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A (middle) class act? Taste and otherness in Le Goût des autres (Agnès Jaoui, 2000)
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Dr Sarah Leahy
Vanderschelden, I; Waldron, D
France at the Flicks: Trends in Contemporary French Popular Cinema
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Le Goût des autres, Jaoui’s first film as director, was a huge hit in France in 2000 when it was released. A comedy of manners featuring an ensemble cast - more Woody Allen than Taxi or Les Visiteurs - it hardly conforms to traditional notions of a smash hit French comedy, eschewing physical humour and crude jokes for situation comedy, derived from the clashes of apparently incompatible people. Drawing on Bourdieu’s sociological exploration of taste and class, this paper will examine the way the film constructs identities through the depiction of cultural consumption, through an examination of narrative structure, mise en scène, and the representation of culture (‘high’ and ‘low’). According to Bourdieu, ‘art and cultural consumption, consciously and deliberately or not, are predisposed to fulfil a social function of legitimating social differences’. Le Goût des autres offers a mise en scène of this process, through the juxtaposition of multiple viewpoints: different sequences privilege different characters as the central point of identification, forcing the spectator to consider multiple interpretations of particular actions. And yet, the notion of otherness raised by the film’s title is explored only in a very narrow way: all the main characters are white, (more or less) middle-class and are almost all from Rouen (the only outsider is Franck, the body guard played by Gérard Lanvin). In this film, taste is both ‘ethical’ and ‘aesthetic’, and its role is not just indicative of characters’ identity, it is formative (even performative). However, in terms of the spectator, the film can be said to flatter its target audience while playing on their prejudices and expectations: we can assume that the film is intended for those who have at least heard of Bérénice (though they may not frequent theatre productions of it). Thus, through an analysis of marketing and press reviews as well as film form, this paper will also consider who the film is addressing and why it was so successful.
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