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VIDEO - Motion Studies #15 & #16: The Art of Cinema on French TV (Godard on Kubrick; Costa on Straub/Huillet)

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by Volker Pantenburg and Kevin B. Lee
April 10, 2012 9:30 AM
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From now through April, the Oberhausen International Short Film Festival will present "Film Studies in Motion", a Web Series curated by Volker Pantenburg and Kevin B. Lee. This series, available on the festival's website and Facebook page, presents weekly selections of analytical video essays on the web, in preparation for Pantenberg and Lee's presentation  "Whatever happened to Bildungsauftrag? – Teaching cinema on TV and the Web", scheduled for April 28 at the festival.

Week Four: Precursors: TV, Cinema, Contemporary Art

There is a a tradition of “Videographic Film Studies” that existed before the Internet. Some TV channels, like the West-German WDR, but also TV programmers in other countries, initiated an impressive variety of programmes on cinema that combined thorough analytical observations with an inventiveness of visual forms and techniques. Found footage has also been used in experimental cinema and contemporary art. Most examples of this audiovisual legacy remain either overlooked or invisible as they are stacked away in archives or private catalogues. For this reason, this episode mostly gathers fragments and snippets instead of entire essays.

Today's selections:

Cinéma Cinémas (1982-1991, Antenne 2) 
Anne Andreu, Michel Boujut, Claude Ventura

Cinéma Cinémas" was conceived by Michel Boujut, Anne Andreu and Claude Ventura. It was produced and broadcast by French TV channel "Antenne 2" from 1982 to 1991. Each episode consisted of several pieces, partly interviews with Hollywood-Stars, partly contributions from filmmakers ("Letter from a filmmaker"), partly cinephile observations on directors or individual films.

In this episode produced in 1987, Jean-Luc Godard compares the use of slow motion in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket with that of another film about Vietnam, 79 Springtimes of Ho Chi Minh by Santiago Alvarez. A translation of Godard's comparison can be found below (translated by André Dias, originally on Kino Slang

Godard: «There it is! This is the slow motion we find in Peckinpah, if you will... It addresses the crowd of spectators only by exploiting something that it lacks. It seems like what Welles talked about: a gimmick, a trick, a gadget. Something that's now usual in all these American directors, even in Kubrick, who disappoints me because he has more talent than them. And this is just Peckinpah, if you will... with the exploitation of Vietnam. To his film I wouldn't go because I wouldn't see the Vietnamese, or God knows in which form. They were there. You just needed to go there... He doesn't see them. Something's missing. Kubrick's film misses what America also missed.

They keep showing... In war films about Germany, there's not one big Hollywood actor that hasn't, sooner or later, played a German general. Here no one has played a [Vietnamese] general, cause they didn't know how to do it. That's their shame. To cover up this shame with a slow motion, whatever talent one has, it doesn't work...

Let see the Alvarez slow motion. We see a crowd that cries. And we see each one cry without privilege, despite being privileged. The spectator can make his choice. This is what never occurred... Here is a war movie made by a Cuban. It's sufficient to see this to, when we show Kubrick's images see that they do not hold...

To say good or bad things... I, (...), it wouldn’t come to my mind to make war; I've deserted in two countries. But it's necessary to watch. We see something in which we believe and there he [Kubrick] doesn't believe in films anymore. He forces himself to believe. And at a certain point it doesn't stand. There's a minimum of honesty... We see that the other [Alvarez’s], which is made of documentary, is so worked by a stylised fiction like this, that it gives back something. And there [Kubrick's] lacks the documentary approach.»

Cinéma, de notre temps (1964-1972, ORTF; 1989-present, la 7 / arte) 
André S. Labarthe, Janine Bazin

"Some of the most successful and fruitful ongoing enterprises related to film history have been either ignored or taken for granted (which sometimes amounts to the same thing) due to their omnipresence... The series of 80-odd French television documentaries about filmmakers produced by Janine Bazin (the widow of André Bazin) and André S. Labarthe, initially called Cinéastes de notre temps when it was produced by the ORTF between 1964 and 1972, and revived as Cinéma, de notre temps when it was produced by Arte between 1990 and 2003, the year that Janine Bazin died, and then taken up again by Cinécinéma in 2006. Some of the more interesting of the earlier documentaries were remarkable in the various ways that they stylistically imitated their subjects, as in the programs on Cassavetes, Samuel Fuller, and Josef von Sternberg. One specialty item was an eight-part conversation between Fritz Lang and Jean-Luc Godard (The Dinosaur and the Baby, 1967). Many important figures worked on these shows, including Noël Burch and Jean Eustache (mainly as editors, although Burch also codirected a few programs), Jean-André Fieschi (mainly on Italian filmmakers), Jean-Louis Comolli and Jean Douchet (on diverse topics), Alexandre Astruc (on F.W. Murnau), Jacques Baratier (on René Clair), Jacques Rivette (a three-part series about Jean Renoir), Claire Denis (a two-part program about Rivette, with Serge Daney as interviewer), Jacques Rozier (on Jean Vigo), Eric Rohmer (on Carl Dreyer), Olivier Assayas (on Hou Hsiao-hsien), Rafi Pitts (on Abel Ferrara), Chris Marker (on Andrei Tarkovsky), and Pedro Costa (on Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet)—to provide a less than exhaustive list."

- Jonathan Rosenbaum

"This is a film about film, of course, but it understands film as a conversation—about searching, about understanding—as an opportunity for philosophy, we might say—and how all these elements build a working picture of marriage, too."

- Ryland Walker Knight on Cinéma, de notre temps: Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie? (Pedro Costa, 2001) - embedded above

View all Motion Studies video selections.

Volker Pantenburg is assistant professor for moving images at the media faculty of the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar. 

Kevin B. Lee is Editor in Chief of IndieWire’s PressPlay Video Blog and contributor to Roger Ebert.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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