This article builds on recent scholarship on the European road movie, focusing on Francophone Belgian road films that engage with issues of citizenship and personal, national, and transnational identities. The relationship of these films to the process of identity reformulation within new European parameters is examined, using four films from the past decade as case studies: Eldorado (Bouli Lanners, 2008), L'iceberg (Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy, 2005), Quand la mer monte/When the Sea Rises (Jeanne Moreau and Gilles Porte, 2004), and Les folles aventures de Simon Konianski/Simon Konianski (Micha Wald, 2008). Despite the limited scale of its territory, this article contends that Belgium's complex make-up and status as a post-colonial “melting pot“ provides the ideal laboratory for cinematic identity quests. While anchored in a distinctively Belgian context, these films demonstrate that national boundaries are no longer an adequate container for identities in contemporary Europe. Particular focus is paid to the ways by which each film employs and distorts the traditional road movie template to stage voyages into citizenship.
The Paradoxes and Possibilities of the Francophone Belgian Road Movie
Tracking Automotive Speed, Economic Acceleration, and the Roots of European Road Movies in Il sorpasso
Il sorpasso, Italy, 1962; Mario Cecchi Gori (producer); Dino Risi (director), Dino Risi, Ettore Scola, and Ruggero Maccari (screenplay); starring Vittorio Gassman and Jean-Louis Trintignant. 2014 DVD release by the Criterion Collection includes new English subtitle translation, interviews, essays, excerpts of a documentary, and an introduction by filmmaker Alexander Payne.
Drive as an Ambivalent Urban Road Movie
Drive (U.S.A., 2011, FilmDistrict, Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. Screenplay, Hossein Amini, based on the book by James Sallis. With Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks).
'Second Generation' Subjectivity and the Road 'Home' in Portugal (2011) and La Commedia des ratés (2011)
This article examines two graphic novels published in 2011, Portugal by Cyril Pedrosa and La Commedia des ratés [Holy Smoke] by Olivier Berlion, within the thematic and technical context of the French 'return' road movie, an increasingly prevalent category. Recent debates in political, cultural and academic spheres have focused on competing conceptions of Frenchness – traditional republicanism and multiculturalism – as well as the place of the 'second- or third-generation' descendants of immigrants. This article argues that Portugal and La Commedia des ratés, as quasi-autobiographic 'return' to origins narratives, represent compelling insight into the subjectivity of second-generation diasporic populations in France. I will also examine how these works employ the 'ninth art' to create fresh twists on the 'return' story. Finally, I will explore the graphic and narrative depictions of travel in each work, adapting Teresa Bridgeman's theory of 'world building' and 'world-switching' in bande dessinée. I argue that Portugal offers a compelling approach, re-creating on the page the effect of the cinematic 'traveling montage'.