French Cinema-A Critical Filmography: Volume 2, 1940-1958

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This invaluable resource by one of the world's leading experts in French cinema presents a coherent overview of French cinema in the 20th century and its place and function in French society. Each filmography includes 101 films listed chronologically (Volume 1: 1929-1939 and Volume 2: 1940-1958) and provides accessible points of entry into the remarkable world of 20th-century French cinema. All entries contain a list of cast members and characters, production details, an overview of the film's cultural and historical significance, and a critical summary of the film's plot and narrative structure. Each volume includes an appendix listing rewards earned and an extensive reference list for further reading and research. A third volume, covering the period 1958-1974, is forthcoming.

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Part I. 1940–1945

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PART I

1940–1945

1. La Fille du puisatier

The Well-Digger’s Daughter

Filming began May 1940, then resumed 13 August 1940; released Marseilles and Lyons, 20 December 1940; Paris, 24 April 1941

190 min, b&w

Dir and Scr Marcel Pagnol; Prod Films Marcel Pagnol; Cinematog Willy; Music Vincent Scotto; Art dir Cot and Marius Brouquier; Sound Marcel Lavoignat; Edit Jeannette Ginestet; Act Josette Day (Patricia), Raimu (Pascal Amoretti), Fernandel (Félipe Rambert), Milly Mathis (Nathalie), Line Noro (Marie Mazel), Fernand Charpin (Monsieur Mazel), Georges Grey (Jacques Mazel), Claire Oddera (Amanda Amoretti), Roberte Arnaud (Roberte), Raymonde (Éléonore Amoretti), Rosette (Marie Amoretti), Liliane (Isabelle Amoretti), Félicien Tramel (waiter), Marcel Maupi (shop assistant), and Charles Blavette (dyer).

La Fille du puisatier is often listed as the first French film to have been made under the German occupation. In fact, it was begun in May 1940, before the invasion, and resumed on 13 August, barely two months after the fall of France and the entry into Paris of German forces. Marcel Pagnol had established his production unit in Provence, which was by that time in the (somewhat optimistically named) zone libre (ZL, free zone). In the zone occupé (ZO), there was to be a drastic reorganization of the film industry, as of so much else, and filmmaking did not recommence until February 1941. In the ZL, by contrast, there was as yet little regulation, and shooting began on some seven films before that point, most of them in Pagnol’s Marseilles studio. Of these the first, and the only major, film was La Fille du puisatier. Pagnol was able to proceed so rapidly not just because of the lack of regulatory hindrances in the Midi but also because he had already prepared and initiated shooting, and because, unlike his Paris colleagues, he was in total personal control of production.

 

Part II. 1946–1951

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PART II

1946–1951

31. La Bataille du rail

Battle of the Rail

Filmed late 1944–1945; released 27 February 1946 85 min, b&w

Dir René Clément; Prod Coopérative Générale du Cinéma Français; Scr Clément and Colette Audry; Cinematog Henri Alekan; Music Yves Baudrier; Sound Constantin Evangelou; Edit Lucien Desagneux; Act Jean Clarieux, Jean Durand, and Léon Pauléon (railway workers), Tony Laurent (Camargue), Lucien Desagneaux (Athos), and Robert Leray (stationmaster).

In the three years following the liberation, a large number of scripts were elaborated evoking heroic French participation in the Resistance. This was the first of them to be released, and one of the best. Among those that followed, the most watchable are Les Démons de l’aube, Le Père tranquille (#36), La Bataille de l’eau lourde, Le Silence de la mer (#56), and Jeux interdits (#74), while the most successful by far were this one, Mission spéciale, La Bataille de l’eau lourde, Jéricho, and Le Bataillon du ciel. Most of those made immediately after the war benefited from the respect accorded by the government and the public to men of the left, and particularly to the communists who had formed the bulk of the resistants, but once Cold War sentiment shifted to the right, there was a noticeable retreat in the number of such scripts, followed by a surprising resurgence in the years 1959–1960.

 

Part III. 1952–1958

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PART III

1952–1958

71. La Vérité sur Bébé Donge

(The Truth about Baby Donge)

Filmed 1 October–1 December 1951; released 13 February 1952

104 min, b&w

Dir Henri Decoin; Prod UGC; Scr Maurice Aubergé, based on the novel by Georges Simenon; Cinematog Léonce-Henri Burel; Music Jean-Jacques Grunenwald; Art dir Jean Douarinou; Sound Constantin Evangélou; Edit Annick Millet; Act Danielle Darrieux (Elisabeth “Bébé” Donge), Jean Gabin (François Donge), Gabrielle Dorziat (Madame d’Ortemont), Jacques Castelot (Dr. Jalabert), Daniel Lecourtois (Georges Donge), and Marcel André (Monsieur Drouin, the juge d’instruction).

The poisoning, in this film, of François Donge (Jean Gabin) by his wife must surely be the event that marks the definitive end of Gabin’s previous career as a tragic but tender working-class protagonist, and which foreshadows that second career in which he will play substantial patriarchal and authoritarian figures more at home with men than with women. We first meet him close to death in a hospital clinic from which he tells, in a series of whispered flashbacks, how he came to be there. Essentially, he was poisoned by his wife Bébé because of an ireconcilable conflict of values: she, an idealistic, romantic young woman who believed love could conquer all, that it was a magical explosion of emotion that swept all before it—he, an assertive, self-confident capitalist entrepreneur, boss of a successful tannery and future candidate for president of the patronat, accustomed to attracting, using, and disposing of his many mistresses. For her, what matters is “l’amour”; for him, “l’amour se fabrique.”

 

Appendix: Festivals and Prizes for French Personnel and Productions

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APPENDIX: FESTIVALS AND PRIZES FOR
FRENCH PERSONNEL AND PRODUCTIONS

National Recognition

Cannes Film Festival

Grand Prix du Cinéma Français

Instituted in 1934, but the conditions, name, and date changed several times. In 1937, the government took it over and it became the Grand Prix National du Cinéma Français. It was not awarded during the war, but in 1942–1943, a substitute was created called by some the Grand Prix du Film d’Art Français, awarded by a jury consisting of three state representatives and three critics elected by their colleagues (Lucien Rebatet, Alexandre Arnoux, and Roger Régent). It recognized the following (the first two years retrospectively):

In 1944, the Société des Auteurs awarded an equivalent, which they called the Grand Prix du Cinéma. to Goupi Mains-Rouges with an honorable mention to Douce.

After the war, it was reinstituted as the Grand Prix du Cinéma Français.

 

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