The Unofficial Tribute to the World-Renowned Film Critic and Film Theorist André Bazin
This site was an unofficial tribute to the world-renowned film critic and film theorist André Bazin. The new owner of the domain is keeping some of the extensive content from the site's archived pages, so that this unofficial tribute may continue to stay alive for web visitors to find and enjoy.
NOTE FROM THE ORIGINAL OWNER
André Bazin: A Brief Biography
André Bazin and Cahiers du Cinéma
French film critic André Bazin was born at Angers, France on April 18, 1918. He courageously and unselfishly devoted his life to cinema discourse by writing about film and film theory before a broad spectrum of readers, as well as by participating in the showing of films and discussion about them in a broad range of venues. These included ciné-clubs, factories, and even places where there were many people who had never seen movies before. Bazin was a movie reviewer, cinema critic, and film theorist, and often combined these functions.
André Bazin wrote for many different reviews and magazines, including the general review L'Esprit, founded by the liberal Christian personalist philosopher, Emmanuel Mounier, where Bazin was influenced by the ideas and integrity of the film critic Roger Leenhardt; the often more Marxist L’Écran française, a film review founded during the Resistance; the revived version of Jean George Auriol's Gallimard-sponsored La Revue du Cinéma (1946-1949); Le Parisien libéré, L'Observateur, France-Observateur, and Radio-Cinéma-Télévision.
He co-founded the important film criticism magazine Cahiers du Cinéma and probably did more to elevate and vitalize film discourse than anyone before him or since. For someone as interested in film as he was, Bazin was unusually uninterested in appearing before or getting behind a camera. At his time, Bazin was also somewhat remarkable in that he was not someone from another field such as literature, psychology, or philosophy who might be seen as dabbling in or diversifying into cinema discourse.
Although there was certainly writing on cinema before André Bazin, much of it was industry-subsidized promotion, retelling of plots, self-promotion by persons in the industry, polemics that cinema should not contain narrative or drama, diatribes against talking pictures or other innovations, or adulation of or gossip about stars.
André Bazin embodied a new emphasis, with attention to more than just the usual exploration of story-performance-theme that discussion of films routinely limited itself to or focused on. He would talk and write more deeply, including about such things as the role of the set and props in Marcel Carné's Le Jour se Lève, Jean Renoir's camera movement around a courtyard in Le Crime de M. Lange, the use of deep focus to depict both a person who has attempted suicide and a person coming through the door to the room in Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, and the non-hammering of forced nuances or interpretation into a breakfast table scene in Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons. Bazin was a man who could find significance in the fact that Charlie Chaplin's Tramp kicks backwards instead of forward and could perceptively write about snow in the movies! People will probably always speak of films in terms like "funny", "sexy", "scary", "inspiring", and "exciting", but Bazin was at the forefront in ushering in new dimensions to film discourse.
An earlier French film critic, the great Louis Delluc, once wrote a one word review of a film, saying "Rien [nothing]." It is difficult to imagine André Bazin writing such a review; he generally tried to evenhandedly explain himself and would sometimes publicly retract from an earlier position, as he did with Renoir's Diary of a Chambermaid. Orson Welles once disagreed with Bazin about Bazin's characterization of Welles' lead character in A Touch of Evil; as an editor of Cahiers du cinéma, Bazin probably could have had the remark edited out, but he was more concerned with the truth than saving face.
As Raymond Bellour has noted, Bazin wrote in a time when critics and theorists viewed motion pictures or moving pictures passing before them in the actual ongoing course of movement. Since then, there has been greater ability and tendency to stop, fragment, and dissect films, and film analysis has periodically incorporated semiological, sociological, ideological, or psychoanalytical perspectives from thinkers such as Roland Barthes, Theodor Adorno, Karl Marx, Louis Althusser, or Jacques Lacan. Guy Hennebelle, at pages 3 and 4 of an introduction titled "CinémAction et les théories", in Théories du cinéma, CinémAction n. 20 (L'Harmattan 1982), speaks of a conference on cinema research almost two decades after Bazin's passing, at which much of the discussion was along the lines of Christian Metz's semiological investigations. A large number of those in attendance could not understand what was being discussed. Cinema discourse has moved in many directions since Bazin. Discourse beyond what each and everyone can understand should not be prohibited or dismissed, yet one of Bazin's virtues was that, although his writings can sometimes be challenging, they are understandable.
André Bazin was an early advocate or defender of Orson Welles, Jean Renoir, Italian Neo-Realism, Charlie Chaplin's post-Tramp films, and William Wyler. Realism in cinema was very important to Bazin and he was an advocate of less conspicuously "packaged" cinema techniques, preferring the longer take and deep focus or depth of field photography (where the viewer could simultaneously clearly see on different planes of distance, witnessing people in a room planning a boy's future and also be able to look out the window at the unaware boy, playing in the snow; see a conversation and an eavesdropper to it; or watch a person who is being stalked or shadowed, and the stalker or shadower as well). For Bazin, a cinema where the viewer was allowed to interpret tended to better reflect the ambiguity, mystery, and interconnection that is before us in real life.
Yet it should be noted that André Bazin tried to listen to others, observe the reactions of varied audiences, and be open-minded. His positions in regard to matters such as montage or editing and deep focus have sometimes been inaccurately over-simplified into absolutist views, perhaps partly due to placing too much emphasis on the fact that there was a chapter titled "Montage Interdit " in Bazin's Qu’est-ce que le cinéma? This over-simplification is misleading and productive of fascinating but arguably unnecessary controversy. Bazin preferred longer takes and explained why, questioned the suitability of montage as a cinematic attempt to mimic literary simile, and believed that when the suggestion of actual spacial juxtaposition or temporal continuity was important to convey danger or things like the efficacy of a magician (as opposed to technically unveiling his techniques) or a dancer, it was better not to undermine the impression of reality with editing. If such matters are presented by montage, we don't as fully "know" if the child was ever in danger from the lioness, if the rabbit was pulled out of an empty hat or placed there during a cinematographic intermission, whether the dancer can actually dance a full routine or has to do it over several weeks, and if the members of the dance team can actually stay in step with each other. Though Bazin viewed montage or editing as having a "price", he was not advocating the prohibition or elimination of all montage or editing. For example, in his first Cahiers du Cinéma article, "Pour en finir avec la profondeur de champ", from Cahiers du cinéma, n. 1, (April 1951), Bazin would speak of the history of deep focus, reintroduced into interior shooting by Renoir, Welles, and Wyler, and how it had been debated but had now become established as a matter of current usage, less noticeable and striking than it had seemed at its introduction, more discrete, a part of the director's stylistic arsenal. Bazin would conclude somewhat moderately, viewing montage, long sequences, deep focus, and non-deep focus as tools here to stay, to be integrated. Bazin also stated it would be evidently absurd to deny the decisive progress that montage had brought to cinematic language, but believed it was also at the expense of other values. Aspects of montage could be integrated into long sequence and deep focus direction, so as not to sacrifice unities of time and space. Deep focus was not just a technical advance, it was a dialectical advance. The two final paragraphs of the Cahiers article would appear in the Qu’est-ce que le cinéma? article "L'évolution du langage cinématographique" in the French as well as the English, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese translations, though perhaps with some de-emphasis of the "plan-sequence" -- or long sequence -- term in the English translation.
Bazin's appreciation of Citizen Kane and his writings on Cocteau's Les Parents terribles, including "Du théâtre transformé par la magie blanche et noire en pur cinéma (Les Parents terribles)", L’Écran français, (December 7, 1948), in Le cinéma français de la Libération à la Nouvelle Vague" (Cahiers du cinéma 1998), pp. 188-193, and "Théatre et cinéma", from L’Esprit (June and July-August 1951), in Qu’est-ce que le cinéma?, translated into English -- with some omissions -- as "Theater and Cinema", in Gray, Hugh, What Is Cinema?, Vol. I (University of California Press 1967), and also available in the Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese editions, make abundantly clear that Bazin was not advocating that film be static like a frozen-in-place shoplifting or security surveillance camera. Still, although Bazin may have done more to give more focused discussion on direction and directors than anyone before him or since, and was certainly not opposed to film as personal expression, Bazin clearly preferred direction that did not seem to be calling attention to itself for its own sake or in an obstrusive or seemingly purposeless "hey, look at me" way. For Bazin, if the ringing of a telephone matters, it is apparently not necessary to hammer this to the viewers eyes, optic nerve and brain with cliched closeups and cuts back and forth.
Television ads, movie previews, music videos, the films of Jean-Luc Godard, Oliver Stone's recent, almost pinball-paced Any Given Sunday and the drug usage sequences in Darren Aronofsky's recent Requiem for a Dream provide obvious examples of a seeming rejection of Bazin's general preference against obvious discontinuity or sudden shifts of attention. On the other hand, when a Forrest Gump meets a President, Bob Hoskins' Eddie Valiant encounters Toons in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, or an action hero runs from an fiery explosion today, Bazin's intuitions are honored by showing the event and the participant(s) in the same frame. In fact, some of what Bazin was saying about montage was already evidenced in Hollywood kisses, where there often might be a shot and reverse shot prelude but it was seen as necessary to show the actor and actress together in profile or semi-profile for the kiss itself. Although televised sporting events are often edited on-the-spot, with cameras in many different positions, some events, such as Olympic gymnastics, will often be shown without cutting from camera to camera once the routine is actually started. Certain situations seem to lose something if shown entirely by editing from shot to shot, such as the situation of the person who mistakenly believes he is the object of a flirtation that is actually intended for a person behind him. It is as if incongruity or irony may sometimes need unbroken, rather than suggested, spacial connection to achieve full effect.
Moreover, average people who have caught a big fish, or met a celebrity or major politician and who have this photographically memorialized generally prefer not to rely on a Kuleshov or Koulechov effect. Rather than hang a photograph of themselves on a wall next to a photograph of a large fish, celebrity or politician, they generally prefer that there be one photograph!
Bazin's moderated 1951 remarks about depth of field can also be illustrated by a scene from Alfred Hitchcock's 1953 film, I Confess, in which Mrs. Grandfort and Father Logan are speaking on the telephone. The background behind Mrs. Grandfort is out of focus; there is probably little or no purpose in us distracting ourselves determining what books she has on her bookshelves! However, on the other end of the conversation, we clearly see Father Logan but also see Mrs. Keller, the wife of the real killer, eavesdropping in the background. Deep focus would arguably be inappropriate or unhelpful in the Mrs. Grandfort shots, but seems indicated during the Father Logan/ Mrs. Keller shots; Mrs. Keller is listening to, deciphering, and reacting to an ongoing conversation and the comprehension of both Father Logan and Mrs. Keller is simultaneously unfolding. Both Father Logan and Mrs. Keller are important. Whiplash editing or focusing and unfocusing between her and the priest would tend to force interpretation and emphasize merely fragmentary aspects of the situation rather than the whole situation.
In real life, people are not always facing each other or in the same room; and a classroom of seated students or a courtroom scene will often involve characters arranged in three dimensions, both in life and on film. The deep focus or depth of field -- which are not exactly the same -- advocated by Bazin allow us to view some scenes in a more life-like way than past practice, which often seemed to require either placing characters in what might be viewed as a sort of artificial line-up or hanging on an imaginary clothesline, or cutting or ping-ponging back and forth between them. A wife is speaking in the bedroom as her husband is brushing his teeth at the bathroom sink, his brushing breaks at her witting or unwitting mention of the name of another woman who happens to be his mistress. Both faces, the conversation, and the break in brushing are of possible significance. This might arguably be better shown -- and can certainly be more subtly shown -- in a non-fragmentary way, perhaps even more so if we are being given a clue as to the existence or identity of the mistress or as to whether the wife is or is not aware. Close-ups and montage might even be viewed as conspicuously labeling, as "telling" rather than "showing", and done at the price of denigrating interrelated components of the situation; it might be noted that mystery novels do not normally highlight the clues in red ink!
In an early scene in Billy Wilder's Sunset Blvd., a film which made the cover of the first Cahiers du cinéma, William Holden's Joe Gillis walks away from Gloria Swanson's Norma Desmond as she continues to gaze at him. Deep focus allows us to simultaneously continue to watch her gaze, observe him physically distancing himself, and observe on his face the dawning recognition that she is a once famous star of the screen.
Interestingly, digital effects often are done with deep focus or depth of field; for example we are usually able to clearly see two space vehicles that are in the same frame in a Star Wars-type film, regardless of the fact that they are at different distances from us. It may also be noted that some of what may appear to be true "deep focus" is sometimes simulated, as in some shots in Citizen Kane in which obvious or not-so-obvious special effects are used.
Bazin greatly admired Jean Renoir's La Règle du jeu [The Rules of the Game], a film that not only had deep focus and depth of field in a visual sense, it also had some simultaneous and overlapping dialogue -- a sort of life-like deep focus in sound -- prefiguring Robert Altman, who would seem "innovative" to many in this regard, in the 1970s. Renoir's film was not a box office success, yet often makes the top of lists of the greatest films in film history. After Bazin's passing, Renoir would dedicate a restored version of La Règle du jeu to André Bazin.
Perhaps comparison of two short portions of two of the most famous film sequences in cinema history may provide some illustration of Bazin's preferences. Towards the end of the famous shower sequence in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, Hitchcock shows the descent of Janet Leigh's character Marion Crane down the shower wall, using camera movement to follow her. Our own eyes would probably do something similar. On the other hand, in Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin classic Odessa Steps sequence, Eisenstein shows the descent of Beatrice Vitoldi, the woman with a baby carriage, who is wounded, falls out of the bottom of the frame; in the next shot, she reappears at the top of a stitched-on new frame (almost as if she is moving through cars of a railroad train, or descending through a multi-storied building and has gone through the floor of a room, through the roof of a room on a lower floor, and into that room), and continues her descent. Both the complete shower sequence and the complete Odessa Steps sequence involve multiple camera positions and a significant use of editing. However, focusing on the descent of the two women, Bazin would almost certainly consider Hitchcock's choice more realistic and prefer it to Eisenstein's choice (It may also be noted that about an hour into Mizoguchi's Sanshô dayû or Sansho the Bailiff, Nakagimi descends towards the ground near a body of water; Mizoguchi finds it more appropriate to follow her than to edit during her descent).
Most of the time when people speak or write of André Bazin in connection with anything other than Bazin on a particular director, film, or genre, much of what they say is based on their readings or first or second-hand impressions from an article or articles that appeared in the first volume of Qu’est-ce que le cinéma? It might parenthetically be noted that the very title of the book -- in English, What Is Cinema? -- suggests that an inquiry will take place, but it does not promise a definitive and final conclusion anymore than the song title "What Is This Thing Called Love?" does. Moreover, neither the translations nor the present single-volume compilation from that four-volume work contain the entire text of Bazin's original preface. The following penultimate -- or next-to-last -- paragraph may possibly temper or clarify our perceptions of Bazin's intent:
"Cette première série est donc composée d'études brèves ou longues, anciennes ou récentes, groupées autour du thème critique suivant: les fondements ontologiques de l'art cinématographique ou si l'on veut, en termes moins philosophiques: le cinéma comme art de la réalité. Nous partirons, comme il se doit, de l'image photographique, élément primitif de la synthèse finale, pour en arriver à esquisser, sinon une théorie du langage cinématographique fondée sur l'hypothèse de son réalisme ontogénétique, du moins une analyse qui ne lui soit point contradictoire."
To roughly translate, Bazin is saying "This first section is thus composed of studies, brief or long, old or recent, grouped around the following critical theme: the ontological foundations of the cinematographic art, or, if one wishes, in less philosophical terms, the cinema as a realistic art. We will begin, as we must, with the photographic image, primitive element of the final synthesis, to conclude by preliminarily sketching, if not a theory of the cinematographic language founded on the hypothesis of its realistic ontogeny, at least an analysis that would not be at all contrary to it." This expression of general intent admittedly clearly shows a focus that is vastly different from Eisenstein's remarks that cinema is montage or Positif critic Ado Kyrou's in Le surréalisme au cinéma that "The cinema is essentially surrealist." Still, Bazin's remarks seem rather temperate and non-absolutist and do not appear to be the language of someone wanting to purge, invalidate, exclude, censor or prohibit! The omission of this paragraph from the later one-volume edition should not be seen as a disavowal; rather, Bazin had passed away shortly after the publication of the first two of the planned four volumes, the statement had been written in the context of a foreword to the first volume, and it would have been out-of-context as a foreword to the posthumous single-volume compilation.
Although André Bazin often took positions different from what might be expected, he did not seem to be provocative for the mere sake of being provocative, as one might expect or suspect of some other critics. Bazin seems to have lacked real malice towards anyone. When he did not like a film by the Préverts, he closed his review on a positive note, saying he went to see Le Jour se Lève, another Prévert-associated film that was a Bazin favorite, in order to feel better. Moreover, although he was certainly not humorless, he does not seem to go out of the way to engage in wordplay for the mere sake of wordplay or to appear clever. Though highly intellectual, Bazin tried not to take himself too seriously, and would prefer to help a person broaden their understanding of cinema rather than feel obligated to determine the box office future of films. He once said, perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek, in Cinema 58, "La principale satisfaction que me donne mon métier réside dans sa quasi-inutilité"; yet Bazin was a man who unselfishly sacrificed his time and his health to his supposedly semi-useless vocation of cinema discourse, showing and discussing non-approved films during the Occupation and making the rounds of ciné-clubs and festivals and continuing to write as his health faded. Like the prematurely deceased director Jean Vigo -- whom Gilles Jacob has called the patron saint of cinéclubs -- Bazin literally gave himself to cinema. Yet Bazin, in person, was apparently fairly well-rounded and interested in other people regardless of whether there was a cinema connection; this sense of perspective may have been somewhat lacking in the great Henri Langlois, who should still be thanked and praised for advocating and demonstrating the importance of film preservation and availability.
Many of those -- such as Jean Mitry, Noel Carroll or Positif critic Gérard Gozlan -- who have criticized some or many of André Bazin's assumptions or conclusions, have nonetheless noted praiseworthy aspects of Bazin or his criticism. Moreover, Mitry, though generally praising Louis Delluc in his 56 page monograph Louis Delluc 1890-1924 (Avant-Scène du Cinéma, Anthologie du Cinéma 1971), pp. 33, 34, notes that the criticism of Delluc was often devoid of justification, explanation, and sufficient detail for a contemporary reader to form a reliable idea of a given film. Mitry then refers to changes since Delluc, and notes that more current writing gives a good idea of films, using as examples, Welles' Citizen Kane and Rossellini's Paisa (Paisan). Without mentioning Bazin by name, Mitry is arguably noting some of Bazin's positive influence.
Bazin was a founder of the movement known as Objectif 49 and the Festival du Film Maudit, both intended to revitalize and deepen cinema and cinema discourse. These efforts included other critics and writers, such as Alexandre Astruc, Pierre Kast, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze (a co-editor of Jean George Auriol's La Revue du cinéma and a later co-founder of Cahiers du cinéma), Claude Mauriac, Jacques Bourgeois, and Roger Leenhardt, and some directors, such as Jean Cocteau, and Robert Bresson.
On a personal level, Bazin was often noted for his generosity, his deep love for and interest in animals, and a stammer, which had contributed to him not being able to become an educator in a more institutional sense.
André Bazin was married to Janine Bazin, who would work with André S. Labarthe on the audio-visual series "Cinéastes de notre temps" after Bazin's passing on November 11, 1958. Their son, Florent, would later work on films with François Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, Roman Polanski, and, recently, Patrice Leconte's La Veuve de Saint-Pierre [The Widow of Saint Pierre], with Juliette Binoche, Daniel Auteuil, and Emir Kusturica, as well as Eric Rohmer's L'Anglaise et le duc [The Lady and the Duke]. André Bazin himself would sometimes write under the name "Florent Kirsch", derived from his son's name and his wife's maiden name.
Bazin and his wife Janine were a major influence on the life and career of critic and future film-maker François Truffaut. Truffaut’s first full-length feature, Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows), was begun at Bazin's death, was dedicated to André Bazin and ushered in what became known as the French "Nouvelle Vague" or "New Wave" at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival.
Bazin was also a significant influence on many film critics, including Eric Rohmer and, to a less direct extent, Jean-Luc Godard, each of whom wrote for Cahiers du cinéma and went on to make films known and appreciated around the entire world.
I hope to be adding to this and the other pages soon. There is now text on the "Bazin and Truffaut" page. There is text on the "Bazin and Cahiers" page, particularly as to the pre-Cahiers du Cinéma magazines, such as L’Écran française and La Revue du Cinéma, but that page also has much more to come. There are many bookcovers from around the world and other images on the "Bazin Gallery" pages, many articles and books are presently cited on the "Bazin Bibliography" pages, and approximately 200 links appear on the "Bazin-related Links" page. There is much more to come! Please be patient; a lot of work has been done for this site, but a lot more will be necessary to bring it to a more complete though preliminary stage.
I. Before Cahiers du Cinéma
André Bazin's involvement with film began during the Resistance and Occupation. During the Second World War, many, though not all, of the leading French film directors left for Hollywood. Moreover, the cinema-going public was deprived of access to films from America. This is certainly not to say that there was nothing of cinematic value happening in France during the war. Perhaps most notably, the careers of directors Robert Bresson and Jacques Becker were beginning. Nonetheless, it was at great risk and peril that André Bazin did such things as secretly screen Charlie Chaplin films, as recounted by Jean-Louis Tallenay in the Cahiers du Cinéma homage issue shortly after Bazin's passing! Chaplin's "Great Dictator" was merely something the French had heard about, over Radio London.
After the end of the war, the French filmgoing public was able to see a backlog of films, and the ciné-clubs had a rebirth. L’Écran française, which had been founded during the Resistance, continued to publish, and Bazin wrote for it, Emmanuel Mounier's L'Esprit, Le Parisien libéré and for the 1946-1949 version of La Revue du Cinéma.
L’Écran française had original sponsorship from groups of the Resistance and such notables as directors Jacques Becker, Marcel Carné, Jean Grémillon, and Jean Painleve; writer/scenarists Pierre Bost, and Jacques Prévert; critics Georges Sadoul and Léon Moussinac; as well as Albert Camus, Henri Langlois, André Malraux, Pablo Picasso and Jean-Paul Sartre. Although a serious publication, L’Écran française was politicized and perhaps unduly unfavorable to American films. Sartre criticized Orson Welles' Citizen Kane in its pages. Bazin would later defend the Welles film and other Welles films like The Magnificent Ambersons in Les Temps Modernes, L’Écran française, and elsewhere. His first article for L’Écran française would be "Vie et mort de la surimpression", an article that later appeared in the four volume Qu'est-ce que le cinéma? but not in the later one-volume French collection. Translations of this article do appear in the Italian collection and in Cardullo's Bazin at Work. Bazin would write a number of articles for L’Écran française, including an article "Le cinéma est-il majeur?", an article on scientific film and Jean Painleve, a sort of pre-Barthes mythology called "Entomologie de la Pin-up Girl", the seminal Objectif 49 piece "Découverte du cinéma: Défense de l’avant-garde", a piece on snow in the cinema titled "Il neige sur le cinéma", a piece on Védrès' Paris 1900, "Le tour de France du cinéma", as well as various writings on Hitchcock, Cocteau, Renoir (including one he would later retract from), Dreyer, Disney, von Stroheim, André Cayatte, René Clément, Preston Sturges, and an early Bergman film. Critic, director, and novelist Alexandre Astruc has said at page 88 of his memoirs, Le Montreur d'ombres (Bartillat 1996) that at L’Écran française, Bazin "devenait vite la conscience de la nouvelle generation (quickly became the conscience of the new generation)." However, although Bazin was generally willing to interact in varied cultural and political environments, Bazin, Roger Leenhardt, and Alexandre Astruc eventually faded away from L’Écran française.
It should be noted that one of the more important articles in L’Écran française by someone other than Bazin had been Astruc's "Naissance d'une nouvelle avant-garde: la caméra-stylo", appearing in number 144, March 30, 1948, and presently appearing in the collection of Alexandre Astruc literary, theatre and cinema essays Du Stylo à la caméra et de la caméra au stylo (L'Archipel 1992), pp. 324-328, as well as in facsimile form in Jean Douchet's coffee table book with substance, Nouvelle Vague (Hattan 1998), which has been released in English translation as French New Wave. Beginning his essay with a quote from Orson Welles, Astruc argued that the cinema was in the process of becoming a means of expression, a language, wherein an artist can express his thoughts, even abstract ones, and obsessions the same as if he were writing an essay or novel, at the level of profundity and signification of the works of Faulkner, Malraux, Sartre, and Camus. According to Astruc, the future would not lie in continuing to do adaptations of Dostoyevski or Balzac. Yet it may parenthetically be noted that both Astruc and Roger Leenhardt, though in a sense fathers to the later Cahiers du Cinéma "young Turks" and French New Wave, were from a generation where literature was viewed as more dignified and artistic than cinema; both of them were film critics and filmmakers who also had significant literary aspirations.
Probably the most important publication in terms of the later Cahiers du Cinéma would be La Revue du Cinéma, which had had an existence in the late 1920s. The revived version of La Revue du Cinéma (1946-1949) was edited by Jean George Auriol, Denise Tual, and Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, with later editorial credits including Jacques Bourgeois through the next-to-last issue. Its first issue appeared in October 1946. The first issue contained articles and reviews by Auriol, Piero Bargellini, Jacques Bourgeois, Georges Sadoul, Pierre Schaeffer, Jean-Pierre Chartier, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, Rémy Peignot, Michel Hincker, Alain Spenlé, Philippe Erlanger, and Amable Jameson. Articles in the first issue included focused treatment on the relationship between cinema and painting, the non-visual element of cinema, and Eisenstein's "Ivan the Terrible." Subsequent issues would also include articles, reviews, scenario excerpts or comments by such persons as Jacques B. Brunius, Jacques Manuel, Irving Pichel, Armand Johannès, Orson Welles, Roy Alexander Fowler, Lo Duca(4), Greg Toland (the cinematographer for Welles and Wyler wrote on "L'Opérateur de prise de vues"), Arthur Rosenheimer, Pierre Prévert, Lotte Eisner, René Clair, Walt Disney, Nino Frank, Marc Soriano, Jean Desternes, Edouard Klein, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Cocteau, Herman G. Weinberg, Hans Richter, Sergei Eisenstein, Armand Panigel, Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost, Judith Podselver, Ingemar Holmstrom, Jean Thévenot, André Apard, André Bazin, Indro Montanelli, Francesco Pasinetti, Peter Ericsson, Piero Tellini, Henri Langlois, Léopold Survage, Albert Laffay, Louis Chavance, Serge Roullet, Liliane Delysan, Ricciotto Canudo, Antonio Pietrangeli, Corrado Alvaro, Emilio Cecchi, Luigi Freddi, Roberto Rossellini, Antonio Chiattone, Mario Verdone, Maurice Schérer (later known as Eric Rohmer), Federico Fellini, Arthur Knight, Glauco Pellegrini, Henri Lavedan, André Camp, Phillipe Fauré-Fremiet, François Veneur, Pierre Kast, Jean Grémillon and Charles Spaak, Jean Debrix, Grisha Dabat, Jean Mitry, Maurice Bessy, Guido Aristarco, G.W. Pabst, Alberto Lattuada, Renato Castellani, Claude Autant-Lara, and George Freedland touching on such directors, subjects, and films as D.W. Griffith, Italian cinema, American film noir, René Clair, Laura, How Green Was My Valley, Orson Welles, Fantasia, Rossellini's Paisa and Rome: Open City, Robert J. Flaherty, Farrebique, Carl Th. Dreyer's Day of Wrath, Fritz Lang, Mickey Mouse, Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons, Alan Ladd in This Gun for Hire, Gone With the Wind, the future of French cinema, John Ford's My Darling Clementine, Le Diable au corps, Quai des Orfèvres", Dreyer's Ordet, Gilda, Hellzapoppin, an article on Dreyer with brief interview material, spectator identification with the auteur, Odd Man Out, Welles' The Stranger, Journey into Fear, television, color technique, a multi-part review of French technical contributions to cinema, The Grapes of Wrath, Jacques Becker's Antoine et Antoinette, Cavalcanti's They Made Me a Fugitive, a review of John Ford's more recent works, dramatic music and cinema, William Wyler, a review of three different cinematic adaptations of James M. Cain's novel The Postman Always Rings Twice, Olivier's Henry V, Welles' The Lady from Shanghai, the major themes of cinema, Flaherty's Louisiana Story, Visconti's La Terre trema, surrealism and Dumbo the Flying Elephant, dance and cinema, Great Expectations, Roger Leenhardt's Les Dernières vacances, Ruy Blas, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, L'Assassinat du duc de Guise, Mexican cinema, a review of some of the films of Henry Fonda, a 14 page review of several Hitchcock films (including Shadow of a Doubt, Lifeboat, Notorious, and Spellbound), the new Swedish cinema, Olivier's Hamlet, Christian Jaque's adaptation of Stendhal's La Chartreuse de Parme, Sturges' Sullivan's Travels, Lady in the Lake, four articles totalling 46 pages on Ernst Lubitsch, Eisenstein's unfinished Que Viva Mexico, John Huston's Treasure of the Sierra Madre, various filmographies and an entire final issue with a primary focus on costume in film. The final article was "Télécinéma: Essai sur la syntaxe de la télévision" by George Freedland. The article right before it was André Bazin's "Le cinéma et la peinture (A props de Van Gogh et Rubens)."
The 1946 version of La Revue du Cinéma had begun with an Auriol article discussing painting as a precursor to film; La Revue du Cinéma essentially ended with a Bazin article on cinema and painting, a topic sufficiently engaging that writers such as Jacques Aumont, and Pascal Bonitzer would write about it decades later.
The above list made by the author of this site is not an entire list of the contents of La Revue du Cinéma, but it demonstrates a certain international interest, a degree of seriousness, a lack of hesitance to explore somewhat technical matters, and an orientation that goes beyond focus on movie stars. The magazine itself was yellow, with no pictures on the cover, and the interior pictorial contents probably disappointing to the "cheese-cake" or "pinup" crowd. During the history of La Revue du Cinéma, advertising could be characterized as non-existent or minimal, and when it appears, it tends to be limited to cinema-related products such as equipment or reviews).
Jean George Auriol died on April 2, 1950, as the result of an automobile accident. About a year later, partly in commemoration of Auriol, his life and work, Cahiers du cinema would appear.
More is to come!
1. According to Georges Sadoul, Dictionnaire des Cinéastes (Microcosme /Seuil 1990 edition), p. 21, Jean-Georges Auriol was born January 8, 1907 and the founder of the original 1928-1929 Revue du cinéma. The rather short entry on him notes, among a few other matters, that he died prematurely and that Cahiers du cinéma took up and carried on what he had started. One can find a good bit more on Auriol in the recent Michel Ciment and Jacques Zimmer, editors, La critique de cinéma en France, Michel Ciment and Jacques Zimmer, editors, (Ramsay 1997), pp. 280, 281, a book which also has further information on La Revue du cinéma.. It may be noted that premature death may have added a certain emotional impact or nostalgia to perceptions of such major French critics as Louis Delluc, Auriol, André Bazin, and Serge Daney, as well as director Jean Vigo. It may not always be easy to measure the extent of the "Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder" effect, which can have an impact beyond cinema. The examples of American President John F. Kennedy, and a pantheon of prematurely deceased pop-singers easily come to mind.
2. In a preface to the first issue, Auriol and Tual stated:
"LA REVUE DU CINÉMA veut prouver au producteur et au réalisateur de films que l'art de films que l'art ne se sépare pas du metier. Et d'abord elle veut empêcher l'artiste qui «voit» de s'eloigner du technicien qui «exécute».
LA REVUE DU CINÉMA est la maison des inventeurs et des poètes qui ont, trop souvent, les ailes coupées par des conditions économiquies défavorables, et aussi, par le manque de préparation du public.
Le cinéma est un art populaire mais, avant d'atteindre la foule, les cinéastes de tous les pay doivent pouvoir disposer d'une tribune, d'un atelier. Ils ont besoin de s'entendre, besoin d'exprimer, de confronter, d'échanger, de préciser leurs idées. LA REVUE DU CINÉMA leur donne rendez-vous."
3. Amable Jameson was apparently a pen-name of Auriol's. See, Olivier Barrot, L'Écran Français 1943-1953: Histoire d'un journal & d'une époque (Les Édieteurs Français Réunis 1979), p. 47; Michel Ciment and Jacques Zimmer, editors, La critique de cinéma en France (Ramsay 1997), p. 280. André Bazin himself would later sometimes, though not extensively, use the penname "Florent Kirsch", derived from his son's first name, and his wife Janine's maiden name. François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard would later sometimes use pennames -- Truffaut as "Robert Lachenay" and Godard as "Hans Lucas" -- and Eric Rohmer's name was actually Maurice Schérer. An important article in the June 1948 issue, titled "Le cinéma, art de l'espace" is credited to Maurice Shérer, with no "c" in the last name. However, by July 1948, his name is spelled correctly. Interestingly, an early Cahiers du cinéma would misspell his penname as Eric Rhomer! Rohmer himself published an important, though very short-lived, five issue, pre-Cahiers review, La Gazette du cinéma, where one might read articles by Rohmer on Rossellini's Stromboli;by Godard as "Hans Lucas" on Joseph Mankiewicz's House of Strangers, Elia Kazan's Panic in the Streets, Sergei Eisenstein's Que viva Mexico, or Max Ophuls' La Ronde; by Jacques Rivette on Jean Renoir's The Southerner, Cocteau's Orphee, or Hitchcock's Under Capricorn; as well as articles by Jean Douchet, Jean Dommarchi, Alexandre Astruc, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Jacques Doniol-Valcroze. La Gazette du cinéma published between May and November of 1950. Godard has acknowledged unsuccesfully trying to get articles into La Revue du cinéma; La Gazette du cinéma provided him an important initial platform.
One of Bazin's Cahiers articles as Florent Kirsch would be "Introduction à une filmologie de la filmologie", in Cahiers du cinéma, n. 5, (September 1951), pp. 33-38. This was commenting on a review and movement founded by Gilbert Cohen-Séat, which assembled academics and experts, generally from outside cinema or journalism, to try to seriously discuss matters relating to film, but without much emphasis or attention to individual films or directors. Some of the important contributors to Revue Internationale de Filmologie in its early days (the first issue appeared in July-August 1947) would include Cohen-Séat, Georges Sadoul, Etienne Souriau (who also edited the 1953 book L'Univers filmique), Henri Agel, and Siegfried Kracauer. Souriau popularized the term "diegetique" or "diegetic", and Cohen-Seat the term "filmique" or "filmic", such terms would later frequently be seen in semiological and narratological writings on cinema ("Diegetic" generally refers to the "world" of the story; we assume or expect that Julius Caesar will not wear a Rolex, that Gary Cooper's Will Kane will not be able to use weightlessness nor will he hear anyone paging Mr. George Kaplan during the High Noon final shootout, that Audrey Hepburn's 1960s New York City Wait Until Dark character will not hear a U.S. cavalry trumpet and be saved by the cavalry; and that human beings need to sleep, regardless of whether the film ever actually shows them sleeping. "Diegetic music" refers to music with a seen or unseen but plausible source in the story's environment, such as a car radio, barroom jukebox, wedding band, or hotel lobby Muzak. In A Hard Day's Night, when the Beatles rehearse or play onstage, the music is diegetic; however, if my memory serves me well, when we hear "Ringo's Theme" as Ringo goes for his solitary walk, the music is extradiegetic. The "Marseillaise" sung by the crowd at Rick's in Casablanca is diegetic; the portions of the "Marseillaise" heard at the end of the film as Rick and Captain Renault walk into the fog are extradiegetic; the same film interweaves diegetic and extradiegetic versions of "As Time Goes By." The distinction between diegetic and extradiegetic music is a part of the more recent Dogme 95 or Dogma 95 "Vow of chastity"; this movement harkens back, in some respects, to the French New Wave, particularly in its avoidance of the trappings of industrialized cinema).
Although our conception of the Nouvelle Vague directors often involves the notion that they learned all of their lessons about films in movie theatres rather than universities, and it is not always easy to separate fact from fiction in regard to Jean-Luc Godard, Michel Marie reports in his French language book on À bout de souffle [Breathless] (Nathan 1999) that Godard briefly attended some classes at the Sorbonne's Institut de Filmologie, and that he met a certain Parvulesco there, whose name he later used for the novelist interviewed at Orly, played by director Jean-Pierre Melville.
4. Lo Duca would later be a co-founder of Cahiers du cinéma along with André Bazin and Jacques Doniol-Valcroze. Léonid Keigel lent financial support.
5. Bazin's articles in La Revue du Cinéma included "Le mythe de M. Verdoux", "William Wyler, ou le janséniste de la mise en scène" (published in two parts), "Le style, c'est l'homme même: Les Dernières vacances", "La meilleure femme ne vaut pas un bon cheval: Le Banni" (on Howard Hughes The Outlaw with Jane Russell), and "Le cinéma et la peinture (A props de Van Gogh et Rubens)."
The two-part William Wyler article later appeared in the four volume Qu'est-ce que le cinéma? but not in the later one-volume French collection. Translations of it appear in the Italian collection, in Cardullo's Bazin at Work and in French in the 1992 Gallimard anthology La Revue du Cinéma. It may be recalled that Orson Welles and Welles Wyler had cinematographer Greg Toland in common; they all, along with Jean Renoir, pioneered in depth of field cinematography. Bazin also admired Wyler's "styleless style." One of the running controversies in French film criticism would involve comparison between William Wyler and John Ford, and it is clear that Bazin preferred the former, considering Ford a director who did certain things too reflexively or by repeating personal formulae. Bazin's article on Wyler slightly preceded Roger Leenhardt's L’Écran française article "A bas Ford! Vive Wyler! (tr: Down with Ford, Long Live Wyler!)", reprinted in Roger Leenhardt, Chroniques de Cinéma (Cahiers du Cinéma 1986), pp. 157-159. To some extent, Ford is more critically respected today than he was, and some of the esteem for Wyler has faded, but Leenhardt himself did not seem eager to re-consider more than thirty years later. Roger Leenhardt, Les Yeux Ouverts: Entretiens avec Jean Lacouture, (Seuil 1979), p. 154. An example of how the tables may have turned a bit can be found In a recent Cahiers du cinéma article, "Cruauté de Wyler", by Antoine de Baecque, Cahiers du cinéma, n. 549 (September 2000), pp. 10-11, where it is stated that Wyler's importance has been re-evaluated and diminished, it is now recognized that there was more to Ford than had initially appeared, and that Wyler may manifest some of the condescending ideas towards his characters that Truffaut had denounced among the leading French scenarists and directors in his "Une certaine tendance du cinéma français!"
Bazin himself was not an advocate of the politique des auteurs to the extent that some of the younger Cahiers critics were. See, "Comment peut-on être Hitchcocko-hawksien?", Cahiers du cinéma, n. 44 (February 1955), pp. 17-18; "De la politique des auteurs", Cahiers du cinéma, n. 70 (April 1957), pp . 2-10. Moreover, Truffaut himself would one day write that young and fanatical critics will sometimes play the sterile game of opposing directors against each other, noting that Bazin once wrote him, during a Kurosawa versus Mizoguchi controversy ("Misoguchi" in the original French), that detesting Kurosawa in order to love Mizoguchi would reflect a mere early stage of comprehension, that one would have to be blind to prefer Kurosawa, but to only love Mizoguchi would mean that one is lacking an eye; that there is room for different aspects in art. André Bazin, Le Cinéma de la cruauté (Flammarion 1975), François Truffaut, editor, pp. 17, 18.
6. There would be many articles on Italian cinema, as well as an entire issue devoted to it in May 1948. French critical appreciation for Italian cinema, as well as American cinema, was not entirely new, Louis Delluc was an admirer of films from both countries.
7. The future may not always be easy to predict. The first part of the La Revue du Cinéma article on the future of French cinema, appearing in the Spring 1947 issue, focused on Claude Autant-Lara and Jean Grémillon; although Autant-Lara would become a major force in the French cinema industry, he would also later be one of the main targets of Truffaut's "Une certaine tendance du cinéma français", be eclipsed by the Nouvelle Vague, and in later years dismay many by shifting from the left to the extreme right, making remarks that would be considered anti-semitic, and becoming a sympathizer of Jean-Marie Le Pen's Front National. The second part, appearing in February 1948, focused on Georges Rouquier, the director of Farrebique, a film that was a sort of a French cousin to the films of Robert Flaherty and Italian Neo-realism.
8. The advertising does not appear to be advertising that would give any reader cause to believe that advertising revenues were influencing the review of films. As with L'Écran française, there may have been an intentional effort to avoid any appearance of advertising contaminating editorial policy, as well as a desire to appear different from certain other elements of the cinema press. Towards the end, we do start to see the intrusion of some advertisements for such things as the national lottery, Air-France, or watches. Still, it appears as if La Revue du Cinéma intended to get by with much less advertising than is taken for granted today or than was probably taken for granted at the time.
It is not unusual for the present-day Cahiers du cinéma to have a full-page ad for L'Oréal beauty products on the back cover, but advertising appears to otherwise generally be limited to matters of cinéphile interest, such as festival and book announcements, without advertisements promoting films in or about to be in current release. On the other hand, a review of a recent, approximately 150 page French Premiére magazine revealed more than 40 pages of advertisements for such items as clothing -- including a seven page Levis ad --, perfume, beauty products, beer, vodka, and other general consumer products. The latter magazine is an example of a more youth-oriented, star-oriented film magazine. Although it did feature some missing portions of the Hitchcock and Truffaut interviews on the centennial of Hitchcock's birth, it is not likely to do things like publish a 32 page supplement on Robert Bresson, as Cahiers du cinéma did in conjunction with its February 2000 issue. Its readers are probably more interested in Besson than Bresson.
9. Antoine de Baecque, Avant-Propos to La Revue du Cinéma: Anthologie (Gallimard 1992), p. xv; Georges Sadoul, Dictionnaire des Cinéastes (Microcosme /Seuil 1990 edition), p. 21.
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