Louis Malle’s 1960 version of Raymond Queneau’s Zazie dans le métro (first published in 1959) offers a privileged opportunity for the investigation of cinematic language and its relation to literary language because it is not an adaptation in the usual sense. Instead of merely rendering the content of Queneau’s novel, Malle proposed to break the conventions of cinematic narration in a manner analogous to Queneau’s treatment of literary and linguistic conventions. Malle’s aim (like Queneau’s) was to criticize society and its cultural institutions: “The disintegration of traditional cinematic language was not only an exercise in style, but the most efficacious method of describing and parodying a world that was itself disintegrated and chaotic.”1
In many ways Malle’s film is an exponent of the coming together in France in the 1960s of the cinematic New Wave and what was to become the “new novel” (nouvelle vague and nouveau roman). The New Wave is a term given to a group of young filmmakers whose first feature films came out in 1959 or 1960. They owed their common spirit to the fact that many of them started off as film critics for the Cahiers du cinéma cofounded by André Bazin in 1951. Under Bazin’s influence, such young critics/filmmakers as Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, and Eric Rohmer developed the idea that films are authored rather than being the anonymous products of a studio. Their contribution to the historical understanding of film was the appreciation of the “authorial style” of American studio directors such as John Ford and Howard Hawkes and a deeper appreciation of the stylistic oeuvre of such European filmmakers as Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio de Sica (of the Italian neorealist school), Jean Renoir, Robert Bresson, and Jean Cocteau. Alexandre Astruc developed the concept of the caméra stylo (camera-pen) and argued that the technical apparatus of cinema can be used as an instrument of personal expression.
Somewhat paradoxically, the filmmakers most appreciated by the Cahiers critics were those who contributed to a greater appreciation of the real world. The Cahiers group advocated realism, but while many of its members started out by making documentaries, they quickly shifted to feature film production. Still, most New Wave directors retain a cinéma vérité element in their fictional style while they simultaneously invent new film metaphors and pay homage in their films to the techniques of Hollywood films. Often, they play one style off against another. No matter how fictional their creations, their films are political in the sense that poetry and art are put in the service of understanding reality. Zazie dans le métro is a prime example of a film rich in political implications.
The New Wave emphasis on film as writing made it easy for filmmakers to collaborate with literary artists: Alain Resnais filmed Hiroshima mon amour with Marguerite Duras in 1959, and Last Year at Marienbad with Alain Robbe-Grillet in 1961. Both of these authors later became filmmakers in their own right. Although Queneau was of an older generation than the authors associated with the “new novel,” his literary experiments have a lot in common with those of the new generation of Robbe-Grillet, Michel Butor, and Nathalie Sarraute.2 Zazie is a brilliant example of fiction written in what Sarraute has called “the era of suspicion” ushered in by World War II and its aftermath. Sarraute writes that today’s authors and readers distrust one another; the reader wants to know who is speaking, while the author feels constrained by the conventional typology that the reader inevitably brings to bear on any psychological narrative.3 In his commentary on the nouveau roman, Stephen Heath has shown that the focus in these works was on various aspects of the literary: on literature as a type of writing, on the relationship between author and reader, and on the intertextual relations between literary texts: “In the space of the text in the practise of writing there is no longer a movement forward to the fixing of some final Sense or Truth, but on the contrary, an attention to a plurality, to a dialogue of texts, founding and founded in an intertextuality to be read in, precisely, a practise of writing.”4
Queneau’s Zazie dans le métro plays on the distrust of narrative authority by presenting a fourteen-year-old antagonist of the adult world. Dropped off at her uncle Gabriel’s during her mother’s romantic tryst in Paris, she refuses to be impressed by any outside authority. Her reaction to Napoleon’s tomb sets the tone for her single-minded and madcap excursion through the city: “Napoléon mon cul . . . cet enflé, avec son chapeau à la con” (“Napoleon my arse . . . that old windbag with his silly bugger’s hat,” in Barbara Wright’s remarkable English translation).
In the heroine’s revolt, the narrator is her ally, creating phonetic word-puzzles (the first word of the novel, “Doukipudonktan,” roughly translatable as “Howcantheystinkso”), and undermining the adults by making fun of their sense of their own importance. Queneau’s radical attack on literary convention extends to language itself and suggests that society will not be sane until our very modes of expression have been shaken up and reformulated.
In a perceptive essay on Queneau’s Zazie, Roland Barthes has pointed out that to attack literary language by writing a novel is, paradoxically, to restate the power of literary and linguistic expression. For Barthes, Zazie is the tool through which the cultural baggage of connotation and metalanguage is stripped of its suffocating power. He notes that the adults are unable to speak without using conventionalized expressions that come from the French cultural and literary past, whereas Zazie’s discourse is either requesting or commanding, and has as its object an immediate effect on reality: “Zazie . . . is the refusal of lyrical (literary) language, the science of transitive language . . . she recalls to order.”5 Yet, if the character of Zazie allows Queneau to establish a point of reference for this “antilanguage,” he knows that hers is a language that literature can never completely assume. As Barthes put it, Queneau’s modernist stance consists in his uneasy alliance with literary forms: “He assumes the mask of literature, but at the same time he unmasks (points a finger at) it.”6
To adopt yet another of Barthes’s paradigms, Zazie is a writable text (texte scriptible) that can only be enjoyed by a reader who participates in the play of its significations.7 Its mix of slang, spoken and literary French, neologisms, and phonetic puzzles challenges the reader’s sensitivity to the nuances of the language.8 Queneau’s literary parodies and intertextual references provide yet another source of playful interaction between reader and text. In addition to the discourses enumerated by Barthes (Latin, medieval, epic, and Homeric), Zazie echoes Shakespeare and Sartre (“Being or nothingness, that is the question”), Racinian alexandrines (“I know this alexandrinarily: that they are almost dead since they are not here” [“les voila presque morts puisqu’ils sont des absents]), and Lewis Carroll (portmanteau words such as “factidiversalité” for “faits divers,” news items).
The polyphony of Queneau’s texts pluralizes the linear progression of the readable text (texte lisible) and disperses its elements. Language explodes in the disruptive celebration of itself qua language, foregrounding its powers of expression and rejecting its traditional subordinate role in relation to plot and character. By inviting the reader’s playful engagement in its network of significations, the novel presents itself as dialogical. Zazie dans le métro belongs to the type of modernist text that Julia Kristeva, in the wake of Mikhail Bakhtin, describes as “carnavalesque. ”In such texts, she argues, the linguistic code is transgressed by another system of signification derived from the logic of dreams—the unconscious.9
If I describe Queneau’s language as playful and imbued with the logic of the unconscious, I do so with an ulterior motive, for these are characteristics of surrealism, a movement to which the young Queneau belonged in the 1920s. Founded in 1924 by André Breton, surrealism set out to transform everyday reality by the operations of the unconscious. Its adherents chose two ways of doing so: through works of art, literature, and film; and by their everyday living. In the arts, they attempted to create works that flowed directly from the unconscious, in the belief that the expression of untrammeled desire would necessarily be more free and truthful than works they could create according to the established canons of taste. Surrealist metaphors flowered forth in surprising juxtapositions hitherto unknown in literature, film, and painting. To the surrealists, the best part of life was childhood, before rational thought becomes oppressively dominant. They saw themselves as the revolutionary transformers of society, who would bring people back in touch with their true selves and liberate their enslaved creative energies.10
The surrealists did not limit themselves to experiments in art; they also attempted to live according to the dictates of the unconscious, looking, in real life, for chance encounters or strange coincidences that would prove to them that the unconscious with its lack of logic could provide a modus vivendi as well. In Zazie, it is obvious that surrealism left an indelible mark on Queneau. His heroine is a child who is refreshingly free of the constraints of the adult world and who uses language as a liberating force. Queneau’s novel is full of the verbal inventiveness and disrespect of literary convention so characteristic of surrealism. But there is an additional dimension. The surrealists were dedicated to the idea that language could transform reality—their writings were exuberant expressions of their faith in the metamorphosis of consciousness that linguistic and mental liberation would bring. Appearing in the postwar period, Queneau’s writings have a darker side. Like many other literary works of this period, his novels are ultimately self-effacing. They affirm the presence of language without staking out a claim either of continuity with the past or influence on the future. In this they are part of what Barthes has called “white writing” (ecriture blanche)—a literature of silence. It is as though in the age of suspicion any serious literary work had to question its own voice.
In adapting Zazie dans le métro, Malle added to Queneau’s vision his own critique of bourgeois complacency and life in the modern city. By violating cinematic conventions, Malle tries to communicate the insufficiency of our habitual representations of reality; and by proposing Zazie as the anti-heroine of Paris who questions everything the adults around her would have her believe, he creates a focus for the spectator’s identification that acts as a catalyst for the liberation of unconscious thoughts and feelings.
Zazie dans le métro was Malle’s third feature film and remained one with which he declared himself only partially satisfied.11 Like many New Wave directors, Malle started out in documentary, working for a time as cameraman for Jacques Cousteau’s Le monde du silence (1956). He has continued to make documentaries throughout his career; the best known, L’Inde fantôme, was produced in 1969. In fact, nearly all of Malle’s fiction films preserve a documentary aspect. Lacombe, Lucien (1974) recreates the atmosphere of occupied France and the Resistance while Atlantic City (1980) captures that city’s version of the American Dream. Malle’s use of the French photographer Belocq as the protagonist in Pretty Baby (1977) gives him the opportunity to interweave with the story a photographic documentary of New Orleans and the milieu of prostitution in 1917. Many of Malle’s “fictions” are in fact documentaries, just as his “documentaries” are fictions. He is conscious that, just as the act of filming implies subjectivity, any imaginary creation is colored by the surprise intrusion of the real: “If you put your camera in the street, the way you film is an interpretation. So it’s your point of view, it’s a mirror game—and it’s terribly unconscious . . . I try to do it in fiction too now, as much as I can. I try to invent a world, I put my camera in front of it, and then try to shoot the way I’ d shoot a documentary.”12
Translating this statement into the terms presented above, we might say that Malle’s fiction films disrupt the cinematic conventions of the narrative genre with those of documentary realism. Zazie is a film in which different expectations are constantly canceling one another out. Malle’s major innovation in adapting Queneau’s novel is the creation of a parodic film arranger who reveals himself at every moment as unreliable and subversive in relation to the basic rules of cinematic coherence. Like Queneau, whose models were Alfred Jarry, Lewis Carroll, and the comic strip, Malle is inspired by the cinematic precedents of Georges Melies, Mack Sennett, Buster Keaton and the cartoon. In spirit, he is closest perhaps to Jean Vigo’s Zéro de conduite (1933). Just as Queneau shifts registers, combining spoken French with the literary passe simple, neologisms and recherché vocabulary, Malle’s style is a mixture of genres. As one critic put it: “This isn’t a film, it’s an anthology.”13 In this too, Malle rejoins the encyclopedism of Queneau’s work, which often reads like a compendium of literary antecedents, scientific facts, and slang. Malle’s painstaking dissection of cinematic language can be divided into three categories that derive from the preceding analysis: the disruption of the narrative frame, intertextual play between frames, and the irruption into the narrative of dream logic.
THE DISRUPTION OF THE NARRATIVE FRAME
Like Queneau, Malle foregrounds the medium of his art; the viewer is constantly reminded that he or she is at the cinema. Nowhere is this more apparent that in Malle’s creation of a fantastical narrative space, time, and causality. The first scene shows Gabriel on a platform, surrounded by a band of “extras” who will reapppear in various guises throughout the film. As the camera pans slowly past them, it seems to be presenting them to us for review: a pickpocket, a man reading the journal Diogène, a fashionably dressed lady, a young woman resembling the famous cabaret singer Juliette Greco, a poor woman in a cap, and so on. The characters stand still, like figures in a wax museum, while the pickpocket moves past them in the direction of the camera’s tracking shot, snatching objects from their hands and off their shoulders. Gabriel, having uttered the Doukipudonktan that opens Queneau’s novel, wanders among these people while the camera follows him. He comes to stand again next to the man reading Diogène, who has had to cross behind the camera to rejoin Gabriel in this position, thus violating the principle of consistent diegetic space. This first incongruity of diegetic space prefigures similar effects throughout the film.
The train arrives, and Zazie’s mother, Jeanne Lalochère, runs toward the open-armed Gabriel (Philippe Noiret) in a shot-counter-shot. At the last moment, the Diogène reader steps out from behind Gabriel and grabs Lalochère, bearing her off for the weekend while Gabriel is assaulted by Zazie. The rest of the film depicts Zazie’s Parisian adventures for the next thirty-six hours before she is handed, sleepy and exhausted, to her mother who just barely makes the train back.
While in Paris, Zazie’s main goal is to ride the metro (subway) which is on strike the day she arrives. The first morning, she escapes from Gabriel’s house to go for a ride. Finding the strike still on, she pretends to cry (it is clear from the soundtrack that the tears are false). Adopted at once by a shady character named Pedro, she is taken to the flea market. Malle’s descriptive shots again create an illogical diegetic space, as he cuts from rows of merchandise to rows of women under hairdryers. Later the women are seen next to the bistro where Gabriel lives, implying that the arranger has lifted the beauty shop from its real location in order to create a kind of cinematic joke through graphic matching. The emphasis on regular rows of objects recalls Franҫois Léger’s cubist Ballet mécanique (1924) and René Clair’s Entr’acte (1924); yet Malle’s point is not abstraction but a violation of the norms of narrative: the script specifies that the purpose is “to give the impression of a mistake in the montage.”14
Pedro buys Zazie a pair of blue jeans and then takes her to lunch in a bistro. At the end of her lunch, Zazie makes off with her bloudjinnzes (Queneau’s spelling) with Pedro in hot pursuit. Zazie changes place at will during this chase scene which is reminiscent of Chaplin or Keaton. Similar disruptions of spatiality occur in Gabriel’s apartment (Fig. 1), where she is shown seated alternately to the right and left of Gabriel, and in the final scene at the café, where her failure to appear in the place she supposedly occupies constitutes a violation of continuity.
Narrative time in Malle’s film is equally illogical, even though the diegetic time of thirty-six hours is clearly delimited. When Zazie first makes her escape, she enters her room in pajamas and comes out a moment later fully dressed, despite the fact that no lapse of time has been implied in the diegesis.
Mismatching image and sound is another way of disturbing narrative coherence, and Malle makes the most of the opportunity by showing a man in the flea market who runs the bow of a violin against the arm of his suit while violin music is heard on the soundtrack. A shoe that Zazie picks up from a table plays a tune. Finally, writing is used to produce mismatches: a baby wears a sign “for sale” around its neck. It is as though Malle were offering the dissected elements of the film in separate parts so that the spectator can observe them dispassionately. The disjointed syllables that appear in the background of some shots in place of billboards graphically underline this dismemberment of language.
Malle even dissects bodies: the severed arms of mannequins adorn the bistro where Zazie has lunch. Even more disturbing are the shifts of identity: Pedro buys the blue jeans from his own double, Pedro-Surplus, as Malle manages to get the same actor in one frame playing two different roles. Later Pedro returns as the policeman Trouscaillon and finally as an Italian fascist soldier. Gabriel’s wife is not only Albertine but Albert, to whom the departing Zazie throws a final “au revoir monsieur” at the end of the film.
INTERTEXTUAL PLAY BETWEEN FRAMES
I have said that Malle, like Queneau, mixes registers in his film; for the most part he does this through the quotation of other films or film genres. The first shot is a traveling shot of the train tracks, giving the spectator a view from the train that brings Zazie to Paris. The image is accompanied by a whistled Western tune. The same shot, in reverse, ends the film. Through this repetition, Zazie emerges as the cool and pure heroine of a Western who comes into town, cleans up the place, and leaves.
Malle’s own earlier films are ruthlessly parodied in Zazie. The policeman Trouscaillon sneaks into Gabriel’s apartment to woo Albertine to the same Brahms sextet that accompanied the love scene between Jeanne Moreau and Jean-Marc Bory in the sentimental Les Amants (The Lovers, 1958) with the identical voice-over comment: “L’Amour peut naître d’un regard” (love can be born of a look). Zazie’s long walk through Paris with the widow Mouaque who has fallen in love with Trouscaillon echoes a similar scene with Jeanne Moreau in Malle’s L’Ascenseur pour l’éechafaud (1958). But perhaps Malle’s funniest parody is that of Alain Resnais’s and Marguerite Duras’s Hiroshima mon amour which had come out the previous year. While sitting in the bistro with Pedro, Zazie is describing the (imaginary) scene in which her mother killed her father with an axe. The parallel scene in the Duras/Resnais film is Riva’s confession to Okada in which traveling shots of the Loire near Nevers are intercut with shots of the two characters in the bar at Hiroshima (see chapter 5). Malle makes a similar cut to a long traveling shot down a corridor at the end of which Zazie’s father sits alone in chair. Zazie’s words, heard in a voice-over, are similar to Riva’s: “Papa he was all alone in the house, all alone he waited, he waited for nothing in particular, he waited just the same, and it was all alone he waited.” (Riva: “I was waiting for you with a patience that knew no limits.”) But where Riva, in a moment of great emotional intensity, is awakened from her memory of the past by Okada’s slap, Zazie’s father claps his hands in the air to kill a fly. At this point Zazie, like Riva, awakens from her reverie.
By referring to other films, Malle foregrounds this film as film. The metafilmic dimension of Zazie is enhanced by the actual appearance of cameramen, grips, and lighting crew in the final cafe scene where the fight between waiters, fascist soldiers, nightclub artists, and tourists results in the demolition of the cafe’s decor. In other scenes one catches glimpses of “stars”: the popular music singer Sacha Distel next to a billboard picture of himself and a woman strongly resembling Marilyn Monroe.
Queneau’s parody of Hamlet profits from Malle’s hilarious mise-en-scène on the Eiffel Tower in which Gabriel crawls over the balustrade and rides to the top on the roof of the elevator, declaiming all the while. Malle also parodies literary sources that Queneau does not mention. Albertine is described as “disparue” in a reference to Marcel Proust’s Albertine disparue, one of the volumes of his A la recherche du temps perdu. One suspects that Malle changed Queneau’s Marceline to Albertine solely for the Proustian overtones, in order to make a connection between that writer’s homosexuality and the suggested homosexual relation between Gabriel and Albertine/Albert.
THE IRRUPTION OF DREAM LOGIC
INTO THE NARRATIVE
Like Queneau, Malle uses humor as one of the main instruments of attack against convention. In Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, Freud has shown how humor releases energy from the unconscious, giving rise to laughter. Malle’s film gags and verbal jokes are related to the operations of the unconscious as Freud describes them: displacement, condensation, and figurative representation. His use of dream logic makes Malle as close as Queneau to the surrealists.
On a verbal level, Malle adopts many of Queneau’s humorous effects from the novel. Displacement occurs in Gabriel’s pithy résumé of the human condition, in which a series of similar sounds conceals the idea of futility and death by its seductive euphony: “Un rien l’amène. Un rien l’amine. Un rien l’emmene.”15 The displacement of morphemes that mask the unmentionable (death) reveals that displacement is a form of censorship, as Freud has shown.16 Malle finds cinematographic equivalents to Queneau’s literary expression in his manipulation of the soundtrack. When Zazie first meets Turandot, the owner of the bistro in which Gabriel occupies a second-floor apartment, she lets out a stream of insult that is played backwards on the soundtrack so it cannot be understood. A similar effect is achieved by masking words with the sound of a truck in the scene where Zazie escapes Turandot’s pursuit by suggesting to a crowd of people that he has made indecent overtures to her. We never get to hear the monstrosity that is passed around in a whisper by the shocked and fascinated adults.
On the visual plane, Malle’s portrayal of Pedro/Trouscaillon/Mussolini is a form of displacement. On reflection, the spectator realizes that Pedro’s previous association with a mugging (in his first scene with Zazie), interrogation (his abuse of the shoemaker Gridoux and of Gabriel), authoritarianism (his behavior in the traffic jam), and despotism (his attempted seduction of Albertine in Gabriel’s dressing room with its picture of Napoleon on the wall) have been clues to his concealed identity of a fascist murderer throughout the film. The refusal of people to recognize the many faces of fascism for what they are is a theme Malle would take up again in Lacombe, Lucien.
Verbal condensation occurs in the film when Malle mixes registers of speech—a favorite technique of Queneau’s. Here the humor arises not from the spectator’s recognition of a defiance of censorship (as in displacement) but in the pleasure derived from recognizing the economical compression of psychic energy. Gabriel’s monologue on the Eiffel Tower offers one of the best examples: “Foreceps bore them, a hearse carried them away, and the Tower rusts and the Panthéon cracks more rapidly than the bones of the dead who are too much with us dissolve in the humus of the town impregnated with cares.”17 The inflated language and histrionic declamation are partially negated by the banal “the Tower rusts.”
Malle’s visual condensations have the power of surrealist metaphor. In the scene at the Eiffel Tower, Gabriel stands by a sea captain who is looking out into the void with his telescope. Suddenly, a wave breaks against the railing, transforming the Eiffel Tower platform into the deck of a ship (Fig. 2). In another scene, a busload of tourists becomes, in succession, an airplane (a stewardess begins handing out lunchtrays) and a sitting at the United Nations (the tourguide’s comments sputter forth in several different languages through the tourists’ headphones).
The dream logic of this film also includes the figurative representation of concepts not expressed in words but translated into visual images. This is especially true of the use of color: Gabriel’s apartment in the Pigalle section of Paris changes color with the flashing neon lights behind the window, giving the impression that the inhabitants are fish in an aquarium. The tacit comparison of people to animals is continued in the parrot who spouts the famous line from the novel: “Tu causes, tu causes, c’est tout ce que tu sais faire” (talk, talk, that’s all you can do), and who, in Malle’s version, plays telephone operator. To the person who complains about the parrot, Turandot replies: “You should see a psittaco-analyst.” This “beastification” of humans is an idea dear to Queneau, whose long poem Petite cosmogonie portative (1969) reveals a fascination for animals other than human, while the aquarium theme is important in Gueule de Pierre (1934), the first part of Queneau’s trilogy Saint Glinglin.
In many ways, the disruption of narrative, the use of intertextuality, and the irruption of dream logic can all be seen as a shifting between the subframes of the text. Malle’s compression of time and space, in which distant places become contiguous by “errors of montage” is a form of dream logic. It is also intertextual: when Zazie walks right off the street into Gabriel’s bedroom in a single traveling shot, the effect reminds us of Bunñel’s incongruous narrative space in Un Chien andalou (1928). The dreamlike wish-fulfillment of Zazie as she throws her shoes up in the air to see them land on her feet all buckled up is a disruption of narrative causality that also has an intertextual dimension: the scene in Vigo’s Zéro de conduite where the childlike imagination of the arranger has the power to make cartoon drawings move of their own accord while rubber balls stay up in the air without any visible means of support. The film spectator is clearly a part of whatever play of signification is initiated by the text: by using dream logic to break up the narrative, by transmitting information through an unreliable arranger and creating characters who either change their identity or do not seem firmly anchored in narrative space, Malle has clearly succeeded in his goal of avoiding the “narcotic effect of cinema’’ where the spectator is the recipient of a spectacle designed to produce passive gratification.18
It remains to be considered whether Malle has accomplished his goal of providing a cinematic equivalent to Queneau’s disintegration of literary language. To this end I shall juxtapose two contrary views that appeared in the Cahiers du cinéma just after the release of the film.
The negative review by André Labarthe takes the position that Malle’s disintegration of cinematic language becomes a cinematic representation of the disintegration of reality—a representation that never calls into question the problem of film language. Moreover, Labarthe claims that this failure stems from the very nature of the film medium: “Since the cinema is the art of the real par excellence, any critique of its language must necessarily become an interrogation of the real.”19 It is difficult to admit this position on philosophical grounds. Labarthe seems to suggest that film spectators cannot tell the difference between the play on intertextual and narrative frames that I have described above and challenges to the conceptual frames that we use in getting about in the real world.
A different position is taken by Mars in his three-part series, “L’autopsie du gag.” Mars stresses how Malle uses the film gag to interrupt the narrative so that an alert spectator is constantly made aware of the play of cinematic language at the expense of diegetic linearity:
Zazie is not . . . a retrospective of the gag . . . but an attempt at a new cadence, a new style whose principal advantage is to show that a gag does not need to be integrated into an action, that it can suffice as an action in itself. Pushed to the limits of the absurd, this would mean that one hundred and eighty thirty-second gags, aligned one after the other without any concern for coherence, would not constitute a coherent film of an hour and a half, but a festival of one hundred and eighty different films, lasting thirty seconds each.20
Malle’s new “cadence” is in effect the constant shifting between frames that I have described above. Returning once again to Barthes, it is possible to say just as forcibly of Malle’s Zazie that it is the work of obsessional découpage.21 In the film version, however, it is not the character Zazie who wipes the slate clean with her disruptive language, but the arranger who undermines the narrative logic with the logic of dreams and intertextual references. Like Queneau, Malle knows there is no safe position outside language—language is attacked from within, by the interplay of frames. As Metz has said, “A text is nothing but a series of divergences.”22
Malle’s film has, of course, the support of Queneau’s verbal inventiveness. His success can be measured by the way he has integrated the other four channels of cinematic signification (image, sound, music, and writing) into his “translation.” Like the métro of Zazie’s desire, language is “on strike” in Malle’s film—as in Queneau’s novel.