A History of French Cinema Before the New Wave

R1B (Section 1) :  English Composition through French Literature in Translation (Summer Session D -- 6 weeks)
Summer 2019
T. Blakeney


Directors treated include Jean Epstein, Germaine Dulac, René Clair, Jean Vigo, Jean Renoir, Henri-Georges Clouzot, Marcel Carné, Jean Cocteau, Max Ophüls, Agnès Varda, Roger Vadim, and René Clément. We will also look at influential English-language films by Otto Perminger and Alfred Hitchcock, and do comparative studies with certain New Wave films by Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut.

Course Description:

The history of French cinema has heavily weighted the New Wave as the beginning of cinematic modernity. The New Wave is the moment at which many critics see cinema moving from a popular form to a truly artistic one.

This class will explore the often disregarded “pre-modernity” of French cinema, from the era of impressionistic silent film of the 1920s to the so-called “cinema de qualité” of the 1940s and 1950s. We will analyze these films on their own merits, but we will also challenge the critical distinctions between popular and high art that the popular New Wave interpretation has imposed on many of these films. How has the derisive attitude of the influential New Wave directors impacted the way critics have seen these earlier films? How was the attitude of the male New Wave directors toward the more “feminine” cinema de qualité influenced by gendered and homophobic attitudes, and what value can we now find in this “feminine” cinema?

Additional information: 

French R1B fulfills the second half of the Reading and Composition Requirement in the College of Letters and Science. Class conducted in ENGLISH.

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes