Laurent Cantet

Martin O’Shaughnessy
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Laurent Cantet is of one France’s leading contemporary directors. He probes the evolution and fault-lines of contemporary society from the home to the workplace and from the Republican school to globalized consumption more acutely than perhaps any other French film-maker. His films always challenge his characters’ assumptions about their world. But they also make their spectators rethink their position in relation to what they see. This is what makes Cantet such an important film-maker, the book argues. It explores Cantet’s unique working ‘method,’ his use of amateur actors and attempt to develop an egalitarian authorship that allows other voices to be heard rather than subsumed. It discusses his way of constructing films at the uneasy interface of the individual, the group and the broader social context and his recourse to melodramatic strategies and moments of shame to force social tensions into view. It shows how the roots of the well-known later films can be found in his early works. It explores the major fictions from Ressources humaines to the recent Foxfire, Confessions of a Girl Gang. It combines careful close analysis with attention to broader cinematic, social and political contexts while drawing on a range of important theorists from Pierre Bourdieu to Jacques Rancière, Michael Bakhtin and Mary Ann Doane. It concludes by examining how, resolutely contemporary of the current moment, Cantet helps us rethink the possibilities and limits of political cinema in a context in which old resistances have fallen silent and new forms of protest are only emergent.

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‘O'Shaughnessy's book is nuanced, insightful and an important contribution to the study of contemporary political cinema.'
Jessica Livingston, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
H-France Review Vol. 17
March 2017

‘O'Shaughnessy's writing is clear and engaging, and his discussions move supply between filmic material, theoretical reference points and contextual French political and cultural issues. In its elucidation of Cantet's work through a cogent interdisciplinary framework, this is an addition to scholarship on contemporary French cinema that feels as punctual as the film-making with which it engages.'
Rhiannon Harries, University of Cambridge
New Review of Film and Television Studies

‘The publication offers a wide-ranging and scrupulous evaluation of the filmic, the social and the political contexts in which Cantet operates. It conveys with an acute awareness how he has become one of France's most exciting working directors. Indexed, complete with thirteen illustrations, a detailed filmography and suggestions for further reading, O'Shaughnessy's Laurent Cantet will provide a rich trove of information for all those with an interest in contemporary France, and its cinematic output specifically. It should also appeal to those concerned with questions of power relations, political address and sociocultural equality more generally. Staying true to the series editors' intention “to contribute to the promotion of the formal and informal study of French films, and to the pleasure of those who watch them” (x), the author's blend of scholarship and accessibility is fitting for a broad audience. Amplifying the sociological implications of Cantet's cinema, O'Shaughnessy's compelling appraisal also stimulates careful introspection, undoubtedly prompting those who read it to ponder “elle est où, ma place?”'
Ally Lee, University of Warwick
Alphaville Journal of Film and Screen Media, Issue 11

‘This study provides students and scholars of contemporary French social cinema with a useful key to understand the reinvention of political cinema in France since the mid-1990s.'
Audrey Evrard, Fordham University
Modern and Contemporary France

‘While every chapter of the volume charts a compelling path through Cantet's work, the probing critical analysis in the chapter devoted to Vers le sud is particularly rewarding.'
Laura McMahon, Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge
Contmporary French Civilization

‘This is an addition to scholarship on contemporary French cinema that feels as punctual as the film making with which it engages.'
Rhiannon Harries, Department of French/Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge, UK
New Review of Film and Television Studies
March 2016

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