Anda di halaman 1dari 396


Revised Edition

Dudley Andrew

Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford.

It furthers the Universitys objective of excellence in research,
scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.
Oxford New York
Auckland Cape Town Dar es Salaam Hong Kong Karachi
Kuala Lumpur Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Nairobi
New Delhi Shanghai Taipei Toronto
With offices in
Argentina Austria Brazil Chile Czech Republic France Greece
Guatemala Hungary Italy Japan Poland Portugal Singapore
South Korea Switzerland Thailand Turkey Ukraine Vietnam
Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press
in the UK and certain other countries.
Copyright Oxford University Press 1978
Revised paperback edition copyright Dudley Andrew 2013
Published in the United States of America by
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the
prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law,
by license, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reproduction rights organization.
Inquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent
to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above.
You must not circulate this work in any other form and you must impose this
same condition on any acquirer.
A copy of this books Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file with the Library of Congress.
ISBN: 978-0-19-983695-6

Printed in the United States of America
on acid-free paper

For Stephanie Animator, critic companion still and always

figure de proue et passeur


Preface to the Revised Edition: The Second Life of Andr Bazin

Foreword by Franois Truffaut
1. The Formative Years
2. The War Years
3. Birth of a Critic
4. The Liberation and the Animation of a Culture
5. The Politics and Aesthetics of Film
6. Cahiers du Cinma and the Extension of a Theory
7. The End of a Career
Appendix: Andr Bazin from 1945 to 1950: The Time of Struggles and Consecration, by JeanCharles Tacchella



The Second Life of Andr Bazin refers first of all to the book you are holding, because this
biography, originally written in 1978 and unexpectedly given a renewed appearance in 2013, takes
account of additional photographs and facts, while it addresses a different readership in a different
climate. Right at the outset let me acknowledge the enthusiasm and vision of Shannon McLachlan at
Oxford University Press who, even during the arduous production of Opening Bazin, was so eager to
follow through with this revised edition. I relied on Brendan ONeill, also of Oxford, not just for his
ability to keep things on track but also for his swift and prudent advice, not to mention his enviable
sangfroid. How gratifying to work with them on something so important to me. How important it was
became clear when I saw the many precious photographs that Florent Bazin generously supplied,
which brings me, and all of us, closer to his father.
For the most part my 1978 text stands here as it was written then. Why blanket the enthusiasm of
youthful prose with mounds of primary and secondary sources that have since turned up? The
endnotes frequently allude to obvious historical and bibliographical developments since then. So this
edition lets me (and you, if you like) look not just at Bazin from a point well into the twenty-first
century, but also at Bazin when he was discovered and debated in America during the flush of
academic film study in the seventies. Bazin consumed me then, from the moment in 1968 when I was
knocked over by his words till the publication of this biography exactly a decade afterward. Those
were the very years during which the journal he founded, Cahiers du Cinma, taken over by Marxist,
even Maoist, editors, thoroughly disowned him. Many of the reviews that greeted my account of his
life demanded to know if Bazin was right about the cinema, or was he wrong? The question could be
posed that baldly in those days, and the verdict could often go against him, because his belief in the
congenital realism of photography stood in the way of the massive reformulation of film theory under
semiotic, psychoanalytic, and ideological lines.
Certainly I was caught up in the fervor of film studies, generally supportive of the ideas and
methodologies coming out of France; yet I promoted Bazin. This dual allegiance, befuddling at the
time, no longer seems so difficult to maintain. For the rather crude question of the correctness of
Bazins position has been displaced by the more historically sensitive question about his aptness. Our
era would more likely ask how good an index he makes for France in the forties and fifties, or for
cinema culture. How appropriate and, indeed, necessarynot how correctwere his ideas then, and
how fertile are they for us now? What would he say were he in our midst?
Written just as Foucaults impact was beginning to register in the United States, this book belongs
to what was then a troubled genre, the biography of an exceptional man, and my attitude toward it
now is far more cautious than it was in 1978. Still, in rereading this text I find that, far from making
Bazin an autonomous agent, I took him to be a point of exchange for cultural values and attitudes
(philosophical, cinematic, theological, political). Like every human, Bazin can reveal in his life story
the chevrons and the scars taken in daily battles with opposition and inertia. We relinquish a splendid
resource if we insist on dissolving individuals into institutions, discourse, and social practices.

Bazins private struggles (for example, to rectify aesthetics with cultural history, or to justify his
affection for Hollywood and his disinterest in America, or to align his Catholic and his socialist
impulses) trace deep fault lines within that public terrain. Even when his illness removed him
physically from this terrain, he reproduced its seismic tensions in his reading and viewing, in the
topics he chose to write about, and in the style that served his ideas. It is this visibility of tensions
within the man that I would now stress in presenting Bazin or any human being.
And so I am doubly grateful that Jean-Charles Tacchella enlarged this biography with his appendix
on the troubled years at LEcran Franais. It was there, if anywhere, that Bazin was entwined with
the institutions he spoke to and through. The fact that Tacchella himself was bound up in these events,
debates, and shifting configurations of power, ratifies the utility not just of biography but of
autobiography, even after Foucault.1 Certainly Bazin was nearly always an advocate of one view
over another, but he kept alive within himself, conscientiously and visibly, the attitudes of those with
whom he knew it was his lot to build post-war French culture.2 As both critic and human being he
possessed the extraordinary aptitude to be able to insinuate himself into the consciousness of foreign
bodies, if I may use the term, and to imagine life from other centers of perception.
I would like to emulate Bazin in this, if only to better grasp the stakes of the debates over cinema
that I was involved in during the seventies. Though dead, Bazin was a living part of those debates.
And he seems even more alive today. The chance to bring him back into our midst encourages the
following reflections on his identity and evolution, as well as on the aptness of my original text.
How little we know of Andr Bazin; how little we know of any fellow human, Bazin would have
been the first to say. What do we know? Researching his life almost forty years ago, I interviewed his
mother and his widow, Janine, in my miserable French. I spoke with the closest intellectual
companion of his university days and with a former girlfriend from his surrealist period as he
waited out the Occupation. I looked up those who knew him after the war at his workplace (Travail
et Culture), Joseph Rovan and Benigno Cacers. I met his colleagues at Esprit: the poet Edmond
Humeau; the theater critic Pierre-Aim Touchard; and his great predecessor as film critic, Roger
Leenhardt. And then there were his cin-club collaborators: Jean-Pierre Chartier, Jacques DoniolValcroze, and Jean-Charles Tacchella. Most memorable were the famous filmmakers this project
brought me into contact with: Eric Rohmer, Alain Resnais, Chris Marker, and, of course, Franois
Truffaut, the man who provided these contacts for me and who gave me several afternoons of his
precious time, amid the archives he had so devotedly catalogued. Truffaut put me in touch briefly with
Orson Welles and Jean Renoir. It was a thrilling undertaking for a starry-eyed young film scholar.
I went to France wanting to get close to a writer whose ideas had so shaped my view of film and
life. I went in search of photos, locating very few. I suppose I wanted this biography to be itself a
snapshot, something to be framed and laid on his tomb, as they sometimes do in France. But, despite
the dozen new actual photographs that his son Florent has since turned up and which Im so pleased to
insert in this revised edition, Im left wanting more. Thats how it is with photographs, as Roland
Barthes (drawing on Bazin) pointed out so poignantly: they show their subject here and then. But I
want to make Bazin here and now.
In fact, Bazin inadvertently provided the framework that I can use to present him. It arrived in a
haphazard discovery I made in 2003 (one I am not ashamed to recount).3 Inside his personal copy of
Sartres LImaginaire, which had been in my possession for thirty years, I found a folded sheet of

typed reading notes that sketch a comparison of the three technological media that concerned Bazin:
photography, cinema, television. The photograph, he wrote, is a document from the past that can
address us today. Television, its opposite, exists alongside us right now in our living room. In
contrast to the present tense of TV and the remote pastness of the photo document, Bazin asserts that
the cinema preserves the ongoingness of a phenomenon but at a temporal remove. In cinema,
something (someone) from the past is shown as existing now on the screen. This uncanny time shift
marks cinemas distinctiveness as I believe Bazin understood it. Why not turn this idea around on
Bazin, so as to better comprehend him?
We can escape the necrolatry of photographs by animating Bazin and his thought as in a film, putting
him and his time on screen before us now. He knew how to do just this, by treating whatever he cared
about in terms of its evolution. Bazin tracked the evolution of Chaplin, Welles, and Renoir through
their films and projects, and he then projected the influence they exerted. We can do the same, by
following Bazin from his arrival on the cultural scene in 1943 to his death in 1958, and then
following out the evolution of his ideas as these have found their way into later films and into the
expanding discourse about cinema. Bazin never questioned evolution. He imbibed its theory in his
scientific studies at the cole Normale Suprieure of St. Cloud (geology, geography, botany,
zoology). His writings are full of metaphors about the adaptation of biological species and about
changes on the earth over millennia. Like Andr Malraux, he believed that culture, too, changes in
cycles, from the primitive to the classical to the decadent. Malraux was inescapable in the forties and
Bazin was an ardent disciple. When young, he was also devoted to the Jesuit paleontologist Pierre
Teilhard de Chardin, whose theory of evolution was literally cosmological. Bazin would write an
Evolution of the Western, an Evolution of French Cinema, and the famous Evolution of the
Language of Cinema. Following his example, and eager to sense his ongoingness as in a film, why
not trace the Evolution of the Thought of Andr Bazin, and, not stopping in November 1958, watch
that thought develop in new directions and cycles right up to today?
His first and most illustrious champion, Eric Rohmer, wrote in his eulogy that Bazins wideranging ideas retain their consistency because they grow out of the Ontology of the Photographic
Image, just as cinema grows from the DNA of photography. Thirty-five years later, Rohmer
suggested that Bazins presumably Sartrean view that cinemas existence precedes its essence
actually owes more to Heideggers distinction between the Ontological and the Ontic.4 Nothing in
itself, the cinema is nevertheless tied to Being, evolving withand withinthe history of events and
of representations. Pre-programmed by photography to attach itself to what it encounters, cinema
adapts to circumstances, gradually becoming itself, often by submitting to the presumably
noncinematic task of adapting novels, plays, and paintings. Paradoxically, adaptation seems to
work in reverse, as cinema finds itself altered by what it tries to bring into its own domain.5 So much
has it evolved through the specific opportunities or missions it has been offered, that we must echo
Bazins famous remark concerning its technology: Cinema has not yet been invented. Quest-ce que
le cinma? really should be renamed Que sera-t-il le cinma? To shift to a metaphor Bazin
beautifully deployed at the end of his supremely influential essay on adaptation,6 films float on a river
of history, which is constrained by the topography and geology that it simultaneously modifies. So
cinema and theories about it move across and cut into an ever-changing cultural terrain, becoming
what they are in the process. Rohmer implies that although the shape of cinemas development was

not decided in advance, its elemental power (its psychological force and the cultural work it
accomplishes) lies in the chrono-photographic axiom. In the same way, Bazins positions, including
those he took in relation to radio, television, and animation, evolve with the medium but remain
faithful to his fundamental orientation.
Just as one can date geological strata by looking at a riverbank, so one can mark a change in the phase
of an evolving life. Bazin surely felt his own life and career change in 1949. I would even date it
precisely to July of that year when he felt the pride and responsibility of having become a father to
Florent just before his dreamchild, the Festival du Film Maudit, opened in Biarritz. As the president
of Objectif 49, which organized this festival, Bazin was assisted by his new wardthat other child
the delinquent Franois Truffaut. Biarritz gave Truffaut a second chance; here, he first met Rohmer,
Jacques Rivette, Charles Bitsch, and Jean Douchet. The week spent at round-the-clock screenings
and, for most of them, in the dingy dormitory, bonded this group. So, too, did their distaste for the
radical chic in this tourist city. I now think that Bazin conspired to inject these vigorous microbes into
Objectif 49 to shake it up. Because the Cold War had made LEcran Franais inhospitable, because
Gallimard had let La Revue du Cinma fold, Bazin recognized that post-war film culture needed to
evolve into something new. It needed a new center, something that Cahiers du Cinma would soon
provide for these young fanatics and for Bazin, who was entering the second phase of his career. I
like to think of him celebrating that next phase with the publication of his short book Orson Welles
just at midcentury, January 1950, but he could not have been in a very joyous mood. Diagnosed with
tuberculosis, he was sent off for months of rest-cure; meanwhile, the Cold War was about to ignite
into something very hot in Korea, turning the political climate stormy in Paris. Antoine de Baecque
suggests that Bazin effectively trained and then sent out his young disciples to rough up his various
opponents.7 Although he later turned around to spar with them himself as they went in directions he
took to be frivolous or shortsighted, Bazin never underestimated the collective youthful genius that
clustered at Biarritz and then came to work for him at Cahiers. And he was in need of reinforcement
and firepower after 1950, because the solidarity of the immediate post-war phase had dissipated, and
antagonists pressed on all sides: Stalinism on the political front, Filmologie on the critical front, and
Lettrism on the artistic front.
By 1949 an all-too-familiar politics reasserted itself in France and Italy, where young idealists
had recently held elevated hopes for a new cinema and a new society. Hollywood openly dominated
the European market, now in tandem with the Marshall Plan, which promised prosperity in exchange
for Frances allegiance to liberal capitalism and against the Soviet Union. Bazin was not the only one
caught in a double-bind: he had no interest in upholding American hegemony or values, but he was not
going to demonize the greatest source of cinematic creativity in the world. He might have been
socialist but he would still stand up not just for Welles (which was easy, Welles being a leftist
ostracized from Hollywood), but also for directors like John Ford and William Wyler, andGod
forbidhe would even praise the Western.
So he needed to support, and be supported by, the young cinephiles who were starting to write
floridly about Hollywood under Rohmers direction in La Gazette du Cinma. Godards first
submission was regarding the work of Joseph Mankiewicz and Elia Kazan. But his second piece
concerned the Soviet cinema and was titled Pour un cinma politique. Uncharacteristically
cautious, and looking for approbation, he brought this article to the sanitarium where Bazin was
cooped up. Frustrating in many ways, in fact the sanitarium had protected Bazin from the fallout that

his own essay on the Soviet cinema had caused, especially among his former friends in the Parti
Communiste Franais. He found in Godard an ally on the Soviet topic, and, more important, a
defender of American films about which he, Bazin, was often deeply ambivalent. In this, Godard was
joined by the Hitchcocko-Hawksiens, as Bazin affectionately called them, especially Truffaut,
Chabrol, and Rohmer, who all would write wonderful books on Hitchcock.
Later on, Bazin felt compelled to try to corral these rambunctious stallions he had let loose into
film criticism. He came to realize that their taste for Hollywood was primarily a taste for the style of
certain filmmakers in short, the auteur policy. Now Bazin unquestionably helped jump-start
auteurism and his reputation rode a long way on the directors he championed. Indeed he did not want
to douse the fiery enthusiasm of the younger critics, because he believed that the energy that cinephilia
gives to ones eyes and language was crucial. Still, while he celebrated the creativity of the director
whenever he found it, more fascinating to him was the genius of the system. Only an
interdisciplinary approach could begin to fathom why even modest directors made such satisfying
films during the classical period, as well as why that period appeared to be on its way out. His
protgs might exercise an elitist politique des auteurs, but he shamed them with their obligation to
keep in mind technology, economics, sociology, and, yes, actual politics, alongside the usual
approaches borrowed from literary studies and art history. This is why a case could be made for
Bazin as a social, even socialist, critic, at least in comparison with the future New Wave directors
who may have emulated his ingenious stylistic discoveries but seldom pressed as he did beyond the
personality that these were said to embody.
Except for Godard. Of the New Wave directors, he was generally taken to be the most distant from
Bazin, yet time and again his collected writings are an index to their congruence. His famous adage
morality is a tracking shot was first conceived in a review of Alain Resnaiss short films where he
says that Bazin and Resnais had come by different means to an equivalent moral conception of the
secret of the tracking shot. Later, while preparing A bout de souffle, Godard claims that because
Bazins Ontology proves the camera to be equally attached to nature and to chance, it follows that
fantasy and fiction must be authenticated through straight photography. Two weeks later he found the
example he had been waiting for to validate this point: Jean Rouchs Moi, un noir, a film
simultaneously realistic and fantastic, full of imagination and truth because it was shot without effects
and without a fully developed script. Godard notes that this is just the way Bazin had demonstrated
the greatness of Kon-Tiki. Godard and Bazin may have sparred over many issues, such as the
difference between montage and dcoupage, but they shared a belief that documentary was central to
modern cinema, whereas this mode left Truffaut indifferent. Could this be why, even beyond their
alliance against the new Soviet cinema, Bazin and Godard have always been taken as more political?
Compared to Bazins battle with the Communist critics at the height of Stalinism, his skirmish with
Filmologie seems trifling; however, in the crowded cultural field of the post-war years, any
alternative way to think cinema could pose a threat.8 As an explicitly academic movement,
Filmologie had the capacity to attract or to denigrate budding intellectuals like Rohmer and, to a
lesser extent, Godard. After all, it had financial backing and the prestige of its university setting. Even
today, film enthusiasts, not to mention filmmakers, often do not share a conception of the art form with
scholars. In France this question has caused massive problems for decades,9 beginning in 1945 when
Gilbert Cohen-Sat arrived on the scene with an idea and with ambition, expressed in a remarkably
self-confident book, Essai sur les principes dune philosophie du cinma.10 In a legendary
maneuver, and without an academic degree, he managed to lobby the Sorbonne to serve as an

umbrella for his fledgling research group and the journal they had inaugurated in 1948, La Revue
Internationale de Filmologie. From the moment of its official license, late in 1950, till the very end
of the decade, the institute benefited from significant support, visibly affecting the stratosphere of
French education in the process. The ancient amphitheater of the Collge de France was equipped for
projection, for example. Laboratories were established for psycho-perceptual and cognitive
experiments. In addition to research, regular courses and lectures were offered, and a couple of fullblown conferences took place.
Actually, the lectures and conferences had begun even before the institutes investiture. In the late
forties such luminaries as Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Henri Lefebvre, and Jean Hyppolite had appeared
before the group. Cohen-Sats inspired strategy was to set cinema up as a magnet to attract highprofile intellectuals from a spectrum of disciplines, principally the human sciences. He laid before
them a vision of how their methods could be renewed byor could develop in contact witha
vibrant phenomenon like cinema. Filmologie grew, as did Cohen-Sats international profile, and it
must have appeared as a kind of rival to the editorial staff at Cahiers du Cinma. In just its fifth
issue, September 1951, and less than a year after Filmologies accession to the Sorbonne (i.e., as
both groups struggled to gain footholds in Paris), an article appeared in Cahiers sarcastically titled
Introduction une Filmologie de la Filmologie, under the name of Florent Kirsch. Only his closest
friends understood this to be Andr Bazins occasional pseudonym (an amalgam of his wifes maiden
name and the name they had given their son). Florent Kirsch gets credit for about a dozen of Bazins
2,600 articles. In this case the ruse seems to have freed his normally genteel pen so he could slash
away at his target.11
Bazin cattily reports on Cohen-Sats astounding success in convincing the crusty professors and
crustier deans of the Sorbonne to take up mere movies as an investment in the future of research and
teaching. Professors of dead languages, Kirsch declares with the sarcasm of the confirmed
cinephile, have been watching in disbelief as their children and their concierges line up week after
week for spectacles that they themselves scarcely comprehend. It finally occurred to someone that
time had come to train their formidable analytic and philological skills on this new and living
language called cinema, to put it through the rigors of full analysis (physiology, psychology,
sociology). Bazin may have been especially jealous of Cohen-Sats welcome at the Sorbonne, as his
own first institutional affiliation with cinema had been with the Sorbonnes Maison de Culture
where he founded a cin-club during the Occupation. Though its rapport with the Sorbonne was
nominal, not even extracurricular, Bazin must have been proud to have kindled the flame of cinephilia
for a generation of academics, lighting up a dark room for them, projecting images that could sustain
the imagination, and doing so on the edge of Frances renowned university.
And so when Cohen-Sat was able to waltz straight up to the administration of the Sorbonne and
come away with its full support for a program that would finally raise cinema into an object of
genuine study, Bazins resentment seeped onto the page. As the leader of a band of young
cinmaniacs, each of whom claimed to watch more than five hundred films a year, Bazin was
especially irked at Filmologies calculated disinterest in its object of study. Their eighty-eight-page
double issue of Autumn 1959, for instance, mentions no titles whatsoever. To understand a
phenomenon, evidently they felt that one must stand back from it, like a medical professor before a
cadaver. Did Pavlov need to be a dog-lover? Bazin asked, to draw the line with finality.12 At
Cahiers they were, if nothing else, film lovers, cinephiles.13 And Bazin was their leader, even if he
could have gone over to the academic side, given his education and his evident training in disciplines

like geology, entomology, botany, philosophy, rhetoric, and theology. But it was no contest; films won
out over Filmologie.
The third threat to the kind of film culture Bazin proposed came from the Lettrists led by Isidore
Isou. This Romanian emerged onto the Parisian art scene just after World War II with a radical
manifesto aimed at undermining both meaning and representation in painting. Like the Dadaists before
him, he was ready to destroy art, literally scratching violent marks on paintings, and inserting shrill
sounds to disrupt the very idea of the poetry he produced. Isou turned to cinematic Lettrism in 1951,
the year of Cahiers founding.14 Four Lettrist films were made within a two-year span, one of which
received a special prize at Cannes, thanks to Jean Cocteau. Just as Bazin had dismantled the
pretentions of Filmologie in Cahiers #5, so Eric Rohmer did the same to Lettrism three issues later.
Like the other arts, Rohmer argues, cinema needs an avant-garde to press the medium to its limits
and to engage the imaginations of its most assiduous spectators; but unlike during the twenties, he
argued, the post-war avant-garde should exploit cinemas documentary dimension, showing what is
left of Europe and of cinema. Isou called instead for a chiseling cinema, taken from his ideas about
painting and poetry. Instead of creating new representations, he believed in scratching imagery right
off the celluloid, digging deliberately into the emulsion. Like his sound poems, Isous films bypass
meaning as they violently put the materials of the medium through their paces. Rohmer congratulates
him on this drive to reach the essential, but he questions whether cinema has essentials after all. Like
Bazin, Rohmer follows Alexandre Astrucs 1948 The Birth of a New Avant-garde: La Camrastylo, where the camera is taken not for a chisel but for a pen capable of expressing the most abstract
thought and poetic feeling. If Isou sees the filmmaker as a sculptor, at Cahiers the filmmaker was
expected to be an author, exploring the inner and outer world through cin-criture.
If the first phase of Bazins career had established the primacy of photography for film theory and of
neorealism for modern cinema, I would say that promoting cin-criture, taken in its broadest
possible senses, was the mission of the second phase. At the end of his life, he could measure
tremendous gains in cin-criture in the short documentary (works by Marker, Resnais, Georges
Franju, and Agns Varda) and he could sense major changes under way in fiction films (Louis Malle
and Chabrol had just shocked Paris, while Truffaut and Resnais were getting their epoch-changing
first features off the ground).
Has any critic ever had such impact? Toward the end of his life, Bazin could look at Robert
Bresson, Luis Buuel, Roberto Rossellini, Welles, and Renoir, knowing that they prepared their new
work with at least some of his ideas in mind, and knowing that they cared to create something that
would challenge his highly tuned sensibility. Hugh Gray, Bazins English translator and a friend of
Hitchcock (they had been classmates in high school), used to point to a secret rapport between Bazin
(the open, generous critic) and Hitchcock (the sly, misanthropic master of suspense). And then there
was the New Wave, which Bazin could sense gestating right there in the offices of Cahiers du
Cinma. He encouraged Rohmer, Truffaut, Rivette, Godard, and Chabrol to dream of the future they
had already started to create. He wrote glowing reviews to support Nicole Vedrs and Varda in their
work. Like Truffaut, Varda dedicated one of her films to Bazin.
Bazins influence over the sixties was massive, as new waves and new voices transformed cinema
in Japan, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, the USSR, Italy, Latin America, the UK, and Quebec
with countless filmmakers inspired by Cahiers du Cinma. Sometimes influence came through direct

personal contact as when a very young Alain Tanner found his way to Cahiers in the fifties via the
Cinmathque. Tanner would soon renew Swiss cinema. Then there were those remote from France
who got hold of the magazine and devoured its interviews, reviews, and polemics. Non-francophones
learned to eavesdrop. Bazins writings were widely translated.15 That was my case as a teenager, as I
got a sense of Cahiers through references in Sight and Sound or remarks by Andrew Sarris. In 1966
Sarris brought out an English edition of Cahiers, which included not just translations of current
articles, but also some of the classic pieces from the fifties, including, to launch the entire venture,
Bazins On the Politique des auteurs.
Bazin loved to probe the system that brought films into being and sustained them in the cultural
imaginary, for as a daily critic he took in every sort of film imaginable, mainly mediocre features.
Rather than try to filter from these a few gems, he aimed to understand the entire process by which
they got made, then attained their shape and value, whatever that might be. This meant genre study in
the broad sense. What psychological knot does each genre tie or unravel? How have later variants
grown out of earlier examples in the genre or drawn on adjacent types? What pre-cinematic avatars
connect these films to long-standing cultural concerns? To him, cinema was a vast ecological system,
endlessly interesting in its interdependencies and fluctuations. Treating films as participants in such a
complex system led Bazin to write on topics like censorship and technology, as well as to speculate
on the mythological dimension of certain stars. His genius lay in identifying the revealing textual
attributes of whatever films he saw, following out the questions to which films appear to stand as
answers, letting stylistic details call up his extraordinary range of knowledge. No one before him, and
maybe no one after, has so intuitively traveled with a film into the capillary networks that give it life.
This is why the eclipse of his thought, which started even before 1968 and lasted throughout the
structuralist period, was never total: not even at Cahiers in France nor at Screen in the Anglophone
world where he was excoriated. Just look at the trenchant structuralist readings of Young Mr.
Lincoln, Morocco, and A Touch of Evil that were carried out in these journals. They brazenly defy
Bazins presumed humanism with the dogmatic materialism and psychoanalysis of the seventies.
Stridently political they may be; nevertheless, each of these imposing exegeses depends on the close
analysis of stylistic features, exactly in the manner that Bazin had modeled. They really are not so
different from his manner of doing criticism. In a touching homage written in 1983, Serge Daney, who
had led the militant Cahiers of the seventies, came to recognize the magazines unbroken debt to its
founder, despite its editorial twists and turns.
Bad filmmakers have no ideas and good filmmakers have too many, while the greatest have but one. Set firm, it lets them hold the
road as they pass through an ever-changing and always interesting landscape. The cost of this is well known: a certain solitude.
And what about critics? It would be the same for them, [but all are unworthy]. All except one. Between 1943 and 1958 Andr
Bazin was that one. In the postwar French world, Bazin was at once inheritor and precursor, figure de proue et passeur.16

With that final turn of phrase, impossible to translate (Bazin as the figurehead on the prow of a
ship, while also being the smuggler stowed away in the ships hold), Daney recognized the continuity
of an idea of cinema that will not go away, not even with the coming of the digital image. Thus,
Bazins return owes much to Daneys reassessment in 1983; it came as well thanks to Gilles
Deleuzes two Cinma volumes, also from the mid-eighties, which effectively squelched semiotics in
favor of a philosophy of the image that looked to films as manifesting a form of thought. One could
say that Bazin had anticipated many of Deleuzes notions. And not just Deleuze; in places Bazin
writes as if in dialogue with Jacques Derrida, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Rancire, or Marie-Jos

Mondzain, the last three having written books on cinema. The prestigious place that film has assumed
in French intellectual life is another of Bazins legacies. While he did not pioneer this place, he, more
than anyone else, widened and made habitable the intellectual terrain that we now occupy. We are
living his second life.
Bazin knew a lot more about evolution than I ever will. Still, I am tempted to describe his identity as
a phenomenon that evolved in stages, rather than something given once and for all, as with the capsule
portraits one finds in surveys of theory. Bazin followed Bergson, where identity is in flux, held
momentarily in acts of memory, like the figures Picasso designs and then suddenly transforms only to
transform again in Clouzots great film. We are left without a final painting in Le mystre Picasso,
and yet vivid forms inhabit the screen throughout, and it is this throughout that made Bazin call it
un film bergsonnien. In the same way, Bazin exists intermittently and in flux in his textual traces
his complete published writings, his manuscripts, the few photos that have been collected. These
amount to moments that allow us to glimpse different phasesphases of differencepertaining to the
phenomenon named Andr Bazin.
Bazin must have understood his career as having phases when in the last year of his life he
prepared the four volumes of Quest-ce que le cinma? The first volume opens with he Ontology of
the Photographic Image, which anchors an idea of cinema based on realismfrom Erich von
Stroheim through Renoir to Rosselliniwhile the second volume begins with For an Impure
Cinema: In Defense of Adaptations,17 anchoring the cinema of modernity (Cocteau, Bresson,
Resnais). We might say that the early Bazin cared about the signifier, while the later one cared more
about the signified. I want to bring these two Bazins into a single frame, like some Picasso painting
that gives you a portrait, both face on and in profile. Outside of France Bazin is known mainly as the
theorist of realism, but he titled volume I of his collected works not Ontologie du cinma but
Ontologie et langage. What cinema is depends on the psychological power of photographic realism,
but cinemas actual value is historically constituted, since the fact that the cinema is also a language
means that it evolves within an arena of cultural discourses.
What was in Bazins mind when he concluded the Ontology essay with that striking one-sentence
paragraph: On the other hand, the cinema is also a language? Actually, this sentence does not
appear in the original Ontology essay of 1945. He added it in 1958 as a surprise that switches
lenses, distancing the object of study, raw photography, to make it visible in another dimension, the
dimension of social meaning. This dimension comes into full view in volume II of Quest-ce que le
cinma? Here he looks not inward at cinemas cellular makeup but outward toward its place relative
to the arts around it. Should it position itself in open territory not occupied by the arts before it, or
should it conspire with them in a tangled cultural field, sometimes producing hybrids? Like any living
form, cinema must adapt to conditions around it, sacrificing its putative self-identity (its ontology) as
it matures into the shape it takes on in history. Along the way it acquires affiliations and vocations
just as people do, just as Bazin himself did.
His lengthy essays on adaptation I call the Ontogeny Essays, for they anchor his film criticism in
the same way that his great 1945 Ontology Essay was the cornerstone of his realist theory. Philip
Rosen and I have both lit upon a crucial passage Bazin penned in 1953 in which he hoped to bring
together these two directions (or phases) of his thought: To attain a high level of aesthetic fidelity, it
is essential that the cinematographic form of expression make progress comparable to that in the field

of optics. The transition from a theatrical work to the screen demands, on the aesthetic level, a
scientific knowledge, so to speak, of fidelity comparable to that of a camera operator in his
photographic rendering.18
This abiding concern with fidelity may suggest a smooth evolution from his forties phase
(realism and nature) to his fifties phase (adaptation and culture). But evolution is seldom either
smooth or singular. Just look at the new films that arrived in the fifties to greet Bazins second phase
and upset the evolution of the language of cinema. Because he always looked for differences (in
amateur films, science films, films on art, animation, etc.), he was struck, even more than most, when
Rashomon showed up unannounced at Venice in 1951. Pursuing its allure, he claimed to have seen
more than two dozen Japanese films in the following three years.19 The result was decisive for him
and his protgs at Cahiers. Japanese films shocked them all into the realization that cinema was
greater than, and different from, what they had assumed. Moreover, the identity of Japanese cinema
passed through conflicting phases, both before 1951 and then up into the sixties. Important to Bazin,
this great national cinema may serve as an analogy as we try to locate him.
Famously, Rashomon puts truth, illusion, and identity up for grabs, as it proceeds in distinct and
contradictory phases. Actually Bazin disputed those who found this film to be a radical break with
standard practice. To him, it was a facile assimilation of certain elements of Occidental aesthetics
comprising an amalgam with the Japanese tradition. This description is in line with his contention
that mixed cinema is the norm. Still, he found himself overwhelmed by what everyone took to be a
purer Japanese style, the tender lyricism, the musical poetry of Mizoguchi, which operates
according to principles quite different from Western literature and cinema. As he kept his eyes open
to world cinema, did he recognize that there may not be a universal evolution of the language of
cinema? Did he understand Japanese cinema as perhaps constituting a different system altogether,
with its own evolution? What he could not have known is that, while Mizoguchi was thought to be at
the cutting edge of international cinema when viewed from Venice or Paris, in Tokyo he was taken to
be retrograde. Japanese cinema was out of phase with the European art film to which it nevertheless
contributed.20 The same must be said of Bazin who plays different roles at different times and in
different places.
Bazins second life, taken as his posthumous reception, is usually understood as belonging to an
evolution of trends in France, where his ideas thrived during phenomenology, disappeared during
structuralism, and then reappeared in the nineties during a period some call post-ontology. Outside
France, the situation is less clear, as he washed up on certain shores when sporadically translated.
His ideas arrived in asynchronous waves that produced complex aftereffects when these waves
mingled in a large sea of international cinema culture. Although Bazins international reception was
by definition delayed, it need not be heard as a mere echo of the French reception. Whenever his texts
arrived in Brazil, the USSR, Japan, or China, Bazin affected the specific cinema situations that were
alive there and then. And those distinct situations allow different facets of his workand of the man
to stand out.
I have lived my life alongside Bazins second life in the Anglophone world. Except for his
beautiful review of La Strada, which was translated in the Catholic journal Crosscurrents, Ive not
read, or heard of, a single English word by or about Bazin that was published in English until after his
death. Then within a year Richard Roud drew on the first two volumes of Quest-ce que le cinma?,

as well as on the testimonies in Cahiers necrological issue, to develop a comprehensive article in

Sight and Sound. Andrew Sarris cited Bazin in reviewing Viridiana and used him in a famous debate
with Pauline Kael about the Auteur Theory in 1963. Fighting back, Kael shows Bazin tremendous
respect, having read him more carefully. I followed this public debate and finally read Bazin when
Sarris printed a translation of Sur la politique des auteurs in the first issue of Cahiers du Cinma
in English. Throughout 1966, I discussed each of the eleven issues of Cahiers du Cinma in English
at my universitys cin-club. Even if he wrote against overvaluing the auteur, Bazin claimed the
filmmaker to be at last the equivalent of the novelist. This is what many of us students of literature
wanted to hear.
I was writing a thesis on film aesthetics that year, and I had read Rudolf Arnheim, V. I. Pudovkin,
Sergei Eisenstein, and Siegfried Kracauer. I worked my way through Jean Mitrys Esthetique et
psychologie du cinma, because his French was easy to understand. Mitry frequently argued with
Bazin, but Bazins positions were too subtle and his style too literary for me at the time. Then the
University of California Press brought out Hugh Grays translation of What Is Cinema? and
immediately I found in the prose and in the ideas the complexity I had been waiting for, as well as a
philosophical resonance in accord with my own background and tastes. Throughout the sixties I
devoured works of existentialism, a philosophical school particularly attractive to undergraduates. It
was also a philosophy that suited a decade in which authority had been undermined, from the Watts
riots that I witnessed in Los Angeles to the strike at Columbia University in the spring of 1968 in
which I participated. There were assassinations, demonstrations against the Vietnam War, British
rock n roll, and la nouvelle vague.
Having attended an elite Jesuit high school, I was studying at the University of Notre Dame, where
I rebelled against traditional philosophy by writing papers on Heidegger, Sartre, and Camus. If
religion still had a role to play, I identified with the forces pressuring Vatican II to complete a
revolution in the Church that seemed under way. One philosopher in particular combined
existentialism and committed Catholicism: Gabriel Marcel. He lectured at my university on the
mystery of Being and the aesthetics of ambiguity. I could sense his Heideggerian notion of homo
viator in films like Bergmans The Magician and Fellinis La Strada. When I first came to Paris, in
the fall of 1973, I arrived the day Gabriel Marcel died and I attended his memorial service at SaintSulpice, just to be able to sign my name on the registry. Only recently did I learn that Marcel and
Bazin conducted a dialogue about cinematographic art, which was broadcast on radio in 1948. This
doesnt surprise me, as Marcel, a philosopher-playwright, like Sartre, who eagerly engaged the
cinema, was also close to Bazins friend Amde Ayfre.
But let me return to 1968, the year in which Bazin, a decade after his death, was reborn in
America. Yet this was the very year in Paris when the Cinmathque was under siege and Cahiers du
Cinma was turned upside-down, Bazin ground under by the marching feet of a collective editorship
that repudiated him. Here we encounter again the problem of two cultures out of phase. Just as in
1960 Mizoguchi served two roles, as good object for the French New Wave and a bad object for the
Japanese New Wave, so in 1968 Bazin was suddenly bad object in Parisian film culture but a newly
discovered good object in New York. In fact 1968 is the high point of public interest in art cinema in
America, with nearly 10 percent of all movie theaters in New York exhibiting foreign films. The New
Wave had spread to Japan, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. I remember seeing a dozen Czech
films during that year in New York, the last ones made before the tanks entered Prague. Milo Forman
and Ivan Passer came to the United States as exiles and were shooting films there by 1970, for

Hollywood was weak and producers were gambling on the youth culture. At last there seemed to be a
New Wave in American cinema.
Raised in Los Angeles, near UCLA, I followed the reputation of an ambitious student, Francis
Ford Coppola, who won an Oscar for his short thesis film, Skaterdater. He went to Paris and
worked on scripts, including the script for Paris brle-t-il? [Is Paris Burning?, 1966], which
Truffaut turned down before it was given to Ren Clment. I could tell that Coppolas 1967 feature,
Youre a Big Boy Now, aimed for the verve and freshness of 400 Blows. Into the seventies, he was the
hope of American cinephiles, along with Arthur Penn because of Bonnie and Clyde, and John
Cassavetes. At last we had our own auteurs, some coming from film schools. Terrence Malick and
Martin Scorsese, thanks to Roger Corman, were able to set up camp, if not find a home, in the ruins of
the studio system. And so Hollywood seemed congenial to film art between 1968 and 1974, the very
years that Bazins work took hold in an academic film culture that grew faster in the United States
than in France because it was still powered by the momentum of auteurs. We analyzed the mise-enscne of The Conversation, Mean Streets, and Badlands, as though Coppola, Scorsese, and Malick
were French or Italian auteurs and as though we were critics from the yellow period of Cahiers.
As late as 1974 we who were so glad to read Bazin in English had little idea how beleaguered he
was in France. Bazin was indispensable to our courses in cinema studies, for he identified the films
and directors to study, while modeling a method whereby close analysis clarifies questions of style
and history. What Is Cinema? provoked us to examine intensely both individual films and the cinema
in toto. Yet Cahiers no longer looked like the journal Bazin had founded. For fifteen years, from 1968
to 1983, Bazin became a bad object in France, and slowly by contagion in England and the United
States. By the time my biography appeared in 1978, colleagues wondered why I had spent time on
such a regressive thinker, completely out of fashion.
I should have been prepared for Bazins disappearance, because there were indications of a
backlash that I hadnt paid attention to. Let me mention two of these visible in 1968: one was
political, the other ideological. The political attack came from Positif, in Grard Gozlans long, nasty
diatribe, In Praise of Andr Bazin. Written in 1963, it was translated into English in Peter
Grahams indispensable anthology called The New Wave: Critical Landmarks (which appeared in
1968). Americans like me were not sympathetic to Positif, because it refused the New Wave, so this
undisguised political attack on Bazin worked in his favor as we read Gozlan in order to refute him,
which we found easy to do. In a very well-researched two-part article that launched the American
film journal Jump Cut in 1974, John Hess adopted Gozlans animus, though not his sarcasm. Yet Hess
was not out to get Bazin; instead he sought bigger prey, the auteur theory and its conservative politics;
since Bazin had himself chided the auteurists, he could scarcely be blemished. Now the other flank to
be attacked, which I term ideological, was harder to turn back than this political one. Associated with
the structuralism, semiotics, and materialist ideas that massively entered the French academy at this
time, it would lead to a tremendous shift in values. The first American to develop this ideological
critique of Bazin was Annette Michelson, in her fine review of What Is Cinema?, published in the
journal Artforum in 1968.
Michelson had lived in France in the fifties, and ever after kept up with the most advanced ideas in
the Paris university and arts community. She understood Bazins increasingly difficult position there
in the sixties. She also disagreed with his preference for realist style, because she herself upheld a
tradition anchored in the Soviet school, in the historical avant-garde, and in modernism. Bazin may
have championed a modern cinema, she wrote, but his aesthetics were antimodernist. Where he

praised Rossellini by linking him to the American novel (Faulkner, Dos Passos) Michelson preferred
Eisenstein and could link him to a more radical author: James Joyce! Bazin may have supported a
new avant-garde, but he failed to credit the historical avant-garde (constructivism, surrealism) or to
recognize the genuine avant-garde of the post-war era (she was championing Stan Brakhage). What
would Bazin have said of Godard, she asks? Employing the semiotic terminology of the day,
Michelson set Bazin against Eisenstein, the former seen as a proponent of metonymy against the latter,
a proponent of metaphor. A few years later this opposition of metonymy to metaphor would become
the backbone of a maturing American film theory; it is visible in Brian Hendersons 1971 essay Two
Types of Film Theory, published in Film Quarterly. And it helped me organize my seminars called
The Major Film Theories into realist and formalist tendencies. These formed the basis of a popular
book in 1976.
Yet that textbook was out of date when it appeared. Bazin may stand as the strongest thinker among
classical film theorists, but the book goes on to mention the semiotics and psychoanalysis that I had
found in Paris when I arrived there in 1973. That was the year the Centre Americain du Cinma et de
la Critique opened its doors at Place de LOdeon. A great many American doctoral students would
pass through that program where they studied with or heard about Christian Metz and his students.
They heard little about Bazin. They were enticed instead by radical film theory, especially the
firebrand version that came out of the events of 1968, and they brought it back to the United States,
along with apologias for Godards video work. In an interview for an American magazine, Serge
Daney explained, however, the connection between Bazin and this new phase of criticism:
The interest in militant cinema is as much an effect of cinephilia as of the political superego. In Cahiers-cinephilia [the kind staked
out by Bazin], there is a demand for risk, a certain price paid for the images. In militant cinema there is also this idea of risk. No
longer a metaphysical risk, but a physical one; the risk of not being there at the right moment cinephilia is not just a special
relationship to cinema; it is a relationship to the world through cinema.21

Once again the problem of phasure returns. By 1974 the French passion for militant cinema had
begun to cool, just as it was emerging in Englands journal Screen, read by all serious American film
students. A genuine school of thought formed around Ben Brewster, Stephen Heath, Christopher
Williams, and Colin MacCabe, proclaiming the constructed (hence, negotiable) nature not just of
films, but also of technology and even of perception, the zone Bazin had held pristine. Every issue of
Screen argued that the cinema is through and through a tool of the ruling (bourgeois) class because it
naturally puts passive viewers at the center of a spectacle, giving them the illusion of mastery while
in fact chaining them in place as subjects of an ideology that stabilizes the socioeconomic and
political order.22 Bazins image theory, anchored in outdated Sartrean principles, emphasizes
ambiguity, freedom, and a future opening onto the world through the screen. He had no ideaso it
was claimedthat a complex ideology stands between the viewer and the world viewed. Nor did he
understand the historical-material struggle behind the invention and perfection of machines of the
visible, as Jean-Louis Comolli called cinema so as to emphasize its threat. If Bazin is right that the
cinema indeed evolves, it evolves not, as he innocently thought, toward greater realism; rather it
evolves better ways to serve a power elite by an increasingly sophisticated technology of hypnosis.
Suspicion of the image had replaced faith in the image.
This vehement, rather Protestant iconophobic attack on the Catholic Bazin would continue in the
Anglophone film academy until the end of the eighties and it ceased only because French theory itself
structuralism and poststructuralism alikecame under attack here. Ironically Bazin would have a

chance to return to England and America only because of the francophobia of the times. If the French
had turned against Bazin, then perhaps he was worth reexamining.
During the eighties, American scholarship had grown quite independent of continental thought,
believing themselves to be better grounded in both historical method and in philosophy. Bazin still
was ignored or reprimanded but not because of his politics or ideology. Now it was the philosopher
and film scholar Nol Carroll who in the 1988 Philosophical Problems of Classical Film Theory
belittled his logic. Carroll praised Bazin as critic and historian, but he challenged his ontology
axiom especially for limiting, so Carroll believes, any definition of the medium. Later philosophers
have disputed Carrolls charge, and Bazin the critic and historian became the subject of generous
studies by David Bordwell (in History of Film Style, 1997) and Philip Rosen (in Change
Mummified, 2001). When a leading anthology, Rites of Realism, was published in 2002 with a whole
section called Bazinian Contingencies, it was evident that Bazin was back in American classrooms;
indeed, he was often in the center of the most vibrant film discussions.
Paradoxically, the arrival of the digital image and its threat to photographic cinema has effected
this return. Sylvia Harvey, who once chronicled Bazins eclipse in her book May 68 and Film
Culture, resurrected his image in a 1995 article called What Is Cinema? The Sensuous, the Abstract,
and the Political.23 She holds Bazin up against the iconophobes of the seventies who came close to
killing the art of cinema in the name of politics and science. She is one of many Anglophone readers
who have come to applaud Bazin because he encourages us to recover through cinema a sense of life
that is fading in a world so full of simulation. His humility before undisclosed possibilities of images,
and of the reality to which images point, returns us to the movies with excitement and expectation.
Nostalgia can creep into the discourse of established scholars, including myself, who look to Bazin
when we ruminate over the fate of cinema and its predicted demise; yet many in the generation that
unhesitatingly embrace new media call on him for the way he helps. One finds Bazin invoked in
prominent literary journals like PMLA and Critical Inquiry and in online journals like Senses of
In 2008, thanks to a conference co-sponsored by Cahiers du Cinma, I found myself in Shanghai
where Bazin has experienced an afterlife distinct from what I have just noted in France and the United
States. Introduced in China after 1978 when film study came out of its isolation, Bazin, I learned,
immediately exerted a powerful influence there.24 Preceding dozens of scholarly presentations about
Bazin were substantial and reverent testimonials from four prominent Asian directors: Ann Hui, Xie
Fei, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, and Jia Zhangke. The first two continue to represent, ever since the eighties,
the most serious cinema of Hong Kong and the Peoples Republic of China, respectively. The latter
two are unquestionably at the summit of the film art of our era. They all showed up in Shanghai to
recognize either the impact of Bazin on their formative years (Jia Zhangke read him closely while at
the Beijing Film Academy) or, in Hou Hsiao-Hsiens case, after the fact, when he immediately
understood why so many people recommended he read Bazin.
The Chinese have been drawn to Bazins realist aesthetic, especially in the decade after the
Cultural Revolution when filmmakers tentatively began to step outside the models that had been
imposed on them from 1949 on. Bazin reverses the dominance of the scriptwriters preconception
over the cinematographers discoveries. This shocked the Chinese more than it shocked the studio
heads in Paris or Hollywood. Renoir and neorealism pioneered a kind of film where the screenplay is
a literal pretext to foster an exploration of the natural and social world rather than a blueprint to
follow in illustrating or animating a story and the ideas behind it. Encouraged by Bazin and the strain

of films he supported, a significant strain of Chinese cinema has illuminated hidden zones and secret
issues of Chinese society, from River without Buoys (a film by Wu Tianming, 1984) to Jia Zhangkes
24 City (2008).
From 1978 to 1986, Bazin had more impact on Chinese cinema than any other Western critic, at
least until US scholars visiting China spread the word that he was out of fashion in the West.
However, their news was not quite up to date. For as we have seen, while Bazin may have been
absent from classrooms in the United States, he was becoming important again in France. He would
go in and out of fashion in China, too. In Shanghai he was back. Perhaps because of his anniversary
year, or because of the prestige of Jia Zhangke and Hou Hsiao-Hsien, the entire April 2008 issue of
Contemporary Cinema, Chinas premiere journal of film criticism, boasting an impressive
circulation, was devoted to Bazin. Who can say what he means in China? But my own interactions
with Chinese scholars just like my interactions with French ones, always result in new ideas about his
writings, about what they mean for the past and the future of cinema.25
Let me return to my opening sentence. What can we know about Bazin or about anyone? We can know
him, I want to say, the way we can know a film that we care intensely about, like Mizoguchis
sublime Sansh Day. Sansh Day remains distinct and distant for me, and yet I find the film
growing as I continue to experience it, discuss it, and find out how others bring it to life in their
discussions. In the same way, Bazin continues to develop through the writings of all who care about
him; he continues to develop in his second life. His significance evolves as he emerges intermittently
across a discontinuous field; his work arises differently in France, the United States, China, Japan,
Iran, and Brazil. At different times and in different circumstances, distinct facets of Bazin rotate into
view. Instead of a timeless Bazin existing beyond all these circumstantial appearances, let us try to
hold in view the multiple appearances themselves, as proof of the fertility of his essays and the
profundity of his thought.
This paradox of identity in history has a pedigree of which Bazin was fully aware. My colleague
Herv Joubert-Laurencin has located many references that Bazin makes to Mallarms cryptic
formula that condenses this paradox in a famous phrase: speaking of the poets life and afterlife,
Mallarm wrote that the poet becomes tel quen lui-mme enfin leternit le change. I leave it to
philosophers and literary experts to unravel this paradox. I cite it because Bazin cited it and because
it resonates with another quotation on the nature of identity and change written by Bazins great
contemporary Merleau-Ponty. Speaking of lasting works of art as if they were living beings, he wrote,
If they are truly great, the meaning we give them afterwards derives from them. It is the work of art
that opens the field where it can later appear; it is the work which changes in itself and becomes what
follows, the unending reinterpretations to which it is legitimately susceptible change it only in
I have wanted to treat Bazin as if he were such a work of art. I have wanted to treat his ideas, and
his life, as unfinished because these are still opening up the field on which their possibilities of
meaning can be understood. Bazin might have said something like this regarding cinema; for in the
films that remain alive in culture, what we see was photographed earlier but will continue to be
experienced not just by me here and now but by others later and elsewhere. A film gains what Paul
Ricoeur calls a surplus of meaning through an accumulation of conflicting interpretations, not
through a scripted evolution of meaning. I have always approached strong films as living beings

whose identity lies on the receding horizon of the future, with history bringing out new facets and
possibilities, phase after phase.
More than half a century after the end of his life we are shaping Bazins second life, his eternity.
Dudley Andrew (2013)



At the moment of Andr Bazins death, we were all present at something truly rare: artists paying
tribute to a critic! Indeed, Luchino Visconti, Jean Cocteau, Robert Bresson, Marcel Carn, Luis
Buuel, Orson Welles, and Federico Fellini felt strongly enough to write in public declarations and in
letters to Janine Bazin that for fifteen years they had found in Bazin a man of open mind and unfettered
intelligence, whose analyses had been genuinely helpful to them in their work.
How can I hide the joy which this biography of Andr Bazin by Dudley Andrew brings me? Bazin
is the man whom I most loved and admired in my life, the man whose care and affection brought me
first to a career in writing and later in filmmaking.
I was an adolescent in trouble when I met him in 1947; I was fifteen years old, he thirty. And I will
die without ever knowing why Bazin and his wife, Janine, became concerned enough about me to
extricate me, first, from a detention home and then, three years later, from a military prison and
asylum. During this period I was not a film lover so much as a film addict; movies were a drug to me
and, although I discussed them passionately, I did so without intelligence.
Bazin, he was intelligence itself. His studies of Chaplin, Welles, Sturges, Bresson, Renoir, and
Italian neorealism aroused admiration and made him something more than a critic: a veritable
crivain de cinma.
Having first prepared himself for the teaching profession, he never betrayed his pedagogic
vocation, extending it to his journalism and to the countless cin-clubs he developed for so many
varied groups. It was my luck in those first days of our friendship to accompany him to his
presentations and to watch him comment on some Chaplin shorts, first, at a Dominican convent, then,
two days later, during the lunch hour at a metal works factory, captivating each audience and
involving everyone in the discussion.
Bazin understood that the cinema, losing neither its popular essence nor its status as a major
entertainment form, would in time become a cultural phenomenon equal to the higher arts. In the
confusing years just after the war this was by no means evident.
In one of his very first articles Bazin foresaw that the cinema would be taught in universities. He
We will surely have some day a thesis of eight hundred pages on the function of comedy in American film between 1915 and 1917
or something approaching that. And who will dare maintain that this isnt serious?

But what Bazin would never have dared imagine was precisely the existence of a book devoted
entirely to him.
Obviously Dudley Andrew is too young to have known Bazin, and yet he gave himself to his work
for four years with such fastidiousness that today, I am certain, he knows, better than any of those he
interviewed, the character whose life he chose to retrace.
You have to admit that relations between men who respect and love one another so much can often

become inhibited by a great sense of modesty which keeps them from confiding in one another or
talking much about themselves. Though I was the intimate friend of Bazin and became, you might say,
his adopted son, until a time when I felt I was actually becoming a brother to him, I nevertheless knew
only one part of his life. And even here this biography has revealed to me all sorts of details I had no
notion of.
I read this book like a novel in which I knew that everything was true. Although there werent a
great many events in the too short life of Andr Bazin, there was, you will find, a personality, a
character. One can well imagine a fiction created around this character of Bazin, a man renowned for
his goodness. I know that Andr Gide said, One cant make good literature out of good sentiments,
but I assert that Bazins absolute good faith, his generosity, made him a character who stunned,
intrigued, and excited us even to a point where we had to smile to one another to hide our emotions.
If you have ever seen Leo McCareys Good Sam, you surely remember the character (played by
Gary Cooper) whose altruism involves him in inextricable screen situations which are alternately
comic and dramatic. Ive never been able to watch Good Sam without thinking of Bazin.
For example, I remember once when some objects (a small clock, a pewter pitcher, and a camera)
began to disappear from his apartment and Bazin, ever the detective, said, These thefts cant have
occurred in the day because Mado (the housekeeper) is here so they must have happened at night; but
in that case I dont understand why Pluto (the dog) didnt bark.
Sometime later the housekeeper grew ill and couldnt come to his home. Bazin said to his wife,
Poor Mado is sick all alone at her place. Im not sure she can count on her neighbors for help, so Im
going to take her some hot soup in a thermos. No sooner said than done. Arriving at the house of
Mado, who was indeed confined to bed, what was the first thing Bazin saw as he looked around? The
small clock, the pewter pitcher, and the cameraeverything that had disappeared from his home.
Because his sense of humor was as vast as his goodness, Bazin was the first to laugh at himself even
in this absurd kind of situation.
Bazin was forty when he died; he would have been nearly sixty today and his presence would have
helped to dissipate the thick fog in which cinematographic reflection finds itself. To be a critic in
1978 is much more difficult than it was in 1958, first of all because production has become
enormously diversified at the same time that the ambitions of filmmakers have grown. Nowadays, at
the end of any given year of cinema, it is much more difficult for a dozen observers of good faith to
agree on the titles of those films which have a chance for survival.
In the era in which Bazin wrote, the average production lacked artistic ambition to such an extent
that the role of the critic frequently was to point out to one or another workaday filmmaker the talent
which he had never noticed in himself. Today it is quite the contrary. More often it happens that
although the ambitions of filmmakers are very high their execution cant keep up with them. Bazin, if
he were still alive, would have helped us understand ourselves well enough to establish a better
harmony among our projects, our aptitudes, our goals, and our style.
Yes, we miss Andr Bazin.
Franois Truffaut
December 1977


On November 14, 1958, the church of Saint-Saturnin in Nogent-sur-Marne, a small Parisian suburb,
was filled with French filmmakers, actors, critics, philosophers, and poets. They had come to bury
Andr Bazin. When the undertakers saw the mountains of flowers brought by so many well-dressed
mourners, they tried to refuse the paupers funeral that had been arranged and was being paid for by
Cahiers du Cinma. Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, cofounder with Bazin of Cahiers, explained that
twenty years of teaching, organizing, and writing had not made this man rich and that Bazins wife and
son needed to save all the money they could. This dispute outside the church nearly came to blows;
Doniol-Valcroze prevailed in the end, but he had literally to assist the reluctant undertakers with their
One can hardly be blamed for doubting the poverty of one so lavishly laid to rest. Bazins closest
and oldest friend, Guy Lger, offered a solemn High Requiem Mass; at the end of the service, when
everyone was preparing to go out into the autumn sun, Claude Bellanger, founder and editor of
Frances largest daily newspaper Parisien Libr, rose to give an official eulogy whose poignancy
caught everyone off guard:
Who will ever account for the genius Bazin displayed at every moment? He possessed at one and the same time both passion and
lucidity, the spirit of the quest and the spirit of analysis, both curiosity and certitude. He knew how to judge with absolute fairness
and how to make himself understood without raising his voice, thanks to the inner truth he carried with him. His work, which has
been interrupted so early, he accomplished as if it were a mission. And this is right, for today he seems to us like the missionary of
a young art to which he consecrated his immense moral force and his limited physical stamina. His eyes come back to haunt us,
luminous, tranquil, sincere, dreaming for an instant, then fired by the need to understand and to express. It is these eyes one will
never forget. He was a master.1

Then Roger Regent, president of the Association of Critics, and Jacques Flaud, director of the
National Center of Cinematography, added their own comments. None of these three had been
especially close to Bazin in his life, but each represented a segment of culture that wanted to
recognize the constructive role Bazins criticism had played in cinemas development.
A few days later, intimate friends began to add personal notes to these official eulogies, especially
in the newspapers and journals most closely associated with Bazin. In France-Observateur,2 for
instance, Luchino Visconti, Marcel Carn, Ren Clment, Alexandre Astruc, and the usually reticent
Robert Bresson testified to Bazins importance for their work. Claude Autant-Lara praised Bazins
forthrightness and integritythough these qualities had never been shown better than in the scathing
treatment he had given Autant-Laras own films. A week later, the same magazine printed a
remarkable and tender essay by Jean Renoir in which Renoir said that Bazin alone taught him that
there was a French tradition in film and showed him his place in it. He created a national art. After
considering his writings I changed my own filming plans.3
The January 1959 issue of Cahiers du Cinma (No. 91) was devoted entirely to Bazin. DoniolValcroze commissioned eight short essays from Bazins closest friends and arranged them to form a
chronological survey of Bazins developing personality and mission. In addition, he published a
cluster of tributes, including some astonishing notes from Bresson, Buuel, Cocteau, Fellini, Gance,

Langlois, and again Jean Renoir. Altogether this issue is a remarkable and moving testimony. Many
other tributes were paid to Bazin, most notably from Esprit4 and from the Venice film festival.
Roberto Rossellini dedicated the festival for two consecutive years to Bazin, who had made the films
of post-war Italy recognized in France and in the world.
Underlying all these testimonies, eulogies, and recollections is a tone deeper and more telling than
simple adulation, as if a large part of French culture were burying not just a man, but an era.
Truffauts Cahiers essay is entitled It Was Good to Be Alive, and he was not alone in fearing that
with Bazin lay buried a certain vision and project of culture. From Bazins graveside that November
14, an important part of the French intelligentsia looked toward the sixties and toward a world that
was, if not more villainous than that of the forties and fifties, at least more complicated.
The year of Bazins death was indeed a remarkable one for the French. By the end of 1958 nearly
every group Bazin had helped animate was launched into a position of significance, of grandeur, and,
inevitably, of compromise. Most important, it was in this year that the critics of Cahiers broke into
film production. Bazin had continually struggled to help generate a new kind of film, the kind that was
finally born at the 1959 Cannes festival when The 400 Blows and Hiroshima Mon Amour were
hailed as the New Wave. Bazin didnt live to see this triumph, but he must have sensed its
inevitability: he had helped Chabrol produce Le Beau Serge; he had watched the first labor pains of
Rivettes Paris nous appartient; he had listened to Godard rant about the films he was going to make
at all costs. Bazins death could not have been more dramatically timed. Not only had Truffaut filmed
the first scenes of The 400 Blows, but Louis Malles The Lovers was that very November 14
shocking its first audience on the Champs-Elyses. A new era of film had been ushered in; the young
pranksters of Cahiers were now sitting behind desks haggling on the phone with producers. After the
initial enthusiasm of the New Wave wore off in 1961, many were to wonder what happened to that
simple revolutionary spirit, what happened to that moral clarity? Was it all buried at Nogent?
Of course 1958 and 1959 were years of the ascendancy of not only a new power in film, but also a
new political power in France. Charles DeGaulle rode into office on his own wave of cultural hopes
and promises. Andr Malraux, who had been a model for Bazin in the forties, was appointed cultural
minister. It appeared that the political visions of the post-war years, the visions of Bazin, Emmanuel
Mounier, Sartre, and many others, had begun to take hold. While none of these men could in any sense
be called Gaullist, their legacy undoubtedly helped encourage this glimmer of the spirit of cultural
The policy of Esprit, the journal Bazin had always felt closest to, was also changing. More and
more it focused on political issues and away from the generally abstract philosophical direction it
had followed from 1950 to 1958 under the great critic Albert Bguin. Bguin had died only a few
months before Bazin, and Esprit was now in the hands of Jean-Marie Domenach, who hoped to have
some tangible effect on a government that actually could be influenced by journals like Esprit. But
Malraux was a disappointment in office. The social upheaval of May 1968 was in part an angry
response to the culture he had been designated to propagate and preserve. By 1974, the very post of
Minister of Culture was demoted. Few of the French felt its passing.
Bazins death coincided also with the end of a certain golden era of film criticism. His own
Quest-ce que le cinma?,5 the first volume of which appeared two months after he died, helped
usher in a more rigorous scholarship, which became entrenched after the publication of the works of
Jean Mitry and Christian Metz in the mid-sixties. Current film theorists, including those hostile to his
views, look in wonder at Bazin, who in 1958 was in command of a complete, coherent, and

thoroughly humanistic view of cinema. Today the cinema is considered so large a subject that the
theorist can at best carve out for study only a small portion of it.
Bazin died just ahead of the movement which placed cinema in university classrooms. He taught in
film clubs, at conferences, in published articles. And while many people now make their livings
teaching film (and far better livings than Bazin ever enjoyed), most teachers look back with longing to
that era when reflection about movies took place in a natural arena rather than the incubator of the
university. Film theory is now an acquired discipline, not a spontaneous activity, and film is seen as a
field of research rather than a human reality.
How would Bazin have responded to these apparent successesto the apotheosis of Cahiers
criticism into New Wave filmmaking, to the public culturalization of France under Malraux, to the
effective political tack of Esprit, and to the emergence of film scholarship in the French university? It
is tempting to see Bazin as essentially different from the rest of us and to be secretly relieved that his
early death prevented an unthinkable collision between his innocence and the complexity and
compromises of the sixties in all the spheres of life which interested him. In fact, Bazin has been seen
this way, as some new Adam or modern Saint Francis, free from the original sin that distorts our own
vision and action. Renoir called him a special creation, a useful being6 in a world of confusion and
self-indulgence. Claude Beylie went further, quoting Jean Giraudoux and saying that Bazin was one
of those rare humans who refuse the weight of the world and its physical constraint, by virtue of a
little air pocket which lets them move freely in this life without spaceand which is called Spirit.
To change a tire he had to put all his weight on the jack and still this wasnt enough. He was too
light for space.7 It is a seductive image, this clean air pocket gliding effortlessly through the sticky
miasmic clouds of contemporary civilization. But it is an image Bazin would not have appreciated.
His simplicity and goodness were the product of vision and understanding, for which he had to strive.
Like everyone else he struggled to overcome ignorance, self-doubt, and indirection. And he had to
struggle in society. It was his fortune to realize early in life that weightlessness was possible only
by means of the very weighty projects of art, science, politics, philosophy, economics, and everything
else society terms culture.
Wild Child, it is said, was made to praise the civilizing influence Bazin had over the inarticulate
and miserable urchin Truffaut. But that wild child himself is also an image of Bazin, the Bazin whose
uncontrollable love for nature and unspoken personal loneliness could only exist in community. The
battle to attain community was an effort of eye, mind, and tongue. Bazin had to teach himself to see, to
think, and to speak. His very real stutter signified the larger battle he waged to clarify his life and put
it to good use in society.
The story of Bazins life makes sense only within the larger story of the society within which he
lived that life. Bazin started his adulthood at a zero point of French political and cinematic
organization. The government was one imposed upon the French by Nazi Germany. The films were
imposed by a studio mentality hardly less restrictive than the politics of Vichy. His personal
liberation from early doubts and indecisions took place within the larger national liberation of 1944.
Similarly, his growing sense of himself and his potential coincided with the flowering of the idea of a
personal cinema, an idea he, more than anyone else in his generation, had propagated, one that would
ultimately fructify in the New Wave. Bazin saw his own development as bound up with that of the
cinema, and through the cinema with that of French society as a whole. Seldom in our century has
such a happy and fruitful life been earned.
More than once Bazin has been called the Aristotle of film for trying to be the first to formulate

principles in all regions of this unexplored field. His ideas are available and in many cases are well
known. Like all ideas they are both disputed and supported. But what is neither available nor well
known and what lies beyond dispute is the organic relation of those ideas to the milieu within which
he lived. In this regard he has more aptly been likened to Socrates8 because his superb skills were
dialectical and his logic put to the service of whatever situation he encountered. This book seeks his
ideas in the context of his life and in the cultural life of his age, a search whose promise is guaranteed
by the excitement of that age and by the strength of those ideas and of that life.

Bazin graces the cover of a major Chinese film journal, April 2008


Chapter 1
The Formative Years

Andr Bazin was born in the medieval city of Angers on April 18, 1918, as World War I was ending
and what we know as modern French culture was itself beginning. His father, a bank clerk, moved the
family to the Atlantic city of La Rochelle and a better job in 1923. Bazin returned often to Angers to
visit his grandmother, who seemed to appreciate him more than his parents did. The new home in La
Rochelle was rustic, situated beside a stream. Bazin loved it and in later years delighted in showing
off its primitive charm to his Parisian companions, much to the chagrin of his parents, who were
laboring furiously to attain something more modern and convenient.
From an early age Bazin displayed a love of books and ideas, and a passion for nature and
animals. On his own initiative, he taught himself to read; his room was strewn with library books and
magazines when he was barely old enough to attend school. Most of this reading reflected his interest
in nature and animals. La Rochelle is on the Atlantic coast just north of Bordeaux, an area rich in
topographical and geological variety. An only child Bazin spent his days wandering in the forests,
rock hills, river basins, and beaches of the region, collecting rocks and fossils.

At home with two of his many creatures

He memorized the name of each new acquisition or discovery, a practice he extended to his animal
collection. His mother recalls1 that the local zoo could not long satisfy him and so he transformed her
balcony into a miniature jungle. He potted small plants and organized his rocks, then introduced his
treasures, the tiny rodents and lizards he had gathered in his wanderings. Most he kept in boxes, but
there were always turtles on the loose. In the last years of his life he became well known to the
directors of the French TV network (ORTF) for his frequent phone calls chiding them for the
inaccuracies that seeped into their programs on wildlife. To Bazin, the use of a popular term that
failed to distinguish an animal as precisely as does its proper zoological name was inaccuracy of a
high order.
Bazin kept animals around him all his life. In Paris during the Occupation he could afford only
small cats, but he frequented the zoo at the Jardin des Plantes and was famous for planning elaborate
outings to the country. One early girlfriend recalls him picking her up for an excursion with a snake
wrapped around his body and a smile on his face. After his marriage and because of his illness, Bazin
remained more often at home. But he packed his suburban house with creatures of all sortsdogs and
cats, of course, but various species of birds as well. Bazins taste in animals was exotic; visitors
were horrified to see his infant son, Florent, crawling side by side with the family iguana. As Florent
grew older, father and son collected and catalogued butterflies, insects, and a seemingly endless
variety of lizards.
One winter night in 1954 as his wife, Janine, was preparing dinner Bazin burst in the door with
Jean-Marie Domenach, a colleague at Esprit. Janine, used to sudden guests, was delighted until Bazin
introduced the third member of their party, a thrashing, foot-long baby crocodile. Janine wouldnt
allow the crocodile to crawl the floors with Flo around, so Bazin put the croc in the tub. Janine, who
couldnt grow fond of this new pet, was exasperated when Bazin left almost immediately for the
Brazil film festival, for not only had she to care for what she called that snarling reptile, but neither
she nor Flo could bathe for two weeks. When Bazin returned, a Brazilian parrot on his shoulder, he

set to work constructing a box for the rapidly growing croc, reputedly the only successful handiwork
of his life. Later, when he was sent south for his health, Bazin called for his son, his dog, and his cat.
Still lonely, he asked Janine to send the crocodile. She refused. It was bigger than ever and possessed
a dangerously fickle disposition. At last, without telling her husband, she sent it to the Muse de
France Outremer to board. When the family and pets returned from the south, Bazin agreed that it
was better for all if the croc stayed put. As the story goes, it was indeed better for the Bazins and
their pets, better too for the crocodile, who had more space to slither, but it was anything but better
for the other reptiles at that museum. For years after, one could go to see the most ferocious reptile in
France behind a screen on which was hung the plaque, Gift of M. et Mme. Andr Bazin.
It is tempting to read in Bazins love of animals a key to his personality. They were for him a
living emblem of the tension between freedom and restriction that he felt so deeply in his own life.
They seemed free, yet were bound by the predestined patterns of their instincts. In captivity, under his
sympathetic yet analytic eye, they would by turns surprise one or meet ones expectations. Frequently,
having watched a lizard long enough, Bazin would release it to its own arena of natural captivity.
His notion of freedom and limits, imbibed from the Christian Brothers who were his first
schoolteachers, was quite complex. The world was filled with a grammar of rules so marvelously
intricate as to amaze forever the astute observer. Cinema would become for him a means of
observation as well as a special source of amazement. But the world and its creations also seemed
filled with an incomprehensible and even more marvelous freedom. Fresh rules were created every
day, and an observer could only revise and often abandon his theories in renewed contact with an
evolving universe. Here, too, cinema would provide Bazin with that ongoing contact.
The animals, rocks, and plants that surrounded Bazin gave him a kind of primitive strength and
inspiration. He loathed overplanned environments, be they model apartments or exhibitions of art.
Not that he advocated chaos: he sought the fortuitous, that provisory organization of the environment
retaining the possibility of other organizations and harboring surprises and discoveries yet to be
made. It was this quality that he was to praise so lavishly in neorealist films and to which as a critic
he was so extraordinarily attuned. Bazin could sense the particular life-breath of whatever he
encountered. Janine has said2 that reptiles fascinated him most of all because, despite a lifetime of
study, he could never quite imagine how they experienced the world. He would watch them for hours
and even imitate them, trying to feel what they felt, see what they saw. This genius for sympathetic
imagination was the secret of his critical power: for a man prepared to invade the consciousness of
an iguana, the consciousness of a Buuel is not an impossible problem. He watched films as if they
were animals temporarily captive. He gave to them the dignity of independent existence, yet he
slipped himself inside that existence until, in his best moments, he appropriated the world of another
consciousness and was able to describe its structure and rules. As Claude Roy said, His generosity
was never vague or confused. It was part of a method, like Sartres, to get at the truthto invade it,
get behind it. He was immensely cultured but always wanted to see things new, without culture
like the lens, armed only with attention and with his generous love.3
In his first years at school with the Christian Brothers in La Rochelle, the young Bazin was drawn
to mathematics and science, but he was a brilliant student in all subjects. He was docile and studious,
and he acquired the habit of seeing theological and philosophical implications behind every sort of
investigation. At twelve years of age, Bazin moved with his family to just northwest of Paris. The
communal schools in and near the capital were much stronger than those in most other areas of
France, and it was partly to give their sons promising talents a chance in the rigid and competitive

French school system that his parents left the Atlantic coast for suburban life.
Prior to World War II, the upper bourgeoisie sent their children to lyces from which the brightest
entered the Sorbonne or the cole Normale Suprieure, in Paris, on rue dUlm. Bazin, who was
always somewhat scornful of the foppish nature of this type of education, was sent down the
workingmans educational track, beginning with public high school. There, scientific and technical
training was offered instead of the classical Greek and Latin of the lyces. The very top public school
students went on to the cole Normale Suprieure at St. Cloud, and it was to this school that Bazin
aspired when, with great apprehension, he entered the high school of Courbevoie. He had reason to
fear; not only was this a Parisian school, but it was secular as well and considered far more
competitive than the Christian Brotherss school. Bazin quickly found his way in this intense milieu,
winning a government scholarship in his very first year and remaining a top student throughout his
three years there. He so impressed one of his teachers that his school awarded him a trip to Italy in
the summer of 1933. On this trip he snapped his first photographs, especially in Venice, a city to
which he always loved to return. And on this trip, under the influence of his teacher, he decided to
devote his own life to teaching.

La Rochelle, 1935

When he was fifteen and had received his diploma with distinction from Courbevoie, Bazin
applied to enter an cole Normale dInstitution to begin his training in education. Each of Frances
governmental departments (there were eighty-four at the time) has such a normal school, and Bazin
returned to La Rochelle, where his parents were once again residing. There he performed as well as
he had in the pastbetter, in fact. His final examination paper in French was used as a composition
model for years after his commencement. His mother recalls that he was surprised at this, since
French was the subject that interested him least. Characteristically, he rebuked himself for his less
than perfect showings in other areas, and he worried over the fate of his friends who were
discouraged on the basis of this exam from applying to the cole Normale Suprieure of St. Cloud.
They would all become elementary schoolteachers in and around La Rochelle, whereas Bazin wanted

to attend St. Cloud, after which he would be qualified either to teach at higher levels or to take an
influential post in the French educational bureaucracy. Already he was developing passionate views
about educational reform and he began to expect, with fervor and modesty, some day to effect
important changes in Frances vast homogeneous school system.
When he presented himself at St. Cloud, the admissions officers refused to allow him to take the
entrance examination. He was younger than most applicants, he was told, and his health was not good.
They suggested that he wait a year and prepare for the exam by attending the nearby cole Normale of
Versailles. What was meant about his health is uncertain. Bazin had never been athletic; he was
unquestionably delicate, but there had been up to this time neither serious diseases nor symptoms.

Preparing for a life of teaching

In any case, this delay in his plans was not discouraging, and the year Bazin spent at Versailles
saw the emergence of his serious interest in the arts. He read whole libraries of philosophy and
literature. He began to attend the Paris theater frequently and followed all the journals devoted to art
and culture. This new passion made bearable a year of intense study spent in preparation for the
entrance exam given in the spring.
Bazin gave himself small hope of passing this exam, for the most promising students from each of
the eighty-four regional normal schools vied for entry to St. Cloud. Few applicants ever succeed on
their first attempt and, in fact, the test depressed him enormously when he sat for it. A few days later,
when the list of the chosen, ranked from best to barely acceptable, was posted outside the school, he
edged up quite alone, hoping to find his name. He began to read the names, one by one, from the
bottom up, covering the rest with his hand. When he passed twenty and then fifteen and still hadnt
seen his own name, he walked away discouraged but not surprised. Hours later a comrade
congratulated him on his showing, and Bazin raced back to the list to see himself ranked seventh. He
was amazed at his luck and spent the night commiserating with the friend whom he had considered
the brightest light at Versailles, and who had just failed for the second year in a row.
And so, in the autumn of 1938, Bazins future appeared secure. The living stipend, granted

automatically with success on the exam, guaranteed financial security for three or four years. Such a
stipend enabled him to live near Paris; and even then he knew that only in Paris could his growing
interest in the arts and culture develop. At St. Cloud he pursued what was at that time called a
modern education, in contrast to the classical learning offered by its counterpart on rue dUlm in the
Latin Quarter. Here, Bazin received his final formal training in the sciences, and he began his
advanced study of literature, the arts, and philosophy, enrolled as he was in the division of Letters.

At the head of his class

A version of positivism pervaded the goals and methods of French higher education between the
wars. For instance, in the domain of literature one was taught to supplement the rigid formulae of
explication du texte with the notorious Lansonian method of factual literary history, by means of
which every text was pigeonholed in its proper biographical and sociological slots. St. Cloud, a
bastion of this ideology, unwittingly spawned a whole generation of students who rebelled against its
cold pseudoscientific training. Outside class other possibilities were discussed, nurtured directly by
study groups, journals, and off-campus lectures, and indirectly by the major literary, artistic, and
philosophical developments of the day.
One hardly exaggerates in attributing this countercurrent to the thought and power of one man,
Henri Bergson. In 1938 Bergson was at the very end of his career, but he could look back and see in
these study groups and journals the mushrooming effect of the ideas he had developed at the turn of
the century. Bergson was present to Bazin in the air he breathed every day, for Bazin was in the
forefront of those at St. Cloud whose intellectual life was lived more outside than within the
classroom and who unofficially received a Bergsonian rather than a positivist education.


While it is always possible to trace the thought of one generation back into the premonitions of an
earlier generation, there can be no doubt that the continuity of French intellectual life was completely
shaken by Henri Bergsons entrance on the philosophical scene. As both his followers and his
antagonists like to note, Bergson appealed to a large spectrum of the public. Against the dominant
positivism he invoked a higher science, one that would encompass the experience of nature, not

merely the facts of nature. He thereby gathered to him certain factions of the scientific community, the
greater portion of the artistic community, and a strain of theologians, all of whom were looking for a
philosophical vocabulary capable of describing man in an animated and evolving universe.
Bergson proclaimed that there are three modes of apprehending the world: perception, rationality,
and intuition. At the most basic level is simple and instinctual perception. Our body as object
encounters other objects in a field perpetually in flux. Reason, which is a function of memory,
organizes perceptions into comprehensible patterns. Intuition, transcending both brute perception and
rational organization, reunifies experience that has been fragmented by intelligence. It is a final return
to the flux through suprarational reflection rather than through instinct, and it captures the meaning and
direction of the flux. Whenever we grasp a melody we are performing Bergsons intuitional
operation. We do not merely hear isolated notes as percepts; nor do we simply map out the structure
of the melody; we grasp meanings in flux as a global experience unavailable to analysis.
The implications of these first principles of Bergsonian thought reverberated in every fieldart,
religion, scienceand produced in the years surrounding World War II a cultural climate in which
certain tenets were implicitly held: the living and changing nature of the cosmos; the ultimate
bankruptcy of analysis; and, conversely, the power of reflection (together with other suprarational
modes such as art, faith, sexuality) to capture the meaning and direction of the flux. Today it is easiest
to see Bergsons heritage in French phenomenology.
Intuition, as Bergson came to emphasize, bears upon a reality which is complex and, as Merleau-Ponty would say, ambiguous, a
reality in which spirit and matter are not disjoined. From Bergson to phenomenology is but a step: Bergsons formula
lexpliciter limplicite has its counterpart in Merleau-Pontys definition of philosophy as a reflection upon the unreflected.4

In 1938, when Bazin entered St. Cloud, Merleau-Ponty was just coming to his phenomenology, while
Bergsons influence pervaded such popular philosophical movements as Louis Lavelles
Philosophie de lesprit and Mouniers Personalism. French phenomenology developed within the
very atmosphere that Bazin sought out as relief from the stale air of the classrooms at St. Cloud. In
effect, Bazin was present at the handing of the Bergsonian torch to phenomenology. His entire life
was thus led amid the light and the shadows cast by that torch.
Bazin explicitly paid tribute to Bergson in an essay investigating cinemas relation to the flow of
time: Un film bergsonnien: Le Mystre Picasso.5 He also drew directly on Bergson for several of
his essays on Chaplin,6 finding in the tramp the perfect illustration of Bergsons thesis that comedy
results from a breakdown of our automatic response to the world and produces, in its best moments,
an intuition previously blocked by reason.7 Comedy is only the most recognizable example of a much
broader project that Bergson demanded of humans, and Bazin saw in the very fact of photography a
step forward in this injunction to strip from the world that spiritual dust and grime with which my
eyes have covered it.8
Most important, Bergson gave Bazin a deep feeling for the integral unity of a universe in flux.
Given this attitude, Bazin was able, for example, to dispense with the notion of the film shot, which
is, after all, an analytical notion designed to help us see the world as cut up into fragments. In the
greatest cinema there remains henceforth only the question of framing the fleeting crystallization of a
reality of whose environing presence one is ceaselessly aware.9 Bazin associated montage with the
analytical, spatializing tendency in man; and he opposed to it the global attitude of grasping reality
intuitively, an attitude always associated with art rather than science.

Indeed, Bergsons philosophy has often been considered an artists philosophy in the same sense
that logic is a mathematicians. He inspired artists and gave them numerous allies in the uniforms of
critics. Bazin saw his own task as a critic in light of this preference for the global and the intuitive.
The critics he knew and admired were all marked with the Bergsonian attitude, and it may be fair to
say that Bazin knew Bergson through these critics rather than through direct contact with the man or
his books.
His letters make more frequent mention of Charles DuBos, for instance, than of Bergson, and a
direct correspondence is visible between DuBoss methods and those Bazin would shortly adopt.
DuBoss criticism proceeds by small, unschematized intuitions which seek to discover those moments
in art when man encounters something beyond himself, a second reality touched by the antennae
of the artist and experienced by the reader or the spectator in a precognitive moment of exaltation.10
DuBoss criticism supplements aesthetics with ethics and gives to both an ambience of religious
mysticism that certainly appealed to the Bazin of 1938 and 1939.
Similarly, the writings of Charles Pguy inspired Bazin, as they did his whole generation. Pguy
was the patron saint of the Resistance, a writer and reader for whom literature was a heroic and lifeconsuming project. Pguy spawned countless other critics, one of whom had a great effect on Bazin;
this was Albert Bguin.
Bguin was Esprits foremost literary critic when Bazin was introduced to that journal. Later, as
editor of Esprit, he would work closely with Bazin. He even contributed to Cahiers du Cinma on
one occasion,11 and he anticipated Bazins own famous essay on Bressons Diary of a Country
Priest with an extended and excellent piece of his own.12 Bguins criticism began with his classic
study of German Romanticism, LAme romantique et le rve,13 and throughout his life he focused on
the mystic drive in the literary imagination. Like DuBos, he saw poetry as an attempt to render for the
reader the certainty of communicating suddenly with something real, real in another sense.14
Sarah Lawall has concisely characterized Bguins views:
The double reality which an author perceives is the sense of something in and beyond apparent reality. Bguin insisted that the first
level of reality be present and is unwilling for the poet to lose the sense of this world in intellectualized classical abstractions.
The new realism which he seeks to define and which may have its roots in the medieval tradition, appears in Bguin as a
revelation of Christian existentialism. It is a feeling for things of this earth in their natural connection with mystery and the mind
and is represented by Claudel and Pguy.15

After his conversion to Catholicism in 1940 Bguin concentrated on the religious writers of his
country. He wrote at length on Pguy, associating him in one famous essay with their common master,
Bergson.16 Bguins case reminds us that Bazin, too, focused to a remarkable extent on films with a
religious dimension. Unlike Bguin, however, Bazin never abandoned the precise logic and
detachment he learned from his love for science.
Esprit became a prime locus for Bergsonian criticism like that of Bguin, and it served as the
meeting place for like-minded artists and critics. The most fruitful of such encounters was that
between Georges Rouault and Jacques Maritain. Maritain can hardly be labeled a Bergsonian, yet we
shouldnt forget that the powerful founder of neo-Thomism attained his own philosophic stance only
in explicit debate with Bergson, who had been his teacher. Maritain always maintained an intense
dialogue with those who were influenced by Bergson. Their debate inflamed and illuminated Catholic
thought in France in the decades before World War II. Indeed, Maritain was instrumental in the very

founding of Esprit, as he fought to orient the magazine toward orthodox Catholic positions in the
articles he published and in his personal correspondence with Mounier.
Although these two great Catholic intellectuals argued on nearly every subject, their views on art
coincided, thanks largely to one man who seemed to both the ideal artist, Georges Rouault. Rouault
was a close personal friend of both Mounier and Maritain; his searing expressionism and childlike
piety were irresistible to them. Maritain, whose writings in art theory are voluminous, saw Rouault as
representing the healthiest strain of modern art, and related his work to a conception of realism that
anticipates Bazins views to an uncanny degree.
[Each painting of Rouault is] an ideogram of the mystery of things of some interior aspect and meaning caught in the reality of
the visible world, whose forms and appearances, before being recast in a new fabric on his canvas, are scrutinized by his eye
implacably attentive to the most fleeting signs and nuances. Both the humility and the boldness of this painter are too great for
him to turn away from that spectacle displayed before us by Pater Omnipotens aeternae Deus of which Czanne spoke. No
painting, in our time, clings more closely than Rouaults to the secret substance of visible reality, which is there, present,
inescapable, existing on its own, sometimes aggressively.

And now, even more like Bazin:

This kind of realism is in no way realism of material appearances; it is realism of the spiritual significance of what exists (and
moves, and suffers, and loves, and kills); it is realism permeated with the signs and dreams that are commingled with the beings of
things. Rouaults realism is transfigurative and it is one with the revealing power and poetic dynamism of a painting which remains
obstinately attached to the soil while living on faith and spirituality. There is no abstraction in it save the abstraction that brings out
from things the meanings with which they are pregnant and recreates on the canvas the essentials, and just the essentials of their
significant elements.17

If this sounds familiar, we might look again at Bazins essay on Bresson.18 Nor is it surprising to
find such similarities. After all, Rouault, as an intimate friend of Mounier, was a consultant in the
founding of Esprit. And Maritain was the mentor, not just of Mounier, but of a whole generation
known to Bazin. Indeed, one of Bazins favorite professors, Henri Daniel-Rops, was a student of
Maritain, and, when Bazin knew him around 1940, he was busy editing a book on Pguy and writing
neo-Thomistic aesthetics.19 Bazin never mentioned Rouault or Maritain, and during the Occupation he
explicitly rejected Daniel-Ropss influence; nonetheless, these men and their ideas are symptoms of
that Bergsonian attitude of mind that surrounded Bazin in these first years of his study of art. The
questions they posed, questions about the relation of art to reality and the relation of reality to
transcendent meaning, became his questions as well.


Esprit was unquestionably the most important influence on Bazins developing world view, but when
he arrived at St. Cloud there was as yet no Esprit study group. He would, in fact, personally initiate
such a group within a year. In 1938 the alternative atmosphere he sought out was housed in the
already flourishing Marcel Legaut study group. Here he encountered passionate students discussing
subjects unavailable in the classroom (notably theology) and seeking ways to use their education to
transform culture. These students were Christian activists, but activists of a special sort which had
not previously been seen in France. From 1900 French education was free, universal, and secular
militantly secular. The cole Normale of St. Cloud was a major bastion of French liberal anticlerical
sentiment. The Legaut group consisted of students, like Bazin, who had somehow received a taste of

religious education and who hungered not simply for discussions of theology, but for an approach to
modern disciplines that would include the dimension of value or religion. This sentiment grew into
a concern for the future of education in France, especially since all of these students had dedicated
themselves to teaching. They sought both educational reform and the reintroduction of religion into the
world of ideas. They looked forward to a utopia in which science, directed by socially committed
human beings and sensitized by art, would serve a community bound together by common values.
Marcel Legaut, the source of their ideas and their commitment, was an electric personality and
remained so till his death in 1990. In 1938 he was a professor of mechanical engineering who found
himself using most of his energy to attack the cardboard university milieu in which he lived. Legaut
was part of a larger movement, known as Action Catholique, that began in the late twenties. For the
first time in modern history laymen started to concern themselves with the direction of the Church.
Content neither with looking meekly to the priests on Sunday, nor with following the clergys
particular form of social action, these laymen began, singly and in groups, to create their own social
movement. The books Legaut published in 1937 and 1938,20 the very years during which Bazin took
active part in Legauts own Action Catholique, show clearly the revolutionary nature of his design.
La Condition Chrtienne, his most comprehensive work to that date, was dedicated to Karl Marx, a
fact in itself enough to separate him from the common position of the Church. Legaut was infused with
a sense of the evolution of the universe. He saw individualism as one step in the evolution, necessary
to equip man with tools needed to go beyond individualism. Modern technology and communication
(film being a prime example) pull men toward a common destiny, utopian or tragic. The body of
Legauts book is a call to personal awareness and sacrifice, for in Legauts view revolution can
occur only when there is a revolution in consciousness. We must, he says, counter atheism, which
enervates spiritual gains through its devotion to the materialism of science and technology, but we
must counter it, he adds, with a new view of religion. Christians must focus upon participation in an
evolving spiritual community instead of upon the sorry individualistic goal of personal salvation.
Legaut frequently quotes the French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin, who predicts a social destiny for
man. Formerly, society was a servant or a mother to individuals in their personal pursuit of happiness
and holiness; now society itself has become the goal, the only means through which a modern
individual can attain humanity. For Legaut the current system of individualism can be altered only by
a systematic revolution, but a revolution which begins inside individuals, and then only when they
find a community which supports them spiritually as well as materially.
Legaut backed his beliefs with the strongest sort of action. He began to organize groups like the
one Bazin discovered at St. Cloud and soon left his teaching post at Rennes. Still not content, he took
his most dedicated followers to southern France, where he started what can only be called a
commune. Beneath his lofty idealism was a very concrete understanding of economics, farming, and
social dynamics. Legaut lived the second half of his life in rural southern France as mainly a
shepherd21 striving to reinstitute the spirit of the first Christians, who lived in small self-sufficient
and self-determining enclaves prior to their incorporation into the Roman Church.
The strength of Legauts personality and ideas was to remain with Bazin even though the two met
on only a few occasions. Bazins letters frequently refer to the dynamism and power of Legaut,
suggesting that the little communities he had founded lost their direction whenever Legaut went south
to his commune. While Bazin never followed through on his resolve to join this commune, his life is a
testimony to Legauts teaching that an individual can realize himself only within the community and
for the community. Legaut preached the naturalness of community, basing his politics on an agrarian

vision in which men might grow together in relation to the land, which supports us all. In a powerful
letter Bazin, too, would write, In the revolution to come (because it seems nearly inevitable to me)
there will at least be some positive gains from our point of view, the suppression of the power of
money which is the greatest heresy of our age, and a renewed importance given over to the moral
values coming from the earth itself, values lost in our abstract civilization.22 He goes on to lament
the departure of Legaut, but it is clear that he had within him Legauts dream of radical social and
spiritual change, a dream that demanded contempt for the compromises of liberalism. In one letter he
makes it clear, for instance, that all charity and provisional social aid is hypocrisy; in another, that
all surface reform in education is pharisaism.23 Bazin always felt the need to go further, and Legaut
was for him, as for many others, the model who had gone furthest of all.


Bazins respect for Legauts work did not make him feel perfectly comfortable in the Marcel Legaut
study group. While he supported the renewal of spiritual values in education and society, he had, he
claimed, no understanding of and little sympathy for the piety of many of the members. In personality
he was drawn more to the culturally oriented Esprit than to the various wings of Action Catholique.
Begun in 1932, in the spirit that drove laymen like Legaut to enter the public debate as independent
Christians, Esprit was both a pride and an embarrassment to the Church establishment. It was
immediately received as the primary intellectual review it remains today; yet its positions,
particularly on issues of politics and economics, were far more radical than those the Church could
condone. Under the leadership of its founder, Emmanuel Mounier, it quickly became the liberal
conscience of French Catholics and strove in its range and format to provide a model of the integrated
culture it preached.
The format of each issue allowed for several lengthy political, literary, or philosophical articles; a
review of current political and cultural events, including the arts; and a record of weekly round-table
discussions in which all the associates of the journal casually grappled with some topical issue.
Bazin was drawn to all the areas that concerned Esprit (the arts, politics, philosophy, theology,
economics); more important, he was drawn to Esprits integrated approach to these areas.
The breadth of interest and elegance of style of one of Esprits authors, Roger Leenhardt,
particularly attracted Bazin. An enthusiastic young man from Montpellier, Leenhardt was one of the
original contributors to the journals monthly chronicle of political events, a post that he obtained not
because of any training he had in political science, but because he was employed as night clerk in the
prfecture of police and had access to revealing dossiers. In 1934 Leenhardt began to write seriously
and regularly about film. Soon he was joined by the composer Maurice Jaubert and a young
intellectual, Valry Jahier.24 Together these three men published some of the most original and
sophisticated film criticism of their decade. Bazins first serious consideration of cinema arose in
response to the film columns he read monthly in Esprit. In 1938 and 1939 Bazins interest in cinema
was casual and he read Leenhardts reviews primarily because they were published in Esprit; then,
later, when embarking on his own career, he took Leenhardt as a model. Bazin considered him, along
with Louis Delluc and Germaine Dulac, one of the rare men who have given French cinema a
Leenhardts writings in Esprit formed a nucleus of the theories that Bazin would develop ten years

later. In his reviews and occasional writings on cinema, Leenhardt exhibits the same realist
direction that later would orient Bazins thought. His major contribution to film theory consisted of a
five-part essay entitled The Little Handbook of the Spectator.26 In this column, Leenhardt sought to
close the gap between film producers and the public by demystifying the technology of film art, with
the hope that once laymen lost their awe of the medium and its products, they would demand films of
interest and conscience. Leenhardt himself was already making such demands. Unlike most other
French intellectuals, he saw the development of sound as a major gain in the history of the art, for it
emphasized the subject filmed rather than the quality of the film image itself. Leenhardt despised
techniques that paraded themselves. He dismissed Eisenstein as a great rhetorician of the cinema,
insisting that the purpose of photography was not rhetorical manipulation, but the transcription of
reality and the engagement of a worthy subject.27
Leenhardt was not the first theorist to promote cinemas closeness to reality, but until Bazin he
was unquestionably the most subtle. Toward the end of his Little Handbook he directly questioned
cinemas relation to art in a manner which fully anticipates the theories Bazin would soon
The lens gives the cinaste brute matter. Even though the subject may be imaginary, even though you have trained some actors,
this changes nothing. The actors nevertheless should perform in the most natural manner because the power of reality which is
revealed on the screen is such that the slightest stylization diverts it.
And the proper role of the mise-en-scne of the production will be to give the impression that there is no mise-en-scne. Not a
studied creation of significance by means of acting and decor, but a simple job of rendering. Not a willful artistry of
expression, but a technical effort at description. Precisely because of this primordial realism, it [the proper role of the mise-enscne] is not in the cinematographic material or, if I may say so, in art, but only in connections, comparisons, and ellipses.28

Leenhardt here raises a truly radical notion, namely that cinema attains its primary value not in
becoming art, but in adapting itself to things as they are. We must not signify through cinema (that is
rhetoric, the mode of our speech and of conventional art); instead we must render. Leenhardt insists
upon the humility of the filmmaker, who should be not the teacher of men but the student of the
universe by means of the cinema. When Leenhardt claims that the primary figure of cinema is the
ellipsis not the metaphor, he is insisting that cinema is not a symbol system substituting one set of
signs for another (as classical film aesthetics believed), but an always partial view of something
significant that tries to appear through it.
Leenhardt became a model for Bazin, not just because of his positions regarding cinema, but
because his view of cinema derived from a larger view of the world. Indeed, Leenhardts longest
article for Esprit was a purely philosophical essay in which he attacked Maritains narrowness and
religious orthodoxy.29 Leenhardt wanted Esprit to drop its Christian orientation and to build on
agnosticism, which, he argued, was a better basis for personalism, since its only goal is the
revolution of the human spirit and since it characterizes the world as mysterious and full of risks.
He suggested that, to operate creatively in this world, one must not feel oneself to be a character in a
novel written by God; instead, one must look out of oneself with a constructive humility toward the
mystery of being. Leenhardts film criticism incorporates his beliefs about life. He attacks rhetorical
cinema because he conceives of man as a searching, not a proclaiming, being. He advocates ellipsis
in place of metaphor because he views the world as mysterious, never fully given. He condemns the
cinema of his time because it refused to take risks in its exploration of the human and natural

It is startling to consider Bazins criticism in the light of Leenhardts views. For example, listing
those filmmakers whom Bazin treated at greatest length, we find that we have entered Leenhardts
personalist world. Orson Welles expresses the mystery of the cosmos; Rossellini preaches personal
revolution through self-effacement; and Jean Renoir, humanist filmmaker par excellence, watches
with affection mans interplay with man and societys interplay with nature. In writing of these
filmmakers, Bazin took over Leenhardts function as critic for Esprit, bringing to the study of cinema
Esprits personalist philosophy, more exactly, bringing to it the controlling thought of Emmanuel
Mounier, prolific spokesman for the personalist movement, the founder and editor of Esprit, and the
single most important influence on Andr Bazins world view.
Mounier was educated in the tradition of Bergson and Maurice Blondel, a tradition that distrusts
metaphysics and relies on human action to define the world en route. Personalism, Mounier always
claimed, is not a system, but a perspective and a method. It is an attitude that situates man between the
two opposed tendencies of philosophy: systematization and solipsism. Contrary to such grand
schemas as those of Hegel, Marx, and St. Thomas, personalism claims for man more freedom of
Mounier doesnt fight metaphysics with argumentsthat would fall into the trap of traditional
philosophy. Instead, he attacks all abstract systematic thinking. Metaphysics, he says, blanches nature
of all its mystery and spontaneity, reducing it to the dull fulfillment of some preordained pattern or
idea. Furthermore, it makes man an object, a pawn in a huge scheme, thus sapping his freedom and
defining him absolutely:
Before such an impersonal Reason, the Person is reduced to a limited point of position destined to disappear. Moving and cogent
as these philosophies may be, the universality to which they aspire is not that of a world of persons.30

Now existentialists from Pascal onward have, like Mounier, rebelled against systems, some of
them so deeply that they isolated themselves in silence. But Pascal, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche,
Heidegger, and the early Sartre wrote about freedom, even at the expense of hope. They completely
rejected the consoling possibilities offered by nature and their fellow man, so that the religious among
them, in a wager of faith, called upon a hidden God to ratify their daring denial of the vanity of earthly
concerns, while the atheistic existentialists proclaimed their triumph, not just in spite of annihilation,
but in the name of annihilation.
Mounier felt that these heroic reactions to schematization have been overreactions. Pessimism and
solipsism seemed to him romantic, doing another kind of injustice to the situation in which we all find
ourselves, by replacing the eternal light of the schematizers with an eternal darkness. For Mounier
both of these responses to the world are presumptuous, for both leap to conclusions about the final
nature of things. In refusing to come to such conclusions, personalism wants to remain true to the
ambiguities and confusing hopes of life. Because it staunchly avoids a metaphysical stance,
personalism becomes instead an ethical program by means of which beings can fully realize their
humanity in the context of an undefined and mysterious world. Action is necessary, because man owes
it to himself and his world to build with such materials as he finds around him and to peer outward
with such light as he can gather and direct.
Bazin was drawn to Mouniers call for constructive action as a response to a foggy, seemingly
senseless universe, and he would ultimately develop this call in terms of the cinema, the camera
becoming the lantern with which the filmmaker peers into the dark, seeking a glimmer of values.

Bazins true filmmaker attains his power through style, which, like the person, is not a thing to be
expressed but an inner orientation enabling an outward search.
Of all the personalist notions adopted by Bazin none is more central to his film theory than that of
the proper orientation. When a filmmaker has found his orientation he has achieved style. Style
guarantees him a stability of approach. It is not something given; it is something achieved, an earned
self-awareness similar to the calmness gained by the personal self after temporary retreat from the
world. Yet style, like the intimate self spoken of by Mounier, finds its existence only through
immersion in activity. It can develop and clarify itself in retreat, but it is for the world, and not for
itself. Style and conscience are mysterious powers (like light) which, though literally insubstantial,
are capable of revealing and transforming the substance of the world. For Mounier and Bazin, as for
Sartre, man neither exhausts nor disparages nature; he adapts to it, masters it, humanizes it. Man
presses down on nature to overcome nature, as the airplane presses on air in order to ascend.31
In the late thirties, Bazin had not yet begun to think of the ramifications of personalism for a theory
of film. Mouniers ideas he found fascinating for themselves, because they recapitulated in a forceful
way the tradition we have been calling Bergsonian and because they put this tradition at the service of
personal and political regeneration. With the dissolution of morale prior to Frances fall to Hitler,
Mouniers breadth and decisiveness completely won over Bazin, as it did many young intellectuals.
Bazin found himself writing letters of comment or criticism to Esprit, letters to which Mounier
always responded. Eventually Bazin was encouraged to launch an Esprit group for the purpose of
discussing and disseminating the thought of that journal. Quite a number of such groups had sprung up,
and members of the editorial board circulated among them regularly to present short papers and
answer questions. In the spring of 1939 Bazin invited Mounier himself to a gathering at a caf in the
forest of St. Cloud. This was the first of their many meetings, and Mounier justified Bazins support,
as he did the support of thousands, by the energy and luminosity of his conviction. While Bazin
always had such pride in his own individuality that he never truly became the servant of anyones
ideas, Roger Leenhardt feels that with Mounier it was different. It was the meeting and the meshing
of two strong personalities, but Mouniers was, as always, the stronger.32
Bazin never faltered in his allegiance to Esprit, even after Mouniers death in 1949. Esprit
provided for him the full contexttheological, philosophical, political, and aestheticfor whatever
particular activities he had undertaken. When he was preparing to be a teacher, he fought for
educational reform in the Esprit group he directed. When later he criticized films, it was with the
support of Esprit that he made his judgments. It is no coincidence that he reserved his greatest essays
for this journal.

Chapter 2
The War Years

Bazin developed under the influence of dozens of thinkers, but Mounier and Legaut were the ones he
absorbed completely. Significantly, he came to them both in his twenty-first year. With them he began
to participate actively in his culture, through study groups, through letters, and through lectures.
Whether Bazin would have discovered other such mentors we will never know, for he found himself,
like most French men in the latter half of 1939, packing up to join his regiment. In a stroke his
formative years came to an end. In a stroke the discipline and hope he had struggled to acquire
became trivialized. In the barracks of Xaintrailles at Bordeaux, not far from his home in La Rochelle,
he watched his spirits and those of his country dip in premonition of the coming debacle. This was the
drle de guerre, the waiting war, and for the first time Bazin encountered a deadening intellectual
Bazin became desperate when he realized that he had stopped reading and that the ideas which had
meant so much to him a few months earlier had no place in the dark corridors of Xaintrailles. The
faces he walked by daily and the subjects discussed in the barracks all seemed alien to him. Then one
day, when passing another young recruit, he noticed the medallion of the JEC pinned to his lapel. The
usually timid Bazin immediately introduced himself to the man who was to become his closest
lifelong friend, Guy Lger.
The JEC (Jeunesses Etudiants Chrtiens) was the student arm of Action Catholique. Though it
sprang from the same impulse that had inspired both Mounier and Legaut, it was more inclined to
personal renewal and piety than to social action. Still, the JEC brought to academic pursuits a broad
cultural and religious perspective. Bazin was right in presuming that he and Lger had many things in
Almost immediately they launched their own discussion group, and to widen membership they
sought out noted intellectuals who were in Bordeaux at the time, men like Louis Lavelle and DanielRops. Bazin was especially drawn to the latter because he had developed great interest in the
techniques of contemporary fiction, and Daniel-Rops had just published several highly regarded
novels. They met frequently at the end of 1939 and into the spring of 1940.
For diversion Lger and Bazin went arm in arm to the cinemas of Bordeaux. Their obsessional
moviegoing was possible only because Lgers parents owned a chain of theaters, which admitted
him free and extended the same courtesy to one guest, invariably Bazin. After each showing the two
argued and speculated for hours. Lger had seen far more films than Bazin; he tried to give his new
friend a sense of film history by comparing each new film they saw to those he remembered. Bazin,
meanwhile, was already trying to make sense of that history by preparing theories of the cinema,
theories generally more social than aesthetic. He displayed, even at this time, the iconoclastic
temperament that allowed him later to upset so many of the cinemas sacred cows. He always seemed
to prefer some minor work by a director like Carn, Clair, or Renoir, finding in it the confirmation of
some new idea he was championing. He valued immediately and from his heart the supposedly
irredeemable products of Hollywood. Bazin was experiencing the first rush of the critical energy that
would never desert him; in this period it was released, Lger says, by any and all films.1 Through the

cinema the two of them had turned the drle de guerre into one of the happiest and most creative
periods of their lives, which only the German invasion overturned.
In April 1940 the friends were separated when Lger passed, and Bazin failed, a military test
required for officer training school. Lger was transferred nearer the front, while Bazin was sent to
the small city of Pau near the Spanish border. He wrote Lger about his guilt at being so far from the
front, but he realized that his urge toward self-sacrifice was hardly patriotic. It stemmed, he said,
from a massive sense of personal worthlessness. His inactivity, a bout of illness, and the quick
collapse of the French front lines plunged Bazin into a state of severe depression from which even
recourse to his religion failed to lift him. He had to confess to his profoundly religious friend that he
found himself unable to pray. The southerly flow of Belgian and northern French refugees in early
June overwhelmed him with a sense of hopelessness. Each day brought reports of incredible German
Desperate, Bazin approached a psychiatrist for help. This meeting was important, for its failure
made him forever wary of psychology as a means to truth and health. He laughed when he was told to
avoid depressing books. This eminent psychiatrist asked me to put aside all reading that might be
termed depressing (practically all modern literature) just as if he were asking me to quit smoking. At
bottom he is an intelligent man but he can see only the psychological side of things. I dream of a
spiritual director at once intelligent, cultivated, and a bit versed in psychology.2 Meanwhile, his
illness worsened and the postal service collapsed, exacerbating what was for him the most
intolerable aspect of this epochhis sense of moral isolation.
The complete German victory brought demobilization in the mid-summer of 1940, releasing Bazin
from this crisis of guilt, for it allowed him to turn his ruthlessly perceptive intelligence away from his
own inner life and toward the new regime that so confidently established itself in Paris and at Vichy.
Bazins letters to Lger describe the duplicity and the blatant hypocrisy of the cultural institutions
remaining in France. His anger was directed mainly at the press and the clergy, both of whom made
accommodations. But his analysis went deeper, for he saw even these as helpless pawns of the true
enemy, the flatulent democracy and the greedy capitalism which not only had weakened the country
for its quick defeat, but now begged for a place in the new regime. Bazin was in La Rochelle only a
couple of weeks before he started another Esprit group, this time with a Protestant minister and the
revolutionary Abb Barbot. Together they tried to enlist others in sorting out the political,
philosophic, and moral disaster that had fallen on their country and was being accepted with
disgusting effortlessness.
Their little group was strengthened when one of the editors of Esprit, the drama critic Pierre-Aim
Touchard, retreated to a peninsula near La Rochelle during the exodus of intellectuals from Paris that
summer. Bazin bicycled to this retreat quite often. Touchard remembers that as they scythed the long
grass to feed his rabbits, their conversations would stray from politics and gravitate toward their
natural interest, literature.3 Touchard thought Bazin should start writing novels, so great were his
powers of description and so subtle his understanding of narrative theory. But Bazin knew that he
lacked the gift of fabulation. Instead, he wanted to perfect his ability to understand and express the
complexities of art and culture. This meant teaching himself more philosophy than he had encountered
at St. Cloud. Touchard was annoyed at Bazins pretentious vocabulary and insistence on using terms
in their precise etymological sense. It was as if he were disciplining himself for some mission.
In early November Bazin returned to his formal studies at what was left of the cole Normale at
St. Cloud. The Germans had already begun dismissing professors. Then, on November 9, there was a

mysterious fire that destroyed over half the library at St. Cloud. Amid all this Bazin was forced to
live at a lyce where, aside from the general curfew, his time was regulated minute by minute. The
Germans billeting at St. Cloud had taken over the cafs and meeting places as well as most student
housing. They had also confiscated Bazins notes and books. Worst of all, through official and
unofficial pressure, they made it impossible to regather the Legaut and Esprit groups.
Bazin had always felt the inadequacy of the public educational system in France, and the
Occupation only magnified his anger. He saw French education as a wasteful and debilitating
institution that rewarded blind adherence to red tape and tradition. Those who succeeded at St.
Cloud and became master teachers and policy makers were, Bazin charged, the dullest of the
candidates, men who had never questioned their superiors and whose single-minded goal was
success in the system. The changes made by the Germans in that system institutionalized the
rottenness Bazin had always suspected at its core. He frequently left St. Cloud, taking refuge in
whatever peripheral groups he could locate in Paris.
But Paris was decimated. Legaut had gone south to work quietly in Switzerland. Mounier was
forced to move Esprit to the free zone, where he was told his journal would be tolerated within limits
(a permission lasting only six issues and culminating in Mouniers imprisonment). Bazin was forced
to seek out the JEC, which had supported Lger before the war and which the Germans allowed to
continue, no doubt because it was politically innocuous. Bazin wrote Lger a long, detailed account
of this group and expressed his disappointment in its lack of focus. It was, he said, self-consciously
pious and concerned more with the style of the chic Catholic intellectual than with anything
substantial. Bazin wanted discipline, strength, passion, and social concern. In his own words, he
wanted Legaut. He was no longer ashamed at his lack of piety, confessing that he had never known
the luxury of the sense of grace, that mysterious protagonist which I have never noticed within me.
The comforts of religion for him were the context and the vocabulary it provided.
At one JEC meeting Bazin was introduced to Pre Maydieu, a Dominican priest whose keen mind
and personal strength attracted Bazin. Maydieu had been on the editorial staff of the important journal
La Vie Intellectuelle, which the Nazis suppressed in 1940. When Bazin met him he was seeking ways
to keep its tradition going, and he recruited Bazin to help him fight the effects of the Vichy propaganda
campaign. Maydieu was interested not only in broadcasting resistance, but in fostering committed
intellectual discourse during this period of darkness and silence. The only journals appearing with
regularity in Paris were those sanctioned by the Germans, and this made them prima facie
unreadable. Maydieu reinforced the conviction Bazin held all his life that disciplined, passionate
thought led one inevitably to correct moral action and the good life. The Nazis had effectively
eliminated such thought or made it invisible, and so Maydieu, Bazin, and a few others formed a
Legaut group to demonstrate that it was still alive.
With Maydieus encouragement, Bazins first impulse was to create a newsletter detailing the
cultural and intellectual life of Paris for those living in Vichy France. It was no secret that because of
Ptains fear of ruffling the Germans, the intellectual repression in unoccupied France far outstripped
what Bazin found in Paris. He hoped to goad those intellectuals who had fled the Nazis either to
return to Paris or to organize productive activity in the south.
This idealistic scheme was abandoned for many practical reasons, all of which taught Bazin a
great deal about publishing. He watched the editors of Temps Nouveaux, a large Catholic monthly
boasting such contributors as Franois Mauriac, Daniel-Rops, and Georges Hourdin, resurrect their
suppressed journal under the name Temps Prsent. By publishing irregularly and without official

sequence, they escaped Nazi interdiction. Maydieu, Bazin, and their Legaut group planned to
resuscitate La Vie Intellectuelle in the same way. Throughout the winter and spring of 1941 they put
together the first issues of the magazine they called Rencontres. These issues were to deal alternately
with aspects of spiritual life, cultural life, and the technical foundations of social life.
Bazin was appointed editor of the third issue, which was to focus on educational reform. In this
little Resistance periodical he published the first of his many hundreds of essays, but the thrill of
breaking into print was sapped when he felt constrained to sign that essay Andr Basselin to protect
himself from repercussions at St. Cloud. No doubt his fears were justified, for the essay is a sharp
attack on the kind of instruction provided by the cole Normale. But it is much more, conveying as it
does Bazins boundless respect for the life and work of the teacher. With evident homage he quotes
Charles Pguys paradoxical hymn to the teacher as bearer and destroyer of tradition, as defender of
society and societys most fiery revolutionary. If St. Cloud were successful, Bazin states, each
teacher would return to his hometown to impart the cultural knowledge that confers on a community
its self-identity and continuity. But he would also return to demand changes in that identity so that the
community might rid itself of blind servitude to custom and move intelligently into the future. Bazin
called on teachers to maintain expertise in all fields because only through diversity of interests can
there be protection against dogmatic adherence to or rejection of the past. The good teacher, he
concluded, must be prepared for dull, unrewarded labor that may frequently alienate the community
he hopes to improve.
Bazin prepared this article and the entire issue during Holy Week of 1941 in La Rochelle. He
described this period as one of incredibly hard work and an unsettling sense of spiritual indifference.
The hard work stemmed from the preparations he had begun for his culminating examinations, which
were coming up in the autumn. The spiritual indifference was due at least in part to the isolation he
imposed upon himself while away from Paris. One can read in his letters the growing anxiety that the
fear of these examinations spread over his life as he readied himself to submit to an educational logic
in which he did not believe. Throughout the summer he saw no one; he even kept aloof from his
Parisian friends and his study groups when he returned to the capital in late September.
On October 3, 1941, Bazin scribbled an almost illegible note to Lger. A catastrophe has struck
me. I was washed out at the oral of the professoriat. More precisely they failed me because I stuttered
in my extended explication of a text. Despite a brilliant written exam, his nervousness had virtually
incapacitated him at the oral, as he tried to speak on Racine and Baudelaire. The jury, though split,
was intransigent, refusing to take the natural tension of the situation into account, and Bazin suspected
that his outspoken criticism of St. Cloud was to blame for their attitude.
He had, of course, the option to take the exam again in a year. Indeed, failing professional
examinations the first time around is common in France, being very nearly part of the initiation rite all
are made to endure. But this setback had grave material and psychological consequences for Bazin
because it meant the immediate loss of his government scholarship and the possible end of his stay in
Paris. Due to the manpower shortage during the Occupation, however, Bazin was able to obtain the
post of pion, or academic drillmaster, at the lyce Jean-Baptiste Say on rue dAuteuil in Pariss
16th arrondissement. Here, forced daily to prepare wealthy students for lessons he frequently
considered absurd, he received a backstairs look at education. Faced with the humiliation of his
failure and the realities of a system he had always condemned, Bazin decided that he would not again
put himself at the mercy of the organized idiocy that calls itself a jury. And so at New Years of
1942 Bazin decisively renounced the career that he had long assumed would be his lifes work. This

didnt mean a total cessation of study, for he was still enrolled at St. Cloud, completing a thesis on the
religious aspects of Baudelaires poetry. But he felt himself now to be on a different track, studying
for himself rather than a profession.
The years 194244 were Bazins crisis years. To begin with, his health declined noticeably. He
suffered continuous colds, exacerbated by the scarcity of heat, food, and clothes. The black market
had firmly established itself in Paris. The natural hierarchy of things put Bazin, a pion with no
connections, on the very bottom of the food lists. Nor was he the kind of man to fight for more or to
There was little to sustain him in this period. His one close friend, Guy Lger, decided in the
autumn of 1941 to enter the Dominican order. Bazin looked upon this as a minor betrayal, for, while
he was in awe of Lgers confident spirituality and his sense of self-direction, he was unable to
accept a decision that turned Lger from his fellow man, even temporarily. Bazins letters on this
subject are most rewarding. We work for others, he says, to find tangible proof of our existence,
for social action relates us to ourselves. To live monastically as Lger proposed, to renounce the
life of the intellect even in the service of God, requires belief in invisible things, a belief, Bazin
says, he could never muster for himself. One can feel the distinct impact of Sartre as Bazin refers to
the self as a nothing.
Isolated, Bazins view of himself plummeted. He morbidly meditated on his forsaken teaching
career and, even after the humiliation of the examination itself had faded, he was still left with a
feeling of personal uselessness. He had defined himself in relation to his work for others, and now
that work had been rejected. For the next two years Bazin struggled against his personal mental crisis
in a Paris that itself was learning to deal with military occupation, shortages, and the bleakest of
futures. He was able to cope mainly by reestablishing the atmosphere of intellectual companionship in
which he had always felt most alive. More accurately, his friends solicitously drew him once more
into conversations, meetings, and, ultimately, organizations.
Guy Lgers return to Paris was crucial to Bazin, for even though he was cloistered he was
permitted to see his friend on account of Bazins spiritual problems. More important, Pierre-Aim
Touchard, whom Bazin hadnt seen since the German invasion, invited him to join in the building of a
cultural center, the Maison des Lettres, which inevitably led to the kind of discussions and friendships
Bazin prized.
The Maison des Lettres was a product of the youth fad imported from Germany. In France from the
late thirties on hundreds of such groups had been started. Many, indeed most, of these were fascist,
designed to give direction to the energy of young people. In 1941 Marshal Ptain set up his Les
Jeunes du Marchal to keep the university students in unoccupied France within proper bounds and
under watchful eye. The directors of education at the Sorbonne decided to organize parallel groups in
occupied France and established four houses of reunion and cultural activity, one each for letters,
arts, science, and law. Touchard was anxious to head the Maison des Lettres, in order to keep it free
of fascism. He insisted that every new member find two older members to vouch for his or her
political posture. This policy, and Touchards left-wing political orientation, allowed the Maison to
develop rapidly into an incubator for the Resistance, many members eventually gathering near
Grenoble, a major center of opposition.
Bazin was among the first twenty Touchard entrusted with the organization of the house. For the
next two and a half years of his life, the rooms at 15 rue Soufflot, right in front of the Sorbonne,
became a refuge for him. Since he had no official studies and since he loathed his unseemly dormitory

life supervising students, Bazin could be found day and night in conversations at the Maison, where
he was eager to talk about any subject and always seemed to know more than anyone else about it. He
explicated the history and principles of urban architecture whenever the group traveled together
through Paris, and he was the expert on botany and zoology when they reached the forest. There was
no art form or entertainment about which he couldnt speak with authority.
Despite this reputation as an omnivorous intellectual Bazin surely specialized in literary theory. At
the Maison he most often discussed, and occasionally lectured on, the modern novel. Like so many
other French men of his generation he was overwhelmed by the new American style of Hemingway,
Faulkner, and, especially, Dos Passos. The importance of these novelists for a theory of cinematic
narrative was not lost on him. Hoping to compose a theory of the novel he tracked down his former
teacher, Daniel-Rops, whose experiments in fiction had so intrigued him. But Daniel-Rops had
renounced fiction and was just then publishing a study of mysticism in the Church, the first of his
numerous volumes of Church history. Bazin was annoyed at Daniel-Ropss aloofness and at his pride,
inferring from a discussion of the current publishing situation in Paris that Daniel-Rops was a
collaborator, if not actively, at least in spirit. He walked away ashen and never again sought out the
man whom he had so revered.
Bazin frequently attended the theater because he loved the social aspect of this art. His interest
was hardly ever in the play itself; indeed, as he grew older, he gave up the theater altogether. But he
was fascinated by the methods of staging classic plays, by interpretive acting, and, above all, by the
use of lights, props, and machinery. In one letter to Lger he compares the primitive equipment at the
little Gaston Baty theater in Montparnasse to the incredible panoply of lights and tricks available at
the Thtre Pigalle, and, in anticipation of the film theory he was soon to construct, Bazin states his
preference for the simple, direct devices of the smaller theater, devices that were available in the
seventeenth century.
In another letter he writes of a modern version of Le Cid he saw at the Comdie Franaise,
condemning it for disturbing the plays dramatic balance by updating the costumes and mise-en-scne,
while leaving the classical verse spoken in an archaic oratorical style. From these remarks, and from
the ones he made in praise of a stage version of Madame Bovary, it is clear that the problems of
aesthetic transference, especially adaptation, were long in his mind. The friends who accompanied
him to the theater in the early forties witnessed the beginnings of an aesthetic that would soon
dominate the cinema.
More often, Bazin escorted his friends to forms of entertainment less serious than theater. He was
fascinated by the circus, with its displays of strange beasts and talents, and he enjoyed nightclub acts.
One evening he insisted that a group of friends accompany him to the Lapin Agile, the famous cabaret
at the very top of Montmartre. Everyone thought he could hardly be serious, since it was a club that
catered primarily to German soldiers, and one that staged ridiculous acts as well. But all found the
evening hilarious and instructive, as Bazin loudly pointed out rich sociological and aesthetic
consequences in the silliest dance or song routine. It was 12:30 a.m. when the show was over, a half
hour after the departure of the last metro, and as the group lumbered down the steep steps toward
Paris they weighed their alternatives for getting home or finding a nearby place to spend the night.
Then they began to grumble about the stupidity of having followed Bazin so far for so little. They
looked around for the object of their barbs only to find Bazin carefully spreading out a sleeping roll
he had been toting unobtrusively all evening and comfortably bedding down on the steps. The rest of
them were cold that night, until dawn brought them the first metro to the Left Bank.

To some extent Bazin may have cultivated eccentric behavior as other men cultivate their looks
and manners. The Maison des Lettres, like the Sorbonne itself during the Occupation, resembled an
academy for women. After all, over a million and a half young French men had been captured in the
blitzkrieg, another million had gone to work in German factories, and an untold number, particularly
those of the privileged classes, had fled south to avoid possible conscription. In the course of two
years, Bazin had more than one girlfriend at the Maison and was popular with many others. His style
of intellectual indignation at most of what he found in the world both amused and edified his
companions. He had a way of stifling bourgeois amenities and small talk, and he constantly outraged
his listeners with his strange tastes, preferring some hideous apartment cluster in the suburbs to the
Place Vendme, fearlessly attacking such sacred authors as Nietzsche, Gide, and Valry. It was an
age when one could count on little and when the word purity meant more than noncollaboration: it
meant self-possession and inner resources. For his friends at the Maison des Lettres, Bazin was purity

Bohemian years

Besides the fellowship and human warmth it provided in this difficult time, the Maison gave Bazin
the chance to begin his career in film. Under Touchards direction, numerous study groups had been
formed: on modern music, on theater, on Valry (which Bazin avoided), on Malraux (which he
attended religiously), and so on. One day Jean-Pierre Chartier put a notice on the board saying that he
was inaugurating a cinema study group. Chartier was a student of philosophy at the Sorbonne who had
been unable to interest anyone there in his true passion, the movies. At the Maison des Lettres he
hoped to find a different spirit. In fact he found only Andr Bazin, but this was a memorable find.
It is difficult for us in our age to feel the depth of contempt in which cinema was generally held in
the period. There had been a flowering of cin-clubs in the late twenties and early thirties in France,
but by the time of the invasion there were effectively no cin-clubs or any serious journals devoted to
the art. Le Cinmatographe ventured in 1936 by Georges Franju and Henri Langlois is an unfortunate
example of this. Evidently, once the sound film came into use, most intellectuals placed the cinema

beside the circus as a popular art not warranting reflection. The cult of stars and the dominance of
Hollywood in the thirties solidified this view. Nor was there any support for film at the university.
Indeed, the elitist attitude was strongest at the Sorbonne.
The zero point from which Bazin and Chartier built their film society couldnt have been more
absolute. Not only did most of the educated public refuse to give cinema a thought, but the means of
changing this situation were also barred. No newspaper or journal could be convinced to start a film
column, for all reasonable journals had been silenced or had, like Esprit, moved south to the free
zone in order to gain a few months breathing time. The entire journalistic world was a jungle of
collaboration, and the few conscientious writers left were frantically hiding in that jungle. As for
movie theaters, they were, of course, one of the first cultural institutions to be systematically
controlled. December 1941 was not only the birth-date of the Maison des Lettres, it was also the date
of American entry into World War II, and consequently the date of exit from Paris of all American
films. To make matters more difficult, a great many Parisians, especially young students, began to
boycott German films and the theaters specializing in them. Jean-Pierre Chartier supported the
boycott staunchly and refused to deal with most theaters. While Bazin treated himself from time to
time to the dubious aesthetic pleasure of the German cinema of the forties, one could hardly build a
cin-club around such films, particularly when many people refused to see them for political reasons.
To start a film club one had first to obtain films and projectors. The vigilance of the Nazis was
actually an aid to this project. On the very day of their entry into Paris they had confiscated the entire
film library at the Kodak cinmathque, aiming above all to stamp out Charlie Chaplin, whose parody
of Hitler, The Great Dictator, had just premiered. All private film collectors in Paris were instantly
alerted. The camera shopkeepers quickly established an underground cinema network, since it was
they who had cached such curious contraband or knew where it was hidden. Bazin used to bicycle
from shop to shop, begging and renting silent films and projectors, and he learned quickly to take the
metro up to Porte de Clignancourt at the northern outskirts of the city, where the always exciting flea
market had become in addition a major black market. There he tracked down fugitive prints for onenight stands at his club on rue Soufflot. Since 16mm sound equipment began to flourish only during the
war, few classic sound films could be found in this gauge. It was therefore a silent film society that
Bazin directed, screening miserable prints on primitive 8mm and even 9mm center-sprocket
machines. Despite these viewing conditions and despite the low prestige of the cinema, Bazins cinclub could hardly have failed, since it was the only place in Paris where alternative films could be
At first, an average screening might draw thirty people, four or five of whom would stay for a
discussion afterward. Bazin and Chartier decided to try to raise both the level and the excitement of
these discussions by bringing in a speaker from the field of cinema, just as other groups of the Maison
sponsored lectures by notable figures remaining in Paris. Naturally, they thought immediately of
Roger Leenhardt, whose essays in Esprit in the thirties were the ones Bazin recognized as most
valuable to a modern view of the art. Since he was a member of Esprit he held a view of culture
which both Chartier and Bazin were anxious to see accentuated in occupied Paris. Also, he had
succeeded in making a few documentary films and could supply eager students with practical
information about the mysterious processes of film production. Finally, he was a close friend, through
Esprit, of Touchard and could hardly fail to honor a request to speak at the Maison des Lettres.
Leenhardt was an eloquent lecturer, and the success of his appearance considerably enlarged the film
society and initiated a flow of speakers brought in from the world of cinema.

In June 1942 the cin-club, along with the rest of the Maison, moved to larger quarters on the rue
des Ursulines. They moved, in fact, to a place directly opposite the famous Studio des Ursulines, the
little avant-garde theater that had premiered the films of Buuel, Vigo, Vertov, and others in the late
twenties. A cinema bookstore had for a long while been attached to it, and it remained a theater for
film lovers.4 The prestige of this address further strengthened the club and helped to lure there such
nonstudent film enthusiasts and amateurs as Alain Resnais.
Bazin took sole command of the cinema group in early 1943, when Chartier fled Paris to join the
active Resistance in the French Alps. It was a dangerous period for everyone. Time after time the
crowd in the packed room on the rue des Ursulines would be dispersed and the films would be
confiscated. Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir were more than once among those escaping out
the back door.
But, while it was impossible to avoid political ramifications, Bazin did not seek to turn his film
club into an overt Resistance weapon. He even showed the work of G. W. Pabst and Fritz Lang,
including the Nibelungen films, incurring the rancor of many of his associates. He refused to sacrifice
his study and his love of the cinema for a political posture, no matter how much he agreed with the
goals of the Resistance.
One man who was grateful for Bazins openness to the German cinema was Alain Resnais, who at
this time was fervently studying expressionist films. It was Resnais, in fact, who introduced Bazin to
Langs earliest work, after he had been brought to the club as an aspiring actor hungry for the exciting
film discussions he had heard about. At first he was disappointed with Bazin and his club, for his
own knowledge of film history far surpassed that of even Bazin himself. In addition, Resnais owned
his own projector and, unlike the members of the Maison des Lettres, had already made some amateur
movies. Nevertheless, Resnais came back to the club, for he felt he had met an extraordinary critic in
Andr Bazin.
During the next year Resnais had the pleasure of aiding in the formation of that critic. He would
put his 9mm projector on his bicycle and pedal to the rue des Ursulines with a Fritz Lang or Buster
Keaton film he knew Bazin had never seen. After the screening a half-dozen enthusiasts would sit
around a table and discuss the film; but it was Bazin who would talk most of all. Resnais marveled at
his ability to rethink an entire view of cinema on the basis of each new film. Bazin instantly leaped to
ideas, not just about acting, editing, or lighting styles, as reasonable critics had always done, but
about shot breakdown and the structuring of space. Every film seemed to give him new ideas; indeed,
he couldnt see enough films.
Bazin had entered the Maison des Lettres with an interest in cinema scarcely greater than his
interest in anything else: animals, literature, philosophy; but by the end of 1943 film had become a
passion which never left him and which struck all those who met him thereafter.
Finding the cinema provided great direction to Bazins life, but it by no means instantly cured his
hesitancies and self-doubts. This was an era in which no mind could be at ease, and Bazin had
constantly to justify a stance which committed him firmly against the collaborationists but which kept
him from joining the active Resistance as Chartier and many of his other friends had done. Certainly
no one ever reproached him, because his motives, courage, and self-discipline put him beyond
suspicion. But his inability to commit himself completely to the Resistance must have made him feel
alone. He always detested blind allegiances. And even when his life coincided with a larger political
program (as when he ran the film division for the leftist organization Travail et Culture), he remained
generally silent about the official position of that program.

Bazins aloofness in the early forties was not a product of haughtiness; he simply thought himself
incapable of consecrating his worthless life to anything. Or to anybody. If he felt peripheral in the
political sphere, he felt ridiculous in the social. It was in 1943 that he became the inseparable
companion of Franoise Barre-Rat, Touchards secretary at the Maison des Lettres. The Nazis helped
bring them even closer together when a member of the Maison was picked up for his work in the
Resistance, and Franoise marched straight into the Gestapo office to ask his whereabouts. It was a
brash and foolish move. Certain she was under eye, Bazin decided to drive her to La Rochelle. The
quiet days they spent safe in his parents home were, after two uninterrupted years in occupied Paris,
idyllic; when the pair returned, everyone considered them engaged.
But Bazin was as secretive as ever, and as confused. He had little trust in impulse, yet felt the need
to be impulsive. There was a distressing scene at Lgers convent where Bazin had taken the
agnostic Franoise, ostensibly for a retreat. Actually, he had talked the rector of the convent into
calling her to his office so he, the rector, could ask her if she would marry Bazin, but in the midst of
this melodrama Bazin panicked and ran from the room humiliated. He was solidly engaged to
Franoise, yet more in doubt than ever about his feelings.
Bazins behavior grew more and more remarkable. He became for a time a fanatic surrealist, a
follower of Cocteau, and an energetic practitioner of automatic writing. Franoise recalled5 a long
weekend at her parents country home in which Bazin spent each morning scribbling madly in an
effort to catch the flow of his unconscious. In the evenings he consistently outraged her parents with
the carelessness of his dress and his abrupt way of handling conversations. They found humor neither
in the radical opinions he cultivated, nor in his obsession for professedly ugly things like lizards, bad
nightclub acts, and suburban architecture. In 1943 Bazin definitely had the spirit and appearance of
the stock bohemian artist.
His closest friends during this period were probably Edmond and Germaine Humeau, at whose
apartment not far from the Jardin des Plantes he spent several evenings each week. Humeau had been
a major critic for Esprit before its silencing and was already a successful poet. The talk most
evenings was of cinema and literature, but in time it emerged that Bazin had more on his mind. He
was worried about Franoise, feeling guilty about his inability to give himself absolutely to her; he
was worried, too, about his religion, again feeling unable to give his all. He was frightened of the
future, which seemed to have no place for him, and he was disgusted with his own inadequacies,
especially his dilettantish acquaintance with philosophy. He worried about having nothing profound
to say and about proving himself ridiculous when he tried to say it. All these anxieties began to
condense around the stammer which had kept him from teaching and which was the living echo of his
hesitant spirit.
Germaine Humeau finally suggested that he see a psychiatrist who had cured her of a lifelong
speech problem. Bazin was never very hopeful about the sessions he submitted to for over a year; his
experience in the army had turned him against the whole project of analysis. But he was at a point
when he could scarcely handle his own problems. It is impossible to guess the consequences of his
analysis. He emerged from it with more contempt and skepticism for psychiatry than before and with
absolutely no improvement in his speaking ability. And yet during this period he did somehow put his
life in order and gain confidence in himself. He broke off his engagement to Franoise without
impairing their deep friendship. He began to write regularly on the cinema for Information
Universitaire, and he finally attained, through wide and careful reading, a philosophical stance which
let him stare unflinchingly at a whole gamut of questions about life, art, and his special love, the

cinema. As the war drew to a close Bazin could sense the prospects which lay open for cinema in the
shattered national culture and in a renewed international context. He was only too anxious to play a
part in this political and cinematic emergence even if, as is likely, he had little inkling as to the
importance of that part. By mid-1944 his friends may have been certain he would quickly become
Frances leading film critic, but had he begun to believe it?

Chapter 3
Birth of a Critic

After having run a cin-club for a year Bazin attained a vision of a job to be done and the way to do
it. In the spring of 1943 he wrote his friend Denise Buttoni that he wanted to combine the two great
interests of his life, teaching and the cinema, but he knew he would have to invent the means to carry
off such a merger. It wasnt just from a sense of personal need that he decided to embark on a career
in film criticism, but from a larger view of culture. His very first articles on film, articles appearing
in the autumn of 1943 and which he considered quite minor stuff, established the context for his
lifes work.
In the earliest of these articles1 he argued that the cinema is the most important event in the popular
and visual arts since the decline of the miracle play and the invention of the printing press. With films
like Bressons Les Anges du pch, Carns Les Visiteurs du soir, and Cocteaus LEternal rtour,
it was the art which in 1943 was most alive and healthy, despite Nazi censorship and strictures. Even
if current films were bad, he wrote, one cant abandon the cinema just because sloppy and ridiculous
movies continually spool through projectors, the result of gross capitalism responding willy-nilly to
blind movements in the psychology of society. To create a truly popular art, Bazin felt, the culture
must liberate itself from the tyranny of a controlling elite by constructing lines of feedback from the
audience which supports the movies to the producers who make them. It is not the critics job to
create a public (Bazin was offended by the elitism this implied) but to ensure that the quality of good
films themselves create a public which, in its turn, will inevitably demand a richer art.
The cinema, Bazin argued, has a special need for critics, since the homogeneity of its audience
reduces feedback so greatly. In the theater, one audience goes to the Comdie Franaise, another to
the Grand Guignol. The same holds true for music and, of course, literature. But there doesnt exist
one movie audience for love stories and another for war pictures. Furthermore, the cinemas
homogeneous public, condemned to the vagaries of mass taste and star fetishes, hasnt even the
chance to respond with applause or hisses. The public takes whatever the hidden alchemists of the
cinema toss down to them. Elated or disgusted, but always silent, they file out on the street until the
time comes for them to queue up once more. Bazin introduced one of his most brilliant and lasting
metaphors to contrast the audience of cinema and that of the theater:
The movie theater has often been reproached for the passivity of its public which is seen as both individualistic and gregarious; this
passivity has been opposed to the communion of the theater throng before the actors performance, a throng dominated by the
chandelier, that luminous, crystalline, circular, and symmetrical object so dear to Baudelaire. In the movie theater, one hardly
knows anything other than indirect lighting and that single long prism of rigid lightagile comet or moonbeam emanating from the
projection boothwhich carries within itself only shadows and fleeting illusions.2

Bazin could hardly have begun his public life with a more hard-headed program. He vowed to
demystify the cinematic process and provide viewers with the basic ability to discriminate among
types of films. The cultured class had given up on cinema because of its gross realism, but Bazin
recognized that it was precisely because of this new realism that the public needed protection and the
industry needed criticism. It was a disgrace that critics in cinema and no other field seemed unable or

unwilling to speak of the processes behind such realism, the work behind the illusions. Bazin
wanted to teach and to build, in the tradition of Roger Leenhardt, a little school of the spectator. He
wanted the spectator to become aware of lighting, camera, set design, editing, music, script, acting,
and direction. But even Leenhardt hadnt gone far enough for Bazin. The critic must do more than
make people aware of the technical processes on which any aesthetics of film is based. He must point
out as well the psychological, sociological, and economic factors which have given us the cinema we
know and not some different cinema.
Already in 1944 Bazin was ready to speak of the impurity of this art. Whereas French critics in the
silent era (Delluc, Dulac, Gance, Epstein) wrote of pure cinema, essential cinema, the cinema
as symphony, Bazin, theorist of that clumsy amalgam which is the sound film, felt it was premature to
talk of cinema in the abstract. If there were laws proper to poetry, and other laws proper to music, it
is only because these art forms have over many eons individuated themselves. But cinema is, after all,
less than a century old. Its aesthetics are a mad mixture of laws taken from many arts, not to mention
the low entertainments of melodramatic theater, the dime novel, and the music hall. In fact, Bazin
believed its true principles to be lodged less in aesthetics than in such areas as the psychology of
perception and narration or in the sociology of melodrama and the star system, not to mention the
economics of capital investment and marketing.
Bazin saw in 1943 the need for a new kind of weekly critic who, instead of merely passing films
on to the public in a pleasant manner, would lead the public to analyze its experience. This he
optimistically believed would bring craftsmen to reconsider their work and their subjects. He also
saw the need for a journal devoted entirely to articles on the cinema capable of seriously and
continually examining the art. He would shortly become that new kind of weekly critic, and in 1951
he would launch that specialized journal, Cahiers du Cinma. Bazins tone in these early articles is
impatient. He told Denise Buttoni without hesitation, I am getting ready to write a thesis on the
cinema; at the very least a small book on history, another on techniques, a third on aesthetics, and to
top it off a large bibliography.3 In 1944 Bazin seemed poised before a field he was already clearing
of competitors. He did not want to be merely another voice, another commentator on the movies. He
was determined to be something altogether new, its full critic.
The task of criticism meant something quite clear to Bazin: it meant seeing the art within its largest
possible philosophical and psychological perspectives; it meant mastering as many aspects of the art
as possible (economic, political, sociological, technical, historical, etc.); and it meant commanding a
vocabulary both rich and precise, capable of keeping in play and communicating the subtleties of
ones investigations. In 1940 Touchard had noted the awkwardness of Bazins vocabulary and the
pretentiousness of his constant search for the philosophical in the everyday. But by 1944 he was glad
to retract that judgment.4 Bazin had simply been engaged in the mastery of a vocabulary and a style of
thought he was certain he needed. His verbal style could now maintain complicated analogies and
paradoxes or could spark into metaphorical insight on command.
This stylistic prowess apparently matured concurrently with his philosophical thinking around
1944. Together they at last provided Bazin with what he had never been able to feel before: a sense
of intellectual worth and solidity. While he read many thinkers during this period, there were three
who mapped out the areas of his own interests and beliefs in a special way. These three were also the
most exciting intellectual figures of that time, men who developed their thought under the fire of lived
intellectual combat: Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Andr Malraux, and Jean-Paul Sartre.

In the 1940s the name Teilhard was magic throughout Europe. He had accomplished what Bazin and
his groups sought to do in their years at St. Cloud, to wed science and religion. On the one hand he
was a geologist and paleontologist of great repute; on the other, he was a man who saw both his
subject and his labor in a complete, theological perspective, as Lgaut made sure to point out.
Bazins interest in Teilhard began at St. Cloud, where the Jesuit had years before given some of
his most brilliant lectures. It was the geology which first caught Bazins attention, for Teilhard not
only knew about the face of the earth, but read in that face an evolutionary destiny of thrilling
proportions. The earth, he said, was always striving to go beyond itself toward consciousness; and
consciousness was striving to create a new evolutionary step, a noosphere. Teilhards mystical
view of life transformed the daily drudgery of his actual scientific labor. He wrote,
Throughout my whole life, during every moment I have lived, the world has gradually been taking on light and fire for me, until it
has come to envelop me in one mass of luminosity, glowing from within. The purple flush of matter fading imperceptibly into the
gold of spirit, to be lost finally in the incandescence of a personal universe.5

Bazin could hardly have failed to respond to such language. Teilhard provided for him, no one
knows how seriously, his own alpha and omega points. His theories justified both Bazins propensity
to look microscopically at nature for direction and his hope for the gradual creation of a new
consciousness. Teilhard put Mouniers personalism into the most infinite of contexts. He gave
meaning to social and cultural revolution, to a search for a communion of spirit and body based on the
messages inscribed in the earth itself. Cinema, for Bazin, was a new tool for observing and
deciphering such messages and for uniting the millions of atomic bits of consciousness, which we call
an audience, in the contemplation of the truths of nature. It was already a means for personalizing the
universe, a preview of Teilhards noosphere.
The irresistible combination of natural science and personalism was made more attractive by the
mystery and intrigue which surround the dissemination of Teilhards theories. In 1939, just as Bazin
was first studying his fascinating hypotheses, Teilhard was censored by his own religious order and
was, in effect, exiled to China. Throughout World War II, and again in the 1950s, his theories were
suppressed by the Church and he was silenced. In Paris Bazin eagerly became part of a miniature
Resistance, determined to undermine this repression of ideas. He could be seen in the streets of the
Latin Quarter delivering and hawking dittoed pages of intellectual contraband. Whether or not he
finally accepted all of Teilhards theories, this experience at least committed him to the style, method,
and passion of the famous and persecuted Jesuit.
Most important, Teilhard spoke to Bazins own spiritual problems. His theories demanded a
renunciation of self, a recognition of the insufficiencies of individual consciousness, a commitment to
the creation of a new social consciousness, and a belief that these times of struggle are part of an
inevitable evolutionary design which one can recognize throughout nature. In his own life and work
Bazin found inspiration in this ideology. The geological metaphors, and the catchwords progress,
evolution, and development, appear as handholds in his film theory. Whatever his current status,
a whole generation was transformed by Teilhard. Bazin, with his unorthodox Christianity, his
progressive social consciousness, and his penchant for science, especially for geology, was
transformed most of all.6
Teilhard inflamed the imagination of occupied France by reason of his politically dictated absence.

Malraux and Sartre inflamed it by their politically chosen presence. These two men became symbols
of resistance, heroism, and an elevated conscience. They were men of action and men of letters. The
strength of their ideas came to Bazin and to many others by way of the strength of their lives. In an era
of collaboration it was impossible not to believe those who backed up their ideas with their bodies.
Bazin first encountered Malraux through his great novels of the thirties, Mans Fate and Mans
Hope (LEspoir),7 and eagerly read Malrauxs one and only treatise on the cinema, Sketch for a
Psychology of the Cinema8 (1940). He said that this article together with Leenhardts columns in
Esprit comprised the only valuable criticism written on the sound film. But it was Malrauxs theories
of the history of art which made him an essential source for Bazins own film theories. In 1944 Bazin
admitted that he wanted to do for cinema what Malraux had done for art: to give it a sense of destiny,
to show its social function emerging from deep psychological necessities, and to illustrate how
successive styles emerged from an evolving social function.9 Malraux, with his tragic Spenglerian
sense of history, gave to art that same sense of ultimate context that the optimist Teilhard had
accorded to nature. He conceived of art as a transcendence of consciousness over circumstance
through style. The Promethean artist offers his culture a kind of vision which relates it to its professed
destiny. Unlike Teilhard, Malraux sees no omega point toward which this process is headed. The
evolution from one style to another shows humanitys need to transform itself perpetually but does not
suggest a final goal. Nevertheless, Malraux speaks always of the Creation of Man through art,
finding in art a contemporary substitute for the religion and religious humanism of earlier
Not only did this overall vision of art touch Bazins imagination, Malrauxs very method of doing
art history astounded him. In his famous Museum without Walls,10 Malraux made photography the
means by which the artworks of the past could reveal to us their purpose and direction. In addition, he
took account of the invention of photography itself in his grand scheme of stylistic development. When
Bazin said that the critic needed to see cinema in its broadest cultural, stylistic, and technical spheres,
it was Malraux he was thinking of. Only on a scope equal to Malrauxs could he organize the stylistic
and generic differences he was always busy cataloging within the films he saw each day, each night.
The most far-reaching legacy which came to the cinema from Malraux was one about which Bazin
had mixed feelings, that of the cult of genius, which in cinema was to become the auteur theory.
Despite himself, Bazin would pass on to his disciples at Cahiers du Cinma Malrauxs belief that art
proceeds by means of solitary artists heroically transforming the given style of their generation into a
transcendent vision. The tension Bazin felt between his sense of cinema as a popular art and this
concept of genius (after all, his first book was written on that overreacher, Orson Welles) was
experienced by Malraux in his own life as the paradox of the extraordinary man dedicated to
democracy. Malraux solved this paradox through allegiance to DeGaulle; Bazin never found so
ready-made a solution.
In 1943, while Malraux was earning fame as a daring commando and then as leader of the AlsaceLorraine brigade, Jean-Paul Sartre was achieving equal fame within Paris. Taunting the Nazis with
his articles, he became a gravitational center in the Paris Resistance. Bazin met him at his film club
showings and, like everyone else, followed his writings with excitement. But Sartre had been known
to Bazin long before the cin-club on rue Soufflot. In the late thirties Bazin had been struck by his
fiction, particularly by the long story The Wall.11 But the book that changed Bazins whole cast of
mind, a book that he bought immediately and underlined heavily, was the 1940 study called The

Psychology of the Imagination.12 This book provided the final foundation block for Bazins theory of
The Psychology of the Imagination is a crucial text because it links art to ontology. Sartre found it
necessary to consider art as indispensable in mans psychological effort to avoid or to go beyond his
real conditions. Only later was he able, in his masterpiece, Being and Nothingness,13 to come to
definite conclusions about arts history, function, and mode of being.
Sartre, like Teilhard, Malraux, and Bazin himself, conceives of art as an activity by which human
beings try to remake the world and their situation in it. Art is just one way we deal with this impulse;
it is comparable to daydreaming, to emotional release, and to certain acts of the imagination, which
for Sartre would include, among other things, lovemaking, political activism, and suicide. All these
modes show man trying to shape, in the emptiness of his consciousness, the fullness of a world he can
call his own, since it is the first tenet of Sartres existentialism that the physical world man lives in is
not his own and will eventually crush him, and his desires, in death. By means of the various modes
of consciousness we term imaginary man overcomes the determinateness and inescapable solidity
of an alien world. Here he exercises the great gifts that are the byproduct of his insubstantiality:
freedom and spontaneity.
Art is a privileged mode of the imaginary, for it creates a human object alongside the world of
alien objects. Artworks are out there in space and time, but they allow us to experience in them a
space and time which is subject to the freedom of consciousness, not to the laws of nature. Many
people treat art objects like other objects in the world. They buy and sell them, do academic research
on them; often they destroy them. This doesnt interest Sartre, for the art object becomes important
only when it magically transports us into another reality, when we experience it as a derealized
object. Sartre here tries to account for that bittersweet experience we have all had of going over to
or returning from a work of art. When we have been enraptured by Beethovens 7th Symphony, we
find it difficult to accept the world of real time that we meet when we step outside the concert hall.
When we have spent all day in the world of Dostoevskys Raskolnikov, we feel a profound
disappointment in returning to a world which belongs to no one but which controls us all. And, of
course, the movie theater has long been thought of as a place of dreams, the leaving of which often
produces profound sadness.
In art man uses the physical aspects of a medium such as painting or literature as an analogue
which delivers up the sens (the living meaning, the aura) of an absent object or feeling. The artwork
is a mixture of presence and absence. When we stare at a portrait of a dead person we once knew, a
totality of feelings may gush through us as we transform the cues of colored markings on canvas or
paper into the sens or total feeling of that person and rebuild his or her presence in our imagination.
Sartre distinguishes great from uninspired art by its ability to make present to our experience
something wonderfully human existing in the object which we had never known before. While most
art acts like an identity card, telling us that this is Venice or that is a sad little girl, Guardi has
painted a Venice, Sartre assures us, which no one has ever seen but everyone has felt, and Picasso
has given us an objective image of sadness whose sens we can feel even though the young girl he
makes present in his painting does not exist.
Malraux had constructed his anthropological history of art from the starting point of Sartres
imaginary. He tried to go deeper into this question than had Sartre by breaking the imaginary into
categories corresponding to the essential motivations behind the impulse to paint: sacred, divine,
profane, and decadent. Aesthetics is a function of psychology, and Malrauxs vast Voices of Silence14

is a psychoanalytic history of culture.

Bazins first great essays, The Ontology of the Photographic Image and The Myth of Total
Cinema,15 both composed at the end of the Occupation, are consciously indebted to Malrauxs
project and, through it, to Sartre. In a powerful way Bazin adapted Malrauxs categories and Sartres
terminology to produce the two most seminal pieces of his career, essays so important that we can
legitimately measure all his later writing against them.
Malraux saw in art the eternal part of man, which emerges as the power which both enables and
impels man to transcend his human condition, to break through the world of time and appearances to a
truth whose discovery affords him a glimpse of eternity.16 This impulse toward the eternal has had a
cyclical fate which Malraux has painstakingly traced. He found that the high art of the Egyptians
completely denies the world of time and exists in a sacred place. It is so thoroughly an art of the gods
that it is useless to ask about the men who created it. All are anonymous in the face of the sacred.
Artists names begin to be known in the epoch of classic Greek art, built as it was on a psychology of
the perpetuation and transmutation of earthly life. Malraux calls this the greatest era of divine art; in
it a race, whose gods were merely immortals and for whom the only afterlife lay in a world of
shades, conceived the notion of an immortality allotted to great human creations by reason of their
participation in the divine they body forth.17
The next stage he found was in Hellenistic art, where man created forms which neither negate
appearance (as in sacred art) nor use appearance for immortality (as in divine art) but value it for
itself. This is profane art, and for the first time a major art accepted the order of appearance as the
order of the scheme of things; for the first time appearance ranked as the real.18 The Romans, who
brought this cycle to a close, went beyond representation and illusionism to a decadent adorning of
Bazins Ontology of the Photographic Image began as an explicit refraction of Malrauxs second
cycle of art in which early Christian sacred art became, with Giotto and Cimabue, a divine art and
then moved into its profane era in the Renaissance. Bazin was specifically interested in the movement
from Giotto to Leonardo, from a work where the symbol transcended its model to one which was
based on sheer mimesis, namely the duplication of the world outside.19
Bazin calls perspective the original sin of Western painting (WC, 12) because it made painting
conscious of the vanities of the world of appearance and brought it down from its divine purpose.
The flesh was no longer a path to the spirit but was desirable in itself and in its particular time-bound
form. Malraux supports him here: The emphasis on time (as opposed to eternity) in the Renaissance
world view was now depicted in painting.20
Both Bazin and Malraux see the Renaissance as a separation of symbol from appearance. From the
fifteenth century, painting had two functions: the abstractive function of embodying eternity, of lifting
mans life onto another plane, and the task of merely duplicating reality for what Bazin calls our
psychological need to embalm time and the vanities of this world.
The tension between these functions, according to both Malraux and Bazin, was felt most
extremely during the Baroque ages quest to embody motion. It is at this time that a process Bazin
terms the myth of total cinema begins to take shape in the form of a forbidden desire to re-create
and store up the appearances of reality with complete fidelity. This was the golden calf of painters.
The Redeemer, in the elaborate theological metaphor Bazin develops, was the photograph and,
especially, the cinematograph. These incarnations of 1826 and 1895, respectively, freed the art world

from its obsession with illusionary realism and allowed it to return to its proper function, which is to
express, through visual abstraction, the eternal in man. Photography then took upon itself the cross of
preserving this world. Looked at in one way, If the history of the plastic arts is less a matter of their
aesthetic than of their psychology, then it will be seen to be essentially the story of resemblance, or, if
you will, of realism (WC 10). From this standpoint, Bazin is able to claim that
photography is clearly the most important event in the history of the plastic arts. Painting, being confronted in the mechanically
produced image with a competitor able to reach out beyond baroque resemblance to the very identity of the model, was compelled
into the category of object. Henceforth Pascals condemnation of painting is itself rendered vain since the photograph allows us on
the one hand to admire in reproduction something that our eyes alone could not have taught us to love, and on the other to admire
painting as a thing in itself whose relation to something in nature has ceased to be the justification for its existence. (WC, 16)

The real force in Bazins claim lies in his observation that the solution to the problem of
psychology in the arts comes not as a result of increased realism but from a new way of achieving
Photography and the cinema are discoveries that satisfy once and for all in its very essence, our obsession with realism [but]
the essential factor in the transition from the baroque to photography is not the perfecting of a physical process (photography will
long remain inferior to painting in the reproduction of color); rather does it lie in a psychological fact, to wit, in completely satisfying
our appetite for illusion by a mechanical reproduction in the making of which man plays no part. The solution is not to be found in
the result achieved but in the way of achieving it. (WC, 12)

In a psychological sense, realism then has to do not with the accuracy of the reproduction but with
the spectators belief about its origin. In painting, this origin involves the skill and mind of an artist
confronting an object. In photography, an indifferent physical process confronts a physical object. The
fact that the photograph is of the same nature as the object (purely physical and subject only to
physical laws) makes it ontologically different from traditional types of reproduction:
The objective nature of photography confers on it a quality of credibility absent from all other picture making. We are forced to
accept as real the existence of the object reproduced, actually represented, set before us, that is to say, in time and space.
Photography enjoys a certain advantage in virtue of this transference of reality from the thing to its reproduction. (WC, 1314)

Bazins crucial point, that realism stems more from the means of picture-taking than from its
product, clearly stems from deep meditation on Sartres discussion of the role of the image in art.
Sartres ideas pose a great problem for the photographic arts because, in his view, all imagemaking must be an intentional act of consciousness, whereas photographs can be snapped
automatically. Sartre may well have held, as did Malraux, that the bare copying dimension of
photography is a mechanical process, capable of bringing to mind the absent referent, but incapable of
investing that referent with an aesthetic presence. Malraux, in taking this position, insisted that only a
carefully and intentionally composed photograph could radiate a human sens, and only a highly
edited film could take us into the magic realm of derealized time and space. Straight photography and
cinematography would be comparable, in this view, to uninspired painting and hack poetry, bringing
to us a referent but failing to involve us in the world of feeling of that referent and of the world it is a
key to. This is a mere mnemonic device, useful in teaching and in recall, but with no aesthetic scope.
A photograph of a smiling woman may have a signification telling us what she looked like and
allowing us to remember her, but the Mona Lisa contains within it the sens of the whole
While these views of Sartre and Malraux are indispensable to Bazins theory, he was compelled

to go his own way, for both of these great thinkers seemed intent on creating an aesthetics and a
history of film based on the models they drew up for painting. Cinema, for Sartre, had to transcend its
mechanics, to become invested with the creative intentions of the consciousness structuring it. And for
Malraux the crude physicality of film images had to develop into a highly spiritual and spiritualizing
process primarily through the agency of montage, the very process whereby humans can break away
from the lure of profane images and enter into the realm of the structured and the intended.
Both these views are regressions from the special nature Bazin accords the cinema. Both try to
remake a medium which is fundamentally mechanical into a medium (painting) which is worst when it
is mechanical. Bazin preferred to follow out the consequences of a development which had no
precedent in the history of art. He preferred to maintain the truly radical nature of film rather than help
it adapt itself to the goals and methods of the conventional arts.
He says with decisiveness and with a specifically Sartrean vocabulary:
Can the photographic image, especially the cinematographic image, be likened to other images and in common with them be
regarded as having an existence distinct from the object? Presence, naturally, is defined in terms of time and space. To be in the
presence of someone is to recognize him as existing contemporaneously with us and to note that he comes within actual range of
our senses. Before the arrival of cinema the plastic arts (especially portraiture) were the only intermediaries between
actual physical presence and absence. Their justification was their resemblance which stirs the imagination and helps the memory.
But photography is something else again. In no sense is it the image of an object or person, more correctly it is its tracing. Its
automatic genesis distinguishes it radically from the other techniques of reproduction. The photograph proceeds by means of the
lens to the taking of a veritable luminous impression in lightto a mold. As such it carries with it more than mere resemblance,
namely a kind of identity. It makes a molding of the object as it exists in time and, furthermore, makes an imprint of the duration
of the object. (WC, 9697)

In passage after passage Bazin proclaims the psychological power conferred on the photograph by
the fact that its referent at one time stood in just this position while the camera made a luminous
imprint, a deathmask. Cinema, he says, once again in Sartrean terms, relays the presence of the
person reflected in itbut it is a mirror with a delayed reflection, the tin foil of which retains the
image. (WC, 97)
Bazin then goes on to establish the value of this tracing. Sartre and Malraux find in photographs the
childish duplication of accidental appearances. But Bazin can say:
All the arts are based on the presence of man, only photography derives an advantage from his absence. Photography affects us
like a phenomenon in nature, like a flower or a snowflake whose vegetable or earthly origins are an inseparable part of their
beauty. (WC, 13)

Sartre had said that beauty is an attribute only of the imagination and not of the world, but the
naturalist in Bazin could never accept this. We give our imaginations to nature, he felt, in order to
bring out her latent truths. In photography we pay homage to the world exactly as it looks; and when
we gaze at a photo we do so not to recognize a thing or its qualities but to put ourselves in the very
presence of that thing.
A very faithful drawing may actually tell us more about the model but it will never have the irrational power of the photograph
to bear away our faith.
The photographic image is the object itself, the object freed from the conditions of time and space that govern it. No matter
how fuzzy it shares, by virtue of the very process of its becoming, the being of the model of which it is the reproduction; it is
the model.
Hence the charm of family albums. Those gray or sepia shadows, phantomlike and almost undecipherable, are no longer the

traditional family portraits, but rather the disturbing presence of lives halted at a set moment in their duration, freed from their
destiny; not, however, by the prestige of art but by the power of an impassive mechanical process: for photography does not create
eternity, as art does, it embalms time, rescuing it simply from its proper corruption. (WC, 14)

Through photography man pays tribute to the world about him and to his past, as his attention and
his imagination bring to life the images sealed by the lens. Indeed, the entire development of cinema
has been the progressive realization of a myth of total cinema, a myth of total representation, the
mummy complex, as Bazin called it, which has been with man from the first cave paintings. Sound,
color, 3-D, wide screen, and the coming of virtual reality have been demanded by this craving which
haunts all men. Thanks to man and to the machines he has learned to make, the earth can now
duplicate itself in space and time.
Sartre and Malraux see this as a trivial and alienating process. Their humanism is closed to the
earth and rejoices in an art where man leaves nature behind. But Bazin is far more aligned with the
evolutionary cosmology of Teilhard, which sees man only in the context of a mysterious and everchanging world. Through photography man can escape the vanities of art and can seek his history and
his destiny by encountering appearances on their own terms.
In these early days of his writing Bazins tone often became reverential as he spoke of glimpsing
the fleeting presence of a meaning which ordinarily would pass us by in experience. Watching film
for him carried with it all the thrills of geology and anthropology. His writing would often adopt the
tone of Teilhard as when Bazin says of the crude and badly edited images from the film Kon-Tiki:
Like those moss-covered stones that, surviving, allow us to reconstruct buildings and statues that no longer exist, the pictures that
are here presented are the remains of an unfinished creation about which one hardly dares to dream. (WC, 160)

And of the pictures taken by Maurice Herzog on the descent from Annapurna:
The camera is there like the veil of Veronica pressed to the face of human suffering. (WC, 163)

With his brilliant first essays Bazin proved faithful to his promises: he had mastered a difficult
philosophical and analogical writing style; he had thought through the basic problems of the cinema,
using the vocabulary and ideas of the great thinkers of his day; and he had certainly solidified his own
position by expounding the radical first principles which would enroot and nourish virtually every
article on the cinema that he would subsequently write.

Chapter 4
The Liberation and the Animation of a Culture

By the end of 1944 Bazin had outlasted the most dangerous period of his life. He had emptied himself
of illusions, analyzed that emptiness, and reemerged with both a sense of purpose and a confidence in
his abilities. Bazins crisis years coincide exactly with the black years of his country, and when,
during the summer of 1944, reports of Allied advances poured into Paris, citizen and homeland
recovered together. The Resistance grew more and more daring as a new era waited to be born. By a
military stroke France was swept pure of the evil and mediocre elements that had controlled it for so
many years. The Germans left; the collaborators fled or were destroyed. Those who had flourished
illegally under the black market or legally under Vichy dove quickly underground. Paris seemed
cleansed, and those who had maintained their ideals and their hopes secretly over five years stood
poised on the edge of a new future. It was one of those rare moments when the stream of history
grows instantly limpid, when everything foul or extraneous precipitates to the bottom.
The countless offices vacated by Nazi and collaborationist organizations were quickly filled by
idealistic groups, each bent in its own way on giving birth to the new France. Since Bazin had
remained in Paris during the Occupation he had numerous opportunities to work in such groups. He
was known around Paris, having developed a network of friends in politics and in the arts who
considered him invaluable if only because he had the ability through cinema to assemble audiences.
There were few like him who knew how to locate films, rent halls, obtain projectors, and publicize
showings. And his little cin-club at the Maison des Lettres had demonstrated to a great many
skeptics that film and film study would play a role in the cultural politics of the post-war era. For his
part, Bazin was bursting to set Paris aflame with cinema. Whereas all but two of his first twenty
essays had come out in student weeklies, now he was ready to speak to an immense public in Pariss
most popular newspaper. Where before he had directed a small student cin-club, now he was ready
to bring clubs into factories, farming communities, labor unions, and literary societies.
In the years 194449 Bazin established cin-clubs throughout Paris, France, and Europe, and his
articles appeared in daily, weekly, and monthly journals. His enthusiasm carried him into activities
which gave him a large measure of power, and, while the pace at which he worked undeniably
undermined his health, it also brought him his most extended period of happiness.

In preparation for the Liberation of Paris Bazin set to work organizing the city-wide Jeunesses
Cinmatographiques. Young people of all social classes would gather for the presentation of a film
and the discussion which followed it. Usually these meetings took place in regular theaters, but Bazin
often persuaded distributors to provide private screenings for his clubs. One official site for film
discussions was the national academy, LInstitut des Hautes tudes Cinmatographiques (IDHEC).1
During the Occupation, a group of enthusiasts and professionals had run a private school in Nice, then
moved it to Paris in 1944 where it received government recognition. While its primary task was the
training of artists and artisans, IDHEC always acknowledged the role film culture should play in this

formation. Indeed its progenitor and longtime director, Marcel LHerbier, explicitly fostered the
interaction of film study and technical training. While its first members were young directors and
cameramen (Henri Alekan, Ren Clment, Claude Renoir, Colette Audry) rather than critics, all these
had agreed that their aspirations for film art required a cultural dimension lest the industry to which
they aspired remain in the hands of conservative authorities. Bazin was the obvious nomination for
director of cultural services. IDHEC in its first years was a brokerage house for all kinds of film
endeavors as well as a club, providing meeting rooms, a lounge, and a schedule of films for
discussion. Bazin gave lectures and arranged for films and speakers, such as Merleau-Ponty who
lectured there in March 1945.
At IDHEC he ran into Roger Leenhardt and Jean-Pierre Chartier; the latter he hadnt seen since
early 1943. Chartier had risen high in the Resistance and had been put in charge of culturally
rehabilitating the one and one half million French men on their way back from German prison camps.
With no viable roads, radio, or newspaper networks, he had resorted to dropping leaflets from
helicopters onto the masses of bedraggled prisoners inching back to their homeland, in order to
acquaint these men with the happenings in France over the past four and a half years and to ease their
problems of reabsorption. Inevitably he decided to make an information film, Dpart en Allemagne,
and he recruited Leenhardt to help him. Meeting them often at IDHEC as they worked on the film,
Bazin began to feel uncomfortable in a position that Chartier could handle well. In an act partly
designed to recognize Chartiers heroism in the Resistance and to denigrate his own aloofness from
active participation, Bazin resigned his post. IDHEC under Chartier continued to print Bazins film
notes, but Bazin now turned his attention more toward the working class than toward students. There
were many groups that could profit from his services, for this was the great epoch of cultural
animation in which idealistic members of the Resistance banded together to use the momentum of the
Liberation as a starting point for a much more thoroughgoing liberation, that of culture itself.
One group, Peuple et Culture, which arose out of the powerful maquis of Grenoble, became a
kind of officers training school for cultural groups of all sorts. Eventually moving their
headquarters to Paris, Peuple et Culture began to produce pamphlets for the use of these other
groups, a service which continues to this day. The most passionate group it supported was
unquestionably Travail et Culture, which formed independently in Paris just after the Liberation,
allying itself more with the Communist Party than Peuple et Culture did. These two organizations
worked closely together for several years.
As early as the winter of 1944 Bazin was invited to direct a center for cinematographic
initiation within the burgeoning Travail et Culture. According to Benigno Cacers, a founder and
eventual president of Peuple et Culture:
[Travail et Culture] wanted all men to be able to participate as brothers in cultural life. Under difficult conditions, in a period
when the structures of our country had not yet been rebuilt, everything really seemed possible. One can hardly forget, during that
severe winter of 44 those symposiums held around pine tables in the old building of 5 rue des Beaux-Arts, where men gathered,
despite their still empty stomachs, to initiate experiments in the arts which would profoundly mark our country.2

Cacers goes on to cite the illustrious company of those meetings: Jean-Marie Serreau, who
brought Brecht to France; Paul Flamand, director of the influential Editions du Seuil which publishes
Esprit; Jean-Louis Barrault, Marcel Marceau, Pierre-Aim Touchard, and Andr Bazin, all of whom
formed the core of Travail et Culture under Maurice Delarue. Together they tried to seize that
ancient dream of art for everyone and to make it come true.3

DeGaulles provisional government and its Minister of Information, Andr Malraux, tolerated
Travail et Culture because of the beneficial work it performed in factories and labor unions.
Although Travail et Culture was soon allied with the CGT union and nearly all members of its
directorial board belonged to the Communist Party, the organization received a State subvention.
For its part, of course, Travail et Culture was determined to create a proletarian class
consciousness before the quickly reviving national press, radio network, and film industry could
begin to shape and control class images. Bazins first article after the Liberation of Paris, appearing
in the new daily Le Parisien Libr, explicitly supported this goal.4 He called on the public to move
quickly in asserting its tastes and desires before the production and distribution industries locked
French cinema into a rigid monopoly capable of responding only to financial pressures. Bazin
demanded a diversification in production control in order to increase film types, generating on the
audiences side a healthy heterogeneity of films from which to choose, and on the filmmakers side an
opportunity to create a more personal cinema.
The political dimension of Bazins criticism was never more visible than in his work for Travail
et Culture. The first step, he felt, was to change the audiences notion of itself from passive
consumers to co-creators. If an audience could learn to take command of its cinema, couldnt a people
learn to take command of its culture? He began by urging the audience to realize that cinema, no
matter how used, was a force in national life. His programs were designed to make people look
seriously first at the object before them and second at the function of that object.
The vast scope of the cultural aspirations of Travail et Culture exhilarated Bazin. No longer was
he expressing his opinion after a film to a half-dozen initiated students; now he was standing before a
large crowd of workers in some immense auditorium like the Maison de la Chimie on rue Saint
Dominique, the location of his first major presentation. Bazin discovered he could talk to workers
and, in a manner at once simple and profound, could make a film reveal its richness to them by
pointing to details and forcing those details to speak. That first evening, for instance, he chose to
screen and discuss Le Jour se lve, the Carn-Prvert pre-war masterpiece. His method was to take a
single element such as decor and, after describing a scene or two, situate it in the center of the films
project and success. Then he would take Jauberts musical score and show the functional role it
played in the overall theme. By steps he illumined the parts of a film whose full impact would
increasingly loom before the audience.
His presentations got better and better. Generally he would arrive as early as 6:30 for an 8 oclock
screening at the Renault factory or at a union hall, to make sure the film was ready. Then he would
introduce the film for ten minutes, putting it in its historical and cinematic context. After the screening
he would lecture and answer questions, frequently employing charts he designed to illustrate decor or
camera movement. Because there was so little entertainment after the war, particularly free
entertainment, Bazin found himself speaking to large and varied audiences. He encouraged debate and
often got it. Joseph Rovan, a member of the directorial committee of Peuple et Culture, likened these
evening screenings to the battle over Victor Hugos Hernani, Bazin defending to the limit some
obscure or unpopular film, while being attacked by outraged workers and precocious students.5

Lecturing with visual aids

Like the months after May 1968 in France, the period after the war was one in which it was
impossible for most people to separate politics from the rest of their lives. Leftist intellectuals
particularly felt they were engaged one way or another in the rebuilding of a broken culture. In this
context Travail et Culture was an exciting open market of the arts. The second-floor offices at 5 rue
des Beaux-Arts close by the Seine looked onto an open courtyard. Walking along the exterior
corridor one passed Marcel Marceaus mime headquarters and Remo Forlanis puppet studio. The
theater section was the most active, attracting well-known actors like Louis Jouvet, who hoped to
start a popular theater movement. Bazin sat behind an antique desk in the film section and would by
turns bury himself in his writing, attack the telephone to organize a program, and lean back in his
chair to talk with whomever might stop in.
Everyone stopped in. The cinema offices, which at first had seemed to muscle their way in among
the more genteel arts, soon became a focus for the whole organization. No one could walk by Bazins
office without commenting on last nights film or demanding that Bazin bring back an old favorite.
Frequently an argument would develop and half the morning would be lost comparing the virtues of
theater and film or the importance for film of the commedia dellarte tradition or of the guignol.
Joseph Rovan recalls being literally converted to cinema by Bazin at these informal encounters.6
Before the war few sophisticated people ever seriously analyzed their experience at the cinema, yet
Bazin spoke about films as if he were discussing Dostoevsky. After a while it no longer seemed so
Film buffs throughout Paris began to show up at 5 rue des Beaux-Arts. Students, artists without
jobs, the post-war malcontents from the cafs of nearby blvd. Saint-Germain wandered in and out of
Bazins office as he struggled to ready program notes for the next meeting of his cin-club. Alexandre
Astruc, who was beginning to gain a literary reputation and who was a regular of Saint-Germain,
appeared frequently. He had plans for a long film on Odysseus and seemed to have the know-how to
make it. Alain Resnais and other former members of the Maison des Lettres film group returned to see
Bazin. Resnais had stopped talking about other peoples films because he was actually putting
together his own first major effort, Van Gogh. A group of Friends of Art had commissioned
Resnais to make a short silent documentary on the Van Gogh exposition at the Orangerie in 1947.

Wanting to add music to the finished product, Resnais went to the producer Pierre Braunberger for
support. Braunberger claimed music would be financially worthwhile only if the film were made in
35mm. At Travail et Culture Resnais solicited advice. Should he simply blow up his 16mm to 35mm,
or should he return to the Orangerie with new equipment and painstakingly reshoot the entire film? He
went back; and with the knowledge he had gained through his 16mm trial run he created one of the
most moving portraits of an artist ever made on film.
One of the parties to the discussions of Van Gogh in Bazins office was Chris Marker, a young
actor so drawn by Bazins personality that he left the theater section to help him with the mountains of
paper and organizational work accumulating day by day. Marker and Resnais became life-long
friends and began to discuss a new style of film, quiet, abstract, yet subtly narrative. Marker, who had
never worked in film before, began a collaboration with Resnais resulting in the astounding
documentaries Les Statues Meurent Aussi and Night and Fog. Even Bazin thought of making films.
He bought a 16mm camera and began shooting on one of his frequent trips to the French countryside.
He went so far as to edit a final version of this subjective travelogue but was so disappointed with
the results that he never premiered his work and immediately sold the camera.

Tempted to shoot a film himself

Anyway, he hardly had the time to shoot film. For four whole years Bazin worked himself to the
limit. He wrote program notes and gave impromptu lectures for any film group, denying no one his
time or energy. He seemed capable of juggling an infinite number of activities. Scribbling a film
review or a major article at his desk while others stood around the office arguing or talking, he would
suddenly turn and join the discussion. Most often the office was still full at 7:30 p.m. when it was
time to eat and escort a film to some auditorium. Bazin usually brought his own sandwich or he would
hurry into one of the nearby cafs, like Les Assassins or Mme Amour, for french fries. Usually he ate
with Janine Kirsch, who would later be his wife and who was at the time secretary to the theater wing
of Travail et Culture.

Headache and bandage

Bazins unhealthy eating habits began to take their toll as did his continued neglect of sufficient
sleep. Walking to rue Saint Dominique with a plate of french fries in his stomach and a film under his
arm, Bazin would discuss movies with enthusiasm often late into the morning, and then walk back to
his apartment on Cardinal Lemoine in the 5th arrondissement. He had a perpetual cough, grew thinner
and thinner. The only picture of him extant from this period shows him hard at work at his desk at rue
des Beaux-Arts, a cold towel wrapped around his head to combat his constant headaches. And yet
this was, by his own admission, his happiest time. Janine began living with him in the Cardinal
Lemoine apartment amid the fishnets he had strung up for decoration. She could share with him the
excitement of watching the cinema, under his relentless pressure, grow into a major cultural force, of
seeing his ideas in print and hearing them quoted and debated by others. Their list of close friends
grew enormously during this period and began to include philosophers and filmmakers, men for
whom Bazin had always had a distant awe.
Initially Bazin organized cin-clubs in schools and factories within or just outside Paris. Once
these were established, he could send films and program notes assembled at his Paris office,
appearing personally only from time to time either to lecture on a film or to give instructions and
advice to the local directors of the program. By 1947, however, he was touring all of France and
northern Europe in the service of Travail et Culture. He developed charts and graphs as teaching
aids and organized his program notes into a system. Peuple et Culture duplicated these notes,
eventually publishing some of them in book form.7 But even with readily available published material
Bazins presence was frequently called upon as the film club movement spread to new regions. His
travel and writing obligations soon grew out of all reasonable proportions. One letter of January
1948 to his longtime friend Denise Buttoni (by now Denise Palmer) describes his life well. It was
written in Marseilles as he was returning from Africa to Paris:
Youve always known how busy I keep myself. Well that was nothing compared to the life Ive had these past six months. Ive
got two kinds of jobs which pull me: Travail et Culture and my criticism at Le Parisien Libr. There you have it. LEcran

Franais and three or four other revues make up another kind of job to boot. I hardly have the time to sleep and eat. Ive written
so many articles that the sight of a blank sheet of paper, even if it is stationery, makes me nauseated.
You owe this letter to a few minutes Im spending in a bistro awaiting the train which brings me back from Algeria, since Ive
been both in Algeria and Morocco giving a whirlwind of lectures and setting up cin-clubs. It is a strange beautiful land, though I
hardly had time to enjoy it. The Arabian world is the most powerful human reality Ive yet encountered. A civilization both
integrally religious and totally unassimilable. Theres nothing for us to do there but introduce some hygiene, which weve only half
done. Otherwise leave it alone. Its truly the orient. Absolutely another spiritual universe.
I dont know what more to tell you. My life goes rolling on with its daily baggage of lectures and articles eating more and more
deeply into the territory my private life demands. For defense, I ought to get married, but I havent the time.

The high points of Bazins traveling for Travail et Culture came with his annual journeys to
Germany. In 1947 Joseph Rovan was invited by the French military administration to aid the cultural
redevelopment of Germany because he himself had been brought up in Germany. He planned a tenday retreat in Bavaria in which young Germans and selected French men could discuss various
aspects of culture.
Rovan was uncertain about the reception Bazin would receive, in part because film study was
unknown in Germany, in part because the slowness of Bazins oratory would be compounded by
translation. Worse, Rovan had unwillingly agreed to a session en route at the college of Inzigkofen in
South Wrttemberg, where the audience would not be eager youths but the most solemn and venerable
of German academicians weighed down by prejudice and age, solidly implanted on their postSchillerian idealism.8 As Rovan goes on to recall it, the two-day meeting was a catastrophe for all
the presentations except Bazins:
Here in the decor of a Swabian monastery sumptuously erected above the deep valley of the Danube in an immense room
accessible only through a miniscule door (so as not to let you forget your humility) Bazin officiated in his unforgettable role as
magician of ideas, enchanter of concepts, beautifier of dull technical matters, midwife of clear thought. The instrument of his
foreign language molded itself perfectly to his wishes and transmitted, in this baroque context, a message which has not since
stopped stirring tempests in the German conception of cinema.9

When Rovans cultural mission arrived at their Black Forest retreat, there were far more people
interested in film than had been expected or prepared for. Chris Marker, who also went along,
remembers setting up a thin screen in the middle of a large old attic of the building they were staying
in. Half the group saw the film normally, half saw it backward by rear projection, and the discussion,
led by Bazin, continued well into the next day.
After this success film became part of the general cultural menu brought to Germany year after year
during these retreats; included also were musicians, philosophers, and stage actors. In 1949 and 1950
Rovan asked Bazin to set up institutes exclusively focused on film. The first was held near Freiburg
and the second in Lendau, both running as long as ten days and together marking the beginning of the
German film club movement. Bazin could hardly have failed here, backed as he was by Allied rather
than French money, enabling him to bring speakers like Jacques Becker and Grard Philipe and to
screen virtually any movie he might choose. Several German film critics, among them Ulrich Gregor
and Enno Patalas, Germanys leading film historians, attribute the birth of their professional
commitment to these institutes.

Bazins cin-club activity points to the essential sociability of his criticism, but it doesnt indicate the

quality and quantity of that criticism. In fact, it was the brilliance and sheer volume of his writing
which made him essential to the growing film culture in France. From 1945 to 1950 he wrote
regularly for four or five different periodicals and sporadically for several others. Altogether, in a
career of just fifteen years, he signed over 2,500 pieces.
Bazins first major journalistic opportunity came at the dawn of the Liberation and at the hands of
Pierre-Aim Touchard, the director of the Maison des Lettres. Touchard had been placed partly in
charge of paper distribution in Paris and was responsible for determining which of the aspiring
newspapers would in fact be published. He supported one such paper, Le Parisien Libr, an
underground journal with a fine Resistance record. It surfaced proudly with its first official issue
(two sides of a single page) just three days before DeGaulle marched through the Arc de Triomphe.
Touchards sympathy ensured the survival of Le Parisien Libr, though it was unable to expand its
one-page format for over a year. He became its theater critic and suggested that his young protg
Andr Bazin be taken on as the regular film critic. It was a job Bazin snapped up eagerly in those
hard times and, despite the embarrassment this papers position often caused him later, it was one he
would keep until his death.
The first issues of Le Parisien Libr still broadcast the drama of the times. Reports of the
liberation of Nancy sit next to columns demanding the prosecution of collaborationist writers like
Cline and Montherlant. On the back of the page are maps indicating the progressive reopening of the
metro system, announcements of the formation of new groups, and reviews of the slowly resuscitating
cultural life of Paris. Bazins first article (calling for the diversification of film production and
distribution in the new France) appeared in the third week of the journal, on September 10, 1944.
With only two theaters running, the Normandie and the Gaumont, and both showing the one product
available, newsreel footage of the war, Bazin could only speculate on the cinema to come. His first
few reviews urged his readers to brave the long lines outside these two theaters and the clumsy
camerawork within in order to witness several unforgettable moments of human drama. More often he
urged his readers to wait a little longer for the promised windfall of American film which must surely
follow the advancing armies.
On October 5, 1944 Hollywood retook Paris in a style rivaled only by DeGaulles return. That
evening the Moulin Rouge was converted into a picture palace for an exclusive screening of Tales of
Manhattan. It was a raucous and pleasurable evening as Bazin reported it, in part because the film
starred Charles Boyer and was directed by Julien Duvivier, one of the foremost directors in France
during the thirties, who had moved to Hollywood on the eve of the war.
A deluge of American films followed this diplomatic premiere and Bazin steered his readers to
those he felt deserved attention. There was little space to write at length or develop challenging ideas
until 1946 when the newspaper doubled in size, allowing Bazin one extra column per week. In
homage to Leenhardt and his 1936 Esprit series, Bazin began his own Little School of the
Spectator, treating by turns the function of the metteur-en-scne, the cameraman, the set designer,
and so on. Like Leenhardt before him, he believed that with a little knowledge any layman could see
how a film achieved its form and could then either defend himself against that form or appreciate it
more deeply. Thousands of students attended Bazins paper school regularly, since Le Parisien
Libr had already acquired a vast readership; indeed, it was Frances largest morning paper.
Le Parisien Libr gave Bazin the security of a modest income all his life, and it was an income
well deserved. Bazin wrote over fourteen hundred articles for the paper. To accomplish this he was
forced to come to grips with the daily fare of cinema in France. Often this was sheer drudgery.

Worse, he was continually chagrined by the increasingly right-wing, lowbrow, and downright
sensationalist tone of the paper. Its editors did give him total independence and allowed him to write
with some degree of sophistication about films of his own choosing, but his articles could hardly have
found a more unlikely context. The film historians Rn Jeanne and Charles Ford have accused Bazin
of misusing the trust of the large circulation newspaper critic by ignoring his audience.10 They claim
that Bazin exploited Le Parisien Libr to fight aesthetic battles with other intellectuals, and they
insinuate that Bazin disdained not only his own paper but also the public to which that paper catered.
These charges are easy to counter. Disdain was an attitude Bazin never entertained; his work at the
paper fulfilled the task he had cut out for himself as an adolescent when he was bent on teaching: to
help a mass culture liberate itself by giving it the tools and the encouragement to decipher the images
of itself coming to it through the movies.
Nor did Bazin really bombard this mass public with his most sophisticated thoughts. Commonly he
used his column in Le Parisien Libr to describe a film carefully and to hint at its aesthetic or
sociological interest. Later he would begin to develop these germs in critical essays appearing in the
weekly journals LEcran Franais, Radio-Cinma-Tlvision, and France-Observateur. Finally he
would enlarge even these criticisms into the major essays he published in the monthlies Esprit and
Cahiers du Cinma. Bazin seldom saw a film he was critiquing more than once unless it was to
become for him a hallmark film, like those of Welles, Renoir, or Carn. He did not take notes in the
theater. He hardly ever took notes on his reading. His notebooks are filled instead with outlines of
possible approaches to large historical and aesthetic issues. These he certainly never broached in Le
Parisien Libr. His hundreds of articles in this paper are really the product of the critical reflex he
had struggled to develop in the early forties. This is why on the one hand his wife, Janine, can say that
he penned most of these articles in first draft, but he would labor over countless versions of a piece
for Esprit;11 while on the other hand friends like Touchard and Truffaut can assert that Bazin never
changed himself to suit a person or a situation and that the public of Le Parisien Libr was treated
to that same critical passion, love of precision, and provocative vocabulary that he practiced as a
way of life.12
Whereas Bazin served as teacher to the thousands of Le Parisien Libr readers, he still
considered himself very much the young student of this art. In the first years after the war he gained a
synoptic view of film history. Every afternoon he watched those movies he might review for Le
Parisien Libr, particularly the American and Soviet offerings that had been invisible for half a
decade. At night he would attend more specialized screenings. Bazin is a member of a whole
generationindeed two generationswho owe Henri Langlois not only the respect a student owes a
teacher but the debt an acolyte feels to the priest. For during the Occupation Langlois had preserved
the treasures of the Cinmathque virtually alone and he began to project these clandestinely at his
mothers home even before the Liberation had been accomplished.
By the end of 1945 Langloiss sances were a nightly ritual for the lucky twenty who crowded the
small room in the Muse dIna before the Cinmathque was given its first location on Avenue de
Messine. Bazin frequently attended with a future filmmaker, Jean-Charles Tacchella, whom he had
met at the office of LEcran Franais when Bazin dropped off his article The Life and Death of
Superimposition in mid-summer 1945. Not yet twenty, Tacchella served as the journals unofficial
fact checker because he had built up an impressive filmography that served as a database. He let
Bazin understand that one could meet some of the better French filmmakers at that office on Avenue
Raumur, like Jacques Becker, Jean Grmillon, and Louis Daquin. Ultimately Bazin would write over

a hundred pieces for the cinephile readership of LEcran Franais.

Initially allied with the famous Les Lettres Franaises, LEcran Franais likewise came about in
late 1943 as a Resistance sheet. Filmmakers like those just mentioned widened their support beyond
the Communist Party, but the journal was always deeply leftist. In 1949, thanks to the beginnings of
the Cold War, the Parti Communiste Franais (PCF) would rein it toward the party line, but until then
the politics that were this magazines real concern had to do with the French film industry, especially
in light of the glut of American films that so threatened it. The weekly editorials calling for the
renewal of the industry and for direct action against Hollywood were fleshed out with reports on
current productions, reviews of new films, portraits of personalities, and interviews with directors,
both French and foreign. Bazin avoided everyday journalism, including the opportunity to interview
Ren Clair, Ren Clment, and other directors. At first he made it a point of honor not to contaminate
his assessment of the films he wrote about with privileged information.
When he did turn to interviewing he chose directors he most admired, like Welles, Renoir, and
Rossellini and William Wyler, whose work he took seriously. The day of Wylers arrival in Paris
in 1948 Tacchella arranged for an afternoon appointment. Tacchella came armed with a complete
filmography of the directors work that included cross-references to cast and crew. This surprised
Wyler, who had never seen such an apparatus. But Wyler was even more surprised with Tacchellas
sidekick, Bazin, who immediately asked him questions about the minutiae of camera placements in
films dating back over a decade. For five hours the discussion bristled in French, Wyler wiping his
brow at the end and confessing, What kind of job do you guys have, anyway? This isnt journalism.
Ive never run into anything like this in the States. Soon after Bazin published in La Revue du
Cinma one of his greatest essays, William Wyler ou le janseniste de la mise en scne.
While not closely connected to the directorial staff of LEcran Franais, Bazin believed in and
profited from the magazines mid-cult mission. The daily criticism he practiced at Le Parisien Libr
might initiate a mass public, but a weekly like LEcran Franais gave him an opportunity to set
trends and affect the national film culture. He published on a wide range of topics in this magazine,
including essays on geography in French film, on technological innovations, and on the animated and
the scientific film. In the wittiest of these articles, The Entomology of the Pin Up Girl, he employed
a pervasive scientific vocabulary to determine the genus and species of what he called this strange
organism with enlarged mammaries and an enormous bright smile. He found her to be
a wartime product created for the benefit of the American soldiers swarming to a long exile at the four corners of the world [who]
soon became an industrial product, subject to well-fixed norms and as stable in quality as peanut butter or chewing gum. Rapidly
perfected, like the jeep, among those things specifically stipulated for modern American military sociology, she is a perfectly
harmonized product of given racial, geographic, social and religious influences.13

Good-natured essays like these were not haphazard. They derive from and contribute to the pedagogic
goal Bazin took to be his vocation. Cinema was a means to engage an audience with questions of
sociology, science, geography, the arts, and the countless other areas of life that fascinated him and
that he thought should fascinate everyone. But beyond this curriculum the subject Bazin most wanted
to teach was the cinema, its history, its various genres, and its current direction.
The current direction of cinema meant American film. Not only was Europe overrun with four years
worth of Hollywoods accumulated output, but the best of these pointed toward a new aesthetic.

Nearly half of all his entries in LEcran Franais are reviews of American movies. While he was
ambivalent about the values projected in standard film noir and musicals, he declared his enthusiasm
for Welles, Wyler, Preston Sturges, and Billy Wilder. This pointed him toward an inevitable
collision with the magazines many Communists who tolerated discussion of Hollywood only the
better to know the enemy.
The scores of reviews of American films penned by Bazin and his allies from 1945 to 1947 at the
magazine began to dovetail into a position in 1948. This was the year of Alexandre Astrucs clarion
For a New Avant-Garde: Le Camera-stylo, and of Leenhardts outrageous Down with Ford, Long
Live Wyler, both published in LEcran Franais whose editorial core group was troubled.
Effectively these essays discarded the notion of great themes and majestic style dear to the
Communist critics in exchange for a supple style capable of grappling with the everyday. Bazin was
largely in sympathy with this turn toward scenes and away from images, toward decoupage and away
from montage, toward anecdotes and away from dramas, toward texture and away from symbols,
toward subtlety and away from big effects. Altogether this meant a preference for mise-en-scne over
subject and so of American film over Soviet.
Everything about this position threatened Frances old guard. It diminished the legacy of Abel
Gance and Marcel LHerbier. It undermined directly the social cinema of Daquin, Le Chanois, and
other veterans with the new aesthetic at work in films by Cocteau, Bresson, and Jean-Pierre Melville.
Bazin followed Astrucs essay with his own Defense de lavant-garde, which the journal published
in the last issue of 1948. Defense, indeed. The next year he would have to withstand the assaults of
Daquin and Claude Vermorel, who, no doubt because of the Marshall Plan, were on a crusade against
anything touching Hollywood, including Welles (recently expelled from Hollywood) and Hitchcock.
It seems incredible today that Hitchcock might need defense, but he was called a mere technician
by the editorial staff of LEcran Franais. After a January 1949 interview with Hitchcock by
Tacchella, the magazine conducted an opinion poll of French directors to discover, astoundingly, that
of those responding, only Maurice Tourneur found Hitchcock to be important. For Vermorel and Jean
Delannoy he was merely a crass studio technician. Daquin used the occasion to vilify the formalism
and preciosity of Objectif 49 and other film clubs that were showcasing expensive Hollywood
films when French directors had trouble finding film stock.
Inevitably, Bazin had to reply from his Ivory Tower, as he ironically put it, and he did so as
head of Objectif 49. This led to public debates sponsored by LEcran Franais, one of which pitted
Bazin against Georges Sadoul, initiating a long period of difficult relations between the two most
influential French film critics. After LEcran Franais was put directly under a PCF administration
Bazin was forced out. Ironically, his last contribution, Panoramique sur Hitchcock, published in
January 1950, pushed the master of suspense below Welles and Wyler because of the flimsy
formalism of Lifeboat and Rope. Was he giving ground after these months of debate? Or was he
preparing for new debates with the Hitchcocko-Hawksians who were already assembled under
Rohmer at La Gazette du Cinma? In any case, now weak with tuberculosis, Bazin must have been
glad to see the end of the hand-to-hand combat at LEcran Franais. Arguments would continue
(The Myth of Stalin controversy was just six months away), but they would be waged at a distance.
While LEcran Franais was a battleground, Esprit was Bazins homeland. Here he felt most
comfortable and could publish his most significant and far-reaching essays. In September 1945 Bazin
became the regular film critic for Esprit, which had reemerged from the silence of the Occupation to
become again one of the key intellectual journals in France. Mounier even asked Bazin to become a

member of its editorial board, and he served in this capacity up through 1948. From the Liberation to
the end of his life he attended the late Monday afternoon gathering on the rue Jacob, where the
contributors met for discussion, only two blocks from rue des Beaux-Arts. Esprit provided the
perfect philosophical and political context for his work. The journal had been largely responsible for
the direction of Bazins talent in the late thirties, giving him a sense of purpose and allowing him to
see the rapport between the life of ideas and the daily social life we all share. Now at last he was not
only benefiting from it, he was actively pushing forward an attitude toward life and culture in which
he firmly believed. And he was pushing it forward together with such notable colleagues as Albert
Bguin, Pierre-Aim Touchard, Jean Cayrol, and Paul Ricoeur, all under the luminous thought of
Emmanuel Mounier.
Two sources fed the great attraction and strength of Esprit. The first, Mounier himself, we have
already examined. The second was its fostering of group thought. Esprit discouraged specialization
at a time when most other intellectual journals were pursuing it at full gallop. Esprit was able to
organize its incredible line-up of thinkers into a productive interplay because all of them were to
some degree committed to the basic ideas of Mounier. Decades after his death the advertising sheet
soliciting new subscriptions still expressed this commitment:
Since its inception in 1932, Esprit has remained faithful to the direction given it by Emmanuel Mounier: to mark out between the
bourgeoisie and the collectivism of the State an avenue by which the transformation of structures can promote the enrichment of
the individual and can lead to the civilization of labor which will free men from the tyranny of money.
To denounce oppression and falsehood, and to break loose from both Christian order and established disorderthese are the
crucial tasks which accompany a constructive reexamination of culture carried out in conjunction with those who are struggling for
their freedom. Esprit caters to no single orthodoxy; a free journal, addressed to free men, it seeks the truth without claiming
always and in all matters to be correct.

Probably the best evidence of this group attitude is the Monday evening Round Table at which
from ten to twenty-five people would gather, including a hard core of contributors, a few noted
intellectuals, and other guests drawn in to hear the discussion. Sometimes a topic was announced, but
often the discussion might flit about from news item to news item, from art to art, or from opinion to
opinion until a focus was attained. If the subject were truly compelling or timely one contributor
might be designated to organize an issue of the journal around it, commissioning articles from the
discussants themselves or from people suggested at these meetings. Even when the subjects discussed
failed to gel into an entire issue, every month Esprit included selections of the discussions collated
from the four previous weeks, under the title Journal of Many Voices. These Monday evenings
continued years after Bazins death and typify the journals ethos even today.
This is not only a highly successful journalistic device, it is a liberating tactic for the contributors
as well. Philosophers talk about the movies, art critics argue about urban planning, and everyone
discusses politics and religion. Slouched in the same stuffed chair week after week, Bazin was eager
to talk about everything. It seemed there was not a subject on which he hadnt just read the latest
book, said Jean-Marie Domenach.14 How much Bazin took away from these meetings we can only
guess. It was the kind of situation that seemed like paradise to him: some of the best minds of his age,
experts in all domains, gathered in one room to think through problems facing French culture. And
while the meetings generally ended at 8 oclock, the conversations often lasted deep into the night in
Saint-Germain cafs or in someones dining room.
In the philosophical atmosphere of Esprit Bazin began to formalize and propagate his vision of

cinema. The timing was perfect. He had already committed himself to his ontology of the
photographic image; this now served as the cornerstone of a theory capable of growing alongside
post-war movements in cinema. Only a year after his realist manifesto he had an opportunity to begin
seeing the films that ontology supported: Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, the Italian
neorealist masterworks. And when he had seen these films Esprit was the ideal place for his ideas to
develop, since his attitude so fully displayed a metaphysics and an ethic taken from the personalism
of Esprit and applied to cinema, an art which in post-war Europe seemed to take a front-rank
In these essays it is difficult, perhaps finally impossible, to determine whether Bazin was
promoting a theory of the cinema, bringing in neorealist films as handy support, or whether he was
first concerned about these new Italian films, developing his theory to support them. Here the
continual dialectic in his writings between the theorist and the critic was never more evident or


The filmmaker Eric Rohmer believes that neorealism was the most perfect embodiment in the postwar era of a style of film based on Bazins ideas, but that those ideas can, and should, be seen outside
that single genre. Of Bazins criticism Rohmer has said, Each essay and indeed the whole work
itself fits perfectly into the pattern of a mathematical demonstration. Without any doubt, the whole
body of Bazins work is based on one central idea, an affirmation of the objectivity of the cinema in
the same way as all geometry is centered on the properties of the straight line.15 Rohmer suggests
that, armed with this, his only axiom, Bazin met head-on countless discrete aesthetic problems as they
arose in the films he saw and the books about film he read. Bazin, he asserts, should not be treated as
bound to the films he chose to discuss, which are merely well-chosen examples from the history of
film capable of illuminating the inner workings of cinema. While the examples may become obsolete,
while neorealism and depth of field, for instance, give way to genres and techniques harboring new
and different problems and solutions, the insights Bazin derived from them remain fresh. Rohmer
suggests that Bazin was concerned not with neorealism or deep focus photography at all, but with
cinemas link to reality. This link was, in his day, best seen in reference to the Italian post-war films
and the photography popularized by Welles and Renoir, and so it was of these films and these
filmmakers that he wrote.
Rohmer wants to cut short criticism of Bazin which questions his examples, in order to focus
attention on first principles. Bazin was such a polished logician that attempts to refute his consistency
have seldom been successful. Once the reality axiom is established, Bazins essays flow
unerringly, watering more and more territory with every sentence. But just as there is more to
geometry than Euclid, so it can be argued that the reality axiom may have its limitations. At their most
direct, opponents have claimed (and must claim) that cinema has no special tie to reality, that it is as
conventional as any other art.16
Axioms are not proved; they can only be held up as self-evident. Once they are accepted the
theorist is free to derive his system from them, but the system can never circle back to prove the
axiom. Bazin tried to demonstrate the reasonableness of the reality axiom through a store of
metaphors which likened the film image to a deathmask, a moulding of light, a veil of Veronica, and
so on. These figures have the effect of seducing us into a belief in the axiom. But they can also lead us

to ask a more fundamental question: why, and out of what context, did Bazin want to insist upon
cinemas rapport with reality?
Here, the world view presented by personalism and Christian existentialism can be seen as the
spawning ground for precisely the view of cinema articulated in Bazins system. To attack the
objectivity axiom is thus to attack a powerful school of philosophy. Having stepped for a moment
outside film theory proper, we can question again Bazins use of examples. While it may be true that
the objectivity axiom is applicable to films of all sorts, and that Bazins emphasis on the films of
Renoir, Flaherty, and the neorealists is circumstantial, these films, when seen in relation to his
philosophy, are landmark works exemplary in a moral as well as an aesthetic sense, and capable in
their own way of insisting on the rightness of the axiom which validates them. Thus Rohmer may be
correct in asserting that Bazins theory goes far beyond the films he speaks of, but the impetus to
develop such a theory was derived from specific films seen within the specific context of
personalism. Film is not mathematics. One does not begin theorizing about it in the abstract. Bazin
brought to his study of film a complex notion of reality and mans place within it.
The objectivity axiom and the whole of Bazins film theory consequently need to be considered in
relation to the personalist approach to the mysterious otherness of external reality. Mounier taught
that this otherness, while inexhaustible, can be known in part by the properly trained person. Such
training produces a self-effacing listener whose senses, mind, and soul are focused on the physical
world, waiting for it to make itself known little by little. The person needs to organize himself in
silence by retreating to his interior distance, in order to return to the external world properly
disposed to receive from the encounter whatever truths he may be fortunate enough to experience, be
they spiritual, natural, or cultural.
The world is mysterious and ambiguous not because it is as yet only partly disclosed, as if we
need only to wait for scientists to finish their investigations. This would be a naive realism
imagining the world as some self-sufficient sphere which we approach now from one side, now from
another, striving to penetrate it and use it. If we attribute to Bazin the ideas of those in his milieu, of
Sartre, Marcel, Mounier, and Merleau-Ponty, then mystery becomes a quality of the world itself
rather than a state to be overcome. In fact, for these existentialists reality is not a situation available
to experience but an emerging-something which the mind essentially participates in and which can
be said to exist only in experience. Here the notion of ambiguity, a notion as central to MerleauPonty as it is to Bazin, becomes more than the result of a human limitation; it becomes a central
attribute of the real and a value attained when consciousness sensitively encounters that otherness we
call the world.
The way filmmakers use cinema reflects their orientation toward life. To point to the ends of the
spectrum, cinema can be either an aid in our encounters with the fullness of the universe, or an
expressive device capable of speaking back to that universe. In the latter case cinema discovers
nothing, using its energy instead to promulgate opinion. Bazin considered interior, subjective
cinema (German Expressionism, for example) to be nothing more than opinion, a personal
rearrangement of the world to suit the filmmakers view of things. On the whole, he slighted this
trend, preferring instead that filmmakers be rigorously honest in their use of what nature had given
them in the film image. While cinema is not exactly the same as objective reality, Bazin felt it was
certainly beyond being simply one more view (or opinion) of reality. It lies somewhere between
perspective and objectivity, and Bazin found it helpful to think of it as an asymptote, the line in
geometry that progressively approaches a curve and meets it only at infinity. Filmmakers who deny

that cinema attains its power by reason of its special relation to reality, a relation no other art medium
has, are more concerned with their views than with the discoveries of experience.
Bazins world view can be seen not only in his condemnation of self-willed and manipulative
filmmaking, but also in his praise of the films of Flaherty, the neorealists, and especially Jean Renoir.
All of the films toward which he was drawn by his philosophical bias were in some sense variations
of the creative documentary genre. This type of film lies closest to that paradox which Bazin felt
was at the heart of cinema: a filmmaker must labor in this genre to make reality appear real on the
screen, and he must be clever enough in his efforts to force from reality a significance which lies
there undiscovered in experience, for there is no point in rendering something realistically unless it
is to make it more meaningful in an abstract sense. In this paradox lies the progress of the movies. In
this paradox lies too the genius of Renoir, without doubt the greatest of all French directors.17
Flaherty, the father of the creative documentary, most clearly embodies this paradox. While trying
to capture a feeling of real life on the run Flaherty would not simply find a subject and a location
and begin shooting but would live with his subjects for long periods of time to gain a feel for their
way of life; later he mapped out a tentative scenario to represent that way of life. His film style would
always attempt to mirror the vision of his subjects; but the events he chose to film were quite often
fabricated, with only the actor and the locale remaining literally true. For instance, Nanook was asked
to hunt the walrus, something he would never do in real life. Similarly, the men of Aran had to learn
to kill the giant sunbathing sharks, something no one had done for sixty years; and in another instance,
they put to sea in a storm they would never have braved without Mr. Flahertys orders. All these
fabrications were calculated attempts to make the images on the screen breathe the truth of a way of
life that goes beyond immediate appearances. Flaherty believed that appearances must often be
transformed from life to the screen (indeed, events must be altered) if the equation of a mans life in
his environment is to retain its essential significance.
Flahertys response to this central cinematic paradox calls only for a rigorous honesty regarding
the actual subjects of his films: these were the faces and gestures of people within the larger face and
gesture of an environment. He would never force his own reactions on his subjects; he would rarely
isolate a subjects reaction from its context. This is the reason for his now famous method of shooting
people in relation to their background (that is, in real space) and in relation to the action they were
performing (in real time).
Bazin found Flahertys documentary work to be comparable to Renoirs fictional style. Renoir
also chose his subjects for what they could reveal of their own particularity. He chose locations and
allowed the actors to see themselves as actors in a fabricated locale. But once this was given Renoir
began to shoot his film like a documentary of a game, until soon that which was in the actor as actor
began to reveal itself as personal expression. Like Flaherty, Renoir was interested in the faces and
gestures of his subjects; like the documentarian, he fabricated the events but nothing more. He moved
his camera in and around the situation to record the reactions of his subjects, these actors caught up in
their roles.
Of neither Flaherty nor Renoir can we say that the filmmaker has erased his own vision. He has
instead erased his direction of the action while retaining his style of vision as witness to that action.
The audience may then watch an actual event and a considered perspective oriented toward that
event. With Renoir, the tension this necessarily involves is best evident in his makeshift
compositions; if he achieves a pleasant or revealing effect he must quickly reframe as the scene
develops. His style is part of an instinct that first chooses what to watch and then knows how to watch

itmore precisely, how to coexist with it. Under the subtle pressure of this approach relationships
within reality become visible, bursting into the consciousness of the spectator as a revelation of a
truth discovered.
Bazins response to much of Flaherty and Renoir is of the same order as his response to the
snowflake and flower. Over and over he praises these directors not for their images but for their
manner of gathering images. Thus, Nanook of the North is a great film because Nanook is a real
Eskimo who suffered what we see him suffer and who even died of starvation shortly after the images
we see of him were taken. Or, in another example: The simple snapshot of Scott and his four
companions at the pole, which was discovered in their baggage, is far more stirring than the entire
Technicolor feature by Charles Frend (WC, 159). Bazin says of the 1948 remake, Scott of the
The studio reconstructions reveal a mastery of trick work and studio imitationbut to what purpose? To imitate the inimitable, to
reconstruct that which of its very nature can only occur once, namely risk, adventure, death. (WC, 158)

While the other arts survive precisely upon such imitation, the basic appeal of cinema is its
connectedness to the event represented, a connectedness no other art enjoys. Bazins criticism
continually developed ways of determining the relation and effect of the origin of an image on its
visual quality. In the same passage in which he praised the long take in Nanook of the North, he
chides Flaherty for using a shot/reverse shot montage to create an alligator fight in Louisiana Story.
The visible quality of the montage confesses that the origins of the sequence were in the editing room,
not in the swamp (WC, 5051).
Bazin did not deplore cinematic conventions. Taken together his criticism is as good a history of
the conventions of classic cinema as we have. But he clearly felt that in the greatest cinema the
various conventions are conceived of as gilding around a pure vision of reality which transcends
them. The gilding will tarnish but the vision will not. The narrative conventions of a film like A Day
in the Country already seem quaint to us, but the famous closeup of Sylvie Bataille yielding under the
nightingale to Georges Saint-Saens can never date because it is a moment of pure documentation in
which the actress interests us as a human being, not as a character. It is a fact, not a mere fact, but all
the more a fact in its dramatic breakthrough.
While Bazin may be on dangerous ground by focusing so sharply on the origin of an artwork rather
than the finished product, he is in good company when he looks for a timeless moment of revelation
within a conventional structure. Goethe and Baudelaire come immediately to mind. Both men
considered the symbol an earthbound entity which, under proper conditions and from a judicious
angle, might reveal to the privileged artist not only the depths of its own being but the mysteries of a
universe to which it is a key. Bazin never condemned outright the conventions of genres, but he
praised most often those films that use conventions to stimulate revelations of a real (that is,
unconventional) nature. Just why some men (like Renoir or Rossellini) have a privileged view of life
and can, through sheer attention, plumb the depths of a situation is never discussed by Bazin. In the
tradition of Baudelaire, Du Bos, and especially Malraux, he no doubt assumes the primacy of the
genius, of the artist who is the privileged listener of the world, able to hear amid the noise of life the
heartbeat that reveals its core. From the angle of his world view Bazin is no longer interested in a
realistic cinematic art, but in reality itself.
With Flaherty such revelations occur even more naturally. His films record the slow process by
which he gradually learned to come to terms with, to participate in, his subject, and they record as

well the meaning which that subject gradually yields up to him. Flahertys method has been
specifically likened by his biographer Arthur Calder-Marshall to the art of Eskimo ivory carvers, an
art form of which he was a great connoisseur:
As the carver holds the unworked ivory lightly in his hand, turning it this way and that, he whispers, Who are you? Who hides
there? And then: Ah, Seal! He rarely sets out, at least consciously, to carve, say, a seal, but picks up the ivory, examines it to
find its hidden form and, if thats not immediately apparent, carves aimlessly until he sees it, humming or chanting as he works.
Then he brings it out; seal, hidden, emerges. It was always there: he didnt create it; he released it; he helped it to step forth. A
carving, like a song, is not a thing; it is an action. When you feel a song within you, you sing it; when you sense a form emerging
from ivory, you release it.18

While this Eskimo aesthetic by no means contains all of what has been or could be done in art, it
does describe a major tradition, one in accord with the philosophical principles of Bazin and Esprit.
Flaherty and Renoir were isolated harbingers announcing the possibility of a method of
cinematography banking on this aesthetic. Bazin believed that the promise of this method was fulfilled
by the emergence of the Italian films of the post-war era. Looked at from the vantage point of Bazins
intellectual predispositions neorealism was not merely an arbitrary starting point for his theories, as
Rohmer suggests, but the healthiest strain of a certain tradition of cinema which Bazin, the Christian
existentialist and member of Esprit, was eager to cultivate and promulgate.
Neorealism served Bazins theories perfectly. These films brought cinematic experience
progressively closer to lived experience in the manner of the asymptote, since the spectator is given a
view of life sparked by the tension between reality and that slight abstraction which is its image on
the screen. But these films were important to Bazin beyond the visible support they lent his theory of
the ontology of the photographic image. He found that, in nearly duplicating our everyday perception,
neorealism provides the conditions under which experience can speak of its own accord, unmediated
by the rhetoric of a filmmaker with a point to make or a story to tell. By choosing an aspect of reality
and continuing to choose it, the neorealist concentrates on the screen what is diffused in life, allowing
us to engage a subject in all its mystery.
From this standpoint we can say that Bazin loved neorealist films not because of what they told
him of cinema, but because of what they told him of reality. His penchant for films with as little
abstraction as possible derived from his desire to see images of reality itself flash on the screen.
Bazin was the kind of viewer to notice and enjoy unforeseen details of nature in even the most
contrived and convention-filled Western. In neorealism he found a movement dedicated in both its
photography and its dramaturgy precisely to the unforeseen.
As a human being encounters a world with curiosity and expectations, so:
The Italian camera retains something of the human quality of the Bell and Howell newsreel camera, a projection of hand and eye,
almost a living part of the operator, instantly in tune with his awareness. (WC II, 33)

The neorealist cameraman lifts himself above everyday perception not by means of technical tricks or
manipulation of what is photographed but simply by the intensity of his attention, which makes certain
details stand out. He becomes a filter, Bazin suggests, changing nothing, but letting through a steady
stream of facts coming from a particular frequency of light.
How these facts are arranged is what we term dramaturgy. Neorealist dramaturgy demands, first of
all, that the facts be natural, not man-made. Second, it demands that the independence and autonomy of
facts be represented. Bazin suggested that the filmmakers style is like a magnetic force which selects

from the sand and dust of life those iron filings possessing the proper polarity and arranges them in a
field.19 The art of the neorealist film results from the participation of an inner disposition within the
disposition of the facts of reality. Because the filings (facts) preserve their own composition they are
available to other arrangements. Actually, we might think of several neorealist directors employing
the same facts in films with different patterns and effects, just as different magnets possessing
different magnetic fields forcibly rearrange the position of a heap of iron filingsmaking permanent
claim on none of them.
In contrast, think of the bent, welded, and glued facts of well-made fictional films. First of all,
the facts in these films are most likely fabricated by the filmmaker in a studio rather than pulled by
him out of the flow of life. Then these facts are cut, polished, and reworked until they become scenes
locked irreversibly into the film. The scenes no longer have independent existence and can hardly be
thought of except as man-made products. In one of his most effective and elaborate analogies, Bazin
saw this contrast in terms of the difference between found stones and bricks, a difference which is
grounded in the primordial difference between nature and culture.
I will say this of the classical forms of art and of traditional realism, that they are built as houses are built, with bricks or cut stones.
It is not a matter of calling into question either the utility of these houses or the beauty they may or may not have, or the perfect
suitability of bricks to the building of houses. The reality of the brick lies less in its composition than it does in its form and strength.
It would never enter your head to define it as a piece of clay; its peculiar mineral composition matters little. What does count is
that it have the right dimensions. A brick is the basic unit of a house. That this is so is proclaimed by its appearance. One can
apply the same argument to the stones of which a bridge is constructed. They fit together perfectly to form an arch. But the big
rocks that lie scattered in a ford are now and ever will be no more than mere rocks. Their reality as rocks is not affected when,
leaping from one to another, I use them to cross the river. If the service which they have rendered is the same as that of the
bridge, it is because I have brought my share of ingenuity to bear on their chance arrangement; I have added the motion which,
though it alters neither their nature nor their appearance, gives them a provisional meaning and utility. In the same way, the
neorealist film has a meaning, but it is a posteriori, to the extent that it permits our awareness to move from one fact to another,
from one fragment of reality to the next, whereas in the classical artistic composition the meaning is established a priori: the
house is already there in the brick. (WC II, 99)

Is it any wonder that Bazin was so fond of Pais, whose very structure was that of six independent
episodes? What does it matter, he claims, if in leaping from episode to episode we splash our feet?
That is the nature of a ford, whose stones were there primordially. Indeed, our interest vacillates
between the stone as ford and the stone as stone, since we are forced to look so closely at its shape
lest we fall. How often do we examine the stones which make up the bridges we cross? Not often,
says Bazin. And insofar as everyday reality is more like looking for fords to pick our way carefully
across than like traversing ready-made bridges, then it is approached more closely by neorealism than
by traditional realism.
The tension between the scene before our eyes and our belief about the manner of its production
held a fascination for Bazin which he likened to his passion for snowflakes and flowers (WC, 13).
Surely there are more beautiful graphic forms than these that nature produces, yet they exercise a
hypnotic power over us as we sense the natural process of their growth even in their finished state. In
this case our knowledge of the genesis of a form carries over into our appreciation of the form itself,
not as something added like a piece of information but as something essential. Hence the peculiar
revulsion we must overcome when presented with a plastic flower or an artificial Christmas tree.
Hence also the advantage of the film derived from the conditions of our everyday experience.
Bazins theories have a paradoxical effect. They seem to humble the artist in front of the film he
helps bring about; yet at the same time they raise certain filmmakers into what Andrew Sarris would

later call a Pantheon.20 Just after the war Bazin felt no discomfort in accusing standard filmmakers
of a certain haughtiness in their approach to film, while he himself was actively building a
contemporary mythology around the figures of Roberto Rossellini and Orson Welles.
Despite their vast stylistic differences, Welles and Rossellini share an attitude toward filmmaking
that makes it more of an exploration than a creation. Since reality for Bazin is the result of the
encounter between an active apprehension and the field of phenomena within which it operates,
cinema ought to become an instrument of encounter, of apprehension, and therefore of reality. In a
way, all of Bazins theorizing can be looked at as a campaign designed to enable us to prepare for the
disclosures cinema helps make available to us. This campaign assumed its full dimensions in Bazins
mind as he strove to explain the incredible emotion he experienced in viewing Pais and Citizen
Kane, an emotion that was at the same time a vision. These films marked out for him the spectrum of
his interests, for Pais examined a political reality which was even then struggling to come into
existence while Citizen Kane explored more abstractly mans position in time and space. Both films
operate under the phenomenological attitude he ingested at Esprit since both attempt, in very different
ways, to record and preserve the complexity of our encounters with the world or, what he was to call
after Merleau-Ponty, the ambiguities of experience. In neither case can we say that the director chose
life over film or vice versa. Cinema was directly involved in the reality these films participated in.
Bazin, in fact, at one point discusses these two films together, stating that, phenomenologically
speaking, the two films have the same objective: although they use independent techniques, without
the least possibility of a direct influence one on the other, and possessed of temperaments that could
hardly be less compatible, Rossellini and Welles have, to all intents and purposes, the same aesthetic
objective, the same aesthetic concept of realism (WC II, 39).
With Pais the situation is most clear, for life, politics, and art were so intermeshed in the Italy of
1946 that Bazin could only speak of an undifferentiated complex. Rossellinis film contributed to the
situation it explored in an obvious material way. It was no doubt a rare moment. Out of the compost
heap which Hitler and Mussolini had made of European civilization, vegetation began to spring
which quickly changed the shape of the terrain. In striving to come to terms with the spiritual, cultural,
and economic crisis of his country, Rossellinis anxiety produced a film style which seemed to have
no ambitions for itself and was content to explore the situations that gave rise to it.
If the neorealism of Pais and Open City exhilarated Bazin it was less because he saw new
possibilities for the medium than that the medium was suddenly yielding to him a direct sense of the
Italian situation and of Rossellinis own anxiety and commitment in the face of that situation.
Neorealist cinema, he insisted, is less a style of filmmaking than a humanism (WC II, 21). Bazin felt
that in 1946 the history of film and European political history had reached a moment of convergence.
Neorealism developed in the streets as part of the germinating culture it hoped to document and bring
about. Similarly, Bazin wanted to liberate French cinema from the hands of producers who sat
insulated behind big desks and inside the imaginary world of studios and to turn it over to those
actively engaged in renovating post-war culture. Bazins film aesthetics were in harmony with the
political aspirations of a whole generation in Europe and with the films those hopes had been able to
produce in Italy.
This sense of the harmony between art and life, between France and Italy, between philosophy and
politics overwhelmed Bazin one evening late in 1946 in Paris, when he arranged for the French
premiere of Pais. Rossellini drove up from Rome with the film and Bazin reserved the auditorium at
the Maison de la Chimie for the event. The filmmaker spoke briefly at the outset and then the crowded

audience of workers, intellectuals, former Resistance fighters, and prisoners of war saw what was for
Bazin perhaps the most important and revolutionary film ever made. They were also able to watch
Bazin come to that judgment as he tried to express the fullness of his experience after the lights went
on. Excited by the sublime emotion he felt at that first viewing and at the final awesome scene, he was
initially nearly incomprehensible. He found it particularly impossible to pronounce, of all words, the
word cinema. But his passion was such that the audience was riveted to his germinating ideas. For
days afterward Pais dominated his conversation. Within weeks Bazins response had shaped itself
into powerful short reviews and eventually into the beautiful essay appearing in Esprit (January
1948), Cinematic Realism and the Italian School of the Liberation.21
Rossellini and other Italians never forgot Bazins importance in making their films both widely
seen and well understood in France. From France neorealism went on to conquer the rest of the
world. The movement ironically was saved by its export market and Bazin was always a celebrity at
the Venice film festivals for having helped sustain this indigenously Italian expression which Italy
itself would have let die.
Rossellinis films appealed to Bazin on more than their political level. His vision was always for
Bazin the cinematic equivalent of the phenomenological way of thought practiced at Esprit. Time
after time Rossellini has insisted that in his films he rejected interpretations of life, psychological
explorations of characters, and dramatizations of a story, in favor of a global description of
situations. Certainly these descriptions were personal and never pretended to be coldly objective, but
at the same time they refused to reshape the world imaginatively. Rossellini, in his early films, strove
to present a situation as clearly and purely as possible without analyzing it to help us understand it.
This wholeness of approach which refuses the priority of logical organization is a phenomenological
stance toward the world. It filters the noise of the world so we can hear its message or see its
Years later Rossellini emphasized this attitude which so appealed to Bazin:
I try to interfere the minimum amount possible with the image, my interference is only to find the point of view and to say what is
essential, no more. That is why I insist really very strongly that I am not an artist.
You can suggest and tell people what you have had the possibility to collect, observe, and to see. You can even give, but very
smoothly, your point of view which is there as soon as you have made your choice. The choice comes from your personality, one
thing attracts you more than another. My purpose is never to convey a message, never to persuade but to offer everyone an
observation, even my observation. Why not?22

Why not, indeed! In 1946 Bazin was happy to sacrifice all lofty notions of art for Rossellinis
mere observation of post-war Italy. Both the filmmaker and the subject were extraordinary
justifications for the quiet subservience of the cinematic machine. While Bazins ideas about
neorealism seem based on a simple aesthetic or political preference, they actually reveal a deeper
metaphysical attitude. Beneath such concepts as the limitation of perception and the integrity of space
lies a belief in the signifying power of nature. When a filmmaker puts a situation under the pressure of
a controlled gaze, he forces it to reveal its structural depth, to bring out the pre-existing relations
(WC, 27). The world for Bazin as for Teilhard is alive with possibilities waiting for man to activate
The representation of space opens to a world of analogies, of metaphors or, to use Baudelaires word in another no less poetic
sense, of correspondences.23

In Bazins view film assumes a special position in culture, a position no other art enjoys. For
example, poetry opens onto inner landscapes which must suffer the fate of their source: its focus is
man, not the universe. Film is the first medium ontogenetically bound not to man, as are words, but to
the outer universe. In photography, and even more in cinema, we have the real existence of the object
reproduced, actually re-presented, set before us, that is to say, in time and space (WC 1314).
Here Bazin tips his hand and indicates his belief in the power of a universe which awaits mans
encounter with it. Through cinema artists can isolate aspects of spatial reality in a frame and may
likewise mark off events into blocks of time which can be rearranged in drama. Bazin always felt that
the use of the frame and the block was merely a technical aid in the perceiving and understanding
of a limitless world of duration. He never countered objections that would see in framing and drama
an abstraction which has already spoiled the virginity of nature, making her submit to the inner
demands of human consciousness. Cinema, he felt, allows us to examine the world closely, without
interiorizing it. The deep relations and correspondences within the universe are put under pressure in
cinema because we are afforded a look as long-lasting and as close-up as you like (WC, 27).
Such pressure, produced only by a hands-off policy on the directors part, can in its turn produce
the most dramatic effects. In speaking of a film biography of Gide, Bazin notes that time does not
flow. It accumulates in the image like a formidable electric charge.24 And of Welless kitchen scene
in The Magnificent Ambersons he claims that the emerging dramatic forces are a product of the long
takethat is, of the surging forward of hidden relationships within the block of time frozen before
The great filmmaker encounters an animated universe by waiting for the moment when a flood of
correspondences may be revealed under the pressure of his long hard gaze. If this makes the
filmmaker seem more related to the biologist than to the poet, Bazin would enthusiastically agree. Of
Rossellini, he says:
There is nothing in his films that belongs to literature or to poetry, not even a trace of the beautiful in the merely pleasing sense
of the word. Rossellini directs facts. The world of Rossellini is a world of pure acts, unimportant in themselves but preparing
the way (as if unbeknownst to God himself) for the sudden dazzling revelation of their meaning. (WC II, 100)

Even highly dramatic films can operate this way. Welles and Renoir may place actors on a staged
decor, creating a fictional situation as the basis of their films, but their realism results from the
careful maintenance of this field of interdependent elements. In such films meaning arises in due
course from relationships disclosing themselves within this field, and the filmmakers participation is
that of originator and observer of the natural development of these relationships within their own
block of time. The job is not one of creating new meaning, but of framing the fleeting crystallization
of a reality of whose environing presence one is ceaselessly aware (WC, 91).
It is Welless name and the film Citizen Kane that continually resurface in Bazins ruminations
about the environing presence of our spatial universe and the filmmakers task of crystallizing its
fleeting meanings. Probably more than any other film, Citizen Kane enticed Bazin to detect a
metaphysics within a style of photography and narrative. As with Pais, this correspondence between
a film style and much larger concerns was virtually forced upon Bazin by the historical circumstances
within which he saw the film. Its appearance, delayed nearly two years after the Liberation, was a
major cultural event. Even before it played in Paris there were loud debates on the film touched off
by Sartres article in LEcran Franais condemning its pretentiousness.26 Sartre had managed to see
the film in New York and had immediately reacted against what he claimed was its fatalism, a

debilitating attitude toward the world supported by the flashback structure of the work. Sartres
article ingeniously analyzes the tenses of the film, suggesting that the editing of Citizen Kane
associates it with narrative techniques appropriate to literature alone. Cinema, he wrote, should not
gaze into the past with nostalgia or fatalism, for it is truly the art of the present tense. The film, he
suggested, was flawed aesthetically and in such a way that it could only produce a false and romantic
attitude toward the world, inappropriate to the revolutionary present Sartre was striving to bring to
We can recognize in Sartres essay his practice of inferring a world view and a political position
from stylistic techniques normally considered embellishments. It was this kind of criticism that Bazin
learned from Sartre and from his colleagues at Esprit, so that when it came time for him to speak on
the film it was within Sartres own idiom that he did so. It is hard to imagine thirty years later that to
defend Citizen Kane might be an unpopular, indeed courageous, undertaking. But, cued by Sartres
article, reviewer after reviewer scorned the film in France. The professional critics found it
pretentious; the French technicians called it barbarically expressionist; the historians, led by Georges
Sadoul, claimed the film invented nothing and that its twenty-five-year-old creator needed far more
schooling and far less freedom. As Alain Resnais has said, In that era the French really believed that
Hollywood filmmakers, even renegades like Welles, had never read anything but scripts and contracts
and that none had seen a painting by any artist outside the class of Norman Rockwell.27
The situation was fanned by Welless arrival in Europe for what was to be a lengthy stay after his
break with Hollywood. As ever, he and his films were surrounded by gossip. Bazin was determined
to cut through this layer of prejudice and triviality; the opportunity came when the Colise theater
on the Champs-Elyses became the site of the first cin-club screening of Citizen Kane. Bazin was
asked to give an impromptu explication of this baffling film to the immense gathering. Janick
Arbois recalls28 his nervousness as he stepped onto the stage amid the loud whisperings of approval
and disdain which filled the theater after the amazing tracking shot which closes the film. His first
sentences hushed the audience. He had come with prepared ideas and the screening of the film had
only reconfirmed his sympathy for it, affording him new examples of those traits he was so anxious to
point out. As was so often said about his method, Bazin showed you the movie you should have seen
and he made you feel as if you had in fact seen it.29
The ideas which that audience heard Bazin develop he soon published in Sartres own Les Temps
Modernes, in reduced and modified form.30 His performance with Citizen Kane is a model of his
method, actually of Sartres method, and it has behind it something even more exemplary: the force of
conviction. For Bazin found in Citizen Kane the kind of story and pictorial representation which
corresponded closely to his own way of imagining reality. And it was this, his own view of things as
much as Welless, which he unveiled on the Champs-Elyses.
Bazin attributed the intensity of the experience of Citizen Kane to its aesthetic doubling, for he
discovered that the structure of the plot was identical to what he called the structure of the image.
The power of the films tale was reinforced by, indeed told within, a spatial atmosphere that
enveloped the viewer at every moment. Succinctly put,
Citizen Kane is unthinkable shot in any other way but in depth. The uncertainty in which we find ourselves as to the spiritual key
or the interpretation we should put on the film is built into the very design of the image. (WC, 36)

Bazin found that the scene of Susan Alexanders attempted suicide provides the best example of what

he felt and what he meant. Any ordinary director would have built up the drama of the scene bit by
bit, showing Kane outside the room, Susan in closeup, the poison in extreme closeup, then back to
Kane trying to break down the door and so on. Welles shows us the poison, Susan, and the distant
door all in the same shot, simultaneously letting us hear the frantic knocking on the other side of that
door. His is a global rendering of the event, opposed to the analytical construction of conventional
Bazin takes the observation a step deeper. Conventional editing seems realistic because it gives
the illusion of being at real events unravelling before us as in everyday reality. But this illusion conceals an essential bit of deceit
because reality exists in continuous space and the screen presents us in fact a succession of fragments called shots, the choice,
order, and duration of which constitutes exactly what we call the decoupage of the film. If we try, by an effort of attention, to
perceive the breaks imposed by the camera on the continuous development of the represented event, and try to understand why
we are naturally insensible [to these breaks] we understand that we tolerate them because they give us the impression all the same
of a continuous homogeneous reality. The insertion of a doorbell in closeup is accepted by the mind as if this were nothing other
than a concentration of our vision and interest on the doorbell, as if the camera merely anticipated the movement of our eyes.
(Orson Welles, 51)

There is, then, a system of conventions leading us to acceptance of a certain order of things. This
system, called invisible editing, was perfected in the thirties. It passes unnoticed because it
corresponds to the natural movement of our minds. The editor anticipates the flow of our perception
and creates an event which is psychologically real, because matched to that flow.
Welles gave up this sort of realism to attain one of a deeper order. He saw that under the cover of
the congenital realism of the screen a complete system of abstraction [had] been fraudulently
introduced subordinating the wholeness of reality to the sense of the action (Orson Welles, 57).
Welless project in Citizen Kane and, a year later, in The Magnificent Ambersons, was to make the
action unroll continuously in its own block of time. This way the dramatic elements form a world
larger and more lasting than the drama that makes us momentarily interested in them.
In reality when I am involved in an action, my attention, directed by my plan, proceeds likewise to a kind of virtual shot breakdown
in which the object effectively loses for me some of its aspects to become instead a sign or a tool; but the action remains always
in the act of becoming, and the object is constantly free to recall for me its objectiveness and consequently to modify my planned
action. For my part, I am at every moment free to no longer will this action and to be awakened by reality which ceases then to
appear to me as just a box of tools. (Orson Welles, 58)

An essential aspect of reality, then, is this free interplay between man and the objects in the
perceptual field. Hollywood editing recapitulates our habits of organization by making perception
submit to conventional plans of action called plots. But by this very act it suspends that freedom
which is the basis of our power to organize it, and it strikes a blow against the autonomy of objects
which, in Bazins view, exist for other organizations, other plans.
Classical editing totally suppresses this kind of reciprocal freedom between us and the object. It substitutes for a free organization
a forced shot breakdown where the logic of each shot is controlled by the reporting of the action. This utterly anaesthetizes our
freedom. (Orson Welles, 58)

And so Welless revolution in the filming of key scenes was more than a merely stylistic
innovation. It signaled a basic change in the conception of the filmed event and of the spectator for
whom that event was filmed. Adding example to example, Bazin demonstrated first to his Champs-

Elyses audience and then to his readers that in fact they participated in Citizen Kane in a way
seldom if ever required of them before.
Bazins conclusions went far beyond cinema itself. That audience on the Champs-Elyses was the
first of many groups to be dumbfounded by the metaphysics he drew from this analysis. Citizen Kane
consciously brought to the screen a modern conception of the universe and mans place within it.
Hollywood editing, and standard editing everywhere, Bazin claimed,
tends to exclude in particular the ambiguity imminent in reality. It subjectivises the event in the extreme, since each moment
or particle then becomes the foregone conclusion of the director. This does not only imply a dramatic choice, emotional or moral,
but again and more profoundly, a taking of a position on reality insofar as it is such.32

What Welles has done to counteract this conception of drama and of life is to keep the spectator
constantly in a state of dramatic and metaphysical discomfort. Depth of field forces the spectator
to make use of the freedom of his attention and demands, at the same time, that he feel the
ambivalence of reality (Orson Welles, 5859).
Just as Bazin had enlisted neorealism, and particularly Pais, to support his theories of social
consciousness and social change, so here we find him bringing Citizen Kane to bear witness to the
philosophy he shared with Merleau-Ponty, Marcel, Sartre, and his colleagues at Esprit. Bazin had
indeed succeeded in forcing his readers and listeners to take the cinema seriously, to take it in fact as
a cultural process comparable to literature, philosophy, and the fine arts. More important to him
personally, he had found in Welless work an imagining and dramatizing of mans place in nature to
which he fully responded. The world of Citizen Kane, that mysterious, dark, and infinitely deep
world of space and memory where voices trail off into distant echoes and where meaning dissolves
into interpretation, seemed to Bazin to mark the starting point from which all of us try to construct
provisionally the sense of our lives. Welles has constantly promoted this Dostoevskian view: A poet
must seek out and cultivate his contradictions. I demand that man should have the right to keep and
to encourage his contradictions.33 Bazin was ready to accord Welles that right. Whereas most
cinema simplifies the world and explicates mans acts and motivations within it, Welles has been
engaged in that personalist task of wrenching meaning and identity from the ambiguity at the core of
experience. Welles has constantly set his films within the context of that core, so that whatever
structures or positions he and his characters seem to attain are questioned (more often mocked) by the
pervasive uncertainty of the universe extending around and beyond those characters.
Whereas Bazin was awed by the unsettling vision that he experienced in Citizen Kane, he found
that it exemplified that attitude of humility before the universe that Mounier, Teilhard, and Malraux
had taught him. And he found that it provided the context for a political vision as well. Where Citizen
Kane oriented him toward the general tragedy and possibilities of an ambiguous cosmos, Pais
embodied the specific tragedies and vertiginous possibilities of contemporary political life. Together
these films expressed his world for him; together they elicited from him his own complex
expressions, spoken in theaters, developed in Esprit and Les Temps Modernes, and informing the
criticism he would subsequently write. It is hardly surprising that Orson Welles was the subject of
Bazins first book, published in 1950 with a lengthy preface by Jean Cocteau, or that Rossellini
would remain for him a cause clbre well into the fifties.
In 1947, though, these were not creators of eternal masterpieces for Bazin so much as men who
expressed the mode of feeling of a particular culture. It was an intellectual culture, to be sure, but in
1947 one could still be idealistic enough to feel that the metaphysics of Citizen Kane and the

revolutionary vision of Pais were part of an organic social movement. Sadly, Bazin was very soon
to learn that the attitudes at Esprit were not shared in the street and that the idealistic energy of the
Liberation was soon to be wasted in the heat of friction produced by material concern and

Chapter 5
The Politics and Aesthetics of Film


One can look back nostalgically at the glorious optimism of the years following the Liberation. This
was a time when, for those who committed themselves, the future seemed graspable and the present
was thick with life. Trying to describe this epoch, Benigno Cacers is forced to say, Youd have to
have lived during this epoch to imagine the breath which gave life to our whole country. An
extraordinary climate of cultural renewal spread over the land.1 He goes on to describe the heroism
and energy infusing the burgeoning cultural institutions of this period, an energy derived from the
spirit of the Resistance and from the openness of the future.
But as the Liberation faded in vividness and as the social and economic structures upholding
French life reasserted themselves, the feelings of progress and brotherhood were not so easy to
maintain. Indeed, Cacers suggests that vested interests, bureaucracy, and centralization were never
really put in danger despite the immense spirit of idealism and change that was in the air.
Today [1964] when one recalls the lan which animated France at the Liberation, one is astounded by the powerlessness of the
Resistance to remould society. I suppose one can in large measure explain the rapid return of the old structures and of the same
old political figures by understanding how temporary and limited was the character of the mission of the Resistance groups.
Little by little, with intentions whose purity cannot be questioned, a new Republic was established looking just like its predecessor.2

True, for the main body of reformers these actualities were less important than the values of a
common culture they were trying to promote throughout all the domains of what we call popular
education. But by 1948 the illusions of even the most idealistic had been shattered and, while the
work toward cultural renewal continued, signs of internal doubt, indeed of factionalism, began to
Unquestionably, the international Cold War and Frances economic crisis contributed to the
disillusion that was felt by all and to the breakdown of much of the general camaraderie that
characterized the days after the Liberation. The year 1947 marked the lowest living standard the
French had experienced since well before World War II. Food was scarce; the Communist-backed
labor union CGT called for massive strikes; the new government was tottering. At just this moment
the Marshall Plan gallantly arrived for the rescue, provided, that is, that recipient countries join a
Western coalition against the Soviet Union. In response, the Communist Party withdrew from the
government, demanding that France ally itself with Stalin.
It was impossible under these conditions to avoid debate, especially at a place like Travail et
Culture, where Communists and non-Communists had been able to work side by side since the
Liberation. It was at this point that Bazin did move away from the directly political activities which
had characterized his work since 1944 and toward groups dedicated to the furthering of film as an art.
This transition was not a happy one for Bazin but, given the circumstances and his feelings about the
relationship of art to politics, it was absolutely necessary.

Bazin was not a materialist; everyone at Travail et Culture knew that. He was a Catholic, albeit a
follower of Mouniers socialist Catholicism. But his personality was so strong that he commanded the
respect of Maurice Delarue, the Stalinist director of Travail et Culture, and of the other Communists
working around him. What prevented early conflicts, no doubt, was Bazins absolute honesty of mind,
an honesty which, for example, made him capable of scandalous blasphemies. Bazin was never
intimidated by orthodoxy or authority. It was this side of him that kept him aloof from religious
allegiance as well as political affiliation all his life and that, in this instance, gave him an edge on the
Communists, who seemed to respond to every nod from Moscow.
The rift that eventually grew up between Bazin and his politically committed colleagues was the
result of Bazins attitude toward criticism, an attitude he had always held but one that became
controversial in 1948. Bazin believed that spectators must first be taught to acquire the critical ability
requisite for new and fruitful kinds of film experience in order to defend themselves against the
authority of the film industry. His criticism seemed first aesthetic and then political. In his lectures
and articles he taught his audience how to look at films as fully as possible, how to respond to new
kinds of beauty which challenge our old notions of art and reality, and how to undress the gaudy
fraudulent films which daily try to seduce us in return for our money.
It was this priority he seemed to accord to experience and art that finally angered the Stalinists.
But it would be wrong to minimize the social passion of his writing. His politics, like the politics of
the renowned journals for which he wrote, Esprit and Les Temps Modernes, was a jumping-off place
and a frame of reference. Politics had a less-privileged position then than it does today, even among
committed intellectuals; it traveled more easily with philosophy, aesthetics, and cultural criticism.
Bazin surely believed that even in his most aesthetic essays, such as those on Rossellini and on
Welles, he was inaugurating a progressive film criticism, one whose goal and method required a
radical reorientation of the film consumer, the working class.
Especially in the decade after May 1968 many film critics and theorists accused Bazin of political
mediocrity, focusing primarily on the tenor of the journal he founded and directed till his death,
Cahiers du Cinma.3 Marcel Martin claims that Bazins critical methods, begun in all good faith,
were taken over by his followers at that journal, who quickly developed from them an elitist and
reactionary criticism.4 Because Bazins politics did not appear to determine his aesthetics, because
he believed that good film viewing was primarily a human and not a sectarian political act, the
group at Cahiers felt justified in suppressing in their own writing the political passion which had
walked hand in hand with Bazins aesthetics. They adopted his refined critical methods in the service
of an aestheticism that was free of political engagement.
Eric Rohmer admitted that, despite Bazins extremely leftist views, Cahiers did indeed become
the magazine of film fanatics, not of the masses.5 And, using Bazins critical style, it did develop the
politique des auteurs, which at best pays tribute to individual genius over a mass culture and at worst
bathes itself in a preciosity which looks suspiciously aristocratic. Though Bazin fought these
tendencies with vigor, he lacked the political dogma to fight them to the end. The last essay he
published in Esprit (April 1957), Cinema and Political Engagement, sums up his attitude. Politics,
he claimed, is inseparable from being human and good politics comes from people who know how to
live most humanly. Cinema must always drive us to understand ourselves and our way of life by
freely creating images of the past, present, and future. It should never be coerced into creating
specifically political images which could only be didactic and, by that very fact, inferior to a cinema
which questions and discovers both nature and humanity. For Bazin, cinema ought to be part of a way

of life which seeks the knowledge and clarity upon which engagement naturally follows. If in 1936
Renoirs Le Crime de M. Lange reflected and spread the reality of the Popular Front, it was only
because vast numbers of people saw in this film what was already becoming a reality.
The political realism of a film like Renoirs does not lie in its message. Bazin asks us only to look
at the fate of the Soviet films of socialist realism, which went the pompous way of all propaganda:
The real seriousness of a work is not proportional to the seriousness of the subject matter, nor even to the solemnity of its style.
That which counts is not the subjects nor even the way these develop but rather the moral and social values implied, however
indirectly, in the manner of their treatment.6

Chris Marker, Bazins closest ally at Travail et Culture and later one of cinemas foremost
political filmmakers, would grow annoyed at self-righteous intellectuals who questioned Bazins
politics or chided his aestheticism.
He had a very precise and clever political mind, and for me his criticism was political, but within a framework so much broader
than his Stalinist opponents that it included an aesthetic dimension which escaped them. The point is that they wanted to generate
this very picture of Andr: a genial, naive idealist cut off from the harsh realities of serious politics. And now the modern Leninists
rebuke him! How can they? He spent long hours in the factories these radicals write about from comfortable desks. Bazin was out
there using his life to bring about a renewed culture. I wish he had been with us in May of 68.7

The first serious sign in Bazins life of these tensions came at Peuple et Culture in 1948. During
what appeared to be a pro forma ratification of his status on the directorial board Bazin found
himself removed from that position. The Stalinists had quietly contacted all the members of the group
who could not be in attendance and received their proxy. In some cases it appears they even talked
members out of going to the meeting at all. When the vote came they astounded the group by
dislodging Bazin.
Joseph Rovan recalls the outrage this caused8 and he was the first of those who demanded and
finally received a second balloting. This time all members were present, Bazin was reinstated, and
several of the Stalinists left the organization permanently and in high anger. Indeed it was at this very
moment that the more militant Travail et Culture split permanently from Peuple et Culture. No doubt
Bazin was a simple pawn in this incident. Nevertheless, from 1948 on he found that he was being
misrepresented on all sides. Gone was the atmosphere of wholeness and comradeship which the
Liberation had fostered. While Eric Rohmer claims to have been scandalized by Bazins proximity to
the Communists on many issues, his colleagues at Travail et Culture and some of the more militant
writers at LEcran Franais were increasingly annoyed by his overriding interest in aesthetics, by
his passion for the American cinema, and by his severe criticism of certain films that had the
correct political posture.
The harmony Bazin felt after the war, both within himself and within the society in which he
worked, broke down utterly in 1950. Only at Esprit did he continue to feel completely at ease.
Fittingly, it was an article he penned for this journal which opened the breach. The Myth of Stalin in
the Soviet Cinema appeared in Esprit in August 1950 (pp. 210235), and it occasioned a flood of
letters in response. The position against socialist realism and against the films glorifying Joseph
Stalin which this article advanced pitted Bazin in unavoidable battle against his colleagues at Travail
et Culture and led to his final alienation from that organization.
It is ironic that Bazins most widely read and discussed article, the one with the most immediate

and actual consequences, concerned not some masterpiece by Welles or Renoir, nor even some
eternal theoretical principle, but rather three forgotten films made in Russia glorifying Stalin. Bazin
was instantly a celebrity at Esprit. He had to duck in and out surreptitiously if he wanted to avoid a
tirade or a long discussion. Jean-Marie Domenach recalls how truly audacious Bazins piece was:
The Stalinists in Paris of that era were very intimidating and Bazin thought long and hard about
publishing an essay which was sure to alienate him from a good part of French culture and which was
just as sure to draw tremendous critical fire.9
And this it did. The Communist publications LHumanit and Les Lettres Franaises came back
with astonished and vehement rebuttals, calling Bazin a bourgeois liberal, an epithet that has been
used against him ever since by those who disagree with him. More important, he was literally unable
to carry on at Travail et Culture. He could only have predicted this. As the Cold War had escalated
since 1948, people who had worked amiably together at Travail et Culture began to brand one
another as party members or not. A standard rhetoric was used in daily conversation as well as in
print. Stalin became a sacred idol and as such was adored by some and scorned by others.
Bazins attack on Stalin opens, innocently enough, as an exercise in film history. Only in Russia, he
notes, are historical epics filmed about living human beings and recent situations. Of course, Mlis
had in the first years of cinema made a film on the Dreyfus case, and the Potemkin incident of 1905
had been immediately re-created by Path in miniature. Historical films became grand only with the
Italian spectacles (Cabiria), which led to similar work in the United States (Birth of a Nation) and
Germany (Madame DuBarry), but these were set in a distant past.
In the great era of the Russian silent film, epics were updated and dealt with the Revolution, a
period no more than a decade past. Actors had to be found to play heroes who were still living. Ways
had to be invented to make grand an age which was still vibrant in most peoples memories. These
Soviet films of the revolution (Mother, The End of St. Petersburg, October, Arsenal, etc.) were
successful, Bazin claims, because they didnt raise the hero to a transcendent level outside time (as
we, in the West, are inclined always to do thanks to our belief in the individual). The Soviets treated
heroism outside the notion of individuality and within the concept of dialectical history. A man could
be an epic hero if he merely pushed the struggle forward. This is why, in a film like Chapayev
(1933), the enemy can be shown to be brave, while the hero, Chapayev, can be lightly ridiculed here
and there as a good but foolish human being. The epic struggle is defined by history, not by the
individual, and Chapayev is an epic hero by dint of his allegiance to the correct side.
The films made about Stalin during and just after World War II seem to continue in the strength of
this tradition, but run aground on what Bazin sees as a fundamental contradiction. In all these films the
situation portrayed was historic, indeed taken from the very immediate past, but Stalin as hero was
made a transcendent being above history and above the concrete situations within which he was
shown to act. Subordinate characters are treated in relation to Stalin, not to history. The problem is
further exacerbated by the odd but crucial fact that Stalin necessarily became both a film star and a
political dictator; he turned himself into a myth to make timeless his historical position as dictator.
This contradiction Bazin illustrates amply. The documentary style of photography used in battle
scenes, a style which presents the existential chaos and indirection of history, is framed by tableaux
of Stalin in his office calmly perusing maps and deciding the fate of the war. There are, Bazin notes,
no intermediate levels between the absolute contingency of the masses and the supreme transcendence
of Stalin. Stalin became history in these films, an operation guaranteed by the use of all sorts of
symbolic references (the receiving of the sacred truth at the tomb of Lenin, the tractor as religious

icon, and so on) and by a film style puffed into solemnity.

The dangers embedded in such a cinematic approach are inescapable, for while these films claim
to be genuinely Marxist they forfeit something of the egalitarian ideology of Marxism, incorporate
history in a man, and finalize the place of that man in history. This tends to eliminate responsibilities
which the audience (in the film situation) and the people (in the political situation) should exercise as
history unfolds. Bazin points out that one of the central strengths of Communism has been its ability to
overturn the place of individuals, even famous ones, so that history could progress beyond them.
Bakunin, Trotsky, and, of course, more recently Stalin himself have been reoriented in the great
tapestry of Marxist history, a fact Bazin notes with some self-righteousness in an appendix to a
reprinting of the article, written in 1958 just after de-Stalinization had begun. Leaning on Malraux,
Bazin says that only in death can a mans destiny be described. Indeed it is an act of bad faith to try to
objectify ones essence in life, making for poor films and worse politics.
Bazins conclusion dares to compare the filmed image of Stalin with Tarzan, suggesting that he
prefers American myths, since they at least must survive the ordeal of popular approval at the box
office, whereas in the U.S.S.R. all films receive full distribution no matter what the public thinks. The
Stalin myth, more blatantly than that of Tarzan, was born not from popular support so much as from
the dictates of its producers.
Bazins essay seemed designed to irritate the French Communist Party, and their film spokesman,
Georges Sadoul, was forced almost immediately to flail back in the pages of the partys chief
intellectual organ, Les Lettres Franaises. In an article called Esprit and Its Myths10 he accused
Bazin of trying to censor the only viable alternative to bourgeois Hollywood pap. The weakness of
the body of his argument confirms our current conception of the mindless dogmatism in the party
during that era. He claimed that Bazin and Esprit were afraid of Stalin, of his power and vitality as
well as of his transcendence. He further claimed that recent histories had shown that Stalin did indeed
save Stalingrad singlehandedly and thereby save the West. And, completely missing Bazins argument
about history, death, destiny, and hagiography, he said that Esprit, too, has its myths, foremost among
them Jesus Christ.
The remainder of Sadouls argument is not nearly so dismissible. Esprit and the liberal press in
general have always been slow to recognize the mastery of Soviet cinema. October, Chapayev, and
the Gorki trilogy were all initially ridiculed in the West only to be reinstated later as masterpieces.
The Soviet cinema, Sadoul insisted, has always been in advance of bourgeois conceptions of art. He
wonders how Bazin could pit Hollywood against the U.S.S.R., praising the free enterprise system
with its entertainment value and its variety over a Soviet cinema which, Sadoul said, is a viable
avant-garde alternative to Hollywood.
Historically, of course, Bazin has been justified. Post-war Soviet cinema has largely been
forgotten, even in Russia. But Sadoul hits a tender spot when he scourges Bazin for preferring the
Hollywood system with its attendant exploitation of its artists and the public over a socialist
conception of art. Bazin at this time was liable to such an attack, for only a few weeks before his
Stalin essay he had published a book on Welles favorably comparing Welless relation to Hollywood
with Leonardos relation to the patrons who supported him (Orson Welles, 19). Both situations
thrived on rebellion and reward, that is, on genius exploited. Bazin could praise Welles as the
supreme American film artist, delivering an American message with an energy derived from
rebellious power compressed in the cauldrons of Hollywood. But Sadoul had to retort that films
produced under such a system, even the exotic and great films of Welles, are based on the struggle of

individuals; they are destructive to the dream of brotherhood and peace. No matter what their merits,
films made in this system should be attacked from an ethical and ideological viewpoint. Sadoul rests
his case by reminding us that this is August 1950, that the Korean war has begun to flame into a
deadly conflagration, and political decisions must be made by all. There is the side of Les Lettres
Franaises, Soviet cinema, Stalin, and brotherhood, or there is Esprit, Hollywood, capitalist
exploitation, and war.
Today this rhetoric of final confrontation sounds melodramatic. Sadoul in fact was to soften his
stance, to become good friends with Bazin and to write, in Les Lettres Franaises, a touching
obituary at Bazins death. Furthermore, it would only be a short while before Marxist sympathizers
like Roland Barthes would begin playing freely with precisely the myth of Stalin.11 But in 1950 this
atmosphere of confrontation was real and its results in this instance dramatic.
Bazin was amazed at the reaction his essay had caused, but he certainly wasnt penitent. He
maintained full confidence in his mission, that of a critic trying to help his readers learn about and
take control of a medium which can so easily bulldoze a culture. The Myth of Stalin and the Soviet
Cinema was to him just one more step in this venture.


In 1948, when political factionalism began to make working at Travail et Culture unrewarding and
frustrating, a new sort of film club surfaced to siphon off much of Bazins energy and enthusiasm, a
type of elite club peopled by artists, writers, and students who were far less interested in the political
ramifications of cinema than in promoting and honoring the growth of film as an art form. The
appearance of these clubs confirmed the success of the project Bazin had started with his first club in
1942: to make film study a respectable and indispensable part of French life and letters. In a sense,
these groups harked back to the first film clubs in France, those run in the early twenties by Delluc
and Epstein. Like their forerunners these post-war clubs held showings at specially dedicated
theaters, brought in major talents for premieres of recent work or for panel discussions, promoted
original creations by their own members, organized festivals, and published journals.
As in 1920 the journals preceded the cin-clubs and the power of a few cultured men forged those
journals. Unquestionably, the most prominent of these journals was La Revue du Cinma, not only
because it had an illustrious list of contributors, but also because it was a veritable link to the
glorious era of the twenties. In fact, La Revue du Cinma was not a new publication at all, but the
second series of a journal begun in 1927 by Jean-Georges Auriol. And it was Auriol who
resuscitated it in 1946.
The original Revue du Cinma was the last film journal of the French impressionist era to expire,
falling victim in 1932 to the economic depression and to the effects of the invention of sound, which
together enervated large numbers of film aficionados and the clubs they had formed. By 1932 debates
about art were largely replaced by debates about economics and politics. The avant-garde artists who
had been able to compete with French studio productions during the silent era found themselves
unable to cope with the sound film in the same way. Worst of all, there was a massive defection of
intellectuals away from the cinema, cued by theorist after theorist, all contending that the sound film
could never be a serious art form.
As we have seen, only a handful of intellectualsLeenhardt, Malraux, and Bazin foremost among
themdared to write in depth about cinema from 1930 through the Occupation and they certainly had

no suitable forum from which to speak. When the end of the war seemed to bring a more open attitude
toward cinema Jean-Georges Auriol and his assistant Denise Tual determined to revive the old
journal. Launching such a venture after the war was comparatively easy since small presses were
coming out with magazines on every conceivable subject. In what was the most active year in the
history of French publishing it was inevitable that someone test the film market. Auriol and Tual
added Jacques Bourgeois and a young music critic, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, to the staff as they
began in 1946 to turn out bimonthly issues from a small house, Publications Zed.
La Revue du Cinma is still exciting to look through. Not since the twenties could any film journal
anywhere boast such an array of contributors and subjects. Sartre and Welles published extracts of
scripts in early issues and critical articles were authored by Jacques Brunius, Lo Duca, Gregg
Toland, J-P Chartier, Pierre Prvert, Lotte Eisner, Ren Clair, Walt Disney, Herman Weinberg, Hans
Richter, S. M. Eisenstein, Jean Aurenche, Pierre Bost, Henri Langlois, Arthur Knight, Pierre Kast,
Jean Grmillon, Maurice Bessy, Jean Mitry, Eric Rohmer, Guido Aristarco, Claude Autant-Lara, and
Jean Cocteau.
Although Bazin in fact wrote nothing at all for Revue du Cinma during the first year and a half of
its short existence, perhaps because he and Auriol were never close, he did eventually give Auriol
two of his best pieces: The Myth of M. Verdoux and William Wyler, Jansenist of the Cinema. He
also reviewed in this journal the work of two of his close friends, Resnaiss first great documentary,
Van Gogh, and Roger Leenhardts feature, Les Dernires Vacances.12 These are exquisite personal
reviews and the latter especially is as much about the filmmaker as about the film, an homage to
Roger Leenhardt, Bazins friend and teacher.
Bazins style in these reviews was appropriate to the tone of the journal, which from the first issue
addressed its subscribers as if they formed a club. Showings of new works or forgotten masterpieces
were promised, and at reduced prices to subscribers. The scenario extracts of Welles and Sartre
appeared alongside script ideas by lesser-known figures, who were members of the Revue staff.
While the body of the magazine was reserved for scholarly essays and reviews of current films
pieces like Bazins on Resnais and Leenhardt reinforced the familial spirit Auriol wanted to create.
That spirit eventually led to the formation of a true cin-club created in the image of the great clubs
of the twenties. Objectif 48 was an elegant, influential, and exclusive film club, patronized by the
cultured writers and readers of Pariss intellectual journals. While all other film clubs in Paris were
occupied with the classics of the art Objectif 48 was determined to show only current films. It billed
itself as a gallery rather than a museum and it hoped to play a decisive role in the direction of the film
art industry.
Objectif 48 could not have started more propitiously. The Thtre des Champs-Elyses, usually
reserved for ballet and drama, was rented for the premiere of Cocteaus masterpiece, Les Parents
Terribles, a film Bazin would later champion in Esprit.13 A full house turned out to see Cocteaus
film and to hear him speak about it afterward. Doniol-Valcroze placed three chairs on stage when the
lights came on, and he, Cocteau, and Alexandre Astruc began a discussion that quickly spilled over
into questions and answers from the audience.
Because of the backing given it by notables like Cocteau and Claude Mauriac, and because it
could draw on the two-year tradition of La Revue du Cinma, Objectif 48 was immensely successful.
The screenings were always held in fine theaters to full audiences; the programs most often included
the presence of an artist with his film. Bazins reviews of the films by Resnais and Leenhardt are
intimate no doubt because he saw those films in the chatty Objectif setting; he could write

authoritatively about Welles in part because Welles came more than once to the Objectif meetings, in
one instance to accompany the European premiere of Macbeth. In short, Bazin used these sessions to
gather firsthand information about the filmmaking process and its relation to the style of the film.
Sometimes, as with Welles, there was animated discussion; at other times Bazin learned the limits of
this format. Robert Bresson, on stage with Leenhardt and Astruc, refused to engage in conversation
about his work or to answer questions from the audience. But perhaps even this seemingly fruitless
encounter provided Bazin with the spiritual key with which to reconsider Bressons difficult films.
Unquestionably the most exciting aspect for Bazin of Objectif 48 was the opportunity it provided
him to bring to Paris the filmmakers who were most important to him. To compare Rossellinis visit
of September 1948 with the Parisian premiere of Pais is to recognize the vast evolution of film and
film consciousness in two short years. Pais had premiered to a body made up primarily of students
and workers with little understanding of film or film history. Now Bazin was bringing Rossellini
back, but this time to a more sophisticated audience at the Studio de lEtoile.
These thoughts probably went through his mind as Bazin waited all day for the arrival of the
filmmaker who stood at that time first in his imagination. It was to be a long and anxious wait.
Rossellini had been delayed in Rome and didnt start out for Paris until the morning of the day of the
showing. What is more, there was car trouble at the beginning of this voyage through Italy, making it
unlikely that he could arrive on time even if his car did hold up. He began to call Bazin and DoniolValcroze each time he stopped for gas, food, or water. By their calculations he could not possibly
make Paris for the eight oclock engagement. It was a well-publicized showing and the theater was
filled at quarter to eight. Rossellini called again. Miraculously, he was only fifty kilometers from
Paris. Doniol-Valcroze announced a slight delay and hastened back to the telephone. It rang.
Rossellini was on the outskirts of Paris and needed directions to the theater. He drove like a madman
through Saturday night traffic and ran breathless into the theater, film in hand, announcing that he had
set a Rome-Paris record.
For a time it appeared that Objectif 48 would be the site of Jean Renoirs welcome back to his
native country. Letters were even exchanged, but finally the event was abandoned when legal
problems arose concerning Renoirs second marriage. Bazin would have to wait until late 1949 when
Renoir passed through Paris on his way to India to shoot The River before making the acquaintance of
the man who for him was without question the greatest French filmmaker.
Objectif 48 was not simply a place for Bazin to encounter celebrities; it was also a place for him
to express the excitement he felt about the resurgence of the art form of the day. The elegance of this
club did not keep him from leaping over two rows of chairs with tears of pleasure in his eyes, at the
conclusion of Paris 1900, to embrace its creator, Nicole Vdrs. This marvelous compilation film,
which Alain Resnais had helped Ms. Vdrs edit out of resurrected footage from the turn of the
century, appealed to Bazin in a great many ways. The faded images of a time past were structured by
people he knew and respected into a highly contemporary meditation on time and place. It reminded
him of Proust, as did the literal era the film called up. Out of this ebullient film club screening he
composed his own meditation on film: A la recherche du temps perdu: Paris 1900.14
Bazins unrestrained enthusiasm in front of movies set him somewhat apart from the more sedately
cultured members of Objectif 48 and inevitably led him to the Latin Quarter dens of the film fanatics
who were to become the directors of the New Wave. He himself ran a film society on Sunday
mornings devoted to film classics and small group discussions. One day a brash teenager appeared
and after the screening engaged in several hours of conversation with Bazin. It was not unusual for

Bazin to spend all afternoon arguing cinema with a sixteen-year-old, but it was unusual that this time
the youngster could match Bazin in enthusiasm for, and in knowledge of, American film. Franois
Truffaut, who had come to Bazins club to complain that his meetings were interfering with
attendance at his own Cinema Club for Film Addicts, wound up by inviting Bazin to speak the next
Sunday at his small group. Bazin instantly took to the energy and fire of this youth, and in Bazin
Truffaut found someone with a passionate love of movies, an almost childlike view of life, yet with
the emotional and moral stability Truffaut himself so obviously lacked.
The strength of their new friendship was immediately tested when Bazin learned that Truffauts
father, upon discovering the whereabouts of his delinquent son through an ad for The Film Addicts
Club buried in the paper, had arranged for the arrest and imprisonment of the youth. Furious, Bazin
began an intense campaign through correspondence and personal interviews that finally convinced the
authorities to release to him this incorrigible. Bazin promised to give him work at Travail et Culture
and to watch over his behavior, a risky promise to be sure, given Truffauts history of willful and
erratic conduct.
Almost certainly, Bazin was encouraged to intervene in the life of the troubled boy by Fernand
Deligny, an ally at Travail et Culture who worked with abandoned, delinquent, and psychologically
disturbed youth. Bazin and Chris Marker had secured some films for Deligny when he was located in
Lille and they helped him upon his move to Paris in 1948. Bazin even found him an apartment next
door to his own on rue Cardinal Lemoine. They must have discussed the Truffaut case. A decade later
Bazin suggested that Truffaut visit Deligny when he was having trouble scripting the final scenes of
The 400 Blows. Deligny, whose name appears in the films credits, was also anxious to produce films
about children and would maintain ties with Truffaut for the next eighteen years.
Bazin may have saved Truffaut, but it was through Truffaut that he met so many young film
enthusiasts and found that their ideas and tastes fertilized his own in a refreshing way. This first
generation of cultural renegades who prided themselves on having seen three films a day for as long
as they could remember included above all the members of the staff of La Gazette du Cinma. When
Truffaut arrived at the Festival du Film Maudit (Festival of Accursed Films) in July 1949, as Bazins
assistant, he quickly became friends with this group organized around Eric Rohmer.15 Their journal,
rebelling in part against the cinema establishment and in part against the established avant-garde
represented by La Revue du Cinma and Objectif 48, began appearing late in 1949. Its articles were
passionate but often badly composed. While Bazin never wrote for La Gazette he was drawn to its
positions and frequently met its staff in the Latin Quarter to discuss films, philosophy, and books. The
nucleus of the New Wave was already assembled there: Jacques Rivette, Jean-Luc Godard, Truffaut,
and Rohmer. They dreamed of an inspired, youthful film culture capable of avoiding the pitfalls of big
business on the one hand and intellectual preciosity on the other. They had grown up, they claimed, on
action cinema, on Hollywood genre films, not on classics, be they literary or cinematic. And they
wanted to promote a cinema packed with life, action, and cinematic thought.
Bazin served as a liaison between these youthful iconoclasts and the elite culture of Objectif 49 as
it came to be known. He was well enough established to aid in many ways the fledgling Left Bank
critics with whom he shared sympathies, yet he was bohemian enough to act as a disruptive force to
keep Objectif 49 from becoming a crusty social club. Through his own personality Bazin was able to
introduce into the structures of Objectif 49 the vigor and spontaneity of what would be called the
New Wave.
And this was important, for Objectif 49 had power and money enough to effect real changes in

Parisian film culture, while the Left Bank critics had the desire and the programs to release that
power. The two groups had first made contact at the Festival of American Film Noir, a major film
series sponsored in late 1948 by the Objectif society and held at the Pagoda Theater (which has long
catered to film club audiences). This festival marked the first concerted effort by French intellectuals
to come to terms with the American cinema; it was the first time film noir had ever been singled out
like this, giving to Paris a concentrated dose of Humphrey Bogart, Fred MacMurray, and company;
most important, it was the first time since the twenties that a film group had sought to have a material
effect on actual film exhibition in Paris. The overwhelming success of this festival spurred Bazin and
the other directors of Objectif 49 to plan and carry through the great independent Festival du Film
While it may have been ambitious for Objectif 49 to consider launching a film festival it was a
logical endeavor. Since the war the ritual of the film festival had become an enrooted part of
European film culture. Generally held in a holiday atmosphere, nearly always at a vacation resort,
festivals were celebrations of the social aspects of a very social art form. Even then, Cannes was the
epitome of this spirit; it was, in comparison with its rival in Venice, a flighty festival. But it was still
important as a showcase for promising trends, and as a meeting place for critics, directors,
producers, distributors, and actors of all nations.
To the members of Objectif 49, particularly the younger members, Cannes must have been the
grotesque annual birthday party of the father they wanted to supplant. Though many, indeed most,
members of the club took the train or drove to the Riviera each autumn, tuxedoes carefully packed in
their luggage, anxious to see and be seen, they felt a deep loathing for the entire shop-window display
in which films were exhibited as fashion products.
And so early in 1949, when the clubs name was updated and Bazin took over its chairmanship, an
audacious plan was conceived to organize an independent festival in order to celebrate, with all the
pomp of Cannes, films which the industry had condemned to oblivion, les films maudits. Throughout
that winter and spring, and with Truffauts assistance, Bazin found himself writing letters, setting up
schedules, and trying to obtain films which had been unavailable to him. He arranged for Viscontis
work, for Jean Rouchs first efforts, for the experiments in animation by Norman MacLaren, which he
had read about in French Canadian papers but which had yet to cross the Atlantic.
Bazin seemed to cultivate excitement as a drug to stave off the inevitable and terrible illness which
was already beginning to debilitate him. He grew much thinner, slept irregularly, and never
completely threw off a cough which daily sounded deeper and deeper. In response he drove himself
even harder, hiding his anxieties behind a flurry of activity. In fact, he even added to his public
responsibilities some private ones of his own. Not only did he unhesitatingly assume the fosterfathership of Truffaut, but he fathered that year his first and only child. Bazin, who had been reluctant
all his life to give himself at the deepest level to others, Bazin who refused to barter his freedom,
found himself in charge of a seventeen-year-old delinquent and a baby soon to be born.

Andr and Janine marry, with Rossellini as witness

Only a few years earlier the idea of marriage had frightened Bazin, but now he was more than
prepared for it. He and Janine had lived together without absolute vows and decided to respect that
reality by avoiding a religious service. Nonetheless, their civil wedding in May 1949 was a full
celebration. Bazin had bustled through Paris all morning arranging for flowers, for food, for clothes,
inviting everyone he met to the feast. It was a scene Rossellini witnessed and that Jean Renoir would
have wanted to film.
All summer long he watched both his wife and his festival come to term and they did so on the
same day, a dramatic correspondence usually reserved for the movies. Bazin stayed by Janine all
morning until Florents first cries were heard. Then, at her bidding, he raced the breadth of France to
the sea and to Biarritz. It was a moment of fullness one can almost recognize to be a pinnacle as it

Baby Florent, winter 19491950

Bursting with the pride of fatherhood, Bazin arrived at the festival, which was bursting with its
own sort of pride. Although an alternative film gathering, the Festival du Film Maudit still sported the
trappings of Cannes. Held in the ornate casino of this Atlantic resort, it was presided over officially
by Jean Cocteau and boasted a Committee of Honor consisting of the prefect of the department, the
mayor of Biarritz, a Marquis dArcangues, Orson Welles, and Cocteau. A doorman politely checked
all guests and detained or turned away those who didnt belong or were improperly attired. Some of
the people who clearly didnt belong were Rivette, Jean Douchet, and Truffaut. All under twenty
years old, bohemian, and vociferous, they started a scene with the doorman until the timely arrival
of Cocteau, dressed in tails. He shepherded his young friends in with a wave of his hand and, as
president of the festival, succeeded in holding together, or at least at a safe distance, the aristocracy
on one hand and the young Turks on the other.
There were three screenings daily, each preceded by a short proclamation as to the
maledictional character of the film and each followed by discussion and debate. Viscontis
Ossessione, Bressons Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne, Grmillons Lumire dt, Vigos Zro de
Conduite, and LAtalante (the premiere of its integral version)all were honored as masterworks
which the industry and society had repressed. But Biarritz, like Objectif 49 which sponsored it, was
careful to focus attention on difficult films, on the cinema struggling for recognition and support: A
version of Eisensteins thwarted Que Viva Mexico, Jean Rouchs first trance film, Kenneth Angers
earliest efforts, animation by Len Lye and Oskar Fishinger. Plus there was a range of somewhat
unorthodox (and now mainly forgotten) Hollywood films of the forties by Dudley Nichols, Rudolf
Mat, and Clifford Odets.
The high point of the festival was unquestionably the European premiere of Jean Renoirs The
Southerner, which boasted William Faulkners dialogue and Robert Aldrichs assistant direction. It
was not a glorious high point. Indeed, the film was jeered, but as Bazin later admitted, there was
more that was positive in that jeering than in the accolades of most well-received movies. For The
Southerner made this cultured audience reconceive its notion of itself. This was not the Renoir they
expected and had grown to lean on for support. This was a Renoir experimenting with a new idiom
(Faulknerian language), with new themes (explicitly religious ones), and with a new style. Bazins
notes reveal an initial shock of disappointment but a belief that it was he, not the film, who was
responsible. It was he who had failed the rendezvous with Renoir.16 While he never became a wild
partisan of The Southerner he was to spend long hours during the next decade defending this film and
the American Renoir against the rigid rejection evident at Biarritz, a rejection which has, rightly or
wrongly, never been fully retracted.
Biarritz had great impact on film criticism in France and might be said to be the first success of the
movement toward the personal cinema of auteurs which would culminate in the New Wave ten years
later. Its jury was in a position to have profound effects: Cocteau, Bresson, Clment, Astruc,
Leenhardt, Grmillon, Auriol, Langlois, Mauriac, and Raymond Queneau. They memorialized their
sense of power in a lavish program catalogue consisting of ten major articles. This catalogue opens
with Cocteaus official baptism of the festival in memory of Mallarms notorious Les Potes
Maudits, a hymn to the genre of forgotten works whose hidden form can be recognized only by those
able to look through and beyond the surface. In the body of the catalogue Grmillon proclaims the
essence of cinematic value to be style, and style to be attached to individual auteurs. Leenhardt chides
establishment films for their lack of intelligence, asking for a cinema of courage out of which, and

only out of which, could emerge an art capable of positively moving the culture. Welles and Artaud
demand a cinema of poetry and imagination. And Bazin, in an important text, surveys the role which
the avant-garde had courageously served in the twenties in struggling for just such a poetic and
imaginative cinema, a role taken up in a quite different key by Objectif 49 and its festival at Biarritz.
The avant-garde, he proclaimed, must not float off to the airy heights of the fine arts but must truly
lead the main forces of industrial, popular cinema toward general cultural renewal. The document
closes with a poem by Lautramont, that pote maudit exemplaire.
The highly literary and upper-crust tone of this program catalogue was diluted in the actual
proceedings by the enormous attention paid the American cinema and by the voluble participation of
the younger critics. There was inordinate excitement, for example, over the premiere of a standard
Robert Montgomery film. Bazin had a share in undercutting the preciosity of the festival by delivering
a major address not on an important film artist nor on a key aesthetic issue, but on the Hollywood
Western. The open forum at Biarritz pitted the old against the new. At one point the prominent
director Louis Daquin and the upstart Alexandre Astruc came to blows. This struggle would only
escalate in the next decade thanks largely to the feisty Franois Truffaut, who at one film club
screening shouted Claude Autant-Lara off the stage by screaming, If you werent so old, Id break
your neck.17
Biarritz was at once classy and outrageous; it was able to reach both young and old, both radical
and conservative participants. Its great success, reported in newspapers and journals around the
country, made a follow-up festival mandatory. Yet the 1950 Rendezvous at Biarritz was a terrible
disappointment despite heavy financing and a broad advertising campaign. No doubt the decision to
kick off the screenings with a 1947 British film, Brighton Rock, contributed to the sense of
mediocrity which pervaded the festival. This adaptation from a Graham Greene novel was meant to
exploit the enthusiasm recently generated by The Third Man and The Fallen Idol, also written by
Greene, yet it was felt to be a rearguard, not avant-garde choice. Buried in a 3 p.m. midweek slot was
the worldwide premiere of Antonionis Story of a Love Affair. Nicholas Rays They Live by Night
had its initial French screening at Biarritz and, the year before, would certainly have caused a stir.
But this year the festival failed because it lacked the energy and freshness of the young critics; it was,
in short, just another film festival and one that tried too hard to balance American and Soviet
offerings. Cocteaus absence surely accounted for much of the general disappointment in the air, and
Jean-Georges Auriol had been killed in a road accident that year. Perhaps most telling, 1950 lacked a
solid film journal, and it lacked Andr Bazin, for La Revue du Cinma had folded in September 1949
and Bazin was shortly thereafter sent to a sanitarium with acute tuberculosis.
Actually, by the time of the first festival of Biarritz La Revue du Cinma had all but died. In
December 1948 the editors had announced an end to the regular publication of the journal, promising
special issues available whenever possible to former subscribers in limited editions. There was only
one special edition, a double issue on costume history and theory in relation to the cinema, which
appeared in September 1949, a month after Biarritz. When Auriol was killed, the journals last strong
support collapsed.
La Revue du Cinma was a casualty of finances. It had been purchased in its second year by
Gaston Gallimard, who ran indisputably the most successful and prestigious publishing house in
Paris. Gallimard was at that time publishing numerous periodicals out of a central office, juggling the
successes of one against the losses of another. He advertised journals within other journals and in
general tried to use his vast and varied subscription lists to keep ever more cultural periodicals in

front of the public.

Almost from the first La Revue du Cinma struggled financially. This was to be expected, since
there hadnt been a serious film journal in France in fifteen years and time was needed to develop a
readership. Gallimard himself was patient at the outset, staving off opposition to the magazine at the
weekly editorial meetings. Curiously, the most severe critic of La Revue du Cinma was Albert
Camus, who had an office across from that of Auriol and Doniol-Valcroze. Though they shared a
terrace, no conversations took place between Camus and the editors of La Revue, not even
mechanical greetings. Camus was simply not interested in films. He felt the magazine frivolous when
compared to the rest of the Gallimard line and loathed the idea that earnings from important writings
(his own and others) should keep afloat this unkempt orphan of a journal. Doniol-Valcroze argued that
his readership was improving steadily. Camus retorted that prices were growing faster and that
Gallimard should cut the tow line. Camus had his way, as we have seen. Never for a moment did
Doniol-Valcroze and his associates believe La Revue du Cinma was permanently dead. They were
certain they could resurrect it and turn enough of a profit to keep it alive. But 1949 looked awfully
To the death of Auriol and of La Revue du Cinma was added still another death, and one which
had immeasurably greater emotional impact on Bazin, that of Emmanuel Mounier. Mounier had been
an intellectual father to Bazin and there is little doubt that Bazin modeled himself on the great
Catholic socialist. He frequently traveled to Mouniers idyllic commune in Chatenay-Malabry, just
south of Paris, for meetings of the Esprit group or to chat alone with Mounier. It was not only
Mouniers intelligence and conviction which captivated Bazin, as it had so many others; it was also
his remarkable ability to turn ideas into social practice. The commune which he and his wife set up
with several other committed families was only one manifestation of this. Mounier gave all his time
to his work, managing to publish hundreds of thousands of words per year while directing Esprit,
organizing Esprit groups throughout France, and traveling to investigate and lecture across several
continents. His health, which had been ruined in German prisons during the war, gave out in early
1950, yet he pushed himself to the limit, writing an important essay on the Stalinist betrayal of
Communism just a month before he died.18 He was forty-five years old.
Bazin was not able to attend Mouniers funeral, held on March 24, for he himself was struggling
with his first serious illness, in the hospital at Cit Universitaire. Despite continual warnings from his
friends and from his own body, and despite the sudden collapse he witnessed in the health of
Mounier, Bazin had utterly refused to alter his own lifestyle.
No one can say that Bazins illness took him by surprise, since even as early as 1942 he had felt
premonitions. He is said to have annoyed his medical student friends at that period with endless
questions, questions they thought a bit morbid in one so young.19 Yet we have seen that the
Occupation had strained the limits of his strength, and Bazin knew that his mental and spiritual energy
would sometime clash violently with the body fated to house them.
Bazins habitual mistreatment of his body over a decade was capped off by the incessant worries
and labors of 1949. The struggle to keep La Revue du Cinma alive, the organization of the Biarritz
festival, his marriage and child, the fight to keep Truffaut from the authorities, the Cold War struggle
at Travail et Culture, the responsibilities of running several film societies and of writing daily,
weekly, and monthly criticism, as well as the book on Welles, all these things had a ruinous effect on
his haphazardly nourished frame. Despite all this, perhaps because of it, he lived as a child does,
confident that he could physically perform whatever feats might occur to his bustling imagination.

A perfect example of this attitude, perhaps the final example, occurred around Christmas 1949.
Work had momentarily slowed down and all of Paris prepared for the New Years vacation. Here
was an ideal time for Bazin to rest, to recover his strength, to throw off his hacking cough. Yet he
insisted on a skiing trip, since he had never tried that sport before. No one could dissuade him, and so
he, Janine, Doniol-Valcroze, and a few others went to the Tyrol. On January 11 he wrote Denise
Palmer that he was depressed because the trip had been ruined by his bronchial attacks. After ten
days in the mountains Bazin returned a very sick man, and by the end of the month he was in the
hospital with acute tuberculosis.
While sickness and even hospitalization didnt startle Bazin, tuberculosis did. On March 15 he
again wrote Denise Palmer, this time a detailed account of his situation. Whereas he had never
expected to live a long and healthy life, he now was certain of a permanent condition. All would
change now. The doctors, after a few painful and difficult tests, predicted at least ten months of
hospitalization and three years of regulated activity to bring about a victory over the disease. What
would happen to all his projects, to his film clubs, his writing, his social action, his longed-for film
Bazins public response to this personal catastrophe was remarkable, though characteristic. He
bore it all with a genuine sense not just of resignation but of joy and excitement. The hospital, the
prescribed exile in a sanitarium, and the more distant prediction of a relaxed home life seemed like
adventures to him. He really had imbibed the full spirit of Sartre, Mounier, Marcel, and Malraux, for
he saw his life as a project, the exact nature of which was less important than its purity and passion.
Bazin was momentarily disengaged, his activities were uprooted, and he was forced for the moment
to contemplate not only a different lifestyle but a totally different milieu, yet he was confident that all
this would lead to a new set of projects which would open up new aspects of himself in the overall
quest of his life. In his words,
My bed is not one of suffering but of repose. At first the news stuns you but then you realize it might not, need not, be so bad. For
four years Ive done hardly anything deeply intellectual, neither read nor written seriously. Here laziness is a virtue and while its
not paradise neither is it the inferno.
Tuberculosis is the merry malady. What could be merrier and more optimistic than a sanatarium? Surely youll accuse me of
succumbing to romantic mythology. But if you look at things lucidly and practically, all this makes good sense. Of course, there are
inconveniences but they are minor in my case. Im at the Cit Universitaire only 10 minutes from Janines parents. She brings
Florent over from time to time. I can even go out. The sanatarium at Villiers is just 100 km from Paris and Janine can come
weekends. Financially my social security keeps me from worry, and the Parisien Libr is continuing my salary. In fact, Ive got
fewer worries than usual.
So Ive nothing to complain of and will make good use of this sickness. I suppose if they had done a thoraco on me this letter
wouldnt be so jovial.20

In fact, however, Bazins peaceful stay at Villiers was not so pleasant as he anticipated. True, he
was able to read philosophy and literature as if he were at the university again. But the atmosphere
depressed him horribly. News from Paris was frequent and bad. Truffaut, who wrote him constantly
about each new film to open, had been drafted and seemed on his way to Indochina; Travail et
Culture was cutting him off for his stand on Stalin; Doniol-Valcroze had despaired of finding any
publisher in Paris to revive La Revue du Cinma; Mounier had died. Amid these worries Bazin found
himself surrounded by a kind of vacuous maternalism. He begged and threatened his doctors until they
released him to the care of his wife, who agreed to get a house outside Paris where Bazin could rest,
but be in touch with French culture. They found a duplex in Bry-sur-Marne, an hour east of Paris, an

old, dilapidated building with a nice yard looking out on a huge rail and industrial complex.
Slowly Bazin began to reinsert himself into the cultural scene of Paris. He reviewed films that
played in Bry for Parisien Libr. He outlined and began to write a magnificent series of articles
which would eventually make up Volume II of his collected writings (Cinema and the Other
Arts).21 And he was taken on as a film critic for two new periodicals, both of which rapidly became
widely read and extremely influential: LObservateur and Radio-Cinma-Tlvision.
The demise of La Revue du Cinma had left a school of talented film critics without a forum, and
a substantial number of readers without material. Rohmers La Gazette du Cinma was certainly not
designed to appeal to a broad audience, nor was it large enough to contain the lengthy articles and
film reviews which had made La Revue du Cinma so unique and so indispensable to the growing
film culture. On the other side, LEcran Franais was both too popular and too tendentiously
Stalinist to please most middle-class intellectuals and certainly most aficionados of the art. Its
circulation dropped until it expired early in 1952.
While the authors of La Revue du Cinma waited in expectation of its eventual resurrection, most
were able to write occasional essays for established journals since film criticism was working its
way regularly into even the most conservative of magazines. The finest example of this process dates
from the last months of 1949 and the foundation of one of Frances foremost journals, LObservateur.
Billed as an economic, political, and cultural monthly with a socialist editorial policy, the founders,
among whom was Franois Mitterand, gladly accepted the idea of a regular feature on the cinema.
Marc Vivot, a literary critic involved in starting LObservateur, was a friend of Doniol-Valcroze
from his days as a music critic and, knowing about the hard times of La Revue du Cinma, asked him
to join the staff. Doniol-Valcroze agreed but on condition that he and Bazin could split the job. They
divided the reviewing down the middle, only occasionally arguing over the right to review an
especially interesting film.
It was a happy alliance and produced a reliable critical voice for what rapidly became a very
large readership. That readership was interested enough in movies to demand a certain amount of film
criticism but not so interested as to subscribe to a journal devoted solely to cinema. Week after week
Bazin turned out criticism (over three hundred pieces in total) while remaining impervious to the
political fortunes of France and the vicissitudes of the journal as it changed its format and its name,
becoming LObservateur dAujourdhui, France-Observateur, and then Le Nouvel Observateur.
Doniol-Valcroze even feels that he and Bazin kept the journal afloat at times with their criticism. In
any case, they were considered experts and were never asked to slant their views or styles in the
direction of editorial policy.
LObservateurs first issue appeared in April 1950 while Bazin was still in the sanitarium. Not
long after his old friend Jean-Pierre Chartier asked him to begin writing weekly for his new RadioCinma-Tlvision. Chartier wanted to help Bazin get through what he imagined was a difficult
financial crisis, but he also hoped to use Bazins incisive criticism to establish the magazine among
intellectuals. He had designed this journal for two purposes: first, to explore the untouched area of
media criticism; and, second, no doubt more important, as an alternative to the Stalinist weekly,
LEcran Franais, he aimed at a rigorous but distinctly Christian critical stance. Bazin could give
Radio-Cinma-Tlvision plenty of rigor and at least a trace of Christian humanism. Chartier did not
consider Bazin a true Catholic; but he was aware of Bazins wide reading and interest in theology and
he knew of the influence that Mounier had had on him. Finally, he had heard of the debates Bazin was
having over Stalinism at Travail et Culture, debates which ultimately surfaced in LEcran Franais,

the paper Chartier hoped to rival.

Whether Bazin was drawn by this ideological context, he was only too glad for the added income,
which could help purchase a new life in Bry. And he was overjoyed, too, at the convenience of
working at home, turning directly from the television to his writing desk, since it would be a while
before he was permitted to go to Paris. For Chartier he could write original and far-reaching
criticism from his living room.
Bazins motivation for writing about television or about films on television was not entirely one of
personal convenience. He thought of it immediately as part of the world of images which it was his
pleasure and duty to explore. In fact, he saw in television the chance to observe the mutation or
evolution of the art of cinema as it encountered a new screen ratio and new psychosocial conditions.
And Chartier let him write just as abstractly and as passionately as he wanted. Evidently Bazin got in
the habit of calling Chartier from Bry every night when ORTF went off the air. He was generally livid
about the use of an incomplete print of some classic film or about the lowbrow quality of the
scientific offerings. Chartier has written eloquently22 that Bazins anger in front of images was
exquisite, and that he always turned it to use. The intense feelings of pleasure or distaste which Bazin
experienced while watching a film never festered or basked on a page. These feelings always became
the dynamo of an analysis that spun away from the film in order to rediscover and re-view it from
another position and in another context. This is perhaps one of the lasting strengths of his criticism
and one of the reasons it has been thought of as positive and constructive, in the fullest sense of the
term. It is not true to say that Bazin seldom disliked films. But he seldom let dislike become the focus
of his writing. Far better, he thought, to make those feelings tell us about cinema in general, about the
project of cinema itself. And this project, it is true, he never stopped loving.
Bazin wrote over four hundred essays for Chartiers magazine, which today is called Tlrama
and boasts one of the largest circulations of any French periodical. Chartier, who most often wrote
under the name Jean-Louis Tallenay, liked to remember that Bazins last essay, a brilliant analysis of
Renoirs Le Crime de M. Lange, written on the eve of his death, appeared in Radio-CinmaTlvision.23
Despite the large new audiences Bazin found himself addressing in 1950, this was not the public to
which he most wanted to speak. Soon after Auriols death Bazin and Doniol-Valcroze were soliciting
support for the rebirth of a specifically cinema-oriented monthly. When Gallimard decided not to
reconsider, it appeared that Paul Flamand might pick up La Revue du Cinma. Flamand had opened a
small publishing house like so many others at the time of the Liberation. He knew the Objectif 48
group and wanted to help, but his struggling enterprise made the risk impossible. Later Flamands
little house was to blossom into the most important press for new ideas in art, literature, and films,
Les Editions du Seuil. Indeed, for many years it has been located in the same building as Esprit and
has published and distributed that journal among many others. But in 1949 Bazin couldnt entice
Flamand to venture a film journal.
The chance to revive a variant of La Revue du Cinma finally arose in November 1950. Bazin and
Doniol-Valcroze had drawn a veritable dragnet through Paris in search of a publisher and although
they were unsuccessful they had left very clear traces. Everyone knew of their passion and expertise
and it was perhaps inevitable for someone eventually to offer them aid. That someone was Leonid
Keigel. Keigel owned several theaters in Paris and had known Bazin and Doniol-Valcroze for two
years. But his real tie to La Revue du Cinma was through his son, who was an enthusiastic member
of Objectif 48. Keigel used to assist the Objectif group in obtaining films, booking theaters, and

advertising. He often let Bazin and Doniol-Valcroze hold meetings in his office on the ChampsElyses right by avenue George V, the heart of the French film world. When both Objectif 49 and La
Revue du Cinma collapsed, he listened to the desperate discussions about how to keep them going.
Then the discussions stopped and he watched Bazin and Doniol-Valcroze canvass Paris. In
November 1950 he called Doniol-Valcroze and said, Look, Ive got some money. Why dont we
publish your review ourselves? Im willing to try.
It was all settled very quickly. Keigels office became the office for Cahiers du Cinma and here
was instantly founded a new publishing house, Les Editions de lEtoile, named after the Place de
lEtoile, only a few meters up the Champs-Elyses.
The publishing contract was signed in December and it brought about the introduction of a new
name into the enterprise, Lo Duca. Keigel insisted that the editorial direction be broadened beyond
Bazin and Doniol-Valcroze. They represented to him a single strain or style of criticism, and he felt
that the magazine would profit from the collusion of a more popular and fashionable critic. He
was also concerned that the magazine receive as broad an advertising and distribution base as
possible and he feared, to some extent, the pure cinephile attitude which he associated with Objectif
49 and with the failure of La Revue du Cinma. Doniol-Valcroze agreed to include Lo Duca, who
seemed to have all the proper attributes. He was a well-known and chic critic of popular and
social arts. He had an immense background in the Paris publishing world and maintained a network of
contacts. He had written two or three times for La Revue du Cinma and understood perfectly well
its orientation and that of the Objectif group. He was a reasonable choice in the circumstances and
Doniol-Valcroze was only too happy when Lo Duca agreed to lay out the first issue, an issue which
was nearly ready to be published on the day the contract was signed. When the historic first issue of
Cahiers du Cinma appeared in April 1951, it sported the same yellow cover that had been the
hallmark of La Revue du Cinma.
Bazin missed the birth of his magazine, for he was resting in the Pyrenees specifically to keep
away from the tempting excitement of Paris. When he returned and at last had a copy in his hands he
shook with pride and then with disappointment and righteous anger: Lo Duca had left his name off the
Lo Ducas intentions are still unclear. He claimed it was a misunderstanding, that he had been
contacted by Doniol-Valcroze, had begun laying out the issue almost immediately, and had hardly
even seen Bazin. He assumed Bazin was a consultant, not an equal. Doniol-Valcroze, for his part,
was filled with chagrin. He was livid with Lo Duca but felt personally responsible, as if he had
broken a trust and had betrayed two and a half years of planning, frustration, work, and hope. The ill
feelings of that moment were not entirely ones of personal vanity. Bazin and Doniol-Valcroze had
gone about the creation of Cahiers du Cinma together, just as they had together signed on with
LObservateur. The coupling of Lo Ducas name with that of Doniol-Valcroze was a cruel mistake
and one which would show up inevitably and perpetually in bibliographies and reference tools:
Cahiers du Cinma, founded Paris, April 1951, by Lo Duca and Jacques Doniol-Valcroze. The
mistake was cruel to Lo Duca as well, for it generated for him the distrust of the entire Cahiers staff.
He no longer laid out the journal; he was seldom allowed in on the important editorial decisions; he
never found favor with the young critics. His many articles on women and film, eroticism and film,
and so on, were considered peripheral to the dominant thrust of the journal. In 1956 his name was
finally dropped from the masthead and was replaced by that of Eric Rohmer. This reflected the truth
of the situation, for Lo Duca was scarcely to be seen at the Champs-Elyses office, while Rohmers

influence on the journal and on its young critics was incalculable.

The establishment of Cahiers du Cinma closes out Bazins period of organization and
animation. Beginning in 1942 in a little classroom with three or four other film buffs, he had helped
bring about a consciousness of film in France that could be seen in factories, in literary journals, in
cultural centers, and in youth organizations throughout Europe. He had also helped to construct film
groups of all sorts, from childrens and workers clubs to the prestigious Objectif 48. His articles
broke a long silence on the subject of film in 1943, and he had seen these move from student
publications, to loose pages handed out at film screenings, to collected papers stored and later bound
at IDHEC or Peuple et Culture, to daily newspaper reviews, weekly commentaries, monthly
intellectual journals. With Cahiers du Cinma he presided over the publication of more film articles
each month than had been written in each year from 1938 to 1943. Altogether Bazin was writing for
an immense readership, for he had personally cultivated every sort of audience: student, worker,
intellectual, film fanatic. By 1951 he could appeal to them all through Parisien Libr, RadioCinma-Tlvision, LObservateur, Esprit, and Cahiers du Cinma.
While his health had forced him to stop setting up structures for film discussions throughout the
country, by 1951 there was no need for more structures. Bazin felt his vocation change just as surely
as his health; he must now fill those structures with a powerful and effective criticism which would
be able to change audiences, change film, and in some way improve French culture. Between 1951
and 1953 some of his greatest long essays appeared to do just that.

Chapter 6
Cahiers du Cinma and the Extension of a Theory


With a yellow cover and a homage on page one to the memory of Jean-Georges Auriol, the editors
tried to link the first issue of Cahiers du Cinma to its deceased parent, La Revue du Cinma. Yet the
year and a half between these periodicals produced in Cahiers a certain self-consciousness about
goals and values which emerged in its first few issues and which breathed a militancy absent from La
Revue du Cinma. It became immediately clear, for instance, that Cahiers would publish
considerations of older films only when they adhered to a particular aesthetic. Eric Rohmers essay
on Murnau and Flaherty in issue No. 3 was Cahiers first strong use of the past to argue for revised
cinematic values.1 Also, major essays would be devoted to short, independently financed works (like
those of Pierre Braunberger, Alain Resnais, and Pierre Kast, which were praised in early numbers)
while standard French feature films would receive little attention.2 Finally, and most important,
various trends in international cinema would be singled out for glorification. In the first three issues
Hitchcock, Mankiewicz, Rossellini, and neorealism in general were adopted as Cahiers properties.
Bresson was the first French filmmaker judged worthy of support; he was soon followed by Tati,
Cocteau, Ophuls, and, of course, Renoir, to whom the entire issue of January 1952 was devoted.
Although the politique des auteurs had yet to be formulated, the staff and writers at Cahiers
were clearly working under a tacit philosophy largely derived from Bazin. Anchoring the first issue
was one of Bazins key essays, Pour en finir avec le profondeur du champ,3 which would find its
way, much softened, as it turns out, into The Evolution of the Language of Cinema (WC, 2340).
This has become Bazins most widely translated and reprinted piece and can be said to anchor as
well the entire aesthetic of New Wave criticism and filmmaking.
Polishing it carefully in the Pyrenees, Bazin definitely wanted to produce a major article to kick
off his new magazine properly, yet we cannot say it is an utterly unexpected essay or one that leads
him in absolutely new directions, since for six years he had assiduously carried out the close analysis
of Rossellini, Welles, von Stroheim, and Renoir, thus readying himself for this general assessment of
cinematographic language. During this period he accumulated sufficient data with which to survey the
entire history of film and to trace, in a revolutionary way, its development.
The very title of this essay shows the sustaining influence once again of Teilhard and Malraux in
the belief that cultural institutions grow and alter in relation to a certain genetic coding on the one
hand and environmental constraints on the other. This evolutionary attitude explains the historical
orientation of Bazins theories. To understand cinema, it is essential to take account of its origins and
to observe the directions of its growth in a changing milieu.4
Cinema has grown in spite of, or perhaps because of, the tension between the two impulses that
gave rise to it: realism and popular culture. While Bazin is widely recognized for tracing films
realistic urge back into cave paintings in his essay Ontology of the Photographic Image, he was also
sensitive to the realistic direction which literary art had taken. Ever since the advent of the novel, that

child of the age of curiosity, narrative art had moved nearer and nearer a journalistic ideal which
culminated in the late nineteenth century in an international drive toward what was variously termed
realism, naturalism, documentism, or verism. Cinema therefore seemed to step into the wake of
realistic developments in both painting and literature and it seemed as well to liberate these elder arts
from what Bazin had termed their mimesis neuroses. Nor did Bazin forget that the nineteenth
century, particularly its latter half, was an era of unprecedented scientific optimism. The creators of
the cinematic apparatus were directed not by art so much as by a scientific curiosity. Together the
scientific impulse and the artistic drive toward realism demanded the cinematograph.
Once invented, however, motion pictures were instantly put under pressures of another sort,
issuing directly from an industry of entertainment. Bazin frequently points to cinemas rapport with
many branches of popular culture, with the dime novel, the music hall, the boulevard theater. From the
start this sociological function vied with the lures of realism to appropriate the future of the medium.
The history of cinema is the chronicle of this competition.
In accounting for the forces at play in the development of film, Bazin astonishingly downplays
technology, whereas most film historians have traced the story of the art of cinema in relation to the
inventions which have altered its look and sound. Taking a cue from Malraux, Bazin suggests that the
order of history should be reversed. Technology doesnt control art; it is a byproduct of what artists
want to do, allowing them to fulfill their desires. Bazin implies that technology is at the mercy of the
artists dream, a dream that must inevitably be realized by some apparatus or other. Consider the
coming of sound. Nearly all film histories are divided by this technological Nile, but Bazin would
have us reexamine the films of that era. Sound did put an end to a certain conception of cinema as a
symbol system, redirecting what energy was left in expressionist movements and in montage films
like those of Eisenstein and Pudovkin. It did not, however, alter the flow of another tradition, the
tradition of filmmakers like Flaherty, Murnau, and von Stroheim (WC, 2328). These directors were
interested more in revealing than in adding to reality, and to them sound arrived only as a
reinforcement. Sound, in other words, was no more a stumbling block to this tradition than was oil
base to Quattrocento painters. It was merely a change in materials. While we may use this change to
trace certain stylistic tendencies, of themselves these tendencies, Bazin asserts, are not dependent on
any materials at all.
If the continuity of the realist style is not readily visible, it is only because sound did produce a
certain classic style of cinema in the thirties which admitted no rivals. The raging expressionism of
Germany and the montage movement of Russia were channeled in the thirties into a smooth and subtle
cinema of the imagination that we call the Hollywood style. Lighting and sets were otherworldly but
believable (think of the soft-focus, back-lit visages of stars); and editing seamlessly delivered an
unambiguous narrative by connecting fragments of scenes that anticipate just what the viewer needs to
see and know.
While most historians commonsensically see cinema of the thirties as something entirely different
from the silent era, Bazin is able to cite certain key continuities. Not only did sound allow the loud
symbolic styles of the twenties to flow into the quiet style of Hollywood, it also set up a nearly
perfect rapport between subject matter and style, producing a period aptly termed classic. Using a
simile reminiscent of his days studying geology, Bazin characterized the stasis of this period:
By 1939 the cinema had arrived at what geographers call the equilibrium-profile of a river. By this is meant that ideal mathematical
curve which results from the requisite amount of erosion. Having reached this equilibrium-profile, the river flows effortlessly from
its source to its mouth without further deepening of its bed. But if any geological movement occurs which raises the erosion level

and modifies the height of the source, the water sets to work again, seeps into the surrounding land, goes deeper, burrowing and
digging. Sometimes when it is a chalk bed, a new pattern is dug across the plain, almost invisible but found to be complex and
winding, if one follows the flow of the water. (WC, 31)

In following the flow of film, Bazin was convinced he had discovered a potential source of erosion in
the figure of Jean Renoir. It was Renoir who bucked the classic cinema almost singlehandedly,
adhering to methods in which everything could be said without cutting the world up into pieces
(WC, 38). Renoir developed the tradition of von Stroheim and Murnau and was the prophet ushering
in the post-1939 era presided over by Welles, Wyler, neorealism, and many other styles which would
cut deeper into the riverbed of cinema. Cahiers first historical essay concerned Flaherty and Murnau
and its first focused issue was devoted to Renoir because it saw itself as an advocate of an important
style of cinema, a style that film historians before Bazin had always undervalued or refused to
Bazin was attempting in this 1951 essay something much more comprehensive than the validating
of certain aesthetic preferences. He was in fact trying to trace out the various strains of film history
and to project that history into a conception of the future of the medium. As his riverbed analogy
tries to suggest, he was unwilling to divide a stylistic history of the cinema from a study of the
development of its content. And actually, at this very time, Bazin was composing another striking
essay officially translated as In Defense of Mixed Cinema, but which we ought to rename The
Evolution of the Content of Cinema (WC, 5375).
With self-conscious oversimplification, Bazin divides the history of film content, or more
properly, of the scenario, into three eras. The first era began with Mlis and finished sometime
around World War I. The novelty of the medium yielded a diversity which has made many historians
see this as an era of pure cinema ruined by the literary conventions of the era which followed it.
Bazin discredits this nostalgic view, showing the necessary and valuable impact of popular art on a
medium that catered to lower-class audiences. Vaudeville, music hall, dime novels, and melodrama
all donated their themes as well as their public to this art. While initial attempts to import high art
classics were ludicrous failures, cinema did allow the resurgence of popular genres that had been lost
for centuries. Slapstick brought back Renaissance farce, and the detective serial such as Fantmas
resuscitated the conte. With his characteristic catholicity of taste, Bazin implies that it is useless to
suggest that one kind of film is better than another. Films and filmmakers are produced by their age
and we must learn to appreciate on its own terms each era and its expressions. Why choose
Rembrandt over Giotto because of some conception of the purity of the medium? Why not see
Fantmas as a true masterpiece despite its dependence on popular narrative tradition and a film style
as formulaic as the episodes it rendered? This in fact is what makes a film classic, the perfect
meshing of social need, a scenario which embodies or speaks to that need, and a style which has
evolved over the years as if destined to deliver such a scenario.
If we can think of the first era of the scenario as one of variety in which countless producers tried
to appropriate the cinema to their very different interests (as peep shows, fillers between music hall
acts, recorded theater, serial narrative, magic show, and so on), the second era, beginning with
Griffith, is one of uniformity dominated by a reified cinematic style.
The first twenty years of its existence measure an astounding growth in the cinema, from an
absolute beginning to a formalized system of conventions capable of speaking to an immense
international audience. Which of its inventors could have foreseen the size of the film industry in
1915; more crucial, who could have predicted the form most films would take, a form which has

come down to us since then remarkably intact? In 1900 cinemas forms and functions were, for all
practical purposes, limitless. Yet by World War I the subject matter, length, and narrative structure of
nearly all films were strictly controlled by rigid systems. The cinema bartered the variety and
freedom of its infancy for the focus, eloquence, and amplification which any system provides.
By the end of World War I and certainly by the twenties people could speak of going to the
movies indiscriminately because the weekly reenactment of the cultural and aesthetic ritual which
was the movies took precedence over any particular film they might see. A standard language
effortlessly delivered all films, good and bad.
Bazin might say the same of attitudes he could see developing toward broadcast television.
Millions of people often turn on the set simply to watch TV, for the homogeneity of the look, sound,
and structure of network programming soothes us, draws us, and is the object of our attention. We are
comfortable with the music and with the commercial breaks. Even the credits seem etched according
to a very few rigid styles. Similarly in the twenties and thirties, when in America alone fifty to
seventy million people went weekly to the movies, a mass audience came to understand and to
demand a single language which had triumphed over all others and which reinforced its supremacy
with every new film.
This dictatorial screen language, even more than social convention, determined the subject matter
of the classic cinema. Those genres which grew to prominence did so largely because they were
the finest showcases for the machinery of cinema. Literary adaptations, for instance, took from their
sources only what cinema could pleasingly convey, masterworks cut down like redwoods and fed to
Hollywoods sawmills. Inevitably, Shakespeare, Dickens, and Hugo came out looking like one
another; inevitably, they looked like every other film of their period. Thus the classic cinema, as it
has become known, denatured all subjects.
Despite the incredible values attached to this uniform language (values of subtlety of expression
and of an international community of filmgoers; despite, that is, values of a refined and sociologically
potent nature), Bazin was anxious to point to the dangers of such a cinema descending as an
otherworldly spectacle to a passive audience disarmed by the application of technique. Ever the
dialectician, he points toward those few filmmakers who resisted formulaic cinema and who
demanded a different relation of language to material and of spectator to spectacle. Among the presound forerunners of this antitradition, Flaherty and von Stroheim are Bazins favorites. Their great
films (Greed, Nanook, Man of Aran) were made primarily on location rather than under the lights of
studios and this fostered a visual style at once cruder and fresher than the studied spectacles of
Hollywood. Moreover, these men refused even conventional dramatic logic, scripting their films
more in conformance with their material than with some pre-determined dramatic logic. When for
Greed von Stroheim filmed virtually every scene of McTeague, he refused to reduce this novel to its
cinematic equivalent. He refused to treat a novel he admired as simply another Hollywood
scenario. Working under more independent economic circumstances, Flaherty was able to be still
more daring, shooting first and devising his loose stories during the editing. Both men solicitously
respected their material and conceived of the filmmaking venture as investigations rather than
presentations of their subjects. Their style and language came not from an a priori formula but from
the exigencies of the particular project, a particular filmmaking adventure. Against a mass
entertainment industry they felt cinemas pull toward realism.
These two vagabonds of the twenties and thirties were justified around 1940 by a swing toward
the realistic pole. The Rules of the Game and Citizen Kane are for Bazin films which mark the

modern stage of cinema, breaking the shackles of the official style. While most films today may still
be content to satisfy their audiences with a conventional style and message, the way is now fully open
for multiple styles to expose and express multiple aspects of reality. Bazin concludes his piece by
echoing his friend Alexandre Astruc, who proclaimed in his famous 1948 Le camra-stylo5 that the
cinaste can at last be considered the equivalent of the novelist, letting his style be dictated by the
necessities of his material and his personal attitude toward that material. There is no longer anything
we can label cinema, these men imply; there are only films, and each film must find its proper style.
Paradoxically, it is the relative stylistic freedom implanted at the beginning of World War II and
flowering in Europe after that war that makes the modern era one of film content or subject matter. If
style has become at last supple enough to deliver whatever the subject demands of it, then a history of
modern cinema is a history of those subjects.
In order to watch the development of film content, Bazin chose the shrewd strategy of focusing on
the history of adaptations, for adaptations pose a peculiar problem for any medium, the various
solutions to which can be seen as an index to that mediums growth. In the first years producers found
or selected established works from other arts which would gain and hold a public, while testing the
boundaries of an absolutely new technology. The classic era between the wars was one of apparent
confidence in the medium. With no hint of embarrassment, producers forced literary work after
literary work to submit to the requirements of a medium which claimed its own identity and
proclaimed itself more important than its sources. It was the era, Bazin says, of the dominance of form
over content, an era in which scenario after scenario and indeed whole genres were sacrificed to the
technology of film (WC, 7475).
The post-1940 era can be called the era of the scenario. No longer so enthralled by the smooth
form of cinema, the public began to respond positively to new kinds of stories. Nowhere is this more
apparent than in adaptation. Finally filmmakers could think of filming a novel in a way which would
preserve that novels uniqueness, and adaptation could become a way of reexperiencing a cultural
object not as cinema but through it.
Bazin pursued this difficult and modern notion of adaptation in his essay on Robert Bresson,
written for Cahiers in the prolific year of 1951,6 an essay praised by his English translator, Hugh
Gray, as the most perfectly wrought piece of film criticism ever written.7 Bazin claims that in
adapting Bernanoss Diary of a Country Priest, Bresson avoided easy capitulations to cinema. He
filmed slavishly, following the novel phrase by phrase. No clever technique stands for the style of the
original; instead, through brute intelligence Bresson willingly sacrifices cinema in order to follow
the novel into its locus of subtle interactions with style, psychology, morals, and metaphysics. He
achieves thereby a dialectic between literature and cinema giving us the novel, so to speak,
multiplied by the cinema (WC, 142). With Bresson we are as far as is conceivable from the classic
cinema and its cinematizing of novels, since here it is not a question of being faithful to the original
because to begin with, it is the novel, only presented at a slant and in a new way (WC, 143).
What emerges in these essays is a conception of novels as cultural artifacts which can be rendered
into cinema like any other artifact. One can film them with a high degree of cinematic imagination or
one can approach them with objectivity, just as one can film a building or a political rally. Insofar as
the scenario belongs distinctively to cinema, an objective approach to a novel must lack a scenario.
Bresson films Diary of a Country Priest, Bazin says, just as Alain Resnais films a painting by Van
Gogh, an object pure and simple, and always concrete (WC, 142). After Bazin we know why cinema
evolves with Bresson, but stands still with ornate and lush adaptations like The Red and the Black.

Bresson filmed, like a documentary cinaste, an object different in kind from all others, the novel of
Bernanos, while Claude Autant-Lara regularized Stendhal until he obeyed the laws and look of
cinema in 1954.
In his longest essay of 1951, printed in two installments in Esprit, Bazin applied these reflections
to the relation between cinema and theater. The conception of the solidity and materiality of cultural
artworks is much more apparent in theater performances than it is in novels, and Bazins ideas about
adaptation and about the state of post-war cinema are consequently clearest in this essay.
Theater differs from life in the structured artificiality of its dramatic and scenic design. While
cinema is normally a medium more open to spontaneous action and the expanses of the natural world,
it should restrict itself in filming a play to the artificiality which makes the play what it is. Instead of
flexing its technological muscles, instead of turning the play into a scenario for a travelogue (See
Denmark while you enjoy Hamlet), cinema better serves both itself and theater when it emphasizes
the sparseness and compactness which makes plays the drama of the wills of men against men or of
men against God. The human voice, dominant medium of theatrical art, can easily be lost or fatally
weakened in adaptation unless the filmmaker curbs cinemas expansiveness. Olivier in Henry V,
Welles in Macbeth, Cocteau in Les Parents Terribles, Wyler in Little Foxes, all found different
ways to make film techniques adequate to verbal drama, and the cinema has evolved rather than
regressed in proportion to their harnessing of its energy.
Bazins lengthy reflections on the differences between theater and cinema led him to refine one of
his most elaborate and beautiful analogies. The direction of theater is centripetal, with everything at
work to bring the spectator, like a moth, into its swirling light. The direction of cinema is, on the
contrary, centrifugal, throwing that spectator out into a limitless and dark world which the camera
constantly strives to illuminate. Using a figure we already observed him develop for one of his first
essays in 1943, Bazin speculates:
The theater, says Baudelaire, is a crystal chandelier. If one were called upon to offer in comparison a symbol other than this
artificial crystal-like object, brilliant, intricate, and circular, which refracts the light which plays around its center and holds us
prisoners of its aureole, we might say of the cinema that it is the little flashlight of the usher, moving like an uncertain comet across
the night of our waking dream, the diffuse space without shape or frontiers that surrounds the screen. (WC, 107)

In adaptation one need only turn the flashlight of cinema onto the chandelier of theater, producing
not the play as it would be experienced at the theater, but the play as it can now be seen by cinema.
There is a hundred times more cinema, and better cinema at that, in one fixed shot in The Little Foxes or Macbeth than in all the
exterior travelling shots, in all the natural settings, in all the geographic exoticism, in all the shots of the reverse side of the set by
means of which up to now the screen has ingeniously attempted to make us forget the stage. Far from a sign of decadence, the
mastering of the theatrical repertoire by the cinema is on the contrary a proof of its maturity. (WC, 69)

Bazin formulated his ideas about adaptation, about the relation of film to the other arts, and about
the maturation of film content and form all within the prolific year of 1951. Indeed, these ideas were
inescapably intertwined in his mind. At the end of his Defense of Mixed Cinema he wove together
aspects of all these ideas and extended his riverbed analogy in a magnificently synthetic way. This
passage, which opens by recapitulating his belief in the transition that occurred around 1940 to an era
of content, goes on here to summarize more fully than anywhere else his views of the past and future
of the art of film:

Like those rivers which have finally hollowed out their beds and have only the strength left to carry their waters to the sea, without
adding one single grain of sand to their banks, the cinema approaches its equilibrium-profile. The days are gone when it was
enough to make cinema in order to deserve well of the seventh art. While we wait until color or stereoscopy provisionally return
its primacy to form and create a new cycle of aesthetic erosion, on the surface cinema has no longer anything to conquer. There
remains for it only to irrigate its banks, to insinuate itself between the arts among which it has so swiftly carved out its valleys,
subtly to invest them, to infiltrate the subsoil, in order to excavate invisible galleries. The time of resurgence of a cinema newly
independent of novel and theatre will return. But it may then be because novels will be written directly onto film. As it awaits the
dialectic of the history of art which will restore to it this desirable and hypothetical autonomy, the cinema draws into itself the
formidable resources of elaborated subjects amassed around it by neighboring arts during the course of the centuries. It will make
them its own because it has need of them and because we experience the desire to rediscover them by way of the cinema. The
truth is there is here no competition or substitution, rather the adding of a new dimension that the arts had gradually lost from the
time of the Reformation on: namely a public. Who will complain of that? (WC, 7475)

The synoptic vision of cinema embedded in this complex and powerful finale to his meditations of
1951 shows that Bazin had indeed used his period of sickness to advantage. He had stepped back
from Paris and from the criticism of individual films to attain a total view of the art and its past. More
important, he had evidently caught up on his reading and had begun to see cinema in the context of a
cultural endeavor which includes all the arts. In 1951 he laid the groundwork for a history of film
which would attend to the complexities of its birth and development, as well as to its relation to the
other arts. Bazin speaks from a long tradition of organicism when he suggests that cross-fertilization
between the arts is necessary during the early stages of a new art, even while it is striving to
individuate itself. His personal good fortune was that he had the intellectual generosity to love each
work of art for itself while seeing it as a moment in the development of a form which needed to
evolve beyond it. One can hear Malraux and Sartre in these passages: The cinemas existence
precedes its essence (WC, 71); The cinema has not yet been invented (WC, 21). Bazin loved
impure cinema even while he awaited a stage of greater purity. He loved even that classic cinema
his essay helped to overthrow.


Bazins insistence on an evolutionary concept of history had two major effects on Cahiers. As we
have seen, it validated a privileged tradition of filmmakers who had formerly been neglected:
Flaherty, Murnau, Renoir, Vigo, Rossellini, and so on. It also preached the religion of a personal
approach to cinema. The former effect produced a hagiography of great directors who were
constantly written about and interviewed; the latter effect developed into the notorious politique des
auteurs wherein often underappreciated directors suddenly emerged as important.
Whether writing about independent cinema or the work of a director in a studio situation, Bazin
and his followers were concerned primarily with the expression of the individual artist. Le camrastylo was a battle cry demanding that the cinema of the future come not from an institutional factory,
but directly from the mind and sensibility of the artist. There should be as many film styles as there
are literary styles, Astruc had said in 1948, and each style must be the outgrowth of an individual
human consciousness.
Bazin did all he could to break up the institutional ice which he saw impeding the flow of a
personal cinema. He warned against studios and censorship. More important, he devoted himself to
discovering and drawing attention to whatever examples of personal cinema emerged around him. His
support of Rouquiers Farrebique, while ostensibly written to promote a certain aesthetic (realism),
was actually a defense of a refreshingly new mode of production and distribution.8 Similarly, his

numerous essays on the French documentary film were written more to respond to personal styles than
to a conception of realism.9 Once again he hit the mark, for the short films of Alain Resnais, Pierre
Kast, Pierre Braunberger, Georges Franju, Jean Mitry, Luciano Emmer, Jean Painlev, Nicole
Vdrs, and Jacques Cousteau still strike us today with their stylistic integrity.
Occasionally Bazins criticism of a film would lead him into a discussion of the filmmakers
personality. This is unmistakable in his review of Roger Leenhardts Les Dernires Vacances
(1947),10 a film which is surely one of the forerunners of the New Wave. Financed independently,
shot primarily on location with amateur actors and little money, Les Dernires Vacances delicately
treats the passing of the innocence of adolescent love. Bazin was moved by the intensity of the
emotion of the film and by its ingenious stylistic features which, he said, not only made up for, but
were heightened by, the technical flaws which inevitably crept into a first feature film shot
independently. In a gesture which anticipated the auteur critics at Cahiers, Bazin found himself
describing not the film, not even the style, but the consciousness of the filmmaker which animated
both. Roger Leenhardt was a man he respected, and Bazin found this film to be of more worth than all
the quality pictures coming out of French studios that year, for it was the realization of a personal
project (in the Sartrean sense) and was the embodiment of a stance of consciousness.
The critics at Cahiers du Cinma absorbed Bazins critical principles but applied them in their
own ways. Seldom touching short films or independent productions, they sought out instead the
personal within studio productions. In trying to justify the films on which they had been raised,
Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol, Rivette, and company arrived at a formula which we call the auteur
theory: a director with a strong personality will, over the years, exhibit stylistic and thematic
characteristics in films which ostensibly are cranked out of a studio factory. Despite the fact that
scripts, actors, and editors are thrust upon a director, if we are observant enough we can filter out a
stylistic constant which reveals the consciousness of that director. While this theory would be refined
and debated in the following decades, its major tenets reduce to a simple belief that the creative
consciousness of the director will exhibit itself in the most mundane of studio films and that this
consciousness is what we must seize in watching movies.
There was no question about such obvious greats as Bergman, Welles, and Renoir, because these
men clearly control most aspects of their productions. The novelty of the Cahiers policy, and the
scandal of it, was to raise to the level of pantheon directors (those with significant world views) the
likes of Joseph Mankiewicz, Howard Hawks, Edward Dmytryk, Vincente Minnelli, and Alfred
Hitchcock. Bazin, as we shall see, grew to have major reservations about this highly romantic view
of film creation as issuing from a single privileged consciousness, but his seminal essays of the early
fifties undoubtedly contributed to its formation.
While the auteur approach was decidedly the most important direction taken by Cahiers du
Cinma, much of the writing in that journal was based on a high regard for the notion of genre.
Bazin himself was instinctively attracted to the kind of criticism that organizes itself around an initial
intuition of a films genre. His usual procedure was to watch a film closely, appreciating its special
values and noting its difficulties or contradictions. Then he would imagine the kind of film it was,
or was trying to be. Next he would formulate the laws of the genre, constantly reverting to examples
taken from this film and others in the genre. These laws would in the final step be placed within the
context of a whole theory of cinema. Thus Bazin begins with the most particular facts available, the
film before his eyes, and through a process of logical and imaginative reflection, he arrives at a
general theory.

Unquestionably the most striking example of this procedure is the essay The Virtues and
Limitations of Montage (WC, 4152). Here Bazin begins, not with questions about film language, but
with a discussion about the possibility of a truly fairy tale cinema, touched off by his viewing two
childrens films, one of which seemed to find its proper form, the other of which did not. From such a
seemingly humble and particular start, Bazin somehow leads us into one of the most profound and
important treatments on film language ever written. The genre of the fairy tale proceeds, he claims, on
a subtle dialectic between the real and the imaginary that only the greatest artists have been able to
maintain, those who have known how to conjure the imaginary directly out of the ordinary. In this
process, as far as the cinema is concerned, montage must be forbidden. In his highly successful Red
Balloon, Albert Lamorisse was allowed to resort to all means in forcing his red balloons to follow
the little boy, all means, that is, which do not depend on cinematic operations. For if he had intercut
between the pursuing balloon and the look of the amazed child, the magic would have been the
ordinary magic of cinema, that is, no magic at all.
Some will object that there is trickery in the handling of Lamorisses balloons. Of course there is: otherwise wed be watching the
documentary of a miracle or of a fakir at work and that would be quite another kind of film. The Red Balloon is a tale told in
cinema, a pure creation of the mind, but the important thing about it is that this tale owes everything to cinema precisely because,
essentially, it owes it nothing. (WC, 46)

The kind of film Red Balloon is he calls an imaginary documentary or a picture of a story. It
is a tale pictured, not told, by cinema. Hence our ambivalent reaction to it; hence its perpetual
appeal. The world is shown to have powers within it, not made to have them as in a Disney film. By
shooting in depth and long takes, Lamorisse allows his film to become a tale born of an experience
which the imagination transcends, so that what is imaginary on the screen must have the spatial
density of something real (WC, 48). Bazin is led, at the end of this essay, to speculate on the effect of
montage for other genres. In each case the purpose of the film dictates the kind of cutting permissible,
since it is the cutting which establishes for spectators the type of reality on the screen and the
aesthetic key in which they are to accept the information presented. This analysis allows Bazin, in his
final paragraph, to compare two such different genres as the fairy tale film and slapstick comedy,
because both depend on a certain transcendence of the physical by the physical.
Better than any other essay he wrote, The Virtues and Limitations of Montage exhibits Bazins
two greatest critical capacities: his ability to discern and describe the most profound aims of a film
or of a kind of film, and his even greater ability to point to the means by which the artistic transaction
of any film or genre can be honored. No film critic has approached him in these talents, talents which
were recognized and cultivated by his colleagues at Cahiers. His concern for genre consequently left
two deeply embedded marks on that magazine. First, it encouraged every critic to seek to establish
some general principle by recourse to a specific cinematic observation, for instance the
transcendence of memory in Max Ophulss films as established by his circular tracking shots. Second,
it validated the study of genres in and for themselves, and this supported the prejudice of these critics
for old Hollywood pictures. Bazin himself was at this time writing the first of four major essays on
the Western11 and his colleagues at Cahiers soon followed with numerous pieces on gangster films,
on film noir, and on zany comedy from the Marx Brothers through Jerry Lewis. This emphasis also
gave them ammunition to reevaluate their own national cinema and to prefer less pretentious directors
to the literary cinema of quality which in the early fifties completely dominated French film

To sum up, then, from 1950 to 1953 Bazin gave to the cadre at Cahiers the arms they needed to
wage total war on the cinema establishment, first through his espousal of an evolutionary view of film
history with its validation of realist old masters and personal newcomers, and second through his
generic approach, an approach which allowed the critic to shout down the most imposing quality
film in favor of smaller but rigorously achieved works evoking a privileged mode of consciousness.


Bazins influence on Cahiers du Cinma was immense. Although he rarely concerned himself with
the technical details of putting out this monthly, he did exercise a kind of editorial leadership which
dominated the publication, especially in its early years. This leadership was felt in his choice of
articles for inclusion, but it was, more pervasively, a function of the continual presence in the
magazine of his own ideas. Bazin contributed 144 pieces to the 90 issues of Cahiers du Cinma
which appeared during his life. In only sixteen of those did he contribute nothing at all. Incontestably
he was its foremost author and most prestigious editor.
Nevertheless, his influence over the journal was not one of intense personal association. On
returning from his sickbed in mid-1951, he avoided the frenetic social and cultural scene, abiding by
his doctors advice that he needed at least another year of convalescence. In his old house in Bry-surMarne, Bazin set up a large antique desk and worked in what other members of Cahiers enviously
termed perfect conditions.12 Bazin became for the first time a domestic man whose life centered on
the routines of family and work. His health improved remarkably and one can imagine that he enjoyed
from a distance the satisfaction of seeing his name in print so often. Between his return to work in the
summer of 1951 and the end of 1953 he turned out 650 pieces for the readers of five publications
(350 for Le Parisien Liber alone), and he contributed lengthy chapters to several books.13 Bazin had
by no means slowed down. The excitement and vibrancy he had always exhibited was transferred to
his domestic life: to his wife, their son Florent, the growing menagerie, and especially to their
adopted enfant terrible Franois Truffaut.
When Bazin had taken ill in early 1950, Truffaut was fired from Travail et Culture. He has
described in print and in his film Love at Twenty how he whiled away most of his unemployed hours
courting a girl who didnt love him.14 As in that film, he even moved to a hotel across the street from
her, so that he could observe her go out with other suitors. Truffaut wrote Bazin many letters from that
hotel room recounting the battles he invariably would start over films at one cin-club or another. At
last, and without telling anyone, including Bazin, he joined the army. In April 1951, on the eve of
being shipped to Indochina, Truffaut deserted. Chris Marker ran into him by chance in front of the
church of Saint-Germain des Prs and, after surveying the situation, made an emergency phone call to
Alain Resnais, with whose help he smuggled Truffaut out to Bry. There Bazin talked Truffaut into
entering a hospital because he did in fact look very sick and because it was a good ploy to counter
desertion charges. The strategy worked in part; Truffaut was not sent to Indochina, but he was
reassigned to Germany.
In the most flagrant act of truancy of a young life spent on the run, Truffaut deserted once more just
as he was to leave for Germany. When the army found him a few days later he was put in prison with
no recourse, an experience he dates by recalling that the guards handcuffed him in such a way that he
could turn the pages of Bazins essay on Bresson, which had just appeared in the third number of
Cahiers du Cinma.15

It was while he was miserable in this military prison, packed with deserters from Indochina and
Korea, that the incident occurred which touched Truffaut so deeply that he would recall it in detail in
his memorial article on Bazin16 and eventually immortalize it as the precredit sequence of Stolen
Kisses. The Bazins, unable to get any word about Truffaut, drove to the prison and tried in every way
to get in to see him, Bazin supplementing his fine logic with the strategic lie that they were the
prisoners parents. When all failed and they were dejectedly leaving, Bazin impulsively pushed open
a window on the outside of the building and began hollering Truffauts name down the corridor.
Truffaut heard him, shoved his head out the bars, and for a minute they caught sight of each other.
Truffaut instantly felt adopted. After half a year of written pleas from Bazin and reports from various
psychologists, Truffaut was released. To no ones surprise, he went to live in an attic room at the
Bazins where he would stay for nearly two years.

His rehabilitation was soon under way. Every day he would read in his attic, mostly novels or film
books, while Bazin wrote. When he came downstairs he played a good deal with Florent. But most of
all he talked cinema over meals which stretched into hours. Janine, who loved to prepare sumptuous
repasts, was displeased only when the food was forgotten in favor of the discussion. This happened
more and more. What is remarkable is that neither she nor Truffaut could remember a single serious
conversation during those two years of dinners and djeuners on any subject other than the cinema.
Truffaut was fanatical and Bazin encouraged him. They couldnt look at a landscape or street-scene
without seeing in it a shot from Jacques Becker or, more likely, Billy Wilder.

Andr and Janine, happy at home in Bry-sur-Marne

Twice a week Bazin would leave his suburban home for the tumult of Paris. On Mondays he
attended Esprits six oclock round table and would see two films. The other day would be spent
largely at Cahiers before seeing two more films. Truffaut would generally rendezvous with Bazin for
the last film and return with him to Bry. Even years later Janine became amused and livid over one
argument Truffaut and Bazin conducted throughout a full day over some minor point of film aesthetics.
At breakfast it started, and developed on the way into Paris. There was respite after lunch when the
combatants separated, but the films they saw that afternoon only served as ammunition for hostilities
which were redoubled on the return drive. When Janine noticed that Bazins head was more often
turned to the back seat than to the road in front of him she got out at a stop light. She wondered if she
was missed.
Bazin began to encourage Truffaut to write down his ideas. While his lack of education was
largely offset by the enormous amounts of reading he had done, Truffauts style nevertheless struck
Bazin as tendentious and vulnerable. Truffaut was yearning to break into Cahiers, especially after
Godard and Rivette had each been published there in early 1953,17 but his attitude was so
unrestrained that the editors were reluctant.
His first piece appeared in Cahiers No. 21 just behind Rohmers essay on Murnaus Tabu.
Truffauts ostensible review of David Millers Sudden Fear18 opens with a vitriolic attack on
standard French cinema, an attack he wouldnt let up until his own films had broken into that system.
French cinema is this: 300 touched-up shots matched so they link end to end 110 times each year.19
He scathingly satirized the classy look, the literary script, the pithy dialogue, and all that made up the
tradition of quality weighing down French cinema and keeping it from the hard-hitting directness,
boldness, spontaneity, and verve of films like Sudden Fear. Truffaut praises this film in a manner
characteristic of auteurism, by invoking other Miller films and by comparing him to the real masters:
Bresson, Hitchcock, and Nicholas Ray.
This open attack on the French situation began to creep into the essays of other Cahiers critics, as

in Rivettes discussion of Howard Hawks or in Rohmers treatment of Hitchcock.20 It was generally

known or believed that Truffaut was responsible for the nasty polemical turn in the style of Cahiers.
He lashed out at something or someone every time he wrote, and rather quickly people began hitting
back. It is amusing today to read the August/September and October 1953 issues of Cahiers, for there,
in back-to-back numbers, Truffaut is forced to defend himself against barbed letters written by film
scholars outraged by the treatment they had received at his hands.21
The first, from the prolific critic Jean Queval, begins:
My dear sirs [meaning Bazin and Doniol-Valcroze], Franois Truffaut attacks everyone in your last issue with the attractive
arrogance of youth. I suggest that he take a vacation in the soothing atmosphere of the country. But I must first respond to him so
as not to let a legend go on living. If I didnt defend a great man, Marcel Carn would become a victim in my place of this
venomous iconoclast.

Bazin let Truffaut counterattack by printing his devastating reply directly alongside this letter.
Readers hardly had time to choose sides before the next issue arrived with a full-page vituperation
against Truffaut from Jean dYvoire, the editor of Tl-Cin. It seems that Truffaut had casually
written off as amateurish, wrong-headed, and stupid an entire issue of Tl-Cin devoted to Jean
Renoir, featuring a score of major critics as contributors. DYvoire didnt even deign to address
Truffaut obliquely as had Queval. Instead he demanded that Bazin and Doniol-Valcroze set up a
vigilance committee, since they were clearly unable to keep their petulant little brat under control.
As a matter of fact, Bazin had been doing his best to check Truffauts fiery temper. For instance,
all these early controversies were being confined to the back pages of the magazine in short reviews
signed only F.T. But once he had a taste of combat, Truffaut wanted desperately to bombard the
French film scene with the full force of major articles. Bazin kept asking him to rewrite his essays,
hoping that in time Truffaut might mollify his tone.
But it was impossible to hold him back for long, because he had the support of his young
colleagues at Cahiers, including a new addition to the critical teamClaude Chabrol. In November
1953 (vol. 5, no. 28) the transition to the radically auteurist direction of the magazine was evident.
The film review section was dominated by the New Wave critics: Jacques Rivette on Ophulss
Madame de , Truffaut on Billy Wilders Stalag 17, and Claude Chabrol with his first appearance
in a stunning hymn of praise to Stanley Donens Singing in the Rain. All three reviews were
excessive in their support of the films they reviewed, and all three implied that they were dead set
against mainstream cinema.
Things quieted down for two months because these implications remained only implications. But
sitting on Doniol-Valcrozes desk all along was a bomb, not an implication, written by Truffaut. For
months the editors had demurred, Bazin all the while suggesting that Truffaut try alternatives or add
qualifying notes. He wanted to protect his vulnerable protg; Truffaut used the time to make his
piece more lethally compact. In the first issue of 1954 it exploded.
Doniol-Valcroze marks the birth of the real spirit of Cahiers du Cinma from this issue, No. 31,
and the appearance in it of Truffauts essay disarmingly entitled A Certain Tendency in French
Cinema.22 Carefully laid out with pictures of the opposing forces, Truffaut denounced completely
and at length the tradition of quality and the writers and directors that made it up. He directly
opposed Renoir, Bresson, and Ophuls to Claude Autant-Lara, Christian-Jaque, Jean Delannoy, Yves
Allgret, Ren Clment, and their key scenarists Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost.

When working with other scenarists, he argued, these directors regularly made worthless films
(here he is cruel to Clment, whom other Cahiers critics would defend) and, therefore, unlike the
great American auteurs of the studio system, these French men were mere hacks without personalities,
visions, or significant technique. They made films according to a simple formula of good taste so that
everything came out looking the same. Only when they were assigned to a script by Aurenche and
Bost did they win prizes at Cannes and Venice. Why? Because Aurenche and Bost dealt with literary
classics which they had learned to adapt to a contemporary idiom and morality. These quality films
combine store window production values while parading au courant moral values, dramatized by
renowned French actors dressed up as characters in the best French literature.
Truffauts devastating analysis of this tradition comes to focus on Diary of a Country Priest, for
he had connived to obtain the adaptation of this novel which Aurenche and Bost had prepared in
1947, an adaptation which Georges Bernanos had immediately rejected. Truffaut neatly selected two
scenes from the rejected adaptation to put over against Bressons starkly original but absolutely
faithful work in order to make his most lethal points. First, in the guise of adaptation Aurenche and
Bost have leveled all great novels so that Gide, Bernanos, Radiguet, and Stendhal all seem to speak
the same message with the same style. Second, this message is a modern liberal anticlericalism, a
namby-pamby kind of blasphemy rendered through a method termed psychological realism and
spiced with titillating sexual innuendoes. The message, in short, is bourgeois, though masked by an
appearance of naughtiness and daring which is stamped with the approval of such names as Gide and
Stendhal. Third, the style is one of academic framing, complicated lighting effects, polished
photography, and countless other correct formulas which make the sets and costumes just so, and
allow French audiences to feel both comfortable with, and proud of, their literary classics.
The essay gathers power as the examples multiply until Truffaut shouts Long Live Audacity
and changes tone by listing his preferences: Tati, Becker, Bresson, Ophuls, Cocteau, and Renoir who
are, he claims, men of the cinema and no longer scenarists, metteurs-en-scne, and literateurs.
There is more cinema and more art in the gait of Tatis character, Mr. Hulot, he boasts, than in all the
insipidly pithy dialogue about life, love, and God crammed into a dozen films of quality.
Truffauts essay owes much to the influence of Bazin and brings to complete fruition all that his
1951 and 1952 essays had given to Cahiers. One can see immediately the consequence of Bazins
views of adaptation, his attack on institutional style, and his promotion of a personal cinema.
Bazins spirit may also be felt in the rather surprising anger Truffaut shows at the posturing of
political liberalism and religious blasphemy in the men he berates. It is true that Bazin was disgusted
by an appeal to the bourgeoisie that flaunted itself as leftist. Autant-Lara made a lot of money while
he courageously assaulted the military, the church, and all bourgeois institutions. And it is true as
well that Bazin couldnt tolerate self-confident atheism which belittles religious concern or practice.
But Bazin himself was often guilty of the greatest of blasphemies and his leftist views were apparent
to the other members of Cahiers. Undoubtedly, in his usual way, he was happy with Truffauts essay
even while he attempted to show Truffaut that, seen from another light and in another context, neither
these men nor their films were really quite so evil as Truffaut had claimed. He would always defend
not the filmmaker but the man, says Truffaut.23 He must have spent a lot of time making generous
and intelligent pleas on behalf of those attacked, for Truffaut didnt let up. The very next issue
carried a two-page review dripping with acrimony which Truffaut directed at the appearance of an
enlarged edition of the standard history of the cinema written during the war by Bardche and
Brasillach.24 This time Doniol-Valcroze found it necessary to prefix an editors note to soften

Truffauts review.
All this notoriety earned Truffaut a job as regular film critic for the review Arts and as contributor
to La Magazine Littraire, and it allowed him to move from Bazins attic to a Paris apartment. He
needed to be closer to the movies and he found Bazins home a bit distracting, what with a five-yearold child and numerous animals running around. Until Bazins death at the end of 1958, however,
Truffaut faithfully spent his weekends in Bry and, when the Bazins were forced to move, in Nogent.
While Truffaut was quickly becoming the most visible and controversial figure on the staff of the
increasingly controversial Cahiers du Cinma, Bazin did not retreat into pure theory. True, Bazins
theoretical essays of 195153 gave Truffaut the leverage he used to strike out at the current film
scene, and as editor, Bazin provided Truffaut the opportunity to make those strikes public. But Bazin
personally participated in the battle as well, openly supporting Truffauts position in many small
articles which served to modify the fiery positions of the youth with the broader and more generous
views of the father.25 Sometimes, as in his review of The Red and the Black,26 Bazin would side with
a film adapted by Aurenche and Bost and directed by Autant-Lara because, despite its glaring faults
and despite the pretensions of its quality appearance, he saw this film as more intelligent,
interesting, and valuable than the average cinema fare. But beneath this sympathetic response lay a
harsher reproach. Bazin in effect was telling Autant-Lara that he wasnt far from achieving something
truly significant and that it was only a certain embedded conception of film and literature which stood
in his way. Of course this certain conception was precisely that certain tendency Truffaut had
One might think that Bazin was trying to reconcile his journal with the French film industry after
the open warfare Truffaut had declared. Jean Delannoy and Yves Allgret were the most prominent of
those who were incensed, demanding that Truffaut retract his essay and be expelled from Cahiers.
Autant-Lara too had been wounded and Bazins qualified praise of The Red and the Black might be
read as balm. Indeed, Bazin was sympathetic to Autant-Lara because of the latters deeply held
antibourgeois sentiments, and in his review he was really trying to point out how Autant-Lara had
slipped into the very ideology he set out to attack. Truffaut had mocked him for this; Bazin merely
reproves him.
But with other films and other filmmakers Bazin could become righteously indignant. In one
brilliantly crafted essay printed in Esprit, Bazin condemns the quality tradition with premeditated
precision. The Carolinization of France27 is ostensibly a review of Christian-Jaques Caroline
Chrie starring Martine Carol, the biggest box office hit of 1954, but in fact it is a full-scale assault
on cultural chic in all its manifestations. Fearing that the author of the original scandalous serial,
Cecil Saint-Laurent, would be taken seriously because of the official look of the filmed adaptation,
Bazin constructs the following double equation: (1) if the literary Caroline Chrie plus a scenarist
and a metteur-en-scne of quality equals a film of quality; and (2) if any great novel like Gides La
Symphonie Pastorale receives the same treatment in adaptation, and it too looks like a film of
quality, then Caroline Chrie must be equal to La Symphonie Pastorale in terms of cinema. This
aesthetic mathematics allows Bazin to suggest that second-rate literature will always try to use the
prestige of a certain kind of cinema style to pass itself off as art and to be then reevaluated as
important literature. Bazin proves his suspicions by pointing out that Cecil Saint-Laurent is the
pseudonym of Jacques Laurent, a serious writer who, after the success of the film, began to reveal
his authorship of the serial. Bazin discovered here a pervasive tendency in French culture for soft
eroticism and supermarket moral values to disguise themselves as products of the greatest artists of

the civilization in touch with the great issues of their day. Bazins tone in this essay may be less
hysterical than Truffauts, but his knife cuts deeper and over a depressingly wider area of French life.
Father and son were thinking alike, speaking differently, and urging each other on against a common


The pages of Cahiers du Cinma and other journals were only one site of a conflict being fought over
the future of French cinema. The grand struggles in this war took place at the annual festivals, where
critics faced filmmakers across an interview desk or jury table, and where both groups faced the best
films made each year. The younger critics at Cahiers maintained a cynical attitude toward the
festivals they nevertheless attended. At Venice and especially at Cannes, they were continually
reminded of the immense strength of that industry they wanted so much to revolutionize.
For Bazin it was a different matter. He had participated in the great festivals of 1946 and 1947
where neorealism first found acceptance, where David Lean and Carol Reed gave Britain a promise
it was not to fulfill, where Mexico and Sweden stunned the world with works leading to the
reemergence of Buuel and the arrival of Ingmar Bergman, where Ivan the Terrible received its
European premiere, and where, above all, the American cinema was rediscovered after the
Occupation. In those days critics flocked to the festivals not so much for the spectacle of the event but
for the knowledge and experiences essential to their tasks. And it was these festivals more than
anything else which brought about the internationalization of important stylistic tendencies. De Sica
was given a Hollywood contract largely on the basis of the exposure his small films received at
Cannes and Venice. France and Italy entered into a period of coproductions which blossomed in the
late fifties largely because of negotiations at these festivals, and a loner like Buuel working in
Mexico could receive in France the recognition and opportunities he needed.
The tremendous excitement of these first festivals quickly collapsed after 1947, when political and
economic interests turned Venice and especially Cannes into an enormous advertising exposition. The
Cold War forced the Communist bloc to withhold films and, in France and America, major studio
interests controlled the selection of films to represent these countries. Bazin complained about all this
in 1948 and again in 1952, demanding that Cannes be able to screen independently produced films, or
at least films made on the periphery of the studio system. He claimed that such films need the
exposure of the festivals, and moreover that the system needs in its turn exposure to such films. We
have seen that in 1949 Bazin, Cocteau, and company did something about this deterioration with their
own Festival du Film Maudit at Biarritz, and Henri Langlois likewise sponsored an alternative
festival at Antibes. But these were short-term solutions and the enthusiasm for them was gone within a
Despite the crassness of the festivals, Bazin awaited them eagerly. He loved Venice most of all,
and they him, for he was several times chief critic of the jury. Venice, where he went representing
Esprit, was a more serious festival with fewer stars and more daring films. Major directors would
give press conferences and film historians would organize displays of archival materials. Besides,
Venice was Bazins favorite city and, even though the festival was held at the end of the Lido, he
would always manage a few excursions along the canals.
Cannes was different. There he came as critic of the middle-class Parisien Libr. Unofficially, of
course, he was seen as the instigator of the vituperative stance Cahiers had taken toward the film

industry. This festival for him was full of petty personal humiliations, and the large humiliation of
seeing cinema decked out as a whore. Cahiers du Cinma fought a continuous battle with Cannes.
Bazin, who was the staff member most sympathetic to it, still attacked Cannes at least once a year. He
couldnt fathom an organization which seemed to favor its parade of stars more than its lineup of
films. He was incredulous that, unlike Venice, Cannes ran no retrospective film series to balance its
program. As he put it, Why cant we have a serious geology as well as a flashy geography of our
art?28 Most of all it was the selection and judging procedures that outraged him. De Sicas
masterpiece Umberto D was hidden in an out-of-competition showing in 1953, whereas his
lamentable attempt at a Hollywood extravaganza, Statione Termini, was given a gala premiere two
years later. Clearly referring to the treatment the young Turks at Cahiers received from the festival,
he complained that the selection committee members were all over thirty years old and afraid of films
which might rock the boat.
His ambiguous relation to Cannes reminded him of his stance toward the Church and religion in
general. In a lengthy 1952 essay he began to make the comparison explicit, suggesting that the hollow
liturgy and pomp of Cannes tested ones belief in the art but that beyond this gaudy ritualization which
has outgrown the faith it was created to serve, one could still feel the glow of that faith in the private
screenings and in the excited murmur of the critics.
This communion of the faithful, generally entered into in cafs or tiny projection rooms rather than
in the cathedral of the main theater, allowed Bazin to transcend the banality and outright chagrin to
which the festival as a whole constantly subjected him. For the opportunity of talking to Mizoguchi or
De Sica, and of seeing their latest work, he could forgive the outrageous promotional campaigns of
super-productions, could laugh at the stunts put out annually to bring to attention some star or film.
Even when he was barred from the premiere of Welless Othello for neglecting to bring a tuxedo, he
found himself only too happy to be able to see the film later in a quieter setting along with Buuels
stunning Los Olvidados. These films and the discussions they engendered (discussions with Buuel
himself, as it turned out) outweighed the triviality of the structure within which they took place.
Bazins 1955 essay The Festival at Cannes Considered as a Religious Order29 expanded the
liturgical analogy he had conceived in 1952. Everything falls into place: the dress requirements, the
little hotel rooms one leaves to join the other monks in the vestibule of the theater; the schedule
broken into a matins, laudens, and vespers; the reverence accorded the sacramental screenings; the
presence of certain saints or clergymen (actors and producers, respectively); the hierarchy of the
seating arrangements; the ritual of the striptease on the rocks, performed each year by a different
aspiring starlet. It is, he says, an annual eighteen-day retreat into an otherworldly atmosphere where
one breathes cinema but, cinematographically speaking, one may still lose ones soul.

Festival mode: Talking to Zavattini (above); at Cannes with Janine, Truffaut in front (below).

Truffaut, Godard, Rohmer, and Rivette could never understand Bazins eagerness to attend Cannes
in spite of all he said about it. But Bazin was always capable of turning anything into a positive event.
In fact, he loved to go. Even in 1953, when the car broke down midway and young Florent screamed
incessantly, Bazin never lost the good spirits these trips brought him. He would try to see every film,
meet the filmmakers he admired, and go out for drinks with critics from other nations, who were
invariably eager to talk to Frances own leading critic. He would also find time to explore the area,
signing up for every tour bus he could locate. Cannes brought out the great curiosity and sociability of
his personality.

Enjoying a festival

The Memorial issue of Cahiers du Cinma, January 1959, featuring Andr, Janine, and Coco

Bazin had always been eager to travel. His longest and most memorable trip coincided once more
with a film festival, this time in February 1954 at So Paulo, Brazil, a festival run by Salles Gomes,
the biographer of Jean Vigo. Bazin was chosen to represent French critics but had a difficult time
convincing both his wife and his doctor that he was healthy enough to go. In fact, he was quite sick at
the time, sicker than anyone knew, but everyone agreed that it would be best to let him get a two-week
rest in Brazil.
Did anyone really believe he would rest? South America was the place above all Bazin had
longed to visit. The festival itself was somewhat disappointing, dominated by personalities and films
from the United States, but Bazin never had a better time. In So Paulo a film festival is, like religious
festivals, a city-wide event. And if this forced von Stroheims Greed to be screened in an auditorium
seating nearly 3,000, it was too bad for the critics but very good for the festival atmosphere.
Bazin was given every courtesy: a valet, a translator, a chauffeur to drive him to the zoos and
wilder areas. He visited some jungle terrain and saw animals he had read about all his life. There
was an elegant party for him at the villa of the filmmaker Alberto Cavalcanti. But most memorable
was Bazins incredible effort to add a talking parrot to his personal zoo in Bry-sur-Marne. The
adventures this project led him into was transformed into one of his finest essays, On the Difficulty
of Being Coco, reprinted in the Cahiers du Cinma memorial issue on Bazin, no doubt because it
illustrates so well his versatility, goodwill, curiosity, humor, and his incredible powers of
After locating Coco at an animal market which had been suggested to him by a Dominican priest
and friend of the Esprit editor Albert Bguin, and after determining to bring this remarkable bird back
with him to France, Bazin found himself thwarted by importation and exportation rulings which were
in conflict. To satisfy the French customs he would have to circumvent Brazilian laws and vice versa.
After days of negotiations he decided to go along with the So Paulo officials and take his chances at
Orly. When he went to obtain his papers the day before the flight, all offices were closed because of
Mardi Gras festivities. There ensued a series of phone calls, cab rides, and other incidents involving
Abel Gance, Michel Simon, and an actress who was trying to take a dog home. The complications
grew when bad weather forced a change of planes in Rio de Janeiro and the new pilot wouldnt
allow animals to ride with the passengers. Bazin, who was hiding Coco with Abel Gance, called for
a general strike of all passengers, and when an actress burst into tears, the pilot relented. Twenty-five
hours later at Orly the drama moved to its high point. With his packet of official papers, his arguments
arranged in his mind, and several corroborating witnesses around him, Bazin approached the customs
agent, Coco boxed in his arms. Anticlimactically, the official just nodded without even checking the
contents of his box. Bazin had succeeded, a happy ending marred only by Cocos congenital aphasia;
she never learned to talk.
When Bazin returned from So Paulo he was seriously ill. He had been drenched in several
downpours and feared a return of tuberculosis. But there was not time for a checkup, since the Cannes
festival, being held early in 1954, was nearly under way. It was an exciting festival in many ways.
Bazin was a member of the jury and had to support, from the prestige of that position, the audacious
articles Truffaut had just published. Jury duty was no easy task either, and there eventually ensued an
argument whose nastiness came near to destroying the festival as an institution. This was the year that
Kinugasas Gate of Hell ran away with top honors, slapping Hollywood in the face. The U.S. entry,
From Here to Eternity, had just been awarded more Oscars than any film since Gone with the Wind,
and its distributors had already made up enormous posters announcing a First Place at Cannes. After

some rather unseemly repartee, the distributors added to the bottom of their posters a small note, Out
of competition. In fact From Here to Eternity did receive great recognition at the festival and
squeezed Ren Clments M. Ripois completely off the list of award winners. This provoked another
battle, one involving the jurors themselves, especially Bazin and Buuel, who were unmovable in
their support of Clment. The battle raged for months in newspapers and journals of all sorts, most
vociferously, of course, in Cahiers.
In the midst of all the noise, Bazin and Buuel developed a lasting friendship. Buuel, notorious
for his cynicism and righteous anger, found in Bazin a kind of depth and honesty of vision which set
him aside from all other critics. Even before they had met, Buuel had found in Bazins essays truths
about my films I had never thought of.31 Later Buuel would describe his film projects to Bazin
before final scripting, hoping to gain in advance the knowledge he felt Bazin would inevitably give
him later in his criticism. The two were drawn together by other things as well, by their love of
undomesticated beasts, by their common struggle against the rigid Catholicism of their upbringing, a
struggle each pursued in his own fashion.
Buuel remembers that at his first sight of Bazin that spring of 1954 he thought that, except for the
lively eyes, he was looking at a dead man, so emaciated and pale had Bazin grown.32 He wasnt far
wrong. Bazin at last had the good sense to seek out a famous doctor attending the festival and to have
a complete examination. This examination uncovered the cause of his ghastly appearance and failing
strength, the eventual cause of his deathleukemia.
The doctor pronounced the disease to be in an advanced stage and gave Bazin only a few months
to live. Bazin hurriedly packed his things and apologized for leaving the jury. Doniol-Valcroze
recalled taking him to the train station so he could return as quickly as possible to his family, and
confessing to Claude Mauriac who had accompanied them that he was certain it was the last time
theyd see him alive.

Chapter 7
The End of a Career

The shock of the death notice he had been given at Cannes was softened somewhat by further medical
analyses in Paris. Under rest and medication Bazin seemed to recover rapidly, though he would
fluctuate between apparent health and desperate illness during his last four years. All depended on the
fickle ratio of white to red blood cells.
Bazin appeared to accept his plight nonchalantly, but it was clear that he meant to streamline his
life so that he could live as effectively as possible in the time he had left. Just after Truffaut had
moved out of the attic in Bry at the close of 1953, the house had been condemned to make room for
industrial development. The Bazins found a small two-story apartment in Nogent-sur-Marne, a suburb
fifteen minutes west of Vincennes and less than an hour from downtown Paris. After setting up living
spaces for their various animals, they organized working conditions for Bazin. His large desk was
moved into his room and a television was positioned so that he could watch from his bed. Hinged to
the bed was a wooden writing surface that would swing down to fit squarely on his lap.
While he spent progressively more time in bed, Bazin was by no means an invalid. Up through
1956 he went on frequent film-viewing binges and would entertain as often as possible. In the summer
of 1955 a friend loaned the Bazins a Left Bank apartment, an apartment which later appeared in The
400 Blows as the home of Antoines wealthy but neglected companion. There were parties and
dinners almost nightly that summer as Bazin took advantage of a spurt of good health and of this large,
well-located apartment to be with his friends at Esprit and Cahiers and to entertain celebrities like
Rossellini and Buuel.
At the end of that year Bazin felt healthy enough to return to South America to a festival at Punta
del Este in Uruguay. Even in his last two years he gathered the energy to take his family to the sea,
once to the le de R and once to Portugal, not to mention the annual expeditions to Venice and
Cannes. Nonetheless, he appeared more emaciated than ever and friends began to observe and enjoy
him with a care that betrayed their fear of soon losing him. In this last period they affectionately noted
such vignettes as Bazin arguing a traffic fine with flawless syllogisms, Bazin picking up passengers at
the bus stop in Nogent because he felt it wicked to ride alone in a car with four good seats, Bazin
keeping his companions laughing with droll stories as they awaited a mechanic after midnight and in
the cold to fix that same car.
His good humor was often the product of great effort. Most days he did not go out and on those
when he did, he would return completely exhausted. It was far easier to entertain at home. The
descriptions of evenings at the Bazins are numerous. His animals were an attraction, as were the
dinners Janine loved to prepare, dinners Bazin without appetite could enjoy by watching his friends.
The apartment was conducive to long and casual conversations. No one was shocked to see him
halting a discussion with a filmmaker to right a turtle or to fix Florents train set. The most complete
homage to these evenings has been given by Renoir, who was so often lured to Nogent:
The meals, marvelously elaborated by Madame Bazin, were feasts to me. The food was always delicious. Andr was a
gourmand and gourmet. As for Madame Bazin, she knew how to go gracefully from the scrupulously careful cataloguing of

documents to the preparation of a culinary masterpiece. They both exercised ingenuity at making their friends forget that their
hosts days were numbered. He knew that there was no cure for the illness which consumed him. She was at the limit of worry
and fatigue. And they both smiled, happy to see their friends happy; not with that mask of a smile which always seems to be
saying: Look how courageous I am. On the contrary, their joy was genuine.
Our last time together was with Roberto Rossellini. Jokes spread, paradoxes bloomed. Bazins laughter illuminated his
translucent face. Everything around us contributed toward keeping us in this happy ambiance: the little magic lantern characters,
brightly colored, pinned up on the walls, the pieces of Brazilian or Polish folk art, the friendly iguana, and the lively dog. Dont start
imagining bric--brac. For Bazin, an orderly and French writer, objects had their places and their equilibrium. You dont imagine
Diderot hanging up a plate just anywhere on a wall. But that orderliness wasnt visible. In that room, it seemed as though beings
and things just naturally found their proper place. For me, a friend passing through, the impression was of a natural harmony, a kind
of continuation or preface to the literary work of the master of the house. This surprising result can only be explained by the
immense love that Bazin felt toward everything that makes up the world in which we live.1

Renoirs description of Bazins apartment reveals much about both men: the love of the natural; the
subtle perception of an order which seems to emanate from the accidental arrangement of things; the
appreciation of the minor or the bizarre; the importance of an environment at once personal and
mysterious which can be inhabited and studied at the same time.
Bazins purest demonstration of these attitudes, attitudes visible throughout his life and in his
criticism, can be seen in the only film project he ever embarked upon. Early in 1957, after some
conversations with Pierre Braunberger, the man who produced so many of the New Waves first
efforts, Bazin contracted to make a short documentary on the Romanesque churches of the Saintonge
district in France, the area in which he had grown up. The treatment for this film, published
posthumously in Cahiers du Cinma,2 reveals its author with uncanny clarity. These churches
interested Bazin because they are artworks which nature has grown up around and eroded and
because they are religious forms which over the centuries have lost their original directness. What is
left is a new relationship between building, man, and nature, an organic relation which, while actually
beyond the categories of art and of religion, has gained a special power to reveal both man and
The tone Bazin uses in writing of these churches is reminiscent of the way he always wrote about
cinema. Their crudeness and earthiness excited him, as did their distance from the high art and the
revealed religion of an earlier age. Bazin suggests that in our century it is difficult to treat great
cultural edifices without decadence and irony. But these profane churches we can treat with a perfect
honesty, and they reward us by small revelations about the world and our place in it, revelations we
ought to treasure as much as those spoken by art and religion.
Bazins film was to draw attention to these underappreciated ruins which are generally less
appreciated by scholars and visitors alike than the more spectacular Romanesque churches of the
Burgundy area. As usual, Bazin was drawn to the humble and obscure:
Lets not pretend that these are the grandest churches or even those with most historical interest. But nowhere better than
[here]is Romanesque art and architecture more sure, more constant, more subtle, weaving itself in with both the human and the
physical geography in a necessary and natural relation. What strikes you about these churches every time you discover one is its
naturalness of implantation, not only architecturally but humanly. Sleeping in these villages for eons, but far from dead, they have
been silently investing themselves into the soil and have been absorbed by the life around them, especially the vegetal life.3

Bazin took nearly a hundred photographs of these churches which picture them overgrown with
bushes and ivy. Lazy cows graze in their churchyards, and up against their ancient walls farmers have
bunched wood, hay, or tools. The movie for which these photos were preparatory was to be shot in

the documentary style he always promoted. We must not, he says, turn these churches into a fine art
film; we must simply record, while we still have time left, this natural and ancestral harmony where
contemporary rural life seems somehow to join with the church in a friendship so old that it has lost
its religious character. Yet there is no sense of sacrilege in this profanation perhaps because
something in Romanesque art itself predisposed it for this slow and imperceptible rustic

Saintonge ruin (photo by Bazin)

Sadly there wasnt enough time left for Bazin to make this record. He was forced by his doctor to
limit strictly the activities he involved himself in, aside from the ceaseless stream of reviews and
articles he needed to produce in order to eat. One can sense this retrenchment in the journalistic side
of his life as well, for despite his astounding output he seemed to separate himself even from those
periodicals which had always meant so much to him.

In his last year

He wrote only occasionally for Esprit and attended their weekly meetings less frequently. While
he still published in nearly every issue of Cahiers and stopped by the office whenever he was in
Paris, he nonetheless seems to have grown more independent in his final years. Cahiers was now a
well-established organ and didnt need the personal care he had given it early in the fifties. Its initial
circulation of 5,000 had more than doubled by the end of the decade. The critics he had helped
develop were now standing on their own. In fact, by 1957 Rohmer, Godard, and Truffaut had all
made short films and were beginning to find backing for larger projects. Claude Chabrol was
preparing to shoot Le Beau Serge and Jacques Rivette was casting Paris nous appartient.
Bazin began to discuss his distance from the editorial policy of Cahiers in 1957, but even three
years earlier signs of friendly conflict had appeared in a short essay he wrote ostensibly in defense of
his young colleagues. When Georges Sadoul, Lindsay Anderson, and a number of other established
critics had attacked Rohmer, Rivette, Truffaut, Chabrol, and Lachenay for the Cahiers issue on
Hitchcock, Bazin felt compelled to uphold the profession of faith Cahiers had made to Hitchcock,
Hawks, and Ray, despite his own reservations about the ultimate significance of these directors.5
After all, Cahiers revered these filmmakers for the values, indeed the metaphysics, implied by their
styles and it was just this Sartrean principle of identifying man and style that Bazin had taught them.
Still Bazin couldnt help deploring the sterile ideology of Hollywood6 which the recent films of
these men were promoting.
Even if one is devoted to Hawkss style, he writes, there is no reason to be happy that in the fifties
it is expressed in relation to the infantile Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, whereas in the thirties it served
such solid subjects as Scarface and Only Angels Have Wings. If the young Cahiers critics teach one
how to see the formal intelligence of the mise-en-scne hiding beneath the idiocy of the scenarios
Hawks has been given, this should not make us ignore or condone such idiocy.7
Bazins caution before the enthusiasm of the Cahiers staff edged him from the center of its
direction. The real guiding spirit, especially from 1955 onward, was Eric Rohmer, the pseudonym
that Maurice Scherer used increasingly from the late forties when he left his budding career as a
literature teacher to devote himself to a life in cinema. Rohmer, while nearly Bazins age, had always
seemed more the companion and contemporary of Godard, Rivette, and Truffaut. In the early fifties,

he had been published in Les Temps Modernes and seemed to have free access to Cahiers; then after
1954 he loomed, Truffaut admits, as the minence grise behind the hard auteurist line Cahiers had
taken.8 Rohmer was an absolutist and was always opposed to the catholicity of Bazins evolutionary
view of cinema, where all films become valuable when seen in the light of the development of the art.
For Rohmer there existed only certain masterworks or, rather, certain master artists who alone were
worth according attention and homage. It was Rohmer who was behind the annual ten-best list
every member of Cahiers published each December, and it was Rohmer who put great stock in the
monthly Council of Ten, a one-page tabulation, by means of stars and dots, of critical opinion
regarding current films.
As coeditors, Bazin and Rohmer worked well together, for their critical positions arose from the
same beliefs: the essential objectivity of the photographic image; the transcendent value of Murnau,
Renoir, and Rossellini; the vocation of cinema to reveal a mysterious cosmos. Nonetheless, the
personalities of these men were quite antithetical: Rohmer turned his beliefs into the adulation of
great personalities; Bazin, with his more scientific and sociological perspective, insisted on
discussing the interaction of cinema with history and politics.
In a much reprinted article published a year before his death, Bazin openly acknowledged his
disagreements with the auteurist tendencies of his own magazine.9 His argument was that good films
result from a fortuitous intersection of an appropriate talent with the proper era. Some filmmakers of
youthful promise, like von Stroheim, see their time slip from under them so that their later work,
while just as talented as their earlier, may be far less important. Similarly, some uninspired
directors may at a given moment be able to express a wave flowing through the society, as Michael
Curtiz did in Casablanca, after which they may lose interest for us.
Bazin insisted that there was no reason to put personalities ahead of films as Cahiers had begun to
do, or to put auteurs in front of genres, or to put individuals making movies before audiences desiring
them and paying for them. A childishly romantic attitude made the auteurists less interested in the
development of the cinema than in the canonization of certain cinastes. Bazin was willing to grant
that the auteurists had remarkably good taste, but as always he distrusted dogmatism. In constructing
their list of best films and their pantheon of auteurs, these critics closed off the study of other
directors, of genres, of the historical and sociological context which films depend on and participate
This, he felt, was an especially shortsighted strategy to employ with the American cinema. Bazin
had always maintained that Hollywood of the sound era was analogous to late seventeenth-century
French letters in that its language and conventions were so tightly regulated and refined that even the
most ordinary artist was able to attain elegance and a certain precision. But doesnt this situation lead
us to examine that language, those conventions, and the contract these imply with a vast audience,
rather than spend our time separating great from merely competent artists? If Racine succeeded with
classical tragedy where Voltaire failed miserably, it was not because Voltaire was a lesser writer,
but because of the social changes that the eighteenth century brought, changes that inhibited the purity
and absolute high-seriousness of the tragedies written in the reign of Louis XIV.
While Rohmer, Truffaut, and company did at last persuade Bazin to admire Hitchcock and to love
Hawks, he could never succumb to the romanticism which made of these men, or rather of their styles,
timeless moral and metaphysical entities. With his more botanical view, he saw these auteurs as
distinctive flowers produced by a complex organism and nourished by a very special soil, the
ideology of American society. Since he was appalled by that ideology, it was always difficult for him

to give himself over completely in homage to any given film or auteur that grew out of it. But the
workings of this botanical system fascinated him, making it far easier for him to appreciate a genre
like the Western than an auteur like Mankiewicz. The American auteurs he most esteemed were von
Stroheim, Sturges, and Welles, no doubt because they in part escaped that system. Still, Bazin knew
better than his colleagues that such escapes are dangerous and that Mr. Arkadin, to take a topical
example from 1955, despite all the praise heaped upon it in Cahiers, and despite his own attraction to
it, is a feeble model of Citizen Kane, deformed by the inevitable undernourishment it must suffer from
being a non-Hollywood American film.
Bazins objections to Cahiers auteurism seem composed in the spirit of a family debate. He
always delighted in taking the other side and in retarding the momentum of contagious allegiance, be
it Stalinist, Catholic, or auteurist. At the deepest level, he was, of course, sympathetic to the auteur
theory, and his attack was intended as a warning against the blind application of a fruitful method, a
plea that the most serious criticism be reserved for the most serious auteurs.
Bazins distrust late in his life of the immense attention being given to so many American
filmmakers is paradoxical, for a decade earlier he had promoted the American cinema with the
Festival du Film Maudit, with his studies of the Western, with his essays on Wyler and Chaplin, and
with his encouragement of the growing fanaticism of Truffaut and Godard. But in 1957 and perhaps
because of his approaching death, Bazin insisted on weighing and revaluing American film. Since it
was now a case of narrowing his interests, of giving up his film project and focusing his critical
abilities, Bazin could not condone the efforts Cahiers expended on people he felt were minor
filmmakers, or at best filmmakers whose interest lay only in relation to an insubstantial and grotesque
culture, that of America in the fifties. The only American filmmaker he wrote about in the end was
Welles, and Welles attracted him precisely because of his exile from Hollywood.
If Bazin seemed now independent of allegiances, it was because he had decided without hesitation
what was worth expending his final strength upon: his book on Jean Renoir. Bazin had always been
interested in Renoir, and after their first meeting in 1949 he had never gone back on his assertion that
Renoir was the greatest of all French filmmakers. Nevertheless, it wasnt until he saw that his life
was coming to an end that he determined to write what Truffaut has called the best film book written
by the best critic on the best director.10
Renoir embodied those qualities Bazin himself had always struggled to attain: a Franciscan love
of nature, a Rabelaisian zest for life and sensual experience, a generosity in treating all people. Bazin
admired the ease with which Renoir bore the weighty culture in which he had been born and bred, an
ease which gave him an intimacy with French gestures, French speech, the French soil, yet which
somehow enabled him to develop a universality of outlook. Most of all Bazin appreciated Renoirs
love of freedom, his ability to change and grow with naturalness and simplicity. Bazin was
determined to treat him in a way which would avoid the academicism most critics have fallen into
when discussing the films of a man who fought academicism all his life.
The task of organizing this book was finally beyond the limits of Bazins health. He could work but
a few hours a day and his insistence on scrupulous research made progress slow. The resulting
volume, posthumously edited by Truffaut,11 can give us a good but terribly incomplete sense of the
book Bazin envisioned. He wanted to treat every film, even the most forgotten and miserable, and
above all he wanted to include not just a critical summary or a thematic analysis, but a description of
Renoirs labor as it flowed into the final product. This interest in the production of the films stems not
from simple curiosity but from his belief that a films genesis is the crucial link between the final

vision of a film and the reality it is inspired by and returns us to.

Bazin often went to great lengths to learn about production situations surrounding a forgotten film.
Once he tracked down through telephone directories a minor technical assistant on On purge bb
(1931) to ask him all about Renoirs adaptation to the new problems posed by sound recording.12
Such fastidiousness was not confined to historical research. He used to time scenes by using a stop
watch, and more than once he tape-recorded the entire soundtrack of a film. While all these measures
may seem obvious to a modern film scholar, in the mid-fifties they showed an attention to precision
that was extraordinary.
Because of its scope and the care with which he pursued it, the Renoir book was Bazins most
sustained undertaking by far. But it did not isolate him from the social and intellectual milieu within
which he had always thrived. Bazin was writing about a living friend, a man still in full command of
his incalculable powers, so the articles, lectures, and interviews preparatory to the book were
designed in part to sell Renoir to the French public.
The Renoir book differs in degree but not in kind from the criticism he had engaged in all his life,
and it made him so self-conscious about his work that it led to one essay on the relation of cinema to
politics and another on the function of criticism itself.13 Criticism, he says, neither can nor should
alter the course of art. It shouldnt force works of art to submit to some higher truth, political or
metaphysical, for truth in criticism is of a special sort.
There are no absolute errors in criticism. Truth in criticism is defined somehow by the excitement it provides the reader: its quality
and amplitude. The function of criticism is not to carry on a silver platter a truth which never did exist, but to prolong as much as
possible in the intelligence and sensibility of those who read it the original shock of the work of art.14

This passage accounts for Bazins strategy of writing about films which pleased him and of writing
about them in such a way as to extend and explain that pleasure. All his studies in the history,
sociology, and technology of film (these more scientific attempts to get at the truth of the medium)
were undertaken to support what Bazin always maintained as primary: the experience of films. In the
last years of his life, he was literally kept alive by his attempt to open up and perpetuate the shock
Renoirs films had always occasioned in him. He wanted that shock to pass through the entire society.
He wanted that society to give Renoir the opportunity to shock it once again with a new unpredictable
This was a missionary task, not a purely scholarly one, for if the French appreciated Renoir at all
it was for his pre-war masterpieces, not for his five Hollywood films or his international productions
(The River and The Golden Coach). Bazin too was drawn to the French Renoir, to Boudu, The Lower
Depths, The Crime of M. Lange, and above all to Rules of the Game (the reconstructed print of
which Renoir dedicated to him). But he was confident that this director could not produce trivial
work and that one must struggle to appreciate the American Renoir. He secretly rejoiced that Renoir
could be described by no formula. Producers and critics could only follow his developing vision and
the spontaneity of his personality.
In response, they frequently ignored Renoir or deplored his less predictable maneuvers. Bazin too
was caught off-guard by the recent Renoir but his curiosity coupled with his unshakeable faith in the
man led him to reexamine his own presuppositions and be glad of a chance to escape them. Bazin
looked at Renoirs American films as he might at one of his animals transplanted to utterly new
terrain. The unfamiliar postures and movements were inelegant only to an eye unwilling to be

instructed. For his part, Bazin learned to appreciate new aspects of this animal and he began to
understand the foreign ground on which he ran.
Already in 1952, Cahiers du Cinma had tried under Bazins direction to reintroduce Renoir to
the French with a complete issue dedicated to his recent return.15 The appearance of The Golden
Coach, French Can Can, and Elena et les hommes in the years that followed gave Bazin and his
friends new opportunities to defend the master.
The critic Claude Beylie recalls seeing Bazin for the first time at a lecture hall of the cole
Normale Suprieure on rue dUlm in 1956, where he was presenting Renoirs Diary of a
Chambermaid to a hostile audience consisting of such intellectuals as Aron Gurwitsch and Maurice
Merleau-Ponty.16 Bazin spoke for nearly thirty minutes after the film and then defended both himself
and Renoir from severe attacks. Merleau-Ponty claimed that the Renoir comedy was of the same
genre as many of Ren Clairs early farces though not nearly so well paced nor cleanly controlled.
Bazin easily put away this objection, showing with precise examples that Renoirs was another kind
of film altogether. Renoirs attitude toward sound and toward actors, for example, demanded the
more relaxed scene construction that Merleau-Ponty considered loose and full of dead spots.
Furthermore, the very genre itself was more complicated than anything Clair had ever attempted, a
kind of tragic farce which doesnt have the instant appeal of straight comedy but which, as in the case
of Rules of the Game, can be so much richer.
Bazin could scarcely be haughty in his response, for he remembered being disappointed in the film
himself in 1948. He had to admit that:
In my heart of hearts I have always suspected that Renoirs American films were inferior to his French films, and if I did not take
more advantage of opportunities to see them again, it was for fear that my disappointment would be confirmed. Today I can
see clearly what critical preconception blinded me; it was that of Renoirs realism. I projected this notion on Diary of a
Chambermaid whose naturalistic aspects seemed doubly to justify the application of such a standard. Once I had abandoned
the futile criterion of realism and allowed myself to dream the film with Renoir, I could see the precision of the film, in its
construction as well as in its style, and above all in the direction of the actors which is accomplished with incredible freedom and
audacity. Certainly Renoir has never gone further than in Diary toward the marriage of the dramatic and the comic.17

This passage illustrates the tremendous critical maturity Bazin had reached by the end of his life.
His earliest and most important critical discoveries had concerned realism and had in part been made
in response to Renoirs French masterpieces. His ability to abandon the criterion of realism and to
dream the film with Renoir is testimony to that phenomenological attitude (ironically absent from
Merleau-Pontys reaction) which allowed him to invade the work with his generosity,18 to insinuate
himself around and behind it until it revealed its fullness to him. No doubt Renoir was the last
filmmaker Bazin was to champion because he was the most complex and chameleon-like. Welles,
Rossellini, De Sica, and Bresson all exemplify the strength of commitment to a certain vision of the
cinema, a vision Bazin had spelled out in each of their cases. But Renoir had no vision of cinema per
se. He was, to renew the analogy, simply a great instinctive animal. Bazin was convinced that the
cinema would grow in unpredictable ways with Renoir and he was determined to track this animal
close enough to dream with him but not so close as to box him into a safe and manageable image.
Bazin loved in Renoir the personal independence he relished so much in his own life. Like Renoir,
he too refused to fit the categories people constantly designed for him. He was editor of Cahiers, yet
he strayed from their auteurist line; he was a knowledgeable Catholic, filling his essays with
theological allusions, yet he was aloof from religious belief; he was committed in mind and deed to

social actions, yet he never adhered to any political party allegiance.

While his wife and very closest friends found him more and more inscrutable, Bazins inner life
was camouflaged as always behind the energetic outwardness of his behavior. His attendance at
Cannes in May of 1958 was more visible than ever, in part because his protg, Truffaut, had been
banned from the festival on account of his provocative essays in Arts. While he sought out old friends
at Cannes, knowing that he would likely not see many of them again, Bazin spent much of his time
there defending his young Turks with a display of paternalism which was perhaps only half in jest.
My forty years allows me a certain objectivity in regard to the new style of criticism, he wrote
shortly after the festival. That objectivity led him to praise Chabrol and Rohmers recently published
book on Hitchcock as the first book on the cinema written in the style and spirit of solid literary
criticism. But the same objectivity made him refuse the judgments about Hitchcock advanced in that
book. Once again Bazin found himself standing between generations, as promoter and arbiter, as
counselor and touchstone. The next year would see at Cannes the fruit of all this mediation, as the
establishment welcomed and praised the incorrigible Truffaut, and accepted and honored the first
films of the New Wave.
From Cannes Bazin traveled to the Brussels film festival where, along with other internationally
known critics, he voted on the ten greatest films of all time. The list this vote produced (Grand
Illusion, The Gold Rush, Potemkin, Earth, The Last Laugh, Citizen Kane, Caligari, Mother,
Bicycle Thieves, Intolerance) appalled Bazin and Cahiers, so that Rohmer ordered a Cahiers list in
response, Bazin being the only critic to vote in both contests. Cahiers came up with Sunrise as the
greatest film of all, followed by Rules of the Game, Voyage to Italy, Ivan the Terrible, Birth of a
Nation, Mr. Arkadin, Ordet, Ugetsu, and LAtalante.
Back in Paris, Bazin hurriedly began touching up several projects he was anxious to finish,
projects which would solidify and to some extent unify his fifteen years of critical endeavor. He
prepared, with Patrick Brion and Doniol-Valcroze, a precise filmography of the works of Orson
Welles, and concluded a lengthy interview with him begun in Cannes. Bazin envisaged a reprinting of
his 1950 book on Welles which was already out of print and far out of date. He wanted this new
edition to appear alongside his collected essays, which he was at the same time shaping into Questce que le cinma? And he hoped, with the mad hope of the condemned, to be able to bring his Renoir
study to an end while he still had time and will.19
It was while he was correcting galley proofs for Volume I of Questce que le cinma?, near the
end of August 1958, that Bazin suffered a near fatal collapse. Guy Lger and Doniol-Valcroze rushed
him to the hospital, fully expecting his death. But Bazin didnt die and, as soon as he was released,
returned furiously to the Renoir book. Indeed, he was frequently seen in Paris these final two months
gathering data for that project, stopping by the Cahiers office just three days before his death to pick
up some old reviews. In remarkable spirits, he asked everyone about their winter plans, brushing
aside questions about his health by saying he was too busy to think about it. The next evening he
watched on television Renoirs Le Crime de M. Lange, for which he composed his last essay for
The disease moved into its final stage the next afternoon, and Guy Lger drove over to administer
to his semi-conscious friend four sacraments of the Church including, to please Bazins parents, the
blessing of his nine-year-old civil marriage. Truffaut came back late in the evening exhausted after his
first day of shooting The 400 Blows. Jean-Pierre Chartier and his wife, Janick Arbois, filled out the
dolorous company that night who watched Bazins eyes lose their intensity of vision and his tongue

stop trying to form words. All his life Bazin had animated, energized, and helped organize the world
about him through the power of his vision and his speech. Roger Leenhardt would recall that on first
meeting Bazin in 1942 it was Bazins eyes which struck him.21 He would walk around a person as he
might an object or landscape. Suddenly those eyes, while still focusing on the person, would turn
inward. One could literally watch them begin to reflect and come to insight. One had then only to wait
for the vocal reflex, for Bazins voice to fitfully but faithfully relay some perception inevitably new,
inevitably valuable. Never imperious like a painter nor hazy like a poet, his eyes always moved
with ease and mobility from perception to reflection, from object to idea.22 They were the eyes of a
born critic and when, on that November day, they lost their power to criticize, the critic could no
longer live.
Truffaut was most shaken of all, for he wanted desperately to tell Bazin about the excitement and
frustration of his work on a film they had so often talked and dreamed about, but Bazin was barely
present. What upset Truffaut most was Bazins silence. Deprived of speech he was like a sick baby,
feeble and unhappy, a sick child whom for the first time I could help.23 Bazin, who had always
looked at you, seen through you, understood you, and spoken to you, had gone. At 3:00 a.m. his body
admitted defeat. It was November 11, 1958, the fortieth anniversary of Apollinaires death, as the
poet Edmond Humeau was to recall in his elegy.24

At last the equal of the chirping birds

In writing about him many people have been tempted to call Bazin a modern Saint Francis. With
his reverence for the natural world, his personal modesty, and the simple standard of behavior and
logic he applied to every event of his life, no matter how small, he could not help but spread humor,
intelligence, and goodwill about him. Yet Bazin was neither pious nor mystical. He didnt even share
the security of Franciss religious convictions. If the comparison with St. Francis is to hold, it must be
to the Francis whom William Carlos Williams speaks of, the Francis who taught the animals to pray
not because he wanted to lead them to God but because he wanted to become as natural as they.25 In

Williamss view, it was only the poetry of his prayers which allowed Francis to stand as the equal of
the chirping birds and the roaring beasts of the forest.
Bazin in his way had to learn to think, to analyze, to write and speak so that he could feel at home
among the animals he kept and feel free in the society of his day. It was this attitude toward life which
made him at once the subtlest, most natural, and most important thinker the field of film has had.

Andr Bazin from 1945 to 1950 The Time of Struggles and

When we read the texts Andr Bazin wrote during the Occupation and the Liberation, we realize that
the best of them attempt to establish a definition of film, as if Bazin, before throwing himself into
battle, tried to define its field and in this way explore the multiple possibilities offered to filmmakers.
Five years later, when he fell ill, Bazin had already chosen and explored his major options. He
was recognized as cinemas first intellectual guide [matre penser] (or rather master of reflection
[matre rflchir]), and young film enthusiasts followed him. Between these two dates something
had changed in the relations between film and criticism.
From 1945 to 1950, Bazin led a continual battle, not to impose his ideas (Bazin never tried to
impose his point of view anymore; all he did was explain it), but rather to urge people to accept a
new approach to film. I had the good fortune of participating in his battles during these five years and
it seems to me that today we confuse many things when we talk about Bazin.
What Id like to help clarify here are the first steps he took during these years of combat: how he
slowly discovered himself, how he broadened the range of his knowledge of film, and thereby
broadened the conclusions he drew during his studies. There are two reasons why Id like to do this.
First, because it seems to me that we currently tend to treat Bazin as a unity or a whole whereas, in
fact, he followed a specific path in distinct stages. The second reason is because I feel that, in the
United States as much as in France, we frequently evoke Bazin but we follow his example less and
Those who didnt live through this period naturally have difficulty imagining what the spring of
1945 was like. The war was drawing to a close, France was free, but above all, because of the way
the Occupation ended, institutions had crumbled. It was a time of renewal in all areas, of an immense
hope for a different society.
The screens were flooded with American, Russian, and English films from the forbidden years.
The first film journal to appear was LEcran Franais, a weekly whose founders, Jean Vidal and
Jean-Pierre Barrot, had decided that their publication wouldnt accept any film advertising in order,
of course, to remain independent.1
Beginning with the very first issues, many important critics and filmmakers gathered around
LEcran Franais, as well as several young film enthusiasts anxious to express themselves. I was
among the latter and was already part of the editorial team when Bazin brought in his first two
articleson trick effects, focusing on Garson Kanins Tom, Dick and Harry (1941) and Sam Woods
Our Town (1940). Since I loved the first of these films, we talked. I didnt know yet that Andr loved
to have people read his articles (often in manuscript form) in order to be sure they were
understandable, ever ready to correct or rework them.
At the time, neither literature nor publishing had discovered film. Except for Bardche and

Brasillachs History of Cinema, there was nothing in the bookstores. Fanatics had collections of
Jean-Georges Auriols La Revue du Cinma, a monthly published fifteen years earlier. Beyond that,
if you wanted to gather information, the only things available were general circulation, pre-war
magazines and your own memories. There wasnt a single filmography (did the word even exist?).2 In
order to fill this void, I had tried to make up a list of the films made by all the directors in the world.
Bazin immediately wanted to see it and we spent several days going through the list and exchanging
our opinions on the directors in question.
Andr Bazin immediately proved to be a marvelously passionate filmgoer. He knew how to
explain things. taking his time, always putting himself on the level of his listener. He was simple,
warm, and full of good humor. I had just arrived from the provinces. For years Id been collecting
impressions as a moviegoer without knowing who to share them with. On top of that, what most
interested me was film criture as it relates to content. I could finally talk with Bazin, especially
since his education (in particular on literary and novelistic construction) and his intelligence allowed
him to go further than myself in analyzing films.
Our biggest problem was seeing these films from the past, the silent and early sound classics of
which wed heard so much but didnt know. In less than two years Henri Langlois, at the
Cinmathque Franaise, as well as cin-clubs (which began multiplying from 1946 on), allowed us
to catch up, often at the rate of one or two films a day. It was usually the same group at each showing:
Bazin, Kast, Doniol-Valcroze, Thrond, Astruc, Colpi, Rossif, me, and a few others. Needless to say,
we had endless conversations.
In the immediate post-war period, Bazin concentrated his efforts on analyzing films in front of and
with the public. His first ambition was to be a teacher. His activities within Travail et Culture were
completely revolutionary. (Incidentally, this was the first time the words culture and cinema were
associated.) Bazin presented movies practically every day, in schools as well as in factories
wherever he could. Very quickly he became the most sought-after film presenter for cin-clubs. His
more complete formulations were published in LEcran Franais or in the bulletin of Travail et
Culture. He had a rare honesty vis--vis the public. Thus, he recommended that other presenters be
careful of prescreening commentaries which might orient viewers attention, of providing viewers
with preformed judgments which, even if fair, could modify reactions that the film might provoke in
the viewer. By what right?
In order to follow through on his reflections, the first thing he did was choose one particular film
which he presented innumerable times to all kinds of viewers: Marcel Carns Le Jour se lve
(1939). He knew its most intimate details, and each new debate with the public allowed him to go
deeper into his subject.
After more than a year of showing Le Jour se lve to all kinds of audiences, he decided in 1947 to
publish his study of the filma study that was designed to aid and guide other potential presenters of
Le Jour se lve, explaining not only the film but also possible viewer reactions. I remember one
evening when wed arranged to go to the movies. Andr ran up, brandishing his study of Le Jour se
lve (which had just returned from the printers). Here, he said, keep it; its the first serious thing
Ive written. (He himself didnt always keep copies of his work.)
Although he was quite excited about what was at the time a new form of teaching, he also loved to
pursue his idea that film was unaware of its own limits and that much ground was poorly understood.
Thus he was interested in many films that the majority of critics looked down on or ignored:
documentaries, Walt Disneys films, scientific productions. I remember spending two days with

Andr in the Muse de lHomme [an ethnographic museum] at a medical congress in order to watch
films about surgical procedures that we found particularly surrealist and significant.
More than anything else, criticism at the time was subjective, preoccupied more with the story told
than anything else. This old school, that of the pre-war critics, was still asking questions such as
Who is the author of a film? the writer or the director? For the rest of us, this kind of questioning
seemed ridiculous. It went without saying that only the director was the author.
Within LEcran Franais, we formed a small group of four who wanted to fight for a new cinema:
Bazin, Astruc, Thrond, and me. Roger Leenhardt assured us of his protection. Occasionally joining
us: Grisha and Mitsou Dabat, Henri Robillot, and Jacques Sigurd. Two of our older associates, Nino
Frank and Jean-Pierre Barrot, encouraged us and looked favorably on this young group trying to shake
a certain traditionalism from the French cinema and film journals.
The choice of articles and films was made on Monday mornings, with everyone present. We had
our traditions as well as our specialties. In 1946 and 1947, Georges Altman was responsible for
films dealing with human problems, Georges Sadoul had the right to almost all large-scale films, and
the task of talking about new films (generally American) which were interesting from an artistic point
of view fell to Roger Leenhardt. He was the one who responded to Jean-Paul Sartre following the
publication in our journal of the article in which Sartre attacked Citizen Kane (1941), a film he
hadnt understood. Bazin fully accepted this established order. He had a profound admiration for two
men whose writings had marked him: Andr Malraux and Roger Leenhardt.
But during the course of 1947, things changed. Contemporary activities in the cinema were going
to permit Bazin to express his ideas on two great subjects: Italian neorealism and the new American
When the Italian neorealist cinema appeared on the screens (Rome Open City [1945], then
Shoeshine [1946]), many questions were raised. Was a new, more human cinema being born? At
LEcran Franais, Sadoul and Altman were the first to be wildly enthusiastic. Bazin, who always
loved documentary film and social facts, couldnt help but be seduced by neorealism, but before
reaching any conclusions, he waited until hed seen a certain number of these Italian films. His most
important study on the subject, Cinematic Realism and the Italian School of the Liberation, didnt
appear in Esprit until January 1948. Rossellini, De Sica, and Visconti (the Visconti of Ossessione
[1942] and soon of La Terra trema [1948]) were the transalpine filmmakers who most interested
him. Its worth noting that beginning in 1949, when many Parisian critics and intellectuals turned
away from Rossellini (styles change in fact, neorealist filmmakers began pursuing other goals,
beginning with Rossellini), Bazin remained loyal to the auteur of Rome Open City and always rose to
his defense.
After the Liberation and even before the arrival of neorealism, we had begun to see lots of
American films shot during the war years. Their release was spread out over two or three years, in
part due to the vagaries of distributors. We quickly recognized this new American cinema as different
from pre-war productionmore personal, more profound. Bazin summarized his first impressions in
the article The New American Style: Has the Cinema Reached Maturity? (LEcran Franais,
August 21, 1946). One by one we discovered Preston Sturges, the first American Hitchcock, a new
Wyler. Finally, Welles arrived.
Actually, in the immediate post-war period, there were two major revelations (which were to
bring two new currents): Citizen Kane (made six years earlier) and Rome Open City. Two forms of
cinema which, for Bazin, complemented each other.3 The American auteur cinema (for, with Welles,

thats what we were dealing with) and in Europe, neorealism. The authenticity of Italian cinema and
in the American cinema, the filmmaker as author-creator equal to the novelist or painter.
The example of Welles was without precedent, the perfect illustration of what wed dreamed of.
For the first time in the history of film, and whats more, in Hollywood, at the heart of an excessively
industrialized system, a twenty-five-year-old man suddenly became a filmmaker, a film author. He
hadnt been an assistant, he knew nothing about the studiosand he managed to make Citizen Kane!
Truffaut is right when he writes that never before has a film encouraged so many would-be
filmmakers as Kane.
This notion of a cinma dauteur was immediately intimately linked to Welles. Heres how Bazin
begins his review of The Magnificent Ambersons (1942):
Orson Welles is undoubtedly one of the five or six filmmakers in the world worthy of the title of authorone of the five or six who
carry within themselves a vision of the world. Very often, they are complete authors: authors of the filmscript, authors of the mise
en scne. It also so happens that, as in the case of John Ford, they succeed in expressing their own universe through scripts
written by others. It doesnt matter. (LEcran Franais, November 19, 1946)

Thus, through Welles, Bazin had already unequivocally begun to define the cinma dauteur.
During 1947 and 1948, he did his best to explain why the example of Welles was revolutionary.
This was his first battle and one of the most difficult. Among the older critics, resistance was strong
against Welles (an amateur; so he films ceilingsthat was done during the silent period, etc.).
Since we also preferred Hitchcock, Sturges, and film noir to a certain French cinema of the day, we
were regularly taken to task by several colleagues. Because of his talent and lucidity, Bazin went
further than the rest of us in his analyses and was therefore always in the forefront. The old guys
accused him of dissecting films for no reason. He responded calmly to his often spiteful or sniggering
detractors, excusing himself for not having clearly explained himselfand then took up his arguments
in another form which he tried to make more accessible to all. In order to end all this after months
of battle, he wrote On Behalf of Orson Welles (LEcran Franais, January 20, 1948) and Orson
Welless Contribution (Cin-club, May 1948).
I had already interviewed Welles and wanted Bazin to meet him. Andr was rather hesitant about
meeting filmmakers. Subconsciously, he was afraid of losing a certain judgmental independence. But
Welles attracted him. I had Welles come to see him at a cin-club one night when he was presenting
The Magnificent Ambersons (which Welles had never seen in its definitive version).4 Bazin and
Welles immediately hit it off. After Macbeths (1948) public failure at the 1948 Venice Film
Festival, we went to the Excelsiors bar and spent the night trying to cheer Welles up, praising the
various qualities of his film and why he shouldnt be worried. We drank so much that night that we
cried over the end of Welless American career.
We werent going to give up on Welles (who enjoyed being in Europe and considered remaining
there) and after our various meetings with him, Andre and I published the results of our conversations
in a joint article, under the somewhat pretentious title Orson Welless Secrets (September 21,
1948). Its at this point that Andr began collecting notes for a book on Welles.
In 1947, Bazin also undertook the battle for another of films greats, Charlie Chaplin. He too had
fallen out of fashion among a certain critical circle that reproached him for having given up the
character of the Tramp. The release of Monsieur Verdoux (1947) was like throwing red meat to
wolves. But at LEcran Franais, Jean Renoir had prepared for battle by writing an article called
No, Monsieur Verdoux Did Not Kill Charlie Chaplin in order to facilitate its release in France.

In the face of the anti-Chaplin forces, Bazin was the only one to attempt rereading the author of
Monsieur Verdoux based on this film. First of all in LEcran Franais (December 30, 1947) with
Monsieur Verdoux or the Tramps Martyr, then in La Revue du Cinma (January 1948), which had
just begun publication, with The Myth of Monsieur Verdoux. Bazins position in favor of Verdoux
and Chaplin only made matters worse vis--vis those who contested his conclusions about Welles,
the American school, Wyler, and deep-focus cinematography. But among the younger generation that
was discovering film through the cin-clubs, Bazin was beginning to be generally thought of as a
He engaged in a phenomenal amount of activity. Always on the move in order to explain films
(here he was going to Algeriasometimes with a mobile projection unitalways trying to encourage
the development of cin-clubs everywhere, even in Hoggar [Algeria]!), he nonetheless managed to
write numerous articles for a variety of publications, often one a day.
Never entirely satisfied with them, he continually returned to the subject, adding a paragraph or
developing certain ideas. From 1947 to 1949, he usually reserved his first in-depth article for
LEcran Franais after having already published a version directed at the general public in the daily
Le Parisien Libr.
Bazin liked to find out about the reactions provoked by his reflections. It was a pleasure seeing
him come into the magazines editorial room the day after the publication of one of his articles. He
came to discuss it, to glean arguments in favor of or against it. And then, two months later, hed
publish a second article on the same subject, this time in La Revue du Cinma or Esprit. Sometimes
he wrote a third or fourth one (some of them for foreign journals). For those who are interested in
studying Bazins thought, it would be interesting to follow the progression of his principal themes
through the years and especially to study the successive modifications of his remarks.
Bazin quickly realized that it wasnt enough to analyze films and to help the cinema become a
cultural phenomenon. It was also necessary to try to modify the organization of production. Malrauxs
statement that in any case, the cinema is an industry never ceased to haunt Bazin. In order to change
this and to eventually help directors work with as much freedom as other artists, it was necessary to
rethink the structures of production.
During these years film was completely locked up from the inside. There wasnt any aid available
to young filmmakers.5 Those few filmmakers who were just starting out had worked their way up
through a system of apprenticeship. An entire system, put into place by the producers and unions,
prevented anyone from making films if they werent a long-standing professional. For example,
Christian Brard (at the time the theaters greatest set designer) wasnt allowed to sign the sets (other
than with the word models) for Beauty and the Beast (1946) because Brard hadnt worked on
three previous films as assistant set designer, and so on.
Because it seemed impossible to make a dent in the system (it was Chabrol, Truffaut, and Malle
who were to do this, ten years later!), Bazin did his utmost to encourage marginal enterprises. And
this is how the following got their start in 1948: Jean-Pierre Melville with Le Silence de la Mer,
Jacques Tati with Jour de Fte, and two Ecran Franais collaborators: Roger Leenhardt shot Les
dernires vacances and Alexandre Astruc tackled Aller-Retour.
Astruc was the first among us to get behind the camera. He offered brilliant, often polemical
articles to LEcran Franais which complemented Bazins analyses. In the summer of 1948, as a
direct consequence of Citizen Kane, Astruc published his manifesto, the camera-stylo, and decided
it was time to act. This he was able to do a few months later, thanks to the help of an independent

producer, Pierre Braunberger.

Bazin was seduced by even the most audacious enterprises. One day he heard of Rune Hagberg, a
young Swede whod made a feature film with 500,000 francs (in todays currency). Bazin quickly
devoted a paper to him.
But Bazin himself never considered becoming a filmmaker. Almost all of us dreamed of becoming
one, but not Bazin. When wed talk about it, hed listen to us. But if we asked him the question, hed
hide behind a laugh, perhaps out of modesty. In any case, it seemed to be so unthinkable to him that he
was never able to imagine it.6
The year 1948, eventful for him, brought us Jean Cocteaus Les Parents Terribles. This was a
revelation in how to adapt plays for the screen. The beginning of sound led to so many filmed plays
that critics automatically attacked anything theatrical. This is why they indiscriminately tore apart the
films of Pagnol and Guitry. They would only accept a play on the screen were it opened up. This
was exactly the opposite of what Cocteau did in Les Parents Terribles. He didnt change a thing. All
the artistic merits of the film depend on the mise en scne and the editing. Bazin emphasized the
importance of this event and thus ran counter to everything that had been said or written about the
adaptation of plays. From Theater Transformed by Black and White Magic into Pure Cinema was
the title of his article in LEcran Franais.
At the time, Bazin was equally preoccupied by adaptations of novels into movies. This was a
perennial subject of discussion. In general, we werent very inclined to see the great novels of
literature adapted to the screen. This seemed to us a vain effort. For his part, Bazin didnt see why the
cinema should have to deprive itself of adapting classics as long as they led to good films. Im not
sure that in this acceptance of adaptations there wasnt something of the generous reaction of a
professorId even say of an elementary school teacherhappy that the cinema would allow for a
wider exposure to the classics.
By the beginning of the winter of 194849, Bazin had already expressed his point of view on
Welles, the new American cinema, neorealism, Chaplin, adaptation, and several other topics. Since
this opinion ran into a lot of opposition and he had to fight, why not create a movement which would
take as its goal the promotion of a new avant-garde? This idea took shape, I think, during the Venice
Festival of 1948. Bazins encounters with Welles and especially with Cocteau had been decisive.
This movement, or rather this club, was to be called Objectif 49 and the honorary president was Jean
For years, the Maison de la Chimie [House of Chemistry, a professional society] was the place
for meetings and debates after screenings of films which were often rare or unreleased. Occasionally
premieres took place at the Broadway Cinema on the Champs-Elyses.7 The official inauguration
of Objectif 49, if we can call it that, occurred at the Studio des Champs-Elyses in early December
1948, with the projection of Les Parents Terrible presented by Bazin and Cocteau.
Two weeks later, Bazin published his Defense of the Avant-Garde in LEcran Franais. It
presented a veritable definition of what a new avant-garde could and should be. To raise the issue of
an avant-garde for the cinema of 1948 was truly audacious because ever since the silent periods
avant-garde, which ended with the apotheosis of An Andalusian Dog (1928), Blood of a Poet (1930),
and LAge dor (1930), no one in France had used the expression avant-garde when talking about
film. In fact, in this text Bazin tries to ward off the critics who were already denouncing Objectif 49,
responding for the most part to Henri Jeanson, the most virulent of its detractors.8

In 1949 a sharp and sometimes absurd conflict among the critics developed. The rift was
complete: wed insult each other when wed meet in the street.
Hitchcocks Rope (1948)shot, as everyone knows, in a semblance of one single long takehad
just premiered. Excited by this tour de force, Roger Thrond and I decided to say everything we
thought about this filmmaker we admired and who was considered by many to be no more than a
director of thrillers. It was decided, in conjunction with the editorial board of LEcran Franais, that
we would begin with an interview with Hitchcock, which would be followed in the coming weeks by
a survey on Hitchcock taken among French directors. On January 25, 1949, Hitchcock Confides
was published. Im recounting this personal episode because it was to have consequences even
within the editorial board of LEcran Franais, consequences in which Bazin was the first to be
The admiration that Thrond and I had for Hitchcock was without bounds. We even took seriously
what were only witticisms for Hitchcock: for example, that if a film were well prepared, the director
didnt have to go on the set! Bazin had tried to control our ardor. But, in spite of his reticence and
hesitations about Hitchcock, he wasnt unhappy to see that our position set off a general outcry.9
In the eyes of established critics, those who had already rejected Orson Welles, it was a crime to
defend Hitchcock! Two weeks after the interview with Hitchcock, Claude Vermorel vigorously took
us to task. Furthermore, our survey among filmmakers testified to this incomprehension regarding
Hitchcock. Among those questioned, only two accorded merit and talent to the director of Shadow of
a Doubt (1943)Ren Clment and Maurice Tourneur. The latter even wrote to the magazine
protesting against Claude Vermorel. As far as Im concerned, said Tourneur, Hitchcocks the one
whos right.
Very quickly, things got complicated. Louis Daquin attacked Objectif 49 as a whole and its
founders (especially Alexandre Astruc) in an article entitled Displaced Remarks (LEcran
Franais, March 8, 1949). He kept on bringing up the usual complaints about the young critics but,
curiously enough, intensified the level of his attacks by calling us esthetes and formalists. This on the
eve of a debate on the avant-garde which, two days later, on the 10th of March, at the Maison de la
Pense Franaise [another professional organization], would oppose Georges Sadoul and Andr
Bazin. Daquin didnt hesitate to proclaim that we were frauds and concluded: Permit me to inform
you that youre not worthy of the critics liberty and independence which your elders had so much
difficulty obtaining.
That evening at the Maison de la Pense Franaise provided the opportunity for quite a quarrel.
Led by Sadoul and Daquin, the opponents of Objectif 49 accused us of sacrificing content for form. In
fact, it was a debate between a pro-political cinema and a different one. Mitry, Astruc, and Leenhardt
also participated in the evening.
Two weeks later, Andr Bazin and Pierre Kast responded in LEcran Franais (March 29, 1949)
to Daquins attacks, challenging the reproach of formalism and defending Objectif 49, which had been
vilified even before having had a chance to prove itself. Bazin wrote that one day or another,
everything that serves the cinema returns to the public, even if prophets have to preach in the desert.
The post-war film intelligentsia was in fact dominated by Sadoul, who was beginning to be generally
thought of as a serious film historian. Undoubtedly those around him looked unfavorably on the
establishment of another intelligentsia that accorded less importance to politics.
Its worth noting that this entire polemic was instigated within LEcran Franais itself and that the
debate at the Maison de la Pense Franaise had been organized by that journal, now under the

direction of Pierre Barlatier. Owing to financial difficulties, LEcran Franais had just been sold
and had to integrate itself into the ranks of the Communist publications.10 These new directors were
thrilled to have both Sadoul and Bazin on their team. But the spring 1949 confrontation had left its
mark. For the time, we buried the hatchet. A little more than a year later, however, the editorial
boards unity had come to an end.
The reproach of formalism addressed notably to Bazin was unwelcome and he was hurt by it. The
man who loved Flaherty and Donskoi and fought for a cinema which was pure, significant, having
social resonances, the man who was never able to completely support Hollywoods production
because he often found it to be false, empty, and too separated from life11to accuse this man of
being an esthete who advocated a useless cinema, this was too hard to accept. Film criticism has
always been like this: youre accused of formalism or indifference during your lifetime if you dont
adhere to a cause or a political discourse.
A year and a half later, once things had calmed down and the rupture with the Communists was
complete, Bazin took stock of the situation in an article On Form and Content, or the Crisis in
Film. He wrote that:
The relations between form and content are not the same as those between a container and its contents, a bottle and a liquid,
but more like those between a shell and a shellfish. The former is in no way a superfluous, interchangeable form but a specific
architecture secreted by a shapeless flesh whose death would otherwise leave no trace.

Spurred on by Bazin and Cocteau, the friends and founders of Objectif 49 decided to organize a
festival which would be different from the kind offered at the time, a festival which would be solely
dedicated to filmmakers and their works. This was how we hit upon the idea of the Festival of
Maligned Films [Festival du Film Maudit] in Biarritz, which took place from July 29 to August 5,
What revolted us about other festivals was that they were part of an established, rigid system
which left no place for marginal films. In most cases the films offered were selected as
representative by the countries involved and the winners list depended upon the results of political
Biarritz wanted to correct an injustice: to show masterpieces which had had no commercial
success (because the public didnt want to see them) and also to present interesting films which
hadnt been picked up by distributors in France. So it was a festival without any political or
commercial interests. We will choose our own films, announced Jean Cocteau. We will establish
our own purpose. Twenty films were presented, including ten which were unreleased in France. The
Russians refused to participate.13 In addition to Cocteau, other filmmakers and writers actively
supported the Festival and Objectif 49: Jean Grmillon, Ren Clment, Alexandre Astruc, Raymond
Quneau, Claude Mauriac, and others.
The results were positive. People talked a lot about this event which, to its credit, placed
cinematic art before all other considerations, perhaps for the first time. In any case, it was a festival
of authors [auteurs].
During the summer of 1949, Bazin finished editing his book on Welles. Jean Cocteau wrote the
preface in August, after Biarritz. The book was going to come out in early 1950. As far as I know this
was the first monograph edited in France that focused on a director. On the cover, Cocteaus and
Bazins names were given equal status, as if theyd written the book together.14

Its difficult to say whether this book was a result of the Biarritz Festival and the policy decided
upon and defined by Objectif 49 or a personal decision. In any case, from that time on Bazin began
focusing his attention on certain directors and relinquishing others a bit. Of course, he continued to
see all films but his choice of preferred auteurs was virtually set.
As far as French cinema was concerned, hed always followed the work of Ren Clment with the
greatest interest and knew exactly how to analyze the directors mise en scne. Rouquiers
Farrebique (1946) was a revelation for him: this kind of authentic cinema reassured him. Of course,
Bazins sympathies also reached out to the director of Le Jour se lve. Bazin never visited studios
while a film was in production (at least before 1950). Well, he visited Marcel Carn in order to
interview him during the production of La Marie du port (1948).
The director he most admiredbefore meeting Renoirwas Erich von Stroheim. His outlandish
genius fascinated him, as did his banishment from Hollywood. A propos of The Dance of Death
(1947) Bazin wrote several articles on Stroheim Lost and Rediscovered and said of him that he
has made films as true as stone and as free as dreams.
In November 1949, LEcran Franais assigned Bazin to interview Jean Renoir who, returning
from the States, was passing through Paris. Like the rest of us at the time, Bazin had misjudged
Renoirs American films. Wed stopped with The Rules of the Game (1939) and considered the later
films a disappointment. Without denying the difficulties an exiled filmmaker faces, we were unwilling
to explore Renoirs latest attempts. Bazins encounter with Renoir was decisive and led Bazin to a
rereading of Renoir (which he continued to pursue, expand, and enrich until his death). Its to his
credit that he could revise his opinion. Then as now, its a rare event when a critic admits in writing
that he was wrong.
In 1950, Bazins list of auteurs would have included Welles, Rossellini, Wyler, De Sica, Sturges,
Cocteau, Renoir, Clment, and Chaplin. He was soon to include Bresson and Buuel, the former
beginning with Diary of a Country Priest (1950) and the latter with Los Olvidados (1950). In
Bazins personal pantheon, the only ones added later were Tati (prompted more by Mr. Hulots
Holiday [1953] than by Jour de fte), Kurosawa (Japanese films werent yet available in France),
and Fellini (who was just beginning).
The year 1950 was bleak. War broke out in Korea, witch hunts were going on in the States, and the
Soviet Union was in the final phase of Stalinism. In the press, people on the Left as well as the Right
were digging in. Was there going to be a confrontation between the East and West?
At the beginning of the year, Bazin fell seriously ill and was forced to cut back on his activities.
The editorial board of LEcran Franais underwent transformation. Bazin, Astruc, and Thrond
left as the weeks passed by. As for myself, I was busy (since May 1949) with Henri Colpi on a
monthly Cin-Digest and was now only a proofreader for LEcran Franais.
During the course of 1950 there was a second Biarritz Festival, baptized The Biarritz Meeting,
which was again organized by Objectif 49. Antonionis first film, Story of a Love Affair (1950),
Nicholas Rays They Live by Night (1949), and Dmytryks Give Us This Day (1949) were presented.
But, in fact, Objectif 49 was dead. The international situation had dramatized everything. It seemed
that the avant-garde was a game we had all outgrown.
Jean-Pierre Chartier created a new weekly, Radio-Cinma-Tlvision (the future Tlrama).
Bazin contributed articles that up till then he reserved for LEcran Franais. As for me, I tried getting
into film production as a scriptwriter.

Thus ended the time when I worked side by side with Bazin.
One last adventure was set to begin the following year, in April: that of Cahiers du Cinma,
where Bazin was instantly an inspiration, a protector, and a father-figure. More than once he asked
me to join the Cahiers team, but the demise of Cin-Digest had given me a distaste for journalism. I
left to work on films in Italy.
The collapse of Objectif 49 left a bitter taste in our mouths, the impression of having completely
failed. Not only had our new avant-garde lamentably foundered, but we werent even able to put
the slightest dent in the production system with our articles. What we didnt know was that among the
participants of Objectif 49 were a number of future collaborators of Cahiers du Cinma and that the
following generation was to succeed where we had failed, the same year that Bazin died.15
Translated by ROGER HAGEDORN
This appendix originally appeared as an Annexe in Dudley Andrew, Andr Bazin, French
edition (Paris: Cahiers du Cinma and Cinmathque Franaise, 1983).


1. Jean-Charles Tacchella approached me in 1981, offering his own resources and reminiscences.
When this biography was taken up to be translated into French, Jean Narboni agreed to add
Tacchellas text as an appendix. A 1990 reprint of this biography in English also included this
appendix. Tacchella, partly thanks to writing this appendix, was spurred to direct Travelling
avant (1987), a fiction film based on the cin-club milieu of the late forties.

2. For a detailed look at the less genial Bazin in the midst of his debates, see Antoine de Baecque,
Bazin in Combat, in Andrew, ed., Opening Bazin (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011),
225233. For a call to place Bazin within a larger field of discourse, la Foucault, see Laurent le
Forestier, La transformation Bazin ou pour une histoire de la critique sans critique, 1895
revue de lhistoire du cinma 62 (2010): 927. Le Forestier continues his critique of the
biographical orientation of film theory in a long review of Opening Bazin entitled Bazin, ouvretoi! in 1895 revue de lhistoire du cinma 67 (2012): 11525, an issue that also contains a
critique by Franois Albera, a lengthy defense of the anthologys orientation by Herv JourbertLaurencin, and two dossiers of new material showing Bazins involvement with Guido Aristarco
and Georges Sadoul, both allied with the Communist Party. It must be noted, too that Bazin
anticipated Foucault by twenty years in boldly asserting that the author is a historical category
and possibly no longer pertinent. See his Cinema as Digest, translated in James Naremore, Film
Adaptation (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2000).

3. Dudley Andrew, The Ontology of a Fetish, Film Quarterly, 61, no. 4 (Summer 2008): 6267.

4. Eric Rohmer, La rvolution Bazin; le mystre de lexistence, Le Monde December 15, 1994.
Rohmer reinforced his commitment to this essay of his in a letter to me dated September 25, 2008.

5. I elaborate this notion in the final chapter of What Cinema Is! (New York: Wiley-Blackwell,

6. Andr Bazin, In Defense of Mixed Cinema, in What Is Cinema? (Berkeley: University of

California Press, 1967), 74. A somewhat more accurate translation of this passage about the river
has been published by Timothy Barnard in his edition of What Is Cinema? (Montreal: Caboose
Press, 2009), 136. Barnards English version of this essays title is much closer to the French
original, For an Impure Cinema: In Defense of Adaptation.

7. Antoine de Baecque, Bazin in Combat, in Andrew, Opening Bazin, 228230.

8. This discussion of Filmologie I developed for The Core and the Flow of Film Studies, Critical
Inquiry, Summer 2009.

9. See Andrew, The Core and the Flow of Film Studies.

10. Gilbert Cohen-Sat, Essai sur les principes dune philosophie du cinma (Paris: Presses
Univrsitaires de France, 1946).

11. Actually Bazin would intervene briefly in a Filmologie Congress of 1955, his remarks appearing
in La Revue International de filmologie 2024 (1955). And the next year, he promoted a lecture
by Jean Wahl at the Institut de Filmologie in Cahiers du Cinma 56 (January 1956).

12. Florent Kirsch (Andr Bazin), Introduction une filmologie de la filmologie, Cahiers du
Cinma 5 (September 1951).

13. For an overview of this phenomenon, see Antoine de Baecque, La Cinphilie: Invention dun
regard, histoire dune culture 19441968 (Paris: Fayard, 2003).

14. See Rochelle Fack, The Letter and the Silhouette: Bazin and Chaplin, in Andrew, Opening

15. See section 4 of Andrew, Opening Bazin, where Bazins reception in several countries is

16. Serge Daney, Cahiers du Cinma, August 19, 1983.

17. See note 6 above.

18. Bazin, What Is Cinema?, 69. Philip Rosen cites this passage in Belief in Bazin, in Andrew,
Opening Bazin, 113, while I cite it in What Cinema Is!, 131.

19. Ryan Cook, Japanese Lessons: Bazins Cinematic Cosmopolitanism, in Andrew, Opening
Bazin, 330334.

20. See my Time Zones and Jetlag in World Cinema, in N. Durovicova and K. Newman, eds.,
World Cinema, Transnational Perspectives (New York: Routledge, 2010).

21. In Les Cahiers du Cinma 19681977: Interview with Serge Daney, The Thousand Eyes no. 2
(1977): 21.

22. In Screen 14, no. 4 (Winter 19731974), Christopher Williams wrote the scathing Bazin on
Neorealism. But the fullest version of the Screen position is displayed in volume 17, no. 3
(Autumn 1976), which contains Colin MacCabe, Principles of Realism and Pleasure, and
Stephen Heath, Narrative Space, an essay written in tandem with his On Screen in Frame, Film
and Ideology, published in Quarterly Review of Film Studies (August 1976).

23. Harvey, in Christopher Williams, ed., Cinema: The Beginnings and the Future (London:
University of Westminster Press, 1996).

24. Jason McGrath, a scholar of Chinese cinema, reported to me (in September 2012) that his census
of Chinese publications shows that Bazin was mentioned 900 times during the eighties, 2,000
times in the nineties, and double that amount since the year 2000.

25. A translation of this biography that came out in May 2011 sold out its first printing of 6,000 copies
before the month was over. See also Cecile Lagesses detailed account of Bazin in China in
Andrew, Opening Bazin. Part 4 of that anthology looks at Bazin in several countries.

26. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Loeil et lesprit, Les Temps Modernes (1961): 214215.

1. Claude Bellanger, Allocution de Claude Bellanger aux Obsques dAndr Bazin, unpublished
text of a eulogy delivered at the church of Saint-Saturnin, Nogent, France, November 14, 1958. In
this case, and throughout the book, when a text is given in English and cited in French, the
translation is my own.

2. Adieu Andr Bazin, France-Observateur, no. 445 (November 13, 1958).

3. Andr Bazin, notre conscience, France-Observateur, no. 446 (November 20, 1958).

4. This Souvenir dAndr Bazin, in Esprit 27 (May 1959), included a poem honoring Bazin:
Edmond Humeaus Je me souviens, pp. 838842. It also included two articles: Georges
Sufferts Cet homme qui parle, pp. 835838, and Michel Mesnils Une methode critique, pp.

5. Andr Bazin, Quest-ce que le cinma?, 4 vols. (Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1959, 1960, 1961).
Twenty-six of these essays have been translated into English by Hugh Gray in Bazin, What Is
Cinema? and What is Cinema? (2) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967 and 1971,
respectively). What Is Cinema? collects essays taken from the first two volumes of Quest-ce que
le cinma?Ontologie et langage and Le Cinma et les autres artsthat is, essays dealing with
questions of the ontology of cinema and with cinemas relation to the other arts. What Is Cinema?,
vol. 2, contains essays from volumes 3 and 4 of Quest-ce que le cinma?Cinma et sociologie
and Une Esthtique de la ralit: le norealismeessays dealing with cinema and sociology and
the aesthetics of neorealism. Wherever possible, citations will be made from these English
translations of Bazins work.

6. Jean Renoir, Tmoignages, Cahiers du Cinma 16, no. 91 (January 1959): 34.

7. Claude Beylie, Tombeau dAndr Bazin, Education et Cinma, nos. 1516 (October
November 1958): 338340.

8. Roger Leenhardt, Du cte de Socrate, Cahiers du Cinma 16, no. 91 (January 1959): 1518.

Chapter 1
1. Mme. Aim Bazin, interview with the author, Nice, May 1974.

2. Janine Bazin, interview with the author, Nogent-sur-Marne, November 1973.

3. Claude Roy, Il rendit heureux, Cahiers du Cinma 16, no. 91 (January 1959): 18.

4. I. W. Alexander, Bergson, Philosopher of Reflection (London: Bowes and Bowes, 1957), p. 16.

5. In Le Cinma et les autres arts, vol. 2 of Quest-ce que le cinma? (Paris: Editions du Cerf,
1959), pp. 133142.

6. See especially the section Charlie and Time, found in the essay Charlie, in What Is Cinema?
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), pp. 148149.

7. Henri Bergson, Laughter, trans. C. Brereton and F. Rothwell (New York: Macmillan, 1911).

8. Andr Bazin, The Ontology of the Photographic Image, in What Is Cinema?, p. 15.

9. Andr Bazin, Theater and CinemaPart I, in What Is Cinema?, p. 91.

10. Angelo Bertocci, Charles DuBos and English Literature: A Critic and His Orientation (New
York: Kings Crown Press, 1949).

11. Bguin, Lettre de Benares, Cahiers du Cinma 2, no. 10 (March 1952): 4748.

12. Bguin, Bernanos au cinma, Esprit 19 (February 1951): 248252.

13. Bguin, LAme romantique et le rve; Essai sur le romantisme allemand et la posie franaise
(Paris: Corti, 1939).

14. Bguin, Gerard de Nerval: Suivi de posie et mystique (Paris: Stock, 1937), p. 102, cited by
Sarah Lawall, Critics of Consciousness (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968), p. 54.

15. Lawall, Critics of Consciousness, p. 59.

16. Bguin, Lve de Pguy (Paris: Labergerie, 1948).

17. Jacques Maritain, Rouault (New York: Abrams, 1954; repr. 1969).

18. Maritains spirit noticeably resounds in passages such as these from Bazins Le Journal dun
cur de campagne and the Stylistics of Robert Bresson, in What Is Cinema?, pp. 125143:
Naturally, Bresson, like Dreyer, is only concerned with the countenance as flesh, which, when not
involved in playing a role, is a mans true imprint, the most visible mark of his soul. It is then that
the countenance takes on the dignity of a sign. He would have us concerned here not only with the
psychology but with the physiology of existence (p. 133); and, so, probably for the first time, the
cinema gives us a film in which the only genuine incidents, the only perceptible movements are
those of the life of the spirit. Not only that, it also offers us a new dramatic form, that is
specifically religiousor better still, specifically theological; a phenomenology of salvation and
grace. We have the countenance of the actor denuded of all symbolic expression, sheer
epidermis, set in a surrounding devoid of artifice (p. 136).

19. Henri Daniel-Rops, Pguy et la vraie France (Montreal: Editions Serge, 1944), and Where
Angels Pass, trans. E. Craufurd (London: Cassell, 1950).

20. Marcel Legaut, La Condition chrtienne (Paris: Grasset, 1937), and La Communaut humaine:
Essai de spiritualit sociale (Paris: Aubier, 1938).

21. From a biographical note to an article by Marcel Legaut, A Glimpse at Tomorrows Church,
Cross Currents 23, no. 1 (Spring 1973): 1.

22. Letter from Andr Bazin to Guy Lger, La Rochelle, October 16, 1940.

23. Letter from Bazin to Lger, St. Cloud, March 14, 1942.

24. Both of these men had their brilliant futures cut short by the coming of the Nazis. Jahier, who had
already fled to France from Mussolinis Italy, killed himself on the eve of the Nazi invasion.
Jaubert, a captain in the army, was tragically shot in the head just hours before the French
surrender. In commemorating that death nearly five years later in one of his first published essays,
Maurice Jaubert et le cinma franais, Bazin wrote, With Maurice Jaubert French cinema has
lost one of its true masters, both in talent and in spirit. He was one of those rare artists, so very
rare, whose work, even in its most objective forms, remains always the expression of a profound
spiritual life. This essay has been reprinted in Bazin, Le Cinma de loccupation et de la
rsistance, collected and with a preface by F. Truffaut (Paris: Union Gnrale dEditions, 1975),
pp. 136140. Jauberts scores can be found in the films of Jean Vigo and Marcel Carn; more
recently, Franois Truffaut employed his music for Adle H. and La Chambre verte.

25. Bazin, Cinma et sociologie, vol. 3 of Quest-ce que le cinma?, p. 37.

26. Roger Leenhardt himself authored four of the five parts of Petit cole du spectateur [The little
handbook of the spectator]: the general introduction to the series, O lon oeuvre lcole du
spectateur, Le Rhythme cinmatographique (January 1936): 627632; La Photo, Esprit 4
(March 1936): 977979; La Prise de vues, Esprit 5 (May 1936): 254256. Maurice Jaubert
rounded out the series with his article, La Musique, Esprit 5 (April 1936): 114119.

27. Leenhardt, Films russes, Esprit 3 (September 1935): 818.

28. Leenhardt, Le Rhythme cinmatographique, pp. 631632. Available in English in Richard Abel,
French Film Theory and Criticism 19071939, vol. 2 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University
Press, 1988), p. 204.

29. Leenhardt, Une Mesure humaine de la personne, Esprit 3 (October 1935): 7187. This article
stood alongside two by Maritain in the same issue, Le sense de lathisme marxiste, pp. 89101,
and Deux chances historiques dun nouvelle chrtient, pp. 101117.

30. Emmanuel Mounier, Personalism (South Bend, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1970), p.

31. Ibid., p. 68.

32. Roger Leenhardt, interview with the author, Paris, March 1974.

Chapter 2
1. Guy Lger, interview with the author, Paris, November 1973.

2. Letter from Bazin to Lger, Pau, June 7, 1940. This is one of twenty-eight letters that Bazin wrote
Lger from May 1940 to December 1941; together they provide the basis for my view of this
period of Bazins life.

3. Pierre-Aim Touchard, DEsprit au Parisien Libr, Cahiers du Cinma 16, no. 91 (January
1959): 59.

4. Franois Truffaut paid homage to this theater in the film Jules et Jim.

5. Franoise Barre-Rat (later Mme. Franoise Burgaud), interview with the author, Le Havre,
February 1974.

Chapter 3
1. Collected in Bazin, Le Cinma de loccupation et de la rsistance (Paris: Union Gnrale
dEditions, 1975). Translated by Stanley Hochman as Cinema of the Occupation and Resistance:
The Birth of a Critical Esthetic (New York: Frederick Ungar, 1981). The earliest essays, those
written in 1943, Redcouvrons le cinma, Adieu Lonard (about Pierre Prevert), Panorama
de la saison passe, Pour une esthtique raliste, Pour une critique cinmatographique, as
well as four articles on individual films, are found on pp. 3582 of the French volume and pp. 25
65 of the English translation.

2. Ibid., p. 87 in the French, p. 69 in English. This translation is my own.

3. Letter from Bazin to Denise Buttoni, La Rochelle, April 26, 1943.

4. Pierre-Aim Touchard, DEsprit au Parisien Libr, Cahiers du Cinma 16, no. 91 (January
1959): p. 5. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu: An Essay on the Interior Life (New
York: Harper Torchbooks, 1960), p. 13, translated from Le Milieu Divin (Paris: Editions du
Seuil, 1957).

5. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu: An Essay on the Interior Life (New York:
Harper Torchbooks, 1960), p. 13; translated from Le Milieu Divin (Paris: Editions du Seuil,

6. For a full discussion of Bazins studies of geology and their import for his film theory, see
Ludovic Cortade, Cinema across Fault Lines: Bazin and the French School of Geography, in
Andrew, ed., Opening Bazin: Postwar Film Theory and Its Afterlife (New York: Oxford
University Press, 2011), pp. 1331.

7. Andr Malraux, La Condition humaine (Paris: Gallimard, 1933), published in English as Mans
Fate, trans. Haakon M. Chevalier (New York: Modern Library, 1934). LEspoir (Paris:
Gallimard, 1937), published in English as Mans Hope, trans. Stuart Gilbert and Alastair
Macdonald (New York: Random House, 1938).

8. Malraux, Esquisse dune psychologi du cinma (Paris: Gallimard, 1946). This essay appeared
originally in Verve 5, no. 2 (1940). Published in English as Sketch for a Psychology of the
Moving Pictures, in Susanne K. Langer, ed., Reflections on Art (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1958), pp. 317327.

9. Denise Palmer, in an interview with the author, Le Havre, April 25, 1974, recalled this statement

10. Malraux first develops this concept in Le Muse imaginaire, vol. 1 of Psychologie de lart, 3
vols. (Geneva: A. Skira, 1947), published in English as Museum without Walls, vol. 1 of
Psychology of Art, 3 vols., trans. Stuart Gilbert (New York: Pantheon, 1949). See my contribution
Malraux, Bazin and the Gesture of Picasso in Opening Bazin. See also my essay, Malraux,
Benjamin, Bazin: A Triangle of Hope for Cinema, in Angela Dalle Vacche, ed., Film, Art, New
Media: Museum Without Walls? (New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2012), pp. 115140.

11. Jean-Paul Sartre, Le Mur, in Le Mur (Paris: Gallimard, 1939), pp. 1134; published in English
as The Wall, in The Wall and Other Stories, trans. Lloyd Alexander (New York: New
Directions, 1948), pp. 737.

12. Sartre, LImaginaire, psychologie phenomenologique de limagination (Paris: Gallimard, 1940);

published in English as The Psychology of Imagination, trans. Bernard Frechtman (New York:
Washington Square Press, 1948).

13. Sartre, LEtre et le nant, essai dontologie phnomnologique (Paris: Gallimard, 1943);
published in English as Being and Nothingness, An Essay of Phenomenological Ontology, trans.
and introduction by Hazel E. Barnes (New York: Philosophical Library, 1956).

14. Malraux, Les Voix du silence (Paris: NRF, 1951); published in English as Voices of Silence,
trans. Stuart Gilbert (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1953).

15. In the foreword to the 2004 edition of What is Cinema? I provide the historical context for these
two important pieces which Bazin saw fit to place in the first position of his collected works.
The Ontology of the Photographic Image was originally published as Ontologie de limage
photographique, in Les Problmes de la peinture, a special issue of Confluences; Revue
Mensuelle, 1945, pp. 405411. The Myth of Total Cinema originally appeared as Le Mythe de
cinma total, in Critique, 1946. Both can be found in French in volume 1 of Quest-ce que le
cinma?, pp. 1120 and 2126, respectively.

16. Violet M. Horvath, Andr Malraux: The Human Adventure (New York: New York University
Press, 1969), p. 20.

17. Malraux, The Metamorphosis of the Gods, vol. 1, trans. Stuart Gilbert (New York: Doubleday,
1960), p. 80; published in French as La Mtamorphose des Dieux (Paris: Gallimard, 1957).

18. Ibid., p. 108.

19. Bazin, What Is Cinema?, p. 11. Henceforth, What Is Cinma? and What Is Cinma, vol. 2, will
be cited as WC and WC II, respectively, and future references will be made in the body of the text.

20. Horvath, Andr Malraux, p. 70.

Chapter 4
1. IDHEC was revamped in 1986 into La Fmis, the French State school of filmmaking.

2. Benigno Cacers, Histoire de leducation populaire (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1964), p. 154.

3. Ibid.

4. Bazin, in Le Parisien Libr, September 10, 1944.

5. Rovan, interview with the author, Paris, December 1973. Antoine de Baecque writes that Henri
Langlois worried that Bazin might not stand up to aggressive questions at his screenings at the
Cinmathque; not all encounters over cinema were amicable. See his Bazin in Combat, in
Andrew, ed., Opening Bazin, p. 227.

6. Rovan, interview with the author, December 1973.

7. Jacques Chevalier, Regards neufs sur le cinma avec le concours dAndr Bazin, et al. (Paris:
Editions du Seuil, 1953). In 1948 Chris Marker published six of Bazins film dossiers in
Documentation Education Populaire which he edited for Travail et Culture.

8. Rovan, Travail et Culture, Cahiers du Cinma, no. 91 (January 1959): 14.

9. Marker, interview with the author, Paris, December 1973.

10. Rn Jeanne and Charles Ford, Le Cinma et la presse (Paris: Armand Colin, 1961), pp. 7273.

11. Janine Bazin, interview with the author, Nogent-sur-Marne, December 1973.

12. Touchard, DEsprit au Parisien Libr, and Truffaut, Il faisait bon vivre, Cahiers du
Cinma, no. 91 (January 1959): 9 and 26, respectively.

13. Bazin, Entomologie de la pin up, LEcran Franais 17 (December 1946).

14. Jean-Marie Domenach, interview with the author, Paris, June 1974. After Mounier and Bguin,
Domenach was the third editor of Esprit, serving from 1957 to 1976.

15. Eric Rohmer, La Somme dAndr Bazin, Cahiers du Cinma, no. 91 (January 1959): 37.

16. This position, which was at the core of Positif, the arch-rival journal of Cahiers du Cinma, was
articulated in Gerald Gozlans Les Dlices de lambigut: loge dAndr Bazin, Positif no.
47(July 1962): 1660, translated in Peter Graham and Ginette Vincendeau, eds., French New
Wave: Critical Landmarks (London: BFI-Palgrave, 2009). In the seventies this position was
promulgated most thoroughly by Screen magazine in England, Cintique in Paris, and by Cahiers
du Cinma itself in its semiotics phase. For a rehearsal of these and later arguments, see my
entry Andr Bazins Ontology of the Photographic Image, in Edward Branigan and Warren
Buckland, eds., Encyclopedia of Film Theory (New York: Routledge, 2013).

17. Bazin, Jean Renoir, trans. W. W. Halsey II and William H. Simon, ed. and with an introduction by
Franois Truffaut (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973), p. 85. Published in French as Jean
Renoir (Paris: Editions Champ Libre, 1971).

18. Arthur Calder-Marshall, The Innocent Eye (Baltimore: Pelican, 1970), p. 77.

19. Bazin employed this rich analogy on several occasions. See especially What Is Cinema? vol. 2, p.
31, and Quest-ce que le cinma? vol. 4, p. 98.

20. According to Andrew Sarris, writing in his American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929
1968 (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1968), p. 39, pantheon directors are those directors who have
transcended their technical names to evoke a self-contained world with its own laws and
landscapes. They were also fortunate to find the proper conditions and collaborators for the full
expression of their talent. His Pantheon includes the following directors: Chaplin, Flaherty,
Ford, Griffith, Hawks, Hitchcock, Keaton, Lang, Lubitsch, Murnau, Ophuls, Renoir, von Sternberg,
Welles. Sarris defends his system of ranking directors in his introductory chapter, Toward a
Theory of Film History, pp. 1937.

21. Because the print Rossellini brought was unsubtitled, Bazin later confessed [in a note in Esprit
January 1947] to being flummoxed at first, then realizing that night that he had been present at
something equal in film history to Battleship Potemkin. He must have then seen the film a few
times with subtitles because upon its general Parisian release in September 1947 he had produced
a full set of study notes for Chris Markers Documentation Education Populaire. Thanks to Daniel
Fairfax for his careful timeline of Paiss Parisian career.

22. Victoria Schultz, Interview with Roberto Rossellini, February 2225, 1971, in Houston, Texas,
Film Culture 52 (Spring 1971): 1516.

23. Bazin, Jean Renoir, p. 90.

24. Bazin, Andr Gide, in Quest-ce que le cinma?, vol. 1, p. 74.

25. Bazin, with preface by Jean Cocteau, Orson Welles (Paris: Editions du Chavanne, 1950), pp. 43
49 and 5960; hereafter cited in the text as Orson Welles. This book-length study of Welles was
being revised by Bazin at his death; the altered and enlarged version has been reprinted in French
(Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1972) and translated into English by Jonathan Rosenbaum (New York:
Harper and Row, 1978). All quotations from the Welles book in this biography are my translations
of the original, out-of-print edition, because certain key passages were eliminated from the later

26. Jean-Paul Sartre, in LEcran Franais, August 1945.

27. Alain Resnais, interview with the author, Paris, June 1974.

28. Janick Arbois, interview with the author, Paris, May 1974.

29. Claude Roy, Il rendit heureux, Cahiers du Cinma 16, no. 91 (January 1959): 18.

30. Bazin, La Technique de Citizen Kane, Les Temps Modernes 2, no. 17 (1947): 943949.

31. The distinctions among the terms editing, montage, and dcoupage that Bazin develops
around this time are disentangled by Timothy Barnard in the endnotes to his translation of What Is
Cinema? (Montreal: Caboose, 2008). See also Diane Arnaud, From Bazin to Deleuze, in
Andrew, Opening Bazin, pp. 8793.

32. Bazin, William Wyler ou le janseniste de la mise-en-scne, in Quest-ce que le cinma?, vol. 1,
pp. 157158.

33. Jean Clay, Orson Welles on Trial, Ralits 147 (February 1973): 66.

Chapter 5
1. Benigno Cacers, LHistoire de leducation populaire (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1964), pp. 153,

2. Ibid., pp. 147148.

3. Indeed, not long after his death this accusation was put forth baldly in Positif, Gerald Gozlans
Les Dlices de Iambigut: loge dAndr Bazin, Positif no. 47 (July 1962): 1660. This essay
appears in English in Peter Graham and Ginette Vincendeau, eds., French New Wave: Critical
Landmarks (London: BFI-Palgrave, 2009).

4. Marcel Martin, Rponses (to a questionnaire), Cahiers du Cinma 21, no. 126 (December
1961): 73 and also Enquete sur la critique de gauche, Positif 36 (November 1960).

5. Eric Rohmer, interview with the author, Paris, April 1974.

6. Bazin, Le Courrier des lectures, Cahiers du Cinma 9, no. 50 (AugustSeptember 1956): 55.

7. Chris Marker, interview with and letter to the author, Paris, December 1973 and March 1977,
respectively. Bazins relation to leftist critics Guido Aristarco and Georges Sadoul is the subject
of two excellent dossiers in the journal 1895, no. 67 (Summer 2012): 3263 and 127143.

8. Joseph Rovan, letter to the author, June 28, 1977.

9. Jean-Marie Domenach, interview with the author, Paris, May 1974.

10. Georges Sadoul, Esprit et ses mythes, Les Lettres Franaises (August 31, 1950): 6. Bazin and
Sadoul carried on an often contentious exchange which is discussed by de Baecque in Bazin in
Combat in Opening Bazin. This debate was already under way before Bazins essay on Stalin.
See La profondeur de champ at la crise du sujet en dbat (19451949) par Georges Sadoul et
Andr Bazin, a dossier collected in 1895, no. 67 (Summer 2012): 127143.

11. Roland Barthes, Mythologies (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1957), p. 147.

12. Bazin, Le Mythe de M. Verdoux, La Revue du Cinma 2, no. 9 (January 1948): 325; reprinted
in Quest-ce que le cinma?, vol. 3, pp. 89113 and translated into English in WC II, pp. 102
123; William Wyler, ou le janseniste de la mise-en-scne, La Revue du Cinma 2, nos. 10 and
11, pp. 3848 and 5364, respectively; reprinted in Quest-ce que le cinma?, vol. 1, pp. 149
173; Le style cest lhomme mme, La Revue du Cinma 3, no. 14 (June 1948), reprinted in
Quest-ce que le cinma?, vol. 3, pp. 3341; Le Cinma et la peinture ( propos de Van Gogh et
de Rubens), La Revue du Cinma 4, nos. 1920 (Autumn 1949): 114119.

13. Bazin, Thtre et cinma, Esprit 19 (June 1951): 891905, especially pp. 895903. Printed in
English in WC, pp. 8794.

14. Bazin, A la recherche du temps perdu: Paris 1900, in Quest-ce que le cinma?, vol. 1, pp. 41

15. From 1945 to 1955, Rohmer signed many articles with his birth name, Maurice Scherer, but he
increasingly, then completely used his pseudonym Eric Rohmer.

16. These feelings are expressed in Bazins manuscript notes to The Southerner, contained in Jean
Renoir, ed. Franois Truffaut, trans. W. W. Halsey II and William H. Simon (New York: Simon
and Schuster, 1973), pp. 9293.

17. These events were reported by Claude-Jean Philippe, Un Objectif et un festival maudit,
Tlrama 914 (July 23, 1967): 3942.

18. Jean-Marie Domenach, Emmanuel Mounier (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1972), pp. 144159.

19. Denise (Buttoni) Palmer, interview with the author, Le Havre, April 1974.

20. Letter, Bazin to Denise Palmer, Paris, March 15, 1950.

21. These include In Defense of Mixed Cinema and the two parts of Theater and Cinema, in WC,
pp. 5375, 7694, and 95124, respectively.

22. Jean-Louis Tallenay, La Maison des Lettres, Cahiers du Cinma 16, no. 91 (January 1959): 11.

23. Bazin, Le Crime de M. Lange, Radio-Cinma-Tlvision 462 (November 23, 1958).

Chapter 6
1. Maurice Scherer (Eric Rohmer), Vanit que la peinture, Cahiers du Cinma 1, no. 3 (June
1951): 2230.

2. The following are representative of the articles published in the early issues of Cahiers: Lo Duca,
Un acte de foi (about Diary of a Country Priest), 1, no. 1 (April 1951): 4547; Jacques DoniolValcroze, All about Mankiewicz, 1, no. 2 (May 1951): 2130; Bazin, Le Stylistique de Robert
Bresson, 1, no. 3 (June 1951): 721; Maurice Bessy, Les Vertes Statues dOrson Welles, 2, no.
12 (May 1952): 2832; Maurice Scherer, Le Soupon (about The Lady Vanishes), 2, no. 12
(May 1952): 6365; R. Gabert, Le jongleur de Dieu estil franais? (about Rossellini), 1, no. 1
(April 1951): 5153, A. Ayfre, Noralisme et phnomnologie, 3, no. 17 (November 1952):
618; J. L. Tallenay, Un cinma enfin parlant (about Cocteau and Bresson), 2, no. 9 (February
1952): 3036.

3. Bazin, Pour en finir avec la profoundeur de champ, Cahiers du Cinma 1, no. 1 (April 1951):

4. J. Dudley Andrew, The Major Film Theories: An Introduction (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1976). See especially pp. 172179.

5. Alexandre Astruc, The Birth of a New Avant-Garde: Le Camra-Stylo, in Peter Graham and G.
Vincendeau, eds., The New Wave: Critical Landmarks (London: BFI/Palgrave, 2009).

6. Bazin, Le Stylistique de Robert Bresson, pp. 721; published in English as Le Journal dun
cur de campagne and the Stylistics of Robert Bresson, WC, pp. 125143.

7. Hugh Gray, Introduction, WC, p. 7.

8. Bazin, Farrebique ou le paradoxe du ralisme, Esprit 15 (1947): 676680.

9. See especially Quest-ce que le cinma?, vol. 1, pp. 3774.

10. Bazin, Les Dernires Vacances, La Revue du Cinma 3, no. 14 (June 1948); reprinted in
Quest-ce que le cinma?, vol. 3, pp. 3341.

11. Bazin, Preface, in Le Western ou le cinma amricain par excellence, by J. L. Rieupeyrout

(Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1953); reprinted in Quest-ce que le cinma?, vol. 3, pp. 136145. The
other three essays, Evolution du Western, Un Western exemplaire: Sept hommes abattre,
and Le Valle de la poudre, have also been reprinted in Quest-ce que le cinma?, vol. 3, pp.
146156, 157163, 164166, respectively.

12. Eric Rohmer, interview with the author, Paris, April 1974.

13. The most important of these books are H. Agel et al., Sept ans de cinma franais (Paris: Editions
du Cerf, 1953); Georges Michel Bovay, ed., Cinma, un oeil ouvert sur le monde (Lausanne: La
Guilde du Livre, 1953); Jacques Chevalier, ed., Rgards neufs sur le cinma (Paris: Editions du
Seuil, 1953); Rieupeyrout, Le Western ou le cinma amricain par excellence; and Vittorio de
Sica (in Italian) (Rome: Granda, 1951).

14. Franois Truffaut, interview in LExpress, April 23, 1959; reprinted in David Denby, ed., The 400
Blows (New York: Grove Press, 1969), p. 219.

15. Ibid., p. 220.

16. Truffaut, Il faisait bon vivre, Cahiers du Cinma 16, no. 91 (January 1959): 25.

17. Jean-Luc Godards first article was published under his pseudonym, Hans Lucas, Les bizarrries
de la pudeur (No Sad Songs for Me), Cahiers du Cinma 2, no. 8 (January 1952): 6869.
Jacques Rivette was published somewhat later, with Un nouveau visage de la pudeur (Un t
prodigieux), Cahiers 3, no. 20 (February 1953): 4950. Meanwhile, Godard had had two
additional articles published, Suprematie du sujet (Strangers on a Train), Cahiers 2, no. 10
(March 1952): 5961, and Dfense et illustration du dcoupage classique, Cahiers 3, no. 15
(September 1952): 2832.

18. Truffaut, Les Extrmes me touchent, Cahiers du Cinma 4, no. 21 (March 1953): 6163.

19. Ibid., p. 61.

20. For instance, Rivette, Gnie de Howard Hawks, Cahiers 4, no. 23 (May 1953): 1623; and
Rohmer, Le Soupon, Cahiers 2, no. 12 (May 1952): 6366.

21. Jean Queval and Franois Truffaut, Correspondences, Cahiers 5, no. 26 (August/September
1953): 64; Jean dYvoire and Truffaut, Correspondence, Cahiers 5, no. 27 (October 1953): 64.

22. Truffaut, Une Certain tendance du cinma franais, Cahiers du Cinma 6, no. 31 (January
1954): 1529. Reprinted in English as A Certain Tendency of the French Cinema, in Bill
Nichols, Movies and Methods (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976) and in Cahiers du
Cinma in English, no. 1 (January 1966): 3641.

23. Truffaut, Il faisait bon vivre, p. 26; reprinted in Denby, The 400 Blows, p. 192.

24. Truffaut, revised edition of Histoire du Cinma by Maurice Bardche and Robert Brasillach,
Cahiers du Cinma 6, no. 32 (February 1954): 5960.

25. Antoine de Baecque argues that the apparently amicable Bazin deployed Truffaut as a weapon
against his enemies,. See de Baecque, Bazin in Combat, in Andrew, ed., Opening Bazin (New
York: Oxford University Press, 2011). For a full account of Truffauts period as critic, see
Richard Neupert, Certain Tendencies in Truffauts Film Criticism, in D. Andrew and A. Gillain,
eds., A Companion to Francois Truffaut (London: Blackwell, 2013).

26. Bazin, Des caractres, Cahiers du Cinma 7, no. 41 (September 1954): 3840.

27. Bazin, De la Carolinisation de France, Esprit 22 (1954): 298304.

28. Bazin, Du Festival considr comme un ordre, Cahiers du Cinma 8, no. 48 (June 1955): 68;
partially reprinted in Quest-ce que le cinma?, vol. 3, pp. 711.

29. Bazin, De la difficult dtre Coco, Carrefour, March 17, 1954; reprinted in Cahiers du
Cinma 16, no. 91 (January 1959): 5257.

30. Luis Buuel, Tmoignages, Cahiers du Cinma 16, no. 91 (January 1959): 28.

31. Ibid.

32. Doniol-Valcroze, interview with the author, Paris, June 1974.

Chapter 7
1. Jean Renoir, Andr Bazin, notre conscience, France-Observateur, November 20, 1958.

2. Bazin, Les glises de Saintonge, Cahiers du Cinma, no. 100 (October 1959): 5558.

3. Ibid., p. 56.

4. Ibid., p. 58.

5. Bazin, Comment peut-on tre Hitchcocko-Hawksien? Cahiers du Cinma, no. 44 (February

1955): 1718.

6. Ibid., p. 18.

7. Ibid.

8. Franois Truffaut, interview with the author, Beverly Hills, California, August 1973.

9. Bazin, De la politique des auteurs, Cahiers du Cinma 7, no. 70 (April 1957): 211; published
in English in Peter Graham and G. Vincendeau, eds., The New Wave: Critical Landmarks
(London: BFI/Palgrave: 2009).

10. Franois Truffaut, Introduction, in Jean Renoir by Bazin, trans. W. W. Halsey II and William H.
Simon (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973), p. 7.

11. Bazin, Jean Renoir, ed. and with an introduction by Franois Truffaut (Paris: Editions Champs
Libre, 1971). Published in English as Jean Renoir, trans. W. W. Halsey II and William H. Simon.

12. Claude Beylie, interview with the author, Paris, June 1974.

13. Bazin, Cinma et engagement, Esprit 25, no. 249 (1957): 681684; and Rflexions sur la
critique, Cinma 58, no. 32 (1958): 9196.

14. Bazin, Rflexions sur la critique, p. 96.

15. This issue of Cahiers du Cinma 2, no. 8 (January 1952), includes such articles as Bazins
Renoir franais, pp. 929, and Maurice Scherers (Eric Rohmer), Renoir amricain, pp. 33
40, as well as numerous short essays on individual films, and an article by and interview with
Renoir himself.

16. Beylie, interview with the author, Paris, May 1974.

17. Bazin, Jean Renoir (English version), pp. 9396.

18. Claude Roy, Il rendit heureux, Cahiers du Cinma 16, no. 91 (January 1959): 18.

19. The book was reprinted posthumously in 1972: Bazin, Orson Welles (Paris: Editions du Cerf,

20. This review can be found in Radio-Cinma-Tlvision, no. 462 (November 23, 1958).

21. Roger Leenhardt, Du Ct de Socrate, Cahiers du Cinma 16, no. 91 (January 1959): 1516.

22. Ibid.

23. Truffaut, Il faisait bon vivre, Cahiers du Cinma 16, no. 91 (January 1959): 27; reprinted in
Truffaut, The 400 Blows, ed. David Denby (New York: Grove Press, 1969), p. 193.

24. Edmond Humeau, Je me souviens, Esprit, no. 273 (May 1959): 838842.

25. William Carlos Williams, Comment, in The Selected Essays of William Carlos Williams (New
York: Random House, 1954), pp. 28, 29.

1. See in this regard the excellent book by Olivier Barrot: LEcran Franais 1943/1953, histoire
dun journal et dune poque (Paris: Les Editeurs Franais Runis, 1979).

2. The first book to establish a list of world filmmakers didnt appear until 1947: Henri Colpis Le
Cinma et ses hommes (Montpellier: Causse, Graille, et Castelnau).

3. Bazin was very interested by the attempts made by Louis de Rochemont and Henry Hathaway to
link traditional American cinema and neorealism. In general this led to disappointment.
Nonetheless, certain American films from the end of the forties were clearly influenced by
neorealism (Dassin, Dmytryk, etc.).

4. We know that the producers prevented Welles from editing his film and that two scenes were not
by him. Welles always refused to see the film before that nightis this true? In any case, at the end
of the projection he was horrified and furious.

5. None of this happened until the late fifties and early sixties.

6. In his writings, he rarely alluded to this possibility. He began his remarks on Paris 1900 (1947) [a
compilation film without any original footage] by Nicole Vdrs with Tonight I appreciate the
pleasure of not being a director because after seeing Paris 1900 I wouldnt dare touch a camera!
This is pure cinema! of a purity so heartrending it brings tears to my eyes. To Nicole Vdrss film
I owe some of the most intense emotions that a film has ever provoked in me.

7. This theater, once owned by Keigel (the father of the filmmaker Lonard Keigel), is no longer
standing. He encouraged Objectif 49 and the Festival of Maligned Film as well as brought about
the birth, in 1951, of Cahiers du Cinma, where he served as managing director.

8. In the Biarritz Festival catalogue, Bazin provided another, less polemical article, The New
Avant-garde. In addition, this brochure contained articles by Cocteau, Grmillon, Welles,
Leenhardt, Quneau, Artaud, Lise Deharme, Jacques Bourgeois, Grisha Dabat, Doniol-Valcroze,
Pierre Darcangues, and Lautramont.

9. One year later Bazin, in his most severe article on Hitchcock, distanced himself from us. He wrote
notably that if I decide today to attack a director considered by some of my colleagues as one of
the leading figures of the current avant-garde, it isnt in order to compromise this notion which is
so dear to us. Long live Hitchcock, and down with most of his detractors! But between you and
me, hes fooled us (Panoramique sur Hitchcock, LEcran Franais, January 23, 1950).
Hitchcock, or Bazins perpetual moral dilemma: to the very end, Bazin questioned himself about
Hitch without finding the answer, his answer. Even his interview with Hitchcock in Cahiers du
Cinma (October 1954) didnt resolve the question.

10. For some time now, LEcran Franais was no longer the only weekly film journal appearing in
France. Others had the necessary authorization (paper being rare in the post-war period): ParisCinma (which was absorbed by LEcran Franais), Cinmonde, Cinvie, Cinvogue (the last
two would become part of Cinmonde).

11. I can testify to this. A real lover of musical comedies and film noirs, what trouble I had getting
Bazin to take an interest in these films! He was full of goodwill and let me drag him to see
Ziegfeld Follies (1946) again, or a Siodmak or John Brahm film. To please me, hed say,
Tacchella would have more to say to you about this than me. In fact, these films idealized or
sublimated the cinema and Bazin had trouble with that, perhaps because they were too far from
being documents or documentaries. As always, out of a sense of moral honesty, he was careful not
to thwart other peoples pleasure. It was the same thing for thrillers and gangster films. He
accepted the murder in Le Jour se lve, but not most of the ones in American films.

12. To organize this festival, during the spring of 1949 wed get together once or twice a week at a
caf on the Champs-Elyes, the Madrigal, which was next to the Broadway. Wed toss out titles of
maligned films and then see if we could get hold of a copy.

13. Among the films presented at Biarritz, there were some classics: Zero for Conduct (1933),
LAtalante (1934), A Time in the Sun (1939), 1860 (1933, Blasetti); some reruns: The Long
Voyage Home (1940), Our Town (1940), Lumire dt (1943), Les dames du Bois de Boulogne
(1944), None But the Lonely Heart (1944, Odets), La Belle ensorceleuse, The Shanghai Gesture
(1941); some unreleased titles: Address Unknown (1944) by R. Mate and W. C. Menzies,
Renoirs The Southerner (1945), Kuhle Vampe (1932) by Dudow [and Brecht], Montgomerys
Ride the Pink Horse (1947), Paglieros Roma Citt Libera (1946), Kautners Unter den Brcken
(1945), D. Nicholss Mourning Becomes Electra (1947), Forgotten Village (1941) by Herbert
Kline and John Steinbeck (co-director), and Viscontis Ossessione.

The jury, presided over by Cocteau, chose to direct the publics attention to Mourning Becomes
Electra and Katina Paxinous performance in that film as well as to Vittorio De Sicas
performance in Roma Citt Libera and to a short by Jean Rouch which dealt with circumcision in
14. The text on Orson Welles published in 1950 is very different from the one published by Editions
du Cerf in 1972. It corresponds much closer to Bazins thought in 1950, after three or four years of
struggling on behalf of Welles.

15. Ever since the time of LEcran Franais thereve been film journals (whether weekly or monthly)
which focus on films artistic aspects. After the demise of La Revue du Cinma in August 1949,
three monthlies tried their hand: Raccords, edited by Gilles Jacob (which Doniol-Valcroze and
Nino Frank contributed to); Saint Cinma des Prs (counting among its collaborators Jean
Boullet, Astruc, Doniol-Valcroze, Benayoun, Lo Duca, Leenhardt, and Rohmer); and La Gazette
du Cinma (managed by Rohmer, with Rivette, Doniol-Valcroze, etc.). This role was subsequently
filled by Cahiers du Cinma, managed by Lo Duca and Doniol-Valcroze, and Positif, run by
Bernard Chardre.


Action Catholique, 20, 32

adaptation. See literary adaptations; theater
of French New Wave, 162
politics merging with, 111
politics separated from, 126
psychology and, 63
of realism, 110
technical basis of, 55
Aldrich, Robert, 146
Allgret, Yves, 190
Aller-Retour, 227
Altman, Georges, 224
ambiguous reality
of Flaherty, 101102
objectivity axiom and, 99100
as quality of world, 100
Welles finding meaning in, 121
American film
auteur theory and, 210
Bazin, Andr, on classic period of, 164165
Bazin, Andr, standing up for, xvixvii
dominance of, 92
LEcran Franais reviewing, 9293
editing in, 119120
neorealism linked to, 247n3
New Wave in, xxxixxxii
reevaluating, 211
Renoirs work in, 214, 231
Anger, Kenneth, 145
animals, 37, 198
pets, 57, 197, 198199
Antonioni, Michelangelo, 148, 231
Arbois, Janick, 117, 218

Aristotle, li
Bazin, Andr, as work of, xxxix
Bazin, Andr, on eternal nature of, 6364
cinema and cross-fertilization of, 174
great compared to uninspired, 6263
Malraux on classic Greek, 64
perspective in, 64
photography freeing, 6566, 70
art history
Malrauxs influence and approach on, 5960
Sartres influence and approach to, 6163
Astruc, Alexander, xxii, 80, 93, 147, 169, 227
Bazin, Andrs, education of, 8889, 125
as co-creators, 7778
depth of field and participation of, 120121
passivity of, 54
Auriol, Jean-Georges, 135136, 148149, 222
Autant-Lara, Claude, xlvixlvii, 147, 171, 189190
auteur theory, 175177
American film and, 210
Bazin, Andrs, objections to, xviixviii, 177, 209210
Bazin, Andrs, preferences within, 224226, 231
cult of genius influence on, 60, 209
French New Wave and, 146
Barbot, Abb, 34
Barnard, Timothy, 241n30
Barre-Rat, Franoise, 4951
Barrot, Jean-Pierre, 222
Barthes, Roland, 133
on photography, xiii
Bataille, Sylvie, 104
Bazin, Andr
American film defended by, xvixvii
on American films classic period, 164165
animals, rapport with, 4, 57, 198199

as art work himself, xxxix

audience education of, 125
auteur theory, xviixviii, 177, 209210
backlash against, xxxiixxxiii
Buuel friendship with, 200
Cahiers du Cinma influence of, 180181
career phases of, xxvi
childhood of, 3, 4, 58
Chinese film influence of, xxxvixxxviii
cin-clubs established by, 7486
cinema providing direction for, 4849
Citizen Kane defended by, 117122
class consciousness aims of, 7778
Communist critical attack on, 129
on conventional editing and reality, 118119
death of, 218220
detail and precision in work of, 212
directors, admiration of, xlixlii
documentary treatment written by, 204206, 205
Doniol-Valcroze collaborating with, 154, 158159
eccentricity of, 4344
education, 814, 38
evolution of self and cinema, xiiixv, xxv, xxvii
fatherhood and, xv, 144145
film criticism approach of, 89
film festivals and, 196197
final works of, 217218
funeral of, xlvxlvii
German cultural redevelopment aided by, 8485
girlfriends of, 44
Godard compared to, xviii
health, 1011, 33, 3940, 83, 143, 148, 150152, 200201
impact of, xxiixxv, xxxviiixxxix
interviews conducted by, 91
legacy of, 220
Legaut letters with, 2122
Lger letters with, 3436, 38, 238n2
Marker defense of, 127128

marriage of, 143, 144

Mouniers relationship with, 29
on neorealism compared to traditional realism, 106109
Objectif 49 aim of, xvxvi, 139
Pais enthusiasm for, 111112, 122
pedagogical method, 910, 40, 222223
personalism and, 2829
Peuple et Culture, 128
photos of, lii, 9, 10, 12, 43, 81, 182, 195197, 206, 219
politics 49, 111, 124126
pseudonym of, xx
psychiatry distrust of, 33, 50
reality axiom and, 98
reevaluating positions of, xxi
religion and, 125
Renoir admiration of, 202203, 211216
Rohmer on, 9798
on Rossellinis approach, 112113
Sadoul debates with, 94, 132133
Stalin critically attacked by, 129132
theater preferences of, 42
tradition of quality condemned by, 190191
Travail et Culture presentations of, 7879
Truffaut influenced by, 183184, 188189
Truffauts friendship with, 139140, 143, 219
vocabulary of, 56, 71
work ethic of, 82
world view of, 101
Bazin, Florent, ix, xiixiii, 5, 144
Bazin, Janine, xii, xli, 56, 8283, 89, 143144, 183184, 195, 197
Bazin on Neorealism (Williams, Christopher), 235n22
Le Beau Serge, 207
Beauty and the Beast, 227
Becker, Jacques, 86
Bguin, Albert, xlviii, 1617, 198
Being and Nothingness (Sartre), 61
Bellanger, Claude, xlvxlvi
Brard, Christian, 227

Bergman, Ingmar, xxx

Bergson, Henri, 1215
Beylie, Claude, 1, 214
Birth of a Nation, 130
The Birth of a New Avant-garde: La Camra-stylo (Astruc), xxii
Bonnie and Clyde, xxxi
Bordwell, David, xxxvi
Boudu, sauv des eaux, 214
Bourgeois, Jacques, 135
Boyer, Charles, 87
Braunberger, Pierre, 80, 204, 227
Bresson, Robert, xli, 16, 145, 161, 236n18
literary adaptation of, 170171
refusal to discuss work of, 137
Brighton Rock, 148
Brion, Patrick, 217
Brussels Film Festival, 217
Buuel, Luis, xli, 194, 200, 231
Buttoni, Denise, 53, 56, 84, 151
cabaret, 4243
Cabiria, 130
Cacers, Benigno, 7677, 123124
Cahiers du Cinma, x, xvi, xxiii, xxix, xlv, 16, 60, 89, 197
Bazin, Andrs, documentary treatment in, 204206, 205
Bazin, Andrs, influence on, 180181
elitism of, 126
Filmologie rivaling, xixxx
film production evolution of, xlviixlviii
first issues of, 161162
French New Wave critics taking hold of, 186187
genre in, 177
greatest films voted by, 217
growth and independence of, 207
immense readership of, 159160
origins of, 56, 157159, 232
Renoir in, 165
Rohmer guiding, 208

Truffauts early writings into, 184185

war against establishment fought by, 180191
Camus, Albert, 149
Cannes Film Festival, 192, 195, 199200
Cahiers du Cinma fighting, 193194
Truffaut banned from, 216
Venice Film Festival compared to, 142
Carn, Marcel, xli, 223, 231
Carol, Martine, 190191
Caroline Chrie, 190191
The Carolinization of France (Bazin, Andr), 190191
Carroll, Nol, xxxvxxxvi
Casablanca, 209
Cavalcanti, Alberto, 198
A Certain Tendency in French Cinema (Truffaut), 187188
Chabrol, Claude, 186, 207, 217
Change Mummified (Rosen), xxxvi
Chapayev, 130
Chaplin, Charlie, 15, 45, 226
Chartier, Jean-Pierre, 4445, 75, 154156, 218
childhood, 38
Chinese film, Bazin, Andr influence on, xxxvixxxviii
Christian activism, Legaut and, 1922
cin-clubs. See also Peuple et Culture; Travail et Culture
Bazin, Andr, establishing, 7486
film history benefited by, 222
journals preceding, 134135
Objectif 48, 136139, 141142, 145146
Objectif 49, xv, 147149, 157158, 228230, 232
in World War II, 4547
cin-criture, xxii
aesthetic fidelity progress of, xxvii
American film steering direction of, 92
art cross-fertilization in, 174
as asymptote, 100101
Bazin, Andr, finding direction from, 4849
Bazin, Andr, on importance of, 5354

classic cinema era, 164165, 168169

Communist restrictions with, 192
elitist attitude against, 4445
era of scenario, 170
evolution and, xiiixv, xxv, xxvii
future of, 191192
framing limitations in, 114
historical eras of, 166
ideology and, xxxivxxxv, 131, 207, 210, 235n22
as industry, 226
inspiration from, 67
language developed for, xxvi, 167
literary adaptations in, 168170
as mirror, 69
nostalgia and, 116
objectivity axiom and, 99
personal, 175176
poetrys limitations compared to freedom of, 113114
political freedom for, 127
production system of, 226227
psychiatry, relation to, 33, 50
pure cinema era, 166167
realism and popular culture influencing, 162163
reality axiom and, 98
as ruling class tool, xxxivxxxv
subjective, 100101
technical aspects of, 55
technologys role in development of, 163164
theater adapted for, 172173, 227
theater compared to, 171172
time within, 114
vocabulary of, 56, 71
Cinema and Political Engagement (Bazin, Andr), 126127
cinema of quality, 179180
cinematic conventions
formalizing, 167
Louisiana Storys montage and, 103104
plots and, 120

reality in, 118119

timeless moments within, 104
Cinematic Realism and the Italian School of the Liberation (Bazin, Andr), 112
Le Cinmatographe, 44
circus, 42
Citizen Kane, 97, 169, 210, 224
audience participation in, 120121
Bazin, Andr, defending, 117122
French premiere of, 115117
Pais compared to, 110
Sartres criticism of, 116, 224
Clair, Ren, 215
classic cinema era, 164165, 168169
Clment, Ren, xxxi, 200, 229, 231
Clouzot, Henri-Georges, xxv
Coco (parrot), 197, 198199
Cocteau, Jean, xli, 122, 137, 145, 148, 227, 241n24
Cohen-Sat, Gilbert, xixxxi
comedy, 15
Communists, 124
Bazin, Andr, critically attacked by, 129
cinema restrictions of, 192
Travail et Culture power of, 77, 128129
Comolli, Jean-Louis, xxxv
conventions. See cinematic conventions
Coppola, Francis Ford, xxxixxxii
Corman, Roger, xxxi
Le Crime de M. Lange, 127, 156, 214, 218
criticism. See film criticism
Crosscurrents, xxix
cult of genius, auteur theory influence of, 60
Curtiz, Michael, 209
The Dance of Death, 231
Daney, Serge, xxivxxv, xxxiv
Daniel-Rops, Henri, 19, 32, 41
Daquin, Louis, 147, 229
A Day in the Country, 104

de Baecque, Antoine, xvi, 240n6, 245n25

de Beauvoir, Simone, 47
deep focus. See also depth of field
Defense de lavant-garde (Bazin, Andr), 93
In Defense of Mixed Cinema (Bazin, Andr), 165166, 173, 234n6
Delannoy, Jean, 190
Delarue, Maurice, 125
Deleuze, Gilles, xxv
Deligny, Fernand, 140
Delluc, Louis, 24
Dpart en Allemagne, 75
depth of field, 98, 114, 119, 121, 226
Les Dernires Vacances, 136, 227
stylistic features of, 176
de Rochemont, Louis, 247n3
De Sica, Vittorio, 194
Diary of a Chambermaid, 214215
Diary of a Country Priest, 16, 170171, 187188
as authors, 223
Bazin, Andr, admiration of, xlixlii, 91
consciousness of, 176
hands-off policy of, 114
mythology built around, 109110
Objectif 48 attended by, 137138
Documentary film xviii, xxi, 46, 80, 134, 175, 223224
Bazin, Andrs attempt to make 204206, 205
emulation of, 101102, 104, 130, 171, 178
Domenach, Jean-Marie, 5, 96, 129
Doniol-Valcroze, Jacques, xlv, xlvii, 135, 137, 149, 153154, 157159, 187, 189, 218
Down with Ford, Long Live Wyler (Leenhardt), 93
dramaturgy, neorealist, 107
DuBos, Charles, 16
Duca, Lo, 157159
Dulac, Germaine, 24
Duvivier, Julien, 88
LEcran Franais, xi, 8994, 128, 153, 222, 226

editing, 118120, 241n30. See also montage

Les Editions de lEtoile, 157
education. See also teaching
of audience by Bazin, Andr, 125
Bazin, Andr, on inadequacy of French, 35
Bazin, Andrs personal experience of, 813, 38
Eisenstein, Sergei, 145
Elena et les hommes, 214
The Entomology of the Pin Up Girl (Bazin, Andr), 92
Esprit, xlviiixlix, 16, 19, 46, 59, 89, 132, 137, 156, 171
Bazin, Andrs, allegiance to, 29
final writings for, 207
format of, 23
group thought of, 9596
Leenhardt on religion and, 2526
as meeting place, 17, 96
Mouniers legacy at, 95
personalism and, 2229, 97
World War II and, 3435, 9495
Esprit and Its Myths (Sadoul), 132
Essai sur les principes dune philosophie du cinma (Cohen-Sat), xix
Esthetique et psychologie du cinma (Mitry), xxix
evolution, xxv, 20, 5759, 70, 162, 174
artistic cycles and, 5960
cinema and, xiiixv, xxv, xxviixxviii, 138, 155, 208
The Evolution of the Language of Cinema (Bazin, Andr), 162
Fantmas, 166
Farrebique, 231
Faulkner, William, 146
Fellini, Federico, xxx, xli
The Festival at Cannes Considered as a Religious Order (Bazin, Andr), 194195, 196
Festival du Film Maudit, 142, 145146
Festival of American Film Noir, 141142
Fiction, 41, 61
film criticism
analysis of, 56
Bazin, Andrs, approach to, 89

Hitchcock defended in, 228229

prerequisites for, 125
Rossellini and, 224
subjectivity in, 223
Truffauts notoriety and success in, 189190
truth in, 213
vision and role of, xliv, 53, 55
film festivals. 192198. See also specific festivals
filmography, 222
Filmologie, xviixxi
Film Quarterly, xxxiii
films. See cinema
film theory, xlix
Bazin, Andrs, foresight predicting, xlii
Leenhardts impact on, 2425
objectivity axiom and, 99
proper orientation and, 28
Fishinger, Oskar, 145
Flaherty, Robert, 168169
ambiguous reality of, 101102
Renoir compared to, 102103
techniques of, 101, 105
Flamand, Paul, 77
publishing house of, 156
Flaud, Jacques, xlvi
For a New Avant-Garde: Le Camera-stylo (Astruc), 93
Ford, Charles, 88
The 400 Blows, xxxi, xlviii, 140, 201, 218
framing, 114
France-Observateur, 89
French Can Can, 214
French New Wave
aesthetics of, 162
aims of, 141
auteur theory and, 146
birth of, xlviixlviii
Cahiers du Cinma taken over by, 186187
first films of, 217

international spread of, xxxixxxii

From Here to Eternity, 199200
Gallimard, Gaston, 148149, 156
Gance, Abel, 93, 199
Gate of Hell, 199
La Gazette du Cinma, 140141, 153
aims of, 179
in Cahiers du Cinma, 177
laws of, 177179
of Red Balloon, 178
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 207
German cinema, 45, 47, 8586
German cultural redevelopment, 8485
German Expressionism, 4748, 100
Giraudoux, Jean, 1
Give Us This Day, 232
Godard, Jean-Luc, xvii, 184, 244n17
Bazin, Andr, compared to, xviii
The Golden Coach, 214
Gomes, Salles, 198
Gone with the Wind, 199
Good Sam, xliii
Gozlan, Grard, xxxii
Graham, Peter, xxxii
Gray, Hugh, xxii, xxx, xxxii
The Great Dictator, 45
Greed, 168, 198
Greene, Graham, 148
Gregor, Ulrich, 86
Gurwitsch, Aron, 214
Hagberg, Rune, 227
Harvey, Sylvia, xxxvi
Hathaway, Henry, 247n3
Henderson, Brian, xxxiii
Herzog, Maurice, 71
Hess, John, xxxii

Hiroshima Mon Amour, xlviii

History of Film Style (Bordwell), xxxvi
Hitchcock, Alfred, xxii, 217, 224, 228
debate about, 94
film criticism defense of, 228229
interview of, 93
Hitchcock Confides (Tacchella), 228
Hollywood film. See American film
Hou Hsiao-Hsien, xxxviixxxviii
LHumanit, 129
Humeau, Edmond, 50
Humeau, Germaine, 50
IDHEC. See LInstitut des Hautes tudes Cinmatographiques
LImaginaire (Sartre), xiii
independent film, 192193
Information Universitaire, 51
LInstitut des Hautes tudes Cinmatographiques (IDHEC), 7476
of admired directors, 91
of Hitchcock, 93
with Welles, 217, 225
intuition, 1314
invisible editing, 119
Isou, Isidore, xxixxii
Jahier, Valry, 23
Japanese film, xviixviii
Japanese New Wave, xxxi
Jaubert, Maurice, 23, 237n24
Jeanne, Rn, 88
JEC See Jeunesses Etudiants Chrtiens
Jeunesses Etudiants Chrtiens (JEC), 3132, 3536
Jia Zhangke, xxxviixxxviii
Joubert-Laurencin, Herv, xxxviii, 233
Jour de Fte, 227
journals. See also specific journals
Bazin, Andr, employment by, 8688, 152155
cin-clubs preceded by, 134135

Le Jour se lve, 223, 231

Jouvet, Louis, 79
Jump Cut, xxxii
Kael, Pauline, xxix
Kanin, Garson, 222
Kast, Pierre, 229
Kazan, Elia, xvii
Keigel, Leonid, 157
Kirsch, Florent. See Bazin, Andr
Kirsch, Janine. See Bazin, Janine
Kon-Tiki, 71
Lamorisse, Albert, 178
Lang, Fritz, 47
Langlois, Henri, 90, 222, 240n6
Lavelle, Louis, 32
Lawall, Sarah, 1617
Leenhardt, Roger, 23, 55, 75, 93, 136, 176, 224, 227
on Esprit and religion, 2526
film theory impact of, 2425
inspiration from, 45
on sound films impact, 24
Legaut, Marcel, 35
Bazin, Andr, letters with, 2122
Christian activism and, 1922
philosophy of, 2021
Lger, Guy, xlv, 3139, 218, 238n2
Les Lettres Franaises, 129, 132133
Lettrism, xvi, xxixxii
leukemia, 200201
LHerbier, Marcel, 75, 93
Liberation, 7377, 8687, 90, 94, 112, 115, 122124, 128, 156, 224
The Life and Death of Superimposition (Bazin, Andr), 90
literary adaptations, xivxv, xxvii, 165, 168171, 187188, 191, 227
of Bresson, 170171
The Little Handbook of the Spectator (Leenhardt), 2425
Louisiana Story, 103104
Love at Twenty, 181

The Lovers, xlviii

The Lower Depths, 214
Lye, Len, 145
M. Ripois, 200
Macbeth, 137, 225
Madame DuBarry, 130
The Magician, xxx
The Magnificent Ambersons, 97, 114, 119, 225
Maison des Lettres, 4044, 48
The Major Film Theories (Andrew) xxxiii
Malick, Terrence, xxxixxxii
Malle, Louis, xlviii
Malraux, Andr, xiv, xlviiixlix, 57, 70, 77, 131, 224
art history influence and approach of, 5960, 6465
on photography and cinema, 67, 6970
Mankiewicz, Joseph, xvii
Man of Aran, 168
Mans Fate (Malraux), 59
Mans Hope (Malraux), 59
Marceau, Marcel, 79
Marcel, Gabriel, xxx
La Marie du port, 231
Maritain, Jacques, 1719, 236n18
Marker, Chris, 140, 181
Bazin, Andr, defended by, 127128
German cultural redevelopment with, 85
Resnais collaboration with, 81
Marshall Plan, 124
Martin, Marcel, 126
Marx, Karl, 20
Marxism, 131
Mauriac, Claude, 200
May 68 and Film Culture (Harvey), xxxvi
Maydieu, Pre, 36
McCarey, Leo, xliii
McGrath, Jason, 235n24
Melville, Jean-Pierre, 227

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, 214215

metaphysics, 27
Michelson, Annette, xxxiii
Miller, David, 184185
Mitry, Jean, xxix
Mitterand, Franois, 154
Mizoguchi, Kenji, xviii, xxxviii
Moi, un noir, xviii
Monsieur Verdoux, 226
Monsieur Verdoux or the Tramps Martyr (Bazin, Andr), 226
montage, 15, 103104, 179, 241n30. See also editing
Morocco, xxiv
Mounier, Emmanuel, 23, 35, 94, 153
Bazin, Andrs, relationship with, 29
death of, 149150
Esprit legacy of, 95
personalism and, 2628
movies. See cinema
Mr. Arkadin, 210
Museum without Walls (Malraux), 60
Le mystre Picasso, xxv
The Myth of Monsieur Verdoux (Bazin, Andr), 136, 226
The Myth of Stalin in the Soviet Cinema (Bazin, Andr), 129, 134
The Myth of Total Cinema (Bazin, Andr), 63, 65, 70
Nanook of the North, 103, 168
Narboni, Jean, 233n1
neorealism, 7
American film linked to, 247n3
Bazin, Andrs, theories supported by, 106
cameraman as filter in, 106107
dramaturgy, 107
Rohmer on, 97
of Rossellini, 110111, 115
traditional realism compared to, 108109
The New American Style: Has the Cinema Reached Maturity (Bazin, Andr), 224
New Wave. See French New Wave
The New Wave: Critical Landmarks (Graham), xxxii

Night and Fog, 81

No, Monsieur Verdoux Did Not Kill Charlie Chaplin (Renoir), 226
nostalgia, cinema and, 116
Objectif 48
Bazin, Andrs, enthusiasm at, 139
Cocteau, Jean and, 137, 145
directors attending, 137138
Festival du Film Maudit launched by, 142, 145146
formation and mission of, 136137
Rossellini attending, 138
Objectif 49, 147149, 157158, 228230
Bazin, Andrs, aim with, xvxvi
collapse of, 232
objectivity axiom, xxxvi, 97100
LObservateur, 153154 159160
October, xxxiii
Los Olvidados, 194
On Form and Content, or the Crisis in Film (Bazin, Andr), 230
Only Angels Have Wings, 207
On purge bb, 212
On the Difficulty of Being Coco (Bazin, Andr), 198
The Ontology of the Photographic Image (Bazin, Andr), xxvixxvii, 6364, 97, 162
Opening Bazin (Andrew), 233n2
Orson Welles (Bazin, Andr), xvi, 133, 241n24
Orson Welless Contribution (Bazin, Andr), 225
Orson Welless Secrets (Bazin, Andr), 226
Ossessione, 224
Othello, 194
Our Town, 222
Pabst, G. W., 47
painting. See also art
perspective in, 64
photography compared to, 65, 67
Pais, 121, 138
Bazin, Andrs, enthusiasm for, 111112, 122
Citizen Kane compared to, 110
episodic structure of, 108

neorealism of, 110111

Palmer, Denise. See Buttoni, Denise
Panoramique sur Hitchcock (Bazin, Andr), 94
Les Parents Terribles, 137, 227228
Paris 1900, 139, 247n6
Is Paris Burning?, xxxi
Le Parisien Libr, 77, 8689, 153, 193, 226
Paris nous appartient, 207
Parti Communiste Franais (PCF), 90
Patalas, Enno, 86
PCF. See Parti Communiste Franais
Pguy, Charles, 1617, 37
Penn, Arthur, xxxi
perception, 13, 55, 113
personal cinema, 175176
Bazin, Andrs, engagement with, 2829
in Citizen Kane, 121
Esprit and, 2229, 97
Mounier and, 2628
philosophy of, 2728
Teilhard de Chardin and, 58
perspective, in painting, 64
Ptain, Marshal, 40
Peuple et Culture, 83, 159
Bazin, Andrs, status battled over at, 128
origins of, 76
Travail et Culture splitting from, 128
phenomenology, 1415
Philipe, Grard, 86
Philosophical Problems of Classical Film Theory (Carroll), xxxv
art freed by, 6566, 70
Barthes on, xiii
beauty in, 6970
congenital realism of, x
painting compared to, 65, 67
realism and, 6667, 70

Sartre and, 67
television compared to, xiii
poetry, 113114
Bazin, Andr, relation to, 49, 124126
Bazin, Andrs, aesthetics merging with, 111
cinemas freedom from, 127
of LEcran Franais, 9091
of German cinema study, 47
of Le Parisien Libr, 88
propaganda films, 127, 129131
Travail et Culture and, 79, 124
politique des auteurs. See auteur theory
popular culture, 162163
Positif, xxxii, 240n16, 242n3
positivism, in education, 1213
Pour en finir avec le profondeur du champ (Bazin, Andr), 162
Pour un cinma politique (Bazin, Andr), xvii
In Praise of Andr Bazin (Gozlan), xxxii
propaganda films, 127, 129131
psychology, aesthetics and, 63
The Psychology of the Imagination (Sartre), 61
pure cinema era, 166167
Quest-ce que le cinma (Bazin, Andr), xv, xxvi, xxix, xlix, 217218, 235n25
Queval, Jean, 185
Que Viva Mexico, 145
Radio-Cinma-Tlvision, 89, 153154, 232
mission of, 155
Rashomon, xviixviii
rationality, 13
Ray, Nicholas, 148, 232
aesthetic of, 110
cinema influenced by popular culture and, 162163
Maritain and Rouault on, 18
neorealism compared to traditional, 108109
photography and, 6667

sound film revealing, 164

Welles abandoning, 119
reality axiom, 98
The Red and the Black, 171, 190
Red Balloon, 178
Regent, Roger, xlvi
Bazin, Andr, and, 125
Bguin and, 17
in education, 1922
Leenhardt on Esprit and, 2526
Renaissance, 6465
Rencontres, 37
Rendezvous at Biarritz, 147148
Renoir, Jean, xlvii, 1, 26, 115, 127, 138, 146, 156, 226
American films of, 214, 231
Bazin, Andrs, admiration of, 211212
Bazin, Andrs, book on, 211216
on Bazin, Andrs, last days, 202203
Cahiers du Cinmas first focused issue on, 165
Flaherty compared to, 102103
greatness of, 101, 211
Bazin, Andrs, fascination with, 7
crocodile pet, 56
Resistance, 47
braveness and growth of, 73
Cacers on failures of, 123124
cultural animation of, 76
Sartre and, 61
Resnais, Alain, 116, 136, 171, 181
director evolution of, 80
film scholarship of, 4748
Marker collaboration with, 81
La Revue du Cinma, 161, 222
death of, 149
financial problems of, 148149
resuscitation and importance of, 134136

void left by death of, 153

La Revue Internationale de Filmologie, xix
Rites of Realism, xxxvi
The River, 138, 214
Rivette, Jacques, 185, 207, 244n17
Rohmer, Eric, xivxv, 126, 128, 140, 153, 159, 161, 217
on Bazin, Andr, 9798
Cahiers du Cinma guided by, 208
on Lettrism, xxixxii
on neorealism, 97
Rome Open City, 224
neorealism of, 111
Rope, 228
Rosen, Philip, xxvii, xxxvi
Rossellini, Roberto, xlvii, 26, 138, 143, 144
Bazin, Andr, on approach of, 112113
Esprits group thought compared to vision of, 112
film criticism turning on, 224
neorealism of, 114
Objectif 48 attended by, 138
Welles compared to, 109110
Rouault, Georges, 1719
Rouch, Jean, xviii, 145
Roud, Richard, xxix
Rovan, Joseph, 78, 80, 8486, 128
Roy, Claude, 7
The Rules of the Game, 169, 214215
Russian silent film, 130
Sadoul, Georges, 116, 224
Bazin, Andr, debates on Hitchcock with, 94
Bazin, Andr, debates on Stalin with, 132133
Saint-Laurent, Cecil, 191
Saintonge churches, 204206, 205
Saint-Saens, Georges, 104
Sansh Day, xxxviii
So Paulo Film Festival, 196, 198
Sarris, Andrew, xxix, 109, 241n20

Sartre, Jean-Paul, xiii, 47, 57, 59, 70, 117

art history influence and approach of, 6163
Citizen Kane criticism of, 116, 224
fiction writing of, 61
influence of, 67
Paris Resistance and, 61
photography and, 67
Scarface, 207
Scherer, Maurice. See Rohmer, Eric
science, personalism and, 58
Scorsese, Martin, xxxixxxii
Scott of the Antarctic, 103
Screen magazine, xxxivxxxv, 240n16
Serreau, Jean-Marie, 77
Shadow of a Doubt, 229
Shoeshine, 224
Sight and Sound, xxiii, xxix
Le Silence de la Mer, 227
silent film, Russian, 130
socialist realism films, 127
Socrates, li
sound film
impact of, 163164
Leenhardt on development of, 24
realism revealed in, 164
The Southerner, 146
Soviet cinema, xvii
Stalin, Joseph
Bazin, Andr, critically attacking, 129132
Bazin, Andr, debates with Sadoul on, 132133
as film star and dictator, 131
propaganda films glorifying, 129131
Tarzan myth compared to, 132
Statione Termini, 194
Les Statues Meurent Aussi, 81
Stolen Kisses, 182
Story of a Love Affair, 148, 232
La Strada, xxixxxx

Sturges, Preston, 224

subjective cinema, 100101
Sudden Fear, 184185
Tacchella, Jean-Charles, xi, 9091, 221232, 233n1
Tales of Manhattan, 8788
Tanner, Alain, xxiii
Tarzan myth, Stalin compared to, 132
Tati, Jacques, 227
teaching. See also education
Bazin, Andrs, definition of self by, 40
Bazin, Andrs, revolutionary, 222223
studying for, 910
technology, cinema development and, 163164
Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre, xiv, 21, 70, 113
legacy of, 5859
mystical view of life of, 57
personalism and, 58
Tl-Cin, 186
Tlrama. See Radio-Cinma-Tlvision
criticism opportunities for, 155156
development of, 167
photography compared to, xiii
Les Temps Modernes, 117
Temps Nouveaux, 37
Temps Prsent, 37
La Terra trema, 224
Bazin, Andr, preferences with, 42
cinema adapting, 172173, 227
cinema compared to, 54, 171172
Thrond, Roger, 228
They Live by Night, 148, 232
time, in cinema, 114
Tom, Dick and Harry, 222
total cinema, myth of, 65, 70
Touchard, Pierre-Aim, 34, 56, 8687

Maison des Lettres run by, 4041

A Touch of Evil, xxiv
Tourneur, Maurice, 229
tradition of quality, 9091, 178180, 184190
Travail et Culture, 7678, 140
Bazin, Andr, presentations for, 7879, 79
Bazin, Andr, outreach projects with, 8385
Communist orientation of, 77, 128129
Peuple et Culture splitting from, 128
politics and, 79, 124
Travelling avant, 233n1
Truffaut, Franois, xv, xxxi, xlixliv, xlvii, 1, 153, 211212
archives of, xii
Bazin, Andr, adopting and rehabilitating, 183184
Bazin, Andrs, friendship with, 139140, 143
Bazin, Andrs, influence on writing of, 188189
Bazin, Andrs, last dayswith, 219
Cahiers du Cinma early writings of, 184185
Cannes Film Festival banishment of, 216
film criticism notoriety and success of, 189190
French classical cinema attacked by, 185188
military prison and, 181183
personality of, 147, 186
Tual, Denise, 135
Two Types of Film Theory (Henderson), xxxiii
Umberto D, 193194
Van Gogh, 8081, 136
Varda, Agns, xxiii
Vdrs, Nicole, 139
Venice Film Festival, 112, 192193
Cannes Film Festival compared to, 142
Vermorel, Claude, 229
Vidal, Jean, 222
La Vie Intellectuelle, 36
Vigo, Jean, 198
Viridiana, xxix
The Virtues and Limitations of Montage (Bazin, Andr), 177179

Visconti, Luchino, xli, 145

Vivot, Marc, 154
Voices of Silence (Malraux), 63
von Stroheim, Eric, 168169, 198
The Wall (Sartre), 61
Welles, Orson, xvi, xli, 26, 60, 93, 114, 133, 194, 247n4
auteur theory and, 225
France arrival of, 117
influence on Bazin, 224225
interviews with, 217, 225
Objectif 48 attended by, 137
realism and, 119, 121
Rossellini compared to, 109110
What is Cinema? (Gray), xxx, xxxii
What is Cinema? The Sensuous, the Abstract, and the Political (Harvey), xxxvi
Wild Child, 1
Williams, Christopher, 235n22
Williams, William Carlos, 220
William Wyler ou le janseniste de la mise en scne (Bazin, Andr), 91, 136
Wood, Sam, 222
World War II
cin-clubs during, 4547
Esprit changes forced by, 3435
French recovery in, 73
German occupation of France in, 3335
intellectual repression from occupation in, 36
Jaubert death in, 237n24
publishing challenges in, 37
Wyler, William, 91, 94
Young Mr. Lincoln, xxiv
Youre a Big Boy Now, xxxi
dYvoire, Jean, 186
Ziegfeld Follies, 247n11