My Gleanings

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Positif at Cahiers -- Roger Tailleur and Paul-Louis Thirard Dec. 1961

In their annual year-end special issue in December 1961, Cahiers du Cinema spotlighted "La Critique" (Criticism). The issue featured the responses of 36 French film critics to a battery of 14 questions asked by Cahiers. Question 14 was, "Speaking frankly, what to you is the contribution -- positive or negative -- of Cahiers du Cinema?". Among those who replied were 4 Positif regulars. What follows is my translation of the reaction of two of those Positif critics Roger Tailleur and Paul-Louis Thirard.

Roger Tailleur (page 83)
Positive contributions: news, research (filmograhies, interviews), unintentional humor. Negative contribution: the orientation of its research, its consequent "systems", - premature, partial and false. The resulting blindness and bad faith: covering over errors of "track-switching" (Rossellini), badly compensating for childishness (Hitchcock), and aggressive empiricism by an academic totalitarianism increasingly invasive, undertaking promotions of little profit, chaotic wastefulness which only reaps the wind (Fuller, Ulmer), annexing on the other hand shamelessly the sacred, and rather superficial, celebrities (Fellini, Franju, Resnais, Antonioni, soon Wajda, maybe tomorrow Autant-Lara or Le Chanois), enticing too many bad filmmakers into an uncertain vocation, poorly equiped much more than Mallarméan, (it suffices to compare them to the "foreigners", Kast to Doniol-Valcroze, Resnais to Chabrol or to Godard). In short, after some interesting flashes, to have relapsed into seriousness, to have simply (and quite rightly) wanted to have film taken seriously, embalming film rather rather to have revealed its fragrances, to have slept rather to have awakened, to be less critics than curators, to have run with the hare while hunting with the hounds, of eclecticism and engagement, of the avant-garde and the commercial; but you have asked me not to be too prolix.

Paul-Louis Thirard (page 84)
Contribution important and negative: they have succeeded through omnipresence and repetition in getting bad films to be taken for good ones and vice-versa. (An example of the first case: Breathless, A Woman is a Woman, L'eau à la bouche ... Example of the second: Tu ne tueras point). As the tendency seems to reverse itself, some take their precaution, an attitude which makes one think of the amusing manner of turnarounds of Mr Guy Mollet vis-a-vis the general. So look at the unassertive lot of the latest Chabrol. Also, look at the editor in chief of Cahiers du Cinema screaming at the betrayal of, and intrigues against, the New Wave. Now, to what measure, given the state of French society today, was the phenomenon of Cahiers du Cinema unavoidable? That is another question. It requires, for there to be an answer to it, a historian or a sociologist.

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