The Representation of Women in Truffaut’s Films

The role of women in Truffaut’s life and their representation in his films constitute one of the most complex areas of his work. Truffaut’s films evidently favour female characters and offers stars such as Jeanne Moreau, Catherine Deneuve, Bernadette Lafont, Isabelle Adjani, Fanny Ardant and others, memorable leading parts. Yet, while many of these women are put on a pedestal as ‘magic’ creatures, there is often, at the same time, a dark undercurrent to their roles; indeed, some of Truffaut’s most celebrated female characters can be seen in the light of destructive stereotypes such as the femme fatale.

While many scholars have considered Truffaut’s representation of women in terms of his biography (in particular his relationship to his mother), his films can also productively be read in the light of trends in filmmaking, such as the New Wave, as well as social and cultural changes in France in the 1960s and 1970s, especially as they affected women’s lives.

Ranging across Truffaut’s career, this illustrated talk addresses such issues, taking also into account the impact of actors and actresses’ images and performances on these representations. Re-assessing Truffaut’s films in the post-#MeToo period offers other challenges, in particular the repeated trope of men who not only love, but relentlessly pursue, women. Finally, the talk will briefly look at some women who played a major role in Truffaut’s work ‘behind the scenes’, notably Helen Scott (his American translator and correspondent) and his co-scriptwriter Suzanne Schiffman.

Ginette Vincendeau is Professor of Film Studies at King’s College London and co-Chief General Editor of French Screen Studies. She has written widely on popular French cinema, notably stardom, as well as edited and contributed to several volumes on French and European film. Among her books are Pépé le Moko (BFI, 1998), Stars and Stardom in French Cinema (Continuum, 2000), Jean-Pierre Melville: An American in Paris (BFI, 2003), La Haine (I.B. Tauris, 2005), Brigitte Bardot (BFI/Palgrave-Macmillan, 2013) and Brigitte Bardot, The Life, The Legend, The Movies (Carlton and Gründ, 2014). She is currently completing a monograph on Claude Autant-Lara for Manchester University Press; her new, expanded edition of The French New Wave, Critical Landmarks (with Peter Graham) is forthcoming this year with Bloomsbury.

Jules et Jim (Jules and Jim)
From Fri 4 Feb
Philosophical Screens: Jules et Jim
Thu 10 Feb 20:20
The Representation of Women in Truffaut’s Films
Fri 18 Feb 18:20

Anne and Muriel (Les Deux Anglaises et le continent)
Sat 5 Feb 12:20; Thu 17 Feb 17:50 (+ intro by actor Kika Markham); Tue 22 Feb 20:25
Fahrenheit 451
Sat 5 Feb 20:45; Sun 13 Feb 12:40; Sun 27 Feb 18:40
The Story of Adèle H (L’Histoire d’Adèle H)
Wed 9 Feb 20:55; Sat 12 Feb 20:45; Sat 19 Feb 18:20
The Green Room (La Chambre verte)
Thu 10 Feb 18:20; Tue 15 Feb 20:40; Wed 23 Feb 20:40

Shoot the Pianist (Tirez sur le pianiste)
Tue 1 Feb 20:50; Fri 11 Feb 18:30; Sat 26 Feb 13:20
The Bride Wore Black (La Mariée était en noir)
Fri 4 Feb 20:45; Sun 13 Feb 18:00; Sun 27 Feb 12:10
Finally Sunday! (Vivement dimanche!)
Sat 5 Feb 17:50; Sat 12 Feb 12:30; Sun 27 Feb 15:00
Mississippi Mermaid (La Sirène du Mississippi)
Sun 6 Feb 12:40; Fri 18 Feb 20:35; Fri 25 Feb 18:00
La Peau douce (Silken Skin)
Sun 6 Feb 18:20; Sat 12 Feb 17:20; Sat 26 Feb 15:30
The Woman Next Door (La Femme d’à côté)
Tue 8 Feb 20:30; Mon 21 Feb 18:10; Thu 24 Feb 20:30

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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
Questions/comments? Contact the Programme Notes team by email