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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Investing in the domestic : the crisis of the modern city in late new wave cinema Bercov, Kimberly Dawn


Jean-Luc Godard's Two or Three Things I Know about Her/Deux ou trois chases que je sais d'elle (1966) clearly equates the Her/elle in the title with both the city of Paris and a young housewife living in a modern apartment on the outskirts of the city. Godard has insisted that this 'elle' is only Paris and not Juliette—the housewife whose daily activities the film documents. Yet the movements of Juliette within the film are inseparable from the knowledge imparted by the filming of the city's public and domestic spaces. Further, her quotidian route through these sites must constantly negotiate an almost excessive overabundance of consumer images. This film, and much of the work of the so-called French New Wave, attempts to articulate the problems posed by the 'Modern City' and the conditions of post-war capitalism. Weekend (1967) and Fahrenheit 451 (1966) envision a city in which the status quo delineated by consumer culture sets the pattern for all forms of urban life. Fahrenheit 451, a dystopic science fiction film directed by Francois Truffaut, describes a world in which the very structure of the home is conflated with technologies of mass culture and consumerism. Technology enters the domestic sphere in this film as a 'screen interface' that 'spectacularly' produces gendered and sexualized modes of identification almost exclusively for the suburban housewife. This thesis explores the gendered spaces of the cinematic city, particularly how architecture, technology, and consumerism are spatialized. In chapter one I address how the spaces of consumerism and the domestic are conflated, leaving it up to the suburban housewife to bear the burden. In chapter two I turn to the formation of female desire as it is reconfigured in the exchanges between the spaces of technology and the domestic. How are these intersecting spheres represented as potential sites of communal transformation? How do they serve to reveal the limits of transformation? The possibility for social change within this cinematic space is ultimately relocated outside of the urban. All three films offer a significant re-appraisal of the 'Modern City,' and in the process reveal its profound links to women's bodies and female desire. I conclude with a discussion of the failures of the post-war 'Modern City' which, in these films, is rejected in favour of a move 'into nature,' a going 'back to zero,' as a possible site for reimagining new patterns of social and sexual relations.

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