Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Je T'Aime...Moi Non Plus

Je T'Aime...Moi Non Plus: Franco-British Cinematic Relations

Lucy Mazdon
Catherine Wheatley
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 300
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Je T'Aime...Moi Non Plus
    Book Description:

    A series of limiting definitions have tended to delineate the Franco-British cinematic relationship. As this collection of essays reveals, there is much more to it than simple oppositions between British critical esteem for the films of France and French dismissal of 'le cinema British', or the success of Ken Loach et al. at the French box office and the relative dearth of French movies on British screens. In fact, there has long been a rich and productive dialogue between these two cultures in which both their clear differences and their shared concerns have played a vital role. This book provides an overview of the history of these relations from the early days of sound cinema to the present day. The chapters, written by leading experts in the history of French, British and European cinema, provide insights into relations between French and British cinematic cultures at the level of production, exhibition and distribution, reception, representation and personnel. The book features a diverse range of studies, including: the exhibition of French cinema in Britain in the 1930s, contemporary 'extreme' French cinema, stars such as Annabella, David Niven and Jane Birkin and the French Resistance on British screens.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-855-3
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. INTRODUCTION. Franco-British Cinematic Relations: An Overview
    (pp. 1-16)
    Lucy Mazdon

    The title of this book will no doubt be familiar to many readers. Perhaps the most notorious of all Franco-British collaborations, the song ‘Je t’aime, moi non plus’ was written by French singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg and originally recorded in 1968 with Brigitte Bardot. Bardot vetoed the release of her recording and Gainsbourg set about producing a new version which was recorded at London’s Marble Arch Studio and which featured the then relatively unfamiliar English actress Jane Birkin. As Robert and Isabelle Tombs remark, the contrast with the ‘pouting, pneumatic Bardot’ was striking (Tombs and Tombs 2006: 634). Birkin was a...

  7. Part I: Industry and Institutions

    • CHAPTER 1 The Exhibition, Distribution and Reception of French Films in Great Britain during the 1930s
      (pp. 19-36)
      Vincent Porter

      The exhibition of French films in Great Britain expanded dramatically during the 1930s, and by the outbreak of the Second World War a Francophile cinemagoer living in London could have seen approximately 110 feature films, and some twenty shorts and documentaries. By 1939, French films could be seen in up to seven London cinemas, two of which were repertory cinemas, and six of which were located only a short walk from Oxford Circus. Outside London, screenings of French films were far more limited, and people living in Scotland and the English regions had to rely on their local film society...

    • CHAPTER 2 The ʹCinematizationʹ of Sound Cinema in Britain and the Dubbing into French of Hitchcockʹs Waltzes from Vienna (1934)
      (pp. 37-50)
      Charles OʹBrien

      The project of investigating the history of interaction between British and French cinema brings out important film-historical phenomena ordinarily occluded in much film studies research, in which national cinemas are studied in isolation from one another. In examining British and French film together, it becomes possible to see how national film cultures entail a significant transnational dimension enabled by the circulation of films made elsewhere and then imported in. In the preceding chapter, for example, Vincent Porter details how French films became the major foreign-cinema presence in Britain in the 1930s, thereby altering the aesthetic context for some British movie...

    • CHAPTER 3 Une Entente Cordiale? – A Brief History of the Anglo-French Film Coproduction Agreement, 1965–1979
      (pp. 51-66)
      Justin Smith

      One of the most obvious ways in which one might consider the formalization of Franco-British cinematic relations is in respect of trade agreements. Yet Anglo-European treaties with France (1965), with Italy (1967) and with West Germany (1974), proved relatively ineffectual in promoting coproduction. Recourse to the archives offers an explanation as to why. During the 1970s, as Britain continued to equivocate over full membership of the European Community, so the domestic interests of the British film trade increasingly diverged from those of her closest continental film ally, France. Department of Trade files at the National Archives reveal the nature of...

    • CHAPTER 4 Channel-crossing Festivals: The Cases of the French Film Festival U.K. and Dinardʹs Festival du Film Britannique
      (pp. 67-80)
      Cécile Renaud

      With the past twenty years having seen an unprecedented worldwide boom in the number of film festivals, events in Britain and France devoted to the national cinemas of the country across the Channel have emerged and, in some cases, flourished. In the last decade alone, British festivals focusing on French cinema have included the Martell French Film Tour of 1999 and 2000, the Renault French Film Season, the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema sponsored by Unifrance – the French organization responsible for promoting French cinema abroad – and the ephemeral London Carte Noire French Film Festival, which occurred only in 2002....

    • CHAPTER 5 The Language of Love? How the French Sold Lady Chatterleyʹs Lover (Back) to British Audiences
      (pp. 81-100)
      Catherine Wheatley

      In November 1960, while the British courts were still debating the censorship of D.H. Lawrence’s infamous 1928 novel,Lady Chatterley’s Loverhad already been available to certain sections of the British public for some four years in the form of Marc Allégret’s 1955 film adaptation (released in the U.K. in 1956). Starring Danielle Darrieux in the titular role, Allégret’s was the first of three adaptations of Lawrence’s novel to be produced with (largely) French funds and helmed by a French director – the other two being Just Jaeckin’s 1981 softcore pornographic version featuringEmmanuellestar Sylvia Kristel, and, more recently,...

  8. Part II: Reception and Perceptions

    • CHAPTER 6 Disciplining the Nouvelle Vague: Censoring A Bout de Souffle and Other Early French New Wave Films (1956–1962)
      (pp. 103-116)
      Daniel Biltereyst

      InLa Nouvelle Vague?, one of the first books to appear on the French New Wave, the film critic Jacques Siclier (1961) tried to offer a perspective on recent developments in French cinema in terms of scandal, contempt and controversy. Siclier, who made an uncredited appearance in Jean-Luc Godard’sA bout de souffle / Breathless(Godard, 1959), argued that aesthetics and the notion of authorship might be insufficient to understand the revolution which had taken place. The critic suggested rather that while their work was aesthetically diverse, the new young filmmakers were bound together by a quite similar ‘moral conception’...

    • CHAPTER 7 The Reception of the Nouvelle Vague in Britain
      (pp. 117-126)
      Geoffrey Nowell-Smith

      The French New Wave, orNouvelle Vague, was a major event in French cinema. But it also had major international ramifications. It – or simply the fact that it existed – inspired dramatic new developments in the cinema across the world, from Britain to eastern Europe to Japan to Brazil. And its own life was prolonged by its international success, since export sales ofNouvelle Vaguefilms helped finance continuing production even when a film had flopped in its home market.

      This chapter will look at two aspects of the early reception of theNouvelle Vaguein Britain: the critical...

    • CHAPTER 8 ʹNew Waves, New Publics?ʹ: The Nouvelle Vague, French Stars and British Cinema
      (pp. 127-140)
      Sarah Street

      When critics heralded the FrenchNouvelle Vagueat the end of the 1950s the term ‘New Wave’ was soon attached to British films produced by independents, many of which were adaptations from novels and plays written by the so-called ‘Angry Young Man’ generation. Because of their nomenclature, one would assume the New Wave British films resembled or aspired to being similar to theNouvelle Vague. Immediately, however, critics keen to herald experimentation in French films tended to see British films as not pushing at formal boundaries in quite the same way. Penelope Houston comparedThe Loneliness of the Long Distance...

    • CHAPTER 9 Mirror Image: French Reflections of British Cinema
      (pp. 141-152)
      Ian Christie

      Consider a typical French collection of critical writings on cinema.¹ Jérôme Prieur was a rising young critic in 1980 when he publishedNuits blanches: Essai sur le cinéma, based on over sixty reviews of films ranging across six decades. In nearly four hundred pages, no British film or filmmaker is mentioned, apart from Chaplin and Hitchcock. Nor is Prieur an exception: the same absence would be found in most French publications on cinema, other than reference works. Like the notorious surrealist map of the world, in which both Britain and the U.S.A. were suppressed in favour of exotic alternatives such...

    • CHAPTER 10 ʹIncredibly Frenchʹ?: Nation as an Interpretative Context for Extreme Cinema
      (pp. 153-168)
      Melanie Selfe

      The depiction of sexual violence has long been one of the most problematic areas in which the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is expected to exercise its judgement. This chapter draws on an independent academic study commissioned by the BBFC in 2006. The research team was led by Professor Martin Barker and the author worked as research assistant on the project. When the BBFC asked Professor Barker to conduct a study into audience responses to a selection of films that they had recently struggled to classify, it was notable that all five of the titles they chose were non-Hollywood...

    • CHAPTER 11 British Audiences and 1990s French New Realism: La Vie Rêvée des Anges as Cinematic Slum Tourism
      (pp. 169-182)
      Ingrid Stigsdotter

      At the time of its French release, aCahiers du cinémacritic described Erick Zonca’s first feature film,La Vie rêvée des anges / The Dreamlife of Angels(1998), as fitting very neatly into international expectations of French cinema from the 1990s, and corresponding particularly well to the idea of French contemporary cinema promoted at the Cannes film festival (Burdeau 1998: 71). Elodie Bouchez and Natacha Régnier received a shared Best Actress award at the 1998 festival for their performances as Isa (Bouchez) and Marie (Régnier), two young women with very different personalities who share a flat together in the...

  9. Part III: Personnel and Performance

    • CHAPTER 12 ʹThe Meaning of That French Word Chicʹ: Annabellaʹs Franco-British Stardom
      (pp. 185-196)
      Jonathan Driskell

      Despite being among the most popular French female film stars of the early 1930s, Annabella has become one of cinema’s forgotten figures; indeed aside from work by Alastair Phillips (2006), she has largely been ignored by both popular and academic histories of film. This neglect is reflected in the inscription on a plaque that stands outside the Hôtel du Nord on the banks of the Canal Saint-Martin in Paris. Outlining the building’s history, it mentions the novel that was set there,L’Hôtel du Nordby Eugène Dabit, as well as Marcel Carné’s filmic adaptation of this work: ‘Released in 1938,...

    • CHAPTER 13 ʹThose Frenchies Seek Him Everywhereʹ: David Niven in Franco-British Cinematic Relations
      (pp. 197-210)
      Cristina Johnston

      In the decades following the end of the Second World War, a complex framework of Franco-British cinematic and cultural exchanges was shaped by the tensions implicit in the interface between ‘new representations of the nation’ and those ‘already in circulation’ (Higson 1995: 6). Both France and the United Kingdom were coming to terms with the legacy of the war and its impact on national and gender identities, whilst simultaneously adapting to the dismantling of their respective colonial empires. Against this backdrop, Franco-British cinematic relations offered an outlet for ‘a paradoxical desire for both stability and change’ (Plain 2006: 140), a...

    • CHAPTER 14 Truffaut in London
      (pp. 211-222)
      Robert Murphy

      François Truffaut’s suggestion, during his interviews with Alfred Hitchcock, that there might be something incompatible between Britain and cinema has had an extraordinarily wide circulation. Charles Barr argues against it in his essay ‘Amnesia and Schizophrenia’ (Barr 1986); it resonates through Stephen Frears’s documentaryTypically British(broadcast on Channel 4 in 1995), which ends with Frears declaring ‘Bollocks to Truffaut!’; and seems to resurface whenever anyone wants to argue that British cinema is not as boring as people might think. What Truffaut actually says is:

      isn’t there a certain incompatibility between the terms ‘cinema’ and ‘Britain’? This might sound far-fetched,...

    • CHAPTER 15 Jane Birkin: From English Rose to French Icon
      (pp. 223-236)
      Leila Wimmer

      The figure of Jane Birkin offers an illuminating perspective on Franco-British cultural relations. Making her move before those other well known Channel-hoppers, Charlotte Rampling and Kristin Scott-Thomas, Birkin (born Jane Mallory Birkin in London in 1946) moved to Paris in 1968, and has lived there ever since. This move to France made her an international sex symbol when she recorded ‘Je t’aime, moi non plus’ with Serge Gainsbourg in 1969, a sexually explicit duet that is arguably one of the most famous Anglo-French cultural products of the last century. Since then, she has led a successful career as a recording...

    • CHAPTER 16 The French Resistance Through British Eyes: From ʹAllo ʹAllo! to Charlotte Gray
      (pp. 237-254)
      Ginette Vincendeau

      Few historical events have connected France and Great Britain so intimately but also so vexedly as the Second World War and the Resistance, both in real life and in the cinema. While the two countries went their radically different ways – Britain heroically resisting, France crushingly defeated and occupied – during this period myriad events brought the two countries closer to each other than at any other time. General de Gaulle’s Free French Government set up in London generated a steady stream of French visitors to England and in return prompted Resistance activities on French soil; RAF planes flew back...

    • CHAPTER 17 ʹIn the Ghettoʹ: Space, Race and Marginalization in French and British ʹUrbanʹ Films La Haine and Bullet Boy
      (pp. 255-268)
      Jim Morrissey

      In a 2007 polemic in which he proclaims ‘the superiority of the French [universalist] model’, philosopher Pascal Bruckner calls Anglo-American multiculturalism ‘a racism of the anti-racists’ because it means that ‘we can turn a blind eye to how others live and suffer once they’ve been parked in the ghetto of their particularity’ (2007). Concerns about how best to manage modern multiethnic societies came into sharp focus in Britain and France in 2005 following the London bombings in July and the rioting that spread through the Frenchbanlieuein November. While Bruckner opted for a confrontational approach, other commentators were more...

  10. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 269-272)
  11. Index
    (pp. 273-290)