French Cinema since 1945 GLOSSARY 180 rule an editing technique which maintains spatial continuity and screen direction. If the camera stays on the same side of an imaginary line drawn between the actors throughout a scene then the actors will all remain consistently on one side of the image. However, if the line is crossed then an actor that was on the left of the screen will jump to the right-hand side of the screen, potentially disorientating the spectator.
35 rule an editing technique. An edit needs to change the angle of the image by more than 35 for it to look like a ‘proper’ cut which has been motivated by the need to change position. An edit of less than 35 looks like a jump cut. auteur a term describing a film-maker who is considered as an artist or the author of his or her films, just as a pinter . Lapolitique des auteurs was one of the key claims made by theorists & directors of the nouvelle vague. B-movies low-budget films made by Hollywood studios to support the main feature film. Usually take the form of popular genres - thrillers, westerns, horror - and they rarely feature stars (studios used them more as testing ground for raw talent).
Cahiers du cinéma influential film journal that has published on film theory from the 1950s to the present. Most nouvelle vague directors wrote for the journal where they formulated the politique des auteurs.
cause and effect a technique used in Classical Hollywood Narrative films which means that every scene is linked and motivated. Nothing is included in the narrative that is not relevant, for example if a close-up of a teacup is shown then it means there is something significant about the teacup, eg it is poisoned. At the end of each scene cues are given for the next, e.g. a character might say they need to go somewhere and the next scene would cut to them arriving.
cinéma de qualité describes a type of cinema dominant in the 1940s and 1950s, based mainly on literary adaptations, with high production values and featuring major French stars. Scorned by New Wave directors who wanted cinema to be a form of writing in its own right. French cinema of the 1980s saw a major revival of cinéma de qualité with historico-literary adaptations of novels (Jean de Florette, Manon des Sources, etc.) and plays (Cyrano de Bergerac) - a kind of gallic counterpart to Merchant-Ivory films.
cinéma du look name for a genre (syn. Forum des Halles) that emerged in the early 1980s. Characterised by strong emphasis on spectacular visual style (le ‘look’, a kind of designer chic influenced by music videos and product advertising), mastery of technology, implausible plots, non-realistic settings, postmodernist mixing or ‘quoting’ of high and low culture or different genres. Directors Luc Besson, Jean-Jacques Beineix, Léos Carax are most strongly associated with this genre.
cinéma-vérité style of documentary film-making which aims to capture events raw and unmediated. Uses unobtrustive equipment and filming methods that don’t interfere with the events being recorded.
cinematography a term which describes everything related to the camera in filming: film stock, film speed, framing (i.e. the distance, level, height and the angle of the camera) and camera movement.
classical Hollywood narrative the system of narrative used in Hollywood films made between the 1930s and the 1950s. Also used in French and other European mainstream films of the period. Comprises a number of ‘invisible’ narrative conventions that make films easy to read for a mass audience.
close-up denoting a short distance between the camera and subject/object filmed: a close-up of a person would show just one feature eg a face or hands.
closure a Classical Hollywood Narrative term which describes how all the loose ends of a plot are tied up so that the narrative can be brought to a close.
continuity editing the system of editing used in Classical Hollywood Narrative films. Continuity editing consists of a number of techniques which unobtrusively condense time and space while maintaining fluidity and spatial and temporal continuity. Continuity editing techniques are usually motivated so that they are not noticed or disruptive. This enables the spectator to concentrate on the narrative.
cut an edit which simply splices two shots together.
diegetic world the fictional world in which the characters of a narrative live.
dissolve an edit whereby one image dissolves or mixes into the next.
documentary / documentary film a film that presents a version of events that viewers are intended to take not as a work of imagination but primarily as fact. Material and techniques can be very varied - documentaries may or may not involve a narrative and may or may not present an argument explicitly (e.g. with a voice-over commentary). Materials may comprise newsreel, historical footage, interviews with witnesses or other ‘authoritative’ figures, or even dramatised re-enactments. Documentary is often presented or seen as the opposite of fiction.
enunciator the narrator of a story. Often in the cinema the narrator or enunciator is not made obvious, ie there is not a voice-over from someone who appears to be telling the story. In a situation such as this the enunciator can be considered as the film-maker.
equilibrium/disruption/re-equilibrium describes the pattern of storytelling in Classical Hollywood Narrative films. An equilibrium (ie a balance) exists at the start of a narrative, a disruption occurs, and the work of the narrative is to get to the point of re-equilibrium so that harmony can be re-established within the narrative world.
establishing shot a continuity editing technique. Usually a long shot placed at the start of a scene, showing the location of the action and the relative positions of characters. It allows viewers with a context for subsequent closer shots.
eyeline-match a continuity editing technique. An eyeline-match occurs when a close-up of an actor’s face is followed with a shot of another person or object. Even though the subject/object are not physically in the frame together the spectator makes a mental link and accepts that the actor in the first shot is looking at the person or object in the second shot. This creates a three-dimensional space for the film’s action from two-dimensional images.
fade an edit whereby the image either fades up from black or fades down to black. Normally signals the end of a scene.
femme fatale a term used to describe the female character in a film noir. Typically the femme fatale is a seductress who leads a male protagonist to commit a crime.
film noir a term given by French critics (and adopted into English) to a genre of Hollywood films made between the 1940s and the 1950s. Film noirs were usually set in an urban criminal underworld. Typical characters are private detectives (like Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, played by Humphrey Bogart) and femmes fatales. The visual style of film noirs is dark or high-contrast and shadowy. The tone is cynical, pessimistic, even fatalistic.
Forum des Halles alternative name for the ‘cinéma du look’ genre. Named after the post-modern space in central Paris that was a focal point for youth culture. (The Forum des Halles was synonymous with designer chic when it opened in 1979 as an ultra-modern shopping complex).
genre a way of classifying a type of film, e.g. a western, a musical, a gangster movie, a horror film. Each genre can be identified by visual, aural, narrative and thematic characteristics.
iconography a term describing the visual motifs/objects associated with particular genres of film. For instance, the iconography of the gangster film consists of guns, cars, smart suits and cities, while the iconography of the western consists of horses, dusty streets and cowboys.
ideology the ideas, beliefs and norms of behaviour held by a society at a particular moment in time.
intertextual the referencing of other artistic or cultural texts such as plays, novels, films, music or paintings within a text.
iris an edit, used mainly in silent films. A circle on screen closes around the image until all is black, replicating the closing down of the iris on the camera lens. Used twice ironically in A bout de souffle.
Italian neo-realist a movement of film-makers working in Italy in the late 1940s. The style of their films was commented on, particularly by André Bazin, for creating a new style of realism through location filming, the use of non-actors, long takes and lots of camera movement.
jump cut an abrupt edit which appears to ‘jump’, either because time jumps forward on the image track but not on the soundtrack, or because the camera has not been moved by more than a 35 angle. Unlike continuity edit, it can be noticeable and disorientating in terms of spatial or temporal continuity.
long shot denoting a long distance between the camera and subject/object filmed: a long shot of a person would show the whole of their body and their background and location.
match-on-action a continuity editing technique. A match-on-action is when an edit takes place in the middle of an action. For example, shot one might show a person sitting down while shot two shows them standing up. The cut occurs during the movement from sitting to standing. This ensures that the edit goes unnoticed because the spectator is distracted by the act of movement itself.
medium close-up denoting a short to medium distance between the camera and subject/object filmed: a medium close-up of a person would show their body from the chest upwards.
medium long shot denoting a medium to long distance between the camera and subject/object filmed: a medium long shot of a person would show the whole of their body.
mid shot denoting a medium distance between the camera and subject/object filmed: a mid shot of a person would show their body from the waist up.
mise-en-scèneliterally, ‘staging’. Describes everything in the image which has been placed in front of the camera for filming: set design, location, costume, make-up, props, actors, acting style and lighting effects.
montage French term equivalent of ‘editing’, i.e. selecting and arranging the shots from a processed film, deciding their duration and the transitions between them. Often used in opposition to mise en scène, though the two processes are in fact complementary.
Nouvelle Vague describes the generation of young French directors that emerged in the 1950s: Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, Alain Resnais, etc. Their approach to film making included stylstic innovations made possible by location filming, low budgets, a stress on the director as the original creator in film construction, and a new sense of the political and social value of film.
Nouvelle Nouvelle Vague term used in the 1980s to describe the emerging generation of young directors (esp. Beineix, Besson, Carax) associated with ‘cinéma du look’.
overlapping sound a continuity editing technique which links scenes together. As one scene ends and the next begins any music playing in the first scene is carried over to the start of the next scene.
pan a camera movement, where the camera head moves horizontally from side to side.
politique des auteurs published in Cahiers du cinéma, the politique des auteurs called for the rejection of the traditional French cinéma de qualité in favour of a cinema which would allow individual film-makers to express themselves as artists.
protagonist the main character within a narrative, usually ‘the hero’.
representation a term that describes the cinematic presentation of ideological constructs such as gender, race, age, class and sexuality.
shot/reverse shot a continuity editing technique used for dialogue scenes. First both of the actors engaged in a conversation are shown in a two-shot then the camera cuts in to mid shots and close-ups of one actor and then the other, usually from a position ‘over the shoulder’ of the other actor. This pattern allows long dialogue scenes to be broken down, so that the spectator sees the significant facial expressions and reactions of the actors as they speak.
tracking shot a camera movement where the camera is moved forwards, backwards or to the side.