Monday, September 10, 2007

Book reviews of Postcards from the cinema - updated

Update of this blog with Steve Erickson's review of the book published in the Fall issue of Cineaste Magazine.

Like the other reviews of the book, Steve's points to the limitations of Postcards From the Cinema (not the ideal introduction to Daney, lack of actual film criticism, difficult translation). But since Steve - unlike the other reviewers - has actually done quite a bit to increase Daney's recognition in the English-speaking world through his website, he brings some needed perspective on the lack of translations of Daney and I find him a little more credible in his reservations.

Steve is also startled by the fact that Daney never saw Kapo and accepted Rivette's comment blindly. I must say that I totally miss that point. First taking Rivette's word for anything sounds great fun. Plus a single glance at the shot should convince anyone that Rivette is indeed "absolutely right".

On the other hand, Steve makes really excellent remarks about what it would mean to apply Daney's approach to current cinema, television and other audio-visual forms.

Joining the choir, he also hopes there will be more translations.

POST AS PUBLISHED ON 28 AUGUST 2007

A number of reviews of Postcards from the cinema (the English translation of Serge Daney's last "book") have been published. I've been reluctant to post a blog commenting on the reviews of a translation of an interview, but it is the only way we have to assess the reception of the book. And the reactions are mixed. Most of them praise The Tracking Shot in Kapo article but have reservations about the rest of the book which is not proper film criticism but Daney's attempt at his cinema-biography in an interview with his Cahiers du cinéma friend and colleague Serge Toubiana.

In Sight & Sound, Jonathan Romney, finds the Kapo article "essential reading", showing Daney's "brilliance at extrapolating an argument from a single image" but finds Daney's interview not "of obvious interest from a strictly cinematic point of view". Much worse, Kent Jones, in Film Comment, has a strange rant at Daney, saying the autobiographical aspects of the book gave him the "heebie-jebies", considering Daney's account of a film he never saw (Kapo) "troubling and wincingly juvenile" and his "self-historicizing as musty and outdated as a radio ad jingle". Both called for more translations of Daney's actual film criticism.

Two kinder reviews are published online. Anna Dzenis in Screening the Past, finds "fascinating" these "insights into the life of a true cinephile." Tony McKibbin in Senses of Cinema pinpoints the irony of publishing a book by a film critic which contains only one article of actual film criticism (and on a movie the film critic didn't even see) and finds this a good example "that the lines between cinema, life and art aren’t easily drawn – nor would Daney want them to be". Again both called for more translations!

I'll update this post if more reviews are published

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