Volume 1, Issue 4, March 2011

Issue 4 March 2011

The Buzz

Outside the Law
Hors la loi (2010) is one of a number of recent French films dealing with the Algerian War.  Mon colonel (2006, Laurent Herbier, director) revisits the use of torture through the eyes of a traumatized French lieutenant. Despite being shot in Algeria, the film focuses on the French experience. The TV drama Nuit noire [English version: October 17, 1961] (2005, Alain Tasma, director) depicts the events leading up to the infamous massacre of demonstrators in Paris in 1961 from multiple perspectives: that of the policemen (all the way from the hapless victim of reprisals to Prefect of Police Maurice Papon who organizes the repression), members of the FLN (who are divided on tactics), French supporters of the Algerian cause, and innocent bystanders caught in events. Set mainly in the 18th arrondissement, it offers glimpses of the Nanterre bidonville. Outside the Law takes us even further into the heart of the bidonville. The movie’s parti pris is to present events from the perspective of Arab Algerians eking a miserable living in France and to account for their increasing militancy. Whether the rendition is accurate or not, an issue our reviewer addresses, the film gives us new ways of discussing the war, exile, and terrorism with our students.
To read the review…

Maybe Missed

Being Medieval and Civilized
A personal confession from Liana Vardi: A. B. Yehoshua’s novel A Journey to the End of the Millenium has been, since its publication, one of my all-time favorites. I have loved its extraordinary recreation of Europe in 999. Although the plot revolves around the erasure of polygamy from Jewish practices in the West, it is the descriptions of early medieval Paris that took my breath away and the way that Yehoshua connects the city to the trading networks of the Mediterranean. If not the entire novel then selected chapters can certainly enrich a course on the History of Paris, among others. It does not offer the complete panorama of The Hunchback of Notre Dame or the courtly intrigues of Les rois maudits.  Rather it is a miniature brought to life. In contrast stands The Dream of Scipio, a sweeping meditation on the essence of being civilized that ranges across fifteen hundred years of “French” history. There are some college courses that cover “France” from Gaul to De Gaulle. Like any good course on “world history,” these courses depend on following certain themes. One of those themes could well be the challenge to any “civilized” person or polity posed by violence and widespread death. By interweaving personal struggles to cope with the moral challenges created by the Visigoths of the 5th century, the bubonic plague of the 14th century, and the Nazi ascendancy of the 20th century, renowned author Iain Pears raises timeless questions about the relationship between individuals and the larger values that uphold civic life. His novel inspires our reviewer to imagine some other intriguing courses.
To read the review…

Classroom Classics

Indochine & The Sea Wall
The history of France has never been just the history of France; too much of that polity and its history do not fit into the large hexagon one finds on maps of Western Europe. For hundreds of years, the notion of France included overseas territories. It still does. The French colonial empire was at its height between the First and Second World Wars, so it is fitting that various film-makers have chosen that period as a suitable moment to explore the French presence in south-east Asia. How much of the complexity of that presence can be captured by a film, especially one intended for a popular audience? Big-budget and star-led productions such as Indochine (1992) and The Sea Wall (2009) confront serious challenges when it comes to telling a colonial story. Are novels, even the semi-autobiographical ones of Marguerite Duras known as the “Indochina trilogy” on which these films (and others) are partly based, any better? How do the films and novels compare? Our expert reviewers respond by exploring the historical complexity represented – or not – in these dramatic depictions.
To read the reviews…


Previous Issues


Table of Contents

The Buzz

Hors-la-loi/Outside the Law, by Todd Shepard

Maybe Missed

Being Medieval and Civilized, by Daniel Lord Smail

Classics in the Classroom

Indochine and The Sea Wall, by Alison J. Murray Levine and Eric T. Jennings

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