From the fleetingly captured street scenes of the city symphony, to the meticulously reconstructed studio city of musical comedies; from the propagandistic Popular Front documentaries about construction workers, to poetic realism’s bittersweet portraits of populist neighborhoods: Social Architecture explores the construction, representation and experience of spaces and places in documentary and realist films of the French 1930s. In this book, Margaret C. Flinn tracks the relation between the emergent techniques of French sound cinema and its thematic, social and political preoccupations through analysis of discourse in contemporary press, theoretical texts and through readings of films themselves. New light is shed on works of canonical directors such as Renoir, Clair, Vigo and Duvivier by their consideration in relationship to little known documentary films of the era. Flinn argues that film has a readable architecture—a configuration of narrative and representations that informs, explains, and creates social identities, while reflecting upon the position of individuals within their societies.
First-rate... Flinn adopts a well-argued and innovative interdisciplinary approach and selects an intriguing corpus of films - some, notably Boudu, well-known and widely accessible, others much harder to view, but well described and contextualized.
'An intellectually ambitious project that brings together film history and architecture ... and a valuable contribution to scholarship on French cinema of the 1930s.'
With a comprehensive bibliography, readable style, and pertinent screengrabs, this book opens up new pathways for understanding and appreciating the complex terrain of 1930s French cinema.
French Studies Vol. 69 No. 3
'Flinn’s book is a valuable and original contribution to research on one of the most important periods of French film history.'
Edward Ousselin, French Review
'This is a stimulating and forcefully argued book that clears the ground for future scholarship on the social politicity of art.'
Ioana Vartolomei Pribiag, SubStance
'Flinn’s book contains outstanding analyses of well-chosen works and productively draws on both early film theory and contemporary criticism. In addition to its scholarly value, the book’s contextual coverage of 1930s French cinema and its exemplary close readings could serve as an excellent pedagogical resource. The broadness of Flinn’s scope sometimes detracts from the coherence of the individual chapters’ arguments. Nevertheless, this wide scope also means that the book is rich, diverse, and a valuable contribution to scholarship.'
Benjamin Williams, Symposium
'Social Architecture of French Cinema, beautifully and accessibly written, is an important contribution to both film studies and architecture. The book generates numerous ideas that could be employed in other related fields as well.'
H. Hazel Hahn, Studies in 20th & 21st Century Literature