André Bazin's Writings
Dudley Andrew's essay on Bazin and Sartre in the new Film Quarterly opens with a shocking fact:
Stacked nearly a meter high in my attic are photocopies of all--or nearly all--Bazin's published writings. This amounts to over 2600 items, of which, scandalously, less than seven per cent are available in French or English.
To which Andrew appends this uncertain note: "Cahiers du Cinéma has rights to all Bazin's published writings. They hope to bring out a complete works some day." For someone who is often thought to be cinema's best-known theorist and critic, and who further was instrumental in the eventual creation of the film studies discipline, this seems baffling.
I've been doing a Bazin immersion the last few weeks, and I'm amazed especially by two things. First, his writings are not about developing a "theory of cinema" in an abstract and 'systematic' manner. Instead, he puts in motion a process of continual exchange between film criticism and film theory. He begins with the films themselves, and their details--formal, stylistic, thematic, etc. His theoretical reflections then arise from a scrutiny of these details. Second, it's striking to see how he did all his theory and criticism work in full public view. As Bert Cardullo points out, Bazin's writings were produced for a range of publications that were variously aligned: liberal (L'Écran Francais); socialist (France-Observateur); left-wing Catholic (Esprit and Radio-Cinéma-Télévision, now Télérama); non-religious and state-run (L'Education Nationale); and conservative (Le Parisien libéré). In addition, of course, he co-founded and wrote for Cahiers du Cinéma. It's staggering to be reminded of how much he accomplished before he contracted leukemia at 36 and died at 40 in 1958.
Today I've been inventorying all the English-language translations of Bazin's writings on my shelves:
-- The two volumes of What is Cinema? (1967, 1971), translated by Hugh Gray. They contain many of his best-known pieces like "The Ontology of the Photographic Image," "The Evolution of the Language of Cinema," "The Virtues and Limitations of Montage," "In Defense of Mixed Cinema," and his essays on Italian neo-realism, the Western, Rossellini, Chaplin, Bresson, De Sica, and so on. (I wonder: do these two volumes of translations contain all the essays from the original 4-volume set of Qu'est-ce que le cinéma?)
-- Bazin at Work (1997), edited by Bert Cardullo, with essays on Wyler, Pagnol, adaptation, cinema and theology, Citizen Kane, etc.
-- Jean Renoir (1973), edited by Truffaut.
-- Orson Welles (1978), translated by Jonathan Rosenbaum.
-- The Cinema of Cruelty (1982), with separate sections on: von Stroheim, Dreyer, Sturges, Buñuel, Hitchcock and Kurosawa.
I'm curious: Am I missing any of Bazin's writings available in English?
Starting in the late '60s, the rise of a certain brand of theory--ideological, psychoanalytic, semiotic--was inhospitable and downright hostile to Bazin and his theories of realism inflected by Catholicism and existentialism. In retrospect this was understandable but since the 1980's cinema studies has witnessed the rise of a 'historical turn'. I'm wondering: Has the discipline seen a consequent return to and recuperation of Bazin? Are there signs this might come to pass?
Any ideas you may have on Bazin are welcome.
And now ... fashion? There's a side of me that doesn't get out too much on this blog: a 'foreigner' who's lived in America for two decades but still finds its culture endlessly fascinating (and 'other'). The new issue of Entertainment Weekly has a list of pop culture moments of the last 25 years that influenced fashion. I've gathered here some of the interesting items on it:
Early Madonna (fingerless gloves, lingerie-styled wedding dress, crucifixes); Michael Jackson circa Thriller (Jheri curls, loafers with white socks); Ally McBeal (microminis); Miami Vice (roomy linen suits, sockless loafers); mid-'80s mall pop like Tiffany and Debbie Gibson (biker shorts, skorts, scrunchies); Jennifer Beals in Flashdance (scissored sweatshirts); Gwen Stefani circa No Doubt (white tanks, studded bra straps, bondage pants); Kanye West (those sunglasses); Rihanna (the bob); Janet Jackson circa Rhythm Nation (the military look--epaulets, cadet caps); Pretty in Pink (Molly Ringwald's DIY prom-dress, Duckie's bolo tie); Reality Bites (Lisa Loeb's cat-eye frames); Mr. T in The A-Team (a sort of proto-bling); The Golden Girls (shoulder pads, sequins); early Shania Twain (bare midriffs enter Nashville music culture); Puff Daddy and Mase's "Mo Money Mo Problems" (bright, baggy tracksuits); and Beverly Hills 90210 (sideburns).
-- Jonathan Rosenbaum on Pedro Costa: "I found that, even though I simultaneously loved and had to struggle in diverse ways with all of Costa’s films, Casa de Lava, his only landscape film, was the one that blew me away the most."
-- Two fascinating interviews by Michael Guillen: Catherine Breillat and Elvis Mitchell.
-- David Phelps has been on a roll. At his blog Videoarcadia, he has a post with some reflections and links to his writings including his new piece on Ken Jacobs's Razzle Dazzle at Auteurs' Notebook.
-- Glenn Kenny: "Jean-Luc Godard, Robert Brasillach, and Anti-Semitism: Some observations."
-- At his site Jigsaw Lounge, Neil Young on the Edinburgh film festival.