Search | Directories | Reference Tools
UW Home > Discover UW > Student Guide > Course Catalog 

Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Louisa Mackenzie
FRENCH 250
Seattle Campus

History of French Cinema in English

History of cinema in France from the birth of film, the seventh art, to the present. Socio-historical context of French cinema explored. In English.

Class description

This course will look at how French cinema since the 1940s has engaged the idea of Europe as a political, cultural and economic union. As the European Union has gathered more economic and political weight, member nations have sought to strike a balance between the desire to preserve their specific histories, cultures, languages, and products, and the need to come together with other nations and identify as something else besides: as Europeans. French cinema is a fascinating site to explore the tensions inherent in this dialectic. It has often engaged the idea of Europe, whether in art films where the Union becomes a shadowy psychological metaphor (Bleu), or in more popular recent films which explore a generation-X fantasy of a European melting-pot (L'Auberge espagnole).

The course will consider, among others, the following questions as they are addressed in films from the 1930s to the present day: the creation and perpetuation of national stereotypes, French and other; the perceived differences between Western and 'Eastern' European values; the idea that French specificity is threatened by Europe; the generational differences in attitudes towards Europe; the effect of war on creating national and European identities. Analysis of specific films and secondary articles will be framed by more general, timely discussions about contemporary issues in the press, such as Sarkozy's expulsion of the Rom people from France (which raises the question of how the French state self-defines in opposition to an 'Other' from within Europe), debates about immigration from France's former colonies, the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the ongoing policing of the wall at Ceuta.

The class, all assignments and materials are in English (at least subtitled). It assumes no prior knowledge of French or of film studies.

Student learning goals

By the end of the course, students will be able to 1) think about film analytically and at a critical distance, as a cultural product of specific determining contexts; 2) start to use appropriate technical vocabulary to analyse cinematography, editing and mise-en-scene, in relation to broader themes of the films; 3) to understand how Europe is as much an idea as a geo-political reality; 4) to talk about how non-French and/or non-European cultures are "othered" by the process of European/French identity formation.

General method of instruction

In-class lecture with some informal group activities and discussions based on question prompts, short clips, or screen shots.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Weekly written responses to short questions about the films. Graded on pass-not pass basis. One written review of one film. 2 short quizzes. One final project.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Louisa Mackenzie
Date: 03/18/2013