France in Focus: Film and National Identity

France in Focus: Film and National Identity

France in Focus: Film and National Identity

France in Focus: Film and National Identity


This volume brings together the work of leading film scholars from the UK, France and the US who assess a dominant art form's engagement with expressions of national identity at key moments in French cinematic history, from its origins at the end of the nineteenth century, through the inter-war period, the Occupation, the post-Liberation era, and the New Wave, up to the current state of the industry. The essays go against the grain in their attempts to construct an alternative history of French cinema, whether by bringing to light overlooked films or by examining well-known, indeed even 'over-exposed' films or filmmakers in a new light. In re-evaluating the work of Georges M¿li¿s, Jacques Becker, Jean Renoir, Diane Kurys, Fran¿ois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Jacques Beineix, the contributors to this volume focus on the paradoxical centrality of the marginal in constructions of national identity. In doing so, they reveal the structure of 'l'exception fran¿aise', in which French culture makes an exception for itself by suppressing alterity within it.This multi-faceted assessment of French visual culture and identity will be of interest to students and scholars in French studies, media and film studies, cultural studies and French history.


The origins of this book can be traced to an international conference organized by the editors in the University of Stirling French Department. The conference, ‘Visual Culture and French National Identity’, was a broad-based interdisciplinary event, which examined questions of how national identity is articulated through the range of forms of representation that surround us in our daily lives. We would like to extend our thanks to those scholars who presented erudite papers on French advertising, television, art and film, and to all the conference participants who made such a valuable contribution to the generation of ideas that has inspired this book.

Taking up where the conference left off, this volume brings together a selection of the original papers on French film, reworked in the light of the conference debates, and combines them with a number of subsequently commissioned papers that further address the complexities of the visual mediation of national identity. That the questions raised here are fundamental to our understanding of both the French film industry and French identity itself is underlined in the trajectory of some of the original companion pieces, which have recently been published in French Cultural Studies, French Cinema in the 1990s (Powrie, Oxford University Press, 1999), and Space in European Cinema (Konstantorakos, Intellect Press, 1998).

We are grateful to the following people for their kind support: to Oron Joffe, Suzanne Ramage, and Marilyn Scott for their advice and, at times, heroic interventions, on the computing front; to Eileen Kelly and Alison Cooper for their assistance with organizational matters; and to Philippa Caine for her work translating the essay by Jean-Pierre Jeancolas. We would also like to convey our personal thanks to Neil and Euan Harris, and Paul Jackson, respectively, for bearing with our divided attentions for the duration of this project.

On an institutional level, we wish to express our gratitude to the School of Modern Languages at Queen Mary and Westfield College for funding the photographs in this volume, to the Museum of Modern Art Film Stills Archive and the British Film Institute for providing the photographs, and . . .

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