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August 20, 2007

Shoah: Claude Lanzmann (1985). Part 1

Shoah: Claude Lanzmann, France (1985)

Part One 



Shoah a Train to where



The seemingly interminable pans over the empty field and pile of stones that was Treblinka are among the film's most powerful and haunting images. On a primary level, they constitute a documentary record of the site today. The absence of people in this field of stones suggests that absence which haunts every moment of the film, from its very title (which means "annihilation" in Hebrew): the absence of those generations that number six million. When we eventually see the stones in closer shots we realize that some are memorial gravestones to whole nations, and the sense of emptiness deepens.

Fred Camper Motion Picture No. 4, Winter/Spring 1987




Shoah DVD Cover

Eureka DVD cover of Shoah







Preface

The nature and content of this film and the ongoing discourse it has generated as well as the extreme length of the film at nine and a half hours means that it deserves an extended treatment. The blog format means that one isn’t tied to the limitations of the normal print medium. I shall take the opportunity to contribute to the discourse of Shoah in a more relaxed way, the pure temporal physicality of watching the film is exacting. Analysing content and the creation of meaning through form, and the discursive field around a film itself is time consuming. A brief synopsis is insufficient and for the reader who requires this there are some links provided in the webliography. This can be considered as an introduction to the film and the intellectual discourse it generated and will be followed up with a more detailed analysis of the film in another posting.



Introduction: Contemporary Traces of Anti-Semitism in Europe Today

The opportunity to review Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah (1985) - recently released in the excellent Eureka Masters of Cinema series - on my return from holiday from the Baltic States was a serendipitous one. The relevance of a film 12 years in the making and released in 1985 about events which took place between 1933 – 1945 right across Europe still has and will continue to have an indelible sense of shock as the enormity of the 'Holocaust' project - which the French now describe as Shoah after this film - strikes at the very heart of Enlightenment Reason itself. How could this have happened? We ask ourselves rhetorically because the events which led to the systematic destruction of millions upon millions of Jews in some of the cruellest and most perverted ways imaginable still seems beyond comprehension. It is this sense of incomprehensibility which is one of the key features of Lanzmann’s Shoah.

I returned from the Baltic States especially angry at a piece of news I had read in the Baltic Times - a weekly English language newspaper which covers the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The news which had made me especially angry was an article about how the survivors of the Estonian SS Division had marched in remembrance of a losing battle against the Soviet / Allied armies. That SS division veterans could publicly march and celebrate in the name of “freedom” was quite sickening. The depredations which the Estonian and Latvian SS Divisions administered were legion. This was an insult to all who fought against Nazism and Fascism and most of all those victims of the Holocaust. For the Estonian government to have allowed this event was injudicious to say the least and for a country now in the European Union and NATO positively shameful! This points to a need for more senior partners in the EU to keep a closer eye on the newer members. 

The Baltic Times justifiably reported that Russia saw this as support for Fascism. My only disagreement here is that fascism of the Italian sort wasn’t entirely premised upon racial supremacy in the way the Nazism was from its very inception. For this in reason I prefer to differentiate the two as ideologically different although in terms of attitudes to egalitarianism there are obviously many similarities.

Absence versus Erasure 

The erasure of any evidence of Jewishness and the covering up of traces has been an important defence mechanism by the perpetrators. Absence on the other hand has  been a way of creating memory of Shoah by many artists such as Kitaj’s work on Auschwitz for example and it is a mechanism also used by Lanzmann.

The issue of erasure is properly an issue of cultural policy and should be dealt with at government level. I was at one point involved in researching the issue of vision and identity through monuments, museums and other forms of public art in post-Soviet Lithuania. In Kaunas (Kovno) there is a remarkable lack of any recollection of Jews in Lithuania yet with an interwar population of around 8% most of whom were based in Kaunas (Vilnius at the time was under Polish domination) this is a fundamental issue, the lack is so marked that it is clear that erasure is taking place.

On my first visit to Lithuania some 10 years ago I was unaware of the importance of Jews within the growth of interwar Lithuania. I stayed in the city of Kaunas which was the interwar capital of the country. As such it has a cultural infrastructure in terms of museums which is far larger than one would expect in a second city, yet in none of the main centres was there any recognition of the mass slaughter of Jews, nor were there any artefacts in terms of images, writings etc which had been produced by Lithuanian Jews from that period. This attitude is in distinct contrast to the reconstruction of the Jewish quarter in Vilnius for example. On a later visit to Kaunas I discovered that the current mayor of the time had come out with a clear anti-semitic statement of words to the effect that Jews were only fit to clean his boots. That this rabid anti-Semitism exists when virtually no Jews are left in Kaunas or Lithuania is clearly ludicrous as well as being entirely obnoxious. This gives credence to a point made by Slavoj Zizek that in Nazi Germany the fewer the number of Jews there were and the less possible threat they could possibly be the greater the fear and zealousness of Nazi anti-Semitism. There is no clear underlying logic to any form of anti-Semitism, rather it exists at the level of myth for ideological purposes. The sheer incomprehensibility of this attitude points to pychoanalytical explanations as a way forward for there is clearly some sort of pathology driving the key instigators of these tendencies. 

Shoah's lack of coverage in Academic Texts

When it came to doing the review itself my first step was to check my books on French cinema for references to the film. Having done a fair amount of work on French cinema I hadn’t come across Claude Lanzmann, yet surely a documentary nearly 10 hours long as well as other documentaries deserved some mention. Neither Alan Williams’ useful general history of French cinema The Republic of Images, nor Jill Forbes’ The Cinema in France after the New Wave make any mention of Lanzmann. Forbes’ book opens with a chapter on the changing nature of French documentary production and deals with Marcel Ophul’s The Sorrow and the Pity (1971) and one might have expected a comment here.

For basic research into Lanzmann and Shoah I turned to the Internet. ‘Googling’ the term “Claude Lanzmann” brought forward a host of vituperative “Revisionist” historical sites. For “Revisionism” read Nazi apologists / Nazis. This proves the importance of this documentary but it also shows that as a film it is under-researched by respectable academia and critics. It is a form of lack which allows Nazis to creep in between the cracks. Googling the term ‘Shoah’, thus there is an academic responsibility to take this film far more seriously within the discourse of film studies as well as historical method, Europe and history in general. Nazis are clearly better at search engine optimisation at present.





Shoah More Trains




What generic category is Shoah? Art or Documentary?

Whilst doing my preliminary research Shoah arrived with the postman in a weighty looking box. The DVD box comprises of a three disc DVD with a book of 180 pages. This Eureka project was clearly a huge undertaking and the enormity and gravitas of the subject matter is clear from the outset.

Stuart Liebmans Shoah

Usefully the enclosed book contains an excellent and thought-proving article by Stuart Liebman (Professor of the History of Cinema, City University of New York Graduate Centre) which is actually the introduction to a book published this year (2007) called Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah: Key Essays from Oxford University Press. This book takes the most important contributions to discussions raised by Shoah over the last 20 years. To this extent Shoah is far more than a film, it is more of an open ended project deliberately designed to create an ongoing discourse on the European Judeocide perpetrated by Nazis and their allies. Many of the following points of are based upon Liebman's analysis for his range of knowledge and his understanding of the issues both cinematic and historical is admirable and his book will be going onto my shortlist. 

At the beginning of his essay Liebman cites Lanzmann who comments upon the impossibility of his project, not only was it an impossibility of dealing with the disappearance of traces but:

…the impossibility of telling this story even by the survivors themselves; the impossibility of speaking, the difficulty – which can be seen throughout the film – of giving birth to and the impossibility of naming it: its unnameable character.” (Shoah book p 44).

Lanzmann took 12 years to complete the project travelling around the World and shooting an extraordinary 350 hours of testimony, much of which had never previously been revealed. This was then edited down to nine and a half hours.

The issue then became one of how the film should be generically categorised. Most refer to it as a ‘documentary’ however Lanzmann himself understands his work rather differently notes Liebman: Lanzmann insists that it is a work of art, an “originary event” constructed with “traces of traces”.

The film premiered in Paris in April 1985. Simone de Beauvoir reviewed the work for La Monde commenting that the film combined both beauty and horror:

…it highlights the horror with such inventiveness and austerity that we know we are watching a great oeuvre. A sheer masterpiece. (de Beauvoir cited Shoah Book p 46).

This makes a lot of sense in terms of Lacanian psychoanalysis for on this thinking it is impossible to examine directly the Lacanian sense of the ‘Real’. It is something which can only be understood indirectly. Marcel Ophuls director of the influential The Sorrow and the Pity welcomed the film as the best film about the Holocaust he had seen but he also understood the film as a ‘documentary’.

Liebman’s introduction returns to this problematic some time later noting that techniques of composition within the mise en scene remove Shoah from the realm of the documentary. Those who compare Shoah to the more familiar ‘talking heads’ models of documentary film-making:

…ignore those aspects of Shoah that explode crucial features of the talking heads genre, transforming it from a mere history lesson into something much greater: a meditation emphatically modernist in form, on the genocide of the European Jews. (Ibid p 81).

The film adds materials foreign to the documentary form as well as eschewing the standard organisational principles of historical documentary. There is a rejection of the linear narrative form because Lanzmann ‘believes that it is grounded in an ultimately misleading conception of historical causality that he rejects.’ Notes Liebman (ibid p 82). There are still narrative structures but they are stitched together as local small narratives which overlap and resonate creating an unusual form and sense of temporality. In this way the viewing experience becomaes far more visceral and palpable  opening up an horizon of possibility ‘beyond any human limits evoked by these witnesses’. (ibid p 84).

Some of the cinematic techniques include extended takes of long shots of empty forests and fields as a form of 'interpolation of blocks of imagery' which resist the moving on of the narrative and force the spectator into open-ended reflection. Such takes of empty countryside are often overlain with non-diegetic soundtrack such as voiceover or the sounds of trains – I’m reminded of Steve Reich’s Different Trains here which has enormous power in a live setting. Artistically the film, like so much non-mimetic artwork which indirectly represents the process of Judeocide, becomes a haunting a summoning not just of a memory which can become a closure but a presence, an umbra etched into European consciousness. In a footnote Liebman cites Derrida:

The Presentation of the Traces is neither a simple presentation nor a representation, nor is it an image. It is incarnated in the body, harmonises gestures with speech, as it recounts [a story] within a landscape in which it is inscribed. (Derrida ibid p 99)

Shoah doesn’t attempt to represent in documentary format all aspects of the Judeocide. There is no reference to the work of the Einsatzgruppen who went to work immediately after operation Barbarossa the invasion of the Soviet Union and the Soviet controlled states such as the Baltic States. Apart from the savage beating to death of Jews by local Lithuanian Nazis in the main square of Kaunas (Kovno) secretly photographed and available in ‘Kovno’s Hidden Ghetto’ the SS mainly got there first. In Lithuania the Einsatzgruppen for the region was closely following the frontline with portable gas chambers which were put to immediate use and they later went into Latvia and Estonia. One reason that there was no representation of this aspect of Shoah was that Lanzmann couldn’t get accounts from the participants. On one occasion he was discovered making a secret recording whilst interviewing an ex-Einsatzgruppen officer. Lanzmann was beaten up, hospitalised for 8 days and his equipment destroyed!





Waiting Room



Audience Response

The generally resounding critical success led to greater than expected audiences in France and it received very widespread audiences in the United States. This was helped by a careful distribution plan targeting cities with high Jewish populations and promoted through special benefit screenings which Lanzmann often attended. Lanzmann has written that he only expected around 3,000 viewers however with many TV screenings as well as other mechanisms of distribution the audience numbers millions. It is interesting to note that Liebman makes the point that Pauline Kael at the time a highly respected film reviewer – although she hadn’t gained Liebman’s - was a notable exception:

As was her wont, Kael substitutes words of dismissal for anything resembling a thoughtful analysis. (Shoah Book p 91).

The resonance that the film had was the very public nature of the testimony or bearing witness to events. Liebman notes that prior to this film, testimonies were usually written and even when filmed these testimonies were quickly archived.

This clearly proves the point that a successful media product requires excellent systems of distribution.

Such was the importance of reaching this wider audience that Liebmann suggests that this film marks a caesura of representation of this highly complex episode of history. Prior to this film most cinematic representations had resorted to:

…dramatalurgical formulae or documentary conventions that intentionally or inadvertently, transformed the slaughter of Europe’s Jews into something less momentous and more comprehensible than it was. (Shoah book, p 52).

Liebman therefore emphasises the point that nobody before or since had spent so much time and effort as Lanzmann on how to represent the Holocaust, furthermore:

no director had ever demanded so much dedication and forbearance from his audience in order to confront what many Jews and non-Jews alike, though for different reasons, did not wish to think about. (ibid p 52).






Naming the Film

For Lanzmann the issue of naming was an enormous issue. Had the whole chain of events been properly named by the Nazis then it is unlikely that it could have been carried out it therefore became literally an unnameable crime. In writing an essay upon what he considered the bad TV series called the ‘Holocaust’ Lanzmann explained why he couldn’t call this genocide a ‘Holocaust’. The TV film was a complete misrepresentation because it entirely underplayed the thought-going brutality of the whole process, the beatings, whippings etc all part of demonising the Jews to make them literally sub-human thus providing in the minds of the perpetrators justification for the killing. Instead the ‘Holocaust’ had provided a representation of a Bourgeois family stoically facing up to their eventual murder. It was an “assassination of memory” said Lanzmann. Another meaning of ‘holocaust’ was ‘burnt offering’. Lanzmann rightly discarded this as entirely unsuitable. The choice of the title Shoah was last minute and quite spontaneous. Although this was the way Israeli discourse described the Nazi Judeocide, Lanzmann didn’t know Hebrew.

The word Shoah appears 13 times in the Jewish Bible and was used to describe natural disasters, however by the mid 1940s the word had become used within the pre-Israeli state Jewish community to describe the Judeocide. For Lanzmann “’Shoah’ was a signifier without a signified”, its opacity and impenetrability thus signifying the difficulty of comprehending these shattering processes.





Vienna Holocaust War Memorial


Vienna Holocaust War Memorial




Webliography

Currently this isn't arranged in any particular order. There are currently many good sites about Shoah / The Holocaust under the search term Shoah. The search term Claude Lanzmann brings up many vituperative sites attacking Lanzmann even on the early pages of the Google search. Time for some academics to start publishing with links to this term and relagate the Neo-Nazis to history!

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

(Link to Eureka Shoah page) 

http://www.egs.edu/faculty/lanzmann.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoah_%28film%29

http://film.guardian.co.uk/Century_Of_Films/Story/0,,411316,00.html

(Link to brief review by Derek Malcolm in the Guardian) 

http://www.filmreference.com/Directors-Ku-Lu/Lanzmann-Claude.html

http://www.oup.com/uk/catalogue/?ci=9780195188646

(This provides a link to Stuart Liebman's book at Oxford University Press UK. It is also available in paperback in the USA).  

http://www.oneworld.cz/ow/2002/en/retro_lanzmann.html

http://www.moviemail-online.co.uk/scripts/media_view.pl?id=283&type=Articles

http://film.guardian.co.uk/interview/interviewpages/0,6737,527708,00.html

http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=00440078(1991)79%3C82:SWCL1A%3E2.0.CO;2-J

http://www.festival-cannes.fr/index.php/en/archives/artist/125524

http://www.cas.buffalo.edu/classes/dms/berna/holocaust/

(Link to a course on cinema of the Holocaust in the US) 

http://resources.ushmm.org/film/display/info.php?file_num=4927

http://www.class.uidaho.edu/thomas/Holocaust/thomas/309/bomba-comments.htm

http://www.mtsu.edu/~baustin/holo.html

http://ddickerson.igc.org/third-reich.html

http://www.memorialdelashoah.org/

http://www.magenta.nl/crosspoint/shoah.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AD_GFqDY2sU (Shoah trailer on YouTube can be seen here)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CboqA2vDhk&mode=related&search=

(This shows a seminar  with Claude Lanzmann at the European Graduate School)

http://hearingvoices.com/special/2005/shoah/ (This has a reference to the Kovno (now Kaunas in Lithuania) Ghetto and the infamous Ninth Fort where many Jews were slaughtered after being incarcerated in very grim circumstances. It is one of the Holocaust sites I have visited.

http://www.cicb.be/ (Museum about the deportation of the Belgium Jews and their resistance during World War II.)

http://www.fredcamper.com/Film/Lanzmann.html


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.  


January 04, 2007

European Cinema and Media Glossary: From A–E

Glossary of Terms for European Cinema

Introduction

Please note that this glossary will be on more than one page as the server limit appears to be about 5,000 words for each ‘post’.

*A glossary of this nature will always be a “work in progress”. The adavntage of it being based on the internet is that it can be continually updated as new terms, techniques and methods emerge. Terms sometimes gather alternative meanings as well. So this glossary will, in the spirit of Web 2, be a dynamic one. It is intended to serve a wide target audience of anyone interested in cinema in general but especially European cinema.

Visitors are of course welcome to contribute by asking for terms and or words to be included. I will do my best to accomodate them however there are many other tasks to develop, which is also why it will be a work in progress as I’m developing glossaries relating to other areas of the media simultaneously.

If I find any useful online freely available references which can develop terms in greater depth they will be hyperlinked.

Please note that bold and italic words are cross-referenced

Aberrant decoding. This is term used to describe a reading by part of an audience which is entirely different from that intended by the producers of the media text. More often known as reading against the grain this usually happens when the readers of the text have quite different values and beliefs to the producers of the text. See also cultural effects theory and codes and conventions.

Adorno and the Frankfurt School. Theodor Adorno and the Frankfurt School of Social Research were amongst the earliest social scientists to closely critique and analyse and critique the growth of the culture industries which are now in effect ‘lifestyle’ industries. Adorno argues amongst other things that the apparent ‘diversity’ of market segmentation and the cultivation of ‘lifestyle ‘ is entirely bogus. Lifestyle can be describe in his terms as a death mask of individuality covering the bland features of the ‘consumer clone’. See also Passive Audience and Mass Culture.

Advertising. (TAM). The advertising content of media forms such as Newspapers, magazines and TV and commercial radio often takes up as much space as the editorial content. It is often advertising rather than the actual number of sales which creates the large profits of a media product. (Count for example the number of pages which are adverts in GQ). Increasingly there is a growth of advertorial content. Media institutions which have a totally public service broadcasting function (BBC) are not allowed to advertise commercial products. They usually advertise their own programmes and products. Advertising is a discourse where frequently all normal physical and social arrangements are held in abeyance. We regard the claims made in adverts as a joke, but we buy the products often in spite of , or because of the jokes.

Aestheticisation of Everyday Life. This is the claim that the division between art and everyday life is being eroded in two ways. Firstly artists are taking objects of everyday life and making them into art objects. Secondly people are making their everyday lives into aesthetic projects in terms of style, appearance and household furnishings. This may reach a point where people see themselves and their surroundings as art objects. Consumers have now broken down the hierarchy between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art. See Culture Industries

Against the grain. See Reading against the grain.

Ambient sound. This refers to the ‘natural’ background sound present in a scene in film, TV or radio

Anti-classical. See Art film

Art film. Art film is often described as a European phenomenon and is considered as a genre by critics such as Neale. Often Art cinema is associated with auteurs. European art cinema often uses different modes of storytelling such as long takes combined with great depth of field (Visconti in Ossessione for example). The narratives are less likely to be concerned with the’ classical’ Hollywood structure of a central character moving in a linear fashion through trials and tribulations to a comfortable resolution. Endings may reject neat narrative closure, and there may be multiple points of view. There is likely to be little emphasis on identification with the characters compared to the Hollywood style institutional mode of representation. Typically those films designated as ‘art films’ require more work from the spectator.

Audience. Audience has always seen as important by film distributors and exhibitors. Many commentators understand media audiences to be a construction of the media companies rather than a a social reality based upon conceptions of individual viewers or citizens. As such it is a marketing term which needs to be treated with suspicion. There has been a lot of work by film theorists about how the individual spectator is positioned by the film text. Often this has been without reference to actual audiences. Those interested in a more sociological approach to responses by audiences have done some research on this. The research of Jackie Stacey is very useful in this regard. The qualitative research methods employed show that there are pluralistic readings of a text and that many women read filmic texts against the grain of the preferred reading offered by the construction of the film or the reinforcement of this by the critical establishment. This shows that the social reality and lived experiences of an audience can have a very different effect. (See the monograph by Marita Sturken on Thelma and Louise for comment on the enthusiastic reception by women audiences in the cinema).

Audience work. Far from being ‘couch potatoes’ or passive audiences who merely absorb what is on screen in an unthinking way. Audiences are required to do a certain amount of work to derive pleasure from a film. This work will include: processing information; directing attention to; interpreting in relation to some agenda; evaluating. (This is a point strongly made by Adorno and Horkeimer clearly showing that they have nothing to do with the ‘Hypodermic Syringe’ model of Ideology.

Auteur. Originally this expression was used in the 1920’s . The term was centred around a debate concerning the artistic quality of films. Films where there was very strong directorial input were compared with films where scripts were commissioned from separate scriptwriters and directors were under the thumb of studio producers. This fed into a major debate about cinema and its relations to ‘high art’ / ‘low art’ (popular culture). By the 1950s a group of French critics (again) reinvented the use of the term auteur. They were very keen on American / Hollywood cinema and argued that just because a director had little control over the production process apart from the staging of shots it could still be seen that individual directors had very distinctive styles which could be seen in the mise-en -scene. As a result of this debate the idea of auteur can mean either a directors style through mise-en-scene (Hitchcock, John Ford), or else as a ‘total author’ of both the script and the film itself. ( Orson Welles , David Lynch in the US or Bergman and Godard in Europe).

Blum-Byrnes Agreement. Agreements in 1946 and 1948 were established between the French and US governments which guaranteed a quota of exhibition time to French films as part of a wider trade agreement.

Buddy movie. A basic aspect of the ‘buddy movie’ is that men understand each other better than they understand their women. ( Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ) The primary relationship in Thelma and Louise film is between the women who understand each other’s ways of being in the world. better than their men do thus reversing the conventions of the Buddy movie.

Camera Movement. (TAF). Camera movements include very important techniques in gained specific visual effects and are fundamental to how a film is made and the visual style which it uses. The main techniques are currently:

  • Pan. This is when a camera moves either to the left or the right. Usually there is a moving object on screen but this is not necessary. Empty space can create meaning. If there isa moving object the camera tends to lead rather than follow the object. Whether the pan is a slow or fast one also contributes to the mood and dynamics of that part of the film.
  • Handheld camera / cinema verite. Originally this was quite usual in documentary style filming or news reporting. A wobbling image as the cameraperson follows a subject gave a feeling of being present and ‘reality’ to the viewer. This can often be used to make a moent more tense. A good example of this being used as a technique is in thebatle scenes near the beginning of Saving Private Ryan when the americans are invading the beach. The wobbly images give an excellent feeling of being present on the beach.
  • Steadicam. The steadicam is special camera which is handheld by the cameraperson. The camera uses gyroscopes to ensure that it remains level and thus remves the feel of a handheld camera (see above).
Tracking Shot.
  • Zoom. Stricly speaking a zoom shot isn’t a camera movement but an adjustment of the lens which gives the feel of movement. A zoom lens is a special kind of lens which was originally developed in the 1950s. It was a technological develpment which helped to attract audiences. It is possible either to zoom-in or zoom forward on a person or object. The shot can also create the illusion of displacement of time and space. A zoom-out or zoom backwards places a person or object in a wider context. Zooming in can be strongly linked with voyeurism. Hitchcock’s Rear Window provides an excellent example of voyeurism and zooming.

Cinema verite. See Camera movements.

Character. In the standard Hollywood realist text : ‘Action typically pivots on central characters who are rendered in psychological depth and tend to become objects of identification for readers. These characters are fictional persons whose fate is tied up with the progress of the narrative, indeed on whom may be centred the very disruption that sets the narrative in motion’ (Kuhn Annette. 1982. Women’s Pictures : 31). See also Institutional mode of representation and eye-line match.

Citizenship. This concept builds on earlier ideas of citizenship which focused upon economic, political and social concerns. Economic citizenship gave people the right to trade, political citizenship gave people the rights to vote and have representative electable governments with powers limited by law. Social citizenship gave people the right to health care, education and pensions. See also cultural citizenship.

Close Reading. Making a close reading can get down to the level of individual shot construction, in which subtleties of coding can be carefully analysed. See also preferred reading and reading against the grain.

Close up. Usually a shot of the head from the neck up. Could also be a wringing of hands. See performance and shot.

Closure. See narrative closure.

Codes and Conventions (General). Cinema uses a number of methods to organise meaning production. Some are general to narrative forms and others are specific to cinema. Cinematic conventions work to make the product appear to be seamlessly produced which means that it appears as though meaning had already existed prior to the construction of the film. In fact the cinematic codes and conventions of production produce an axis of meaning which will interact with both the reactions of audiences and the exhibitionary context.

  • Photographic conventions. Framing, long-shots, medium shots, and close-ups all generate particular forms of meaning: To the extent that close-ups are most commonly of central characters in film narratives, they may function to constitute that psychological realism of character which is a mark of the classic narrative. ( My ephasis: Kuhn Annette. 1982. Women’s Pictures: 37).
  • * Mobile framing*. This effect can be produced by different camera movements and can produce a narrative meaning in several ways. A zoom-in can emphasise detail which can be read as bearing a particular significance within the narrative. Camera movements can also move the plot along through panning and tracking.
  • Editing. Mainstream cinema has institutionalised a set of rules for editing. The normal Hollywood system of editing is called ‘continuity editing’ which ensures through making careful cuts that the production is as seamless as possible thus making the system of production invisible and creating a coherent fictional world into which the spectator is drawn. Various ellipses of space and time achieved by fades or cuts will move the plot along. Not all film-making follows this convention see Jump cut.
  • * Narrative conventions*. All narrative genres have conventions by which the narrative is governed. A road movie for example implies discovery, the obtaining of some self-knowledge. Usually the main protagonist / s are male. Usually the movie follows an ordered sequence of events which inexorably lead to a bad end (Easy Rider: Dennis Hopper : 1969) or a reasonable outcome ( Paris Texas: Wim Wenders: 1984). Thelma and Louise ( Ridley Scott : 1991) controversially undermined the male aspects of the road movie genre. It achieved this by having the main protagonists being women escaping from differing, but oppressive, backgrounds. It also showed that a variety of all those things conventionally conceived of as ‘liberating’ from male perspective were male constructions and coded as such. This film reverses the dominant genre conventions of coding outside space as nature / feminine. By comparison men in the film are sometimes coded in domestic / feminine space. The ending of Thelma and Louise was controversial, but by neither showing death, prison nor some-kind of compromise return to their respective roles in life, nor by escaping to another country the film showed the current impossibility of escaping from gender relations which privilege men in this society.
  • Evolving conventions. Genre isn’t static. A genre and the conventions which govern it evolve over time and are transformed through a complex interaction of economic, technological, political, social and cultural factors . Part of the work of genre analysis is to establish these factors. Think of what conventions have changed in the genres you have chosen to study. (See also Genre cycle).

Connotations. Connotations are associations with words or concepts have for a reader of a text. High production values such as glossy paper can connote sophistication and glamour. This is why expensive shops and products have very sophisticated types of packaging. Hollywood cinema has made its reputations on high production values such as seamless editing and very expensive sets etc. The way in which Hollywood products are promoted are also dependent upon high production values to make audiences think they are getting more than they probably are. This is why anything up to half the cost of the actual film can be devoted to marketing, promotion and advertising. This helps Hollywood dominate the film market and makes it hard for independent companies to compete.

Conventions. See also Codes and Conventions. Conventions are established procedures within a particular form of media ( painting, film , novel etc) which are identifiable by both the producer of the artefact and their audiences. Conventions are thus conventions can be understood as agreements between the producer and audience. These will sometimes remain fairly static and at other times there will be moments of strong challenge to these conventions. The French nouvelle vague can be understood as challenging a range of cinematic conventions.

Convergence. This is the current process whereby new media and communications technologies are changing not only our media equipment but changing the ways old media institutions have worked. It is also globalising and changing our systems of gaining knowledge. The process is still in transition with new developments rapidly emerging. In a few years these processes will have matured and will be less dynamic.

Costume. While it is a variety of prop it is specifically linked with specific characters as well as contributing to the general setting. Changes in costume can be used as indicators of changes of attitude, status, time and place.

CNC. Centre Nationale de la Cinematographie. The French state organisation that oversees film policy issues including subsidy ones.

Critical Realism. In East German cinema critical realism was a popular aesthetic amongst the filmmakers. ‘Inspired by the films of Italian directors, the approach may be described as an East German variant of neorealism. It observes rather than leads, offers a realistic depiction of controversial issues and opens them up for debate’ (Claus, Horst. 2002 p 140).

Cultural Citizenship. Cultural citizenship is about access to systems of representation within the arts and media to ensure that all have the knowledge and capabilities to represent themselves. Also see citizenship.

Culture Industry. The term is used to designate organisations that produce ‘popular’ culture such as TV, Radio, books magazines, newspapers and popular music. It is now extended to beauty salons and hairdressing salons as well as museums and galleries and sports organisations and events. They are of growing importance in Western society. Contemporary everyday life is filled with images as part of the output of the cultural industries. The first people to properly identify the Culture Industry were the Frankfurt School social scientists Adorno and Horkheimer. They were very critical of these industries seeing them as being ideologically controlling particularly of the poorest people offering false hopes and imaginaries. Adorno was extremely critical of social scientists who were colluding in this growing ideological industry. He had originally had a post in New York when he was forced to emigrate from Germany by the Nazis. The post was concerned with developing social scientific methods for identifying and creating audiences for media industries. See also Media and Culture Industries.

Cultural effects theory. This suggests that how the audience or audiences of a text are positioned will have a significant impact upon how they interpret that text.

Cut. TAF). This is used in film and TV to change a shot from one place or viewpoint to another. See film editing and shot, It is achieved by splicing two pieces of film together. There are a range of different cuts which can achieve quite different visual effects. Cuts give a film its rhythm. Getting the tempo right is essential. The editor often works with the director to make a rough cut or director’s cut. Further adjustments are then made often after audience research has been carried out on the endings of Hollywood films before the final cut is made.

  • Continuity Cut. These cuts take the viewer seamlessly and logically from one sequence to another moving along the narrative.
  • Cross cuts. These cuts are used to alternate between two sequences or scenesthat are occurring in different spaces but at the same time. Normally these are used to create a feeling of suspense. As such they are frequently used in genres such as action adventure, the western, thrillers and gangster films.
  • Cutaways. These shots take the viewer away from the main scene of the action. They are often used as a transition before cutting into the next sequence or scene. For example: in a court scene the day’s proceeedings are coming to an end, there is a cutaway shot to the outside of the courthouse, then a cut to the next day nside a lawyer’s office.
  • Jump cut. This cut demonstrates a jump in time and disrupts the ‘normal’ continuity editing. It was used as a device by several internationally famous directors during the 1920s and then dropped out of fashion. The development of sound played a major contribution in overwhelming a more diverse range of styles. French directors in the 1960s such as Louis Malle, Fraoncois Truffaut and most famously Jean-Luc Godard used this editing style. Godard’s first feature film a bout de souffle / Breathless is best known for this. The jump cut calls attention to the constructed reality of the filmic text, to the spectator’s ongoing labour of generating a fictional world out of often contradictory stylistic cues, and to Godard’s own expressive, auteur presence. (Editor emphasis, Neupert, 2002 p 216).
  • Match cuts. These are the exact opposite of the jump cut. These cuts make sure there is a spatial-visual logic between the differently positioned shots within a scene. Where the camera moves to and the angle of the camera make visual sense to the spectator. See also eye-line matching.

Deconstruction.

Deep Focus Cinematography.

DEFA. Deutsche Film AG. The state controlled film production, distribution and exhibition company in East Germany (GDR) from 1946 – 1993. See also UFA

Denotation. This is a straightforward relationship between a sign and its referent. The word cat and the photograph of a cat both denote a particular type of animal.

Deterritorialised. This expression is often related to genres which are feminised. They tend not to concentrate on territory in the same way that war films, westerns and other more masculinised genres have.

Dialectical. This is fundamental to Eisenstein’s theory of montage Originating in Hegel’s philosophy the idea centres around the point that an original thesis exists. This is in collision with an antithesis. The outcome of this collision of opposite ideas results in the creation of something entirely new. This is known as the synthesis.

Diegesis / Diagetic. This refers to the content of the narrative which is happening on the screen. This includes the sound , actions of the characters etc. All of these occur naturally within the fictional world of the film. Frequently films use non- diegetic devices for dramatic effects or to inform the audience about something which the characters themselves don’t know:

  • Intra-diegetic sound. This is a sound from a person the audience doesn’t see but whose presence we know exists in the story. There is a disembodied voice. Mildred Pierce 1945 has many examples of this through flashback. Often the character’s voice goes intra-diegetic announcing a flashback acconpanied by a visual dissolve ‘it was yesterday when…’. Flash backs are also intra-diegetic in the sense that they interrupt the narrative flow of the present.
  • Non-diegetic sound by comparison is where there is voice-over or else a soundtrack which heightens the emotional effects on the audience but isn’t present in the on-screen world at all.

Digital Distribution. The opportunities for the makers of short films to be distributed via internet streaming are improving all the time. The most recent deal to allow streaming of independent shorts was made between the Sundance film Festival Organisers and iTunes the Content Management software system owned by Apple as this BBC report of 12 / 01 / 07 notes.

Digital divide. A very important social and cultural concept of the ‘information age’. This term refers to those who have access to a wide range of digital communications systems in terms of cost and knowledge and those who are excluded from this. It is becoming a serious problem of citizenship.

Digital Versatile Disc / DVD. A disc which although the same size as a CD can hold many times the amount of data due to a combination of more sophisticated data compression systems, the ability to store and retrieve data from different levels of the disc. This means that moving images can be stored in a way which is more permanent than tape and maintains its quality over time, whereas tape particles lose their magnetism and lose details. Research is going on to more than double the storage capacity of the current DVD’s by using different laser technologies. The ‘versatility’ referred to in the name means that the equipment incorporates technical standards which means that digital information relating to images – static or moving sounds or text can be stored and retrieved. New standards of quality have been developed and consumers are faced with both Blu-Ray from a consortium led by Sony and HD-DVD (High definition DVD), led by Toshiba. Already third party players are bringing out players which can playback both. (Beginning of 2007)

Discourse. Textual analysis often uses the term discourse to deconstruct or look at the way a text works. This means that the analyst identifies the various discourses present in a text and makes that clear for the reader. A discourse provides a framework of language to construct a particular kind of knowledge on a topic. Discourses organise our thoughts and try to make a closure that is to close off other ways of thinking about a topic. For example, cinematography which continuously sexualises women through voyeuristic techniques is a visual discourse. This can be seen as part of a wider discursive field in which the institution of cinema discriminates against women. A discourse is not a description of reality but a way of ‘fixing’ the topic or constructing a form of social reality in a biased way. Different discourses can therefore change our views of the nature of social reality.

Dissolve: see Editing

Dollying / Tracking Shot (TAF) see camera movements.

DVD. See Digital Versatile Disc.

DVD Recordable. A new breed of domestic machines has now appeared which can record TV or films in DVD format. Whilst currently still very expensive it is probable that they will replace the Video Cassette Recorder in most households in 5 years time. (In fact first written 3 years ago the price has dropped dramatically and video-recorders are fast-disappearing) They can record digital radio signals as well. There is not currently a standardised format which makes things difficult for consumers.


December 30, 2006

French Cinema: Some Good Websites

French Cinema 1945 – 1970 (Open Studies Spring 2006)

Below are a range of websites gathered for the above mentioned course run in Spring 2006 which deal with many of the areas covered in the course. It is by no means comprehensive but opens up a range of portals into an evergrowing range of research, commentary and and discussion now availale via the web.

I haven’t analysed these sites in any great depth so no there are no particualr recommendations. The Senses of Cinema site has many good articles. When this list was complied a few months ago there was a free chapter on the New Wave available at the Blackwells site so I recommend downloading it if possible.

The Sites

http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Cinema/4355/index.html

http://www.mastersofcinema.org/bresson/

http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/jeanrenoir/FilmDirectors.htm

http://www.thejetty.org/

http://www.maurice-pialat.net/

http://mapage.noos.fr/e.rohmer/

http://www.sensesofcinema.com/links.html

http://www.cadrage.net/

http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC02folder/auteur2.html

http://www.questia.com/library/communication/media-studies/film/national-cinemas/french-cinema.jsp?CRID=french_cinema&OFFID=se1&KEY=french_cinema&LID=15170594

http://javari.com/javari/archive.truffaut.htm

http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/cteq/05/35/my_night_at_mauds.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Rouch

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Marker

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alain_Resnais

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_and_Fog_%28movie%29

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prix_Jean_Vigo

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinema_of_France

http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2584/is_n1_v15/ai_16922293

http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/content/BPL_Images/Content_store/Sample_chapter/0631226575/001.pdf
(This is a whole sample chapter onthe New wave highly recommended)

http://film.guardian.co.uk/News_Story/Guardian/0,4029,638924,00.html

http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/film/scopearchive/articles/how-queer.htm

http://www.kinema.uwaterloo.ca/bachm952.htm

http://www.newi.ac.uk/humanities/dir5/souffle.htm

http://reason.com/9807/fe.cowen.shtml

http://frenchfilms.topcities.com/index2.html


December 12, 2006

Using the Sidebar

Introduction to using the sidebar

As the sidebar is now very busy it might be helpful for you to have an idea of the lay out until you are familiar with it. also many of you may only have an interest in certain parts.

Section 1

  • Calendar – Self expalanatory
  • Radio 3 Link – This will get you into BBC Radio Player. I like catching up with things like Mixing it and Late Junction
  • Search this blog – self explantory
  • TagsVERY IMPORTANT: Just click on one and it will aggregate all tagged articles with this tag. The tags are the best way to navigate around the articles and call up ones written early on. Please drop a comment in the relevant box if you think a tag needs adding anywhere.
  • Latest Comments – this allows myslf and others to monitor comments and discussions quickly
  • Most Recent Entries – Self explanatory

Section 2: European Cinema

The next section from the BFI film Glossary goes through a range of:
  • Image galleries which are always being developed
  • Podcasts
  • Feeds
  • Useful links
  • There are also 2 links to good film message boards

There are various levels of knowledge required for different entries however it is the intention to aim for a broader readership encouraging those of a more theoretical bent to follow up with various films books and websites. Many of the links are to sophisticated articles that are available on line. If you find them hard don’t worry we all did once. Stick with what you are comfortable with. There is something for everybody here from A level to postgrad.

The entries on British cinema shouold be helpful for OCR A Level Students doing British cinema post 1990. It is also likely to help AS Film Studies students. The work on German Cinema and French and Italian cinema as it gets transferred onto the blog will help A2 Film Studies students doing FS 5.

Section 3: New Media Technologies

This subject is endlessly fascinating and there is little doubt as Web 2 progresses with developments such as the Second Life phenomenon will start to deeply change our social ontology or beingness in the world partially constructed through media.

This selection of feeds and stories even includes the news organisation Reuters who conduct virtual interviews with important people in Second Life. making ‘Virtually Real News!’ This is an important resource area for all OCR AS Media Studies students doing the ‘Audiences and Institutions’ New Media option.

Section 4: News Feeds and Podcasts

This is both a service to visitors providing up to date news as it breaks while you are onsite. It is of particular use to OCR A2 students doing the News option as it affords easy chances to compare the news strategies of different news organisations and functions as a practical case study of how news is being distributed in a Web 2 era.

Section 5:

this features what I consider as good quality blogs linked to the categories above. There is a folder of New Media based blogs and also one for European Cinema or Blogs which have a very high content of European cinema.

Methods for choosing links

There are many many websites and blogs etc on the above subjects. A key objective of this site is to try and filter out weakly researched and written sites. There is a premium on quality and there is a life beyond IMDB. Life is too short to keep filtering out spam. If you find that any sites you have visited from embedded links on this site please leave a comment. The site in question will be reviewed.


December 09, 2006

Open Studies in European Cinema: French Cinema Bibliography

Introduction

This bibliography is not meant to be a comprehensive one. It emanates from the two French Cinema Open Studies Courses that I run as part of the European Cinema Series. Many of the Manchester University Press Director series have no dates as many were unavailable after I had written the bibliography. As the course has run and different ones are in the cycle I haven’t had the time to check it up. They may now be back in print and you can check their website here.

A future development will be to provide readers with some guidance on the levels of knowledge and familiarity with film and cultural theory needed to understand the books. Some are introductory and more general whilst some a very complex.

French Cinema Bibliography

Armes, Roy. 1985. French Cinema. London: Secker and Warburg
Aumont, Jaques. 2000 2nd ed. ‘The Fall of the Gods: Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Mepris (1963)’. Hayward, Susan and Vincendeau, Ginette.eds. French Film: Texts and Contexts. London: Routledge
Austen, Guy. ? . Claude Chabrol. Manchester: Manchester University Press
Austen, Guy. 1996. Contemporary French Cinema. Manchester: Manchester University Press
Beugnet, Martine. ?. Claire Denis. Manchester: Manchester University Press
Boston, Richard. Boudu Saved From Drowning. London: BFI
Burch, Noel and Sellier, Genevieve. 2000. ‘Evil Women in the Post-war French Cinema’. Sieglohr, Ulrike.ed. Heroines Without Heroes. London: Cassell
Condron, Anne Marie. 1997. ‘’Cinema’ . Perry, Sheila.Ed. Aspects of Contemporary France. London : Routledge
Darke, Chris. 2005.Alphaville. London: I. B. Tauris. ISBN 1-85043-986-9
Douchet, Jean. 1999. French New Wave. New York: Distributed Art Publishers
Dowd, Garin & Dalel, Fergus. ? . Leos Carax. Manchester: Manchester University Press
Downing, Lisa. ? . Patrice Leconte. Manchester: Manchester University Press
Ezra, Elizabeth. ? . Georges Melies
Flitterman-Lewis, Sandy. 1996. To Desire Differently: Feminism and the French Cinema. New York: Columbia University Press
Forbes, Jill. 2000. ‘La Haine’. In Forbes, Jill and Street, Sarah. European Cinema: An Introduction. London: Palgrave
Forbes, Jill. Les Enfants du Paradise. London: BFI
Forbes , Jill. 1992 . The Cinema in France After the New Wave. Basingstoke : Macmillan
Gillain, Anne. 2000 2nd ed. ‘The Script of Delinquency: Francois Truffaut’s Les 400 coups (1959). Hayward, Susan and Vincendeau, Ginette.eds. French Film: Texts and Contexts. London: Routledge
Graham , Peter. 1997. ‘ New directions in French Cinema’. Nowell – Smith Geoffrey Ed :Oxford History of World Cinema :Oxford: Oxford University Press
Greene, Naomi.2007. The French New Wave: A New Look. London: Wallflower Press
Greene, Naomi. Landscapes of Loss: The National Past in Postwar French Cinema. Princeton: Princeton University Press
Grey, Hugo. ? . Louis Malle. Manchester: Manchester University Press
Harris, Sue. ? . Blier Bertrand. Manchester: Manchester University Press
Hayes, Graeme. 1999. ‘Representation, Masculinity, Nation: The Crises of Les Amant du Pont-Neuf (Carax 1991).’ Powrie, Phil. Ed. French Cinema in the 1990s: Continuity and Difference. Oxford: OUP
Hayward, Susan. 2000 2nd ed. ‘Beyond the Gaze and into femme filmcriture: Agnes Varda’s Sans toit ni loit’. Hayward, Susan and Vincendeau, Ginette.eds.French Film: Texts and Contexts. London: Routledge
Hayward, Susan. 1993. French National Cinema. London: Routledge
Hayward, Susan. 2006. Les Diaboliques. London: I. B. Tauris. ISBN 1-84511-102-8
Hayward, Susan. ? .Luc Besson. Manchester: Manchester University Press
Hayward, Susan. 2002. ‘Luc Besson’. Tasker, Yvonne. ed. Fifty Contemporary Filmmakers : Routledge: London
Hayward, Susan. 2000 2nd ed. ‘Recycled woman and the postmodern aesthetic: Luc Besson’s Nikita (1990). Hayward, Susan and Vincendeau, Ginette.eds. French Film: texts and contexts. London: Routledge
Hayward, Susan and Vincendeau, Ginette.eds. 2000 2nd ed. French Film: Texts and Contexts. London: Routledge
Holmes, Diana & Ingram, Robert. ? . Francois Truffaut. Manchester: Manchester University Press
Hughes, Alex and Williams James S. Eds. 2001. Gender and French Cinema. Oxford: Berg
Hughes, Alex and Williams, James S. 2001. ‘ Introduction’. Hughes, Alex and Williams, James S. Eds. Gender and French Cinema. Oxford: Berg
Ince, Kate. ? .George Franju. Manchester: Manchester University Press
Jackel, Anne. 1996. ‘ European Co-production Strategies: the Case of France and Britain’. Moran, Albert Ed. Film Policy. London: Routledge
Jackson, Julian. 2001. France the Dark Years. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Jeancolas, Jean-Pierre. 2000 2nd ed. ‘Beneath the despair, the show goes on: Marcel Carne’s Les Enfants du paradis (1943-45). Hayward, Susan and Vincendeau, Ginette.eds. French Film: Texts and Contexts. London: Routledge
Kaplan, Nelly. Napoleon. London: BFI
Kedward, H. R. 2000.’The Anti-Carnival of Collaboration’. Hayward, Susan and Vincendeau, Ginette.eds. French Film: Texts and Contexts. London: Routledge
Konstantarakos, Myrto. 1999.’Which Mapping of the City? La Haine (Kassovitz, 1995) and the cinema de banlieue.’ Powrie, Phil. Ed. French Cinema in the 1990s: Continuity and Difference. Oxford: OUP
Tarr, Carrie. ? . Kurys, Diane. Manchester: Manchester University Press
Lanzoni, Remi. 2002. French Cinema: From Its Beginnings to the Present. London: Continuum
Leahy Sarah and Hayward Susan. 2000. ‘The Tainted Woman: Simone Signoret, Site of Pathology or Agent of Retribution?’ Sieglohr, Ulrike.ed. Heroines Without Heroes. London: Cassell
Liebman, Stuart, Ed.2007. _Claude Lanzman’s Shoah: Key Essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press
MacCabe Colin. 2004. Godard: A portrait of the artist at 70. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 0-7475-7794-3
Marie, Michel. 2003. (Trans Neupert) The French New Wave, an Artistic School. Oxford: Blackwell
Marie, Michel. 2000 2nd ed. ‘”It really does make you sick!’: Jean-Luc Godard’s A bout de souffle (1959)”. Hayward, Susan and Vincendeau, Ginette.eds. French Film: Texts and Contexts. London: Routledge
Morrey, Douglas. 2005. Jean-Luc Godard. Manchester: Manchester University Press
Neupert, Richard.2002. A History of the French New Wave Cinema. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press
O’ Shaunessy, Martin. ? . Jean Renoir. Manchester: Manchester University Press
Perry, Sheila.Ed.1997. Aspects of Contemporary France. London : Routledge
Powrie, Phil. Ed. 1999.French Cinema in the 1990s: Continuity and Difference. Oxford: OUP
Powrie, Phil. 1999. ‘Heritage, History, and ‘New Realism’: French Cinema in the 1990s’. Powrie, Phil. Ed.French Cinema in the 1990s: Continuity and Difference. Oxford: OUP
Powrie, Phil. ? . Jean-Jaques Beneix. Manchester: Manchester University Press
Powrie, Phil. 2002. ‘Jean-Jaques Beneix’. Tasker, Yvonne. Ed. Fifty Contemporary Filmakers. London: Routledge
Predal, R. 1991. Le Cinema Francais depuis 1945. Paris Nathan
Reader, Keith. ? . Robert Bresson.
Reader, Keith. 2002. ‘Laisser-passer’. Sight and Sound Volume 12 Issue 11, pp 49-50
Rollet, Brigitte. ? .Coline Serreau. Manchester: Manchester University Press
Sellier, Genevieve. 2001. ‘Gender, Modernism and Mass Culture in the New Wave.’ Hughes, Alex and Williams, James S. Eds. Gender and French Cinema. Oxford: Berg
Smith, Alison. ? .Agnes Varda. Manchester: Manchester University Press
Sorlin, Pierre. 2000 2nd ed. ‘A breath of sea air: Jacques Tati’s Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (1952). Hayward, Susan and Vincendeau, Ginette.eds. French Film: Texts and Contexts. London: Routledge
Tarr, Carrie. 1999. ‘Ethnicity and Identity in the cinema de banlieue’. Powrie, Phil. Ed. French Cinema in the 1990s: Continuity and Difference. Oxford: OUP
Thompson, David. 2003. ‘Lust for Life’. Sight and Sound. August Vol 13 / Issue 8, pp 30-33
Van der Knaap, Ewout, Ed. 2006. Uncovering the Holocaust: The International Reception of *Night and Fog*. London: Wallflower Press
Vincendeau, Ginette. 2003. ‘Ageing Cool’. Sight and Sound. September, Vol 13 Issue 9 pp 26-28
Vincendeau, Ginette. 2000 2nd ed. ‘Designs on the banlieu: Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine (1995). Hayward, Susan and Vincendeau, Ginette.eds. French Film: Texts and Contexts. London: Routledge
Vincendeau, Ginette. 2003. Jean-Pierre Melville. London: BFI
Vincendeau, Ginette. 1998. Pepe le Moko. London: BFI
Vincendeau, Ginette. 1997. ‘The Popular Art of French Cinema’. Nowell – Smith Geoffrey Ed :Oxford History of World Cinema . Oxford: Oxford University Press
Vincendeau, Ginette. 2000. Stars and Stardom in French Cinema. London: Continuum
Vincendeau, Ginette. ‘White Collar Blues’. Sight and Sound Volume 12 Issue 4, pp 30-32. ( on Laurent Cantet)
Warner, Mary. 1993. L’Atalante. London. London : BFI
Williams, Alan. 1992. Republic of Images: A History of French Filmaking. Cambridge Mass. : Harvard


December 05, 2006

Open Studies in European Cinema: Webliography

Introduction

This ‘Webliography’ is being continually updated. If users have any suggestions please post a comment with the relevant URL. Thank you. Please note some links may already be available in the site already.

When the list is long enough they will be placed in categories such as film journals.
Useful web links

16-9 Danish Film Journal for more scholarly market. Mainly in Danish but each issue has an article in English

The following link to site of American academic Randall L. Bytwerk is very useful for work on Nazi propaganda.

This is a link to a useful BFI Bibliography on Contemporary European Cinema which is a downloadable Pdf.

Scope is an online cinema journal from the University of Nottingham

For articles primarily on Eastern Europe comes Kinoeye (no relation to the blog but with similar critical antecedants perhaps).

Images: A Journal of Film and Popular Culture

Popculutres.com Film

Genre Theory course. Much material available on line.

Link to University of Zaragoza academics group currently working on genre issues:
http://ccs.filmculture.net/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1
Cinema, Culture and Society Portal – Home


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