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FILM THINK All auteurists are cinephiles


In a May 2014 post, Godard and Other Reading, Girish flags up Caboose’s publication of an English translation of Godard’s 1978 Montreal Lectures, Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television, quoting translator Timothy Barnard:

In the book, Godard sets out a philosophy of the image—in the process disproving his own thesis that words are prison, for there is nothing more liberating than this book—and outlines a theory and practice of ‘making’ film history through the act of viewing films. The Montreal talks were the forerunner to his video series Histoire(s) du cinéma. While some critics have described the latter as his Finnegan’s Wake, the True History of Cinema is his Arabian Nights: page-turning true stories of the movies whose idiosyncratic views, leavened with Godard’s famous caustic wit, will delight all readers. Never has Godard been as loquacious, lucid and disarmingly frank as he is here, holding forth, in an experience he describes as a form of ‘public self-psychoanalysis’, on his personal and professional relationships, working methods, aesthetic preferences, political beliefs and, on the cusp of 50, his philosophy of life.

A commenter Remy Renault wrote…

Well one thing that concerns me is what appears to be a schism between the “cinephiles” and the “auteurists”, the latter of whom are accused of vulgar auteurism by the “cinephiles”. The cinephiles tend to see ‘foreign art cinema’ of the fifties, sixties, and seventies as the apotheosis of filmmaking and are skeptical of what they perceive as mere entertainment products revered only for their technical merits, the films of Hawks and Ford. I used to be in this camp but now genuinely believe Ford to be among the three or four most important filmmakers of all time. The others are Godard, Renoir, and Vigo perhaps. The auteurists scoff at the cinephiles and then inevitably and perhaps unfairly begin judging Antonioni and Tarkovsky “by their respective audiences”. So should this gap be bridged? And for rhetorical purposes, what makes the “cinephile” attitude reactionary as well as the symptom of a less “advanced” stage of cinephilia? Why does one “grow out of” Tarkovsky but not Ford or Renoir for that matter?

Girish responds:

My take is very different from yours.

— I see no built-in opposition between cinephiles and auteurists (or between cinephilia and auteurism) at all. Cinephilia is the larger category — of all film-lovers who are also (see Antoine de Baecque on this) interested not just in watching films but also reading, writing, talking about them seriously. Auteurists are a subset of cinephiles, and are those who like to view films through the lens of an ‘author’—most often the director. All auteurists are cinephiles but the reverse is not true. There is no hard-and-fast equation of cinephiles with (exclusively) art cinema. See the history of French New Wave cinephilia—Godard, Truffaut, et al. were BOTH cinephiles and auteurists. Some of the most respected cinephiles today (like Jonathan Rosenbaum in the elder generation or Ignatiy Vishnevetsky in the younger) are also ‘selective auteurists’–meaning, they often like to focus on the marks of authorship of the director but this is not exclusively the only lens they bring to analyzing films.

— “Vulgar auteurism” is a very narrow, specific phenomenon (see this post and discussion from last summer)—much smaller than auteurism at large.

— There are several large conversations (and posts) at this blog about auteurism and cinephilia. You may want to do “searches” on these two terms on this blog; there’s a search box at the bottom of the sidebar. I think you’ll enjoy all the reading you’ll turn up.

To which our Remy responds:

Perhaps the terms I employed were problematic, but you do raise the issue I’m referring to, that there are cinephiles who judge filmmakers solely based on what they regard to be their ‘medium specific’ contributions whereas others tend to judge films based on how they stack up as ‘works of art’ in a more ‘cosmic’ sense and on how they contribute to what’s perceived as ‘high culture’. So is taking a traditional ‘high culture’ approach to film appreciation reactionary? Also, is it limiting to dwell with an evangelical fervor on ‘medium specific’ elements at the expense of all else, since it often leads to the devaluing of guys like Bergman and Fellini who contributed to art and culture in more of a cosmic sense?

And Girish finally:

…. I believe this is a false opposition.

‘Medium specificity’ has to do with making use of the unique powers of cinema–i.e. doing something in cinema that is not translatable to other forms (like literature or theatre) without great loss.

The good practitioners of what you refer to as ‘high culture’ or ‘art cinema’ are VERY much aware of the specific, unique powers of cinema–and they are venturesome in making use of them.

Ford’s films contribute as much to the larger world (‘in a cosmic sense’, as you say) as Bergman or Fellini. Think of someone like Jean-Marie Straub (among the most exalted of ‘art cinema’ filmmakers) for whom Ford is one of the supreme filmmakers.

All of the above mentioned filmmakers are deeply aware of–and make great, imaginative use of–medium specificity.


[1] wiki:Cinephilia

[2] wiki:Vulgar auteurism

A definition: “a critical movement committed to assessing the ‘unserious’ artistry of popcorn cinema with absolute seriousness.” Discuss.

Ref list including [4]

[4] What the Insular Debate on ‘Vulgar Auteurism’ Says About Contemporary Movie Criticism and Cinephilia

[5] Vulgar Auteurism

6 June 2013 post by Girish

He points out he’s posted variously on auteur theory and cinephila – searches for these posts bringing up e.g.
On Auteurism. In this one, Girish quotes from Dana Polen’s Auteur Desire – a 14 page downloadable file.

I also found the term ‘master of enunciation’ in Aesthetics of Film. Pages 234-5 are the key sections though enoncé/énonciation is introduced earlier in the book [p.82-83]. Having the hard-copy is nice but a GoogleBook is available with quite a few relevant pages including 82-83 under heading Narrative, Narration and Diegesis:

Two paras at p.233 give some help:

Since the 1960s and its valorization of auteur theory [..], we have seen more and more filmmakers asserting themselves by a personal enunciation and also signing, as it were, their films with some more or less flamboyant marks of their own characteristic enunciation.

E.g.s such as Bergman’s Persona, Antonioni’s Eclipse, Godard’s Contempt, Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.

At the beginning of the 1970s, a large theoretical debate surrounded ideology as conveyed by the classical cinema and, in particular, its transparency and effacement of the marks of enunciation. Several filmmakers, in keeping with their political or ideological concerns, believed it best to inscribe the work of enunciation [which is to say the production process] clearly within their films.

e.g. Godard/Gorin’s Tout Va Bien

This section beginning p. 233 is sub-headed, Identification and Enunciation. It’s worth going back to the beginning of the section to get identification/enunciation clear.

It says finally:

ABSTRACT FILM Aesthetics of Film [p 235]

[6] Auteurist backsliding

Dan Sallitt, 22 April 2010 [Dan Sallitt’s Homepage]

[7] Auteurist v. Cinephile (Dan Sallitt)

Screenville, 23 April 2010

Harry Tuttle in part tackles the confusions over the terminology, auteurist, auteurism, cinephile, by reference to Sillett’s post [6].

[8] Authorship & Auteur Theory

in RioDrome – my header Wordle came from here.

Girish points out two from FSFF:

[9] On Auteurism and Film Authorship Theoriespacked with refs from Film Studies for Free

[10] C is for Cinephilia Studies (plus some telephilia, too)

– Well, no, I’ve not read refs in [9] & [10] but I know where to look for them. A quick perusal of titles makes me think this might be a step too far for me.

September 18, 2014 Posted by | auteur theory, auteurist, Cahiers du cinéma, cinephile, Godard | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FILM JOURNAL Alphaville Issue 5 – Cinema in the Interstices

PHOTO Cracked_Concrete_01_by_RocketStock

click to enlarge

Alphaville : Journal of Film and Scene Media

Issue 5

Cinema in the Interstices

Cinema in the Interstices: Editorial

Conscious of the underlying significance of this term and its many interpretations within the context of visual culture, particularly as related to film and screen media, Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media set out to provide a forum to explore the myriad of interstices that exist both within the medium of film and between film and other media, firstly in the form of an international conference held at University College Cork in September 2012, and now in a special issue of Alphaville dedicated to the topic.

Lot’s and lots to read.

I was drawn in by the word interstice. A wonderful sounding word which most people couldn’t pronounce let alone define. The editorials starts with:

The interstice: something empty, something minute—a crevice, a chink, a narrow gap—yet, in spite of this definition of something apparently slight and inconsequential, one perhaps may make the claim that the interstice serves as a foundational element of film. The “intervening space”, as the OED defines it, in its celluloid form provided the connection between multiple images, allowing them to run together to form the illusion of movement. While this interstitial black strip that imperceptibly framed the moving image is no longer a constituent part of cinema in its current digital format, interstices continue to proliferate in screen media, perhaps to a greater extent than ever. Indeed, just as cinema originated in the interstices between theatre, painting, literature and photography, this intermediality takes on a redefined role in the digital era, with the lines between cinema, television, art, video and new media becoming increasingly difficult to define.

And so I was off, thinking about black bars between frames of pellicule. Though I knew in my bones, chasing a few rabbits down their holes, this was the entre to a lot more things of interest and use among a whole swathe I probably wouldn’t understand or be bothered with. But how do you know till you read?

And so what exactly are the film things I am bothered with? Think, Think. One, how films are made, particularly cinematography and editing, aesthetics goes without saying (but there, I’ve said it), and the limits of film (and the sort of questions that cropped up when Godard started writing in the Cahiers and then made films himself which, if we use A Bout de Souffle, was often about how film was not up to the job he wanted it to do – and/or was dead and gone in the terms in which he saw it: in two words Eisenstein and montage. Godard a writer trying a new medium and as I see it often being disappointed and expressing this disappointment in his own films. Alright, I admit it, I’ve been trying Histoires yet again). Phew! How hard it is to attend to three things at once and have the added disadvantage of English subtitles. Perhaps better without enough French to read La « partition » des Histoire(s) du cinéma de Jean-Luc Godard by Céline Scemama as a companion-piece to Histoire(s). My ideal: watch it first, then the transcription,then both together. But it becomes a study not an experience, where it has to be watched on DVD to stop it at will.

The start point – stimulated by the Alphaville editorial’s first para – was that black gap between each frame. Faux naively (sometimes the ridiculously obvious can turn up insights) I mused the black dividing lines had to be there because of the way a roll of film running through a camera exposed individual frames. A shutter or shutters opened to expose each frame and it couldn’t do it quick enough to have no gap between frames. Though of course even if that were feasible, with each frame abutting directly to the next, the separation of frames as they are by a gap might well be needed to help create the moving images at a certain speed of projection. Who knows – not many – if the movie would work projected without the few millimeters of black space?

It wasn’t there in order to. It was there because it had to be there, and then they found a way to get over these leetel black bars between frames by projecting the film at a certain speed both to eliminate them from perception, and eventually at 24fps to get a movie that wasn’t jerky as the early silent films were.

Then the assertion that

[..] cinema originated in the interstices between theatre, painting, literature and photography

made me think some more – and this is the first paragraph of the editorial! – what interstices were these exactly? That later.

The fourth wall. We know that cinema was distinctly theatrical in it’s beginnings. But surely, film rather than being in cracks between the traditional arts – once the theatrical style was left behind – was a new art form which superimposed itself on them as a whole, using them; or perhaps that the arts fed directly or indirectly into film, rather than the other way round. Or even that it parasitised on them or was in symbiosis with them. Or both. Or saprophytic. Or even commensal. But it did become the predominant – as in popular and wide-spread – art form the 20 century. Pretty quickly it was the flicks people went to see instead of music hall – certainly not art galleries or museums. Though come to think of it, music and film became close partners in a way that art and theatre did not. Theatre and ballet became favourite subjects of film and have remained so to the present day. Opera became the musical. But film technique has developed on its own.

Film Studies at University College Cork

Well, better start reading. Might learn something.

October 2, 2013 Posted by | 24 fps, art, À bout de souffle, Breathless, Cahiers du cinéma, cinematography, Eisenstein, film, Film and The Arts, film editing, film music, film [its techniques], film-making, Godard, perception | , , , | Leave a comment

FILM ESSAY NICO BAUMBACH – All that Heaven allows: what is, or was, cinephilia

All that Heaven allows: what is, or was, cinephilia [part 1]

All that Heaven allows: what is, or was, cinephilia [part 2]

Film comment, Film Society Lincoln Center, 12 February 2012

At time of this post two further parts were promised

Part 1 quotable quote:

Bordwell’s argument is framed as an attempt by an academic to reach out to film critics not simply to heal a rift but to mutually enrich both practices. Yet more interesting, and problematic, he outlines what writing about film can successfully accomplish and what it cannot. He implies that the opposition between academics and critics obscures a more fundamental opposition between two different ideas of what the primary object of writing on cinema should be — its relation to culture and society or to the more localized specifiable effects that films produce. He believes that by ignoring the latter in favor of the former, film criticism and theory have lost sight of their object.

Part 1 mentions Laura Mulvey’s 1975 essay, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema

There is a digital cross-through in this version, so I’ve included a couple of other sources: LM 2 and a facsimile of the original article/paper: LM3 (which in a footnote says it’s a reworked version of a paper given in the French Department of University of Winsconsin, Madison, in the Spring of 1973

Baumbach quotes Mulvey:

“It is said that analyzing pleasure, or beauty, destroys it. That is the intention of this article.”

which he then goes on to explain, including:

..her statement came from a conviction that theory about cinema mattered not just in relation to gaining specialized knowledge about a particular popular art form, but to how we live and experience the world.

March 16, 2012 Posted by | Andrew Sarris, auterism, Cahiers du cinéma, Christian Metz, cinephilia, David Bordwell, film analysis, film theory, film theory/film criticism, film [its techniques], George Toles, J. Hoberman, Laura Mulvey, Metz, Rudolph Arnheim, Siegfried Kracauer | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

FILM GODARD Cahiers du cinéma ~ Godard’s American Director Thumbnails

My Gleanings blog has a post

Godard’s American Director Thumbnails

which is a translation from the French of Godard’s thumbnail sketches of eight then active American directors in the Dec 1963/ Jan 1964 edition of Cahiers du Cinema which was on American cinema.

This blogger, jdcopp, has two other blogs:

“The Bernanos Letter”: an inquiry into Francois Truffaut’s writing of A Certain Tendency

which he calls: An attempt to clarify certain aspects of François Truffaut’s conduct in writing A Certain Tendency of French Cinema focusing on a long forgotten letter written by the novelist Georges Bernanos.


March 1, 2012 Posted by | Cahiers du cinéma | Leave a comment

FILM GODARD Two men arguing about a camera

Genesis of a Camera: Jean-Pierre Beauviala and Jean-Luc Godard



A reprint of a discussion between Jean-Pierre Beauviala and Jean-Luc Godard originally published in Camera Obscura Vol. 5, No. 13/14 (Spring-Summer 1985): 163-193.

May 31, 2011 Posted by | Aaton 16mm camera, Aaton 35-8, aesthetics and technology, Cahiers du cinéma, cinematography, film [its techniques], Godard=Cinema=Godard, Jean-Pierre Beauviala, Paluche camera | Leave a comment

FILM Film as an act of Love {by Sukhdev Sanhu}


Film as an act of Love

by Sukhdev Sandhu

Fifty years ago, François Truffaut’s Quatre cents coups
heralded a revolution in cinema. Sukhdev Sandhu salutes
a modern classic

NewStatesman 2 April 2009

April 15, 2009 Posted by | Antoine Doinel, Cahiers du cinéma, criticism, culture, film analysis, film directors, film editing, film narrative, film theory, film [its techniques], Truffaut | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment