Negotiating the nation after May '68: narratives of America and France in French film, 1968-1972 Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Mauldin, June Elizabeth
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Romance Studies
  • This dissertation focuses on May '68 as a turning point in French politics, culture, and national identity. For many French intellectuals, the lessons of the ambiguous uprising were expressed in radically new expressions, and for filmmakers Agnes Varda, Jean-Luc Godard, and Jean Pierre Gorin, those expressions took the form of new structure, content, and technique. They were radicalized by the fleeting glimpse of a Marxist vision come true, of workers and students uniting against an increasingly globalized, Americanized capitalism, and against their own nation’s lingering imperialist failures. Varda, Godard, and Gorin used film to explore, among other things, the possibilities inherent—surprisingly, to some—in American culture, politics, and history. They scrutinized the counterculture, the antiwar movement, and black power; they were influenced by a new, distinctively American, subversive ethos of deconstructing American mythology and identity. And their films reflected their fascination with a vivifying home grown radicalism that could breathe life into their own nation’s foundering leftist tradition. In my interrogation of the cross-cultural construction of national identity, I examine five films that articulate the tensions surrounding Franco-American relations in the late sixties and early seventies and demonstrate the simultaneous resentment of and admiration for American culture. In chapter one, I examine the ways in which directors Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin, in their film Letter to Jane (1972), address Jane Fonda’s trip to Hanoi during the Vietnam War as a way of critiquing American military and cultural imperialism. In chapter two, I discuss Agnès Varda’s film Lions Love (1969), and the director’s articulation of the revolutionary potential of American popular culture and pop art as a site of contention in the culture wars between the U.S. and Europe. And in chapter three, I study Varda’s documentary The Black Panthers (1968) and Godard’s Sympathy for the Devil (1968) and One A.M. (1968) to explore the interrogation of Black Power as an oppositional discourse that challenged American hegemony from within.
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  • Antle, Martine
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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