Cinema of France
Poster for La Règle du jeu, directed by Jean Renoir

The Cinema of France comprises the art of film and creative movies made within the nation of France or by French filmmakers abroad.

France is the birthplace of cinema and was responsible for many of its early significant contributions.[1] Several important cinematic movements, including the Nouvelle Vague, began in the country. It is noted for having a particularly strong film industry, due in part to protections afforded by the French government.[1][dated info]

Apart from its strong indigenous film tradition, France has also been a gathering spot for artists from across Europe and the world. For this reason, French cinema is sometimes intertwined with the cinema of foreign nations. Directors from nations such as Poland (Roman Polanski, Krzysztof Kieslowski, and Andrzej Żuławski), Argentina (Gaspar Noe and Edgardo Cozarinsky), Russia (Alexandre Alexeieff, Anatole Litvak) and Georgia (Gela Babluani, Otar Iosseliani) are prominent in the ranks of French cinema. Conversely, French directors have had prolific and influential careers in other countries, such as Luc Besson and Francis Veber in the United States. Another element supporting this fact is that Paris has the highest density of cinemas (movie theaters) in the world [2]: biggest number of movie theaters per inhabitants, and that in most "downtown Paris" movie theaters, foreign movies which would be secluded to "art houses" cinemas in other places, are shown alongside "mainstream" works.

Contents

History

A scene from Louis Lumière's La Sortie des usines Lumière (1895)

The French film industry in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century was among the world's most important. Auguste and Louis Lumière invented the cinématographe and their L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat in Paris in 1895 is considered by many historians as the official birth of cinematography.

The early days of the industry, from 1896 to 1902, saw the dominance of four firms: Pathé Frères, the Gaumont Film Company, the Georges Méliès company, and the Lumières.[3] Méliès invented many of the techniques of cinematic grammar, and among his fantastic, surreal short subjects is the first science fiction film A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune) in 1902).

In 1902 the Lumières abandoned everything but the production of film stock, leaving Méliès as the weakest player of the remaining three. (He would retire in 1914.) From 1904 to 1911 the Pathé Frères company led the world in film production and distribution.[3]

At Gaumont, pioneer Alice Guy Blaché (M. Gaumont's former secretary) was made head of production and oversaw about 400 films, from her first, La Fée aux Choux, in 1896, through 1906. She then continued her career in the United States, as did Maurice Tourneur and Léonce Perret after World War I.

In 1907 Gaumont owned and operated the biggest movie studio in the world, and along with the boom in construction of "luxury cinemas" like the Gaumont-Palace and the Pathé-Palace (both 1911), cinema became an economic challenger to legitimate theater by 1914.[3]

Gaumont Palace, circa 1914

After World War I

After World War I, the French film industry suffered because of a lack of capital, and film production decreased as it did in most other European countries. This allowed the United States film industry to enter the European cinema market, because American films could be sold more cheaply than European productions, since the studios already had recouped their costs in the home market. When film studios in Europe began to fail, many European countries began to set import barriers. France installed an import quota of 1:7, meaning for every seven foreign films imported to France, one French film was to be produced and shown in French cinemas.[4]

During the period between World War I and World War II, Jacques Feyder became one of the founders of poetic realism in French cinema. He also dominated French Impressionist Cinema, along with Abel Gance, Germaine Dulac and Jean Epstein.

In 1931, Marcel Pagnol filmed the first of his great trilogy, Marius, Fanny, and César. He followed this with other films including The Baker's Wife. Other notable films of the 1930s included René Clair's Under the Roofs of Paris (1930), Jacques Feyder's Carnival in Flanders (1935), and Julien Duvivier's La belle equipe (1936). In 1935, renowned playwright and actor Sacha Guitry directed his first film and went on to make more than 30 films that were precursors to the New Wave era. In 1937, Jean Renoir, the son of painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, directed what many see as his first masterpiece, La Grande Illusion (The Grand Illusion). In 1939, Renoir directed La Règle du Jeu (The Rules of the Game). Several critics have cited this film as one of the greatest of all-time.

Marcel Carné's Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise) was filmed during World War II and released in 1945. The three-hour film was extremely difficult to make due to the Nazi occupation. Set in Paris in 1828, it was voted Best French Film of the Century in a poll of 600 French critics and professionals in the late 1990s.

Post-World War II

1940s – 1970s

A scene from Jean-Luc Godard's Nouvelle Vague film Breathless (1960)

In the magazine Cahiers du cinéma founded by André Bazin, critics and lovers of film would discuss film and why it worked. Modern film theory was born there. Additionally, Cahiers critics such as Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, and Eric Rohmer went on to make films themselves, creating what was to become known as the French New Wave. Some of the first films of this new genre were Godard's Breathless (À bout de souffle, 1960), starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, and Truffaut's The 400 Blows (Les Quatre Cent Coups, 1959) starring Jean-Pierre Léaud. From 1959 until 1979, Truffaut followed Léaud's character Antoine Doinel, who falls in love with Christine Darbon (Claude Jade from Hitchcock's Topaz) in Stolen Kisses, marries her in Bed & Board and separates from her in the last post-New Wave movie Love on the Run.

Many contemporaries of Godard and Truffaut followed suit, or achieved international critical acclaim with styles of their own, such as the minimalist films of Robert Bresson and Jean-Pierre Melville, the Hitchcockian-like thrillers of Henri-Georges Clouzot, and other New Wave films by Agnès Varda and Alain Resnais. The movement, while an inspiration to other national cinemas and unmistakably a direct influence on the future New Hollywood directors, slowly faded by the end of the 1960s.

During this period, French commercial film also made a name for itself. Immensely popular French comedies with Louis de Funes topped the French box office. The war comedy La Grande Vadrouille (1966), from Gérard Oury with Bourvil, was the most successful film in French theaters for more than 30 years. Another example was La Folie des grandeurs with Yves Montand. French cinema also was the birthplace for many sub-genres of the crime film, most notably the modern caper film, starting with 1955's Rififi by American-born director Jules Dassin and followed by a large number of serious, noirish heist dramas as well as playful caper comedies throughout the sixties, and the "polar," a typical French blend of film noir and detective fiction. In addition, French movie stars began to claim fame abroad as well as at home. Popular actors of the period included Alain Delon, Romy Schneider, Jeanne Moreau, Simone Signoret, Yves Montand, Catherine Deneuve, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Brigitte Bardot, and Jean Gabin.

The 1979 film La Cage aux Folles ran for well over a year at the Paris Theatre, an art house cinema in New York City, and was a commercial success at theaters throughout the country, in both urban and rural areas. It won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and for years it remained the most successful foreign film to be released in the United States.[5]

1980s

Jean-Jacques Beineix's Diva (1981) sparked the beginning of the 1980s wave of French cinema. Movies which followed in its wake included Betty Blue (37°2 le matin, 1986) by Beineix, The Big Blue (Le Grand bleu, 1988) by Luc Besson, and The Lovers on the Bridge (Les Amants du Pont-Neuf, 1991) by Léos Carax.

These films, made with a slick commercial style and emphasizing the alienation of its main characters, was known as Cinema du look.

Camille Claudel, directed by newcomer Bruno Nuytten and starring Isabelle Adjani and Gérard Depardieu, was a major commercial success in 1988, earning Adjani, who was also the film's co-producer, a César Award for best actress.

1990s

Gérard Depardieu has been one of the most active French actors since the 1970s.

Jean-Paul Rappeneau's Cyrano de Bergerac was a major box-office success in 1990, earning several César Awards, including best actor for Gérard Depardieu, as well as an Academy Award nomination for best foreign picture.

Luc Besson made Nikita in 1990, a movie that inspired remakes in both United States and in Hong Kong. In 1994 he made Léon and in 1997 The Fifth Element.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet made Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children (La Cité des enfants perdus), both of which featured a distinctly fantastic style.

In 1992, Claude Sautet co-wrote (with Jacques Fieschi) and directed Un Coeur en Hiver, considered by many to be a masterpiece. Mathieu Kassovitz's 1995 film Hate (La Haine) made Vincent Cassel a star, and in 1997, Juliette Binoche won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The English Patient. That same year, Luc Besson's The Fifth Element became a cult favorite.

The success of Michel Ocelot's Kirikou and the Sorceress in 1998 rejuvenated the production of original feature-length animated films by such filmmakers as Jean-François Laguionie and Sylvain Chomet.

2000s

In 2001, after a brief stint in Hollywood, Jean-Pierre Jeunet returned to France with Amélie (Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain) starring Audrey Tautou and Mathieu Kassovitz. It became the highest-grossing French-language film ever released in the United States. The following year, Brotherhood of the Wolf became the second-highest-grossing French-language film in the United States in the last two decades and went on to gross more than $70 million worldwide.

In 2008, Marion Cotillard won the Academy Award for Best Actress and the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her portrayal of legendary French singer Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, the first French-language performance to be so honored. The film won two Oscars and four BAFTAs and became the third-highest-grossing French-language film in the United States in the last two decades. Cotillard was the first female and second person to win both an Academy Award and César Award for the same performance.

At the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, Entre les murs (The Class) won the Palme d'Or, the first French victory at the festival in 21 years. The 2000s also saw an increase in the number of individual competitive awards won by French artists at the Cannes Festival, for direction (Tony Gatlif, Exils, 2004), screenplay (Agnès Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri, Look at Me, 2004), female acting (Isabelle Hupert, The Piano Teacher, 2001; Charlotte Gainsbourg, Antichrist, 2009) and male acting (Jamel Debbouze, Samy Naceri, Roschdy Zem, Sami Bouajila and Bernard Blancan, Days of Glory, 2006).

The 2008 rural comedy Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis drew an audience of more than 20 million, the first French film to do so. Its $193 million gross in France puts it just behind Titanic as the most successful film of all time in French theaters.

In the 2000s, several French directors made international productions, often in the action genre. These include Gérard Pirès (Riders, 2002), Pitof (Catwoman, 2004), Jean-François Richet (Assault on Precinct 13, 2005), Florent Emilio Siri (Hostage, 2005), Christophe Gans (Silent Hill, 2006), Mathieu Kassovitz (Babylon A.D., 2008), Louis Leterrier (The Transporter, 2002; Transporter 2, 2005; Olivier Megaton directed Transporter 3, 2008), Alexandre Aja (Mirrors, 2008), and Pierre Morel (Taken, 2009).

Surveying the entire range of French filmmaking today, Tim Palmer calls contemporary cinema in France a kind of eco-system, in which commercial cinema co-exists with artistic radicalism, first-time directors (who make up about 40% of all France's directors each year) mingle with veterans, and there even occasionally emerges a fascinating pop-art hybridity, in which the features of intellectual and mass cinemas are interrelated (as in filmmakers like Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Olivier Assayas, Maïwenn, Sophie Fillières, Serge Bozon, and others).[6]

2010s

One of the most noticed and best reviewed films of 2010 was the drama Of Gods and Men (Des dieux et des hommes), about the Assassination of seven monks in Tibhirine, Algeria. 2011 saw the release of Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist, a silent film shot in black and white that reflected on the end of Hollywood's silent era.

French cinema continued its upward trend of earning awards at the Cannes Festival, including the prestigious Grand Prix for Of God and Men (2010) and the Jury Prize for Poliss (2011); the Best Director Award for Mathieu Amalric (On Tour, 2010); the Best Actress Award for Juliette Binoche (Certified Copy, 2010); and the Best Actor Award for Jean Dujardin (The Artist, 2011).

Government support

As the advent of television threatened the success of cinema, countries were faced with the problem of reviving movie-going. The French cinema market, and more generally the French-speaking market, is smaller than the English-speaking market; one reason being that some major markets, including prominently the United States, are reluctant to generally accept foreign films, especially foreign-language and subtitled productions.[7] As a consequence, French movies have to be amortized on a relatively small market and thus generally have budgets far lower than their American counterparts, ruling out expensive settings and special effects.

The French government has implemented various measures aimed at supporting local film production and movie theaters. The Canal+ TV channel has a broadcast license requiring it to support the production of movies. Some taxes are levied on movies and TV channels for use as subsidies for movie production. Some tax breaks are given for investment in movie productions, as is common elsewhere including in the United States. The sale of DVDs and videocassettes of movies shown in theaters is prohibited for six months after the showing in theaters, so as to ensure some revenue for movie theaters.

Co-production

The French national and regional governments involve themselves in film production. For example, the award-winning documentary In the Land of the Deaf (Le Pays des sourds) was created by Nicolas Philibert in 1992. The film was co-produced by multinational partners, which reduced the financial risks inherent in the project; and co-production also ensured enhanced distribution opportunities.[8]

In Anglophone distribution, In the Land of the Deaf was presented in French Sign Language (FSL) and French, with English subtitles and closed captions.[12]

French film production companies

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Alan Riding (February 28, 1995). "The Birthplace Celebrates Film's Big 1-0-0". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1995/02/28/movies/the-birthplace-celebrates-film-s-big-1-0-0.html. 
  2. ^ 20 questions about studying in France |url=http://old.campusfrance.org/en/a-etudier/faq.htm
  3. ^ a b c The Ciné Goes to Town: French Cinema 1896-1914, Richard Abel
  4. ^ L'Estrange Fawcett: Die Welt des Films. Amalthea-Verlag, Zürich, Leipzig, Wien 1928, p. 149 (German translation of Fawcetts' book of 1928: Film, Facts and Forecasts)
  5. ^ Foreign Languages Movies
  6. ^ Palmer, Tim (2011). Brutal Intimacy: Analyzing Contemporary French Cinema, Wesleyan University Press, Middleton CT. ISBN 0819568279.
  7. ^ Anthony Kaufman (2006-01-22). "Is Foreign Film the New Endangered Species?". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/22/movies/22kauf.html. Retrieved 2011-06-03. 
  8. ^ Cine-Regio: Co-production
  9. ^ a b "In the Land of the Deaf (1993)," New York Times.
  10. ^ a b Rhône-Alpes Cinéma: Le pays des sourds.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g France Diplomatie: In the Land of the Deaf.
  12. ^ Library Media Project: In the Land of the Deaf.

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