French Cinema in the 1980s: Nostalgia and the Crisis of Masculinity

French Cinema in the 1980s: Nostalgia and the Crisis of Masculinity

French Cinema in the 1980s: Nostalgia and the Crisis of Masculinity

French Cinema in the 1980s: Nostalgia and the Crisis of Masculinity

Synopsis

French Cinema in the 1980s is a set of critical essays on films which help to focus on a particular theme whose roots are in the 1970s, and which extends beyond the 1980s into the 1990s: the crisis of masculinity in contemporary French culture, and its interrelationship with nostalgia. After an introduction which gives a brief overview both of the crisis in the French film industry during the 1980s, and of the socio-political crisis of masculinity in the wake of 1970s feminism, there are three sections: the retro-nostalgic film, which emerged during the 1980s, and two more popular genres, the polar, or police thriller, and the comic film. Each section begins with a brief preface which highlights the major issues for the genre during the 1980s. The films discussed have all been distributed outside France, and are in many cases commercially available. The nostalgia section covers IUn amour de Swann, Un dimanche ¿ la campagne, Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources, and Coup de foudre. The section on the police thriller begins with Truffaut's last film, Vivement dimanche!, and includes a chapter on three thrillers by a variety of directors (La Balance, Police, D¿tective). Its main focus, however, is on thrillers by the directors of the cin¿ma du look (Diva, Subway, Mauvais sang). The last section on the comic film looks at three films which were successful both in France and abroad: Trois hommes et un couffin (remade in Hollywood as Three Men and a Baby), La Vie est un long fleuve tranquille and, finally, Depardieu's gamble at cross-dressing, Tenue de soir¿e.

Excerpt

Although this book focuses on films which appeared in the 1980s, it is not strictly a history of French film in the 1980s. There are a number of histories of French film which cover the period very well and often exhaustively (see Frodon 1995, Hayward 1993a, Prédal 1991, Siclier 1991), making a further history unnecessary. This book is rather a set of critical essays on a number of films which help to focus on a particular theme whose roots are in the 1970s, and which extends beyond the 1980s into the 1990s: the crisis of masculinity in contemporary French culture, and its interrelationship with nostalgia.

I have chosen to concentrate on films from three genres. The first of these, the nostalgia film, emerged during the 1980s, and it vehicles the same crisis of masculinity, in my view, as the other two more popular genres, the polar, or police thriller, and the comic film, have nearly always done. My concern is less to ground the crisis of masculinity in a socio-political context (although I have done so briefly in the Introduction) than to investigate the crisis insofar as it positions the spectator. In that sense, the theoretical context for the work in this book is spectatorship theory, which, it could be argued, reached its apogee, but also a dead end, during the 1980s. Thus, although the book is not a history, its theoretical framework is historically located. This is all the more the case since the spectatorship paradigm is complemented by two theoretical paradigms developed during the 1980s: the interference between cinema and painting, developed mainly by critics associated with the Cahiers du cinéma as part of the 'valorization of a particular model of French auteur cinema' (Darke 1993: 374), and the considerably more robust paradigm of star studies whose impact has had the opposite effect of dismantling auteurist perspectives in favour of a cultural studies approach to film.

The book is structured around the three genres mentioned above. After an introduction, which gives a brief overview both of the crisis in the French film industry during the 1980s, and of the socio- political crisis of masculinity in the wake of feminism, each of the . . .

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