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New French Extremity (or "New French Extremism") is a term coined by Artforum critic James Quandt for a collection of transgressive films by French directors at the turn of the 21st century.[1] The filmmakers are also discussed by Jonathan Romney of The Independent.[2] Quandt describes the style as follows:

Bava as much as Bataille, Salo no less than Sade seem the determinants of a cinema suddenly determined to break every taboo, to wade in rivers of viscera and spumes of sperm, to fill each frame with flesh, nubile or gnarled, and subject it to all manner of penetration, mutilation, and defilement.

—James Quandt, Artforum [1]

Quandt associates François Ozon, Gaspar Noé, Catherine Breillat, Bruno Dumont, Claire Denis' Trouble Every Day, Patrice Chereau's Intimacy, Bertrand Bonello's The Pornographer, Marina de Van's In My Skin, Leos Carax's Pola X, Philippe Grandrieux's La Vie nouvelle and Sombre, Jean-Claude Brisseau's Secret Things, Jacques Nolot's La Chatte à deux têtes, Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi's Baise-moi, and Alexandre Aja's Haute tension with the label.[1]

While Quandt intended the term as pejorative, many so labeled have produced critically acclaimed work. David Fear indicates that the lack of humanity beneath the horror represented in these film leads to their stigma, arguing that Bruno Dumont's Flanders "contains enough savage violence and sexual ugliness" to remain vulnerable to the New French Extremity tag, but "a soul also lurks underneath the shocks".[3] Nick Wrigley indicates that Dumont was merely chastised for "letting everybody down" who expected him to be the heir to Robert Bresson.[4]

Jonathan Romney also associates the label with Olivier Assayas' Demonlover, Christophe Honoré's Ma mère, and C.S. Leigh's Process.[2]



Jonathan Romney traces a long line of (mainly French) painters and writers influencing these directors, beginning with the Marquis de Sade, and including Gustave Courbet's 1866 L'origine du monde, Comte de Lautréamont, Antonin Artaud, Georges Bataille, William S. Burroughs, Michel Houellebecq, and Marie Darrieussecq.[2] He locates filmic predecessors in Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, Roman Polanski, Jean-Luc Godard's Le weekend, Andrzej Zulawski's Possession, and Michael Haneke.[2] Quandt also alludes to Arthur Rimbaud, Buñuel, Henri-Georges Clouzot, Georges Franju, Michelangelo Antonioni, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Guy Debord, Walerian Borowczyk, Godard, Psycho, Zulawski, Deliverance, Jean Eustache's La maman et la putain, and Maurice Pialat's A Nos Amours as models, but criticizes that the contemporary filmmakers so far lack the "power to shock an audience into consciousness".

John Wray notes that these filmmakers show less affection for Hollywood films than their New Wave predecessors, and take after Jean Renoir as well as Bresson.[5] He also notes the long shots and enigmatic story-telling stye of Dumont and the Dardenne brothers.[5]

The expanded term "The New Extremism", referring to European filmmakers such as Lars von Trier, Lukas Moodysson, and Fatih Akin, has subsequently appeared.[6][5]

New wave of French horror

Some films considered as part of the New French Extremity rework elements of the horror genre. Other contemporary French horror films with a similar sensibility include Sheitan, Calvaire, Ils, Frontier(s) and À l'interieur.[7]

Pascal Laugier, director of the controversial horror film Martyrs, disagrees with the idea of there being a horror revival in France:

The fact is that we are much more successful in foreign countries and in our homeland it's always the same stuff where you're never a prophet..What I mean is that even the horror fans, the French ones, they are very condescending about French horror films. It's still a hell to find the money, a hell to convince people that we are legitimate to make this kind of movie in France. So I know from an American point of view and probably an English one too, there is a kind of new wave of modern horror film, but it's not true. It's still hell. My country produces almost 200 films a year and there are like 2 or 3 horror films. It's not even an industry, French horror cinema is very low budget, it's kinda prototype. I think that a genre really exists when it's industrially produced like the Italians did 600 spaghetti westerns. So we can't really say that there is a wave of horror in French Cinema, I don't believe it.[8]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Quandt, James (February 2004). ""Flesh & Blood: Sex and violence in recent French cinema"". Artforum. Retrieved 2008-06-10.   Also available on the ArtForum website (requires registration).
  2. ^ a b c d Jonathan Romney, The Independent, September 12, 2004. [1] Access date: August 11, 2008.
  3. ^ David Fear, Time Out New York. Issue 607. May 17-23, 2007. [2] Access date: August 11, 2008.
  4. ^ Nick Wrigley, "The Polarizing, Magnificent Cinema of Bruno Dumont". Masters of Cinema, April 2004. [3] Access date: August 11, 2008.
  5. ^ a b c John Wray, "Minister of Fear," New York Times, September 23, 2007. "... a new group of Francophone filmmakers has come to prominence in Europe, one less bedazzled by the Hollywood genre films that so influenced the New Wave directors than by the work of French auteurs like Jean Renoir and Robert Bresson. The Belgian-born Dardenne brothers, for example, favor dark, naturalistic studies of working-class life, while Bruno Dumont, a former professor of philosophy, makes violent and sexually explicit films that tend toward parable. But both share a preference for long, intricately composed shots, a resolutely anti-Hollywood aesthetic and a Bressonian aversion for spelling things out. Haneke feels at home in their company ..."
  6. ^ Tanya Horeck, Tina Kendall, and Sarah Barrow, "The New Extremism: Contemporary European Cinema", conference held at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, 24th-25th of April 2009, [4] Access date: August 23, 2008.
  7. ^ Simon Augustine, "The 8 Most Disturbing Films of The New Wave of French Horror", Green Cine, June 17, 2008. [5] Access date: September 22, 2008.
  8. ^ DVD Times - Interview with Pascal Laugier (Director of Martyrs)


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