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Andre Bazin and Arts: the reverse of a theorem.

Andre Bazin's contribution to Arts magazine is minimal. A total of twelve articles. However, these are not to be taken lightly--especially the first two, which were written before Francois Truffaut joined the review, and these are the initial focus of this essay. The relationship that Bazin maintained until his death in late 1958 with this particularly cinematographic moment in the history of the review, marked on the one hand by its editor Jacques Laurent and, on the other, by the regency of French cinematographic taste developed by the young hussar or pseudo-hussar Francois Truffaut, remains all the more interesting because of its obliqueness. His position is, de facto, perfectly contradictory, if one considers that he was the co-founder of Cahiers du cinema--a review that began a full year before Jacques Laurent came to direct Arts, and should have therefore been in direct competition with its policy--and that the four young critics who wrote about cinema for Arts were also the most promising authors in Cahiers. To be more specific, at the time Truffaut started writing in Arts in February 1954, Bazin happened to be the spiritual, if not surrogate father of the future director of The 400 Blows and The Green Room, who would enable him to conceive, write, and spectacularly publish his historic pamphlet "A Certain Tendency of French Cinema" (Cahiers dii cinema, January 1954)--in short, to give birth to himself. The question of this filiation will be the second point of my study. More ironically still, Bazin continued to contribute articles sporadically to Jacques Laurent's review, even after having written a scathing article about him in the review Esprit in that same transitional period of February 1954, a trademark piece in which he described the small world of Parisian socialites--a sort of new version of one of Montesquieu's Persian Letters, applied to the marketing of the 1954 French erotic cinema streak. The article, very subtly entitled "On the Carolinization of France," seems to ask its readers, long before Alain Badiou did: "What is Cecil Saint-Laurent the name of?" By taking a very close look at this article, after giving a chronological summary of the main events, I will develope the second point of my study: the Bazin-Truffaut filiation .


Andre Bazin's first two articles in Arts were written before Francois Truffaut joined the review, and broach the same subject three years apart. They are entitled "About Van Gogh. Space in Painting and Cinema" (April 15th 1949) and "Painting Through a Keyhole" (January 4th 1952). They make up two major sections of the issue that Bazin called "impure cinema," a kind of second doctrine born in 1951, after the question of "ontological realism." Impurity, which he had theorized after a one-and-a-half year break in his journalistic activity due to tuberculosis and, one can imagine, long hours of reading and reflection at the sanatorium, aims to study the margins of cinema, its "faithfully adulterous" relationships, one could argue, with the other arts, which, according to Bazin, comprise one of the contradictory specificities of the seventh art. Three fields are taken into consideration: the film-novel, which seeks to thwart the cliches of "adapting" literary works for the screen in favor of "writing with cinema"; filmed theater, which tends to condemn filmic arrangements that draw away the original adapted plays from the energetic reality of their stage performances; and the film-painting, which pulls the art house genre toward a wider mutation of cinema, by which film becomes a tool to pull the painter's space inside out and give new access to a reality that had never before existed in the arts. This third field is common to both of Bazin's first two articles. It should also be noted that later on in January 1955, Bazin wrote an article for Arts about "filmed theater," which summed up the many analyses he had published on the subject and which proved sufficiently comprehensive and important to be translated four months later in the Italian review Cinema nuovo ("Servire il teatro," May 25th 1955). He also used Arts twice to express unconditional and well-documented support for his friend Jean Renoir on the occasion of his only two incursions into the world of theater: on July 14th 1954, Bazin wrote "With his debut as a stage director, Jean Renoir brings a new Caesar to 10,000 people in Arles"--Bazin was there reporting on the one-off evening performance of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in the Roman amphitheater of Arles, usually reserved for bullfighting--and on March 23rd 1955, "By approaching theater at the age of 60, Jean Renoir was looking for a fresh start"--on the occasion of the performance of his play Orvet, written for Leslie Caron.

As a magazine equally open to literature, theater, painting, and cinema, unlike Cahiers du cinema and Ecran Francais, Arts seemed the logical place to put forward these ideas about "impure cinema." We can see how the journalist in charge of the double spread of the January 4, 1952 issue of Arts designed his feature around Bazin's admirable text, and how he quoted a passage from "Painting Through a Keyhole"--on the same page as Bazin's piece--in a boxed article about a young new face, Alain Resnais: "Alain Resnais: Van Gogh minus yellow." Here is what Bazin's article says about him:
   The best critique here is creation. By altering the work,
   by breaking its frames, by attacking its very ontology, the
   film forces it to reveal some of its secret potentialities.
   Were we really aware of what Van Gogh minus yellow
   looked like before Resnais came along?

One has to remember that Resnais shot his short film in black and white, and that this removal of color, which Bazin also examined in his four articles about Henri-Georges Clouzot's The Mystery of Picasso (1956), reflects the overall transformation to which cinema subjects pictorial art.

Whether consciously or not, this quip links together Proust and Jules Laforgue. One thinks, on the one hand, of Bergotte's "little patch of yellow wall" in The Remembrance of Things Past and, on the other, of the last sentence of Laforgue's prose version of Hamlet--a short story that greatly fascinated Carmelo Bene in the 20th century: "One Hamlet less; it's not the end of the human race, as they say!" With Laforgue and his faithful Italian adaptor, the same question is at play--that which haunts and torments modernity: an actor who plays Hamlet dies and another is born, thus marking both a difference and a repetition. No tradition or reception theory matters anymore: one is no longer studying yet another adaptation, but "one Hamlet less"--something engineered through loss. Nor does one see the new Van Gogh, the continuity of a paragon of the arts, but instead the new world in which the existence of Resnais' cinema leaves us once Van Gogh cancels himself out. Bazin's typical readership was familiar with his use of the Carmelo Bene formula (although not in the terms I just used) because he included the same article as in Arts under a different title in What is Cinema?, and because it was selected among others when the publishing house Cerf condensed the four-volume edition into one in 1975. Thus the sally about the subtraction of yellow lived on. But the article itself never did remain as a whole, and reading it in Arts removes genuine snags when it comes to the interpretation of Bazin's thoughts on art.

The second version of the article, which was published for the first time in 1959 and renamed "Painting and Cinema," with no reference to its origin, edits and alters many passages, starting with the "keyhole" in the title, which provided a link between the pictorial considerations and Bazin's analyses of Les Parents terribles, the 1948 Jean Cocteau film adapted from his own 1948 play. For Bazin, this was a major example of impure cinema by means of filmed theater, and the notion of the "keyhole," which he borrowed from Cocteau himself, was the crux of his analysis and the metonymy of the director's specific use of focusing (see "Theater and Cinema," Esprit, 1951). Had the article been more precise, a great film critic, Louis Seguin (22), might have been prevented from utterly misunderstanding Bazin's article, in a book both very interesting and blinded by his bias against Bazin: L'Espace du cinema (Hors-champ, hors-d'oeuvre, hors jeu). Among other essential variations, two other sentences that Bazin wrote at the end of the first part of his text also disappeared in the 1959 version: "Did I really honestly become the devil's advocate? Let us switch to defense." Seguin mistook Bazin, the author of the article, who was therefore supporting a point of view--the Bazin whom he had decided to demonize for good and, as a result, forgotten to read correctly, as did a number of writers from the review Positif--for the very devil's advocate whom Bazin temporarily positions against himself. And yet Bazin clearly evoked an "inspector general of drawing from the Ministry of Education" to whom he assigned, in his introduction, the role of the demonic eternal educator who cannot stand that cinema should film painting, because according to him, it will always by principle betray painting. Cinema, says Bazin in one of the sections that were removed in 1959:
   replaces the real or conceptual framework of painting
   with its rectangular keyhole.... The space of the painting,
   crystallized in its aesthetic geometry, is replaced by the
   imaginary and passive space of the movie theater and the
   open window of the screen.

How sad to witness such a respectable, even sometimes admirable cinema theorist like Louis Seguin thinking he understands that Bazin bases his work on "a strict questioning of Alain Resnais' Van Gogh. For Andre Bazin, claims Seguin with no justification whatsoever, Alain Resnais cheats on the space of the painting." (22) Quite the contrary, Resnais was one of Bazin's first cinephile friends, so Bazin understands perfectly well the rather fantastic forces that Resnais puts into play in real life, through his use of the camera, ever since his first short films. The theories that Bazin exposes in full and without self-censorship in the first two articles he wrote for Arts in 1949 and 1952 bear a likeness to both Surrealism and Resnais' later works, which Bazin never got to see, in that they imagine a hallucinatory repercussion of art in real life (1), instead of the other way round--that is, the naive principle of a reality that would imprint itself onto the work of art through holy intervention, such as post-semiology film scholars wanted to imagine Bazin, by following Louis Seguin and Gerard Gozlan's (2) approximate path or by giving in to idleness, when they no longer understood him. And so in 1949, he wrote the following in "About the Van Gogh Film," speaking of Resnais' film: "It all seems as if painting only really becomes soluble in time after going through a mutation of its spatial structures under the influence of cinema."

All of Bazin's commentators note his famous analysis of the screen-mask as opposed to the painting-frame, yet they neglect the various consequences that stem from the purely descriptive data of the theorem. Here is one of them, further on in the 1949 article: "By introducing the cinematographic mask into the frame of the painting, the director turns the pictorial space inside out like a glove.... The screen reverses the space of the frame, simply because Alain Resnais knows how to use the energy released by the cinematographic transmutation." Bazin gets even closer to Resnais' hyper-realistic fantasy future when he pushes his Pascaban rhetoric of reversal to its apex, which insinuates that when the cut in the pictorial frame intersects with the cut in the movie frame, instead of producing the reassuring continuity of a new "seamless coat of reality" or of a supposed reconciled and continuous Bazinian world, it drops the drama into the preserve of the spectator's reality--in other words, it reverses the polarity of the "connecting vessels" of poetry according to Breton. Not to mention the notion of hypertrophied listening that this vision of Bazin as an Artaud of sorts produces! I quote: "Pictorial imagination has become the reality of our perception. Van Gogh's severed ear exists somewhere within a world that inevitably requires us."


If someone in 1954 had "Bazin's ear," so to speak, that someone was Francois Truffaut. The turning point in his career, which saw him write his essay "A Certain Tendency of French Cinema," with the assistance of Andre Bazin, and then be almost immediately recruited by Jacques Laurent to write in Arts, was extensively and thoroughly recounted, based on a commentary of archives, letters, Truffaut's diary and critical essays, written by Antoine de Baecque on several occasions: in the review Cinematheque in 1993 ("Contre la 'Qualite francaise'. Autour de Particle de Francois Truffaut"), in a chapter (105-114) of a biography of Francois Truffaut that he wrote with Serge Toubiana in 1996 (on the subject of the Bazin-Truffaut relationship, see also pp. 60, 66, 70-72, 87, 91, 94-95, 98-100), and in a chapter (135-167) of his book La cinephilie (Cinephilia) in 2003. Instead of repeating this story, I will describe Bazin's point of view, based on the article he wrote on Jacques Laurent (aka Cecil Saint-Laurent) called "On the Carolinization of France." But before I do so, here is a short chronology of the events that inform my point:

* In November 1948, a young cinephile named Francois Truffaut approached Andre Bazin at the headquarters of "Travail et Culture."

* In March 1949, after being contacted by a psychologist from the Observation Center for juvenile delinquents where Truffaut was being held for several petty thefts, Bazin vouched for him and offered to hire him at "Travail et Culture."

* In September, he assigned him as his "personal secretary" for a small wage that freed him from legal guardianship.

* In 1950, Robert Bresson directed an adaptation of Georges Bemanos' Diary of a Country Priest, two months after the writer's death. The critic and novelist's beneficiary Albert Beguin, who had converted to Catholicism in 1940, had granted Bresson authorization. When he was still alive, Bemanos had refused a similar project based on a script by Pierre Bost. Bresson's film was released in February 1951.

* The young Francois Truffaut attended the shooting of the movie from June 8th to 13th, 1950.

* Two months later, while working as a reporter and paparazzo for Elle and France dimanche, Truffaut had lunch with Martine Carol at the Billancourt studios. She had just finished shooting Dear Caroline, an adventure movie adapted from Cecil Saint-Laurent's novel and directed by Richard Pottier, which was released in 1951. The movie made Martine Carol famous for a few years, before the Brigitte Bardot frenzy completely obliterated her.

* Bazin's analysis of Bresson's film resulted in one of his most admirable and sophisticated essays: "?ejournal d 'un cure de campagne and the Stylistics of Robert Bresson," which was published in issue no. 3 of Cahiers du cinema in June 1951. Bazin, who had been rather favorable to films previously scripted by Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost, ended his article with the following sentence (143): "After Robert Bresson, Aurenche and Bost are but the Viollet Le Due of cinematographic adaptation." (3)

* In April 1951, after joining the army, Francois Tmffaut deserted. Bazin took care of him, visited him in prison, bailed him out after a six-month campaign, and put him up for two years at his home in Bry-sur-Mame, where he lived with his wife Janine and his son Florent.

* In the fall of 1954, Eric Rohmer shot one of his short films, Berenice, based on a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, in the park and winter gardens of the beautiful Bry-sur Mame property, a comfortable twenty-four room house with quite an unusual history, which had been divided into rented apartments, among which was a top-floor twobedroom accommodation where the Bazin family lived. A recent biography of Rohmer by Antoine de Baecque and Noel Herpe (84) evokes another house where the interiors for Berenice were probably shot. The exteriors were shot before the building was destroyed in 1955, just after the years Truffaut spent there with his adoptive family.

* Between February and December 1952, Francois Truffaut borrowed four scripts by Pierre Bost with the aim of analyzing them, after which he produced a scathing critique. Among the four exhibits in evidence against Bost was his adaptation of Diary of a Country Priest that Bemanos refused during his lifetime.

* Truffaut wrote a manuscript called Times of Contempt. Notes on a Certain Tendency of French Cinema, completing a first draft in December 1952.

* After a year spent correcting and altering the text with help from Bazin, he handed over the final manuscript to the chief editors of Cahiers du cinema, none other than Bazin and Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, on November 5th 1953. The article was published under the name "A Certain Tendency of French Cinema" in issue no. 31 of Cahiers du cinema, in January 1954.

* One month later, Jacques Laurent hired Truffaut for Arts.

* That same month of February 1954, Bazin published "On the Carolinization of France" in issue no. 211 of Esprit.

With this article, we are faced with one of the long dissertations that Bazin periodically kept in store for the review Esprit and for some of his in-depth studies in Cahiers du cinema. Unlike what one might think at first sight, this is no spirited sketch about a very Parisian affair, but the study of a mythology, as per his contemporary Roland Barthes. In this sense, it is quite similar to "The Filmology of Filmology," an article he published under a family pseudonym in 1951, which criticizes the academic initiative that led to cinema studies being taught at the Sorbonne for a few years, personified and defended by Gilbert Cohen-Seat. Bazin describes his approach to filmology as a "psycho-sociology of its genesis" (38). It is a case study in an academic context, a work of searing irony, that 1 recently examined during a seminar about the relationship between cinema criticism and teaching. (4)

The pseudonym that Bazin sometimes uses in his polemical articles is a combination of his son's name, Florent, and his wife Janine's maiden name, Kirsch. But he chose not to use the moniker "Florent Kirsch" when he took on the stucco statue of Cecil Saint-Laurent, alias Jacques Laurent. He stuck with "Andre Bazin"--and for a good reason. The logic of his attack lay precisely in the public revelation by Jacques Laurent, the serious writer, of his heteronym Cecil Saint-Laurent, the popular author of erotic bestsellers.

Bazin had already come up with a title similarto"Carolinization" a year earlier (1952), in an article for Le Parisien libere about another costume film, "Ivanhoe: The Taylorization of Walter Scott," in which he also played on homonymy, although this time a little gratuitously. One might venture that the allusion to the American production system (Taylorism) applied to an MGM production shot in England was a way for Bazin to give this type of adaptation a different name in an area of show business where it conflicted entirely with the non-standardized achievements of the same period, such as Laurence Olivier's Henry V, released in 1944, the aforementioned adaptation of Bemanos by Bresson, and Welles' Macbeth (1948) and Othello, which Bazin had seen earlier in 1952 in Venice--in other words, the masterpieces that encouraged him to theorize "impure cinema." In this article, therefore, "Taylorization" refers to a traditional, reverent adaptation, complete with all the required repetitive effects. Only in the last sentence does the question of names entirely make sense. For the second time, he repeats that he finds Elizabeth Taylor more to his taste than Joan Fontaine, whom the hero eventually marries in the movie, and issues the following conclusion: "and Elizabeth Taylor's tight jersey dresses add to the absurdity of the final choice of her male namesake." Unidentified by his actor's name until then, the eponymous hero of the film, Ivanhoe, is played by another Taylor: Robert Taylor. "Carolinization of France" is a remote evocation, as the pun on the medieval Hollywood movie indicates, of another medieval era, which saw the rise to imperial power of one of the most famous "Carolingians"--descendants of the first Carolus (Charles Martel)--of all: Carolus Magnus, or Charlemagne.

The story of a French imperialist conquest is doubled in "On the Carolization of France": on the one hand, there is Martine Carol's and, on the other, Jacques Laurent's. The actress had already become a big star in France after the war when Dear Caroline was released in 1951. She would marry the film director Christian-Jaque shortly thereafter--Bazin's article ends with this announcement--and in 1954, she was at the peak of her fame. Her empire would brutally crumble with the scandal and complete public failure, despite Truffaut's repeated efforts to defend it, of Max Ophuls' Lola Montes, released for Christmas in 1955 and sold as a new adventure written by Cecil Saint-Laurent, although Ophuls had entirely reworked the original script. As for Jacques Laurent, he revealed that he was in fact Cecil Saint-Laurent and won on both counts: worldly success in the literary circles with the creation of the review La Parisienne and the editorship of Arts, and popular success with, among others, the Dear Caroline series, greatly magnified by its movie adaptations.

Now that the book Dear Caroline had been adapted, and had thereby fallen into the realm of film and its myths, Andre Bazin felt compelled to study this sociological phenomenon. The main argument of the article can be summed up in a few points: Martine Carol's persona was expecting to reap the benefits of the success already enjoyed thanks to Laurent's Dear Caroline:
   Martine Carol had already been famous and very close to
   the coveted success for ten years when the Caroline myth
   came her way. There was a small Martine Carol myth
   that somehow resembled Caroline's. Their conjunction
   was clearly meant to be. Yet as soon as Caroline became
   flesh and bone, a crystallization process--Stendhalian,
   should 1 say?--became inevitable (302).

The shift from "Carol" (a pseudonym for Marie-Louise Mourer since she started out in the movies in 1943) to "Caroline" was ready and waiting. But what interested Bazin was what he called "the reverse of the theorem" ("la reciproque du theoreme"): in the eyes of the general public, Jacques Laurent and Cecil Saint-Laurent became one. "We know all about politicians or writers who owe a lot to their wives' charms. As for Mr. Jacques Laurent, he is always accompanied by his daughter, a shameless and charming creature who follows him around like a shadow: he is 'Caroline's father.' Being nice to the father is a way of courting the daughter. The very name Laurent is the aphrodisiac of our literary salons" (300).

   The revelation of his pseudonym only slightly
   contributed to Caroline's popularity (although it secured
   an intellectual guarantee); however, it served Mr. Jacques
   Laurent's fame well, since his literary authority would
   otherwise have remained uncertain and obscure. Among
   other things, it enabled him, as we know, to launch a new
   review (299-300).

In other words,
   The true originality of 'operation Caroline' lies in the
   additional prestige that its author enjoyed when he
   dropped his mask.... Following this revelation, the naive
   success of Dear Caroline became the most significant
   literary--and more generally intellectual--campaign of
   the past few years (299).

Ironically, Bazin's study is a brilliant display of innuendos and implicitness, while also lucidly uncovering and elucidating what would nowadays be termed a well-oiled "media plan." Along with the Cecilian themes of faithfulness, heroic prostitution, and filiation, one can also read: "Caroline's sleeping around has been profitable enough" to Laurent, who benefits from the "scandal of his double life; I could even laud him for using some of the earnings from his love nest for honorable literary undertakings." Counter to the breadth of modern cinema that Bazin defends, he rejects any possible "faithfulness" between film and novel, therefore justifying beforehand, as an "author," and with "ingenuous cynicism," the "liberties that the director will have to take with Caroline" (303).

Two things interest me in Bazin's highly structured satire: the entirely covert and even unconscious presence of Truffaut in this matter--he was abandoning Bazin, lured away by the rich Jacques Laurent to join the ranks of Arts--and the concept of "quality." The question of names, given names, homonyms, pseudonyms, and heteronyms, structures Bazin's demonstration; the issue of filiation stems from it. Who is Caroline's father? What is his name? That is the main question. This quandary corresponds to the material context of the strange filiation between Bazin and Truffaut, which, as a symbolic and mythological one, excludes any transmission of family name and occurs in a reversible polarized political field (that we shall call the "hussar" (5)). First of all, Francois Truffaut's mother, whom he felt had completely abandoned him, on both material and affective levels, was named Janine, like Bazin's wife, who had provided him with a new family life. (6) Then there is the strange story of the big house in Bry-sur-Mame (Roblin, Bry-sur-Marne)--at the time Truffaut lived there with Bazin, Rohmer considered it worthy of one of Edgar Allan Poe's Extraordinary Tales--which also needs to be told briefly. This turn of the century residence was built in an 8500 square meters park and acquired in 1938 by a German Jewish family, the Cahns. They intended to rent out the property, but it was requisitioned, stripped of its furniture, and used by the Germans as lodgings for their troops for two years beginning in 1940. Then the Vichy Regime decided to convert it to a foster home for the children of sick or destitute repatriated war prisoners. The German administration made the villa available, but the refurbishment lingered, and France was liberated before it was completed. Fourth turnaround (after I. The German Jewish family bought the old bourgeois residence; 2. It was expropriated by the Nazis, who looted the house; 3. Vichy's weak-willed charity--which one could interpret as both a French reverse imitation of the Lebensborn short of eugenic selection, and the glorification of a new Frenchman in the form of a newborn, underfed and unprotected by its impoverished and sickly father, from whom it would be taken away for its own sake no sooner had he been freed from the occupier's prisons): in 1945, the French Red Cross eventually converted the house into a foster home for the abandoned offspring of German soldiers and French mothers! We know that at least sixteen babies were taken in until 1947 or 1948, when the Cahn family was finally able to reclaim its property and rent it out to, among others, the Bazins. One can easily agree that the premises were haunted by ghosts reminiscent of Truffaut's existential issues, and cannot fail to notice how these circumstances echo his "fostering" by Bazin.

It is a wise man who could tell what Bazin's feelings might have been in regards to Truffaut's working both for Cahiers and Arts after his young protege left home. However, at the time when the young critic was progressively introducing the idea that an "auteur policy" (which Bazin considered a "shaky concept" and opposed with many an argument in 1957 (7)) as opposed to a "tradition of quality," one can clearly comprehend his theoretical ideas, which corroborate neither current established divisions nor the expected consequences.

"On the Carolinization of France" is indeed a little-known instance in which "French quality" is criticized. Defined as a commercial sales ideology and process--unlike what Truffaut wrote in his pamphlet, which Bazin had time to read and re-read while he was correcting it, "quality," as Bazin explained with great subtlety (1 should mention that the expression was already a familiar issue in the French post-war film world, and was not invented by Truffaut), had become "a new genre" (304). "Quality" results from a syllogism that only becomes viable if one forgets to consider the subjects of the films and everything else that constitutes them--that is, only if one begins scrupulously separating "subjects" from form or direction. Bazin's need to explain that form is inseparable from content in art runs in much of his writing. He had intuitively understood that this notion, which he considered acquired and classical, was about to be dropped by young cinema critics, even those closest to him: (8) "quality is implicitly defined here as something that is added externally to the subject through the scriptwriter and director's input. An obviously absurd proposal.... A new genre has appeared: 'quality,' based on outward signs that can be applied to any traditional genres, even the lowest" (303-304).

Some scriptwriters play along with this gentrification of films: "what one buys first is a name," says Bazin accurately (304, emphasis added). The question of the name, even more so than the psychoanalytic issue of the "Name of the Father," remains the commercial problem of the auteur's name, a new way of selling films, which the auteur policy would establish worldwide starting from the 1960s. After Truffaut and Godard, films would never again be sold as anonymous off-the-peg items, but as designer (brand) products. Besides, a double-entendre periphrasis sums it all up in Bazin's article: "Caroline played a major part in elevating the auteur of her life to serious literary circles" (304. emphasis added).

I still need to clarify the nature of Bazin's opinion of Laurent's authorship in his article, at least as a satirical author:
   Mr. Jacques Laurent demonstrated his new powers in
   a lampoon of Jean-Paul Sartre published in La Table
   Ronde, in which he aimed to prove that the author of
   Nausea was but a mid-century Paul Bourget. My doubts
   about the article's author resurfaced when I read it.... The
   critics were in raptures over the article, so I hoped 1 would
   enjoy it. Unfortunately, it was mediocre--ingenious of
   course, and its first three or four pages quite funny, but to
   no avail when opposed with the least hint of reflection and,
   above all, badly written for a lampoon (300).

My conclusion therefore is that Bazin's specific use of an explanatory system based on first names in this article bounces back to the subject of Jean-Paul Sartre through the evocation of "Paul and Jean-Paul," Jacques Laurent's satirical article (eventually republished by Grasset in a single volume of the same name) and one of the links in the definitional chain of the hussars. (9) One might suppose, when reading this passage, that Bazin was a partisan of the Sartre line of thought, which Marco Grosoli defined as the opposite of the Arts policy, as a "Nemesis of Les Temps modernes." This is not the case. Bazin's relationship to Sartre is very ambivalent, often closer to a mocking pastiche or a refutation, an attitude that I recently tried to define. (10) Therefore, he is not caught in the oppositions likely to explain Truffaut's political and ethical about-faces and aesthetic contradictions: Bazin does not fall for Sartre's dreadfully simplistic and outrageously non-specialized catchphrases on the commitment of artists (one simply needs to compare "What is Cinema?" with "What is Literature?" to find two approaches that conflict in almost every aspect: if the titles were to allude to one another, it would have to be ironically). Instead, he always remains focused on a correlating line between the artistic text and its historical and social context.

Bazin's final word, which concludes his long criticism of the Auteur Policy ("On the politique des auteurs"), has a Sartrian feel to it: "Auteur, yes--but what of!" (260). Against the impending reification of the auteur, Bazin, true to his taste for subverting Sartre's books, caricatures the last sentence of his first book, Imagination (1936): "The image is an act, not a thing. The image is the consciousness of something." To his young friend Francois, ready to make a name for himself with Laurent, who had already done so--he even had made quite a few if one includes his aliases, Andre gives the advice not to fear true anonymity: to him, an auteur is nothing but the film he makes--an act, not a thing.

Works Cited

Bazin, Andre. "A propos de Van Gogh. L'espace dans la peinture et le cinema" ["About Van Gogh. Space in Painting and Cinema" (title on the second page: "About the Van Gogh Film")]. Arts 210 (15-21 April 1949).

--. "De la carolinisation de la France" ["On the Carolinization of France"]. Esprit 211 (February 1954), pp. 298-304.

--. "De la politique des auteurs." Cahiers du Cinema 70 (April 1957), pp. 2-11. English translation: "On the politique des auteurs." Cahiers du Cinema: The 1950s: Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave. Ed. Jim Hillier. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985. 248-259.

--. "En abordant le theatre a 60 ans Jean Renoir a voulu recommencer a zero" ["By Approaching Theater at the Age of 60, Renoir Was Looking for a Fresh Start"]. Arts 508 (23 March 1955).

--. [signed: Florent Kirsch], "Introduction a une filmologie de la filmologie" ["Introduction to a Filmology of Filmology"]. Cahiers du cinema 5 (September 1951), pp. 33-38.

--. "Ivanhoe. Taylorisation de Walter Scott" ["Ivanhoe. The Taylorization of Walter Scott"]. Le Parisien libere 2581 (31 December 1952).

--. "La peinture par un trou de serrure" ["Painting Through a Keyhole"], Arts 340 (4 January 1952).

--. "Le journal d'un cure de campagne et la stylistique de Robert Bresson." Cahiers du cinema 3 (June 1951), pp. 6-21. English translation: "Le Journal d'un cure de campagne and the Stylistics of Robert Bresson." What is Cinema? Vol. 1. Ed. Andre Bazin and Hugh Gray. Trans. Hugh Gray. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967. 125-143.

--. "Le theatre filme" ["Filmed Theater"]. Arts 499 (19 January 1955).

--. "Peinture et cinema." Qu 'est-ce que le cinema ? II. Le cinema et les autres arts [What Is Cinema? II. Cinema and the Other Arts]. Paris: Le Cerf, 1959. 127-132. Republished in Qu'est-ce que le cinema?. Paris: Le Cerf, 1975. 187-192. English translation: "Painting and Cinema." What is Cinema? Vol. I. Ed. Andre Bazin and Hugh Gray. Trans. Hugh Gray. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967. 164-169.

--. "Remade in USA." Cahiers du cinema 11 (April 1952), pp. 54-59.

--. "Servire il teatro" ["Serving the Theater"]. Cinema nuovo IV-59 (25 May 1955), pp. 386-387.

--. "Theatre et cinema" ["Theater and cinema"]. Esprit 180 (June 1951); 181-182 (July-August 1951).

Bazin, Andre, Jacques Rivette, Eric Rohmer, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, Roger Leenhardt, Pierre Kast. "Six personnages en quete d'auteurs. Debat sur le cinema francais." Cahiers du cinema 71 (May 1957), pp. 16-29; 85-90. English translation: "Six Characters on Search of auteurs: A Discussion about the French Cinema." Cahiers du Cinema: The 1950s: Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave. Ed. Jim Hillier. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985. 31-46.

Chevrier, Jean-Francois. "Deux notes sur Andre Bazin" ["Two Notes on Andre Bazin"]. Ouvrir Bazin. Eds. Herve Joubert-Laurencin with Dudley Andrew. Montreuil: Editions de l'ceil, 2014. 164-177.

--. "Les fantomes du cinema selon Andre Bazin" ["The Ghosts of Cinema According to Andre Bazin"]. L'hallucination artistique ["The Artistic Hallucination"]. Paris: L'arachneen, 2012. 564-603.

--. "The Reality of Hallucination in Andre Bazin." Opening Bazin. Eds. Dudley Andrew with Herve Joubert-Laurencin. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.42-56.

Dambre, Marc. '"Grognards et Hussards': contre-feu de Sartre?" ["'The Old Guard and the Hussars': Sartre's backfire?"]. Les Hussards. Une generation litteraire [The Hussars. A Literary Generation]. Ed. Marc Dambre. Paris: Presses de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2000. 13-29.

De Baecque, Antoine. "Contre la 'Qualite francaise'. Autour de l'article de Francois Truffaut" ["Against 'French Quality'. About Francois Truffaut's Article"]. Cinematheque 4 (Fall 1993), pp. 44-67.

--. La cinephilie. Invention d'un regard, histoire d'une culture. 1944-1968 [Cinephilia. Invention of a Vision, History of a Culture]. Paris: Fayard, 2003.

De Baecque, Antoine and Serge Toubiana. Truffaut. Biographie [Truffaut: A Biography], Paris: Gallimard, 1996. 105-114.

De Baecque, Antoine and Noel Herpe. Rohmer. Biographie [Rohmer. A Biography]. Paris: Stock, 2014.

Frank, Bernard. "Grognards et hussards" ["The Old Guard and the Hussars"]. Les temps modernes 86 (December 1952), pp. 1005-1018.

Gozlan, Gerard. L'anti-Bazin ["The Anti-Bazin"]. Lormont: Le Bord del'eau, 2013.

--. "Les delices de l'ambigu'ite (Eloge d'Andre Bazin)" ["The Pleasures of Ambiguity (In Praise of Andre Bazin)"]. Positif 46 (June 1962), pp. 39-69; 47 (July 1962), pp. 14-60.

Laurent, Jacques. "Paul et Jean-Paul." La Table ronde (February 1951).

--. Paul et Jean-Paul. Paris: Grasset, 1951.

Loewenstein, Adam. "The Surrealism of the Photographic Image." Cinema Journal 46.3 (2007), pp. 54-82.

Roblin, Vincent. Bry-sur-Marne. Histoire et Patrimoine [Bry-sur-Marne. History and Heritage]. Bry-sur-Marne: Societe Bryarde des Arts et Lettres and City of Bry-sur-Marne, 2012.

Seguin, Louis. L'Espace du cinema (Hors-champ, hors-d'oeuvre, hors-jeu) [Space in Cinema (Off-camera, Off-screen, Off-play')]. Toulouse: Ombres, 1999.

Truffaut, Francois [signed: Robert Lachenay]. "Abel Gance, desordre et genie" ["Abel Gance: Disorder and Genius"]. Cahiers du cinema 47 (May 1955), pp. 44-46.

--. "Ali Baba et la 'Politique des Auteurs'" ["Ali Baba and the 'Author Theory'"). Cahiers du cinema 44 (February 1955), pp. 45-47.

--. "Une certaine tendance du cinema francais." Cahiers du cinema 31 (January 1954), pp. 15-29. English translation: "A Certain Tendency of the French Cinema." Movies and Methods. Ed. Bill Nichols. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976 [1954], 224-237.


(1) On Bazin's relationship to hallucination and Surrealism, see Adam Loewenstein's "The Surrealism of the Photographic Image" and Jean-Francois Chevrier's "Deux notes sur Andre Bazin," "Les fantomes du cinema selon Andre Bazin" and "The Reality of Hallucination in Andre Bazin."

(2) See the disappointing republication of: Gerard Gozlan's L'anti-Bazin as well as the original text "Les delices de l'ambigu'ite (Eloge d'Andre Bazin)."

(3) Viollet le Due who, as Bazin sums up in another article, "under cover of restoration, forces the Middle Ages toward romanticism" ("Remade in USA" 55).

(4) This lecture ("Bazin pedagogue") ("Bazin Teacher") was given on 25th March 2014, within the symposium Pedagogie de la critique/ critique de la pedagogie (The Teaching of Criticism/Criticism of Teaching), organized by Cecile Sorin at the University Paris8-Saint-Denis.

(5) The whole venture of naming and defining of the "hussars" is ambiguous in its refusal of the time's dominant official oppositions--collaboration and resistance, right and left--and plays on minimizing the extremes and maximizing the most apolitical feuds, for instance by calling a certain literary style "fascist," as Bernard Frank did in his seminal article "Grognards et hussards" ("The Old Guard and the hussars"). Truffaut explicitly follows this line of thought as a critic.

(6) To the extent that the only comments made by Janine Bazin and transcribed in Truffaut's biography about the Bry-sur-Marne period between 1954 and 1956 evoke the presence of two children--not her son Florent and her guest Francois, as might be expected, but Andre and Francois: "They brought each other up," and those were "two years of uninterrupted discussions about cinema, during which they (I was not included) shared their experiences with one another" (De Baecque and Toubiana 106-107, comments taken from the "Bazin" file in the Films du Carrosse archives).

(7) See Bazin's "On the Auteur Policy," as well as Truffaut's "Ali Baba and the 'Auteur Policy'" (signed Robert Lachenay) and "Abel Gance, Disorder and Genius." See also "Six Characters in Search of Auteurs. A Debate on French Cinema," a fascinating debate (by Bazin, Rivette, Rohmer, Doniol-Valcroze, Leenhardt, Kast) in the May 1957 issue of Cahiers du cinema in which, save for Beckett, the only contemporary writers mentioned are "the famous Blondin-Nimier-Laurent trilogy," appraised by Roger Leenhardt and rejected by Pierre Kast, who depicts them as outdated, as "1952 literature."

(8) This would be the theoretical and political mistake that the Young Turks would make, if one judges the discourses that emerged especially after Bazin's death from his point of view: see, for instance, the claim of the "minor subjects" against the "major subjects," which implies that the subject does not exist, since directing is everything--a political mistake that would later be adapted to the political era with the watchword "one must not make political cinema, but make cinema politically"--a position which aimed at opposing the partisans of noble subjects, when it was actually the best way of breaking away from the dialectics of the work of art: Bazin would have considered such a statement foolish, because the question need not even be asked--to him, "any film is a social documentary," and therefore cannot be anything but "politically making political cinema."

(9) See also Marc Dambre's "'The Old Guard and the Hussars': Sartre's backfire?".

(10) In a lecture ("La cuisiniere de Landru. Bazin lecteur de Sartre") ("Landru's Stove. Bazin Reads Sartre") given in Paris on May 17th 2014 within the symposium Bazin philosophe: un etat des lieux (The Philosopher Bazin: a State of Play) organized by Anne Sauvagnargues and Herve Joubert-Laurencin (Universite Paris Ouest-Nanterre La Defense), at the Ecole Normale Superieure rue d'Ulm.
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Author:Joubert-Laurencin, Herve
Publication:Film Criticism
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Sep 22, 2014
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