26 January 2021
The Golden Age of French Cinema -1930-1939
with Sylvie Koneski
La règle du jeu [Rules of the game], 1939
With the birth of sound in 1927, some filmmakers found the transition difficult, but others thrived on the technical challenges and exploited the artistic possibilities sound offered to the full. Throughout the 1930s, cinema provided a welcome escape from the consequences of the world-wide Depression and the political tensions of the day. It also mirrored the changing political climate in France: The misplaced optimism in the Front Populaire and the darkening mood, as Fascism took root in Europe.
During what many critics have called the “Golden Age of French cinema”, filmmakers created masterpieces like Jean Renoir’s Great Illusion and The Rules of the Game, the last now considered one of the all-time greats of French cinema. Marcel Carné’s The Port of Shadows and Daybreak and Jean Vigo’s Atalante, belong to another artistic current, labelled Poetic Realism. Jean Renoir’s La Bête humaine and Julien Duvivier's Pépé le Moko prefigure American film noir.
The 1930s also marked the beginning of the star system. French cinema required new stars to who could actually speak their lines and theater supplied many of the new faces and voices of the era. The most famous are Michel Simon, Jean Gabin, Jules Berry, Arletty, and Michèle Morgan.
Jean Gabin & Michèle Morgan
in Quai des brumes [Port of Shadows], 1938