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History of French Cinema Essay

The art of cinematography is supposed to be born in France. On December 28, 1885, in one of the cafe-saloons at Boulevard des Capucines in Paris a screening by Louis and Auguste Lumiere, L’Arrivee d’un train en gare de la Ciotat, was presented to general public’s attention. Along with some other early movies, including Le Voyage dans la Lune, it marked the birth of a new epoch in arts. Since those times French cinema was never on the decline. Currently, it is considered to be very developed and the next best after Hollywood.

Early French movies were mostly filmed with the help of the techniques of stop-tricks, multiple exposures, substitutions and other simple special effects. At that, an important role was played by Georges Melies, an influential French movie-maker, who used to promote cinematography and involve in it many talented composers, actors and screenwriters of those times. During the 1910s numerous comedies with Max Linder gained a huge popularity worldwide. Before the World War I, overwhelming majority of cinema movie products was made in France, mainly at Pathe Freres and Gaumont Pictures.

After the war, the era of poetic realism and classicism started in French cinema. Such movies as La Grande Illusion, Les Enfants du Paradis and others were reflecting post-war realities and social life. Another direction of French cinema development within the 1930s was comedy, where the contribution of Rene Clair (Le Salaire de la Peur, etc. ) was the most substantial. The movies L’Atlante and Zero de Conduite directed by Jean Vigo were the examples of further experimentations with cinema production techniques. Modern image of French cinema art started its formation after the World War II and recognition of its aftereffects.

Following a series of anti-Nazi movies, during the late 1940s French directors started addressing to the problems of humanism, as well as producing a number of high-quality entertaining movies. Besides, the screenings of French literature classics, including La Charterhouse at Parma and Le Rouge et le Noir, gained a rapid worldwide popularity. But one of the central cinema works of that period of time is the movie Hiroshima Mon Amour directed by Alain Resnais. In 1946 the first International Movie Festival took place in Cannes and received the status of annual.

Nowadays it is one of the most prestigious movie festivals, which give opportunity to discover new talents in cinema industry. In the beginning of the 1950s a number of gifted actors of various genres appeared in France: Brigitte Bardot, Jean Marais, Bourvil, Maria Casares, Antoine Doinel, Louis de Funes, Serge Reggiani and many others. French cinema was becoming more and more thematic and experimental. On the peak of the “new wave” in the 1950s, a lot of new directors, such as Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Yves Robert, Francis Veber, Claude Lelouch and Louis Malle made themselves known.

The developments of that epoch are regarded to emphasizing conceptual forms of the plot. The movies of Jacques Demy, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg featuring a brilliant French actress Catherine Deneuve and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, marked a new direction of French cinema art: cinema-musical. Within the 1960s-70s a new series of talented actors dominated in French cinema: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Alain Delon, Annie Girardot, just to name a few. Such styles as melodrama, historical movies, classical dramatic repertoire and absurdist experimentations were developing.

Also, French comedies regained their worldwide popularity due to outstanding performances of Michel Colucci, Pierre Richard and Gerard Depardieu. During the 1980s about 140 French movies became popular on global level. Modern French cinema is a very sophisticated art, in which human psychology and dramatics of the plot are always united with a little piquancy and artistic beauty. Modern directors like Luc Besson and Francois Ozon are leading the fashion. Popular actors are Jean Reno, Sophie Marceau, Audrey Tautou, and Christian Clavier. French government broadly supports the development and popularization of national cinema products.


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