My Gleanings

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A letter from F Hoda

About a year ago, while leafing through a issue of Positif from 1972 which was an index of that magazines first 20 years, I noticed that there were a few articles which were credited to one F. Hoda. Since one of the articles was on science fiction - a specialty of Fereydoun Hoveyda - I suspected that there had been a typo and this was actually Fereydoun Hoveyda who was a regular contributor to Cahiers du Cinema from the mid-50s to the mid-60s. Later on, I would find out that I was half right -- the articles were indeed the work of Hoveyda but under the pseudonym F Hoda.
The January 1958 issue of Cahiers included a broadside directed at Positif by François Truffaut Positif copie zero. This is a letter published in the March 1958 issue of Cahiers in which Hoveyda writing as F Hoda answers Truffaut.

Here, at the end, emanating from a Positif collaborator, this response to François Truffaut's article.[Positif, copie zero]

I have read your article on Positif with a kind of satisfaction. Not that I approve of all of the positions which you take. But, in taking by bashing your fond adversary, Kyrou, you unveil your ulterior motives. I like your impetuousness and your fashion, passionate and fierce, of defending cinema. Must you always invent imaginary monsters to illustrate your opinions?

It is not incumbent on me to defend Positif, since I do collaborate there only occasionally. But having had the honor of being cited in your article, I am passing on to you these few remarks. Your technique for "dismantling" Positif shows nothing new. The truncated citations (among them mine), the references to authors from ouside the world of cinema, etc. All this re-witnesses the pen of a polemicist. I do not begrudge you this method. Have the the Jesuit fathers taught both of us that one can allow oneself certain deviations AMDG ?

In identifying Positif with Kyrou, you appear to be assuming that Cahiers summarizes itself in you. Do you not at Cahiers make another monolithic bloc? "Compared to this bloc, Cahiers risks appearing without a definite line" facing "we others at Positif". You and your friends write, "Cahiers does not have the habit...", "for a longtime, we call on our vows...", "it is now a tradition for the crew at Cahiers...", etc. Positif over here, Cahiers over there. In order to ascertain the "unshaken" unity of your group, it is enough to take a quick look at the "council of ten", where your friends outrageously practice the politique, spoken of, as d'auteurs expressing views palpably identical.

A reading of any issue of Positif reveals the existence of small blocs of divergent opinions, quite like Cahiers. It is simple to return the serve. Cahiers alone has understood the significance of Land of the Pharaohs, Hot Blood, and The Wrong Man.
You can reproach Kyrou for his references to the would-be theory of amour fou. Yes, it is quite a poem. But do you believe that your allusions to the Bible or to Christian metaphysics are more amusing? I am happy that you are undertaking modern readings, such as Mythologies. But I regret that you are not more interested in a poet such as Malakovsky which would have spared you attributing to Ado Kyrou the phrase "la barque del'amour, etc.". I agree with you in standing against the anti-aestheticism of Kyrou and in exposing the intolerant tone which renders him, at once,
so simplistic and so virulent. But the same tone, a little closer to home, is found coming from the pens of your friends, "But, henceforth, there is film and film is Nicholas Ray..." "I am not afraid to compare..." etc.

What good, consequently, in continuing this game of rejoinders. However, before concluding my letter, I would like to return to Barthes who you seem to be fond of at this moment. I am not among his partisans. But that does not prevent me from citing this passage from his book. "Myths are nothing other than this incessant, untiring entreaty, this insidious exigency that makes all men recognize themselves in this eternal but nevertheless dated image which was constructed by them one day as if this was to be for all time." This being so, don't you think that you and your friends fabricate as many myths as Kyrou and his? You, yourself have become after a fashion a myth. It is enough, to verify it, to hear Leo Johannon or Delannoy speak on your subject.

We each have our eccentricities. Kyrou rewrites the rules of savoir-faire, agreeing or refusing to shake hands with directors. Seguin gives in physiology, measuring the interest of films around the hips and leg-length of actresses. Rohmer claims to find marble inside celluloid. Rivette sacrifices everything to the Jansenism of mise-en-scene. Chabrol conceives a passion for friends tempted by the devil. You bang the drum for the age and sincerity of auteurs. Bazin practices a kind of existential analysis. As for myself, I see Martians everywhere. On these diverse planes, do we not project ourselves outside of the moi and claim to be right? After all, why not?

(Cahiers du Cinema March 1958 page 61 my translation)

Some 16 months later for the July 1959 issue of Cahiers du Cinema that covered the 1959 Cannes Film Festival, Hoveyda would write the review of Les Quatres cents coups - a review which was published in an abridgment in Jean Douchet's recent coffee-table book French New Wave. Also, among the films which Hoveyda had reviewed for Positif was Hot Blood. In 1960, he would placed Nicholas Ray's Party Girl on his ten best films list.

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