Sapphism on Screen: Lesbian Desire in French and Francophone Cinema

Sapphism on Screen: Lesbian Desire in French and Francophone Cinema

Sapphism on Screen: Lesbian Desire in French and Francophone Cinema

Sapphism on Screen: Lesbian Desire in French and Francophone Cinema

Synopsis

This book sets out to investigate and theorise mediations of lesbian desire in a substantial corpus of films (spanning the period 1936-2002) by male and female directors working in France and also in French-speaking parts of Belgium, Canada, Switzerland and Africa. The corpus is unique innever before having been assembled, and represents a valuable tool not just for researchers but also for university teachers creating courses both on lesbianism in film and on sexuality in French cinema. A fair number of the 89 texts treated are mainstream films which have achieved high critical acclaim and/or high viewing figures: to cite just a few examples, Henri-Georges Clouzot's Quai des orfevres (1947), Louis Malle's Milou en mai (1989), Claude Chabrol's La Ceremonie (1995), Andre Techine's Les Voleurs (1995), and Francois Ozon's Huit femmes (2001). As such, they have contributed to hegemonic constructions of and debate on (female) homosexuality, in a century wherein sexed/ gendered identity, including sexual orientation, has become a preeminent factor in the constitution ofsubjectivity. While such constructions and debate have a French-language specificity, and have been produced in distinct socio-political and cultural contexts, this study also engages in analytical comparisons with relevant anglophone films and their own distinct discursive contexts.

Excerpt

This monograph investigates the traces and spaces of lesbian desire in a large corpus of films directed by both male and female directors, mainly from France but also from French-speaking parts of Belgium, Canada, Switzerland and Africa (Senegal). the absence of reference to other francophone countries is a correlate of the absence within them, at least so far, of directors who have treated inter-female desire. Spanning the period 1936–2002, the corpus numbers eighty-nine texts. a fair number of these are mainstream films that have achieved high critical acclaim and/or high viewing figures – to cite just a few examples: Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Quai des orfèvres (1947), Louis Malle’s Milou en mai (1989), Claude Chabrol’s La Cérémonie (1995), André Téchiné’s Les Voleurs (1995) and François Ozon’s Huit femmes (2001). As such, they have contributed to hegemonic constructions of (female) homosexuality in an episteme wherein sexed and gendered identity, including sexual orientation, has become a pre-eminent factor in the constitution of subjectivity. While such constructions have a French-language specificity and have been produced in distinct socio-political and cultural contexts, the present study will, in its annotated filmography and elsewhere where appropriate, provide points of comparison with relevant anglophone films and their own distinct discursive contexts.

To my knowledge, there are only five book-length studies devoted exclusively to encodings of lesbian desire in cinema: listed chronologically, these are Andrea Weiss’s Vampires and Violets: Lesbians in the Cinema (1992), Tamsin Wilton’s Immortal, Invisible: Lesbians and the Moving Image (1995), Clare Whatling’s Screen Dreams: Fantasizing Lesbians in Film (1997), Shameem Kabir’s Daughters of Desire: Lesbian Representations in Film (1998) and Patricia White’s UnInvited: Classical Hollywood Cinema and Lesbian Representability (1999). Yet all of these texts refer largely to anglophone films. Studies which include but are not devoted to lesbianism in film are only slightly more numerous: Richard Dyer’s Now you See It: Studies on . . .

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