French Cinema in the 1980s is a set of critical essays on films which help to focus on a particular theme whose roots are in the 1970s, and which extends beyond the 1980s into the 1990s: the crisis of masculinity in contemporary French culture, and its interrelationship with nostalgia. After an introduction which gives a brief overview both of the crisis in the French film industry during the 1980s, and of the socio-political
crisis of masculinity in the wake of 1970s feminism, there are three sections: the retro-nostalgic film, which emerged during the 1980s, and two more popular genres, the polar, or police thriller, and the comic
film. Each section begins with a brief preface which highlights the major issues for the genre during the 1980s. The films discussed have all been distributed outside France, and are in many cases commercially available. The nostalgia section covers Un amour de Swann, Un dimanche à la campagne, Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources, and Coup de foudre. The section on the police thriller begins with Truffaut's last film,
Vivement dimanche!, and includes a chapter on three thrillers by a variety of directors (La Balance, Police, Détective). Its main focus, however, is on thrillers by the directors of the cinéma du look (Diva, Subway, Mauvais sang). The last section on
the comic film looks at three films which were successful both in France and abroad: Trois hommes et un couffin (remade in Hollywood as Three Men and a Baby), La Vie est un long fleuve tranquille and, finally, Depardieu's gamble at cross-dressing, Tenue de soirée.
`the book is timely indeed ... the most compellling section of the book is the middle one, dedicated to the thriller. Here the author appears to come into full flow and his interpretations are lively and well thought through ... an attractive feature of Powrie's writing is that the chapters often raise more questions than there is space to answer, thus giving the text a polemical edge that should provoke more readers, in a challenging way, to think beyond
the arguments provided by Powrie's mostly very readable analyses.'
Susan Hayward, University of Exeter, Modern Languages Review, vol 94, no 3, 1999
`excellent book ... Powrie's efforts to theorize the cinematic production of the 80s are intelligent and thought-provoking. Tightly and clearly written, his book is a valuable addition to any collection on film studies.'
Marja Warehime, French Review
The Nostalgia Film
Un amour de Swann: nostalgia and sexuality
Un dimanche à la campagne: nostalgia, painting, and depressive masochism
Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources: nostalgia and hysteria
Coup de foudre: nostalgia and lesbianism
Vivement dimanche! or how to take away with one hand what you give with the other
A Fistful of Polars: chronicles of discomfiture
Diva's Deluxe Disasters
Subway: identity and inarticulacy
Mauvais sang: the flight of the female
The comic film
Trois hommes et un couffin: hysterical homoeroticism
La Vie est un long fleuve tranquille: fallen angels and men overboard
Tenue de soirée: the `suffering macho'