Sulfurous French Cinema and the Political Life/Style of Gas

Submitted by tverleyen on

Brian Jacobson - Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies and History, University of Toronto

Friday May 18, 2018  4:30pm

Location: Room 307, Cobb Hall (5811 S. Ellis Ave)

This paper is about French cinema’s contribution to the richly agonistic visual politics of French petroleum. It focuses on the two decades after the 1951 discovery of a substantial deposit of sulfur-rich natural gas in the French south—a discovery that had, by the early 1960s, transformed the nation’s economy and its energy politics. Using a series of industrial shorts produced to promote this gas in the 1950s and a film with seemingly little to do with the gas, Roger Vadim’s 1966 adaptation of Emile Zola’s 1871 novel La curée, the paper traces the material and semiotic energy exchanges that entangled the worlds of French art, technology, and science in the early years of the “two cultures” debate.

Brian Jacobson is a historian of film and modern visual culture. His research spans the history and theory of moving image media, the history and philosophy of technology, environmental history, and art and architectural history. His writing has been published in venues including The Atlantic, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Film Quarterly, Screen, Framework, Film History, and History and Technology.

Current projects include a monograph about the visual culture of energy in post-WWII France, an edited book about film studios around the world, and articles generally concerned with the visual and material culture of energy and the environment.


Sponsored by the Counter Cinema/Counter Media Project at the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality.