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.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

An Independencia Sampler

Raya Martin.

Pedro Costa.

Jean-Pierre Gorin.

Luc Moullet.

Interviews and images by Cyril Neyrat, Eugenio Renzi, Antoine Thirion, and Quentin Mével. Et al. Courtesy

In the final clip, Moullet's remarks in French are very funny. As happens at screenings and festivals, the English translator intermittently interjects with on-the-fly renditions of approx. one-fifth of what the maestro's saying, and is seemingly unaware of why it might be entertaining to make a special point in translating the funny stuff making the audience LOL. Then again, she might not have a sense of humor. Inutile, mais bonne projection.

Conversation avec Raya Martin 1 from Independencia on Vimeo.

Pedro remix from Independencia on Vimeo.

Vladimir et Rosa from Independencia on Vimeo.

Luc Moullet 1/2 from Independencia on Vimeo.

FID Ouverture from Independencia on Vimeo.


Thursday, July 02, 2009

A Short Response to Jonathan Rosenbaum's Recent CINEMA SCOPE Column

In the most recent issue of Cinema Scope, which should be hitting newsstands soon, Jonathan Rosenbaum was kind enough to single out some recent Masters of Cinema Series releases for praise and comment. You can read the column here — scroll down to somewhere around the middle of the piece to get to the MoC-related section.

I need to respond to one section in particular. Rosenbaum writes:

"In all three cases, it seems that many pertinent contributions are being made to scholarship, which makes me all the more regretful that Keller, who outdoes himself on Une femme mariée, can’t always distinguish between writing and blogging, and winds up raising perhaps even more questions, issues, and outright puzzles than he settles. Consider only the incoherent music credits that he offers on page 2, which list “Louis [sic] Beethoven,” “Dave Brubeck,” and “Claude Nougaro who turned ‘Blue Rondo à la Turk’ into ‘A bout de souffle.’” Come again? Even if he’s simply pulling our legs here in some elaborate fashion, it would be helpful to know how and why."

Rosenbaum seems to imply that one difference between "writing" and "blogging" is that the latter consists of playing fast-and-funny with the facts, whereby one indulges in following a notion to its (potentially non-)conclusion; whereas the former will exude a scholarly sobriety and exhibit a feeling that everything is explainable, that the artwork can ultimately be controlled. In "writing," the Critical Voice stakes its claim as authority — the artwork posited as a kind of mathematical conundrum or occurrence in the world, awaiting its own solution from the entity in 3D-space who can condition order... Such a delineation of Art and Criticism has never seemed too real, or really important, to me...

But there are some very simple reasons for the presentation of the Une femme mariée music credits in the book.

••• "Louis Beethoven" because that's how Godard presents it in the film credits; because everyone knows he's referring to "Ludwig van Beethoven"; because "Louis" is the French 'version' of "Ludwig"; because Une femme mariée takes place in a world where Louis XIV and Louis Armstrong both still exist — side-by-side; and because for Godard there's no delineation between 'high-art music' (Ludwig van Beethoven) and 'popular music' (Louis Armstrong).

••• "Dave Brubeck" because an arrangement of his composition "Three to Get Ready" from the famous Take Five album plays on the soundtrack in the film.

••• "Claude Nougaro who turned 'Blue Rondo à la Turk' into 'A bout de souffle' " — because Nougaro is also listed in the film's opening credits (and to whom the rearrangement of "Three to Get Ready" can likely be attributed); and because one of his most famous pieces is a rearrangement, with lyric, of Brubeck's "Blue Rondo à la Turk" (also from Take Five), which Nougaro then retitled — in homage to Godard — "A bout de souffle", the French title of Godard's first feature, Breathless, from '59. Everything comes full-circle.

So no leg-pulling, it can be blogged.

Une femme mariée, fragments d'un film tourné en 1964 et noir et blanc [A Married Woman: Fragments of a Film Shot in 1964 in Black and White] by Jean-Luc Godard, 1964: