Jacques Lefebvre

Jacques Lefebvre, retraité de l’Education Nationale, a enseigné l’anglais dans divers lycées, notamment au lycée Masséna où il a eu en charge la classe de Khâgne de 1995 à 2008. Il a également enseigné le cinéma pendant de nombreuses années, dont le western à la faculté des Lettres de Nice. Son domaine de recherche est le cinéma anglo-américain. Il a publié des articles dans diverses revues : CinéNice (revue de la Cinémathèque de Nice), Cinémaction, Positif, Cycnos, P.O.V, a Danish Journal of Film Studies, Short Film Studies (Intellect Journals). Depuis 2008, il assure un enseignement du cinéma à la Cinémathèque de Nice.

Articles de l'auteur

Cycnos | Volume 21 n°2

À l’assaut du réel: images du débarquement du 6 juin 1944

How does one portray war and especially D-Day? Representing war is a daunting challenge. The “reality” of war is a deluding concept since by trying to represent war one must necessarily choose to approach the subject from a specific angle in order to convey an impression or an emotion. Therefore such an enterprise is a rather complex procedure in which the very notion of objectivity is constantly challenged. The newsreels, the documentary films, the photographs shown in various magazines after D-Day all contribute to the construction of a “reality”. The “reality” perceived at the time is obviously different from the “reality” we perceive today. The most striking example is the series of photographs taken by Robert Capa on D-Day. We know now that they were the result of some terrible mistake made by a young technician in London and yet the blurring effect of these shots has become iconic and its authenticity is taken for granted. Our perception of D-Day also varies depending on whether the documents we see are in black and white or in colour. For many years the “reality” of D-Day was in black and white. We are now discovering films in colour that alter our perception of the event. Of course we do not only rely on newsreels, documentary films and photographs. Our perception of D-Day is also guided, or misguided some would say, by works of fiction. Three films epitomize the various choices and approaches taken in order to reconstruct the “reality” of the invasion. They are: The Longest Day (Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki, 1961), The Big Red One (Samuel Fuller, 1980), and Saving Private Ryan ( Steven Spielberg, 1998). The “reality” of war as shown by these three films is not a consistent one. It is still D-Day but our perception is influenced by an array of parameters that include narrative, aesthetic and technical choices, as well as the aura of film director and the size of the budget allocated by the producers.

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Cycnos | Volume 25 n° Spécial - 2006

Alfred Hitchcock, l’obsession du double

Nombreux sont ceux qui ne voyaient en Alfred Hitchcock que l’amuseur, le « maître du suspense ». Mais, comme le soulignèrent les jeunes critiques français des Cahiers du Cinéma, c’était un auteur à part entière, un artiste qui maîtrisait totalement son art. L’image du bourgeois bien conforme n’était qu’une illusion tant il était torturé par ses propres angoisses et ses obsessions. Il a inventé un genre binaire où la figure du double joue un rôle prééminent que cela soit dans des comédies policières légères ou dans de terrifiants « thrillers ». Le mal rôde dans ses films et le méchant peut s’avérer être aussi séduisant que le héros apparemment innocent. Les doubles abondent dans un monde où l’on sent l’influence conjuguée d’Edgar Allan Poe et de l’expressionnisme. En fait, Hitchcock oblige le spectateur à se confronter à sa propre dualité et à reconnaître les forces du mal qui l’habitent. To many, Alfred Hitchcock was the arch-entertainer, the “master of suspense” but, as the young French critics of the Cahiers du Cinéma pointed out, he was an “auteur”, an artist who was in full command of his art. As a person, he was most complex and there were many dark sides to his character. The image of the bourgeois gentleman was an illusion beleaguered as he was by his own anxieties and obsessions. He invented a binary art form where the motif of the double played an essential part whether it be in light-hearted comedies or in terrifying thrillers. Evil lurks in his films and the villain may be as attractive as the apparently innocent hero. Doubles abound in a world that is highly influenced by Edgar Allan Poe and the expressionist movement. Somehow, Hitchcock forces the spectator to confront his own duality and recognize the dark forces within him.

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Cycnos | SOMMAIRES | Volume 15 n°1

Le traitement de l'espace dans Falling Down

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Cycnos | SOMMAIRES | Volume 20 n°1

The Ghost and Mrs Muir, du fantastique au merveilleux

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Cycnos | Volume 28.2 - 2012 | Du western

Le western crépusculaire : mise en perspective de trois films emblématiques

What French film critics refer to as the « western crépusculaire » has no real equivalent in English. Such expressions as Adult Western, Anti-Western or Revisionist Western are commonly used by American film critics and these expressions point to a modern or even a postmodern approach to that particular genre whose origin may be traced back to the early fifties. As a matter of fact, there are already instances of revisionist themes in 19th century literature. The Western as a film genre drew on the chronicles, the dime novels and various stories by Stephen Crane or Bret Harte, among others. Owen Wister’s novel, The Virginian (1902), also played a decisive part in defining the themes of the genre. Significantly the emergence of the Western as a film genre corresponded to the end of an era as the American frontier had passed into history. The reality of the West was therefore « reconstructed » and the legend took over. There was hence a nostalgic streak due to the loss of some fantasized paradise. William S. Hart introduced the prototype of the rugged and upright cowboy; Gary Cooper had a more radiant personality but he was truly a man of the West and so was John Wayne, of course. High Noon by Fred Zinnemann (1952) is often considered as the first Adult Western but is preceded by The Ox-Bow Incident, William Wellman (1943) and The Gunfighter, Henry King (1950). By the end of the fifties, Budd Boetticher and later Sam Peckinpah, paved the way for what is now known as the Revisionist Western, a genre that questioned the myths of the West and also reflected the anxieties of their times. Sergio Leone also played a significant role in introducing the so-called Spaghetti Western. The only American film director who was adamant in his refusal of the Revisionist Western was Howard Hawks whose Rio Bravo was a rebuttal of Fred Zinnemann’s High Noon. The present article focuses essentially on three films which are somehow thematically interrelated: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, John Ford, 1962; The Shootist, Don Siegel, 1976 and Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood, 1992. They portray the end of an era, debunk the myths of the West and highlight the discrepancy between facts and legend. But, in doing so, they replace the old myths by newer ones. Tom Doniphon (John Wayne) is actually « The Man » who shot Liberty Valance, but the glory goes to Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart) and so does the girl. The gunslinger’s era has become obsolete and the future lies in the hands of those who believe in democracy. In The Shootist, John Wayne plays the part of an ageing desperado (J. B. Books) who suffers from terminal prostate cancer. The film’s prologue shows a series of clips taken from John Wayne’s Westerns. It is both a tribute to the actor and a presentation of the character he plays in the film. J.B. Books belongs to a world that no longer exists and he is seen as an « old timer ». He has his own code of honor, which he adheres to: « I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people and I require the same from them ». The Old West is outdated but Books is true to his words as he prepares his ultimate demise – he dies a legend. In Unforgiven (1992), Clint Eastwood, who also directed the film, plays the part of a once legendary but reformed gunslinger. He teams up with his old friend, Ned logan (Morgan Freeman) and a young would-be gunman, the Schofield Kid (James Woolvett) to avenge a prostitute whose face has been badly scarred by a cowboy. It is a tale of vengeance in a somber world dominated by violence. The themes of the Old West – law-enforcement, justice, revenge, honor, courage versus cowardice, myth versus reality – are both decoded and debunked. Clint Eastwood has claimed that Unforgiven is his very last Western or more precisely, that it is « the » last Western ever. It is not a preposterous assumption. Unforgiven is indeed steeped in the classic tradition as exemplified by the films of John Ford, but it is also influenced by the baroque style of Sergio Leone or Sam Peckinpah. Hence, Unforgiven may be seen as both a celebration and a reevaluation. There have been many Revisionist Westerns since Unforgiven came out in 1992 and their approach has often been sharp and stimulating. Still, some film directors have been tempted to revisit the genre by resorting to remakes that are often ironic. Such an approach may be seen as detrimental to the survival of the genre as it stifles the creativity of those film directors who can only position themselves in relation to a selection of specific models. Not to mention those western films that borrow from other genres such as action movies. To this day, Unforgiven remains « the » last Western as it is steeped in the classic western while its narrative and aesthetic styles are definitely postmodern.

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Cycnos | Volume 29.2 - 2013 | III Etudes de cas

Lee Marvin, sur le fil du rasoir

Lee Marvin made a name for himself as the arch-villain in many films of the 50s. He was a flamboyant henchman in many westerns, a deadly « heavy » in gangster movies, a gritty soldier in war movies. He was able to outshine many leading actors of the time such as Randolph Scott, Glenn Ford, Marlon Brando or even John Wayne. In the 60s, he became a star in such films as Cat Ballou, The Dirty Dozen, Point Blank, Hell in the Pacific. As an actor, he could be icy and stony, cruel and volatile, always unpredictable. He was the epitome of the tough guy but he was able to give depth to his performances by reaching some inner truth that the spectator could sense and yet not fathom. Hence, there was an underlying tension in his acting that was both compelling and at times unbearable. Like such great actors as James Cagney, Spencer Tracy, Kirk Douglas or Richard Widmark, he was a maverick and belonged to no school of acting. He embodied America’s fascination with violence while, deep down, he carried the burden of his war experience in the South Pacific as a young Marine during World War II.

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