Call to paper : 20th and 21st century French and Francophone Studies Colloquium (Atlanta, USA, 28-30 March 2013)

Dear Colleague,
I am looking for a fourth member of a panel on French cinema at the 20th and 21st century French and Francophone Studies Colloquium to be held in Atlanta, Georgia (USA) 28-30 March 2013. The theme is 'Traces', and you will find the conference website here (http://frenchconference2013.gatech.edu/). The panel currently consists of the colleagues/papers you can find below this message. I would welcome paper proposals, direct to me please in the first instance, deadline 15 December.

1. Dr Julia Dobson
Reader in French Film and Performance
University of Sheffield, UK <j.dobson@sheffield.ac.uk>

Title of paper: ‘Material witness: tracking les traces du bonheur in the documentary cinema of Dominique Cabrera’

Documentary film is haunted by complex patterns and tracings. Whilst its form has been dominated historically by a photographic genealogy (with an insistence on the indexical and on visible evidence) it is also necessarily inflected with the devices of narrative fiction through its drive to bear witness to unheard stories. This paper will examine the shifting patterns created by such traces through a discussion of the documentary work of contemporary filmmaker Dominique Cabrera and her quest to capture ‘les traces du bonheur’. Cabrera’s work is permeated by serial investigations of the relationship between the still image and cinema as her films foreground the negotiation of the role of the visual in inscribing the past in the present whilst evading the dominant tropes of the still image which have been associated with mourning, fixity and nostalgia. I will begin with a discussion of Cabrera’s Val Fourré films (1994-5), which challenge the political demonization of high rise estates through an assertion of the haptic traces of inhabitation and sensual memory to bear political witness to the bonheur collectif of the communities that called them home. A second focus will address her more recent first person documentaries Ranger les photos (2009) and O heureux jours (2011) in which the evidential status of the fixed images of family photographs is set in relief through an insistence on the material presence of the filmmaker and the therapeutic function of the filming and of the filmed image.

2. Jenny Munro
Postgraduate Researcher
University of Glasgow, UK <j.munro.2@research.gla.ac.uk>

Title of paper: ‘My sister est ma sœur: music as ungrammatical trace in the cinema of Claire Denis’

Claire Denis’s films have long provided scope for interrogation of the intertextual engagements between their narratives and images, and the music which accompanies them, whether this has been written especially for a specific film, or pre-existing tracks are used. Since 1996, the British band Tindersticks have created six soundtracks for the films of Claire Denis. When writing the scenario for her 1996 film, Nénette et Boni, Denis’s creative process was informed throughout by a Tindersticks song, My Sister, but this song does not appear in the final cut. Rather, we hear a re-working of the track. In reference to her 2001 film, Trouble Every Day, Denis speaks about the influence of another Tindersticks song, Seaweed, on a scene in the film but, despite the fact that Tindersticks contribute the film’s entire score, this particular song is never heard. In her 2008 film 35 Rhums, Denis includes a scene which is influenced by Franz Schubert’s musical setting of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s poem ‘Der Erlkönig’, but instead of hearing Schubert’s music, we hear a track by Tindersticks, ‘René’s Death’, which may alter our understanding of the relation between ‘Der Erlkönig’ and 35 Rhums. Referring to the work of Michael Riffaterre, who proposes that important intertextual connections in texts can be found in the indicators of ‘missing’ intertexts, or ungrammaticalities, this paper explores the traces of songs which are crucial in Denis’s creation of stories and images, but are not present aurally in the films themselves.

3. Professor Phil Powrie
Professor of Cinema Studies/Chief Editor of Studies in French Cinema
University of Surrey, UK <p.powrie@surrey.ac.uk>

Title of paper: ‘Generic, intermedial, cultural traces in the big band musical of the 1940s and 1950s’

Since the mid-1990s there has been a resurgence of what might seem like an archaic film genre, the musical, with films by Resnais, Ducastel/Martineau, and Honoré amongst others. It is in this context that I will explore a particular type of musical, the big band film of the 1940s and early 1950s. These films were hugely popular at the time, but have remained absent from the canonical versions of French film history, even in accounts of popular film. This then is a first trace, the ghosts of musicals past. Having identified the historical landscape of the musical as a genre, focusing largely on the films of bandleader Ray Ventura and others associated with him, I shall then explore in more detail how the big band film functions with two sets of overlapping traces. The first is a complex intermedial relationship between radio, vinyl and screen. The second is the presence of US culture, transformed but active as a set of cultural traces both in the narrative and in the music. This paper’s objective is to establish how these three sets of traces—generic, intermedial, cultural—operated at a particular point in French cinema.


Phil Powrie
Professor of Cinema Studies
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences

The Elizabeth Fry Building
University of Surrey