Poetic realism

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Poetic Realism
Years active 1930s–1940s
Country France
Major figures Jean Renoir, Jean Grémillon, Jean Vigo, Jacques Feyder, Jacques Prévert, Pierre Chenal, Marcel Carné
Influences French Impressionism
Influenced Italian neorealism, French New Wave

Poetic realism was a film movement in France of the 1930s. More a tendency than a movement, Poetic Realism is not strongly unified like Soviet Montage or French Impressionism but were individuals who created this lyrical style. Its leading filmmakers were Pierre Chenal, Jean Vigo, Julien Duvivier, Marcel Carné, the most significant director Jean Renoir. Renoir made a wide variety of films some influenced by the leftist Popular Front group and even a lyrical short feature film.[1] Frequent stars of these films were Jean Gabin, Michel Simon, Simone Signoret, and Michèle Morgan.

Poetic realism films are "recreated realism", stylised and studio bound, rather than approaching the "socio-realism of the documentary".[2] They usually have a fatalistic view of life with their characters living on the margins of society, either as unemployed members of the working class or as criminals. After a life of disappointment, the characters get a last chance at love, but are ultimately disappointed again and the films frequently end with disillusionment or death. The overall tone often resembles nostalgia and bitterness. They are "poetic" because of a heightened aestheticism that sometimes draws attention to the representational aspects of the films. Though these films were weak in the production sector, French cinema did create a high proportion of influential films largely due to the talented people in the industry in the 1930s who were working on them. The most popular set designer was Lazare Meerson. Major French composers that worked on the Poetic Realism cinemas were Georges Auric, Arthur Honegger, Josef Kosma, and Maurice Jaubert. Also, screenwriters who contributed to many of the films were Charles Spaak and Jacques Prévert.[3] The movement had a significant impact on later film movements, in particular Italian neorealism (many of the neorealists, most notably Luchino Visconti, worked with poetic realist directors before starting their own careers as film critics and directors) and the French New Wave.

Notable examples[edit]

Forerunners of Poetic Realism

Leading filmmakers mid 1930s


  1. ^ Thompson, Kristin, Bordwell,David. (2010)"Film History: An Introduction, Third Edition". New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies. p. 265-268
  2. ^ Susan Hayward Cinema studies: the key concepts, Routledge, 2006, p.151
  3. ^ Thompson, Kristin, Bordwell,David. (2010)"Film History: An Introduction, Third Edition". New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies. p. 265-268