Friday, March 27, 2015

The Legacy of Iannis Katsahnias and The Batman Review

By the end of the Eighties Cahiers was becoming a different place then it was at the beginning of the decade. It was evolving, and this was a good thing, and there were new critics that were starting to impose themselves and there were new directors that were starting their careers and whose films needed to be contemplated and discussed.

One of the most cited examples is their (in)famous review of Batman. The review needs to be historicized. It comes from this period at Cahiers eight years after Toubiana became the chief editor and it’s written by Katsahnias one of their most passionate critics of Hollywood films. The Critique is in a Événement dossier, which also includes an essay by Bill Krohn. It’s Tim Burton’s third film and it shows a masterful use of form and ability to create a critical spectacle of American society. It would be Burton’s launch into popularity, which would lead to an illustrious and creative career, especially throughout the upcoming Nineties. He would be one example, of many new figures, that would shake things up at Cahiers, and reflect the evolving direction cinema was going, and how the magazine would respond to it, and what priorities these new critics had to bring to the magazine. And it was meant to be provocative, and controversial, and they did loose subscriptions for putting it on their cover (this would be addressed in their subsequent issue). It would be criticized in Positif too for valorizing too much a film that doesn’t necessarily deserve more media attention.

On Katsahnias, when he died of AIDS in 1999, Stéphane Bouquet pays homage to him in the Cahiers of June 1999 (N.536),
To write at Cahiers (we don’t know this when we start, we might hesitate if that was the case) is to experience the process of an accelerated maturation… The generations renew themselves so quickly (and we’re not going to fight against this) that it takes so few years to feel like you are one of the seniors… Iannis Katsahnias really liked American cinema. The more it was commercial, popular, and trivial; the more he took it seriously and tried to bring to it the most philosophical concepts. The central idea to his approach to Hollywood cinema could be resumed as follows: all mainstream American films proposed (without trying to be, or conscious of) an aesthetic cypher of the social, political and economic life in the Unite States, there and for the whole world… Katsahnias’ theories were a lot more then just hype. He was able to locate something buried within American cinema.
The years 1988 and 1989 are decisive for American cinema at Cahiers in this period. In 1988 there would be four covers dedicated to American films and in 1989 there would be seven. It would be a way for Cahiers to close their decade and to highlight the films and directors that they deemed important. If the older Cahiers critics could see themselves in Kaufman, Eastwood, Scorsese, Coppola, and Cronenberg then the new, younger critics could see themselves in the new directors like Spike Lee, Tim Burton and Rob Reiner.

The Burton cover represents a small revolution inside of the magazine. 

For example, take Kaufman as an example of one of these older American directors from this Eighties period. In Charles Tesson’s review of the The Right Stuff, Seuls les Heros on des Ailes, he opens his Critique, 
When Kubrick was directing 2001, NASA and its Apollo program, were a few months away from walking on the moon. A pure coincidence? What is there in common between a fiction that was concocted in a studio and the real voyage into outer-space, between a blurry video image where we see a figure barely moving and the Cinema Scope colors in 70mm? Regarding The Right Stuff, we could say that it operates, 15 years later, like the synthesis of these images.
Tesson elaborates, “The Right Stuff is a reconstituted documentary but it’s especially a science fiction film in its purest state (a fiction about science) that, regardless of its script is able to implement a shadow of the real.” Tesson sees a filiation between the western, aviation and science fiction film and sees The Right Stuff as a renewing of the tradition of the explorer film, which he connects to Bazin. Tesson writes, “André Bazin, who was always attracted to an exploration cinema, recognized that this type of documentary posed a double problem: a question of technique and that of morality. “To trick to better be able to fool the spectator to see the reality of the events,” he used to say. And to see The Right Stuff, we could say, that it perfectly fits this mold.”

While de Baecque writes the Critique for Kaufman’s The Unberable Lightness of Being (Cahiers, N.405), Prague Mon Amour. The film is a grand European production that was made with important European collaborators like the cinematographer Sven Nykvist and the screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, which contributes to its Czech and humble sensibility. De Baecque sees in the film three major moments: an erotic friendship, a temptation to exist, and then its failure and then the normalization of attitudes. De Beacque highlights, 
The work on emotions implements also the collective. The essential aesthetic task of the film: the lightness of being is equally the lightness of a population, the erotic games of the population engulfs the collective consciousness… A lightness and weight, the individual and the collective, these two oppositional camps are both aesthetic and narrative, and they give Kaufman and the film all of its ambition: to bring together a coincidence into an instant, bring together their story with History.
Another example is Tesson again with his imposition of a new American filmmaker, Oliver Stone, who he saw as offering a breath of fresh air with his film Platoon, which offered an ideal cinematographic treatment of the Vietnam War (which Stone took part in) and reminded him of the films of Samuel Fuller (a Daney reference).

In Tesson’s Critique, La Planete Guerre, he writes, “Why do we feel really strongly in front of Platoon of seeing something that has never been filmed before like this?” By being the story of its survivors, writes Tesson, 
This is why Platoon isn’t only one more film on the Vietnam War but, in my opinion, the first film from the Vietnam War… For Oliver Stone, the war film is… the story of an adventure of a subject who perceives (sight, touch, hear), these are trajectories of sensations that are like shots from off-screen and that burrow within the frame… Properly speaking, Oliver Stone, isn’t an aesthetic (he’s not interested in the pyrotechnic madness of the war as seen by Coppola or, coming up, without a doubt, in Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket) but a realist director who knows how to give to life this documentary material. That’s already a lot.
One of the more visible critics who imposed and wrote some of the more impressive reviews in this period is Iannis Katsahnias. But there were also others like Nicolas Saada, who joined in the summer of 1987, where he only wrote a few Notes reviews, before starting in January 1988 to write Critiques. The first one was on Elaine May’s Ishtar and subsequently he reviewed Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride, John Landis’ Coming to America, and Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice.

There was also Thierry Jousse who would write the Critique for Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally, Boy meets girl (N.425), 
Rob Reiner isn’t looking to surprise his audience but to work on suspense (in the Hitchcockien sense), that is to say more on the how then on the why. The art of Rob Reiner consist to sidestep all of the way to the end… When Harry Met Sally tells its story ideally, that is to say with a charm and rhythm (there’s no one bad shot), the eternal story of American cinema, which we could resume in one phrase: boy meets girl.
While Jean-Sébastien Chauvin, a contemporary writer at Cahiers, has this to say about the Burton issue,
I started to read Cahiers at the end of the Eighties. I remember that the first issue that I bought was the one with Bertrand Blier’s Trop belle pour toi on the cover and a few months later the one with Tim Burton’s Batman on the cover. I had already a certain idea of what Cahiers was and this might have been that of a caricature. I thought that it only defended these films that were really intellectual and when I saw this issue I felt all of the sudden in my zone. They had an eclectic taste where they could support these European auteurs and these B films. I only found out later that this was a part of the Cahiers history. I admit, when I first started reading their critiques I didn’t understand everything that they wrote. Today, evidently, when I re-read these texts, it seems the opposite, very straight-forward, but I think it takes some time to understand their mode of thought, the manner in which these ideas, which I wasn’t used to, are formulated.
The following is Iannis Katsahnias Cover Critique of Tim Burton's Batman from the September 1989 issue of Cahiers du Cinéma (N.423).
For the last few months we’ve been assisting a publicity campaign that has been particularly abstract and wonderfully elliptical: just an image, that of a bat, which is subtly inscribed within an ellipse. What is surprising is the thinness of its message. Does this bat really need this presentation? Who doesn’t know today the symbol of Batman? Frightening, terrorist, and traumatic. It’s a message that’s been dropped on the walls throughout cities like the mark of vampire teeth on the neck of its victims.

The sign of Batman is a brand that’s owned by DC Comics Inc., which is the new industry of myths, and which is owned by Warner. It’s a hermetic sign, which is already fifty years old, and that today the film is trying to penetrate. From its first shot, the camera plunges through a tunnel into a lunar landscape before offering us a perspective of exposition. The visual work therefore becomes a ritual of representation that transforms the landscape and molds it into a giant Batman sign. Behind the sign, and behind the image, is an object that is reproduced and commercialized to infinity, but which hides a character that was created by Bob Kane in 1939. He’s the planetary opposite to Superman in the DC Comics super-hero world, Batman is a character that is impure, a creature between a dog and a wolf, a child that, before losing his parents, by the age of ten, has become the father of this Bat-man.

The primitive scene takes place in Gotham City. Doctor Wayne and his wife brought their little boy Bruce to see The Mark of Zorro (the silent version by Fred Niblo with Douglas Fairbanks in the first part of the series, and then the one by Rouben Mamoulian with Tyrone Powers later on). While leaving the cinema, they got a little lost, and, in an obscure street, a thug emerges from out of nowhere and threatens them with a gun. They visibly are trying to rob them. A few instances later, Bruce Wayne’s parents are shot down by these bad guys. Batman is this mourning child who has become a masked justice fighter, doubled and impenetrable, daily and nocturnally.

The first scene of Tim Burton’s film is a variation on the theme of the primitive scene. A couple and their son are leaving a movie theater, they bicker, and two thieves come out of nowhere and start menacing them. They beat the father and steal his wallet and then run away and hide on a rooftop to avoid being found. And then, a large bat show up. “I’m not going to kill you,” he says to one of them “I want you to tell all your friends about me.” “Who are you?” asks the thief before being dropped into some debris.

Batman isn’t a three-dimensional representation of the comic book. Tim Burton doesn’t only rely on the culture of the comic books. He puts into question all of the foundations of its memory. Because Batman isn’t singular. He’s the sum total of all of the drawn images of him by the different illustrators and of the written stories by its different scriptwriters throughout the years. Freud acknowledged the inexactitude of memories. In a dream, for example, the face of a friend blends many ones. A building could have the window of another one. Memory is a mess. And Batman has the image of this palimpsest. For Tim Burton, there isn’t only one real one, either. There only exists the duration of the projection, a time where these disperse moments can coexist. The clock in the Gotham cathedral, for example, is inspired by Antoni Gaudí’s architecture, and which is coiffed with the gothic house from Psycho and the staircase from Vertigo. 

But even though the film is composed with objects made from preexisting entities, I wouldn’t permit myself to describe them with the word ‘culure’ (cinephilic or other), since this word here would loose its sense. The ensemble is something that’s unique, a creation of a dream, where the citations, the references, and the winks become sublime. It is exactly the image of the Batman character (Michael Keaton), because through recreating his mental universe after the death of his parents, that now, Bruce Wayne, had been able to mix his last memory of the cinema – the mask of Zorro – with the image of the bat that broke into his house through the window, during one of his nights of morning. Condemned to remember the death of his parents forever, each time he reflects on it he treats it differently, just like it would be rendered by a different animator.

Let’s also salute the casting of Michael Keaton to play the main role. He’s the absolute anti-thesis to the super-hero, and he’s extremely under-played for such an eccentric character. The actor gives the character all of the gravity of his mourning, which is the origins to the creation of Bob Kane. Batman as played by Michael Keaton becomes a blessed man.

The representation of the confusion of memory is just the start of a work that is a lot more complex. The film doesn’t recall the cultural memory that a lot of today’s European directors work with; he’s inventing literally all of his pieces. One must watch the scene at the Flugelheim Museum (which, by the way, owes its name to the Guggenheim Museum in New York), where the Joker (Jack Nicholson), a villain that has become a clown after being drowned in acid, sets up a date with Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger).

Let me open up a parenthesis here to present this disastrous ‘man who laughs’, to which Batman owes partly its immense success (‘The more successful the villain…’, said Hitchcock). We never knew much about the origins of the Joker until Brian Bolland and Allan Moore gave us the key in a memorial story, which was entitled The Killing Joke. The Joker was a married man who abandoned his work to become a comedian. Unfortunately, his jokes never made anyone laugh. So to provide for his wife and future son, he decides to accept to help some criminals to rob a chemical factory. But Batman’s intervention causes him to fall into a pot of chemicals, which on contact transforms the color of his skin to white and his hair green. The accidental death of his wife happens the same day, which ends up making him go insane and become a crazy criminal. The script by Sam Hamm only holds on to one part of this story (here is another example of the eclectic work on memory).

In Tim Burton’s film the Joker isn’t someone who’s innocent and was just corrupted by chance and the cruelty of life. In the film he’s bad right from the start, and his fall into the acid, just pushes this further to an extreme. What Tim Burton holds unto, by the way, from The Killing Joke, is the interpretation of Jack Nicholson, which makes clear, the side ‘failed comedian’ of the character. There’s never been an actor that has been so genial at being ‘bad’.

But lets return to the Flugelheim Museum. The Joker intervenes in the comfortable ambiance of the museum like a switch to a commercial right in the middle of the film, which is accentuated by the smoke and dance music, to then cover the ‘works of art’ in bright paint. But this so-called vandalism just prolongs the work that was already there in the décor. It just puts the finishing touches on the project of the oeuvre. (‘The advertisement that interrupts the films on TV definitively outrages the attitudes of those with good intentions, but they highlight judiciously that most televisual productions don’t even attempt an ‘aesthetic’ level, and that they share the same depths as this publicity,’ wrote Baudrillard in America). By bringing together Rembrandt, the impressionist and Francis Bacon; the museum has already broken down certain aesthetics and cultural values in this décor that’s baroque, cynical, naïve and funny.

The modernity of the lighting, youthfulness and savagery of Tim Burton’s film is the image of America itself: it resumes itself in the way it forms the culture of the past in a surprising ensemble. Batman is the glorification of American individualism to the point of schizophrenia. It’s a film that illustrates Freudian id and superego in a grotesque, clownesque and carnavalesque register. The character of Batman becomes the exterminating angel and the terror against the American way of life.

When I talk about the American ‘way of life’, it’s to underline its utopia, the mythic banality, its dreams and its grandeur,” writes Baudrillard, again, in America. “This immanent philosophy, not only in regards to the development of its technique, but also to its surpassing, in its excessive games regarding its technique, not only in regards to its modernity but its overabundance of modern forms (whether it is the verticality of New York or the horizontality of Los Angeles), not only in its banality but towards its apocalyptic forms of its banality, not only in regards to the reality of the quotidian life, but towards the hyper-reality of this life, that which, takes up, all of the characteristics of a fiction. It is this fictional character that is passionate. So fiction is no longer imaginary. It becomes real as it’s being imagined.” And Batman realizes this imagination of the mourning child, which we all are. 

Iannis Katsahnias 

* “A bat from the tropics of America, in general it’s an insectivore, but which can sometimes bite sleeping mammals to draw their blood.” (The Dictionary)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Must-Read: Cinema Scope (N.62)

So the new Cinema Scope is now out and it’s a great overview of what’s been going on in film culture since their Winter issue (whose cover film Pheonix is still a couple months shy of getting a theatrical release). In it there’s coverage of the Sundance, Berlin and Rotterdam film festivals, new releases, more obscure films (Nils Malmros), and what’s exciting in the world of DVD releases (Don’t Look Now, Sauve qui peut (la vie)) and film book publishing. Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson’s The Forbidden Room gets the cover, and in Mark Peranson’s introduction to his interview with them he describes it as, “With few points of comparison, it stands as a proposition for what cinema is right now and what it can be, a fully digital work that resembles some (mostly) imaginary past as processed through the human mind and machine software – like sands in an hourglass, these are the days of our lives.” Andrew Tracy, in his characteristic way, analyzes the cult of personality around Michael Mann and problematizes Blackhat. The Mubi guys Adam Cook and Daniel Kasman interview Kidlat Tahimik for Balikbayan #1 Memories of Overdelopment Redux II. Blake Williams writes about his recent experience in Park City, “In fact, against all odds, with over a third of the works I saw on my trip meeting the minimum requirements of being “good,” the overall quality of the films in Sundance 2015 was, even shockingly, tolerable.” My only concern is his description of the new Ross Brothers picture, Western, as “the only film to genuinely disappoint… I’m chalking this one up to a belabored post-production marathon rather than a creative regression.” Well I was really looking forward to it! And Sean Rogers continues to bring his comic-book sensibility to the magazine: after an interview with Blutch, a look at its aesthetic in the films of Alain Resnais, he now reviews the new Criterion Designs. And this is among many other equally interesting articles.

The upcoming spring festivals in Toronto have their own anticipatory pieces: Michael Sicinski reviews Kevin Jerome Everson’s Park Lanes and Shelly Kraicer discusses Luo Li’s Li Wen at East Lake which are both playing at Images. And Adam Nayman interviews Rodney Ascher for The Nightmare and Williams brings up Western, which both will be playing at Hot Docs.

Cinema Scope continues to provide an excellent window into contemporary film culture by isolating what's really exciting about it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Cahiers/Positif Dialectic

"But to better understand their fundamental differences, we need to return to their origins. What foundational ideas are they are based on? What do they privilege and what do they overlook? Do either of them have an Achilles’ heel? The occasion for this retrospection is the unexpected appearance, in the current critical juncture, of Gérard Gozlan’s remarkable book L’anti-Bazin, first written as a series of Positif articles in the early 1960s."

Follow the link to read my essay on the subject :

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Isabelle Huppert, Une Vie pour Jouer





Le Grand Nettoyage

One A.M.


"Pennebaker continued on his path of Rock music films and McMillen imported Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Grand Meauln, which had done well in France but was a disaster in America. He also bought the US rights to Godard’s A Movie Like Any Other; we showed it at Lincoln Center and half the audience walked out. He then set up the deal with PBS for Jean-Luc to make 1-AM (one American Movie) with us as producers.

Pennebaker and I filmed and Godard directed us in his first US feature film. We hired the actors he wanted, we traveled with him to the West Coast, we had great fun filming whatever he wanted, wherever... There were no arguments and he seemed delighted with the results. But when he sat down to edit with his associate and adviser on Marxist doctrine, Jean-Pierre Gorrin (the political mentor of the “Group Dziga Vertov” and co-director of Tout-va Bien), there was a lengthy silence which culminated in his announcing that the film had political flaws that could not be overcome... and left. Leaving our company holding the bag, and broke.

When Godard walked out without completing the film we were about $500,000 in debt and the Bank of Boston closed in; we went broke (Chapter 11 is the polite term). McMillen still claims that he was “pushed out” by us, which caused the disaster...

My “friend” Jean Luc Godard wrote later that if you want to learn about the Primary process, don’t look at Primary, read Theodore White’s book; if you want to understand the American legal system don’t look at The Chair, look at The Anatomy of a Murder, the Hollywood movie directed by Otto Preminger. Godard was making La Chinoise, a veiled defence of Mao Tse-Tung’s “cultural revolution”. He was guided in his Marxist principals by his friend, his “Expert on Marxism” Jean-Pierre Gorrin, a fellow member of the Dziga Vertov group. Jean Luc even used my name in a film, Le Grand Escroc: Jean Seberg plays a mindless American girl who always caries a little 16mm. camera and films every thing around her -- mindlessly... her name is Ricky Leacock, the “mindless” filmmaker. This was not the view of Henri Langlois, creator and head of the Cinematheque, who introduced Primary as “perhaps the most important documentary since the brothers Lumiere....” After that screening, a monk in robes came up and said to us “you have invented a new form. Now, you must invent a new grammar!” Right on! The best advice I ever got and we’re still at it.

In my opinion, Godard is not mindless; he is an obscurantist; far more dangerous but very popular among modern academics who think they are “intellectuals”; who revel in obscurantism often citing Heisenberg’s “Indeterminacy Principal” in support of the not knowing anything. That principal addresses problems of investigating subatomic particles and has nothing to do with the bickering of filmmakers. French and other intellectuals of today love obscurantism. As Marxists, whenever we didn’t understand something some one would invoke the principal of the “unity of opposites” or the “dialectic”. - Richard Leacock

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Martin Scorsese at Cahiers in the Eighties

Dossiers – Martin Scorsese
-       Raging Bull (1980). La Solitude Sans Fond, by Pascal Bonitzer. Cahiers du Cinéma N.321. March 1981. Pg. 5-8. *Cover
-       The King of Comedy (1982). De l’Autre Coté des Images, by Olivier Assayas. Cahiers du Cinéma N.347. May 1983. Pg. 5-8. *Cover
-       After Hours (1985). Mâchoires, by Pascal Bonitzer. Cahiers du Cinéma N.383-84. May 1986. Pg. 43-44.
-       The Color of Money (1986). Le Maître du Jeu, by Alain Philippon. Cahiers du Cinéma N.393. March 1987. Pg. 5-7. *Cover
-       The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). Portrait de Jesus en Héros Scorsesien, by Antoine de Baecque. Cahiers du Cinéma N.412. October 1988. Pg. 5-8. *Cover

Raging Bull would be the introduction of Martin Scorsese at Cahiers after their political-theoretical period. Prior to this first Critique by Pascal Bonitzer (one of Daney’s critics), Scorsese might have been mentioned only in passing. Scorsese was part of this new generation of American directors, along with Coppola, De Palma, Spielberg, and Allen that Cahiers was discovering and catching up with. Raging Bull offered them their first opportunity to write a Critique on the director and it would be the start of their relationship with the American director who they would give the most covers (4) throughout the Eighties. Along with the review there’s an interview with its producer Irwin Winkler and its editor Thelma Schoonmaker in the Journal section to correspond with the Critique.

Bonitzer’s review proceeds in three subtitles:

The Aesthete, The Priest, and The Thug
“The life of Jake LaMotta, based on his own autobiography. We could have expected a sort of retro-fresco, with one side The Godfather and the other side Fat City, grandeur and misery, lost illusions, sports and the mafia, a social truthfulness and an auto-critique of American society etc. The film which is in black-and-white (except for a few brief exceptions), we could have thought that it would resemble Bob Fosse’s Lenny, an evocation of the Fifties and the portrait of an artist as struggling and neurotic. This isn’t the film at all.
            “Martin Scorsese is an artist with a Dostoevskian sensibility, and not Balzacian. A description of social or historical facts doesn’t interest him as much as the life of the human spirit. There is three personalities in this filmmaker: a priest, a suicidal thug, and an aesthete (which were already all there in his first experimental 16mm film, The Big Shave). The priest is behind the camera, the thug is in front, and the aesthete is in between. Each of his (their) films is its own rendition, the deployment of this trinity.*
As it happens there is a women who witnesses this, who becomes the object or the cartelist for this tri-partition, but this always leads to (or well, most of the time) these films where one or two characters are analyzed very closely. This brings us to Raging Bull.
            “Boxing has the same metaphoric and metaphysical role as the taxi: it expresses identically this solitude, the tragic identity of this character which the character can’t escape. The boxer boxes against his shadow, against walls (c.f. the prison sequence). Sugar Ray Robinson isn’t a black opponent, but his shadow.
            “Broadly speaking, Raging Bull is a study in a wide-shot of the implications of love, sexual desire and jealousy. La Motta is an avatar of Othello in the era of competition.
            Raging Bull is then maybe also a beautiful love story. Vickie, or/and Cathy Moriarty, are who inspire Scorsese. She is what’s carnal, the medium of a passion of cinema, which edges towards a fetishism of the filmic material. Scorsese is (with Godard) one of the rare directors to possess this sensual taste for filmic material, which overflows into an abstraction, and that leads to his experimentation with this black-and white and Super 8 film stock. This pseudo-amateurish footage troubles the film, and through these moments of family happiness, breaks the heterogeneous fabric of the film, like in a painting by Rauschenberg or an atonal composition.
            “By the end, and regardless of the punctuation of its evangelical finale, the Catholic God and this creature resolves their problems through lighting, in a pure affirmation of cinema, like how in Mean Streets, Harvey Keitel’s puerile hell concluded in a fascinating explosion of flames.
* This trinity shouldn’t be confounded with the triangle Scorsese-De Niro-Schrader (where Schrader played the role of the priest and De Niro the thug). It is necessary to watch that De Niro and Schrader do elsewhere to understand that they constitute here moments, in the dynamic sense, of Scorsese. And why they’re so good makes Scorsese the auteur. (It’s curious how this notion of an auteur in the cinema is still polemic today). The solitude of the white male protagonist: this is what connects Raging Bull to Taxi Driver, they are both variations on a similar character.

With The King of Comedy comes another Scorsese dossier, which includes a Critique by Assayas, an interview with Scorsese by Barbara Frank and Bill Krohn (who also has another essay). It’s a generally impressive issue: Serge Daney reviews Jerry Lewis’s Smorgasbord, Serge Toubiana reviews Robert Bresson’s L’Argent, and there’s an homage to André Bazin (for the publication of the Dudley Andrew biography in French).

Oliver Assayas (again, also a Daney critic) in his review of The King of Comedy illustrates a few qualities of what makes a Cahiers Critique unique: their extreme movie love, a prose that borders onto the purely interpretive and nonsensical, a refined understanding of the film and its relationship to the director’s body of work, the work of the director’s collaborators and what they bring to the project, a large knowledge of film history, and how the film documents certain social trends in American culture. Assayas’ review also references the Cahiers Made in U.S.A. issue (which Assayas participated in the making) where they published a conversation between Scorsese and Schrader.

“There isn’t a satire nor a parody and its scrupulous realism is what makes it so powerful. In his recent films, Scorsese has strictly stuck to genres and the formal rules of Classical Hollywood. On a subject like this one, we would have expected to see an approach inspired by Capra. But it’s exactly the opposite! The King Of Comedy doesn’t resemble anything by the fact that it is a film by a cinephile: it’s a contemporary film. It’s a new kind of film, and this is rare.
“The America of The King of Comedy is in effect an acclimatized nightmare, a superstore that has the dimensions of a nation, a system with the essence of socialism or of a uniformity of individuals, like those of ideas, they are no longer created. The process has been completed.
            “The way that Scorsese and De Niro make the films they choose to make, which are relatively commercially unsuccessful, have led them to realize something clearly:   that the American society had been solidly armed to reject this supplement of the spirit that they were proposing. Just as much with Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, New York, New York and Raging Bull. These are films impregnated with a belief, full with a moral and a spirit, and with the mission of the artist to defend these spiritual values in face of uncaring contemporary society. This is why a film like The King of Comedy is just as much an artistic film as it is a film noir, destructive and somber in its discouragement.
            “The film is unacceptable for being so profoundly subversive. It touches upon, in effect, really closely what today it means to create an image. This is America. This is Hollywood. This is the system and these are the individuals that it creates. This is how they reproduce.
            “There isn’t any content, there’s only this form. Regardless of what’s the nature of what we do, the only thing that counts is the energy that we put into it. A figure like Jerry Langford holds on to his scar regarding this, in his silences resides something of his spirit, he’s a being who’s suffering. While Rupert Pupkin is, himself, already ready to assume everything: from the other side, the spectacle is not his mirror, he’s the mirror of the television. He only sends back to Jerry Langford his own image. Rupert Pupkin is the horror of the man without a spirit; he’s the pure emanation of the man who succumbed to the media. He was born into a generation where everything is the same thing as its image, and through this his substance is the same thing as his essence: he isn’t more than what we see, but he’s the incarnation of his appearance.
            “Rupert Pupkin dreams of passing through the image: that’s where he belongs. And, just like in E.T., he wants to go back home. But in reality there isn’t anything on the other side. And this nothingness, which is carpeted in red, is literally hell. And for this The King of Comedy, without a doubt Scorsese’s most audacious work, is a horror film. Founded on a nightmare logic, it reminds the viewer of an adaptation of Kafka’s The Trial that Welles directed. This makes us regret the fate of K.: at least he had a future.

After Hours would be the only Scorsese film to not get a cover in this period. It’s part of their Cannes Événement, France-USA. Bonitzer returns to write his second Scorsese Critique. It’s a lengthy and serious review of one of the director’s lighter films. It shows Cahiers’ loyalty and dedication towards Scorsese. The issue also includes an essay by Michel Chion, Forma Dolorosa, on a Scorsese retrospective at the Festival de Strasbourg (“Martin Scorsese is one of the best working directors, one of the most important artists.”) and there’s an interview with Scorsese, Into the Night, by Bill Krohn.

“After The King of Comedy, Martin Scorsese found himself alone and rejected. After Hours brings him back into the circuit: it was a requested project, like we know, by its principal comedian, Griffin Dunne, the co-producer on the film… After Hours, in its nightmare style, is a light film, which doesn’t have the troubling qualities of Scorsese’s other films, the deep anguish that weighted down his other films. The King of Comedy was a film that was profoundly horrible. After Hours is only that superficially… Anguish and fright, which are at the heart of the story, are especially treated with a virtuoso direction. It is this virtuoso demonstration, this grand style in itself, in this small subject, which is what After Hours is putting forward.
            “There is always an ecce homo in Scorsese’s cinema. So few directors know how to transmit this deictic power, this value of an index of one’s destiny, to the camera… After Hours is a comedy of panic, just how like Topor and Arrabal defined it. Despite its allusions to Kafka (its characters and the punk bar, for example), it is actually more like Polanski’s The Tenant in its use of the fantastic.
            After Hours is in reality, lastly, a satire on misogyny, which is literally anarchic, where it’s through the character of Paul that it incarnates its terrorizing expression. 
            “It’s the art of Scorsese to work on two different levels, to take and squeeze us, existentially, in what is just a diversion that is pretty dark. It’s a diversion, to repeat, but in a grand style: what’s there to complain about?

Even The Color of Money gets a cover! This a film that even one of Scorsese’s biggest American defenders Roger Ebert publicly disapproved of. In the issue Scorsese is highlighted along with Clint Eastwood’s Heartbreak Ride (a director that was also taken more seriously earlier on in France).

In Alain Philippon’s Critique (again, not necessarily a Toubiana critic) he describes how in the Eighties Hollywood auteurs were experiencing an identity crisis, which forced them to make sequels and to take on more ‘commercial’ projects (e.g. Spielberg’s episode of Amazing Stories). This led them to experiment with these new forms. It was Paul Newman that asked Scorsese to make this sequel to Robert Rossen’s The Hustler (1961).

            “More and more the standards of the American production system are tending to regress. It’s making more ‘series’, remakes or even sequels (like how we would describe a sickness). Their alternative American cinema is being quickly reduced. It’s up to their few great directors to affirm their personality and grandeur.
            “The situation isn’t being played exactly as a simple rupture, say on one side the ‘standard cinema’ against that of the ‘auteur cinema’. To prove this: in The Color of Money, Scorsese remains totally loyal to his own line and it’s actually one of his richest films, even though it could have looked like a triple handicap: a sequel, a major production, and an order.
“This is the spiritual crisis that we get to see in The Color of Money. It’s another work that follows Martin Scorsese’s questioning of ambition and self-destruction (Raging Bull), success and the trauma towards depressives (The King Of Comedy), and the desire for a purification (Taxi Driver). In short: the way that for a while now Scorsese has been able to examine the value of the American society through its most recent incarnations. A fall, crisis, a new start, and a comeback: this is the itinerary of Eddie, which is almost like a religious conversion.
            “Here Scorsese itinerary crosses that of Eddie Felson’s. (There was equally for Scorsese a crisis and then a rebirth with After Hours after the commercial failure of The King of Comedy and the forced abandonment of The Last Temptation of Christ). Before the two of them can be rejoined in their ‘I’m back!’ finales, there needs to be a decisive last game of pool, with its round balls on this green carpet.

So for Scorsese’s last film of the decade, his personal project, The Last Temptation of Christ, it is Antoine de Baecque that would write the Cover Critique (one of his first few, along with Yeelen and The Unbearable Lightness of Being). It needs to be said: Even though Scorsese is the American director to get the most covers throughout the Eighties he doesn’t necessarily reflect a growth at the magazine. He was imposed in the Daney period and was generally reviewed by his critics. As the decade was progressing he would be aside from what Toubiana would bring to the magazine and he would not necessarily reflect the more contemporary American cinema that the younger new critics were championing.

The Last Temptation of Christ would get its own dossier. Toubiana brings up the religious controversy surrounding it in his editorial, De Baecque reviews it, Frédéric Strauss has an essay on Scorsese, Todd McCarthy discusses its American release, Bérénice Reynaud analyzes Willem Dafoe, and Bill Krohn has an essay.

De Baecque starts his Critique with a François de Sales quote,
“As long as we have two sides to our spirit, one inferior and the other superior, and that the inferior side never takes over (…), it arrives sometimes though that the inferior side sometimes succumbs to the temptation and tries to overcome the superior side.”

“Martin Scorsese wanted his passion. It has been almost seven years now that he’s been carrying this cross, sometimes succumbing to temptation (commercial projects, like After Hours and The Color of Money), but all the while doing research, accumulating notes, documents and an archive. Today, the process that he takes, the media attention that he creates, is really contradictory. This religious polemic against the film displaces its merits as an exercise in cinematographic theology, it’s a master-work, the key to his universe.
“All of his heroes, are forced into a destiny that is thrown onto them in the first images of the film (After Hours), Scorsese believes in pre-destiny: This suffering Christ that he pursues throughout the film, he finishes by catching up to him.
“The essence of art, for Scorsese, has always been deadly, the stigma (in Raging Bull how De Niro disfigures himself), these martyrs who find these miracles in Christ… It is due to this imperative regarding the index of destiny, which is why Scorsese had to be the director of this crucifixion. A nail digging into flesh is even the synthesis representation of his own style. But, behind this style, Scorsese wanted to film Christ like an ordinary man

De Baecque highlights how Scorsese incorporates a carnal quality in his Christ as he builds on the writings of Leo Steinberg,
            “Scorsese discovers Jesus, gets rid of his magnificent halo like how he had in the Zeffirelli film. He’s searching for the most primitive illustration, an expressionism of the counter-reform, which refuses the baroque pieta, which is reproached by the contemporary integrationist movement.

            “Rarely has a film ever felt to ‘feel’ so profoundly human flesh, to render it in such simple and precise images. This double transformation of the flesh, which accompanies the voyage of the Christ figure, this voyage that Scorsese accomplishes through emotions, which he does while still letting the material speak for itself.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Must-Read: Rafaël Ouellet on Québécois Auteur Distribution

In a great Cinéastes invités blog post at 24 Images Rafaël Ouellet discusses his frustrations with the distribution of Québécois auteur films in Montréal.

"Here's a lot of question, with few answers. But the status quo doesn't work. I'm inviting those interested to respond, if they feel like it, here or elsewhere. This isn't a war but we just need to fix this system."

Now What Is Michel Ciment Doing Talking About Godard ?

Michel Ciment on Projection privée invites Zoé Bruneau (En attendant Godard), Chantal Pelletier (Et elles croyaient en Jean-Luc Godard), Olivier Séguret (Godard Vif) and Anne Wiazemsky (Un an après) to discuss Jean-Luc Godard

It's a strange subject for Ciment to tackle especially since Godard seems to be his sworn rival and enemy. 

But any chance to listen to Bruneau is an opportunity to rejoice!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Antoine de Baecque on Souleymane Cissé’s Baara

Antoine de Baecque would become canonized at Cahiers for writing its definitive history and then publishing exhaustive biographies on its key New Wave figures (so far there’s ones on Truffaut, Godard and Rohmer; and I’m sure that Chabrol and Rivette aren’t too far behind). Michel Cieutat quite nicely captures his reputation in La critique de Cinema en France (Ramsay Cinema). But before all of this, and before his violent rupture as chief editor in the late Nineties (Cf. Fissures at Cahiers), and before his lengthy tenure there just as a critic, he was just a young cinephile, who wanted to get published in Cahiers.

De Baecque’s first published critique in Cahiers dates from December 1984 and it’s on Souleymane Cissé’s Baara. As de Baecque describes it, “when Truffaut died, on the 21st of October 1984, everyone was shocked. So I sent my first review to Toubiana, to Cahiers, which was Truffaut’s house. I had to send something to Truffaut’s mailbox.”

After his entrance in the magazine, with his friend Stéphane Braunschweig (who, in his own right, would later become an important theater director), they would specialize in writing Entre deux films articles, which as the title suggest, are interviews with key Cahiers directors between projects. The first one of these would be with Jean-Claude Brisseau and then the others include Catherine Breillat, Lam Lê, Jean-Pierre Mocky, Luc Moullet, Alain Tanner and Souleymane Cissé. These articles capture these various directors at a particular time in their career and they provide insight on how the directors would stay afloat between projects (e.g. Brisseau would teach cinema classes) and also the difficulty that they can endure to make a film (e.g. Cissé describes natural disasters and deaths during the production of Yeelen).

This was the period where the Daney critics were slowly moving away from the magazine towards other projects and a new generation of younger ones were arriving. There was Michel Chion and Alain Philippon who both joined in 1981. But more precisely these new ‘Toubiana’ critics arrived a couple of years later with Marc Chevrie and Vincent Ostria (both 1983) and then Hervé Le Roux and Antoine de Baecque (both 1984). There would be more of them to join, as the decade would continue, but these four offer a representative sample of the way the new Cahiers critics would come to impose themselves at the magazine.

A lot of these writers would first start off by writing shorter Journal pieces or Notes critiques. And then slowly they would come to write more about the films and directors that are important to Cahiers. The team of writers is generally small and what makes Cahiers so unique, when it is run properly, is that the critics propose a unique approach to cinema, they propose a unique way to see a film. Cahiers then becomes a place, which is mixed with different generations of writers, and even though they might share different ideas, they still come together as a group, and what makes it exciting is to read how they respond to contemporary cinema and produce these dynamic film reviews, which compels one to go out and discover these films.

The previously mentioned Entre deux films articles is just one example of this. In the Journal section, aside from its journalistic role, these features allowed for experimentation with a new writing style and a place for De Baecque to discuss the directors of his predilection. De Baecque would place himself ‘between’ these Cahiers auteurs to then best impose them later on in Critiques.

De Baecque's writing style is both traditional and literary. His critiques seem to revolve around three key tenets: a Bazinien spirituality of the image, a theatrical understanding of an actor’s work and gestures, and an appreciation for space and natural landscapes. The latter two interests arise from his background in theater and nature walking (Cf. La traversée des Alpes), though his university background in history would not be clearly apparent. Instead of writing on the major Cahiers auteurs, de Baecque would find a place at the margins of the magazine at first by championing mostly African and Asian films, which are partly in the poetic-religious vein of Tarkovsky (though this connection is never made explicit).

Some of de Baecque’s early Critiques include: Shohei Imamura’s Why Not?, Michael Graham’s Aspern, George Miller’s Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, Chen Kaige’s Yellow Earth and King of the Children, Norman Jewison’s A Soldier’s Story, Philip Kaufman’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, John Huston’s Prizzi’s Honor, Luigi Comencini’s Cuore, Kiju Yoshida’s Wuthering Heights, Luc Moullet’s La Comédie du travail, Yoshishige Yoshida’s Promesse, Nikita Mikhalkov’s Dark Eyes, Pierre Étaix’s L'âge de Monsieur est avancé and Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ.

De Baecque’s critique of Cissé’s Yeelen perhaps best illustrates his skills as a critic and how he was able to find a place for himself at Cahiers. After having reviewed the first Cissé film at Cahiers (e.g. Baara, see my translation below) and writing an Entre deux films on Cissé, in this review of Yeelen, after gracefully discussing Cissé’s mise-en-scène and highlighting the spirituality of its natural lighting and locations (aligning himself with a classical Bazinien philosophy), de Baecque concludes by announcing the birth of a new national cinema. This might even recall some of Godard’s statements on the potential of African cinema (Cf. Godard in Cahiers N.300)

In the review, Cela s’appellle l’aurore, de Baecque writes,
“After the traumatic, the cataclysm, the world renews itself in a calm and in a golden light. It is the sunlight that permits this miracle of the birth of a new world. This new light provides a soft clarity from a sun that renews and warms the beings under it and makes them hope in life. Yeelen is the film of this miracle.” 
De Baecque describes the film as both mythic and tragic, and on its unique tone, writes, “Yeelen is a film done with grace, it belongs to the divine, and there is a lightness to how it unfolds.” He concludes, “For Cissé, the last scene has a special importance, the light that shines is always auroral, simple yet tremendous, innocent and clear. To answer the question ‘What is light?’ Cissé wants to answer in terms of an aurora. This is where comes the film’s veritable birth: that of African cinema.”

But de Baecque isn’t the only important new writer in this period. Vincent Ostria, for example, stands out for having written the Critique of one of the best Canadian films of this period, Francis Mankiewicz’s Les Bons Débarras. (It regularly makes it on TIFF’s Top Canadian Films list and Jean-Marc Vallée cites it as a major influence). Ostria’s generous and thoughtful review, Terroriste d’amour, is in the December 1985 issue (N.378). In it he discusses the difficulty they have to see Quebecois films in Paris, “We haven’t really discussed Quebecois cinema since it has been trendy in the Sixties. Today, very few films actually arrive to France. Too few, actually… It took five years (!) for this film to come out normally in our halls, in a small Parisian circuit.” Ostria highlights the script by Réjean Ducharme and the exoticness of the Quebecois language, which is subtle in detail. He highlights its simple stories and the richness of its characters, and especially highlights the little girl, “The gaze of this girl (Charlotte Laurier, amazing in how she’s a polymorph, she eclipses all of the other actors) on the world and on objects is terrible.” And on Francis (the nephew of Joseph L.) Mankiewicz, which he compares to Cassavetes, “he puts into perspective with a great attention this authenticity and raw truth of these three characters.” For Ostria the film is about how, “Love, is war.”

While Hervé Le Roux stands out pretty early for an Événement he did on ‘Made In New York’ directors, a subject which is still being renewed at the magazine today. Jim Jarmusch, with his European gaze on American culture (which makes him similar to Wenders), would be an exciting discovery in this period. Le Roux gave him his first cover for Stranger than Paradise (N.366).

The way that Jarmusch would evolve at Cahiers is pretty impressive. Yann Lardeau, reviewed Permanent Vacations, which he really admires (“An intensity that is so particular, singular, and all encompassing”), Le Roux stars him in the Événement on New York independent films, along with Jackie Raynal (Hotel New York) and Bette Gordon (Variety). Le Roux describes all of these films as a jour, in touch with our times. Le Roux in his review En route vers l’est is subtly able to integrate Jarmusch into the Cahiers cannon by highlighting how his aesthetic fits the one of the magazine. He compares Jarmusch to Skolimowski (Moonlighting) and Polanski (Deux hommes et une valise). But what Jarmusch brings that is new is how his films are punk and his use of music. For Jarmusch there is a new freedom but, like with Leos Carax, it’s already lost. Le Roux writes, “Jarmusch, by his tact, by his minimalism (the black and white, the fade-outs, the refusal to be formalized, a taste for the small) joins him with Carax in another pursuit: to grasp, without loosing one's self, a little bit of fresh air." Iannis Katsahnias would go on to review Down by Law. He would be an important director to look out for in the period ahead.
Antoine de Baecque on Souleymane Cissé’s Baara.
Cahiers Critiques: Balla le pousseur, Balla l’ingénieur
(Cahiers du Cinéma, December 1984, N.366)

The Malian has a beautiful body. Long, thin, airy. He also knows how to use it. He moves around in elegance, slowly, as if he was in total control of his gestures. We sometimes have the impression that he naturally walks in slow motion, with a dignity that, to the European who is always busy, recalls an African prince.
Balla Diarra and Balla Traore, the main characters in Souleymane Cissé’s film Baara, possess an aerial dignity. From the first shot in the film, we notice Diarra’s body, his naked back while he’s sleeping. Then the two men slowly walk towards the front of the frame, towards a fire, which blurs our visibility – this brings the film into the realm of dreams where bodies escape it.
But with Cissé, there is a natural elegance that quickly takes place through the most quotidian work gestures. Balla Diarra is a worker. He pushes his chariot through Bamako, from the market to the factories and its residential neighborhoods.But, more often then not, he observes: he assists, passively but presently, to the disputes between the women in the market, he waits in front of the factory while waiting for passengers. It's slowness that characterizes his body, a slowness of the gesture, a gaze under heavy eyelids, a slowness, which, as always for him, has a use: to act, to gaze.
Balla Traore, is an engineer, who has just returned to the country after his studies in France, who wants to ‘reorganize’ the textile factory.
To reorganize, here again, is to impose a certain slowness: less frantic, less work hours, and a diminishing of work hours. To impose at the factory a function that’s European mixed with a slowness of the African gesture.
The two Ballas, the cart driver and the engineer, fortunately meet, by chance, while they are transporting bags of grain to his wife. The two men notice that they are similar: they share a sense of humor, which unites them. Their two families have bonds, and this goes back to their ancestors. They are so close that everything becomes possible, they even hurt each other: treating the other like a slave, for example. And this, contrary to what we would believe, doesn’t create a hierarchy between both men, it isn’t embarrassing, and it isn’t one of a master-slave relation. There is a hierarchy, but it’s not that of a family, it’s social.
Balla Traore is named responsible of the factory by its director, who is villainous, which comes out through his relationship with his wife (who cheats on him), more so than due to his actual work. Balla Traore profits from this to engage Balla Diarra into the world of the factory, a world which will use his body in a whole new way.
This mobile and light body is never stuck. It’s suddenly overcome by brisk irruptions of violence, like those of the Africans, which are overcome by frenetic fits, in Jean Rouch’s Les maîtres fous (1955). This is a madness that can lead to a ritual sacrifice. Cissé imprints these bodies with an attitude that is subtle, improvisational, and which can’t be ceased. This African attitude, just like slowness can also be, is principally intervened in the work of the women. It is the women in effect that, usually, provokes this violence. They laugh loudly, insult each other and fight, they make crude jokes, are obscene, and take lovers. This is an open violence that is always expressed with nonchalance. The acting of the women is theatrical to the extreme, but is ‘naturally’ theatrical: Cissé films women who act in front of a neutral camera, which is posed right in front of them. It’s only the women that have the right to scream or laugh briskly. This is a conjunction that’s essential for Cissé, and which give all of his films this freshness that’s close to a constant improvisation. There is a masterful lightness that becomes the most evident sign of love. It’s almost carnal, for both the camera and the actors.
Men also, sometimes, are able to let themselves go. But there, far from the noble violence (because its theatrical) of the women, it is ridicule: to satisfy a simple passion, the factory owner, strangles his wife and finally compromises all of his life. The man would naturally be calmer. He uses his body like a slow pendulum, and not like a rapid tool. And his slowness in which he acts, gives him a formidable sensibility to things. And these objects, which he touches, he feels them with his whole body, directly, without any intermediary: the African eats with his hands, without any utensils, and he likes to play with his food. It is the mediation which is strange, which is violent. The introduction of Diarra, who wants to Europeanize the textile factory, is marked by this, from the start, by the mediation of objects. The first shot of Diarra working in the factory is a close-up of his hand surrounded by rubber, which is just as free as when it’s playing with fruit. Diarra manipulates these products dangerously, which are sticky and sharp. The irruption of the object, is the violence: the product is estranged to the corporal universe of the Malian.
Diarra takes part in a painful learning process from the other urban world, from this work in factories. This work that breaks the body, which deconstructs the corporal primitive into pieces. The body, in the factory, changes. The workers tend to be really skinny (the machine kills those who are too weak) or full of muscle (the stronger ones tend to resist and become even stronger with the contact of the machines). The body looses its elegance and becomes disproportionate, whether really skinny or massive.
Through this enigma of the body, its ability to connect breaks up, its all of this practice of cohabitation, which isn’t good, that it is brought out to light and denounced (though Cissé is more just presenting it, then is he trying to fight it, which gives it its elegance and efficiency). There are two types of societies that are constantly mixing. In the city, first: beside the large offices, there are regular street people. In terms of fashion, then: there are two customs that constantly coexist: the African robe, which is both suggestive and modest, where the body is free, and then there is the European costume – though, which is profoundly marked by an African sensibility: it isn’t through their wardrobe that the rich style themselves, but with clothes from the big stores ‘Tati’, where products are sold in French supermarkets: there is a lag that marks the specificity of a culture which chooses what it wants from the European culture. This coexistence has never been better shown then in the scene where Djénéba, the wife of the factory owner, puts French makeup on, and then perfumes herself more traditionally.
And it’s in this ritual combat, which has itself become ritualized, between Europe and Africa, where we find our drama: Balla Traore, who has become responsible for the factory, brings with him his new methods: democracy and fraternization. These are methods that are quickly condemned by the director, who then no longer trusts Traore and gets rid of him, beating him to death. This awkward crime is discovered by the factory workers, who, in solidarity, desperately chase him (which is stopped by the intervention of the police). He’s forgiven by an old worker, who barely has any power. This presence reaffirms old traditional hierarchies of the senior, which is different then that of the one of the factory, where one must respect the boss.
The intrigue closes. Traore is dead, and the director is stopped (for the murder of his wife, more so than the one of the engineer), and Diarra returns to his first job. The intrigue progresses throughout the film in moments, simply and with evidence. This intrigue could have been guessed by all spectators, but which Cissé, still leaves room for subtlety. Because the story of this encounter between these two men was made possible by a skillful talent, one that is nearly incredible due to Souleymane Cissé. The elegance of the bodies, is the elegance of the filmmaking, first off. This filmmaking, which always surprises, the spectator and also the director. This game of playing, incessant ruptures that surprise the spectator and the actors, it is Cissé that provokes them, in his search for the improvisation on the faces and the bodies of his African actors (the long shot by the water is all the while innocent, suffocating, exhilarating, painful, and continues the rhythm of the film). The progression of the story owes everything to the good desire and the camera mobility of Souleymane Cissé.

Antoine de Baecque