French and Francophone Studies
Studies in French Cinema
Kechiche, Cantet, language, education, national identity, Entre les murs, L’Esquive
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 schoolaged youth, both films have thus contributed to the ongoing national debate about what it means ‘to speak, and to be, French’ (Doran 2007: 498).
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Strand, Dana. "Etre et parler: Being and Speaking French in Abdellatif Kechiches LEsquive and Laurent Cantets Entre les murs." Studies in French Cinema 9.3 (2009): 259-273. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1386/sfc.9.3.259/1. Accessed via Faculty Work. French. Carleton Digital Commons. https://digitalcommons.carleton.edu/fren_faculty/1
The definitive version is available at https://doi.org/10.1386/sfc.9.3.259/1