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.

1 comment:

  1. Melancholia? Closed doors?

    Light! Lucidity!


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