Andre Bazin's New Media

Andre Bazin's New Media

ANDRÉ BAZIN
Edited and Translated by Dudley Andrew
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 352
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt7zw302
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  • Book Info
    Andre Bazin's New Media
    Book Description:

    André Bazin's writings on cinema are among the most influential reflections on the medium ever written. Even so, his critical interests ranged widely and encompassed the "new media" of the 1950s, including television, 3D film, Cinerama, and CinemaScope. Fifty-seven of his reviews and essays addressing these new technologies-their artistic potential, social influence, and relationship to existing art forms-have been translated here for the first time in English with notes and an introduction by leading Bazin authority Dudley Andrew. These essays show Bazin's astute approach to a range of visual media and the relevance of his critical thought to our own era of new media. An exciting companion to the essentialWhat Is Cinema?volumes,André Bazin's New Mediais excellent for classroom use and vital for anyone interested in the history of media.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95939-2
    Subjects: Performing Arts, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Editor’s Note: About This Collection
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction: André Bazin Greets the New Media of the 1950s
    (pp. 1-34)
    DUDLEY ANDREW

    It took the expanded media environment of our twenty-first century to get me to look beyond André Bazin’s film theory to see what kind of media critic he might have been. How did he come to terms with all the threats and changes to cinema that arose just as he started the journal he is most associated with,Cahiers du Cinéma?I have been first among those who take him to be the patron saint of cinephilia, an organizer of film clubs, the man behind the auteur theory that came to dominateCahiersand raised the prestige of cinema as...

  5. PART ONE. THE ONTOLOGY AND LANGUAGE OF TELEVISION

    • 1 The Aesthetic Future of Television
      (pp. 37-43)

      It is always imprudent to claim to imagine the future of a mode of expression that depends directly upon technical progress and is subordinate to the magnitude of its dissemination. Without going back to Louis Lumière, who told Georges Méliès that his invention had no future, you only need to read what was written about cinema around 1925–27. Critics and aestheticians considered it to be a specifically silent art, and the notion of a talking cinema seemed to them to be technically dubious and aesthetically contradictory. So without losing sight of such precedents, which ought to foster humility, let...

    • 2 In Quest of Télégénie
      (pp. 44-47)

      Each week the small screen of our set brings us some new confirmation of one of the few truths that one might inarguably pull from the first years of television. We are still wondering what the style of televised theater or variety programs or documentary journalism should be. But we can be sure about one thing: we are rarely disappointed by the pleasure of simply seeing and listening to an engaging personality who has something intimate to tell us. This doesn’t mean that this always succeeds automatically; there surely are reasons to try to define the conditions that foster “télégénie.”...

    • 3 Television Is Unbeatable for Live Coverage
      (pp. 48-50)

      Having attended, out of professional obligation, a few swank charity events like the Bal des Petits Lits blancs is enough to make one grateful to TV for letting us participate in these ordeals as fully as—indeed even better than—if we were there, and without the hassle. The spectacle offered to the participants of the Bal des Petits Lits blancs was rather mediocre, but what the TV viewers experienced was far superior, because while the guests were watching some poor music hall numbers, we were watching the guests. Those privileged with fortune or fame paid a great deal to...

    • 4 Was It Live? Preserve Our Illusions!
      (pp. 51-53)

      I’ve complained enough, right up to a couple weeks ago, about the horrid quality of kinescopes, so I’m relieved at the decisive improvement in this process visible recently in certain broadcasts (notably the compilation taken fromEn direct du fond de la mer[Live from the bottom of the sea]). It seems now that before every French TV program we will have to wonder if it is or is not prerecorded. Let’s not hide either the tremendous benefit or the great danger here.

      There’s a benefit because, at bottom, it is rare in fact to find compelling reasons for actual...

    • 5 The Talking Head: Must the Commissaire Stand on His Head for TV?
      (pp. 54-56)

      Television, watch your right; television, watch your left. You can start to hear it said that “television is” this or that, just the way people used to say “Ça c’est du cinéma” or “Ça ce n’est pas du cinéma.” I employ the past tense here because the phrase is scarcely utilized anymore, and critics have become more modest and reticent when it comes to cinematographic aesthetics, since actual films too often have mocked their laws and prophecies.

      So let me highlight a current danger: that film people who are or will soon be quite interested in television may bring to...

    • 6 Television Is Neither Theater nor Cinema
      (pp. 57-59)

      We have often reproached dramatic television programs for having, in the name of laudable but vague experiments in mise-en-scène, lost sight of the basic demands of every theatrical spectacle. These include rhythm, the correctness of the actor’s movement on the stage, and above all the full possession of the role by the actor, that is, the initial grasp of the text. And so it is with particular delight that the other night we could sense the presence of the angel of television during a dramatic program that in principle did not signal that it would be exceptional in the least....

    • 7 At the Venice Film Festival, TV Shares the Screen
      (pp. 60-62)

      Let’s abandon the Lido for just one evening and take the “motorboat” over to Venice.¹ However, this is only so we can rejoin the festival, because thanks to television, the festival this year is endowed with ubiquity. This is an event worth talking about because Italian TV, only recently born, is using the occasion of this thirteenth Venice festival to indulge in a demonstration that will put it in the avant-garde of European television. For about a half hour each night, four electronic cameras capture the opening of the screening from outside the Palace on the Lido, inside the hall,...

    • 8 Voice-Overs on TV: Let the Animals Talk
      (pp. 63-66)

      Animal life is an inexhaustible subject and an infinite source for TV programs. [Producer] Frédéric Rossif has proved this with his makeshift methods. So we turn with interest to his new venture,Caméra en Afrique, which pleasantly, instructively, and in tune with the summer season, will fill up some of your vacation, a quarter hour at a time. Those responsible for the programs, M. A. Denis and his wife, already have a number of hunting films to their credit, the best known of which isFrançois le Rhinocéros. I can’t tell the extent to which that little film was shot...

    • 9 Looking at Television
      (pp. 67-72)

      Two excellent books devoted to television have just been released, almost simultaneously:T.V., by Jean Quéval and Jean Thévenot (Editions Gallimard); andRegards neufs sur la T.V., by Etienne Lalou (Editions du Seuil).¹ It is significant that these two books are appearing at the same time, and in 1957, for there can be no doubt that in France, as around the world, a general synoptic elucidation of TV has only become possible, not to say valid, in the last year or two.

      In France, in any case, 1956 did indeed appear to be decisive. Jean Thévenot explains the history of...

  6. PART TWO. TELEVISION AMONG THE ARTS

    • 10 Long Live Radio! Down with the 8th Art!
      (pp. 75-78)

      I beg those of my colleagues who are the radio specialists at this journal to pardon me for imprudently crossing the fence that separates our gardens as I go stomping around in their flower beds. But this fence is fragile and radio does have certain analogies with cinema. Also, the circumstances that have kept me from patronizing movie theaters for quite a few months have brought me close to my radio; this leads to comparative criticism.¹

      The purpose of this article grew out of the following remark, whose weakness, I readily acknowledge, is that it is perhaps too personal: dramatic...

    • 11 A Seat at the Theater
      (pp. 79-81)

      While the first night of Jean Masson and Jean Antoine’s new TV broadcast,Place au théâtre[A seat at the theater], was no doubt a success, you were allowed to wonder if it were a fluke. But the second broadcast was even better, so we’ve been reassured. Like most shows that effectively group together a series of variety acts, the premise of the first installment was a bit artificial. Time will tell. We much preferred the October 12 rendition of an excellent popular melodrama (performed by Rolla Cordion’s carnival troupe) over the appearance of the new stars of the Grand...

    • 12 False Improvisation and “Memory Lapses” on TV
      (pp. 82-85)

      I have already proposed some remarks to my readers aiming modestly to contribute to a description of what could be calledtélégénie, in the sense in which Louis Delluc spoke ofphotogénie. And I will resume these reflections one of these days, whenever my daily TV viewing suggests new ideas.

      Last Sunday I admired the supremely refined ease with which Madeleine Renaud and Jean-Louis Barrault (along with André Brunot) performed the poems that they had chosen for theirImpromptu du dimanche[Sunday impromptu].¹ It struck me straightaway that this program constitutes the first success of false improvisation. By this I...

    • 13 To Serve Theater, Let Television Adopt Some Modesty
      (pp. 86-89)

      The other week, Jacques Chabanne’s regular theater series presentedCandidaby George Bernard Shaw. No question,Candidais an admirable, well-constructed play that never stops surprising one with a consistency you might qualify as classical in its dramatic invention, while from other angles it is extremely modern. However, we have seen other good plays staged for TV; so the choice of program doesn’t explain by itself the exceptional theatrical pleasure I’m not alone in having felt this time. Should we attribute this to the cast? Definitely the actors were selected with meticulous care: Alfred Adam, Brunot, Eugène Macheaukis—but we...

    • 14 Respect the Spirit of Theater First and Foremost!
      (pp. 90-91)

      This past month brought us some theatrical broadcasts on television that, while not equally successful, were at least quite enlightening and well worth revisiting.

      [Bazin goes on to review a New Year’s Eve variety show and an operettaOffenbach’sLa Belle Helène—for the propriety of their acting, direction, and costumes, finding in both cases that the dimensions of the television screen had not been sufficiently taken into account. He then continues here by addressing a third program.]

      But one perfectly on-point program,Chemise, by Anatole France, directed by René Lucot, unfortunately proved that ingenuity indécoupageand in handling...

    • 15 TV and the Disenchantment of Theater
      (pp. 92-94)

      I do not plan to return to my critique ofChevaliers de la Table ronde[Knights of the Round Table], intelligently directed by François Chatel, except to develop one of the thoughts that this show, though disappointing, inspired in me.¹ It is extremely difficult to translate to television the conventions that produce theatrical magic.

      Whatever we may think of the mise-en-scène of this Jean Cocteau play, at least one thing went irreparably wrong —the costumes. Not that they were objectively ugly or poorly designed with respect to the style of the work, but they failed probably because they were conceived...

    • 16 Art on Television: A Program That Loses on All Counts
      (pp. 95-98)

      It pains and troubles me to come down hard on an obviously ambitious program on an artistic subject, directed by a cultured, intelligent, and conscientious man, and produced from a challenging angle for a medium as popular as television. If I have decided to go ahead, it is because I am reproving not only the latest show by J.-M. Drot, but, retroactively, and through these “Problèmes d’un jeune artiste d’aujourd’hui,” the already prolific seriesL’Art et les hommes[Art and mankind].¹

      For a TV system like France’s, with but a single channel and limited airtime, the essential problem of programming...

    • 17 Reporting on Eternity: TV Visits the Musée Rodin
      (pp. 99-102)

      Stellio Lorenzi’s “Visite au Musée Rodin” [Visit to the Musée Rodin] constitutes one of those rare programs in which you can experience the new thrill of “pure television.”

      As with pure poetry of course, television’s grace is bestowed only on those who earn it, first of all, by honestly serving their subject.¹ The exceptional qualities of Stellio Lorenzi’s program are perfectly definable. We can easily imagine the splendid film for which this TV visit to the Musée Rodin might serve as something like the dress rehearsal.² The auteur threw himself into his subject, coming up with a preliminary layout that...

  7. PART THREE. TELEVISION AND SOCIETY

    • 18 A Contribution to an Erotologie of Television
      (pp. 105-115)

      In trying to define the factors pertinent to an erotology of television, it’s convenient to compare it to cinema. The clearest difference between the two is the size of the image. Now, beyond the fact that its reduction on television is an accidental phenomenon that will disappear (at least on big-screen TV), to me, this is not one of the determining factors. Furthermore, the smallness of the screen is a debatable fact and always relative first of all to the spectator’s angle of vision. I’ll agree that a large screen viewed from very far away is not exactly the same...

    • 19 Censors, Learn to Censor
      (pp. 116-118)

      I am certainly not one of those who would reproach television for offering nothing but shows viewable by children, on the pretext that the small screen is intended for family viewing. Sentencing television to this kind of servitude would amount to forbidding it any artistic development. It is perfectly natural and legitimate to take parental responsibilities into consideration, and thus to warn parents that certain spectacles are only suitable for adults.

      Given this observation, I am at full liberty to criticize the conception TV seems to have of its own responsibilities in this area. For, ultimately, it must also take...

    • 20 You Can Now “Descend into Yourself”
      (pp. 119-120)

      The noise made by Etienne Lalou’s latest program,Science de demain[Tomorrow’s science] has reverberated all the way to the major daily papers. Obviously it’s a bit late to pick up the echo here, but we can take away a lesson that goes beyond the current news.

      We have already called attention to some of the scientific programs on TV that include live transmissions of phenomena that normally are recorded by photography or on film. But the subject of last night’s program was more sensational by far. It featured the live observation from a hospital room of images obtained by...

    • 21 Television, Sincerity, Liberty
      (pp. 121-123)

      The reader will perhaps be surprised that the subject of my observations here are programs that appear to do nothing but invoke political opinions. Yet everything that passes across the small screen can be judged from the point of view of the art of TV—that includes the current campaign for the referendum just as much as science programs or dramatic plays. And perhaps even more so, inasmuch as TV has revealed itself to be, first of all, an art of live communication from person to person, face to face. Each evening, every one of us will have been able...

    • 22 Information or Necrophagy
      (pp. 124-125)

      On his program “La Caméra a-t-elle un cœur?” [Does the camera have a heart?], François Chalais questions whether images representing the death of human beings, especially from accidents, have to be made public. Rossif could have profitably illustrated this thesis with images already seen on French TV, such as the [1955] catastrophe at Le Mans or the hallucinatory document that aired last year onJournal télévisédisplaying Japanese frogmen exploring an underwater glacial abyss, a site particularly favored by suicide candidates. This unforgettable image came back to me not long ago when I ran into its more hallucinatory supplement in...

    • 23 Television as Cultural Medium and The Sociology of Television
      (pp. 126-132)

      The statistical services of French television divide up the weekly programming as follows: out of forty-four hours and forty-five minutes per week, eleven hours and fifty-five minutes are devoted to “news magazines,” seven and a half hours to “variety shows,” five and a half to the rebroadcast of commercial films, three hours toTélé-Paris, two hours and thirty-five minutes to sports broadcasts, two hours to educational programming, two hours to music hall, two hours to religious programming (Protestant and Catholic), one hour and forty-five minutes to children’s fare (on Thursdays), an hour and a half to dramas, one hour to...

    • 24 Do We Really Need Those Serials?
      (pp. 133-135)

      It seems that TV cannot do without the serial. All the opinion polls and all the fan mail from viewers prove this. But must the public be obeyed on this matter? What good does it do for the state to refuse to authorize private networks if its own channel proposes the same programming?

      You will doubtless ask, by what right do I presume to appoint myself censor of the majority and criticize the appetite for daily serials that a huge number of TV viewers share? I have no such right, I admit—except that of a certain good sense. Everybody...

    • 25 A Superb Clown Made Incoherent by TV
      (pp. 136-138)

      On Sunday evening, July 29, the RTF presented the most absurd program imaginable—absurd not in its subject, but in its treatment. This was a reportage about an extraordinary and extravagant individual: Professor Cincinnatus Malladoli, resident of St-Pierre-la-Garenne, in the department of the Eure. An heir to Baron Münchausen and Paul Léautaud, this incredible eighty-seven-year-old character owns a castle yet lives in a trailer.¹ The castle in fact is occupied by his animals (horses, deer, and llamas), whose training is the principle occupation of this curious man. He has furnished his home à la Pitilliatas: that is, with rod puppets...

    • 26 TV Can Popularize without Boredom or Betrayal
      (pp. 139-142)

      I have always believed that television’s wonderful technology should leave no viewer cold, and that a series initiating the viewer into the mysteries of the medium would be riveting. Now it’s true that raising technological issues involving television might appear to be almost insurmountably difficult; on the other hand, nothing of value can be achieved by attempting to sidestep them. So we must pay homage right away to the creators of the showToute la télévision[All of television] for having had the courage to grapple with such problems honestly. The results thus far have been uneven though convincing. We...

  8. PART FOUR. TELEVISION AND CINEMA

    • 27 Television and the Revival of Cinema
      (pp. 145-152)

      Reflections on telecinema really should be subdivided into many series of problems, certain of which have in common only the use of actual celluloid.¹ That’s why I will immediately eliminate the category of the televised newsreel, which I treated in my article on reportage, since I consider it an asymptote of live coverage.² On the other hand, the use of pre-filmed sequences within live dramatic programs already poses an aesthetic problem. If my hypothesis about tele-theater was right, this new hybrid form just mentioned seems closer to theater than to cinema.³ The feeling of “liveness,” equivalent to that of “presence,”...

    • 28 Television and Cinema
      (pp. 153-156)

      In my last article on television and cinema, I put aside for the moment the case of certain shows made up of cinematic montages, as these pose several distinctive problems.¹ I made reference to several TV series that differ greatly in terms of quality and in the way each of them deploys cinematic material. It seems to me, however, that they have enough features in common, at least in their basic principles, to be studied together. They include, in particular, Frédéric Rossif’sLa Vie des animaux, Editions spécialesby Rossif and François Chalais, Marcel L’Herbier’sDu côté des grands hommes...

    • 29 Is Television a Degradation for Filmmakers?
      (pp. 157-159)

      I recently read a blurb in the press that Claude Barma is shootingCasino de Parisin Germany. It even adds that “he is the first director to abandon TV for genuine cinema.” Then I heard that Stellio Lorenzi has projects under way along the same lines. Meanwhile I learned that French TV is in talks to broadcast the films that Alfred Hitchcock has directed for American TV. Is not the coming together of these news items significant? Indeed, everyone knows that American TV is hiring the biggest names in Hollywood. Hitchcock already noted, but also Capra, John Ford, Mack...

    • 30 Some Films Are Better on the Small Screen Than the Large
      (pp. 160-162)

      It will take a few days to draw a conclusion from the experiments that comprise the current form of telecinema. I was thinking about this the other night while watchingLa Petite Marchande d’allumettes[The Little Match Girl] for the first time on the small screen. I had already seen this film, directed by Jean Renoir in 1927, three or four times, but I discovered that on TV it came off very successfully.

      I think I can understand at least one of the reasons for this. Some feelings do not resonate well with the vague publicity of the darkened theater,...

    • 31 Should Television Be Allowed to Chop Films to Pieces?
      (pp. 163-166)

      Television seems to be making increasingly frequent use of selected cinematic fragments, and for a variety of purposes. You can already list three regular programs:Au Royaume des images[In the realm of images],A vous de juger, andLa Séquence du spectateur(which was just given two program slots), not to mention miniseries like the three programs that Frédéric Rossif recently devoted to the work of Marcel Pagnol. Such proliferation is beginning to pose problems that perhaps deserve mention.

      The use of film fragments offers television several obvious benefits. First, it makes it possible to put together a cinematic...

    • 32 From Small Screen to Widescreen
      (pp. 167-170)

      Now thatA King in New Yorkhas evidently marked the end of a series of important releases, we will no doubt go through a period of relative calm until the end-of-the-year holidays, allowing me to return to some films that I have regretfully neglected—two American productions,The Bachelor Partyand12 Angry Men.¹ Both their content and their form justify putting these films side by side. Both illustrate in a particularly significant way the current renaissance of social realism in American cinema. More precisely, a renewed critical realism shines a cruel, sometimes implacable light upon the lifestyle of...

    • 33 Sacha Guitry Is Confident about TV, Just as He Was about Cinema in 1914
      (pp. 171-173)

      The last of Frédéric Rossif’s three programs devoted to Sacha Guitry’s films was one of the most fascinating he has ever mounted for the television screen; moreover, it constitutes a model of the combinations possible between television and cinema.¹ No doubt its interest comes first from the value of the documents presented. We know that Sacha Guitry, who by 1914 was already a pioneer of the “portrait films” that have been proliferating in recent years, had the brilliant idea of documenting some of his most glorious aging contemporaries: Rodin, Auguste Renoir, Edmond Rostand, Claude Monet, Saint-Saëns, Sarah Bernhardt. Today we...

    • 34 Jean Gabin Gets TV’s “Sour Lemon” Prize
      (pp. 174-176)

      For one in his series of roaming broadcasts, Stellio Lorenzi took us to visit the film studios at Boulogne-Billancourt last Saturday afternoon.¹ This was an excellent idea from the outset, enticing almost all viewers, since everyone in the world is curious about the backstage of the movies. Now for those a bit familiar with the actual work in a studio, this did not promise to be so simple an undertaking. There’s a paradox (that would take too long to develop here) by which the universe of cinema is actually the least photogenic in the world. This is perhaps because the...

    • 35 “The Glass Eye” Will Reveal a New Hitchcock
      (pp. 177-179)

      Like several other seasoned Hollywood directors, for a few years Hitchcock has been doing more work for TV than for cinema. He has already produced several dozen short films for General Motors (each about a half hour long), for which he always selects the subject and supervises the mise-en-scène, sometimes personally serving as director. But even when he’s not near the camera, these TV films definitely carry his mark, the famous “Hitchcock touch,” which he knows perfectly well how to inject even though he is monitoring things from afar (as I noticed, for instance, when at the end of the...

    • 36 Hitchcock on TV
      (pp. 180-181)

      We have of course been awaiting with great curiosity this series of films directed by Alfred Hitchcock for American TV. It is perhaps a little early to judge them, though it is probable, and even expected, that some will prove more or less successful. Here the screenplay must play a larger role than it does in the cinema, in proportion to the corresponding economy of the mise-en-scène. It seems that the series consists of short detective stories based on a type of denouement that is sufficient to justify a short story format but that would obviously not support the dramatic...

    • 37 Renoir and Rossellini: Two Top Recruits for Television
      (pp. 182-183)

      While certain young directors of French television, like Claude Barma, Marcel Bluwal, or Maurice Cazeneuve, seem on their way to working at least part time in cinema, this year two great film directors, Jean Renoir and Roberto Rossellini, are offering the small screen their prestigious collaboration.¹ The first has just finished his shooting script forDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which he expects to film during November.² It’s an updated version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, starring Paul Meurisse. While this production will be made as a film, it will be done in the spirit of television, that is, in...

    • 38 Renoir and Rossellini Debut on TV
      (pp. 184-186)

      In its programming lineup for the coming winter, RTF is offering us the television debuts of two great film directors, Jean Renoir and Roberto Rossellini. On various occasions in these pages, I have often bemoaned the French bias that has kept our filmmakers at a distance from the small screen, something that doesn’t happen in America. These prejudices have been more or less reciprocal, with television’s policymakers seemingly skeptical about the ability of notable cineastes to adapt to the technical and economic constraints of TV. Nevertheless, while of course recognizing the financial impact of America’s private system, I do not...

    • 39 Cinema and Television: An Interview with Jean Renoir and Roberto Rossellini
      (pp. 187-203)

      In a few weeks French Television will broadcast two major programs whose credits include the names of two of the most important film directors: Jean Renoir and Roberto Rossellini. In the United States, film auteurs like Welles and Hitchcock have already grappled with the problems posed by the “small screen.” In France, however, this is the first initiative of this kind, and on the eve of these two shows airing, we felt it would be interesting to publish the testimony of the two filmmakers.

      RENOIR: I am preparing a film version of Stevenson’sDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hydefor television....

    • 40 About Television: A Discussion with Marcel Moussy and André Bazin
      (pp. 204-212)

      A.B.: How is it that you, a novelist and dramatist, were first driven to turn to television, and then to adopt your precise technique within television? You began not withSi c’était vous[the TV series, If it were you] but with theatrical adaptations?

      M.M.: Yes, I started with a commissioned adaptation of Ben Jonson’sThe Alchemist. This gave me the opportunity to recognize certain limits and certain possibilities of television. This play—a great satirical farce that I believe had a tremendous influence on theater—was a partial failure on television, and I wondered why. The blame fell neither...

  9. PART FIVE. CINERAMA AND 3D

    • 41 New Screen Technologies
      (pp. 215-219)

      Up to now people have discussed new technologies in the absolute, in relation to films in themselves, as if these were independent of how they are exploited in theaters. But let me make the point that everything in cinema begins with exhibition. “People” didn’t create CinemaScope because “people” felt some aesthetic or psycho-visual need for a larger screen; instead it was cinema’s need to win out in a competition against television, one of whose weak spots lies precisely in the restricted size of its image

      Moreover, we shouldn’t have to imagine that cinema’s dependence on its commercial exploitation is a...

    • 42 Cinerama: A Bit Late
      (pp. 220-226)

      It will probably take two years for this invention (which has shaken the columns of the cinematographic temple and challenged CinemaScope) to slip from the core of our curiosity. Cinerama is now inside our walls and I have not yet heard a conversation beginning with “Have you seen Cinerama?” On the contrary, I see how easily we are resigned to put off the discovery for a few more weeks or months.

      This remark only means that the situation is not commercially viable. It is quite possible that during this period the Empire—whose curse as a theater is notorious—may...

    • 43 Cinerama, a Disappointment
      (pp. 227-231)

      And so, nearly three years after it appeared in New York, and lagging behind its arrival in Canada, England, Japan, and Italy, Cinerama has at last come to Paris. We no longer need to rely on accounts from travelers but are in a position to judge for ourselves this spectacle that has turned cinema upside down. Don’t forget that Cinerama is at the origin of a partial revolution in production, since Hollywood felt that enlarging the image was the way to counter the competition from television, by renewing a hunger for spectacle. Then, just in the way that Professor Chrétien,...

    • 44 Cinema in 3D and Color: Amazing!
      (pp. 232-234)

      As of last night, Parisians can now see the 3D films that were one of the big attractions at the recent Festival of Britain.¹ Films in 3D and in color, let me add, for while the system still entails wearing special glasses, those glasses are no longer red and green, as they were before. They are exactly like sunglasses, made from a lightly tinted glass that does not distort colors. This technique for stereoscopic filming and projection was developed by Raymond Spottiswoode. As with the old method that used anaglyphs, as well as Louis Lumière’s more recent version using polarized...

    • 45 A New Stage in the Process: Math Equations for 3D
      (pp. 235-242)

      Georges Sadoul, in the first volume of his monumentalHistoire du cinéma, advanced the quite likely hypothesis that the inspiration for cinema was 3D photography.¹ An earlier historian, Potonniée, made the same claim: “It was not the discovery of photography but rather the stereoscope that opened the inventors’ eyes. By capturing figures frozen in space, photographers realized that their images lacked the movement necessary to make their images of life a true copy of nature” (L’Invention du cinéma, p. 29). Stereoscopy is nearly as old as photography. A half century ago, amateur photographers commonly used doublelens stereoscopic cameras. If someone...

    • 46 Will a War in Three Dimensions Take Place?
      (pp. 243-247)

      You will say that the passage from silent to sound cinema proves that a revolution is possible even when this involves a technological overhaul for distribution. This may be true, but at what price? When in 1927 Warner Brothers risked all they had on the attractiveness of sound, what they needed was nothing less than the energy that despair musters; their company was about to go bankrupt. You may also think that, with the economic crisis just around the corner, the exploitation of this new technology during the years 1928–1930 helped cinema through a very difficult moment that it...

    • 47 The Return of Metroscopix
      (pp. 248-250)

      A recent first-run release gives me the chance to add a postscript to a more general inquiry. It concerns a highly publicized spectacle presented as the first part on a program with an American comedy. Now, this program precedes the upcoming distribution ofBwana Devil, the warhorse of United Artists, a film in 3D and color; so the current release might appear to the layman as the avant-garde of Operation 3D.

      You are allowed to be stunned when a serious American company, which has no need to behave like some Persian rug seller, dares to put back on the market,...

    • 48 The House of Wax: Scare Me ... in Depth!
      (pp. 251-253)

      Here at last is a film in full stereoscope relief which for the first time makes the ultimate worth of the third dimension perceptible. We’re not talking about a revolutionary masterwork; this is far from that, but simply a film rather adroitly made and in a manner different from how it would have been made in the standard flat format.

      Naturally the intellectual and artistic level is not very high, but neither were the first films of Lumière and Méliès. The script, which limits itself to taking up a theme already treated twice in the cinema, once in a silent...

    • 49 The Real Crime on La Rue Morgue: They Assassinated a Dimension!
      (pp. 254-257)

      In his recently published and excellent bookLe Cinéma, Henri Agel recruits Doniol-Valcroze for the following opinion: “If CinemaScope had been exploited as it could have been, today, fifteen years later, the director would be able to choose the proportion of his images the way a painter can decide the format of his canvas.”¹ Yes, a variable screen certainly is the ideal solution to the problem of screen dimension, and it is technically possible too, without a doubt. Despite this, I still harbor great skepticism regarding the future of the variable screen and continue to oppose it to CinemaScope because...

    • 50 The 3D Revolution Did Not Take Place
      (pp. 258-264)

      When you let your memory take you back to the ambiance that reigned over the cinematographic world barely three years ago and then consider the current state of cinema, it seems that you first must declare that the “War of 3D” did not take place.¹ Let’s remember that the launch of new technological formats almost always occurs under the advertising slogan of “depth” (i.e., three dimensions). Perhaps genuine 3D cinema would create a real revolution, comparable to what occurred with sound. In fact, today nobody even remembers sitting before a CinemaScope film and having believed for a moment that it...

  10. PART SIX. CINEMASCOPE

    • 51 Will CinemaScope Save the Cinema?
      (pp. 267-287)

      Everyone, even among the mass audience, now recognizes that Hollywood is working to resolve one of the most severe economic crises in its history. And it is doing so through two military operations; on the one hand there is 3D (this avant-garde stereoscopy is already visible on French screens), and on the other hand there is the war machine in CinemaScope,The Robe, which has already been seen on Broadway and will soon take up its position in Europe.

      Everybody also recognizes that acute competition from television is forcing Hollywood into a corner where it has to accept the risks...

    • 52 CinemaScope and Neorealism
      (pp. 288-291)

      This year the Venice Film Festival concluded with the presentation of CinemaScope, while for the first time the Golden Lion was not awarded to any film. Should we see in this circumstance more than a coincidence, the sign of something dying and something being born? I think that this interpretation would give this situation too much importance. First of all, if this year’s Venice Film Festival has been the most disappointing we have ever seen, it has not been the least interesting from the point of view of film criticism. We had no works that stood out with undeniable force...

    • 53 CinemaScope: The End of Montage
      (pp. 292-293)

      Primarily for theoretical reasons, I was an enthusiast for CinemaScope after I saw it demonstrated experimentally last summer in Paris and Venice. The tighter traditional format is an accident against which most of the best filmmakers have taken a stand. If sound had not come in to steal the public’s attention,NapoléonandConstruire un feuwould likely have revolutionized cinema beginning in 1927.¹

      But maybe the times were not right. Abel Gance employed his triple screen less to extend the visual field than to multiply the effects of montage via space. Today, on the contrary, the interest in widescreen...

    • 54 The Trial of CinemaScope: It Didn’t Kill the Close-Up
      (pp. 294-298)

      Among the aesthetic objections brought against CinemaScope, the most frequent, and admittedly the most plausible, concerns the impossibility of this format accommodating the close-up, generally taken to be the cornerstone of montage. Even if one disputes the decisive character of montage for film art, the fact remains that the close-up is an element essential to psychological expression, and that any technological development would indeed be absurd if it resulted in depriving the cinema of this crucial resource. Indeed, at first glance, and sticking to appearances, the ideal screen format for the close-up would correspond more or less to the square...

    • 55 Massacre in CinemaScope
      (pp. 299-307)

      For two years cinema has been the object of an incredible technological swindle whose description will be enough to stupefy future historians; so too will the patience or blindness of the millions of spectators who are its victims.

      The cinema is an industry before it is an art; this is a commonplace that should not scandalize us inasmuch as its economic imperatives are a guarantee of its popularity. Being indentured also makes for cinema’s grandeur and its originality. Unfortunately, examined more closely, the cinema is not so much an industry as a trade. Only a mythology among critics maintains the...

    • 56 Will CinemaScope Bring about a Television Style in Cinema?
      (pp. 308-310)

      Has the coming of CinemaScope, linked to the general use of color, doomed traditionally formatted films in black and white to a more or less lengthy expiration? This would be likely if the evolution of the arts were linear and uniform, and if the cinema were nothing but spectacle. However, beyond the fact that for technical reasons it is not going to be feasible to retrofit all theaters for CinemaScope for a very long time to come, thus maintaining a market for ordinary films, we can already clearly discern a reaction that is taking shape against the cinema of spectacle....

  11. PART SEVEN. FINALE

    • 57 Is Cinema Mortal?
      (pp. 313-318)

      The fact that one can reasonably ask oneself such a question today, and that it requires some thinking through to come to an optimistic answer, should be enough to justify astonishment and musing. While deliberately sensational, Raymond Cartier’s article published recently inMatchon the current situation in Hollywood is fundamentally correct; the statistics he provides in support of his thesis are perfectly convincing.¹ Let us recall that, roughly speaking, Hollywood has lost some 50 percent of its domestic public over the last ten years. This massive loss (attributable especially, but not exclusively, to TV) seems, however, more or less...

  12. APPENDIX: A Selective Reference Guide to 1950s French Television
    (pp. 319-326)
  13. Index
    (pp. 327-337)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 338-338)