Heritage The Look Women Beurs Banlieue Le Jeune Cinema

There were major changes in the production and distribution of films during the late 1970s and early 1980s, which had a significant impact on the cinema. Some of these changes were common to other developed countries in Europe. Amongst these, there was the rise of TV co-productions, in particular with the encrypted channel Canal+, which unlike its counterpart in the UK, Channel 4, was almost exclusively devoted to films; other major channels such as TF1 and FR3 became associated with film production, alongside Canal+. The effect on films was that an increasing number of them were conceived from the outset for screening on the small rather than the big screen, leading to what was called a 'televisualisation' of the cinema.

A second major change, which occurred in other countries as well, was the rise of the multiplex. This had started as early as the beginning of the 1970s, supported by state funding. However, in the mid-1980s, Pathe and Gaumont, the main distributors in France, came to an agreement that led to the expansion of such complexes. A greater number of film theatres meant that distributors were less likely to take risks, and would screen the same film throughout the country with a vast advertising campaign, leading to ever more expensive films. This at least had the merit of concentrating resources in the national products, which were then, arguably, in a better position to vie with Hollywood films.

The third major change was the shift by French audiences away from the national product to the increasingly globalised and even more heavily marketed Hollywood product. In 1986/87, for the first time in the history of the French cinema, there were more French audiences watching Hollywood films than French films. Unsurprisingly, this led to the gradual waning of the more popular French genres such as the police thriller and the comedy. In their place came new genres in the 1980s, which, with the exception of mainstream heritage films, one could call the 'cinemas of the marginal', suggesting that French cinema, much like the French press, was diversifying in an attempt to find niche audiences, at the very same time as it was being absorbed, one might argue, by the curious phenomenon of the Hollywood remake. Remakes are of course a frequent phenomenon in the history of the French cinema. However, whereas there are some 20 Hollywood remakes in the period 1930-1950, dropping even more in the next 30 years when there were

only six, there was a marked increase in the last 20 years of the century, with some 34 remakes, most of them being comedies. This led many commentators, on both sides of the Atlantic, to talk about the inferior quality of the remakes as well as the paucity of the industries that somehow could not manage to find outlets in any other way. What it signals, rather more importantly perhaps, is the increasingly globalised nature of some film-making, as we shall see when we allude to particular directors such as Besson and Jeunet, although it would be equally important to recognise the attempts by certain French stars to make a career in the USA. Isabelle Adjani began early in The Driver (Hill, 1978), returning to the USA for Ishtar (May, 1987). The other major star, Gérard Depardieu, just failed to get an Oscar nomination for Green Card (Weir, 1990), but reprised his role as the father in Veber's Mon Père ce héros (1991) in the Hollywood remake, My Father the Hero (Miner, 1994), as well as acting in a number of other transatlantic films, such as playing Columbus in Ridley Scott's 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992) or Porthos in The Man in the Iron Mask (Wallace, 1998). The move across to the USA was not confined to the two major stars, however. Emmanuelle Béart had a significant part in Mission Impossible (de Palma, 1996), Sophie Marceau was the French Princess in Braveheart (Gibson, 1995) and, more recently, Juliette Binoche starred alongside Johnny Depp as a mixer of heady chocolate potions in Chocolat (Hallstrôm, 2000).

Despite these moves by stars in the last decade of the century, suggesting the increasing visibility of the French industry abroad, directors associated with the New Wave or with the 1970s continued to produce films of great interest and quality, and it is worth reviewing their output before turning to the new types of cinema more readily associated with the 1980s and 1990s.

The most emblematic director of the New Wave, TrufFaut, died in 1984, but not before producing several major films, one of which heralds the mid-1980s emergence of what has come to be called heritage cinema, Le Dernier métro (1980). Godard's films during the 1980s were frequently deconstructions of well-known stories or genres: the Carmen story in Prénom: Carmen (1983); the myth of the Virgin Mary in Je vous salue Marie (1983); the police thriller in Détective (1984); and King Lear in the film of the same name (1987). If these films seemed increasingly hermetic, his ten-year documentary project on the history of the cinema (Histoire(s) du cinéma, 1989/1998) is one of the more remarkable outputs by a film director who is perhaps less a film director than a cultural critic or, as he has often put it, an essayist in film. Varda continued to make largely short films, though Sans toit ni loi (1983) features one of the period's most remarkable female performances, from Sandrine Bonnaire, who also features in two of Rivette's more recent films, the two-part story of Joan of Arc, Jeanne la Pucelle (1994), and the corporate crime drama

Secret Défense (1998). Rivette's more remarkable achievement in this period, however, is the long film about the creative process, La Belle Noiseuse (1991), starring Emmanuelle Béart and Michel Piccoli, which won several prizes, including the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes that year.

Rohmer, perhaps the most literary of the old New Wave directors, continued the light touch with heavy dialogue in a number of award-winning films concentrating on relationships, usually between young people. These sometimes irritate, particularly when Rohmer allows his actors to improvise, as in the case of Pauline à la plage (1983) or Le Rayon Vert (1986), but more often than not elicit remarkable performances, as was the case with Pascale Ogier in Les Nuits de la pleine lune (1984). During the 1990s, Rohmer completed a cycle of four films, the Contes des quatre saisons.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Resnais worked with what was essentially a repertory group of actors - Fanny Ardant, Pierre Arditi, Sabine Azéma and André Dussollier - in a number of films scripted by Jean Gruault (who had scripted many of the great films of the New Wave directors): La Vie est un roman (1983), L'Amour à mort (1984), Mélo (1986). The last of these was the adaptation of a stage play, as were Resnais's major films of the 1990s, the Alan Ayckbourn adaptations Smoking/No Smoking (1993). His most talked-about film of the 1990s was the comedy musical tribute to UK playwright Dennis Potter, On connaît la chanson (1977), scripted by one of the key partnerships of then current French cinema, Jean-Pierre Bacri and Agnès Jaoui.

If we turn to directors who came to prominence in the 1970s, Maurice Pialat's career took off after Loulou (1980). This was followed by what is perhaps one of the key films of the 1980s, A nos amours (1983), the analysis of a dysfunctional family, headed by a father, played by Pialat himself, and focusing on his daughter, played by Sandrine Bonnaire, who has many transient sexual encounters. As with his previous film, this is a trenchant critique of the amoralism of French society, and in particular of French youth, acting as an interesting counterpoint to similar concerns, at least narratively, in the cinéma du look, which we shall consider below. In Police (1985), Depardieu plays a cop who falls for a gangster's moll, the theme again being problematic identities in an increasingly amoral society. Bonnaire and Depardieu teamed up with Pialat in his hard-hitting adaptation of Bernanos's novel, Sous le soleil de Satan (1987), which won the Golden Palm at Cannes. His Van Gogh (1991) won the actor Jacques Dutronc a César award.

Blier, much like Pialat, produced two key films during the 1980s, both starring Depardieu. In Tenue de soirée (1986), Depardieu plays a gay burglar, and in Trop belle pour toi (1989), he plays a businessman happily married to a beautiful wife (played by Chanel model Carole Bouquet), who falls for his dumpy secretary, played by Josiane Balasko. If Pialat's 1980s films with their melodramatic realism questioned youth identities, Blier's films, founded, as his earlier films had been, on provocative black humour, questioned the fragility of male identity. His 1990s films, the first three of which star the woman who was to become his partner, Anouk Grinberg, and who is regularly abused in these films, did less well, their provocative misogyny now out of kilter with the times.

The other major 1970s director whose career took off in the 1980s was Tavernier. His solid craftsmanship was probably been best illustrated by the postFirst World War drama La Vie et rien d'autre (1989), in which his work with Philippe Noiret reached an apotheosis and which figured one key development in the 1980s and 1990s, the tendency to evoke (some would say 'retreat into') the past. This has become known generically as the heritage film, one of the most dominant genres in the 1980s, as elsewhere in Europe (see Vincendeau, 2001). Period films with high production values and based on literary masterpieces (the more obvious hallmarks of the genre) had appeared before. This was particularly the case in the 1950s, in the tradition de qualité films so detested by Truffaut; but it was also the case in the early 1980s, as can be seen with Tavernier's homage to the tradition de qualité, Un dimanche à la campagne (1984), for example, based on a short novel by one of the main screenwriters of the tradition de qualité, Pierre Bost, or the European co-production Un amour de Swann (Schlondorff, 1983), based on part of Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu. Nevertheless, the heritage genre proper could be said to have established itself with the immensely popular Claude Berri films Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources. Berri's films both appeared in 1986, based on a novel by Marcel Pagnol; another Pagnol pair appeared in 1990, Yves Robert's La Gloire de mon père and Le Château de ma mere. Much like Merchant and Ivory in the UK industry, however, it is Berri who stands out as the main director of heritage films in France, with Uranus (1990) and Germinal (1993) amongst others. Jean-Paul Rappeneau directed two popular heritage films, Cyrano de Bergerac (1990), an adaptation of Rostand's nineteenth-century verse play, which enjoyed immense worldwide success, and Le Hussard sur le toit (1995). The latter is based on a historical novel by the regionalist writer Jean Giono, whose fiction has frequently been adapted to the screen, especially by Marcel Pagnol during the 1930s. This nexus of authors and films shows how the early 1980s heritage films are imbued with nostalgia for the golden age of the cinema, as well as the golden age of a rural France untainted by rapid post-war industrialisation and the alienation of increasing urbanisation in the 1980s and 1990s.

That said, the heritage films of the 1990s, Germinal and Le Hussard sur le toit among them, seem much darker in tone than the earlier films, suggesting a distinctive evolution of the genre on a formal level, and, socially, a disaffection with Mitterrandism, which, as we shall see, surfaces differently in another key development of the 1980s, the cinéma du look. A key film here is Germinal, seen at the time as the epitome of French cinema, largely because its release coincided with the epitome of US cultural imperialism, Spielberg's Jurassic Park, as well as with the acrimonious GATT negotiations that ended with a victory for the French, who claimed that state support for the film industry was not unlawful protectionism, but essential to safeguard French cinema. Significantly in this respect, Germinal's premiere was very publicly supported by political figures, turning it into an icon of 'Frenchness'. And yet, the film is curiously heavy and dour when compared with previous versions of the story. Grimy, exhausted miners with little hope of a decent life were as nothing, however, compared to the flavour of other early 1990s heritage films, such as Angelo's Le Colonel Chabert (1994), with its opening shots of piles of military corpses, or Chéreau's remake in 1994 of Dréville's La Reine Margot (1954) with its thousands of assassinated Protestants in sixteenth-century Paris, or Le Hussard sur le toit with its vomiting, raven-pecked plague victims.

The heritage film developed still further during the 1990s with, first, all in 1992, three very different films with one subject in common, French Indochina, suggesting a gradual working through of French sensibilities relating to the loss of empire. These were L'Amant (Annaud), a soft-porn rendering of an autobiographical text by Marguerite Duras; Indochine (Wargnier), a star vehicle for Catherine Deneuve; and LHên Bien Phu (Schoendoerffer), a well-meaning quasi-documentary on the last days of French Indochina, like Germinal publicly supported by high-profile political figures (in this case Mitterrand himself). Another development during the early 1990s is what one could call the ironic heritage film, the best example of this being Patrice Leconte's Ridicule (1996). Such inflections of the genre worked alongside a continuation of standard, and indeed high-quality heritage, such as the seventh film version of Dumas's swashbuckler Le Bossu (1997), this time by a director more associated with 1960s and 1970s comedies, Philippe Le Broca.

It was the heritage genre that launched the careers of two major 1980s and 1990s stars, Daniel Auteuil and Emmanuelle Béart, who appeared together in Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources, and who became one of the industry's better-known film couples. Both appeared again in another major heritage film, Wargnier's follow-up to Indochine, Une femme française (1995), which like Claude Sautet's more intimist Un coeur en hiver (1991), is about the breakdown of a couple, fact and fiction mirroring each other as the off-screen pair split up. Auteuil went on to star in a number of heritage films: La Reine Margot, Lucie Aubrac ( 1997, a plodding resistance story by Berri), Le Bossu and, his second film for Leconte after the stylish black and white La Fille sur le pont (1999), La Veuve de Saint-Pierre (2000), where he acted opposite Juliette Binoche. One of the other major female stars of this period, who had started her career in the mid-1970s, Isabelle Adjani, confirmed her status as a star in the heritage biopic, produced by her, Camille Claudel (1988), well before her star performance as the eponymous heroine of La Reine Margot. The heritage genre also confirmed Gérard Depardieu's status as the most popular French star, both at home and abroad, despite his association with auteur cinema (Duras, Resnais, Truffaut) and comedy (Blier, Veber) in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Juliette Binoche, however, the star of Le Hussard sur le toit, emerged from the second new genre of the 1980s, the cinéma du look.

Whereas heritage films can be seen as a resurgence of an older 1950s cinema, the cinéma du look signals a new turn. Inaugurated by Jean-Jacques Beineix's Diva (1981), about a young man's idolisation of an opera singer, this genre is usually seen as grouping together Beineix, Luc Besson, and Léos Carax. Binoche acted in two of Carax's films, Mauvais Sang ( 1986) and Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (1991), about an amour fou between a down-and-out and an artist who is going blind. The films in this group have in common, according to most critics, a preoccupation with style at the expense of narrative. Their most enduring feature, however, is the focus on young people, especially in the films of Besson, and it is this, as well as their preoccupation with colour and décor, that signals the new turn. They demonstrate the resurgence of a romanticism for which the realism of a Tavernier or the cynicism of a Pialat had left no place, and it is no doubt partly for this reason that they were so successful. They were seen as representing the marginalised youth class of the 1980s: their three central films, both in terms of the (French) careers of their directors, and in terms of the decade - Beineix's 37 °2 le matin (1986, more familiarly known as Betty Blue, see Figure 1.5), Besson's Le Grand Bleu (1988) and Carax's Mauvais Sang (1986) - all have alienated central characters, who in one way or another reject society. Just as Diva marks the beginning of this new style, so too does Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (see Figure 1.6), set during the bicentennial celebrations of 1989, mark the end of an era, the consumerist 1980s dominated by a gradual shift in political terms from Socialist hopes at the beginning of the decade to the gradual loss of those hopes as Mitterrand's governments moved to the right. This sense of loss is reflected in the cinéma du look, which, despite its concerns with contemporary youth, frequently, like heritage cinema, alludes to films from earlier periods of French cinema, especially the golden age of the 1930s, as if taking refuge nostalgically in a vanished past (see Greene, 1999). That is less the case with Luc Besson, whose films nevertheless show a turn away from present-day France in his

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Figure 1.6 Les Amants du Pont Neuf

Image Not Available successful move to Hollywood in his 1990s films, Léon (1994) and Le Cinquième Elément (1997). Beineix and Carax, however, who stayed in France, each produced only one feature after the above-mentioned films, Pola X (Carax, 1999) and Mortel Transfert (Beineix, 2001), neither of which seemed particularly in tune with audiences.

A third major development during this period, after heritage cinema and the cinéma du look, is the increasing number of films made by women directors. Apart from Agnès Varda, who has already been mentioned, but whose documentary Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse (2000) is worth mentioning as one of the major films of the new century, the women directors who emerged from the 1970s to develop substantial careers in the 1980s and 1990s are Coline Serreau, Diane Kurys and Josiane Balasko. Serreau is the director of one of the 1980s most popular comedies, Trois hommes et un couffin (1985), remade in Hollywood two years later. Romuald et Juliette (1989) starred Daniel Auteuil as the framed company president who finds help and love in the arms of the company's black cleaning woman. La Crise (1992) starred Vincent Lindon as a man who loses his job and his wife on the same day, is befriended by a loser, and comes to realise that his troubles are self-inflicted. All three of these comedies have an exploration of masculinity at their core. The other major woman director to emerge from the 1970s was Diane Kurys, whose major film of the 1980s is the endearing autobiographical analysis of a female friendship in Coup de foudre (1983); her subsequent films did less well, although La Baule-les-pins (1990), which takes up the autobiographical story where Coup de foudre left off, was the most successful of these. A third woman director to emerge from the 1970s was Josiane Balasko. Unlike the other two, Balasko was an actress who formed part of the main café-théâtre group, Le Splendid. After playing in a number of comedies originating from Le Splendid routines, such as Le Père Noël est une ordure (1982), she directed several comedies in the mid-1980s, before her popular hit, Gazon Maudit ( 1995), a gay/lesbian comedy, whose outed nature could not be more different from the wistfully muted heritage of Kurys's Coup de foudre a decade earlier. Finally, a major woman director of the 1980s and more particularly of the 1990s is Claire Denis. Her autobiographical début, Chocolat (1988), is an exploration of a colonial childhood, and focuses on the fascination of the young girl for the body of her black servant. That fascination for the male body resurfaces in one of the most important films of the 1990s, her adaptation of Herman Melville's novella Billy Budd, set in the Foreign Legion, Beau Travail (1999).

France's greatest social and political problem during the 1980s and 1990s has been immigration, or rather, the difficulty in coping with the tensions between multi-culturalism on the US model, and the more favoured French approach of assimilation of second- and third-generation immigrants, particularly those from the Maghrebi communities. Unsurprisingly, then, a number of films have attempted to fictionalise the issue, by both white and Maghrebi directors. During the 1980s, these films were seen as a distinct trend in French cinema. The best example of this in the 1980s is Mehdi Charef s Le Thé au harem d'Archimède (1985), like many of the beur films (beur being backslang for Arab, and signifying second-and third-generation immigrants). However, it was not until 1994 that Chibane's Hexagone could be called a film by a beur for beurs in the French press. Generally speaking, such films focus on the difficulties faced by young beurs, with racism and unemployment amongst the more obvious. A number of directors emerged during the 1990s working in this area, such as Karim Dridi, whose Bye-Bye (1995) starred Sami Bouajila, along with Sami Naceri one of the few Maghrebi actors to have been accepted in white French cinema, as in the feel-good gay road movie Drôle de Félix (Ducastel and Martineau, 2000).

Heritage films and the cinéma du look are arguably the most significant developments during the 1980s, extending in the case of the former well into the 1990s. What these two genres have in common is an evasion of the increasingly harsh French social reality of their time, whether through a return to the past or, as with Les Amants du Pont-Neuf, an aestheticisation of that harshness. That last remark might, mutatis mutandis, also be applied to Cyril Collard's Les Nuits fauves of 1992, about a promiscuously bisexual photographer, which won notoriety inside and outside France when its director/scriptwriter/star died of an AIDS-related illness four days before the film went on to win four César awards. Les Nuits fauves, with its ostentation, seems to have been very much a one-off. If ostentation survives, it has been in the inheritors of the cinéma du look, the most obvious of these being Jeunet and Caro, who as a pair directed Delicatessen (1991) and La Cité des enfants perdus (1995), before Jeunet went to Hollywood to direct Alien: The Resurrection (1997), paralleling Besson's move to Hollywood and sci-fi with Le Cinquième element. Films with a similar aesthetic have included the Besson-produced and scripted Taxi (Pirès, 1998), followed by the even more successful Taxi 2 (Krawczyk, 2000), and the rather more distasteful Dobermann (Kounen, 1997), which is like a nightmarish version of Besson's Nikita, a resemblance encouraged by the fact that Nikita's Uncle Bob, Tchéky Karyo, has a lead role in both films.

Parallel to these popular films, arguably the key development during the 1990s was the renewed interest in marginalised social groups, but with a distanciation from aetheticisation, and in some cases a distinctive return to the kind of realism associated with Pialat in the 1970s. The films and the directors, after some hesitation over terminology, are now usually referred to as le jeune cinéma. As is usually the case with catch-all terms, this description is not particularly enlightening as it encompasses directors who are not young (Robert Guédiguian, for example, whose films are always set in Marseille), as well as those who are. The more important issue, rather, is the focus on contemporary social problems, with a tendency to focus on the young, on women and on rural communities as much as on the city. This turn is not confined to a younger group of directors, of course. Tavernier, for example, has emerged as a significant director of socially aware films. Apart from his documentaries for French TV on the problem of the banlieues ('De l'autre côté du périph', 1998), he has made a number of films focusing on knotty social issues. In the same year as an extraordinary documentary on the Algerian War (La Guerre sans nom, 1992) - similar in many respects to Lanzmann's influential documentary on the Holocaust, Shoah (1985), using interviews rather than documentary footage - Tavernier directed L627 (1992), a gritty drama about inner-city policing, and, after a number of rather different films, a film focusing on the difficulties of being a teacher in a depressed town of northern France (Ça commence aujourd'hui, 1999).

The shift to rural locations is an interesting feature of the new cinema, although as we shall see, this has to be set next to a continuing engagement, as Tavernier's two films might suggest, with the city. Nevertheless, several films focused, towards the end of the century, on small provincial towns or rural locations. Apart from Ça commence aujourd'hui, there are the films of Bruno Dumont, set in northern France: La Vie de Jésus (1997), which won the Golden Camera award at Cannes, is set near the Belgian border and focuses on the empty lives of out-of-work youngsters who ride their noisy mobylettes frantically round the countryside in a vain attempt to escape boredom; the controversial L'Humanité (1999), set in the same region, is about a detective investigating the rape and murder of a schoolgirl, sex, violence and despair mingling turbulently in what used to be synonymous with nostalgic escape from the city, the countryside.

The key film of this new turn, however, is Matthieu Kassovitz's La Haine (1995), about police brutality and the hopeless lives of young people culturally marooned on estates on the edge of Paris. Its black and white location filming, and the obvious influence of the American cinema (Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee), were an evident reaction against both heritage cinema and the cinéma du look, much as the New Wave had been against the tradition de qualité. La Haine quickly became recognised as the 'flagship' film of a genre within le jeune cinéma, the cinéma de banlieue, a genre represented also by such directors as Jean-François Richet (État des lieux, 1995) and Malik Chibane (Douce France, 1995). Film-makers' growing engagement with the problems of social exclusion and marginalisation in late 1990s France became particularly marked with the mouvement des sans-papiers of 1996-1997. The protests

Image Not Available against the threatened deportation of some 300 Malian 'illegal immigrants' and against proposed legislation - in the event withdrawn - requiring French citizens to notify the police of non-EU citizens staying with them were largely led by figures from the cinema world, including Tavernier and Emmanuelle Béart. The importance of this event is that it was the first time that film-makers as a group had stood together over a political issue. If in practice the solidarity did not last long, as was almost bound to be the case with a single issue of this type, it can now be seen as part of a more general politicisation of the industry, not in terms of party-political politics, nor even in terms of single-issue pressure groups, but in the interest of a new generation of film-makers in social conditions. In the films themselves, this was frequently couched in the kind of realism associated with the Pialat of the 1970s, although it is important to realise that this does not characterise all of the films that have been linked to le jeune cinéma. If Veysset's Yaura-t-il de la neige à Noël? of 1996 does, in its documentary style and grainy camerawork, suggest Pialat's 1970s films, La Haine, by contrast, despite the fact that it is in black and white and focuses on young people in the banlieues, is a much more dramatic, if not melodramatic, film, whose American influences are very explicit, as for example when Vinz acts out Robert de Niro's 'are you looking at me' monologue as the character Travis Bickle in Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976; see the sequence analysis in Chapter 4). Arguably it is Yaura-t-il de la neige à Noël? that can stand as the more emblematic of recent tendencies in the French cinema; it is the tale of a large, and largely single-parent, family on a Provençal farm, whose harshness is more powerful than that of Jean de Florette because it lacks the distanciation of the heritage genre. It won its young female director the Prix Jean Vigo for the best first feature of its year.

Also prominent in le jeune cinéma, which now appears as a foreshadowing of the fell of the Gaullist government the following year, were younger directors such as Laurence Ferreira Barbosa (J'ai horreur de l'amour, 1997) and Brigitte Roiian (Post coitum, animal triste, 1997). These names suggest the greater prominence than at any previous time of woman directors in the industry. Nicole Garcia, Marion Vernoux, Sandrine Veysset, Agnès Merlet and Anne Fontaine are other woman film-makers whose work has attracted widespread attention.

The focus over the last few paragraphs on social-issue films should be recognised as only one of a number of strands making up French cinema at the turn of the century. The heritage film is still a major feature of the industry; recent examples are the rather stodgy Les Enfants du siècle (Kurys, 1999), charting the turbulent relationship between the nineteenth-century novelist George Sand (Juliette Binoche) and her playwright lover, Alfred de Musset (Benôit Magimel, her real-life partner); and Binoche again, with Daniel Auteuil, in Leconte's later heritage film, La Veuve de

Saint-Pierre (2000), in which Binoche plays the wife of the garrison captain who befriends a murderer condemned to death, a friendship that causes the couple's ostracisation and the eventual execution of the captain, who is more committed to his wife than to his duty. There is a further group of films more readily recognisable over the years as 'typically French' intimist analyses of couple or, increasingly, family relationships. Claude Sautet's is an example of this kind of film-making. His career was revived in the 1990s in two films exploring close heterosexual relationships, and both starring Emmanuelle Béart: Un coeur en hiver (1992), which we have already mentioned, and Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud (1995). If the films ofTéchiné also often focus on couple relationships (for example, Alice et Martin, 1999, with Juliette Binoche) even when they seem to focus on the family (the incestuous relationship between brother and sister in Ma saison préférée, 199S), there have been a number of films that deal with the extended family; examples are Klapisch's Un air de famille (1996), starring Bacri and Jaoui, and based on a play by the latter, and Chéreau's Ceux qui m'aiment prendront le train (1999), which explores what happens when the family of a dead man are forced to spend time together at his funeral.

We have covered several genres: the social conscience films, the heritage films, and what are called 'intimist' films. To finish, however, we shall briefly chronicle the success of the popular comedy. Increasingly during the 1990s this genre did less well in the cinema as its popularity increased on the small screen, Les Visiteurs (Poiré, 1993) and its 13 million spectators being something of an exception (see Figure 1.8). However, 2001 marked the first year since 1986 that French audiences went to see more French films than Hollywood films, following a spate of highly successful popular comedies. A Bacri-Jaoui collaboration, Le Goût des autres (2000), an almost perfect illustration of the way in which different classes mark themselves as different through taste, had 3.8 million spectators. La Vérité si je mens 2 (Gilou, 2001), which had 7.8 million spectators, is the sequel to La Vérité si je mens (Gilou, 1997), both films focusing on a Jewish textile community in Paris, 'infiltrated' by a non-Jew in the first film, and focusing on the group of friends and their fight against a supermarket chain in the second. Another sequel, Taxi 2 (Krawczyk, 2000), garnered a staggering 10.3 million spectators, and, finally, there were 9 million spectators for seasoned comedy director Francis Veber's Le Dîner de cons (1998), about a group of friends who meet regularly for dinner with the rule that each must take it in turn to invite an idiot (con) whom the others can make fun of. These films only prove the dictum that the most popular genre in French cinema is the comedy. In 2001, Jeunet's sentimental and nostalgic comedy about a naive girl who decides to take it upon herself to help those around her, Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain (aka Amélie) took France by storm, with some 6.5 million spectators

Image Not Available by the summer of 2001, 6 million of those seeing it in its first seven weeks. Its success was rapidly repeated world-wide (see Figure 1.9).

The resurgence of the popular comedy raises interesting methodological questions. In this historical review, we have tended to adopt the canonical approach to French cinema, which privileges the director as 'auteur'. In the French context there are good reasons for doing this, not least because it is an approach established by the French themselves during the 1950s. Moreover, it is an approach favoured by many university courses, whether in France, the UK or the USA. Increasingly during the late 1980s and 1990s, however, Film Studies in general has been permeated by Cultural Studies, which favours the popular, whether the popular genres of comedy and police thriller, or stars. This approach is beginning to find favour in those parts of the academy that habitually teach French cinema, namely French or Modern Languages departments, but perhaps not so pronouncedly that we have felt it reasonable to jettison the canonical auteurist approach. Nevertheless, as even a cursory glance at the list of best-selling films in the appendices will show, 'French cinema' is just as much about popular films and stars as it is more 'difficult' 'art-house' films. (This point is made more problematic by the fact that what Anglo-American audiences often consider to be 'art-house' films, such as the heritage films of the 1980s and 1990s in France, are in France itself resolutely popular films.) Thus, for the bulk of French audiences, the box office is dominated by specific genres and stars rather than directors. Indeed, it is more the stars than the genres. The names that return time and again at the top of the box office, as can be seen from our list of best-sellers in the Appendices, are stars who on the whole are associated with specific genres: Gérard Philipe (period of dominance mid-1940s to mid-1950s) is associated with historical dramas; Jean Marais, known to Anglophone art-house audiences for his films with Cocteau in the 1940s, is better known in France for his historical epics in the 1960s. The popular genre par excellence, the comedy, has a number of major stars: Fernandel and Jacques Tati (1950s), Louis de Funès (1960s to 1970s), Pierre Richard (1960s to 1980s), Jean Rochefort and JeanPierre Marielle (1970s), Coluche (mid-1970s to mid-1980s), Josiane Balasko, and Christian Clavier and Thierry Lhermitte (1980s to 1990s). The second most popular genre in France, the police thriller or polar, similarly has a number of major stars, all male. Jean Gabin, after the films with Carné in the 1930s that typify the classic cinema of that period, and for which Anglophone audiences are likely to know him best, is in fact better known in France for his second career in the police thriller during the 1960s and early 1970s. There are also, in the same period, Alain Delon and Lino Ventura, the three stars famously appearing in one of the great popular thrillers of the 1960s, Verneuil's Le Clan des Siciliens (1969).

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Figure 1.9 Amélie

There are also superstars who cross over the genres, such as Jean-Paul Belmondo, who after his early career in the New Wave, went on to become one of the longest-lasting French stars, associated mainly but not exclusively with the thriller, and dominating the box office from the early 1960s through to the late 1980s. Female stars have tended not to dominate the box office in quite the same way. Yet Catherine Deneuve is very much a superstar, her bust being until recently the image of the French state ('Marianne', the statuette in all French town halls); and Isabelle Adjani was one of the first stars to work in Hollywood, followed in the 1990s by Emmanuelle Béart and Sophie Marceau, and well before Depardieu. Nevertheless, it is perhaps most quintessentially for many, both French and Anglophone, Gérard Depardieu who is the French superstar par excellence, at home in art-house films, in broad comedy, in heritage films and in thrillers, and who has dominated the box office since the mid-1970s.

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