- The Cambridge History of French Literature
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- Ollier, Marie-Louise [WorldCat Identities]
- Blue Bear Woman
Anxious to preserve his independence from his fellow directors, he did not want to see his already highly regarded work collapsed into an amorphous group project. Having already found fame with Le Monde du silence and Ascenseur pour I'echafaud, as well as obtained a sound financial 2 'A new school characterises itself by an upheaval of aesthetic rules. So, until now Hiroshima mon amour is the only film in which the matter of cinema has been changed' 3 'It would be absurd to class together the new auteurs. They come from all over, and are going in different directions'.
Our country, so backwards on the essential questions - seems to me to be in this area absolutely at the forefront. The audiences know how to behave. The French public made the success of Fellini, of Bergman. Nonetheless Malle developed an important informal and undefined coterie of colleagues. Cavalier continued working in film and his career was assisted by Malle. JeanPaul Rappeneau is a further artist with connections to Malle's cinema of the s.
Best known as the director of the Gerard Depardieu vehicle, Cyrano de Bergerac , Rappeneau collaborated with Malle on the script ofZazie dans le mitro i Subsequently, Rappeneau launched his directorial career, also in collaboration with Cavalier, with the war-time comedy La Vie dfun Chdteau On the release v of that film Malle offered his two former colleagues a warm review in L'Avant-Scene du cinema 6. The collaborations from the late s indicate Malle's willingness to work with selected colleagues and to create personal and professional friendships within the industry.
Malle was never an official member of the Cahiers du cinema axis of the New Wave. However, he was an increasingly influential figure for a different but arguably just as important sub-group of first-time directors - directors whose work has been somewhat overshadowed by the predominance of the Cahiers du cinima clique. Malle's early films present further problems of classification. The aesthetic tone evidenced in his work does not fall comfortably into the mainstream of New Wave practice.
Richard Neupert explains the problem with Zazie dans le mitro: 'This film The less well-known Vieprivte is even more distant from New Wave aesthetics.
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Furthermore, Malle's propensity to tackle superficially different subjects in his films led critics to find his oeuvre difficult to come to terms with. No two films could be more different from each other than Le Feufolkt and Viva Maria The former is a dark tragedy, focusing on the last days of a suicide.
The latter is a quick-paced historical adventure film, a musical-comedy-western starring Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau as the 'two Marias', showgirl artists and gun-toting revolutionaries on the wild frontier.
The Cambridge History of French Literature
Such dramatic disparities in material were rare for a New Wave director. They imply that Malle had completely abandoned the desire to establish his credentials as an auteur by repeatedly exploring comparable themes across a set of films. In fact, as I will explain in the next chapter of this book, when discussing Mallean aesthetics in greater detail, it would be wrong to overemphasise the surface differences that exist between Malle's films.
There I explain that although Mallean film-making might look like an exercise in eclecticism, over the years a set of consistent aesthetic patterns shine through.
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During the original sound and fury of the New Wave there was litde time for critical reflection and, on the surface at least, Malle looked like an increasingly idiosyncratic director. Malle was a key figure of the New Wave generation but only problematically so. Despite his wary attitude to the idea of a cinematic movement, many of his films were frequently popularly associated with the New Wave in the press and in the minds of the cinema-going public. Ascenseur pour Vechafaud and Les Amants remain central works of the era.
It was also on the back of the more general spirit of the New Wave assault on an older generation of directors that Malle's career first developed.
Ollier, Marie-Louise [WorldCat Identities]
However, the context in which Malle made his first features is complex. His career emerged from a unique position of financial security. Similarly, it is distinctive from the main current of New Wave directors Truffaut, Chabrol, Godard or Rohmer because of the exceptionally early international triumph achieved with Le Monde du silence.
Few directors begin their careers with an internationally famous documentary, let alone an oceanographic one. Moreover, Malle expressed major reservations about the New Wave and was more at home in the company of fellow IDHEC student, Alain Cavalier, than debating auteur theory in the pages of Cahkrs du cintma. Perhaps the most valuable lesson of contextualising Malle's first films is that one discovers a director who offers few easy answers. His ambiguous relationship with his contemporaries is just the first of numerous similar difficult encounters discussed in the course of this book.
Nonetheless, whether Malle appreciated the fact or not, much of the rest of his career was founded in the rebirth that French cinema experienced in the late s. May'68 Within a decade of Malle's first series of triumphs, the director was to experience something akin to a nervous breakdown Malle and French Reflecting on the shooting of the historical drama Le Voleur , Malle has spoken of his growing dissatisfaction with film-making and the impact an increasingly turbulent private life was having on his work. In retrospect, it seemed to Malle that by he had come to a private and professional crisis.
On the one hand, marriage and divorce had taken their toll. Likewise, the initial optimism of the New Wave had quickly dissipated and became lost in further internecine debate and enmity. In short, by the mids, independent film-making had entered a different, more difficult phase. With General de Gaulle's return to the Presidency of the Republic and the end of the war in Algeria , the mids were a more politically stable but culturally conservative era. When working on the historical drama Le Voleur , Malle started to question himself. Years later when talking to Philip French, he revealed a conversation with his cameraman, Henri Decae: I said to Henri, 'Do you remember, Henri, I don't know how many years back, something like eight years, in , on the same sound stage, pretty much at the same place, we were putting down rails for a tracking shot for Les Amants?
And he said 'God you're right, it was this stage, yes. I was beginning to repeat myself. And what did my future hold? I decided I had to shake everything up, question everything. Malle and French Malle was far from the only figure in France questioning his social and professional identity at the end of the s.
This personal and professional drift anticipated a wider generational malaise that culminated in the 6v6nements of May ' No less unsetded after the completion of another commercial film, William Wilson in the portmanteau film, Histoires Extraordinaires Malle directed this sequence alongside work from Vadim and Fellini , Malle agreed to represent France on a cultural tour to show off the New Wave to Indian cinephiles.
The shock of India, combined with Malle's pre-existing sense of personal and professional crisis, stimulated a passionate return to film-making in the field of documentary. Working with a small crew, Malle began shooting scenes of the life that was all around him. India offered a completely different world to any of Malle's previous experiences and proved a cathartic release from the tensions that had built up at home.
The practical result of India was many hours of documentary footage that was subsequently edited into two film projects: the cinema-released Calcutta and the television series, L'Indefantdme India, and a return to documentary film-making years after Le Monde du silence, provided Malle with a new environment which broke the sense of stagnation that he had experienced when filming Le Voleur. Extra-filmic events - in French society and politics - provided another dramatic influence that was to impact on his life and work.
Returning to France to edit his material from India, Malle first participated in the controversy that was raging around the directorship of the National Cinematheque.
Henri Langlois, its director, had been removed by the Gaullist Minister of Culture, Andre Malraux, and a battle raged over his reinstatement. Alongside many of his former New Wave rivals, Malle signed petitions in support of the reinstatement of Langlois and participated in the patronage committee of the campaign for reinstatement of the director. As with his turn to the documentary, this radicalisation was a relatively new departure that suggested another less mainstream side to the director.
After the Langlois affair another opportunity presented itself for Malle to explore his new more radical persona. As a member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival May , Malle assisted in suspending the event in sympathy with the wider social revolt that was developing on a daily basis in Paris.
Blue Bear Woman
Soon after the suspension, Malle returned to Paris where he joined the meetings of the 'Estates General of cinema'. Inspired by the atmosphere of revolution Malle was a keen participant at the meetings of the cmema group. On 26 May , he was a co-signatory of a paper to the assembly of the Estates General of Cinema. In it he offered a vision of film-making that was very different from his roots in the bourgeoisie or his career as a film producer.
His detailed motion to the floor argued for the creation of a 'secteur public' in film and television see Frodon ; Billard ; published verbatim in Cahiers du cintma June ; as well as anecdotal discussion in Carriere ; Malle's actions during the Cannes Festival and in the Estates General show that he had almost completely abandoned his reputation as the popular director of films like the star-vehicle, MoreauBardot comedy, Viva Maria Now, in the light of personal crisis, India and May '68, Malle planned a codirection with Pierre Kast of a cinematic exploration of a fantasy South American Utopian community Malle and French Although the Kast collaboration was never realised other projects that chimed strongly with the mood of the May '68 counter-culture were completed.
The documentaries on India were edited and distributed. They contain loosely, abstractly argued political commentaries that evidence the new radical climate, rejecting western capitalist industrialisation and glorifying religious mysticism. Typical too of the popular political atmosphere was a further documentary on daily life in a Citroen car factory, Humain, trop humain , as well as a documentary snapshot of Parisian street life, Place de la Republique The late s witnessed the emergence of a new Louis Malle that was different from the ambitious young man of the s.
Although the SRF was more of a professional organisation than a 'gauchiste' group, its programme called for the protection of a director's moral rights of authorship and was strongly opposed to state censorship Frodon Perhaps it was this libertarian edge that led Malle in to also campaign alongside Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and others, to allow the continued publication of the ultra-left newspaper, La Cause dupeuple see Drake Two years later Malle was approached by director Joseph Losey to be part of another independent directors' guild. Malle's reply to the proposal remains unknown Caute Less obviously radicalised by the wider social climate than Jean-Luc Godard, Malle is nevertheless one of the few film-makers who found themselves shaped by the politics of May '68 and whose career dramatically intersected with it Jeancolas In the midst of these significant changes, I think it is important to identify an important element of consistency between the late s and the late s.
Malle's new films and other unfinished projects, including the India documentaries, were just as evocative of their times as Ascenseur pour I'tchafaud had been of France circa In some ways here was a typical 'soixante-huitard' 'May Sixty-Eighter' at work: a self-reflexive documentary film-maker first exploring Indian mysticism and next the drudgery of life on the Citroen factory assembly line. Symbolically speaking, Malle replaced the 'New Wave look', the dinner jackets, Jaguar motorcar and Martinis of the s with a beard, jeans and T-shirt.
However, the new style was just as exemplary of its time and place as the old one had been. However, Malle was still finding himself in the midst of key contemporary political and cultural trends. During ten years of cultural, social and political transformation Malle had kept himself in the eye of the storm. As we will see in Chapter 3 of this book the deeper political shift Malle underwent from ambiguous New Wave playboy to 'soixante-huitard' radical went considerably beyond the level of style and form.
They represent a fusion of the youthful bravado and confidence of the s combined with the new political questioning adopted in the late s. Le Souffle au cceur , Lacombe Lucien , Black Moon and Pretty Baby were made in relatively quick succession and each engaged in controversial and divisive themes. Following a path established in Les Amants, Malle again systematically pushed film censors, classifying boards and audiences towards new and original ways of imagining the world. Taken together the four films from the s are a sustained challenge to conventional thinking and conservatism.
Le Souffle au cceur offered a wry exploration of the s bourgeois family and the sexual initiation of a teenage boy. Notoriously, the film ends with an incident of incest between the boy and his mother. This transgression goes unpunished and the family seems less dysfunctional than before the act. Three years later, in the historical drama Lacombe Lucien Malle focused on a young peasant collaborator and provoked much criticism from defenders of the honour of the French resistance.
Black Moon and Pretty Baby, although very different films, confirmed Malle's new reputation as a radical controversialist. In Black Moon Malle depicts a fantasy dream world that has been torn apart by a violent war of the sexes. It concludes with the powerful, disturbing image of a young woman year-old British actress Cathryn Harrison offering her naked breast to the suckling mouth of a magical unicorn.
Pretty Baby represented Malle's final assault on "good taste' and is one of his most disturbing films. Shot on location in the United States, and produced by Paramount, it was Malle's first English-language work.
here Its plot focuses on a child's experience of growing up in a turn-of-the-century New Orleans brothel and her subsequent relationship with the photographer E. In all four pictures much is left to the viewer's imagination. But, as most good directors know, this strategy is a far more disturbing choice than the 'showing all' alternative. Le Souffle au cceur is filmed as social comedy, while Lacombe Lucien does not indulge in extreme violence.