Straight from the Heart

Men and Masculinities in Alice Diop's Vers la tendresse (2016)

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Bruno Levasseur Honorary Research Fellow, University of Roehampton, UK

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Imogen Long Visiting Research Fellow, University of Leeds, UK

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This article considers how recent French documentary filmmaking has engaged with the representation of masculinities in some of Paris's most emblematic banlieues. Focusing on Alice Diop's sixth film Vers la tendresse (2016), which brings to the screen testimonies of straight and gay men from La Courneuve, Aulnay-sous-Bois, and Montreuil, this article examines how the documentary form offers new ways to interrogate men's experiences of love and relationships in the French peripheries. Drawing on an interview with the filmmaker, this article argues that Diop's conversation-based performative documentary filmmaking, with its detaching of image from sound, destabilizes viewer assumptions and challenges cultural clichés about men and emotion. By emphasizing the universal characteristics of the men's personal accounts, this article suggests that Diop's film reclaims the banlieues from the stereotype of a marginal space of “otherness” and offers instead singular narratives, voicing poignant portraits of masculinities that resonate widely in twenty-first century France.

Contributor Notes

Bruno Levasseur is honorary research fellow at the University of Roehampton in London. He is a specialist of representations of the banlieues in contemporary French culture. He has published widely on the subject and, in particular, on the postwar housing estate known as the 4000 (Quatre Mille) in La Courneuve, Paris. His work deals both with journalistic and artistic representations of urban marginality in literature, music and theatre, for example, as well as analyzing the cultural artifacts and productions created by its residents as a way to resist and counter mainstream representations of such places.

Imogen Long is visiting research fellow at the University of Leeds. Her research examines the written texts and political interventions of women intellectuals in postwar France, and her work has featured in French History and Modern and Contemporary France. She is the author of Women Intellectuals in Post-68 France: Petitions and Polemics (2013) and coedited Women Matter/Femmes Matière: French and Francophone Women and the Material World with Maggie Allison (2013). She has coedited two volumes with Margaret Atack, Alison Fell, and Diana Holmes: French Feminisms 1975 and After (2018) and Making Waves: French Feminisms and their Legacies 1975–2015 (2019).

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