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The quiet revolution: Integration, difference, and the new French women directors: 1990–2000

Corinne D Oster, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Contemporary women's cinema in France has developed within a specific context. The persistence of auteur theory, combined with the absence of Anglo-American film theory, has led to a lack of critical engagement with feminism and feminist film theory by directors and critics alike. Yet, over the past decade, more than one hundred French women directors have released over two hundred films: an unprecedented 14% of all French films distributed in France. This dissertation investigates, against a backdrop of French and Anglo-American theory, the emergence of films directed by women in France between 1990 and 2000. This cross-cultural approach allows me to assess the specificity of these films and to examine how they attempt to reflect cultural change and to transform social and aesthetic awareness. In order to assert their own belonging to society, French women filmmakers present what I suggest is a double dynamic of integration and difference. Whether close to the mainstream or reflecting more personal visions, their films do not appear as a homogeneous group, but rather as individual works with distinctive cinematic voices. Yet they address similar thematic concerns, related to questions of marginality and social difference, and thus introduce the viewer to underrepresented voices such as those of ethnic and sexual minorities, lower class or suburban and provincial groups. Because this marginality is complicated by a desire to belong, these films suggest that their acceptance by the dominant majority imply a change in the mainstream. They thus demand that the “center” represented by traditional cinema shift towards the new type of representation proposed by these directors. As a consequence, the cinematic landscape of French film is gradually shifting towards an aesthetic of film that has, in some sense, become the province of women filmmakers. Detailed analyses of films by Denis, Breillat, Masson, Corsini and others, as well as the study of theoretical questions of cultural specificity hold this work together and help understand how the very lack of critical engagement towards feminist film politics has in fact helped these directors to create a diverse cinema which, in turn, facilitated their extraordinary integration within the mainstream.

Subject Area

Comparative literature|Motion Pictures|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Oster, Corinne D, "The quiet revolution: Integration, difference, and the new French women directors: 1990–2000" (2003). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3110538.