The great American film critic Manny Farber memorably declared space to be the most dramatic stylistic entity in the visual arts. He posited three primary types of space in fiction cinema: the field of the screen, the psychological space of the actor, and the area of experience and geography that the film covers. This book brings together five French directors who have established themselves as among the most exciting and significant working today: Bruno Dumont, Robert Guediguian, Laurent Cantet, Abdellatif Kechiche, and Claire Denis. It proposes that people think about cinematographic space in its many different forms simultaneously (screenspace, landscape, narrative space, soundscape, spectatorial space). Through a series of close and original readings of selected films, it posits a new 'space of the cinematic subject'. Dumont's attraction to real settings and locality suggests a commitment to realism. New forms and surfaces of spectatorship provoke new sensations and engender new kinds of perception, as well as new ways of understanding and feeling space. The book interrogates Guediguian's obsessive portrayal of one particular city, Marseilles. Entering into the spaces of work and non-work in Cantet's films, it asks what constitutes space and place within the contemporary field of social relations. The book also engages with cultural space as the site of social integration and metissage in the work of Kechiche, his dialogues with diasporic communities and highly contested urban locales. Denis's film work contains continually shifting points of passage between inside and outside, objective and subjective, in the restless flux.
Framing space and social exclusion in the films of Laurent Cantet
James S. Williams
framing space and social exclusion
in the films of LaurentCantet
Space and being in contemporary French cinema
Space and social exclusion in LaurentCantet
Acoustic space has the basic stucture of a sphere whose focus
or centre is simultaneously everywhere and whose margin is
What am I doing here?
(Ellen in Vers le sud)
Place, power, politics
Cantet is one of the most rigorous and acute exponents of social
space working in French cinema today. All space within his work is
presented as socially constructed and
raw energy off screen, into the realm of ‘the
Class war and family conflict in Ressources
humaines ( Human Resources , 1999) refers back to the political
counter-cinema of the late sixties and early seventies, and in particular to
Godard’s Tout va bien (1972, see chapter 2 )
in its focus on a factory occupation and on the issues of
need to be fully alert to its
intricacies of spatial form, dimension and valency. To maintain these
two broad lines of spatial enquiry in productive, mutual tension will
constitute in itself an experience of difference and relationality that
defines the nature of space in cinema.
The five contemporary French filmmakers explored in Space and
Being in Contemporary French Cinema – Bruno Dumont, Robert
Guédiguian, LaurentCantet, Abdellatif Kechiche and Claire Denis
– address the specific effects of reality and lived experience on the
human perception of space and time
mapping of the metropolis is not
really about geophysical space at all, for it is thoroughly predetermined
by his understanding of the irremediability of political time. In this
Williams, Space and being in contemporary French cinema.indd 285
Space and being in contemporary French cinema
closed world, there is rarely any possibility of spontaneous urban
encounter or spatial surprise.
LaurentCantet’s method is very different in that he reconceives
the space/frame relation by exposing and undermining the logic of
the frame frontally, sideways
Strand, D. (2009). ‘Être et parler: Being and Speaking French in Abdellatif
Kechiche’s L’Esquive (2004) and LaurentCantet’s Entre les murs (2008),’
Studies in French Cinema 9(3), 259–72.
Swamy, V. (2007). ‘Marivaux in the Suburbs: Reframing Language in Kechiche’s
L’Esquive (2003),’ Studies in French Cinema, 7(1), 57–68.
Tarr, C. (2005). Reframing Difference: Beur and Banlieue Filmmaking in France,
Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Tarr, C. (2011). ‘Class Acts: Education, Gender, and Integration in Recent
French Cinema,’ in S. Durmelat and V. Swamy
. The desire to
characterise and construct the history of contemporary French film is
already asserting the twin dominance of the divergent threads of a
return to political realism and the foregrounding of explicitly
political content (LaurentCantet, the Dardennes, Bruno Dumont) and a
radically haptic cinema of sensation (Claire Denis, Philippe
Grandrieux). The oppositional exclusivity of such threads
paralysis’ and ‘playful repetition’ which, according to Berlant, ‘has become a
convention of representing the impasse’ in the 1990s ‘cinema of precarity’ that
she discusses.31 In fact, as she demonstrates, this ‘cinema of precarity’ deals
specifically with the experience of living in an ‘impasse’.
In her analyses of films by the Dardennes brothers and LaurentCantet,
Berlant focuses mainly on the way ‘[p]eople are destroyed’ and ‘discouraged’
in this impasse, and how they try ‘maintaining … things’ despite the difficulties that they encounter. She acknowledges
correspondingly polycentric French and global spaces.
Films such as Polisse (Maïwenn 2011), Entre les murs (LaurentCantet 2008), Un prophète (Jacques Audiard 2009), Dheepan (Jacques
Audiard 2015), Welcome (Philippe Lioret 2009), La Graine et le mulet
(Abdellatif Kechiche 2007), London River (Rachid Bouchareb 2009)
and Des hommes et des dieux (Xavier Beauvois 2010) thus re-envision
the role multilingualism has to play in contemporary French culture.
In her analysis of beur and other multicultural French films, Carrie
mother’s native language of Tamazight,
74 Decentring France
Figure 6 Entre les murs (LaurentCantet, Haut et Court)
Souleymane is called on to interpret, and thus to facilitate the hearing
which may lead to his expulsion. Processes of translation and multilingualism suddenly become crucial to the scene. Indeed, without
Souleymane’s interpretation, the committee meeting cannot continue.
In the early stages of the meeting, Souleymane whispers in Tama
zight to his mother, interpreting the French-language conversation