Lunchtime Seminar: Gemma King on Contemporary French Cinema

Contemporary French cinema and the langue de passage

Thursday 13 October, 1pm Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

Since the advent of sound cinema, the French language has been used to bolster conceptions of national identity in French film. Yet as multilingualism has become increasingly prominent in cinema, the representation of the French language has begun to shift. Having once occupied a hegemonic position as the sole language of value in most French films, French is being increasingly decentred to make way for a multitude of other languages, ranging from rival lingua francas like English to regional languages like Corsican and the languages of former French colonies, such as Arabic, Wolof and Bambara.

This paper proposes a new term for understanding the role national languages can play in film, using vocabulary from Abdellatif Kechiche’s 2007 film La Graine et le mulet to construct the idea of the langue de passage; a language of ‘passing’ or ‘passage’. In contemporary films about migration like Dheepan (Jacques Audiard, 2015) and Welcome (Philippe Lioret, 2009), French is a langue de passage; a language of critical, but temporary, value. These films thus resituate discourse on language and identity in French cinema and are responsive to the world within, across and beyond French borders.

Gemma King joined the ANU as Lecturer in French Studies in July 2016. Her research explores the relationship between language use and social power in French and Francophone cinema. She completed her PhD as a Cotutelle degree at the University of Melbourne and the Sorbonne Nouvelle: Paris 3 in 2015 and her book Decentring France: Multilingualism and Power in Contemporary French Cinema is forthcoming with Manchester University Press.

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