Movements of the Posttraumatic Flâneur in Marker, Resnais, and Varda

Gill, Bonnie, French - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Krueger, Cheryl, French, University of Virginia

Movements of the Posttraumatic Flâneur in Marker, Resnais, and Varda examines select films by three well-known French filmmakers (Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, and Agnès Varda) in order to identify and analyze the intersection of trauma with the figure of the flâneur in each. Given identifiable shape in the 19th and early 20th century writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Baudelaire, and Walter Benjamin, the iconic flâneur tends to wander alone, thinking and observing, with no destination in mind and no fixed path. The flâneurs examined in the subsequent chapters walk beneath the shadow of a large-scale historical trauma that has permeated the national consciousness to such an extent that even years later it cannot be ignored. I therefore term these figures posttraumatic flâneurs: descendants of Baudelaire’s man of the streets, they have no goal in mind and no fixed path and yet, in observing and thinking deeply about the world through which they move, they eventually arrive at a new, more functional place of being. In the case of Elle, the protagonist of Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour (1959), the flâneuse reconciles with her past self, while Mona of Agnès Varda’s Sans toit ni loi (1985) reclaims the ability to look, rather than always being the object of the gaze. And the central character of Chris Marker’s Chats perchés (2004) finds humor and hope amidst the darkness.
My identification of the posttraumatic flâneur comes from a close analysis of these three films (Hiroshima mon amour, Sans toit ni loi, and Chats perchés) with particular attention given to the cinematographic means by which each filmmaker imbues his or her film with traces of the sociopolitical and/or national discourses of the time of production. Further, I explore how French film continues to act as a reliable interpreter of the French national consciousness, which has many popular and intellectual outlets but which has historically excelled at expression through film. The presence of a posttraumatic flâneur in these films indicates a productive negotiation between the malaise resulting from a distant but lingering trauma and the possibility of moving on.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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