Queer, plastic residues: biological mutability and queer resistance in Robin Campillo's 120 BPM (2017) and the work of Catherine Malabou

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Abstract

This article analyses how Robin Campillo’s cinema explores queer identity and queer political resistance through its focus on the mutability and resilience of (micro)biological life, arguing that this focus echoes a turn to the biological in recent French philosophy and queer thought, in particular in the work of Catherine Malabou. Whilst 120 BPM closely follows the human narratives of the AIDS pandemic, the film also foregrounds biological processes at work in the bodies of those with the virus. In one sequence, we see the ACT UP activists dancing together in a nightclub; the camera gradually loses focus of the human forms and zooms in on a microbiological landscape of cells as they move, transform and interact. Placing the cells within the context of the nightclub, Campillo’s camera avoids a diagnostic or pathologizing gaze upon (micro)biological life, instead foregrounding its intrinsic plasticity and resistance. I read Campillo’s biological gaze in dialogue with Malabou’s philosophy of the plasticity of biological life. Malabou’s elaboration of the dual capacities of biological plasticity for mutability and resistance, I argue, is also at work within Campillo’s cinematographic exploration of queer political formation through corporeal, micro-biological plasticity.
Original languageEnglish
JournalModern and Contemporary France
Early online date31 Mar 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Mar 2022

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