Cinema Du Look: Spectacle over substance?


Cinema du look has been heavily criticised for regarding spectacle over narrative and is often seen as celebrating artificiality, as the antagonist to the French New Wave it is a movement that employs studio shooting and favours high production values. In the case of Leos Carax’s Les Amants du pont-neuf (1991) it can be argued that the element of spectacle is of the utmost importance, therefore aligning itself in the cinema du look movement. A movement that has a tendency to foreground light, colour, and sound, Cinema du look is typified in the sequence where the two main characters are dancing on the bridge.  This visually breathtaking scene is a combination of the excessive fireworks in the background, the rippling yellow shirt of Juliette Binoche and music that overwhelms you into a state of euphoria, clearly such a captivating sequence depicts the preference of spectacle over narrative.

les amants 01 However, due to his history and origins within Cahiers Du Cinema and the resulting connections with the French New Wave, it is argued that Leos Carax is more alike to Godard than perhaps Luc Besson (one of the main directors of the Cinema du look movement). It is pointed out by ‘Cahiers’ themselves that Carax is working in tradition to Jean-Luc Godard, for example Carax gives his actors their lines the day before shooting (just as Godard does) and also appeared as Edgar in Godard’s King Lear (1987). Writing about Carax’s time working with Cahiers du Cinema, Christian Checa Banuz says: “He began his career in film criticism with a very positive review of Sylvester Stallone’s debut as a director, Paradise Alley (1978), which in itself revealed something of Carax’s particular vision, a special feeling of urgency he was demanding from cinema and filmmakers – an embryonic version of the “smile of speed.” (2006, para. 3).

“My dreams sent me. People in dreams, ought to call them when you wake. Make life simpler. ‘Hello, dreamed of you. Love woke me'”

As a result it appears that Carax is a better fit to the ideologies of the French New Wave and the principles of Cahiers du Cinema, “In Challenging the viewer to reconsider certain preconceptions regarding cinema, narrative and the image, Carax’s films on occasion create the conditions forsomething like thinking otherwise” (Daly & Dowd, 2003, p.17). This displays how Carax isn’t only concerned with creating an aesthetically pleasing piece of work, also aiming to be thought provoking and encourage his audience to become more active viewers and to engage with his films. Furthermore, his directorial style shows his efforts to create a realist and authentic film: “Carax obliged his actors to spend several months living amongst the homeless in preparation for the shooting, for their performance has a stark authenticity that certain critics found disturbing.” (Powrie, 2006, p. 207). This way of directing in order to create a more realistic semblance appears vastly similar to the ways in which Jean-Luc Godard made his films, which highlights once again the fact that Carax has a greater connection with the French New Wave than Cinema du Look. Carax’s Les amants du pont-neuf 


Carax, L. (Director). (1991). Les Amants Du Pont-Neuf. [Motion Picture]. France: Gaumont.

Checa Banuz, C. (2006, November). Leos Carax. Senses of Cinema (41). Retrieved from

Daly, F., &  Dowd, Garin. (2003). Leos Carax. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Godard, J-L. (Director). (1987). King Lear. [Motion Picture]. United States: Cannon Films

Powrie, P. (2006). The Cinema of France. London: Wallflower Press.

Stallone, S. (Director). (1978). Paradise Alley. [Motion Picture]. United States: Universal Pictures.

European Extreme: Entertainment or Exploitation?



European extreme cinema is without a doubt one of the most controversial and polarising film movements to date, many see it as gratuitous horror that aims only to shock and appall, whereas some would argue it is critical as a means to force audiences to challenge themselves and the dominance of mainstream cinema. The canon of European extreme is defined by three concepts that can be used to identify the films that fall into this category. The first, taste spillage, is the way in which high art film collides with low brow exploitation cinema. The second is genre hybridity, where there is a combination of cinematic iconographies that are synonymous with particular genres. And finally, industrial fluidity (which comes inherently out genre hybridity) which is when a film is suspended in a hard to categorise market space, this is important as it affects the preconceptions of a film and can ulitmately affect the film’s success. A notable and perhaps most relevant example is that of Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist (2009).

Despite being amongst the most shocking and infamous films, Antichrist is also one of the most beautifully shot works of art in recent years, suggesting that films of this nature lean further toward the entertainment end of the spectrum.  The prologue becomes fascinating as it an
explicit example of taste spillage, combining the shocking elements of unsimulated sex, penetration shots and the death of a child with slow motion, black and white photography and Handel’s ‘Lascia ch’io pianga’. Torban Grodal explores the artistic style of the prologue, “However, the possible excitement of sexual arousal is undercut. The melancholy of the Handel aria, the processes of abstraction caused by the bleaching, and the slow motion serve as emotional constraints” (2012, p.48). Such artistic success suggests that films of this category can be seen as entertainment far more than exploitation. 

Now I could hear what I couldn’t hear before. The cry of all the things that are to die.

Another argument that can be posed for European extreme being entertainment is due to its direct relation to Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali’s  Un Chien Andalou (1929), another film which could be seen as European extreme. This connection with Salvador Dali and art is highlighted by David Ansen, “This cinematic tradition can be traced back at least as far as 1929, when Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí began their surrealist classic Un Chien Andalou with a depiction of a man slicing a woman’s eyeball open.” (2009, para. 2).

Overall, despite the fact Antichrist (Von Trier, 2009) was released on the low-brow horror branch of the distributor Artificial Eye and became associated with low-brow films it’s still clear that European Extreme, no matter how shocking can be seen as entertainment. As they are highly artistic and as a result are meant to challenge the audience, prompting them to be more active in how they consume films.



Ansen, D. (2009, October 15). The Death of Shock Cinema. Newsweek. Retrieved from

Bunuel, L. (Director). (1929). Un Chien Andalou. [Motion Picture]. France: Les Grands Films Classiques

Grodal, T. (2012). Frozen style and strong emotions of panic and separation: Trier’s prologues to Antichrist and Melancholia. Journal of Scandinavian cinema, 2(1) 47-53

Von Trier, L. (Director). (2009). Antichrist. [Motion Picture]. Denmark: Zentropa Entertainments

La Haine: Liberty, equality, fraternity – for everyone?

haine-1995-09-gMathieu Kassovitz’s 1995 film La Haine focuses on the alienated youths of North African (such as Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) immigrants in France,  who live with little opportunity in the imposing concrete high rises of the Banlieue. Many Maghrebans find themselves isolated from their African heritage yet are similarly segregated in their adopted country as a result of them being demonised by the media’s coverage of clashes with the authorities. As pointed out by Sanjay Sharma and Ashwani Sharma, “La Haine‘s central message is explicitly about an impending crisis for French society. The exclusion of minority populations from society will lead to increasing violence and destruction to social order” (2000, p. 106). La Haine is an attempt to display this problematic lack of identity and opportunity for this marginalised generation and serves as a warning of the path that French society is treading.

“It’s about a society on its way down. And as it falls,it keeps telling itself: ‘So far so good… So far so good… So far so good.’ It’s not how you fall that matters. It’s how you land.”

La Haine is an effort to bring about discussion regarding race and inequality in France that is otherwise ignored completely, widely neglected for fear of undermining ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity. Whilst debates on immigration, integration and assimilation have occurred such as the 1983 march against racism and for equality (otherwise known as the March des Beurs), they have arguably waned in significance and become forgotten as the struggle against racism in France.tumblr_kxjumv62un1qafmw6As someone who has a very strong feeling towards French politics Kassovitz’s La Haine attempts to bring to light the need for more debate and discussion about these issues for the Beur community. However, one problem with Kassovitz’s involvement in the project is that he is himself is not ‘Beur’, “Most of these challenges emphasise his bourgeois family history in leftist cultural production and his previous experiences with Métisse (France/Belgium, 1993) and short films, so that Kassovitz figures paradoxically as too film literate to tell an authentic story of the banlieue.” (2001, p. 142).  La Haine

It can also be noted that La Haine has a very strong influence from American ghettos, “La Haine conducts transatlantic dialogue with American subculture and American popular culture, as a way of examinating, articulating and forging French and European identity through cinema” (Loshitzky, 2005, p, 137). Kassovitz clearly borrows aspects like music, costume and speech from typical American culture, this is done as way to portray how the Beur youths have no identity and as a result have adopted one from popular culture they see in the media. Below is an example the influence of American Hip-Hop.


Kassovitz, M. (Director). (1995). La Haine. [Motion picture]. France: Canal+/ Cofinergie 6/ Egg Pictures.

Kassovitz, M. (2005, November 10). It’s hard not to cheer on the rioters. The Guardian. retrieved from

Loshitzky, Y. (2005). The Post-Holocaust Jew in the age of Postcolonialism: La Haine revisited. Studies in French cinema, 5(2), 137-147

Mulholland, R. (2013, December 2). 30 years on, leader of anti-racism march says France still has work to do. The Telegraph. retrieved from

Rose, S. E. (2007). Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine and the ambivalence of French-Jewish identity. French Studies: A quarterly reviw, 61(4), 476-491

Schroeder, E. (2001). A multicultural conversation: La Haine, Raï, and Menace II society. Camera Obscura, 16(46), 142-180

Sharma, S., Sharma, A. (2000). ‘So far so good….’: La Haine and the poetics of the everyday. Theory, Culture & Society, 17(3), 103-116