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The French Road Movie

The French Road Movie: Space, Mobility, Identity

Neil Archer
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    The French Road Movie
    Book Description:

    The traditionally American genre of the road movie has been explored and reconfigured in the French context since the later 1960s. Comparative in its approach, this book studies the inter-relationship between American and French culture and cinemas, and in the process considers and challenges histories of the road movie. It combines film history with film theory methodologies, analysing transformations in social, political and film-industrial contexts alongside changing perspectives on the meaning and possibilities of film. At once chronological and thematic in structure,The French Road Movieprovides in each chapter a comprehensive introduction to key themes emerging from the genre in the French context - liberty, identity and citizenship, masculinity, femininity, border-crossing - followed by detailed, innovative and often revisionist readings of the chosen films. Through these readings the author justifies the place of the road genre within French cinema histories and reinvigorates this often neglected and misunderstood area of study.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-771-4
    Subjects: Film Studies, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Note on Translations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction Locating the Road Movie
    (pp. 1-24)

    A man at the wheel of his car loses himself to the sounds of his radio and the sights of the landscape, trying to leave behind him the troubles of his work and family; while another, fuelled by whisky, drives down a midnight highway in a delirium of speed and fluorescent lights. A girl, meanwhile, her boots torn apart at the seams, hitches along dusty roads; while elsewhere, two delinquents steal a car, then blaze a trail through the country’s roads. At the same time and in another place, a desperate young man hijacks a bus, leading it at gunpoint...

  6. One Road to Autopia: Les Valseuses and Le Plein de super
    (pp. 25-38)

    This chapter will consider the road movie as a trans-contextual or parodic form, mainly through an analysis ofLes Valseuses. However, just as it is proved important to reconsider the road movie’s historical flow of influence, it will be equally important in this instance to consider the workings of parody. Parody, I suggest here, is positioned ambivalently between the thing it derides and a fascination with that same thing. The objects of desire that are the perennial targets of parody, in other words, may prove more significant than the act of parodying itself. As I argue in this chapter, this...

  7. Two ‘Capturing Freedom’: Marginality and the Road Movie
    (pp. 39-74)

    The idea of the road movie as a film populated by rebellious, counter-cultural protagonists has come to be a dominant one, especially in light of the New Hollywood films that took to the road. Given the popularity of the road movie within the political and cultural contestation of the Vietnam years, we have come to accept the disaffected or rebellious individuals in films such asEasy RiderorTwo-Lane Blacktopas representations of their particular audience. Identification, then, in its very broadest sense – in terms of a sense of ideological or emotional kinship with the protagonists, a recognition of the...

  8. Three No Place Like Home: Camping it Up in Drôle de Félix
    (pp. 75-88)

    In an early scene in Martineau and Ducastel’sDrôle de Félix,the titular protagonist – a young man living in Dieppe, of mixed white and Arabic parentage, who is also HIV-positive – decides to travel to Marseilles to find his father:a maghrébinimmigrant, it appears, who left Félix and his mother many years ago and whom he never knew as a child. In this sense, the film follows a familiar roadmovie motif of quest and self-discovery. The concept of the road trip as a search for origins or lost connections continues to inform the contemporary American cinema, in films such as...

  9. Four Nowhere Men: Masculinity and the Road Movie
    (pp. 89-118)

    It need not be stressed that, in film-historical terms, the road movie is predominantly a man’s genre. It also goes without saying that, because of this fact, the genre has come in for its fair share of criticism. Much of the discourse around the road genre that focuses on its notionally unreconstructed masculinity (and which gives rise to the generic inversions we witness in a number of road movies) can be seen as part of a wider questioning of the dominant fiction of patriarchy, and therefore also of mainstream cinematic narrative; the two of which come together as a target...

  10. Five From Flânerie to Glânerie: The Possibilities of a ‘Feminine Road Movie’
    (pp. 119-146)

    While my first chapter did not focus explicitly on the question of gender, it is clear with regard to bothSans toit ni loiandBaise-moithat the gendered connotations of the road genre can be exploited in a referential manner, to highlight both the gendered aspects of genre itself, and in turn the dominant conceptions of gender in representation more broadly. Those particular films highlighted the problems inherent to a representation of women within an historically masculine genre. Yet a potentially limiting aspect to both films is that, implicit to their structure of challenge through representation, there is a...

  11. Six Travel and the Transnational Road Movie in the Twenty-First Century
    (pp. 147-168)

    If what we understand by ‘transnational cinema’ is to a large extent still a definition in progress, the connection between mobility and travel within the terms of the transnational has assumed critical currency. To suggest that this is a necessary connection is really to beg the question, in fact, of what transnational means, and more specifically what is at stake in the process of naming it. This is an important task, given that the recent topicality of transnational cinema, as far as its academic study is concerned, is based less on its status as a cinematic trend, than on the...

  12. Afterword ‘Welcome to France!’ The Road Movie and French National Cinema
    (pp. 169-172)

    The aim of this book has been to historicize and understand French cinema’s exploration of the road movie. As I suggested in my introduction, this is not a straightforward task. As the road movie is dif-fi cult to identify in culturally specific terms, and is therefore always a genre in search of its identity, a French road movie is engaged in a constant negotiation of its own physical and conceptual boundaries. In fact, as I hope to have shown, analysing the ‘French road movie’ ultimately begs the question of its ‘French-ness’. If the road movie, to an extent, resists being...

  13. Filmography
    (pp. 173-174)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 175-186)
  15. Index
    (pp. 187-192)