Virtual poaching and altered space: Reading parkour in French visual culture
Modern and Contemporary France
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Parkour has emerged in the last decade as a significant cultural practice, both in France, where it originated, and internationally. The cultural resonance of parkour—a form of street gymnastics combining acrobatic agility with a creative approach to urban space—is emphasised through its presence on numerous internet sites, as well as representations in advertising media, the bande dessinée, and films. While the prevalence of parkour as a practice is widely known, these numerous manifestations within culture have not been widely theorised. This article focuses primarily on parkour's representations in visual culture, especially in cinema, and considers the associations made in two films between parkour and the banlieue. Analysing both the legitimacy and potential problems in making the banlieue a stage for parkour performance and big-screen entertainment enables us to reconsider the notion of the film banlieue, as well as the political possibilities of a ‘parkour film’. Lastly, reflecting on the circumstances of contemporary cinema and the role of the internet, the article considers philosophical aspects of the ‘parkour film’, as well as seeking parallels between parkour's spatial practices and the practices of cinematic and online production and distribution.