Annie Fourcaut
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On the origins of the banlieue film, 1930–80
in Screening the Paris suburbs
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Retracing the development of working-class suburbia from the 1930s to the 1980s, this overview of French suburb films points to the capital’s mythical, derelict ‘zone’ as a creative matrix from which subsequent production would draw its primary social types and themes. Home to rag-pickers, streetwalkers and petty criminals, the zone outlying the Paris fortifications supplied powerful images and tropes that reinforced the perceived division between city centre and suburb. Against the backdrop of the transformation of the sordid ‘black belt’ of the interwar zone into the post-war ‘red belt’, Fourcaut details the layered quality of the suburban filmic imaginary through reference to scores of mainstream narrative films. Each period supplies its own representational codes to fulfil relatively stable functions of plot and character while actively taking stock of the changing material and demographic realities of greater Paris. Themes of escapism, poverty and dereliction point toward the ethnically diverse banlieue film that would emerge in the 1980s and most significantly in the mid-1990s.

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Screening the Paris suburbs

From the silent era to the 1990s

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