French Cinema

Welcome to the Introduction to French Cinema Website! 

Just a few words of orientation to help you use this site:

The films in this site, all of them classics of French cinema, are presented in alphabetical order, beginning with one of Jean Renoir’s masterpieces, Grand Illusion (1937).  There is a chapter devoted to each of these films in my French cinema textbook, French Cinema. The Student’s Book (Focus Publishing, 2005).

By clicking on the link below, “French Cinema,” you will be directed to the home page for this site.  You will note that in the tool bar at the top of the page there is a “Film Terms” link (to a glossary of the principal  technical terms used in talking about films) and a menu with the bio-filmographies of the filmmakers.  There is also a menu with all the films, again in alphabetical order, intended to make it easier to go from one film to another without going back to the home page of the French Cinema site.  But before going there, please read the rest of this page.

For each film (click on the title or the picture), there is a home page with a detailed summary of the action of the film.  Just below there is a series of links to excerpts from the film.  When you click on a link, you are directed to a page with a series of questions on the excerpt you are going to see.  These questions are intended to serve as a guide in the analysis and commentary of the excerpt.  To see the excerpt, just click on the word “Excerpt” or on the picture (you’ll need Real Player to view the clips).  You can pause the clip at any time to look again at the questions or to take notes—and you can watch the excerpts as many times as you need to help you respond to the questions (which is the main interest of this approach!).

The first site, the one devoted to Grand Illusion, is very special in comparison to the others.  The purpose of this site is to introduce film analysis to the student as regards both vocabulary and concepts.  After the film summary, there is a link to a page with comments on Renoir’s style in which a number of film terms and techniques are introduced and explained.  In addition, for each excerpt (see the link at the bottom of the pages), I’ve provided an example of a technical analysis and a commentary linking form and meaning to help the student learn to talk about film in a professional manner.

In the page on Renoir’s style, the learning of the technical vocabulary is made as convenient as possible: the student merely has to put the cursor over the specific film terms which are glossed, and the explanation pops up on the screen.  This approach is maintained for the Formal Analysis-Commentary pages of the first four excerpts of Grand Illusion.  For the remaining excerpts, as for the other films presented in the French Cinema site, the student need only click on "Film Terms" in the tool bar at the top of the page to find or recall the meanings of cinematographic vocabulary items.

Now, let the adventure begin.  Bon voyage!

French Cinema

Alan Singerman, Davidson College, Davidson, NC