Week 2 Part 2 The French Contrast

This week we studied ... The contrast French cinema offered 1930s

While America seemed to emerge from the Great Depression and embrace the fictional new world of Hollywood the French, by contrast, were facing a period of dark uncertainty. 1939 saw the dark hand of Nazi Germany knocking at the nervously guarded French door ready to attach, invade and damage a treasured and protected society.

The cinema at the time seemed to reflect this tension, a society brought together in common unity against the enemy, whilst trying to protect the status quo. La Regle Du Jou (The Rules of the Game, 1939) shows the patriotic 'equalness' within French society as man and woman unite, (through Jean Renoirs's direction) whilst simultaneously rendering and exposing the worst aspects of snobbery and inadequacies of French high society (through content and narrative). With a war looming could the capricious upper classes really join with their lower classes to a countryman, as one?

The characters, in contrast to the Hollywood studios, are filmed on location, with the bad weather and buildings become addition characters within the narrative. The party scene at the country estate of Robert and Christine when airman Andre returns is a great scene to illustrate this. All the actors talk, almost at the same time, and there seems an almost real struggle between actors to secure the limelight.

In the direction there is a noticeable lack of close-ups when characters are speaking (making it hard to identify the 'star' of the scene) there are only focused shots when characters are making Shakespearean style soliloquies, revealing to the audience snippets of background information to the characters on screen (making the audience determine which 'personality' that actor is playing) in contrast again there are quick edits between scenes, no long standing set poses or indulgent sweeping scenes (to allow the audience time to guess what's coming up.)
In the narrative conversations happen quickly, more than one in each scene, more than one at a time, and the characters and their dialogue sweep casually in and out of a scene, revealing only a subtle amount of information which you have to be quick and alert to take in.

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