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Open Access Transgression and Money on Screen: 1970s and 1980s French Films on High Finance

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This article addresses the issue of transgression by looking at the taboo of money in cinema and how its representation in some popular 1970s and 1980s French films on high finance most often links, paradoxically, the showing of money to terrible consequences. Showing money, rather than just signaling an object of everyday life, is seen as a step too far in the narrative, a potential lethal tool, symbolizing all the ills of the characters and determining somehow the rest of the story. French cinema of the 1970s and early 1980s offers some significant mainstream films centering on the world of money and high finance, at a time when the value of money, since the severance of the gold exchange standard in 1971, is not aligned to a higher value (gold) and only refers to itself. In these films about the invisibility of large-scale transactions, money visible on screen, usually as banknotes, is bad money and refers to a transgression of some kind, becomes a mark of illegality. The article offers an understanding both of transgression and money in film through a study of etymology, using the writings of Michel Foucault and Georges Bataille, as well as the work of Jean-Joseph Goux on the meanings and history of the word money as both moneta, a tool of exchange with no moral content, and pecunia, or money as hoarding, a notion loaded with moral connotations.

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Keywords: FRENCH FILMS; GOLD-EXCHANGE STANDARD; GOUX, JEAN-JOSEPH; HIGH FINANCE; MONEY IN FILM; TRANSGRESSION

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 31, 2012

More about this publication?
  • The Irish Journal of French Studies is an annual international refereed journal published by the Association des Études Françaises et Francophones d'Irlande. Articles in English, French or Irish are welcomed on any aspect of research in the area of French and Francophone culture, society, literature and thought. Articles published within the last two years are available free online to members and may be purchased by non-members. All other articles are available on an open access basis.

    Please note that the Print ISSN listed for the journal on this website applies to volumes 1 to 10, and part of volume 16. All other volumes are published, in their entirety, on-line only.

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