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Accommodating Vichy

The Politics of Marcel Pagnol's La Fille du puisatier

Brett Bowles

From late 1940 through mid-1942 Marcel Pagnol accommodated to varying degrees the demands of the Vichy regime and the German occupiers in order to ensure the survival of his film production business. In so doing, he placed himself in the ambiguous grey zone of thought and action that stretched between the poles of proactive collaboration and proactive resistance. Pagnol's wartime activities, especially the history of his film La Fille du puisatier (The Well-Digger's Daughter, 1940), offer insight into how material interest, ideology, and necessity shaped French industrialists' reactions to the Occupation. Pagnol's itinerary also reveals the compromise and conflict that often lay below the surface of Franco-German politics, while highlighting the importance that both regimes attached to cinema as a tool of economics, cultural policy, and propaganda.

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Brett Bowles

The politics of French and German cinema between the onset of the Great Depression and the end of World War II is far from a new topic of study. However, scholars have typically focused on one country or the other, rather than comparing the two, and prioritized high-profile directors (for example, Jean Renoir, Jean-Paul Le Chanois, Leni Riefenstahl, and Veit Harlan) whose work benefited from direct party sponsorship and served a clearly propagandistic function. Reflecting the evolution of cultural history and film studies over the past decade, this collection of essays seeks to enrich the traditional approach in three ways. The first is by expanding the definition of politics beyond official party or state discourse to include power-related issues such as representation of gender and gender roles; access to material resources including funding and technology; relationships between film creators and industry or government officials; and competition between commercial and ideological priorities in film production, censorship, and distribution.