Download French Queer Cinema. Nick Rees-Roberts PDF

TitleFrench Queer Cinema. Nick Rees-Roberts
ISBN 139780748634194
CategoryArts - Film
File Size732.6 KB
Total Pages177
Table of Contents
1. Beur Masculinity and Queer Fantasy
2. Down and Out: Immigrant Poverty and Queer Sexuality
3. Mauvais Genres: Transgender and Gay Identity
4. Queer Sexuality, AIDS and Loss
5. The Emergence of Queer DIY Video
Document Text Contents
Page 1

Jacket image: Saïd, 1999, Photographie peinte et encadrée par les artistes, pièce unique 88 x 69,5
cm / cadre : 106 x 87,6 cm © Pierre et Gilles. Courtesy Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris
Cover Design: Barrie Tullett

‘Nick Rees-Roberts’ volume is a valuable addition to our understanding
of post-modern French culture and will be of great value to students
and researchers alike.’
Professor Lawrence R. Schehr, University of Illinois

‘Nick Rees-Roberts provides a comprehensive overview of queer
cinematic production in France and tracks its troubling of national
and sexual identities. This highly readable, up-to-date study will
provide stimulating and invaluable material for all those interested in
contemporary French cinema and issues around gender and sexuality.’
Professor Bill Marshall, University of Stirling

French Queer Cinema looks at queer self-representation in
contemporary auteur film and experimental video in France. Whilst
there is growing research on representations of queer sexualities in
France, this is the first comprehensive study of the cultural formation
and critical reception of contemporary queer film and video. French
Queer Cinema addresses the socio-political context informing both
queer DIY video and independent gay cinema, including films such as
Patrice Chéreau’s Ceux qui m’aiment prendront le train, Olivier Ducastel
and Jacques Martineau’s Drôle de Félix, François Ozon’s Le Temps qui
reste and André Téchiné’s Les Témoins. Taking up the recent Anglo-
American attention to queer migration, the book looks at gay fantasies
of Arab (beur) men, as well as beur self-representation in Europe’s
fastest-selling gay DV porn production Citébeur. Further chapters cover
transgender dissent, and the effects of AIDS and loss on the formation
of gay identities.

Nick Rees-Roberts is Lecturer in French, University of Bristol.

ISBN 978 0 7486 3418 7
Edinburgh University Press
22 George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LF

French Queer Cinema
Nick Rees-Roberts

French Queer Cinema
Nick Rees-Roberts









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boyish bravado is demolished however the moment she shamefully hears her
mother calling for her – Ludo has met Chris(-tine), the generic tomboy. At her
fancy-dress birthday party, Chris is paraded, in drag as it were, as an impres-
sively butch-looking Queen, with Ludo complementing her as a musketeer.
Chris’s admiration for Ludo’s apparel is such that she forces him to exchange
costumes, to the fury of Hanna who lashes out at Ludo, and chases after him,
climbing a ladder propped up against the billboard, through the door into
Pam’s fantasy world. To be sure, Hanna’s fantasy enlightenment – she figura-
tively enters her child’s psyche and finally accepts Ludo’s situation – is a rushed
attempt to tie up the loose strands of the family drama. Yet, as the camera pans
out over the party, as the children run off in a chain, Ludo tagging along, the
unsettling play-out music and the dark clouds overhead undercut any coherent
idea of a happy ending, or at least suggest that a resolution to gender is
inevitably provisional.

From Transgender to AIDS

Darren Waldron has argued that mainstream images of male homosexuality
and gay forms of transgender such as camp and drag have recently revived
the popular temporary transvestite narrative, a staple ingredient of popular
comedy (Waldron 2006). Drawing on Marie-Hélène Bourcier’s notion of
‘passive visibility’ in which queer subcultures are represented by the main-
stream (Bourcier 1998), Waldron looks at comic narratives of gay passing in
box-office hits such as Pédale douce (Aghion, 1996) and Le Placard (Veber,
2001).7 Such passive visibility of queer/transgender subjects is, in the French
cinematic context, dominated by La Cage aux folles (Molinaro, 1978), which
was also scripted by Veber from a stage play by Jean Poiret, which had been lit-
erally trashed by a group of gay activists furious at Michel Serrault’s grotesque
performance of the trans-queen Zaza Napoli.8 Overshadowed by this hugely
popular lampooning of gay transgender (followed by two limp sequels in the
1980s), underground films (examples of active queer visibility) such as Spanish-
expatriate filmmaker Adolpho Arrieta’s Les Intrigues de Sylvia Couski (1974)
have disappeared from commercial circulation and critical interest. A notable
exception is Richard Dyer’s passing reference to the film in his account of gay
political underground film production in France in the 1970s (Dyer 1990:
223–7). Arrieta’s film was made in 1973 around the dissolution of Les
Gazolines (the drag element of the FHAR), whose members notably included
legendary chanteuse Marie-France and activist Hélène Hazera.

AIDS activism is perhaps the most powerful example of how camp and drag
have been used as political weapons in the French context to contest the inac-
tivity of the state in matters of health-care, particularly the social exclusion of
people with AIDS.9 Cleews Vellay, president (présidente in the feminine) of Act
Up from 1992 until shortly before his death in 1994 at the age of thirty, was
one such ‘folle atteinte’. A documentary film produced by Canal Plus and



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Artefilms in 1995, made by Act Up activist Brigitte Tijou, Portrait d’une prési-
dente, is a montage of archive material (AIDS benefits, Act Up’s weekly meeting,
Vellay’s filmed kidnapping of health minister Philippe Douste Blazy) together
with accounts from friends and fellow activists, and private interviews at the
time of Vellay’s presidency. The press dossier accompanying the release of
Tijou’s film describes its subject in the following terms:

Cleews was not a hero and never wanted to be an AIDS star. However, he
was well aware that his own personal experience revealed quite well the
forms of injustice and exclusion brought on by the epidemic.
(Cleews n’était pas un héros et n’a jamais voulu être une star du sida. Il a
toujours eu conscience en revanche que son expérience personnelle
révélait assez bien de quelles injustices et de quelles formes d’exclusion
l’épidémie a pu se nourrir’.)10

The first sequence in Tijou’s portrait shows Vellay coming on stage into the
glaring spotlight amid the cheers of encouragement from supporters at some
AIDS benefit or other, camply trying to hush the audience so he can introduce
himself. Tijou splices her presentation of Vellay’s background – telling of early
family rejection, comically recounting how he came out to his father by
announcing that his boyfriend was a transsexual – with a traditional docu-
mentary use of archive material such as school photos, reports and leaving
cards. Tijou films Vellay at home without artistic artifice, with only the naked
camera on him, giving the illusion of an intimate conversation with the specta-
tor or director.

The political sequences, Vellay in combat with government representatives,
show how agilely he used his own camp rhetoric, his personality, honesty and
effeminacy to disable the political order of things. The film’s press release indi-
cates the importance of Vellay’s effeminacy to his political approach, describing
him as undoubtedly the most outrageous queen among the Act Up activists.
Tijou’s portrait is presented as a sketch of a president whose political practice was
deliberately playful. The activists interviewed point out that Vellay was so effec-
tive at getting ministers to listen up because he refused to adapt to the formal,
impersonal, low-key machismo of the political scene. He had no qualms in
informing Henri Paul of the Ministry of Health of his dire material straits, hoping
that his truthful account of hardship would pierce the distancing effect of gov-
ernment jargon. Tijou cuts in scenes of Vellay in action with his camp star-turns
at Act Up meetings and accounts of his hysteria in AIDS associative meetings,
where he systematically demanded attention by banging his rings on the table.

Vellay’s prize moment in Tijou’s film is his intricate manipulation of health
minister Douste Blazy: whilst activists cause chaos in front of the ministry, Tijou
films a composed Vellay seemingly undaunted by the presence of the haughty
minister, who is impatient to wrap up the meeting, business as usual. The pres-
ence of the camera, as Lestrade observes (Lestrade 2000: 115–16), is a weapon



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Vangelo secondo Metteo, Il, 97–8
Vassé, Claire, 108, 109
Veber, Francis, 79
Vecchiali, Paul, 107
Vellay, Cleews, 79–81
Vendredi soir, 59
Vennemani, Jean-Michel, 92
Verdura, Hugo di, 146
Vérité si je mens!, La, 45
Verow, Todd, 143
Viala, Sébastien, 82
Victor, 9
Vie à rebours, La, 29
Vie en face, La, 73
Vie et mort de Pier Paolo Pasolini,

Vie normale, La, 45
Villepin, Dominique de, 50
Vincendeau, Ginette, 93, 96, 97, 111,

120, 123
Vincent, Hélène, 76

Vivre me tue, 26
Voleurs, Les, 8

Waldron, Darren, 6, 47, 79
Warhol, Andy, 53
Waters, John, 9, 133, 143
Watney, Simon, 3, 4, 87
Wesh Cousin, 13, 19, 22
Wild Side, 1, 5, 53–64, 145
Wilson, Emma, 7–8

Yeux brouillés, Les, 130

Zap les Superhé(té)ros, 142
Zapatero, José Luis Rodríguez, 43
Zem, Roschdy, 24, 46
Zéraoui, Fouad, 17, 82
Zidane: un portrait du 21e siècle, 15
Zidane, Zinedine, 15
Zidi, Malik, 9, 40
Zingg, Viviane, 121



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