France can be credited as the home to the film industry. French film directors can be said to have invented the whole concept of cinema. For instance, as early as 1895, Lumiere brothers produced a 50 seconds film titled The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station and this led to pundits to name it as the first bold step in the cinema industry. They continued in their production until the First World War where they shifted focus to producing documentaries films and newsreel. However they had already laid the bedrock for the advancement of the film industry and other pioneers took it in the 1930’s. (Hortelano, 2011, p.256)
While during the First World War, the cinema industry seemed to have grounded to a halt, the period after 1920 going to 1930’s show emergence of younger film directors with much enthusiasm in the industry. Such included Marcel Carne, Rene Clair and Jean Renoir (Conley 2007 p.166). He adds that they experimented on wide styles and cinematic themes in the process. However, France was plunged into the Second World War in 1939 which consequently led to slow down the evolution of the cinema industry.
This did not pick up until 1950’s where again France show emergence of young budding enthusiastic film directors who are regarded as the new wave, Nouvelle Vague, of cinema industry. This included among others, Jacques Rivette, Jean lucques Godard, Loius Malle, Francois Truffaut and Alain Resnais. This group of film makers believed that a filmmaker has possession of the film without interference from either studios or producers. This paper will discuss Partie de Campagne and Les Mistons., two films made by two great French film makers, Jean Renoir and Francois Truffaut respectively.
Renoir’s Partie de Campagne is a forty-minute film produced in 1936. It is regarded as the greatest unfinished film ever made. While many films are abandoned and fail to break the ground due to unreliability of financiers or filmmaker’s own volition to abandon the project, Parte de Campagne was abandoned due to persistent bad weather (Miller, 2006, p.3). However, despite it being unfinished, it was released ten years down the line. Renoir is famed for producing films with lots of realism and satirical content (Hortelano, 2011, p.257). Just like Truffaut’s film, the film Parte de Campagne is a romance filled film based on a story by Guy de Maupassant and the plot of the film revolves around a family that decides to take sometime in the country side. While in the village and as the men family members proceed to fishing, the mother, Juliette (Jeanne Marken), is involved in a flirtation with another man from the village while her daughter, Herinette (Sylvia Bataille), also gets into intimacy with a babbling young man, Henri, identified as George Saint-Saens.
However, being a vacation, the family leaves and never to return in the same place any sooner. When they did fourteen years later, so much had changed. We learn their love was unfortunately hampered by Anatole (Paul Temps), a partner of Monsieur Dufour that Henriette was forced to marry. The former lover, George Saint-Saens, undertook to renew the initial relationship but to no avail. They both try to catch up but the family heads to the city. Episodes on what happened were never shot as the project was abandoned (Miller, 2006, p.5) Exemplar, the shots of the summer storm and the long sequence of the rain firing the river that, underlying the explosion of passion of the natural element, and between Henry and Henriette. The sequence leads the film to the next encounter of the lovers, dramatically resulting in the resigned acceptation of the course that social norms have imposed on their existences.
It has been argued that the film captures the importance details of the French history, at a time when there were no hostilities, in the 1900’s. Being produced 1936, no one would ever think what lay ahead in 1939 when France was involved in the war and Paris fell in 1940. The film captures the serenity of the moment when people were relatively care- free before the world fell into disgrace (Hortelano, 2011, p.258).
On the other hand, Truffaut’s Les Mistons delves onto the lives of children. It was shot in 1957, when Truffaut was only twenty five years old. Unlike Renoir, Truffaut represents the second phase of French new wave in the cinema industry. However, the two seem to put emphasis on the theme of love. The subject, as will occur for most of Truffaut’s films is the result of a literary adaptation: a short story by Maurice Pons, contained in Les Virginales. But adaptation is not so much based on the principles of inventing without betraying the spirit of the text, but rather by the need to filter the situations offered by inspiration through the feelings and concerns of the author, by combining the elements of the story to traits of his personality.
Telling the story of five teenagers who spend their time to monitor and harass a pair of lovers, during a sunny summer in a small town in the south of France (Nîmes), the film disposes to surprise and record, with participation and detachment together, the disturbances produced by a nascent sensuality, awakened by all the more insinuating and fleeting images, a new tenderness full of mystery fuelled by sweet visions of bare legs showing under fluttering skirts, of still images of breasts, furtive kisses exchanged in the dark of a movie theatre and of embraces favoured by the complicity of a deep forest. Bernadette is the origin and object of a prestigious discovery, symbol of a bright sensuality, mysterious and fascinating personification of the dark dreams and secret imaginations that populate the nights of adolescents in Nîmes.
She becomes the victim of a hostile crowd as soon as the brats learn the impossibility to possess the object of desire, the sense of their strangeness as jealous witnesses, forced to only spy kisses and desire hoped tenderness. The camera takes on this helpless anger, clutching close behind the five Mistons, following them lovingly. The destruction of the couple has a remote character, is projected out of the exclusive world of adolescents: there is just a little bitterness, pity perhaps, only as a memory of the adventures of adolescence. Thematically, the film seems to anticipate, in an inaugural gesture, the main obsessions that make up the universe of director’s film: the cruelty of childhood, the fleeting nature of happiness, the unstoppable flight of time, the purity of feelings and the instability of the couple.
Claude Beylie, in “Cahiers du cinéma” comments upon the film “I like this sincerity on the skin that follows them like the look of someone who has not forgotten his childhood, this luminous sensuality that they pursue (and the camera with them) without having the exact consciousness, this unbridled eroticism sifted through a demanding purity … For me, some say, is like little pieces of wood. With small pieces of wood and a crazy talent put together, Truffaut reinvents cinema “. (Alberto Barbera, François Truffaut, Il Castoro Cinema, 1976)
The film was the foundation of what Truffaut would be viewed in future as a romanticist. He attempted to make the film as sensuous as possible using affects such as reverse motion and slow motion in for instance the scene where Gerald is seen kissing Bernadette on the balcony (Dixon, 2006, p.6). Just like his hero Renoir, the shooting of the film was grounded for some time, as the cast took a ten days break and came back to continue as if nothing had happened. Being twenty five years then, it captures the moment of the time as it displays his love for the youth and relationships. It being shot in black and white does not diminish its feel. It adequately captures the serenity of the summer time and the bouncy energy of the youthful age (Hortelano, 2011, p.258).
Truffaut’s creatively is portrayed in the fact that no boy stands out as the main play and hence they could be used interchangeably to play their role of admiration. So well was the synchronization that any boy chosen to appear on the scene would be seen to be representative of the entire idea of all boys’ infatuation (Conley 2007 p.166). This is based on his approach in acquiring the cast where he conducted interviews with boys in the age bracket eleven to fourteen, where he was looking for raw talent and best fits into the cast rather than theatrical experience. His desire to grow and uplift young people saw him recruit a young person for the position of director of production, his friend and collaborator Bazin (Dixon, 2006, p.5).
In Les Mistons another feature that has accompanied the entire work of director is evident: quotes from other movies, but never a pure a cinephile divertissement but rather they are the filmic transposition of the sympathies and antipathies of Truffaut as a critic. You could almost say that the French director never fails to be a film critic and does so on newsprint, continuing to write about cinema, and in film, when substituting the typewriter with the camera.
The film captures evident homages to the Lumière brothers, Jean Vigo, Roger Vadim, his friend Jacques Rivette, of which the two lovers see at the cinema Le coup du berger , but also a fierce critic to Chiens perdus sans collier, film by Jean Delannoy already crushed by Truffaut. In fact, one of the boys out of the cinema rips the poster while the others sing Colliers perdus sans chiens, reversing the lyrics of Paul Edmond Bacri Misraki which is part of the soundtrack of the film by Delannoy.
Both Renoir, and years later, Truffaut managed to convey the message on the ‘frailty of human nature, the uncertain journey of human heart and the inevitability of passion taking over convectional social mores and the mutability of love’ (Miller, 2006, p.4). Both aueturs treat similar themes in a natural framework, signature of both’s poetic realism.
From the discussion above, it becomes apparent that both films can be categorized as short films. Yet they captured all the essence of a full blown film. Though both the films are short, the writers have been able to capture the theme ad impression intended. They were shot at a time when commercialization of film was not entrenched and as such, they are as authentic as they can be. In addition, coverage of the films was done in the natural setting using not so advanced technology and hence, they have both been regarded as masterpieces up-to-date.
Conley 2007, Cartographic cinema, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
Dixon-Winston 2006, Senses of Cinema. [Online]. Available at: http://sensesofcinema.com/2006/cteq/mistons/
Hortelano, TJ 2011, Directory of World Cinema: Spain, Intellect, Bristol
Miller, K 2006, Parte de Campagne. [Online]. Available at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0028445/reviews
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