Inside CAS

College of Arts and Sciences


Paule Delsol and Outside the French New Wave

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Written by Joshua Jones ’17; Photo by Jamie Moncrief

Dr. Tim Palmer, professor in the Department of Film Studies, is what many consider to be a renaissance man, someone who is well-rounded in many facets of life. 

Currently Palmer is working on a new project called Drift: Paule Delsol and Outside the French New Wave. When asked about his inspiration, he replied, “I’m a film historian primarily, working in archives, bringing the cultural past back into the present. I have an insatiable curiosity for the figures and works that have been shut out, who’ve vanished from the record. History is quicksand, and the more we forget, the more we don’t challenge or put pressure on that official record, the more we decline in the present day, the more we go around in circles and don’t advance.” He says, “We have to keep our minds sharp, alert to where the blind spots are, otherwise the lies don’t get called out, and weak or deceitful narratives reign as facts: the way things are.” Palmer learned these life lessons as he has traveled all over the world and has gained a perspective of the world that is rather rare and difficult to grasp.

Palmer believes that researching and working on projects outside of the classroom will benefit students as well as the Department of Film Studies. While finding it challenging to find information on Paule Delsol, his research finally led him to an unpublished cache of her 1950’s and 1960’s letters in the “Bibliotheque du Film” archives in Paris. He worked tirelessly to find out more about this woman he described as “an unheard voice, a dazzling, combative and energetic personality”. He located a feature film by Delsol entitled La Derive, (English, Drift). Palmer believes this film and its message about a “mercurial woman who drifts, from Paris to the south” did not receive the attention it deserved as a major contributor during the revolution of the cinema in the French New Wave.

The film has been a huge inspiration to Palmer. In fact, he stated that, “this project, for me, was an opportunity to contribute to that, as Delsol had contributed herself. So I’m starting to screen and teach La Derive now, to bring it all back to life.”

Palmer believes the “lost history” of Delsol’s voice was “urgent and contemporary and spoke passionately to where we are today” with regard to the continuing trend in the 21st century of “shutting women out of creative leading positions” in the cinematic world. 

He says that “university should be inspiring; it should sow seeds that sustain lifetimes. History isn’t about the past but about nourishing the present, making us all, hopefully, motivated to do better.”