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The quiz will cover material from session 1 to session 6. On the whole, students should be familiar the following:

The directors and the six films screened so far:

-Billy Wilder -Alfred Hitchcock -Jean-Luc Godard -Jean-Pierre Melville -François Truffaut -Claude Lelouch

Double Indemnity Rope (excerpt) Breathless The Samurai Shoot the Piano Player Happy New Year

Some short excerpts were also used to illustrate particular points:

Raoul Walsh, White Heat; Alfred Hitchcock Psycho; Paul Verhoeven, Basic Instinct; Leo McCarey, the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup.

A comparison was made -- using slides of paintings – between filmmaking and painting in order to discuss the issue of “form” versus “content”. Students should by now be aware of the basic distinction between “form” and “content” that we have been discussing from the beginning of the course.

The focus of the quiz will be on material discussed in class, but students will find it very helpful to read the material posted on Husky-CT, which is a more complete version of that material:

an article on film noir, an article on Double Indemnity, an article on Breathless, a list entitled “Film vocabulary”).

Reviewing quizzes 21 and 2 will also be profitable.

FRENCH 171: GANGSTERS, THRILLERS, AND CLASSICS Instructor: Professor Roger Celestin. Office: Arjona 206.Office hours:

Wednesday 9-10, Thursday 9-10, and by appointment. Phone: 486 3091. E-Mail: roger.celestin@uconn.edu

Course requirements -Regular attendance. If you have to be absent, make sure you obtain notes from another student in the class.

- Class participation (even though this is a large group, there are possibilities for students to intervene, ask questions, etc))

-Reading of photocopied articles on film theory and history, as well as on particular films. Familiarity with the material discussed before and after film showings. There will be a reading posted for each session.

-5 to 8 quizzes -- announced ahead of time. -Final exam.

Session 1. Introduction. Billy Wilder

Session 2. Alfred Hitchcock

Session 3 Jean-Luc Godard

Sesssion 4. Jean-Pierre Melville

Session 5 .

.François Truffaut

Session 6 . Claude Lelouch

Session 7. Jean-Jacques Beinex

Session 8 Benoît Jacquot

Session 9. Luc Besson

Session 10 Eric Rohmer

Double Indemnity

Rope (excerpt)


The Samurai

Shoot the Piano Player

Happy New Year


A tout de suite


Pauline at the Beach

Session 11. Daniel Vigne Guerre

The Return of Martin


Claire Denis


Session 13



Session 14. Eric Zonka

Session 15. TBA

The Dream life of Angels

Lost in fields of interracial desire Claire Denis' Chocolat (1988) Kinoeye. Vol. 3. Issue 7. June 2003.

Through a close examination of the film's cinematography and mise-en-scène, Hilary Neroni reveals how, in Chocolat, desire is structured "not on the level of the verbal but instead in the field of the visible, which is where the characters' unspoken longings are played out."

Hiding in the field of the visible

Claire Denis' Chocolat (France/West Germany/Cameroon, 1988) begins with France Dalens (Mireille Perrier), a white French woman in her late twenties, returning to Cameroon to revisit her childhood home. On her way, she stops to enjoy an unpopulated beach and ends up obtaining a ride into the city from the only other people on the beach, William "Mungo" Park (Emmet Judson Williamson) and his son. Mungo assumes that France is a French tourist who is "slumming" her way through Africa, but as France stares out the window, the film takes us back to when she was a little girl growing up in a colonial outpost in Cameroon, where her father was a captain in the French army. The rest of the film depicts a particular moment in her childhood that seems to best capture the interracial tensions and conflicts from that time.

The majority of the film relies on the visual rather than the verbal to explain the stresses that exist between France's family, the servants and the family guests. Thus, it falls to the mise-en-scène and the camera placement to clue the audience into what the

characters themselves dare not articulate. Not surprisingly, this visual commentary also clues us into larger metaphoric meanings regarding Cameroon, France, colonialism and the politics of desire. Chocolat suggests that we structure desire not on the level of the verbal but instead in the field of the visible, which is where the characters' unspoken longings are played out. In this sense, cinema becomes the privileged vehicle for the representation of colonial power because it can show how the field of the visible articulates power relations and relations of desire— and, of course, their intermingled nature.

A desire born out of Colonialism

To begin making this point, Denis and her director of photography Agnès Godard create a stunningly beautiful yet isolated portrait of Cameroon. The remote outpost where France's family lives is vast and unpopulated. By placing the story in such an exquisite but lonely area, Denis can concentrate on the intimate relationships existing between a mere handful of characters. Just as these characters are trapped in their remote surroundings, they are also trapped in their roles as wife, servant, child, colonialist and so on. Denis works to highlight this by mapping out the house in terms of racial spaces, which are also demarcated as public or private ones.

The servants are all black Africans, and where they eat, shower, etc, are all public spaces, while the white family's home (especially the bedroom and bathroom) are depicted as private spaces. The public spaces seem constantly on display. Several scenes in particular highlight this and in the process reveal the intensity of the relationship between France's mother Aimée (Giulia Boschi), a French woman in her twenties, and Protée (Isaach De Bankolé), their Cameroon servant of about the same age. For while the flashback does depict the experience of France as a young girl (Cécile

Ducasse), Aimée and Protée's relationship is what drives the plot and what shapes France as a young girl and later as an adult.[1]

The scenes between Aimée and Protée are often intensely personal, though staged in a completely public space. For example, in one particular scene, Protée is taking a shower. However, the shower for the male servants is outside—in plain view of the house. Denis sets this scene during the day when the colours are rich and the sun is high. We see a medium long shot of Protée soaping himself and then rinsing. Protée and the servants' quarters are in the foreground of the frame, and the big house is in the background. As he is showering, the audience is aware that Aimée and France are returning from a walk. As they reach the porch of the house, Protée also catches sight of them, which means that they can see him as well. Upon seeing them, he leans back and stifles a cry as he smashes his elbow against the wall behind him. While not one word is spoken throughout this entire scene, Denis reveals that the very layout of the colonial house with the servants on display is charged with desire. The servants' quarters become a visual field that the colonialist surveys. But this field is also charged with sexual yearning.

The cental question posed by Chocolat is whether two people on opposite sides of these fields desire each other with a desire that is not born out of colonialism. Or is desire, in this environment, always informed by colonialism? As indicated above, Denis presents this question by articulating the sexual and power relations on the level of the visual.[2] It is clear that Aimée and Protée want each other (though they never speak these feelings), but what is not clear—presumably neither to the audience nor to the characters themselves—is whether such feelings are manufactured and exploited by colonialism, or whether it is possible for their desire to stand outside of

colonial power relations. Protée is clearly humiliated by having to be literally on display for Aimée, but at the same time it is only through her gaze that he can discern the nature of her desire for him.

Importantly, this scene contrasts with another shower

scene. Later in the film, Aimée decides that she needs

a shower and orders Protée to fix her one. The rest of

the scene takes place outside, where we see Protée rigging up the shower, which emanates from a barrel that is placed outside the house. Here again, Denis shoots the scene in a medium long shot in which we see the corner of the house, the barrel and some of the surrounding landscape. What we cannot see, however, because she has a privacy in the bathroom that extends even to the camera's eye, is Aimée taking a shower. Instead, we see only the dirty bathwater that swirls out of the bottom of the house while she is bathing. At the sight of this water, Protée kicks the buckets he'd brought the water in and walks away. In this way, Aimée's privacy is sexualised through the emptying bathwater, on display for Protée. Ultimately then, even the film's supposedly private moments happen under someone else's gaze.

Staging a racialized gaze

This is a point that Denis emphasises throughout Chocolat. The majority of her shots are not simply descriptive or omniscient views; rather, each moment seems to be staged specifically for the gaze of one of the characters. The introduction of a young white Frenchman works to highlight this filmic trope. Luc (Jean-Claude Adelin) shows up with one of the French families who arrive to help the Dalens dig a runway for

a flyer whose airplane made an emergency landing in

their remote part of Cameroon. Luc eventually leaves the French family he was traveling with and comes to stay with the Dalens. He seems more progressive than the other white Frenchmen because he makes an attempt

to integrate into the African community as much as the French community. I would argue, however, that Denis makes it clear that Luc is also using both communities to his own advantage. Luc is in no way a hero in this situation; instead he acts more like a mirror for the actual fields of power and desire that exist between the groups.

Luc integrates into the African community by literally inhabiting their public spaces. For example, the Dalens first see Luc standing in the back of a truck with all the other African workers who have come to dig the runway. His white face sticks out amongst the rest of the workers, and the family is clearly fascinated with this white man who so easily inhabits this non-white space. Thus, right from the beginning Luc's allure is defined by his inserting himself into an African space.[3] Luc's very presence amongst the workers also reminds everyone that normally their spaces are quite separate. Denis articulates all of this by first mapping out these racially separate spaces and then staging conflicts or tensions within them.[4]

Another important example of this strategy is again staged at the outside shower. Walking back to the house, Protée comes upon Luc bathing in the worker's outdoor shower. Luc seems to be fully enjoying the shower in a sensual way, as if—even with no one around— he is enjoying the fact that he is showering in a public space that he is not expected to be in, a colonial space within which tension and desire inevitably lie. Protée is outraged and chastises him for showering there. Denis shoots this from the same medium long shot that she originally shot Protée's showering scene. Once again, Aimée and France appear in the background walking back into the house. Luc sees the pair and calls to them, which makes them turn and look in his direction, thus viewing him fully naked. In this way, he forces both Protée and Aimée to look at him as he inhabits the fields of desire that they had

been mapping out, thus making these visual fields obvious.

The only scene in which this tension is even slightly articulated verbally takes place one evening when Aimée comes out on the porch to discover Luc eating with the servants. The contrast to the Dalen family's dining arrangements is obvious. The family dines inside at a table with all the accoutrements that define French "civilisation." Meanwhile, the servants eat outside in front of the house, sitting on the ground around a fire. Luc calls out to Aimée and says that he has decided he will no longer eat with the family inside. Furthermore, he claims that what Aimée really wants is to be sitting outside with the servants next to Protée. In other words, he hints at the sexual tension that exists between Protée and Aimée.

While Luc's words seem to draw attention to the fields of desire that exist around this house, it is the mise- en-scène that really calls attention to these visual fields of power and desire. The scene is set up through a shot/reverse shot that goes back and forth between Aimée on the porch and the reverse shot of Luc sitting on the ground amongst the workers. Aimée is standing towards the back of the porch, somewhat in the dimness of the house. Denis here highlights the fact that Aimée is separated and alone, with the expanse of the porch surrounding her.

The reverse shot of Luc, Protée and the others is a tighter one, emphasising the group warmly lit by the fire. Even still, it is clear that Luc does not belong in this space, and that he has literally inserted himself into it for a reason. Luc engages in this activity in order to seduce Aimée, but in doing so he throws both Protée and Aimée's roles into question by making these fields of desire public. In other words,

his action reveals and critiques the fields of desire that exist in and around this colonial house, and suggests that the real manifestation of Protée and Aimée's desire is in the field of the visible, which is intimately tied to representations of colonial power.

Luc's intrusion into these fields of desire leads to a scene in which Aimée tries to reach out physically to Protée. This scene is staged in the dark shadows of the house when Protée is closing up the windows and doors. Fully invested in this play of desire, but all too aware of the way this desire has been shaped by these spaces of colonial power, Protée rejects her. As is common throughout the film, this entire scene takes place without one word of dialogue. Soon afterwards, Aimée asks her husband to remove Protée from house duties, and the film returns from the flashback to the modern day framing story of the adult France's journey back to her childhood home.

Defining the battle lines

Claire Denis' Chocolat (1988)The film ends with an exchange between Mungo and France that neatly and yet ambiguously sums up many of the formal and content- driven themes of the film. Before they part, Mungo asks to see France's hands so that he can read her palms. One palm, however, is covered with burn scars (burns which the audience saw occurring just at the end of the flashback, a kind of last painful pact between the young France and Protée). Mungo remarks that he'd never met anyone with no life lines on their hands, "someone with no past and no future." It is especially difficult to overlook here that he is speaking to someone whose name is "France"—thus possibly suggesting that France itself has no past and no future when it comes to Africa.

It is at this remark that France finally seems to warm to Mungo and asks if he would like to have a drink with her. He declines, however, following the pattern established in the flashback. In other words, interracial relationships (even between Mungo, an African American living permanently in Cameroon, and France) are overdetermined by the fields of power and desire that colonialism set up in Africa. Thus Chocolat ends, suggesting that not much has changed in Cameroon. Denis' insistence on confronting these fields of desire and attempting to define and investigate them through cinema, however, seems to suggest that it is within these very visual fields that the battle against colonialism and racial inequities must be fought.

French 171-Fall 2005. Session 8.

WORKSHEET 8 Nikita (1990) By Luc Besson

I Film summary and a review:


Internationally acclaimed director Luc Besson delivers a tour de force with his action- packed story of Nikita (Anne Parillaud), a ruthless street junkie whose killer instincts could make her the perfect weapon. Recruited against her will into a secret government organization by a sadistic man known only as Bob, Nikita is broken and remade. In three years, Bob transforms her into a sexy, sophisticated 'lethal weapon' named Josephine. Released from the training compound, Nikita is caught in a web of intrigue and murder- trapped in a double life as Marco's lover and Bob's hired gun. The thrilling provocative climax makes La Femme Nikita one of the most shocking and intelligent espionage adventures ever.

Filmography (selected):

Director •The Messenger: the Story of Joan of Arc (1999) •The Fifth Element (1997) •The Professional (1994) •Atlantis (1991) •La Femme Nikita (1990) •The Big Blue (1988) •Subway (1985) •The Final Combat (1984)

Producer •Revolver (2006) •Bandidas (2006) •Transporter 2 (2005) •High Tension (2005) •Unleashed (2005) •Taxi (2004) •The Truth About Charlie (2002) •The Transporter (2002) •Wasabi (2002) •Kiss of the Dragon (2001) •The Dancer (2000)

•Taxi 2 (2000) •Nil By Mouth (1998) •The Professional (1994) •Subway (1985)

Screenwriter •Bandidas (2006) •The Crimson Rivers 2: Angels of the Apocalypse (2005) •Transporter 2 (2005) •Unleashed (2005) •The Transporter (2002) •Wasabi (2002) •Kiss of the Dragon (2001) •The Dancer (2000) •Taxi 2 (2000) •The Messenger: the Story of Joan of Arc (1999) •The Fifth Element (1997) •The Professional (1994) •The Big Blue (1988) •Subway (1985)


Read the following two reviews of the film Nikita (1990):

1. Commercial success notwithstanding, Luc Besson has never really lived up to the promise of his quirky imaginative debut feature, The Last Battle. In Subway, he spent the first half hour setting up a great concept and a host of appealing characters, and then proceeded to systematically waste every opportunity he had created for himself, while The Big Blue had nothing much to say and devoted an awful lot of time and ocean to not saying it and The Fifth Element, which looked as stylish and elegant as you'd expect a Besson film to, also suffered from having nothing to tell. With Nikita, and afterwards Leon, he found his touch again, producing a fast-moving, violent, desperately stylish thriller that rarely puts a foot wrong. The opening battle in the drugstore is carried off with real aplomb, as are all the succeeding set-pieces, and in Anne Parillaud the film has an actress who is equally convincing as both pathetic, nihilistic waif of the early sequences, and the sophisticated, guilt-ridden killer she later becomes, and who brings some real emotion to a production which might have otherwise seemed dangerously hollow.

Besson's storyline does become more ludicrously improbable as the film progresses, but on this occasion his direction more than compensates for any deficiencies as a screenwriter, and there's a glorious cameo from regular collaborator Jean Reno, who shunts the film onto another plane entirely just when it seemed in danger of running out of steam; fast, furious and oddly moving, Nikita may well be Besson's finest achievement.

2. As the shogun of the second French New Wave (Cinema Du Look), Luc Besson was expected to dish out another international hit to follow the huge success of The Big Blue - La Femme Nikita delivered. Basically, this movie was written/co-produced/directed by Besson as an ode to his wife, actress Anne Parillaud, and her feminist values. Originally released in France 1990, the film's success and Besson's international recognition carried La Femme Nikita to the States in 1991.

Luc Besson's motion picture has strong tones of 1990s feminism. Nikita possesses all the

ideal qualities of the woman of the 90s: independent, intelligent, feminine yet powerful, etc. Marco is the male version of a housewife; cooking, cleaning, and providing emotional support for Nikita when she gets home from work. The reversing of stereotypical female/male roles is absolutely integral to the feminism flavor of the film, and quite frankly, fun to watch. Considering that this movie was created at the dawn of the 1990s feminist movement, Besson shouldn't be seen as kneeling to political correctness. On the contrary, one gets the feeling that they're watching something new

and refreshing, perhaps


The actors are familiar faces in familiar roles. Jeanne Moreau and Phillipe Leroy (first French New Wave actors) are superbly cast in their oldschool roles of the ultra-feminine woman of power and the hardnosed bossy guy, respectively. Besson also casts second New Wave regulars Tcheky Karyo (Bob), Jean-Hugues Anglade (Marco), and international star Jean Reno (Victor the Cleaner) in their typical roles as well. Besson's casting is an obvious attempt at trumpeting the similarities between the two French New Wave movements and uniting GenX with the Baby-Boomers.

La Femme Nikita has picked up an enormous following. This popularity is mainly due to the recently dropped cable television show of the same name, featuring a Baywatch-type chick battling it out with baddies in her thong and bra. Another contributing reason could be that viewers of the Hollywood remake (Point of No Return) saw some potential in the terrible Bridget Fonda flick and decided to watch the far better original. Or possibly, the adolescent girls of Generation-Y are discovering a feminist role model in Nikita - the role model that Generation-X created and left for them.

II. Cinema of the “Look”

a) What is the “look”? The cinema of the “look” is a style of film-making which came to the fore in the 1980’s and is still influential in French film today. It is characterized not by any collective ideology but rather a technical mastery of the medium, a cinephile tendency to cite from other films, and a spectacular visual style (“ the look”). Three directors are associated with this type of cinema: Jean-Jacques Beineix (Diva, 1980), Luc Besson, and Leo Carax (The Lovers of the Pont neuf, 1991). Even though they work individually, they were grouped together by critics as the “new new Wave” and shared a common passion for a sharp new visual style, while, to a certain extent, they

also shared subject matter (young people in urban and/or alienating surroundings).

b) Some objections to the “look.” Criticism.

Some objections to the “look” movement was the lack of plot and psychological realism; its visual affiliation with “inferior” cultural forms like television, music video, advertising, and the comic strip; and in some case its lack of ideology. However, oddly enough, some critics praised “the look” for its daring and innovative affiliation with popular visual art.

c) Conclusion.

In the end, the strong aesthetic component of the cinema of the “look”, the synthesis of high and low art and its engagement with the problems of alienated protagonists (outside of family structures), have become the predominant values of the “look” that pointed to a creative renewal in French cinema.

III. Questions for class.

1. Find cinematographic effects of the cinema of “the look” in Nikita.

2.“I am guided by a single preoccupation: that modern society creates a familial crisis, and an emotional lack for young people.” (Besson, about Nikita). How is this quote illustrated in the film?

3. Nikita is an urban thriller (a male dominated genre derived from American gangster movies and Film noir) with a female protagonist where one would expect a male character. Is Nikita coded as “male”? How? Pay attention to the first scene of the film.

4. How






composition? Colors? Music?




5. How is her change of identity completed?

6.What is the role played by the romance?




7.What makes the new Nikita a “feminine ideal”? How does the camera highlight this aspect of Nikita?

8. With the arrival on the scene of Victor, “the cleaner,” the film unleashes the true violence of a thriller with farcical brutality. Explain how this two aspects are represented in the film.

9. Does Nikita remain a beautiful and cool assassin through the end?

FRENCH 171. Spring 2008


1. in shooting, one uninterrupted run of the camera

to expose a series of frames. Also called a take.

2. In the finished film, one uninterrupted image

with a single (static or mobile) framing.



segment in a narrative film that takes place in one

time and space (or that uses crosscutting to show two or

more simultaneous actions).


a term commonly used for moderately large segment of a

film, involving one complete stretch of action and consisting of one or more scenes. Comparable to a chapter in a book.

diegetic sound any voice, musical passage, or sound effect presented as originating from a source within the film's world.

nondiegetic sound sound represented as coming from outside the space of the narrative, such as mood music or a narrator's commentary.

nonsimultaneous sound diegetic sound that comes either earlier or later than the accompanying image of the source.

jump cut an elliptical cut that appears to be an interruption of a single shot. It occurs within a scene rather than between scenes, to condense the shot.


a round, moving mask that contracts to close down to

end an scene (iris-out) or emphasize a detail, or opens to

begin a scene (iris-in) or to reveal more space around a detail.