“Folks want to know how to begin the practice of loving”: on Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s The Kid with a Bike

On Sunday night I went to see Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s new film Le gamin au vélo (The Kid with a Bike) in Cambridge. Luc Dardenne was there to discuss the film and answer questions; I tried to surreptitiously record the sound of some of the discussion, but now I regret being so discreet, first of all because I probably would have seen that the device shorted out early on in the discussion, hence why I only have eleven minutes out of a forty minute talk. But also because of the totally fucked up sexual politics implicit in the choreography of the discussion: Dardenne and a male interviewer sitting on bright red leather armchairs, while Dardenne’s female translator was made to sit on the ground next to Dardenne, literally at his feet. I thought I was going to have a rage blackout. There was plenty of time during the Q&A, someone couldn’t have found a chair, a stool for her, so she wasn’t kneeling at the master’s feet? Why didn’t she insist on it? Translation politics are so often gendered, too, aren’t they; the female mouthpieces for Great Men. The woman as filter. Next to me was a young woman who literally was leaning so far forward (the better to hear him with) I actually thought she’d fall over at some point: chin in hands, gazing adoringly and laughing delightedly at every joke, however minor. All the female adoration for male genius was driving me up the wall. And I like the films of the Dardenne brothers! Luc Dardenne himself did, at least, have the decency to look very embarrassed and uncomfortable by the situation, the placement of the translator.

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