The Third French Republic 1870-1940. Part 11 

 Wednesday, 23 March 2022

5:00-6:40 pm Paris time

 Zoom lecture 

The German Occupation Revisited: French films of the 1970s and 1980s

with Sylvie Koneski


The German Occupation Revisited: French films of the 1970s and 1980s. During the Occupation, films kept silent on what was taking place in France and post-war cinema suffered from partial amnesia. Until the late 1960s most films about the Occupation – by René Clément or Jean Pierre Melville – were limited to the portrayal of the Resistance, a Resistance that had become crucial in the reconstruction of France's national unity after the war. Repressed memories, focusing on the horrors of the war, started re-emerging in Alain Resnais’ Night and Fog (1955) and Hiroshima mon amour, (1959).


In the early 1970s, Marcel Ophuls’ documentary, The Sorrow and the Pity, challenged images and myths concerning the Occupation. The second most controversial film was Louis Malle's Lacombe Lucien (1974) which addressed the issue of collaboration. François Truffaut’s most popular movie, Le dernier Métro (1980), focuses on the Paris theater in 1944, and is perhaps the last representation of the Resistance version of the past. In 1987, Louis Malle directed a very personal film, Goodbye Children, haunted by the specter of deported Jewish children, and Marcel Ophuls released his second documentary about the Occupation, Hotel Terminus, focusing on the trial of the butcher of Lyon, Klaus Barbie, for crimes against humanity.


Collective memory of the war became a source of national debate in France, a locus of controversy and ideological struggle. Nowhere was the resonance of social history more visible, or more dramatic than in cinema.