01 décembre 2008

Ouvrir Bazin 3 - Steven Ungar

Ouvrir le passé - Un Bazin d'après-guerre

Day 3 (See full program here). My notes (in broken English) on the lecture (in French!) "Arrêt sur documentaire" by Steven Ungar (University of Iowa) which will have a repeat at the Yale University (Dec. 4th).
  • Predisposition of cinema for a documentarian dimension (documentaries, films of exploration, reportage, newsreel...)
    Like Jean Rouch, Chris Marker, Franju, Rouquier, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, André Cayatte, Luis Buñuel, Nicole Verdès, Joris Ivens...
  • issue of truth in reality : newsreel re-enacted, exotic documentaries
  • Van Gogh (1948/Alain Resnais) is a minor masterpiece (for cinema) about a major masterpiece (for painting), which uses it to explicit it, without replacing it.
  • "Regard documentarisant" [documentaristic perspective?] of the post war Italian films (in tome 4 of Qu'est-ce que le cinéma?)

  • "Deux documentaires hors série" on Dimanche à Pékin (1956) and Lettre de Sibérie (1957). Two films disowned by Chris Marker, who refused to grant his permission to project them for us at the seminar because he doesn't like them, even if Bazin praised them. He also declined the invitation to the seminar. He is too busy working on his oeuvre, he said.
  • The article of Bazin Lettre de Sibérie, un style nouveau "L'Essai documenté" (Radio Cinéma Télévision, 16 Nov. 1958) says it's "a filmic reportage on the soviet reality of the present and the past." The Image gives in to the Speech. Cites the scene when Marker plays three different voice-over commentary track on the same shot of a street car in the Siberian town of Yakutsk :
    1. Commentary to the glory of the socialist regime
    2. Neutral description
    3. Diatribe against collectivism
  • At the 1998 retrospective Chris Marker at La Cinémathèque Française, he said "Commentary and Image attack each others to give an object called 'film'"

  • He then coins the phrase "Montage horizontal" (or lateral montage): the image echoes laterally what is being said by the narrator, in opposition to Eisenstein's Vertical Montage, in the longitudinal axis of the film reel, plan by plan...
  • This reels up a big debate among scholars present, for about 10 minutes, to figure what Bazin meant by "horizontal", and if it has a direct relation with Eisenstein or with the verticality of the editing table at the time (before the flat bed editing table became a standard)
    Hervé Joubert-Laurencin astutely note that the word "horizontal" has no inner meaning in itself, it is just an arbitrary convention to be defined. The words "horizontal" and "vertical" are often used in film theory without referring to the same things. [I'm also a bit wary of topological concepts in general, stating their relative position in an abstract space.]
  • This leads Bazin to develop the concept of "film-essai" : a documentarist point of view (like Vigo in 1930: A Propos de Nice). This is a historical and political essay as written by a poet (like Albert Camus in literature). Essay of human and political geography, like Buñuel's Las Hurdes (1933) [YouTube]
  • Bazin says we are more used to cinema providing a comfort zone for the eye, rather than an intellectual attention. The film-essai disturbs the spectator from this comfort zone.
    The image no longer constitutes the primary matter of cinema, the idea does. Without image the text proves nothing, the text develops a dialectical relation with the image.
  • Lateral Montage will influence the 60ies period of Godard's cinema.
  • Hôtel des Invalides (1952/Georges Franju) "Legend has heroes, war has victims"
    Bazin calls it a "pacifist film", détournement of its commission by the museum of the State Military Department.
  • Les Statues Meurent Aussi (1953/Alain Resnais/Chris Marker)
    "Quand les hommes meurent, ils entrent dans l'histoire, quand les œuvres d'art meurent, elles entrent dans l'art. Cette botanique de la mort, c'est ce qu'on appelle la culture" [When men die, they make History, when artworks die, they make art. This botanic of death, is what we call culture] voiceover against a black screen. [YouTube]
  • Paris 1900 (1947/Nicole Verdès)
  • Les Maitres Fous (1955/Jean Rouch) [YouTube]
Post-lecture discussion :
  • Someone mentions a german text from 1939 by Hans Richter on essay film that could have influenced Bazin's theory, but no evidence could confirm.
  • Later examples of film-essai : J-L Godard, Pier Pasolini, Chris Marker, Luc Moullet, Marcel Ophüls, Federico Fellini, Agnès Varda, Jean-Daniel Pollet, Wim Wenders...
  • Book on Film-essai [in French] : "L'essai et le cinéma" (Éd. Champ-vallon, May 2004) Edited by Suzanne Liandrat-Guigues & Murielle Gagnebien. With articles by Diane Arnaud, Christa Blümlinger, Fabienne Costa, Didier Coureau, Christophe Deshoulières, Jean Durançon, Guy Fihman, Murielle Gagnebin, Jean-Louis Leutrat, Denis Lévy, Suzanne Liandrat-Guigues, Alain Ménil, Claire Mercier, José Moure, Cyril Neyrat, Sylvie Rollet.

2 commentaires:

nitesh a dit…

Thanks for sharing some of the info from this seminar, Harry and the notes do show your a working hard as a good ' student' :)

Wish we could have something like this on our part of the world too or hopefully if the better part of the discussion would be brought out.

HarryTuttle a dit…

You're welcome. I know you're a Bazin fan too. ;)

Sorry for the "minimalist notes", I realize it's hard to read, or to follow... but it's more to give points of references (for future researches) than to give my commentary on what happened.