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Published on Monday, January 24, 2022


La SERCIA (société pour l’enseignement et la recherche du cinéma anglophone) est une société savante internationale crée en 1993, qui tient son congrès annuel alternativement en France et à l’étranger. Elle regroupe des chercheurs en études filmiques autour d’un thème spécifique qui est renouvelé pour chaque congrès. Le thème choisi pour cette année est celui de la corruption, thème qui se décline en plusieurs axes distincts : représentations de la corruption sociale et politique comme thématique, rapport à la dégradation matérielle du support filmique dans les études sur les premiers temps du cinéma, idéal et réalité dans le champ des études filmiques, rapport du cinéma aux autres arts dans cette perspective, etc.



The theme of corruption is central to the art of filmmaking. As an art of reality, in direct contact with the profilmic, fictional film is also built on the desire to achieve artistic status through a certain detachment from a discourse directly linked to reality. The topic of corruption immediately suggests a question as to the definition of cinema as a medium with or without a privileged relationship to reality. This relationship could be understood as that which could call into question and corrupt the identity of cinema as a medium susceptible of an aesthetic approach. Beyond the relationship to reality, the cinematographic medium can appear as particularly “subject” to degradation in its material incarnation. We know that many early films were lost or irretrievably deteriorated, which places a whole part of the medium's history beyond our reach. This fragile nature of the film medium is certainly not an exception among the arts as a whole, but it places cinema at the crossroads between a purely “auratic” art, according to Walter Benjamin's theory, and an art conceived with an entirely reproducible medium. At least in the early days of cinema, this corruption of the medium led to the fragility of the works. These damaged works (which have not all disappeared) have been reintegrated by some filmmakers into their films constructed from incomplete or deteriorated film stock, as in Bill Morrison's short film Who By Water (2007). The advent of digital technology seems to have detached cinema from this threat of corruption, but it has also opened up another equally problematic avenue, that of the falsification of the work used for purposes contrary to those intended by the original. The notion of corruption of a primary discourse should also be considered more broadly, following the work of Gaudreault and Marion, in the context of the inflections that the transition to digital technology is causing the medium to undergo by further obscuring the relationship to the profilmic.

Corruption is also a notion that naturally invokes its antonym, purity. We know that the question of purity is at the heart of Bazin's discussion on the ontology of cinematographic art in the 1950s. Although it is not our intention to take up this debate literally, we can introduce a variation of this question on the identity of cinema through the approach of what “corrupts” cinema considered as pure art: the presence of other arts, the influence of source texts in the case of filmic adaptations, or the forms of discourse inherited from other media (as in the case of filmed theatre). These examples, in turn, question what would make cinema an uncorrupted or pure art, detached from modes of representation inherited from the artistic and media “heritage”. This reading of the hybridity of the medium does not presuppose a hierarchical approach to modes of representation, but rather a diachronic reading of the relationship between cinema and that which is not cinema and which has threatened, or still threatens, to “corrupt” an immanent cinematographic quality that is perhaps theoretical. In any case, these questions are certainly topical at a time when the film medium is constantly confronted with other media or other modes of communication and dissemination (since the digital revolution) with which it competes at least in part.

Thematically, the subject of corruption first conjures up perspectives related to the political role of the medium and its production and distribution context. Attention can be paid to corruption as an economical phenomenon taking place in Hollywood studios for instance, and more largely in the cinema industry. A political reading of the theme is also possible. Whether in fictional cinema, which sometimes treats corruption as the main issue, as in F.F. Coppola's Godfather trilogy (1972-1990) or in the House of Cards series (Beau Willimon, 2013-2018), or in documentary cinema, with the example of Michael Moore's films, the relevance of cinematic representation often lies in the way in which the processes of prevarication are dissected. The elaboration of scenarios directly or implicitly linked to historical events (one thinks of All the President's Men, Alan J. Pakula, 1976, inspired by the Watergate scandal) can be analysed as a commentary on the role of the media but also, in a reflexive way, as a discourse on the role of cinema in contemporary democracies. This understanding of the issue can be extended beyond politics to “social” cinema dealing with issues of acceptance or resistance to social segregation, as in the work of Ken Loach. It is the corruption of an ideal of the human community that is at issue here. The theme of corruption also refers, in a second approach, to the question of cinema as an art linked to the body, and as working on the image of bodies. Thus, the corruption of the human body can be the subject of cinematographic work, in a sort of development of the technique of chronophotography, which in the nineteenth century consisted of reproducing the image of a movement by a series of shots taken during the different stages of this movement. Certain filmmakers such as David Cronenberg (notably in The Fly, 1986) can be particularly sensitive to this problem of the body and its degradation, but this is of course also the case for a whole film genre, that of horror. Time is also an entry point into this subject since it is directly linked to the degradation of bodies which is implied in the concept of corruption. We can then examine the relationship between the corruption of bodies as represented on screen and the treatment of time as a vector of degradation of bodies. Once again, it is the relationship of the medium to reality that is at stake here. Finally, a third variation of this theme could focus on the treatment of the moral theme in cinema. This is of course too broad a theme to be addressed in its entirety, and the analysis needs to refocus on a body of works that allows us to highlight the ambiguity of moral standards. A film like Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976) could serve as an example of this reading of moral corruption, in the sense that it depicts the intransigence of the main character, Travis Bickle, as the reflection of a paranoid personality grappling with a society that seems to have lost all moral reference points and has turned into a world where debauchery rules. But it is the difficulty of distinguishing between good and evil that predominates in this treatment of corruption and invalidates any simplistic interpretation, so that the subject of moral corruption is here related to a more general reading of the degradation of human relationships. These variations of the subject, although not comprehensive, reveal the formal and thematic variety of corruption and suggest an open and multiple approach to the notion proposed.

Main topics in relation to the general theme

  • Corruption linked to the medium: due to the quality of the first tapes that deteriorated with time, early cinema is partly lost. Does this issue totally disappear with the transition to digital?
  • Cinema and elitist culture. In a postmodern framework, can we consider cinema as the embodiment of a de-hierarchisation between popular culture and elitist culture? How have discourses on corruption integrated/deconstructed this question?
  • The question of cinema as an “impure” art, from a Bazinian perspective, is also that of the relationship of cinema with other arts and other media. The possibility or impossibility of treating cinema “alone” without addressing its relationship with the other arts brings us back to the question of the hybridity or “mongrelization” of the medium
  • Corruption as a theme. This relates to the relationship between politics and cinema, and denunciations of situations of political corruption. Corruption as a topic related to cinema production considered from an economic perspective. The role of documentary versus fiction film matters in this context, like the role of committed cinema. See the examples of Ken Loach, or documentary filmmakers like Peter Kosminsky.
  • The link between certain film genres and the theme of corruption
  • The relationship to the body as an inscription of a dimension specific to corruption

 Submission guidelines

Expected format of proposals:

  • Title of the paper.
  • Surname, first name, position, affiliation and e-mail address of authors.
  • Detailed abstract of the paper of maximum 500 words in French or English in Word format presenting the problem, the methodology and the main results.
  • Three to five key words.

You may send your proposals to the following by March 31th, 2022 : serciaconference2022@gmail.com

by March 31th, 2022.

Organizing committee

  • Christophe Gelly christophe.gelly@uca.fr
  • Caroline Lardy caroline.lardy@uca.fr

Scientific committee

  • Christophe Gelly – Université Clermont Auvergne
  • Caroline Lardy – Université Clermont Auvergne
  • David Roche - Université Paul Valéry Montpellier 3
  • Celestino Deleyto - Universidad de Zaragoza
  • Zachary Baqué - Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès
  • Julia Echeverría - Universidad de Zaragoza
  • Céline Murillo - Université Paris 13
  • Marianne Kac-Vergne - Université de Picardie Jules Verne, Amiens 
  • Nolwenn Mingant - Université de Nantes
  • Julie Assouly - Université d’Artois, Arras


  • Universite Clermont Auvergne - IADT
    Clermont-Ferrand, France (63)

Event attendance modalities

Full on-site event


  • Thursday, March 31, 2022


  • cinéma, médium, hybridité, politique, corruption


  • Christophe Gelly
    courriel : christophe [dot] gelly [at] uca [dot] fr
  • Caroline Lardy
    courriel : caroline [dot] lardy [at] uca [dot] fr

Information source

  • Caroline Lardy
    courriel : caroline [dot] lardy [at] uca [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« La corruption au cinéma », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, January 24, 2022, https://doi.org/10.58079/181j

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