Wednesday, March 11, 2009

André Bazin & caboose

I first became aware of Montreal-based publisher caboose when they approached me last year to pen a volume in their Kino-Agora series. (Series details can be found here.)

Today, some momentous news for film culture: caboose is releasing a brand new translation, by Timothy Barnard, of André Bazin's What is Cinema?

In a recent Film Quarterly, Dudley Andrew pointed out that less than 7% of Bazin's writings are available in English translation. Spurred by this startling observation, I put up a post on Bazin's writings a few months ago that sparked a lively and informative discussion.

Bazin's Qu'est-ce que le cinéma? originally appeared in French in 4 volumes beginning in 1958, soon after his death at age 40. The 2-volume English-language What is Cinema?, translated by Hugh Gray, came out about a decade later. It included a selection of essays from Bazin's original, and was put out by the University of California Press.

The new Barnard translation collects several key essays from Bazin's original volumes, and includes three pieces that don't appear in Gray's translation: on Wyler, Tati and Painlevé, the last of these never before translated into English. Samples from all 13 essays in the book are available to read online. The publisher promises: "This is the only corrected and annotated edition of Bazin in any language [...] Rarely does a new translation radically alter our understanding of a thinker's work. This is that book."

Gray's rendering of Bazin has remained invaluable but has also provoked mixed feelings and controversy. Richard Roud wrote a scathing critique of it in Sight and Sound in 1967. Adrian Martin remarked in the comments to the previously mentioned post: "Gray's Bazin is the rather cosmic/mystic/Catholic/realist Bazin that many (most) Anglos think of, which is why Cardullo's Bazin at Work is such a crucial corrective to it."

We are in the midst of a Bazin revival, evident from the recent twin-venue conference held in Paris and at Yale to mark the 50th anniversary of his death. Further, recent writing like Daniel Morgan's well-regarded essay "Rethinking Bazin: Ontology and Realist Aesthetics" (Critical Inquiry, 2006) has served to enlarge and complicate our view of this versatile theorist.

Despite the strong resurgence of interest in Bazin, why has it taken so long--over 40 years--for an alternate translation of his key work to appear in English? The answer has to do with copyright issues. In many countries--including Canada, Japan, China, New Zealand, and others--copyright is retained for 50 years after an author's death before works enter the public domain. In fact, this used to be the international norm until the U.S. and France moved to a 70-year rule. Today the U.S. stipulates this as an explicit part of bilateral trade deals, and has persuaded Australia and South Korea, and more recently, Argentina and Chile, to move from 50 to 70 years. Canada has been lobbied by the U.S. on this issue but has passed no legislation yet to alter the 50-year rule. Since Bazin died in 1958, his writings passed into the public domain last year in Canada; this has made the new translation possible. (For more on copyright: here's the Wikipedia entry on public domain.)

The new issue of Offscreen is titled "Bazin Renewed." It includes an interview with Timothy Barnard about the new translation and a piece by Donato Totaro called "What is a Good Translation? Bazin Revisited".

There is also an essay at the caboose site that makes for particularly stimulating scholarly reading: Barnard's translator note on the word "découpage." It runs to over 20 printed pages and carefully traces the uses and meanings of the word over the course of the last one hundred years. Also of interest: Barnard's foreword (not available online) details the "meticulous research into Bazin's sources which has led him to a connection between the ideas of Bazin and Bertolt Brecht and to a pseudonymous article believed to have been written by Siegfried Kracauer."

The book can be ordered online through the caboose site but for shipping only to Japan, China (including Hong Kong), New Zealand, and other countries who follow the 50-year rule. Pages is selling the book online and at their store on Queen Street in Toronto. Apparently, it doesn't matter where the order originates--Pages will ship only to Canadian addresses. The book will also be on sale at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Tokyo in May.

Your thoughts on Bazin, film-writing translations, or copyright issues? All are welcome!

cover pic: "Sharlo Takes a Bow," a woodcut of Charlie Chaplin created by the Soviet artist, book designer and illustrator Varvara Stepanova for issue #3 of the journal Kino-Fot in 1922.

113 Comments:

Blogger Matthew Flanagan said...

Great news! I've just flicked through the extracts of the chapters I'm most familiar with, and the difference (in prose) is actually quite startling. The Tati & Painlevé samples are very tantalising...

Presumably all that those of us stuck in 70-year territories have to do is wait for the book to become available through "grey market" channels (not actually illegal under the Berne Convention after the first sale) like, say, The Book Depository or Amazon (or, failing that, eBay). Hopefully caboose will encourage this!

March 11, 2009 7:26 PM  
Blogger Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...

Ah, the mention of Bazin is the exact sort of interruption (like a telegram arriving just in the nick of time in some silent movie--I imagine Girish's face looking up from the little piece of card, his mouth opening, and the intertitle "Bazin has been re-translated!" followed by a wide shot of the people gathered 'round fainting) the discussion of a "documentary" camera needed.

So, to return to the last thread: more than talking about the intentions of the films themselves, we're talking about the relationship between the cameraman and the subject--that mysterious other narrative, the story of a film's production, that we're often trying to decipher. So is the distinction of documentary a question of production rather than a question of cinema? When we call an image "documentary," is that the adjective in reference to its origin rather than aesthetics?

My verification word was, astoundingly, defrench.

March 11, 2009 11:07 PM  
Blogger Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...

(And if there's anything on the Internet ripe for both HarryTuttle's rubric and Bazinian analysis, it's this brilliant film by Mark Lewis, which he's made available for streaming on his website--well, there's your copyright issue right there!)

March 12, 2009 1:00 AM  
Blogger nitesh said...

Thanks for the great news Girish. Hope we can get the book sometime in India. Meanwhile here we trying to introduce Bazin through our various Cinephile Meeting across India this month.

March 12, 2009 5:05 AM  
Blogger Gareth said...

Thanks for this very good news, and the details of the publication.

May I ask when your own contribution is scheduled for publication, since your mention of that tome is only through a characteristically modest by-the-way?!

March 12, 2009 10:58 AM  
Anonymous jmac said...

I'd like to emphasize that it is not necessary to wait for a book to fall into the public domain in order to create a new translation. A publisher simply would need to invest in acquiring permission to translate the work . . . Do you know if Bazin's estate refused permission? Who held the copyright all of this time?

Bazin is a fantastic shaman of the cinema, and I'm glad that there is more available to us now.

March 12, 2009 11:34 AM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Yesterday Pages didn't have any reference to the book on their site; today there's a link on their main page, and instructions to use the "special orders" process to buy it. (Their online sales process isn't functioning yet.)

March 12, 2009 11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is great news. Do note the Painlevé essay has appeared in translation already as "Accidental Beauty" in SCIENCE IS FICTION (MIT Press 2000).

March 12, 2009 12:12 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Like jmac, I am a little confused by this ´50 years after the author´s death´ copyright logic. It´s a question of publishing rights, not of birth (or death) dates. And translations have different rights to the original text. It is a matter of who owns the international rights to Bazin, or anybody for that matter. And there was another edition of Gray not very long ago, so the 1958 date ´does not compute´. I am confused!

March 12, 2009 1:56 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hello, all! I'm running between classes, but shall post an explanatory comment within an hour or two! Back soon.

March 12, 2009 2:01 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you, all!

Jen & Adrian, good points! Here's my understanding of the Bazin situation.

The copyright of Bazin in English (or any author translated into another language) is no longer held by the author, his or her estate, publisher in the original language, etc., but by the publisher who purchased the translation rights. In other words, University of California Press, not the Bazin estate or anyone else, OWNS Bazin in English. They purchased a monopoly on this author in this language--a monopoly that lasts until the author falls into public domain. In this case, Bazin has fallen into the public domain in Canada--but not in the U.S.

You're right: one doesn't have to wait for public domain to kick in to publish a book; one buys the rights. But any publisher buying translation rights in any language will insist that those rights be exclusive. University of California Press owns exclusive English-language rights to Bazin. Adrian, the recent Gray edition you mention was brought out a few years ago by this same press.

The only thing that undoes this exclusivity is public domain. Thus, one can buy Shakespeare and Dickens (but not Hemingway or Mailer) in a dozen different editions...

March 12, 2009 3:19 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Dan, here's an ordering update--and I'm glad you chimed in!

Pages will have the book for in-store delivery on March 24, and are currently taking online orders for delivery on March 24.

Gareth, I expect to work on my book over the next couple of years. But no firm deadline has been set yet. Thanks for asking.

March 12, 2009 3:25 PM  
Blogger girish said...

And just to add: University of California Press also released the original edition of the Gray translations--vol. 1 in 1967 and vol. 2 in 1971.

March 12, 2009 3:40 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Great news indeed! I had missed the new Offscreen issue too.

I'd like to mention Bazin is also available in French in its original edition ;) Some texts that are different from the ones found in the English books.

At the Bazin seminar they told us that the rights of the entire Bazin catalogue are held by Cahiers, or its Publisher : Les Editions de l'Etoile, which was purchased by British publisher Phaidon in January. Coincidence?

Dudley Andrew said the English translation had some errors and mistranslations (like the first Truffaut edition we have in France) and should be corrected before a new publication. So apparently with Phaidon in charge the Bazin will probably available in English before André Labarthe completes his own (which is pending for 40 years now)... Thanks Cahiers bankrupcy! :(

March 12, 2009 4:12 PM  
Blogger girish said...

P.S. More clarification as I think of it: The reason we've had to wait so long for an alternate English translation of Bazin is that Uni. Calif. Press has been content to stay with and continue selling the Gray translations and has not seen the need to commission a new one. And the new translation has been made possible only because of the 50-year rule...in Canada.

March 12, 2009 4:13 PM  
Blogger LK said...

50 years... I'm reading this with my "Serge Daney" cap and ponder over those long time periods. In Europe, public domain kicks in 70 years after the author's death... Publishers of all kind really need to find intelligent ways to obtain translation rights and get some more stuff out.

March 12, 2009 4:32 PM  
Anonymous jmac said...

Thanks for this copyright info on Bazin's translations! Fascinating! :)

March 12, 2009 4:32 PM  
Blogger Sachin said...

Thanks for this news Girish and also the info/clarification regarding copyright issues. Delighted that in Canada, we will have this available soon. Also, nice to read that Barnard mention something about future translations.

As for future projects exploring Bazin’s writings in greater depth, caboose does indeed have other translations in the works, but these will have to remain a secret for the time being. To be continued!

March 12, 2009 6:20 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Sachin, I had missed that! Great news.

A quick correction: by "owns Bazin" above I meant "owns What is Cinema?" and not everything that Bazin wrote!

March 12, 2009 6:43 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

My assumption was that since Phaidon is the copyright holder now, they might have negotiated a deal with caboose. There is no opposition that I know of to the publication of Bazin... it's just that nobody wanted to invest in this project until now. And the Cahiers (official) excuse was that they wanted to publish a complete oeuvre, instead of individual books one by one. Which was an overwhelming task always postponed...

re: Public Domain
so if, say, Panama, has no copyrights laws, they can just publish any book as if they were all in public domain? I doubt it works that way.
I thought the definitive clearance of rights was tied to the country of origin.
Translations legal issues are something else, they don't decide whether an author's catalog goes public domain or not. Translation rights are a subset of copyrights since they are circumscribed by a language and a territory.
Caboose had to deal either with the original Gray Publisher or with Phaidon, especially if they did a whole new translation from French and not from Gray.

March 12, 2009 7:32 PM  
Blogger underdog said...

This is all magnifique! The timing is appropriate for me, too, as I'm in the midst of reading Brody's Godard book, Everything is Cinema and was wondering about this very thing -- how can I find more Bazin in English... Most of what I'd read in the past was ages ago in film school. Anyway, thanks for the alerts/info here.

March 12, 2009 8:05 PM  
Blogger Andy Rector said...

Good stuff Girish...
I may have mentioned it in the last Bazin discussion but the CAHIERS has been publishing previously unpublished Bazin, one piece per issue/month for the past year. And these are translated (very well) for the E-Cahiers here.
Unfortunately this is a paysite but anyone who's finding themselves reimmersed in Bazin won't be disappointed by the material the CAHIERS has been putting up (available in their archive). The material being pieces like a Cannes report, or a review of an ethnographic film -- more 'ordinary' writing -- as well as broader pieces like one on the 'maturation' of cinema (in 1946) -- it has diversified my view of Bazin 10 fold .

March 13, 2009 11:52 AM  
Anonymous Daniel said...

So I guess the question is, which Canadian cinephile is going to act as proxy to funnel contraband Bazin books into the US?

March 14, 2009 5:24 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

During my very brief existence as a paralegal, I was of course interested in entertainment law.

Here's the history on the change to the copyright terms in the U.S.

March 15, 2009 10:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have just realized: if you go to this month's Cahiers du Cinema summary they have links to websites recommended by Nicole Brenez in her monthly column "Images Activistes", and quite a few of them are in english.

March 16, 2009 3:29 PM  
Anonymous Eli said...

A friend of mine works at the Pages bookstore in Toronto....

Hmmmmmmmmm

March 18, 2009 11:58 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hello, all!
Eli, you lucky dog! ;-) I'm planning on making a trip to Pages myself within the next few weeks if I can (and failing that, over the summer). It's disappointing to discover that the Cinematheque has canceled their usual spring season and are taking April and May off...

March 19, 2009 5:34 PM  
Blogger girish said...

I'm fascinated by the connection made in the Barnard interview at Offscreen between Straub/Huillet and Bazin's ideas on adaptation. If others have ideas on this, I'd love to hear them.

Let me quote an excerpt:

"I should say first of all that I have always seen Straub and Huillet as French Nouvelle vague filmmakers, not the German New Cinema filmmakers they are usually taken for, particularly in North America, where people’s familiarity with their films sometimes begins and ends with The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach from 1968. Straub in particular was present throughout the 1950s in France, the biggest influence on him was Bresson, and he even mutters somewhere that he submitted a text to Cahiers du Cinéma but that Bazin rejected it. I’d love to get my hands on that! But then he and later Huillet left the country right on the eve of the Nouvelle vague explosion because of the military draft and the war in Algeria and they began their filmmaking career in Germany (Straub is from Alsace and grew up during the war speaking German).

"The films by Straub and Huillet that fewer people are familiar with, beginning with Othon in 1969 and stretching through to The Death of Empedocles in 1986 and Antigone in 1992 in particular (there are many others), have a particular relevance to Bazin’s theories of literary and theatrical adaptations in the cinema. Reading these chapters in What is Cinema? my reaction was one I usually try to avoid, that of thinking that there is a ‘perfect fit’ between these films and Bazin’s theories. Straub and Huillet’s work consists almost invariably of transposing an existing text from its original medium to film without trying to ‘adapt’ it in the way Bazin laments in his essays. They really do carry the text and all its aesthetic baggage kicking and screaming into the cinema in a way we know to have been inspired by Straub’s encounter as a young man with the Bresson of Diary of a Country Priest and Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne, films Bazin discusses at length with respect to his own theory of adaptation. Straub and Huillet’s films, and it pains the critic in me who tries to avoid simplistic readings to say this, appear in this light like a lifelong exercise in Bazin’s theory of adaptation—to the point that I am working up the courage to write Straub and ask him about his reading of Bazin. People speculate about what Bazin would have thought of the 1960s films of Truffaut and Godard, having died just as their filmmaking careers got underway, but I dream about him watching Straub-Huillet films from the 1980s and 90s in heaven and seeing the perfect realisation of his theory of literary adaptation, which he foresaw but, apart from Bresson, never really got to see in practice."

And now, to compare with a similar position to Bazin's held by Truffaut in his "Certain Tendency" essay, in which he derided the Tradition of Quality filmmakers for trying to find visual "equivalences" between a literary work and its cinematic adaptation, thus either hiding or trying to 'improve upon' the literary source for cinematic purposes. (I'm linking to an older post on "Scriptwriting and the French New Wave"):

"In adaptation there exists filmable scenes and unfilmable scenes, and that instead of omitting the latter (as was done not long ago) it is necessary to invent equivalent scenes, that is to say, scenes as the novel’s author would have written them for the cinema. […] What annoys me about this famous process of equivalence is that I’m not at all certain that a novel contains unfilmable scenes, and even less certain that these scenes, decreed unfilmable, would be so for everyone.

"[…] I consider an adaptation of value only when written by a man of the cinema [sic]. Aurenche and Bost [the screenwriters who were a primary target of Truffaut’s attack] are essentially literary men and I reproach them for being contemptuous of the cinema by underestimating it. They behave, vis-à-vis the scenario, as if they thought to reeducate a delinquent by finding him a job; they always believe they’ve done the maximum for it by embellishing it with subtleties […] When they hand in the scenario, the film is done; the metteur-en-scène, in their eyes, is the gentleman who adds the pictures…"

March 20, 2009 9:15 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Also: Steve Erickson just put up a Serge Daney essay on his site: THE NEW WAVE - A GENEALOGICAL APPROACH.

March 20, 2009 9:17 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Ah, forgot to link to the Barnard/Offscreen interview in the comment above.

March 20, 2009 9:19 AM  
Blogger Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...

Girish,

A fascinating quotation. I've always considered Straub and Huillet outgrowths of the Paris film circles; Straub, after all, was the assistant director on Rivette's last short film (written by Chabrol, with Godard, Truffaut and also-ran Jacques Doniol-Valcorze in cameo roles!).

The Bazin-Straub/Huillet-Rivette connection is an interesting one. I remember Jonathan Rosenbaum saying after the Chicago screening of Out 1 that he felt the film was a "Bazin parody"--that it took Bazin's ontological theories to the breaking point, where instead of reinforcing a sense of reality, they made us question the reality of everything (a personal note: the film was screened over two days, and I would work a full morning shift every day before the screenings, a strenuous situation that, combined with the film, gave way to an intense paranoia that lasted for weeks). Godard is the most "anti-Bazinian" (which does not mean he's "against Bazin") of the major New Wave figures, and though Truffaut is the anointed godson, it's really Rivette and, in the outer orbit, Straub and Huillet, who were concerned the longest with Bazinian (whether directly or by definition) ideas of a cinematic image.

March 21, 2009 4:20 AM  
Anonymous caboose said...

Here is Bazin, from the Wyler essay. Pardon the simplism of the exercise, but substitute 'Straub-Huillet' for 'Wyler' and, presto, we get a succinct summary of a common objection to Straub-Huillet and an idea for how to approach their work (Berthomieu was a prolific hack filmmaker and Bernstein a popular middle-brow playwright):

'If for example someone told you that André Berthomieu had just adapted the most recent play by Henri Bernstein to film without changing a word, you would start to worry. If the bearer of this bad news added that nine-tenths of the film takes place in the same living room setting we typically see in the theatre, you would think that you still had much to learn about the shamelessness of the people who produce filmed theatre. And if, to top it all off, this person announced that the film's découpage has fewer than ten camera movements throughout and that most of the time the camera simply plops itself down in front of the actors without moving, your view would be final: 'Now I've seen everything!' And yet these are the paradoxical means by which Wyler has created one of the most purely cinematic films there is'.

Bazin talks throughout his work about 'montage' cinema, to which he was opposed, being a cinema of metaphor. A few years back, on the occasion of a retrospective in Vienna I think, Straub declared that what he likes about John Ford is that there are no metaphors to be found in his films.

Perhaps this, and not his famous theories of 'realism', is Bazin's great legacy: he pointed towards a cinema organised by the camera, not by metaphor external to the material of the film itself.

March 21, 2009 9:01 AM  
Blogger Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...

Beautifully put, Caboose. Realism fades; it's contextual. It's true: Bazin's greatest contribution was the idea that the camera did not need motivation--that the camera lens was like a bathtub drain, and when you started rolling the film, the world and its ideas would come spiraling in.

March 21, 2009 10:18 AM  
Anonymous Jemaine said...

already on ebay!

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March 21, 2009 8:42 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

I wonder how true it is to say that - at least at the end of his life - Bazin was opposed to montage cinema. Just days before his death he was praising Chris Marker's LETTER FROM SIBERIA as a triumph of montage cinema, indeed this review (a pretty good translation by Dave Kehr appeared in FILM COMMENT six years ago) is an incredibly sophisticated bit of thumbnail theorising about montage in cinema, image/sound relations, 'sampling' of all kinds of footage, etc. I am with Brian Henderson in thinking that Bazin the theorist was always ready to bend to Bazin the critic: and as a critic he was less attuned to 'erecting a system' than trying to account for what was new and exciting in the films that were coming out, like Marker's. There is a whole aspect of Bazin's 'sensitivity to the new' which we need to appreciate better, I believe.

By the way, his description of a hypothetical 'stagey' adaptation of an ordinary Henri Bernstein play could have inspired Alain Resnais: the great MELO is precisely such a 'cricumscribed' but profoundly cinematic adaptaion of a play 'as is' ... and the play is by Bernstein himself! (If I recall correctly, Resnais says he was led to this author through a mix-up of names made by Fanny Ardant.) For me, a Bazin-Resnais link (they had a mutual friend in Marker, among others) is more convincing than a Straub-Bazin link: surely the Christian mysticism part of Nazin wouldn't have played too well with cranky materialist Jean-Marie !! Straub is one of those guys who loves Dreyer, but not for the spiritual aspect that others see in him. And remember too that Straub has always been fickle: he turned on Fassbinder like the Devil only a few years into the latter's career, and they had worked together!

March 22, 2009 9:10 AM  
Anonymous caboose said...

Ignatiy, if my remarks were at all felicitous, it must be because they were lifted whole-cloth from Bazin. Your bathtub-drain image though is both original and compelling.

Adrian, I agree that Bazin the critic was often in the driver's seat, but I think, when all is said and done, that it would be very hard to make a case for Bazin abandoning his anti-montage principles in any consistent way, and much less for him not holding them to a compelling extent. One need only read the 'Evolution of Film Language' essay to be persuaded of this.

How he felt at the end of his life doesn't negate the massive body of evidence compiled during that life. Surely you aren't suggesting that merely moving away from this work (which I personally dispute he ever did) somehow invalidates or qualifies it?

I am not sure I know the cosmic, mystical Bazin you speak of. I truly don't, except in specific places, like the Bresson essay. Certainly not in the various other adaptation essays, which is what I was referring to in mentioning the work of Straub.

Nor am I sure personal anecdotes like the ones you cite (Bazin and Resnais shared a common friend, Chris Marker, so there's a stronger case there for a theoretical connection - leaving aside the mutual Bazin/Straun friend Truffaut of course); Straub is a fickle Marxist and materialist who turns on his friends, how can there be a connection to the mystic Catholic Bazin?; etc.

My point, finally, was about the similarities between Staub-Huillet's practice of adaptation and Bazin's theory of adaptation (one could extend the comparison to their views on organising the profilmic, but let's only bite off what we can chew here).

I won't begin quoting either Straub or Bazin here, but I think it is hard to avoid, watching S-H films and reading a few of their comments and reading Bazin, even in the Gray translation, being struck by certain similarities.

These include such things as:

- the preference for excising rather than paraphrasing the original, something Straub learned at Bresson's knee;

- the need to respect the aesthetic organisation of the original rather than bend it to the new medium. This creates, first of all, a work in which the original work and the principles of its medium can be seen and heard like the creaking wheels of the ox cart in Dalla nube alla resistenza. Bazin is full of comments to this effect.

- following from this, a sense of the work of art as a piece of geology in which the strata of its previous formations are visible. Both Straub and Bazin use the geology analogy in their discussions, and in S-H films it becomes increasinly central to their work as time goes on, to the point that Antigone is a production of (the Ancient Greek) Sophocles' tragedy as translated by (the German Romantic) Hölderlin as adapted by (the Marxist) Brecht and filmed by S-H. Here the geological layers are almost literally visbile and audible, from the ruins of the amphitheatre where the film was shot to the controversial language used in Brecht's post-war adaptation (such as his use of the Nazi-appropriated term 'Heimat').

- the sense that the meaning of the work lies in what Bazin calls the disjunction between the original and the adaptation, like a colour slightly misprinted outside the lines of a drawing - a disjunction conventional adaptations try to paper over.

Well, I could go on and on. But these were the sorts of issues I meant to raise when I spoke of Bazin and S-H in the same breath, not some of the issues you raise in your comments.

March 22, 2009 10:02 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Caboose wrote: "Surely you aren't suggesting that merely moving away from this work (which I personally dispute he ever did) somehow invalidates or qualifies it?"

Of course not. I am suggesting this: how can we think of the guy who celebrated the montage in LETTER FROM SIBERIA - that great piece is a veritable theory of montage! - as being 'against montage'? You've got a somewhat rigid 'theory of Bazin' going here which I think is complicated by the day-by-day critical texts themselves. Like Gray, but differently, you're reaching for a fully coherent 'thereotical Bazin', but looking at the workaday critic Bazin gives another picture (that's why the Cardullo collection is valuable). At the very least, you have to deal with his love and appreciation of Chris Marker! It's not nothing, and to ignore it is counterintuitive.

March 23, 2009 3:27 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Maybe it's because I'm a bigger fan of Eisenstein than a fan of De Sica, but I never found any major contradiction between Bazin's "Montage interdit" and Soviet Montage, or un-realistic editing cinema.
In his essay on adaptations he cites Battleship Potemkin as one of the exemplary masterpieces proving that the adaptation can be greater than the literary original.
In his essay "An Aesthetic of reality: Cinematic Realism and the Italian School of the Liberation", he compares the aesthetic innovation and research for realism of Italian neorealism to what Soviet Montage did in comparison to German Expressionism, again citing Potemkin as a positive reference.

What Bazin praised in Marker was the "horizontal montage" (dissociation of soundtrack and image). But his celebration of plan-sequence (notably for nature documentaries) didn't contradict his defence for "impure cinema" (filmed theatre plays). It's a misleading generalisation to condense Bazin to his theory on realism (and his constructive criticism of the montage technique).
Only the artists could use a definitive definition of cinema and stick to it; like Straub, or Bresson, or Marker... It doesn't make sense for the theoretician to elect one narrow aspect of cinema in order to reject anything that doesn't fit in. Cinema is plural, the artists invent its forms. The recipe is not defined before hand.

We had a discussion on this blog on "cinema essence" regarding Bazin I believe (from an article by Kent Jones if I recall right). Sometimes Bazin defines the essence of cinema (like in his ontology of the photographic image essay, the complex of the mummy), sometimes he only theorize whatever applies to a particular trend of cinema (like his thesis on neorealism, or impure cinema, or Bresson, or the Western genre, or The Mystery Picasso... none of which comply with each others characteristics)

March 23, 2009 8:45 AM  
Anonymous caboose said...

Harry: yes, but at the risk of confirming my narrow reading of Bazin in some people's eyes, it could be argued that what Bazin did in his discussion of Potemkin you refer to, faced with its indisputable achievement, was to deflect attention away from its status as a montage film and towards its documentary-like authenticity, its use of non-professional actors, its cinematography, etc.

Adrian: not at all. I'm at a loss for words against such a claim. Bazin's output was vast and varied, and he could contradict himself several times in the course of a single article. Of course there are differences over time, between articles, when addressing the work of various filmmakers, schools of filmmaking, etc. He seemed to love all cinema. But surely dominant themes emerge. These aren't hard to spot. His view of découpage, as far as I have been able to determine, is pretty constant, and is explicitly set up and maintained as a corrective to the montage cinema of the 1920s. (One gets no sense of this reading Gray or Cardullo, it must be pointed out.) Look at the texts he assembled, at the end of his life, for the first volume of Qu'est-ce que le cinéma?, a summation of his more theoretical views he entitled 'Ontologie et langage'. The evidence is irrefutable. Of course he also liked films in a completely different vein. He also praised Potemkin, as Harry T points out. I like tango musicals, but I prefer Straub.

March 23, 2009 10:21 AM  
Anonymous caboose said...

Better yet: I like tango musicals, and would be prepared to write a thorough defence of them if anyone asks, but I prefer Straub. I think the same could be said for any of us and our tastes. But when a critic writes, in what is perhaps his major theoretical statement (initially called 'Découpage', significantly enough, and published in 1952, then re-worked and published as 'The Evolution of Film Language' on the eve of his death), that 'two great opposing trends are visible in film from 1920 to 1940: those filmmakers who put their faith in the image and those who put their faith in reality', I suggest we take him at his word.

March 23, 2009 11:27 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

No doubt that Bazin had a clearly displayed preference for Deep Focus than metaphorical cuts. And rightly so, since Welles and Hitchcock were the most interesting inventors of the cinematic language at that time.

But in the introduction of the article you refer to, his point is to reconsider the definition of cinema as defined in the silent era by editing and image composition. He calls it a "complete art".
It's only the apparition of sound that changes the equation. Back when it was silent, editing was perfectly coherent with the requirements of the cinematographic language. Griffith, Gance, Eisenstein made great use of editing, and he praise them for that (in this very article).
In the later part of the article he goes on to prove the superiority of Deep Focus over Cuts. And this is a debate perfectly understandable in 1958, before La Nouvelle Vague, before Underground experiments, before Post-Modernism... because Deep Focus was the big thing at the time, after sound changed the equation of the perfect state reached by silent cinema.

But cinema didn't get cast in stone in 1958.

I could even argue that Eisenstein Montage is more inherently cinematographic than Deep Focus (against Bazin's opinion, against my own preference for Contemplative Cinema), because the act of projecting recorded images out of their original context is by nature a process of "decoupage" of reality.
All that Bazin defended about uncut reality is something the cinema medium strives to reconstitute artificially (through an effort of imagination to suspend disbelief) in spite of the machine-projector that destroys it (concretely).

Everytime Bazin says "montage" he means "editing" not "Soviet Montage". He warns against the misuse of cuts, against the fallacies, the facility allowed by editing points. But editing isn't inherently wrong in his definition of the cinematic language. And there are wrong ways to use Deep Focus as well... Bazin would be enraged today looking at what hyperbolic directors did with Welles legacy.

P.S. he cites The General Line in this article, so it's not just about Potemkin. Though I would agree that Eisenstein is pretty much the only interesting director of the Soviet Montage school anyway.

March 23, 2009 8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something in this very interesting thread has been worrying me. Should we not rather learn from Bazin to think on cinema, instead of revering him, taking his every word as truth or trying to reconcile everything he wrote along the years, under varying circumstances, in different contexts, perhaps answering some people we are not even aware of? And yet, I see no contradiction bewtween loving/admiring Welles/Wyler/Rossellini/De Sica (already 4 very different filmmakers) on the one hand and Eisenstein (or Marker, or for that matter Bresson) on the other. And remember his books are not real books, no theoretical constructions, but rather collections (and rarely selected/structured by him) of criticism and cinematic thinking and reflection, from which a certain theoretical approach (with a philosophical basis) can be implied.
Miguel Marías

March 24, 2009 8:04 AM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

And, by the way, let us not forget that Straub & Huillet are GREAT montage directors, too! Films like BRIDEGROOM, COMEDIENNE ... are total 'large scale' montage constructions, and ALL of the fiction-adaptations have the most fantastic, dramatic, 'slicing' cuts at every point: I was gasping, recently, everytime a cut came in VON HEUTE AUF MORGEN. It is impossible but irresistible speculation to imagine how Bazin would have reacted to the newness of NOT RECONCILED, which is one of the most dynamically edited films in cinema history.

HarryT has made an important claim: that when Bazin spoke of 'montage' he meant not 'Soviet montage' strictly but, more simply, editing. Surely Bazin's newest translator will have something to say about that (as he has already done in the lengthy PDF on the Caboose site) ... a lot hangs on the translation decision/distinction here!

March 24, 2009 4:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, it's deeply disturbing that there seems to be no word either in English or Spanish for the key term "découpage", an essential part of "mise-en-scène" so much usually in the hands of the director, even to modify the meaning of a screenplay, as to provide a solid basis for the claim of the director as (main) "author" of the film. In Spanish I have seen used "desglose" sometimes, but it has not stayed; in English it could be mistaken with "cutting"). So the French may have a conceptual edge...
Miguel Marías

March 24, 2009 5:23 PM  
Anonymous caboose said...

Indeed there is a translator's footnote in the new volume on the question of translating the French word 'montage' in Bazin and other French film theory, and although it is *much* shorter than the découpage footnote available on the caboose web site, I'm not sure Girish wants me posting it here. Suffice to say that Harry T is right to point out the problem, although the comment he offers, that "Everytime Bazin says 'montage' he means 'editing' not 'Soviet Montage'" must be overstating the case, otherwise Bazin would never have addressed 'montage'.

First, yes, a lot of the time when Bazin says 'montage' in French he simply means editing. The entire article 'Montage interdit', which I translated as 'Editing Forbidden' and Gray as 'The Virtues and Limitations of Montage', is about conventional editing, not 'montage' as we understand it in English. It is also important to note that 'montage' (in the English sense...) was not for Bazin restricted to the Soviet filmmakers but was a paradigm of mature silent cinema of the 1920s.

(This is the point in the talk show where I hold up the book and say: given the translation mistakes over both 'découpage' and 'montage' in both the Gray and Cardullo volumes, you really need to get your hands on the caboose edition - a toll-free number should now flash across the bottom of your computer screen.)

Finally, I would like to return some time to Adrian's characterisation of Straub and Huillet as 'montage' directors, with which I heartily disagree of course. I'm sure Adrian would agree that he does not mean this in Bazin's sense of the word, as a paradigm of metaphorical silent cinema - just mentioning this to avoid anyone confusing apples and oranges.

Most of the films Adrian cites - the exception in his list is the remarkable Von Heute auf Morgen, now out on DVD, everyone must see this, it is one of the most important films of the century - are from their 1960s 'German' period, which I like to think of as their 'prehistorical' period, before they came up with the method of adaptation found in almost all their films beginning with Othon in 1969/70. In these films - especially Othon - there are indeed tremendous 'cuts', but they remain cuts, not montage - editing, if you will. The underlying aesthetic is one of découpage, of Bazin's 'automatic recording of reality' in long takes.

March 24, 2009 10:06 PM  
Anonymous adrian said...

Actually - and taking this a bit beyond Bazin and his terminology - when I call Straub & Huillet momtage directors, I am referring more than anything to the great 1969 CAHIERS discussion (very post-Bazinian!) on Montage by Rivette, Sylvie Pierre, etc, which appeared in English in Jonathan Rosenbaum's terrific Rivette booklet. (Which I bought for two bucks in 1978 at a Communist Party Book Fair!) In this text, and at that cultural moment (also taking in Marie-Claire Ropar's work) montage means something other than good old-fashioned 'Soviet Montage', but it also tries to get at something modern happening within even previously classical practices of decoupage and mise en scene: an emphasis (often subtle) on the 'interval' between shots, on gaps, ellipses, 'holes' (as Rivette and the others say), lacunae, dialectical clashes, contradictions, doubts ... within this 1969 discussion, prime 'montage films' thus include Straub & Huillet (OTHON included), Cassavetes' FACES, even Dreyer's GERTRUD. Today, an example would be the very Straubian Pedro Costa, who truly introduces an Eisensteinian dynamism into the slightest shot/reverse shot figure: worlds in collision. So, cuts are not just 'cuts within a scene' in this cinema-mutation, they loom more largely as slices, tears, breaks, ruptures ... and that's the kind of montage which I believe Straub & Huillet always, always practice. Their Mallarme-recitation film is really the manifesto-model of their montage cinema, in this respect: no 'continous long take recording' there!

March 25, 2009 8:02 AM  
Anonymous caboose said...

Yes, but the Mallarmé film you cite is the one Straub-Huillet film unlike all the others and was inspired by Mallarmé poem, whereas their other work is adapted from prose and thereby employs a more continuous narrative, matched by a use of the camera corresponding to Bazin's 'automatic recording of reality through the long take'.

March 25, 2009 9:25 AM  
Anonymous caboose said...

For those unfamiliar with the film or poem, I should add summarily that Mallarmé's poem is, among other things, an experiment in typography in which the words and lines are severely broken up on the page, thus creating indeed the kind of 'gaps' Adrian refers to and which I maintain exist in few other places in Straub and Huillet's films.

March 25, 2009 9:27 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

In English you have 4 words for "criticism", "reviewing", "critique" and "critic" and in French we say "critique" in all cases. So the confusion is on our side there...

When I hear "montage" in English, I recall the montage song from "Team America : World Police".

Even when Bazin refers to the Soviet Montage of Koulechov and Eisenstein he talks about their "editing". He also uses the phrase "montage attraction" which is something else again.

I'd need to re-read it all, but I don't think "montage" means something else than "editing".

In French when we say "film de montage" it means collage of archive films, newsreels, like Vertov or "Nuit et Brouillard" or "Le Chagrin et la Pitié".

I'm glad the new translation has corrected the mistakes of Gray and Cardullo. Bazin made mistakes too.
Notably in this article we mentioned on "the evolution of the filmic language", he attributes the line up of lion statues to "La Fin de Saint-Pétersbourg", and I believe it's actually from "Oktober". Truffaut's posthumous editing also has mistakes. They have been mentioned at the "Open Bazin" seminar, with Labarthe and Dudley Andrews. So I hope these have been taken care of in the new edition.

March 25, 2009 10:10 AM  
Anonymous caboose said...

Well, I can only hope I caught them all. Any I missed will go into the next edition, if people let me know what they are. The stone lions are from Potemkin, not October or, as Bazin has it, The End of St Petersburg.

But I beg to differ that he never talks about 'montage' as opposed to editing. The Evolution essay is pretty much equally divided between the two.

March 25, 2009 10:53 AM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Looks as if my last comment didn't make it - but Pages called me yesterday to say that What Is Cinema? had just arrived at their store. And my copy is already in the hands of my Canadian friend today - fast service.

March 25, 2009 11:32 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Oh OK. I remembered it was the wrong film, but not which one it actually was. I don't even remember the lions from either films.

So did you work in collaboration with the Cahiers team to fix the errors?
And how did you get the copyrights that we discussed above? From Cahiers, Phaidon or University of California Press? I'd like to know how these things work out with translation and national legislations...

March 25, 2009 11:39 AM  
Anonymous caboose said...

I worked on my own. But my reviser, the incredible film scholar (and translator) Roland-François Lack, caught a few errors I didn't and a few more I made. Then I relied on a small team of people who answered my queries about various things (without knowing why I was asking! - only a half-dozen people knew about the book before the launch two weeks ago).

As for the rights, as Girish pointed out earlier, these were already spoken for. Translation rights for any book of any sort will normally only be sold once per language, just like any new publication - no one would (should) sell the rights to their novel twice, and no one would buy those rights knowing that someone else was buying them too. I don't know the contractual details or even who owns Bazin in French now that he and his wife Janine are gone, but in English the rights to What is Cinema?, or at the very least to those essays published by the University of California Press, are owned by California UP, not anyone on the French side. It's like film distribution: New Yorker films bought the rights to Straub-Huillet, for example (and everyone else in their catalogue) many years ago, and owned them ever since. Unless there was an expiry date in their contract, which would be unusual, they are theirs to keep.

Until the work falls into public domain. Balzac is in public domain in France and the United States, Bazin isn't. Bazin is in public domain in Canada, and can legally be published and sold here, but only here (and a few other countries) - not in places where he is not (yet) in public domain. Public domain, for anyone unfamiliar with the term, is why you can buy any number of editions of Shakespeare but only one publisher publishes Thomas Pynchon. It is regulated by the length of time the author has been deceased and the laws around copyright in different countries. Highly anomalous situations can arise: Iraq I think it is has a very low threshold for public domain, Mexico a very high threshold, so Iraqi publishers can publish Mexican authors soon after their death - in Spanish, Arabic, English or whatever - they just can't export them beyond their borders.

But really, discussion of film and Bazin is much more interesting than copyright, let's stick to that.

March 25, 2009 12:13 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

I said it above, the rights for Qu'est-ce que le cinéma? and his entire oeuvre are owned by Les Editions de l'Etoile (Cahiers' Publisher), which was purchased by Phaidon recently, so now Phaidon owns the rights.
I didn't understand. Are you saying that Cabooze didn't even made a deal with California UP (who own the English translation exclusivity) because of Canada's Public Domain laws?

I hear what you say about the exclusivity negotiated when the rights are bought once and for all. Though regarding English language, a book published in India or Australia wouldn't cause any competition with the exclusivity a publisher has in the USA. The vicinity of Canada with the USA is more problematic (as we noticed on in the comments on this thread)...

But Bazin is not Canadian, and never published a book in Canada, in French or English. So I don't see why Canadian law would apply to anything regarding Bazin's oeuvre...
I used the example of Panama earlier, but they do have copyright laws. Afghanistan, Laos or the Marshall Islands however have no copyright laws for Public Domain. They can publish only locally, but nothing stop tourists from buying books and taking them home... This is too easy to evade copyright fees. There would be a lot more off-shore publishers if it worked that way.
I remain unconvinced about this topic.

March 25, 2009 1:07 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

I'm pretty sure Canadian copyright laws only apply to Canadian authors. And for foreign authors they refer to the laws of their respective country. Only that an international agreement of the sort, respecting each others' national laws could maintain a friendly market for international exchange of culture. Or else publishers would never buy rights in the first place.
I don't know where to find confirmation of this though.

March 25, 2009 1:15 PM  
Anonymous caboose said...

Read some general stuff on the Internet about the Berne Convention, in particular issues such as reciprocity between nations. Each nation who signs the B.C. agrees to protect other signatories' rights in their territoriies, but only to the extent afforded national authors - i.e. Canada will allow French authors to prosecute copyright offences against them in Canada through the Canadian courts, but only to the extent allowed under Canadian law, not French law. I don't know much more than that myself, and for that and reasons of not boring Girish's readers, that's about all I have to say on the matter.

March 25, 2009 1:57 PM  
Anonymous caboose said...

Except to clear up one little detail: in many cases (films, books) a publisher/distributor will buy rights for a territory, thus leading to an Indian publisher of Pynchon, an Australian publisher of Pynchon, etc. (You may have seen notices like 'Not for sale in the U.S. or U.K.' on the back cover of books - that's because someone else has those rights). Here in Canada film exhibitors are often stymied when they find out that someone sold a distributor in the U.S. American rights but not Canadian, so the exhibitor here has to hunt down the original rights holder in Paris or Timbuktu. MOst often in the case of translated books, however, one buys the rights for a language, not a territory. There, I'm done. Now can we get back to film?

March 25, 2009 2:02 PM  
Anonymous adrian said...

Caboose, I will try to distract this discussion away from the attention of the lawyers of Phaidon, University of California Press and Florent Bazin (he's still alive, kicking and working in the cinema industry) by asking the following question:

Have you seen Pedro Costa's film on Straub and Huillet editng for the 3rd time (I think) SICILIA ? I find it hard to relate your Bazinian thesis to anything we see and learn there about how they go about, and conceptualise, their editing practice. (and I'm assuming SICILIA does fit your 'adaptation' condition in a way that the Mallarme poem-film maybe does not.) Also, multiple edits is itself highly anti-Bazinian! It's possible to argue (as Nicole Brenez does in a forthcoming piece) that the central theorist for S-H - in terms of actual influence or just plain aesthetic-political affinity - is Adorno, whose late 60s epic AESTHETIC THEORY they could easily have benn in a position to read in German, and where 'montage' is one of the key terms. And there it comes with a meaning quite alien to 'classic' Bazin.

I would like to hear the thoughts of our esteemed Shambuan colleague Andy Rector on all this: he may well have a more properly dialectical view of the entire matter !

March 25, 2009 4:35 PM  
Blogger David said...

Wanted to pop by and say how much I'm enjoying this, though both sides sound right to me: "caboose" about the long takes, Adrian about the montage.

Gilberto Perez has a great piece on Not Reconciled in The Material Ghost that I think stands for a lot of Straub's work: he argues that the shards Straub and Huillet give us are just that, shards, that show history without standing in for it--they stand only for themselves, glimpses, inadequate to suggest histories/stories outside of what they depict.

I've struggled with this.

But take Cezanne, just after Empedokles, which is nearly a scrapbook of citations surrounding Cezanne (I saw it with some French people pissed off at Huillet's flattening of the words in her delivery, but she's clearly trying to talk like Cezanne paints, giving us the base, atomized form of the text she's working with). Cezanne's paintings are not depicted as paintings filling the screen, but actual paintings, in a frame, in their actual museums, faced frontally. The first point, of course, is that Straub and Huillet want to show the painting as just that, materially: an actual canvas with paint on it, whatever it depicts.

But the effect also, as always in Straub and Huillet, is that we're respectfully aware of what we see as a citation. We're not seeing the painting, and they don't want us to think we are. We're seeing a film of the painting. Just as Cezanne doesn't want us to think we're seeing the landscape itself, but a painting of it. Not Brechtian; just interpretation. And yet, closer to the way we'd actually see the painting: in a frame, in a museum. The usual double bind with Straub-Huillet, that happens every time they cut from one shot to another within a scene and the background sound changes with the position of the camera: by bringing us closer to the reality of what something looks and sounds like, the form with as little interpretive inflection whatsoever, we're more aware of what we see as being filmed, captured by an artist. As in Cezanne.

But the most important effect, I think, is that they seem to be taking a text and splicing it into their film, laying it flat to be watched. And for me, anyway, this is the effect of both the long takes in those mid-period works (I've only managed to see a few, but the cut in Moses and Aaron when the staff becomes a snake almost seems like a mockery of Bazin), as we become aware of all the particulars of a scene--the way the light falls on the grass in Empedoklesat a specific moment in time at a specific point in space, both of which Straub and Huillet have captured as just that, a glimpse into a particular moment, not standing for anything outside of itself--and of the montage.

"an emphasis (often subtle) on the 'interval' between shots, on gaps, ellipses, 'holes' (as Rivette and the others say), lacunae, dialectical clashes, contradictions, doubts"

Like the texts themselves in Cezanne, which Straub and Huillet don't necessarily agree with and probably don't depict anything that actually happened, these are the facts, presented for our consideration, but every cut, almost as in a slide show, gives us another angle. Saw La Nuit du Carrefour recently, and the editing--each shot doesn't just seem to oppose the last, as in Eisenstein, but contradict it altogether, as if presenting an alternate reality which Renoir see-saws back and forth--seems very Rivettian, very Straubian.

Just tentative speculations.

Just speculations.

March 25, 2009 8:21 PM  
Anonymous caboose said...

Oh, there's definitely an Adorno connection to Straub and Huillet, absolutely. All Adorno's talk of aesthetic form as sedimented content (e.g. p. 5 of the Minnesota edition of 'Aesthetic Theory' and his concept of the 'cultural landscape' (e.g. p. 64 of the same volume), for example, point very much in the direction of the kind of 'geology' Bazin and Straub talk about which I mentioned above.

I've seen the Pedro Costa film a couple of times, but not recently. (Pedro Costa a montage director? Vanda's Room? Colossal Youth? Montage films? What am I missing here?) I remember the attention they paid to their cutting. That doesn't make them montage directors.

Have you seen the film, also about Sicilia!, called 'Die Musik seid ihr, Freunde'? (Andreas Teuchert, Germnany, 1999). It's a documentary on the *filming* of Sicilia!. The other side of the coin. In it we see S + H + William Lubtchansky, the cinematographer, pondering shots. The scene in the character's mother's home, for example, when she cooks a herring and they eat it, was set up, like all S-H films, to respect the geography of the room itself - nothing is 'fudged' to make it easier to arrange lighting or camera set-ups etc. Pure découpage.

We also see their extremely laborious work with actors - also visible in the Harun Farocki film on Class Relations - and the attention paid to diction, the relationship between the actor and the camera, etc. None of this fits what I think of when someone mentions the words 'montage cinema'.

This approach reaches its most rigorous and most complete expression in Antigone, which was filmed in a Roman amphitheatre in Sicily with the camera in a fixed spot in the centre. It was simply turned to shoot the various characters at different spots around the circumference of the theatre. There is no 'imaginary geography', and much less a doctored geography.

Have you heard the long interview between S-H and Thierry Jousse in 1997, on the occasion of the release of Von Heute auf Morgen? This film, for those unfamiliar with it, is a one-hour one-act opera by Schoenberg. S-H, in their custmery obsessive way, naturally wanted to avoid all the trickery of the run-of-the-mill opera film, with its multiple camera set-ups and post-synching and all that, which are intended, as Bazin would say, to inject a little 'cinema' into this block of opera, but achieve exactly the opposite. (Bazin paradoxically saw more 'cinema' in films which transplanted the medium they were adapting - literature, theatre, by extension opera - without paraphrasing or 'adapting' it.)

So S-H set out to film this opera with a live orchestra in the pit of the theatre in which they were filming, commencing and cutting each shot with music, voice and camera in complete synch. People said it couldn't be done. It was an immense challenge for the musicians and singers.

Well, in the Jousse interview Straub mentions a shot that just wouldn't work. They tried it for several days and they couldn't get it right. I've listened to the interview several times and watched the corresponding part of the film, and I have to confess I'm not sure what the problem was.

People were saying 'Jean-Marie, cut the scene, fix it up later in the editing, whatever', and Straub of course said 'no way, that's not how I work, I don't fix things up in the editing'. He relates that they decided one day to try it one last time the following day and that it worked.

Pure découpage. The integrity of the shot. The need to record reality ('camera-reality', not some bogus reality). This is most visible in the films of extreme long takes (most of them: Trop tôt trop tard, History Lessons, Empedocles, Dalla nube alla resistenza, etc.), although I wouldn't want anyone to reduce this to long take = Bazin.

But you're right, Adrian, their work is obviously very complex and many things enter into it, including very 'dialectical images' (Adorno again). That's precisely what makes them so compelling. They work within the two dominant variants of 20th C modernism, the 'automatic recording of the image' modernism (surely you see this aspect of their work? the grasshoppers in Empedocles?) and, yes, montage modernism - but montage that always respects the tenets of Bazinian découpage. It's more a modernism of the cut than montage proper. There is no metaphor, no juxtaposition of incongruous elements, no imaginary geography.


In one of the

March 25, 2009 8:24 PM  
Anonymous caboose said...

La Nuit du carrefour is one of S's favourite films.

March 25, 2009 8:28 PM  
Blogger girish said...

I just wanted to pop up and say how much I'm ENJOYING (and learning from) this thread. Thank you all...

March 25, 2009 9:21 PM  
Anonymous caboose said...

I'm not so sure I would be too quick to enlist Adorno's view of montage in a defence of montage.

"[Montage] is powerless, however, insofar as it is unable to explode the individual elements. It is precisely montage that is to be criticised for possessing the remains of a complaisant irrationalism, for adaptation to material that is delivered ready-made from outside the work".

Voilà. An appalling translation, more of a machine-transcription, but a compelling critique once you cut through the dreck. No ready-made material imported into the work in S-H, natch.

March 25, 2009 9:23 PM  
Anonymous caboose said...

Dear all:
It looks like it may be time to say farewell. I'd like to thank everyone for their comments on this thread and especially Girish for posting it and leaving it up so long. I'm sure he and you have other topics you'd like to discuss and suspect he will have something new up soon, so allow me to get my thanks in now. I'm sorry if discussion was curtailed towards the end by a focus on films few have seen and on books few have read. For those interested in the new Bazin volume and who seek it out, any comments via caboose's own web site, or here of course in Girish's archive, are most welcome. Ta ta, T.B.

March 27, 2009 10:49 AM  
Anonymous James McNally said...

Too bad caboose seems to have vamoosed. I wanted to ask why the book seems so prohibitively expensive at $65. I certainly want to reward him for his translation work but since the original work is in the public domain, this seems pretty expensive to me. Now I know Bazin isn't going to sell like hotcakes but at this price, I think that will be even more the case. Too bad.

March 27, 2009 12:41 PM  
Anonymous caboose said...

Hello, I'm still here, I just wanted to thank everyone before their attention turned elsewhere.

Thank you for your question. Actually, the book is inexpensive. How so? It is a sewn hardbound printed on archival quality, acid-free paper. A book of this quality (speaking strictly from a production point of view) would cost $75 USD and up if published by an American or British university press (by coincidence, another book I translated for another press in Canada was released just two weeks ago also: it too, like the caboose bazin, sells for $65 CAD within Canada (but then they sell it for $65 USD worldwide). That publisher receives huge government subsidies that caboose does not and has a far more established market for its products). $65 Canadian, for those unfamiliar with the currency, is the equivalent of $50 USD. The two California volumes, which have both more and less material than the caboose volume (they don't have the Wyler, Tati or Painlevé essays; they do have a lot of smaller pieces, mostly on individual films) sell for a combined $50 CAD in Canada and $45 USD in the USA. They are poor-quality paperbacks, printed on newsprint and glued together. They will fall apart in 10 years. The caboose edition will last longer than any of us.

I could have made a cheap paperback and matched California's price. I wanted to produce a book people would feel good about taking down from their shelves tomorrow and 30 years from now, befitting a cornerstone of their film studies library. At the risk of losing sales and preventing some students from buying the book (although a biology textbook costs $150).

The economics of book publishing are pretty strange. There is a price barrier, as you have eloquently expressed and I have viscerally felt myself, as someone who has spent most of his life as a poor student, and it seems that the solution to that barrier is to produce a poor quality product (speaking again of a book's physical aspects) for a slightly lower price, so that we all have books with loose pages and broken spines on our shelves. I thought this book deserved better and that people would shell out an additional $10 for it. I like to think they won't be disappointed if they do. And believe me, a small publisher like caboose does not make money at this, not at all. But that's another story.

March 27, 2009 1:12 PM  
Anonymous caboose said...

I see the list price of the two California volumes in Canada is $55, not $50.

March 27, 2009 1:42 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

50% Bazin, 50% paper quality... that's a wise way to spend money indeed. I vote for digital open access archive, it lasts as long as your computer. :)

If this books lasts 30 years, it should still be a definitive edition in 30 years... And since Phaidon will most likely publish Cahiers' corrected edition (in English as well as in French) before 30 years, I'm not sure you've marketed your product right.

And apparently you expect to sell it to American readers. So it is a direct competition with American publishers who allegedly still have to pay copyrights. Somehow I doubt the US senate would let their neighbours to the north have 25 years of free reign on Public Domain material, which is unfair competition. Either the 2 countries would make sure to legislate with the same time limit, or they would only apply it to domestic copyrights.

I'm just talking to myself, cause this matter doesn't interest anybody anyway. ;)

March 27, 2009 2:34 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

"I'm sorry if discussion was curtailed towards the end by a focus on films few have seen and on books few have read."

Caboose, you are seriously underestimating the erudition of members of the Sacred Way of the Shambuan !

March 27, 2009 8:45 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

I didn't mean to sound negative (sarcastic at most).

Timothy Barnard, doesn't have to be the P.R. for Caboose and know all the answers about legal issues, I know. And I don't really care about rights holders (especially since Cahiers sold out to the Brits!). What matters is that there is more Bazin material available out there, after decades of shortage since his death. It can only improve Film Culture.

And I'm sure Barnard can translate Bazin without Cahiers. I just meant that they have access to original manuscripts and stuff to correct what Truffaut rewrote and pieced together himself, and restore Bazin's original thoughts.
But a correction of the old translation doesn't hurt, au contraire.

Changing the title of "Forbidden editing" will help clear out the confusion around Bazin and "Soviet Montage" for example. That's a great thing.

March 28, 2009 2:22 PM  
Anonymous caboose said...

I fear I've messed up Girish's schedule of postings by saying my farewells too early. I'm still here if anyone has any questions or comments about the book. Hoping Adrian will get back to me about S-H and montage, but also that new topics will arise....

March 30, 2009 11:47 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Tim, not to worry, you haven't affected my schedule of postings. It's my fault--I got busy this weekend and couldn't post like I'd intended. My post will probably have to wait till mid-week before I can put it up.

March 30, 2009 1:12 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

I will take up Caboose's invitation to clarify my position on Straub-Huillet as montage directors. When I call them this, I certainly don't mean the kind of thing you rightly dismiss: they don't 'cheat space', they don't cut in 'extraneous' shots from all over, etc. What I do mean is the sense (especially from the 1969 Cahiers Montage discussion, which is on line at 'Order of the Exile') that cuts function as 'intervals', often very subtly, as tears, breaks, ruptures, points of contradiction, collision, etc. What I mean, very precisely and technically, is that they are not CONTINUITY DIRECTORS, and that is the sine qua non of classical mise en scene (and/or classical decoupage). Their editing practice as shown in the Costa film absolutely demonstrates this: 'match cuts' or raccords are extremely conceptual, extremely precise in their work (this is what Brenez also argues), but not for the sake of 'reconstituting' continuous action, gesture, space, etc, across the entire imaginary space/action of any global scene. Now, none of that contradicts what you say, Caboose, about the 'space-time blocks' that are filmed with scupulous 'fidelity to the real' and arranged in a strictly foreseen decoupage in the Schoenberg film and many others. What I am trying to nuance is how the cuts work: always visible, always precise, always 'poking a hole' in the continuity of the scene (and this is where I place the distance from Bazin). As mentioned, Gilberto Perez is also good on this. Grand Shambuan Andy Rector also is good on editing in Costa in this tradition.

March 30, 2009 8:59 PM  
Anonymous caboose said...

Fair enough. Not sure I have anything to add to or dispute about that. Although I suppose I would say that my sense is that the thing that drives their work is not the editing/montage but the découpage. That's just my sense of it. It may be that I'm being misled by the overwhelming effect of watching the shots unfold, in which the découpage is more visible or noticeable than the editing, as it is in most films. It may be - if my hunch is right - as simple as the fact that Straub was the dominant personality in the pair and he was the découpagiste and Huillet the monteuse.

And I do believe, given the possibility of confusion with Bazin on one side and the likes of Adorno on another - and Eisenstein in the middle! - that 'montage' may not be the best term for what you are describing.

On a completely different topic, I neglected to respond a ways back to an interesting comment by Miguel M. about découpage and the lack of equivalent terms in English and Spanish. I don't know if he's still around or if he or anyone else wants to pursue this, but it opens up an old debate within linguistics, let alone film studies: do certain languages really have 'conceptual edges', as I believe he put it, over others because of their vocabulary? Some linguists hold that no human experience can be held to be foreign to a culture because that culture seems to lack a term for it. There's been many cases of a kind of 'treasure hunt' for such terms/concepts in various languages (a particular Inuit word for a quality of snow, for example). 'Montage' itself is a very recent borrowing from French - c. 1929, when Ivor Montagu translated Pudovkin into English. Is découpage one of these elusive terms unique to a culture? Careful now, this is a very tricky (but not a trick) question.

March 30, 2009 11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In answer to Tim's query, I did not mean there is a definitive edge, or that it cannot be translated, but yes, I'm afraid certain languages are better or more appropriate or more fit than others for certain things. To distinguish between "ser" and "estar" (both "to be" in English) is an advantage of the Spanish to express/understand some things, and each tongue may have its "good points". About "découpage" and what you were debating with Adrian, I think "découpage" includes Mizoguchi, Preminger, Ophuls, Straub, Godard, Eisenstein, Vertov. And what Adrian meant ("noticeable" editing, "felt" montage) is a form of "découpage", although in 1968-71 "Cahiers" they'd rather call it "montage", of course!
Miguel Marías

March 31, 2009 5:47 AM  
Anonymous caboose said...

On découpage/montage: Yes, certainly from Bazin's point of view, which saw both 'analytical editing' and Wyler/Welles/Renois/Rossellini as découpage, this Straub-Huillet aesthetic could be described as a form of découpage. Th efact that some of that découpage needs to be carried out, or completed, in the editing booth doesn't necessarily make it montage.

To sum up my concern about calling it montage: I know of no use of the term that doesn't involve some element of what Adorno calls using "material that is delivered ready-made from outside the work", something that is fundamentally alien to S-H's work. The term immediately suggests incongruity of a kind Adrian's "intervals" don't seem to deliver, or want to deliver. Popular 19th-century serial literature, and 20th-century serial films, is constructed around intervals, but I wouldn't describe them as montage.

March 31, 2009 7:12 AM  
Anonymous caboose said...

For what it's worth, here is Bazin:

"All three [techniqus of editing and montage: parallel editing (Griffith), accelerated editing (Gance) and the montage of attractions (Eisenstein)] have a common feature, which is the very definition of editing and montage: they create meaning which is not objectively contained in the images and which derives solely from placing these images in relation to one another". (caboose, p. 89)

Whether or not one accepts this definition of editing and montage, one has to agree that this is not what S-H seek to do. Something else is at play here.

March 31, 2009 9:01 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Montage is a particular type of editing, a subset of this technique.

All Bazin talks about is strictly the editing technique.
In the article "L'évolution du language cinématographique" he uses the French word "montage" 46 times. And everyone one of them means "editing" in English. 6 of them are used in the phrase "montage attraction", where he refers to "Soviet Montage" in English; but even there it means the "editing technique known as Attraction". And since it's always used as a periphrase along with the word "attraction" there is never confusion.

When you translate his single word "montage" by "editing and montage" just because one of the enumerated editing techniques is called "montage of attractions" and not "something editing", it is superfluous and confusing.

Bazin talks about editing. He refers to a time of silent cinema before (proper) editing was invented. In French say "bout à bout" for a rough cut without editing, where all takes are attached together. He talks about cinema with metaphorical editing (attraction), with invisible editing (continuity), and when cinema manages to suppress some of the cuts by using "découpage sans cuts" within a single shot, through deep focus or plan-sequence. But even the latter type (montage interdit) requires some editing, some cuts. He doesn't mean "editing is banned", he means "rhetorical editing" should be replaced by proper filmic language within the image, through options of mise en scène.

March 31, 2009 1:16 PM  
Blogger Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...

To expand our mutli-lingual muddle (French, English--now Spanish), let's throw in Russian. The irony of "Soviet montage" being a clearly defined term in English is that montage is an ambiguous term in Russian (монтаж): it can refer to the construction or structure of something. Cinematography (кинематограф; kinematograf)also presents similar problems; in Russian, it has a fairly "Bressonian" definition and is, in essence, an even more general vision of the set of ideas to which cinema (кино; ki'no) belongs. The verb to edit (literally to montage) also refers to assembling and is usually used in the context of a complicated machine. In Russian, the concept of editing always has a context of building something (this is why Artavazd Pelechian's distance montage, which focuses on the disparity between images, seems like a more radical idea in Russian); a film editor (literally a montager) is not connected to the person who edits texts (редактор; redaktor)--there isn't the same mental connection of a film editor being the person who "pares down" the footage shot for a film in the way, say, a magazine editor might edit an article. Essentially, our ideas about cinema are often tied to the language in which we construct our theories, however basic, about it. Since we're forced, for the sake of consistency, to use "accepted" terms and metaphors (some English instances: shooting, capturing, cutting); we become tangled in a certain tradition of looking at things. I've found that sometimes you've got to avoid certain terms, or use them (intentionally) incorrectly in order to get down to how you honestly feel about something.

Wouldn't it be easiest to, for the purposes of English, take montage as the word for the most basic (or direct) form of the idea that informs editing, namely the idea of presenting images?

April 01, 2009 4:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ignatiy, aren't we getting into something? As a matter of fact, what you say in Russian has something to do with the Greek origins of most of the words used in cinema or cinematograph. After all, "montar" or "monter" mean as well to add, to accumulate, to put together, to aggregate, to connect, to link, to build, to construct... to give shape or form or structure to something. Even the apparently more shapeless or formless films do have a (rather complex) shape/form/structure, regardless of their makers' intent, both in macro- and micro- terms: you get a narrative structure and you get the structure of a single shot, no matter for how much time it lasts without any cut. But cuts there are, even in films made of long takes; sometimes the cuts (and the connections) are intended to seem as "invisible" (not to be noticed), others, on the contrary, they are to be noticed, even violently felt (you can find that kind of cutting in Eisenstein, Fuller or Godard- remember "Les Carabiniers", "Alphaville", or "Pierrot le fou").

The problems arise for me when a certain (I'd say more industrial than artistic) tradition/school of thought imposes as the "correct standard" (which many scholars, historians and critics have uncritically accepted as such) that cuts have to be made so as to go unnoticed, and that editing should be employed to construct out of fragmentary bits and pieces the appearance of an action not actually shown, or to imply something that should be not depicted on the screen. This does not seem to me the same operation that Eisenstein or Vertov, Godard or Straub-Huillet, Bresson or Dreyer, Jancsó or Mizoguchi, Hitchcock or Fuller, perform. In the very first films, there was never credit for an editor, it was usually taken for granted that this function (choosing the best takes, putting the shots in order, putting the film together) was part of the director's job. Then, one day, in Hollywood I'm afraid, the editors appeared as employees of the producing companies. So "editing" can mean very different things. And "montage" too, since at least in the '30s and '40s, if you read in the credits "montage" or "montages" by Slavko Vorkapich or Don Siegel what you find is brief sequences of exclusively "edited" narrative, sometimes stock shots, sometimes actor-less second-unit shots, which can be quite imaginative elliptical story-telling, but are far from either "distance montage" or "attraction montage".
Miguel Marías

April 01, 2009 7:09 AM  
Anonymous caboose said...

At the risk of such erudite commentators as these finding in it some fatal flaw, I take the liberty of posting here a smy contribution to the discussion my footnote on translating 'montage' in Bazin in the new edition of What is Cinema?

This is simply the Word version of the note before it was typeset, copy-edited and proofread, so it may not correspond exactly to what can be found in the book. The Russian word for 'montage' did not come through in the transfer.

The note references another note, on découpage, which is available in PDF format on the caboose web site.

-------------

b. Film studies in French, as many English-speaking readers are aware, has but one term, montage, to describe what in English are two very different concepts, 'editing' and 'montage', the latter an obvious borrowing from the French (the Oxford English Dictionary suggests that the term was introduced to the language as late as 1929 by Ivor Montagu in his translation of Vsevolod Pudovkin's Film Technique, and a glance at the pages of the British film journal CLOSE UP in those years suggests that this may very well be the case), just as Russian had borrowed it in the late nineteenth century (not with respect to film), enabling Sergei Eisenstein to employ the term ['montage' in Russian] to describe his revolutionary editing techniques and theories. The translation problems associated with the word were already apparent to Montagu and have not changed since: when Bazin uses the term, is he referring to 'editing' or to 'montage'? Only the context can provide a clue, and because of the significant difference in the meaning of these two words in English-language film studies, it is essential to avoid the trap, into which previous translators of Bazin and of other French film critics and theorists have fallen, of translating every occurrence of montage as 'montage' when often what is quite clearly meant is 'editing' in the most prosaic sense possible.

It is important also to realise that 'montage' for Bazin was a historical category associated with filmmaking practices in the 1920s. He did not apply the term to Soviet cinema alone (Bazin associates it also with German expressionism in particular), and did not use it to refer simply to editing techniques. Rather, he saw montage as an abstract process of conceiving a film, after the shoot, according to collage principles similar to those found in the visual arts of the day. This kind of abstraction became more difficult from a technical perspective and fell out of favour with the arrival of synchronised sound in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Talking films enforced a different conception of the film's structure, which Bazin called découpage (see translator's note [a] to the essay 'William Wyler, the Jansenist of Mise en Scène' for a discussion of this term), bringing it much more into line with the linear narrative of conventional novels, wherein events follow a logical sequence. As Bazin remarks in the Wyler essay, 'the montage construction of films, prevalent in the silent era, has given way almost completely today to the logic of découpage'. Within découpage as a paradigm, montage in the sense of 'editing' and not 'montage' held sway.

As the reader can see, the problem arises from the use of montage in French to describe both the lowly task 'editing' in the découpage paradigm and 'montage' as a lofty paradigm in its own right which predates and is antithetical to découpage. Although this would seem to set up clear contrasts in the use of the term, Bazin's intention is not always entirely clear, or he sometimes means to refer to both 'montage' and 'editing' as the sum of possible editing practices. In the former case, the present translator has done his best to guess which term to use judging from the context, and in the latter has resorted to such tricks as employing both. At other times this single word in French carries shades of meaning that a translator, faced with a stark and simple choice in English, cannot easily render. Most often these nuances are simply lost in translation; in an attempt to resist this as much as possible, the present translator has on occasion alternated between one and the other in the same paragraph where such nuances seem to be in play. Finally, it may on occasion be useful for the reader to read 'editing' in the text as inclusive of 'montage'. For Ivor Montagu's discussion of the dilemma in his day, see V.I. Pudovkin, Film Technique and Film Acting, trans. Ivor Montagu (New York: Bonanza Books, 1949 [1929]), 179-80. See also CLOSE UP 1927-1933: Cinema and Modernism, eds. James Donald, Anne Friedburg and Laura Marcus (London: Cassell, 1998), passim.

April 01, 2009 7:27 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

It's the same discrepency in French for film editor (monteur) and magazine editor (rédacteur). No confusion. However, we say "monter une pièce" for a stage theatre author preparing a play (like "monter un film" for a film editor). And their function use the same word too : "metteur en scène" for the stage director and the film director (since cinema borrowed the word from theatre). "Metteur" is related to "mise en scène" as you can tell both coming from the verb "mettre (en scène)" (to put).

And "cinéaste" doesn't mean "cinéphile" contrary to its English acception...

What is distracting is the polysemous word, especially when the word change meaning in other languages while keeping the same (imported) spelling.
Though in film theory such confusion shouldn't happen. We don't need to invent a new word for every language, especially if a word was already coined for a very specific meaning. French editing is the same as Russian editing, or Spanish editing or American editing. I'm talking about the job, not the stylistic interpretations.
Why should a technique definition be polemical? even on the international scene...

Obviously the use of the word "montage" in English for the elliptical sequences of a compressed time showing several events or a long period of time unfolding is a misnomer. I don't even know how it's called in French. But it should have its own word.

P.S. thanks for posting your footnote, caboose. In French we say "montage intellectuel" for "Soviet Montage" or "montage attraction". We'd use a capital letter if we refer to the russian word. But I don't think there is ever ambiguity about the term. I don't know how usual was the word back in the time of Bazin, but nowadays it's always related to the editing work.
I agree the word includes more than just practical editing; it could be a rough cut before final cut, it could be meant like a "collage" (in its English acception), or the abstract art of film editing like you mention.

April 01, 2009 8:49 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

I mean (imported) words might be polysemous in common languages. But in film theory only specific, unambiguous terms should be used. Because we all talk about the same things in every country.

April 01, 2009 8:54 AM  
Anonymous adrian said...

Just to confuse matters even more on the general concepual plane (!): one of the reasons I believe découpage has never really caught on as a term in English-language film studies is that, when certain people (me included) say mise en scène. they are really including/assuming what is meant by découpage. This was, after all, exactly Godard's famous argument (partly with Bazin himself) back in the '50s: that directing the scene already includes (if the director has real craft) the way it will be edited (i.e., its 'shot design/breakdown', which is what découpage is); and it was also the basis of Brian Henderson's famous discussion in the early '70s, when he included the idea of the 'intrasequence cut' within the work of mise n scène ... (in Ophuls, Murnau, and Welles).

Another spanner in the works is that découpage is itself a very 'historical' practice: although I can believe that Preminger (for example) had a very exact shot-breakdown in his head virtually all of the time, contemporary-era directors like Frankenheimer, Scorsese, Freidkin, and five thousand others definitely do not: they 'cover' everything (or most everything) from a multitude of angles, then 'find' or shape the scene in the editing, which is thus wide open to many formal possibilities. Pialat worked like this, too. So découpage, as an on-set practice, for these directors at any rate, is imprecise: what matters (as I have elsewhere argued) is primarily the camera 'set-ups', and how they come to be arranged/cut/handled, not a scene plan/storyboard that moves 'logically' from shot 1 to shot 2 ... 'shots', in this sense, are critics' abstractions (and have been so for a long, long time); what the director produces, more or less as raw material for the creative editor, is a mountain of set-ups. This does not, however, describe the practice of Straub-Huillet, whose découpage is indeed rigidly precise !!! - even as the 'one frame left or right' where they cut is so decisive and creative at another moment of their process.

It is all such a quagmire !

April 01, 2009 9:12 AM  
Anonymous caboose said...

Off the top of my head, I'd venture that 'montage intellectuel' did not exist when Bazin wrote most of these pieces in the late 1940s. And he did have his own interpretation of the term and film history, arguing for montage (in a sense far removed from mere 'editing') as a paradigm that had been superceded by découpage.

April 01, 2009 9:13 AM  
Anonymous caboose said...

My previous remark was in respinse to Harry T., not knowing that Adrian was going to jump in and confuse things even more. This remark for Adrian: yes, I found looking over my découpage note after it was published that I often unconsciously substituted 'mise en scène' for 'découpage' in my discussion. Untangling these two terms, as you say, is yet another matter.

April 01, 2009 9:16 AM  
Blogger Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...

So what can we do, other than place our right hands on the computer screen and swear upon Girish's comments section that we'll use the terms correctly in the future? A problem always suggests the possibility of a solution.

April 01, 2009 9:31 AM  
Blogger Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...

Adrian,

Regarding decoupage as a historical practice, there's a quote I often think of from Allan Dwan: "I shoot with scissors in my eyes." And I remember the story of John Ford putting his hand in front of the lens during the shooting of The Informer so that sequences could only be edited a certain way, should the studio recut the film without him. It's true that "major" directors (i.e. people working on large budgets) don't work this way nowadays. But I can attest that Michael Mann still works with a single camera; I spent a few days on the set of his newest movie (I'm still finishing the writing I did about it) and never saw more than one in use at a time.

April 01, 2009 9:41 AM  
Anonymous adrian said...

That's a great quote from Dwan, Ignaty, and fascinating info about Mann: but, just to be clear, I didn't mean that the contemporary 'coverage' style always uses multiple cameras (that, indeed, might still be rare, except for certain kinds of scenes). It's more a question of the number od set-ups (camera positions), and how much (some, all, a specific bit) of a scene they record - and thus how much footage is handed over to the editor. Just watching Mann's films (which I like a lot), I would have assumed his editing process is more-or-less wide open, based on the modern mountain of available scene-options. Shooting on digital (is that what he's doing again on this new film?) of course encourages the 'wide open' approach - not in Pedro Costa or Oliveira, maybe (the latter's latest film is shot on digital), but certainly in most mainstream or semi-mainstream American directors.

April 01, 2009 9:48 AM  
Blogger Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...

Adrian,

I think for Mann, digital has become a way to explore ideas that would've taken too long to pull off (quickly shooting some stray action) with the set-up of a 35mm camera. The new film is shot digital, though I saw them use a 35mm camera for a non-sync-sound shot: the camera was one of those lightweight Arriflexes with no blimp, and it whirred very noisly--I assume it was a slow-motion shot (I later heard that, as if God was nodding in approval to Mann's switch to digital, the footage came back scratched from the lab the next day).

I think you're right on the distinction--digital allows for a faster shot set-up, so many ideas can be tried, even if from just one angle. This is the great moral problem of digital cinema: it makes it easier to do things, and easier does not mean simpler--ease-of-use complicates. But there are so many permutations of this scenario. How much do we think a film is influenced by its ghosts--the footage shot but unused? The practice of including "deleted scenes" on DVDs only further complicates--complication upon complication.

I imagine that Mann edits roughly the way you described (and I saw as many as 30 takes for some shots, and it's true that many things were tried from different angles), but I'd say that Mann editing is not the same thing as, say, Elaine May editing Mikey and Nicky (for which she apparently shot something like 2 million feet). I would compare the sort of editing Mann's films probably have to the Mellotron, the pre-synthesizer keyboard instrument that would had a loop of magnetic tape connected to every key; an instrument (a flute, maybe a violin) could have every one of its possible notes recorded, and then these could be triggered by the keys (it used a standard piano layout). A filmmaker like that records every possible permutation and then uses the footage, via editing, to "perform" it back, much in the way a Mellotron player indirectly "selects" from a pre-recorded set of notes while playing the instrument's keyboard. And the Mellotron has a distinctly "exact" sound. Jean-Pierre Melville, a director associated with exactness, would apparently shoot variations of scenes (especially close-ups of faces), asking actors to express different emotions every time.

April 01, 2009 10:23 AM  
Blogger Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...

Or, now that I think back on it, the Mellotron metaphor works better for Melville than Mann. Melville was a studio-shooter, a careful screenwriter; Mann is a location man, and with digital he seems to go chasing every whim. So perhaps his is a combination of Melville's variations and the "paring down" of a performance-centered filmmaker like May.

But, thinking further, I'll say that this is all still decoupage--just a different approach to decoupage. There's no film without mise-en-scene or montage (regardless of whether the filmmakers are aware of it or not) and so I'll say there's no film production without decoupage.

April 01, 2009 10:33 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

These terms refer to a different stage of production. The auteur speaks of mise en scène and especially découpage when writing the script. While "montage" (editing) is not something evoked before the film footage is processed.
So I guess when we talk about "montage" before the editing table, it's découpage. Découpage is the editing to be, a conceptual idea of the imagined scenes/shots arrangements before they are actually shot and cut. The editing is effective and concrete from existing takes.

And the critic uses the 3 terms to talk about the finished film, which correspond to a different stage of the auteurist input. Découpage is the general articulation of sequences, mise en scène is the architecture in each shot, montage is the narrative grammar seen on screen.

Maybe it's confusing because it's hard to tell if the articulation was planned before shooting, or if it was figured out on the editing table. The former means the auteur is able to accomplished what (s)he envisioned originally. The latter means the editor helps the auteur to fix the problems from the shooting, or the auteur improvises something new and let what happened on the set influence the shape of the original idea.

It's not the same league of filmmaking, when a director walks on set knowing everything will be fixed later on the editing table... I don't like it.
Even a great idea on the editing table, is the result of the compromise from whatever is available at that stage (the best choice from limited unsatisfying options).
While the great idea on set is entirely designed to be that way, everything, everyone working to achieve the ideal vision as it should be.

Another French word that is not used in English is "écriture cinématographique" (filmic writing). We use this expression to talk about screenwriting, as well as mise en scène choices, soundscape, montage or more generally the auteur's signature we can see on screen. It's a poetical metaphor to consider a filmmaker like a novelist of images and sounds. It's a very convenient concept.

April 01, 2009 12:03 PM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Sorry to jump into this conversation at a late stage - I'll try to keep my comments brief.

I think we should not be too firm about labeling directors as "montage directors" or not. Obviously there's a continuum, whereby the pleasure we get from some directors depends greatly on editing approach, and the pleasure we get from others depends less. But astute people can disagree about where to put directors on this continuum; and undoubtedly every serious filmmaker confronts the issue of editing and has vigorous opinions about it. I think it's potentially misleading to talk about how precise an editing scheme is: do we always know that we would like the film much less if the cutting were tightened or loosened by a few frames? We might sometimes; but one sees the danger of an aesthetic cult of personality, as some French guy once said. There are directors whose admirers never stop talking about their uncanny precision (Kubelka comes to mind), and I always suspect that that precision has been put out into the critical atmosphere as a rather intimidating given. The Costa doc on Straub-Huillet has probably upped the ante here.

The anti-montage case was best put, I think, by Paul Morrissey in an interview he did with Eric Sherman. I wish I had the quote with me, but it went something like: "I have nothing against editing. It works. You cut to someone in a bathtub, it works. Editing should be subordinated to something else. It usually is." To me, one of the most important things we do in feeling our way into a director's work is to try to understand whether the director's effects happen most often and most vividly at the level of the gesture, the shot, the sequence, across shots, across sequences, etc. I think of this as a way of understanding the artist, rather than the entire cinema or a historical moment in cinema.

As regards Bazin, I prefer not to think of him as highly prescriptive on the subject of montage. His strongest anti-editing edict, I believe, appears in "The Virtues and Limitations of Montage": "When the essence of a scene demands the simultaneous presence of two or more factors in the action, montage is ruled out." (trans. Gray)

As an aside: I believe "intellectual montage" is a term used by Eisenstein in Film Form to describe a very particular kind of editing strategy, one that doesn't crop up all that often.

April 01, 2009 1:13 PM  
Anonymous caboose said...

Dan, yes, 'intellectual montage' in English is Eisenstein, although I'm not sure Bazin would have known this in the late 40s. Good historical question. Harry seems to be saying that it is used in French to distinguish 'montage' from 'editing' in general, if I read him right. The couple of French film dictionaries I have at hand don't mention this, I'd be curious to see some documentation of this.

Bazin's quote in the caboose edition, FYI:

"Whenever the essential aspect of an event depends upon the simultaneous presence of two or more agents, editing is prohibited".

Here Bazin, curiously enough, really is referring simply to editing, esp. such things as crosscutting. While this may be his strongest one-line edict against editing or montage, a more sustained and profound argument can of course be found in the Evolution essay.

April 01, 2009 1:50 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

"Montage intellectuel" (in French) gives "intellectual editing" (in English). Bazin calls it "montage attraction". Deleuze calls it "montage d'opposition". Basically it's the Kulechov effect at the root of Soviet Montage. When the relation between 2 consecutive shot is heterogeneous. It's opposed to continuity editing, to parallel editing. The cutaway doesn't refer to another part of the scene, or another part of the story; it's an image-metaphor used to alter the meaning of the previous shot. Thus the relation between the 2 images is purely "intellectual".
It's not just the school of Pudovkin and Eisenstein... Lang used it in Fury, by adding a shot of hens after a shot of women sharing gossips together in the mob. Jean Epstein use it too in Poetic Realism.

What I'm saying is that the word "montage" alone in French always means editing. And when it refers to the Pudovkin school it is used with another word qualifying it (attraction, opposition, intellectuel), wherein the word "montage" still means editing. It's the complete expression that means "Soviet Montage" (in English).

The use of the word "montage" in English is always wrong (in respect to French). It's not a literal translation from the French acception, in any case.

It's like using the word "lighting" (a generic term for all lighting techniques) to name Caligarism (expressive use of contrast). Eisenstein appropriates the word "montage" for himself, disregarding the fact that films edited differently also use the same word for editing.

April 01, 2009 6:26 PM  
Anonymous caboose said...

So you're saying that Bazin's 'montage attraction' is 'intellectual montage' and not Eisenstein's 'montage of attractions'? Because Bazin, describing Eisenstein explicitly (p. 133 of the original vol. 1 of Qu'est-ce que le cinéma), says:

"Enfin le montage attraction, créé par S.M. Eisenstein et dont la description est moins aisée, pourrait se définir grossièrement comme le renforcement de sens d'une image par le rapprochement avec une autre image qui n'appartient pas nécessairement au même évènement".

He then gives the example of the fireworks and the bull in The General Line.

(This is on p. 25 of the Gray translation and p. 89 of the caboose.)


A few pages later in the same essay he then gives the example you cite, of the chickens and the women in Lang's Fury. (p. 32 Gray, p. 97 caboose). Some might quibble about his use of "montage of attractions" to describe Fury, but the simple fact is that it is the same expression in the French (montage attraction) as his earlier definition of the fundamentals of Eisenstein's system. We are forced to understand Bazin here as describing a case of montage of attractions. Whether this is an entirely accurate definition of Eisenstein's montage of attractions or not and whether Bazin is consistent in his use of it are different questions than what is written on the page.

Finally, I believe you are quite mistaken when you say that every time Bazin says 'montage' alone, and not 'montage attraction', he is referring simply to editing. Just before the discussion of Fury he describes the stone lions in Potemkin you mentioned on this thread earlier ("Prenons par contre le montage des lions de pierre"): here as elsewhere ("Les montages de Koulechiv, celui d'Eisenstein ou de Gance) he is describing a metaphorical montage that is not mere narrative editing.

April 01, 2009 7:43 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

No. "montage attraction" in Bazin's article is Eisenstein's, but he doesn't restrict it to Russia, that's what I meant. Bazin doesn't use "montage intellectuel" in this article.

Sorry if I'm confusing. But we're talking about many things at the same time. About translation in proper English. And also about proper English importing foreign words in a wrong way.

I'm not sure what's unclear at this point.

If my "lighting" hypothetical example didn't work, imagine that Eisenstein called his theory "Editing", or "Soviet Editing", and you'll understand why it's confusing to discriminate between specific russian/silent "Editing" and any "editing" every other filmmakers do. Eisenstein lifted a common noun from French, and turned it into a proper (brand)name. But this brandname does not exist in French. We don't call it "Montage". So when Bazin uses "montage" he means the editing technique, he does as well when it's the technique of Eisenstein.

"Prenons par contre le montage des lions de pierre" : the film he refers to is part of Soviet Montage, but what he points out here is how the statues are edited together.

"Les montages de Koulechov, celui d'Eisenstein ou de Gance" : he does describe "metaphorical editing" indeed, and maybe you call that "montage" in English. But he refers in this context to the experimental editing (itself) they did, not the aesthetic brandname.

When Bazin says "Celles-ci se saisissent parfaitement au contraire dans les trois procédés connus généralement sous le nom de 'montage parallèle', 'montage accéléré' et 'montage attraction'." The word "montage" (in French) in each expression (Bazin even uses quotation marks!) is strictly equivalent. Why should it sometimes translate in "editing" or "montage" in English? Either you change them all in editing (thus acknowledging the misnomer in English) or you change none (thus using the French acception of the word).

Anyway, the general understanding is not compromised. I'm pretty sure everyone knows what Bazin meant, either way. It doesn't really matter if it gets so nit picky.

April 02, 2009 7:03 PM  
Anonymous caboose said...

First, as you suspect, in English by universal agreement whenever editing becomes abstract, metaphorical or collage-like, among various other things besides, it is called 'montage'. To a French ear this may be a case of English mis-appropriating a French word and using it in the wrong way. (Hmm, no example comes to mind. In French you mis-appropriate the Latin "cf"., which means "compare", and use it to mean "See", as in "See Eisenstein 1924". It's a misuse of the Latin, which English in this case is not guilty of - it uses "cf." to mean "compare" - "Cf. Eisenstein 1924" means "Compare this with Eisenstin 1924".)

There must be tons of basic literature on "montage" in English. I don't teach introductory classes so I don't know what the current texts are. In my footnote on découpage I quote David Bordwell describing it as "abstract, conceptual or rhythmic cutting" (p. 51 of On the History of Film Style). That about sums up its use and meaning in English. It is NOT restricted to Soviet film.

Your explanation of Bazin's comment on the stone lions in Potemkin completely unconvincing. You call this "Soviet montage", but the only thing "Soviet montage" about it is the fact that it was made by Eisenstein. It pertains to none of his theoretical categories of montage, but is simply, rather, a case of metaphorical editing, which in English we call montage. This is why Bazin is translated as saying the 'montage' of the lions rather than the 'editing' of the lions in my edition of his book. It is purely coincidental that he is talking about a Soviet film in this case; in English the sequence is a "montage" sequence, not an "editing" sequence.

Above, Adrian referred to Straub and Huillet as "montage" directors. I disagreed, but not because they're not Russian.

Similarly, I think most English speakers would agree with me that Lang's editing of the women and the chickens in Fury is a "montage" sequence, not simply an "editing" sequence.

Finally, I consulted Jacques Aumont and Michel Marie's theoretical and critical film dictionary on "montage des attractions" and found something interesting. Here is a translation of the paragraph following the standard definition of E's term:

"Note that sometimes people speak, mistakenly, of "montage-attraction" [Bazin uses "montage attraction--T.B.] or "montage par attraction" in a way that has been contaminated by another sense of the word "attraction" (the imaginary force of attraction between two shots). This no longer has any connection with Eisenstein's original theory and has only a vague sense, meaning simply that the editing makes a strong connection between two shots".

Several things here. First, yes, I should have caught this and written a translator's footnote, although I'm not yet clear what about. Aumont/Marie state that "montage attraction" is no longer about Eisenstein, but Bazin seems to think it is when he uses it to define Eisenstein's "montage DES attractions". Then in his discussion of Fury a few pages later he turns around and uses it in the sense suggested by Aumont/Marie.

A whole pile of research will be needed to determine where Bazin got the term (the history of Eisenstein translations in French is very spotty), where else it appears in Bazin, who else uses it in French, etc.

Did someone say quagmire?

I'll be seeing Monsieur Aumont next week and will ask him about all this and report back. If anyone can clear it up he can. In the meantime, I mentioned it today on the telephone to André Gaudreault, who is not only a pretty heavyweight French-speaking film theorist himself but also a real word hound. (For an example of this see his article, translated by me, called "From Primitive Cinema to Kine-Attractography", in The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded, ed. Wanda Strauven - "kine-attractography" is the term we came up with which he proposes to replace "the cinema of attractions" and "early cinema".)

Gaudreault's reaction: "montage attraction? What's that? Bazin said that?" So you see, it's not exactly a household word....

April 02, 2009 9:39 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Thanks for your patience. I'm sorry this is dragging on and on...
First, I'm not qualified to make any historical/epistemological claim about Bazin's vocabulary usage. Secondly, I'm sorry if I got caught up opposing editing and soviets, that was the simplest way I saw to explain.

My only quibble is that the word is unequivocal in French film vocabulary, while it seems to have several usages in English. So Bazin's use of the word is consistent (at least in this article). But I'm sure Aumont will have the final word on this. Though there was a room-full of scholars at the Ouvrir Bazin seminar and they couldn't figure out what a "horizontal montage" was...

Like I said there is the English "montage" and the French "montage" in our discussion here. Adrian speaks of "montage" directors (in English), because every director is an "editing" director, it wouldn't make sense. In French we would never say "Straub est un réalisteur montage", because this acception doesn't exist. That's my point.

"in English the sequence is a "montage" sequence, not an "editing" sequence."

OK. But English discriminates where Bazin didn't make sure he referred to 2 separate things. The term for "montage-séquence", which is an import from the English acception, is in French "montage par accolade", which is a type of editing, again. It's not the word "montage" that means collage, it's the complement in the phrase that modifies the meaning of editing. But in this article, Bazin never uses the word in the sense of "montage sequence" (i.e. the actual edited footage).

For the lion statues, "montage" would better translate in English with "sequence", because the literal meaning is the "edited clip itself", the series of shots, and not the fact it's a conceptual collage (even though this sequence is actually a collage).

Right before he says "Les montages de Koulechov, d'Eisenstein ou de Gance", Bazin talks about "la défintion même du montage ... résume parfaitement les propriétés du montage."
And it would be as confusing as Gray's translation to use "definition of montage" (for this particular style) instead of "définition of editing" (for a general film device) in this case, even though he refers to what Koulechov did with metaphorical "montage sequences".

April 03, 2009 3:59 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

By the way, there are lots of English imports in French too. Especially in science, media, computers, cinema. And some of them are not even used that way in English, I found out...
It's not a competition between English and French. It wasn't me who said French is better for cinema vocabulary. It's more of a clash between right words and wrong words.
The ideal is to keep the best terms in each language.

April 03, 2009 5:48 AM  
Anonymous caboose said...

The 'définition même du montage' line you refer to, because 'editing' and 'montage' are seen as two different things in English, has been translated in the caboose edition as 'the very definition of editing and montage: they create meaning which is not objectively contained in the images...'

I maintain that this is the only way to treat this line in English, otherwise people will (perhaps unconsciously) assume Bazin is referring to one but not the other.

I also maintain that there are instances where Bazin's use of 'montage' veers much closer to the English 'montage' - Bordwell's abstract, conceptual or rhythmic cutting - than you allow. The stone lions is one example.

April 03, 2009 7:41 AM  
Anonymous caboose said...

Hello, just following up on Bazin's use of 'montage attraction' in case anyone is interested. I had the opportunity to ask Jacques Aumont - big Eisenstein scholar in French - about this last week. I don't think he'd mind me reporting back what he had to say off the top of his head. He suspects that some bad translation of Eisenstein appeared in French in the latter half of the 1940s, perhaps somewhere like the communist Écran français, which used this expression and mangled Eisenstein's theory of 'the montage of attractions'. (By the way, André Gaudreault pointed out to me and Aumont concurred that the expression currently used in French, 'montage des attractions', is incorrect; the correct form would be 'montage d'attractions'.)

It would thus appear, pending further research, that Bazin had an erroneous understanding of E's theory because - readers of Bazin in English will be able to relate to this - he relied on a bad translation.

Aumont suspects that this translation would have interpreted 'attraction' not in Eisenstein's sense of a fairground or circus attraction but as the 'pull' between two images when edited together. Hence Bazin's comments about Frtiz Lang's Fury in his 'Evolution' essay. But it is important to remember, I would add, that Bazin *thought* he was describing E's theory in that essay.

It's fascinating to think that Bazin, through no fault of his own, had such a poor grasp of E's theories because of the translations available to him, and yet he erected some of his own theories partly in response to Eisenstein. (Almost as fascinating as the possible Bazin-Kracauer [and Brecht!] connection I believe I unearthed while researching the caboose translation, another connection that hinges on translation issues in a sense.)

So, the next task is to identify as best as possible what Bazin's source on Eisenestin would have been in the late 1940s and see what surprises it holds and write a translator's footnote for the second edition of the caboose What is Cinema?

But please, don't wait for it and not buy the present volume!

Thanks again to all, and our host Girish, for the wonderful discussion, and I hope you enjoy the book.

April 13, 2009 2:15 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Thanks for the update.

The cut to the hen in Fury is compared to the Kulechov experiment, where a heterogenous/symbolic image gives meaning to the previous one. It is
So maybe he's wrong to call that "Attractions", but he's referring to the Soviet Montage school (in general terms) opposed to the usual conventions in classic "Hollywood cinema" (in the Griffith tradition). These are the 2 main trends of editing techniques Bazin opposes in this article.
That's how I see it. Though I believe we agreed on this.

By the way, I think the term "Attractions" is still misused in French criticism today... cause I heard it conflated with the meaning of "Soviet Montage school".

What did Aumont think about the translation(s) of the French term "montage" in English then? That was my issue.

April 14, 2009 9:04 AM  
Anonymous caboose said...

Let's see, I mentioned the fact that people refer in English to Godard's article 'Montage mon beau souci' as 'Montage My Fine Care' when in fact what Godard was talking about way back then in that article was editing, not montage, and Aumont agreed completely. But I confess it didn't occur to me to get him to endorse my translation of Bazin's 'montage' as 'montage' in some places, although from other aspects of our discussion it was clear he is well aware of and seemingly has no problem with English using 'montage' to describe metaphorical editing quite apart from the Soviet school. I maintain that Bazin saw this as a paradigm underlying large sections of 1920s film history, contrasting it with the 'découpage' of sound film from the early 1930s on.

April 14, 2009 1:06 PM  
Anonymous caboose said...

I know the 'editing/montage' dichotomy exists in English much more than in French, but it does exist in French. In a discussion I read while researching découpage I saw a French theorist say something like 'découpage involves montage (in a technical sense)'. The implication is that there is another sense, the collage/abstraction/metaphor sense. In fact looking at Godard one might say in very rough terms that what the young critic of the 1950s was interested in was montage-editing and what the filmmaker was interested in, reaching a climax with Histoire(s) du cinéma, was montage-montage. Unfortunately there seems to be no way in French to distinguish the sentences "Godard s'intéresse au montage dans les années 50' and 'Godard s'intéresse au montage dans les années 80', except to add qualifiers like'in the technical sense', 'in the abstract sense'. But it is precisely this abstract sense which exists in film production and criticism and which is neither 'Soviet montage' nor 'analytical editing'.

April 14, 2009 1:11 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

You Gordard example is again a proof that if the author doesn't want the French reader to read too much detail there is no effort to disambiguate the generic term. And if JLG is happy saying montage at the beginning of his career and later, that's because he means to talk about the editing technique itself and not to reference which particular style of editing. So why should the English reader know more details than he intended?

I usually prefer the literal translation which respects "l'esprit de l'auteur", rather than making it sound more English. Bazin is a fine writer, and doesn't just convey meaning in his writing, his choice of words and their order contribute to the verbal "mise en scène" of revealing discreet information to his reader, step by step.

We sometimes wonder if watching subtitled films doesn't add a bit of "foreign exoticism" that makes us overlook some flaws... now I wonder if translating Godard doesn't give him a new reputation in the English world because he uses a lot of smart puns and Frenchy neologism in his theories that get glamorized in the translation!

P.S. "Editing my dear concern"

April 15, 2009 7:40 AM  
Anonymous caboose said...

This from Marcel Martin's book Le Langauge cinématographique, first published in 1955 (a year before Godard's essay....) and still in print, one of the great classic texts on film theory in French:

On peut définier une triple fonction créatrice du montage. Tout d'abord, le montage est créateur de mouvement au sens large.... En second lieu, le montage est créateur du rythme.... Enfin, le montage est créateur de l'idée. Il n'a pas seulement un rôle descriptif ou narratif (montage-récit) mais aussi...un rôle explicatif ou idéologique (montage-expression). (pp. 133-35)

Need I belabour the point and point out that Martin's 'montage-récit' and 'montage-expression' correspond exactly to what I was groping towards when I said that there exists a montage-editing and a montage-montage?

I take this as conclusive evidence of my argument that this meaning of montage exists, if only in the ear of French speakers. If some people are deaf to that meaning, I cannot help them. This will have to be my last comment on the topic, unless someone new comes along with something to say.

p.s. 'Editing my dear concern': the rule of thumb in translation is never to attempt a translation out of your native language, and this is a 'bel' example why.

April 15, 2009 8:39 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Bien le bonsoir mon ami, ce fût un plaisir de bavarder avec vous de la barrière insurmontable de langue et de l'appropriation à son compte du contenu des autres. ;)

If you weren't on the way out, I was going to say that your idea to use "montage-editing" and "montage-montage", would be an improvement at least in cinema discourse, if not to fix the as well common English. Though it should really be "editing-editing" and "editing-montage" since "editing" is the umbrella terminology for all things cut and edited whether through metaphorical association or plain continuity. But apparently the word "montage" in English has now 5 distinct definitions when used in English language... covering all French and Russian meanings plus the English neologism(s).

Conversely, if in your example the meaning required a double hyphenated word, it's precisely because alone it didn't mean either. This excerpt does say anything new; everybody knows that editing is used in films for both narrative and ideology.
I thought it was a conclusive evidence of my point. But since logic doesn't apply, I guess these things are matter of interpretation for anyone who claim it first...


I guess I'll never know the blasphemy caused by my unorthodox translation for the Godard phrase. However I'm not a professional. I didn't charge anyone for my candid suggestion.

And I do agree the translator should always be writing in native tongue. Though sometimes a duo of translators from each language would hurt more the budget than the final result... But who care for results in the Gutenberg paradigm??? there is always a new edition to sell to the silly customers who dared to trust the first edition.
That's why the internet sucks... because they can edit mistakes! How ironic.

Despite the very friendly disagreement, it was indeed an enlightening conversation.

April 15, 2009 2:38 PM  
Anonymous caboose said...

You're right, it would be editing-montage and editing-editing in English. I was speaking a kind of franglais where I assumed the rol eof a French speaker uttering or writing the word 'montage' and adding after it in 'English' which kind of montage (editing) it is: editing montage or montage montage.

But there is no need to use any of this in English which has an established tradition of saying 'editing' for classical editing and 'montage' for all things metaphorical, abstract, allusive, ideological (e.g. Emile de Antonio or Fernando Solanas documentaries), highly rhythmic or Soviet.

There was no blasphemy in 'Editing my dear concern'. It just doesn't sound right to the English ear. the 'My Fine Care' part of 'Montage, My Fine Care' is better I believe.

Thank you Mr Tuttle and everyone else.

April 15, 2009 4:48 PM  
Anonymous caboose said...

er, the last line in that first paragraph should read, I guess (I'm confused...) montage-editing or montage-montage.

I hate to conclude on an unpleasant note, but Mr Tuttle sir, I have not risen to your bait yet but am going to succumb now. The suggestion that a mistake in the first edition of my translation, if one can call it a mistake, is some sort of underhanded ploy to get people to buy a corrected edition when the current printing is exhausted, was uncalled for and unfair. Most publishers wouldn't even fix their mistakes in later reprintings. Which is worse, fixing mistakes and giving real enthusiasts the opportunity to see what was corrected or just letting the edition sit unchanged for 40 years, mistakes and all, like California (and Cahiers/Cerf et al)? You really should try to cultivate better on-line manners. To suggest that I'm in this for money and to swindle readers is pretty hard to take.

FIN

April 15, 2009 4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Straub in the interview with Cahiers du Cinema when Those Encounters of Theirs was released.

"C’est une découverte d’abord pour moi, ensuite pour Danièle quand je lui dis « Voilà le truc », puisque je ne lui dis pas que je voudrais faire ceci ou cela, je commence par le bricoler, je recopie, peu à peu je commence a voir une construction, un découpage."

April 15, 2009 7:48 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

"montage-montage" : With one being the French word, and the second being the English neologism? And you think it's clearer??? I guess English readers have X-ray vision and can tell the nationality of words even though the spelling is identical... cause I don't.

You can give any meaning you want in English to the word "montage"!
As long as what you write doesn't bring up anything dealing with French theory, citing the French acception in the middle, and as long as your text is not meant to be read by non-English native readers. Since this case breached all conditions you should at least acknowledge the uneasiness of the situation, and realise the word that is crystal-clear to you might become ambiguous, even to English readers!
OK I'm not arguing anymore, cause you're the linguist here.

In my last remark I wasn't referring to your book. If you scroll up at the beginning of our conversation, I said I didn't mind who made profit of Bazin as long as it was made available. I just wanted to put this awkward disagreement we have in the context of the war between the traditional press (attached to certain principles and always belittling the web), and the open-access online publication. Two very different philosophies regarding content and their relation to readership. You're not the only one selling books out there.

As for manners, I guess the way you ditched me in your last intervention was the kind of good manner you want to teach me : "OK I'm finished with him, anyone but this HarryTuttle can talk to me now", the way you look down on my suggestion of translation as if it was comparable to a translator's mistake in a paying paper book. I just reminded you we're having a friendly hypothetical conversation here. You're the one who came here to promote your book, not me. Is that how you treat your readers? Readers who disagree with you are bad-mannered. Nice job dismissing a critical debate there. I like how "online etiquette" is brought up to sneak out of a quagmire...

Do like everybody else on this blog : ignore me if you think I'm talking out of my ass. The only reason you talked to me that long is because you're new here, or because you felt you had to defend your book.

April 16, 2009 10:23 AM  
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December 23, 2009 2:59 AM  

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