Contemporary French Civilization

“The boundary has been moved”: Hollywood cinéma-monde, film borders, and the multilingual assassin in Sicario and Inglourious Basterds

Contemporary French Civilization (2022), 47, (1), 47–65.

Abstract

Transnational coproductions, multilingual dialogue, and border-crossing of many forms are growing increasingly common in contemporary cinemas. As a result, assigning a nationality to a film can prove a slippery and even arbitrary process. This article takes a new approach to films such as Sicario (Denis Villeneuve 2015) and Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino 2009), analyzing texts traditionally viewed as American through the lens of cinéma-monde (Marshall 2012). It focuses in particular on these films’ use of maps, and on their strikingly similar multilingual assassination scenes, reading them through Bill Marshall’s characterization of a cinema that “dramatically focuses attention on four elements: borders, movement, language, and lateral connections” (42). Each of these films was directed by an established auteur working in a “foreign” space and non-native languages, and each depicts continual border-crossing, code-switching, and violence committed across geographic and linguistic lines. With significant American and other characteristics, neither Sicario nor Inglourious Basterds could be neatly categorized as Quebecois nor French respectively. Yet these films implicate the French-speaking world in diverse ways. Ultimately, the ways in which these films traverse, theorize, and weaponize the border begs a questioning of how far the concepts of national cinemas, and indeed of cinéma-monde, can be extended.

Les coproductions transnationales, le dialogue multilingue et le passage de frontières de maintes formes deviennent de plus en plus courants dans le cinéma contemporain. En conséquence, assigner une nationalité à un film peut s’avérer un processus incertain et même arbitraire. Cet article prend une nouvelle approche à des films comme Sicario (Denis Villeneuve 2015) et Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino 2009), analysant des textes traditionnellement considérés américains sous l’angle du cinémamonde (Marshall 2012). Il se focalise en particulier sur l’usage des cartes de ces films, ainsi que leurs scènes remarquablement similaires d’assassinat multilingue, les interprétant selon la description de Bill Marshall d’un cinéma qui “se concentre dramatiquement sur quatre éléments: les frontières, le mouvement, la langue, et les connexions latérales” (42). Chacun de ces films fut réalisé par un auteur bien établi travaillant dans un espace étranger et des langues étrangères, et chacun représente sans cesse le passage de frontières, le code-switching et la violence commise à travers des barrières linguistiques et géographiques. Avec des caractéristiques importantes américaines et étrangères, ni Sicario ni Inglourious Basterds ne pourrait être considéré comme uniquement québécois ou français respectivement. Pourtant, ces films impliquent le monde francophone de diverses manières. En fin de compte, les façons dont ces films traversent, théorisent et exploitent la frontière demandent jusqu’à quel point on peut se servir des concepts de cinémas nationaux, voire du cinéma-monde.

Access Token
£25.00
READ THIS ARTICLE
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Works cited

Andrew, Dudley. “An Atlas of World Cinema.” Framework, vol. 45, no. 2, 2004, pp. 9-23. Google Scholar

Ávila-Cabrera, and José Javier. “Subtitling Multilingual Films: The Case of Inglourious Basterds.” Revista Espanola de Linguistica Aplicada, vol. 12, 2013, pp. 87-100. Google Scholar

Bleichenbacher, Lukas. “Linguistic Replacement in the Movies.” Poznań Studies in Contemporary Linguistics, vol. 44, no. 2, 2008, pp. 179-196. Google Scholar

Gallego, Carlos. “‘Juarez, the Beast’: States of Fantasy and the Transnational City in Sicario.” Arizona Quarterly, vol. 74, no. 1, 2018, pp. 45-72. Google Scholar

Gott, Michael, and Thibaut Schilt, editors. Cinéma-monde: Decentred Perspectives on Global Filmmaking in French, Edinburgh UP, 2018. Google Scholar

Heinrich, Jeff. “Denis Villeneuve: ‘Sicario Is a Very Dark Film, a Dark Poem, Quite Violent.’” The Guardian, 24 Apr. 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/apr/24/denis-villeneuve-sicario-cannes-2015. Google Scholar

Jenkins, Gary. “Whose Revenge Is It Anyway? Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, Intertextuality, and America’s War on Terror.” Holocaust Studies, vol. 21, no. 4, 2015, pp. 236-249. Google Scholar

King, Gemma. “Denis Villeneuve’s Multilingual Cinema: Decentring Space, Time and Language in Arrival.” Multilingualism in Film, edited by Ralf Junkerjurgen and Gala Rebane, Peter Lang, 2019, pp. 209-224. Google Scholar

Koram, Kojo. “‘Order Is the Best We Can Hope For’: Sicario and the Sacrificial Violence of the Law.” Discourse, vol. 39, no. 2, 2017, pp. 230-252. Google Scholar

Loyo, Hilaria. “The Politics of Space within the Mexico-US Border Region: The War on Drugs and Geographies of Violence in Sicario (2015).” The Velvet Light Trap, no. 83, 2019, pp. 60-72. Google Scholar

Marshall, Bill. “Cinéma-monde? Towards a Concept of Francophone Cinema.” Francosphères, vol. 1, no. 1, 2012, pp. 35-51. Google Scholar

Marshall, Bill. Quebec National Cinema. McGill Queen’s UP, 2001. Google Scholar

Maule, Rosanna. Beyond Auteurism: New Directions in Authorial Film Practices in France, Italy and Spain since the 1980s. Intellect, 2008. Google Scholar

Mingant, Nolwenn. “Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds: A Blueprint for Dubbing Translators?” Meta: Journal Des Traducteurs, vol. 55, no. 4, 2010, pp. 712-731. Google Scholar

Mottram, James. “Sicario Director Denis Villeneuve Interview: Charting His Amazing Rise from the Canadian Arthouse to Blade Runner 2.” The Independent, 19 Sep. 2015, https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/sicaro-director-denis-villeneuve-interview-charting-his-amazing-rise-from-thecanadian-arthouse-to-10508283.html. Google Scholar

O’Sullivan, Carol. Translating Popular Film. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Google Scholar

Pease, Donald. The New American Exceptionalism. Minnesota UP, 2009. Google Scholar

Pincus-Roth, Zachary. “Aliens As Immigrants: How ‘Arrival’ Became the Latest Political Sci-Fi Film.” The Washington Post, 24 Feb. 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/aliens-as-immigrants-how-arrival-became-the-latest-political-scifi-film/2017/02/23/b9975f08-f83e-11e6-bf01-d47f8cf9b643_story.html. Google Scholar

Setka, Stella. “Bastardized History: How Inglourious Basterds Breaks through American Screen Memory.” Jewish Film & New Media: An International Journal, vol. 3, no. 2, 2015, pp. 141-169. Google Scholar

Filmography

Arrival, Denis Villeneuve, 2016. Google Scholar

Bande a part (Band of Outsiders), Jean-Luc Godard, 1964. Google Scholar

Bladerunner 2049, Denis Villeneuve, 2017. Google Scholar

Clouds of Sils Maria, Olivier Assayas, 2014. Google Scholar

Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino, 2012. Google Scholar

Dune, Denis Villeneuve, 2020. Google Scholar

Enemy, Denis Villeneuve, 2013. Google Scholar

Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang, Laurent Cantet, Canada/France, 2013. Google Scholar

Les Frères Sisters/The Sisters Brothers, Jacques Audiard, 2018. Google Scholar

High Life, Claire Denis, 2018. Google Scholar

Incendies, Denis Villeneuve, 2010. Google Scholar

Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino, 2009. Google Scholar

Jackie Brown, Quentin Tarantino, 1997. Google Scholar

Juste la fin du monde/It’s Only the End of the World, Xavier Dolan, 2016. Google Scholar

Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Quentin Tarantino, 2003. Google Scholar

Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Quentin Tarantino, 2004. Google Scholar

Lucy, Luc Besson, Canada/France/Germany/Taiwan/UK/US, 2014. Google Scholar

Maelström, Denis Villeneuve, 2000. Google Scholar

Mustang, Deniz Gamze Ergüven, France/Germany/Qatar/Turkey, 2015. Google Scholar

Polytechnique, Denis Villeneuve, 2009. Google Scholar

Prisoners, Denis Villeneuve, 2013. Google Scholar

Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino, 1994. Google Scholar

Reservoir Dogs, Quentin Tarantino, 1992. Google Scholar

Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg, 1993. Google Scholar

Sicario, Denis Villeneuve, 2015. Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

King, Gemma