Spring 2023 Undergraduate English Courses

354:391 History and Memory in Cinema: France in WWII

01  TTH4   04988    FLITTERMAN-LEWIS    MU-301
                   FILM SCREENING  TH 6,7        MU-301

In recent years there has been an exciting resurgence of interest in the complex and disturbing period in France known as the “dark years” of World War II.  This course will look at daily life, especially that of women and children, through the prism of the cinema, using popular films of the time and those more current films that “return to the scene” to explore issues of memory, identity, trauma, and history.  We will look first at films that contextualize the period, and then at a popular film that defined the era (with some reference to films preceding it in the heady days of the Popular Front of the 30s).  We will then consider contemporary films about that time of German Occupation and Vichy France, as modern filmmakers grapple with ways to represent both historical reality and what some have called “the unrepresentable”—the horrors of persecution, deportation and genocide—in an effort to add a moral and ethical dimension to the cinematic representation of history.

Films to be screened include documentaries (Alain Resnais’s Night and Fog, Marcel Ophuls’s Hotel Terminus, Mosco Boucault’s Terrorists in Retirement, and Lisa Gossels and Dean Wetherell’s Children of Chabannes) and feature fiction films of the period (Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Le Corbeau), as well as contemporary films (Roselyne Bosch’s La Rafle, Gilles Pacquet-Brenner’s Sarah’s Key ,Louis Malle’s Au Revoir Les Enfants, and Lacombe Lucien, Joseph Losey’s Monsieur Klein, Francois Truffaut’s The Last Metro, Claude Chabrol’s Story of Women, Bertrand Tavernier’s Safe Conduct, Claude Miller’s A Secret, and Claude Berri’s The Two of Us).

Although many of the films deal with the Shoah--the term now used to talk about the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis’ Final Solution during the Second World War and its particular implementation in France, this is not a course on Holocaust film, or even a course on French Occupation cinema.  It is more about everyday life in a certain period of history when ordinary people were equally capable of great evil and boundless compassion.  Its focus on the family and the lives of women is an attempt to understand the place of the cinema in both daily life of the period and in the historical reconstruction of its memory with an eye toward understanding our own behavior today in an equally disturbing time of crisis.