“Commitment Through the Work of Art,” “Commitment Through the Name”: The Case of French Directors of “Social Films” in the 1990s–2000s

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Abstract

What is the commitment of left-leaning artists and intellectuals in a context where the legitimacy of politics and party activism is being called into question? The analysis of the case of the French directors who have made films dealing with social issues in the 1990s–2000s shows the complexity of the boundaries between art and politics and of the possible modes of commitment through their works and/or their name. Some directors who have made one or several films dealing with the working classes in France in this period have been associated with the label “social cinema” by the critic, as well as social scientists or “anti-globalization” activists. Despite the differences in their social and professional backgrounds, they all have in common the rejection of this label, opposing “social cinema” to artistic recognition and carefully distinguishing their artwork from commitment. In order to stabilize their careers and meet professional success, they often have to move from working class issues to more valued topics and from a realistic aesthetic to a more distinguished one. They mostly commit their names for the defence of the “independence of cinema” and for humanitarian causes, rather for more overtly political or partisan issues. More generally, this case study illustrates the forms and repertoires of commitment open to artists and intellectuals in the 1990s–2000s, showing how they try to use their professional skills and resources (including their notoriety) in the service of certain causes without jeopardizing their artistic autonomy, by distancing themselves both from partisan politics and from “commercial cinema.”

Keywords

Commitment Activism Directors Movies Working class 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CRESPPA-CSUCNRS-Université de Paris 8ParisFrance

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