A Forest: Afterimage


A Forest

I never began by consulting the amusement pages to find out what film might chance to be the best, nor did I find out the time the film was to begin. I agreed wholeheartedly with Jacques Vaché in appreciating nothing so much as dropping into the cinema when whatever was playing was playing, at any point in the show, and leaving at the first hint of boredom – of surfeit – to rush off to another cinema where we behaved in the same way, and so on.
André Breton: As In A Wood (transl. Paul Hammond) from: The Shadow and Its Shadow

Nevertheless certain movie theaters in the tenth arrondissement seem to me to be places particularly intended for me, as during the period when, with Jacques Vaché we would settle down to dinner in the orchestra of the former Théâtre des Folies-Dramatiques, opening cans, slicing bread, uncorking bottles, and talking in ordinary tones, as if around a table, to the great amazement of the spectators, who dared not say a word.
André Breton: Nadja, 1928

Night fell, and trying to reach the others, we got lost in a maze of sunken paths. After calling in vain, Breton, evoking one of his familiar fantasies, that of a naked woman suddenly emerging from nothing, started getting anxious. A blinding flash strikes and illuminates in front of us a fantastic landscape, followed immediately by a thunderclap that petrifies us. Breton, in panic, grabbed my hand — She’s there he tells me when another flash exposes the dark turn of the sunken path. I feel it
Marcel Duhamel: Raconte pas ta vie

At the end of one afternoon, last year, in the side aisles of the “Electric Palace”, a naked woman, who must have come in wearing only her coat, strolled, dead white, from one row to the next.
André Breton: Nadja, 1928

Surreality will depend on our will toward complete disorientation from everything (and it goes without saying that you can disorient a hand by isolating it from its arm, that this hand takes on more value as a hand, and also that when speaking of disorientation, we are not thinking only about its spatial possibilities). (…) Things are called upon to do something other than what’s usually expected.
André Breton: Notice to The Hundred Headless Woman


Surrealist criticism, extremely influential in France especially in film criticism, is virtually absent in England, where the ‘poetry of pulp fiction’ is correspondingly infra dig. The nearest equivalent to this interest is ‘camp’ but this, being essentially satirical, is its diametrical opposite. (…) For reasons of puritanism and class snobbery alike, English criticism in the ‘good taste’ tradition has no terms , still less antennae, with which to discriminate between the sensitive and the insensitive use of pulp imagery (…).
Raymond Durgnat: Franju

But one of the maladies of culture is the effort to smooth away the contradictions in it. It’s caught up in what Marcuse criticises, a kind of colonisation of the imagination. A standardisation of it. Standardisation by good taste, impoverishment by good taste. Freud, Breton, Marxism all help demystify that. Or should. For obvious reasons I’m interested in the plurality of moralities in our culture. Black ‘bad’ meaning ‘good’; artists who force you out of yourself.
Raymond Durgnat: ‘Culture Always is a Fog’

… largely neglected by the film-criticism establishment… Most of the films discussed test the limits of contemporary (middle-class) cultural acceptability, mainly because in varying ways they don’t meet certain “standards” utilized in evaluating direction, acting dialogue, sets continuity, technical cinematography, etc. Many of the films are overtly “lower-class” or “low-brow” in content and art direction. However, a high percentage of these works disdained by the would-be dictators of public opinion are sources of pure enjoyment and delight, despite improbable plots, “bad” acting, or ragged film technique. At issue is the notion of “good taste”, which functions as a filter to block entire ares of experience judged – and damned – as unworthy of investigations.
Andrea Juno / Victor Vale: Incredibly Strange Films

Give me black and white, subtitles and a tiny budget, and I’m impressed. I really like snotty, elitist theaters in New York like Cinema III  (my favorite because it’s so comfortable and the ticket price is always expensive), or the Paris where if you ask for popcorn they look at you as if you’re a leper asking for heroin and sneer, “Really! We don’t have refreshments.” I’m so used to audiences yelling back to the screen in grind houses that it’s a real break to sit with a well-behaved audience. I never eavesdrop in these theaters because the conversations are generally maddeningly pretentious. It’s also a problem to laugh out loud at something only you may find funny (especially if it’s a German film – Germany is not ever funny to these audiences). These cinema buffs are very touchy about humor and will turn around and scowl right in your face if they think you laugh is inappropriate.
Guilty Pleasures in: Crackpot – The Obsessions of John Waters

As a result of saying it can show anything, cinema has abandoned its power over the imagination. And, like cinema, this century is perhaps starting to pay a high price for this betrayal of the imagination – or, more precisely, those who still have an imagination, albeit a poor one, are being made to pay that price.*
Chris Marker: A Free Replay – Notes on Hitchcock’s Vertigo

it is at the movies that the  only absolutely modern mystery is celebrated

Photo by Weegee

* Too bad I don’t have the text available in its original French version. If one consults the German translation (in Kämper / Tode: Chris Marker Filmessayist) of the text, one sees that one sentence is completely omitted from the English translation. This and another divergence give a quite different edge to the quote.  Here my slightly altered translation which corresponds to the German version:

As a result of saying it can show anything, cinema has abandoned its power over the imagination. See the two versions of CAT PEOPLE. And, like cinema, this century is perhaps starting to pay a high price for this betrayal of the imagination – or, more precisely, those who still have an imagination, albeit a poor one, are being paid very well.

Addendum, July 8, 2014:

A force de se raconter qu’il peut tout montrer, le cinéma a abdiqué ses pouvoirs dans l’imaginaire. Voir les deux versions de Cat People. Et tout comme le cinéma, ce siècle est peut-être en train de payer très cher cet abandon de l’imaginaire -ou plus précisément il est en train de le payer chèrement à ceux qui en ont encore un, de très bas étage, mais encore vivant.

The full article in French can be found at LIMINAIRE.

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