Article

French Cinema

Ginette Vincendeau

in Cinema and Media Studies

ISBN: 9780199791286
Published online October 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0032
French Cinema

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As befits the country of the cinema’s official “birth,” France boasts a long tradition of writing on film. In the 1920s, avant-garde filmmakers such as Louis Delluc and Jean Epstein started theorizing cinema’s specificity as a medium, while in the 1930s debates turned political. During that decade critics and historians such as Georges Sadoul began also to reflect on film history. Major works on French cinema, however, started to appear only after World War II. A first wave emerged from the postwar cultural effervescence and the rise of cinephilia, with new journals such as Cahiers du cinéma and Positif. Film critic André Bazin and his disciples (among them future New Wave filmmakers François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard), developed the politique des auteurs and wrote the first “serious” monographs about filmmakers—mostly American and French. In their wake auteurist works took off in the 1960s, as well as reflections on movements such as the New Wave and French cinema as a whole. A second wave followed the rise of academic film studies in the 1970s, initially with the accent on theory, and saw the internationalization of French cinema studies. In the 1980s and 1990s a “historical turn” generated influential studies—survey histories, anthologies, and accounts of specific periods and movements—in the United Kingdom, the United States, and France. Echoing the continuing spread of film studies courses and buoyancy of French cinema, a third wave followed, with a discernible shift toward cultural and ideological approaches. In particular, issues of gender, ethnic, and cultural identity came to the fore, as well as film and philosophy, together with a marked interest in contemporary cinema. The enduring strength of auteurism means that some areas, notably popular genres, are still underexplored. Nevertheless, French cinema is now remarkably well mapped out.

Article.  11977 words. 

Subjects: Media Studies ; Film ; Radio ; Television

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