My Gleanings

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Cahiers thumbnails for Agnes Varda, Chris Marker and Jacques Rozier

The December 1962 issue of Cahiers du Cinema was a special issue dedicated to the New Wave. among its features was a dictionary of 166 "new" French directors. Howver, the directors included there were not necessarily new -- Jean-Pierre Melville was included -- or young -- Jean Giono who was born in 1895 and who directed his first and only film in 1960 was also included -- or French -- Noel Burch and James Blue, both Americans who either directed in France (Blue) or were stymied in their effort to direct there (Burch) were included. These are my translations of the thumbnail critiques of Jacques rozier, Chris Marker and Agnes Varda from that feature.

Jacques Rozier
(filmography states "preparing a film 'on terror under the sun'")
His two short films, non-chalant and cheerful, had designated him as an outsider. Adieu Philippine locates him wholly in the first rank. That film is the paragon of the New Wave., that one where the virtues of the new cinema glitter in their purest brilliance, where his method sees the clearest and most convincing demonstration of their legitimacy, that would be a case of shooting on the fly, from the choice of new faces, from borrowing from TV, from the cheekiness of the telling, the theme, or finally of the youth. The other founders of the New Wave quickly turned its spirit to their advantage and their works plead more in favor of their own genius than that of the school. In Rozier's work, it is the opposite which speaks in his behalf for the good as well as the bad. Adieu Philippine puts a final point on the quarrel of the old and the modern; it confirms the downfall of classical realism which Italian neo-realism and its extensions were only respectful off-spring. After this film, all others appear false, and one thinks erroneously that the search for the natural could be pushed further.
The dangers here are the same as always from the realistic perspective. You can skirt them without tumbling over, though, primarily, the picturesque sometimes shows itself off, and that the quest for a morsel of bravura falsifies the modesty of tone; but the end of the film, better handled and darker, offers a refinement of psychology quite beyond the reach of average technicians, beyond the "objectivity" enslaved to their short-sighted scientism. What is more, the second half, reaches, without flourishes, symbols or other stylistic effects - the vestige of a too pious admiration -, a lyricism which makes of a scene of wasps, or of dance, or of goodbyes on the dike - something of the highest summit of the poetic where young French cinema installs itself on this day.

Chris Marker
(filmography states "preparing La Jetée")
He wears, sown on the pocket of his jacket, a yellow star on which one can read the word "intellectual". He wears it with style and ostentation, betting that the on-looker is not an ignorant idiot. Thanks to him, extreme preciosity and
gongorism have a cinematic equivalent.
This formalist has the taste for austerity, this paradoxical spirit, an eye for evidence. He should be protestant, he is a catholic, an essayist and he is a filmmaker. This eye for the shortcut, this taste for methodic can be found, thus, in Cuba, in Israel, on the sinuous line of the front where, in a manner today indiscernible, the outline of the revolutionary spirit is becoming apparent.
Brilliant, sarcastic, remarkable typographer , lovers of spectacle reproach him for not being something else. His motto could be drawn precisely from Gongora, "en rocas de cristal, serpeinte brieve" , as you would have it, "in the water of a diamond, the venom of a snake".

Agnes Varda

(by her filmography "preparing La Mélangite whose prologue has been filmed")
Can one like at the same time both Mao Tse-Teung and antiquaries? Agnès Varda proves "yes" prehaps. Her distinction is knowing how to direct, in other words, to accent, an object, a human being, a landscape, uniquely by its opposite: the fishermen of Sète by the intellectuals of the left (bank), the rue Mauffetard by the comic opera, Somewhat oddly, it is thus Agnès' intelligence which will serve to film Cleo's skin, while Cleo's sentimentality serves as quarry for
physical appetite of Agnès. Otherwise spoken, everything happens as if lucidity helps Varda to become impassioned while passion helps her to legislate. In brief, Agnès Varda, or emotion seized by rigor. From whence the impression watching her films of a sort of cantilever. Agnès Varda, if one is mischievous, is a little like Oscar Wilde who ordered a beggar's outfit from the toniest tailor in London. But if one is kind, she is a lot like Baudelaire and his ideas on art and the dandy. What is more, she is the first one to talk of women in terms of pain and freedom, and not of magazines. And if this feminine Zola is sometimes a little lacking in feminine instinct, let us admire her for creating, as Sternberg did, her own light.

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