been mistreated, yet at times is dishonest as the interview with the psychologist makes clear. It is the underlying quest of the film to place the audience in a position of reflexivity which makes the film so effective and makes it a part of a distinctly modern tradition. The film thus  poses a question for France. Its politics are thus linked to its form.



400 Blows


Doinel appears as a character in many of Truffaut’s subsequent films. There are strong autobiographical references in this film and it is claimed that the film contributed to the divorce of Truffaut’s parents.  Apparently they were very upset by the contents as Doinel’s parents are very unsympathetic characters. Apparently Albert Remy who played the father bore quite a strong resemblance to Truffaut’s father. Gillain points out that interviews with Truffaut revealed two contradictory positions on the film’s status as autobiographical having claimed that he had experienced all the hardships represented in the film and denied that the film was his autobiography. Gillain argues that the denial was down to aesthetic reasons.

Just as the world view of a director, especially an auteurist one, will operate at both a conscious and unconscious level, it is possible to over-read a text and construct it as totally autobiographically determined:

The need to understand oneself better, the desire to establish one’s unique identity or the urge to interpret one’s life- all these motives account for the autobiographical impulse. In order to treat the self as a narrative object, the author must select the facts that he or she recalls to reconstruct the unity of his or her life. The author must also impose an order on its individual events and bestow upon them narrative coherence , as well as achieve the creation of an imaginary self.


Truffaut’s autobiography can be seen as being spread over twenty-one feature length films. Although each film is self-contained an auteur structuralist perspective argues that the whole of his _oeuvre_ can be read in the light of each being a part of a greater whole. Gillain’s (2000) contention is that all Truffaut’s films offer a variation along themes of repression and secret aspects of the self in what she describes as a ‘Script of Delinquency’.

In 400 Blows a spatially organised set of relationships can be discerned which revolves around a binary opposition between outside and inside. Inside, whether at home or at school the shots are mainly static and in close-up, whilst outside there is mobility and a sense of freedom. The streets and the outside come to represent freedom of thought, action and movement.

Stylistically 400 Blows is influenced by the camera-person Henri Decae. The camerawork is fluid and combines ...a modern mobility with classical depth in many of the location shots suggests Neupert (2002) as the filming of the rotor ride sequence indicates. Gillain takes a more psychoanalytically inflected analysis of the rotor scene suggesting the space is womb-like and represents a compensation for lack of affection.

The narrative style constructs the film as a series of separate scenes or segments. This is very different to the continuity codes of the classical Hollywood cinema. This use of segmentation opens the text up so that the audience can quickly recognise that these activities and scenarios are everyday ones, in which there is no single cause and event structure, rather, the life of Antoine is consistently one of being alienated from the institutions and his parents. That he ultimately gets into trouble for stealing a typewriter - clearly an act driven by some level of internal frustration rather than maliciousness or even to try and make money - spurs the drift into his institutionalisation. In France at that time parents were able to ask the French authorities to take their children into reformatory care if they thought that they were behaving in a very uncontrollable manner and Doinel’s father did this. 

The film acts as an opportunity for liberal modern reflection upon an archaic disciplinary structure which has no place in contemporary French society, and transcends the purely autobiographical, moving from the micro ethnographical approach to the everyday. In doing this it serves to create a meaning which challenges the dominant discourses based upon the discipline of the time.  This trend can be seen in a wider context across western countries with the disciplinarity of imperialistically minded discourses. Resistance against the system was represented in the British New Wave by The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner for example.


Behind the Production   

400 Blows was co-produced by Truffaut’s father in law who was a mainstream producer and distributor in the French film industry. 400 Blows proved a critical and popular success as well as a financial one. The American rights were sold for between $50,000 - $100,000 (depending on which version is listened to). The film was also the fifth largest grossing one in the French box office that year. This catapulted Truffaut from being one of the best known young critics to the best known young film maker. It enabled him to engage in new feature length projects as well as putting him in a position to help influence producers to back other projects from the emergent new wave directors.

Shoot the Piano Player

Shoot the Piano Player was Truffaut’s next project. It was based on a pulp fiction American novel Down There. Here it is important to note that Truffaut hadn’t been against literary adaptations as such but the treatment of adaptations by the French studio system which prioritised a visual syntax that was explanatory of the words in the book rather than trying to translate the book into what Truffaut understood to be a properly cinematic language to convey the essence and spirit of the original. Truffaut and the other participants of the French New Wave prioritised a visual and cinematic language as a means of expression.

Shoot the Piano Player was a parodic take on the American 'B' movie thriller and for several reasons was unpopular with both critics and the audiences alike at the time. Sellier argues that it is a modernist work by being both critical of established Bourgeois culture of the quotidian but also of the mass culture of entertainment.

bq. Analysing mass market American films the Cahiers du cinema critics - by emphasising the most abstract aspects of their  mise en scene and by disregarding the socio-cultural context of their production and consumption - gave impetus to the modernist, distanced gaze on cinema that the most innovative  films of the New Wave worked to mobilise' (Sellier, Genevieve, 2001, p127)


It is in retrospect that the qualities of the film emerge Neupert (2002) describes it fulsomely as ...one of Truffaut’s great stylistic triumphs and one of the freshest, loosest and even funniest films of his career. Truffaut used Raoul Couthard who had worked on Godard’s a Bout de souffle as the camera-person which helped give the film a grittier less polished feel to it. 

Truffaut’s editing was also a fundamental part of the film's aesthetic. There were shifting visual rhythms moving from the long takes, favoured by Andre Bazin, to discontinuous montages far distant from the Bazinian naturalist aesthetic. The text also plays with genre systems of narrative which has encouraged some in need of a publication to suggest that the film is in some sense ‘postmodern’ however this is taken as mere critical discursive construction, for it is in this that the film is decisively modern in its approach.  

As Sellier  argues the film takes a modernist mode, of what Astruc describes as cinecriture, to construct and represent a wounded masculine subjectivity. Sellier describes the process as one of an admixture between the modernist sensibility and the romanticist one leading to a dual cultural inheritance that was to strongly mark the aesthetics of the New Wave. 

The Political Context

The film became beset by political problems. In the post production phase Truffaut's editor Cecile Decugis was arrested for allowing her flat to be used by the Algerian resistance movement. Truffaut used several thousand dollars from the production budget to establish a defence fund. Truffaut also signed the ’Manifesto of the 121’ encouraging soldiers to desert rather than fight the Algerian war. It had soon been signed by 400 intellectuals, artists and other well known people, including Truffaut. As a response the state owned media prohibited the appearance of the signatories which reduced Truffaut’s opportunities for publicity. The right dubbed Truffaut as ‘anti-French’, although the left-wing cinema journal Positif were led to revaluate their position on Truffaut.

Jules et Jim


Jeanne Moreau Jules et Jim 1

Truffaut’s next film was in the mould of an historical melodrama, however, it could hardly be described as ‘generic’. Jules et Jim came from Henri Pierre Roche’s novel of the same title  . The film was shot on a budget that was high by New Wave standards of $280,000, nevertheless with the death of his father in law Morgernstern during production there was an increased level of financial vulnerability.

As a result, shooting was in borrowed locations with costs pared as far as possible. The film is based upon a menage a trois consisting of: Jules, an Austrian living in Paris; Jim, a writer who meets Jules in Paris; Catherine who becomes their muse.  Catherine  resembles a Greek statue which they saw together on a spontaneous trip after seeing a slide show and becoming fascinated by it. Jules eventually marries Catherine, then World War 1 breaks out and Jules and Jim fight on opposite sides.

After the war Jim visits Jules and Catherine who by this time has a daughter Sabine. Catherine is unsettled and has taken on other lovers and is currently having an affair with Albert the person who showed Jules et Jim the slide show in the first place. Catherine seduces Jules who has always wanted her and the menage live in the same chalet for a few weeks together. Catherine gets bored with her romance with Jim and seduces Jules again. The men pretend that they aren’t jealous of each other although one evening it comes out that they are. 

Catherine is represented as wanting to have men on her terms and as being mentally unstable. (how often is this the case when men are wanting women on thier terms?) Jim eventually returns to Paris but wants to be with Catherine who has declared that she wants to marry him and have children. Jules who has given up hope of a stable relationship with Catherine favours this as he can’t bear the idea of losing Catherine altogether.

From Paris Jim corresponds with Catherine whilst being with Ghilberte who  is represented as being little more than somebody who brings Catherine’s letters to Jim and is wetly prepared to accept her lot. The relationship between Jules and Catherine seems to have broken down irretrievably when Catherine who is pregnant by Jules has a miscarriage. By ‘chance’ Jules and Jim meet up in Paris and Jules goes to meet Catherine again in the mill house near Paris where she and Jules have moved to. Jules is determined to try and break the spell and announces that he is going to marry his girlfriend Ghilberte whereupon Catherine draws a revolver and threatens to kill him .

Later, there is a seeming attempted rapprochement when Jules, Jim and Katherine go out for a drive together in Catherine’s car.  Catherine asks Jules to come with her for a drive and asks Jim to watch them carefully. Catherine then proceeds to drives them both off an bridge which has no central section and they both drown. It was a film about amour fou or mad love.

The use of Jeanne Moreau and the nature of the story were good marketing ploys. It was criticised by the Catholic church in France and the Legion of Decency in America which might well have helped its success.  The film employed  long takes and montages alongside freeze framing, handheld wide screen shooting, and 360 degree pans. This combination of techniques break decisively with the ‘cinema of quality’s’ approach to the historical melodrama. 

The larger budget also allowed for more refined lighting techniques and more sophisticated work on the soundtrack so in this sense the film was moving away from the rougher edged early films. Many critics see the film as the beginning of the end of the New Wave (Nouvelle Vague ) as many of directors gradually became part of a different structure of cinema.

Issues of Stars and Gender in Jules et Jim


Jeanne Moreau Jules et Jim


It is worthwhile reading Jules et Jim through the lenses of both gender and star criticism. Here the work of Sellier and Vincendeau is especially useful in beginning to open up the discourse. The typical new wave film coming from ex-Cahiers critics can be seen as being an aesthetic project which was highly critical - at times vituperative in Truffaut’s case - towards the establishment. The aesthetic also functioned from a necessity born of material limitations.

In a move typical of rebellious youth, Truffaut had announced that he wasn’t prepared to work with established stars such as Michele Morgan and Pierre Gabin on the grounds that they influenced the mise en scene by demanding close ups in accordance with their status as stars. An argument that was more polemically based than factual.

It was an argument which Godard would effectively dispel in Le Mepris which critiqued the role of the producers and their control of the financial package to ensure that the audience were given what they ‘wanted’ as the key determinant. (Godard's treatment including the ways in which Bardot was filmed will be dealt with elsewhere(.   Nevertheless, in relation to the issue of the usage of stars Truffaut made an aesthetic vision the rationale for not being able to afford well established actors.

The Eroticised Star of the New Wave

Of course this very materially influenced approach to film-making brought forward new actors. Less established women actors such as Jeanne Moreau and entirely new women such as Anna Karina became central to the French New Wave. In a tradition that emanated from 19th century romanticism the leading women were often associated with the directors. In Moreau’s case with firstly Louis Malle and then Truffaut and in Karina’s case with Godard.

Vincendeau perceptively places Moreau as central in this process for Moreau was associated with Malle in the prefigurations of the New Wave in Lift to the Scaffold, and then Les Amants. This was followed by her work with Antonioni in La Notte (1961). Moreau then played a key role as Catherine in Jules et Jim.





Jeanne Moreau La Notte


Above Jeanne Moreau in Antonioni's La Notte




Moreau had been firstly reconstructed by Malle and her early acting work within the mainstream played down. As Catherine, Moreau fits in well with one of the trends in the representation of women in which they are objects of desire who function to lead the male protagonists to their downfall. Moreau played this role in Lift to the Scaffold (1958), Les Amants and Jules et Jim. Truffaut can be identified along with Malle by establishing this approach in Tirez sur le pianiste as well.




les_amants_2.jpg

Jeanne Moreau in Louis Malle's Les Amants(1958)










The attraction of Moreau is that through her performances she helped to establish a new definition of femininity which was an essential part of liberalising modernity. It was a representation that was fresh, alluring and different suggests Vincendeau.

This wasn’t a position solely occupied by the French New Wave for the ‘phantasmic male projection’ of new woman was also created in Britain through the character of Julie Christie. Unlike Moreau, Christie was to gain international star status in films such as Dr Zhivago moving on from the ‘will o the wispish’ persona exemplified in Billy Liar (1963).

Christie can also be associated with the more gamine actresses associated with the New Wave such as Karina and Jean Seberg. Moreau’s role as a slightly older actress was to reflect the sophisticated, intellectual mood of the films. But all echoed the ideology of the New Wave: authenticity, modernity and sensuality. In Jules et Jim, Moreau was positioned in a different hierarchy to mainstream cinema as the star wasn’t dominant in the mise en scene, just an element within it.

In common with other films from the New Wave such as A Bout de souffle and Bande a parte, both by Godard, there was a different regime of the look in which a less sexually but more erotically inscribed construction of femininity was installed. Vincendeau compares this look with that of Bardot: New wave actresses were young, good-looking and sexy, but not too overtly glamorous. Bardot was so extraordinary that her beauty conceptualised as an effect of  surface, became the theme of her films. In the New Wave films committed to authenticity and depth, beauty appeared more ‘realistic’ coming ‘from within’.  Vincendeau argues that in contrast to the female nudity increasingly exploited by the mainstream the New Wave achieved a more erotic effect by shifting the focus of attention from women’s bodies to their faces.

This attention to ‘surface modernity’  of the stars also fitted well with the liberalising modernity of modernising France which was moving to a consumption based model of capitalism as the more classically bourgeois fourth republic, which was also a moment of post-war reconstruction and austerity, gave way to TVs, holidays and cars a harbinger of greater leisure as the post-war boom progressed and the bonds of empire began to fall away.

In terms of space and the representations of women in the city  the New Wave saw Jean Seberg in a Bout de souffle follow Moreau’s roam through the city firstly in Lift to the Scaffold and then in La Notte. This public space was still fraught with danger that accompanied those who tried to became a sort of flaneuse.  Moreau was taken as a prostitute on occasion and Seberg ended up being chatted up by a thief and a murderer. In that sense these representations of modernising women were rather more conservative than that of Julie Christie in Billy Liar for it is she who travels everywhere, even to France (perhaps a reference to the new wave representation of women?), by hitch-hiking on lorries if necessary.

New Wave Directors as Misogynists

Christie represents the fearlessness of modern female youth in a world apparently without danger. She is contrasted with the dreaming Billy Liar who is unable to turn his fantasies into reality. By contrast the French representations of femininity end in the misogyny of the femme fatale of a neurotic Catherine in Jules et Jim, a femininity based upon a romanticist notion that it is women through their deadly sexuality who foil the projects of the heroic male. 

The final sentence of Vincendeau’s article encapsulates the gendered limitations of the New wave directors take on liberal modernity: Concentrating the values of romantic love, sensuality, sensitivity and modernity, Moreau brought a feminised surface to the New Wave which superimposed itself on its male and misogynist foundations.  

If Jules et Jim  epitomises a masculinised notion of freedom through the carefree images of an idealised woman and set of relationships in its first part the darkening mood of the film could be seen to represent a post-First World War in which the mechanised killing fields mean that nothing is ever quite the same again. It is a position which relates to the expressionist mood of early Weimar cinema. As a story of amour fou looked at in hindsight the film seems somewhat vacuous. Characterisations are thin and inconsistent and Catherine as an object of desire is constructed through the look rather than through any intellectual or emotional capacities.

Enigmatic Romanticism and the Suspension of Materiality


In Jules et Jim this enigmatic romanticism was constituted around an enigmatic statue of a woman in a way which establishes an essential female eroticism which transcends both time and space and inscribes femininity with both an exotic and erotic otherness fundamental to romantic thought. The film also suspends materiality, for Catherine manages to afford her own car at a time when to have a car meant to be extremely well off yet she has no obvious independent income. Jules as a hermit style ecologist in his post-war character can hardly afford that.

The audience is informed that Catherine has both an aristocratic and a commoner background however this is not expanded. The voice-over narration is used to describe the feelings of the characters functioning to allowing the mise en-scene a certain amount of autonomy. In that sense the film is working as a part of New Wave aesthetics. Unlike La Dolce Vita (1959) the film tends to ignore society, and it fails to achieve the necessary depth in its characterisations. Its romanticised modernism doesn’t go as far as Antonioni’s L’avventura (1960) in terms of alienation and the difficulties of communication between people but it is nonetheless following this path.

All these films feature suicides which is the ultimate breakdown of interpersonal communications and alienation and still a feature of contemporary life. In hindsight the explanation from Tartan video’s opening that the film is a ‘cult’ classic is probably fitting. Whilst it was a massively important contribution to a defining cultural moment in French cinema it ultimately fails to satisfy as a piece of art when set alongside the contemporary contributions from Italy. 


Bibliographical Note

References here can be accessed in the bibliogaphies section of the blog in the French bibliography.  


June 16, 2007

British Cinema: Social Realism – Webliography

Introduction


This page functions as a portal into the important strand of British filmmaking described as social realist. Laid out chronologically this portal will be particularly useful for:
* Those unfamiliar with the history of the British cinema 
* Students following undergraduate film studies course to provide an overview before tackiling more in depth work 
* 'A' level media students following the current (2006 /07) OCR Media A2 Unit on Media Issues & Debates: Contemporary British Cinema. For the OCR unit it will historically contextualise the continuing use of social realism as a successful film form
* The WJEC Film Studies A level "British & Irish Cinema" Unit.




Overview


Social realism has played an important role in both British cinema and TV. The British documentary movement which developed under the leadership of John Grierson  was enormously influential in stimulating what became a strand of fiction film described as social realism.

Humphrey Jennings who started out with this movement brought a sense of the surreality of popular culture in everyday life to his work. His wartime docu-dramas and documentary work are exemplary pieces of art working across genres to produce some of the best work ever made by a British director.

Jennings was an inspiration to Lindsay Anderson and those who gathered around him in the British 'Free Cinema'. Technical discoveries by cameraman Walter Lassally were to influence the work of the French New Wave Filmmakers and cinematographers. 

Free Cinema DVD from BFI

The documentary work made by them led into the 'British New Wave' at the beginning of the 1960s.

This in turn led to social realist films and TV documentaries in the mid to late sixties with Ken Loach and Producer Tony Garnett being exemplary. Cathy Come Home was a TV drama which heldped the housing charity Shelter to set up. Poor Cow and Kes are classic Loach films from this period.


While the 1970s and 1980s saw less work of this style films such as Meantime by Mike Leigh were very influential. The actor Gary Oldman was outstanding in this and returned to this form as a director in Nil by Mouth made in the late 1990s.


There was a return to popularity for this kind of film in the 1990s particularly by Ken Loach and Mike Leigh. This has continued up until 2006 with Ken Loach winning the Palm d'or at the Cannes festival for The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006) combining social realism with history.

Brtish social realism has also been strongly influential in other types of films which have combined genres into hybrids such as social-realist / comedy. The Full Monty (1997) and Brassed Off (1996) are good examples of this. Perhaps the first hybrid of this type was Billy Liar (1963) at the end of the British New Wave. This film provided a bridge into the 'Swinging Sixties' particularly in the next film by John Schlesinger Darling which starred Julie Christie  as well.

The BFI "Screenonline article on comedy" cites several films which also appear  elsewhere as social realistically inflected. Films dealing with changing British identity often combine social realist aspects of life with comedy including East is East (1999) and Bend it Like Beckham (2002).


Webliography laid out chronologically

This covers the British documentary movement and via Free Cinema moves into British Social Realism 


John Grierson Trust


John Grierson Director Page


Empire Marketing Board


Documentary Film Units and Film Sponsorship

BFI Screenonline Biography of Paul Rotha


Humphrey Jennings


Kinoeye:  Humphrey Jennings page.

Links previously on this page are now on the above page plus many more. The page is still under development and further links to analysies of his films are in the pipeline.  

Lindsay Anderson director page.

From Lindsay Anderson to the Free Cinema

The British New Wave: Social Realist film of the 1960s




The Impact and Influence of Social Realism in British Cinema a useful Screenonline article.


Tony Aldgate of the Open University discusses British Social Realism

Social Realists in British Cinema from 1990


These two directors have a reputation for working mainly within the social realist tradition although the approaches are still very different. Loach tends to be more macro whilst Leigh is more micro with a style closer to Kammerspiele or chamber plays.

Ken Loach

Mike Leigh


Other British Directors who have used social realism

These directors have made films at times which have been strongly influenced by social realism:

Stephen Frears with Dirty Pretty Things, 2002

Lynne Ramsey Ratcatcher

Michael Winterbottom Welcome to Sarajevo (1998) is a social realist influenced film based upon a true story. His recent The Road to Guantanamo (2006) is a political response to the events and aftermath of 9/11.

Some Social Realist Films From 1990


Life is Sweet, 1990: Mike Leigh. It is marketed as a 'bittersweet comedy" which is quite a good description of many of the social realist / comedy hybrid films

Raining Stones, 1993: Dir Ken Loach

Nil by Mouth 1997: dir Gary Oldman


Authors of British Social Realist Films


Alan Sillitoe


Here is a link to Alan Sillitoe author of Saturday Night Sunday Morning commenting recently on the coming ban on smoking in public places


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