Repository logo

Framing Sex and Spatiality in French Queer Cinema: Nolot, Dieutre, Guiraudie



Change log



This thesis explores interrelated questions of sexuality and spatiality through the lens of contemporary French queer cinema. While film and media studies has recently seen the critical ascendance of spatial, embodied and proprioceptive theory on the one hand, and a burgeoning interest in queer sexualities, counterpublics and relational practices on the other, the conceptual convergences between both areas remain largely unmapped. This thesis offers a corrective to this oversight by taking as its focus the work of three critically under-discussed directors—Jacques Nolot, Vincent Dieutre, and Alain Guiraudie—who each appeal to the spatial practice of gay cruising to explore the formal, textual and geographic construction of cinematic space. The first chapter establishes the cultural and theoretical backdrop of the study, arguing that while French thinkers from the post-1968 period sought to analyse the factors that ‘produce’ and differentiate experiences of lived space (or what Lefebvre terms ‘l’espace vécu’) the question of sexuality rarely figured as a substantive concern. Drawing queer theory, cultural geography and film studies into closer dialogue, I argue that cinema is well-positioned to think through, and expand upon, these concerns. Chapter two stages an encounter between the cinema of Jacques Nolot and the film theory of Roland Barthes to explore how the homoerotic space of the movie theatre might serve as a site to reorient key debates in film theory. Chapter three explores how cruising figures as a metaphor for archival and geographic exploration in the documentary practice of Vincent Dieutre. Seeking to complicate Paris’ privileged position as the locus of queer life and cultural production, Chapter four explores the rural and post-industrial spaces of the French South-west via Alain Guiraudie. The guiding thread that runs throughout this analysis is a sustained interest in how the production and articulation of cinematic space is informed by questions of non-normative desire, embodiment, and sexual politics. Indeed, while the trope of flânerie has long constituted a symbolic touchstone in French literary and artistic culture—serving to articulate entwined ideas of modernism, spatial exploration, and urban sociality—the thesis suggests that cruising might offer a queer cognate to these culturally sanctioned discourses. Forging itinerant pathways through the spaces of French cinema, Nolot, Dieutre, and Guiraudie invite spectators to consider questions of intimacy, relationality and cinematic space anew.





Rhodes, John David


French cinema, Queer theory, Film theory, Space and place, Urban studies, Geopolitics, Spectatorship, Word-image relations


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Wolfson Postgraduate Scholarship in the Humanities