In the 1950s France, which had just shaken off the yoke of Nazi occupation, struggled against independence movements in its own territories of Algeria and Indochina. The Cold War was heating up, and the tide of Americanization was rolling across Europe. Brigitte Bardot was on the movie screens, while the filmmakers of the New Wave waited in the wings. Philosophical crusaders Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir were the reigning couple of Paris, and American jazz players filled the city's nightclubs.
The artistic and intellectual movements that were fermented in France in the 1950s, as well as the historic events that inspired them, will be examined in a conference being sponsored by the French department on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 12 and 13. Titled "The French Fifties: Film, Literature, History, Art History," the conference will feature scholars from the United States, France and Canada. It will be held in the Yale University Art Gallery, 1111 Chapel St., and is free and open to the public.
Highlighting the event will be a keynote address by French filmmaker Agnès Varda, often called "the grandmother of the New Wave," at 4:30 p.m. on Friday. A reception will follow the talk at 6 p.m.
Initially a still photographer, Ms. Varda made her first feature film, "La Point courte," in 1954. Her other works include "Cléo de 5 à 7," "Jacquot de Nantes" and the internationally renowned "Sans toit ni loi" ("The Vagabond"). These four movies have been featured in the French department's accompanying film series on Ms. Varda's best-known works, which began on Sept. 2 and 4. Still to be screened are "Jacquot de Nantes," which will be shown on Wednesday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m. in Davies Auditorium, Becton Center, 15 Prospect St.; and "La Pointe courte," which will be shown at 11 a.m. on Friday in the auditorium of the Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall St. Admission to both films is free.
"The French Fifties" will formally begin at 1:30 p.m. on Friday with opening remarks by the conference's organizer, Susan Weiner, assistant professor of French. A session titled "Questions of Periodization," 2-4 p.m., will be followed by Ms. Varda's talk.
Saturday's program will include three sessions: "Thinking About Culture," 9 -10:30 a.m.; "Nationalism and Decolonization," 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; and France/USA," 2-4 p.m.
The conference was made possible by support from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.