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In the first part of my career, I had two major interests.
The first was Surrealism with a particular focus on the parasurrealist group Le Grand Jeu (4 books and 10 articles 1988-2000), as I had written my thesis on the work of René Daumal. I translated some of his work, and produced a major bibliography of his work and the work of his colleague in le Grand Jeu, Roger-Gilbert-Lecomte. I also wrote some articles on the work of André Breton. I returned in part to Surrealism in my work on the French film star of the 1920s, Pierre Batcheff, who starred in Buñuel and Dalí’s classic avant-garde film Un chien andalou (1929); this work was supported by a grant from the British Academy.
My second interest was contemporary French women’s writing (2 books and 6 articles/book chapters 1989-1994). I was particularly interested in two writers prominent in the 1980s, Marie Cardinal and Chantal Chawaf. I published an annotated edition of Cardinal’s best-known novel, Les mots pour le dire. I maintained an interest in issues of female voice and space in my work on film versions of the Carmen story and a focus on the work of French filmmaker Agnès Varda. The work on Pierre Batcheff also led to a major article on the 1920s film star Josephine Baker; the article has twice been anthologised.
My principal focus since the early 1990s has been cinema studies. Although I have published articles and book chapters on American and British cinema, I have concentrated on French cinema. All of the books I have published in cinema studies are either directly focused on French cinema, or my contributions in books I have co-authored, edited or co-edited have been on aspects of the French cinema. I have written across the range of French cinema, including silent cinema as well as recent French films. In 1999 I was made Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques by the French government for services to French cinema.
Susan Hayward established the journal Studies in French Cinema in 2000, and I joined her as co-General Editor. The journal was published by Intellect Press until 2014 when it was acquired by Routledge/Taylor & Francis. It is the only journal world-wide dealing entirely with French and Francophone cinemas. We were committed to issues of gender, popular cinema, as well as to promoting new talent. Over the years the journal has become one of the top journals in its field as measured by impact and citations, as well as reputation. Anniversary conferences were held in Paris in 2010 and 2015, and a twentieth anniversary conference will be held in Lyon in 2020.
I have had four major research projects since the mid-1990s: masculinities, the cinéma du look, film adaptations of the Carmen story and finally music in the cinema. The first of these was masculinities, emerging from my interest in women’s writing. After an initial book on the French cinema of the 1980s pursuing this focus, I organised a conference on masculinities in the cinema as part of the programme of the Centre for Research into Film that I had established in 1996. I returned to masculinities for a keynote talk at Texas Tech University in 2016 for a conference on the ‘loser’.
Susan Hayward had published one of the first books in Manchester University Press’s ‘French Directors’ series on Luc Besson , the same series as my later book on Jean-Jacques Beineix, hence our joint project on the films of Besson. Beineix wrote an introduction to my book on his films, and I later recorded a DVD commentary for a reissue of Diva.
In 1999 I was awarded a large grant by the predecessor of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Board for a three-year project on film versions of the Carmen story. This led to a number of academic publications by members of the team (myself, Bruce Babington, Ann Davies and Chris Perriam, as well as spin-offs such as news reports, radio programmes, opera programmes and CD liner notes.
My major focus for the last decade has been on music and film. This followed on from my interest in Carmen adaptations, and led to a major conference in 2006, out of which came two edited collections with Robynn Stilwell. I have published a number of articles and book chapters in this field, culminating in a major book on music in contemporary French cinema in 2017. I am currently preparing a history of the French film musical with French-based scholar Marie Cadalanu.