French Queer Cinema: Gay Teen Identity, the Sad Young Man and the Reflexive Self

Authors: Pullen, C.

Conference: Screen Studies Conference

Dates: 1-3 July 2007


This paper focuses on gay male teen identity in recent films from French Queer Cinema. It specifically looks at representations in Les Roseaux Sauvages (Andre Techine, 1994), Presque Rien (Sebastien Lifshitz, 2000) and Ma Vraie Vie a Rouen (Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau, 2001). It particularly examines the visual and discursive power of representations. Also it considers the context of openly gay directors, who potentially offer self reflexive visions of personal identity (Pullen, 2007a; 2007b).

Focusing on the dynamic of Richard Dyer’s (2000) ‘sad young man’, and the potential of Anthony Giddens’ (1992) idea of ‘self reflexivity’, it explores representational issues concerning the framing and construction of identity. This paper explores a reconfiguration of historic connotations surrounding the young gay male as sensual, melancholic and ultimately desirable, and at the same time an impetus towards reflexive self realisation of partnership goals. Evidence of this is seen in Presque Rien where disenchanted love, teenage suicide and pervasive melancholia are connected to gay identity, and conversely in Ma vraie vie à Rouen and Les Roseaux Sauvages where the hopefulness of gay teenage romance is foregrounded. This poses an aesthetic/discursive dynamic which oscillates between connecting to old ways of visualising gay males (desirable bodies, but disavowed lives), to displaying the potential of young gay social lives (revealing individual agency, which might offer hope). This reveals the construction of identity for gay male teens in French cinema as a site of contestation, which connects to the intimate lives and agency of directors, reflecting on diverse visions of personal identity. This offers both progress and reflection.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Christopher Pullen