Howling Wretches: Renoir on Bazin
Jean Renoir (Cahiers du cinéma, no. 91, January 1959)
Translated from French by Ted Fendt
A tender winter sun yellows the old house that I see from my window. What a beautiful evening. André Bazin would have loved it. The pale gold of the luminous rays would have made him forget this famous “dry cold” that Musset preferred to call “a good head cold.”
I forget the script I’m in the middle of writing and I think of all the time I’ve lost. Life is spent wasting time, neglecting a good opportunity, turning one’s back on what is useful to rush towards what is useless.
André was part of the very small crowd of very useful people.
Of course, he was very busy and sick. It would have been indecent to abuse his tireless sociability. And now, I regret not having had this indecency. I miss him all the time. How many questions I still have to ask him, how many dark corners he could have shed light on, how many passionate discussions that will never be born!
In one of his studies, he draws the readers’ attention to the secondary role that scholars have played in the development of the cinematograph and insists upon all that we owe to the visionaries, the obsessives. Reading it, I was thinking of the “Bazins.”
In the simplistic language of our 20th century, we would say “artists,” in opposition to scholars.
An artist’s mission is to precede the pack. He has to reveal hidden feelings, open the window on landscapes that, of course, already existed, but that we poorly discerned, hidden as they were by the fog of false traditions. The artist’s function is to tear away some of the veils covering every reality.
I’m looking at the last spot of sun on the roof of the old house. It reveals some stunning grey moss to me. Some pigeons stretch their wings towards the fleeting light, assuming positions revelatory of their pigeon spirit. The shade increases. I get up and, standing on my toes, I can catch a last ray of the setting sun.
I forget the old house and the pigeons. This light has erased them from my mind.
Certain directors of films, whose work André Bazin analyzed so scrupulously, will only remain in man’s memory because their names will be read in his books. Their worth is not in question. To tell the truth, it matters little to me. I’m grateful to them for having inspired a clear poet, an artist who, by dint of objective humility, made his work the moving expression of his generous personality.
Choosing Cinematheque Over Cineplex
By DENNIS LIM
Published: September 2, 2011
ONE way to trace the history of the movies is to look at the evolution of alternative cinemas — to consider, in other words, how an inventive approach to showing films can foster a new way of understanding them.
Inspired by the ciné clubs that flourished in 1920s Paris, Henri Langlois started the Cinémathèque Française in the mid-1930s to present prints from his collection — he salvaged thousands during the Nazi occupation — and in the process created a breeding ground for kindred revolutions in criticism (at the journal Cahiers du Cinéma) and filmmaking (with the French New Wave). New York film culture as we know it began in 1947 when Amos and Marcia Vogel founded their society, Cinema 16, which introduced the likes of Robert Bresson and John Cassavetes, along with a wide swath of revivals and avant-garde works, to a membership that grew from a few hundred to a peak of 7,000.
by Philip Cartelli
published in Senses of Cinema, issue 65
Cinephiles around the world mourned Chris Marker’s passing earlier this year, while the death of another avant-garde filmmaker and former countryman of Marker’s has largely gone unnoticed aside from a few announcements and obituaries. Born in Tunisia, Marcel Hanoun produced a wholly individual body of work, largely financed outside of any mainstream production network. His work was occasionally lauded in English—in 1970 Jonas Mekas wrote, “I have not a drop of doubt that Marcel Hanoun is the most important and the most interesting French filmmaker since Bresson.” (1) The film Mekas had just seen was a belated arrival from across the Atlantic, Hanoun’s Une simple histoire (A Simple Story, 1959), which won the Eurovision prize at Cannes the year of its release. In a review that was never published, Jonathan Rosenbaum presciently stated, “There is little chance of a masterpiece like Une simple histoire receiving the kind of attention it deserves.” (2) This film stands both as an important early work and as an intimation of what was to come from a singular and under discussed filmmaker.
Marcel Hanoun’s career—a word I use cautiously—was marked by a concern that little in life is so simple that it is not deserving of sustained attention. Much of what Hanoun believed and articulated in film throughout his career is arguably contained in kernel form in Une simple histoire, his first feature. In this assessment of Hanoun through his first major work, I don’t mean to occlude the value or variation of his subsequent films, many of which challenge convention in much more subversive ways, including their increasing formal experimentation. Instead, I see in Une simple histoire a mood, a belief, and an engagement that Hanoun gradually elaborated in various forms over the subsequent sixty-three years. One could claim that Hanoun’s most representative film was his fourth feature, L’authentique procès de Carl Emmanuel Jung (1966), certainly a more radical display of formal innovation and political engagement. But if Hanoun sympathized with radical politics and was himself on the political left, he was always more of a filmmaker than an activist. Une simple histoire was his first feature and his earliest attempt at demonstrating how film can reveal a poetic cruelty and vindication of the human condition.
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