|Major figures||Jean Renoir, Jean Grémillon, Jean Vigo, Jacques Feyder, Jacques Prévert, Pierre Chenal, Marcel Carné|
|Influenced||Italian neorealism, French New Wave|
Poetic realism was a film movement in France of the 1930s. More a tendency than a movement, poetic realism is not strongly unified like Soviet montage or French Impressionism but were individuals who created this lyrical style. Its leading filmmakers were Pierre Chenal, Jean Vigo, Julien Duvivier, Marcel Carné, and, perhaps the movement's most significant director, Jean Renoir. Renoir made a wide variety of films some influenced by the leftist Popular Front group and even a lyrical short feature film.Frequent stars of these films were Jean Gabin, Michel Simon, Simone Signoret, and Michèle Morgan.
Poetic realism films are "recreated realism", stylised and studio-bound, rather than approaching the "socio-realism of the documentary".They usually have a fatalistic view of life with their characters living on the margins of society, either as unemployed members of the working class or as criminals. After a life of disappointment, the characters get a last chance at love but are ultimately disappointed again and the films frequently end with disillusionment or death. The overall tone often resembles nostalgia and bitterness. They are "poetic" because of a heightened aestheticism that sometimes draws attention to the representational aspects of the films. Though these films were weak in the production sector, French cinema did create a high proportion of such influential films largely due to the talented people in the industry in the 1930s who were working on them. The most popular set designer was Lazare Meerson. Composers who worked on these films included Georges Auric, Arthur Honegger, Joseph Kosma, and Maurice Jaubert. Screenwriters who contributed to many of the films included Charles Spaak and Jacques Prévert. The movement had a significant impact on later film movements, in particular Italian neorealism (many of the neorealists, most notably Luchino Visconti, worked with poetic realist directors before starting their own careers as film critics and directors) and the French New Wave.
Forerunners of the poetic realist movement include:
Poetic realist works from leading filmmakers of the mid-to-late 1930s/mid-to-late 1940s include:
Marcel Albert Carné was a French film director. A key figure in the poetic realism movement, Carné's best known films include Port of Shadows (1938), Le Jour Se Lève (1939), The Devil's Envoys (1942) and Children of Paradise (1945), the last of which has been cited as one of the greatest films of all time.
Jean Gabin was a French actor and singer. Considered a key figure in French cinema, he starred in several classic films including Pépé le Moko (1937), La grande illusion (1937), Le Quai des brumes (1938), La bête humaine (1938), Le jour se lève (1939), and Le plaisir (1952). During his career he had twice won both the Silver Bear for Best Actor from the Berlin International Film Festival and the Volpi Cup for Best Actor from the Venice Film Festival respectively. Gabin was made a member of the Légion d'honneur in recognition of the important role he played in French cinema.
Nouveau réalisme refers to an artistic movement founded in 1960 by the art critic Pierre Restany and the painter Yves Klein during the first collective exposition in the Apollinaire gallery in Milan. Pierre Restany wrote the original manifesto for the group, titled the "Constitutive Declaration of New Realism," in April 1960, proclaiming, "Nouveau Réalisme—new ways of perceiving the real." This joint declaration was signed on 27 October 1960, in Yves Klein's workshop, by nine people: Yves Klein, Arman, Martial Raysse, Pierre Restany, Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely and the Ultra-Lettrists, Francois Dufrêne, Raymond Hains, Jacques de la Villeglé; in 1961 these were joined by César, Mimmo Rotella, then Niki de Saint Phalle and Gérard Deschamps. The artist Christo showed with the group. It was dissolved in 1970.
Julien Duvivier was a French film director and screenwriter. He was prominent in French cinema in the years 1930–1960. Amongst his most original films, chiefly notable are La Bandera, Pépé le Moko, Little World of Don Camillo, Panique, Voici le temps des assassins and Marianne de ma jeunesse.
Jacques Feyder was a Belgian actor, screenwriter and film director who worked principally in France, but also in the US, Britain and Germany. He was a director of silent films during the 1920s, and in the 1930s he became associated with the style of poetic realism in French cinema. He adopted French nationality in 1928.
Lazare Meerson (1900–1938) was a Russian-born cinema art director. After emigrating to France in the early 1920s, he worked on French films of the late silent cinema and the early 1930s, particularly those directed by René Clair and Jacques Feyder. He worked in England during the last two years of his life. He had great influence on film set design in France in the years before World War II.
Michel Simon was a Swiss actor. He appeared in many notable French films, including La Chienne (1931), Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932), L'Atalante (1934), Port of Shadows (1938), The Head (1959), and The Train (1964).
Catherine Rouvel is an acclaimed French actress. Her career spans from 1959 in television to 2004.
Charles-Marie Vanel was a French actor and director. During his 76-year film career, which began in 1912, he appeared in more than 200 films and worked with many prominent directors, including Alfred Hitchcock, Luis Buñuel, Jacques Feyder, and Henri-Georges Clouzot. He is perhaps best remembered for his role as a desperate truck driver in Clouzot's The Wages of Fear for which he received a Special Mention at the Cannes Film Festival in 1953.
Le Grand Jeu is a 1934 French film directed by Jacques Feyder. It is a romantic drama set against the background of the French Foreign Legion, and the film was an example of poetic realism in the French cinema. The title Le Grand Jeu refers to the practice of reading the cards. Blanche asks whether her client wants the 'full works', the whole story: "Alors... je te fais le grand jeu?"
Sylvia Bataille was a French actress of Romanian-Jewish descent. When she was twenty, she married the writer Georges Bataille with whom she had a daughter, the psychoanalyst Laurence Bataille (1930–1986). Georges Bataille and Sylvia separated in 1934 but did not divorce until 1946. Starting in 1938, she was a companion of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan with whom, in 1941, she had a daughter, Judith. Sylvia Bataille married Jacques Lacan in 1953.
Gaston Modot was a French actor. For more than 50 years he performed for the cinema working with a number of great French directors.
René Lefèvre, born René Paul Louis Lefèvre, was a French actor and writer. Throughout his career, he worked with several notable directors, like Jean Renoir, Jean-Pierre Melville, Jules Dassin, and René Clair.
Maurice Jaubert was a French composer. A prolific composer, he scored some of the most important films of the early sound era in France, including Jean Vigo’s Zero for Conduct and L’Atalante, and René Clair’s Quatorze Juillet and Le Dernier Milliardaire. Serving in both world wars, he died in action during World War II at the age of 40.
Charles Spaak was a Belgian screenwriter who was noted particularly for his work in the French cinema during the 1930s. He was the son of the dramatist and poet Paul Spaak, the brother of the politician Paul-Henri Spaak, and the father of the actresses Catherine Spaak and Agnès Spaak.
Pension Mimosas is a 1935 French drama film directed by Jacques Feyder. Based on an original scenario by Feyder and Charles Spaak, it is a psychological drama set largely in a small hotel on the Côte d'Azur, and it provided Françoise Rosay with one of the most substantial acting roles of her career. It was produced by the French subsidiary of the German company Tobis Film.
Édouard Delmont was a French actor born Édouard Marius Autran in Marseille. He died in Cannes at age 72.
Léonce-Henri Burel was a French cinematographer whose career extended from the silent era until the early 1970s. He was the director of photography on more than 120 films, working almost exclusively in black-and-white.
Gustave Honoré Hamilton was a 20th-century Belgian film actor.