Sunday, October 18, 2015

L'enfance-nue (Pialat) - Essay by Kent Jones + Interview with Maurice Pialat

The following essay and interviews originally appeared in the booklet for the 2008 Masters of Cinema UK DVD release of L'enfance-nue [Naked-Childhood, Maurice Pialat, 1968] which I co-produced. This was our first Pialat release, and the film is Pialat's first feature, but not his first film. He made 14 films before L'enfance-nue.

Notes, information, and remarks by Pialat on the director's short films, which span in their entirety 1951-1966, can be found here.

Emmanuel Burdeau's 2009 essay on
Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble, and my translations of accompanying interviews with Pialat can be found at this blog here.

Gabe Klinger's 2010 essay on
Sous le soleil de Satan, and my translation of a 1987 interview with Pialat, and a 2003 interview with Sandrine Bonnaire, can be found at this blog here.

Adrian Martin's 2009 essay on
La gueule ouverte, and my translation of remarks about the film, can be found at this blog here.

Dan Sallitt's 2008 essay on
Police (which he considers one of his favorite pieces of his own writing) has just been posted at his blog, here. A dossier of my translations of interviews with Pialat about the film has been posted here.

Dan's 2010 MoC essay on
À nos amours. has also been posted at his blog here. A visual I made for the film along with my translation of the 1984 Le Monde conversation between Maurice Pialat and Jean-Luc Godard can be found here.

My essay on
Passe ton bac d'abord... — "The War of Art" — can be read here. A dossier of my translations of four interviews with Pialat around the film can be read here.

I'm posting these Pialat pieces on the occasion of the retrospective of Maurice Pialat's complete features (and the Turkish shorts) that runs from October 16 till November 1 at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens.



by Kent Jones (2008)

(The frames reproduced below, which refer to points made in Jones's essay and were originally placed within the vicinity of the relevant text of the author's essay in the MoC booklet are here reproduced in facsimile-form from the greyscale booklet. Of course the film and original frames are in color, but were reproduced in the booklet, and here, purely for illustrative purposes. The color originals are somewhere on an external hard-drive in the course of my recent west-coast move.)


French cinema has had a lengthy and fruitful relationship with children, particularly those with tumultuous inner lives, from Forbidden Games [Jeux interdits, René Clément, 1952] through Jacques Doillon’s Ponette [1996] and Le jeune Werther [Young Werther, 1993]. But few filmmakers anywhere have looked at childhood in quite the way that Maurice Pialat did in his feature debut, made when he was 43 years old. Michel Terrazon’s 10-year-old François in L’enfance-nue is no repository for an adult’s poetic dreams of freedom, nor is he a sociological case study or a psychological knot to be therapeutically untangled. In fact, the title of Pialat’s film could be said to address such absences. Of course, it is François’ childhood that is exposed to the brutal elements of an unforgiving world, deprived of the shelter of loving parents; but it is also childhood in general, yours, mine, and of course Pialat’s, given to us for once without fancy alibis, strategies, or hooks. Pialat’s is a remarkable achievement, and by all rights L’enfance-nue should be counted as one of the greatest debuts in cinema, on par with Citizen Kane [Orson Welles, 1941], À bout de souffle [Breathless, Jean-Luc Godard, 1959], Badlands [Terrence Malick, 1973] or The Four Hundred Blows [Les quatre cents coups, François Truffaut, 1959]. That it is not is indicative of nothing more than the overvaluation of progress. Which, as Philippe Garrel, another underappreciated French filmmaker, once noted, has no place in the arts.

Pialat, much more than Michael Bay or Tsui Hark, was an action director. Which is to say that his films give us the actions of his characters within their environments, without any discernible master idea governing their every move. In each Pialat film, and L’enfance-nue is no exception, continuity as we know it is deliberately and continually thwarted if not smashed, in order to expunge just such master-planning. One never knows when a scene will end, or indeed what will constitute a scene, and our tracking of time as some kind of guide (an unconscious procedure in any movie) is thrown out the window — as in a Terrence Malick film, any given scene could be taking place minutes, hours, days, or months after the preceding scene, and crucial moments occur off-camera. There is no time for the film to build up any sort of thematic repository to which the viewer can return for psychic re-orientation, beyond the on-going specifics of these people, as they are seen in this place at this time of year under these skies, and in this light. This is what gives Pialat’s best work its existential pull: there is so little evidence of aesthetic attitudinizing or strategizing that we become genuinely attuned to the film as a series of precious moments, passing before our eyes at 24 frames per second. Many filmmakers before and after Pialat tried to reach this level of absolute proximity between fiction and documentary, actor and character, setting and place. For most, it happened only fitfully. Only Pialat, with his mixture of sublime sensitivity, brute force, and a furious resentment that kept his creative machinery perpetually stoked, was able to sustain such a balance throughout an entire film.

More than any other narrative filmmaker since the early days of the medium, more even than Malick or Cassavetes, Pialat built his films from the life of his footage. And when he was at his absolute best, as he was here and in À nos amours. [To Our Romance. / Here's to Love, 1983] and Van Gogh [1991], he found what was essentially a gestural continuity that, outside of the final section of Rossellini’s Paisà [1946], remains unparalleled. Pialat once said that L’enfance-nue was made under the sign of Lumière, by which I take him to mean that as he was filming, he did not think of a shot as a unit but as an event in time and space observed from a closer distance than in the average film and grounded in an extremely class-specific form of portraiture (this is as true of the soundtrack as of the visuals — few movies are so thrillingly grounded in working class speech). In an appreciation of the movie published in Film Comment, Jean-Pierre Gorin beautifully describes Pialat’s steadfast adherence to an aesthetic form in which the “shapes and looks of bodies and faces, the accents and tones are perfect. And yes, a strong sense of class fuses the whole thing together.” Of course, there are many films that attempt a just portrayal of the working class, but precious few of them are made with Pialat’s sense of solidarity. Gorin notes that M. and Mme. Thierry, the film’s extremely touching old couple for whom François is one in a series of “problem” children to find temporary solace under their roof, were “obviously listened to, patiently and carefully. And then they were asked to gently go through it again for the camera.” The same is undoubtedly true of the child-care workers traveling with a band of orphans by train, of the young bride who leads her wedding party in a song, or the bartender who sells François a pack of Gauloises near the beginning of the film. Film criticism as commonly practiced is ill-equipped to measure, let alone describe, such moments. The bartender obviously feels comfortable “playing” himself, executing what are for him everyday gestures, addressing François with each sentence as “jeune homme” in a manner that is at once affectionate and removed, engaged in a rhythm that is social and business-like at the same time. There is no sign of any overriding judgment-call about the working class — nothing is feigned or professed or proclaimed, thus setting L’enfance-nue immediately apart from the bulk of French cinema in the year 1968. There is nothing but solidarity, of which respect is a constituent part. To understand the importance of Pialat’s achievement, imagine another filmmaker with a more elevated sense of his/her own mission, without the time for such patience, asking the same of the bartender. One can easily imagine the same gestures and words, perhaps even the same fluidity of motion. But one can also just as easily imagine parody slithering into view, the hawklike face, the sweater and carefully knotted tie, the fresh haircut and pencil moustache, presenting opportunities for a chuckle, or a guarantee of sociological authenticity. Of course, there are both sociological versimilitude and aesthetic sophistication at work here, but they take a back seat to the aforementioned solidarity. Again, one has to go back to early cinema, to the Griffith of The Musketeers of Pig Alley [1912] or the Walsh of Regeneration [1915], for an equally formidable vision.

Pialat’s painterly eye is, of course, the other side of his genius. I’ve seen many of his canvasses, and I must say that not one of them is equal to a single shot from L’enfance-nue or Van Gogh. Like Griffith and very few filmmakers after him (Godard, Cassavetes, Scorsese), Pialat had an intimately scaled yet totalizing stereo vision that enabled him to work from the immediacy of documentary yet with the greatest visual precision. As Gorin points out, one can indeed see traces of Cézanne and Courbet in the Thierrys’ kitchen, with its retina-burning blues and yellows (not to mention the wonderfully grey, damp exteriors, which have the weathered severity of Courbet’s A Burial at Ornans [Un enterrement à Ornans, 1849-50]. Let’s be clear, though: these are not homages, but sophisticated cinematographic moves that are a natural extension of the same painterly tradition, in which the artist stays at ground level with his subject, interpreting and filtering his own sensations and impressions and painstakingly synthesizing them as he goes. Pialat films from the same social stance as a painter of an earlier era, observing from up close rather than afar, reserving his inevitable distance from the milieu for the ultimate refinement of the work rather than the strategizing that precedes it. To insist on putting Raoul Billerey in a dark striped blue shirt against a light blue-tiled background isn’t just merely to be artful — it is taking what is already present and rearranging it into a visually comprehensible event in time and space, just insistent enough in its observation of working class life without tipping into oppressive encapsulation.

Pialat is also doing another kind of work here, transforming his material into a dramatically unified whole. As I said, L’enfance-nue does not follow any familiar dramatic progression. There is no “explanation” for François’ violent outbursts, which come at odd and wholly unpredictable intervals. When he sends a black cat plunging several stories to a concrete floor, kicks in the bottom panel of the door to his room in the Thierrys’ house, or throws a railroad tie through the window of an oncoming car, we are taken unawares. There is no cause and effect here of the type that one sees in most dramas about “problem” kids. Nurturing does not place François on the road to understanding and sensitivity toward his fellow man. As with Scorsese’s Jake La Motta or Cassavetes’ Myrtle, there are a million reasons for his behavior; as we acclimate ourselves to the film’s closely observed viewpoint, we come to understand that identifying those reasons is less important than the ongoing spectacle of François’ body language and facial expressions (alternately attentive, reserved, impulsive, sly, skittish), and the vocabulary of movement and voice within the warm, overdecorated enclosure of the Thierry household, with its tiny papered rooms filled with mementos and photographs. Strictly speaking, the film’s emotional climax comes with the smashing of the windshield with the railroad tie and Mme. Thierry’s breathless interview with the childcare worker (“You know, he’s hard, but he has heart!”). But Pialat sees the drama in every scene, the rising and falling of human aggression and affection, the momentary grace of mutual recognition, the poignant sight of an emotionally insatiable boy among genuinely caring adults. How to describe the excitement generated by this film, by the careworn distress on Linda Gutemberg’s face as she watches François leave her home, or the miraculous harmony of the scene where the Thierrys tell the story of their marriage to François and Raoul as if it were an old legend, as Madame sits on Monsieur’s lap drinking her coffee. Or François’ sudden kiss on M. Thierry’s cheek, tenderly reciprocated only after the old man removes his hand-rolled cigarette stub from his mouth. Or the wariness on François’ face as he sits up in bed in his striped pajamas, images of action heroes pinned over the flower-print wallpaper behind him, trying to interpret the clamor coming from downstairs. Few films before or since have been quite as alive to the tangible beauty of life, in all its cruelty and all its tenderness, amidst the unstoppable flow of time.


From "Interview with Maurice Pialat"

Excerpt from an Interview by Dominique Maillet (1972)

Translated from the French by Craig Keller

Maurice Pialat in 1969.

[...] Where and how would you situate yourself in relation to cinéma-vérité and neorealism?

Although I like Jean Rouch a lot (since he’s the one that set the definition for cinéma-vérité), I don’t agree with your inference at all, and I completely reject cinéma-vérité. There are some very beautiful things in Rouch, some African films that I love — I have an enormous amount of affection for him, and he was definitely an influence for me, but it’s not just that I think I’m going against his cinéma-vérité... I hope I am.

As for neorealism, it depends on what you mean. If you’re referring to the first films of Rossellini, I agree there’s a relationship; if you’re referring to the ones that come afterward, not at all — because for me, it’s retrograde-cinema — for one thing, by the fact that it’s silent, and I don’t support silent cinema... By silent, I mean post-synchronized. To me, it seems difficult to talk about realism when you’re resorting to post-synchronization. And don’t come back to me and say, “Yes, but it’s a technique, because actually you’re still out there in the street, doing real things...” — I don’t buy that at all.

Would you be able to come up with great dialogue in one of your films for some character or other, without knowing exactly who the performer is — without having talked things over with him, having gotten to know what he’s like, what his universe is like, without having studied his reactions, how he carries himself...

Yes — not only can I come up with it but, if there’s no research involved, it’s almost how I want it to be, if anything: to remain undisclosed all the way up to the present, but during that present moment, passing over into helping me come up with better things, and do a better job directing.

I haven’t seen his films — he seems very interesting — but people have compared certain sections of L’enfance-nue with the films of [Pierre] Perrault. I understand very well why, because, basically, in L’enfance-nue I still had to do a lot of preparatory work with the people who were acting in it and, in a certain way, subconsciously, I studied them in the same way Perrault does for his films. But it was really the conditions of pre-production and shooting that brought me to do this. It wasn’t a goal of mine at all, because in reality I prefer a good deal of “jumping into things” straightaway, not getting to know the people, and discovering them while filming. That’s what I hope for the most.

How much of your films are planned out before the shoot? How much is improvisation?

This is a very delicate subject to talk about. Let’s take Godard for example: his films, very literary ones at that, seem very written and pre-conceived. What I mean to say is (and this happens to me, too), he shot while saying: “Okay... alright, the street-corner, there, that’s good. There’s no need to go any farther than that...” — It’s real, but it’s still a choice being made. I’m speaking here of art-direction, but in writing things out, it’s still the same thing. “Improvisation” — this doesn’t mean anything. What you’ve got in your mind, unformulated, is much more precise than you’d think. In any case, there’s a very distinct thing, and I think that hardly anyone will be able to contradict me on this: it’s when, after having made a certain number of films, we reflect upon how what’s bad about them on paper — the things which one hasn’t really thought through enough — are what are least good when you’re shooting, the least good when you’re editing, and what remain the weak aspect of the film once it’s finished. [...]

What are your relationships like with your actors while shooting?

They’re inevitably very difficult because trained actors have a hard time accepting my way of working — that is, allowing themselves to be completely free. Anyway, relationships are always difficult with the crew, and I’ve had the chance to witness this happening even in this latest film [Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble (We Won’t Grow Old Together, 1972)], where even though I had an excellent team, they had a certain “hands-off” approach as there was this impression I didn’t care what was happening, when in reality, this wasn’t the case at all.

But as for actors, they’re completely done-in by all this, and it always goes very badly — the first few weeks are really difficult. So I don’t need to tell you that in the case of stars, this all gets multiplied... by the increase in paycheck, we might say.


[...] In [two of your relatively recent films], L’enfance-nue along with La maison des bois [The House in the Woods, 1971] it’s ... a question of children in direct and concrete opposition with the environment that they belong to, an environment which, more than provoking their reactions, imposes itself onto them — it’s therefore the case of the juvenile delinquent of L’enfance-nue who needs to lash out against his foster family, and it’s also the case of the young actor in La maison des bois, the child who’s lonely amidst all his friends, who is visited by their mother, and who experiences, even if he doesn’t belong to them, a certain familial atmosphere... How do you explain this?

Really, it’s difficult for me to respond. L’enfance-nue was my own choice; the second one was a subject imposed upon me that, in any case, I obviously revised... Maybe I’m obsessed with the theme of abandonment... I think that, deep-down, that’s what ends up making me choose, or accept, those subjects.


When you did your first television film [La maison des bois], did you go about things differently than with L’enfance-nue — that is, taking into consideration, for example, the use of what was essentially a TV look?

Not at all, because this doesn’t ever concern me. The only things involved with a “TV look” are the framing and eventually the choice of lenses; after a little while, I stop paying attention to all that. Indeed, on La maison des bois I had two cameramen, of which one, the one that was less good, kept saying to me: “Pay attention to the TV frame... Pay attention to the TV frame...” Well whatever, he was the one who made sure that the desired image sometimes wouldn’t end up inside the frame at all. Likewise, in La maison des bois, I tried to film people from closer-up, because in L’enfance-nue you’d notice that people were filmed from pretty far back: but I gave up on this pretty quickly too.

I heard that you’re preparing a project for television based on Balzac...

Yes, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen any time soon.


From "Three Encounters with Maurice Pialat"

Excerpt from an Interview by Stéphane Lévy-Klein and Olivier Eyquem (1973)

Translated from the French by Craig Keller

Maurice Pialat in 1969.

Can you talk a little about your early works?

I came to the cinema by way of short films and theatre. In the capacity of director for the former, and as an actor for the latter. Since I have to talk about it, let’s start with the better one. I kind of like Janine [1961], which I directed in collaboration with Claude Berri. The script was Claude’s, the distribution too, and he acted in it. The shoot took place under really bad conditions, over the course of a few hours every night for four nights straight. But this short film already contained, in 1961, everything that’s good in L’enfance-nue. Unfortunately, I gave in to my mania: the woe that is “editing”. I patch up, I revise, I cut. When Janine was all done, the photography was grubby, the sound inaudible but, with background music, the film was presentable nonetheless. Originally, it was around 25 minutes long; once I was done with it, it was no more than 17. After that, I did something that was even more discouraging: made a short film on commission without any money. It was artisanal, actually. I took on the camerawork, the sound, and the editing. In Turkey, I made five or six short films under horrendous conditions. The production kept requiring me to film mosques and tourist sites, whereas I wanted to remake L’amour existe [Love Exists, 1960] in the streets of Istanbul. I shot a short film there with a commission from the prime-minister of Saudi Arabia, but instead of having directed a propaganda film, as had been expected, I showed all the misery I was seeing. After that, for Pathé, I filmed some real-life chronicles about everyday Paris. I remember in one short about Pigalle a long stationary shot of a police raid, in the early morning hours. I would shoot from right in the midst of all the passers-by, with their tacit or explicit agreement — never without authorization. I miss this way of shooting. I’ve always wanted to pick it back up again, but I’ve never gone back out with the 16 and the Nagra. I hope this is laziness, and not a sign of old-age...

One can find this concern with realism in L’amour existe.

L’amour existe suffers from vulgarity and naïveté. [Pialat later revised this comment before publication: “An excessive remark. This is what you always end up saying when it’s over and done with. But I stand by everything else.”] I made it after spending ten years in a depressing job: traveling salesman. The narration, in particular, is absolutely unbearable. Even before getting to the mixing, I already thought it was bad, but I didn’t have the money to do it over. Today, I don’t want to change it. You don’t remake a film. L’amour existe is a crazy film that’s got a few grand truths. [NOTE: This last sentence has been reprinted in a few sources as ‘un film flou’, as opposed to ‘un film fou’ as it appears in this interview — that is, as ‘a hazy/vague film’, as opposed to ‘a crazy film’. –ed.]

And your career as an actor?

It was short-lived. It wasn’t an end, but a means for getting into movies. I put on a few plays in a couple of factories — amateur theatre. In 1955, I wanted to go professional, but my career was cut short because I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. For an actor, it’s important to be in tune with yourself, even though acting is also being on the lookout for what you’re missing. A failure, then, but one which I don’t hold any big grudge over. These days I act competently enough in simple roles, like that of the teacher in the mini-series La maison des bois. My performance as the police commissioner in Que la bête meure [Let the Beast Die, Claude Chabrol, 1969] is pretty insipid. I don’t know why I thought it was a good idea.

Before making movies, did you write and, today, do you write?

No, I don’t like to write. I’m a filmmaker. I hope never to be reduced to turning into a hack. My scripts are short, just a few lines thrown down on a piece of paper in a frenzy. Later, during production, the first thing to do is forget the text. With Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble I had to shoot, in the strict sense of the word, what I had written. That’s why I don’t like that film. I’ve never had film-school training. I only know a single trade: painting.

Painters turned filmmakers often prefer aestheticism to simplicity. Yet this isn’t the case with you.

Let’s just say I’m a realist painter. As a result, I like the photography in L’enfance-nue for its ugliness and its hardness. I refused to turn this film into a big brown placard getting waved around. I let the walls be what they were: yellow, because it burns the retina. Here again, Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble is something of a failure, because its photography is too aestheticized.

A shoot is a moment I try to hold on to. In the course of it, something is supposed to take place, without which the film is a failure. L’enfance-nue became what it is two weeks in, on the same set, smack in the middle of the shoot. At one point, I’d had enough, and I decided to slap the camera down right in front of the actors. A deeply felt scene is a successful scene; no matter what, you just have to shoot it, right away, with no heed paid to the formal beauty of the frame or the harmony of the colors. Whenever I make artistic gestures, it’s to take my mind off things, because it’s not going well. On La maison des bois I showed up in the morning without knowing too much about what I was going to shoot that day. Finding myself facing a problem with Fernand Gravey one day, I took refuge in the loveliness of a tracking-shot, which is usually carried out based on the instructions of the “master” and actually executed by the hands of the technicians. It was very beautiful; everyone liked it, myself included. [Pialat added before publication: “I don’t take refuge in aestheticism. Let’s say I got rid of an annoying problem, of little interest, working on some technical movements that needed some time to be figured out, which I don’t do anymore these days.”]

L’enfance-nue had a subject that was very difficult to adapt.

I’ve often made big pronouncements that I’ve taken a lot of flack over L’enfance-nue. This isn’t exactly the case. I didn’t really defend the film, because I didn’t believe in it too much. It was made in large part thanks to the assistance of François Truffaut; without him, I would only have made it one or two years later.

The film was saved by the people that I came into contact with; or, rather, there was, around me, this subconscious idea that I was incapable of succeeding, and yet there was so much willpower inside of me that the film was able to become whatever it is now. I realized that the old couple was more interesting than my hero — which is to say myself — which I hated. It’s why I chose them; they represent my grandparents a little bit, the safe-haven of my childhood. The parts they’re not in are less good.

L’enfance-nue springboarded from some research I undertook, in the course of which I was struck by certain specific details. Hence the way those children are portrayed in the film. I did a follow-up afterwards, and I came away pretty upset by what I found, but I didn’t show any of it because it would have reduced the film, and would have made me look dishonest with regard to Social Assistance, thanks to which L’enfance-nue was able to have been made.

The backing for making a social film is important!

It’s a shame that L’enfance-nue should be considered a social film. It’s because it’s lacking something that it’s turned into a social film. Without all that, it would have been twice as great. I didn’t want to make films engagés; I reject Manichaeism. In real life, not everything is in black and white; why would you want it to be that way in the movies? I say without any shame: I’m a man of the Right. The victory of the Left in the most recent elections would have brought about a catastrophic, socialistico-communist tsunami. The program of the Left, applied to the cinema, would have thrown open the doors of mediocrity that were already pretty much ajar. In order for our cinema to change, you need a revolution — but not that one.

I said it on TV, and I’ll say it again today: if L’enfance-nue had been made by someone else, I wouldn’t have gone to see it. We’re lying when we say we’re concerned by other people’s distress and that we’re not concerned only with ourselves in a difficult time.

In fact, it’s the subject that’s important! When you’re filming, this is what rears its head, and creates a kind of music for the text. I’ve always had the impression of being a composer making an opera based on some libretto. When the libretto is undeniably bad, as it is in the case of La maison des bois, it doesn’t matter too much. Also, directing commissioned subjects doesn’t bother me.

During the sequence on the train, is there a critical distance with regard to Social Assistance?

No, because that scene was run past some other people who hadn’t been involved. The film, at the outset, was divided into two sections. At the end of twenty minutes or so, — of which only one part still remains, today — I set forth a pretty didactic explanation of the problem. Maybe all that disequilibrium that was happening in those days makes it seem like a critique, but it’s just an explanation. All the more reason that this sequence that’s too demonstrative isn’t realistic at all. That “tour guide” was only a ruse for addressing certain questions in a rapid manner. It was dangerous, and I understand your criticism very well.

You say that realism was important to you. Doesn’t this aesthetic forcibly cast an eye upon society?

What I mean by realism goes beyond reality. A little before going into production on L’enfance-nue, I watched some of Louis Lumière’s films. They were a revelation. This cinema that existed for a brief moment before quickly dying, suppressed by the commercial constraints of show-business, should once again have its day.

It’s not being modest to say that L’enfance-nue was directed under the influence of Lumière. But that’s exactly how it was. While shooting L’enfance-nue, I was thinking of Repas de Bébé [Baby’s Meal, Louis Lumière, 1895]. Did Lumière film reality? I don’t think so. In his films, men and women, captured by a machine they know nothing about, gave up a moment in their lives, and, ever since, every actor has been doing the same thing. In the “fantastic” shot, Lumière outstrips Méliès. Those people, without knowing it, are watching their lives take place. All of cinema is there, in this seizing of existence, in this exorcism of death. This is dream-like cinema. The exiting from the Lumière factories hurls back into the distance the coarse stupidities of someone like Fellini. This aesthetic provides the definition of cinema: an alchemy, a transformation of the sordid into the marvelous, of the common into the exceptional, of the filmed subject into the very moment of its extinction. This is what realism is for me. Put simply, I’d say: “Cheap oneirism: I know nothing about it. The simple event of pushing a button on the camera is oneiric.”

But oneirism, fantasy, etc., are pretty precise genres practiced with talent by directors like Fellini.

Fellini is afraid of reality because he hasn’t got the strength to confront it, which, artistically, is a sort of impotency and vulgarity. Fellini betrayed Rossellini, his master. Dishonest direction in films is that which stages what’s technically unrealizable. In the scene in the metro in Roma [Federico Fellini, 1972], the camera is placed such that you think it incapable of having recorded what it is the spectator is seeing. In the cinema, one has every right, except that of being an impostor.


Un enterrement à Ornans by Gustave Courbet, 1849-50.


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