Contemporary French Civilization

“Jean-Pierre, c’est moi”: polyglossia and blurred identities in the films of Jacques Audiard

Contemporary French Civilization (2018), 43, (1), 109–124.

Abstract

This article engages a heretofore unexplored dimension of Jacques Audiard’s work, the prevalence of languages other than the director’s native French. Winner of the Cannes Festival Palme d’Or, Dheepan (2015), whose dialogues are predominantly in Tamil, constitutes the most extreme manifestation of polyglossia in the director’s filmography. Each of his earlier films participates in a system of representation in which communication never comes easily, and in which characters’ success is predicated upon their mastery of the French language. They show a France defined by the brutality of human relationships and incommunicability between people, which only language transcends. Communication proves all the more difficult because nobody’s identity is to be taken for granted. Indeed, far from cinematic clichés picturing France as a homogenous, museum-like place, Audiard strives to represent a multilingual, multicultural, and postnational society. Finally, the confrontation of multiple languages within his films allows Audiard to self-define as a global auteur whose cinema seeks to reach beyond a strictly national audience and to address an international market.

Cet article porte sur une dimension jusqu’ici inexplorée de l’oeuvre de Jacques Audiard, à savoir l’utilisation de langues autres que le français dans la quasi-totalité de ses films. Auréolé d’une Palme d’Or au Festival de Cannes, Dheepan (2015), dont la majorité des dialogues est en langue tamoule, constitue la manifestation la plus exacerbée de la polyglossie dans la filmographie du réalisateur. Chacun des films précédents participe à un système de représentation où la communication n’est jamais aisée et où la maîtrise de la langue française conditionne la réussite des personnages. Audiard montre une France marquée par la sauvagerie des rapports humains et l’incommunicabilité entre les hommes, que seul semble pouvoir transcender le verbe. Communiquer est d’autant plus difficile que l’identité de chacun ne va pas de soi. En effet, Audiard s’attèle à représenter une société polyglotte, multiculturelle et post-nationale, loin des clichés cinématographiques qui tendent à solidifier l’image d’une France lisse et homogène aux allures de musée. Enfin, la confrontation de langues multiples au sein de ses films contribue à poser Audiard comme un auteur international dont le cinéma cherche à dépasser une logique d’exploitation strictement nationale pour se tourner au contraire vers un marché global.

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Author details

Massonnat, François