My notes on the lecture "Bazin au combat" by Antoine De Baecque (former Cahiers Chief editor, Book editor) [who will give a lecture at Yale on Sat Dec 6th]
- Dec 1959 : Cahiers du cinéma #90 = special issue on Bazin
- He was considered "un saint laïc" [secular saint] by the cinéphile community. Tolerant, understanding with his detractors, unifying everyone.
Model from Roger Leenhardt (filmmaker, scholar of 30ies/40ies cinema, godfather of La Nouvelle Vague) who looked for compromise. The French mentality issued from Pascal.
- But he was also impulsive, hot blooded, angry... uneasy/awkward in public at the ciné-clubs, mainly because he had a stutter. With a lack of natural charisma, a deficiant orality, he builds his personality in written words.
- 1946-55 : Bazin is always involved in the current controversies (Sadoul, Welles, Lo Duca, les jeunes turcs...)
- He defends Welles' Citizen Kane against the French Communist party and Sartre.
- 1950 : his article "Le mythe de Staline dans les films soviétiques" (in Esprit, Juillet-août 1950, and in Qu'est-ce que le cinéma? tome 1, original edition) fires up a "stalisnist crisis" within the French criticism circles, forcing everyone to position themselves, politically, either pro or con Bazin's critique. Bazin compares Staline to Tarzan! Georges Sadoul (historian of cinema) sends a violent letter of disapproval to his (ex)friend Bazin. This leads to a climate of "cold war" / feeling of McCarthism among French critics.
- François Truffaut is a controversial provocateur, heir of Bazin's battles. Bazin nurses and trains him (like a boxer's coach) to improve and channel his critical energy. He makes Truffaut rewrite his famous manifesto "Une certaine tendance du cinéma français" (Cahiers # 31, 1954), again and again, during a year, before final publication.
- Georges Sadoul coins the phrase "Hitchcocko-Hawksien" to describe the "young turcs" at Cahiers who prefer American cinema to "La Qualité Française". Bazin calls them "neo formalists", and defends them in his article "Comment peut-on être Hitchcocko-Hawksien?" (in Cahiers #44, Feb 1955)
- Bazin is at the look-out post, he watches, regulates in the sideline, but always ready to jump in and fight back with a fierce article.
- Bazin accepts his own contradictions, his changes of opinions : "le parti-pris de la contradiction est le plus fécond"