Art and Architecture, Film and Media, History, Reviews

“Brigitte Bardot conquers America”

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Last Thursday the Times Higher Education ran an enthusiastic review of Vanessa R. Schwartz’s new book It’s So French!: Hollywood, Paris, and the Making of Cosmopolitan Film Culture. In the review THE contributor and professor of film studies Ginette Vincendeau notes how the thesis of Schwartz’s book makes a fascinating departure from conventional views about the relationship between the postwar French and American film industries. Vincendeau’s review begins:

In this provocative and original book, the American cultural historian Vanessa Schwartz revisits the vexed question of Franco-American cinematic relations in the postwar period. Much has been written on the subject, but Schwartz has no time for clichés about French “protectionism” or American “imperialism”. Instead, the central thesis of It’s so French! Hollywood, Paris, and the Making of Cosmopolitan Film Culture is that the French and the Americans were much more receptive (even affectionate) towards each other than Cold War-inspired rhetoric has made out. Furthermore, France as represented in American and French films of the 1950s and 1960s was key to the development of “cosmopolitan film culture”.
Contrary to the common view that pits French art cinema against commercial Hollywood films, Schwartz claims that from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s American representations of Frenchness successfully merged high art and popular culture, and French cinema meant more than highbrow auteur films. This she demonstrates via a set of major French cultural icons, from belle époque Paris to Brigitte Bardot.

The review concludes:

It’s so French!, based on impressive scholarship and superbly illustrated, builds a solid case for France’s role in the growth of “cosmopolitan film culture”.
The book is a stimulating corrective to entrenched views of Franco-American cinematic relations as necessarily conflictual.

Read the rest of the review on the THE website.