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City of Darkness, City of Light

City of Darkness, City of Light: Emigré Filmmakers in Paris 1929-1939

Alastair Phillips
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    City of Darkness, City of Light
    Book Description:

    This title is the first ever book-length study of the cinematic representation of Paris in the films of German emigré filmmakers, who found there a first refuge from Hitler. In coming to Paris - the privileged site in terms of production, exhibition as well as the cinematic imaginary of French film culture - these experienced film professionals encountered also a darker side: hostility toward Germans, anti-Semitism, as well as boycotts from French industry personnel, afraid of losing their jobs to foreigners. The book juxtaposes the cinematic portrayal of Paris in the films of Robert Siodmak, Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, Max Ophüls, Anatol Litvak and others with the wider social and cultural debates about the city in the cinema. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0525-8
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 7-8)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 9-20)

    In 1931, the French painter Maurice Vlaminck wrote that he now tended to “avoid going to Paris. It has become for me like a train station, a kind of Western Constantinople, a junction [and] a bazaar” (in Golan 1995, 88). Vlaminck’s acerbic description of the bustling and cosmopolitan nature of Parisian life points to the fact that the French capital did indeed become a terminus or junction for various groups of émigrés in the 1930s. Among the people drawn to the possibilities of the City of Light were a succession of European filmmakers who arrived in Paris from the internationally...

  5. 2 The City in Context
    (pp. 21-72)

    In his evocative and modestly tempered account of the complex nature of the relationships formed between Parisians and their German occupiers during the Second World War, Richard Cobb rightly seeks to demonstrate the range of feelings available within the framework of this situation. Instead of painting a picture which conveys an unambiguous clash between the values of lightness and dark; he argues that, certainly at the metropolitan level, “relations betweenoccupantsandoccupéswere obscured, twisted and complicated by all sorts of nuances of personal relations, ranging from mutual trust to a jarring acrimony” (1983, 60). This question of cultural...

  6. 3 City of Light
    (pp. 73-106)

    This delirious quotation was, unsurprisingly,notauthored by one of the émigrés from the German film industry who arrived in “the City of Light” in the early 1930s – it comes from the pen of a male visitor in the 1870s – but the phrasing does suggest a number of issues that concern the relationship between various émigré films set in Paris and the mythical status of Paris. Firstly, it introduces the notion of spectacle which was as appropriate for a visitor as it was for a native resident. According to T. J. Clark (1996, 63), the term “spectacle” pointed...

  7. 4 City of Darkness
    (pp. 107-148)

    The Paris cinema auditorium of the 1930s was a place city dwellers largely entered at night, attracted by the building façade’s display lights. Off the street, the audience found themselves in darkness again for the duration of the evening’s main entertainment whilst images of the city were projected via light onto the screen. Discussing the work of the novelist Emile Zola in relation to the historical depiction of social experience in the French capital, Louis Chevalier wrote: ‘paradoxically (...) the triumph of light, for him, far from eradicated the shadow and the past which it concealed. It actually accorded it...

  8. 5 Divided City
    (pp. 149-170)

    The critic Georges Champeaux noted that Pièges (1939), Robert Siodmak’s final film made in France before departing for the United States, seemed to be like a dark Parisian police drama but indeed it was something else. “Pièges has neither the cut nor the rhythm of a police film,” he stated. “What it seems like is a succession of sketches destined to bring its comical or bizarre characters to life in front of us. The slowness and, it has to be said, the talent with which the director Robert Siodmak describes the social milieu of each of his characters scarcely contributes...

  9. 6 Conclusion
    (pp. 171-176)

    The French film journalist Henri Calef, in a 1933 interview with the émigré director Kurt Bernhardt, observed that “the cinema is an excellent vehicle for the intensification of relations between two nations – it permits not only a richer mutual knowledge but also a greater mutual understanding”.¹ Calef’s utopian ideals were apparently akin to those of the future director of Carrefour who, in another meeting with the Parisian press, argued that the presence of foreign filmmakers in France “was the only means by which to achieve an international cinema”.² This book has examined what happened to these aspirations in relation...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 177-190)
  11. Appendices
    (pp. 191-218)
  12. Filmography
    (pp. 219-220)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 221-242)
  14. Index
    (pp. 243-254)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 255-256)