Since the early 1980s there has been a gradual increase in the number of people teaching and researching French cinema courses in UK universities. There are now some 45 staff members in universities in the UK alone publishing material on this subject; these and many more also teach French cinema on a regular basis. French cinema forms an integral part of many French/Modern Languages university degrees, as well as being an important component of what is now called World Cinema in Film Studies degrees, in both the UK and the USA. Surprisingly, though, there is no single volume that serves as a reasonably comprehensive background for such study.

Although there have been many histories of the French cinema, French-specific theorising on the cinema has not to our knowledge formed part of any introductory texts; 'film theory' is seen as a global phenomenon that tends to elide French-specific continuities. There are guidebooks on how to study or write on film, but, again, these are not French-specific. There are no books for students outlining the different types of research in French cinema; this is confined to scattered reviews in learned journals or alluded to in a fragmentary way in scholarly tomes. Our volume is an attempt to combine all of these strands - history, theory, practice - with the more usual statistics one might expect to find in a student handbook.

We have decided to focus specifically on French, rather than Francophone, cinema. The reader will therefore not find references to French-speaking African cinema, nor to Swiss cinema (for example, the films of Alain Tanner), nor, finally, to Belgian cinema.

We have included an annotated Bibliography in addition to the usual References, which will act as 'further reading' for those readers wishing to pursue some of the strands outlined in this volume.

Film titles are given in their original French version, without a translation (unless this is necessary in the context).

The volume has been written in collaboration; however, there has usually been a main writer for each section. The credits are as follows.

• History 1930-1939, 1939-1945, 1945-1959,

1959-1968, 1968-1981 and Conclusion (Keith Reader); 1896-1929 and 1981-2001 (Phil Powrie)

• Theory Introduction, 1945-1960 and 'The spaces of cinema' (Keith Reader); all other sections (Phil Powrie)

• Practice Phil Powrie

• Writing about French films Phil Powrie

• Appendices Phil Powrie

We would like to thank Manchester University Press for allowing us to use part of Phil Powrie's volume, Jean-Jacques Beineix (2001b), in one of the sequence analyses, and the Journal of Romance Studies for allowing us to rework a review article by Phil Powrie for the section on 'Practice' (Powrie, 2002). Particular thanks too to our students - Abigail Murray, Ellen Parker and John Williams - for allowing us to use their work.

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