The mise-en-scene of suffering

New Formations - ISSN 0950-2378
Volume 1987 Number 3

The mise-en-scene of suffering
Ginette Vincendeau pages -


The French chanson offered a very limited sense of what it means to be French, a ‘poetic realist’ portrayal inspired largely by movies of the 1930s. Edith Piaf is the international emblem of this genre, representing the ‘chanson realiste’, a working-class, populist, melodramatic form which can be seen as playing into voyeurism directed at wretched lower-class lifestyles. Although many of the early songs were written by a man, Aristide Bruant, the genre soon became almost exclusively female, with songs sung by women such as Piaf and Frehel, whose own wretched lives and battles with ill-health mirrored the melodramatic suffering of characters in the lyrics. With minimal scenery and a trademark black dress and white makeup, their suffering bodies were literally placed in the spotlight, inviting audiences to speculate on whether they would even survive the performance. For such singers, the ‘authenticity’ of their suffering was seen as central, in order for them to ‘speak with the voice of their class’.

SORRY - you are not registered as being permitted online access to the full text of this article

You have the following options:

  1. If you are viewing this via an institution or academic library you can ask that your institution takes out a Subscription to this journal.
  2. If you already have a Personal Subscription please login below

    Forgotten your username / password? Click here to locate

  3. Purchase an annual Personal Subscription
    PRINT + DIGITAL personal subscription (£45 / year)
    DIGITAL personal subscription (£30 / year)
    A Personal Subscription provides immediate access not only to the single article you are seeking, but also to all past and future articles in this journal up to the expiry of your annual (calendar year) subscription.
  4. Purchase immediate access to this single article (UK£7.00) - Buy article Coming Soon

To cite this article
Ginette Vincendeau (1987) The mise-en-scene of suffering, New Formations, 1987(3), -

Share this