Sunday, September 12, 2010

Practice of Theory

Jean-Luc Godard, in an interview with Cahiers du Cinéma in December 1962, states, "All of us at Cahiers thought of ourselves as future directors. Frequenting ciné-clubs and the Cinémathèque was already a way of thinking cinema and thinking about cinema […] As a critic, I thought of myself as a film-maker. Today I still think of myself as a critic, and in a sense I am, more than ever before. Instead of writing criticism, I make a film, but the critical dimension is subsumed. I think of myself as an essayist, producing essays in novel form or novels in essay form: only instead of writing, I film them […] Criticism taught us to admire both Rouch and Eisenstein. From it we learned not to deny one aspect of the cinema in favor of another. From it we learned to make films from a certain perspective, and to know that if something had already been done there is no point in doing it again. A young author writing today knows that Molière and Shakespeare exist. We were the first directors to know that [D.W.] Griffith exists" (Godard on Godard 171-2).

Here the young filmmaker speaks about the relation between criticism (writing about film) and directing (writing with film). He insists that even though most of the so-called "Young Turks" – Chabrol, Rivette, Rohmer, Truffaut – had aspirations to become filmmakers (and most of them made short films in the 1950s) that criticism was never simply a means to an end. "No," he says, "We were thinking cinema and at a certain moment we felt the need to extend that thought" (Godard on Godard 172). To "extend that thought" was to continue it by other means – in this case, by making a film. And yet the critical dimension is not abandoned, merely transformed. More than any of the other "Young Turks," Godard will remain committed throughout his career – and it isn't over yet! – to exploring the affinity between thinking, writing, and filming. Godard, we could say, has spent the last sixty years demonstrating the necessary link that binds these activities to one another: thinking-writing-filming. In this imbrication we find Godard's own particular affirmation of the claims made by Alexandre Astruc in regards "la caméra-stylo."


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