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Level 5

5AAFF259 French Cinema and its Others

Credit value: 15 credits
Module tutor:  Professor Nicholas Harrison and Dr Ros Murray 
Assessment: Assessed coursework of 1500-2000 words worth 25% submitted during the semester and a 2 hour exam (75%) at the end of the module.
Teaching pattern:
 Two classes per week (a lecture and a seminar).
Re-assessment: all re-assessment for this module will take the form of coursework.

For those students without knowledge of French the material can be studied in English translation.

French cinema has since its very origins been concerned with representing alternative visions of what it means to be 'French', both challenging and facilitating the transmission of national stereotypes and identities. This module approaches 20th- and 21st-century French cinema from the 1930s onwards through the figure of the outsider, looking at some of the most iconic French films alongside lesser-known works (which may include films from the wider French-speaking world, where issues of ‘Frenchness’ and belonging are often important themes). Many of these films deal with stigmatisation of figures such as the postcolonial other, the gendered other, the sans domicile fixe (that is, the homeless) or the criminal. Some challenge the privileged spaces of the French city, for example through critical representations of public space, or through representing sites that are culturally constructed as other, such as in banlieue and 'beur' filmmaking (films set in France's outer-city housing estates and films by directors of Maghrebi descent, respectively); some deal with the schoolroom as a crucial site of ‘integration’ and identity-formation. Key characters in the films on this module tend to fail to fit in, some because they deliberately refuse to do so. We will consider how to approach these representations of otherness in film, with an explicit focus on class, race, gender and sexuality in narrative films that trouble conventional or traditional notions of family, home and identity.

Educational aims and objectives

  • To familiarise students with a diverse body of French narrative films, from the 1930s to the present day
  • To develop a broad understanding of French cinema history
  • To examine critically and explore notions of difference and otherness in the French context
  • To ensure students are familiar with conceptual tools necessary for writing critically about film
  • To enhance written and oral skills through written assessment and class presentations

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will be able to demonstrate intellectual, transferable and practicable skills appropriate to a Level 5 module and in particular will be able to demonstrate:

  • A detailed knowledge of the films studied
  • A broad grasp of several key aspects of French film theory
  • An ability to analyse film and an understanding of appropriate language use when writing about or presenting on film
  • A nuanced understanding of otherness and its representation on screen

Core films 

Subject to availability, these may change.

  • Les Quatre cent coups (The 400 Blows François Truffaut, 1959)
  • Sans toit ni loi (Vagabond Agnès Varda, 1985)
  • Bande de filles (Girlhood Céline Sciamma, 2014)
  • Divines (Houda Benyamina, 2016)
  • Drôle de Félix (The Adventures of Felix,Olivier Ducastel et Jacques Martineau, 2000)
  • Monsieur Lazhar (Monsieur Lazhar Philippe Falardeau, 2011)
  • La Graine et le mulet (Couscous, aka The Secret of the Grain Abdellatif Kechiche, 2007)
  • Entre les murs (The Class Laurent Cantet, 2008)
  • Caché (Hidden Michel Haneke, 2005)

Core texts

Refer to reading list.

The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

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