RENEWED INTEREST IN THE POPULAR FRONT
Most surveys of film history written before the 1970s cover René Clair's work, Poetic Realism, and the Occupation—but not the Popular Front. This brief, but important, movement drew attention mainly in the late 1960s and after, when there was a renewed interest in critical political cinema. (See Chapter 23.) In particular, La Vie est à nous and La Marseillaise, which had been treated simply as examples of Jean Renoir's work, have been examined in their political contexts.
An early study (1966) of the Popular Front cinema is Geffredo Fofi's "The Cinema of the Popular Front in France (1934–1938)," translated in Screen 13, no. 3 (Winter 1972/1973): 5–57. A collective text on La Vie est à nous appeared in Cahiers du cinéma in 1970 and has been translated as Pascal Bonitzer et al., "La Vie est à nous: A Militant Film" in Nick Browne, ed., Cahiers du Cinéma: 1969–1971: The Politics of Representation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990), pp. 68–88. See also Elizabeth Grottle Strebel's "Renoir and the Popular Front," Sight and Sound 49, no. 1 (Winter 1979/1980): 36–41, and Ginette Vincendeau and Keith Reader, eds., La Vie est à nous!: French Cinema of the Popular Front 1935–1938 (London: British Film Institute, 1986).
The most extensive study in English, Jonathan Buchsbaum's Cinema Engagé: Film in the Popular Front (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988) takes issue with these earlier studies and deals only with those films actually produced by left-wing French political parties during the 1930s. For broader overviews that treat many films of the 1930s in relation to the Popular Front, see Geneviève Guillaume-Grimaud's Le Cinéma du Front Populaire (Paris: Lherminier, 1986) and Dudley Andrew and Steven Ungar, Popular Front Paris and the Poetics of Culture (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005).