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BA Film Studies and East Asian Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
French Cinema to 1980

Unit code FREN20142
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by French Studies
Available as a free choice unit? No


Since the Lumière brothers’ L’Arrivée du train en gare de La Ciotat in 1895, France has become home to one of the world’s most developed cinema industries. This course takes a historical look at some of the key French films and movements from the 1930s to 1980. The course will consist of a series of lectures and seminars examining a set of core films. It will include an analysis of some of the most prominent genres (thrillers, the musical) and of the two movements that have become emblematic of French cinematic specificity: le réalisme poétique (poetic realism) and la nouvelle vague (the new wave). The work of some of France’s key auteurs will be examined through case studies of some of their most influential work. Prominent themes and issues will be considered, including authorship, national identity, stardom, gender and class. 



  • to familiarise students with film studies terminology in order to enable students to analyse and interpret film in depth
  • to provide an overview of various periods, styles, themes and genres in French film history to 1980
  • to provide students with key concepts of film theory
  • to encourage and enable students to verbalise and intellectualise emotional responses to film viewing


A range of films will be studied, including (though not limited to):

Marcel Carné, Les Enfants du Paradis (1943-45)

Henri-Georges Clouzot, Les Diaboliques (1954)

Jean-Luc Godard, Le Mépris (1963)

Alain Resnais Hiroshima mon amour (1960)

Agnès Varda, Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962)

René Clément, Plein Soleil (1960)

Jacques Demy, Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967)

Teaching and learning methods

 A range of lecture and seminar-based activities. Students will be required to watch the set films, complete the set reading and participate in student-led seminar activities.


Medium of language:  English (all films will be in French but with English subtitles)


Knowledge and understanding

  • show familiarity with film studies terminology
  • demonstrate an understanding of the various periods, styles, themes and genres in French film history to 1980
  • show a sophisticated grasp of the thematic preoccupations of cinema in France during a crucial period of accelerated modernisation
  • demonstrate a knowledge of the key issues that influence the production of films
  • show awareness of the political, social, cultural and economic concerns that surrounded filmmaking in France until 1980 

Intellectual skills

  • demonstrate an ability to undertake individual and group research
  • show a capacity to think critically about visual texts and the secondary written material about them
  • demonstrate a grasp of complex theoretical and philosophical ideas and concepts
  • comment confidently upon the impact of film style on themes, issues and ideas

Practical skills

  • demonstrate literacy in analysing visual culture, with specific attention to films
  • be assured in giving verbal expression to intellectual responses to film viewing
  • express critical ideas coherently in structured essays
  • engage effectively in group discussions

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • structure discussions and essays
  • engage in detailed analysis and express that critical analysis clearly
  • work effectively both individually and as part of a team
  • show confidence in expressing views, opinions and ideas orally in groups

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Group/team working
Oral communication
Independent research
Written communication

Assessment methods


Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)

One essay plan

Formative practice for the examination with individual feedback

750 words


One examination


3 hours








Assessment task


One essay

3000 words


Feedback methods


    Feedback method

    Formative or Summative

    Oral feedback on seminar activities


    Written feedback on essay plan


    Additional one-to-one feedback during office hour by appointment


    Written feedback on exam



Recommended reading

Buss, Robin, French Film Noir (London and St Paul: Marion Boyers, 1994) 791.4 /B334

Marie, Michel, The New Wave : an Artistic School (Oxford and Malden: Blackwells, 2003)

Neupert, Richard (2002) A History of the French New Wave

Cinema, Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 2nd Edition.

Powrie, Phil and Reader, Keith, French Cinema: a Student’s Guide, (London: Arnold, 2002) 791.4644/P5

Powrie, Phil (Ed.), The Cinema of France (London: Wallflower, 2007).

Vincendeau, Ginette, Stars and Stardom in French Cinema, (London: Continuum, 2000) 791.4644/V1

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Demonstration 22
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 145

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Darren Waldron Unit coordinator

Additional notes



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