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Jamel Debbouze: a new popular French star?

Vanderschelden, Isabelle (2005) Jamel Debbouze: a new popular French star? Studies in French Cinema, 5 (1). pp. 61-71. ISSN 1758-9517

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Abstract

In the current French popular cinema industry, stars no longer guarantee a film's success. However, the recent success story of Jamel Debbouze as a comedian and actor is exceptional, and hardly fits the archetype of traditional male French stardom. Debbouze was brought up in the Paris banlieue, and started out as a stand-up comedian. In 1998, he featured in two films, Le Ciel, les oiseaux… et ta mère (Bensalah) and Zonzon (Bouhnik). With Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (Jeunet, 2001), he gained greater international recognition, which was confirmed by the huge success of Astérix et Obélix: Mission Cléopâtre (Chabat, 2002). This article seeks to determine the extent to which Jamel Debbouze stands as an obvious candidate for popular stardom, by analysing his ‘successful Beur’ star persona and comic screen image. It discusses his career in terms of it being representative of a new generation of popular stars imported from the worlds of television and show business, who have recently begun to take over French cinema screens and the celebrity magazines. It suggests that a redefinition of the status of the French film star in the 2000s is taking place, changing cultural patterns for popular stardom.

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