Monday, February 14, 2011

Journey of a Cine-Son

In the absence of official translations, Jonathan Rosenbaum once compared the sharing of Serge Daney's texts in English to "offering pornographic postcards to strangers passing on the street". Here's one of these "postcards": the translation of the long filmed interview Serge Daney gave in 1992 just appeared on Vimeo:

Journey of a Cine-Son (video):
The original film (Itinéraires d'un ciné-fils) is a 3 hour interview of Serge Daney by French "intellectual" Regis Debray, filmed in January 1992, a few months before Daney died of aids. It was aired on French television as part of the magazine "Océaniques" in May 1992 and was released on DVD by the excellent Editions Montparnasse in 2004.

The film is one of the two main documents (with Daney's posthumous book Postcards from the Cinema) showing Daney, ill and aware that he might die soon, providing a kind of prefect summary of his life as a cinephile, and aligning his story with the history of modern cinema. The film also shows Daney's fascinating and continuous discourse (it's more a monologue than an interview) which he was so famous for (apparently, only Rivette could sustain a conversation with Daney).

I still feel strange that these late 'crepuscular' texts are the first ones to be available in English. In France, we discovered them after Daney's death and after having read his film criticism and daily columns for years. These documents came as incredibly condensed and systematic thinking from someone who produced a fresh idea on cinema or television on a daily basis, someone who tried something new all the time and challenged readers to follow the extraordinary pace of his thinking. But even if to my eyes they are a bit too 'perfect' and they lack some of the experimentation and freedom of Daney's best writing, there's no doubting their amazing lucidity, power and relevance. It's very puzzling to see that Daney's latest ideas or concept (like the 'visual') seem frighteningly relevant in today's digital age.

I'd love to hear reactions from English readers who discover this interview with less knowledge of Daney's writings. Any views? This would make for a great debate on Girish's blog.

[I must confess that the authors of the translation and the subtitles ("nletore & newland @ KG") have been in touch with this blog. A big thank you to them for completing this project. They have also shared the complete translated transcript of the interview, which I hope to publish on this blog soon.]


  1. I just wanted to add that, regarding "only Rivette could sustain conversation with Daney" -- the oral, the verbal historians and theorizers of cinema are not completely extinct...There are many to talk to. It is told that Bill Krohn, US correspondent for CdC, was one of the few who could match Daney; it's one reason he got the job at Cahiers. I believe it because I know Bill personally; he has more ideas and can verbally express them more than anyone I have ever met. Yet he is only interviewed for marginalia....

  2. Hi Andy, thanks for the comment. You're right: we shouldn't turn the past into a myth. Here's to many more conversations and great critics. I've never had a chance to hear Bill personally, perhaps one day...


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