Jacques Rancière definitively shares the Cahiers du Cinéma ethos, especially its sixties and seventies period and how these ideas have evolved with the times. This is perhaps one reason for the close connection between him and Cahiers. This paper will examine what aligns Rancière with Cahiers through a historical contextualization of the origins of his cinephilia and how his interviews inspired and confirmed some ideas of the Cahiers project. There will be a close analysis of his interviews with an emphasis on his answers and what they imply for an evolving film culture and for Rancière’s larger body of writing. As well there will be a focus on the influence of the interviews, which take place every five to ten years, on the different critics and periods of Cahiers.
Cahiers has had a long and enriching relationship with acclaimed philosophers. For example, throughout their sixty-year history, they have interviewed Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Rancière, Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek. Interviewing these figures serves a double purpose at the magazine: both as an involvement with the emerging philosophical concepts of their times and a certain legitimization of cinema within a different intellectual domain. But Rancière is more important than these others at Cahiers as he has been interviewed there more times than anyone else, with a total of six interviews since 1976. In the nineties, he also contributed articles to the magazine, and later with Charles Tesson he interviewed Jean-Luc Godard for Éloge de l'amour (2001).
Rancière’s most cited references in regards to film criticism and cinema theory are to the writings of André Bazin and Serge Daney. On the other hand, Daney and Serge Toubiana, the two chief editors during the seventies and eighties, would credit Rancière’s La leçon d'Althusser for helping them conceptualize the magazine's movement away from the doxa of its Marxist period. This would lead them to their first interview with Rancière in 1976 and then to the following five interviews which span forty years. Rancière, in these interviews offered a legitimation of their views, interesting conflicting opinions,and new directions for theorization. He has been a compagnon de route for Cahiers. As the current chief editor Stéphane Delorme best addresses it, “If Rancière’s writing is so important to us… it is for his two essential ideas: equality as principal and emancipation as the goal.”
Roland Barthes and Rancière’s Early Cinephilia
It is worth contrasting Jacques Rancière with Roland Barthes for a better idea of how Rancière shares the Cahiers ethos. In Barthes’ early film writing, like in Mythologies, he is opposed to the era’s popular trends in the cinephile discourse. Michel Ciment would even go on to state, “He isn’t at all synchronous with his times. He’s closer to the early Positif. He’s of a position that is more of the left for his period.” But it is clear that Barthes would be familiar with some of the Cahiers theories. For example, André Bazin’s famous essay Ontology of the Photographic Image, building on the connections between the Surrealist and photography, wrote, “A photograph is a really existing hallucination.” Barthes, having read Bazin though without ever citing him, would elaborate on this thesis in the ‘noema of photography’ section of Camera Lucida. Barthes wrote, “The Photograph then becomes a bizarre medium, a new form of hallucination.” But the differences between the two are striking. Where Bazin emphasized the combination of reality, imagination, and mechanical reproduction; Barthes agreed on the falseness of perception but highlighted the truthfulness of its temporal quality. But Barthes rejects cinema for its concentrated visual activity, as in the same essay he wrote on Federico Fellini’s Casanova, “I was sad, the film exasperated me.” Even though Barthes would be interviewed by Cahiers in the sixties in regards to their growing interest in semiotics, he would remain to have a more ambivalent relationship to cinema in general, and Cahiers and the nouvelle vague directors in particular.
On the other hand, Rancière is to be more synchronous with the Cahiers cinephile discourse. Aside from his political and philosophical writing, Rancière’s early and later writings on cinema offers an in-depth look at some of its important films and a theoretical understanding of it as an art form. Rancière, who was born in 1940, describes his years between 1960 and 1968 in Paris, during the golden age of cinephilia, as his introduction to cinema. Rancière wrote, “I absorbed all of the great westerns, musical comedies and film noir, as well as some Europeans, like Roberto Rossellini – Europe ‘51 was a real shock – and the directors from the nouvelle vague and Kenji Mizoguchi.” Rancière elaborates,
Cinema for me was just like everything else. There are interests of mine that I was focused on at very different moments in my life. I discovered cinema when I was in khâgne, since I had a neighbor who was really passionate about cinema, who explained to me that the true cinema wasn’t Antonioni, Bergman or any of these other culturally legitimate films. What one had to go and see was Raoul Walsh’s Esther and the King or Jacques Tourneur’s La Bataille de Marathon, and this was true cinema… Therefore I discovered cinema away from all initiation of the arts. For me the history of cinema was Vincente Minnelli, Raoul Walsh, and Anthony Mann, and not the kind of thing which was made for a cultivated bourgeoisie.
It is therefore not the first Cahiers jaune generation that marked Rancière, with André Bazin, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze and the young turks fighting for the legitimation of Alfred Hitchcock; but its subsequent iteration. Rancière discusses having conversations with Jean Douchet and Louis Skorecki in this period at the cinéma Mac-Mahon. Rancière wrote, “In this period, we shared a mac-mahonien love of cinema, which means a love for classic American films, while also having a Marxist vision of the world… And then the nouvelle vague got inscribed into this. I immediately really liked Godard, Truffaut, Demy, Rozier…”
Marc Cerisuelo describes the philosophy of the mac-mahoniens as similar to that of Plato on beauty being “Cinema is that which is the most beautiful.” The Mac-Mahon Cinema, which got its name from the street it is on off of the Champs-Élysées, was an important venue for Rancière’s to develop his sensibilities. In this period the cinema was programmed by Pierre Rissient and its representative carré d'as directors were Fritz Lang, Otto Preminger, Raoul Walsh and Joseph Losey; as well as some other directors like Jacques Tourneur and Kenji Mizoguchi. Michel Mourlet would further conceptualize the invisible style privileged by the mac-mahoniens in his essay Sur un arts ignoré. But what Rancière liked about these films is that, “What was important in a film by Cukor, Minnelli, Walsh, Mann, it was the establishment of a certain relationship to the world and the way to bring together a materialism of the mise en scène with a materialism of the world.”
First Interview. 1976.
This is the background to Rancière’s first interview at Cahiers. It is the July-August 1976 special issue Image de Marque. On its cover there is a photograph of a Buddhist monk in Saigon who set himself on fire to protest the Vietnam War. The issue is on the branding of images. It was part of the magazine attempt to get out of their earlier Maoist period. They had already interviewed Foucault two years earlier. In this introduction Daney and Toubiana wrote, “We have always suspected at Cahiers that the cinema of publicity wasn’t at the undignified margins of the cinema, but its truth.” They are investigating the branding of ideological images that can then be mobilized as tools by ideological institutions. Daney and Toubiana wrote on why to interview Rancière, “La leçon d'Althusser helped us to figure out how the dialectic of class struggle and ideological debates wasn’t doing anything. This book permitted us to better understand the stakes of ideologies, the system of their imbrication and opposition.”
The subjects of this Rancière interview include leftist films, popular memory in France and the importance of history. Rancière brings his critique of Althusserianism (Communism and leftist philosophy in France) to the discussion of political films and their social value. As in the La leçon d'Althusser where Rancière critiques the restrictive doxa of ideology, so are political films criticized for being too one-sided. One problem Rancière sees in French media and cinema is its lack of an egalitarian image resulting from conflicts in its social history. For Rancière, a big clash continues between the bourgeois and the proletariat. The rich conservatives that own and control the media also decide on what kind of images will be disseminated. For Rancière these images project a generalized idea of society which is different than its individual truths. These images are also problematic as they naturalize certain stereotyped behavior.
The problem for Rancière then arises with the commemoration of historical leftist figures whether on television or in cinema. By the creation of these outdated memorials and historical leftist fictions the popular media is, instead of celebrating the individuals, actually insisting that they are a thing of the past. Another problem arises in a film like Bertrand Tavernier’s Le Juge et l'assassin (1976). Here the film is too flattering of the leftists and implies to its sympathetic viewer that they are on the morally right side. So for Rancière, then, the problem becomes how to produce a new culture, and what images will be decisive for doing this?
Rancière posits two different types of political cinema: the first type is militant for a particular political power and the second is attempting to be political in its proper effect, dynamic accumulation and representations. Some positive examples of films that are discussed include Robert Kramer’s Milestones (1975) and Jean-Luc Godard’s Numéro deux (1975). This interview is note-worthy for Rancière earliest conceptualization of Godard as he praises Numéro deux for its denouncing of the lies of leftism and its inquiry into the technical qualities of the medium. Rancière disagrees with Godard though for claiming that it is shameful to still tell stories, as he thinks that there are still new ones to tell as they can still find ways to unite people. Rancière argues for a new dialectic, un ici et ailleurs.
In this interview Daney and Toubiana ignore Rancière’s earlier relationship to cinema as they want to focus on the subject of militant and leftist films. Rancière would recall this interview, “I think that I expanded the reflection, instead of solely addressing these Brechtian political films that they presented me, to take up the theme of leftist fiction films of the period in general. It was an important interview for me where I crystalized a certain number of ideas that I hold dear.” In retrospect, Rancière brings up an important aspect of these interviews: Not only are they important to Cahiers but also for himself. They have allowed him to have a better idea of his own ideas, and suggest interesting ideas that he would later develop. Rancière continues, “I think it is one of my first interventions that put together all of these problematic aspects of history and memory and how they become constitutionalized through these leftist films. Then there arises a doxa of the left and the rise of a new leftist ideology, which would lead and affirm François Mitterrand and an appropriation of the popular memory of the workers.”
Second Interview. 1985.
The second May 1985 interview La Visite au Peuple is in a special issue on the Scénario and it is by two Daney-era critics, Charles Tesson and Serge Le Péron. It took place after Rancière had published La Nuit des prolétaires (1981), which was well received at Cahiers, and when he would have been writing Le Maître ignorant (1987). The impetus of the interview is sociological again. The questions include how do popular French films represent the people, and, what has happened to leftist cinema and the social film since Mitterrand of the Socialist Party became the French president in 1981? Some of the films that they had asked him to watch included police films and comedies like Claude Zidi’s Les Ripoux (1984), Roger Hanin’s Train d’enfer (1984), and Patrice Laconte’s Les Spécialistes (1985).
Rancière takes up the representation of immigrants in these films, which typically presents them as socially defined victims of racism. Rancière sees this treatment as being different from how it was in the past and blames the production companies and their notion of demographics,
The problem is that a film like Jacques Becker’s Casque d’Or would today have an Arab cast. All of a sudden, there wouldn’t be the necessary identification of the base line public for the distress of these guilty victims. The issue of race would prevent this and so would the standard practices of justice. The results: immigrants are solely presented as picturesque characters or as victims. It’s not possible, or even permitted, for them to be the subject of a dramatic film.
Rancière sees these police films being in the mold of Francesco Rosi’s Italian mafia films. There is a new problematic representation of order and the police. These police films show their violence as an expression of their order. The process of them becoming tools within their larger ideological institutions dehumanizes them as individuals. The police no longer fights crime and instead are compromised and defeatist. In these films, which are typically set in these medium-sized French cities, the only relations people have are with the police. Rancière pursues this line of thought, of the lack of morality of the police, towards romantic relationship. Rancière, “It appears to me that effectively when there’s no enunciable morality or law then the potential for desire and love will surely go away… So then in a film like Les Spécialistes the feminine presence is purely decorative or else becomes a mark of publicity.”
It is interesting that, for Rancière, Éric Rohmer does not offer a positive image. This opinion goes against the standard Cahiers line as Rohmer is a house director. Rancière reproaches Rohmer for his moralist point of view. On Les Nuits de la pleine lune (1984) Rancière wrote,
The film has to take certain behaviors, enacted by certain publicity signs, like normative behavior, to exclude any skeptical judgment that would divide the gaze on the products. And on the political level, it’s a very secure cinema, not in the terms of racial security, but in the sense of the representation of the social. The film is safe where it should take mores risks in regards to the law, the other and desire.
Even Robert Bresson does not necessarily become a positive example, though he is closer to it. For Rancière, “L’Argent does the same thing Bresson has always done: an inscription into the sign of the time… The film corresponds to the socialist regime by the way it is symmetrical to the exhaustion of the gauchiste morale and culture. It was made at a time where a generation, ours, had put its ‘social’ back into the hands of leftist politicians and returned to the question of evil.” Rancière sees these concepts, that of good versus evil, as already anachronistic.
Bresson, doesn’t feel bad to create these images of an old discourse, that of catechism, which others believe to be discovering today, as if it was the summit of a political reflection (no transcendence, no law, no mistakes; no means to escape the necessary absolute of the society, therefor of terror)… He believes in good and in evil, and in the failure of tentative generosity and trying to do what’s right. This leads us to the fantastic last part of the film, which is a total blow for anyone with a standard amount of belief.
Between, this interview, and the next, Serge Daney would die of AIDS. Jacques Rancière, in an essay Celui qui vient après. Les antinomies de la pensée critique in Trafic twenty years later, would reflect on Daney and in doing so the role of the film critic. Rancière highlights the importance of criticism for Daney whether it is on a Classical Hollywood film or some televisual broadcast. Rancière wrote on the role of film criticism, “To interrogate the films on what they show us and what they hide. Not only in regards to the state of cinema, but also that of the world. So the critic then takes up the activity to lift up the veil of images to show and explain the functioning of the world.” Rancière highlights that modern films, like those by Godard or Jean-Marie Straub, have themselves become criticism. These directors don’t break stories, but separates them, puts them at a distance from their own images and sounds. Rancière, in his own way, would seem to be continuing Daney’s project in his own writing on cinema, politics and philosophy.
Third Interview. 1995.
The third November 1995 interview by Antoine de Baecque Les mots de l’histoire du cinema is on history, the history of film and cinephilia. These questions on the role of history in relation to cinema were especially relevant at the time with the centenary of cinema going on and the concluding century approaching. After a hundred years, how to write the history of film? As a new eighties critic, de Baecque had imposed himself as a major figure at the magazine and in this interview he would propose new subjects to discuss with Rancière. De Baecque, with his background in history and interest in cinephilia, now gets to bring these interests to the forefront through making them the subject of the interview. Rancière’s rising interest in aesthetics and how to conceptualize image also emerges here.
For Rancière, there are two ways to study cinema, whether it is in the mode of the encyclopedia or that of the director monograph. What’s striking about this discussion are his references to Georges Sadoul and Louis Delluc, which are new for him, and which aligns him with the de Baecque of cinephilia studies. While there are also references to Stéphane Mallarmé and Gustave Flaubert that emerge, which will regularly come up in his future writing on aesthetics. Some films and directors that brought up include Manoel de Oliveira’s Aniki-Bóbó (1942) and Yasujirō Ozu and Satyajit Ray. Rancière views the cinephilia of the nouvelle vague as an enterprise that put into crisis a certain cultural legitimacy, which is in contrast with how the centenary of cinema is making it legitimate through being part of the official national cultural heritage. This heritagization, for Rancière, is not desirable. Rancière wrote, “It’s the multiplication of different perspectives that I find stimulating: to start off with something that is heterogeneous, instead of trying to creating something artificial that is homogenous.” Rancière is also against the museumification of cinema as it is supposed to be the democratic popular art form of the century; therefore it is supposed to be literally the anti-museum.
For Rancière, the first evolution for cinema was its transition from being silent to incorporating sound, “The problem of writing about cinema has to do with its singular status as an art, which was supposed to be non-Aristotelian, but which ended up taking that narrative form, along with other expressive measures.” But for Rancière what is more interesting,
Is to start out with some questions that deal with, for example, the history of visible forms, narrative strategies and the politics of aesthetic, which, individually and together, can reorient the contemplation of cinema from a point of view, which might not be internal to cinema. At a certain moment, in a certain contexts, in certain places, a certain cinematographic form, a certain theorization or appropriation of cinema is inscribed in this problematic which encapsulates larger modes of representation, and it is through this, more than through an evolution of forms, that it can become the object of history.
This for Rancière accompanies the problem of the chronological linear discourse,
The work of History starts when we start to ask ourselves, for example, what separates the cinematographic style of the nouvelle vague – the life style of a new generation, social unease, direct-cinema, news reporting – with its immediate chronological referents like that of the thirties which had totally opposite preoccupations – the cult of artifice, a lightness of tone etc. – that of Ernst Lubitsch. This was one of the cinephilic activities of the nouvelle vague. As Godard used to say, “Lumière, my contemporary.”
Some of Rancière’s comments in this interview anticipate his reflection in La Fable cinématographique and interestingly some of the ideas that Godard will bring to his own Histoire(s) du cinéma (1998). Rancière wrote,
To write about the cinema like a historical object is hard even when we don’t take into account its technical bases and its potential utopia of aesthetic and political forms. The cinema is to the 20th century, the material that is the richest in visual information, most filled with other stories… It is then not necessarily necessary to define its choice of objects for this ‘history of cinema’ from the objects that came from itself, but instead objects that come from other histories, like the history of the gaze, narration, sensible strategies of the community and then to return to cinema through these interpretative keys… What is at stake is to find these ‘hard objects’, which resist in their way the erudition of knowledge, while also inscribing themselves into the narration, visible forms with a political-aesthetic dimension where the cinema conserves its place and maximizes its forces.
This interview led to de Baecque proposing to Rancière to contribute a regular, bi-monthly film chronicle. They started in February 1998 and lasted for fifteen contributions – they represent some of his finest writing on cinema.
Rancière and Godard
After having written previously on Godard, Rancière, with Charles Tesson who would review the film, returns to Cahiers in May 2001 to interview him for Éloge de l'amour. This is the period for Rancière after Le Partage du sensible (2000) and before publishing La Fable cinématographique and Le Destin des images (2003), and in this period he would have sporadic film articles in Cahiers. In the interview Godard is more personable than in some of his other interviews most likely because it is for Cahiers and with Rancière. Éloge de l'amour took Godard five years to make and he discusses its production, being unsure on how to start the film, and how it was made with the help of Anne-Marie Miéville. Godard said, “What I was really interested in, in its first stage of production, was this story of a decomposing chronology: a return to the past.” Godard discusses preferring not to be sure about his intentions, so creating is instinctive, and that it leaves room for interpretation. Rancière finds Éloge important for continuing Godard’s project after Histoire(s).
In the interview Godard brings up tennis matches that he has been watching on television and how he likes Jean-Marie Straub’s Sicilia! (1999), his work on making Moments choisis des histoire(s) du cinéma (2004) and the success of the Histoire(s) soundtrack as there was no DVD copyrights. Godard even brings up an article on Daney in regards to Walter Benjamin, surveillance and the gaze. Godard speaks more about Daney, “The other day I was reading one of Daney’s book… I found that by the end he is discussing more the commentary of the object than the object itself, bringing it into relation with the other arts. This happened gradually with him… It’s interesting that he never decided to be a director, the same can be said for Bazin.” Even though the Youssef Ishaghpour book is quite positive on Histoire(s), Godard still wished that it received either more enthusiasm or criticism, since it took him ten years to make.
Godard concludes on a guiding phrase by Denis de Rougemont from Penser avec les mains (1935), which was already cited in Histoire(s), “It’s in hoping that we are saved. But this hoping is real since time destroys the act. But the act is judged by time.” Godard then elaborates on how this relates to Éloge de l'amour, “If I had to express myself as a film critic, if I were writing criticism on this film, I would say that this film tried to film the acts that the time was destroying, but that the time in his own way will be judged by these acts.”
Fourth Interview. 2002.
The fourth April 2002 interview with Jacques Rancière, Le cinéma, art contrarié cinéma was by Stéphane Bouquet and Jean-Marc Lalanne. It is for the release of Film Fables. The two critics are new writers for this period. There is a generational shift in this interview that was not present in the previous ones. Bouquet and Lalanne are now inquiring into a period which was before theirs. They are attempting to reconnect with an earlier cinephile generation and the Cahiers tradition of interviewing Rancière The interview is on Rancière’s background, the philosophy supporting his cinephilia and again on the centenary of cinema.
On the chronological form of Film Fables, from Jean Epstein to Godard, Rancière describes it as being unintentional. Rancière is against the idea of ruptures within history and he sees trends and influences as the ‘multiplication of the possible’. Rancière spoke on the matter, “I wanted to put into cause a conception of history in terms of progress or of decadence: the paradigm of its origins, of evolution or of rifts, and firstly its sharing between an ancient representative regime and a modern anti-representative one that became for cinema, like elsewhere, a dominant form.” For example, in describing his research and thought process, Rancière wrote, “When I was writing on Rossellini in 1990, I had a tendency to confirm a certain Bazinien idea that holds onto a theological model of grace as in opposition to law: the phenomenological miracle of presence for Bazin, the emphatic celebration of the event was again in fashion in the eighties and nineties.”
Bouquet and Lalanne asks Rancière about not mentioning a maniériste cinema, which they support, like films by directors Sam Peckinpah, Sergio Leone and Brian De Palma while Godard’s use of citations are deemed note-worthy. The specific question is, “References, re-writing, and pastiche do not seem to interest you?” For these younger critics, in this changing time period, Rancière is still in the past – they are arguing for a new type of cinema, which they have managed to fit into Rancière’s conceptualization. But Rancière rejects this type of cinema,
First off, I’ve seen very little of this American cinema which reflects on its history of forms. And the films that you cite do not really interest me… As well, I didn’t want singularize cinema. I didn’t want to focus on a cinema that only looked towards itself to see how it transformed… In general, I don’t have much interest for art whose only goal is to show itself off and to cite itself. It’s too easy to show that you are clever by taking a distance with the system of codes that are no longer trendy… For the perversion of the codes of the action genre, for the distance in regards to action-reaction, the films of Takeshi Kitano interest me more than the ‘tired heroes’ of a Quentin Tarantino or Abel Ferrara.
Rancière, though interested in Gilles Deleuze’s cinema books, finds some aspects of them problematic. For Rancière, “The idea of a ‘crisis’ of the movement-image resumes this problematic tentative. Deleuze’s analysis of Hitchcock, where this crisis is illustrated by this photographer with his broken leg in a cast or a detective with vertigo, seems like a joke.” On the subject of television, Rancière wrote, “I am not really interested in it. Not even to watch it, or criticize it, or even to judge it as the signpost of the fatal destination of our civilization.” On new digital technologies, Rancière wrote, “Knowing that the actors in Titanic were in front of a green screen and that it’s all special effect doesn’t change the nature of the film. We have a transformation of the texture of the images but not one of its nature of affects.” And it is really interesting to hear that Rancière cites a recent screening of Béla Tarr’s Sátántangó (1994) that really impressed him as he would later go on to write a book on the Hungarian director. Rancière wrote, “I recently saw the seven-and-a-half hours of Sátántangó. It really affected me, but to pretend that it gave me pleasure, this isn’t the right way to state it.”
Fifth Interview. 2005.
The fifth February 2005 interview Le déstin du cinema comme art is by Emmanuel Burdeau and Jean-Michel Frodon, two chief-editors around this period. It is in relation to the publication of Malaise dans l'esthétique (2004). It is the shortest of the Rancière interviews to date, being only four pages, which also include large illustrations. In it Rancière brings up the impurity of cinema, in relation to Bazin, and states its mass appeal, “If cinema is significant in this respect, it is because it has become the art-form of the masses. In such terms, it is that which is consumed like art.” In the book Rancière is in dialogue with Alain Badiou and discusses the films Mystic River (2004) and Dogville (2003). Rancière cites Élie Faure to engage with how cinema, and art in general, defines its own politics.
On the role of the museum, Rancière wrote, “When Chantal Akerman installs on screens in galleries different scenes from De l'autre côté, she’s putting into relationship the autonomy of the space into a filmic continuum… The essential is that, cinema or video, in a museum manifests more a transformation of painting than it does of cinema.” Cahiers asks about the role of the Cinémathèque française, which Serge Toubiana would have then became its artistic director, Rancière answers, “What I think is important for cinema as an art, it is less a matter of the Cinémathèque and more that there are still commercial cinemas which still play auteur films. This is what makes cinema into a visible art, not so much the Cinémathèque, but more so that Wong Kar-Wai and David Lynch films are still playing in theaters destined towards a larger public.” Rancière expresses that the modern approach to filmmaking owes to Godard’s cinematographic experimentation. For example, films like Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Café Lumière (2003) or Hong Sang-Soo’s La femme est l'avenir de l'homme (2004). Rancière wrote, “Today, there is a standard narrative grammar that has been constituted: the spectator of Mulholland Dr. or In The Mood for Love accepts them without any doubt. This wasn’t the case for Selznick or Zanuck who would have certainly not have allowed it.” To conclude, Rancière wrote, “For me the cinema is a lively art which I still wait to be surprised by.”
Sixth Interview. 2015.
This leads to the magazine in its present form. In his sixth, and most recent March 2015 interview, ‘Le reste, c’est a vous de l’inventer’ with the current chief editor Stéphane Delorme and regular contributor Dork Zabunyan, many of the magazine’s recent polemics and major films are brought up to be discussed. It is part of a larger dossier, La parole aux lycéens, which in itself is a Rancièreien gesture. It is an extensive interview which brings together many of the important ideas for both parties. At a lengthy eleven pages, it is the summit of Rancière’s relationship to the magazine.
The interview begins with a discussion of the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks on Paris. Rancière wrote, “Everyone jumped on the band wagon that it was an attack on freedom of expression which Charlie Hebdo incarnates. But this wasn’t the case.” Rancière sees their illustrations as problematic due to their racism towards the Muslim community, which is already a minority ethnic group in Europe. True freedom of speech, for Rancière, would be to criticize the government in power, but this has already been shown to be ineffective. Rancière doesn’t either see the manifestations for it as unifying or as creating a new public space.
One of the major interventions for this interview is in regards to academia and a ‘contempt for the aesthetics’ which Delorme sees as extremely negative. Rancière wrote, “Since ‘aesthetics’ signify the blurring of boundaries the professors then sees in this a questioning of their roles and competence.” Note-worthy is how Rancière sees Stanley Cavell as problematic,
What is being discriminated against is the idea itself of pleasure and emotions in relation to images in movement. It’s interesting here to see the key role here that the references to Stanley Cavell permit. Cavell appears a little like the hero that was able to re-appropriate the melodrama and the ordinary man. And it’s shocking to see how little he is actually interested in laughs and cries. What really interests him is to take these films like illustrations of his philosophical concepts. The ordinary man is finally the student who we are forcing to go to the cinema to learn more about existential problems and not to have fun. This is what makes the pedagogues happy.
Some of Rancière’s thoughts on newer films include: he dislikes Bruno Dumont’s La Vie de Jésus (1997) for its representation of the social groups in the French countryside, Abel Ferrara’s Pasolini (2014) for not being transgressive enough, and Larry Clark’s The Smell of Us (2014) which he compares its use of teenage actors to prostitution. Instead he prefers Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche, Pedro Costa (which he wrote more about in Les écarts du cinéma), Gus van Sant, Vincente Minnelli (Some Came Running) and Frank Borzage (7th Heaven). Rancière’s most recent approach to engage with the history of cinema here becomes more clear and refined,
There are an infinity of emotions that are created by the cinema: gestures, gazes, movements and possibilities of the body, and relationships to others. This is the aesthetic treasure that needs to be defended. It is fundamental in relation to the forming of fictions, expressions and for unexpected effects. This is why the cinema needs to be conceived as a global and historical adventure. We would lose the bigger picture if we focus too much on just the films that come out each year. One must not just concentrate on what’s new but to take cinema as a whole and in relation to all that it is possible, which might mean to recreate anew a real militant cinephilia. One needs to rethink cinema in a way compatible to the possibilities of life.
Rancière describes the purpose of art, “It is not the role of art to serve a politic, but instead for the political to know how to import the gestures of art.” And Rancière concludes the interview with reworking a famous citation by Mizoguchi, “Le reste, c’est a vous d’inventer.” Delorme and Cahiers seems to be taking to heart many of the important points that Rancière is making. For example, a usual issue of theirs seems to encapsulate Rancière’s emancipatory method to engage with the history of cinema and contemporary politics. And Rancière’s theories are still offering them tools to best address contemporary cinema. For example, Delorme in a few issues later would use Rancière’s concepts of ‘police’ and ‘politics’ as a guiding compass for the magazine,
There aren’t thirty-six solutions. Either the films propose, even unconsciously, the reaffirmation of domination and belong to the ‘police’. Or the films propose an emancipatory voice, and therefore becomes ‘politics’. For this to happen it is necessary to stop thinking in the ways defined by power: territory, savageness, place and class. And in parallel to stop utilizing a box of tools that constantly recycles old codes and stereotypes of genre films. There is no politics there. Everything is related. As long the French cinema encloses itself and turns towards the past and recreates these same old scene, giving each person his designated role, nothing good can happen, aesthetically nor politically.
The present Delorme-Cahiers owes a tremendous debt to Rancière. His writing offers a useful tool to better understand the world and cinema. In the portrait of Rancière by Xavier Lambours, which accompanies the 2015 interview, the man himself is wearing a bright purple turtleneck, in his art filled apartment. Rancière is looking somewhat frightened as his gaze is directed towards the illumination from an unseen window. Rancière is now over seventy-five and his old age is coming across the photograph through his white hair and facial wrinkles. There have been photographs of Rancière throughout most of the Cahiers interviews. What comes across through all of them is how his different stages of life and intellectual thought had been reflected in and impacted the magazine. Currently, in his twilight years, this could potentially be Rancière’s last interview. As Laurent Jeanpierre and Dork Zabunyan explain, “The interview for Rancière has an important place in his ‘méthode de l'égalité’ which he has been ceaselessly defending since the seventies.” This emphasis on implementing equality is Rancière’s biggest influence at Cahiers. With Rancière growing older, the title of his most recent interview takes on more meaning, “Le reste, c’est a vous de l’inventer.” The rest, it is for you to invent. The emancipation that Rancière has been discussing his whole life will be for the next generation to keep up.