tre et parler: Being and speaking French in Abdellatif Kechiche's L'Esquive (2004) and Laurent Cantet's Entre les murs (2008)

Author: Strand, Dana

Source: Studies in French Cinema, Volume 9, Number 3, September 2009 , pp. 259-272(14)

Publisher: Intellect

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French film-makers have long recognized the primordial importance to the nation's imagined community of the centralized public school system, which, since the early days of the Third Republic, has been viewed as a bulwark of Republican values. In this essay, I discuss the ways in which two recent films, Abdellatif Kechiche's L'Esquive/The Dodge (2004) and Laurent Cantet's Entre les murs/The Class (2008), interrogate the role French schools play in shaping national identity. Both films focus on language as a marker of difference as well as a point of tension, performance and potential subversion, by exploring the respective contrast between the aggressive street French of the respective films' adolescent protagonists with the stultifying bureaucratic discourse of the inflexible educational system (in Entre les murs) and Marivaux's elegant eighteenth century French (in L'Esquive). Accorded significant media attention for their portrayal of the experiences of school-aged youth, both films have thus contributed to the ongoing national debate about what it means to speak, and to be, French (Doran 2007: 498).

Keywords: Cantet; Entre les murs; Kechiche; L'Esquive; education; language; national identity

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Carleton College.

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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  • Studies in French Cinema is the only journal published in English devoted exclusively to French cinema, providing scholars, teachers and students from around the world with a consistent quality of academic investigation across the full breadth of the subject. Contributors scrutinise the cultural context of various works and the diverse stylistic approaches that infuse the visual fabric of this genre.
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