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Film Criticism as Cultural Fantasy

The Perpetual French Discovery of Australian Cinema

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Andrew McGregor

This book presents an unprecedented analysis of the dynamics of cultural representation and interpretation in film criticism. It examines how French critical reception of Australian cinema since the revival period of the 1970s has evolved as a narrative of perpetual discovery, and how a clear parallel can be drawn between French critics’ reading of Australian film and their interpretation of an exotic Australian national identity. In French critical writing on Australian cinema, Australian identity is frequently defined in terms of extremes of cultural specificity and cultural anonymity. On the one hand, French critics construct a Euro-centric orientalist fantasy of Australia as not only a European Antipodes, but the antithesis of Europe. At the same time, French critics have tended to subordinate Australian cultural identity within the framework of a resented Anglo-American filmic and cultural hegemony. The book further explores this marginalisation by examining the influence of the French auteur paradigm, particularly in reference to the work of Jane Campion, as well as by discussing the increasingly problematic notion of national identity, and indeed national cinemas, within the universal framework of international film culture.

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Acknowledgements 9

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9 Acknowledgements This book is supported by a grant from the School of Languages and Linguistics and the Research and Research Training Com- mittee, Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne. I offer my sincere thanks to Professor Colin Nettelbeck and to Dr Gregory Sims of The University of Melbourne for their advice and guidance while I conducted the PhD research from which this book is drawn. I am also grateful to Professor Jean A. Gili who supervised the development of this project during my DEA at the Université de Paris I – Panthéon-Sorbonne. I am particularly indebted to M. Gilles Jacob, President of the Cannes International Film Festival, for his inestimable con- tribution to the research, and particularly for granting me a per- sonal accreditation to attend the 52nd Cannes Film Festival. Thanks also to the film professionals who gave generously of their time in contributing to the research: Pierre Rissient, Jean Roy, Pierre-Henri Deleau, Bernard Bories, Roger Gonin, Cathy Robinson, Diana Berman, Scott Murray and David Stratton. I owe many thanks to Caroline Schopfer of Peter Lang in Bern for her invaluable support and for her professionalism in bringing this book to publication. I also thank the research staff at Screen Australia, at the Festival International du Film, and at the Bibliothèque du Film et de l’Image. While researching in Paris, I very much appreciated the advice of Mme Claudine Thoridnet and Jean-Pierre Jeancolas, and the generous friend- ship of Lionel Vuidard and Séverine Roinssard. Thanks...

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