Female protagonists and the role of smoking in Chinese and French cinema | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 27, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1059-440X
  • E-ISSN: 2049-6710



A number of recent Chinese and French films include frequent images of smoking by young female characters. This observation leads us to consider whether this is merely a conventional genre trope, or whether it is a broader reflection of changes in the ways that filmmakers wish to represent young women in these national cultures. We contend that smoking on-screen can be viewed as a sign of potential change towards empowerment, individualism and increased risk-taking for young women in a globalizing world. Smoking has long been glamorized by filmmakers despite clear research showing that it is a harmful and addictive activity. Its determined use as a prop for the femme fatale, for instance, plays an important and lasting role in the film noir (and neo-noir) aesthetic. We explore the role of risk-taking female protagonists in contemporary Chinese and French films, including Ang Lee’s Se, Jie/Lust, Caution (2007), Wong Kar-Wai’s 2046 (2004), Claude Miller’s Thérèse Desqueyroux (2012) and Pierre Salvadori’s Hors de Prix/Priceless (2006). Furthermore, we investigate the gendered aesthetics of on-screen ‘tobacco imagery’ as a narrative device that confirms the convention of female protagonists (including the femme fatale) as a risk taker.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...

  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): aesthetics; China; female protagonists; femme fatale; France; risk; smoking
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a success
Invalid data
An error occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error