In "Landscapes of Loss, " Naomi Greene makes new sense of the
rich variety of postwar French films by exploring the obsession
with the national past that has characterized French cinema since
the late 1960s. Observing that the sense of grandeur and destiny
that once shaped French identity has eroded under the weight of
recent history, Greene examines the ways in which French cinema has
represented traumatic and defining moments of the nation's past:
the political battles of the 1930s, the Vichy era, decolonization,
the collapse of ideologies. Drawing upon a broad spectrum of films
and directors, she shows how postwar films have reflected
contemporary concerns even as they have created images and myths
that have helped determine the contours of French memory.
This study of the intricate links between French history,
memory, and cinema begins by examining the long shadow cast by the
Vichy past: the repressed memories and smothered unease that
characterize the cinema of Alain Resnais are seen as a kind of
prelude to a fierce battle for national memory that marked
so-called "retro" films of the 1970s and 1980s. The shifting
political and historical perspectives toward the nation's more
distant past, which also emerged in these years, are explored in
the light of the films of one of France's leading directors,
Bertrand Tavernier. Finally, the mood of nostalgia and melancholy
that appears to haunt contemporary France is analyzed in the
context of films about the nation's imperial past as well as those
that hark back to a "golden age," a remembered "paradis perdu," of
French cinema itself.
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