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Unit information: Introduction to French Cinema in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

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 Dr. Albertine Fox
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of French
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit will introduce students to different periods, genres and styles of French cinema, beginning in the 1920s and moving through to the present. A broad range of cinematic approaches, concepts and critical perspectives will be explored through the study of set films and theoretical texts. Areas of study are expected to include 1920s French avant-garde cinema, Poetic Realist cinema, New Wave cinema, women’s filmmaking, the cinéma du look and banlieue/beur films. Films will be explored with reference to their socio-political contexts and students will be encouraged to engage with theories of spectatorship, narrative style, aesthetics and wider debates on issues such as representations of gender, sexuality, class and ethnicity. Students will develop a solid understanding of the basic principles of film theory while furthering their skills in critical thinking, oral presentation and close analysis. Secondary readings will be in English and French and students will be expected to follow a number of French-language films.


Introduce students to an array of French films and enable students to develop a solid understanding of key concepts in film theory and analysis.

Develop an understanding of different historical and theoretical approaches to the study of French cinema by engaging with a selection of work by established and emerging directors.

Explore important movements, styles and aesthetic trends in French cinema from the 1920s to the contemporary period.

Expose students to theoretical texts in English and French on film form, aesthetics, authorship, gender and spectatorship.

Offer the opportunity to undertake close sequence analysis and broader critical analysis of secondary material.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to demonstrate:

1. Broad knowledge of different periods, genres, theoretical concepts and modes of analysis in French cinema from the 1920s to the present.

2. The ability to analyse, compare and form interpretations of different styles of film.

3. The ability to respond critically and analytically to the issues and debates in question.

4. Critical awareness of theoretical scholarship in the field of study and the ability to articulate a critical position in both oral and written form as appropriate to level I.

5. Sophisticated audio-visual analytical skills and an ability to use film terminology correctly.

6. The ability to carry out independent research appropriate to this level of study.

Teaching details

1 Weekly Lecture

1 X Weekly seminar

Assessment Details


  • Group oral presentation (25%), testing ILOs 1-4, 6;
  • 1 essay of 2500 words (75%), testing ILOs 1-6

Reading and References

  • Phil Powrie and Keith Reader, French Cinema: A Student’s Guide (Arnold Press, 2002).
  • Susan Hayward and Ginette Vincendeau (eds.), French Film: Texts and Contexts (Routledge, 1990).
  • Will Higbee and Sarah Leahy (eds.), Studies in French Cinema: UK Perspectives, 1985-2010 (Intellect Books, 2011).
  • Thomas Elsaesser and Malte Hagener, Film Theory: An Introduction Through the Senses, 2nd edn (Routledge, 2015).
  • Michael Temple and Michael Witt (eds.), The French Cinema Book (BFI, 2004).
  • Guy Austin, Contemporary French Cinema (Manchester University Pres, 1996).