Sunday, July 26, 2009

Manifesto by Jean Douchet

I've translated from French a recent text published at Independencia by the legendary and ever-vital Jean Douchet. (Kind thanks to Antoine Thirion.)

This past Monday, former contributor Stéphane Delorme was named the editor-in-chief of the Cahiers du cinéma, under the new ownership of Phaidon Press.


Notre combat
[Our Combat / Our Fight]

by Jean Douchet
Paris, 10 May 2009

Let's quit it with the psychodramas and come to an agreement about what, in 2009, a cinema revue should be.

The hot-button question of the day is that of the function of the image in an ultra-mediated and knowingly falsifying period. The new revue should impose its voice upon the current conversation, as the "young turks" once knew how to do. This doesn't mean an improved Premiere wrapped up in a super Studio. This doesn't mean a New Yorker for cinema written in the cosmopolitan language of The Economist. The new revue shouldn't be a revue of reference and expertise plopped down onto the cinema. That already exists; it's enough to translate Positif into English.

The new revue should be a revue of combat. An insolent, unfair, provocative revue. In short, partisan and scandalous. A revue that abandons the politique des auteurs for that of the fauteurs [troublemakers]. Fauteurs and even fouteurs de trouble [troublefuckers]. Thus a revue of youths, those youths upon whom a troubled vision of life, of their life, has been imposed. Thus, for those for whom the cinema once again becomes an existential necessity. A revue that would play favorites: on the part of the filmmakers: the function of seeing well (of presenting) in order to show; on the part of the revue: theorization, manifold reflections and their critiques in order to show that which has been seen well and felt well within a film. It's a start from scratch: a moral, and therefore aesthetic, affair. Donc, d'une politique. [Therefore, a political affair. / Therefore, a politic matter. {i.e./c.f., la politique des auteurs} ]

One year ago at Cannes, La Frontière de l'aube [Frontier of Dawn, Philippe Garrel] was booed because it held forth, metaphorically speaking, upon this discourse. A rather young man, a photographer fascinated by the image of a star, absorbed by her as one is by a roll of film [ / absorbed by her just as much as he is by a roll of film / by a film — absorbé par celle-ci comme par une pellicule], becomes unable to tolerate life, and commits suicide. What made the pricks at Le Figaro or Le Journal du dimanche snicker — to cite only two examples: that fecundity of the image, and its incessant apparitions that carry it over onto the real, speak to us, speak to us of nothing but the sickness of youth in a world where a trick-representation bears it away and gets imposed upon the present.

Time is pressing. It is essential that plans for a new revue be put out in the open and discussed, post-haste. That a united line be drawn and affirmed. That a small committee lead the discussions. That the business plan and the editorial plan be linked. In short, to insure that the heritage of militant criticism possesses a present-day feel.

From two things, one: either the Cahiers dreams on, or it bites the dust, as I said one year ago already, at the start of the revue's crisis. It has chosen to bite the dust. Our solution remains open to whoever wishes to seize it.


Some recent releases from The Masters of Cinema Series —

Il grido [The Cry / The Shriek] by Michelangelo Antonioni, from 1957. Antonioni's Odyssey in Grey — a man against the landscape, the performance of a theme in female variations. Presented in a new progressive transfer, with new optional English subtitles, and supplemented by the scenes excised from the original pre-censor cut of the film, which Antonioni never opted to reinstate into the distributed version. Also included is the original Italian theatrical trailer for the film, and a 52-page booklet containing an excellent and comprehensive piece of criticism on Il grido extracted from William Arrowsmith's posthumous work Antonioni: The Poet of Images, along with the 1959 essay by Antonioni "Making a Film Is My Way of Life", and a series of excerpts from interviews and discussions with Antonioni about the film that took place between 1958 and 1979.


Tokyo Sonata by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, from 2008. Possibly the greatest film to date (next to Sakebi [The Scream, aka Retribution, 2006] ) by possibly the greatest director with the surname "Kurosawa." Frequently summarized as a social diagnosis of Japan's modern malaise and late-'00s economic implosion, Tokyo Sonata is something much more complex, human, adventurous, by a filmmaker for whom the creation of a well-tempered shot is tantamount to, and as paramount as, existence itself. Available in a progressive presentation, with optional English subtitles, on both region-free Blu-ray and standard-def DVD. Both include a 61-minute making-of documentary; twelve minutes of footage from a September 2008 Q&A session with Kurosawa in Tokyo; fifteen minutes of footage from the Tokyo premiere; nine minutes of discussion of the DVD; and the UK theatrical trailer, cut by Nick Wrigley. The accompanying booklet holds a short statement by Kurosawa about the movie, and a brilliant new (and booklet-length) essay by B. Kite titled "Open Parenthesis on Kurosawa Kiyoshi", that elucidates Tokyo Sonata and contextualizes the film within Kurosawa's larger oeuvre-to-date.



  1. Thanks for the Douchet translation. We young people still dream of respectability; thank God there are 80-year-olds around to tell us we should aspire to something better.

  2. Thank you for this key translation Craig!

  3. I think that "Tôkyô sonata" is a wonderful film too but I do not consider THIS Kurosawa better than the great Akira and it will be difficult for Kiyoshi to build a body of work rather close to Akira´s. Nevertheless, "Tôkyô sonata" is a great step forward but not his pike I hope.

  4. Jesús —

    As my father taught me, opinions are like assholes; everyone's got one.

    No need to put the diacritics or decapitalization on "Tôkyô sonata" — the film title is in English, as evidenced by the title card of the film itself, despite the IMDB listing.

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