You are on page 1of 24

92

CHAPTER III.

IMPRESSIONIST FILM THEORY

Nevertheless, a set of broad theoretical assumptions pervade the movement's journal essays and public lecturer a * This chapter will systematize and analyze Impressionist theoretical assumptions in an effort to reveal the under-

Just as the period 1913-1925 saw a change in 'rench intellectuals* and artists' attitude toward film, so did roughly the same years see the rise of a new theo-

lying position. retical perspective on the cinema. It is important that ;his perspective was generated, promulgated, and shared

Rather than treat each major writer in

an atomistic fashion, I shall outline the fundamental tenets of the theory by drawing on various writers; this : > y virtually the same people who initiated and sustained will permit a clearer view of the shared position of x coherent film culture and who made a stylistically the members_of the movement. icmogeneous set of films; that is, a distinct theory of film is an aspect of what I am designating as the Impressionist movement. Impressionist theory is pot the specialist's ideal of theory-building. Nowhere can one find a sustainMost ImpresFinally, it should be noted that Impressionist film theory frequently oscillates between descriptive and normative assumptions; as we would expect in an avant-garde movement, the theory holds not only that film's nature is of a certain kind but also that given films should be a certain way. Like some othe

ed, rigorously mounted theoretical argument.

aesthetic theories, Impressionism slides from assuming that it is describing conditions which obtain for all ' art to assuming that it is setting, standards which apply to good art. I shall note such shifts from a descriptive

sionist theory exists in two forms; scattered unsupported pronouncements on film aesthetics and implicit assumptions inderlying critical, historical, or polemical writings. Worse, the Impressionist writers betray little acquaintance with systematic philosophizing. Like many avant-garde move-

to an evaluative attitude where the shifts are important for understanding the theory's scope. i
i

ments, Impressionism had specific polemical and artistic goals, and these goals often tempted the writers to substitute slogans for earned positions. The result is a

There are four principal propositions upon whi<v Impressionist theory rests, dealing with the definition of art, the relation of film to traditional arts, the na of the film image, and the nature of filmic construction; I shall discuss these in

rough-and-ready assemblage of unacknowledged assumptions, casual opin< 5, and fragmentary aesthetic claims.

i
qu

>

"1"interpretation de la nature par 1'intelligence et %la urn and shall conclude with a general evaluation of the heory. The Nature of Art Although the Impressionists' ties to t r a d i t i o n a l esthetics are rarely avowed, a c-lear aesthetic underlies heir position. Broadly speaking, Impressionist film Like Romantic heory holds that art is expression. s e n s i b i l i t e humaines au moyen de techniques spSciales. "' In such a view, the transforming power of the a r t i s t ' s it:. gination becomes central, as Paul Ramain suggests in see: a r t as "renforcee par un temperament: celui du fabriquant ( p e i n t r e , po6te, musicieh, cinaste)."5 principle unique to the p a i n t e r . Canudo points oi that in painting the graphic design is harmonised by a Expression is explicit noted as the operative concept in a r t i s t i c creation, as when Canudo praises the expressiveness of American oinemc
Q

heories, the Impressionists assume that art resides in he transformation of nature by the imagination and that .rt yields not discursive truth but an experiential truth nchored in feelings. This concept of art as expression s extended to apply to the cinema. Several remarks scattered throughout Impressionist i r i t i n g suggests that a r t i s seen as the imaginative trans^ 'ormation of nature. "Certainement, le cinSma part de .a nature, comme tous les a r t s , " writes Delluc. "Et comme ,ous les a r t s i l doit i n t e r p r e t e r l a nature et la s t y l i s e r ?t l a recreer sous un angle visuel nouveau." 1 Jean Epstein's writing on literary aesthetics t e s t i f i e s to a similar Insistence on art as deviation from r e a l i t y . 2 Canudo itates the same assumption more clearly: "La peinture ne eproduit pas la nature, mais e l l e la compose avec un ' a r t i - p r i s . " 3 Similarly, Marcel Defosse defines a r t as

and Ramain calls art l'expression, vivante idealises."

Although art is not equipped to copy reality faithfully and yield discursive knowledge, it does yield a feelingful truty. "Au cinema," writes Canudo, "ainsi que dans " .

domaines de Vesprit, l'art consiste a suggerer des emotions, et -non a rSlater des faits. . . . Seuls quelques ecranistes ont compris que la verit^ cinematographique doit corresponds & la vSrite litteraire, - la v&rite picturale."9 Epstein likewise praises the nondiscursive

component of cinema: "Bien mieux qu'une ide, c'est un sentiment que le cinS apporte au monde." 10 Canudo's mention of "suggestion" hints that Imp sionist film theory's own variant of the ar.t-as-expressi

96

97

)sition resembles the late Symbolist aesthetic of Mallar5, which stresses the art work's capacities for "evocation, Llusion, suggestion," and holds that "to create is to mceive an object i n i t s fleeting moment, in its absence."11 le idea of art's truth as suggested, evoked, glimpsed Leetihgly or obliquely is emphasized at several points in npressionist writing. "Nous rassemblerons l'energie de

feelings. This entire conception of art evidently owes a good deal to the Symbolist movement in French poetry. The insistence on the artist's transformation of nature, the stress on feeling, and the role of suggestiveness testify to Impressionism's debt to Symbolist theory; we shall see other debts emerge later. For the moment,

)us nos arts qui tendent a cet etat tres vaste d'Svoca.ons et de suggestions indefinees. . ." writes Canudo in le essay, and in another, "L'art n'est pas le spectacle i quelques faits rSels; il est 1'evocation des sentiments li envelopment les faits." 12 Similarly, Michel .Goreloff

we should note that, as A. G. Lehmann has shown in The Symbolist Aesthetic in_France,..Symbol i s i n _was_far__from - _ offering a coherent theory of art. is no freer of difficulties. Impressionist theory

For example, the Impression-

ist's stress on art's evocation of feeling sidesteps the question of the nature of feeling and its relation to objects and ideas. Most basically, what is a feeling?

;ates it as a fundamental normative premise that "L'im;e'doit ne pas seulement montrer quelque chose, mais issi, suggSrer." ^
1

Most explicit is Jean Epstein's

A physiological characterization would be at odds" with the idealist assumptions we shall see operating in Impressionist theory. But then how does the Impressionist

sthetic of "approximation" and "the indefinite," which institutes his grounds for claiming that both literare and film are based on suggestiveness and implica>n. /'
1

theorist avoid an.idealism which posits the feeling as an entity existing solely in the minds of the artist and perceiver? In what sense is such feeling to be given the Moreover,, on the idealist model the

In La. Poesie d'Auiourd'hui. Epstein emphasizes

e fleeting impression, the oblique metaphor, and process consciousness: "L'auteur moderne ne voit pas un fait is son propre Stat intellectuel a propos de ce fait, le tentissement intellectuel de ce fait."15 By this theory,

status of "truth"?

evocation which Impressionism prizes becomes problematic with respect to the object which we call a work of art. Not only is the status of the work reduced to that of the consequence or cue for purely private feelin but a

en, film, like other arts, does not propose abstract nceptual sys<-~-is but rather evokes or suggests fleeting

I
98

QO

raore

fundamental question e n t e r s : How ca

n the artist-a That .

W S * ^ - * ^ ' ' its popularity, its mechanical nature, its technical crudertess. In response, Impressionist writers began to

^pression" be known as such by a p-rc.iv.rT


xa

i7not7private account of feeling driven either to


nun < j . j^* , _

defend the cinema as aesthetically worthy, and the previous On the other hand, Impressionchapter has recounted the struggle to establish a public disposed toward accepting film as an art. is the nature of film art? But what exactly

mysticism or to solipsism?

ist claims about "expressiveness" suggest some sense in which the term "Feeling" is ascribable to objects themselves. ^
1

To this question, Impressionist

What is this sense?

And in what way can Obviously, such

theory gives two answers, a minority response and a majorit;, response. For Riccioto Canudo and Elie Faure, cinema is an art by virtue of its synthesizing powers. Film is seen

this feeling be justified as "truth"?

questions as these are ingredient to a philosophical aesthetic, but Impressionism ignores them. It picks up

from Symbolist doctrine what it needs to secure a general and unexamined premise concerning the nature of art, which may be formulated in this way:

as what Canudo calls "l'art total vers lequel tous les autres, depuis toujours, ont tendu."1? Canudo posits a

division of the six primary arts based on two categories: Art.is the transformation of nature by the human plastic arts (architecture, painting, and sculpture) and imagination, evoking or suggesting feelings and presenting "truth" to such feelings. The Relation of Film to Traditional Arts Impressionist film theory assumes at the outset that film is a distinct art possessing creative possibilities which no other art possesses. Like so many other rhythmic arts (music, poetry, and dance). Film is a

synthetic art in that it can "capter et fixer Irs rythmes < | e laJlumi&re. L'Art SeptiSme concilie ainsi tous les autres. Tableaux en mouvement.

Art plastique se developpani

selon les normes de l'Art Rhythmique.,i:l Thus cinema becomes a Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk and a painter-poetmusician becomes the ideal cinematic creator.*9 Elie

theoretical assumptions of the movement, this view emerges from a polemical context. Before 1920, several writers

Faure, although claiming that cinema is too recentlyborn an art to be definitively classified, also stresses cinema's fusing power. Like theatre (but only in this

denied the cinema's artistic status on various grounds:

101 100
Epstein, "edifie sa ville interdite, son domaine propre, espect), film is "un spectacle collectif avec l'intermedLatre d'un acteur."2^ Yet like the plastic arts, the fil~ exclusif, autonome, specifique et hostile a tout ce qui n'est pas lui."2*1 He thus denies the synthetic conception

nic artifact is fixed in its composition; unlike dance or musicj it does not vary from one performance to another."-* Like music and dance, though, cinema unrolls in a "musical space" since "un rythme vivant et sa repetition dans la dure la caractSrisent."22 According to this position,

of film by claiming that the cinema cannot do well what the other arts can: "II est mauvais peintre, mauvais sculpteur, mauvais romancier."25 This purist conception of film

is supported by an important subsidiary assumption of Impressionist theory: that cinema as an art must be distingu^isned-clear;Iy~ "from theatre- Rene'-Douniic_r_epresents the traditional thinking when he writes that the cinema is "le theatre pour illettres."26 In response, Impressionis

then, film as a medium synthesizes~vario"us~aspects-of-other media. Its distinctness as an art lies in its peculiar

"mixture" of these aspects; other mixtures, like theatre or opera, yield different arts. This strain in Impression-

film theory insists that cinema is the antithesis of theatre. "Tant qu'on pensera theStre ou roman," writes

ist Thought clearly owes a good deal to Wagner's theories, (not only in Canudo's manner of dividing the arts . . b u t also in the primary emphasis which falls upon cinema as. a

Delluc, "tant qu-on ne pensera pas cinema, il faudra n'Ssperer que ces oeuvres batardes dont nos meilleurs cinematographistes accouchent laborieusement."2' The same

synthesis. To this synthetic conception of film a r t is opposed a far more prevalent one which we may c a l l "purist." Rather than locating filnfe distinctness in i t s unique

assumption underlies Cendrars' charge that The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is not cinematic but theatrical.28 Similarly,

Impressionists like Delluc and Epstein attack the miseen sc&ne of Peuillade and Perret as too close to that of

mixture of the media of other a r t s , the a l t e r n a t e tendenthe stage. In its extreme form, the anti-theatre assump-

cy sees film as a single autonomous medium with powers


tion spawns such suggestions as that of Jean Pascal for

which no other medium possesses. sionist fi"

What Marcel L'llerbier


stripping film jargon of any terms borrowed from the theater: he proposes "cinmaturgie," "cinephases" (repla-

called "cette fameuse specificite" 2 ^ is for most Imprestheory the t a c i t assumption that every a r t "Tout a r t , " writes has i t s unique range of materials.

V J

cing "scenes"), and "cinSmatamorphose11 (re

sing

"IMffiffilfflWrtifflmWMlTiiliiiri'niiTiMW

10>

"adaptation")-29 Just as the synthetic strain in Impressionist theory owes something to Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk aesthetic, so does the purist conception allude to much current debate on "pure poetry." In 1920, Valery had written of

remplacer.

On abus du sous-titre....Le tort est de nous

interrompre dans notre emotion uniquement visuelle."53 Canudo agrees that the cinema was born to be not a text but "un conte visuel fait avec des images."3^ Another assumed theatrical material consists of stylized acting and setting; the stage actor must exaggerate expansively, and stage decor is inevitably a fabrication; theatre is conventionalized, coded. Cinema, on

an "absolute poetry" and later had identified the problem of such poetry as that "of knowing whether one can manage to construct one of those works which may be pure of all nonpoetic elements."50 j\s W e shall see in Chapter V, the

the other hand, stands opposed to such conventions. Cinema acting, notes Germaine Dulac, can be much more intimate and discreet than a theatre performance.55 Delluc claims that French film actors, transplanted from the stage, exaggerate in a theatrical style, whereas American film actors have a "natural" spontaneity.3 For Canudo, "l'acteur du Septieme Art exprime une image humaine."37 Similarly, cinema's capacity for using natu-

Impressionists were not to take this premise to the logical conclusion that the members of the abstract-film movement did. Nonetheless, the debate over "purism" in poetry

doubtless had some influence on Impressionist thinking.-' The purist position's opposition of film and theatre consists essentially of a distinction between materials, thus inserting Impressionist film theory in the "integrity of materials" tradition so central to modern movements like Cubism, Symbolism, and Constructivism. The Impressionist

ral or naturalistic surroundings as decor should allow film to avoid the false decor of the theatre. Again, the

assumes that the theatre is a predominantly verbal medium, while the film is primarily visual. Delluc, who attacks

American cinema typifies this: "Le premier chevauehee d'un cowboy dans le Far-West fit eclater les portants de carton-pate."38 There are several problems heree.g.,

the presence of inter-titles in films and sees in even Oance's titles a dangerous "Gongorism,"^2 urges that the verbal material should play a minor role: "Le texte, rediaons-le, ne doit pas etre quandl'image peut le

equating theatre as a medium with specific styles and historically variable conventions, shifting from a notion of what cinema essentially is to a notion of what it can

101

10r

The result is a unique aesthetic material which Faure jontingently dobut most important for present purposes Ls the mistake that permits mainstream Impressionist theory ;o repudiate only theatrical dialogue, acting style, and 3ecor; theatrical dramaturgy is not seen as opposed to film. Impressionist theory thus contrasts theatre and film at calls "cineplastics." Impressionist theory as a whole

supports this insistence on the primacy of such visual aspects in film. Pierre Porte writes that the avant-garde

seeks to reveal what can be done solely by moving photographic images: "L'art du cinema, qui est base sur les images, ne doit s'etablir que sur elles." Again, Canudc

a relatively local level, comparing theatrical talk, acting, and decor with aspects of the isolated film image. What

underscores the importance of cineplastics in his claim that the "conte visuel fait avec des images" will be "peint avec des pinceaux de lumiere."111 Similarly, Dulac

the purist position does not grasp is any opposition between~the~~8t"ruct"ure of a-play-and-the structure of a film. Indeed, Canudo's reference to "un conte visuel"

claims that the cinema, being "uniquement visuel," must address itself solely to the eye of the spectator."2 Cinema is made of imagesunlike the theatre, which is made of dialogue. The second fundamental proposition of Impressionist film theory may then be formulated in this way:

suggests that no opposition between literary and cinematic' wholes is seen. Unlike the film theory of Sergei

Eisenstein, for example, the Impressionist position fails to account at the primary level for cinematic structure. This omission leaves a conceptual gap which threatens the stability of higher-order theatrical claims. Since every art is distinct by virtue of a unique By contrast with the theatre, the purist position range of material constituting its medium, cinema as an locates cinematic specificity in the moving image. In art i3 distinct and should be treated ao distinct from o t h i ' i art3, especially theatre, in that it3 primary material is moving images. The Nature of the Film Image The specificity of the cinema is further located in an aspect of the film image which the Impressionists

an important passage, Faure claims: . Que le depart de cet art-IS soit d'abord plastique, il ne senible par consequent pas qu'on en puisse douter. A quelque forme d1expression a peine soupconnee qu'il puisse nous conduire, c'est par des volumes, des arabesques, des gestes, des attitudes, des rapports, des associations, des contrasts, des passages de tons, tout cela anime, insensiblement modifie d'un fragment de seconde & 1'autre, qu'il impressionnera notre sensibilite et agira aur notre intelligence par l'intermSdiare de nos yeux. 39

'yttKmmnWmvmmmmirmm.

) )

106

Uv

ill "photogenie,"

Photogenie is identified as the basic

otherness about the content; the image's material seems to be revealed in a fresh way. This evocative otherness

:surce of art in cinema, "Le cinema doit chercher a devenir eu a peu et enfin uniquement cinetnatographique," writes pstein, "c'est-a-dire a n'utiliser que des elements hotogeniques. La photogenie est 1''expression la plus Photogenie operates in the r-ealm of

is noted by several writers of the time, both Impressionists and non-Impressionists. Georgette Leblanc com-

pares seeing the ocean on film and in reality, finds that it is more expressive in a.film, and concludes: "Si me je promene dans un champ, dans une foret, dans un jardin, je participe aux choses qui m'entourent.. . .Au cinema, la grace personnel des choses m'est r6vele.. ."^ b The idea that the screen somehow presents the "soul" of

jur du cinema."^

iineplastics, the visual; as Delluc puts it: "La photogenie, ;oyez-vous, est la loi du cinema. II faut, pour la

ionnaitre, des yeuxqui soient reelement des yeux."^ And photogenie is seen by Epstein as the central concept

a person or object was similarly common. in Impressionist film theory: Delluc, en 1919, prononce et gcrit: photogenie, ce mot qui parut, un temps magique et reste, merae aujourd'hui, encore mysterieux. Avec la notion de la photogenie nalt l'idee du cinema-art. Car comment mieux definer 1'indefinissable photogenie qu'en disant; la photogenie est au cinema ce que la couleur est a la peinture, le volume a la sculpture; 1*element specifique de cet art.^5 Clearly, photogenie is a constitutive and pervasive factor: just as all paintings contain color and all works of sculpture contain volume, all films contain photogenie. But what is this mysterious entity? The concept of photogenie grows out of an attempt to account for the mysteriously alienating quality of cinema's relation to reality. According to the Impres-

Epstein finds

an evening at the cinema a Baudelairean mystical experience: "De'couvrir inopinement, comme pour la premiere fois, toutes choses sous leur angle divin, avec leur prof, de symbole et leur plus vaste sens d'analogie, avec un air de vie personnelle, telle est la grande joie du cinema." ' Kirsanov discovers the same discrepancy: one admires a film actor and is disappointed upon meeting him in real life; one passes the Place Concorde daily without a second thought yet in a film the. Place Concorde holds one fascinated; Kirsanov concludes, that "Chaque chut 2 existant sur terre connait une autre existence sur l'ecran."^ According to Ren Clair, "There is no detail of

sionists, on viewing a film image, even an image of a . .... inhale, we experience a.certain

reality which is not immediately extended here [in cinemc

108
10*'

to the domain of the wondrous."^

This aura of wonder cinema "sur-naturel" because "Tout se transforme selon O ' . v e h the les quatre photogenies."52 As a complement, Louis Delluc, who first applied

ver quite leaves Impressionist film theory.

st sophisticated theorists (e.g., Epstein ami Camido) 11 back too easily upon the assumption that photogenic the term photogenie to cinema, initially emphasizes photoan impenetrable, quasi-supernatural enigma. This means graphy's revelatory power.. iat much written about photoggnie is unsupportable theo^tically. The strongest theoretical line, however, pushes Aimez-vous la photo? Em marge de tous les arts, elle traduit. la vie par chance. Collaboration si hasardeuse au'on peut la prendre pour un vol. Le Geste saisi par un kodak n'est jamais tout a fait le geste qu'on voulait fixer. Onygagne-genera-lement-.Voila-_ce_quJ^m' enchante: avouez que e'est extraordinaire de s'apercevoir tout d' un coup, sur une pellicule ou une plaque, que tel passant distraitement cueilli par l'objectif avait une expression rare, que Madame X. . . detient en fragments epars l'inconscient secret des attitudes classiques, et que les arbres, l'eau, les etoffes, les betes, ont pour realiser le rythme familier que nous leur connaissons, des mouvements decomposes dont la revelation nous emeut. . .53 At an essential level, a photograph reveals a reality which eality. The transforming quality must be present if we do not normally perceive. here is to be art; as we have seen, Impressionist theory film image, the same revelatory power is operative: "La pho ssumes art to be an imaginative, suggestive transformagenie e'est la verity lyrique de la photographie animee."1?'' ion of nature. "lie septieme art," writes Canudo, "doit Photogenie yields truth in an experiential sense, in reveal voquer et suggerer les sentiments, et meme les fuits, ilus qu'il ne doit platement les reproduire."50 ing to perception or feeling some.aspect of reality. Louis these passages, Delluc only hints at photogenie's transform .ragon likewise observes that cinema's power lies not in ing capacities ("traduit la vie") and stresses what is uniq ;he faithful reproduction of reality but in the "magnifito his own position: the random, accidental quality of phot jation" and "transformation" of reality which produces 'la vie supgr re de la poesie."^1 graphy.55 Elsewhere, however, Delluc explicitly uses the mc Epstein calls the conventional notion of transformation, or ratb^r revelation through In In the moving photographic

i e argument into the area of the technical capacities ' the image, but without losing sight of the awesome rstery that initially impels the inquiry.

Photoggnie is seen, most broadly, as the transformig, revelatory power of cinema: transforming because photoInie surpasses sheer literal reproduction of reality; evelatory became it presents a fresh perspective upon

) 1 I1

110

dulled by routine, no longer discovers beauty directly,

isformation: this i s the process which the Impressionists as photogenic That Delluc and others never specify the fundn;al nature of pre-existent r e a l i t y is typical of the I'ctance of Impressionist thinking to give content to ibsely-assembled vocabulary inherited from Symbolism. Conclusions about the philosophical position which inds the notion of photogenie must be accordingly sTral.
Ips

but the lens "centers, drains, and distills" beauty into ohotocj:gnie.57 That such photogenie issues from some mys-

terious realm seems clear from several passages in Impressionist writing: Epstein claims that an object has a "soul" which film reveals, while Rene Schwab defines cinema as "l'art d'inverser I'ordre du monde pour < ? n mieux souligner 1'invisible beaute."58 in
one

passage, Epstein

suggests that in a film, an object becomes animated and expressive, baring its previously concealed essence,59 At another point, Ren Clair speaks of the revelation of an ideal world: "The screen gives a soul to the cabaret, the room, a bottle, a wall. counts in our eyes. It is this soul alone that

Broadly speaking, the Impressionist conception


yuV reo\\.S V-"

reality may be called " i d e a l i s t , " since the position '^ssitates some notion of a realm beyond material lity.
M

The Impressionists' unanimous condemnation of

We move from the object to its soul

conception of cinema based upon reproduction e n t a i l s U^the recording of material r e a l i t y is not sufficiently

as easily as our being passes from a sight to a thought. The screen opens onto a new world, one vibrant with even

\Ui^
istic. e revelatory fashion.

.
/
6

The a r t i s t must transform material reality in

more sympathetic responses than our own

ir60

It is a

For Delluc, the cinema " t r a n s h i p W (tej In either This i n ' t u r n

logical culmination of such an idealist position that Epstein, who sees the cinema as "mystique par essence," describes seeing pure truth revealed not in a church but in a film theatre: Devant moi, a Nancy, une salle de trois cents personnes gmit 5 voix haute en voyant 3 l'ecran un grain de bl germer. Soudain apparu, le vrai visage de la vie et de la mort, celui de l'affreux amour, arrache de tels oris religieux. Quelles Sglises, si nous en savions construire, devraient abriter ce spectacle ou la vie est rivelge. Dgcouvrir inopin^ment,

esT" "develops," "explicates," or "intensifies" r e a l i t y ^ ; Hragon, the cinema "magnifies" r e a l i t y . t be brought out, evoked, or led forth. <*fsomething not immediately or materially apparent

i ^
ends upon an aesthetic epistemology which somehow Tains why the revealed thing has not heretofore been sped. The only hint of such epistemological grounding

cs in Jean Epstein's suggestion that normal perception,

n;
artifice, though he remains mute on the ultimate nature comme pour la-premiere fois, toutes choses sous leur angle divin, avee leur profil de symbole et leur plus vaste sens d'analogie, avec un air de vie persbnnelle, telle est la grande joie du cinema."1 In its hinting that ideal correspondences arid analogies exist between the fi'lm image and Truth, this passage suggests the nature of the absolute realm beyond appearances that cinema can reveal. Epstein takes to its logical end the Symbolist bias of Impressionist thought in identifying the transforming capacity of the~Tilmimag~e~~with an ideal transcendance, a realm of pure ideas. He writes: Platonic Idealist believing that a single image can become Essentialement 1'Scran generalise et determine. II n'y s'agib jamais d'un soir, mais du soir et le votre en fait partie. Le visage, et j^y retrouve tous ceux que j'ai vus, fantome de souvenirs- Au lieu d'une bouche, la bouche, larve de baisers. Chaque image devient une abstraction, quelque chose de eomplet, de definitif et d'universel.62 Here is the ultimate claim for photogenic as a transfor-, mation of material reality: we experience not a conceptual abstraction but a nondiscursive, experiential symbol embodying a realm beyond immediate sense experience. To this realm, the artist has access and uses the art work to express his or her insights into this realm. In passing, we should note the astonishing variety of assumptions revealed in some passages quoted above; they* Constitute a bewildering compendium of variants of that broa'* position known as idealism. Delluc seems to surrogate for a universal entity, the quintessence of the object. Such contradictions illustrate the extent to whic at one moment, he holds the Bergsonian position that art cuts through our cognitive constructs to reveal the flux of life; at another moment, he is closer to a Baudel1 ~ airian ~theosophy-which- assumes that L vast_ana!ogies"

of that reality. (Does it pre-exist our response to if.' . Is the stylization a matter of projecting feelings into an object?) Schwob and Clair, on the other hand, appeal to an unabashed mysticism. .Epstein is far more protean:

interlace all phenomena; at yet another time, he seems a

Impressionist theory is an assemblage of various assumptions never raised to theoretical self-consciousness. To

keep on our path, however, the essential point is the shar broadly "idealist" assumption of some realm beyond matter which the film artist can reveal and express.
j

Revelation and expression lead us to the problem of film style. Artistic expression, according to the
i

Impressionists, is also the general task of painting and literature. If the Impressionist aesthetic is to be Moreover, true to i t s own e s s e n t i a l i s t assumptions, i t must conside; some unique properties of the film medium.

nn*. for a reality which is -stylized and idealized through

o
u'l

11

those p r o p e r t i e s must a l s o d i s t i n g u i s h photogftnig from


an imposition is essential for the Impressionists. It

r e a l i t y in i t s raw s t a t e , f c r

photogenic could hardly


is not enough to point the camera and turn it on, says

transform r e a l i t y without some margin of d i f f e r e n c e .

Th<
Canudo; the mind of the artist must be expressed: "L'ecraniste se doit de transformer la rSalite a 1'imago de son

Impressionists claim t h a t t h i s difference l i e s in film technique, which not only records material r e a l i t y but
reve interieur."^ Similarly, for Germaine Dulac, although

a l s o expresses the film-maker's s u b j e c t i v e , attitude.

personal
cinema's technical base is photography, its aesthetic function is to use technique for expression of the direc-

Such a b e l i e f follows from an i m p l i c i t s p l i t which


tor's mind.5 By implication, then, the film artist must

r u l e s Impressionist t h i n k i n g : a s p l i t between the p r o f i l m i c


somehow grasp the ideal realm beyond appearances and then

event ( i . e . ; what

happens i n front of the camera l e n s )


utilize the techniques of cinema to reveal this ideal realm This revelation of feeling (what Mallarmg might have called "etats d'ame") is in turn grasped by the spectator What are the technical capacities of the medium <& that Impressionism finds important for the revelation of mental states? Because of the initial assumptions of

and the a c t of filming and shaping that event a p o s t e r i o r i . This t e c h n i c a l d u a l i t y g e n e r a l l y p a r a l l e l s the a e s t h e t i c d u a l i t y of nature and imagination. Manipulating the p r o -

filmic event i t s e l f i s not enough, since i t may be taken for raw n a t u r e . Technique must v i s i b l y i n t e r v e n e and medi-

a t e ; the act of filming must expressively transform what i s filmed. (Significantly, the p r i o r i t y of f i l m i n g and

cinema's transforming and revelatory powers and of cinema1.-' distinctness from theatre, Impressionist theory emphasises manipulation of the camera as the aesthetic basis of

shaping procedures i s suggested in the very term photog g n i e , with "genie" punning on "genius" or " s p i r i t . " )

photogenie.

Here the theory again takes on a normative

Writing of R e n o i r ' s r e v o l u t i o n in r e a l i s t i c s t y l e , Andre


slant; since the cinema can transform nature, it should do

Bazin i n d i r e c t l y a l l u d e s t o an Impressionist conception of


it primarily through camera technique (and not, say, pri-

film: "'Cinema' no longer imposed i t s e l f between the s p e c marily through mise-en-sc&ne, which is identified as a

t a t o r and the o b j e c t , l i k e a s e t of prisms or

filters
theatrical device). The split between profilmic

designed to stamp t h e i r own meaning on r e a l i t y . " 3

Such

event and filming, we recall, already stresses the

llh

117

transforming r o l e of t h e camera.

According to Joan Tedea-

Henri Lamblin, "tout est d'abord dans le cervoau do 1'artiste. "71 Thanks to technical transformations, Canudo

co, for example, the a c t o r i s j u s t p a r t of the decor; he belongs t o t e c h n i q u e : "Le seul premier r o l e d'un film, c ' e s t l ' o b j e c t i f qui l e t i e n t . " 6 6 s i m i l a r l y , Rem' Jeanne argues that the camera c r e a t e s the s p e c t a c l e which we see 67 We may define camerawork in cinema as c o n s i s t i n g of adjustment and placement of the camera. Both these a s p e c t s

claims, memory and thoughts have come to replace words and take cinema beyond theatrical artifice.I2 As will

be seen in the next chapter, such aesthetic strictures about optical transformations of the image find expression in salient traits of Impressionist film style. For the Impressionists, the position or placement of-the camera also- aesthetically transf or_ms__the__ma_terial reality which is filmed; accordingly, the image gains another margin of difference over reality by means of camera distance and angle. Although the theory undertakes

become_aesthetically s i g n i f i c a n t for the I m p r e s s i o n i s t s . I m p r e s s i o n i s t theory p r i z e s adjustments of the camera apparatus- which transform the surface or speed of the image for e x p r e s s i v e ends. Gauzily b l u r r e d images

a r e defended by Delluc a s l e g i t i m a t e s t y l i z a t i o n , as seen i n the p a i n t i n g s of Monet and Cezanne. Canudo

no exhaustive investigation of the aesthetic potential of camera distance (cf. Rudolf Arnheim's Film as Art), Impressionist theorists tacitly recognize this potential at work through considerations of a specific case: the close up. "Le gros plan," writes Epstein, "est 1'ame du cinema."'

sees superimpositions as psychologically e v o c a t i v e : "La r e p r e s e n t a t i o n p l a s t i q u e de l a pensee l o r s q ' e l l e ne se borne pas a une surimpression d r images ou 5 de vagues t a b l e a u x evocateurs des souvenirs d'un personnage, peut t r o u v e r 5 l ' e c r a n des formes d'une suggestion incomparab l e . 9 jean Tedesco and Jean Epstein both p r a i s e slow-

In selecting and magnifying a detail of material reality, the close-up abstracts (Epstein: "II a 1'air d'une id^W)

motion as expressing a new perception of the world and i n d i c a t i n g subjective experiences,TO More g e n e r a l l y , many

and expresses feelings (Canudo: "Une verre, des clumsy iiivs, une sacoche bourre de papiers ont a J'tn:ran la meme intensity expressive que le 'gros plan1 d'un visage"?^). Thus the close-up offers an extreme instance of how camera distance can transform material reality through the artistic

w r i t e r s welcome a range of such image-transformations, which would make t h e cinema more e x p r e s s i v e . i s only a p; j x t for a r t i s t i c deformations, Since r e a l i t y writes

< >

119 118

Porte is asking that the artist'3 cinematic transformation imagination's manipulation of film technique. Another extreme example of the Impressionista' emphasis on the transforming powers of camera pl:ieemvit may be seen in the occasional recognition of the aestheticimportance of optically subjective camera angles, which indicates a character's optical perspective on some event. Like camera distance, this aesthetic resource of material reality move in a different direction, so to speak: that technique only imply the director's interpretation by indicating characters' visual experiences. Although Impressionist theory never gets beyond such general questioning, there is nonetheless the tacit recognition that camera placement can suggest subjective attitudes toward material reality. As we shall see, this

was never explored systematically by Impressionist theory. The most explicit suggestions come from Pierre Unlike the theatre, he argues, cinema can put

possibility is actualized in Impressionist film practice. It is the camera, then, in its adjustments and positionings, that makes the primary contribution to photogenie as revelation and transformation. Mise-en-scene

Porte.

us in the characters' places; the camera can be a character's eyes. Since cinema should strive for autonomy

(the arrangement of material in the image) is accorded considerably less importance, but occasional comments suggest that Impressionist theorists are aware of its expressive potential. The usual assumption J.s that mise-

from other.arts, the film-maker should show us the action not as a theatre spectator might view it but as the characters see it. pice. "Un homme tombe dans un preci-

Pourquoi ne tomberions nous pas nous-memes?"7u

en-scene contributed to the "animism" of objects that the close-upfacilitates. a character. Nature, in other words, becomes

Porte distinguishes between visual representation of a character's experience and visual presentation of it. Por example, in one film, a dying woman's vision is conveyed by gauzing over a long-shot showing her and her son. "Mais ce flou n'est qu'une expression, ce n'est pas une sensation."77 ideally, says Porte, the film-maker should

Canudo speuks of "nature-personnage" in the Delluc finds that cinema

American and Swedish films.78

reveals an animating force in natural details: "Les choses dont le role est immense dans la vie et dans l'art retrouv ront leur vrai role et leur Eloquence fatidique."79 Whereas Impressionist theory values distortions ofcameraun^xr for- pvnrpssive ends, however, it denies that distorti

make the gauze gradually cover a shot of the son taken from the optical point-of-view of the mother. In effect.

120

1 . '

' mise-en-scgne (as in German Expressionism) is intrin.; Lcally

It is worth recalling a remark of Epstein's which r quolej! earlier: "Le cinema doit chercher a devenir peu a peu et erifin uniquement cinematographique, c'est-a-dire a n'utiliser que des elements photogeniques. l'expression la plus pure du cinema."31 La photogetue est The descriptive

cinematic.

Epstein writes of Caligari's "hyperf -

^ophy" of decor, while Cendrars denies that Caligari s cinematic because it ignores the transforming powers f the camera: ."Les deformations ne sont pas optique et 2 dependent pas de 1'angle unique de l'appareil de prise < > vues, ni de l'objectif, ni du diaphragme, ni de la ise au point. Aucune purification du metier, tous les

and normative sides of the Impressionist theory of the i n i i : are apparent: all films have some measure of photog^nie, but the film-maker's style should not work to conceal it (through, say, theatrical techniques and acting) but shoul.. make it more apparent (especially through the powers of the camera). As Jean Tedesco proposes, cinematic expres-

ffets obtenus- a--lU-aide_de._moy_ens._app^rJtenant_3_.la_p.ein-^ ure, a la musique, a la litterature, etc. ulle part l'appareil de prise de vues."8 On ne voit Thus the role

f the camerawhat Epstein later called "l 1 intelligence 'un machine"remains greater than that of mise-en-scene. According' to the Impressionists, then, the film mage's mystery" comes from the fact that photoglnie imultaneously reveals a hidden meaning in material reality nd subjectively transforms that reality through film echnique. But doesn't every film do this to at least impressionists would answer yes, and at this Given the image's

sion can simultaneously reveal a new meaning in reality and project subjective mental states 82 Cinema thus

transcends sheer mechanical recording, and it does this chiefly through camerawork. But Impressionist thinkers

ignore the problem of explaining precisely how the product of such cinematic expression differs from the expressivity produced in other art media. As in so many other areas,

jome degree?

Impressionist theory begins with .an initial assumption (here, the uniqueness and autonomy of the materials of various media) but fails to carry it through logically. We may now formulate the third fundamental assumption of Impressionist film theory: The specific nature of the film image is its

joint the normative emphasis reappears.

asic capacities,- it is foolish to try to bend the image p a purely recording function. The film-maker should

wim with the current; so to speak; the film-maker should apitalize on the cinema's natural expressive potential.

3
j

>

122

session of photogenie, which c o n s i s t s of fcho power of ^ t e c h n i q u e s ( c h i e f l y camerawoi'k) to express thi

yv^f
dramaturgy and that they should not do so. Although Impressionist writers have not earned a theory of autonomously cinematic structure comparable to the material concept of photogenie or "cineplastics," they usually simp; deny that cinema should owe anything at all to theatre

film^^-f^)

!C**3 vision of otherwise hidden meanings in tvn l i ty . The Nature of Filmic Construction I suggested e a r l i e r that I m p r e s s i o n i s t film theory Cf-ct^ S3| not develop a fundamental conception of cinematic > Ti- W 3 " t -s

or literature.

"L'action, l'intrigue, 1'esprit sont du "Le cinema assimile mal l'arr In another passage,

theatre...," writes Epstein.

ucture; t h a t i s , i t d i s t i n g u i s h e s film from other a r t s material grounds, not s t r u c t u r a l ones. This lack

ature raisonnable du feuilleton."^3

Epstein claims: "GSneralement, le cinema rend mal l'anecdote, Et 'action dramatique' y est une erreur."^

faces again when Impressionist theory t r i e s to define oL*J~ a e s t h e t i c of f i l m i c c o n s t r u c t i o n . The r e s u l t i s a $<

Germaine Dulac complains that a blind man in a film theatre could be told the plot of most films and miss very little: "Un vrai film ne doit pas pouvoir se raconter puisqu'il doit puiser son principe actif et emotif dans des images faites d'uniques vibrations visuelles. Raconte-t-on un Certes pas. On

Uchy, problematic p a i r of normative c o n c e p t s : f i r s t , $Uj> ienial t h a t cinematic s t r u c t u r e should owe anything to <?t&M =matic or l i t e r a r y s t r u c t u r e and, second, an a s s e r t i o n it filmic s t r u c t u r e should be based on " v i s u a l rhythm." In t h e i r eagerness to e s t a b l i s h cinema's unique 4^-5 = h>iV-= i,,u W ^ ? d^^A.

tableau?

Raconte-t-on une sculpture?

t h e t i c domain, many Impressionists go beyond the second p o s i t i o n formulated above to claim not only t h a t the

ne peut ivoquer que l'impression et 1'emotion qu'elles degagent."5 Paure and Clair maintain that because of

;ic material or film i s moving images but a l s o t h a t film <?<---*"* itW not borrow i t s dramaturgy from o t h e r a r t s . tt t h i s i s a contingent and normative c l a i m . Note f^^XZ a^'1^

cineplastics, a story becomes but a pretext for the images. Consequently, Impressionists often deny that a Again, the

I t i s one

"pure film" should be a narrative at all.?

MJ, t o say t h a t a l l films consist of moving images and \*-0** aess some measure of photogenie. I t i s another thing W

borrowing from purist conceptions of literature is probable. If Impressionist theory decides that cinematic

say t h a t some films copy l i t e r a r y or t h e a t r i c a l

124
( . " >

"should ideally owe nothing to literary or dramatic -H e ^ 4, what does cinematic form consist of? This is perhaps Needf/^*/ Jt^^

sum, rhythm receives not even the theoretical exploration that photogenie does. As we might formulate it, tin* final

greatest problem in Impressionist film theory.

assumption of Impressionist theory is contingent, normative, and problematic: " Filmic construction should be based not on narra-

a" model of temporal structure, refusing the model' offe-fie^y $ j A by narrative forms, and unable or unwilling to gener/ld-i1?/ a theory of uniquely cinematic structure, the I m p r e s ^ -,

tive but on rhythmic relations between images. nist theorist looks to music for analogues.for filmic Istruction. Interestingly, musical forms generated OoW Evaluation As_I_suggej3ted_at^ the outset of this chapter, one of the problems posed by Impressionist theory is that it never received systematic large-scale explication. The C& ** " < ~

motivic play (e.g. 7~sonata form)are-not-seen_as-_the me models. ^ rhythm. What is borrowed from music is the concept o l

Impressionist theory rests its idea of filmic

fistruction almost wholly upon the rhythmic relationships tween images.

belletristic and scrappy quality of the Impressionists' writings encouraged avoidance of detailed and systematic analysis; hence a number of glaring conceptual gaps in the theory. Apart from the flaws I have discussed in pas-

Unanimous in praising rhythm in cinema, Impression-^\ 1? writers never consider the concept closely. Oance A*J * J-

nounces, unhelpfully, that rhythm makes cinema the music light.^9 Moussinac proposes that rhythm is a need &'

sing, one general defect is the failure to posiV a comprehensive theory of structure appropriate to the nature

the mind: we live in a bodily and psychic rhythm.9 (st precise of any i3 RenS Clair, who notes that three *JUH*S* control cinematic rhythmthe duration of each lage-, the organization of shots in editing, and movent within each imagebut he goes no further,91 It is

jtcl -WTrZ-T'
c^A--^

of the medium.

This would not be so problematic if Impres-

sionist theory d'id not insist on the autonomous purity not only of the materials of film but also of the structure of film. The shift from descriptive claims about, the

medium to normative claims about structure marks, among other things, an inability to account descriptively for an intrinsically cinematic structure. % Another gap in

Dt at all clear, then, how rhythmic relations between nages can ademiately define cinematic structure. In

126

1:

npressionist theorizing is the ]ack of an explicit account C the experience of film and of experience in general . ithout an epistemology or a psychology, Impressionist Y\QjJ heory's account of photogenie cannot adequately explain ig, ru ow the film image reveals and transforms reality. An vL. ,^ ^\C a*/ ,yri^
r

been cogently discussed by Andre Bazin,^2 but moro to the^deductive point are the strictures urged h/Morris Weitz a^d Monroe Beardsley. As Weitz points out7~Ttte

'

doctrine of purismi.e., that "the arts aught to do what distinguishes them from each other"93--has not been justified. If there is a good reason for this view, the ImpresPurism remains a submerged and

pistemology drawn from Bergson or a psychology along estalt lines might start to ground Impressionist film

vv \VV "Hv

I '

sionists never reveal it. unjustified assumption.

heory, but the choice between these positions is hardly . n indifferent one, and the concepts of revelation and transormation would then demand much more analysis than the impressionists ever give them. In short, as Impressionist

Despite its problems, however, Impressionist film theory has a clear relationship to activities at other levels of the Impressionist movement. From a diachronic

.heory stands, it is unfinished, only a rough sketch of i complete theory. Besides such cracks in its theoretical anatomy, -he Impressionist position suffers from at least two purely logical defects. There is, first, the move from an account of cinema's basic nature to normative recommendations about film style. The problem of how to justify a shift from descriptive to prescriptive propositionshow to get from "is" to "ought"is a classic one in logic, aesthetics, and ethics; how to solve it remains a theoretical difficulty. A second problem lies in the nature of the

perspective, the theoretical positiop, may be seen as the product of specific interactions with the activities on the level of the film culture and with the alterations in film style. The tracing of these interactions is the Prom the ,

business of the final chapter of this study.

synchronic perspective adopted in this chapter, the theory of film as an autonomous art with its own expressive resour ees provides some conceptual support for the polemical and cultural activities in which the Impressionists engaged. A theoretical position provides a set of general Similarly,

principles to which a rhetoric can appeal.

normative argument from the alleged "purity of the medium." In film, the problems of scope attending such purism have

seeing photogenie and rhythm as the expressive resources of cinema offers conceptual grounding for a film style which emphasizes camerawork and rhythmic editing. (In ;

128

1-9

_s general respect, Impressionist theory again intersects ;h Symbolist poetics, for as Lehmann has pointed out, > i Symbolists often theorized not for theory's sake but a way to support their poetic practice.9**) impressionist

Notes
1 Louis Delluc, "Cinegraphie," Le Crapouillot (November 1932), p. 21.

See La Potisie d ' Aujourd1 hui (Paris: HirCims, 1921-, passim. Riccioto Canudo, Usine des Images (Geneva: Office Central d'Sdition, 1927-, p. 5&''Marcel Dfosse, "Une Certaine Photognie," Cina-Cin pour Tous no. 94 (1 October 1927), 13. 5paul Ramain, "Pour une Esthgtique Intellectuelle du Pulm," Cinea-Cing pour Tous no. 58 (2 April 1926), 14. ^Riccioto Canudo, Helene, Faust et Nous (Paris: Chiberre, 1920), p. 28. Z C f l . n u d . p _ n Usine, p . 2 2 .
8 5

aory will be seen to both reflect and affect Impressionist lm-making. To an examination of the results of such J Im-making the following chapter is devoted.

Ramain, "Pour une Esthetique Intellectuelle du

Film," H, ^Canudo, Usine, pp. 39-^0.


10 J e a n E p s t e i n , Bonjour Cinema ( P a r i s : S i r ? n e , 1921), p . 117.

^ S t e p h a n e Mallarme, "Music and L i t e r a t u r e , " in 0. B. Haridson, J r . , e d . , Modern C o n t i n e n t a l L i t e r a r y C r i t i c i s m (New York: Appleton, 1 9 b 2 ) , pp. 17H-loliScanudo, Hgl&ne, Faust e t Nous, p . S: Usine, p. 39. ^ M i c h e l Goreloff, " S u g g e r e r , " Cinea-Cine pour Tous no. 91 (15 August 1927), 2 3 .
l!| 1 1

E p s t e i n , Po3ie d' Aujourd ' h u i , pp. 172-173.

^ I b i d . , p . ll8.

^For detailed examination of such issues, see Harold Osborne, "The Quality of Feeling in Art," Aesthetics in the Modern World, ed. Harold Osborne (London: Weybright

130

131

Talley, 1968), pp. 105-124, and B. R. Tilghniun, The ression of Emotion in the Visual Arts (The Hague: tinus Nijhoff, 1970). ' '~~~ 17canudo, "Manifeste des Sept Arts," Gazette des t Arts no. 2 tn.d. ] , 2.
l8

^ L o u i s D e l l u c , Drames du Cinema ( P a r i s : Monde Nouveau, 1 9 2 3 ) , p p . x - x i . '

34Canudo, Usine, p. 20.


55Germaine Dulac, "Ou Sont les Interoretes?" Film no. 133-134 (l4 October 1918), pp. 69~70.
36

Le

Ibid.

^canudo, Usine, p. 17. 2Elie Paure, Ponction du Cinema (Paris: Gonthier,

Delluc, Cinema et Cie, pp. 144-46.

37canudo, Usine, p. 21. 38jean Galtier-BoissiSre, "Bilan Cinegraphique," Le Crapouillot (March, 1923), p. 3. 39Faure, Fonction du Cinema, p. 27. ^Pierre Porte, "Un Idal," Cinea-Cine Pour Tous no. 41 (15 July 1925), 9~ ^Canudo, Usine, p. 20. ^2Germaine Dulac, "Films Visuals," Le Rouge et le Noir, Cahier specials (July 1928), 39. ^Epstein, Le Cinematographe Vu de l'Etna, p. 24.

'0 p. 23.
21 22

Ibid., p. 24.

Ibid., p. 25.

2 5jean-Andre Fieschi, "Entretien avec Marcel L'Herr," Cahiers du Cinema no. 202 (June-July 1968), 29.

Jean Epstein, Le Cinematographe vu de 1'Etna ris: Ecrivains RSunis, 192t>), p. 24. .


2 2

2l|

5Epstein, Bonjour Cingraa, p. 115.

^Rene Doumic, "L'Age du Cinema," Nouvelle Revue Deux Mondes (15 August 1913), p. 930. 9), 7Louis Delluc, Cinema et Cie (Paris: Grasset, P. 85. ~"~' ""
2B 2

44Louis Delluc, Photoggnie (Paris: Grasset, 1920),


P. 9*. ^Epstein, Le Cinematographe vu de l'Etna, p. 46. ^"Georgette Leblanc, "Propos sur le cinema," Mercure de France (16 November 1919),. 279^Epstein, Le Cinematographe vu de l'Etna, p. 11. ^"Dmitri Kirsanoff, "Les Problemes de la Photognie," Cinea-Cine pour Tous no. 62 (1 June 1926), 10. See also Kirsanoff, "Les Myste'res de la Photogenie," CineaCine pour Tous no. 39 (15 June 1925), 9^Rene Clair, Cinema Yesterday and Today, trans.by R. C. Dale (New York: Dover, 1972), p. 735Canudo, Usine, p. 76.

B l a i s e C e n d r a r s , " L e c t u r e s , " Cina n o . 5t> June 1 9 2 2 ) , 1 1 . 2 9 j e a n P a s c a l , "Le V o c a b u l a r i e du Cinema," C i n e ; a z i n e I I , 5 ( 3 F e b r u a r y 1 9 2 2 ) , 1M6-1H7. 5Paul V a l e r y , The Art of P o e t r y (New York: i l ) , p p . 46, 185. Vintage,

^ F o r a contemporary a c c o u n t of t h e " p u r e p o e t r y " i t r o v e r s y , s e e Henri Bremond, La P o s i e Pure ( P a r i s : vsset, 1926). 5 2 Quoted i n Marcel T a r i o l , L o u i s D e l l u c S h e r s , 1 9 6 5 ) , p . 109. ( (Paris:

13^

133

^Louis Aragon, "Le Decor," Le Film no.. 131 6 September 1918), 9^ E p s t e i n , Bonjour Cingma, pp. 35-36. ^^Delluc, Photoggnie, p . 5,
54

^Louis Delluc, "Notes Pour Moi," Le Film no. 125 (5 August 1919),5. 69canudo, Uj3ine_, p. 1337See Jean Tedesco, "Etudes de Ralenti," CineaCine pour Tous no. 57 (15 March 1926), 11-12, and Jean Epstein, "Le Ralenti," Cin6a-Cine pour Tous no. 108 (J May 1928), 10. Henri Lamblin, "De la Deformation," Le Rouge et le Noir, Cahier SpSciale (July -1928), 169-171. 72canudo, Usine, p. 42. See also Lecn Moussinac, "Technique Commande," Gasette des Sept Arts no. 2 n.d. , 12-13, and Pierre Porte, "Cinema Intellectuel ou Affect if?" Cinea-Cine" pour Tous no. 61 (15 May 1926), 9-10. 73Epstein, Bonjour Cinema, p. 9*1. T^Ibid., p. 105. 75c_anudo, Usine, p. 81.
71

Quoted in T a r i o l , Louis Delluc, p . 48.

'^Deluc's e a r l y w r i t i n g s minimized the a r t i s t i c I c u l a t i o n implicit in p h o t o g e n i e ' s transforming powers, s love of-authentic landscapes and of documentary films iggesU's t h a t he saw, photogenie as an almost n a t u r a l p r o ; s s , somewhat akin to S i e g f r i e d Kracauer's view of cinema's " f i n i t y for nature. In t h i s Delluc was unique among ie Impressionists. By 1923, however, Delluc had a p p a r e n t l y . iquiesced t o the emphasis on cinema's s t y l i z i n g c a p a c i Les, and h i s preface to Drames du Cinema (Paris:Monde Nouveau J23) makes most of the s t a n d a r d e x p r e s s i o n i s t assumptions. 5^See Delluc, Photogenie, pp. 11-12. ^lEps-tein 3 _Bonjour_.Cinema, pp. 35-3_6. "Rene Schwob, Une Melodie S i l e n c i e u s e ( P a r i s : r a s s e t , 1929), p. 260. ^ ' E p s t e i n , Le Cinematographe vu de l ' E t n a , p . 30.
50

76p-i-erre-Por-te ^J'.Une-LaiLjaiLCinejna," Cinea-Cine pour Tous no. 9 (15 March 1924), 1 1 . 7 ? I b i d . , 12.
78canudo, Usine, pp. 23, 29-30. 79Quoted in Tariol, p. 96. 80pstein, Le Cinematographe vu de l'Etna, pp. 59-60; Blaise Cendrars, "Lectures,1' 11. 8lEpstein, Le Cinematographe vu de l'Etna, p. 24. 82Tedesco, "Cinema-Expression," 2783Epstein, Bonjour Cinema, p. 33.
8

C l a i r , Cinema Yesterday and Today, pp. 7 2 - 7 3 . p. 11.

61Epstein, Le Cinematographe vu de l ' E t n a , 62Epstein, Bonjour. Cinema, p. 115-

63Andre Bazin, Jean Renoir (New York: Simon & chuster, 1973), p. 105. 64Canudo, Usine, p. 38. 65Dulac, "Pilms Visuels," 36. 66Jean Tedesco., "Cinema-Expression," Cahiers du

*'lbid., p. 30. Dulac, "Pilms Visuels," -39-

lois no. 16-17 (1925), 23. "'Rene Jeanne, "La Controverse de l a Couleur," Unga-Cing pour Tous no. 78 (2 February 1927), 27-

85

86paurg, T'onction du Cinema, pp. 29-36; Clair, Cinema Yesterday and Today, pp. 4 ' 4 4 ' 5.

135 131

8?See Germaine Dulac, "Le Cinegraphie Integrale," in Marcel Lapierre, ed. , Anthologie du Cinema (Paris: La Nouvelle Edition, 1946), pp. 165-106. ' " ""Paul Ramain is one of the few Impressionist theorists to use the motivic forms of musical construction as models for cinema, especially in his analyses of La Roue, Per Mude Tod, and Metropolis as "symphonic" structures of plastic "themes.'" See "De 3a Construction Thematique des Films," Cinea-Cine pour Tous no. I^ (2 September 1925), 9-11, and "Metropolis," Cinea-Cine pour Tous no. 91 (15 August 1927), 21-22, and Ciriea-Cine pour tous no. 93 (15 September 1927), 21-2H. "^Abel Gance, La Beaute a Travers le Cinema (Paris: Institut General Psychologique, 1926), pp. 2-6. 9Leon Houssinac, "Du Rhythme Cinegraphique," (March 1923), reprinted in Le Crapouillot Le Crapou illot . . . . . <ni-c, in.iD q0( iu also jvember 1932), pp. o= . * . . . . Moussina'c, L'Age c c ^'November 1932), pp. 20-22 Ingrat du Cinema (Paris: Editeurs Francais Reunis, 1967), pp7 75-Bl" 9lRene Clair, "Rhythme," Cahiers du Mois no. 16-17 (1925), 13-16. " 9 Andre Bazin, "In Defense of Mixed Cinema," in What Is Cinema? vol. I,trans.by Hugh Gray (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), pp. 53-75. 93|v|orris Weitz, Philosophy of the Arts (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 195o),. p. 2b. 9^A. G. Lehmann, The Symbolist Aesthetic in France (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1950), p. 472

CHAPTER IV:

A PARADIGM OF IMPRESSIONIST FILM STYLE

Constructing a Style Paradigm The Impressionist movement consists of more than an ensemble of cultural activities and an implicit theoretical position. Perhaps the most important contribution

of the movement is the films which its members made.. In these films, historians like Leprohon, Langlois, Burch, Sadoul, and Mitry have perceived a distinct style. Moreover, as Chapter I has suggested, such a perception of stylistic homogeneity was present among the members of this and other groups.. But no writer has specifically identified the features \ f the Impressionist style. Taking

previous research as an initial guide, my project in this chapter is to identify the features of the films which produce the sense that these films may be grouped significantly. Such features can then be assembled into a para-

digm which will consist of a systematic outline of the significant traits of the Impressionist style. Before

constructing the paradigm, however, it is necessary to determine the set of films to be considered, the logical nature of the proposed paradigm, and the concept of film style most appropriate to this study.

History of International Cinenla Part 1: Silent Era


i

Week 8

)8

BASIC E L E M E N T S

ond part of Kurosawa's film abandons the apartment in which the first part of the action takes place and shifts to the streets and slums of Tokyo, which change of setting brings about a radical change of style. 7. The reasons for this standardization arc intimately bound up with the establishment of the "zero point" of film-making defined earlier. This particular manifestation of that development would make a fascinating subject of study from the point of view of'film perception. 8. This is true only in part. Actually, this sequence is a large-scale development of the concept of "montage units," that is, a dialectic of "good" and "bad" matches, inaugurated in Strike and theorized by Eisenstcin in his teachingsec Lessons with Eisenstcin by Vladimir Nizhny (New York: Hill and
Wang, 1961).

The Idea of Montage in Soviet Art and Film


David Bordwett

vA

Some questions in film history can be answered in terms of cinema alone. Other questions demand that the historian place film-making in a larger context. For example, the historically significant European film-maker often Las artistic alliances outside film, in stage directing (e.g., Sjostrom, Visconti, and Bergman), painting (e.g., Antonioni, Bresson), or even poetry (e.g., the Prevcrts), For this reason, many problems in European film history can be solved only by an investigation of the relationslup between film and other arts. 1 the The history of Soviet cinema offers a problem of this kind. Between 1924 ind 1930, several Soviet films exhibited a radically original film style, gentrally known as the montage style. Montage was used to build a narrative (by formulating an artificial time and space or guiding the viewer's attention from one narrative point to another), to control rhythm, to create metaphors, and to make rhetorical points. The most celebrated exponents of tins tfyleKulcshov, Pudovkin.Vertqyr and Eisenstcin^were also its most eloquent theoreticians, all of whose theories assumed that filmic meaning is built out of an assemblage of shots which creates a new synthesis, an overtil meaning that lies not within each part but in the very fact of juxtaposition. Yet despite a certain broad agreement on the foundations of montage, Kuleshov, Fudovkin, Eisenstein, and Vertov were not a unified school; significant aesthetic disagreements separated them. Why, then, did these dlrectors formulate a theory of montage and employ the montage style in their lilms at the precise time they did? And why did montage cease to become Iho characteristic strategy of Soviet film-making around 1930? Film historians have traditionally offered three answers to the first question: 1. Kuleshov conducted certain montage experiments between 1919 and 1924 which influenced other directors. 2. There was a shortage of raw film stock. 3. Griffith's Intolerance, whose formal structure utilizes the montage principle, was first screened in the Soviet Union in 1919, and directors took it as a model. These explanations seem not so much wrong as incomplete. Undoubtedly these three factors were important in the situation, but as historical explana-