Commissioned by the Popular Front in anticipation of French elections, made by a collective of Leftist French filmmakers headed by Jean Renoir, Life Is Ours—actually, the title is variously translated, for instance, The Life Is with Us, Life Is for Us—combines newsreels, lectures, staged vignettes, and songs. (We hear at the conclusion the “Internationale.”) Its agitprop directly influenced Jean-Luc Godard’s filmmaking. The film was commercially released in 1969, that is, following the events of May 1968. During his postwar conservative makeover, to help ensure a viable renewed career at home, Renoir (who also appears in it) dismissed his involvement with the film—much as Pabst downplayed his role in the Third Reich’s film industry!
In one sequence, Jean Dasté plays a schoolteacher, as he had in Jean Vigo’s Zéro de conduite (1933), who tells his class about the concentration of national wealth in the hands of a relatively few families and about capitalism’s management of employment/unemployment. Thus a real adult audience indirectly receives the lecture that the “stage” students directly receive—an attempt to educate French citizenry about sociopolitical forces arrayed against it, so that ordinary people can better oppose these on the basis of their own welfare and the welfare of their children. Brilliant.
Unemployment indeed seems to be the principal issue on which the Left focused for the upcoming French elections. In another vignette, an unemployed man considers joining a fascist group before another alliance, the Young Communists, rescues him from this fate. U.S. Americans will recall the comparable presidential claim that Robert F. Kennedy and, after his assassination, George Wallace made on segments of the disaffected American electorate. To ideologues, politics may be clear-cut. For ordinary voters, it can be up for grabs.