June 8-18 2021
NYU Paris – 57 boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris 5e
Instructor: Prof. Ludovic Cortade (New York University)
This intensive seminar (4 to 5 hours per day) is open to graduate students and scholars with an interest in French cinema and theory. Discussions are conducted in English.
Myths are incarnated by actors on the screen. Movie stars like Charlie Chaplin, Brigitte Bardot, Jean Gabin, Greta Gardo, Marlon Brando or Catherine Deneuve form idealized images. To study the stars and the myths of cinema is, therefore, to analyze the way in which films generate and reflect a “collective instinct” (André Malraux) validated by the public.
Cinematic myths are the product of a sociological context: as André Bazin put it, every film is a “social documentary” revealing our beliefs, our aspirations, and our dreams throughout history. In this seminar, participants will discuss myths in cinema as the main entry point to politics and history. Students will analyze film form, narratives, aesthetics and critical texts through the lens of models of nation, class, ethnicity and gender in French society.
In light of landmark films and key theoretical texts, students and auditors will analyze how the first generation of French directors and film critics (Canudo, Delluc, Malraux, Bazin, Morin) laid the foundations of the mythical function of cinema.
Participants will also discuss how the birth of a new generation of French actors, directors and theorists in the second half of the 20th century debunked the collective beliefs and the ideology underlying stardom. Barthes’s “mythologies,” Brecht’s “distancing,” Godard’s iconoclasm and the Marxist stance of the Cahiers du cinéma film critics all called into question the “mythical” representations of nation, class, gender and ethnicity in French cinema.
The moviegoers and the citizens of France then ushered in an “age of suspicion,” which was twofold: the desacralization of the film industry brought on by the advent of television and the dissemination of stardom through social media went hand in hand with the crisis of collective beliefs and confidence that characterized politics in France at the end of the 20th century. The dusk of stardom paved the way for nostalgic intertextuality, pastiche and irony.
Theorists, directors and films discussed in the seminar include (by alphabetical order): Louis Aragon, Antonin Artaud, Roland Barthes, André Bazin, Walter Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht, Riciotto Canudo, Louis Delluc, Jean Epstein, Hegel, André Malraux, Marcel Mauss, Edgar Morin, Paul Valéry.
About the instructor
Ludovic Cortade is Associate Professor in the Department of French Literature, Thought and Culture and an Associate faculty in the Department of Cinema Studies (Tisch School of the Arts) at New York University. Cortade is the author of Cinéma de l’immobilité : style, politique, réception and Antonin Artaud – la Virtualité incarnée. His research fields include : History, Aesthetics, Theory of French Cinema ; French Literature and Film ; Politics of Film ; Cinematic Representations of Space. His articles and book chapters focus on Godard, Truffaut, Renoir, Malle, Leiris, Epstein and Bazin.