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French Cinema and the Great War

Remembrance and Representation

Edited by Marcelline Block and Barry Nevin

Even a century after its conclusion, the devastation of the Great War still echoes in the work of artists who try to make sense of the political, moral, ideological, and economic changes and challenges it spawned. France, the military major power of the Western Front, carries the legacy of battles on its own soil, and countless French lives lost defending the nation from the Central Powers. It is no surprise that the impact of the First World War can still be seen in French films into the present day.

French Cinema and the Great War: Remembrance and Representation provides the first book-length study of World War I as it is featured in French cinema, from the silent era to contemporary films. Presented in three thematic sections—Recording and Remembering the Great War, Women at the Front, and Interrogating Commemoration—the essays in this volume explore the ways in which French film contributes to the restoration and modification of memories of the war. Films such as La Grande Illusion,King of Hearts, A Very Long Engagement, and Joyeux Noel are among those discussed in the volume’s examination of the various ways in which film mediates personal and collective memories of this critical historical event.

This volume will be an invaluable resource, not only to those interested in French Cinema or the cinema of the Great War, but also to those interested in the impacts of war, more generally, on the cultural output of nations torn by the violence, death, and destruction of military conflict.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 204Size: 6 1/4 x 9 3/8
978-1-4422-6097-9 • Hardback • February 2016 • $85.00 • (£54.95)
978-1-4422-6098-6 • eBook • February 2016 • $80.00 • (£52.95)
Marcelline Block is lecturer in history at Princeton University. She is the editor of Situating the Feminist Gaze and Spectatorship in Postwar Cinema (2010) and author of World Film Locations: Paris (2011).

Barry Nevinhas lectured on realist cinema and film theory, the classic French cinema (1930-1960), and modern French history. His research on Renoir’s pro-colonial propaganda will be published in Studies in French Cinema.
Block and Nevin have put together an excellent, ably edited collection of essays on French cinema and WW I. Though all the usual films that one might expect in such a collection are here, there are also some interesting outliers. One example is experimental filmmaker Germaine Dulac’s Le cinéma au service de l'histoire (1935), a rediscovered six-reel montage film using newsreels of the period to create a sort of collage of the events of the war. Among the more outré films are Une page de gloire (1915) and The Little American (1917), to say nothing of Philippe de Broca’s King of Hearts (1966), originally Le roi de coeur, a romantic comedy (set in the last days of the Great War) in which the inmates of an insane asylum escape and take over a small French village. Of course, no such book would be complete without Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion (1937), perhaps the greatest antiwar film ever made, which is the subject of several essays. Including detailed footnotes, this admirable, compelling volume could also serve as a course text.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers.


[A] fantastic new book.