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Module LXF-2104:
French Cinema 1895-1950

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures, Linguistics and Media

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Jonathan Ervine

Overall aims and purpose

  1. To give students an overview of French Cinema from the 1890s to the mid-20th Century.
  2. To allow students to develop more detailed knowledge of important periods and movements in French Cinema through intensive study of major individual films and related material.
  3. To develop students' general skills in reading film, and expand their cultural horizons.

Course content

The French hold cinema in greater esteem than perhaps any other nation, both as an art form and as popular entertainment; since its inception, the septième Art has produced a wealth of talent and many films of world standing. In this course we will look - on the big screen - at prominent examples of French cinema from its first decades, from the earliest work of the Lumière brothers in the 1890s to the mid-20th Century. The course looks at the general development of French cinema in the period, concentrating on: (i) a major classic from the silent era; (ii) a film from the Poetic Realism movement of the 1930s; (iii) an artistic, non-realist film from the end of the period covered.

Key texts

Main films studied Luis Buñuel’s Un Chien andalou Jean Vigo’s Vigo’s Zéro de conduite Jean Renoir’s Boudu sauvé des eaux Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion Marcel Carné’s Hôtel du Nord Marcel Carné’s Le Jour se lève

Main secondary texts Andrew, James Dudley. Mists of regret: culture and sensibility in classic French film (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995). Armes, Roy. French Cinema (London: Secker and Warburg, 1985). Hayward, Susan. French National Cinema, (London and New York: Routledge, 2005). Hayward , Susan and Ginette Vincendeau (eds.). French Film: Texts and Contexts (London and New York: Routledge, 2002). Martin, John. The Golden Age of French Cinema, 1929-1939 (London: Columbus Books, 1983). Powrie, Phil and Keith Reader (eds.). French Cinema: A Student's Guide (London: Arnold, 2002). Williams, Alan. Republic of images: a history of French film making (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992).

Assessment Criteria


C- - B+: Students attaining the higher grades in this course will not only have understood the artistic aims and affiliations of these film makers, but will begin to explore the concepts that link them, re-evaluating traditional critical judgements of their works, forming their own conclusions as they pay close attention to the material.


D- - D+: In order to merit the award of credit, students should demonstrate a basic comprehension of the position, content and technique of the films studied, succeeding in giving a rudimentary analysis of their stylistic approach.


A- - A*: Students attaining the highest grades in this course will have produced innovative readings of both the films and the artistic contexts studied. They will have supplemented set works with intelligently chosen additional primary or secondary material and demonstrated a high level of engagement with both the ideas and style of the films studied.

Learning outcomes

  1. Students will have engaged with the works of at least three major French film makers and feel able to offer close readings of the films studied.

  2. Students will be able to articulate the general trends of the particular strand of French Cinema concerned.

  3. Students will be able to evaluate the wider contexts of the material studied.

  4. Students will have gained skills useful for more advanced Film modules that may be taken in their final year.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
ESSAY essay

Essay on one of the first three films studied on this module.


Presentation on one of the main films taught on the module. You must not do a presentation on the same film as the one you focused on in your assessed essay.

EXAM exam

You must answer two questions, each of which must be about a different film. You must not answer a question about either the film you focused on in your assessed essay or the one that was the subject of your assessed presentation.


Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study 178
Seminar 11

1 x 2-hour lecture per week for 11 weeks Individual or small-group meetings for feedback, as required.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting

Subject specific skills

  • Extract and synthesise key information from written and/or spoken sources in English / Welsh and/or the target language. (Benchmark statement 5.14)
  • The ability to organise and present ideas within the framework of a structured and reasoned argument in written and/or oral assignments and class discussions. (Benchmark statement 5.14)
  • Critical skills in the close reading, description, reasoning and analysis of primary and secondary sources in the target language and/or English or Welsh (incl. filmic, literary and other sources). (Benchmark statement 5.13, 5.14, 5.15)
  • Competence in the planning and execution of essays, presentations and other written and project work; bibliographic skills, including the accurate citation of sources and consistent use of conventions and appropriate style in the presentation of scholarly work. (Benchmark statement 5.10, 5.14, 5.15)
  • The ability to gather information, analyse, interpret and discuss different viewpoints and to place these in a wider socio-cultural and/or geo-historical and political and/or socio-linguistic context and to revise and re-evaluate judgements in light of those of the course leader, certain individuals or groups studied and/or fellow students. (Benchmark statement 5.13, 5.15 and 5.16)
  • The ability to write and think under pressure and meet deadlines. (Benchmark statement 5.15)
  • The ability to write effective notes and access and manage course materials including electronic resources / information provided on online learning platforms and library resources. (Benchmark statement 5.15, 5.16)
  • The ability to work creatively and flexibly both independently and/or as part of a team. (Benchmark statement 5.15).
  • The ability and willingness to engage with and appreciate other cultures and to articulate to others (in written and verbal form) the contribution that the culture has made at a regional and global level. (Benchmark statement 5.7)
  • The ability to grasp and discuss how films reflect objective or subjective positions in their treatment of their subject matter. (Benchmark statement 5.7 and 5.10)
  • Develop reading and audio-visual comprehension skills in the target language through the study of primary sources in the target language. (Benchmark statement 5.3, 5.4)
  • The ability to comprehend, critically engage with and apply relevant theoretical concepts to materials being studied. (Benchmark statement 5.10)
  • The ability to engage in analytical, evaluative and original thinking. (Benchmark statement 5.14)
  • The ability to organise and present ideas and arguments in presentations, classroom discussions and debates. (Benchmark statement 5.14, 5.16)
  • The ability to engage with issues of form, style, content and target audience, thus coming to a wider understanding of the role of literature and/or film and/or other media in wider cultural contexts. (Benchmark statement 5.10)
  • The ability to comprehend aspects of French history, culture and language. (Benchmark statement 5.7)
  • The ability to critically assess, contextualize and respond to a variety of stimuli (books, films, songs) in French, while increasing the subject-specific vocabulary in French concerning matters of race and immigration and appreciating the nuances of specific terms used in French in such debates. (Benchmark statement 5.3 and 5.4)
  • The ability to critically understand cultural studies concepts on representation, the nation and identity, and their application to core texts (incl. filmic and/or literary and/or other sources). (Benchmark statement 5.7, 5.10)

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: