MA International Journalism Dissertation sample

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ABSTRACT

National film industries sometime get submerged under the dominant threat of globalisation. France has been consistent in exhibiting national film practices. Eminent filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut established styles of film making which to this date remains influential. These specific film practices have been vividly discussed in this research. The ultimate target is to investigate whether French Cinema fits into the model of a national cinema, transnational cinema or global cinema. There have been quite contradictory view points among researchers and film critics in regard to the status of French cinema. Some argued supporting the French film industry to have retained its national ideologies even while venturing into the global film space. Others have specifically pointed to the Cannes Film Festival, denoting it as a transnational industry. 

Theoretical research methods have been used to answer the main research question. Each of the methods specifically helped in scrutinising French cinema from aspects necessary to determine its status. Case studies include studying La Nouvelle Vague as a national movement. Using the Cannes Film Festival as a second case study helps in finding out where French cinema stands as a transnational cinema. Textual analysis using the role of stars has been preferred. It helps analyse how stars in France are perceived both nationally and globally. Global press reviews, US box office ratings of the last decade, economic grants and revenues by the French government have been used to formulate the investigation. The findings satisfactorily leaned towards French Cinema being a national cinema. Though French films has drawn diverse audience and commercial profits worldwide, the film industry can also be regarded as a deliberate effort by the government of France, in order to practice cultural diplomacy and promote idea of nationhood.

 

Keywords: French cinema; National and Transnational cinema; Globalisation; Hollywood 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Sincere thanks to Mr. Simon Popple- my supervisor, this research would have been impossible without his guidance. Thanks to Dr. Robin Brown (Postgraduate tutor), Dr. Chris Paterson (course director MA International Journalism) and Dr. Paul Taylor (Personal tutor). 

 

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

 

Pages

Title page

1

Abstract

2

Acknowledgement

3

Contents

4

Abbreviations

5

Symbols

6

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

1.0 INTRODUCTION

 

1.1

Background and scope of research

7

1.2

1.3

Research Aims

Literature Review

10

11

1.4

Research Methodology     

14

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

2.0 FRENCH CINEMA AS A NATIONAL CINEMA    

 

2.1

2.2

2.3

2.4

2.5

2.6

2.7

National Cinema

Cinema de banlieue

Examples of national cinema around the globe

Genres of French Cinema

History and Film practices of French Cinema

Case Study I- La Nouvelle Vague as a national movement 1950-1960

Postmodern French Cinema

20

21

21

21

22

23

24

CHAPTER THREE

 

3.0 FRENCH CINEMA AS A TRANSNATIONAL CINEMA

 

3.1

3.2

Transnational Cinema

Case Study II- The Cannes Film Festival

27

28

CHAPTER FOUR

4.0  FRENCH CINEMA AS A GLOBAL CINEMA                                                                                  

4.1

Global Cinema

       30

4.2

4.3

La Nouvelle Vague going global

Stars of French Cinema

       30

       31

4.4

Comparison to Bollywood and Hollywood

      32

CHAPTER FIVE

5.0  CONCLUSION                                                                                                                      

5.1  Conclusion                                                                                                                              35

5.2  Scope for further research                                                                                                      37

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

       38

 

 

APPENDICES

        43

Appendix 1 United States’ Box Office Ratings

 

Appendix 2  Box Office Collection

 

 

 

ABBREVIATIONS

All.-              Alliance

BAFTA-       The British Academy of Film and Television Arts

CHC-           The Classical Hollywood Cinema

Col.-            Columbia

CNC -          The Centre National de la Cinématographie

Emb-            Embassy

Eurp-            European Int’l

First-             First Look

Focus-          Focus Features

FL-                Fine Line

Fox-              20th Century Fox

FoxS-            Fox Searchlight

GATT-          The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

Gold.-           Samuel Goldwyn

LGF-             Lionsgate

Lions-           Lionsgate

Magn.-          Magnolia

MBox-           Music Box Films

Mira. -           Miramax

NM-              Newmarket

OrionC-        Orion Classics

ParC-           Paramount Classics

PicH-            Picture House

Ratt.-            Roadside Attractions

Relbig.-        Reliance Big Pictures

Rog.-            Rogue Pictures

Skou-           Skouras

SPC-            Sony Pictures Classics

USA-            USA Films

Wein.-          Weinstein Company

W/DD-          Weinstein/ Dragon Dynasty

WIP-             Warner Independent

Uni.-             Universal

UTV-            UTV Communications

Zeit.-            Zeitgeist

 

SYMBOLS

€- Euro

£- Great Britain Pound

$- US Dollar

 

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

 

1.1 Background and scope of research

This research aims to study the status of French Cinema, whether it is a national cinema, transnational cinema, or a global cinema. France has often been typecast as the birth place of cinema. Film historians often referred to the Lumière brothers’ L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat (1895), as the birth platform of the medium of cinema. It has been a long journey for French master pieces since then, unveiling its national legacies from Jean Vigo’s Zéro de conduite (1933) to Jacques Audiard’s Un prophète (2009).

 

With reference to national cinema, this research often discusses the achievements and contributions of the French New Wave directors like Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol. These directors’ practice of several film making techniques (Godard’s use of jump cuts for instance), which contributed a great extent to the formation of the identity of nationhood which France flaunts even to this day. The concept of auteur theory has also been given immense prominence, as a way to address whether such an explicit practice suited to a niche industry like France, or is it more logical for such theories to flourish in a culture and economy like Hollywood?

 

Next, it moves to address whether French cinema can be called a transnational cinema. The government of France assisted with grants and revenues for the film industry to flourish amongst international pressures. The French government implemented plans and proposals in order to sustain its national film industry and also implemented ways to popularise it in the international market. The Cannes Film Festival has been symbolised as a significant factor for determining how French cinema influences countries abroad in regard to its image as a film industry. It is also a reflection of how it pursues overseas business. The Cannes Film Festival can also be regarded as a form of cultural diplomacy which the French government assists, to hold a firm and regular place on the world cinema platform.

 

Then this research focuses on how French cinema fits into the concept of global cinema; did its methods of film production and distribution have an impact upon the world cinema or the worldwide audience in any way, so as to label it as a global cinema? Here, French cinema has been compared to Hollywood and Bollywood. Some of the most successful commercial ventures of both Hollywood and Bollywood have been referred to while making comparisons. Quite often overseas profit margins have been discussed, to comprehend where world cinema stands today economically and how French cinema is coping with such demands. We often point to the charts that outline the major victory which French cinema made in the last decade. It points to where it stands when compared to the major international or global film markets. 

Research methodologies have been limited to theoretical investigations. Case studies using La Nouvelle Vague as a national practice and The Cannes Film Festival as a transnational venture have been conducted. Textual analysis focuses on the star system of the French film industry. It helped in figuring out how the notion of stardom has influenced its image and standing. Jean-Paul Belmondo is a popular face which represents the French stardom. We also discuss how some of the individual stars are credited with stabilising and popularising French cinema worldwide. Gérard Depardieu is one of those important names, whose contribution towards the industry has been immense. 

Reviewing US box office ratings of the last decade presents a clear idea of where French cinema stands globally. It helps in comprehending all the three fields of this research, i.e. national, transnational and global comparisons. 

We also take into account of how French cinema has been represented by the media worldwide. It helps analyse what stand the media is taking while addressing French cinema. It also helps in comprehending how popular French films are abroad and how influential is a French movie release at the international box office. Charts give a clearer reference of figures in answering the research questions.  

 Equally important have been reviewing how the French government contributed in enhancing film making practices. How efficient are the subsidies in strengthening the film industry. How important the film industry to the countries overall economy is and in what ways does it promote France worldwide can be answered by revisiting the stance which the French government has been taking since the days of La Nouvelle Vague.

 

Analysing each of three research aims in respective chapters, it finally sums up the research and lays out any betterment of the study if a further research is conducted.

 

Before discussing the intricacies of French cinema, a brief account of history would help connecting facts better. The history of French cinema dates back to the nineteenth century when the Lumière brothers, staged the first performance in Paris on December 28, 1895. Their film cinematograph was watched by the public at the Grand Café in Paris. L’Arrive d’un train en gare de La Ciotat (1895), “is said to have made the unprepared audiences scatter in alarm as the locomotive seemed to approach them” (Robinson 1994 cited in Austin 1996:2). Georges Méliès’ incorporated the use of Mise-en-scène, where visuals depict artful narration. The concept of auteur theory has been applied to films from this period. Méliès’ control over his entire film, in terms of staging, camera movements, editing makes him the first auteur in French cinema. Some of his most talked about films include Cendrillon (1899), Barbe-Bleue (1902). Entrepreneurs Charles Pathé and Leon Gaumont established studios in Paris and ultimately commercialised the French film industry. Such was its impact, that the majority of films distributed all over the world in between 1908 to 1910 were French films (Billiard 1994:56). This gave rise to the idea of France as a domain which could successfully venture and influence the international film market.

 

1.2 Research Aims:

Aims and objectives of research-

  1. 1.Assessing whether French cinema is a national cinema by applying models drawn from Croft’s definition of national cinema. La Nouvelle Vague or French New Wave is being used as a case study.
  2. 2.Assessing whether French cinema is a transnational cinema, by using The Cannes film festival as a case study.
  3. 3.Assessing whether French cinema is a global cinema by critically comparing it with models of global penetration such as Bollywood and Hollywood. 

Research questions and hypothesis-

Main research question: (i) What is the status of French Cinema- national, transnational or global? 

Hypotheses:

  1. 1.
  2. 2.French cinema considers theories laid by Cahiers du Cinéma critics and auteurs as pivotal. Major successes of the industry are credited to the auteurs who are said to have shaped contemporary French films. They have modified the industry theoretically as well as with practice based innovations.
  3. 3.French cinema could not exhibit the dominant image of commercialisation among the audience, as much as Bollywood and Hollywood.

 Research limitations-

The major limitation to this research is the lack of quantitative investigation. Due to economic constraints, research could not be conducted outside West Yorkshire. This county is too narrow a sample to represent an authoritative view of French cinema’s global or nationalistic stance. French cinema is too individualistic an area to be quantitatively measured here. Moreover, comparison to Bollywood and Hollywood would not have yielded any effective result in Yorkshire, considering the hypothesis that French cinema audience loyalty is segmented. Any sample selection or questionnaire would have given a partial view in favour of Bollywood and Hollywood.

 

Interview with modern languages student, academicians, critics were not possible. The major part of this research has been conducted during spring and summer. Universities were closed and students were on holiday. Hence, the overall methodology has been limited to theoretical analysis. US box office ratings have been reviewed only for the last ten years, hence French cinema’s commercial and global success or failure have been judged being more dependent on the results of the last decade.

 

1.3 Literature Review     

Rapid globalisation has transformed the perception of cinematic success. Research is being conducted to examine French films standing amongst contemporary competition. Jeffe Menne at the Vanderbilt University questioned French cinema’s transnational standing. He mentioned how Neupert’s A History of the French New Wave Cinema (2002), depicts auteuristic impact as a national symbolic practice. As Menne pointed out, “Jean-Luc Godard’s À bout de souffle (1960), we see antagonism between the apparatus of the nation-state and the appeals of national culture” (Menne 2007:70). This viewpoint has been targeted in this research as one of the strong points of France exhibiting its film industry as a national industry.

 

Considering French cinema as a national cinema, Vincendeau, while reviewing the fiftieth anniversary of La Nouvelle Vague, has also typecast it as a national movement. French cinema has a personal, individualistic vision. Vincendeau commented on French cinema to be consisting of two groups “one around the Cahiers du cinéma (François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer, and Jacques Rivette), the other the “Left Bank” film makers Alain Resnais, Agnès Varda, and Chris Marker” (Vincendeau 2010:135). La Nouvelle Vague has covered a certain threshold level to coronet itself as a national cinema. Several political and cultural issues which form the theme of the film, distinguishes itself as a national model. French cinema has given several such examples. In numerous films it brought out national dilemmas on screen. “The micropolitics of perception exemplified in Godard’s cinema counters the ideology of the visible at work in Western forms of representation by restoring the materiality and physicality and the sense of duration to acts of (technological) perception” (Rio 2005:63). “The New Wave cinema was shaped by forces as abstract as the growth of film criticism that stressed mise-en-scene over thematic and as concrete as technological innovations in motion-picture cameras and sound recorders” (Neupert 2002:3).

 

It was in the period when French New Wave flourished that the practice of authorship also gained prominence. Analysing these practices is significant as they shaped French film making, which in turn affected its worldwide status. Writers of the Cahiers du Cinéma have always talked about ‘la politique des auteurs’. The subjects got interconnected to an extent that Sarris suggested on abbreviating ‘la politique des auteurs’ as the auteur theory (Sarris 1962). He also stated “Ultimately, the auteur theory is not so much a theory as an attitude, a table of values that converts film history into directorial biography” (Sarris 1968:30). Rohmer asserted in the work of art, it is the auteur that remains predominant (Rohmer 1956). In review of John Huston’s Red Badge of Courage (1951), Bazin has most strongly distinguished between a director and an auteur. He commented on Hutson’s creations devoid of any personal style. He has always limited himself to be a metteur en scène, while Hitchcock is a true auteur. Research on the concept of authorship led to several contradictory viewpoints. “Auteur theory cannot simply be applied indiscriminately. Nor does an auteur analysis exhaust what can be said about any single film. It does no more than provide one way of decoding a film, by specifying what its mechanics are at one level. There are other kinds of code that could be proposed and whether they are of any value or not will have to be settled by reference to the text, to the films in question” (Ibid, p.168).  “Auteurs are out of time. The theory which makes them sacred makes no inroad on vulgar history, has no concepts for the social or the collective, or the national. The primary act of auteur criticism is one of the dissociation- the auteur out of time and history and society is also freed from any productive process, be it in Los Angeles or Paris” (Rohdie 1971 cited in Grant 2008:83). Kline points out, “Films such as Les Godelureaux now strike us as frivolous, while others, such as Le Tigre aim la chair  fraiche, seem too blatantly commercial to merit their “auteur” a place in the cinematic pantheon that honors Chabrol’s contemporaries Godard, Truffaut, Rohmer, Resnais, and Malle” (Kline 1992:87).

 

Concerning national identity, there have been controversies over the remake of Louis Feuillade’s Les Vampires (1915), to which several researchers responded, “In a film about the status of France’s national cinema in the 1990s, why make Feuillade’s crime serial stand for the quintessential French film of the silent era?” (Shea 2009:121). Hudson associates the remake with “a larger project of reasserting national patrimony” (Hudson 2006:220). In reference to transnationalisation, French cinema has been typecast by French directors themselves to have plagiarised American cinema. Pepe Lo Moko has been accused of duplicating American traits. On the contrary, Jean Renoir; Robert Bresson, Jean Cocteau, Jacques Becker, Abel Gance, Max Ophuls, Jacques Tati, Roger Leenhardt are auteurs who are known to write their film giving an authors touch which is devoid of any American influence.

 In regard to foreign film trading of France, Bakker mentioned the internationally associated film producer of France Les Films Albatros business tactics, “Given the small potential market for its films, Albatros had to find an intricate balance between producing at low cost and delivering films with at least threshold ticket-selling capacity. It did so by differentiating its films, entering film distribution in France, coproducing internationally, and cooperating with Pathé and Gaumont, the two largest French film companies. While its larger European rivals were obsessed with operational effectiveness vis-à-vis Hollywood, Albatros, by adopting a distinct strategic position, hardly had to pay attention to operational effectiveness at all. It was making a differentiated product for needs unserved by Hollywood” (Bakker 2004:45). Some researchers pointed to the co-production’s, which served as an opportunity for financial boom. “For the French producers the cooperation with the DEFA studios was, then, first and foremost an economic opportunity. The postwar years of 1945–59 were a boom period for the French movie industry, yet producers faced strong competition from the dynamic blockbusters of the American majors” (Silberman 2006:22).

 The concept of how French cinema relates to global cinema gets a bit complex, as we try to focus on the cultural and economic diversifications. Global cinema is mainly dominated by the United States; hence Smith referred to the film Sabrina (1954), where an intricate antagonism in between US and the French film industry could be emphasised. “French-American film relations after all began over a patent dispute. This quarrel may partially account for the persistent and historical antagonism the French have toward the U.S. film industry. The plot of Sabrina alludes to these cultural/economic antagonisms, as it revolves on American takeovers, on doing whatever it takes to secure a deal and a market. The film reflexively suggests Hollywood’s own historical “dealings” with the French film industry and invites speculation on how these disputes intersect with and inform postwar international exchanges” (Smith 2002:32). 

 

As simple as it might seem that Hollywood is the ultimatum when it comes to ruling the world of cinema, the equation changes completely if we look at what Smith added further “Green Card (1990), Forget Paris (1995), the remake of Sabrina (1995), French Kiss (1995), and An American Werewolf in Paris (1997), that are set in France, that are remakes of French films (Green Card)”. “The Hollywood film French Kiss can be read as a response to the GATT quotas, as a way to appease those wanting less Hollywood and more local productions. The film is literally set and was shot in Paris and the French countryside (utilising on-location French production units)” (Smith 2002:48). Equally significant is how researchers take the dominant role of the global industry of Bollywood in world cinema. In regard to Bollywood, Ganti said, being a dominant media institution within India, Bollywood plays a significant role in defining dichotomies like traditional-modern, global-local, Western-Eastern, and categories such as culture, nation, and Indian (Ganti 2000).

 

This research would take all the above statements into account to finally conclude which of them actually represent French cinema. The investigation gets complicated as the global comparison comes into the scenario, as Hollywood is too big an industry to be measured against the French film industry. Transnationalisation and globalisation for French cinema might overlap; hence both the concepts have been put into separate chapters to rigorously assess its individual implication. In the chapter assessing French cinema as a national cinema, it is essential to lay down the particulars of French cinema-the Avant-garde movements encompassing impressionism, surrealism, and poetic realism. Gradually the focus shifts to postmodern French cinema which represents modern practices and how theories stated by auteurs influence present day film making. It is equally important to refer whether countries abroad, specifically took French film advances as a form of cultural diplomacy or whether film critics views French cinema or French film festivals to be a diplomatic effort on the part of the government. It would then specifically categorise French cinema as a national cinema. Aspects of global cinema constitutes the industries of Hollywood and Bollywood and French cinema have been compared to them, to assess whether its practices fits into the category of global cinema.

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