This article offers a reflection on the ways in which the representation of gays and lesbians in contemporary French cinema has mostly focused on specific and limiting traits. With their choice of locales (Paris and other cities) and bodily characteristics (young, fit), these films convey a restrictive view of homosexuality. Such portrayals have gained traction due to their numerous iterations in films and in the media. By focusing on the works of three directors who have adopted a radically different perspective in their portrayals of homosexuality, this article will highlight the close ties that exist between sexuality and topography. Providing a more true-to-life account of homosexuality, the films move away from cities to investigate the geographical margins. In so doing, they question the tenets of France’s republican ideals, where differences tend to be smoothed out in favor of unity and homogeneity. These films reinstate diversity and individuality at the heart of their narratives.
Off the Beaten Path
Non-Metropolitan Representations of Homosexuality in Three French Films
The (Pre)Posterity of Virgin Queen Iconography in Kapur’s Elizabeth Films
This article examines the quotations of Elizabeth I’s iconic portraiture as Virgin Queen in Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth (1998) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), and their effect on our a posteriori conceptualization of the depicted body of the female sovereign. Using Mieke Bal’s concept of preposterous history, I argue that Kapur’s transposition of Virgin Queen iconography onto celluloid results in a “(complex) text” that “is both a material object and an effect” (1999: 14). Bal acknowledges that the complexity that lies in the material results of the artistic quotation is not necessarily subversive, as it is dependent on the quoting artist’s ideological premise. Indeed, Kapur’s intermedial quotation of Elizabethan portraiture imbues the highly complex body of the female ruler with contemporary heteronormative notions of female sexuality, thereby reducing it to an object for the male gaze.
Josh Morrison, Sylvie Bissonnette, Karen J. Renner, and Walter S. Temple
Kate Mondloch, A Capsule Aesthetic: Feminist Materialisms in New Media Art (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2018), 151 pp. ISBN: 9781517900496 (paperback, $27) Alberto Brodesco and Federico Giordano, editors, Body Images in the Post-Cinematic Scenario: The Digitization of Bodies (Milan: Mimesis International, 2017). 195 pp., ISBN: 9788869771095 (paperback, $27.50) Cynthia J. Miller and A. Bowdoin Van Riper, editors, What’s Eating You? Food and Horror on Screen (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017). 370pp., ISBN: 9781501322389 (hardback, $105); ISBN: 9781501343964 (paperback, $27.96); ISBN: 9781501322419 (ebook, $19.77) Kaya Davies Hayon, Sensuous Cinema: The Body in Contemporary Maghrebi Cinema (New York: Bloomsbury, 2018). 181pp., ISBN: 9781501335983 (hardback, $107.99)
Screen Bodies 3.2 engages with a wide variety of topics—fat studies, contemporary queer cinema, (pre)posterity, puzzle films, grief and truth in filmmaking, feminist materialism, digitized bodies, food and horror, and Maghrebi cinema. As well, the selection of articles in this issue represents studies of several media—tv programs, films, publicity stills, and photographs—from a number of locations around the globe—North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. What holds this general issue together, though, is a concern over expectation, assumption, and supposition: what we suppose screens and bodies do and what we suppose they do not do. As usual, with this journal, the focus of this consideration is doublehanded: screen as projection and screen as prohibition. The articles below explore the duality of screens and our responses to them. They engage screening expectation as showing, exposing, divulging, and, at the same time, as testing, partitioning, and withholding. To screen expectation is to reveal and conceal it, and, as these articles argue—each in their own way—this process is what we all engage in when we engage with screening.
Screening the Slob
Neoliberal Failure, Fatness, and Disability in “King-Size Homer”
This article explores the archetype of the slob, narrowing in on its depiction in the episode “King-Size Homer” from The Simpsons (1989–), the long-running satirical animated series created by James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, and Sam Simon. More than simply analyzing what constitutes the slob, this article focuses on how the slob operates. Attention is paid to the enmeshing of fatness and disability. The undercurrent of neoliberal ideology that runs through the episode is made apparent. The article works intersectionally to understand the slob as being someone who is abject in a multitude of ways. Finally, it considers the topic of disidentification and the possibilities that it opens up for a better analysis and understanding of the episode. And throughout the article, the key themes of failure and the pursuit of failure are explored.
Undoing Male Fantasies and Narrative Reliability in Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden
In this article, I analyze Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden (Ah-gassi, 2016) by addressing its puzzle narrative and complex interactive dynamics as embodied and affective categories. In particular, I employ Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of the chronotope together with Giuliana Bruno’s work on media theory and Steffen Hven’s notion of the embodied fabula to show how the film, in all its aesthetic complexity, enacts a creative and transformative experience based on the continuous subversion of the power dynamics I describe. Furthermore, I demonstrate how this semantic and experiential reconstruction couples viewers’ alignment with the two main characters in their rebellion against patriarchal power and obsessive male fantasies. Ultimately, then, in this article I aim to connect the experiential and affective engagement of the film with a critical reading of power dynamics as ecologically situated structures to be challenged and revolutionized through a creative process of becoming.
Cinema and the Haptic in Modern Japan
The process of modernization in Japan appeared as a separation of the senses and remapping of the body, particularly privileging the sense of vision. How did the filmmakers, critics, and novelists in the 1920s and 1930s respond to such a reorganization of the body and the elevation of vision in the context of film culture? How did they formulate a cinematic discourse on remapping the body when the status of cinema was still in flux and its definition was debated? Focusing on cinematic commentary made by different writers, this article tackles these questions. Sato Haruo, Ozu Yasujiro, and Iwasaki Akira questioned the separation of the senses, which was often enforced by state. Inspired by German cinema released in Japan at that time, they explored the notion of the haptic in cinema and problematized the privileged sense of vision in this new visual medium.
This issue of Screen Bodies features a Screen Shots section focusing on screening disability, including essays on new disability documentaries, vacillation and the dis/abled male body—especially as it plays out in Fred Zimmerman’s 1950 film The Men—and questions of masquerade and representations of Richard III on stage and screen. It also includes general essays on “undoing” gender through complicity and subversion, the rise in the importance of the haptic in Japanese society, culture, and filmmaking in the 1920s, and an investigation of uncertainty and the “generosity paradox” with regard to gender, sexuality, and ability in cyborg cinema.
The Generosity Paradox
This article explores interactions with difference, highlighting what I call the “generosity paradox,” a term that refers to how we suspend disbelief and certainty in favor of a constructed potentiality not limited by preexistent knowledge or categories of authenticity and legitimacy. Touching on overlapping concepts from rhetoric, philosophy, gender studies, disability studies, and queer theory, the discussion explicates fictional encounters with radical alterity in the film Her (Spike Jonze, 2013) to show that attempted respite from frustrating, confusing, and frightening interactions limits our voice, undermines difference, and favors a unifying persuasive intent, which more likely than not involves an attempt to change Others rather than allowing our mutual differences to generatively remain.
The Male Body as Vacillation
Disability, Gender, and Discourse in The Men
This article considers the representation of gendered disability in The Men (Fred Zinnemann, 1950), Marlon Brando’s first film. A groundbreaking yet deeply ambiguous text, the film explores notions of normative and non-normative physicality through the lens of masculinity, sexuality, and their implications for human status. In the light of key works by disability scholars and of Judith Butler’s discussion of the cultural construction of the body, this article examines the multiple and subversive meanings made available by the film, and the extent to which The Men allows for a different bodily identity based on dissent.