French Cinema: A Critical Filmography 1940–1958
In this second volume on French cinema before the New Wave, Colin Crisp continues his life-long study of the classic period and its major and minor films and directors. This volume, on an often neglected or even denigrated period of French film history, looks at French cinema from the perspective of three distinct historical sub-periods: the war years; the post-war period, from 1946–52; and the period 1952–58. The 100 entries on this interregnum period in French film history, between the glories of the 1930s and the revolution ushered in by the New Wave, will fill out our knowledge of French cinema and help readers discover many films not mentioned in the standard histories at the same time as it provides definitive discussions of the great classics of the period and their historical, social and cultural contexts.
French society has long been proud of the quality of films produced during the war under German Occupation, and indeed several of them have never fallen from favour—Les Visiteurs du soir and Les Enfants du paradis, for instance, not to mention Cocteau’s L’Eternel Retour and Grémillon’s two films. But others that adopted the Vichy ideology of back to the land, and others again that were subsequently interpreted as resistance films, are also well worth seeing and are introduced to readers here. The post-war period 1946–52 has been unduly neglected, and this volume will create greater awareness of the achievements not just of Becker, Bresson, Carné, Clouzot, Renoir and René Clair during these years, but of little-known films such as Macadam, Un Revenant and Panique (all 1946) and Dédée d’Anvers, Jour de Fête and Le Silence de la mer (all 1947). The period 1952–58 was sardonically damned by the New Wave as the ‘tradition of quality’, when films, they claimed, were made with technical elegance but empty—the cinema had become an industry, churning out passionless films made by employees working unimaginatively to rigidly prescribed but indefensible principles. Happily, this was not the case, as the last twenty entries in this filmography will demonstrate.