Sunday, June 30, 2019


Another great text from the 1970s where Daney once more focuses on sound and the voice (see previous post on Bresson and the voice-over). This text disappeared along with Steve Erickson's old website and I don't know who translated it nor where it appeared in English so I'm posting it without credits. I've asked Steve if he remembers the source.

By habit and laziness, racism too, whites always thought that emancipated and decolonized black Africa would give birth to a dancing and singing cinema of liberation, which would put them to shame by confirming the idea that, no way around it, blacks dance better than they do. The result of this "division of labor" (logical thought for some, body language for the others) is that the Western specialists of the young African cinema, too preoccupied with defending it through political solidarity or misguided charity, have failed to grasp its real value and originality: the oral tradition, storytelling. Are these "stories told very differently”? Yes, but in a cinema that is literal (and not metaphorical), discontinuous (not homogenous) and verbal (rather than musical). To begin with speech, not music, is what already characterized the early films of Ousmane Sembene, those of Oumaroou Ganda, and Mustapha Alassane, as well as those created in exile by Sidney Sokhona. The same is still true for the most recent – and most beautiful – film by Sembene, shot in 1977 and entitled Ceddo. 
The film recounts the forced Islamization of a seventeenth-century village, situated in what would later become Senegal: the conversion of King Demba War and his court, and then of the villagers, even though they are convinced (as their spokesman says several times) that "no faith is worth a man's life". The king is secretly assassinated, the nobles are elbowed out of power, and the villagers (who are the ceddo, the "people of refusal") are vanquished, disarmed, shaved and shorn, and rebaptized with Muslim names, ready for the slave market. (The next instalment, in a sense, will be Roots). Alongside this first story whose center is the village square, Sembene pursues a parallel story whose site is in no man's land, somewhere out in the bush. The princess Dior Hocine, the king's daughter, has been carried off by a ceddo who is trying to protest against the Islamization of the court, and who mercilessly kills anyone who tries to free her (first a brother, then a loyal knight). He is finally assassinated on the orders of the imam who has meanwhile taken power. Only at this point does the princess become conscious of the subjection into which her people have fallen. When she is brought back to the village, superb in her pride, with tears in her eyes, she kills the imam: a freeze frame on this last image, and the film is over. 
Thus people in Ceddo lose freedom (the village), lives (the king), blinkers (the princess.) But there is worse. Ceddo is the story of a putsch, with the intrusion of religion into politics (as in Moses and Aaron, for instance) and the transition from one type of power to another (as in The Rise of Louis XIV), but it is also the story of a right which is lost: the right to speak. A right but also a duty, a duty but also a pleasure, a game. If the imam wins, it is not because he is militarily stronger, it is because he introduces an element which will cause the traditional African power structure to implode. And this element is a book, a book which is recited: the Koran. Between the beginning and the end of the story told by Ceddo, what has changed is the status of speech. 
In the beginning, it is clear that we are in a world where no one lies, where all speech, having no other guarantor than the person who produces it, is speech of "honour". When he films this people who will soon be reduced to silence, Sembene first insists on restoring their most precious possession: their speech. It's an entirely political calculation. For what the defeat of the ceddo signifies is that African speech will never again be perceived by whites (first Muslims, then Christians) as speech, but instead as babble, chatter, background noise "for poetic effect" or, worse, "palavers". Now, what Sembene brings before us, beyond archaeological concerns (which we are too ignorant of Africa history to evaluate) is African speech in so far as it can also have the value of writing. Because one can also write with speech.  
In the court of King Demba War, in the coded space where the plot develops and the protagonists of the drama appear, each person is one with what he says: the king and his people, the Muslims and the "pagans", the pretenders to the throne. There are rhetorical games, theatrical turnabouts, negotiations and oaths, declarations and rights of response: speech is always binding. Only in Pagnol can one find such incandescent moments where speech, functioning as writing, lays down the law. In this way Sembene's film becomes an extraordinary document on the African body (today's actors and yesterday's heroes) upstanding in its language (here, Wolof), as though the voice, accent and intonation, the material of the language and the content of the speeches, were solid blocks of meaning in which every word, for the one who bears it, is the last word.  
Is this an ideal, naive vision of a world without lies? The utopia of a world before ideology, ignorant of the gap between the statement and its enunciation? Not so sure. The societies which are a bit hastily considered to be "without writing" have resources all their own for extracting from spoken language that which can have the value of the written. One such resource is the use of what Jakobson called the "phatic" dimension of language (concluding one's phrases with "I said!"). Another is the use of gestures with a performative value (Madiac, the heir to the throne dispossessed by the new Koranic law, repudiates this law and makes himself an outlaw; he demonstrates this position by trading a slave for wine which he solemnly drinks before the disgusted imam, who holds his nose against the smell.) Yet another resource is the use of undecidable statements (Madder the outlaw speaks only in proverbs.) Finally – and this is the most striking aspect of the film, the most unknown for us – there is the existence of an essential character, without whom communication could not take place: the official spokesman, the pot-bellied nobleman Jafaar. 
It is as though an entire aspect of language – speech which is not binding – had fallen to a single man: Jafaar alone can lie, exaggerate, flatter, trick, play every role (including his own), occupy all the positions of discourse. Two characters standing face to face still need him to signify that they are speaking to each other: "Tell him that..." Yet Jafaar is not a spokesman in the Western sense (he doesn't speak for a statesman who, remaining hidden, can always deny what has been said) and nor is he a buffoon, nor the king's fool (so common in the Arab tradition.) He is not the one who speaks the truth while all the others lie, he is the only one who has the right to lie while all the others are sworn to truth. He is the one with a monopoly on the gap between statement and enunciation. Without Jafaar there is no communication; he is, if I daresay, the "blank spot" who spaces the speech of others and transforms it, in a certain way, into writing. 
Therefore, even more than recounting the fall of King Demba War, it seems to me that Ceddo recounts how someone is dispossessed of his role as spokesman., At the end of the film, the imam sends Jafaar away (despite all his grovelling attempts to keep himself in favour), and replaces him with one of his loyal followers, Babacar. In fact, the function changes. Babacar speaks on the orders of the imam, who himself supposedly speaks in the name of a book (the Koran) he knows by heart. But a book is nobody. This vertical transfer of speech replaces the horizontal circulation of African language where a liar, put at everyone's disposition, allows each one to "keep his word". It is after Jafaar's defeat that the reign of ideology, if you will, can begin. That is to say, the set of positions, not to say postures, that can be adopted before an untouchable Text: poses, travesties, excesses of zeal, hypocrisies, disguised unbelief. This is where Sembene becomes deliberately polemical: the ferocity with which he composes the portrait of the imam speaks clearly of his disdain for the servants of all dogma. More than an anti-Islamic film, Ceddo is anticlerical. Sembene hates priests. 
So much for Ceddo-language. Ceddo-music remains. I said above that there were two films, two stories, two "positive heroes": the people who collectively resist and the princess who becomes aware of the situation out in the isolation of the bush. The two films only converge in the final images, which are all the stronger for their forced, fictional quality. For when the princess kills the imam, it can only be an improbable end, an emblematic denouement: the final liberation of Africa yet to come. Sembene, more dialectical in this than filmmakers such as Leone or Kurosawa, knits together two stories without ever confusing them; he maintains the distance between the description of resistance and the fiction of liberation, between the people and its heroes, the collective and the individual, archaeology and convention. In short, the princess is not Zorro. 
In fact, if there are two Ceddos, they are treated by means of two different approaches to cinema. Where the archaeological part is based on speech, the allegorical part is based on music. Each time the film calls on known situations, belonging to a diffuse, trans-historical memory of the history of the African Diaspora, the music – by Manu Dibango – seems to play as a reminder, a connotation. Speech against music? Not really, more a kind of dichotomy: to music belongs everything that refers us to our ignorance – which, in the case of Africa, is boundless. The result is a fascinating displacement of affects. When the villagers are branded with a hot iron, when they are hustled onto the square to be rebaptized, the cruelty of the situation, far from being underlined by the music, is held at a distance, as though someone were murmuring ironically: but you already knew all that... The music (Negro spirituals, balafons, choruses evoking free jazz) does not reassure, exalt or dramatize, but makes meaning. For once, film music has something like the taste of ashes. For this is the music that the ceddo people and their children will make later, elsewhere: in the USA, in Brazil, in the Caribbean. And they don't yet know that. We know it (and more, we like that kind of music). The music is a future past, it will have been. In the same way, the ceddo people don't know that for we Westerns, they will become beings of music, good-for-song-and-dance – precisely to the extent that they will lose the right to speech. It's one thing to perceive in the music of the oppressed the reflection and expression of their oppression, but it's another to ask oneself this question: before being condemned to sing their condition, what did they say and how did they say it? Ceddo risks an answer. Above all, Ceddo allows us to ask the question.
First published in Cahiers du cinéma, issue 304, October 1979, and reprinted in La Rampe: Cahiers critique 1970-82 (Cahiers du Cinéma/Gallimard, 1983).

Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Organ and the Vacuum Cleaner

Another one from La Rampe.

The Organ and the Vacuum Cleaner (Bresson, the Devil, the voice-over and other things)  
"… given that air being a heavy body, and therefore (according to the system of Epicurus) continually descending, it will descend even more so, when loaded and pressed down by words; which are also bodies of much weight and gravity, as it is manifest from those deep impressions they make and leave upon us; and therefore must be delivered from a due altitude, or else they will neither carry a good aim, nor fall down with a sufficient force."(Swift) 
I would like to describe the sound setup (dispositif sonore) in a scene close to the beginning of Robert Bresson’s 1977 film The Devil Probably. The scene in question is the one in which Charles and his friends enter a church (we have already seen them hooted out of a political rally) and immediately find themselves involved in a rather lugubrious debate, whose subject, we quickly discover, is postconcilial Catholicism. How can I describe this scene (or fragment of a scene: Bresson’s films have long since dispensed with scenes) from the standpoint of sound?   
- Nothing prepares for it. At no point does the viewer anticipate where things are going. We are quickly (all too quickly for those who did not like the film) plunged into the middle of a debate, which, because it is reduced to this middle, is immediately denaturalized.  
- There are no sides in the debate; everyone is against everyone else. It might be better to call it a round of speeches rather than a debate, and those speeches are delivered in an irritatingly toneless, zombielike manner. Or perhaps one should call it a series of questions without pause for response or reply. 
- Everyone speaks, but each person utters only a single sentence. Each sentence is punctuated by a loud, sustained organ note. The vehemence lacking in the words seems to have been shifted to these impromptu interruptions. In a previous quick shot, we caught a glimpse of the organist as he sat down at his instrument and lifted the cover of the keyboard.  
- In addition to these two sounds, that of the organ above and the discussion below, each oblivious of the other, there is a third sound, of a vacuum cleaner being run over a red carpet. 
What holds this fragment together? Where is the thread, the logic? Not in the presumed psychology of the characters (Charles has supposedly decided to join this debate) or in the dramatization of the scene (in which he is supposed to have had a hand). It lies elsewhere, namely, in the fact that from the moment Charles and his friends enter the church, they are caught up in a random, heterogeneous system of sounds, a montage consisting of the debate, the organ, and the vacuum cleaner, which literally disposes of them. This Bressonian heterology consists of three terms: the high (organ), the low (debate), and a third term that destroys the opposition between high and low, namely, the trivial (vacuum cleaner). All the newcomers can do is add their own sounds to the ambient sound configuration, or, rather, chaos, which is the true “subject” of the film. Or perhaps, as we are told in Godard’s 1976 Here and Elsewhere, sound is always too loud
There is something paradoxical about The Devil Probably. Never before has Bresson seemed so concerned with being topical, yet at the same time he has never been more vehemently, radically insistent on his contempt for all discourse. Not only because talk and speechifying inevitably lead to theatre (bombast, pathos), thereby transforming “models” into actors, histrionic performers, but also because all discourse, insofar as it aims at triviality (or worse, edification) presupposes an emitter, and for Bresson the human emitter is ridiculously inadequate as a sonic system (dispositif sonore). 
There is a sonic hierarchy, in which speech and speechifiers occupy the bottom rung. Charles encounters several of the latter in the course of his (elegant) Calvary, from the bookseller who “preaches destruction” in a crypt to the ineffable Dr. Mime, the great psychoanalyst. If the speechifiers are (irrevocably) condemned, it is because they are reasoners without resonance. Their talk is dull, colorless, and stilted. Their attitude toward money is similar: think of the checkbook with which the bookseller wants to buy the prostitute, or the stack of banknotes and checks that we glimpse in Dr. Mime’s half-open drawer. In paper money there is something solidified, turdlike, and soundless, something we can grasp more fully if we look again at the “inspired” scene in the film, the one that shows the second visit to the church. When Valentin follows Charles into the church “conditionally” (he is under the influence of drugs), it is under the sign of sacrilege (Valentin breaks open the poorbox) and simulacrum (Charles plays Monteverdi on a record player) that the simultaneous clinking of coins and tinkle of music set up the metaphor voice/gold.  
Yet another reasoner is Michel, the ecologist. He is a well-known Bressonian figure: the “best friend” who makes edifying speeches and is usually sexually desired (but not loved) by the heroine, a situation of which he takes advantage (think of Jacques, the fiend in Pickpocket). In The Devil Probably, Michel is working on a militant film about ecology which we see him showing to (or perhaps in collaboration with) a group of friends. Some critics have poked fun at this scene, which they see as an indication that a senile Bresson is willing to do anything to make his supposed portrait of youth credible. But the scene is anything but simple. The film without a film is silent, and Michel and his friends “speak” the commentary as it is projected. As to the commentary (commentaire), there is no better example of what Pascal Bonitzer has termed the comment-taire (how to silence): the young people read it, mouth the words, mumble their way through
 the text. What we see is nothing less than the fabrication of a voice-over narrative.  
There is a disturbing quality in the alternation, in the film within the film, between oftentimes violent images (the washing of the oil tanker, the red slime, the slaughter of a baby seal) and the moving hands of the commentators, who hold electric lamps that pick out the words on paper that are to be read or recited – posted over the images, as it were. The fabrication of a voice-over: it is quite bold of Bresson to film these well-dressed youths, who, as they watch images that illustrate their own cause, can respond only with words that have already ceased to resonate and begun to stagnate. Enough has already been said in the Cahiers about the dubious facility of the voice “over” (the rationale for the quotation marks will become clear in a moment) that one cannot fail to be struck by what is going on before our very eyes: the separation of the silent violence of the images from the blasé commentary, the distancing of the silent visual cry from the voice keeping “out of sight” in obscurity.  
Here we confront the inability of human discourse (and of the human voice) to bear the violence of the world. Bresson’s pessimism is hardly new: in The Devil, it is simply more naked. Clearly, the problem is not what Charles is looking for (his quest) or what he thinks (his convictions). It does not matter whether or not he opposes the ecological crusade or the macrobiotic diet. Indeed, the debate over ideas invariably takes off against a deafening background of sounds (the shouts in the crypt, the trees being cut down); the decibel level is high. The sound is always too loud. And if Michel is discredited in Charles’s eyes, it is not because the cutting of the trees (to which he consents) contradicts his ecological convictions but because the horrible sound that the falling trees make makes all debate pointless in advance, because it is inaudible.  
So much for Bresson’s “materialism”: so far as discourse is concerned, it is the ear, not the brain, that decides. The voice is only a noise, one of the softest kinds of noise. And what Charles wants is not to be convinced (for he is certain of his superiority) or to convince (since he is prepared to say virtually anything in order to have the last word) but to be vanquished. And in the Bressonian logic of sonic bodies (corps sonores) he can be vanquished only by a noise louder than all the rest: a gunshot into the water and then into the back of the neck.  
At the risk of disappointing, therefore, the question of whether Charles is a symbol of present-day youth as seen by Bresson has to be set aside. Bresson is not at last, in old age, turning his attention to young people; youth has always been the only subject that interests him. The Bressonian “model” is never more than thirty years old. It is better to study Charles as one sonic body among others – the chosen one.  
At bottom, Charles cares only about one thing: having the last word – not, however, in the manner of the glib talker who wins arguments intellectually but more in the manner of a parrot. Amid the bedlam produced by machines out of control, he has the last word only because he never has the first. He is best compared to the nymph Echo, who, according to Ovil, “cannot speak first, / cannot keep silent when spoken to, / and repeats the last words of the last voice she hears.” 
A poor transmitter-receiver, the Bressonian hero-nymph can sand up to the overwhelming volume of sound only by being, like the twice-empty church, a mere conduit, a resonance chamber. In Charles’s sham tirade against Dr. Mime, all he can do is read, in the thick voice of an exasperated snob, a list of the “horrors” of modern civilization that he has torn from a magazine. He can only repeat. Living – up to the moment when he buys the right to die from the silent Valentin – is merely a matter of allowing the world, whose sounds is too loud for him, to resonate within, without speaking for himself or even opening his mouth; he is an accompanist of the world’s din. He is and old-fashioned form of resistance, known to schoolchildren the world over: he hums with his mouth closed. In this there is, of course, religious nostalgia: he the Middle Ages, the term neume was applied to musical phrases emitted in a single breath (uno pneumate) – without opening the mouth, because if one did open it, who knows what might enter in? Probably the devil.
“Vocal chords can vibrate in the absence of any airflow and under the sole effect of nervous stimulations.” (Moulonguet and Portmann) 
Thus, we must digress a moment to consider the voice. In Lacanian terms, it is a question of an object “a”, and one of its partial objects is the mouth. But the voice is not produced exclusively in the mouth. It always originates deeper down. The voice involves the entire body
What distinguishes the cinematic voice is that it can have a visual double, a shadow that seems to prey on it. It never seems easier to grasp or more tangible than at the moment when it is emitted, when it leaves the body through purposefully twisted lips. This mentonymy is crucial: what is seen (the moving lips, the open mouth, the tongue and teeth) justifies the belief in the reality of what is heard at the same time. 
There is no other way of assigning a body to a voice than by way of such a visual stand-in: it is the image that ascribes reality to what remains invisible by definition. Silent film lived off this emtonymy (no smoke without fire, no moving lips without voice) resolved into metaphor (the interpolated title took the place of the voice). As Anne-Marie Miéville says in Godard’s 1978 Comment ça va, the eyes are in command. We blame the discrepancy between image and sound when a film is poorly synchronised or dubbed. But to appreciate the full import of such complaints, one has to ask if we are capable of recognizing a poorly synchronised foot or back. Obviously, this question comes from Bresson, who was once of the first to take the fragmentary bodies of his “models” as the ghost of the voice, its visual stand-in, as it were. 
“Dubbing is crude and naïve,” he writes in Notes sur le cinématographe. “Unreal voices, inconsistent with the movement of the lips. Out of sync with the lungs and the heart. Coming ‘from the wrong mouths.’” Bresson is one filmmaker (Jacques Tati is another) who has always insisted on a certain realism of sound. In this respect, he was deeply influential on the most innovative New Wave filmmakers. Note, however, that he mentions not only the mouth and lips but also the lungs and heart. Although he insisted on realism, he never made a fetish of directly recorded sound; rather, he stubbornly insisted on meticulous postsynchronization of carefully mixed and orchestrated tracks. Why? Precisely because he drew a distinction between the voice and the mouth. If one looks at the mouth, it is easy (and takes no effort) to see that something is being said. But the voice involves the whole body, including the heart and lungs, which cannot be seen. 
In order to pursue this theme further, on needs to be wary of such terms as “voice-over” and the like, which are altogether too dependent on the visual and, as such, surreptitiously extend the hegemony of the eye, with the inevitable consequence that the ear is mutilated: film, we are told, is primarily images, which “strike the eye” and “orient vision.” The advent of direct sound recording in televised news reports, ethnographic documentaries, and propaganda films, together with the wild enthusiasm for the essential immediacy of the audiovisual (Jean Rouch and Jean-Marie Straub, quickly copied but poorly understood), led people to pattern sonic space after visual space, which served to guarantee its veracity, to authenticate it. In fact, however, the two spaces are heterogeneous. A more precise description of each is required, along with terminology for specifying their interactions. 
To begin with, there is always a danger of importing what is primarily a vocabulary of technical terms. One saw this in the phrase “images and sounds,” which became so overused after Godard introduced it that it lost all specific meaning. For whom does a film consist of images and sounds? For the person who makes it and the person who deconstructs it, the technician and the semiologist, but not for the person who watches it. Just when talking about “images and sounds” became the last word in materialism (although for Godard it was already the “and” that was interesting), people began to notice that this terminology made it impossible to discuss the place of the spectator, the system of which he was a part, of his desire. The problem had to be approached from a different angle – in terms of the gaze (which is neither the eye nor the image) and the voice (which is neither the mouth nor the ear nor the sound). And also in terms of drives (the “scopic” drive: to look is not the same as to see, to listen is not the same as to hear). 
In terms of images, the distinction between on-screen and off-screen occurrences, while no doubt useful for writing a screenplay or critically analyzing a film, is not subtle enough for a theory of missing objects because there are different types of off-screen events. Some objects are permanently missing (either because they are unrepresentable – for instance, to take the standard example, the camera that cannot film itself filming the scene – or taboo, such as the prophet Muhammad), while others are temporarily out of sight, hence subject to the familiar alternation of presence and absence, of Fort Da, to use the Freudian metaphor. The possibility of eternal return is greeted by the spectator with either horror or relief. These are not the same, even if they happen off-screen. 
The same on-screen/off-screen distinction that is already of dubious value in discussing the visual is altogether too crude for analyzing voices. Broadly speaking, the term voice-over refers to the voices of off-screen speakers. But this really depends on a distinction between sound that is synchronized and sound that is not: the voice is reduced to its visual stand-in, which is itself reduced to the configuration and shape of the lips. The voice-over is then identified with an absence in the image. I favour the opposite approach: voices should be related to their effects in or on the image. 
I will use the term voice-over narrowly to describe an off-screen voice that always runs parallel to the sequence of images and never intersects with it. For example, in a documentary about sardines, the voice-over can say whatever it likes (whether it describes sardines or slanders them makes no difference); it remains without measurable impact on the fish. This voice, superimposed on the image after the fact and linked to it by editing, is a purely metalanguistic phenomenon. It is addressed (both as statement and delivery) solely to the viewer, with whom it enters into an alliance or contract that ignores the image. Because the image serves only as the pretext for the wedding of commentary and viewer, the image is left in an enigmatic state of abandonment, of frantic disinheritance, which gives it a certain form of presence, of obtuse significance (Barthes’ third meaning), which (with a certain element of perversity) can be enjoyed incognito, as it were. To see this, mute the sound on your television and look at the images left to themselves. Voice-over of this kind can be coercive. If, speaking of sardines, I say that “these grotesque animals, driven by a suicidal compulsion, hasten toward the fisherman’s nets and end their lives in the most ridiculously way imaginable,” the statement will contaminate not the sardines but the gaze of the spectator, who is obliged to make what sense he can of it despite the obvious disparity between what he sees and what he hears. The voice-over narrative, which coerces the image, intimidates the gaze, and creates a double-bind, is one of the primary modes of propaganda in film. 
This is the level at which a director like Godard operates: one might call it the “voice-over degree zero.” In his 1976 Leçons de chose (the second part of Six fois deux), the sudden intrusion of a shot of a marketplace (an intrusion that is as violent as it is sudden, since like all of Godard’s images it is totally unpredictable) is immediately baptized “fire” by the soundtrack. This is justified in part by a play on words (flambée des prix is French for “skyrocketing prices,” hence the connection to the image of the marketplace, but flambée also means “blaze,” hence the connection to the soundtrack), in part as a response to the intrusiveness of the image and the enunciation of the word, retroactively re-marking the violence. One sees the same thing in Here and Elsewhere with the sequence on “how to organize an assembly line.” With each new image, Godard’s voice hollowly repeats the words: “Well, this way… like this… but also like that.” In relation to the “one-by-one” sequence of images that the voice plays the same role as quotation marks in a text: it highlights but also distances. 
The voice-over is the focal point of all power, all arbitrariness, all omission. In this respect, there is little difference between Marguerite Duras’s 1975 India Song, the documentary about sardines, a Situationist film, and the Chinese propaganda film on which it is based: the contract with the viewer (seduction, pedagogy, demagogy) depends on coercion of the image. The potential here for the exercise of power is unlimited. The only way to escape from this vicious circle is for the voice-over to take a risk, and to do so as voice: either by multiplication (not once voice but many voices, not one certitude but many enigmas) or, even more, by singularization. And the way to escape from the politics of the auteurs is through a “politics of voices, inimitable voices (Godard, Duras and, for some time now, Bresson). Radio takes is revenge on film, Dziga Vertov on Sergei Eisentstein, the simple voice on the constructed dialogue, and the feminine on the masculine. 
By contract, I will use the term, “in voice” to refer to a voice that participates in the image, merges with it, and has material impact on it by way of a visual stand-in. If my commentary on sardines has the effect of leaving the poor fish stranded in their mere presence as sardines, my voice has a totally different effect if, in the course of a live report, I ask someone a question. Even if that question is spoken off-camera, my voice intrudes in the image, affecting my interlocutor’s face and body and triggering a furtive or perhaps overt reaction, a response. The viewer can measure the violence of my statement by the disturbance it causes in the person who receives it, as one might catch a bullet or a ball (or other small “a” objects), to one side or head on. This is the technique used by Jori Ivens and Marceline Loridan in their 1976 How Yukong Moved the Mountain. It is also the technique of horror films and of the “subjective” films of Robert Montgomery. One also sees it in the now somewhat outmoded technique of having a voice put familiar questions to the characters in a film, who halt their action long enough to respond. Think, for example, of Sacha Guitry’s paternalistic attitude toward his “creations,” or the complicity between the narrator and characters in films from Salah Abou Sefi’s Entre ciel et terre to Louis Berlanga’s Welcome, Mr. Marshall
The “in” voice is the focal point of a different but just as redoubtable form of power. What is presented as the emergence of truth may well be merely the production of discomfort in the guinea pig forced to answer questions as the viewer looks on. There are at least two other kinds of voices: those spoken “within” the image, either through a mouth (“out voice”) or through an entire body (“through voice”). 
The “out” voice is basically the voice as it emerges from a mouth. It is projected, dropped, thrown away: one of various objects expelled from the body (along with the gaze, blood, vomit, sperm, and so on). With the out voice we touch on the nature of the cinematographic image itself: though flat, it gives the illusion of depth. Both the voice-over and the in voice emanate from an imaginary space (whose position varies with the type of projection equipment, configuration of the theatre, placement of loudspeakers, and the location of the spectator). By contrast, the “out” voice emanates from an illusory space, a decoy. It emerges from the filmed body, which is a body of a problematic sort, a false surface and a false depth. It is a container with a false bottom, with no bottom at all, which expels (and therefore makes visible) objects as generously as Buster Keaton’s taxis can disgorge regiments. This filmed body is made in the image of the barracks in Cops or of the church in Seven Chances
The out voice is a form of pornography in the sense that it fetishes the moment of emergence from the lips (stars’ lips, or, in X.27, Marlene foregoing lipstick before the firing squad). Similarly, porno films are entirely centered on the spectacle of the orgasm seen from the male side, that is, the most visible side. The out voice gives rise to a “material theatre” since it is central to every religious metaphor (passage from inside to outside with metamorphosis). To grasp the moment of emission of the voice is to grasp the moment when the object o separates from the partial object. Pornographic cinema is a denial of this separation, which threatens to reduce the object a to unproductive expenditure (waste) and the partial object to its status as orgasm (meat). It attempts to sustain as long as possible the fetish of an orgasm that can only be followed by another orgasm and so on, ad infinitum – the constant obligation of the visible, “the transparent sphere of seminal emission,” as Pascal Bruckner and Alan Finkielkraut nicely phrase it. There is a pornography of the voice comparable in every way to the pornography of sex (abusive use of interviews, mouths of political leaders, and so on). Clever writers have woven stories around this theme (such as Daniel Schmid’s Angels’ Shadow, in which a prostitute is paid to listen, and Le Sexe qui parle, in which a woman’s vagina expresses its insatiable appetite). 
Finally, a “through” voice is a voice that originates within the image but does not emanate from the mouth. Certain types of shot, involving characters filmed from behind, from the side, or in three-quarter view or from behind a piece of furniture, screen, another person, or an obstacle of some sort, cause the voice to be separated from the mouth. The status of the through voice is ambiguous and enigmatic, because its visual stand-in is the body in all its opacity, the expressive body, in whole or in part.  It is well known that for reasons of economy, poor filmmakers often film speaking characters from behind rather than in front. Of course, the backs in question are not “real.” For Bresson (and Straub) the whole problem is to shift the effect of frontal filming to some other part of the body, to something round and smooth. Modern filmmaking (since Bresson, in fact) has featured a large number of bodies filmed from behind (sometime in seductive and provocative ways). Direct and indirect, here and elsewhere. The latest (and not the least mysterious) of these back shots is of Anne-Marie Miéville in Comment ça va
“The devil jumps in his mouth.” Do not make the devil jump in a mouth. “All husbands are ugly.” Do not show a multitude of ugly husbands. (Bresson) 
I will conclude with a word on the famous “Bressonian voice,” which both exasperated and enchanted a generation or two of filmgoers. The timbre of the voice has been attributed to Bresson’s outspoken hatred of the theatre. A small number of critics has seen it as Bresson’s unavowed homage to a class (the grande bourgeoisie) whose children he fetishizes but at the cost of transforming them into young, déclassé aristocrats caught up in Dostoyevskian plots. Both these views are correct. But one can also say that the Bressonian voice is a voice that requires the minimum possible opening of the mouth, that limits, or reserves, the spectacle of emission as much as possible. 
In The Devil Probably there is indeed a radical disjunction of voice and mouth. On the one hand, the voice involves the entire body, instruments, and machines (the organ blows, the vacuum cleaner breathes). Bresson’s slogan might be: Don’t look to see where the voice is coming from, don’t look for the visible origin of what you hear. To that end, after showing how voices are reduced to noise, he shows how noises begin to constitute voices (all of which Charles hears, except that he is not Joan of Arc, and to him the voices say nothing). On the other hand, he sees the mouth in terms of its function as orifice, or hole, and of the pleasure of its possessor – the mouth as an instrument of the devil’s pleasure.
First published in Cahiers du cinéma, issue 278-280, Aug-Sept 1977 and reprinted in La Rampe: Cahiers critique 1970-82 (Cahiers du Cinema/Gallimard, 1983). Published in English in Literary Debate: texts and contexts, volume 2, edited by Dennis Hollier and Jeffrey Mehlman, The New Press, 1999. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer.

The Screen of Fantasy

This text was on Steve Erickson's old website but since it's included in a book  still in print and available for purchase, I'll reference it rather than re-post. Note that you can probably find it easily online with a bit of search (here with a free trial for example).
The Screen of Fantasy (Bazin and Animals) 
Originally published as “L'écran du fantasme” in Cahiers du cinéma, issue 236-237, March-April 1972. The text also features in Daney's first book, La Rampe. English Translation by Mark A. Cohen  in Rites of Realism, Edited by Ivone Margulies, Duke University Press, 2002, pp. 32-41. 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

On “Salador”

More re-posting of translations from La Rampe.

On “Salador” (cinema and advertising) 
"What is it that is now 'appearance' to me! Verily, not the antithesis of any kind of essence - what knowledge can I assert of any kind of essence whatsoever, except merely the predicates of its appearance! Verily not a dead mask which one could put upon an unknown X, and which to be sure one could also remove! Appearance is for me the operating and living thing itself, which goes so far in its self-mockery as to make me feel that here there is appearance, a Will o' the Wisp, a spirit dance, and nothing more." (Nietzsche) 
1. There is a great deal lacking in the continuing claim to regard the cinema as being related to reality, to the world, or to life as it is lived. First and foremost, let us take the relation to the visual. The visual is neither the double nor the outrageous, false or inaccurate misrepresentation of something else; the visual is already something else, something which is not neutral, which has its own laws, effects and exigencies. The cinema which dreamt of a "direct engagement with the world" was, at a deeper level, postulating that from the "real" to the visual and from the visual to its filmed reproduction the same truth was reflected infinitely, with neither distortion nor loss. And it may be supposed that in a world where one readily says "see"" for "understand," such a dream did not come about by chance, for the dominant ideology, which sets up the "real = visible" equation, has every interest in encouraging it. 
2. Ideology and cinema. The problem has in recent times been displaced; suspicion has been shifted on to the simple act of filming, on to the camera (1) and its construction, etc. Granted. But why not retrace the issue further back still, and challenge that which is both served by the camera and precedes it: the quite blind trust in the visible, the gradually acquired hegemony of the eye over the other senses, a society's taste and need for seeing itself reflected, etc.? In so doing, it becomes difficult to avoid a shaming iconoclasm in which all relations to the image are experienced as mortal sins (Godard and the false images of Pravda); difficult also to avoid losing sight of the specific history of the specular, a moment itself endowed with a history, whose end point we may possibly foresee. 
3. Photology. The cinema is therefore connected to the Western metaphysical tradition, a tradition of seeing and sight for which it fulfils the photological vocation. What is photology and what indeed might the discourse of light be? A teleological discourse, undoubtedly, if it is true that teleology "consists of neutralizing duration and force in favour of the illusion of simultaneity and form." (Derrida.) 
4. Duration and force: in other words, work. "Light effaces its traces; invisible itself, it renders visible," always giving us a finished, perfected world in which work (to begin with, its own) is properly speaking unimaginable, a world which we recognize only because we have never known it and which we risk never knowing at all, taken as in we are by its "apparentness." Let us designate as "photological" that obstinate will to confuse vision and cognition [connaissance], making the latter the compensation of the former and the former the guarantee of the latter, seeing in directness of vision the model of cognition. 
5. There is one oeuvre which, with an acuteness not shared by others (which is why it seems so exceptional), has constantly tried to pin down that equation of vision and cognition: Rohmer's. Significantly, it has only achieved this aim within the framework of an educational film, Les cabinets de physique au XVIIIe siècle. Once the conditions of the experiment are set up and the results allowed for, what happens "between" - i.e. the film, the actual time of the experiment - is simultaneously the unfolding of a spectacle and the birth of an idea. "We have relapsed into the mirror myth of knowledge as the vision of a given object or the reading of an established text, neither of which is ever anything but transparency itself, the sin of blindness as much as the virtue of clear-sightedness belonging by right to vision, to the eye of man." (Althusser.) 
6. Not long ago, the "world view" and the "exercise of observation," privileged themes of criticism, were equivalent at all levels simultaneously: the characters scanned the sets, the filmmaker looked at the world and the spectator looked at the film. Any awakening of consciousness was in the first instance a training of the look, and if by chance the film happened to be political, all class struggle was reabsorbed into the “birth of a sun” (2). A heliopolitics of which a film like Andrei Rublev is only a belated example. If we are considering recent films, we prefer Sollima's admirable Dernier Face à face (3), where such a mechanism - "I see, therefore I am aware" - is perverted and made ridiculous by constant repetition. 
7. Let us venture to say that "the logic of sight and oversight" has a conclusion, which we are beginning to discern. A cinema giving us the evidence and the splendour of truth has long existed: the advertising film, where all truth is immediately verifiable, where one clearly sees the eruption of the white tornado, the softness of Krema caramel, or the most obstinate stain yielding to K2R. Most films distributed, to the extent that they are a "development" of pre-existing material, increasingly refer to this aesthetic and create for themselves the themes and preoccupations it allows (the "rise to consciousness" in the twin forms of advertising and propaganda.) The undeniable beauty of the "Salador" (4) advertising (Pirés and Grimblat), the leap forward they constitute for advertising in the extreme care and precision of their work, should here and now stir big business into seeing that such a talent is not dissipated on pseudo-films. So, instead of pretending to shoot a dramatic scene with Montand in the Congo (Vivre Pour Vivre), Lelouch should be singing the praises of a brand of jeans, Melville of a style in raincoats. 
8. Besides, it would be curious to see how far what since the war we have called "modern" cinema has consisted of merely conferring a new dignity on these despised but already existing marginal forms, through a sort of regressive hypostasis of which painting has already provided an example. Not just advertising, but also "coming attractions," film titles, amateur films, etc. 
9. If cinema involves photology, then every film, if it cannot control it, is controlled by it. And if it cannot manage to control photology, let film (prisoner of the light) designate it at least, let it be aware of the extent to which the world is "deeper than the day imagines." This involves two discoveries which, despite their extreme simplicity, are nevertheless shocking because they clearly reveal what there has been a wish to hide: that there is no innocence in the "real," or in technique, that cinema is not simply a relation to the visual but, at a deeper level, a fundamental complicity and constantly reasserted play between two modes of visibility. 
10. First mode. Everything that can and is to be filmed (the profilmic material) thereby has an LCD (Lowest Common Denominator) - its visibility. What happens, for example, in Freaks? The problem Browning seems to pose is resolved from the outset. From the moment the monsters can share a shot with men, they are no longer truly monsters; what unites them with men is stronger than what separates them (so much so that Browning has to reintroduce monstrosity at the same time as - and through - the fiction.) Cinema is a dangerous machine to tame; it provides differences, but only within a more fundamental resemblance. 
11. On the subject of that resemblance, it was the discovery of the great filmmakers of the classical age (those who recognized it and took it over; Hawks, Browning, Lubitsch, undoubtedly; certainly Ford and Renoir.) In wanting to confront the most varied men and worlds within the same space, indeed the same shot, in wanting to have the play/pleasure of this exacerbated diversity (and their whole art consists in rendering the firmness of distinctions), they inevitably achieved the reverse effect – a solidarity apparently automatically there to the eye of the camera, rather like the complicity of a theatre company which, when the curtain falls on the illusory spectacle of its disunity, experiences a deeper sense of unity. 
12. For spectacle is clearly what it is about for those lovers of "small worlds," reproduced from film to film, diversity offered in the form of spectacle, thus (slyly) denied. But it is a spectacle as yet imperfect, owing too much to the theatre, and which it should have been possible to liberate. Perhaps now we can interpret the break that Rossellini's work appeared to make directly after the war. He did not so much oppose the classical cinema as destroy it by assuming its ultimate consequences – by making the spectacle the deepest level, by generalizing it. Suddenly everything, from the obscene to the insignificant, was set at the same level (bringing up the concomitant problems of morality – the point about tracking shots – and commercial failure.) Cinema is by nature a leveller. 
13. Second Mode. Everything that has been filmed (every shot) possesses as a result an LCD (another mode of visibility, not now visibility in general but the specific visibility of the cinema.) The question here is the insertion of what has been filmed at some moment on the strip of film, its limitation by framing and duration, both equally irrevocable. While the first mode allowed "something" to be inscribed on the screen, the second makes possible the transitivity and facilitation of meaning, via an attribute common, beyond all divergences, to all shots, and one of which recently has been constantly and frenziedly referred to. The issue is no longer just the twofold spatial and temporal limitation of any shot (a limitation played on by all those wanting to write with images from the standpoint of meaning.) It is also, now above all, the fact of being inscribed on that material base, of being just one instance of the only rule of cinema – the vertical unrolling of the strip of celluloid, with or without images. 
14. Observation. It is not saying much to say that such proofs (that the "presence" of something on the screen and the possibility of meaning happen in a sense automatically, thus shockingly) have been obscured because they were too obvious to be really thought about; the history of cinema has perhaps been the continual refusal to want to know anything about it. A denial which is only possible through reduplication: filmmakers had willingly to repeat effects they strongly suspected they could just as well do without. To the inadequate presence (inadequate because obtained without work or worth) they have continuously opposed a strategy which privileged and emphasized the actor and the decor, a four-square presence of which MacMahonism was only a belated theorization. To the imperfect meaning (diffuse, multiple meaning: Untersinn) they opposed an intended meaning, taken over by an écriture in which the reason for any passage from A to B had itself to be represented, even if under the mask of a lack (see “La Suture”). 
15. In what way has the cinema been suspect until now? On what has the suspicion rested? Always or almost always on the technique of the "take," in the sense of capture or rape, in which some "adamic" reality, which asked only to speak of itself, was to be manipulated. So an increasingly invisible and candid camera has to covers its tracks, because filming is never anything but seeing, and seeing plainly. The only question not asked was: what is being manipulated? And does something which is looked at innocently become innocent for that reason? Or rather, does not the look become so much more threatening because the objects looked at are chosen from among the most cultural, those heavy with meaning and saturated with ideology? In this sense cinema-vérité (as Reichenbach envisaged it) joins the star system; or better, is its survival. 
16. It is (yet another) banality to say that everything which comes into the camera's field does not for that reason stop belonging to other fields. What is going to be filmed has always already been filmed. As for the images with which we continue to fill our heads, we have to admit that their referent is now hardly a "reality" which we have experienced, but rather an imaginary experience we have already had from seeing these images in other films, the habit formed by their spectacle. Every tracking shot of a man walking down a street doesn't make me attach it to my own experience of walking, however rich it is, but rather a series of memories from Sunrise to La Punition, which should no doubt be called the "concrete imaginary." For the film-freak generation which has buried itself in the cinémathéques, can death be anything but the effect of falling bodies on the screen? 
17. There is hardly any problem more serious for new filmmakers. And it is no accident that the most talented of them are, indeed, former critics and film buffs, no longer unaware that cinema has become – besides a (specific) culture and tradition in the history of the specular – an increasingly lively eye and an increasingly failing memory. Reducing the world to a generalized spectacle is the business of television. Cinema's survival is now the extent to which it can introduce "play" into a general sense of image saturation. That play consists of delaying as long as possible (a few seconds is enough) the takeover of the seen by the already-seen, and so of showing something never-seen – at least on the screen. Among these last rounds are exoticism, pornography, possibly science fiction. The only essential is to reinvest all the problems posed by the film's total meaning (the sequence of shots) into the unique and crucial problem of the reading of the shot, its decoding (what is it?). The future of cinema? To take seriously, in every sense, its figurative nature. At least one film (2001), where the camera starts at the level of primates and ends alongside Norman McLaren, made its acknowledged subject the future of representation. 
18.Unless, that is, a cinema which seeks to be self-critical, not content with this flight forward and this need for the never-seen which can only exhaust itself unsatisfied, already clearly sees a signified (which will need to be forced into the open, indicated) in each profilmic signifier. Its relation to photology would be its particular way of accusing or not accusing the false innocence of the "real," a reality which for it is always the already-filmed. We see here the two modes of visibility at work: the specific means of the second (framing and duration) as an interrogation and deconstruction of the material furnished by the first (shooting). A text no longer concealing its pretext, a pretext suspected in turn. Furthermore, a film's relation to photology can appear in (at least) three forms, according to whether it presupposes the profilmic material to be
- neutral
- neutralized
- neither.
The first form is represented by all films (the great majority) which, under the guise of objectivity, remain within the ideology (which they reassert without necessarily recognizing) and soon lapse into advertising. "Salador" is to date an unsurpassed expression of this kind of cinema. 
19. The second form warrants further explanation. Suspected of equivocating the technique of shooting had logically to be thought capable of "transfiguring," "transmuting" the profilmic material (and in so doing, of neutralizing its effects). This is a quasi-magical operation, ecstatically evoked, an alchemy in which the profilmic lead is changed into filmed gold, autonomous grains and fragments owing nothing thereafter to their pretext, their ordering and sequence permitting the facilitation of meaning. All "cinematography" needed such a postulate (and, as we know, it was Bresson who theorized the need: "For film, the theme is, in my view, a pretext for creating cinematic content.") What was it he needed? To believe in the exchange value of shots, so that nothing in shot A is lost or damaged when a transition to shot B is secured. And transition is certainly the issue here - neume and absolute transitivity, moving on by conserving, capitalizing. 
20. Who are those who wanted to write with images? It is time we realized that such a wish, so often formulated, was only formulated by those (from Eisenstein to Bresson) who scorned ideas that were not idées fixes, of the order of obsessions (sexual, no doubt) and fantasies, such that only a unique and terrorist discourse could take them on. These were the great obsessives who demanded the most from cinema: that a film should say only one thing, achieve just one effect, but decisively. These pioneers saw to what extent the thing could not work as soon as they were convinced that in the cinema – as elsewhere – every effect is achieved once only. Was Hawks (or Lubitsch) preoccupied with anything else? The important thing for Hawks, the only effect he wished to produce (pleasure in/for itself), is also the easiest to achieve (even in the deceptive and metaphorical form of Adventure), as it is the quickest to be erased. Hawks is the filmmaker of an always total pleasure (no matter how dull and lacklustre) with no option other than to repeat it endlessly (the importance of repetition in Hawks is well known) because it is never achieved. 
21. Every effect is achieved only once – but it must not be achieved too soon or it will be attenuated and forgotten, only a repetition can reactivate it, without, however, enriching it. From this we can see the deceptive side of the Hawksian (or Lubitschian) world, because achieving the same effect a second time requires an ever-increasing expenditure of energy, a world destined for exhaustion and entropy, with no other aim than its own prolongation. Filmmakers with an aim (a desire) also know that there is only one moment appropriate for the decisive effect (cf. the Bertheau episode in La Vie est à Nous). These are therefore the filmmakers of the snare, since their problem is to capitalize on secondary effects, ceaselessly investing signifieds in new signifiers and making themselves masters of a chain where nothing allows the end to be envisaged, masters of a frenetic transitivity which condemns them to say nothing real, never to come to a stop, were they not flagged down by the actual, material end of the film, and obliged to finish it before it is finished (a new duplication of an inevitable and automatic effect). It is surely in Lang's films that we can best see this reluctance to conclude and the very edgy humour which presides over what are always simulated endings (Secret Beyond the Door). In the cinema also, to write means not to finish. 
22. This incompatibility between a film which cannot exceed a certain duration and a meaning which can be reasserted by a trifle gave rise to compromise solutions which all took the form of coups de force, the only thing which could end the chain, capitalize on its links and reactivate them in the direction of a prediction of the past. In this one can recognize the major concern of several celebrated films which seemed modern to their defenders in Cahiers around 1955; miracle films or, as Jacques Rivette rightly observed, films of the final reversal, which managed to represent simultaneously the most advanced state of reflection on the cinema and an often religious way of accounting for that reflection. Why? Because such a power (the intrusive power of writing) could only be sustained by introducing a guarantee, a transcendental signified, which cinema had gradually learned to do without, leaving it to advertising films for which it has always been the truth. ("Salador.") 
23. One man bewitched by these powers very soon recognized that he could hardly avoid simulating their coups de force, and that, by insisting on provoking them, he was all the more clearly showing them to be arbitrary and a trick, no longer even capable of valorizing after the event a sequence of shots in which there was already revealed a radical inability to capitalize; reflection was to make of that inability a rejection, and out of that rejection has come a hesitant theory... We are saying that Jean-Luc Godard , when he was filming Vivre Sa Vie, was thinking of Karina as, he imagined, before him Renoir thought of C. Hessling (Nana), Rossellini of I. Bergman (Europa 51), if not Fellini of G. Massina (Cabiria). But let Nana smile, dance, sell her body or die, the evidence is that a woman is always a woman and that it is an illusion to think that a film can say anything else, an illusion whose results are equally obvious in film theory (every shot is a transition, a difference of effect which is the only more decisive for being final) and in the themes treated (whores are saints, the guilty innocent, etc). All of which Godard was very aware of when he took a turn (with Le Mépris) from which the cinema has scarcely begun to come back. 
24. Le Mépris (Contempt). In 1964, everyone wanted to know whether Godard, the enfant terrible of the new cinema, faced with the demands of big budget production and the whims of famous actors, would come away from the venture without losing anything, making all that profilmic machinery in the final analysis unrecognizable. At the time everyone was raving about the magic of cinema and the genius of the auteur, the man who imprints the indelible mark of his vision on everything and everyone. While all that may have constituted a fantasy for Godard (filming at the big MGM studios), it all turns out as if he had finally decided on the impossibility, or more accurately the uninterest, of such an enterprise, which is in fact the real subject of the film. Since it is therefore the story of a failure (and itself a commercial failure), Le Mépris becomes a question of knowing whether failure is not perhaps more profound than any success. That is, is it not the demiurges who fail? 
25. What happens in Le Mépris? Still the same story – getting there too late, the game already played, where the score is settled and the cards have a fixed value and way of playing them. What is the point of playing the best possible hand, smuggling in meaning between the lines, when the game is already over? Homer wrote the Odyssey and Moravia wrote Contempt. Prokosch wanted to put it into images and Ponti wanted to put it on the screen. They summoned famous "artists" (Lang, Godard) whose (commercial) thirst for being scorned they were able to slake. ("One has to suffer," says Lang, and everyone knows that Godard had to shoot things he had not foreseen.) Every new player of the great Culture and Capital game has to respect (and not reflect upon) the traces in his work of what came before him, and which he should not improve upon. Choosing the place (Capri), the story (the Odyssey), and the characters (Lang, Bardot) closest to myth, Godard discovered what he was later to elucidate constantly: that you can't both use and be used by that profilmic material. You deny it, believing you are going beyond it, but you ignore it without going beyond it. It is time, more modestly, to indicate its overdetermination for what it is. Every film is a palimpsest. 
(1) The famous “Technique and ideology” series by Jean-Louis Comolli will be published in Cahiers 229, 230, 231, 233 and 240 between 1971 and 1973. 
(2) In accordance with Jean Douchet’s beautiful expression in Cahiers 133 on Renoir’s Caporal Epinglé. 
(3) Sergio Sollima had then directed a few “Italian style” westerns including Faccia a faccia with Gian Maria Volonté, and especially Colorado with Lee Van Cleef. Their scripts were clever political metaphors. 
(4) It’s about a cooking oil. 

First published as part of a collection of four texts brought together called “Travail, lecture, jouissance” [Work, reading, pleasure] by Serge Daney and Jean-Pierre Oudart in Cahiers du cinéma, issue 222, July 1970. Published in English in Cahiers du cinema 1973-78, vol. 4. Translated by Diana Matias.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

One More Bear (Dersu Uzala)

More re-posting of existing translations no longer available online.

One More Bear (Dersu Uzala) 
 “Did I advise you to love your neighbour? I will advise you rather to flee from your neighbour and love the distant stranger.” – Nietszche, The Gay Science 
In the shanty towns of Dodes’ka-den, we observe a furtive encounter between two characters (‘bodies’ would be more accurate). The child from Dodes’ka-den and his imaginary train almost run over an amateur painter who has placed his easel too close to the invisible rails. This gag is the best introduction to Kurosawa’s cinema, which (paradoxically) brings together spaces which are separate – the spectator has to give up trying to decide which is the madder of the two, the child in his fantasy world or the painter of the destitute. For one of them doesn’t see this destruction anymore (he sees only the train, the invisible rails – he looks inwards) and the other examines it too closely (the shanty town becomes an aesthetic object). Kurosawa’s approach, his ‘humanism’ if one must use this term (it would be better to speak of his ‘viewpoint’, moral and spatial), was about finding the place where the two spaces (that of the psychotic child and that of the neurotic painter) might seem to converge, thus creating a homogenous space. But not exactly, hence the gag. 
Dersu Uzala is no doubt a less powerful film than Dodes’ka-den, which it does nevertheless illuminate retrospectively. The friendship between the Russian surveyor and the hunter, despite its right-thinking overtones (we shall see what to make of them in a moment), can indeed be related back to the meeting of the non-existent train and the misplaced easel – the fictional space, carved up by the camera, serving as a dissection table. 
The surveyor’s eye sees big while the hunter’s eye sees just right (in the sense that a garment can be big or just right). As soon as he meets Dersu, Arseniev – whose task is to reconnoitre the banks of the Ussuri – decides that he needs a guide. On his own, indeed, he doesn’t see very much at all. The surveyor’s pleasure (which is also to some extent the spectator’s) comes from the fact that for him the territory (where he gets lost) and the map (where he knows his way around) are for ever running into each other, becoming superimposed, as in those Walsh-style Westerns where the map on the wall fades into the territory it represents. When Arseniev gets lost in the forest, he is quite happy; doesn’t he have what he needs (writing, sketching, photographing) to make good the delay, to compensate for it? As the writer, the one whose book has reached us and made the film possible, and because he has the last word (the voice-over of the commentary), he can lose himself in a risky aesthetic contemplation of what for him is just a landscape. His look is protected, ‘covered’ by writing. The possibility of writing is what allows him to see things badly, and to make mistakes. 
Arseniev’s mistake, his professional distortion, is that for him there is only one space, geometric space. He can think only in straight lines. His job, it appears, is to explore the area between Khabarovsk and Vladivostok, two towns linked by a railway line, for there is one of these in the film, a real one this time: the Trans-Siberian railway, completed, as we know, in 1898. 
One of the finest moments in the film (a fairly puzzling one if you don’t make the link with Kurosawa’s earlier films) is the meeting with the old, solitary Chinese who Dersu has long since identified from tiny clues. The camera gives us, simultaneously, the shack half-buried in snow to the right of the screen, and to the left the column of explorers laboriously trudging to their destination. As soon as he sees the old Chinese sitting at the entrance to the shack, Arseniev makes his way towards him; he goes in a straight line across an open space. He offers a mug of (one assumes) hot tea to the terrified old man, who recoils, then tanks him profusely, bows and clumsily spills the tea, while Arseniev tries to help him up. The same action is suddenly seen from a distance, from where the soldiers are. The effect is at once comical and embarrassing, in exactly the same way in which, in Dodes’ka-den, characters trying to be nice to each other end up terrifying each other. Arseniev withdraws, night falls, the column camps well away from the shack where the old Chinese continues to sit, motionless. Dersu, who knows him, explains: ‘Him thinking, much thinking. Sees house. Sees garden. Garden all flowers.’ Then, to Arseniev: ‘Not to disturb him.’ In the morning it is the surveyor who is disturbed. The old man is there at the entrance of the tent: he is ready to leave and has come to say goodbye. 
The film will say nothing more (but never perhaps does it make the point so clearly): the straight line is the longest route from one person to the next, the direct encounter is a risk, closeness a trap, love a tyranny. The garden all in blossom that the old man imagines he is seeing is as real as the train for the Dodes’ka-den child. The real is not what is represented. And vice versa. We remember, in Dodes’ka-den, the man with a deathly (in fact ghostly) expression who silently haunts an abandoned house, or the father and young son who, from their caravan, pretend that they can see the house of their dreams. 
Between people there is a space – a no-man’s land – which keeps them together but apart, separate but not cut off. Arseniev’s fundamental mistake consists in wanting to fill this space which he thinks is empty. During the exploration of the Khanda lake (a bravura passage, rightly admired) he takes no notice of Dersu’s apprehension and walks blithely on into the heart of the icy expanse, relying on his compass which always points him to the right direction, the straight line. What he hasn’t realized is that this flat surface of the frozen lake is not really flat at all, but a living thing, changing all the time. The route he has taken becomes impassable when he tries to go back. It’s not the same anymore. It forces the two men to make a detour: the straight line is never the solution. 
The Khanda lake episode isn’t only a bravura passage, it is also the moment when the spectator can most fully identify with Arseniev. The discovery of the frozen lake, its sheer immensity, gives rise in Arseniev’s commentary, as in the spectators’ sighs of satisfaction, to the same general idea: ‘How small, petty, ridiculous Man is set against the greatness, the beauty, the severity of Nature.’ An emotional moment that recalls an earlier picture-postcard scene: on the left the moon (already), on the right the sun (still) (1), in the middle and seen from behind, Arseniev and Dersu; between Arseniev and the moon, on the left, in the vast expanse, the tripod of the surveying instrument. Is there any real difference between this noble scene and the trivial one already referred to, that of the amateur painter in the shanty town? I think not. Once again, contemplation is a question of what is invisible. And of what, in the invisible, is blindingly obvious precisely because it cannot be seen. 
Dersu knows that this romantic outing will all too soon turn into a struggle for survival, and that from this struggle he will emerge victorious (at the same time saving the life of the other man, the aesthete, the one who communes with Nature) because he is able to transform the instruments of observation into something more useful. Another kind of diversion. The grass which the spectator and Arseniev have seen without really seeing will become the walls of a shelter, and the tripod, opened out, will serve as its framework. What does Dersu do with this equipment? He inverts its function, he turns it inwards, he makes it the camera obscura of another space, a place of survival and of rebirth of sorts. 
Once again, as the reader will have gathered, our discussion concerns the eye. When this belongs to a Western intellectual, Arseniev, a sensitive and cultured man mapping the unknown in the interests of Tsarist expansion, he is condemned to the geometric, to a certain blindness. His eye is mobile but doesn’t engage with anything – anything precise at least. Lacan reminds us usefully that the geometric is not the visual (2). As proof of this he says that if the light does indeed travels in straight lines, there is nothing to say that these lines are lines of light; they could very well be sewing thread which a blind man might follow by touch to grasp something that is being described to him which he cannot see. Arseniev is incapable of seeing as if life depended on it. And this being so, he is free to enjoy the spectacle. 
Dersu’s eye is different. It’s a kind of ‘reading’ eye. It doesn’t hand over to writing or photography. It doesn’t connect with an empty, infinite and homogenous space; it starts by describing a circle around Dersu that marks the limits of his visual acuity. When the latter declines, Dersu’s space becomes correspondingly smaller. Being a hunter, Dersu is forced to take the long way round and to deal in a space that is broken up and full of curves (notice how in the raft episode Dersu takes the current into account). He and the surveyor have two different conceptions of the world and of optics, and hence of the cinema. Arseniev represents the appeal of what lies outside the field of vision (‘appeal’ as in ‘appeal for help’) and Dersu Uzala the patient digging of the field (as you might dig for treasure). Arseniev represents the well-worn and woolly minded (imaginary) communion with Nature (with a capital N); Dersu the constant symbolic exchange with the environment (with a small e). The environment is not Nature. It has nothing to do with it. 
The notion of ‘off camera field’ [hors champ] is frequently evoked in Cahiers. And rightly so. But the in/off problematic can function fully, dramatically, acutely, only if the characters share a similar conception of space, and use it in the same way. They have to see eye to eye, so to speak, in this respect before the in/off paradigm can affect them. It so happens that Kurosawa is the film-maker who has managed, from the start, to film characters who differ radically in their understanding of space. I have already mentioned the encounter of the imaginary train and the ridiculous easel in Dodes’ka-den
But it is just as true of the more serious films – in Ikiru ( Living, 1952), the elderly Watanabee, before dying, situates the playing field, ‘a liberated zone of sorts’ in the very heart of the megalopolis – as it is of the lighter ones like Sanjuro where the choreography of the fights (Mifune, alone against a hundred) evokes what Lacan (again) says about the Peking opera: ‘In these ballets, no two people ever touch one another , they move in different spaces in which are spread out whole series of gestures, which, in traditional combat, nevertheless have the value of weapons, in the sense that they may well be effective as instruments of intimidation (3)’. 
For Dersu too there is something that functions as ‘out of field’. It’s not a question of the part of the field he cannot see because it is too far away or momentarily hidden. It is rather what in the field hasn’t been seen (but could be). Dersu is for ever digging away at his own out-of-field, one that is inside him, always-ready-there, unsuspected: the shack, or again the snares, the black trap under the branches that only he can see and from which the animals escape. This is the theme, dear to Kurosawa, of the hidden fortress. The eye as an instrument of discovery. We are haunted by what is out of sight (along with the lost look, contemplation, everything which postulates a beyond) only because we no longer know how to see (we read too much, Godard would say). ‘You’re like children. Can’t see a thing,’ says Dersu to the soldiers who are making fun of him. 
Such a position has ethical, indeed political implications. The ‘progressive’ side of Dersu’s character is a little like this idea of drawing on your own resources, not looking elsewhere for what you haven’t been able to find here. The answer to the enigma is always there, staring us in the face. One is reminded – because it’s both the same thing and quite the opposite – of the most geometric of film-makers, Lang, as for instance in The Testament of Dr Mabuse. For Lang too, the answer is always there, on the (image or sound) track, but it is given before the question, before the enigma is formulated. So it is never functional (the truth is always probable). Lang isn’t willing to film, or to mention, anything for which he cannot immediately provide concrete evidence, visible proof in the form of an insert (this may well be Lang’s most characteristic shot, the inserted proof). Inversely, this question of proof, of offering visible proof, is of no interest at all to Kurosawa. 
To sum up: Arseniev looks for what is beyond the field and Dersu delves into the field itself. So far so good. But it would be mistake to think that Kurosawa can be identified with either. There is a third question – his own – which consists in failing to satisfy or, worse, ignoring his character’ desire to find something else (beyond the field or inside it). You would look in vain, in Dersu Uzala, for what is called the ‘subjective shot’ (with one exception, and a significant one, that of the tiger). When Dersu interprets a broken branch, the cry of a bird or a footprint, the close-ups which might confirm what he is saying and fulfil our expectations are nowhere to be found. You have to take him at his words. And there we touch on one of the film’s major prohibitions: never separate the characters from what they see. The shot-reverse shot is absent from a film which people are a little too quick to call classical or traditional. In other words: no direct encounters. 
With three exceptions, however (and this is Dersu’s whole tragedy). First, Arseniev takes a photo of Dersu. The camera, the very one whose tripod has been turned to other uses, takes a kind of revenge. The revenge of the straight line and the pose. From then on, Dersu’s vision will begin to fail. Second, the encounter with the tiger. In this scene, which Bazin would have liked, Dersu shoots and the tiger runs away. From then on, Dersu loses all confidence in himself. Third, the glove shooting. There again, everything has changed. Dersu misses the target, that is straight in front of him, even though he had amazed the soldiers by hitting a smaller, moving target (a rope) right in the middle at the first attempt (but it was a moving target, a swinging one). Direct encounters are fatal for Dersu. 
The time has come, perhaps, to bring in ideology. I am not sure that people have really understood to what extent Dersu Uzala – which you could so easily mistake for yet another well-meaning portrayal of our common humanity – refuses to base itself on what underpins this type of film: the two-way relationship of man to his other (friend or enemy, man or beast), their identification. Films which bring the savage and the civilized man face to face can choose between two resolutions: either the savage can be sacrificed to the requirements of technological progress which is wholly associated with human progress, or civilized man can be disapprovingly contrasted with the angelic figure of the noble savage. In either case, the law of love is what regulates this head-on encounter in which the one devours the other for the common good. The shot-reverse shot is the privileged figure of this devouring process because it seems to allow people to change places. But this is an illusion. Lacan (again): ‘When, in love, I solicit a look, what is profoundly unsatisfying and always missing is that – You never look at me from the place from which I saw you (4).’ 
This dissatisfaction is written into Kurosawa’s latest film. Arseniev’s idea of solidarity (his ‘if all the guys in the world…’ (5)) is inseparable from a kind of visual cannibalism. It is under the aegis of the geometric, of the straight line again, that Dersu – once at Khabarovsk – must be transformed into a sort of household pet. Dersu’s idea of solidarity is completely different: it involves leaving clues that will be useful to the next man or animal to come along. Immediately after him, in the next shot. And he doesn’t have to see who it is in order to help him. 
At the very beginning of the film, Dersu is mistaken by the soldiers for a bear. Still out of sight he shouts, ‘Man! Don’t shoot’, and goes to sit at the fire. At Khabarovsk, he becomes in effect a teddy bear for Arseniev’s son, and the fire he watches, in the stove, is a prisoner like him. Western humanism always ends up by stating its truth, which is that of police custody, the reserve, the zoo, the gulag, etc. 
This perhaps explains why the Soviets, who produced the film, showed a shortened version at the Paris festival – several of the Khabarovsk scenes had been expurgated. On the one hand, their explicit, official ideology (a wishy-washy humanism, alas all too present in the film’s music) is quietly mocked in these scenes. On the other, their political motive (to celebrate the identification and reconciliation of the good Russian and good non-Russian – i.e. Chinese – on both sides of the Ussuri and far away from the Peking government) is well and truly undermined. 
With a touch of humour, Kurosawa, who has simply told his story, sends his two heroes off back to back (the last shot: Dersu’s two-pronged stick planted on his grave). I spoke earlier of Kurosawa paradoxically bringing together spaces that are separate. For him, there is one point – and one only – from which the other can be seen as he really is. The cinema must keep contradictions alive and not try to win us over with the spectacle of their disappearance. The minimum requirement for a materialist art.

(1) Daney’s text has the moon on the right and the sun on the left, but this is clearly just a slip of memory. He also implies that this scene is part of the Khanka lake episode, whereas in fact it occurs earlier in the film.

(2) J. Lacan, The four fundamental concepts of Psycho-Analysis, trans. A. Sheridan (Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1977), p. 93.

(3) Ibid., p. 117.

(4) Ibid., p. 103.

(5) ‘Si tous les gars du monde...’, a popular song and poem by Prévert.

First published in Cahiers du cinéma, issue 272, December 1976. Published in English in Cahiers du cinema 1973-78, vol. 4. Translated by Annwyl Williams with a couple of edits from me (misinterpretation in first paragraph and changed "off space" to "off camera field" so that Daney's play on words with "out of field" makes sense).

The Aquarium (Milestones)

Picking up the re-posting of the lost translations from Steve Erickson's old website, now onto texts from Daney's first book: La Rampe. This translations is slightly different from the French text in La Rampe and it's probably based on the original text from Cahiers du cinéma. The roundtable that Daney refers to was published in Cahiers nine months before (issue 1975 and is also in the same translated volume of Cahiers du cinéma).

The Aquarium (Milestones
There is a risk of seeing in Milestones just another bleat for some kind of American conviviality. Our own round table is a little romantic about a film which is very fat from being that (romantic). If we can, let’s change the record. 
Nasty experiences 
In Milestones there are two agonising moments, two rips in the film’s fabric – agonising because absolutely unforeseeable. The first is when Gail, the young woman who works in an all-night café (which looks like a seedy place), is assaulted by a sexual maniac (“I want you to suck me”). Speechless with horror, she is only saved by the intervention of the blind man who has been alerted by the noise (John Douglas, the film’s co-director). The second moment is when Terry the demobbed GI, finds himself alone in the street (after a long meal, a moment of truth when he reveals his wish to join the – male – community which is very willing to accept him) and meets someone who asks him to take part in a ‘no risk’ break-in. The break-in goes wrong: Terry is killed, shot by a cop. 
What Gail and Terry have in common is that they are at a turning point in their lives, about to enter into new associations and to eliminate a bit of their past (Gail wants to leave her job and her boss, Al, who desperately wants to keep her; Terry wants simply to live again, far from Vietnam). Had the film been this post-leftist pastoral which others seems to have seen, it would have included some beautiful, indelibly moving moments of mutual support and solidarity. Nothing of the kind. What Gail and Terry are going through (and the latter loses his life in the process) is more akin to a rite of passage (a difficult passing though, a passage through a void, a final examination, etc.). 
A fabric doesn’t keep warm 
When we discussed Milestones, we talked about a (large) family, a community, an alternative party, a people’s camp, a collective statement, etc. Reassuring words. It seems to me that the cast of characters (or rather the ‘bodies’ that speak) in Milestones creates neither a fresco, nor a chronicle, nor a document but a fabric. A fabric seen under the microscope, and seen to be held together as much by the spaces between it as by its fibres. A lacunary tapestry. Quite the opposite of a house, a warm place or maternal protection. A fabric is not made or undone just like that, at will (even goodwill); it spreads, getting progressively larger, with inevitable knock-on effects (the turning back and forth of a relentless boustrophedon (1). The newly woven material meshes with (and is meshed into) what has already been woven. Human relationships don’t knit together with complete dependability; they are tied together over an empty space, on a wire and without a net. To fall through the meshes of the net, to pass through a void, is to die, to die from a nasty experience. 
For the militants of Ice, the nasty experience was emasculation. In Milestones the nasty experience is something that is never mentioned again in the film: the reality of sexuality (Gail), the reality of death (Terry). In both cases, violence. Nothing to do with a return of the repressed; what returns here is what has been denied. We don’t wish to know anything about the violence which is the American reality and which, like the banks which enclose the river in Numéro Deux, threatens and sometimes overlaps the narrow path paved by the Milestones. A return to reality, reality as a trauma. 
The real: what doesn’t come twice 
To continue the textile metaphor. From what material is the film woven? From long rolls of actual experience, where what one person says finds an echo in what another person hears? The sea-green naturalism of the ‘as if you were there (with them)’ kind? Quite the opposite. You only have to stop listening to the soundtrack to be confronted by what, in the images, has nothing to see. 
Nothing to see (as said to a crowd to move them away from an accident: there is nothing to see) – nothing in common – nothing to look at. The heterogeneity of the images disregards suture, and off-screen space, that reserve fund of perceptions. An omnipresent camera, continuous speaking, are there for real, and from this – the pattern woven from them – there is no way out. Likewise for the collective, there is nothing to see, nothing to meet. No one sees it and it sees no one (not for nothing is there a blind man at its centre). Has it been noticed that in Milestones you can cross America without seeing anyone? Anyone from the other camp, the other America, the non-marginal, middle, contented America. 
What you do come across, through a couple of moments of inattentiveness, lurking among the shots – and which the weaving, if it is too slack, lets you glimpse – are the scattered elements of a kind of improvised universe: erratic images, cruel inserts – desert sand, ripples, a waterfall, but also the flame of a burner, red-hot stones, a placenta, fish (maybe dead). The insert in Milestones is the site of passage through a void, the fixed point of the propelling force of death (a return of the inanimate, the organic – what moves but is not human). For Kramer, the insert is the site of pleasure (as with blackness in Godard); the place where the whatever of the real appears. 
What might the real actually be in cinema? Not the referent or the effect of the real, but the real of which Lacan tells us (Tuché et automaton in Séminaire, book XI, p. 54) that it is ‘the encounter as it may be missed, as in essence it is the missed encounter’. 
Undoubtedly, something shown to be inassimilable. Images which are presented but which will not be re-presented. There will be no time to take it in; it is not the imaginary, then. There will be no chance to lock into the writing [écriture]: it is not the symbolic, then. The real that doesn’t come twice. It is precisely what happens to Gail and Terry: they are very close to the dangerous edge (The Edge) of the loom, the point where the encounter may be fatal because if occurs (and is filmed) only once. 
The tribe weaves 
And the encounter is only so bad because Milestones (as Jean-Pierre Oudart rightly says in his poem!(2)) is conceived from and within a process of segregation. As much and more than a documentary about the dissolution of the American left or an invitation to universal love, the Kramer-Douglas film is: what forms a tribe? And how is this tribe formed from its own visual representation? A question posed by the film-makers without an ounce of humour, and a question that we tended to blur in our round-table discussion, in the name of a Marxism-Leninism that may have become exotic (American) but is still comprehensible, even if it is always purring away. Might we want to weigh up what is nevertheless the evidence: segregation is the truth of America, the shadow cast by its democratist ideology, the soil which gives us the mishmash of Milestones and the Mason gang, the Weathermen and the Jesus people? Ghettoization: the final stage of imperialism. 
So it should be said that Milestones is the anti-Nashville, since the special, staggering thing about Kramer and Douglas’ film is that they know no more than their characters but out of what they do know they want to put together a defensive wall and mark out a future. Instead of which, in the name of the several light years ahead that the artist-as-witness-to-his-time Robert Altman has over his contemptible creatures, his ridiculous Southern zoo, Nashville reassures us (us: the right-thinking opinion-makers of the New York and/or Parisian left) about these ‘worthless others’, this system of worthless stars. 
A tribe? If so, can we just as easily speak about ‘new social relations’? Maybe, but provided that we see what this Milestones tribe is weaving together: a kind of ethnological masquerade (will we finally realize that the truth of ideology, its very reality, is masquerade, fancy dress?), the image of primitiveness: trying out the land and denial of other tribes – the new Indians. Of course, it’s a paranoid tribe and, as Schreber (3) said, it is lop-sided: no chiefs (except for a blind guru who makes hardly any impression on the narrative); no common work, hardly any rites. Almost all of them simply find themselves in front of a huge aquarium, a metaphor both for the film’s space and for Karen’s body (the waters of birth: the waterfall after the film ends when the audience itself has already got up from their seats to leave their aquarium – the cinema). A tribe with two of three age groups eliminated: has it been noticed that we don’t meet anyone in this film who, say, fifteen or forty-five? 
No telling lies 
What holds the tribe together? What does it consist of? A glob of spittle, we might say. Words heaped on words. Careful, though: the lie, I mean the deliberate lie is forbidden. The film’s incurable lack of humour (which makes it, unlike the appealing Nashville, a largely troubling experience) arises out of this prohibition. And in what I’m saying – if I have any sense of humour – there is the hint of another discourse, a different one: one that is hostile, opposed, which I have to come to terms with. This other discourse is completely missing from Milestones: refused, deferred, in parentheses. What’s being said in Milestones has a quite different function: it’s the weaving itself, it’s – that most important word – the survival of the tribe. To lie would be to endanger the community. (For some Eskimos, the material conditions of survival are so perilous that speech, rarely expended, has to be truthful, a lie being for them both a luxury and a crime.) 
Loss of sight 
Our round-table discussion has a flaw: we scarcely mention the film’s form. Now, there is a limited number of organizing principles for the images and sounds in Milestones (as indeed in The Edge, Ice or In the Country). If the film breaks irreparably with all forms of naturalism, it’s because it only films – in the most natural way – situations involving loss of sight. The whole film is a never-ending piece of fort-da. A lightweight camera loses sight of the person it was framing a moment ago only to find him again in a space that was only ‘off’ for the blink of an eye. Those lost from view are rediscovered. Fathers and sons, mother and daughter re-establish contact, resume, renew their relationships. And those who were in prison, the out-of-sight by definition, get out. A conversation between Peter, released from prison, and John, the blind potter: ‘How old were you when you went blind?’ – ‘What do you remember?’ In Milestones there is one and only one division of labour: those who are filmed talk about those (and about what) who are not. A rough and ready means of dispensing with off-screen space. The outside, as we have seen, is the interpolation of an insert. Everything happens inside an aquarium, in which the fish take turns to put on a bit of a performance at the edge of the mirror-glass-screen. Sole message: we exist. 
But, you’ll say, this is forced labour! Yes. A tribe can’t allow itself to lose a single one of its members – even from sight!

(1) Boustrophedon: lines reading alternately from right to left and from left to right, as in some ancient inscriptions.

(3) ‘Pour Milestones’, in Cahiers 262-3

(3) Dr Paul Schreber was the subject of one of Freud’s most celebrated ‘case histories’. Daney is making a playful reference to paranoia.

First published in Cahiers du cinéma, issue 264, February 1976. Published in English in Cahiers du cinéma in English, vol. 4, translated David Wilson