My Gleanings

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Cahiers du Cinema May '57 some director thumbnails

The May 1957 “Situation of French Cinema” special issue of Cahiers du Cinema featured an article “Sixty French Directors” which consisted of a capsule chronology and filmography for each one and sketched out a thumbnail critique of each one of them. The ensemble is credited to Charles Bitsch, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Donoil-Valcroze, Claude de Givray, Jean-Luc Godard, Robert Lachenay, Louis Marcorelles and Luc Moullet. The presence of “Robert Lachenay” in this group, probably signals the participation of François Truffaut. So-called “young turks” all except for Doniol-Valcroze.What follows are some of the thumbnails for the directors who, these "young turks" were known to have high regard. They are all my translations.

Note added October 14, 2006: Jean-Luc Godard; articles, essais, entretiens. Introduction et notes par Jean Narboni published in 1968 by P. Belfond reprints the thumbnails for Robert Bresson, Norbert Carbonnaux, Roger Leenhardt and Jacques Tati as the work of Jean-Luc Godard.



"In today’s world, in whichever domain, France can, henceforth, shine only through exceptional works. Robert Bresson illustrates this as it applies to cinema. He is French cinema as Dostoyevsky is the Russian novel or Mozart is German music. Let’s listen to him:

“A good artisan likes that board that he is planing.”

“There is a mal-address which is indifferent to virtuosity”

“It is of such faults that the emotion of the spectator is born, an emotion similar to the one that guides us when we do what our skills condemn.”

"My metier is something of an apprenticeship which does not mean something which can be transmitted as a lesson.”

“Film is a kind of work which demands a style. It requires an auteur, a writing.”

“Break with pre-judgment in exchange for simplicity.”

“To know how to choose tools and to often choose the wrong one provides that one knows poorly.”

“It is necessary to hold back and give.”


"He constructs tables and leaves to others to make them sing. “I am a designer,” he says, “It is my nature to see and hear what I write, to endow it with a formal beauty.” Translation: He is a poet. A poet gifted for cinema, a great film-maker. In fact, all his films including "The Eagle Has Two Heads”, a brilliant and moving work, wrongly underestimated, are admirable. Worried about exceeding decorative art, he achieves a realism and a crudeness, almost obscene, “Les Parents Terribles” His dialogue in spite of its theatrical emphasis and poetic inflation rings more exact than dialogue heard in films spoken of as realistic or psychological, as one of his characters says (and we are with him) “in legend up to our necks”. The sparkling and harrowing “Orphée” is like a prism which mixes all the rets of the light of a thought particularly abundant and richly dispersed, It is not surprising that this prism glistens like a diamond. Realism and dream --- “a manner of living, but of living a life retold”, he says of the characters of “La Belle”--- join each other in his work in a kind cinema at face which he knows how to realize. Friendly artisan who knows the value of the hand and the workman with an audacity and an exemplary courage. Deprived of him for seven years, French cinema does itself no favor and hobbles itself seriously."


"He is a visionary, even a poly-visionary. It might be said of him that he is the French King Vidor, but it has already been propounded that King Vidor is the American Abel Gance.... A definition should be accurate and measured. Gance, labyrinthine and excessive, much the same as his cross-Atlantic colleague, lends himself poorly to all definition. All the good that his admirers find in his work never goes without a some qualification, all the bad that his detractors find never goes without some jealousy. If Gance is simple, it is in the fashion of Victor Hugo, like the Himalayas."


"The most subtle theoretician of film in France. He despises paradoxes, but he creates them. He despises false arguments, but he gives them. He despises cinema, but he loves it. He does not like good films, but he shoots them."


"His last two films “Quand Tu Liras Cette Lettre“ “Bob the Gambler" are not as appreciated as his first two “The Silence of the Sea” and “Les Enfants Terribles”, however, though they lack a literary basis, they are not unworthy for that. One discerns here a certain lyricism in the narrative line. Without any doubt, Melville is more of a producer than a director. The best of his inspiration, he perhaps owes to his worries for economy. He shoots with second-tier actors and directs them admirably. He uses real locations and shows them as no one shows them. If Jean-Pierre Melville has nothing to say, he says it very well."


"Generally despised by pure cinephiles, he has known for a short time now a second harvest {regain} of interest. To tell the truth, one does not know what to think. Often unbearable, wretched and botched, he surprises when we least expect it. “Manon des Sources” and “Lettres de Mon Moulin” at the best moments, We recall “Angele” rather than “La Fille du puisatier”."


"He changes the spelling of his name with each new film. Still his style remains a little muddled but personal, lazy but sinuous, a style more Rue Caumartin than Rue de L’Estrapade which at the same time shows Carbonnaux’s limits and his ambitions -- which are great. Intelligent enough to become commercial, he put everyone in his pocket with "Courte Tête”, a film which he did not too much like but a film which finally permitted him a “free hand”. Let’s stake Carbonnaux to a place between Alex Joffé and Michel Boisrond."


"Thousands of lines have been published in the magazine on Jean Renoir, they can not be summed up in a thumbnail. In every phase of his long career -- French, American, Indian, Italian and French once more -- he has proven again and again that he knows how to draw out the best in all conditions and all genres, that he will finish every time with cinematographic material which is exceptionally rich, free, highly textured, as much so on a esthetic plane as on a spiritual one. Wrongly, some have civen him grief over his evolution, As Picasso, he has his periods, -- blue, rose or black --, and throughout them, he has kept a sureness of line, a vigor of thinking and a love of metier that is exemplary. A great work warmed from within by the pleasure that he taken in making it. a great creator whose contribution radiates beyond cinema. a great twentieth-century artist who describes what he, himself, has given this century, “All that I can contribute to this illogical and cruel world is my love.”


"The “Benjamin” of French cinema. One film, rather chinois and a little misbegotten serves to confirm the lively and unusual personality of Varda whose career still remains uncertain. The two most literary characters in the history of cinema solemnly discuss there a solid documentary on the little port of “Pointe Courte”. The hieratic quality, visual and oral, of the couple makes a drole two-some with familiar images of the village, but the ensemble raises a strange and durable charm."


"We like him because he only speaks about what he knows, such that Butchers strive to pass themselves off as intellectuals, let’s applaud the intellectual who rather than exploiting his culture and vulgarizing his ideas, endeavors in his work to grant primacy to his own instinct and that of his actors, to the reality of the epidermis and of gestures, without forgetting the truth of feelings and phrases even more biting. Vadim has already become a part of that race dear to Cocteau, “the ragpickers of genius”. He finds his dialogue at the Elysées Club, his mise-en-scene at St. Tropez and his rhythm is the Ferrari Europa which brings him close to Roberto Rossellini. He is our only modern filmmaker."


"With him, French neo-realism was born, “Jour de fête”, by inspiration resembles "Open City”. Less liked because it is more personal, “Mr Hulot‘s Holiday”, all the same, invites us to taste, secretly, the bitterness and pleasures of existence. Yes, Jacques de la lune is a poet as in the time of Tristan the Hermit. He looks for high noon at two PM and finds it there. He is capable of filming a beach uniquely to show children who are building sandcastles cry louder than the roar of the waves. He will similarly film a countryside only because at that instant the window of a small house in the background of the shot is opening all by itself and a window that opens itself, oh well, it’s oddly funny, at once, everything and nothing, blades of grass, a kite, children, a little old man, anything, everything which is at once real, unusual and charming. Jacques Tati has a sense of the comic because he has a sense of the unusual. A conversation with him is not possible. He is the anti-theoretician, par excellence. His films are good despite his ideas. Made by anyone else, “Jour de fête” and “Mr Hulot‘s Holiday” would seem little of anything. To sum it up, he has become after two films the best French director of comedy since Max Linder and with his third, “Mon Oncle”, Jacques Tati will maybe become the best, period."


"Without ever surrendering to the fashion which he knows to be unfashionable of poetic realism, he attaches himself to the most modern graces whether they are called Auteuil, Quartier Latin or Pigalle. When he had to pay his share in 1900, he avoided the trap of pastiche and he knew how to see as contemporary the subtlest appearances of a world disappeared. Jacques Becker’s art borders on chamber music, he is the Francis Poulenc of our cinema. Why does he sometimes feel himself obliged, like Edouard, to play for his concierge? Keen portraitist of a world intimate and delicate, his cinematographic phrasing, without being romantic, accommodates adjectives more than verbs. He often gladly abandons action to the profit of his characters whom he loves like a father. When comes the great work melancholy and free which everything destines him for? When the modern Casque d’Or?"


"Greatly underappreciated by some, borne on the shoulders of others. What has made his glory will not survive him. Neither megalomaniac jokes or so-called cynical light comedies uphold second viewings or second readings. But he can not be praised enough for this essential. Jansenist in his manner, he refuses all technical trickery, all exterior artifice: every effect rests on the expression of the actor and the least of his gestures is stylish on its face value. Let’s forget the historical insipidities since, in his best hours, the auteur of a comedy like "Assassins et Voleurs” shows us that he knows where the foundation of cinema is hidden."


"A lyric poet who reminds one of expressionism, but also a rigorous constructor who knows the value of American precision. This intellectual made with “Le Rideau Cramoisi” a great film of love and passion. This baroque artist, in "Les Mauvaises Rencontres ”, bore witness ton a precise aspect of post-war youth. A technique so overwhelming has been able to mask from the eyes of some the profound merits of his first feature, but the essential is this: A style and something to say. He has quite une vie ahead of him."

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