Saturday, May 09, 2009

20 years to learn to watch a film

I've just started re-reading L'exercice a été profitable, Monsieur - a book gathering the notes that Serge Daney kept as a diary. Here's a first snippet.
Straub's sentence: "it took me twenty years to learn to watch film." He said it with the irritation of a factory worker who insists on this difficult knowledge. What does it mean in the end? To see and to hear what is (visible and audible). To see for example - in the same glance - John Ford's shot, the actual shooting of this shot, the horse, the actor distinct from his role, the character distinct from the body, the human being distinct from its social function. To hear the music and know that a Jew from central Europe fleeing Nazism composed some sub-Schoenberg to make a living, to hear the direct sound, etc. It's obviously a limit but it's the only possible materialist approach.

This is a mad programme. It's also this intensification of the perception of the heterogeneous below the homogeneous which makes some criticism possible. The critic sees something "edited" (or manufactured) where the others see the homogeneous (the natural). Barthes again. The critic (let's remain Straubian) would be the one who could discuss the film with its authors if he was capable of this exra-perception. He would talk as a craftsman. But as an very knowledgeable craftsman, able to identify all the levels of a Mille-feuille. Straubian limit: culture precisely. They couldn't do [...] because there is a general history of cinema, an history that says that Ozu has copied from Capra.

pp. 23-24, POL, 1993, my translation

More to come...

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