Symposium | Cinema of Louis Malle

Friday, October 16, 2015 - 3:30pm - Saturday, October 17, 2015 - 6:30pm


The Transatlantic Cinema of Louis Malle.
A Critical Reassessment, 20 Years After His Death.

This symposium proposes to reassess the at once acclaimed, provocative and versatile career of French director Louis Malle (1932-1995) within the history of French, Hollywood and international cinema, by bringing together leading scholars of his work. Through the lens of adaptation and, more specifically, Malle’s working associations with prominent writers or artists, it will also touch on France’s larger literary tradition and intellectual life.

Since 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of Louis Malle’s death, the time seems remarkably ripe to redress the surprising critical neglect his oeuvre has been suffering from over the years, especially in comparison with the output of most of the Young Turks of the French New Wave who have seemingly overshadowed Malle in the eyes of critics and scholars (both in France and in the US). At the end of the 1950s and throughout the 1960s Louis Malle was yet celebrated as a major, if idiosyncratic, new talent in French cinema, while remaining marginal to the New Wave, with such films as Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (1957), Les Amants (1958), Zazie dans le métro (1960) and Le Feu follet (1963). He next shifted gears and garnered attention with an important series of documentary films, more particularly his powerful portraits of poverty in India (L’Inde fantôme and Calcutta, 1969), later to be followed by documentaries in France (e.g., Place de la République, 1974) and in the US (e.g., God’s Country, 1985). He deeply affected French society, and its apprehension of a troubled past, through his cinematic depictions of France’s collaboration during the German Occupation and the Vichy Regime in what are now considered two classic films, Lacombe Lucien (1974) and Au revoir les enfants (1987), or even through the backdrop of civil unrest during May 1968 in Milou en Mai (1990). He worked for over a decade in the United States, collaborating with some of Hollywood’s most prominent (or promising) actors, including Brooke Shields (Pretty Baby, 1978), Susan Sarandon and Burt Lancaster (Atlantic City, 1980).

In order to properly explore Louis Malle’s uniquely transatlantic career across genres, our conference will be structured around four panels, in conjunction with the screening of one of his films, Zazie dans le métro (1960). Our scholars include: Michel Ciment (Film critic and editor of Positif), Tom Conley (Harvard), Ludovic Cortade (NYU), Caroline Eades (U. of Maryland at College Park), Sue Harris (Queen Mary University of London), T. Jefferson Kline (Boston University), Derek Schilling (Johns Hopkins), Alan Williams (Rutgers). We are also honored by the participation of Justine Malle, Louis Malle’s daughter, who wil be the keynote speaker at the symposium.

The symposium has been organized by Philippe Met in collaboration with Timothy Corrigan, Nicola M. Gentili, Saïd Gahia, Suzanne Cassidy, and Tina Behari. Free and open to all, no registration is required.


Friday, October 16

3:45-4pm | Welcome address

4-5pm | Keynote address 

Justine Malle | The Figure of the Mother in Le Souffle au coeur, Milou en mai and Au revoir les enfants.
Born in 1974, Justine Malle, daughter of French director Louis Malle and Canadian actress Alexandra Stewart, grew up in Paris. After attending Brown University for a year, she studied esthetics and metaphysics at the Sorbonne before deciding to go into film. She has directed two short documentaries (one on Shanghai, the other on New Orleans), two short fictions (one of them inspired by Johnny Guitar) and a largely autobiographical feature film inspired by her father's passing (Youth). She lives in Paris.

5-6:30pm | Documentaries | Moderator: Gerry Prince (Penn, French) 

Ludovic Cortade | "The ineffable joy of being one with the universe": Louis Malle's Phantom India.
Ludovic Cortade is an Associate Professor in the Department of French and in the Department of Cinema Studies at NYU. His research mainly focuses on cinematic representations of space and on sociology and collective beliefs in French film theory. He is the author of Le cinéma de l'immobilité (Publications de la Sorbonne, Paris, 2008). 

Alan Williams | Malle’s "American" Cinema: Fiction and Non-fiction, Conventions and Reform.
Alan Williams is Professor of French at Rutgers. His research centers on film history, broadly defined, particularly on crisis points such as the transition from "silent" cinema to the talkies, the German Occupation, the years of the nouvelle vague and the time of the final negotiations of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Professor Williams' work also links approaches to cinema that are normally considered distinct, such as theories of spectatorship, genre studies, economic history, and the study of the influence of social events and configurations on filmmaking. His books include Max Ophuls and the Cinema of Desire (Arno, 1980), Republic of Images: A History of French Filmmaking (Harvard University Press, 1992), and the edited volume Film and Nationalism (Rutgers University Press, "Depth of Field," 2002).

6:30-7:30pm | Reception

8:30-10:30pm | Screening | Zazie dans le métro at the International House Philadelphia (3701 Chestnut Street)


Saturday, October 17

10-10:30am | Breakfast

10:30am-12pm | From Documentary to Fiction | Moderator: Ian Fleishman (Penn, German)

Derek Schilling | No Comment: Direct Cinema in Humain trop humain and Place de la République.
Derek Schilling is Professor of French at Johns Hopkins University, where he directs the French section of the Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures. His teaching and scholarship bear on modern and contemporary French literature and film, with an emphasis on the interwar period as well as on the second postwar in relation to urbanization and the emergence of the suburb. His monograph Eric Rohmer appeared in 2007 in the Manchester University Press "French Film Directors" series. A second title, Screening the Paris Suburbs Before the banlieue Film, a multi-author volume co-edited with Philippe Met, is forthcoming with Manchester University Press. In 2015-2016, Professor Schilling is Acting Director of the Center for Advanced Media Studies (CAMS) which houses Johns Hopkins' newly created Graduate Certificate in Film and Media.

Caroline Eades | Louis Malle’s reverse cinematography: from the ethnographic gaze to fiction film.
Caroline Eades specializes in Film Studies and Contemporary French Culture. She received her PhD in Film Studies from the Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris III and has taught at the University of Grenoble (France), the University of Southern California, and the University of California at Santa Barbara, before joining the University of Maryland. Her main fields of research are European Cinema, Post-Colonial Studies, Film Feminist Theory, Film and Myth. Her book Le Cinéma post-colonial français appeared in 2006 (Paris: Collections 7eArt, Editions du Cerf). She is currently working on a book on Classical Reception in Film and a co-edited volume on the Essay Film. She has published numerous book-chapters and articles on French cinema, culture, and literature in international scholarly series and journals.

12:30-1:30pm | Lunch

1:30-3pm | Stars and Gender | Moderator: Meta Mazaj (Penn, Cinema Studies)

Sue Harris | The Trouble with Brigitte (and Jeanne, and Alain): Louis Malle’s 1960s "star" films.
Sue Harris is Reader in French Cinema Studies at Queen Mary University of London. She has written widely on French cinema and popular culture, and on French stars including Gérard Depardieu, Catherine Deneuve and Alain Delon. Her published work includes the monographs Bertrand Blier (MUP, 2001) and An American in Paris (BFI Film Classics/Palgrave, 2015); Film Architecture and the Transnational Imagination: Set Design in 1930s European Cinema (co-authored with Tim Bergfelder and Sarah Street; AUP 2007); and two edited volumes: France in Focus: Film and National Identity (with Elizabeth Ezra; Berg, 2000) and From Perversion to Purity: The Stardom of Catherine Deneuve, (with Lisa Downing; MUP, 2007).

T. Jefferson Kline | A Gendered Geography of Death: Tracking the "Malle-aise" of an Orphic Filmmaker.
T. Jefferson Kline is Professor of French at Boston University. His publications include, Bertolucci’s Dream Loom: A Psychoanalytic Study of Cinema (1987), Screening the Text: Intertextuality in New Wave French Film (Johns Hopkins, 1992), Unraveling French Cinema (Blackwell, 2009), and a number of articles on the French novel, French theatre and European cinema. He has just published Agnes Varda Interviews, and co-edited with Tom Conley A Companion to Jean-Luc Godard. Bertrand Tavernier Interviews co-edited with Lynn Higgins will be out next spring. He is also at work translating Robert Merle’s thirteen volume epic Fortune de France with Pushkin Press in London. Volume one appeared last summer, volume two is due out next month and volume three in the spring.

3-3:15pm | Break

3:15-4:45pm | The Art(s) of Conversation | Moderator: Philippe Met (Penn, French)

Michel Ciment | From Nimier to Modiano via Drieu: Louis Malle and "His" Writers.
Associate professor emeritus in American Studies at the Université de Paris 7, Michel Ciment is a radio producer (the one-hour weekly program, “Projection Privée”), a member of the editorial board of Positif (since 1966), the author of twenty books on cinema including, in English, Kazan on Kazan, Conversations with Losey, Kubrick, John Boorman, Interviews with cinema’s leading directors and Jane Campion on Jane Campion. He has also participated in some thirty national and international juries such as Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Locarno, Sao Paulo, Istanbul and Shanghai. The co-author of filmed portraits of Wilder, Mankiewicz, Kazan and Boorman, he is honorary president of FIPRESCI and lives in Paris, France.

Tom Conley | Conversion, Conversation: My Dinner with André.
Tom Conley is the Abbott Lawrence Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies and of Romance Languages and Literature. He studies relations of space and writing in literature, cartography, and cinema. He has published some 250 articles and book chapters. His work moves to and from early modern France and issues in theory and interpretation in visual media. Books include Film Hieroglyphs (1991, new edition 2006), The Graphic Unconscious in Early Modern Writing (1992), The Self-Made Map: Cartographic Writing in Early Modern France (1996, new edition 2010), L’Inconscient graphique: Essai sur la lettre à la Renaissance (2000), Cartographic Cinema (2007), An Errant Eye: Topography and Poetry in Early Modern France (2011) and À fleur de page: Voir et lire le texte de la Renaissance (2014).

4:45-5pm | Break

5-6:30pm | Videotaped interview with John Guare and screening of a rarity: Close up: Dominique Sanda ou le rêve éveillé (1976; 26’.)


“The Transatlantic Cinema of Louis Malle.A Critical Reassessment, 20 Years After His Death” symposium is made possible thanks to the generous support of University of Pennsylvania's Department of French Studies and Cinema Studies Program. Additional support has been provided by University of Pennsylvania's Conference Grant from the Provost’s Interdisciplinary Arts Fund and SAS Conference Support Grant. We also acknowledge the collaboration of International House.

Cinema Studies Program
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