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Cinema of France

Related: France - cinema - European cinema

And God Created Woman - (1956) Roger Vadim [amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Related: Cinéma vérité - Cahiers du Cinéma - Cinémathèque - Eurocine - French exploitation films - film noir - Midi Minuit Fantastique - Nouvelle Vague -

Titles: Fantômas (1913 - 1914) - ...And God Created Woman (1956) - Eyes without a Face (1959) - Jules and Jim (1962) - Barbarella (1968) - La Prisonnière (1968) - Emmanuelle (1974) - Going Places (1974) - The Story of O (1975) - Pussy Talk (1975) - Je t’Aime Moi Non Plus (1976) - Betty Blue (1986) - Irma Vep (1996) - Sitcom (1998) - Seul contre tous (1998) - Amélie (2001) - Irréversible (2002)

Producers: Anatole Dauman

Critics and curators: André Bazin - Jean-Pierre Bouyxou - Ado Kyrou - Henri Langlois

Actors: Stéphane Audran.html - Brigitte Bardot - Michel Blanc - Patrick Dewaere - Isabelle Huppert - Gerard Depardieu - Jeanne Moreau - Janine Reynaud Delphine Seyrig

Director A-list: Bertrand Blier - Catherine Breillat - Louis Feuillade - Georges Franju - Alain Robbe-Grillet - Patrice Leconte - Georges Méliès - Gaspar Noé - François Ozon - Jacques Tati

Directors: José Bénazéraf - Bertrand Blier - Robert Bresson - Catherine Breillat - Claude Chabrol - Jean Cocteau - Guy Debord - Louis Delluc - Bruno Dumont - Marcel Duchamp - Germaine Dulac - Jean Epstein - Louis Feuillade - Georges Franju - Abel Gance - Serge Gainsbourg - Jean-Luc Godard - Alain Robbe-Grillet - Just Jaeckin - René Laloux - Patrice Leconte - Michel Lemoine - Louis Malle - Georges Méliès - Claude Mulot - Gaspar Noé - François Ozon - Max Pécas - Jean Renoir - Alain Resnais - Jacques Rivette - Jean Rollin - Barbet Schroeder - Jacques Tati - François Truffaut - Roger Vadim


France has been influential in the development of film as a mass medium and as an art form.

Late 19th century to early 20th century
In the late 19th century, during the early years of cinema, France produced several important pioneers. Auguste and Louis Lumière invented the cinématographe and their screening of L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de la Ciotat in Paris in 1895 is marked by many historians as the official birth of cinema. During the next few years, filmmakers all over the world started experimenting with this new medium, and France's Georges Méliès was influential. He invented many of the techniques now common in the cinematic language, and made the first ever science fiction film A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune, 1902).

Other early individuals and organizations of this period included Gaumont Pictures and Pathé Frères. Alice Guy Blaché was one of the first pioneers in cinema. She made her first film in 1896, 'La Fée au Choux', and was head of production at Gaumont 1897-1906, where she made in total about 400 films. Her career continued in the United States.

Beginning in 1935, renowned playright and actor Sacha Guitry directed his first film. He made more than 30 films that are seen as the precursor to the new wave era.

In 1937 Jean Renoir, the son of famous painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, directed what many see as his first masterpiece, La Grande Illusion (The Grand Illusion). In 1939 Renoir directed La Règle du Jeu (The Rules of the Game). Several movie critic's have cited this film as one of the greatest of all-time.

Marcel Carne's Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise) was filmed during World War II and released in 1945. The three hour film was extremely difficult to make due to the conditions during the Nazi occupation. Set in Paris in 1828, the film was voted "Best French Film of the Century" in a poll of 600 French critics and professionals in the late 1990s.

Post-World War II: 1940s-1970s In the critical magazine Cahiers du cinéma founded by André Bazin, critics and lovers of film would discuss film and why it worked. Modern film theory was born there. Additionally, Cahiers critics such as Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, etc. went on to make films themselves, creating what was to become known as the French New Wave. Some of the first movies of this new genre was Truffaut's The 400 Blows (Les Quatre Cent Coups, 1959) starring Jean-Pierre Léaud and Godard's Breathless (À bout de souffle, 1960), starring Jean-Paul Belmondo.

1980s When Jean-Jacques Beineix made Diva (1981) it sparked the beginning of the 80s wave of French cinema. Movies which followed in its wake included Betty Blue (37°2 le matin, 1986) by Beineix, The Big Blue (Le Grand bleu, 1988) by Luc Besson and The Lovers on the Bridge (Les Amants du Pont-Neuf, 1991) by Leos Carax.

1990s In 1991, Jean-Pierre Jeunet made Delicatessen. In 1995 The City of Lost Children (La Cité des enfants perdus) came out. Both films featured a distinctive style.

In the mid-1990s, Krzysztof Kieslowski released his Three colors trilogy, Blue, White and Red. Mathieu Kassovitz's film Hate (La Haine, 1995) made Vincent Cassel into a star.

In 2001 after a brief stunt in Hollywood with the fourth Alien film (Alien: Resurrection), Jeunet returned to France with Amélie (Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain) starring Audrey Tautou and Kassovitz. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinema_of_France [Apr 2005]

Philippe Noiret (1930 -2006)

Coup de Torchon (1981) - Bertrand Tavernier

Life and Nothing But (1989) - Bertrand Tavernier

Noiret in good company, I believe the lady on the left is Jeanne Moreau.
Photo credit unidentified, sourced here.

As you reach middle age, actors, singers and other artist whose work you've followed start to die. Most recently it was Philippe Noiret's turn. His peephole closed last Thursday. Noiret debuted on the screen in 1956 in La Pointe Courte by Agnès Varda, but was not cast again until 1960 in Zazie dans le métro. After that, he became a regular on the French screen, without being cast in major roles untill the late 1960s. Noiret first came to my attention in 1984, in the French film Les Ripoux (English title: (My New Partner). A story about a veteran cop who sees his habits disrupted by his new partner. (co-written by real internal police officer Simon Michaël) My first unconscious exposure to Noiret must have been the famous 1969 heist movie Topaz which our father encouraged us to see in the early seventies. I recently saw him perform in the 1969 art-agit film Mr. Freedom by William Klein and Zazie (his performance was superb).

He shone in such films as Coup de Torchon, the 1981 French film adaptation of Jim Thompson's 1964 novel Pop. 1280, directed by Bertrand Tavernier; in the legendary La Grande Bouffe (1973) by Italian director Marco Ferreri; and perhaps most of all in one of my all time favourite films: Life and Nothing But (1989), again directed by Bertrand Tavernier where Noiret turns in an unforgettable performance as a French Army Officer given the thankless task of uncovering the identity of all the dead of the post World War One battlefields (and falls in love with the character of Catherine Deneuve in the process).

He also starred in two feelgood films of the late eighties and early nineties: Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (of minor interest because of its the famous 'kissing scenes' montage near the end of the film) and the sentimental comedy Il Postino (the story of real-life Chilean poet Pablo Neruda ).

Jean Painlevé

The Sea Horse (1934) - Jean Painlevé

Jean Painlevé (1902-1989) was the director of more than two hundred science and nature films and an early champion of the genre. Advocating the credo "science is fiction," Painlevé scandalized the scientific world with a cinema designed to entertain as well as edify. He portrayed sea horses, vampire bats, and fanworms as endowed with human traits - the erotic, the comical, and the savage - and in the process won over the circle of Surrealists and avant-gardists he befriended, among them the filmmakers Sergei Eisenstein, Jean Vigo, and Luis Buñuel. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Painlev%C3%A9 [Aug 2006]

Some of his films were scored by Darius Milhaud, the 1934 The Sea Horse (1934) for example.

Flesh & blood: sex and violence in recent French cinema (2004) - James Quandt

It seems that every year a French filmmaker sets out to scandalize us tired old film critics by releasing a work that guarantees controversy and media attention. Last year it was Virginie Despentes' dreary Baise-moi, and for two years running Catherine Breillat did her bit with Romance, starring porn star Rocco Siffredi, and the teen-sex picture Fat Girl which only recently was allowed to show theatrically in Ontario.

This year the honour goes to Gaspar Noe for his stomach-churning and brutally disturbing Irreversible which has had audiences walking out of the screenings. --Angela Baldassarre, 2004 via http://entertainment.sympatico.ca/movies/features/irreversible.html

Flesh & blood: sex and violence in recent French cinema ArtForum, Feb, 2004 by James Quandt

The critic truffle-snuffing for trends might call it the New French Extremity, this recent tendency to the willfully transgressive by directors like François Ozon, Gaspar Noé, Catherine Breillat, Philippe Grandrieux—and now, alas, Dumont. Bava as much as Bataille, Salò no less than Sade seem the determinants of a cinema suddenly determined to break every taboo, to wade in rivers of viscera and spumes of sperm, to fill each frame with flesh, nubile or gnarled, and subject it to all manner of penetration, mutilation, and defilement. Images and subjects once the provenance of splatter films, exploitation flicks, and porn—gang rapes, bashings and slashings and blindings, hard-ons and vulvas, cannibalism, sadomasochism and incest, fucking and fisting, sluices of cum and gore—proliferate in the high-art environs of a national cinema whose provocations have historically been formal, political, or philosophical (Godard, Clouzot, Debord) or, at their most immoderate (Franju, Buñuel, Walerian Borowczyk, Andrzej Zulawski), at least assimilable as emanations of an artistic movement (Surrealism mostly). Does a kind of irredentist spirit of incitement and confrontation, reviving the hallowed Gallic traditions of the film maudit, of épater les bourgeois and amour fou, account for the shock tactics employed in recent French cinema? Or do they bespeak a cultural crisis, forcing French filmmakers to respond to the death of the ineluctable (French identity, language, ideology, aesthetic forms) with desperate measures? --James Quandt, Flesh & Blood: Sex and Violence in Recent French Cinema (2004) via artforum

La Femme Spectacle (1964) - Claude Lelouch

Claude Lelouch flirts with the genre [Mondo films] with La Femme Spectacle (1964). As a starting point, he presents female spectacle across the world. It is here that we witness prenatal exercises and a child birth, without forgetting of course, the striptease sequences and the scenes with the transvestites and transsexuals. Filmed in black and white, this strange film (banned in France in its initial release) ends with an intrusive transition to color cinemascope: from atop the Eiffel Tower we witness the suicide attempt of a young woman dressed in a wedding gown. It should be noted that Lelouch destroyed the negative himself a short while later. --Elie Castiel via http://www.offscreen.com/biblio/essays/mondo_film/ [Nov 2005]

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