"What does queer signify in twenty-first-century French film? How are lesbian, gay, and trans* characters represented on screen? The book responds to these questions via the cinema of five emblematic directors: Jacques Martineau, Olivier Ducastel, Alain Guiraudie, Sébastien Lifshitz, and Céline Sciamma. From gay sex at a nudist beach to lesbian love at a high school swimming pool, from gay road trips across France to transgender journeys through time, the films treated in this study raise a host of key questions about queerness in this century. From award-winners such as Stranger by the Lake and Portrait of a Lady on Fire to the lesser-known Family Tree and Open Bodies, these productions gesture toward an optimistic future for LGBTQ characters and for the world in which they live, love, and desire. Comprehensive in scope, Queer cinema in contemporary France traces the development of queerness across the directors’ careers, from their earliest, often unknown works to their later, major films. Whether they are white, beur, or black, whether they are lesbian, gay, trans*, or queer, the characters open up oppressive notions of hetero- and cisnormativity to something new, something unexpected, and something oriented towards the future.
This book introduction introduces a corpus of French films from the twenty-first century that position queerness as optimistic, forward-looking, and positive and that open up solidified notions of hetero- or cisnormativity. The relation of these films to the French cultural context is also treated.
The films to date of Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau are studied in this chapter, from Jeanne et le garçon formidable to Haut perchés. Key themes include the representation of HIV-AIDS, coming out and the closet, and gay futurity.
The films of Lifshitz are studied, beginning with the premise that a photographic impulse permeates the director’s films, from his early films with beur characters to his later documentaries about LGBTQ subjects.
Sciamma’s corpus is studied from the perspective of queer representation, from her first film where coming-of-age and coming to see how lesbianism is represented cannot be separated, to Portrait of a Lady on Fire where issues of historical representation take centre stage.