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Unit information: Introduction to French Cinema in 2016/17

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Unit name Introduction to French Cinema
Unit code FREN20056
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Marianne Ailes
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of French
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit will provide a critical overview of French cinema from the 1940s through to the present day. Students will be introduced to movements within French cinema, such as le réalisme poétique (poetic realism) and la nouvelle vague (the New Wave), and to a range of different genres, including the comedy and the polar (thriller). The unit will provide students with a broad knowledge of key developments and aesthetic trends within French film history, and develop their understanding of French film theory and criticism. The films studied will be examined with reference to their socio-political contexts and students will be encouraged to consider the issues they raise in relation to wider debates on issues such as gender, sexuality, class and ethnicity. Detailed textual analyses will be complemented by comparative readings of critical approaches to the films under investigation. Students will be expected to read a number of advanced theoretical texts in English and French, and follow a number of French-language films.


  • To introduce students to a significant body of knowledge of a complexity appropriate to Year 2 UG level
  • To develop students’ understanding of historical and theoretical approaches to the study of French cinema through a number of key films
  • To develop students’ knowledge of key movements, representational styles and aesthetic trends in French cinema from the 1940s to the present day
  • To introduce students to theoretical writings in English and French on film form, aesthetics and style, authorship, gender and spectatorship
  • To develop students’ ability to engage with close textual reading and broader critical analysis of secondary material

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course, students will demonstrate:

1. Broad knowledge of different periods, styles, themes and genres in French cinema from the 1940s to the present.

2. Ability to respond critically and analytically to the issues/debates raised by the films studied.

3. Critical awareness of theoretical scholarship in the field of study and the ability to ability to explain it in both oral and written form as appropriate to level I.

4. Sophisticated visual analytical skills and an ability to use film terminology correctly.

5. Ability to carry out independent research appropriate to this level of study.

Teaching details

Teaching methods will include plenary lectures, small group work, large group discussions and independent study.

2 contact hours per week + weekly film screenings

Assessment Details

1 sequence analysis, 1500 words (25%), testing ILOs 1-4, 6

1 extended essay, 2500 words (75%), testing ILOs 1-6

Reading and References

  • Austin, Guy, Contemporary French Cinema: An Introduction (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996)
  • Ezra, Elizabeth and Harris, Sue, eds., France in Focus: Film and National Identity (Oxford: Berg, 2000)
  • Hayward, Susan, French National Cinema (London: Routledge, 1993)
  • Powrie, Phil, ed., The Cinema of France (London: Wallflower, 2006)
  • Temple, Michael and Michael Witt, eds., The French Cinema Book (London: BFI, 2004)
  • Vincendeau, Ginette, The Companion to French Cinema (London: Cassell, 1996)
  • Wilson, Emma, French Cinema since 1950: Personal Histories (London: Duckworth, 1999)