Wednesday, November 5, 2014


The year 2014 might as well be Michel Ciment's as, along with his other activities at Positif and on the radio, he's at the center of film culture with his three new books: Jane Campion on Jane Campion, a republication of all his interviews with the director along with new texts and beautiful illustrations; Une renaissance américaine, a collection of thirty of his famous director interviews; and now Le cinéma en partage, a conversation autobiography with N.T. Binh.

It needs to be said that anyone that has followed Ciment over the years, or is just familiar with him, will already be familiar with a lot of what he has to say, his taste and views. But regardless there is still a lot of new writing and anecdotes that are really interesting to read, and so is his passionate and ever combative spirit and prose. Le cinéma en partage even comes with the rare Simone Lainé documentary of the same titles, which has been for too long inaccessible, which provides a fascinating inside look at his routine activities.

Le cinéma en partage is especially interesting as it reads like an audio-commentary to his illustrious career where through its near 400 pages, each of his activities, publications, documentaries, thoughts on film criticism and its culture is discussed at length. Even though Ciment talks about an early Truffaut and Rivette influence, he is situated more along the third generation Positif critics Roger Tailleur and Robert Benayoun (who get a dedication), who were returning to the more positive approach closer to Bernard Chardère, in contrast to the stricter Marxist second generation critics, Ado Kyrou and Louis Seguin. Having been a film critic at Positif since the early Sixties (cf. his first review of The Trial), Ciment is full of interesting knowledge about film history, cinephilia and French film criticism. And little hidden secrets are casually dropped throughout the book: an argument with Andrew Sarris about the merits of Scarecrow, Robert Bresson at public talk where he’s more affable (which appears in Bresson on Bresson), Truffaut’s regrettable early affinity with the Nazi sympathizer Lucien Rebatet, or Kubrick personally ordering 400 copies of his book from him …

Ciment, and many of the other Positif critics, offer a unique approach to cinema in their writing and through their activities. I think Antoine de Baecque and Philippe Chevalier are wrong for not including him in their Dictionnaire de la pensée du cinéma. At Positif cinema and its history is taken seriously and is an instrument of social protest, imagination, and is popular.

Michel Ciment will be in Toronto the weekend of November 8th to present a couple of Stanley Kubrick films at the TIFF Bell Lightbox to coincide with their new exhibition. Here at Toronto Film Review we wish him a giant welcome!

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