An aside, or: O somma luce


Where are you? Dazzled, drunken my soul grows faint
And dark with so much gladness; for even now
I listened while, too rich in golden
Sounds, the enrapturing youth, the sun-god

Intoned his evening hymn on a heavenly lyre;
All round the hills and forests re-echoed it,
Though far from here — to pious nations
Who still revere him — by now he's journeyed.

--ode by Friedrich Hölderlin, 1797-99, Selected Poems & Fragments (Penguin, 1998), p.17.

O eternal Light, abiding in yourself alone,
knowing yourself alone, and, known to yourself,
and knowing, loving and smiling on yourself!
That circling which, thus conceived,
appeared in you as light's reflection,
once my eyes had gazed on it a while, seemed,
within itself and in its very color,
to be painted with our likeness,
so that my sight was all absorbed in it.

Like the geometer who fully applies himself
to square the circle and, for all his thought,
cannot discover the principle he lacks,
such was I at that strange new sight.
I tried to see how the image fit the circle
and how it found its where in it.
But my wings had not sufficed for that
had not my mind been struck by a bolt
of lightning that granted what I asked.
Here my exalted vision lost its power.
But now my will and my desire, like wheels revolving
with an even motion, were turning with
the Love that moves the sun and all the other stars.

--Dante, Paradiso XXXIII, 124-145.


Studies in Verticality #4

West Highgate Cemetery, earlier today


There are better reasons for going here than to look at the grave of Karl Marx. This is the creepiest place in London; no Dickensian stretch of the river can match this calculated exercise in stucco horror, now itself decomposing. The entrance is well downhill in Swain's Lane, and at first the landscape is ordinary. But as you wind up the hill it becomes more and more overgrown, choked in winter by dead fronds with an unnerving resemblance to Spanish moss. The landscape looks less and less like London, more and more like Louisiana. Then, with a shock like a bloodcurdling scream, the Egyptian entrance shows up. Beyond it, the Catacombs, a sunken rotunda lined with stucco-faced vaults, gently deliquescent, crumbling away. Inside them, coffins on ledges. A familiar name like Carl Rosa on one of the vaults seems to accentuate the terror. Nothing seems real but death at its greyest and clammiest. The cemetery closes well before dark, and a good job too.

--Ian Nairn, Nairn's London (Penguin, 1966), p. 212.


An aside, or: utopia

Fox Hill, Upper Norwood - Camille Pissarro, 1870, oil on canvas

England, like France, is rotten to the core. She knows only one art, the art of throwing sand in your eyes.

--Camille Pissarro, 1883; quoted in Patrick Keiller's Norwood, 1983.

When Apollinaire arrives in London in 1901, his description of the South London suburbs, seen from the train, is of 'wounds bleeding in the fog...'

--Patrick Keiller, in conversation with John House, 2005.

Nocturne in Grey & Gold: Chelsea Snow - J. A. M. Whistler, 1876, oil on canvas


No comment #2

Vent d'est - Dziga Vertov Group, 1970


Everything or nothing #2

Histoire(s) du cinéma 4A: Contrôle de l'univers - JLG, 1998, video

Jean-Luc Godard was interviewed by Christian Jungen for NZZ on Sunday last week. The original interview is here, and what follows is an edited translation very kindly provided by Frederik Lang. The byline to the interview reads: 'Next week in Hollywood, Jean-Luc Godard will be honored with an Honorary Oscar for his lifetime achievement. He thinks it’s pointless that one insinuates he is an anti-Semite.' Many thanks to Frederik and Andy Rector, to whom this should be credited, for their work and assistance.


NZZ on Sunday: Monsieur Godard, next Saturday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will award you an Honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement. What does this mean to you?

Jean-Luc Godard: Nothing. If the Academy likes to do it, let them do it. But I think it’s strange. I asked myself: Which of my films have they seen? Do they actually know my films? The award is called The Governor’s Award. Does this mean that Schwarzenegger gives me the award?

I beg your pardon? The most important film award means nothing to you?

No, it really doesn’t. Maybe it is a late acknowledgement that I – like Lafayette in the American War of Independence, in the uprising against the English – supported the beginning of a revolution.

Which revolution?

In the 1950s, when I was a critic with Cahiers du Cinéma, we loved independent films. We discovered that directors like Hitchcock, Welles and Hawks fought for artistic independence within the big studio machinery. After the war, we praised this – back then, a sacrilege for French film criticism. They sniffed at directors like Hitchcock and said: He’s just making commercial films. But for that alone, the Academy could have given the award to someone else.

Now you are being modest. You and your colleagues developed the auteur theory that today structures the canon as works of directors.

The phrase la politique des auteurs was made up by journalists. When François Truffaut wrote his first articles, he only said: The auteur of a film is not the screenplay writer it is not the one who gets the story on paper who is important, but the one who stages it.

In 1980, you revoked the auteur theory with a mea culpa. Why?

I suffered severely from the consequences, that they talked more about the author and not his works. That’s why I didn’t go to Cannes for the world premiere of my latest work Film socialisme: they would have only talked about me. But it was already like this during the Nouvelle Vague: we were no more than ten critics who spoke of films and not directors. By the way, this was a mistake: with Truffaut and Jacques Rivette, we only talked about cinema and not about ourselves. We didn’t know one another.

[…] Later on, you fell out with François Truffaut. What was the reason?

Over time I realized that he made exactly the kind of films that we attacked: screenplay-films! Truffaut’s works were not shaped by the camera but by the pen. The camera imitated what his pen had written.

[...] Back to the Oscar: Why don’t you attend the award ceremony?

I don’t have a visa for the US and I don’t want to apply for one. And I don’t want to fly for that long.

Once again, there is a debate in Jewish newspapers about whether or not you are an anti-Semite. Does this hurt you?

That’s nonsense! What does ‘anti-Semite’ mean? All peoples of the Mediterranean were Semites. So anti-Semite means anti-Mediterranean. The expression was only applied to Jews after the Holocaust and WWII. It is inexact and means nothing.

You once said you were a ‘Jew of cinema’. What does this mean?

I want to be together with everyone else, but stay lonely. I wanted to express this contradiction.

The Jews have inhabited your intellectual universe since the late sixties. Is there a certain reason for this?

When the Holocaust happened, I was 15 years old. My parents kept it a secret from me, despite belonging to the Red Cross. I only found out about it much later. Even today I still feel guilty, because I was an ignoramus between the age of 15 and 25. I am sorry I couldn’t stand up for them. Today, in my own thoughts, I would like to have a critical look at them. I am generally interested in the ‘other’. It’s the same thing with blacks. First, they were colonised, and later everyone acted as if they were just as we are. Of course, a black person can wear glasses and a watch, but this doesn’t make us the same.

In Film socialisme it is said that although Hollywood was founded by Jews, everyone is looking in the same direction. Do Jews stand for diversity?

For commerce. The big studios were founded by Jews from central Europe, especially from Germany. Why did they go to Hollywood? Because they could get access to the American financial sector. The Jews were neither authorized to be bankers or doctors, nor lawyers or professors. That’s why they concentrated on something new: cinema. The Jews also came to an arrangement with the mafia quite quickly. But if you say this, immediately you are accused of being an anti-Semite, even though this is not true. People don’t see the images one should have a closer look at the people who founded Las Vegas.

[...] You deconstruct texts and images, and are regarded as 'the Picasso of cinema'.

I don’t like the comparison, he painted too many plates.

Where do you see yourself in the history of cinema?

Next door.

Le Gai savoir - JLG, 1969, 35mm


Distance(s) #19, or: the rhetoric of defamation

Deux fois cinquante ans de cinéma français - JLG & Anne-Marie Miéville, 1995, video



'I am not writing this letter with the intention to make you reconsider your criticism — nothing is farther from my mind. I am merely writing this letter to point out to you that several times in your criticism you resort to what one calls in sports circles a "foul."'

Brody again skips over the gist of this densely argued article [Towards a Political Cinema, 1950] to get to what interests him: “We could not forget Hitler Youth Quex, certain passages of films by Leni Riefenstahl, several shocking newsreels from the Occupation, the maleficent ugliness of The Eternal Jew. It is not the first time art is born of constraint.” And he concludes that Godard “took all fanaticisms to be alike and to be equally beautiful. Without equating the far left and the far right politically, Godard equated them aesthetically.”

Sliced and diced like a package of subprime mortgages, Godard’s questing thought becomes what Brody needs it to be, and in the process we may not even notice that the person who’s equating communism and fascism politically, by calling them both “fanaticisms,” is Brody. That’s ideological simplification with a vengeance.


Richard Brody's recent biography is clearly still providing ammunition for those who wish to indict Godard as an anti-Semite, and the (ceejay) model for which they like to attack. The rest of Bill Krohn's article quoted above remains the most rigorous and forceful rebuttal to such unthinking, often malicious, slurs, and David EhrensteinAndy Rector have added their voice too. One more — Godard in Deux fois cinquante ans, 'I make film (hi)story by being a small part of it, no-one has ever told me what I was doing there...', final words to André Malraux:

Histoire(s) du cinéma 4A: Contrôle de l'univers - JLG, 1998, video

L'espoir - André Malraux, 1945, 35mm


Forests #10

The Grounds of the Château Noir - Paul Cézanne, c. 1900-04, oil on canvas


Cézanne: You can never be too scrupulous, too sincere, or too submissive to nature, while still remaining more or less in control of your subject and especially of your means of expression. You must adapt these to your motif. Not bending it your way but bowing to it. Allowing it to be born, to germinate within you. Painting what is in front of you and persevering in expressing yourself as logically as possible, but a natural logic, of course; I have never done anything else. You have no idea what discoveries await you then. You see, it's only through nature that you can make progress, and the eye educates itself by contact with nature. By dint of looking and working, it becomes concentric.

Myself: How do you mean, concentric?

Cézanne: I mean that on this orange I’m peeling or, indeed, on an apple, a ball, or a head, there is a culminating point, and despite tremendous effects – light, shade, colour sensations – this point is always the one nearest our eye. The edges of objects recede towards another placed on your horizon. Once you've understood that...

He smiled.

Oh well, you'd have to be a painter to understand. Good heavens, I've invented enough theories about it!

He took a piece of crumpled paper out of his pocket.

I’ve written to a painter who came to see me, someone you don't know, who does a bit of theorizing himself. I’ll sum up what I said to him in my letter.

He read in a drawling, timid but dogmatic voice:

'Treat nature in terms of the cylinder, the sphere, and the cone, the whole put into perspective so that each side of an object, or of a plane, leads toward a central point. Lines parallel to the horizon give breadth, whether a section of nature or, if you prefer, of the spectacle which Pater omnipotens aeterne Deus unfolds before your eyes. Lines perpendicular to this horizon give depth. Now, nature, for us human beings, has more to do with depth than with surfaces, hence the need to introduce into our vibrations of light, represented by reds and yellows, a sufficient quality of blue tints to create the impression of air.'

Yes... I make a better job of painting than writing, don't I? I'm not going to outdo Fromentin yet.

He crumpled the paper into a ball and threw it away. When I picked it up, he shrugged his shoulders.

--Joachim Gasquet, Cézanne, A Memoir with Conversations (written 1912-13, pub. 1921), trans. Christopher Pemberton (Thames & Hudson, 1991), p.162-164. [Note -- I haven't seen Jean Marie-Straub & Danièle Huillet's 1989 film yet, so will possibly return to this book...]


Des animaux #4

Skagafjördur - Peter Hutton, 2004, 16mm


Forests #9

August 2010.


This week the coalition government announced plans to sell off half the land that is owned and protected by the Forestry Commission in the UK: for more info, see here and here, and a petition here. This proposal was to be expected: although the process of shallowing our deepwood forests for civilisation, begun around 4000 BC, was completed by the twentieth century and its wars, tree cover is still intensively cleared for plantation and development Robert MacFarlane, in his book The Wild Places, refers to the period after 1945 as the "locust years," in which half of the remaining ancient semi-natural forest has been irrevocably lost. At present, the ruling class is embarking on the privatisation of the commons through "larceny and deception" in the name of deficit reduction, and a desperate short-term need for capital receipts to accompany the gutting of the welfare state. Updates to follow below.
23.12.10 — John Vidal's report in the Guardian points to this transcript, which states that the government want rid of all of the Forestry Commission's estate if they can pass legislation to do so. Why? In Jim Paice's words, opportunities to create a private sector monopoly of land on this scale "do not come very often":
"Part of our policy is clearly established: we wish to proceed with, to correctly use your word, very substantial disposal of public forest estate, which could go to the extent of all of it."
"The decision to move towards substantial, large-scale disposal of the forestry estate is based on a number of issues. First, there has been, as some of your Lordships have already implied, a view from some sectors that the Forestry Commission need not be owning all the public forestry estate. Secondly–and I am not going to avoid the issue–there is a need for capital receipts. It is a very substantial sum of public investment. Thirdly, we genuinely feel, and I feel very strongly, that it is nonsense to believe that the huge public benefits can only somehow be achieved under state ownership. We have some first class woodland charities – I name but one in the Woodland Trust, but there are others, particularly active in Scotland – who own large tracts of English woodland and manage it in a way that is just as good, and I would argue probably better, than the Forestry Commission. There is the concept of local community ownership for local woodlands. There is of course a huge interest in the private sector for amenity woodlands. We have seen over the past few years that a lot of small woodlands have been bought by private individuals who want to own prime, commonly semi-ancient, woodland of their own."
Ruling class perks, exploiting the scheme that encourages and maintains tree plantation in the first place, detailed in Private Eye:
The same issue exists in England, where the cost of regulating and dishing out funds to private forestry companies is likely to outweigh the money raised from land sales. Lorraine Adams, branch president for the scientists’ union, Prospect, which represents more than 200 researchers, cartographers, rangers and skilled Forestry Commission (FC) workers, has uncovered evidence of this since the FC already sells off land occasionally. When it recently flogged an area of woodland for £60,000, for example, the new landowner immediately applied for funds under the English Woodland Grant Scheme to grow and cut timber and was given assistance totalling £55,000.
The private landowner will also be able to come back and ask for more grants in future – as well as bidding for other environmental stewardship and rural development subsidies available to forest owners – while the government can only sell the land once.
28.1.11 From The Independent:
Two very different forests show the varied categories the Government is using in addressing the sell-off, writes Josephine Forster. The New Forest in Hampshire is regarded as a "heritage" forest. It dates back to 1079, when William the Conqueror made it his personal hunting ground. The 145 square miles of ancient woodland, pasture and open heath are unique in southern England for their pristine condition.
The forest's ancient oaks are a national symbol; they were used to build Nelson's Trafalgar fleet and are still sustainably harvested today. The forest is also home to some 3,000 ponies.
By contrast, Kielder Forest in Northumberland is a "commercial" forest, its principal purpose being to produce wood. At 250 square miles, it is England's largest forest and timber producer, providing 25 per cent of our domestic timber, mainly from imported Sitka spruce and Norway spruce, which account for 84 per cent of the forest's trees.
While Kielder may seem appropriate for commercial categorisation, it will require painstaking management, as it is home to 70 per cent of the UK's endangered red squirrels, driven to extinction in most of southern England, and shelters recovering populations of otters, ospreys and goshawks.
18.2.11 Mass sell-off abandoned, although the campaign's not quite over.


Illuminations #4


Three films by Nathaniel Dorsky screened in London earlier today: Hours for Jerome I & II (1966-70/1982), Compline (2009) and Aubade (2010), three of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. Dorsky is understandably reluctant to distribute his work on anything other than 16mm, yet part of me wishes he would relent. These are images I'd like to screen every night to remind me why there might be a point to the next day's business of living; how to look in order to live. The prints were pristine, the colour and tone of the images overwhelming. Memory is resistant already, and once will have to do.


Illuminations #3


see the wind blow the trees; watch your shadow on the ground; watch the ant carry a grain across the miles of your feet; observe the eyes of your enemy or your friend; watch the kids skipping; watch the lights; watch yourself


Distance(s) #18

Moonlight - Ralph Albert Blakelock, c. 1886-1895, oil on canvas

In Titan's Goblet - Peter Hutton, 1991, 16mm


Des animaux #3

Dalla nube alla resistenza - Straub-Huillet, 1979, 35mm


Mark Fisher has written on Straub-Huillet for the new issue of Film Quarterly. The article isn't available online, but I've uploaded a pdf here. The following extract is particularly of note:

There is another example of a Straubian shot [in Sicilia!]: at one point during the railway carriage scene, the camera leaves the characters on the train to show instead the apparently empty landscape outside for several minutes. I say 'apparently' because it is important to question our unreflective assumption that such spaces are indeed empty. Deleuze maintains in Cinema II that, in Straub–Huillet’s films, an 'empty space, without characters [...] has a fullness in which there is nothing missing' (p.245). One has to learn to see such 'fullness,' which is not likely to be perceived by the casual viewer, who is more likely to find the Straubian shots frustrating and boring. How is Deleuze’s idea of fullness to be understood in this context? It is worth noting that Deleuze sees geology as continuous with politics. The idea of social 'stratification' is not just a vague metaphor in Deleuze’s work, but rather an expression of the way in which both human populations and the earth are shaped by vast impersonal processes. The unpeopled is therefore not the same as the empty.


We're just trying to document what's left #2

Get Out of the Car - Thom Andersen, 2010, 16mm

Via AndyGet Out of the Car screens at REDCAT in Los Angeles next month alongside Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet's Der Bräutigam, die Komödiantin und der Zuhälter [The Bridegroom, The Comedienne and the Pimp, 1968] and Fassbinder's Das kleine Chaos [The Little Chaos, 1967]. It's an intriguing pairing. Also, Andersen is interviewed by Vera Brunner-Sung in the new issue of Cinema Scope — on sound (p.20):

There's an impressionistic history of black jazz and rhythm and blues in Los Angeles, which is part of the city's heritage and should be better known. It has been forgotten, to a surprising extent. I think the history of music in Los Angeles is very important to the history of the city as a whole. It's kind of key. My conviction about the importance of music to films has intensified over the years. Bad music, bad soundtracks, have destroyed a lot of movies. The best filmmakers are always the ones with the best musical sense, like Pedro Costa, Jean-Marie, or even Stan Brakhage when he has music in his films it's always good. One of the most significant advances in modern cinema was the abandonment of non-diegetic music.

Der Bräutigam, die Komödiantin und der Zuhälter - Straub-Huillet, 1968, 35mm


An aside, or: we're just trying to document what's left

A striking and very moving moment in Thom Andersen's latest film Get Out of the Car: a few shots of weathered murals depicting the Virgin of Guadalupe (ten in total), an overgrown chain-link fence, a bold yellow sign. A testimony, or plea, is heard:

I think sometimes in these kinds of struggles we lose a bit of focus of what this really means for the community. It is as if... If I went to your community, and I took down your temple, if I took down your church, that's what we're talking about. These are sacred things. You're taking away our way of life.

The land beyond the fence used to be known as South Central Farm — one of the largest urban community gardens in the United States. It was developed on fourteen acres of land gifted to residents of Los Angeles in 1994, via a revocable permit held by the non-profit LA Regional Food Bank (for a more detailed history, see here). In 2006 it was sold by the City, for unspecified development, via a backroom deal. The farmers, who grew and provided food for 350 families, were evicted, and the land was bulldozed. There is a broadly sickening interview with Ralph Horowitz here, the property developer who demolished the site in the face of the Farmers' resistance. (I couldn't finish it.) The incident reminds me of a recent development closer to home, on a much smaller scale: Lewes Road. In Los Angeles, the farm was reclaimed by the City for a price; in Brighton, the guerrilla community garden was reclaimed by developers in the interest of (re)asserting its antithesis. Both were projects evicted in the face of ruthless corporate enterprise — an opposition to any conception of the land as common, and thus ground on which we can live outside of capitalism. As Andersen says of the (abridged) succession of shots above: "it is the one sequence of overt social criticism I left in the film, and the razor wire that surrounds it (also appearing in the three shots that follow) is the one thing I don’t like that appears." The rest of the film comprises an inventory of dilapidated public architecture, billboards, neon lights and corporate propaganda often subjected to the protest of graffiti, rust and decay — a document of what dominates our cities and their signs: profit motive, with little trace of the whispering wind.

Get Out of the Car - Thom Andersen, 2010, 16mm

Europa 2005 - 27 Octobre - Straub-Huillet, 2006, digital video


Too early, too late, or: no comment

Trop tôt, trop tard - Straub-Huillet, 1981, 16mm

Un film comme les autres - JLG, 1968, 16/35mm


In my first proper conversation with Godard, I asked him what he thought of politics. In an excessive theatrical gesture of a kind he rarely uses, he mimed injecting a huge syringe into his arm. 'Some people take drugs, some people take politics...'

--Colin MacCabe, Godard (Bloomsbury, 2003), p.280.

Straub: In the world we live in, since human beings are limited and the world is what it is, you can't do three things at the same time, not even two. We're doomed. This is what Schoenberg meant, or close enough, when he told Eisler, 'Instead of getting involved in politics so much, you'd better concentrate on your work.' It's a provocative statement... but it's a fact, you can't simultaneously be involved in politics and make so-called aesthetic objects or works of art or films.

Huillet: You can let things mature, however. You were talking about circumstances earlier. When you're obsessed with massacres and peasant wars as we were and still are, when you finally make Trop tôt, trop tard, it's precisely because all of this resurfaces in a certain way once it's found the appropriate form. [...] When the film was completed in 1981, they told us peasant revolts were all but impossible. Now look what's happening. It's the opposite of a film that's following fads...

Straub: Even in good faith! At the moment I like A Movie Like the Others [Un film comme les autres, 1968] better than some films that were made by the group calling itself Dziga Vertov. Dear Jeannot would certainly not agree since he'd rather conceal this film, but at least it's my opinion. Here's a guy who tried to be humble at a very precise moment in time and just tried to monitor something without imposing his grid of interpretation. He was really within the moment and the fashion of the time, but he functioned without being grist for the mill.

--Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet in conversation with François Albera, 2001, Sickle and Hammer, Cannons, Cannons, Dynamite!, published in the 2004 Viennale & Filmmuseum Straub-Huillet retrospective catalogue, p.47.

Towards lunch, our stomachs rumbling, we talk about the occupation of Nanterre, the Sorbonne and the Theatre de l'Odeon; we talk of the occupation of the six main plants at Renault, and of the closure of the ports of Le Havre and Marseilles. We speak of the men and women of the streets, about 'an inaugural moment of speech' - about the welcome that each could bid the other with no other justification than that of being another person (Blanchot). We speak of De Gaulle's fumbling address on French television, and of panic in government circles, and of the carnivalesque redoubling of the power of authority in the disarray of the marchers (Blanchot again).

After lunch, in a temporary food coma, we speak of the banning of far left groups in France, and of the retaking of the Sorbonne and the infiltration of the police into schools and universities. We speak of the workers returning to work, and the triumph of the Gaullists, returned to government with a good majority at the General Election in June. We speak of the Czechoslovak Spring, crushed by the tanks of the Warsaw Pact. We speak about the collapse of the Cultural Revolution into terror, and the suppression of Guevara-inspired guerillas in Latin America.

The room seems to grow dark. We feel depressed, terribly depressed. But we invoke, as the afternoon wears on, the title of one of the collectively written tracts of the Students and Writers Action Committee, whose participants included Butor and Roubaud, Sarraute and Duras: Tomorrow it was May. How moving! How beautiful!

Tomorrow it was May: and so we speak, too, about the Hot Autumn in Italy in 1969, and the British miner's strikes of 1973-4, about Italian workerism and Autonomia. We invoke the ghosts of Fourier, Blanqui, Luxemberg; we speak of Guevara, Ho Chi Minh and Cabral, and then we drink with our fellow attendees through the night.

--Lars Iyer, Tomorrow it was May, 22/09/10.


An aside, or: the train pulled out

Notes. 20/09/2010.

Interviewer: Have you read the two writers who have so often been identified with you — Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler?

Cain: I read a few pages of Dashiell Hammett, that's all. And Chandler. Well, I tried. That book about a bald, old man with two nympho daughters. That's all right. I kept reading. Then it turned out the old man raises orchids. That's too good. When it's too good, you do it over again. Too good is too easy. If it's too easy you have to worry. If you're not lying awake at night worrying about it, the reader isn't going to, either. I always know that when I get a good night's sleep, the next day I'm not going to get any work done. Writing a novel is like working on foreign policy. There are problems to be solved. It's not all inspirational.

--James M. Cain, "The Art of Fiction No. 69", The Paris Review 73, 1978.

The films which have most excited me recently are Skolimowski's two films and The Enchanted Desna [1964]. These are films about which I don't know what to say critically, which give me the feeling of having a lot to learn. Also Rossellini's film about steel. They are films which cut right through me, whereas with others I can see what to take and what to leave. I say this is great, but I could never do it myself. I don't rate these three films above or below the rest, they are the films I want to talk about because I really don't know what should be said. On the other hand I know very well what to say about Gertrud: I don't mean that I would necessarily be right, but I can say at once that it is like Beethoven's last quartets. Whereas with films like Walkover [1965], I want to talk about them precisely in order to discover what to say. But as I make films, I can look for anything I need to find in a film: I don't need to talk about it.

--Jean-Luc Godard, interviewed in 1965, "Let's Talk About Pierrot", Godard on Godard (Da Capo Press, 1986), p.232.

Interviewer: Are there any rituals that get you going on a literary project?

Böll: When I am involved in an extensive project there is no ritual — I go to work and write until weariness forces me to stop. With shorter projects I shirk: I straighten up my desk and then straighten it up again, read the newspaper, take a walk, tidy up my bookshelves, drink coffee or tea with the lady I'm married to, smoke a lot, let myself be diverted with visitors, telephone calls, even the radio — and then at the last moment I am literally forced to begin, jumping on a train, if you will, that's already pulling out of the station.

--Heinrich Böll, "The Art of Fiction No. 74", The Paris Review 87, 1983.

Interviewer: Your characters and you yourself often say they don't care about anything, which sounds like total entropy, universal indifference of everyone towards everything.

Bernhard: Not at all, you want to do something good, you take pleasure in what you do, like a pianist, he has to start somewhere too, he tries three notes, then he masters twenty, and eventually he knows them all, and then he spends the rest of his life perfecting them. And that's his great pleasure, that's what he lives for. And what some do with notes, I do with words. Simple as that. I'm not really interested in anything else. Because getting to know the world happens anyway, by living in it, as soon as you walk out the door you're confronted with the world directly. With the whole world. With up and down, back and front, ugliness and beauty, perfectly normal. There's no need to want this. It happens of its own accord. And if you never leave the house, the process is the same.

--Thomas Bernhard, 1986, from an interview originally published in the Autumn 2006 issue of Kultur & Gespenster, trans. Nicholas Grindell.

All literature is an attempt to make life real. As all of us know, even when we don't act on what we know, life is absolutely unreal in its directly real form; the country, the city and our ideas are all absolutely fictitious things, the offspring of our complex sensation of our own selves. Impressions are incommunicable unless we make them literary. Children are particularly literary, for they say what they feel and not what someone has taught them to feel. Once I heard a child, who wished to say that he was on the verge of tears, say not 'I feel like crying,' which is what an adult, i.e. an idiot, would say, but rather, 'I feel like tears.' And this phrase – so literary it would seem affected in a well-known poet, if he could ever invent it – decisively refers to the warm presence of tears about to burst from eyelids that feel the liquid bitterness. 'I feel like tears'! That small child aptly defined his spiral.

To say! To know what to say! To know how to exist via the written voice and the intellectual image! This is all that matters in life; the rest is men and women, imagined loves and factitious vanities, the wiles of our digestion and forgetfulness, people squirming – like worms when a rock is lifted – under the huge abstract boulder of the meaningless blue sky.

--Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet, trans. Richard Zenith (Penguin, 2002), p.107-8.

Such is the lot of a being who is born, that is to say, who, once and for all, has been given to himself as something to understand. If natural time is at the centre of my history, I see myself also surrounded by it. If my first years are behind me like an unknown land, that is not by a chance failure of memory or for lack of a complete exploration: there is nothing to know in those unexplored lands.

--words gathered by M. Merleau-Ponty & J.-L. Godard, "The Testament of Balthazar", Cahiers du Cinéma in English 6, 1966, p.44.


The shelter of time, or: fin de Histoire(s)

The Old Place - JLG & Anne-Marie Miéville, 1999, video

Histoire(s) du cinéma 4A: Contrôle de l'univers - JLG, 1998, video

Histoire(s) du cinéma 4B: Les Signes parmi nous - JLG, 1998, video

The image isn't good enough in video, but it's easier. You only have two images to work with in editing; it's like having two motifs in music, and the possibilities of creating a relationship between two images are infinite. The big difference is that if you shoot the three stone lions of Eisenstein in video, it can be an entire Warhol movie.

--Jean-Luc Godard, interviewed by Jonathan Rosenbaum in 1996, "Godard in the Nineties", Film Comment 34.5, 1998, p.60.

Histoire(s) du cinéma 4B: Les Signes parmi nous - JLG, 1998, video

Film socialisme - JLG, 2010, digital video


Histoire(s) du cinéma 4B: Les Signes parmi nous - JLG, 1998, video

Hiroshima, mon amour - Alain Resnais, 1959, 35mm

Rivette: Resnais's great obsession, if I may use that word, is the sense of the splitting of primary unity: the world is broken up, fragmented into a series of tiny pieces, and it has to be put back together again like a jigsaw. I think that for Resnais this reconstitution of the pieces operates on two levels. First, on the level of content, of dramatisation. Then, I think even more importantly, on the level of the idea of cinema itself. I have the impression that for Alain Resnais the cinema consists in attempting to create a whole with fragments that are a priori dissimilar. For example, in one of Resnais's films two concrete phenomena which have no logical or dramatic connection are linked solely because they are both filmed in tracking shots at the same speed.

Godard: You can see all that is Eisensteinian about Hiroshima because it is in fact the very idea of montage, its definition, even.

Rivette: Yes. Montage, for Eisenstein, as for Resnais, consists in rediscovering unity from a basis of fragmentation, but without concealing the fragmentation in doing so; on the contrary, emphasising it by emphasising the autonomy of the shot. It's a double movement: emphasising the autonomy of the shot and simultaneously seeking within that shot a strength that will enable it to enter into a relationship with another or several other shots, and in this way eventually form a unity. But don't forget, this unity is no longer that of classic continuity. It is a unity of contrasts, a dialectical unity as Hegel, and [Jean] Domarchi, would say.

--extract from "Hiroshima, notre amour", a roundtable published in Cahiers du Cinéma, July 1959 (trans. Liz Heron), Cahiers: The 1950s, Harvard UP, p.60-61.

Hiroshima, mon amour - Alain Resnais, 1959, 35mm

De l'origine du XXIe siècle: à la recherche d'un siècle perdu - JLG, 2000, video

Cinema as it was originally conceived is going to disappear quite quickly, within a lifetime, and something else will take its place. But what made it original, and what will never really have existed, like a plant that has never really left the ground, is montage. The silent movie world felt it very strongly and talked about it a lot. No-one found it. Griffith was looking for something like montage, he discovered the close-up. Eisenstein naturally thought he had found montage... But by montage I mean something much more vast [...] to return to what I said at the beginning: the idea of cinema as art or the technique of montage. Novels are something else, painting is something else, music is something else. Cinema was the art of montage, and that art was going to be born, it was popular. Mozart worked for princes, Michelangelo for the Pope... Some novelists sold in huge quantities, but not even Malraux, even Proust, didn't sell immediately in the same quantities as Sulitzer. Nor does Marguerite [Duras]. Suddenly, very quickly, cinema rose in popularity, much faster than Le Pen. In three years it went from thirty spectators to thirty million. Painting has never been popular. If Van Gogh were popular his paintings would go on tour. But cinema was popular, it developed a technique, a style or a way of doing things, something that I believe was essentially montage. Which for me, means seeing, seeing life. You take life, you take power, but in order to revise it, and see it, and make a judgment. To see two things and to choose between them in completely good faith.

--Jean-Luc Godard, extract from a lecture on montage at FEMIS, 1989; cited in "Montage, My Beautiful Care, or Histories of the Cinematograph" by Michael Witt, The Cinema Alone (Amsterdam UP, 2000), p.35.

The Old Place - JLG & Anne-Marie Miéville, 1999, video

Histoire(s) du cinéma 4A: Contrôle de l'univers- JLG, 1998, video



The Old Place - JLG & Anne-Marie Miéville, 1999, video