05 décembre 2008

Ouvrir Bazin 3 - Antoine De Baecque

Day 3. Full program here
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"

5 commentaires:

Edwin Mak a dit…

You'll probably have know this one already, but Peter Matthews' piece on Bazin from an older issue S&S is quite relevant to these seminars. Its a good reminder that there's still lots to be said about his own mystical brand of criticism.

HarryTuttle a dit…

I didn't know this article, thanks for the link.

Though I don't agree completely when he says:

"On his death an obituary notice in Esprit cited Bazin as predicting that: "The year 2000 will salute the advent of a cinema free of the artificialities of montage, renouncing the role of an 'art of reality' so that it may climb to its final level on which it will become once and for all 'reality made art'." In this as in so much else, Bazin the jubilant millenarian has been proved exactly wrong. At no other period in its history has cinema been so enslaved by escapist fantasy - and never have we been less certain of the status of the real."

The emergence of the Contemplative Cinema trend, striving to return to Lumière, makes Bazin's wish/prediction for a cinema of reality come true.
Towards the end of the century, we got Sokurov's epic documentaries (Spiritual voices, Confession, A Humble Life); Wang Bing (West of Tracks), Depardon (Profile Paysan), Akerman (D'Est, De l'autre Côté, Là-bas); Benning (Ten skies, 13 Lakes, RR); Geyrhalter (Our Daily Bread); Gröning (Into Great Silence); Gordon/Parreno (Zidane); Ariane Michel (Les Hommes);
and in the fiction camp we got Sharunas Bartas, Lav Diaz, Lisandro Alonso, Weerasethakul, Tarr Béla, Albert Serra...
This is as close to uninterrupted/uninterpretated reality as we can get, not to mention Warhol's Empire and Reality TV.

Of course, it is not the dominant trend of cinema, it's a minority, but it does exist, and it took that long to resurface.

Edwin Mak a dit…

I agree with you, but I think Matthews was referring to, as you also pointed out, the excesses of mainstream cinema ("reality" TV and so on.)

But interesting, do you think contemplative cinema is a 'return to Lumière'?

HarryTuttle a dit…

In the sense that it goes back to cinema's initial purpose to capture reality, in a pre-narrative pre-montage era. Like what Bazin said about neorealism actually. But Lumière, neorealism and CCC vary in degrees. That's something I'd like to define more precisely...

Actualy, Reality TV is closer to what Bazin predicted (in this quote): going so close to the Real that we lose the point of using cinema.

Today's mainstream that Andrews talks about is more like Bordwell's Intensified continuity I believe, with rapid montage and close up. Though I don't know the cotnext of Bazin's quote... did he predict that ALL cinema would become like that? or that this type of cinema could emerge?

HarryTuttle a dit…

It's interesting that Lisandro Alonso would say that (in the video I posted at Unspoken Cinema) : "we have to go back to Lumière brothers".
But I don't think he strictly does the kind of reportage Lumière did. CCC includes definitely more narrative and mise en scene and auteurism into it. It's almost impossible to go tabula rasa and wipe out the narrative convention learnt over the years by cinema.