Vivre Ici invites the reader on a journey through the vast viewing landscape of contemporary French documentary film, a genre that has experienced a renaissance in the past twenty years. The films explored are connected not just by a general interest in engaging the “real,” but by a particular attention to French space and place. From farms and wild places to roads, schools, and urban edgelands, these films explore the spaces of the everyday and the human and non-human experiences that unfold within them. Through a critical approach that integrates phenomenology, film theory, eco-criticism and cultural history, Levine investigates the notion of documentary as experience. She asks how and why, in the contemporary media landscape, these films seek to avoid argumentation and instead, give the viewer a feeling of “being there.” As a diverse collection of filmmakers, both well-known and lesser-known, explore the limits and possibilities of these places, a collage-like, incomplete, and fragmented vision of France as seen and felt through documentary cameras comes into view. Venturing beyond film analysis to examine the production climate for these films and their circulation in contemporary France, Levine explores the social and political consequences of these “films that matter” for the viewers who come into contact with them.
'This is an excellent study of issues of space and place in recent French documentary, offering rich and evocative readings of individual films and detailed engagement with the material specificities of documentary production in France. It will be of major interest to researchers and students.'
Laura McMahon, Cambridge
'Vivre Ici marks a major advance in thinking about contemporary documentary in France and about documentary in general. It does this by mobilizing aesthetic, cultural, and institutional approaches.'
Steven Ungar, University of Iowa
'Vivre Ici represents a useful curation of French documentary and a worthy addition to an expanding subfield of Film Studies that will be of much interest to film scholars, researchers, and students of French documentary.'
Matthew Gibson, Modern Language Review
‘One of the impressive strengths of Levine’s study is the further comparative aesthetic and ethical questioning the analysis triggers. Her attention to the extra-textual context surrounding each film, with a focus on audience response, combined with her meticulous attention to the multisensory experience of film space, brilliantly underlines the impossibility of separating the social and political role (and responsibility) of documentary film, from its equally important status as an art form that affects and moves the spectator in more ways than one…Scholars and students of French history, cinema and cultural studies, and of documentary film studies more generally, will find the book an inspiring and informative pedagogical resource to draw on.'
Albertine Fox, H-France Review
‘Alison J. Murray Levine’s latest book Vivre Ici is a refreshing, accessible read that invites readers to appreciate the unique ability documentary, and more specifically French documentary, has to connect us to the world around us.’
Audrey Evrard, Modern & Contemporary France
'The balance between theory and its application in Levine’s book makes for a very accessible and pleasing read [...] It will be of appeal to academics and students alike, particularly those working in French studies, and film and media studies.'
Oliver Brett, French History
'Levine’s book fills in an important gap in French film studies in that it moves away from the topic of a small set of films to focus on what matters the most—that documentaries can transmit a sensual experience to the audience. Levine examines films produced over the last twenty years in metropolitan France. However, her analysis can apply to general documentaries, past or future, French or not.'
Martine Guyot-Bender, French Review
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