French film: the Golden Age

The ‘Golden Age’ of French film-making came along in the 1930s and early 1940s. It was an era of historical epics, of satire and gritty realism on screen. The First World War and the class divisions in French society were common themes. René Clair, Marcel Pagnol and Jean Renoir, the fathers of modern French cinema, were all at work.

Five great films of Golden Age French cinema

  • La Kermesse héroïque (Jacques Feyder 1935)
    The French-made period comedy, directed by a Flemish realist, won awards in the USA and started riots in Belgium.
  • La Femme du boulanger (Marcel Pagnol 1938)
    Pagnol’s stunning use of the Provencal landscape reaches its height.
  • La Règle du jeu (Jean Renoir 1939)
    Vicious social comment forewarning of further war in Renoir’s finest work.
  • La Belle et la bête (Jean Cocteau 1946)
    The poet pushes the boundaries of technology and surrealism in a film starring his male lover, Jean Marais.

“I just wanted to make a movie, even a pleasant movie, but a pleasant movie that would at the same time function as a critique of a society I considered rotten to the core…” Jean Renoir on La Règle du Jeu

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