Practice r

In this chapter, we will outline the types of academic work which have been produced on the French cinema, with a particular emphasis on work in the 1990s and beyond.

In the 1990s, French cinema, in academic and film distribution circles, joined the ranks of 'everything-that-isn't-Hollywood', nesting in the catch-all category of 'World Cinema'. At the same time, the late 1990s saw an explosion, not just in French cinema itself, with the advent of a new generation of young film-makers, as we outlined above in Chapter 1, but also in major books on French cinema in the UK and the USA, special issues of major journals (Screen and Nottingham French Studies, both in 1993; French Cultural Studies in 1996; Australian Journal of French Studies in 1999), and in the establishment of a new journal and association devoted entirely to French cinema in 2001, Studies in French Cinema.

Partly as a result of the gradual increase in numbers of courses on French cinema in universities, there was an accompanying increase in particular in general histories, auteur studies, compendia and single-film studies. The first two in particular have dominated academic work on the French cinema from the 1960s. Where histories are concerned, there was Williams in English (1992) and, occasioned by the centenary of the cinema, two very large volumes in French (Billard, 1995; Frodon, 1995). Following on from Susan Hayward's rather different conceptualisation of the history of the French cinema in the opening volume of the Macmillan national cinema series she edits (Hayward, 1993), there were significant volumes in English focusing on specific periods. The interest of these volumes is that instead of mapping out a general history where individual films are lucky to get more than a few lines of text devoted to them (what one could characterise as the thumbnail approach), these works have critical agendas and develop new ways of thinking about periods of French cinema. In silent cinema there was the ground-breaking work of Richard Abel (1984; 1994), who has almost single-handedly put the earliest periods on the critical map. For classic French cinema, there were two major volumes in the mid- to late 1990s (Andrew, 1995; Crisp, 1993). For the New Wave, there was Jeff Kline's absorbing work on intertextuality (Kline, 1992). In the post-New Wave period, there were histories that do not try to be all-encompassing, but select specific genres, directors or approaches. Forbes (1992) has chapters on less well-known directors, such as Allio and Garrel, for example; Austin (1996) has a substantial chapter on the cinéma du look, an important but under-researched area of 1980s production; and Powrie (1997) focuses on the 1980s through the lens of Gender Studies.

The last 20 years or so of the twentieth century saw the publication in English, but more especially in French, of numerous auteur studies on the directors of the New Wave: Chabrol (Magny, 1987; Blanchet, 1989), Godard (Desbarats, 1989; Douin, 1989; Aumont, 1999; Bergala, 1999), Resnais (Prédal, 1996; Leperchey, 2000), Rivette (Deschamps, 2001; Frappat, 2001), Rohmer (Magny, 1986; Bonitzer, 1991; Tortajada, 1999; Serceau, 2000) and Truffaut (Gillain, 1991; Le Berre, 1993; Rabourdin, 1995). Anglophone studies on these directors, with the exception of Godard (Dixon, 1997; Silverman and Farocki, 1998; Sterritt, 1999; Temple and Williams, 2000), were rarer and earlier in that period (Monaco, 1978, on Resnais; Crisp, 1988, on Rohmer). This was the case too with other major French directors. There were major Anglophone studies on Abel Gance in the 1980s (King, 1984) and on Jean Renoir (Sesonske, 1980; Faulkner, 1986; Braudy, 1989), but later work on Renoir was French (Serceau, 1985; Haffner, 1988; Bessy, 1989; Bertin, 1994; Viry-Babel, 1994), with the exception of O'Shaughnessy (2000), as is the case with that other major director of the 1930s, Marcel Carné (Pérez, 1994), or on one of the major directors of the 1980s, Maurice Pialat (Magny, 1995). The Paris Bibliothèque du Film's commitment to public access led to a recent series, 'Ciné-regards', each volume serving as handbook with biography, filmography, bibliography and extensive documentation such as contemporary reviews. Although encompassing directors from a variety of national cinemas, there have so far been more volumes on French directors (Buñuel, Becker, Duvivier, Mocky).

Anglophone auteur studies took off again with the vibrant Manchester University Press 'French Director' series, the first volume of which was published in 1998. Not least amongst its merits is the coverage of directors who are not from the French classical period or the New Wave. At the time of writing there have been volumes on Besson (Hayward, 1998), Beineix (Powrie, 2001b), Blier (Harris, 2001), Bresson (Reader, 2000), Chabrol (Austin, 1999), Kurys (Tarr, 1999), Méliès (Ezra, 2000b), Renoir (O'Shaughnessy, 2000), Serreau (Rollet, 1998), Truffaut (Holmes and Ingram, 1998) and Varda (Smith, 1998), with volumes on Beineix, Blier, Carax, Cocteau, Duras, Godard, Leconte, Resnais, Tavernier, Téchiné and Vigo to appear in the next couple of years. An additional interest of this series is that in general the conceptual approach taken is a combination of what one might call the old-style auteurist approach, but placed in crisis, with the conceptual paradigms that developed during the 1970s in mainstream film theory, most importantly feminist film theory. Quite apart from the statement made by publishing three of the first six volumes on women film directors, the approach taken by authors on men directors such as Besson and Chabrol has been heavily influenced by feminist paradigms.

Single-film studies (whether chapters in books or monographs) began in earnest in the late 1980s in both France and the UK. They increased in the 1990s, complementing the general history approach with careful and sustained analysis of individual films. There were significant anthologies of essays on individual films, beginning with the influential French Film.: Texts and Contexts (Hayward and Vincendeau, 1990, reprinted in 2000), covering films over the whole of the twentieth century, followed by two on 1990s films (Powrie, 1999; Mazdon, 2001). There were also short monographs devoted to individual films, some more research-led than others. For example, the British Film Institute's 'Classics' series - a 360-strong list of which 50 have so far been published - has (so far) seven French titles, more than any other European national cinema. Meanwhile, in France, there was a similar development of single-film studies for the university market, with some 12 out of 30 handbooks published by Nathan in its 'Synopsis' series on French films, the directors represented being mostly classic French cinema or New Wave (Carné, Demy, Godard, Ophuls, Pialat, Renoir, Resnais, Truffaut).

Histories, auteur studies, and single-film studies will no doubt continue, although the shift to 'World Cinema' meant that French cinema studies often rubs shoulders, often productively, with more general European cinema studies, as for example in Forbes and Street (2000). There were new developments, however, towards the millennium; these are the historical study of the silent period, audience study, star studies, the focus on historical crisis and trauma, and, finally, cultural identity with a strong emphasis on the Franco-American debate (remakes).

The emphasis on early cinema history and the related focus of audience reception took time to establish itself in French cinema studies. This is because the dominant paradigm in Anglophone French cinema was the Gender Studies focus emanating from psychoanalytically inspired and feminist-inspired spectatorship theory (a key volume exemplifying this trend is Sandy Flitterman-Lewis's 1990 study of the films of three women directors). More general Film Studies scholarship, however, moved significantly away from this paradigm towards the early history of (Hollywood) film and the analysis of specific audiences. This occurred as a result of the perceived impasses of spectatorship theory and the development during the 1980s of the empiricist and formalist Historical Poetics of the anti-'Grand Theory'

Wisconsin School (Bordwell, Carroll, Staiger and Thompson). Fifteen years on from the great debates between theorists and empiricists in the pages of Screen, there was evidence of a shift in this direction by scholars in French cinema studies, such as Darren Waldron and his work on Gazon Maudit (2001). As yet, though, there is no substantial work in this area, nor even a transitional study comparable to Jackie Stacey's Hollywood-based Star-gazing (1994). On the other hand, work on the early cinema was increasingly done, with the Association Française de Recherche sur l'Histoire du Cinéma and its periodical, 1895, being a leading force. Two names in Anglophone French cinema studies stand out in this respect. Richard Abel, as mentioned above, and Elizabeth Ezra (see her work on Méliès: Ezra, 2000b; and the chapter on Josephine Baker's French films in Ezra, 2000a) have made sustained interventions in this area, which attracted an increasing number of younger scholars - for example, Alice McMahan on the first French woman director, Alice Guy (McMahan, 2000), or Paul Sutton, who investigated Feuillade's Les Vampires in relation to Assayas's 'remake' Irma Vep, and reconsidered early cinema spectatorship and its relation to trauma (2001).

Star studies is very much associated with the work of Richard Dyer of Warwick University, as mentioned in Chapter 2. His colleague Ginette Vincendeau, amongst other things, worked systematically on French stars during the 1990s, her work in this area culminating in Stars and Stardom in French Cinema (2000). This builds on her major work on Jean Gabin published in France in 1993. The two volumes taken together are a formidable intervention in a vigorous area of enquiry in scholarship in several national cinemas. The volume begins with a remarkable analysis of the French star system. Vincendeau points out the closeness of screen and stage in the history of stardom in France, one amongst several differences with the Hollywood star system outlined in the volume, another being its artisanal nature, due to the absence of vertically organised studios. The introduction also anchors the star system within other key promotional vehicles, such as the various fanzines and the relationship with television, and shows how, unsurprisingly, there is a gulf between what one could call the quantity and quality issues: the biggest stars historically are less well known than those who have been consecrated in academic and cinephile work. The most fascinating part of the Introduction, and the strength of the volume as a whole, deals with issues of stereotype and identity; more specifically, how particular stars 'embody' the French nation. Particular attention is paid to the appearance of the stars: Bardot's combination of gamine (the fringe) and mature womanliness (the beehive), Belmondo's drooping cigarette and the air of'superior indifference' (Vincendeau, 2000: 166) it creates, fetishising shots of Delon that construct a 'cruel beauty' at the service of lifestyle advertising (Vincendeau, 2000: 176), showing the shift away from subject-oriented identification (with Gabin, say) to 'spectatorial desire for a commodity: a face, a body, locations, consumer goods' (Vincendeau, 2000: 184). There are many more insights, such as Vincendeau's analysis of Deneuve's image as 'the simultaneous representation of extreme beauty and its defilement, from reverence to rape rolled into one image' (Vincendeau, 2000: 203), or Binoche whose 'sexy melancholy' 'combines the sexual appeal of French female icons ... with the anguish of male stars' (Vincendeau, 2000: 250), sexualising anguish, as Vincendeau so memorably puts it; or the characterisation of New Wave acting as a 'combination of authenticity and décalage, which parallels the filmmakers' paradoxical drive to realism and personal expression' (Vincendeau, 2000: 118; her italics), and the teasing out of Jeanne Moreau's importance as the key New Wave actress who concentrated 'the values of romantic love, sensuality, sensitivity and modernity', and in so doing 'brought a feminized surface to the New Wave which superimposed itself on its male and misogynist foundations' (Vincendeau, 2000: 130). By contrast, Louis de Funès, 'born middle-aged', Poujadist 'hero of the France profonde' (Vincendeau, 2000: 150), represented the antithesis of the New Wave's youth culture, grounded in middle-class values, but is of interest precisely because those values were under attack; his rage and dysfunctional masculinity are as much symptoms of social change in the 1960s as Bardot's hairstyle.

Amongst others working in this area there is Arnaud Chapuy, with a major volume on Martine Carol published in France (Chapuy, 2001) and, with the same publisher, a volume on the vamps of the first half of the twentieth century, such as Viviane Romance, Ginette Leclerc and others (Azzopardi, 1997). There are a number of scholars who have produced conference papers on stars since 2000; for example, Graeme Hayes on Alain Delon (2001) and Powrie on the 1920s star Pierre Batcheff (2001a).

Two historical issues dominated French cinema scholarship in the 1990s: war and colonialism/post-colonialism. In the latter category, Sherzer (1996), Norindr (1996) and Ezra (2000a) explored colonial and post-colonial issues (and special mention should be made here of Carrie Tarr's consistent body of work, as yet uncollected in a volume, on Beur films). Dine (1994), like Atack (1999), is not entirely devoted to cinema, but is an important intervention in thinking through the Algerian crisis in film, as is Atack's volume in relation to May 1968, that ever-fertile ground for debate. French historians, and French society more widely, however, showed more interest in the Second World War during the 1990s than May 1968 or Algeria, with well-publicised affairs of collaborators such as Paul Touvier and Maurice Papon causing considerable navel-gazing; hardly surprising, then, that there should be a number of volumes on the Occupation and related issues, such as Colombat (1993) and Chateau (1996).

Of particular interest here is Naomi Greene's Landscapes of Loss, which examines what one might call, in a Proustian sense, the involuntary memorialisation of the traumatic past. Whereas the focus of Higgins (1996) is very period-specific (and includes some literary texts as well as the films of Resnais, Truffaut and Malle), Greene ranges wider. There is a chapter that explores the way in which Resnais focuses on amnesia and repression, and, given the dearth of work on Tavernier, a fascinating chapter on his historical films showing how they chronicle liminally the collapse of the Marxist 'Grand Narrative'. There is a final chapter, which shows how the films of the cinema du look (Diva, Les Amants du Pont-Neuf, Delicatessen) have recycled nostalgically the community films of the 1930s. Two chapters in particular are articulated around broader themes and placed firmly in the context of contemporary debates in French historical writing. There is a chapter that explores what the French historian Henry Rousso called 'The Vichy syndrome' in film, the truth value of Le Chagrin et la pitié being contrasted with the myth of resistancialism in Lacombe Lucien and Le Dernier métro. Greene's placing of these films in the context of 'Jewish memory' vehicled through documentaries highlights the slippery nature of fiction only too well as a means of forgetting while seeming to remember. There is also a chapter devoted to colonial films, which focuses principally on two very contrasting films and their difficulty in 'representing a past both unforgettable and yet inadmissible' (Greene, 1999: 134), Schoendoerffer's Le Crabe-tambour and Roüan's Outremer. Greene illuminatingly shows how these films can be compared with the work of the historian Pierre Nora, whose Les Lieux de me'moire (1986-1992) has, along with Rousso's work, been a defining moment in French history-writing.

Whereas Greene explores trauma through contemporary French historians, Emma Wilson uses the work of the more psychoanalytically inspired Cathy Caruth, amongst others. Two volumes (Wilson, 1999; 2000) are particularly interesting for their application of'trauma theory' to films concerning the Second World War and Kieslowski respectively. This, when taken with the work done by many on the French heritage film, suggests that revisiting the past in film was of increasing importance during the 1990s.

The final area we would like to explore also involves revisiting. It is work on the remake, to which two important volumes were devoted at the turn of the millennium. Both Lucy Mazdon and Carolyn Durham take issue with the standard view of remakes, whether by French or American reviewers, that somehow the remake must always be worse, a debased version of a high-art original. Mazdon's opening chapters on the context of production and the history of the remake show how many other factors need to be taken into account, not least the frequent exchanges of financing, personnel and themes between the French and American industries.

These suggest rather more interaction and cross-fertilisation than most reviewers would allow for. Mazdon is particularly good at explaining differences in 'original' and remake by locating films in the context of their production and reception; thus, for example, the Hays Production Code caused significant plot changes in the remake of Pépé le Moko (Carné, 1937; remade as Algiers, Cromwell, 1938).

Most of Mazdon's book, like Durham's, deals with remakes since 1980, however. There are illuminating discussions about Trois hommes et un couffin (Serreau, 1985) and Three Men and a Baby (Nimoy, 1987) (this pair is also dealt with by Durham), Mon père ce héros (Lauzier, 1991) and My Father the Hero (Miner, 1994), focusing on issues of gender and particularly paternity, and Le Retour de Martin Guerre (Vigne, 1982) and Sommersby (Amiel, 1993), a comparison of which shows how both 'enable representation and/or critique of national myths and the construction of national identities' (Mazdon, 2000: 78). Mazdon's choices of remakes are mostly comedies: Un éléphant ça trompe énormément (Robert, 1976) and The Woman in Red (Wilder, 1984); Le Grand blond avec une chaussure noire (Robert, 1972) and The Man with One Red Shoe (Dragoti, 1985); La Totale (Zidi, 1991) and True Lies (Cameron, 1994); and La Cage aux folles (Molinaro, 1978) and The Birdcage (Nichols, 1996). As she points out, the fact that it is mainly French comedies that are remade by Hollywood gives the lie to the standard view that the original connotes 'high art', since French comedies, in France at least, are not connoted as such.

Mazdon also looks at a few thrillers, principal amongst which are Nikita (Besson, 1990)/77te Assassin (Badham, 1993), and A bout de souffle (Godard, 1959)/Breathless (McBride, 1983), a pair also analysed by Durham. Interestingly, whereas Durham points out how McBride works towards coherence and inclusiveness with his camera, with Godard preferring discontinuity and rupture in gender relations, Mazdon sees fragmentation and incoherence in the remake. Both agree, however, that Three Men and a Baby is more concerned to assert heterosexuality and masculinity than the French 'original'.

Durham's chapter on Trois hommes et un couffin, published originally in 1992, and here updated with material on Three Men and a Little Lady (Ardolino, 1990) is a remarkable piece of writing. It shows how there is incompatibility between the drugs plot (male) and the domesticity plot (female), a confusion erased by the US version, which masculinises the narrative by including sequences familiar in action films. Durham also shows how the ideologies of the two films are moulded by different feminist contexts: women in the French film are excluded, because French feminists promulgated radical differences between the sexes, while the US remake does not reject women, stressing rather the equality of parenting, as might be expected from the different Anglo-American feminist tradition. Similarly, with padent and detailed comparison of cinematography and mise-en-scène, Durham shows how cultural issues affect the remake; for example, in Schumacher's remake of Cousin Cousine (Tachella, 1975; remade as Cousins, 1989) the French emphasis on freedom gives way to a very American emphasis on happiness, a general point also made by Mazdon, who shows how French acceptance of infidelity (in this case in Un éléphant ça trompe énormément/The Woman in Red) becomes a moral lesson in the American remake.

Another view of the remake, advanced by Mazdon, but questioned by Durham, is that Hollywood chooses French films to minimise the risk factor. Much more interesting is her claim that Hollywood remakes films because they are consistent with the US cultural climate. Commenting on what she rightly says is 'the otherwise astonishing decision to remake La Cage aux folles', she suggests that 'The Birdcage is in so many ways the logical continuation of Hollywood's ongoing exploration of the homoerotic subtext that both consistently underlies the development of male friendships on screen and accompanies changes in traditional masculine roles within the family' (Durham, 1998: 200). At a time when the French state successfully managed to argue for French 'cultural exception' in the 1993 GATT round, and carries on jealously guarding its cultural heritage, it is particularly useful to have two cogently argued and detailed volumes on the apparently raw nerve of the remake.

To conclude this brief review of trends in academic film analysis, although the academic genres of the film history and the auteur study are still dominant, if inflected by the paradigms mentioned, the new trends are towards the study of early cinema, star studies, historical trauma, and what one might call the crisis in cultural identity. Until now, a paradigm gulf seems to have existed between Anglophone and Francophone Film Studies. Schematically, one could say that the former seems to have been characterised by Gender Studies, while the latter seems to have been characterised by aesthetic concerns.1 It is reassuring, then, that in the trends we have highlighted, the two academic cultures seem to be growing closer, with the possible exception (paradoxically, since it involves the bringing together of Anglophone and Francophone) of work on le remake.

1 For example, the work of Bonitzer and Aumont, whose more influential volumes were published in the 1980s {an honourable exception is Sellier and Burch, 1996).

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