Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Daney in 2008

Happy New Year everyone.

A quick look back over 2008, a fairly quiet year in regards to Daney in English.

Five new translations:
Thank you to Steve Erickson and Andy Rector for their help with publishing these texts.


Some disappointing news. POL, the French publishing house who had begun releasing Serge Daney's 'complete' writings back in 2001 told me they have no plans for new volumes (leaving the years 1985 to 1992 in the dark - as well as all the texts they've missed out). And some tentative plans for English books of translations unfortunately didn't fall through.

This blog had just over 3,000 visitors however Google Analytics tells me that many of these came only once and spent less than 10 seconds on the blog. My core audience is therefore the 240 or so loyal readers who came more than three times last year and stayed at least a minute.

Whoever you are, thank you for you interest. I hope this blog and my translations are helpful.

Let's hope for more in 2009.

Monday, December 01, 2008

For a cine-demography

A new translation of an article showing one of Daney's original perspectives on cinema!

A sort of history of cinema comparing the number of spectators and of characters in movies:
  • Classic cinema: a lot of people in a lot of movie theatres watching films with a lot of characters.
  • Modern cinema: fewer and fewer people in already too many movie theatres watching films with fewer and fewer characters.
  • Post-modern cinema: many people in just a few (large) theatres want to see films with just a few characters.
I've just finished the translation and it's available on Steve Erickson's website:


For a cine-demography
The French version was originally published in Liberation, 13 September 1988 and can be found in Serge Daney, Devant la recrudescence des vols de sacs à main, Aléas (http://www.aleas.fr/), 1997.


Since Daney's text is 20 years old, I'm wondering if the metaphor couldn't developed further. Something like a lot of isolated people scattered around the globe (in front of the television, DVDs, internet or at film festivals or in museums) watch many movies with small, minor, ordinary characters. No more heroes except for the fantasy super heroes of Hollywood (Batman, etc.).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

John Ford for ever

A new translation of a 1988 article by Serge Daney about John Ford following the showing of She Wore a Yellow Ribbon on French television. It's available on Steve Erickson's website:

John Ford for ever

Originally published in Liberation on 18 November 1988 and reprinted in Devant la recrudescence des vols de sacs à main, Aléas, 1997.


I'm still amazed by Daney's ability to capture a unique characteristic (rapid contemplation) of a filmmaker (Ford) in such a concise and simple manner.


Fort Apache was on British TV last Saturday afternoon and, as I exercised the usual Daney trick: count the first 10 shots of a movie to see "if it works", I spotted this amazing panoramic shot of a coach going full speed through Monument Valley: the camera follows the coach from left to right but then abandons it for a moment to look up a big rock formation before getting back down to the coach and the action. The coach actually disappears from the frame in the middle of the action... sheer magic.

Any other rapid contemplation anyone?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Baby Seeking Bathwater (now online)

Thanks to a used-books seller in Germany and to Amazon , I've managed to get hold of this late text by Daney in one of the Documenta books. It's now available on Steve Erickson's website.

Baby Seeking Bathwater

Originally published in Libération in two parts on 30 September and 1 October 1991. Published in English in Documenta Documents 2, 1996, Cantz Verlag. Translation by Brian Holmes.

It's an important article, written less than a year before Daney's death, at the height of his social criticism for long pieces in Libération. And it's perhaps the text where Daney ventures the furthest away from cinema and television (a simple poster triggers the article) toward broader social criticism.

The article also played a role in Daney's decision to quit writing about television. See his comments in an interview to Les inrockuptibles: "There is one problem though: it doesn’t bite. There’s no feedback whatsoever. (...) If I write twenty thousand characters on Benetton Toscani, it’s not picked up on or quoted anywhere. It doesn’t trigger any debate. It’s considered as my own problem, my strange – and eventually likeable – whim. "

An image of the poster is inserted in the original Libération article: a photo of a woman with a baby in her arms standing in front of the giant Benetton poster.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The organ and the vacuum cleaner (now online)

I've finally found some time to go to the British Library to get hold of this article. Thank you to Steve Erickson for publishing it online.

The article starts as a review of Bresson's 1976 Le diable probablement (The Devil Probably) before moving to unchartered waters.

The translation is not ideal but this is another long piece by Serge Daney from his first book LA RAMPE. And it's a good example of Daney playing with categories (see Adrian Martin's recent comment on how "Serge Daney invented three distinctions a day and would incessantly play with different distinctions"). I also like how the text shows Daney's acute attention to sound.

The Organ and the Vacuum Cleaner

Literary Debates: Texts and Contexts (Postwar French Thought, Volume II), edited by Denis Hollier and Jeffrey Mehlman, translated by Arthur Goldhammer, New Press, 2001, pp. 474-486.
The original text is "L'orgue et l'aspirateur (Bresson, le diable, la voix off et quelques autres)", pages 19-27, Cahiers du cinéma, issue 279-280, August-September 1977. Reprinted ,” in La Rampe: Cahiers critique 1970-82 (Paris : Cahiers du Cinema/Gallimard, 1983), pp. 138-48.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The dog and the rope

This intriging text by Serge Daney on the evolution of the image has been published by Andy Rector on his Kinoslang blog. It's a good example of how Daney used pictures as part of his criticism, a practice he developed to its full extent at Libération when he played a lot with the "mise en page" of his articles.

The dog and the rope
Serge Daney, Cahiers du cinéma, hors-série spécial photos de films, 1978

It feels good to see people like Andy taking the initiative to discover some great yet little-known texts (even in France) by Daney and to publish them. It shows that there's is still much Daney to discover and debate.