My Gleanings

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Jean Douchet's American Director thumbnails Cahiers du Cinema Dec63

The following are translations of the thumbnail critiques written by Jean Douchet for the Dec63/Jan64 special issue of Cahiers du Cinema on American Cinema. They are my translations.

Blake Edwards
Burlesque, ironic, bitter, tragic: all registers are good to him; what is in common? Maybe, this: the dark Edwards drops his heroes into situations for which they are the least prepared-and watches them extricate themselves.This is, one would have it and to be a tad sociological,a depiction of the inadaptibility of the average American in his own society and of his powerlessness to obtain the happiness it has promised him.Tiffany's brooches are only pins, the days of wine and roses are thorny and hung-over: from whence the "farce" which is only the last look on a hopeless universe. Let's return to Tiffany's, a New York film in the style of The New Yorker, it is also the only meeting of matter and manner; for the remainder, it is this one or that one, each forsaken and pitiable.

Rouben Mamoulian
He is intelligent, amusing, lively. He has character, to boot. When a producer bothers him, he sends you packing from a Porgy and Bess or a Cleopatra like nothing. This fantasy, which is a very serious method of considering life is to be discovered in his films. It is the source of visual and audio invention which made the renown of this stage director in the 1930s and which inspired still filmmakers such as Stanley Donen and VincenteMinelli. A specialist in musical comedy, Mamoulian has directed some of the most beautiful ballets on screen. He is today a first-rate absentee at the Hollywood ball.

Joseph L Mankiewicz
And the word was made Mankiewicz, who bases his direction entirely on the energy of the word. It is the vehicle of the extreme intelligence which his characters live, ands he motivates them to mark with an indelible imprint, through the construction of a durable body of work, their passage through this world. But it also remains the instrument which allows these mediocrities to warp the wall of plots, counter-plots, and machinations stand in the way of their plans. It is, above all, a tangible sign of the times which promotes the dissolution of a sumptuous construction built on the sands of time. At the same time, the word, which is gesture, acts and it loses itself in the brouhaha of that which is opposed to it before it steals away. It is magical (from whence the fact that all Mankiewicz's films are in flash-backs or reminiscences) and, in that way, illusion. This vehicle without which man can not be, reveals itself to be his worst enemy. Off-shoot of silence, the word is the pathetic and trifling proof of his existence: a murmuring rising up into the universe to signal the presence of a being whose grandeur comes from the avowal of his frailty. Such is Mankiewiecz, the cinematic virtue of the word.

Vincente Minnelli
There is a Minnellian universe, you either love it or you hate it. His obvious mannerism , his refinement and finesse conceal a terrifying world, that of poisonous flowers or carnivores. In this unfriendly clime a nervous, morbid hyper-sensitivity colors meaningfully all that touches or surrounds it and realizes its dreams in a setting (physical and human) expecting through the demarcation of its territory to preserve itself. Vain experience: in this sealed hot-house world, you can blossom and grow only by nourishing yourself on the dreams of others and also be subject to attack from their reality. That is to say that existence is above all threatening in itself that it devours itself.
One can not pose in a fashion more fundamental and anguishing the challenge of the artist - and there are no Minnellian heroes who are not hyper-sensitive and thus artist - facing a work which absorbs him and whose existence he jeopardizes as he creates it. In an ethereal manner in the musical comedies where the impossible dream of the union of all significant longings are marvelously realized; in a bitter, cruel manner in the comedies where the irony of fate provisionally assents to synchronize dream and reality in the work. And, finally, in a acrid, desperate manner in the dramas where dream and reality mutually destroy one another leaving to the work and to the artist only the reflection of themselves, the shadow of their combat.

Raoul Walsh
A force of nature directs the forces of nature and suddenly the world lives, whirlwinds and passions. It is no longer a time to consider Walsh a macho brawler, a libertine who likes to joke around, a boor with unrefined feelings. This passionate Shakespearean is a filmmaker so physical that because of it it depicts a world bustling with the mental. The characters are projected into a universe of their "energy" and steered toward a space which exists only to serve their anger, their fanaticism, their fervor, their cunning, their ambition and their immoderate dreams. Everything here is confrontation and one-on-one fighting. Everything is colors itself, is changes itself, and puts itself in action according to the movement of individuals possessed by grandeur. Meditation is then the necessary companion of decisive and rational action and implies rigorousness, terseness and austerity in the art of the narration: that of the great masters. Walsh, the master of adventure, certainly, but of the authentic adventure, the inner-fantastic.

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