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French Film in Britain

French Film in Britain: Sex, Art and Cinephilia

Lucy Mazdon
Catherine Wheatley
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    French Film in Britain
    Book Description:

    In a market long dominated by Hollywood, French films are consistently the most widely distributed non-English language works. French cinema, however, appears to undergo a transformation as it reaches Britain, becoming something quite different to that experienced by audiences at home. Drawing on extensive archival research the authors examine in detail the discourses, debates and decisions which have determined the place accorded to French cinema in British film culture. In so doing they provide a fascinating account of this particular instance of transnational cinematic traffic while simultaneously shedding new light on British film history. From the early days of the Film Society, via the advent of the X certificate to the new possibilities of video and DVD, this book reveals the complex and detailed history of the distribution, exhibition, marketing and reception of French cinema in Britain.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-379-2
    Subjects: Film Studies, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    In Gilbert Adair’s 1930s-set Agatha Christie pastiche of 2007,A Mysterious Affair of Style, a visit to a film set provokes a discussion about the ‘special’ nature of French cinema. Philippe Françaix, a French film critic, claims that in his experience the English ‘like to watch nothing but foreign films’ (Adair 2007: 112). Evadne Mount, bestselling whodunit author and amateur sleuth, protests, ‘Why Monsieur Françaix, only a very few foreign films open in London, mostly at a cinema called the Academy. And what a godsend it is for us devotees of the Seventh Art’ (112). Much to Mount’s astonishment, Françaix...

  6. 1 The Advent of Sound: A Changing Film Culture (1925–1939)
    (pp. 17-50)

    The moving picture had first been demonstrated in London by the Lumière brothers in 1896 – a Franco-British exchange worth noting given the focus of our study here. What started as little more than a technical marvel gradually became the focus of a working film industry as the 1900s progressed. Key developments such as the 1907 opening of the Balham Empire, the first British theatre devoted entirely to film shows; the 1909 Cinematograph Films Act giving local authorities the power to license cinemas and the formalisation of censorship via the founding of the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) in 1912;...

  7. 2 Cinema Goes to War (1939–1950)
    (pp. 51-80)

    If the 1930s had proved a golden age for the British exhibition of French film, the outbreak of World War Two in September 1939 seemed to present a dire threat to this cinematic blossoming. The emergence of specialist cinemas, the growth in the Film Society movement and the increasing visibility of the ‘Continentals’, largely thanks to the efforts of a dedicated body of enthusiasts, all seemed precarious as the imperatives of war became paramount in Britain, and as France, source of so many of those ‘Continentals’, fell to the Nazis. And yet, early fears about the future of cinema, and...

  8. 3 ‘Saucy and Naughty and Witty and Chic’: Can French Films Fill the Gap? (1950–1959)
    (pp. 81-104)

    The 1950s was to prove a challenging period for the film industry. If the rigours of the war years had seen people flocking to the cinema in search of entertainment, warmth and a modicum of safety, the 1950s ushered in a range of enticing alternatives. Other forms of leisure, some of them unavailable during the war, replaced film-going for many and it became increasingly common to see the conversion of a movie theatre to dance or concert hall. The improved comfort of the domestic space meant that staying at home became an ever more attractive option, even more so in...

  9. 4 The French New Wave on British Shores (1959–1970)
    (pp. 105-140)

    How to balance commercial success and critical standing? If this was the question that British distributors and exhibitors of French cinema were struggling with at the end of the 1950s, the subsequent decade seemed to offer a solution of sorts, albeit one that was short-lived. For 1960 was the year that saw the arrival of a new kind of French film on British shores, one that has left a lasting impression on perceptions of Gallic cinema amongst U.K. critics, academics and film-goers. This was, of course, the era of the French New Wave.

    Although coined by French journalist Françoise Giroud,...

  10. 5 ‘A New Low in French Films’: Changing Perceptions of French Cinema (1970–1982)
    (pp. 141-174)

    In an article published in the winter of 1979, Penelope Houston, the editor ofSight and Sound, looked back over the wreckage of the decade that preceded it and concluded that, if the view from 1970 had been bad, the outlook from here was much worse. ‘It would be difficult to maintain that 0the cinema seems as significant, as relevant or as enlivening as it did ten years ago’ (Houston 1979/80: 2), she writes, describing the 1960s as ‘a remarkable decade for cinema’, one whose glory seems all the greater compared with the poor fare available to the public at...

  11. 6 Video Saved the French Film? (1982–2002)
    (pp. 175-210)

    Flicking through the pages of the various specialist film journals published in the 1980s, the standing of French film in 1980s Britain is not immediately discernible. To a large extent, this is because there is a major shift in the subjects being discussed within their pages and headlined on their covers. Once magazines such asSight and SoundandFilms and Filmingwere replete with studies of the latest auteurs and film movements – with the odd retrospective or nostalgia piece thrown in for good measure – and so it was easy to spot the Renoirs, Renais, the New Waves and the...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 211-222)

    Describing his journey into the academic discipline of French Studies in an article published inFrench Cultural Studiesin 1999, John Stokes recalls his adolescent forays to the State Cinema on Leytonstone High Road in East London:

    It was at the State that my dreams of France were born, giving me first of all a taste for a film culture that was already slightly out of date and yet, in comparison with the life surrounding, seemed excitingly alien. Even the comedies of Fernandel had a raw, raucous quality, while romantic dramas starring, say, Michelle Morgan or Charles Boyer possessed a...

  13. Index
    (pp. 223-238)