Sunday, August 25, 2013

La rampe - Postscript

Serge Daney's postscript to La rampe.
La rampe - Postscript
We finish, of course, with theatre. The play could be called “History of Cinema?” with the tagline: “Hoping it exists!”. This book is like the boards. The author acted as if the key to his own story was in the sum of images that he has seen and in the series of films that, as Jean-Louis Scheffer says beautifully, have watched our childhood. 
The author is a cine-phile, a cine-son, who was born somewhere in a history of cinema, between two pages of Sadoul, between two wars or two war films. He knew in front of Hiroshima mon amour that there won’t be any other “home” than the little known labyrinth of the History of Cinema, capital letters included. And not only to live by proxy, to dream the world and write a book, but to tell his story, to invent his own genealogy through films. The very wild auto-analysis of someone born the year Rossellini began to shoot Rome Open City (1944) and who therefore is more or less the same age as modern cinema. 
This theatre is full of allegories, devoured by mostly legendary myths. No play could have taken place inside without the conventional characters named “classic cinema” and “modern cinema.” No representation could have happened without the firm belief that between “classic” and modern” there was a fight and an order, a just fight of adult against the immature, and a necessary order between classicism and modernity, with classicism coming first.
This scenario is linear, therefore naïve, but it’s a naivety shared by all: critics, film magazines, educators. We thought we were preparing mass audiences to have a more responsible relationship with images. We dreamed of an audience of workers, of good pupils, of well-behaved Oedipus. We won. By that I mean: “the culture of cinema as an art” won. But we lost too.
“Classic” cinema is today an empty model and a nostalgic wave. “Modern” cinema is a provocation without object and an endless mourning. The dispute between them is never-ending. They are chained.
One is left with picking up this scenario again, with attempting new periodisations. Not the one of this book where classicism played the role of the dream and modernity the role of the vigil, but with another curvature. 
For what do we see today? What is happening to the cinematic form? The most sophisticated experiments and the most popular dispositifs always end up meeting up again somewhere. Beyond its crisis, or perhaps its “death,” cinema is closing a loop started very early: a dialogue with silent films.
This is when we realise that the archaic and the post-modern have a family resemblance. 
August 1982 

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