M-Fadat , Aperto, Montpellier, fr cat. White Cube. But the bi- been less successful. But his goal was to generate representations of Mao in the form of even more Maos for kitschy statues were off. Kiefer awkwardly placed Mao in fields of —Barbara Pollack flowers from the Auvergne region in the south of France, which the artist visited this past year. These works have a strange and rugged Brute Materials beauty. The objects they compose seem, in their support concrete blocks.
Each con- delight of the exhibition. A crooked spelled out in an ingenious smattering of nails driven crookedly into the plaster. Just beside it is Plaque 2 tower of red bricks held together by canettes : two flattened beer cans peek out of a copper-coloured, concrete-and-polystyrene panel, their clamps, Briques II recalled a frag- ile house of playing cards and conveyed metallic facades like coins winking from the bottom of a fountain — the reward at the end of a long day. In fact, some of them, creatures. The bronze, clearly visible is hurting that bucket!
Sacs II is a bag of concrete socked in the stomach by a vengeful wood plank; Briques II is the the works honed in on the textures, in- strong reddened tones that deepen into ghostly forms a feeling of solidity. Over- work of a renegade labourer who used his tools to serve his own playful ends rather than the demands of his tense coloration, and fragility of a single purple, could be read as dancers captured all, the visual dialogue between the employer. Others, painted in paintings and the sculptures made for a in noticing the familiar about them and how it is rendered strange — but not as much as in the imaginings species.
Fortunately, his technical and creative virtuosity makes it easy for us. Either that or this type of work just its full-blown glory, and its eventual withering demise—these images could be ground of chartreuse, possess a weight- less quality, a bit like thistle fluff. Victor Burgin comes naturally. This book can be ordered from: oneblockavenue.
An exhilarating Xenakis progran, built around works for soloist and ensemble. Most of the soloists are from the acclaimed International Contemporary Ensemble led by their resident guest conductor, Steven Schick. In the Xenakis oeuvre these constitute a new and plaintive percussion music. Yet there is a strange power in these stark landscapes. In Zythos , long trombone lines are wound round the threading of six marimba parts. It receives its first recording here, featuring trombonist Benny Sluchin of Ensemble Intercontemporain. Palimpsest is essentially a piano concerto, but the piano along with a set of drums is placed behind a row of nine string and wind instruments.
Thus a listener often needs to hear and see through the musicians in the front row to hear the soloist in the back. The title implies that what is nearer and more apparent is more recent than what is farther away. A solo bass clarinet spans a spectrum of textural possibility from the long, liquid tones of its low register to the percussive jolt of slap tonguing and key clicks. Akanthos is music built by the rapid exchange of oppositions along with a supple line for female voice. From a basic rhythmic substrate multiple and complex layers of sound issue forth — each an elaboration of the previous one until the sounding space is saturated.
At the heart of this panorama of experimental and even utopic architecture from the mid th century to the 21 st the Ville cosmique thought and drawn by Iannis Xenakis in will be emphasized as one of the most spectacular examples of a prospective insight about the future of our civilization. During the remodelling of the main stage the Deutsche Oper will be mounting Oresteia in the rather unusual setting of the upper deck of its multi-storey car park.
The elevated car park of the Deutsche Oper Berlin is at once a functional urban space and an artificial setting whose very nature and appearance raise issues of the process of social civilization, of protection and shelter, of uncertainty and disconcertedness. The staging of this extraordinary work of opera lies in the hands of director David Hermann and set designer Christoph Hetzer. Deutsche Opera Berlin Berlin premiere September 9 th , 12 th , 13 th , 15 th and 16 th. This international symposium, along with four concerts, is totally dedicated to this little-explored aspect of Xenakis' production.
The instrumental Music of Xenakis: Theory, Practice, Self-Borrowing presents Xenakis's main theories from an analytical perspective without calling for special knowledge of mathematics. It features numerous examples and relies on detailed analyses to explain Xenakis's compositional procedures, yielding new insight into the relation between theory and practice in the composer's music.
As a comprehensive study, it also reveals for the first time the extent to which Xenakis borrowed from his earlier works. The use of montage is examined as a compositional device, challenging the view that mathematics plays a dominant role in his music. From November 3 rd to 5 th the Department of Arts, School of Arts and Education Science of the European University Cyprus hosts in Nicosia the Iannis Xenakis — in Memoriam, International Conference in order to pay tribute to this celebrated composer, iconic figure and great thinker of the twentieth century.
The conference coincides with the ten-year anniversary of his death, and it aims to shed light on lesser-known aspects of his life and work. Neither truly 'classic' - though the summit of the French cinema that generally goes by that name - nor yet 'modern ist ', La Regie dujeu marks the tran- sition par excellence from one kind of cinema to another.
That judgement, of course, is necessarily influenced by the immense historical rupture brought about by the outbreak of war, which makes La Regie dujeu's tran- sitional status only too apparent. It was one of 5 1 French films - along with Le Quai des brumes and Renoir's Zola adaptation La Bete humaine - to be banned by the censor just before war was declared, while the first Cannes festival, due to take place in September , had to be cancelled. The decade that was ending so omi- nously had nevertheless been a productive one for the cinema.
The Conseil superieur du cinema, set up in , had shown the beginnings of state and governmental 12 HISTORY interest in this comparatively new art form, and the founding of the Cinematheque frangaise in went on to reinforce this, providing the institutional context within which generations of young critics and film-makers would get to know not only French, but European and American cinema. Between 94 and films were produced each year during the decade not counting which, for obvious reasons, was 'incomplete' , and something of the order of admissions were annually recorded.
It might have been thought that the social and economic disruption caused by wartime and the Occupation would have a calamitous effect on the nascent industry, but as we shall see that was to be only part of the story. The unavailability of American films meant that the French industry had the field to itself far more than in normal circumstances; a character in Jean-Pierre Melville's Resistance epic L'Armee des ombres says that France will know she is free when it is possible to watch Gone With The Wind on the Champs-Elysees, which poignantly suggests the cultural deprivation of which French film-makers were able to take often against their will advantage.
The Occupation cinema was brought under central - i. German-dominated - control in a way that severely restricted freedom of expression, but also introduced the first system of advances to producers and made the industry much more efficient. If this sounds suspiciously like a variant of 'Mussolini made the trains run on time', it should be borne in mind that many of the structures of post-war state aid to the cinema were modelled on those imposed under the Occupation. Against this has to be set, of course, the loss of key personnel to the industry. Many of the leading producers, being Jewish, were not permitted to work.
Renoir left for the USA where he was thenceforth to spend most of his time; Clair and Duvivier, more briefly, did likewise. Renoir's American work is by common consent less out- standing than his great films of the 1 s, not least because he was working within the constraints of the Hollywood system and had lost the acute sense of French society that makes La Grande Illusion or La Regie dujeu so remarkable.
Even so, the moody evocation of the Deep South in Swamp Water and the black comedy of The Diary of a Chambermaid remain powerful. His work of the s and 1 s, less mordant than that of the pre-war years, is nevertheless recognisably by the same hand. Clair enlisted Marlene Dietrich for The Flame of New Orleans , while Duvivier's post-war career reached its height with the sour and misanthropic Void le temps des assassins , starring Jean Gabin. The loss or diminished glory of these figures, and of others, was in a sense replicated on a smaller scale at the Liberation, when such figures as Guitry, Arletty and the actor Robert Le Vigan - a prominent collaborator who was never to work in France again - were tried and briefly imprisoned.
The leading pre-war director to remain in France was Carne, who worked in the Victorine Studios in Nice - thus within the Vichy zone. The first of his two wartime films, both scripted by Prevert, Les Visiteurs du soir, is a surreal medieval fantasy, fea- turing Arletty as the duplicitously androgynous emissary of Jules Berry's camp Devil in knee-breeches.
This film, for all its visual extravagance, is alas characterised by some rather listless acting - something that is emphatically not true of Carne's best-known and most ambitious work, Les Enfants du Paradis released in though shot in , set in the Paris theatre world of the s see Figure 1. Superb performances from such as Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault and Pierre Brasseur have helped to make it probably the best-loved of French film classics, along with the richness of its mise-en-scene of the world of popular entertainment, which owes much to the magnificent sets designed by the Hungarian Jew Alexandre Trauner, working for obvious reasons clandestinely.
Its at first tenuous-seeming relationship to the society of its time has of course to do with the omnipresence of censorship, but Edward Baron Turk finds liberating possibilities in its sexual poli- tics: 'By calling into question the authority of the family, the repression of sexual deviance, rigid gender roles, and the dependence of women on men, Les Enfants du Paradis assailed the foundation of Vichy's social order' Turk, Two of the outstanding film-makers to have made their mark under the Occupation were Jacques Becker whose Goupi Mains Rouges of 1 is an almost Gothic drama of peasant life and Jean Gremillon, for whom Prevert scripted Lumiere d'ete This film, about a Regie dujeu-like tangle of love and class rela- tionships in the Midi, was along with Gremillon's aviation drama Le del est a vous among the few major Occupation films to present a critical view of contem- porary society.
Le del est d vous, indeed, has often been seen as a parable of the solidarity of the Resistance. Gremillon's post-war career was a sorry catalogue of aborted or curtailed projects; he was to make only three feature films between and his death in , and remains an unjustly little-known director. Collaborators, as we have seen, found their careers blighted or destroyed, while the disappearance of the protected domestic market seemed briefly to threaten the very foundations of the French industry.
The Blum-Byrnes agreement of May allowed American films unrestricted access to the French market, but also introduced a quota of French films to be screened - initially 30 per cent, rising to 38 per cent in The agreement, widely denounced at the time as an act of treachery, appears in retrospect not only highly realistic, but premonitory of subsequent French cultural and cinematic relations with the USA, seeking accom- modation of the 'cultural exception' within an American hegemony the French industry could not hope to vanquish. Along with the nationalisation of large exhibition circuits at the end of the war and the continuation of 'outrageously pro- tectionist' Crisp, 77 government advances and funding, the agreement protected the industry far more effectively than might have been thought at the time.
The Centre national de la cinematographie CNC was set up in to oversee film finance - a striking example of the readiness the French state has always shown to intervene in cultural matters - and in established a fund to assist French film production and distribution, which has been largely responsible for the indus- try's high international profile ever since.
Squeezed between the heyday of the classic cinema and the burgeoning of the New Wave, it remains, in both senses of the word, largely invisible. Not a single film by Claude Autant-Lara, Jacques Becker or Christian-Jaque, three of the period's major directors, is available on video in the UK, and only one example of those directors' work - Becker's Casque d'or - has been shown on British television. Such neglect, while comprehensible, is scarcely justifiable.
The period in question also marked the beginning, or culmination, of three of the major post-war directorial careers. Robert Bresson's eschewal of professional actors and refusal of psychological depth in favour of an austerely materialist Catholic spirituality first becomes marked in his Bernanos adaptation Journal d'un cure de campagne Bresson's second feature, Un condamne a mort s'est echappe , details the escape based on real life of a Resistance detainee from Montluc prison in Lyon, presented as a sustained and suspenseful exercise in the operation of grace.
Jacques Tati once said that he would like to work with Bresson - an odd remark considering the conspicuous lack of humour in the latter's films, but less anomalous than it might appear if we bear in mind the meticulously choreographed style and innovatively dislocatory use of sound that characterise Tad's work. His three fea- tures of the period - Jour de fete , Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot and Mon oncle - are among the most acute satires of the galloping modernisation that in some 30 years transformed France from a largely rural into a primarily industrial economy.
The cults of speed explicitly linked with the USA , the seaside holiday and household gadgets are his targets in the three features; to describe M. Hulot as a 'reflection of the increased standardization of daily life in France' Ross, , however portentous it may sound, says a good deal about his enduring appeal and relevance. Cocteau's two best-known films are La Belle et la bete and Orphee , imbued with the spirit of what, in a doubtless conscious response to Carne and Bazin, he dubbed 'magical realism'.
The earlier film's evocation of the world of Dutch painting and Orphee's sumptuous special effects have lasted rather better than the matinee-idol narcissism of Jean Marais in the leading roles. The 'real objects' in these films may appear to be very far removed from the France of the time at which they were made, but this would be to disregard the strong homosex- ual element in La Belle et la bete's 'love that dare not speak its name', or the allusions to the heavily coded world of the Resistance in Orphee's abundance of seemingly nonsensical passwords.
Jean-Pierre Melville in directed by all accounts with considerable interfer- ence from the author the cinematic adaptation of Cocteau's best-known text, Les Enfants terribles. Melville's place in the history of French cinema, however, rests less on this or his earlier literary adaptation, of Vercors's Le Silence de la mer , than on the influence of Hollywood 'action cinema' on his work.
The work of directors such as Howard Hawks and Samuel Fuller, with its stress on laconic, often violent action and its narrative terseness, was to have a major effect on the New Wave film- makers of the succeeding generation - an effect for which Melville was in large part responsible. He was also the first major French director after Pagnol to set up his own production company, operating artisanally on the fringes of the industry.
This 17 French Cinema: A Student's Guide enabled him to reconcile financial autonomy - if he and the New Wave directors so admired the 'action cinema' school it was largely because it had been able to produce memorable films often on very low budgets - and a degree of artistic inde- pendence that for his critics verges on the mannered. Bob le flambeur was the first of his gangster movies, a stylised riposte to the production-line serie noire films, often starring Eddie Constantine, that constituted the French mainstream cinema's first response to the influx of American productions after the war.
The film-makers so far mentioned in this section are all in greater or lesser degree atypical of the dominant Fourth Republic cinema. That cinema's frequent recourse to literary adaptation, its reliance on careful scriptwriting often by the duo of Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost , its general air of businesslike professionalism and sup- posed unadventurousness, were all laughed out of fashion by the New Wave, but have in the past decade or so staged a resurgence through the popularity of the 'heritage film'.
The strictures of Truffaut may well have been applicable to the jour- neyman work of such as Jean Delannoy, who signed forgettable adaptations of Cocteau L'Eternel Retour, and Sartre Les Jeux sont faits, , but two film- makers of the period at least display subversive and ironic qualities that should not pass unnoticed.
Claude Autant-Lara's move from Communist Party activist after the war to Front National MEP in the mids scarcely did him credit, but the dozen or so films he made under the Fourth Republic often give a mordant por- trayal of the suffocating pettiness and hypocrisy of the time. Le Diable au corps and Le Ble en herbe , adapted from Radiguet and Colette respectively, both deal with burgeoning adolescent sexuality and caused scandals through their depiction of relationships between a younger man and an older woman.
Le Ble en herbe was among the first post-war films to fall foul of the power exercised by French mayors to ban from their cities films that had received the national censor's authorisation. La Traversee de Paris teamed Gabin and Bourvil in a tale of black-marketeering in occupied Paris - the forerunner of the determinedly unheroic view of the Occupation years that was to come to the fore in the s.
More bilious and misanthropic still is the work of Henri-Georges Clouzot, who found himself for a while banished from the industry at the Liberation because of the harshly cynical view of provincial life in his poison-pen drama, Le Corbeau Le Salaire de la peur sustains for more than two and a half hours the suspense of its tale of European expatriates driving lorryloads of nitroglycerine over treacherous Central American roads to quench an oil-rig fire.
Yves Montand, first drawn to public attention in Carne's Les Portes de la nuit 1 , gives one of the defining performances of his career here. Most frightening of all his works perhaps is Les Diaboliques , with Simone Signoret in one of her best-known roles. The 18 History film's sadistic martyrisation of the character played by Vera Clouzot the director's wife becomes even more chilling when we know that she suffered in real life from a weak heart that was not long afterwards to kill her.
The film's ending clearly inspired that, more than 30 years later, of Adrian Lyne's Fatal Attraction, but in its manipulation of actors and audience alike is surely closer to Hitchcock - a major influence on the New Wave, present here too in what it would be quite unjust to dismiss as cinema de papa. Rene Clement is the other directorial name most often associated with the cinema of this period.
Jeux interdits tells of the impact of the war on two young children who create an animals' cemetery before being roughly separated from each other. The film's view of childhood, while less barbed than that of Vigo, is nevertheless a determinedly unidealised one, a very long way from the Hollywood of the time. Clement's other major work of the period took the form of literary adaptations, from Zola Gervaise of or Marguerite Duras Barrage contre le pacifique of Carne proved unable to sustain his pre-war popularity after the Liberation. Les Pontes de la nuit was severely criticised as dejd vu, the doom-laden Prevert script and heavy fatalism with which it is imbued not suiting the more upbeat expectations of the post-Liberation era.
Thenceforth his career tailed off sadly, the Zola adaptation Therese Raquin being his most successful later film, thanks largely to Simone Signoret's vampish performance in the title role. Becker produced at once his most lyrical and his most doom-laden film with Casque d'or, a reconstruction of the nine- teenth-century Parisian underworld, as well as such realistically observed dramas as Rue de VEstrapade , a forerunner of the New Wave.
Signoret gives what is probably the performance of her life, and Serge Reggiani as her doomed young lover exudes tragic intensity. Becker went on to give Jean Gabin one of his great post-war roles as the portly gangster yearning for retirement in the serie noire Touchez pas au grisbi This director's reputation is less by some way than it deserves to be, for he died prematurely in , just before the release of the prison escape drama Le Trou, which remains among the finest French films of its period. Industrially and aesthetically alike, the 'Fourth Republic years' were, it is now beginning to be recognised, richer and more complex than might at first appear.
Yet - with the handful of exceptions already mentioned - it lacked the innovative verve of earlier and later periods. It was a time of reconstruction and consolidation for the industry, which for most of the period succeeded in attracting more specta- tors to French than to American films. The seeds of innovation were being sown elsewhere, in the pages of the new cinematic journals that appeared during and after the war.
L'Ecran francais began clandestinely in and lasted ten years, 19 French Cinema: A Student's Guide during which it brought to the fore notions of the cinema as a vehicle for ideologi- cal engagement and as a language in its own right. Alexandre Astruc's 'Naissance d'une nouvelle avant-garde' 'Birth of a new avant-garde' inaugurated a mode of writing on the cinema which the journals Positif and Cahiers du cinema were to continue into the s.
It is in a sense provocative to bracket those names together for, in their earlier days at least, the two journals cordially detested each other. Positif was sympathetic to Surrealism and to the French Communist Party, while among the major influences on Cahiers was the existentialist Catholicism of Andre Bazin. Haifa century on, both journals still exist and thrive, albeit with much ideological passion spent.
If Cahiers remains to non-French audiences at least much the better known, this is because so many of those who wrote for it went on to direct films in their own right. Chabrol, Godard, Rivette, Rohmer, Truffaut - the patron saints of the New Wave - all began as Cahiers critics in what remains the most striking mass migration from writing- about to writing-in film history has to offer. Their interest in low-budget American cinema led them to pursue with zeal the politique des auteurs - a pantheonisation of figures such as Howard Hawks and Samuel Fuller, whose individuality in making 'their' films in the teeth of studio-imposed constraints was lauded in a sometimes extravagant manner.
Positif 's favourite sons, such as Otto Preminger and Raoul Walsh, have lasted somewhat less well by comparison. It exemplifies a tendency in French cultural life - illustrated at very much the same time by the work of such 'new novelists' as Alain Robbe-Grillet and Nathalie Sarraute - for critical and theoretical reflection to stimulate and feed through into artistic pro- duction. It illustrates the importance of political loyalties, or their absence, already marked in the cinema of the Popular Front era, in informing aesthetic and cultural debate.
For reasons we shall now explore, was the year in which all these trends converged to inaugurate what was rapidly recognised as a new era for the French cinema. The major intellectual and personal influence on them was the critic Andre Bazin, a passionate advocate of 'realism, mise-en-scene, and deep focus which he saw in opposition to montage ' Monaco, 6 , and of the politique des auteurs.
European art-house directors, such as Renoir or Rossellini, had traditionally been treated as the 'authors' of their films, in much the same way as Balzac or Baudelaire were of the literary texts they signed. The American low-budget cinema, on the other hand, tended to be thought of as a commercial and studio-based product, to which Godard pays homage in his dedication of A bout de souffle to Monogram Pictures. Cahiers' innovation was to treat film-makers such as Hawks or Fuller as the authors of their films in much the same way as their more 'respectable' European counterparts. The New Wave directors, like their Hollywood predecessors, worked individually and creatively within often severe budgetary constraints and the conventions of studio genre.
Their films were frequendy self-referential Godard making a brief Hitchcock-like appearance in his own A bout de souffle, Truffaut's Les Coups containing an obvious visual quotation from Vigo's Zero de conduite , as though to assert the value of film as a form of artistic expression on a par with the novel or the theatre.
Allusions to art cinema and Hollywood action film sat side by side in a manner that, nowadays, with the erosion of the barrier between 'high' and 'popular' culture, seems unremarkable, but was extremely innovative at the time. The literary adaptation and the costly studio set-up were anathema to these film- makers, whose use of hand-held cameras and location filming gave their work a constant charge of the unexpected. They were also greatly helped by the introduc- tion, in , of the avance sur recettes, a system of government loans, granted on the basis of a working script, to enable films to be produced.
One in five French films benefits from this funding, though only one in ten of these has been sufficiently successful at the box office to pay off the loan in full Hayward, The system thus effectively works as a source of subsidy, another reason for the often- remarked thriving independent and experimental sector known as art et essai of the French industry.
The influence of Hitchcock is marked in the exchange of roles between the central characters in both films played by Gerard Blain and Jean-Claude Brialy , the latter of whom represents Parisian would-be sophistication against the provincial benightedness of the other. Chabrol has had a wildly uneven career, often filming neither wisely nor too well, but at his best he is the master denouncer of the hypocrisy and pretentions of the bour- geoisie.
Misanthropy and misogyny are other components of his work and both are 21 French Cinema: A Student's Guide plain in Les Bonnes Femmes , about the varying fortunes and ambitions of four young women who work in an electrical shop, an emblem of the modernisation of French society.
Les Biches features a bisexual love triangle in Saint-Tropez, probably the first major French film to deal overtly with lesbianism, albeit in a manner that changes in sexual politics have caused to appear dubious. The year - annus mirabilis of post-war cinema - also saw the feature debuts of Truffaut and Godard.
The former's Les Coups remains among the cinema's most touching evocations of a less-then-happy childhood, modelled in many ways on Truffaut's own. This earned an unprecedented standing innovation at the Cannes festival, from which Truffaut had a few years before been banned, and the all-but-envious homage of Renoir. The homoerotic intensity of the relationship between Jules and Jim, mediated it would be possible to argue through their shared passion for Catherine, now gives the film a strikingly modern feel. The theme of tragic or impossible love, and its close linkage with death, recurs in more conventional format with La Peau douce , generally regarded as Truffaut's most Chabrolesque work.
Le Mepris gives Brigitte Bardot her major serious dramatic role, and stages an eloquent enactment of the contradictory pressures on the film-maker to make money and produce significant art. Much of Godard's work during this decade displays an unnerving prescience. Bande apart alludes to the genoci- dal conflict in Rwanda 30 years before it came to widespread attention. Masculin feminin pre-echoes the debates about gender and sex roles that were to achieve such importance in succeeding decades.
10 great French films of the s | BFI
Pierrot lefou suggests much of what was to follow in Godard's subsequent work, with its strikingly poetic use of colour, its use of mockingly didactic, quasi-Brechtian tableaux and its references to the Vietnam War. Rohmer's work remains, certainly in French and probably in world cinema, unique in that he has never lost money on a film in a year career. His low-budget approach, reliance on highly crafted dialogue and fondness for ironic philosophis- ing make a 'Rohmer film' instantly recognisable, and in these respects he can, even by those not uniformly enthusiastic about his work, be seen as the supreme auteur.
Le Signe du lion is his most savage work, about an over-trusting bohemian's destitute summer in Paris. His work for the remainder of this period took the form of short films, often made for television, a further illustration of the economic awareness that informs his work. Rivette's love for lengthy, intricate narratives was apparent from his first feature, Paris nous appartient 1 , and has caused him to have a rather chequered career.
La Religieuse , his only other feature of the period, was briefly banned by the censor for its supposedly scandalous evocation of convent life, and authorised to be exported only under the distancing title of Suzanne Simonin, la religieuse de Diderot, much as Godard's La Femme mariee had to be retitled Unefemme mariee before it got past the censor. Resnais, the great cineast of memory, remains unique in his exclusive use of pre-written scripts, the basis for the most extensive formal experimentation with montage among contem- porary film-makers.
Iannis Xenakis : Résonances
Novelists Marguerite Duras and Alain Robbe-Grillet, both themselves to go on to direct films, scripted respectively Hiroshima mon amour and L'Annee derniere a Marienbad Hiroshima intertwines the horrors of the nuclear bomb and its central female character's love affairs with a German during 23 French Cinema: A Student's Guide the war and a Japanese afterwards, broaching at once political and ethnic taboos.
Nowadays, with a more widespread awareness that 'the personal is political', its 'dime-store novel' plot as the central character, played by Emmanuelle Riva, her- self describes it appears less audacious than it did at the time, when its sympathetic evocation of a love affair with the enemy was moving into largely uncharted terri- tory. The film, as important a first feature as A bout de souffle, makes vivid, often startling use of subjective visual flashbacks, cutting back and forth between the Hiroshima of 1 and the French provincial town of Nevers under the Occupation.
L'Annee derniere a Marienbad see Figure 1. It is impossible to tell whether its love story, with Delphine Seyrig as the object of two men's desire, is past, present, future, fantasy, or all or none of these. In this respect the film is analogous to the experiments of the 'new novelists' - including Robbe-Grillet - with subjective, fragmented or even contradictory narration.
A strikingly, even flamboyantly, modern work, it is also an evocation of and homage to the golden age of black and white film-making; there is scarcely another film it would be so difficult to imagine in colour. Muriel , also starring Delphine Seyrig, ran into censorship difficulties because of its refer- ences to torture in the Algerian war, much as Godard's Le Petit Soldat had done three years earlier.
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Censorship of film was rife in the Gaullist era - the downside perhaps of the state's interest in the medium. Officially instituted for the first time during the Occupation, it continued in force thereafter, to such an extent that during the eight years of the Algerian War 'not a single film on the Algerian question was granted a visa' Hayward, Not until Giscard d'Estaing became president in did it all but disappear.
The succes de scandale enjoyed by Louis Malle's second feature, Les Amants , is there to remind us that sexual censorship was scarcely less to be reckoned with though less specific to France in this period than its political counterpart. Les Amants stars Jeanne Moreau as a bored bourgeois trophy wife who leaves her family and lover behind after a night of love with a young student she met on the road. The aforementioned succes de scandale pertained to the film's inevitably discreet depiction - or evocation - of cunnilingus, but more profoundly shocking than this might be the wife's seeming abandonment of not only her husband, but her young daughter.
Malle's role as starmaker was reinforced by Vie privee of , with its barely disguised references to the real life of its star, Brigitte Bardot. Varda is beyond doubt French cinema's leading woman director. The number of films directed by women in France has increased exponentially over the past decade in particular, but until the post-war period a woman director was a rarity, 24 Image Not Available Figure 1.
Cleo de 5 a 7 tells in real time the story of a singer who suspects she may have cancer. Hope and encourage- ment are given to her by a young conscript soldier she meets in the Pare Montsouris while waiting for the result of hospital tests - a scene given particular poignancy by the fact that he is at the end of a period of leave from Algeria. The counterposing of a life under threat from within and one under threat from without figures the interplay of the personal and the political we have already seen at work in Hiroshima mon amour, as well as suggesting how film-makers found ways of incorporating references to the Algerian War into their work without falling foul of the censor.
Varda's other work in this period was in the short or documentary format, apart from the ironic love triangle Le Bonkeur of Demy Varda's husband made two major films during this period, Lola and Les Parapluies de Cherbourg Set in western French seaports Nantes and Cherbourg respectively , they refer, in a perhaps deceptively lighthearted way, to the twofold processes of modernisation and decolonisation under way in the France of the time see Ross, , for a masterly analysis of these.
Lola's eponymous heroine, played by Anouk Aimee, oscillates between a French and an American lover before her first love returns driving a vast American car to reclaim her at the end. Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, for all the frothiness of its entirely sung dialogue to music by Michel Legrand , actually offers a serious treatment of the effects of modernisation along with those of the Algerian War.
Catherine Deneuve, in her first major role, becomes pregnant by the man she loves the night before he leaves for Algeria; on his return he finds her married off to a wealthy local jeweller, in part because her mother does not believe that a garage mechanic would be an acceptable match for her. The irony of this, in the increasingly motorised French society of the time, becomes manifest in the film's final sequence, where we see Michel as the proud owner of a large and gleaming garage. Bresson, Tati and Melville, all of whom had come to the fore in the war years, pro- duced arguably their finest work during this period.
Bresson's Pickpocket and Au hasard Balthazar refine his elliptical precision still further; editing here becomes a spiritual quest. Pickpocket's anguished Dostoevskyan hero is never 'analysed' a term anathema to Bresson in any detail. His compulsive thieving is observed in tight phenomenological detail, and only in the film's final sequence, where in prison he is visited by Jeanne for whom he realises the depth of his love, does it dawn on him and the audience that it has represented his way to redemp- tion.
Au hasard Balthazar realises the tour de force of making the tribulations of a 26 HISTORY donkey its central 'character' into a spiritual odyssey - Bresson's rejection of the very idea of the actor carried to its furthest extent - while also offering a surpris- ingly barbed view of modernised France through the presence of the villainous blouson noir Gerard. Tati's only feature of the period, Playtime , is a prodi- giously choreographed near-silent comedy, which lost a vast amount of money and all but ended his career.
Nowadays, it appears not only as his finest work, extraor- dinarily intricate in its complexity of visual organisation, but also as a striking prefiguration of the postmodern era in which everywhere looks like everywhere else. The film follows a group of tourists as they journey round a concrete and glass Paris whose iconic landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower, are visible only in travel agency posters.
Melville's masterpiece Le Samourdi carries his stylisation of the gangster movie to iconographic lengths, in a pared-down narrative with minimal dialogue sustained largely by the androgynous performance, by turns violent and vulnerable, of Alain Delon. By the end of our period the New Wave as any kind of unified movement or entity had ceased to exist some would situate its demise as early as The film-makers associated with it were pursuing widely divergent paths - from the increasingly politicised experimentation of Godard to the more commercial work of Truffaut or Chabrol - all with significant success.
Part at least of the reason for this had to do with the actors and actresses their work brought to the fore. Jeanne Moreau has tended to evoke a more sophisticated, upmarket sex appeal, exempli- fied not only by her roles in Les Amants and Jules et Jim but also by her periodic forays into independent and avant-garde cinema, such as Peter Brook's Duras adaptation Moderate cantabile The key icons of masculinity during this period were Delon and Belmondo. The former's 'demonic presence beneath the disguise of an angel' Passek, was not to be deployed by a New Wave film-maker until and Godard's Nouvelle vague, but his work for Melville, Rene Clement Plein soleil, and the Italian directors Visconti and Antonioni made him an international art-house superstar.
Belmondo's craggy vulnerability made him the ideal interpreter for the two key Godard roles already referred to.