Exploring French Cinema

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Why France? There are any reasons why I chose France… first because I’m fluent in the language. It makes the process far easier as I don’t have to worry about subtitles or any other linguistic concerns. I was originally planning on doing Canadian film, which I might try my hand at in the future, but as many of you know my true passion for cinema is rooted in the 20s through to the end of the 1960s. Canadian film only really takes off in the mid 60s.

What makes France so interesting is that it is the birthplace of Cinema, and one of the first nations to see it’s potential as an art instead of just a commercial fad or venture. It also is home to arguably the most influential movement of the century, The French New Wave, born out of Les Cahiers du Cinema, as well as being home to many of the most respected artists to work in the medium.

How will this work? It’s a long and ongoing project, might take me well over a year to complete. I’m going to go through every year, beginning in 1923, and present major events for that year, as well as review one film. I don’t plan on devoting my next year and a bit to just watching French cinema, so there will be gaps without any updates. I am trying to aim for one film a week, but that adds up to one year and two months or something, and it’ll probably take me even longer.

What will I be watching? As this is my project, and about enriching my own knowledge of cinema, I’m focusing more on films I haven’t seen. I’ll try in my history of particular years to focus on “key” films that I might have already seen like La Passion de Jeanne D’Arc or Breathless, but most of my viewings are going to be focused on new films. That being said, there will be a few times I will rewatch a film in the case where I think to re-evaluate it, or it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it. I’m also thinking of including reviews for other French Films I’ll be seeing along the way that are not included on my “schedule” or planned viewings. I’m going to try and focus more and including them only if a particular year has already past, just because I do want some element of surprise as to what I will be watching.

Where I’m getting my information? I’m trying as much as possible to cross-reference most information that seems a little iffy, and I have a pretty good sense of what is real or not. Already I’ve come across some dates and names that have been wrong, and surprisingly enough these were not in Wikipedia but in legitimate film books. Though, I am using Wiki and other online encyclopaedias to fill in some gaps. There are some years where seemingly nothing happens at all, and I really struggled to find anything to say Other books I’m using, but have not been limited to include;
Several Issues of Film Comment Magazine
Several Issues of Cineaction
Several Issues of Cinemascope
Marlene Dietrich by Maria Riva
Script for Alphaville with intro by Richard Roud
The New Biographical Dictionary of Film by David Thompson (2004 edition)
Scorsese on Scorsese edited by David Thompson and Ian Christie
Script for Belle de Jour, including Interviews and essays by Elliot Stein and Andrew Sarris
The Film Encyclopedia by Ephraim Katz
A Short History of the Movies by Gerald Mast and Bruce F. Kawin
Hundreds of online resources to fill in gaps, double check information, look up films, etc. IMDB, New York Times, Wikipedia (usually more of a starting point for looking up info/websites) especially.

Any questions, suggestions and all comments and recommendations are welcome I’m also thinking of including brief thoughts on key filmmakers, stars or contributors but it’s not a promise right now.

Je veux parler que de cinéma, pourquoi parler d’autre chose? Avec le cinéma on parle de tout, on arrive à tout” – Jean Luc Godard
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9 responses to “Exploring French Cinema

  1. I don’t know if you have seen it but I recommend “Mouchette” from Bresson. Vigo, Renoir, Godard, Truffaut and film from these men I recommend.

  2. I actually have yet to see any Bresson, so some of his work is a priority. I plan on seeing films from all those frenchmen, hopefully I’ll even be able to discover something new from each of them 🙂

  3. Why aren’t you using any books on French Film history? I read one a long time ago, but I don’t remember what it was…

    On sources, I find just about every book on film I’ve come across has some blunder or other. They always talk about Wikipedia being a bad source…

  4. Very exciting news! I’m looking forward to hearing all about French film and the experience.

    I used to see a fair amount of French film but in the past years I seem to be drawn to Asian film, odd how things change over time.

    Can’t wait to hear more!

  5. Strangely enough, just last night I was talking to a friend and we started talking about Asian cinema, and how few either of us have seen.

    I’m happy to have you on board!

  6. I’m really excited about this project!

    Like Jeremy, I recommend Bresson. I am not too familiar with pre-50s French cinema, beyond some Rene Clement and Jean Renoir films.

    I hope to follow you on this journey and hear more about French films.

  7. “Diary of a Country Priest” — you seem to like movies about religious strife (as do I!).

    And, as a newcomer to your blog, I do see Eric Rohmer missing. French and awesome.

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