Re-framing French culture: Transformation and renewal in the films of Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, Agnès Varda and Jacques Tati (1954-1968)

Chick, Kristine Robbyn (2011) Re-framing French culture: Transformation and renewal in the films of Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, Agnès Varda and Jacques Tati (1954-1968). PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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In this dissertation I focus on the cultural transformations and renewal apparent in the films of Godard, Resnais, Varda and Tati in the period 1954-1968. I contend that the Algerian Revolution (1954-1962) – also known as the Algerian War of Independence – contributed to eroding the myth of Résistancialisme and engendered, especially in the generation young enough to be drafted, an initially confused but nevertheless sincere quest for a cause or a Revolution to believe in. This is depicted in the films of Godard, Resnais and Vautier chosen for study here. I also maintain that the aforementioned quest and related cultural, societal and ideological transformations contributed to the events of May 1968. While May 68 is generally considered to have been unforeseen, it was, with hindsight, clearly foreshadowed in the films I have chosen to study. During this period it was not only Algerians but also women who were engaged in a struggle for equality and civil rights, not least of all the right to corporal freedom through fair and legal access to contraception and abortion. Momentous changes in laws governing women and their social status was achieved through sustained challenges to dominant power structures and ideology: therefore, I complement the aforementioned theses by deploying sexual-linguistics and Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva’s challenges to Lacanian psychoanalysis in an analysis of Varda’s films to portray these transformations and argue that women are not excluded from the Logos, but rather can be considered to be the very point of origin of the symbolic order and language itself. Moving towards May 68, I conclude by applying Bakhtin’s theories on the role of laughter and Rabelaisian carnival to four of Jacques Tati’s films of this era, which, I argue, offer representations of a growing collective folk movement and are redolent with the symbolism of historic renewal, therefore also pointing forward to the solidarity and rebellion that typified May 68. Finally, I conclude that the films included in my dissertation, when considered together, have the distinct advantage of portraying an insight into the many momentous cultural and societal transformations taking place in a chapter of modern French history more commonly described as ‘quiet’.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Godard, Resnais, Varda, Tati, Algeria, Algerian War, colonialism, post-colonialism, feminism, Irigaray, Kristeva, sexual-linguistics, May 68, Bakhtin, carnival, French cinema
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
P Language and Literature > PQ Romance literatures
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Modern Languages and Cultures > French
Supervisor's Name: Reader, Keith
Date of Award: 2011
Depositing User: Dr Kristine Robbyn Chick
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-3101
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 Jan 2012
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 14:03

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