French Costume Drama of the 1950s: Fashioning Politics in Film

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When political and civil unrest threatened France's social order in the 1950s, French cinema provided audiences a seemingly unique form of escapism from such troubled times: a nostalgic look back to the France of the nineteenth and earlier centuries, with costume dramas set in the age of Napoleon, the Belle Epoque, the Revolution and further back still to seventeenth-century swashbuckler adventures and tales of mystery and revenge. Film critics, have routinely dismissed this period and this genre of French cinema, overlooking its importance in terms of political cultural history. French Costume Drama of the 1950s redresses this balance, exploring a diverse range of films including Guitry's Napoleon (1955), Vernay's Le Comte de Monte Cristo (1953), and Le Chanois' Les Miserables (1958) to expose the political cultural paradox between nostalgia for a lost past and the drive for modernization.