In the cinema, the show is on the canvas, but also in the room. Lurking in the shadows, animated by light effects, are revealed the faces of couples. Very often the purpose of a trip to the cinema is to go see a movie with someone.
This emblematic place, where many stereotypical representations of the couple sit, is the right place to observe the emergence of love relationships in their natural habitat. Behind the conversations about the choice of the film or its critique through the geostrategic decisions of the place and the existential dilemma of salty or sweet popcorn, the cinema allows the sufficient intimacy to the beings revealing themselves to each other in the game of seduction.
But what are these representations associated with first couple encounters in cinema? How does cinema contribute to the emergence and ritualization of the couple relationship? What makes it possible to become a couple in a movie outing?
This is what Sarah Dinelli proposes to discover in her dissertation "First dates and going out as a couple at the cinema. A socio-cultural and filmic survey of moviegoers in Île-de-France".
Why read this thesis
"This thesis is a romantic comedy"
The thesis masterfully opens with a message, "This thesis is a romantic comedy. This sentence, alone on this blank page, innocent at first glance, is actually a warning to the reader. The smile and surprise provoked by this opening sentence turns into laughter and a strong impatience to start reading when the summary is discovered. The entire manuscript is well worth the time, the detours through the references and even the return to grasp the depth and winks of the text.
Sarah Dinelli succeeds with flair and style in remaining herself and asserting herself while adhering to academic constraints and standards. The text quickly takes the form of a tête-à-tête with the author in which a handwritten conversation takes place mixing humor and seriousness at the meeting of an assumed personality and mastered research. Indeed, behind this impression of lightness, the proposed research reveals a remarkable rigor, referencing and methodology, all while integrating a reflexive process allowing the reader to keep a certain distance on the subject.
This feeling of promiscuity also results from the fact that the subject itself refers directly or indirectly to the reader's experiences: going to the movies, going out as a couple, first dates, differences in tastes or even his relationship to celibacy. This ability of each reader to refer the subject matter to his or her own practice creates a form of sharing community.
The author proposes that this community of sharing takes the form of a "democratic" conversation, based on the thought of the philosopher François Flahault, who asserts that a conversation is democratic when the subject of it allows everyone to participate. The effect is remarkable, while avoiding falling into cacophony, the reader is invited into multiple conversations, with the author, the couples in the survey, the research subject and himself.
"Forward: A thesis is not just a thesis
A thesis is not just a thesis, in the same sense that "an hour is not an hour, it is a vase filled with perfumes, sounds, projects, and climates." I would not dare to use such a flowery metaphor, but I would gladly say that a thesis can be an initiatory, political and psychoanalytical journey.
On the one hand, thanks to all the side effects of the thesis, the courses, the struggles, the friendly encounters with other doctoral students, everything that we experience and that resonates with our research. On the other hand, because one puts into play much more than a thick manuscript in several copies. The thesis presents itself to us like a mountain, the consecration of all our thought, all our knowledge. We feel, at the beginning, like a cat abandoned on the side of the highway who has to find his way home without being sure that he is still wanted when he arrives.
I remember a discussion with Laurent Creton and my friend and recent doctor Caroline Guigay, after a drunken meal during a summer university. We had confided to him our doubts, our desires of reconversions (nuns, videographers, etc.). He reassured us by telling us that we should not see the thesis as an inaccessible place where we should expose our entire being as researchers, a perfect object that would be the completion of all our research, but simply the state, at a given moment, of the knowledge we had produced on a given subject. From metaphor to metaphor, and from glass to glass, he had told us:
"Your thesis is this bottle of wine".
Still today when I'm struggling to work, I think of several phrases to help me: the cryptic prophecy "it's a bottle of wine," and a "practical" phrase my little sister had taped to her desk, which basically says "this mountain, don't ask yourself "how am I going to climb it?" Climb it."
Not always easy, when you feel yourself mostly tumbling down, after trying to get to the top of the meritocracy. So I would like in this foreword to make the genesis of my research subject, but also to talk about these "beside the thesis", these "instead of the thesis"; of all the work done "including when one does not work". For it is especially by not working on my thesis, that I think I have become a kind of researcher."
Three Time Household
The results gathered during the many conversations of her survey cover many aspects of going to the movies as a couple
We discover, for example, that the three times of the cinema that are the pre-screening, the screening, and the post-screening are a favorable space and time for the installation of the couple as a couple. These times and places offer the subjects different playlets in the public space where they perform as a couple in a potentially conjugalizing process.
This conscious or unconscious play is performed as much to themselves as to the public or the place. Thus it will be possible for them to play seduction, intimacy, unveiling as much through behavior, gestures, stratagems of domination as through conversations such as when making decisions as a couple or even commenting on the film.
Despite the fact that these moments of trial and error in meeting the other may be future sources of laughter, they remain paramount in the discovery of the other in a process of confrontation, pooling or creating shared habits that allow the members of the couple to gradually gain access to the tastes and sensibilities of the other.
The Art of Editing Life
Sarah Dinelli's knowledge and experience as an editor help explain how she has managed to offer readers a text that intertwines subjective and objective, formal and informal, humorous and serious. She charmingly succeeds in creating a democratic conversation through the pleasure of observing the practices of pairs of spectators.
This handwritten thesis allows the reader an intimate conversation both with themselves and their past and with the experience of the rest of the world. This pooling of our experiences allows each of us to awaken memories or reinvent a future for ourselves. Behind these sometimes stereotypical behaviors and these often naïve conversations, there is in reality, the universal desire to be happy and to love each other.
What about you? Does this topic speak to you?
The film discussed in the thesis is not available online, however transcripts of the dialogue are available at the end of the thesis.
This work was defended on June 1, 2021 in Paris, carried out at the Institut de Recherche sur le Cinéma et l'Audiovisuel (IRCAV) as part of the process of obtaining the degree of Doctor in Film and Audiovisual Studies from the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle at the doctoral school Arts & Media : ED 267 (Nantes - France)
Sarah Dinelli. First dates and dating in cinema. A socio-cultural and filmic survey of moviegoers in Île-de-France. Music, musicology and performing arts. Université de la Sorbonne nouvelle - Paris III, 2021. French. ⟨NNT: 2021PA030042⟩. ⟨tel-03573768⟩
See more articles by this author