The Representation of Youth in Contemporary French Cinema


French and Francophone

Romain Chareyron (University of Saskatchewan)

The numerous accolades received by Thomas Cailley’s film Les Combattants/Love at First Sight at the 2015 César Awards Ceremony (it garnered the awards for Best First Film, Best Actress and Most Promising Actor) is the most recent example of French cinema’s long-standing fascination with youth. As noted by Dominique Thévenin in his foreword to Karin M. Egloff’s book Les Adolescents dans le cinéma français: entre deux mondes: “[t]he adolescent dilemma, its multitude of external determinants and its internal psychological changes have been a topic of predilection among contemporary French filmmakers” (i). Ever since François Truffaut’s Les 400 coups, filmmakers have investigated the complexity of youth, while offering an honest and often uncompromising vision of society. In recent years, the works of emerging film directors such as Isild Le Besco, Mia Hansen-Løve or Céline Sciamma have displayed a common desire to avoid oversimplification in order to reveal youth in all its ambiguities.

Despite its undeniable impact in French cinema, little has been done to analyze and discuss the thematic and aesthetic significance of this trend. By understanding youth in a broad sense (childhood, adolescence and young adults), this session intends to showcase the various ways in which contemporary French cinema (from the 1990’s to the present) has been challenging preconceived ideas about this age group, presenting us with alternative interpretations of youth.

We particularly welcome presentations that focus on, but are not limited to, the following topics: youth and sexuality; youth and the banlieue; coming-of-age narratives; youth and the concept of film genre; the significance and treatment of the body in the representation of youth.

This session wishes to investigate the significance of the representation of youth in contemporary French cinema from the 1990’s to the present. We intend to highlight the thematic and aesthetic concerns of this trend while discussing how directors are offering an uncompromising and nuanced portrayal of youth in contemporary French society.