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Studies in French Cinema Conference 2008 Abstracts Elizabeth Ezra University of Stirling email@example.com Josephine Baker and the dawn of Transnational Cinema This paper analyzes Josephine Baker‘s status as a transnational film icon avant la letter. Building on her status as a stage performer, Baker‘s films prefigured transnational cinema‘s imbrication with other entertainment media, while their use of promotional tieins (fashion, hair products, cosmetics, nightclubs) anticipated the marketing campaigns to come in the age of the Hollywood blockbuster. The films in which Baker starred cultivated a melting-pot exoticism by boiling down geographical and historical specificities into an indistinct mass of ―otherness,‖ making it difficult quite literally to ―locate‖ Baker‘s cultural origins. This topographical indeterminacy served many functions at a time when French colonial ambitions were colliding (and colluding) with the geopolitical realignment heralded by the impending world war. Baker‘s status as a transnational cultural icon was forged by her evocation of larger global systems such as colonialism (Franco-African and Franco-Caribbean, within the broader context of the imperial rivalry between France and Britain) and the ―Jazz-Age‖ constellation of FrenchAfrican-American identities, with the attending competition between ―Old World‖ and ―New‖ for world cultural hegemony. Baker‘s position within these shifting global configurations was not so much interstitial as nodal, or ―crepuscular‖—that is, located on the horizon between the decline of one era and the dawn of another—making her a key figure in the history of transnational cinema and mass-media culture. Although the paper considers Baker‘s interwar film career in toto, it will feature analysis and clips of Baker‘s less well-known films, including the 1925 short Les Pompiers de la Folies-Bergère (in which Baker plays a cameo role) and the rarely-seen feature-length Fausse alerte (1939), made during the Drôle de guerre. Margaret C. Flinn University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign firstname.lastname@example.org Crowd Portraits: French Documentary of the 1930s and Film’s Fantasies of the Masses In this paper I lay out the stakes and instabilities of documentary film in France from 1929-39 as it may be charted through specialized press dedicated to cinema (fan magazines, trade papers, etc). Reviews, editorials and feature stories consider the place and definition of what is now generally referred to as documentary filmmaking. Documentary was, at this time particularly, a fluctuating term, ranging from cinéma éducateur (clearly influenced by the British documentary movement led by John Grierson), to experimental or avant-garde works like Georges Lacombe‘s La Zone, to ―scientific‖ film (e.g. Jean Painlevé) to propaganda (or publicity films), and even actualities (newsreels or journal filmé). Documentary of various types looks both close to home and far abroad, thus illustrating the contradictions between cinema as a spectatorial voyage that renders the unknown familiar and defamiliarizes the known. I argue that across these various categories, discourse around documentary film crystallizes concerns at work in the larger context of French film production and distribution at the time about the possibilities of attracting mass audiences and about the individual‘s place in various social spaces. Anxieties raised by double features (le double programme) and other shifts in programming/distribution practices coupled with affirmations of documentary‘s propaganda value cut across political boundaries, but it is the French left at the time of the popular front that seeks most actively to capitalize on cinema‘s mass potential as an organizing tool. Therefore, in the second part of my paper, I focus on the subgeneric category of militant documentary that finds comes to prominence in the years of the Popular Front. Here I look more closely at the films themselves, notably the anonymous collective Grèves d’occupation, Jean-Paul Drefyfus‘s Le Temps des cerises, and Jacques Lemare‘s Les Métallos, arguing that the militant film actualizes the impulse to speak to, educate and implicate a mass audience—particularly by presenting scenes of what I call ―crowd portraiture‖: a set of montage strategies that situate the individual within the collectivity. Colleen Kennedy Rutgers University email@example.com Cultural Incompatibility: Gender and the Other(s) in L’Esclave blanche and La Maison du Maltais My talk will focus on the different amalgams of gender and ―otherness‖ that shape the characters in L’Esclave blanche (Sorkin 1939) and La Maison du Maltais (Chenal 1938) and how their foreign or hybridized identity contributes to each narrative. Significantly, no combination of these characteristics ultimately helps to overcome the fundamental cultural incompatibility that impedes the assimilation of the foreign (and gendered) Other in each of these films, an interdiction that emerges as a hallmark of the cinéma colonial. These two films share several common traits: both found box office and popular success in late 30s France, both featured non-Western characters and customs, and both starred audience favorites Viviane Romance and Dalio. Still, the differences between these films are striking. Esclave adheres to several themes typical of cinéma colonial without taking place in the colonies, while Maison shifts setting mid-film from Tunisia to Paris. In addition, French stars Romance and Dalio display various shades of ―otherness‖ in each role: in Maison Romance plays a prostitute from Marseille with a markedly foreign name, but in Esclave she plays the chic Parisian wife of an Ottoman official; Dalio, himself a Jew, takes an uncharacteristic leading role in Maison as a Tunisian of Maltese descent before appearing as the beleaguered Ottoman sultan (!) in Esclave. Although these roles are all memorable in their own right, they comprise only a fraction of those that established Romance and Dalio as stars. Their repeated turns playing characters defined both by their otherness and their experience in foreign cultures affect not only their cinematic legacy as prominent stars of the 30s, but also their contemporary audience‘s sense of the intercultural conflict at the heart of the cinéma colonial. T. Jefferson Kline Boston University firstname.lastname@example.org Jean Epstein’s Theory of the Diabolical Cinema and The Fall of the House of Usher Jean Epstein emerged quite early on as one of the most articulate and agressive defenders not only of cinema as anart, but of French cinema as a very special branch of that art. His oppostion to classical Hollywood cinema sometimes took the form of truculent calls to arms and his films became exemplars of a certain very Gallic kind of poetics. Later on, Epstein authored a long essay entitled, Le Cinema du diable (1947) in which he wrote: Reconnaissons que le cinématographe est effectivement une école d‘irrationalisme, de romantisme et qu‘il manifeste ainsi, à nouveau, des caractères démoniaques. Ceux-ci, d‘ailleurs, procèdent directement du démonisme primordial de la photogénie du mouvement. Dans la vie de l‘âme, la raison, par le moyen de ses règles fixes, cherche à imposer un certain ordre, une certaine mesure, une relative stabilité au flux et au reflux perpétuels qui agitent le domaine affectif, aux fortes marées et aux furieuses tempêtes qui bouleversent sans cesse le monde des instincts. S‘il n‘y a pas à la prétendre immuable, la raison, néanmoins, constitue nettement le facteur mental le moins mobile. Ainsi, la loi de photogénie laissait déjà prévoir que toute interprétation rationnelle du monde se prêterait moins à la représentation cinématographique que toute conception intuitive, sentimentale. (23) An analysis of Epstein‘s The Fall of the House of Usher (1928) allow us to appreciate the many and various ways Epstein put into practice his theories of « photogénie » and the « diabolical cinema » and will reveal the great importance of his thought and work in the emerging French silent cinema. Pierre Lethier Kings College London email@example.com Clara Laurent Paris X University firstname.lastname@example.org Marthe Richard, Espionne au Service de la France (Raymond Bernard, 1937) Despite its strong performances, Raymond Bernard‘s ambitious film about Marthe Richard‘s heroic journey into the mysterious realm of espionage did not enjoy the highest acclaim among cinema experts. Loosely based on Richard‘s memoirs and those of her case officer within the French Deuxième Bureau, the film, set in 1917, celebrates high patriotic endeavour and Americanophilia, and tackles the spy genre‘s key themes of deception, duels and revenge. As we will discuss, the film sets itself an impossible task, namely the deconstruction, or rather destruction, of the Mata Hari myth – which had gained worldwide recognition thanks to the Greta Garbo‘s fascinating portrayal of the character in 1931 – and in its place the hoisting, Joan of Arc-style, of a new legend, the virtuous national secret agent. The eponymous character is played by Edwige Feuillère, then a rising star of stage and screen. Feuillère‘s Richard is a chaste adventuress and a woman of spirit, who volunteers to terminate the head of a German spy ring – played by Eric von Stroheim, the Hollywood star who from 1937 had landed a number of roles in major French films. With its strong popular appeal, Marthe Richard belongs to a series of works which not only reinvent and dramatise events from the Great War, but reflect the heavy climate of impending hostility a few years before Europe was ablaze once more – films such as Deuxième Bureau contre Kommandantur, Double Crime sur la Ligne Maginot and, of course, La Grande Illusion. However, Marthe Richard was not destined to become the new Marianne. Her legacy is a peculiar one – initially a prostitute, then a daredevil, she is best remembered for the famous law named after her that closed down France‘s 1,400 brothels in 1946. Marie Martin Paris X Nanterre email@example.com French avant-garde in the 1920s and the genre: Dream in crime and melodrama serials Films examined : Crime and melodrama serials French Avant-garde at large Abel Gance, La Roue, 1920 Jacques Feyder, L’Atlantide, 1921 Ivan Mosjoukine, Le Brasier ardent, 1923 Jean Epstein, L’Auberge rouge, 1923 Marcel L‘Herbier, L’Inhumaine, 1924 René Clair, Paris qui dort, 1925 René Clair, Le voyage imaginaire, 1926 Jean Epstein, La glace à trois faces, 1927 Germaine Dulac, Princesse Mandane, 1928 Man Ray, Les Mystères du château de Dé, 1929 Henri d‘Arche, La Perle, 1929 Louis Feuillade, Fantômas, 1913-1914 Louis Feuillade, Les Vampires, 1915 Louis Feuillade, Judex, 1916 Louis Feuillade, Tih-Minh, 1918 Henri Fescourt, Mathias Sandorf, 1921 Germaine Dulac, Gossette, 1923 Henri Desfontaines, Belphégor, 1927 Henri Fescourt, Monte-Cristo, 1929 We examine the idea that dream, not as syntagmas in films, but as a specific way of telling a story (structure and figuration), could help us reconsider the History of French cinema aesthetics and re-evaluate the generally acknowledged distinction between genre and Avant-garde. We study and put into perspective both crime and melodrama serials and surrealist and narrative avant-garde, and show that they have many things in common as far as dream or the unconscious is concerned. Avant-garde won‘t be considered as a position in film industry, but as a power to create new aesthetics, even in some stereotypical genres. The French serials in the 1910 and the 1920s provide us with another conception of filmic dream, not quite similar to the dream according to French Impressionist cinema (Bordwell) or surrealist visions. A new dream power spawns from the way to ―tell it‖ rather than from the optic deformations of the image, and from some specific Figuras such as depth of field literally opening on a strange scene (Feuillade) or the unspeakable (Fescourt). We also shed light on the cross intertextuality between avantgarde dreams and genre. For instance Histoire d’un crime (Zecca, 1901) is used in Fantômas - À l'ombre de la guillotine (Feuillade, 1913) or the fantasmatic murder from L’Auberge rouge (Epstein, 1923) in Monte-Cristo (Fescourt, 1929). There are many such interactions and we fathom them through the fundamental concept of dream as a turning point between genre and avant-garde. Charles O’Brien Carleton University firstname.lastname@example.org “Paris Belongs to Everyone”: Sous les toit de Paris and the French Musical Film, at Home and Abroad My presentation examines Sous les toit de Paris (dir. René Clair, 1930) in terms the function of songs in French sound films of the early 1930s. The investigation involves situating film-song practices relative to links between film and song industries. Essential here is a consideration of film in connection with gramophone, radio, music publishing, and the music hall, and how this inter-medial configuration evolved in France relative to other countries, especially Britain, Germany, and the United States. My analysis will compare and contrast Sous les toit de Paris to song-oriented films made at the PathéNatan complex at Joinville-le-pont. The point of the analysis is to specify similarities and differences between French films made for export and those made for home consumption. Clair‘s operettas won international popular success and critical acclaim in entirely French versions in countries from Britain to Germany, the United States, and Japan. In contrast the Pathé-Natan films were aimed mainly, if not exclusively for the home market, where, it appears, they commercially outperformed the Clair operettas, including Sous les toits de Paris. The analysis draws upon a database of 400 films made in France Britain, Germany and the United States during 1928-1933, which I use to generate various song-sequence statistics (see, for instance, my some 150 entries to the database at www.cinemetrics.lv). My intent in mobilizing this material is to establish the stylistic distinctiveness of the French musical films of the time, as well as to bring to the fore ways in which these films also exemplified trans-national trends in film style. Phil Powrie Newcastle University email@example.com Josephine Baker and Pierre Batcheff in La Sirène des tropiques (1927) La Sirène des tropiques was Josephine Baker‘s first feature film, made as result of the extraordinary success of La Revue Nègre in Paris in 1925. In this paper I set the context for the revue in the post-war fascination for all things American, incorporating original archive work on the trade press of the period. I then explore Baker‘s persona as a stereotypical contrast between nature and culture as mediated through the spaces used in the film (the tropics and Paris). I show how the sequence in the transatlantic liner where she becomes more black by rolling in coal and then white by rolling in flour complicates the over-simplified nature/culture binary. A second complication is the on-screen relationship between the two stars, Baker and Pierre Batcheff, one of the leading French stars of the 1920s. Batcheff was also ‗other‘ by his Russian associations and his acting style. This makes Baker more ‗other‘ than she might otherwise have been; but it also legitimizes the way in which the narrative punishes her: she doesn‘t get her man, and overdeterminedly sacrifices herself for his happiness. I explore the hypothesis that her punishment would have seemed acceptable for audiences of the period, for two ultimately xenophobic reasons. First, because the narrative makes her more ‗Western‘, destroying the comfort of the nature/culture binary. Second, because she draws attention away from the leading man by being excessive in her acting style, thus undermining Batcheff‘s agency. Keith Reader University of Glasgow firstname.lastname@example.org Raymond Bernard’s Les Misérables (1934): a forgotten classic, a fourfold exclusion The goal of my paper will be at once to (re)introduce Bernard‘s four-and-a-half-hour epic to a UK audience and to interrogate the reasons why it has languished in obscurity for so long. Bernard‘s film has, I shall argue, fallen under a fourfold exclusion which has caused it to be perceived, however unwittingly, as lacking in what Bourdieu terms ‗distinction.‘ In the first instance, Les Misérables is a precursor of what Truffaut was to revile as the cinéma de qualité – a genre which has attained respectability in its reincarnation over the past twenty or so years as the heritage movie, but whose earlier avatars still tend to be viewed with condescension. Secondly, it adapts a text which, while almost certainly the most often filmed of French novels, is surprisingly seldom read or studied. Thirdly, Bernard figures well below not only Renoir and Carné but probably also Duvivier or Chenal on the totem-pole of 1930s auteurs. Finally, the film‘s lead actor, Harry Baur, is generally neglected compared to Gabin or even Raimu, the result at once of his emphatic acting style and of his mysterious death under the Occupation. I hope to make a modest contribution towards giving this striking film – just issued on DVD in the US – the attention it deserves. Leila Wimmer email@example.com Fan magazines and female identity The 1930s represent a golden age of the popular film press in France. However, popular film weeklies, with their focus on stars, have often been marginalized or altogether excluded from the history of French film criticism, dismissed as mainstream commercial publications aimed exclusively at a debased fan female readership of midinettes. Yet, Victoria de Grazia has claimed that cinema fan magazines had a special appeal in the constitution of new female publics, often adopting what she has called ‗a local version of life-style feminism‘, some such as Cinémonde, under the editorship of Suzanne Chantal, ‗strongly backing the vote for women‘ (2005, 452). During the 1930s, traditional gender ideas were being both reasserted and contested and in this paper, I focus on the film weeklies Cinémonde and Pour Vous and examine their discourse on female stardom in the context of contemporary debates over gender and the definition of French nationality prior to the Occupation. I will discuss how the new beauty standards, sexual mores and social habits fostered by American films stars was construed in contrast with French stars and the differences between national and American mass culture in the context of a female gender identity still defined in terms of the private sphere in the context of an increasingly politicised French film culture.
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