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             André Bazin       

An Unofficial Tribute
 To The World-Renowned Film Critic
And Film Theorist

André Bazin and Cahiers du Cinéma 

 

 

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I.  Before Cahiers du Cinéma 

  André Bazin's involvement with film began during the Resistance and Occupation.  During the Second World War, many, though not all, of the leading French film directors left for Hollywood.   Moreover, the cinema-going public was deprived of access to films from America.   This is certainly not to say that there was nothing of cinematic value happening in France during the war.  Perhaps most notably, the careers of directors Robert Bresson and Jacques Becker were beginning.  Nonetheless, it was at great risk and peril that André Bazin did such things as secretly screen Charlie Chaplin films, as recounted by Jean-Louis Tallenay in the Cahiers du Cinéma homage issue shortly after Bazin's passing! Chaplin's "Great Dictator" was merely something the French had heard about, over Radio London. 

After the end of the war, the French filmgoing public was able to see a backlog of films, and the ciné-clubs had a rebirth.  L’Écran française, which had been founded during the Resistance, continued to publish, and Bazin wrote for it, Emmanuel Mounier's L'Esprit, Le Parisien libéré and for the 1946-1949 version of  La Revue du Cinéma

L’Écran française had original sponsorship from groups of the Resistance and such notables as directors Jacques Becker, Marcel Carné, Jean Grémillon, and Jean Painleve; writer/scenarists Pierre Bost, and Jacques Prévert; critics Georges Sadoul and Léon Moussinac; as well as Albert Camus, Henri Langlois, André Malraux, Pablo Picasso and Jean-Paul Sartre.  Although a serious publication, L’Écran française was politicized and perhaps unduly unfavorable to American films.  Sartre criticized Orson Welles' Citizen Kane in its pages.  Bazin would later defend the Welles film and other Welles films like The Magnificent Ambersons in Les Temps Modernes, L’Écran française, and elsewhere.  His first article for L’Écran française would be "Vie et mort de la surimpression", an article that later appeared in the four volume Qu'est-ce que le cinéma? but not in the later one-volume French collection.  Translations of this article do appear in the Italian collection and in Cardullo's Bazin at Work.  Bazin would write a number of articles for L’Écran française, including an article "Le cinéma est-il majeur?", an article on scientific film and Jean Painleve, a sort of pre-Barthes mythology called "Entomologie de la Pin-up Girl", the seminal Objectif 49 piece "Découverte du cinéma: Défense de l’avant-garde", a piece on snow in the cinema titled "Il neige sur le cinéma",  a piece on Védrès' Paris 1900, "Le tour de France du cinéma", as well as various writings on Hitchcock, Cocteau,  Renoir (including one he would later retract from), Dreyer, Disney, von Stroheim, André Cayatte, René Clément, Preston Sturges, and an early Bergman film. Critic, director, and novelist Alexandre Astruc has said at page 88 of his memoirs, Le Montreur d'ombres (Bartillat 1996) that at L’Écran française, Bazin "devenait vite la conscience de la nouvelle generation (quickly became the conscience of the new generation)."   However, although Bazin was generally willing to interact in varied cultural and political environments, Bazin, Roger Leenhardt, and Alexandre Astruc eventually faded away from L’Écran française.

It should be noted that one of the more important articles in L’Écran française by someone other than Bazin had been Astruc's "Naissance d'une nouvelle avant-garde: la caméra-stylo", appearing in number 144, March 30, 1948, and presently appearing in the collection of Alexandre Astruc literary, theatre and cinema essays Du Stylo à la caméra et de la caméra au stylo (L'Archipel 1992), pp. 324-328, as well as in facsimile form in Jean Douchet's coffee table book with substance, Nouvelle Vague (Hattan 1998), which has been released in English translation as French New Wave.  Beginning his essay with a quote from Orson Welles, Astruc argued that the cinema was in the process of becoming a means of expression, a language, wherein an artist can express his thoughts, even abstract ones, and obsessions the same as if he were writing an essay or novel, at the level of profundity and signification of the works of Faulkner, Malraux, Sartre, and Camus.  According to Astruc, the future would not lie in continuing to do adaptations of Dostoyevski or Balzac.  Yet it may parenthetically be noted that both Astruc and Roger Leenhardt, though in a sense fathers to the later Cahiers du Cinéma "young Turks" and French New Wave, were from a generation where literature was viewed as more dignified and artistic than cinema; both of them were film critics and filmmakers who also had significant literary aspirations.  

Probably the most important publication in terms of the later Cahiers du Cinéma would be La Revue du Cinéma, which had had an existence in the late 1920s. The revived version of La Revue du Cinéma (1946-1949) was edited by Jean George Auriol(1), Denise Tual(2), and Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, with later editorial credits including Jacques Bourgeois through the next-to-last issue. Its first issue appeared in October 1946. The first issue contained articles and reviews by Auriol, Piero Bargellini, Jacques Bourgeois, Georges Sadoul, Pierre Schaeffer, Jean-Pierre Chartier, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, Rémy Peignot, Michel Hincker, Alain Spenlé, Philippe Erlanger, and Amable Jameson(3). Articles in the first issue included focused treatment on the relationship between cinema and painting, the non-visual element of cinema, and Eisenstein's "Ivan the Terrible." Subsequent issues would also include articles, reviews, scenario excerpts or comments by such persons as Jacques B. Brunius, Jacques Manuel, Irving Pichel, Armand Johannès, Orson Welles, Roy Alexander Fowler, Lo Duca(4), Greg Toland (the cinematographer for Welles and Wyler wrote on "L'Opérateur de prise de vues"), Arthur Rosenheimer, Pierre Prévert, Lotte Eisner, René Clair, Walt Disney, Nino Frank, Marc Soriano, Jean Desternes, Edouard Klein, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Cocteau, Herman G. Weinberg, Hans Richter, Sergei Eisenstein, Armand Panigel, Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost, Judith Podselver, Ingemar Holmstrom, Jean Thévenot, André Apard, André Bazin(5), Indro Montanelli, Francesco Pasinetti, Peter Ericsson, Piero Tellini, Henri Langlois, Léopold Survage, Albert Laffay, Louis Chavance, Serge Roullet, Liliane Delysan, Ricciotto Canudo, Antonio Pietrangeli, Corrado Alvaro, Emilio Cecchi, Luigi Freddi, Roberto Rossellini, Antonio Chiattone, Mario Verdone, Maurice Schérer (later known as Eric Rohmer), Federico Fellini, Arthur Knight, Glauco Pellegrini, Henri Lavedan, André Camp, Phillipe Fauré-Fremiet, François Veneur, Pierre Kast, Jean Grémillon and Charles Spaak, Jean Debrix, Grisha Dabat, Jean Mitry, Maurice Bessy, Guido Aristarco, G.W. Pabst, Alberto Lattuada, Renato Castellani, Claude Autant-Lara, and George Freedland touching on such directors, subjects, and films as D.W. Griffith, Italian cinema(6), American film noir, René Clair, Laura, How Green Was My Valley, Orson Welles, Fantasia, Rossellini's Paisa and Rome: Open City, Robert J. Flaherty, Farrebique, Carl Th. Dreyer's Day of Wrath, Fritz Lang, Mickey Mouse, Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons, Alan Ladd in This Gun for Hire, Gone With the Wind, the future of French cinema(7), John Ford's My Darling Clementine, Le Diable au corps, Quai des Orfèvres", Dreyer's Ordet, Gilda, Hellzapoppin, an article on Dreyer with brief interview material, spectator identification with the auteur, Odd Man Out, Welles' The Stranger, Journey into Fear, television, color technique, a multi-part review of French technical contributions to cinema, The Grapes of Wrath, Jacques Becker's Antoine et Antoinette, Cavalcanti's They Made Me a Fugitive, a review of John Ford's more recent works, dramatic music and cinema, William Wyler, a review of three different cinematic adaptations of James M. Cain's novel The Postman Always Rings Twice, Olivier's Henry V, Welles' The Lady from Shanghai, the major themes of cinema, Flaherty's Louisiana Story, Visconti's La Terre trema, surrealism and Dumbo the Flying Elephant, dance and cinema, Great Expectations, Roger Leenhardt's Les Dernières vacances, Ruy Blas, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, L'Assassinat du duc de Guise, Mexican cinema, a review of some of the films of Henry Fonda, a 14 page review of several Hitchcock films (including Shadow of a Doubt, Lifeboat, Notorious, and Spellbound), the new Swedish cinema, Olivier's Hamlet, Christian Jaque's adaptation of Stendhal's La Chartreuse de Parme, Sturges' Sullivan's Travels, Lady in the Lake, four articles totalling 46 pages on Ernst Lubitsch, Eisenstein's unfinished Que Viva Mexico, John Huston's Treasure of the Sierra Madre, various filmographies and an entire final issue with a primary focus on costume in film. The final article was "Télécinéma: Essai sur la syntaxe de la télévision" by George Freedland. The article right before it was André Bazin's "Le cinéma et la peinture (A props de Van Gogh et Rubens)."

  The  1946 version of  La Revue du Cinéma had begun with an Auriol article discussing painting as a precursor to film; La Revue du Cinéma essentially ended with a Bazin article on cinema and painting, a topic sufficiently engaging that writers such as Jacques Aumont, and Pascal Bonitzer would write about it decades later.

  The above list made by the author of this site is not an entire list of the contents of La Revue du Cinéma, but it demonstrates a certain international interest, a degree of seriousness, a lack of hesitance to explore somewhat technical matters, and an orientation that goes beyond focus on movie stars. The magazine itself was yellow, with no pictures on the cover, and the interior pictorial contents probably disappointing to the "cheese-cake" or "pinup" crowd. During the history of La Revue du Cinéma, advertising could be characterized as non-existent or minimal, and when it appears, it tends to be limited to cinema-related products such as equipment or reviews(8).

Jean George Auriol died on April 2, 1950, as the result of an automobile accident.  About a year later, partly in commemoration of Auriol, his life and work, Cahiers du cinema would appear.(9) 

 

More is to come!

1. According to Georges Sadoul, Dictionnaire des Cinéastes (Microcosme /Seuil 1990 edition), p. 21, Jean-Georges Auriol was born January 8, 1907 and the founder of the original 1928-1929 Revue du cinéma. The rather short entry on him notes, among a few other matters, that he died prematurely and that Cahiers du cinéma took up and carried on what he had started. One can find a good bit more on Auriol in the recent Michel Ciment and Jacques Zimmer, editors, La critique de cinéma en France, Michel Ciment and Jacques Zimmer, editors, (Ramsay 1997), pp. 280, 281, a book which also has further information on La Revue du cinéma..  It may be noted that premature death may have added a certain emotional impact or nostalgia to perceptions of such major French critics as Louis Delluc, Auriol, André Bazin, and Serge Daney, as well as director Jean Vigo. It may not always be easy to measure the extent of the "Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder" effect, which can have an impact beyond cinema. The examples of American President John F. Kennedy, and a pantheon of prematurely deceased pop-singers easily come to mind.

2. In a preface to the first issue, Auriol and Tual stated:

"LA REVUE DU CINÉMA veut prouver au producteur et au réalisateur de films que l'art de films que l'art ne se sépare pas du metier. Et d'abord elle veut empêcher l'artiste qui «voit» de s'eloigner du technicien qui «exécute».

LA REVUE DU CINÉMA est la maison des inventeurs et des poètes qui ont, trop souvent, les ailes coupées par des conditions économiquies défavorables, et aussi, par le manque de préparation du public.

Le cinéma est un art populaire mais, avant d'atteindre la foule, les cinéastes de tous les pay doivent pouvoir disposer d'une tribune, d'un atelier. Ils ont besoin de s'entendre, besoin d'exprimer, de confronter, d'échanger, de préciser leurs idées. LA REVUE DU CINÉMA leur donne rendez-vous."

3. Amable Jameson was apparently a pen-name of Auriol's. See, Olivier Barrot, L'Écran Français 1943-1953: Histoire d'un journal & d'une époque  (Les Édieteurs Français Réunis 1979), p. 47; Michel Ciment and Jacques Zimmer, editors, La critique de cinéma en France (Ramsay 1997), p. 280. André Bazin himself would later sometimes, though not extensively, use the penname "Florent Kirsch", derived from his son's first name, and his wife Janine's maiden name. François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard would later sometimes use pennames -- Truffaut as "Robert Lachenay" and Godard as "Hans Lucas" -- and Eric Rohmer's name was actually Maurice Schérer.  An important article in the June 1948 issue, titled "Le cinéma, art de l'espace" is credited to Maurice Shérer, with no "c" in the last name. However, by July 1948, his name is spelled correctly.  Interestingly, an early Cahiers du cinéma would misspell his penname as Eric Rhomer!  Rohmer himself published an important, though very short-lived, five issue, pre-Cahiers review, La Gazette du cinéma, where one might read articles by Rohmer on Rossellini's Stromboli; by Godard as "Hans Lucas" on Joseph Mankiewicz's House of Strangers, Elia Kazan's Panic in the Streets, Sergei Eisenstein's Que viva Mexico, or Max Ophuls' La Ronde; by Jacques Rivette on Jean Renoir's The Southerner, Cocteau's Orphee, or Hitchcock's Under Capricorn; as well as articles by Jean Douchet, Jean Dommarchi, Alexandre Astruc, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Jacques Doniol-Valcroze.  La Gazette du cinéma  published between May and November of 1950.  Godard has acknowledged unsuccesfully trying to get articles into La Revue du cinéma; La Gazette du cinéma provided him an important initial platform. 

One of Bazin's Cahiers articles as Florent Kirsch would be "Introduction à une filmologie de la filmologie", in Cahiers du cinéma, n. 5,  (September 1951), pp. 33-38.  This was commenting on a review and movement founded by Gilbert Cohen-Séat, which assembled academics and experts, generally from outside cinema or journalism, to try to seriously discuss matters relating to film, but without much emphasis or attention to individual films or directors.   Some of the important contributors to Revue Internationale de Filmologie  in its early days (the first issue appeared in July-August 1947) would include Cohen-Séat, Georges Sadoul, Etienne Souriau (who also edited the 1953 book L'Univers filmique), Henri Agel, and Siegfried Kracauer.  Souriau popularized the term "diegetique" or "diegetic", and Cohen-Seat the term "filmique" or "filmic", such terms would later frequently be seen in semiological and narratological writings on cinema ("Diegetic" generally refers to the "world" of the story; we assume or expect that Julius Caesar will not wear a Rolex, that Gary Cooper's Will Kane will not be able to use weightlessness nor will he hear anyone paging Mr. George Kaplan during the High Noon final shootout, that Audrey Hepburn's 1960s New York City Wait Until Dark  character will not hear a U.S. cavalry trumpet and be saved by the cavalry; and that human beings need to sleep, regardless of whether the film ever actually shows them sleeping.  "Diegetic music" refers to music with a seen or unseen but plausible source in the story's environment, such as a car radio, barroom jukebox, wedding band, or hotel lobby Muzak.  In A Hard Day's Night, when the Beatles rehearse or play onstage, the music is diegetic; however, if my memory serves me well, when we hear "Ringo's Theme" as Ringo goes for his solitary walk, the music is extradiegetic.  The "Marseillaise" sung by the crowd at Rick's in Casablanca is diegetic; the portions of the "Marseillaise" heard at the end of the film as Rick and Captain Renault walk into the fog are extradiegetic; the same film interweaves diegetic and extradiegetic versions of "As Time Goes By."  The distinction between diegetic and extradiegetic music is a part of the more recent Dogme 95 or Dogma 95 "Vow of chastity"; this movement harkens back, in some respects, to the French New Wave, particularly in its avoidance of the trappings of industrialized  cinema).  

Although our conception of the Nouvelle Vague directors often involves the notion that they learned all of their lessons about films in movie theatres rather than universities, and it is not always easy to separate fact from fiction in regard to Jean-Luc Godard, Michel Marie reports in his French language book on À bout de souffle [Breathless] (Nathan 1999) that Godard briefly attended some classes at the Sorbonne's Institut de Filmologie, and that he met a certain Parvulesco there, whose name he later used for the novelist interviewed at Orly, played by director Jean-Pierre Melville.

4. Lo Duca would later be a co-founder of Cahiers du cinéma along with André Bazin and Jacques Doniol-ValcrozeLéonid Keigel lent financial support.

5. Bazin's articles in La Revue du Cinéma included "Le mythe de M. Verdoux", "William Wyler, ou le janséniste de la mise en scène" (published in two parts), "Le style, c'est l'homme même: Les Dernières vacances", "La meilleure femme ne vaut pas un bon cheval: Le Banni" (on Howard Hughes The Outlaw with Jane Russell), and "Le cinéma et la peinture (A props de Van Gogh et Rubens)."  

The two-part William Wyler article later appeared in the four volume Qu'est-ce que le cinéma? but not in the later one-volume French collection.  Translations of  it  appear in the Italian collection, in Cardullo's Bazin at Work and in French in the 1992 Gallimard anthology La Revue du CinémaIt may be recalled that Orson Welles and Welles Wyler had cinematographer Greg Toland in common; they all, along with Jean Renoir, pioneered in depth of field cinematography.  Bazin also admired Wyler's "styleless style."  One of the running controversies in French film criticism would involve comparison between William Wyler and John Ford, and it is clear that Bazin preferred the former, considering Ford a director who did certain things too reflexively or by repeating personal formulae.  Bazin's article on Wyler slightly preceded Roger Leenhardt's L’Écran française article "A bas Ford! Vive Wyler! (tr: Down with Ford, Long Live Wyler!)", reprinted in Roger Leenhardt, Chroniques de Cinéma (Cahiers du Cinéma 1986), pp. 157-159.  To some extent, Ford is more critically respected today than he was, and some of the esteem for Wyler has faded, but Leenhardt himself did not seem eager to re-consider more than thirty years later.  Roger Leenhardt, Les Yeux Ouverts: Entretiens avec Jean Lacouture, (Seuil 1979), p. 154.  An example of how the tables may have turned a bit can be found In a recent Cahiers du cinéma article, "Cruauté de Wyler", by Antoine de Baecque, Cahiers du cinéma, n. 549 (September 2000), pp. 10-11, where it is stated that Wyler's importance has been re-evaluated and diminished, it is now recognized that there was more to Ford than had initially appeared, and that Wyler may manifest some of the condescending ideas towards his characters that Truffaut had denounced among the leading French scenarists and directors in his "Une certaine tendance du cinéma français!"  

Bazin himself was not an advocate of the politique des auteurs to the extent that some of the younger Cahiers critics were.  See, "Comment peut-on être Hitchcocko-hawksien?", Cahiers du cinéma, n. 44 (February 1955), pp. 17-18; "De la politique des auteurs", Cahiers du cinéma, n. 70 (April 1957), pp . 2-10.  Moreover, Truffaut himself would one day write that young and fanatical critics will sometimes play the sterile game of opposing directors against each other, noting that Bazin once wrote him, during a Kurosawa versus Mizoguchi controversy ("Misoguchi" in the original French), that detesting Kurosawa in order to love Mizoguchi would reflect a mere early stage of comprehension, that one would have to be blind to prefer Kurosawa, but to only love Mizoguchi would mean that one is lacking an eye; that there is room for different aspects in art.  André Bazin,  Le Cinéma de la cruauté (Flammarion 1975), François Truffaut, editor, pp. 17, 18.

6. There would be many articles on Italian cinema, as well as an entire issue devoted to it in May 1948.  French critical appreciation for Italian cinema, as well as American cinema, was not entirely new, Louis Delluc was an admirer of films from both countries.

7. The future may not always be easy to predict.  The first part of the La Revue du Cinéma article on the future of French cinema, appearing in the Spring 1947 issue, focused on Claude Autant-Lara and Jean Grémillon; although Autant-Lara would become a major force in the French cinema industry, he would also later be one of the main targets of Truffaut's "Une certaine tendance du cinéma français", be eclipsed by the Nouvelle Vague, and in later years dismay many by shifting from the left to the extreme right, making remarks that would be considered anti-semitic, and becoming a sympathizer of Jean-Marie Le Pen's Front National.  The second part, appearing in February 1948, focused on Georges Rouquier, the director of Farrebique, a film that was a sort of a French cousin to the films of  Robert Flaherty and Italian Neo-realism.

8. The advertising does not appear to be advertising that would give any reader cause to believe that advertising revenues were influencing the review of films.  As with L'Écran française, there may have been an intentional effort to avoid any appearance of advertising contaminating editorial policy, as well as a desire to appear different from certain other elements of the cinema press. Towards the end, we do start to see the intrusion of some advertisements for such things as the national lottery, Air-France, or watches. Still, it appears as if La Revue du Cinéma intended to get by with much less advertising than is taken for granted today or than was probably taken for granted at the time. 

It is not unusual for the present-day Cahiers du cinéma to have a full-page ad for L'Oréal beauty products on the back cover, but advertising appears to otherwise generally be limited to matters of cinéphile interest, such as festival and book announcements, without advertisements promoting films in or about to be in current release. On the other hand, a review of a recent, approximately 150 page French Premiére magazine revealed more than 40 pages of advertisements for such items as clothing -- including a seven page Levis ad --, perfume, beauty products, beer, vodka, and other general consumer products. The latter magazine is an example of a more youth-oriented, star-oriented film magazine. Although it did feature some missing portions of the Hitchcock and Truffaut interviews on the centennial of Hitchcock's birth, it is not likely to do things like publish a 32 page supplement on Robert Bresson, as Cahiers du cinéma did in conjunction with its February 2000 issue. Its readers are probably more interested in Besson than Bresson.

9. Antoine de Baecque, Avant-Propos to La Revue du Cinéma: Anthologie (Gallimard 1992), p. xv; Georges Sadoul, Dictionnaire des Cinéastes (Microcosme /Seuil 1990 edition), p. 21.

This site is not affiliated with Cahiers du cinéma; however, visitors to this site might be interested to know Cahiers du cinéma put a website on the Internet in October 2000.