Damon Young, UCB (French and Film): “Hetero-sociality and homo-aesthetics in Plein Soleil

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Please join us for a talk sponsored by the Departent of French and Italian and the Critical Theory Program

Damon Young
Assistant Professor of French and Film and Media, UC Berkeley

Wednesday May 24
4:30pm in 53A Olson

Hetero-sociality and homo-aesthetics in Plein Soleil

In the history of French cinema, the end of the 1950s is famously associated with the rise of the Nouvelle Vague, a group of young, male, self-styled iconoclasts who polemically proclaimed the death of what they termed le cinéma de papa — and with it, the birth of the concept of the auteur. This talk adopts the “slantwise” perspective of one of the directors said to embody the outmoded cinéma de papa, a director derided in the pages of the Cahiers du cinéma as “le plus gros plagiaire de France.” Starring the young Alain Delon, René Clément’s Plein Soleil was released in 1960, at the height of the New Wave, but not a part of it. The film is also remarkable in that it was the first mainstream French film to put a queer bond of sorts at its narrative center. In this talk, I argue that in Plein Soleil and in the critical responses to it, we see how the meaning of the auteur and thus the very idea of the “art film” are bound up in (French) notions of sexual difference, filiation, and heterosexuality that are also fundamental to imaginaries of social form. A revisionist account of this most famous of moments in film history sheds light not only on its masculinist legacy, but also on ongoing anxieties in France about the imagined threat to civilization posed by homosexuality.

Damon R. Young is assistant professor of French and film & media at the University of California, Berkeley, where he also teaches in the Program in Critical Theory. His first book, Making Sex Public, and Other Cinematic Fantasies  is forthcoming in 2018 with Duke, and examines the way women and queers were at the center of new social imaginaries in French and US cinema during the period of the so-called “sexual revolution.” He is co-editor, with Nico Baumbach and Genevieve Yue, of a special issue of Social Text  titled The Cultural Logic of Contemporary Capitalism  (June 2016). His next book project, “After the Private Self” is a study of sites and modes of self-presentation and self narration in “post-cinematic” media. Prior to joining the Berkeley faculty, he was assistant professor and postdoctoral scholar in the Society of Fellows at the University of Michigan.