Friday, April 24, 2009

Daney on tennis

Serge Daney did not just write about cinema. From 1980 to 1990, he wrote extensively about tennis for the newspaper Libération. Several of these articles have been collected in a posthumous book: L'amateur de tennis, POL, 1994.

Andy Rector at Kinoslang publishes the firs
t English translation of a text by Daney on tennis. The article was part of Daney's daily column on television "The zapper's wage" (le salaire du zappeur) written for Libération from September to December 1987.

The smash of rage
First published in Libération, 16 September 1987, reprinted in Le salaire du zappeur, POL, 1993.

To give an idea of the originality of Daney's writings on tennis (which is also revealing of the risks Libération took when it was a really innovative newspaper), I'm translating below the table of contents of L'amateur de tennis. Unfortunately a lot of puns gets lost in translation.

1980 - Roland-Garros
  • Connors saves two match points and ousts Caujolle
  • The birth of the tennis aficionados
  • The time factor
  • The peculiar sound of Borg's racket
  • Hana Mandlikofa easily eliminates Ivana Madruga
  • Gerulaitis unleashes himself against everybody
  • Women play seriously
  • Virtuosity paid
  • No pathos at Roland-Garros
1980 - Wimbledon
  • Borg-McEnroe or the beauties of pure reason
1981 - Wimbledon
  • McEnroe got almost madly angry against Frawley
  • Power change
1982 - Roland-Garros
  • Vilas' perpetual metamorphosis
  • Women's tennis: when one attacks, the other doesn't
  • The story of an acceleration that didn't come
  • Vilas is in the final, without losing a set
  • Tsetse final at Roland-Garros
1982 - David Cup
  • Noah-McEnroe: the aces of aces
  • Davis Cup: a tennis symphony in five movements
1983 - Davis Cup
  • USSR-France: great beach tennis against world-class
  • The immobile Soviet tennis
  • Davis cup: the French not as dull as the Russians
1983 - Roland-Garros
  • Entire afternoons on the central court
  • Roger-Vasselin, the smallest of the quarter finals
  • The Swedish syndrome
  • The French scripts
  • Vilas-Higueras: even the weather got depressed
  • The Wilander mystery
  • Wilander-Higueras: three hours without thrills
  • Noah-Wilander: 15h08 - 17h32
1983 - Wimbledon
  • And McEnroe found out the flaw
  • McEnroe has learnt to be bored
1983 - Davis cup
  • Davis cup: Noah goes through, Leconte doesn't
  • Davis cup: The French eat the grass
1982 - Roland-Garros
  • The privileged ones must sit down!
  • Where one can see the other tournaments in transparency
  • Bouncing emotions on red earth
  • On the eighth day, courts in-between raindrops
  • The image pit
  • Slices of today's matches
  • Lendl the executioner beats the elegant Gomez
  • Navratilova: grand slam in her sights
  • Lendl-Wilander: the hypnotizer trapped
1985 - Roland-Garros
  • High end Benhabiles
  • The two-head machine and the referee's madness
  • Refereeing: the year of all the troubles
  • 3 hours, 5 sets, 49 games: Leconte is good
  • A too quiet day under Swedish influence
  • Leconte, check Mats
  • Connors: no suspense for the last elected in the four aces
  • A real big moaner in the dinosaurs' pit
  • Jimmy Connors is less terrestrial than Lendl
1985 - Wimbledon
  • Wimbledon: the final gives birth to a little genius
1987 - Roland-Garros
  • When cracks get their fangs out, little crocodiles crack.
  • Mats Wilander, listen to indifference
  • Tyranny in three acts
  • Mecir, non-standard exchanges
  • Graf pins out Sabatini at the finish
  • Mecir trips over Lendl's soft shots
  • Ivan Lendl: bis
1988 - Roland-Garros
  • Yannick Noah gets the audience on his knee
  • Henri Leconte, intermittent tennis
  • Yannick Noah fighting on red clay
  • Andrei Chesnokof gobbles up Pat Cash
  • Wilander carves a break for himself
  • Half pint for Henri Leconte's thirst
  • Leconte in final, cracking? No.
  • An afternoon in red white and yuck!
1990 - Bercy
  • Sad day with second rank players
  • A killer on the road, two victims by the roadside

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Daney interview: A Movie Maven's Farewell

I've just found an interview with Serge Daney conducted a few months before his death in 1992 and translated in English in Art Press. Not a huge amount of new stuff and too much of the melancholia which characterised Daney's last year (when he started to close more doors than he was opening). I've put some interesting snippets below.

Serge Daney Cinephilia: A Movie Maven's Farewell
Interview by Jacques Henric and Dominique Païni, published in Art Press issue no. 182, December 1993 (out of print). Translated by J. O'Toole.
There's another reason for launching Trafic. The cinema makes us write and think. There will never be a television review, impossible. Scholarly reviews can take television as a "poor object of little interest," you'll never have a review that runs on television the way you would say of a car that runs on gasoline or diesel.

For a long time, particularly when I was working for
Libération, I thought you had to talk about the image in general. Those were the days of crosscurrent approaches and I didn't like the way film appreciation was wrapped up in itself. We talked about advertising, video - no privileges, we proclaimed, let's treat film on the same footing... Trafic breaks with that. We only talk about the art of motion pictures.

(...)

The avant-garde of the seventies? Garel, Duras, Straub and so on? They're modernists, yes, but not in the sense of avant-garde. The avant-garde is the twenties. And unlike Americans such as Mekas, who couldn't and wouldn't go to Hollywood, the Straubs had a cinema, and therefore a public space, to project their films in - even if the projection had an underground air about it and was tantamount to engaging in political activism. And they had a TV channel ready to fund and program their work. The underground is something else. Anyway, I don't think the cinema can go very far with solitude. With their well-oiled war machine, their sacred egoism, their fine vitality, too and the clear ideas they have concerning their work, the Straubs are probably the last to create a cinema for loners that can nevertheless be brought into regular theaters. They are squarely in cinema and I would have given up on them long ago with their garbled political ideas, had I not understood that they were the last great film-makers of the history of modern cinema, perhaps of the history of cinema, period. I harbor no illusions about the receptability of their work; they set out to teach people something and people will always hate them for that. People are partly right, moreover, to have kept that great bad memory of school. I'm a good pupil; I've always enjoyed learning.

The American underground and the now-dead French experimental cinema are not cinema for me. They belong to the sphere of the fine arts.

(...)


For me, image/writing is an unreconciliable pair that is very tolerable. Let's come back to
Trafic: what's not written will not be published. Lots of people would have interesting things to say about the cinema, but they have no link to writing. Publishing interviews, for example, is out of the question.

(...)

Will the cinema disappear one day? Is it economically viable? Wouldn't too much solitude really screw it up? I repeat, the image is not made to be seen by an individual alone. As long as you're dealing with the audio-visual recording of the world, you're in an emission of light, your suffering is infinite. When we move on to video art, television and computer-generated images, nobody suffers. The fact of being in light belongs to the past. There are maybe four crackpots out there ready to sit through the Straubs' films, but that's important because all four come from the same light. What I'm saying there is a bit religious but that's my conviction. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, cinema and photography have represented the persistence of one question, why me? Why aren't I also in the bright light? Light implies making the body openly available. That can go very badly if the market suddenly answers no. As soon as you're working with light (is the fact that light sculpts a correlative?) you say, Why not me? To work with light and not be in that light explains maybe why all film-makers want to go to Cannes. Every single one. Straub, Boris Lehman, Godard... I'm beginning to be less of a blockhead than before: I used to believe that there was a certain number of film-makers who would say, "No, no, not me - just a little, me.

Those who get along the best are the director-actors. It's better to be Dubroux, Moretti, or Monteiro and to lay your body as it is on the line, at the risk of that being a flop, obscene. That's the question raised by Rivette's latest film: there's a man who is extraordinarily photogenic, has a beautiful face, admirable gestures, yet he doesn't dare put himself at the very center of his own world, as Godard has done a little. Rivette is in a blind alley because he is a pure director. He continues to film a world where light is essential, and he films it very well, but he continues to uphold (heroic stance) the idea that he won't figure there, that he'll remain in the position of a man in the shadows.

In the New Wave there was great resentment with respect to the actor. There's a question as well: at what point does an author wish the death of his actor? Of course Truffaut created Léaud, but when he shot
La chambre verte, his best picture, it didn't occur to him to give Léaud the part. He played it himself and he played it sublimely.

I am convinced that the moment light disappears, the moment it is no longer a pertinent tool of creation, the moment it comes from somewhere other than the sun (as when you rework the computer-generated image), we lose a part of our humanity. All kinds of hokum are then possible.