From Liberation to the New Wave: France in the Postwar Era, 1945-1962

Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco

Moderator: Julia Trilling, (Former Professor of Architecture/Urban Studies at Harvard University, Currently Senior Research Specialist at UC Berkeley)

Friday, February 20, 8:00 – 10:00 pm


Lecture  The Remaking of Postwar France: From the Fourth Republic to de Gaulle
In this keynote lecture, Irwin Wall (Professor of History Emeritus, UC Riverside) will describe and analyze the rise of France from its postwar devastation to a renewed position of power and prestige in the diplomatic world of the 1960s, when Charles de Gaulle dared to challenge the basic premises of American cold war policies.

Performance  Saluting Parisian Bebop of Bud Powell and Kenny Clarke
The Larry Vuckovich Trio and guests (Larry Vuckovich, piano; Stjepko “Steve” Gut, trumpet; Isla Eckinger, bass; and Omar Clay, drums) will perform a collection of jazz and bebop standards, showcasing the evolution of music taking place in Paris after World War II.

Saturday, February 21, 10:00 am – 4:30 pm


Lecture  French Postwar Culture and the Critique of Everyday Life

Two historical processes dominated Postwar France: the loss of France’s colonies and its adoption of more American-style patterns of consumption in the midst of an accelerated state-led modernization effort. Kristin Ross (Professor of Comparative Literature, New York University) will examine how decolonization coincided, then, for the French, with what some social theorists were called a new “colonization of everyday life.”

Lecture  The New Look: Haute Couture in Postwar France
In a country recovering from the privations of war, the rich fabrics and full flaring skirts of French designers, such as “New Look” originator Christian Dior, held great significance as a cultural symbol of luxury and prosperity. Melissa Leventon, former curator of textile arts at the DeYoung Museum, will discuss postwar French fashion, including the work of Chanel, Dior, Balenciaga and Yves St. Laurent.

Performance  L’air de Paris
The Baguette Quartette will offer a taste of Café music as was performed in Postwar Paris.

Lecture The French Economy and the New Europe: Between Market and State
In the first two decades after the Liberation in 1944, Paris once again became one of the preeminent cultural capitals of the world, exporting trend-setting fashion, filmmaking and literary style to the United States and a revived Europe. John Zysman (Co-Director, Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy, UC Berkeley) will explore the postwar revival and modernization of the French economy.

Lecture  The Cannes Film Festival, Cosmopolitanism and the Quatre Cents Coups
The key to the Cannes Festival’s success in 1950s France resided in its promotion as chic, hip and cosmopolitan as opposed to merely French. At the same time, the Festival also launched two of the most exported French products of the era: Brigitte Bardot and the French New Wave (Nouvelle Vague). In this lecture, Vanessa Schwartz (Department of History, University of Southern California) will describe the important role played by Cannes in creating an international film culture after the war.

Panel Discussion 
From liberation to the new wave: Is there a lasting impact of postwar french politics and culture? Julia Trilling moderates.

Presented in cooperation with the Consul General of France, the Alliance Francaise de San Francisco, and the Mechanics’ Institute Library.


Melissa Leventon, Curatrix
Kristin Ross, Comparative Literature, NYUniversity
Vanessa Schwartz, History, USC
Julia Trilling, Design, UC Berkeley and NYUniversity
Lary Vuckovich musician
Irwin Wall, History, UC Riverside
John Zysman, Political Science, UC Berkeley