On a celluloid platter : an analysis of the representations and functions of food and eating in the cinema
This dissertation examines the representations and metaphoric functions of food and eating in a wide range of European and American films. It purports to present an original approach to film historiography and to the study of film aesthetics. The first chapter, "Food and National Identity in the Cinema," addresses the specific case of food as a conveyor of national identity in French film. Analysis in this chapter is founded on recent critical debates on nationhood and national cinemas. The first part of the chapter examines French films of the pre-war period, whenu food and eating were especially used to convey consensus and harmony. The second part deals with the post-war period, when food started to clearly signify the deterioration of communal, familial and national structures and traditions. The second chapter, "Film, Food and the Feminine," traces mainstream and avant-garde representations of women as both cooks and eaters from the pre-feminist (i.e. up to about 1969-1970) to the post-feminist periods. Analysis is based on feminist cultural criticism of the contradictory messages sent to women about food and eating. Depictions in the pre-feminist period contained eating and cooking women within very limited and stereotypical cinematic spaces. The post-feminist period has seen a diversification of the possible ways of presenting women together with food, especially in films made by female directors. Chapter Three, "Alimentary Delinquency in the Cinema," deals with the distinctly post-classical phenomenon of films that feature acts of cannibalism, coprophagy and other aberrant eating practices. Eased on theories of the "carnivalesque" in film, the first part of the chapter offers an analysis of the specific areas of film production in which alimentary delinquency is prominent: the low forms of the horror film, counter cinema, and contemporary art films. The final section examines alimentary delinquency as a form of corporal spectacle which has the capacity to provoke physical reactions in the spectator's own body. The Conclusion considers recent international "food films" to see how they crystallise and amplify many of the issues raised in this study.