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Title: La bande des quatre : nineteenth-century artistic and literary sources in late Nouvelle Vague filmmaking
Author: Tavassoli Zea, Zahra
ISNI:       0000 0004 6349 0035
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis examines the different ways the cinemas of Éric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard adapted literary and artistic motifs characteristic of the nineteenth-century romantic and realist traditions, from the 1960s to the 1980s. The selection of these four directors is based on their early and formative commitment to the politique des auteurs, a film criticism trend that was significantly indebted to central aesthetic precepts of the realist and naturalist novels. The profound social changes of the 1960s led directors, artists and writers to question long-accepted ideas about representation and authorship. The left-wing culture in France, which envisioned art and political protest as an inseparable whole, extensively criticised the nineteenth-century discourse on the realist novel as the outward revelation of the author's inner life. As a result, critics rapidly considered the politique des auteurs and, by extension, the universalist and openly westerncentric premises of the Nouvelle Vague as unpersuasive and dismissible. This thesis acknowledges that the relation these directors maintained with nineteenth-century thought has been overshadowed by scholarship on their individual careers, a research tendency that consolidates the notion of rupture and discontinuity between Rohmer, Rivette, Truffaut and Godard's filmographies. However, each one of them commonly returned to nineteenth-century sourcing and imagery in the post-1968 period through adaptations and transpositions of Heinrich von Kleist, Honoré de Balzac, Adèle Hugo, Prosper Mérimée and so on. As the first work to regroup this 'gang of four' in the aftermath of Rohmer's forced resignation in Cahiers du cinéma, this thesis argues that their approaches to the nineteenth-century cultural legacy should be assessed as distinct forms of reaffirming, revising, challenging and commenting on their former vision of cinema as a novelistic space, able to manifest the essence of sheer appearances. As the chapters will demonstrate, their engagements with nineteenth-century art and literature are complex. They are, on the one hand, inflected by their personal responses to the politicisation of the 1960s and 1970s French film culture and, on the other hand, informed by their individual understanding of the role of nineteenth-century narratives and aesthetic patterns within the framework of modern filmmaking. The introduction chapter lays the theoretical foundations of the Nouvelle Vague's early engagements with notions of romanticism and realism and, in light of the existing scholarship, establishes the aims and methodology of this thesis. Chapter two examines Rohmer's cinematic transposition of Balzac's rhetorical realism and analyses the paradoxes and modernist potential of the director's neoclassical film aesthetics in Die Marquise von O ... (1976). Chapter three explores the ways Rivette turns the Balzacian myths of Icarus and Pygmalion into more immediate accounts on his contemporaries' struggle for unalienated and totalising works of art through Out 1: Noli me tangere (1971) and La Belle Noiseuse (1991). Chapter four analyses Truffaut's long series of engagements with nineteenth-century imagery and explores the reasons why L'enfant sauvage (1970), Les deux anglaises et le continent (1971), L'histoire d'Adèle H. (1975) and La chambre verte (1978) coincided with his growing conservatism. Chapter five develops Godard's relationship with the romantic legacy through the case-studies of Passion (1982) and Prénom Carmen (1983) - films which allude to Charles Baudelaire's entangled notions of spleen and the ideal and give an unprecedented attention to the aesthetics of chiaroscuro. The conclusion chapter establishes points of convergences and contrasts between the four directors through a comparative account that also addresses the ways in which their individual stands towards the romantic and realist legacies have evolved.
Supervisor: Frey, Mattias ; Kear, Jon ; Baldwin, Thomas Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: N Fine Arts ; PB2994 Film Studies