Friday, May 9, 2014

Cahiers du Cinéma Covers (the Stéphane Delorme years)

Stéphane Delorme became the chief editor of Cahiers du Cinéma at the age of 35 when Phaidon purchased the magazine from Le Monde after they failed to manage it properly so that it would be financially successful. Delorme’s first issue as chief editor was in September 2009. He took over from Jean-Michel Frodon and Emmanuel Burdeau who were previously responsible of it for most of that decade (2003-2009). These two editors had almost opposite taste in films - Frodon had a standard appreciation of European art films while Burdeau liked the craziest American films -  and these contradictions watered down the singularity of the magazine. The editorial position and mise en page of this Frodon-Burdeau period are remembered for its journalistic profiles, an interest in new media, a privilege of French cinema, and an awkward use of advertisements. Also in retrospect some of Frodon's editorials are not that inspiring.

Since Delorme’s induction as the chief editor he has brought to the magazine, and refined over time, a unique, fierce and sensitive editorial position, which is shared amongst its diverse and eclectic contributors. In a recent interview for Bomb Magazine, Delorme speaks about the solidarity he has with his generation and his fidelity towards youthfulness, which is a long-standing tradition at Cahiers (Breathless: "Pardon, vous n'avez rien contre la jeunesse?"). Recently a major undercurrent at Cahiers has been an emphasis on feelings and emotions against a dry and objective academicism. Delorme describes one of the goals of the magazine to be, “not only a film periodical, but also the periodical of its era. I want us to be in accord with our era and also to try to change the era.” The magazine is really critical too, 
“Part of the reason we seem harsh is because I’ve chosen to break with Cahiers's tradition and not have the writer who likes a film best write about it. We have a lot of writers: I can get up to fifteen opinions about any given film. I’ll always be able to find someone to like a certain film a little more than the others do. So if we wanted, we could always find a way to not be too mean, even when a film is bad, so everyone is flattered, producers and directors don’t get their feelings hurt, and we can partner with lots of films and distributors.”
Delorme was involved with film publishing even before joining Cahiers as in 1995 he started his own film magazine Balthazar (in homage to Bresson), which had a great reputation (cf. Laurent Dubreuil’s La revue Balthazar), and whose life of six issues lasted until 2003. He has also been a programmer at the Quinzaine des réalisateurs (2003 and 2009) at Cannes, which itself has become a major site of intervention for the magazine, both positive and negative. Delorme’s first review at Cahiers was for Brian de Palma’s Snake Eyes (cf. A maintes reprises, November 1998, N. 529) and since then has written a selective and impressive body of Cahiers Critiques and articles that includes to just name some of the major directors, Eastwood, Coen brothers, Resnais, Aronofsky, Verhoeven, Bronstein, Dumont, Dolan, Oshima, van Sant, and von Trier. The adjoined chief-editor Jean-Philippe Tessé has also penned many important critiques, and so has its small group of writers and guests, which many of them have been there for a similar amount of time. The new writers are given the space to define themselves quite early on. As Nicolas Azalbert writes on the curation of the writers, "Delorme has well defined the role of each writer in relation to their interest. This allows us to the freedom to write our best texts for the magazine. There is a simplicity and rigor to this method." The critiques stand out by the strength of their argument, the passion of the prose, the selectivity of what films get written, and their place within événements and dossiers.

The following are all of the Cahiers covers of the Delorme years up to its newest special 700th issue. It’s first one (N.648) is of Eccentricities of a Blond-Haired Girl, whose director Manoel de Oliveira is an important reference point at the magazine for being an older-generation European art-film director whose films have a lightness of touch and use fantasy. These early covers featured film or publicity stills, which emphasized portraits of the film’s stars or directors. The Apatow issue (N.649) was to actually feature a take-down of the director of American comedies (a surprising and bold move). Resnais (N.650), a major director at the magazine, whose Coeurs Delorme praised (N.617), created a stronger bridge between Cahiers and Positif, where Resnais and the other Left Bank directors were always seen as a better alternative to the New Wave. The Tetro cover (N.651) with Vincent Gallo (cf. Delorme and Coppola). The best of the 2000s issue with Lynch's Mulholland Drive on the cover was a grand gesture for Delorme where he was able to summarize the previous decade, and which allowed him a new start for the upcoming decade. Onwards the covers represented features the magazine would be dedicated to: acknowledging their fidelity to the former New Wave directors they gave Rohmer the cover after he passed away (N.653), Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant (N.654), Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (N.655), Cannes (N.656), Apichatpong’s Uncle Boonmee (N.657), American television series with their cover on Mad Men (N.658), utopias in French cinema with a still from Happy Few (N.659), Claude Chabrol who just died (N.660), and then on the young French cinema (N.661). Julia Hasting arrives at the magazine at the December 2010 issue and she would be responsible for their covers. For this issue there is a dark salmon background and on it are drawn the titles of the year’s best films. This is a return to the origins of the etymology of magazine’s title Cahiers which means notebook. There is a new casualness to Cahiers and it is becoming more personal in opposition to the corporate status of most 'official' publicity film magazines - as if it was something to be shared amongst friends. These covers would emphasize abstract designs and graphics that represents the spirit of that issue whether it is the films, themes, or event that it is covering. The French graphic artist Floc’h, who is known for working with Resnais, would design their January 2011 cover (N.663), which covered some of the year’s most anticipated films and which would become a regular feature for their January issues. Some of the covers in this period are better than others (the Tree of Life one is especially strange). The New Hollywood directors of the past (Cimino, Eastwood, Spielberg) are emphasized, whose narrative classicism connects this period of the magazine to the classic cinephilia of the magazine's past and to the origins of Cahiers relationship with them, and this is also in opposition to an emerging cinema of purely iconoclastic formal experimentation that has slowly been gaining more attention at film festivals. Some impressive features that they ran include ones on New York do-it-yourself filmmakers (N.670), digital cinema (N.672), French film schools (N.676), programing (N.678), eroticism (N.680), women filmmakers (N.681), and bad auteur films (N.684). With their Hong Sang-Soo issue (N.682) they got a new graphic design company Change is good to do their covers and since then their covers have become more interesting. (Previously even Bernard Chardère from Positif was complaining about their covers). There is now more visual details on the cover that emphasizes the magazines interest in the beautiful and poetic. The covers now do a better job at featuring the events of the issue and its underlining themes. Some of these include the most anticipated films of 2013 with a special focus on James Gray (N.685), a few American films (N.686), the young French filmmakers (N.688), Abrams's Star Trek: Into Darkness (N.690), on comedy and Kechiche (N.692-693), and the best films of 2013 issue (N.695). Sometimes there are strange disjunctions where the editorial does not reflect the cover, for example in the Coppola issue (N.677) the editorial emphasized instead its dossier on torrenting. The editorial position in this period is also more open and allows its main writers a stronger influence on the magazine. For example after Cannes instead of being firm on whether Cahiers should support La vie d'Adèle they left this question unanswered until the film would get release (and which Tessé would champion by organizing its dossier, unlike the previous year's Palme d'Or Amour). Or their comedy issue whose main contributor was Vincent Malausa. The covers are becoming more open, abstract and flexible. In the January 2014 issue with Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises on the cover (N.696) they started to include a new section at the back of the magazine called The End where in it they focus on one aspect of film history, which is tied to their editorial line, and which they beautifully illustrate. This is just another aspect of what Delorme is bringing to the magazine that illustrates this more open, flexible, poetic and beautiful new editorial position. For their last Resnais cover (N.699) they got his close collaborator Blutch to contribute. There are still some major Cahiers directors that are still waiting to get covers like Cronenberg, Garrel, Dolan and Ferrara. Cahiers is now at its 700th issue - congratulations! - and on its cover there is a classic Cahiers title on a pink background, a list of some of its guest director contributors, and in big numbers a 700 in rainbow colors. The future is a bright place. - D.D.



David D. said...

Doc Orlof mas demander de post le suivant. - D.D.

"Je regrette de ne pas mieux maîtriser l'anglais parce que cet article est passionnant. Très belle rétrospective des "années Delorme" qui m'ont permis de revenir vers les "Cahiers du cinéma" après quelques années de bouderies."

BouleBlanche said...


Thank you for your article. A couple small corrections: the magazine is BOMB, not Boom, and the first cover of the Delorme years featured Eccentricities of a Blond-Haired Girl, not The Strange Case of Angelica.

David D. said...

Thanks for highlighting those small mistakes. I made the changes.