Films of the New French Extremity

Visceral Horror and National Identity


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About the Book

The films of the New French Extremity have been reviled by critics but adored by fans and filmmakers. Known for graphically brutal depictions of sex and violence, the subgenre emerged from the French art-house scene in the late 1990s and became a cult phenomenon, eventually merging into the horror genre where it became associated with American torture porn. Decidedly French in flavor, the films seek to reveal the dark side of French society. This book provides an in-depth study of New French Extremity, focusing on such films as Trouble Every Day (2001), Irreversible (2002), Twentynine Palms (2003), High Tension (2003) and Martyrs (2008). The author explores the social implications of cinematic cruelty presented not as “violent films” but as “films about violence.”

About the Author(s)

Alexandra West has written about genre films for The Toronto Star, Rue Morgue Magazine and Offscreen Film Journal, and regularly contributes to Shock Till You Drop, Famous Monsters of Filmland and Diabolique. In 2012, she co-founded the Faculty of Horror podcast, which explores the analytical side of horror films. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Bibliographic Details

Alexandra West

Foreword by Andrea Subissati

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 216
Bibliographic Info: appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2016
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6348-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2511-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Foreword by Andrea Subissati 1
Introduction 5

1 Vive la Révolution! France’s Bloody and Divided History 13
2 Cinéma pour Tous: The Film Industry in France 32
3 Time Destroys All Things: Gaspar Noé’s Carne (1991), I Stand Alone (1998) and Irréversible (2002) 45
4 Body Commodification: Romance (1999), Pola X (1999) and Baise-moi (2000) 56
5 In Wolf’s Clothing: Sombre (1998) and L’Humanité (1999) 70
6 Fine Young Cannibals: Trouble Every Day (2001) and In My Skin (2002) 81
7 Lovers in a Dangerous Time: Criminal Lovers (1999) and Twentynine Palms (2003) 93
8 Without Borders: Intimacy (2001), Demonlover (2002) and Ma Mère (2004) 104
9 I Won’t Let Anyone Come Between Us: High Tension (2003) 116
10 Bon Voyage: Calvaire (2004), Sheitan (2006) and Frontier(s) (2007) 124
11 Enfant Terrible: Them (2006) and The Pack (2009) 135
12 It’s So Easy to Create a Victim: Martyrs (2008) 147
13 Living Womb: Inside (2007) 154
14 American Remakes in New French Extremity: The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Mirrors (2008), The Eye (2008) and Maniac (2012) 161

Conclusion 175
Appendix: The Business of Violence: An Interview with Colin Geddes 179
Chapter Notes 189
Bibliography 197
Index 201

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “West’s persuasive text makes you want to go back and revisit this body of work from her perspective”—Video Watchdog
  • “quite a profound and thorough analysis of the extreme French art house and horror films of this movement”—Fangoria
  • “West’s book is so tres fantastique that I wish it were a reference guide that covered hundreds of films”—Flick Attack
  • “Fans and scholars of the New French Extremity genre will welcome Alexandra West’s Films of the New French Extremity…a timely and well-researched examination of the darker side of French cinema. West’s analysis is, thankfully, readable and relatable, avoiding the often suffocatingly dull academic prose found in genre studies. Films of the New French Extremity will most likely serve as the analytic lightning rod for fans and scholars of the NFE for some time to come…the first comprehensive overview and timeline of one of the most challenging genres to emerge in recent years”—Bright Lights Film Journal
  • “A comprehensive examination”—ProtoView