Thursday, May 28, 2009

Points of view

More from L'exercice a été profitable, Monsieur:
12 December 1989 - Old principle of "our" cinephilia: the point of view. For me, the "point of view" is precisely what comes in the place of a body which is elided in the image, what can be seen from the blind spot. The point of view refers to what could be seen by a character who would always be in the camera's place. To stick with this point of view immediatly means confronting problems of mise en scène (since there are forbidden images, which would not be consistent with the unique point of view). The question of the "point of view" comes down to asking who is looking. Who is the additional character? For example, in Depardon's film, another guard, a guard "who would know".

The cinema of the unique point of view is disappearing (in both senses of the term) in its (mystical, pictural) relation to the "real". It abolishes itself. It never has much success since it confiscates for itself what's imaginary (and deprives the audience of it: Antonioni, Depardon). Obsessive.

The cinema of the double point of view is popular cinema by excellence, since it firmly camps between the shot and the "reaction shot" (read Warren's book), playing the "objet petit a" between two objects caught in a power struggle (see my old idea on Jaws: the shark and the child's legs). It's popular because it creates a vertiginous identifying between two poles: active/passive, chasing/chased, torturer/victim, etc. Hysteria.

This leaves the cinema with n points of views, in the end the greatest. It sometimes is "popular" but not necessarily. It has to juggle with paranoia, law, madness. I can't imagine a greater film than The Night of the Hunter in this category, the category of polyphony, of carnival (along maybe with Ivan the Terrible, 2001, some Ford's movies).

Tiebreaker: is the cinema of zero point of view possible? No. We would need to analyse television not with visual but with tactile metaphores ("point of touch", tactile padding) and proxemics.
pp. 196-7, POL, 1993, my translation

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Demy: Les Demoiselles de Rochefort

More from L'exercice a été profitable, Monsieur:
23 July 1988 - DEMY (tv). The end of Les demoiselles de Rochefort. Stupid, devastated, definitive emotion. An emtion all the stronger that everything that I've always thought - and written - about Demy is still true. A hard film-maker, not at all sentimental, morbid and joyful.

Only one 'idea'. Melancholy is not nostalgia. Demy's world (mine too I suppose) is instant melancholy. There is no lost world, no ideal gone by, no previous state that we regret. For the simple reason (perversion oblige) that we want to know nothing of this world 'from which we come' (alliance rather than kinship, etc.).

Melancholy is as instantaneous as a shadow. Things become melancholy immediately, thanks to music and the music of the dialogue. It's the good mood with which the characters fail at everything (apart perhaps from the essential) which is terrible and moving at the same time. One does not fail at things because he didn't see them but because he found too quickly a way to empty them from their content, to circle around them, to dance. Darrieux learns who the sadist is and says: "And he was the one putting on airs while cutting the cake!"

The essential was love but it has kept losing its colours. In this film, already, the beauty of the 'last minute' because every happy ending is pure voluntarism. But later (Peau d'âne, etc.), it creaks more and more. And voluntarism is precisely the topic of Une chambre en ville.

Deny's absolute strength is to relate everything back to a prefect point of view: that of the mother. The mother who has never grown up, who is frivolous, who has forgotten to stop being a little girl. The world gets ordered from this blind task.

Dances: Gene Kelly.
pp. 102-103, 33, POL, 1993, my translation

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Verdict

More from L'exercice a été profitable, Monsieur:
26 March 1988 - Yesterday, between evening and night, in front of the TV. I quickly abandon 8 1/2 even though I've never seen it but which exasperates me and find myself following until the end a movie that I objectively find badly made, badly told, bad everything: The Verdict by Sydney Lumet. Television schizophrenia: not only we watch what is not good (not well made), but we see it even better than at the cinema (editing for example), and yet we can prefer to see a badly made movie to a well made one. Or rather: the concepts of "well made" and "badly made" are not relevant on television. Either the movie has such a strength that it imposes itself, or we are in the relativity of a world of images, of a bath of imaginary, where everything is interesting. It depends on the mood of the moment. Yesterday, I preferred to watch Mason and especially Newman "compose" with age, with everything. Lumet is the archetypal filmmaker who films from the point of view of no one, hence an abstract effectiveness, so abstract that it is reduced to the nonsensical script. He speeds up where there's no reason for it. One beautiful moment. Newman has finally found the nurse who "knows" what happened. She takes care of children in Chelsea. She has the beautiful face of a union saint. She is in the playground, Newman who arrives from Boston is approaching clumsily. Close-up on the Boston-New York ticket which sticks out from his pocket. And there, a small cinema trick from the old Lumet, a little bit of true speed: reverse shot on Newman who is no longer showing off: "Will you help me?" She will help him, not because the script requires it, but because we have been put in her place (by the mise en scène) and her in ours and because the desire for her to help him has been inscribed into the movie. Old things but which exists, for goodness sake!


The example from Lumet's film, a few days ago ("Will you help me?") sums it up. It's unrefined but it is enough. The shot of Newman - of a Newman who asks for help and asks it twice: to the other character (off) and to me who - for a second - have been able to put myself in the film in the place of this character absent from the image. And he will get help twice: in the script and from me (at this moment, I accept to go along with the film, and therefore to make it work).
pp. 26-27, 33, POL, 1993, my translation

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...