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The Sound of the Nouvelle Vague: Politics and Conflict in the Film Music of Antoine Duhamel


This thesis argues that composed film music can serve a political function in the cinema. Antoine Duhamel’s film scores for Jean-Luc Godard’s films Pierrot le fou (1965) and Weekend (1967) serves a political purpose as misdirection and subterfuge to avoid censorship, and as a highlight to gesture sonically towards political issues without words. This study uses Nicholas Cook’s notion of contestation to explain how divergent musical styles from high European modernism to French chanson can function counter than their normative uses. Historical events such as the Algerian War, French post-war economic growth and consumption, and trends in musical aesthetics are considered alongside with Duhamel’s scores and Godard’s films. The consideration of world history and musical aesthetics in film music studies expands on works by Gorbman, Chion, McMahon, Brown, and Silverman and speaks to the current gap in methodology on treating film and film music as an open text influenced by national and global affairs. This work also explores how aspects of music composition such as dissonance and instrumentation can speak to larger issues of nationalism, sexual politics, and capitalism.

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