Reframing Bataille: On Tacky Spectatorship in the New European Extremism

Tina Kendall

in The New Extremism in Cinema

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780748641604
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651221 | DOI:
Reframing Bataille: On Tacky Spectatorship in the New European Extremism

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This chapter addresses one of the cultural figures who has been central to understandings of sexuality and transgression in France: Georges Bataille. It examines Christophe Honoré's Ma mère (France, 2004), an adaptation of Bataille's posthumous novel of the same title, in order to consider the impact of Bataille on the corpus of the new extremism. It reflects upon the problematic place of Bataille in the explicit sex formula of recent ‘hard core’ international art cinema. Of particular interest in this regard is Honoré's decision to re-imagine the backdrop against which Bataille's story of incest unfolds — transposing it from 1920s Paris to the seedy nightclubs and sexual tourism sites of the Canary Islands in the present day. In so doing, the chapter argues, Honoré seeks to interrogate and reposition Bataille, to render his message intelligible in the context of global consumer capitalism. Drawing on Martin Crowley's claim that the appeal of Bataille today arises from his ‘tackiness’, the chapter contends that what is most subversive about Honoré's film is the ‘tacky spectatorship’ it solicits.

Keywords: Martin Crowley; sexuality; transgression; France; Georges Bataille; Christophe Honoré; Ma mère; new extremism; incest; tacky spectatorship

Chapter.  5624 words. 

Subjects: Film

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