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Hats, Hotels, Mayhem and Marx: Film, Theatre and the Cinematic Collaborations of the Groupe Octobre, 1932–1936
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Dr Sarah Leahy
Modern & Contemporary France
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The Groupe Octobre, an agit-prop theatre group formed in April 1932 and disbanded in summer 1936, holds an arguably mythical place in French film history. Though the primary activities of this troupe were theatrical, it provided the formative ground for cinema actors, screen-witers, directors, set designers, and film musicians, reflecting the close relationship between film and theatre which had evolved throughout the silent period. However, the coming of sound in 1928-9 opened up new debates surrounding this relationship, notably with regard to the critically despised genre of ‘filmed theatre’ (Vincendeau 2004, pp. 141-42). This article, then, proposes to look at two cinematic collaborations of the Groupe Octobre, L’Affaire est dans le sac (P. Prévert, 1932) and L’Hôtel du libre échange (M. Allégret, 1934), to examine how their contribution – coming from the distinctly alternative tradition of revolutionary workers’ theatre yet also performing in mainstream films – reflects a more fruitful and diverse relationship between theatre and film in the early 1930s than has generally been critically acknowledged hitherto.
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