My Gleanings

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Cahiers and the young cinema in 1962 -- two Americans, a vulcanologist and a literary giant.

In December 1962, Cahiers du Cinema dedicated its yearly Christmas special issue to the young cinema, the "New Wave". Included in this issue was a dictionary of 166 new directors with filmography, biography and often thumbnail critique. What follows is my translation of the thumbnails for two Americans (Noel Burch and James Blue), a vulcanologist (Haroun Terzieff), and a ancien literary giant (Jean Giono -- born in 1895) included in that survey.

Haroun Tazieff
biography and this short critique

Where intrepidity is beauty; in this regard, the master of the best of the New Wave. (page 82)

Noel Burch
One of the first articles to examine the phenomenon of the young French cinema in America was written by Noel Burch for the Winter 1959 issue of Film Quarterly and titled "Qu'est-ce que la Nouvelle Vague?". Despite the title, the article is in English and is available on-line if one either subscribes to JSTOR or has borrowing privileges at a library which subscribes to JSTOR. In that article Burch showed a preference for Marcel Hanoun and described Francois Truffaut's work as "enlightened amateurism"
Note; the unfinished film discussed was based on Georges Bataille's novel Le Bleu du ciel.

If he figures here, it is for reasons somewhat unique: American by nationality, he is closely linked with the New Wave thanks to an unfinished, but wickedly overgrown, film; and from Bataille's beautiful book, he made an adaptation which was an equally original screenplay. Its auteur, one judges, had dwelt on the lesson of Pickpocket while alloying it with the lesson of the films of Resnais. The few sequences shot and edited leave us regretting the incomplete status of this enterprise.(page 64)

James Blue
The history of film made us sceptical with regard to films shot in collaboration; Les Oliviers de la justice is the exception which proves the rule. Every scene has an unobtrusive power of things lived (by the scenarist-actor, Jean Peligri), every one of them is filmed with tact and correctness by the director James Blue. But both of the collaborators had these common points; love and knowledge of the Algerian terrain and a clear admiration for Robert Bresson.
What has been sometimes considered as inexperience or awkwardness was most of all a refusal
to heighten the mood, a primacy accorded to the "vie neutre", parallel to great events. When, the father having died, the son and the mother move the bed and change the sheets, it is a one of the great moment of cinema. (page 62)

Jean Giono

Criticism does not like the mystical and Cresus is one of the most mystical of films. A profound knowledge of Giono's writings would, in part, successfully elucidate it. But would it be a gain if one realizes that, alone, the degree of mystery can define the value of an non-realist, in other words non-cineaste, auteur, that, here, the enigma is identical to that which is propounded and epitomized in his best chronicles, "Un Roi sans divertissement" and "Le Moulin de Pologne", and finally that this film possesses a charm unknown in our cinema, Cocteau excepted, which categorically contradicts the hasty reproaches of commerce and folklore.
A comedy a little bit curious, technically flawed, and minus any show of pomp, foreign in all solicitations of its setting, Cresus seems an incarnation of Nothingness, a work without aim -- and, such as that, would still have the worth of an engrossing trompe l'oeil -- at the same time as a co-ordinated melange of an incisive fable and a comprehensive analysis of human behavior and expression.