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JOHN HOWARD LAWSON
FILM:THE CREATIVEPROCESS. Second Edition. The first serious
attempt by an American writer to develop an aesthetic of the film.
Photographs. Bibliography. Index. PrefacebyJayLeyda. 380
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JAY LEYDA
FILMS BEGET FILMS: A STUDY OF THE COMPILATIONFILM.A
serious and important study of the use of clips from earlier films
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VLADIMIR NILSEN
THE CINEMAAS A GRAPHICART. One of the most important stud-
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JOHN RUSSELL TAYLOR


CINEMA EYE, CINEMA EAR. The works of six masters are dis-
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INTRODUCTIONTO THE ART OF MOVIES. A collection of out-
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THE MOVIES AS MEDIUM."An invaluable primer on the medium


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D. W. GRIFFITH:THE YEARS AT BIOGRAPH. "Unquestionably
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-Los Angeles Times. 282 pp. N416 $2.95. A Noonday book.

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I ___ _ 1

VOLUME XXVI, No. 3 Spring 1973


Editor's Notebook
INTERVIEWS AFRICAN
CINEMA
Bernardo Bertolucci: "Every Sexual In this issue we present a group of articles and an in-
terview about African cinema. Like Third World
Relationship Is Condemned" cinema in general, its existence is still tentative, prob-
GIDEON BACHMANN 2 lematic, dependent. Slowly and surely, however, African
Ousmane Sembene films are becoming visible to film-goers in Paris; they
appear at the New York and San Francisco festivals,
G. M. PERRY AND PATRICK MCGILLIGAN
and at museum showings; a handful of writers from
advanced countries, like Lyle Pearson and Gideon
Bachmann, make it their business to attend the Carthage
ARTICLES
festival, and interpret what they see to the rest of us.
Sexual Politics and Last Tango in Paris Even more slowly, and even less surely, Third World
9 film-makers are attacking the difficult problems of de-
JOANMELILEN
veloping a cinema which is now merely a derivative
The Cinema of Krzysztof Zanussi reflection of traditional western forms-but which must
BOLESLAW MICHALEK 19 become economically independent and politically free.
Beyond the curiosity value of African film-making lies
Alternatives to Auteurs GRAHAM PETRIE 27 the prospect that in the arts, as in social forms, Africans
Four Years of African Film may well have unique contributions to make.

LYLE PEARSON 42
In Search of Self-Definition: Arab and CONTRIBUTORS
African Films at the Carthage BRIANHENDERSON was once a lawyer, and now teaches
Film Festival GIDEON BACHMANN 48 film at the University of California, Santa Cruz. JAMES
RoY MAcBEANhas contributed many articles on film
The Working Class Goes Directly to and politics to FQ and Sight & Sound; he teaches film
Heaven, Without Passing Go at San Francisco State. JOANMELLENteaches at Tem-
JAMES ROY MACBEAN 52 ple and contributes frequently to FQ and other journals;
she has just completed a short book on Marilyn Monroe.
BOLESLAW MICHALEK (non-Poles can approximate pro-
CORRESPONDENCE & CONTROVERSY nunciation by saying Me-how-ik) is editor of Film
On Interpreting Bazin HUGH GRAY 58 (Warsaw) and a leading Polish critic. LYLEPEARSON
is an American based in Paris; he travels extensively in
Reply BRIAN HENDERSON 59 North Africa and the Near East and is writing a follow-
up article on films from those areas. G. M. PERRYand
PATRICKMCGILLIGAN live in Madison, Wisconsin.
REVIEWS GRAHAM PETRIE, who is English, now teaches film at
McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario; he contributes
Sounder PAUL WARSHOW 61 to many film journals. PAULWARSHOW studies film at
Stanford; he has contributed to FQ, Commentary, and
COVER: Sophia Loren in Man of La Mancha. other publications.

FILMQUARTERLY is publishedby the Universityof CaliforniaPress, Berkeley,California94720. $1.25 p.r copy, $5.00 per year in the U.S
Elsewhere:$6.00 per year. Institutionalrates slightly higher. Editor:Ernest Callenbach. Assistant to the Editor:Rose Anne White. New
YorkEditor:WilliamJohnson. Los Angeles Editor:Stephen Farber. LondonEditor:Colin Young. Paris Editor:Ginette Billard. Rome Edi-
tor: Gideon Bachmann. AdvisoryEditorial Board: Andries Deinum,August Fruge, Hugh Gray,Albert Johnson,James Kerans,Neal Oxen-
handler. Copyright1973 by The Regentsof the Universityof California. Views expressedin signed articles are those of the authors. InJexed
in Reader'sGuideto PeriodicalLiterature,Art Index, and Social Sciences and HumanitiesIndex. Publishedquarterly. Second-classpostage
paid at Berkeley,California. Printedin U.S.A.
I ___ _ 1

VOLUME XXVI, No. 3 Spring 1973


Editor's Notebook
INTERVIEWS AFRICAN
CINEMA
Bernardo Bertolucci: "Every Sexual In this issue we present a group of articles and an in-
terview about African cinema. Like Third World
Relationship Is Condemned" cinema in general, its existence is still tentative, prob-
GIDEON BACHMANN 2 lematic, dependent. Slowly and surely, however, African
Ousmane Sembene films are becoming visible to film-goers in Paris; they
appear at the New York and San Francisco festivals,
G. M. PERRY AND PATRICK MCGILLIGAN
and at museum showings; a handful of writers from
advanced countries, like Lyle Pearson and Gideon
Bachmann, make it their business to attend the Carthage
ARTICLES
festival, and interpret what they see to the rest of us.
Sexual Politics and Last Tango in Paris Even more slowly, and even less surely, Third World
9 film-makers are attacking the difficult problems of de-
JOANMELILEN
veloping a cinema which is now merely a derivative
The Cinema of Krzysztof Zanussi reflection of traditional western forms-but which must
BOLESLAW MICHALEK 19 become economically independent and politically free.
Beyond the curiosity value of African film-making lies
Alternatives to Auteurs GRAHAM PETRIE 27 the prospect that in the arts, as in social forms, Africans
Four Years of African Film may well have unique contributions to make.

LYLE PEARSON 42
In Search of Self-Definition: Arab and CONTRIBUTORS
African Films at the Carthage BRIANHENDERSON was once a lawyer, and now teaches
Film Festival GIDEON BACHMANN 48 film at the University of California, Santa Cruz. JAMES
RoY MAcBEANhas contributed many articles on film
The Working Class Goes Directly to and politics to FQ and Sight & Sound; he teaches film
Heaven, Without Passing Go at San Francisco State. JOANMELLENteaches at Tem-
JAMES ROY MACBEAN 52 ple and contributes frequently to FQ and other journals;
she has just completed a short book on Marilyn Monroe.
BOLESLAW MICHALEK (non-Poles can approximate pro-
CORRESPONDENCE & CONTROVERSY nunciation by saying Me-how-ik) is editor of Film
On Interpreting Bazin HUGH GRAY 58 (Warsaw) and a leading Polish critic. LYLEPEARSON
is an American based in Paris; he travels extensively in
Reply BRIAN HENDERSON 59 North Africa and the Near East and is writing a follow-
up article on films from those areas. G. M. PERRYand
PATRICKMCGILLIGAN live in Madison, Wisconsin.
REVIEWS GRAHAM PETRIE, who is English, now teaches film at
McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario; he contributes
Sounder PAUL WARSHOW 61 to many film journals. PAULWARSHOW studies film at
Stanford; he has contributed to FQ, Commentary, and
COVER: Sophia Loren in Man of La Mancha. other publications.

FILMQUARTERLY is publishedby the Universityof CaliforniaPress, Berkeley,California94720. $1.25 p.r copy, $5.00 per year in the U.S
Elsewhere:$6.00 per year. Institutionalrates slightly higher. Editor:Ernest Callenbach. Assistant to the Editor:Rose Anne White. New
YorkEditor:WilliamJohnson. Los Angeles Editor:Stephen Farber. LondonEditor:Colin Young. Paris Editor:Ginette Billard. Rome Edi-
tor: Gideon Bachmann. AdvisoryEditorial Board: Andries Deinum,August Fruge, Hugh Gray,Albert Johnson,James Kerans,Neal Oxen-
handler. Copyright1973 by The Regentsof the Universityof California. Views expressedin signed articles are those of the authors. InJexed
in Reader'sGuideto PeriodicalLiterature,Art Index, and Social Sciences and HumanitiesIndex. Publishedquarterly. Second-classpostage
paid at Berkeley,California. Printedin U.S.A.
2 I L _I_.

GIDEON BACHMANN

"Every Sexual Relationship


Is Condemned"
AN INTERVIEW
WITHBERNARDO
BERTOLUCCI "LASTTANGOIN PARIS"
APROPOS

"The Italian Communist Party, I feel, ever more Bernardo Bertolucci, 32, director of The Con-
faithfully expresses the reality of the proletariat, formist and Last Tango in Paris, is talking in his
and thus of Italian culture. I feel it allows space Rome apartment. Clearly divided on the shelves
for the intellectual and serves as a link between that surround him are his main interests: Maya-
him and those aspects of existence which he has kovsky, Gramsci, Goethe, and Tolstoy along one
often avoided. wall; Hitchcock, Bogdanovich, a complete set of
"But I no longer feel the same need for the Les Cahiers du Cinema and things that have
political element in my films; not in the same been written about him a few steps up on a steel
way. Not like we all used to need it: like an shelf. In between, abandoned, perhaps, in mid-
element of clear conscience, of programmed script, magazines on interior decoration, mostly
engagement ..." French. The objects in the room are all 1900-

Bertolucci
in Rome.
(Plioto:
Gideon
Bachli,anin)
BERTOLUCCI
BERTOLUCCI 3?? 3

1925; a Goodwin painting from the last auction tures: The Spider's Stratagem and The Con-
at Christie's, solid, satisfying colors, Jugendstil formist.
without Mucha's flabby pastels. Like his politi-
cal views, Bertolucci's taste seems decisive; he "Man is self-destructive, and destructive of
appears to take from literature, art, and society his partner. In nature, it is usually the female
that which he can employ. that devours. Genetically, over the centuries,
Cosmopolitan origins, a rarity for Italy. His some males have understood her mechanisms,
poet father, Attilio from Parma, lover of Proust, have understood the danger. Some spiders just
Conrad, and Svevo, wrote film criticism and approach the female, but stay within safe dis-
dragged the schoolteacher Zavattini to the cin- tance. Exciting themselves with her smell, they
ema until the latter, enflamed, changed the tex- masturbate, collect their sperm in their mouth
ture of the art by authoring the classics of neo- and wait to regain their strength after orgasm.
realism; his mother Ninetta, of Irish-Italian Because that is how they get devoured, when
parents and born in Australia where her revolu- they are weak after ejaculation. Later, they in-
tionary father had sought refuge, wrote a thesis seminate the female with a minimal approach,
at the University of Bologna about Catullus. and thus she cannot attack them in the moment
English, French, and ideas went flying about his of their wetkness."
head as far as he can think back; he received The end sequence of Last Tango in Paris
the Viareggio poetry prize for a slim volume at starts with a reversal of the roles from this
the age of 21. The same year he made his first Borges theme: Maria Schneider, the victorious
feature film, La Commare Secca, scripted by a snip, masturbates Marlon Brando under a
friend who lived in the same house in Via Gia- table in the dark corner of a dance hall where
cinto Carini in Rome: Pier Paolo Pasolini, au- his drunken prancing has convinced her of the
thor of The Ashes of Gramsci, a book about the end of their anonymous, sexual tango; weak-
man who founded the Italian Communist Party. ened, he staggers after her as she escapes,
The circle closes. through the streets of Paris with the wasted
semen, breathless, up the stairs of her mother's
Prima della Rivoluzione, his second feature, home and into the study of her dead, military
brought him his first acclaim: Talleyrand sup- father; his strategy failed, he dies foetally from
plied the title, Italy's bourgeois revolutionaries, her bullet. The mantis, the while, recites what
ten years after liberation, the subject. The sweet- she will tell the police.
ness of life in Emilia, where Bernardo was born; Ten years ago, when I first met Bernardo,
the poplars with their tops in the mist, the flow his concerns were more directly cinematic, less
of enthusiasm and resignation, the useless pa- literary. The camera itself as a subject of a film
rades and the incest of relationships and ideas; still seemed a possibility to him, the camera as
his pessimism even then founded in personal an instrument of self-comprehension. And he
experience, mixture of intellect and earthiness, didn't want to interfere with it too much; he was
a deep sensuality of concept, sound, and vision. jokingly suggesting a law against montage.
He seemed destined, even then, to become a cult Films, he then thought, might well be divided
hero. into Pasolini's categories of poetic and prose
His next film, Partner, form and failure a la works; he felt that because his work was pri-
Godard, and then psychoanalysis, some docu- marily personal, it belonged in the first category.
mentaries, and a protest film: in close-up, a type- The changes in the man are notable. The few
writer, letter by letter, types a script they years of inactivity and analysis seem to have left
wouldn't let him shoot. After three years of a mark: his eyes shift constantly and his tongue
stagnation and soulsearching, rescue by Jung flicks from side to side in his mouth as he talks;
and Italian TV, which commissioned two fea- his smile in secure moments is ironic, in others
4 4 BERTOLUCCI
BERTOLUCCI~~~~

-more frequent-questioning. He continually me now, that in this sense it's quite a liberated
speaks of his latest film as if he had discovered film.
its meaningnow, after it has been shown, in dis- In what way, then, do you consider the two
cussingit with friends."Misono accorto ..." characters as profoundly symptomatic?
"I realized . . . that the couple in my film are The encounterof these two ends up being an
not isolatedfrom the world as I had plannedfor encounter of forces pulling in different direc-
them to be. You cannot escape to an island: tions; the kind of encounter of forces which
even your attemptto do so is part of our social exists at the base of all politicalclashes. Brando,
reality. It turns out that my charactersare pro- initiallyrathermysterious,managesto upset the
foundly symptomatic.You can't hide in a room; girl's bourgeoislife-style, at least at the begin-
realitywill come in throughthe window." ning, by force of his mysteryand obvioussearch
The discoveryof what he was really doing in for authenticity. His way of makinglove to her
making Last Tango in Paris came to him, Berto- is practicallydidactic. Didactic in the sense that
lucci says, after he had startedshooting: he seeks the roots of human behavior in that
moment, the moment after his wife's suicide,
Originally,I wanted to make a film about a when he has reached a peak and a dead end at
couple, about a relationshipbetweentwo people. the same time. He believes that he must seek
As I began to work and felt the film taking absoluteauthenticityin a relationship,and this,
shape, mi sono accorto . . . I realized I was I feel, gives the encounterits political sense.
making a film about solitude, I think. I believe A political sense, then, that you hadn't
that this is its most profound content: solitude. planned?
It'sthe oppositeof whatI had set out to describe. Absolutelynot. In fact, I had been somewhat
I let reality take over, most of the time. I set preoccupiedby what seemed to me an absence
up a situation,and then make a sort of cinema- of political terms in the script. I was beginning
veriteaboutthe characters,the real charactersI to get worried that I was being faithless with
findin front of my camera.In the case of Tango, myself and was, perhaps, making a mistake.
I felt as if I was interviewingBrandoand Maria, Because in me, too, there existed a certaincon-
seen within the narrative context of the film. ventional mental structure that demanded the
Thus what results on the screen always repre- use of a direct,politicalstatementin everywork.
sents the fruit of the relationshipI develop with I was saying to myself, watch out! You'll end
the characters,and of the relationshipI develop up making anotherLove Story! But I quickly
with the thingsand the spacesI findmyself film- realized, shooting, that when you show the
ing. It is through the camera that I begin to depths,when you drown yourself, as it were, in
understandthe things and the people. That is that feeling of solitude and death that attaches
why I am constantly open to learning and ab- to a relationshipin our Western, bourgeoisso-
sorbinginto the film that which the filmingitself ciety, and when you beginto identifythe reasons
reveals, even if that should be in contradiction for this feeling of death, you inevitablymake a
with what I have writteninto the script. political statement.
With Brandoand Maria my subconsciousre- Do you consider the search for "didactic,"
lationshipwas extremely intense, but I think I anonymous sex an antidote for this feeling of
managednot only to drop most of my defenses, death in our society?
but that I helpedthem droptheirsas well. I felt, In the film, sex is simply a new kind of lan-
finally,that this firstfilm I was makingaboutthe guage that these two characterstry to invent in
present was being made without any sort of orderto communicate. They use the sexual lan-
defenses, without excuses, of either a historical, guage becausethe sexuallanguagemeanslibera-
narrative,or even a politicalnature. It seems to tion from the subconscious,means an opening
BERTOLUCCI

up. In no way, on the other hand, do I mean to


identify sex with the feeling of death, either. I
am not setting up any eros-thanatos theory. I
am simply saying that when you describe a re-
lationship thirsting for authenticity, you discover
all that surrounds it, all that hampers its ex-
pression.
In any case, you link the concepts of sexual
expression and personal liberation. Do you feel
that self-liberation must be a conscious process?
Self-liberation in the sense I employ the term
is a first step towards living better, towards the
finding of an equilibrium with your subcon-
scious, towards the finding of a peaceful rela- have been useful to me in understanding the
tionship with your subconscious. These first characters of my film. For example, how an
steps can often be very dramatic, since we tend encounter turns into a clash. Or, to quote Maria,
to suppress our own attempts at making them. how the casual becomes destiny.
We suppress our aggressions and frustrate our I cannot deny a certain educational structure
souls. Since that which is between Marlon and and background, of which Marx and Freud form
Maria is a sort of amour fou that continually part, but I try and see them in a political, existen-
devours itself, I had been afraid it would seem tial way. In making Last Tango, I found that
isolated. Instead it became a centrally sympto- what I had considered points of arrival were in
matic affair for our times. reality points of departure; I mean to say that
You don't feel, then, that the individual must understanding my characters with the help of
necessarily be rationally aware of his search in conventional psychology or politics gave me
order to find that equilibrium? only a beginning glimpse of their complicated,
No. One can also become conscious of the personal structures, but it did help me in accept-
meaning of one's actions in a completely irra- ing them as living beings in front of the camera,
tional manner. In fact, "becoming conscious" and in accepting their contributions to the film.
seems to me to be too limited a definition for I find that I must live through the relation-
what we are talking about. This does not mean ships that a film creates in a direct way, without
that I reject psychoanalysis or other systems of logical or rational references. You could say,
reaching consciousness, but I feel the system of course, that the film is a form of dream, that
must be different for each one of us. I. for ex- the whole story is an oedipal projection on the
ample, walk this road towards self-liberation in part of the girl; after all, she is 19 and Brando
a very unorthodox manner. I feel myself be- 48. And his story could be another oedipal
coming conscious, but in an extremely emo- projection-he feels, in a way, that he is as much
tional, instinctive fashion. the son of his wife as he is the father of the girl-
Does your intuition lead you to an under- but I prefer not to define things in this way.
standing of the feeling of solitude and death in After all, the film is meant to mean different
our society beyond our conventional answers things to different people; the final, personal
found in Marx and Freud? significance of a work always depends on the
Both of these are still very important to me viewer.
in my work. But I refuse to limit my reading of The viewer, then, for you becomes an essen-
their meanings to the conventional interpreta- tial component of the work?
tions. But certain references in this direction Absolutely; as essential as the lights, as the
6 6 BERTOLUCCI
BERTOLUCCI

sets, as the man who pushes the camera dolly. for a public, a notion situated somewhere be-
Even when an audience is not overwhelmed by tween entertainmentand spectacle.-GB]
a work, in its distance from the work it remains Your difficultyis accepting this idea derived
an essential component. But I cannot think from the fact that you felt your political con-
about it when I am shooting. After all, every cerns could not be well expressed in the spec-
conversation one undertakes-and a film is a tacularform, or because you found it difficult
conversation-presupposes the presence of a to give up the idea you expressedten years ago,
partner. In the case of poetry, my interlocutor is of the camera itself being the most important
the reader, in the case of the cinema it is the subjectof your work?
public. I do not like to talk alone, and I do not I haven't really given it up. I had arrivedat
talk alone. I do not talk for myself, I mean. a point of rupturewhen I made Partner,the film
This, by the way, is how the cinema becomes a in which I most violently went against my own
way of weighing reality, that is, it becomes an nature of being a showman. Besides the fact
instrument for understanding the world. And I that this film caused me a tremendouspsycho-
think this is true for both creator and viewer. logical trauma,becausenobody, almostnobody,
In a way, then, you are exploiting the public? acceptedit. ParadoxicallyI now find-now, af-
I exploit it by giving myself, but I am also ter having finished and discussed it-that Last
exploited. It's a two-way relationship. By the Tango is, of all my films, the one most closely
way, I find more and more that there is no such related to Partner. Now that I have fully ac-
thing in human congress as innocence and guilt. cepted my showman role I find I can return
There is only supply and demand, something safely to a whole series of questions,obsessions,
offered and something requested, indistinguish- discussionsover the meaning of the camera, of
ably intermingling. And you can't even say that research and of experimentationwhich in the
he who offers is innocent and he who demands makingof The Spider'sStratagemand The Con-
is guilty, or vice versa. And this applies to per- formist I had deftly avoided as if they were the
sonal, sentimental relationships as well: there devil. This means that now, with the securityI
are never faults. And as far as the public is con- derivefrom the show element,I can startafresh.
cerned, the only sure thing I know is that I That is why I find Tango very close to Partner,
seem to be seeking an ever larger one. becausein Tangothere is a continualenquiryin
Have you changed your demands, then, since filmicterms,a researchon the use of the camera,
you were writing poetry? an attemptto questionthe structuresof cinema.
No, perhaps the offer has changed. I also feel, You don't mean in the spoofing sequences,
by the way, that my films, deep down, are quite where Jean-PierreLeaud satirizesGodard?
generous, that I make no excessive demands. Certainlynot. Jean Pierre is not meant as a
Perhaps part of my process of liberation was serious Godard character,rather as a character
the acceptance of the fact that I had always a la JerryLewis, perhaps. His partis superficial
wanted to create a spettacolo. It took me a long and strictlyfunctional. He could also have been
time to accept this idea, although even my first a carpenter. The reflectionson the use of the
8mm films, made with my cousins when we were camera are in all the rest. In that sense I don't
children, told stories, rather than just document- think I have changedsince we discussedall this
ing the death of a pig or the vain search for an ten years ago. I still feel I am looking for the
abandoned cable car in a forest. But I think very specific light that is typical and expressive
that only with The Conformist I really accepted of every feeling and of every epoch, and I still
the role of author of story films. ["Autore di seek the very specific way of representinghow
film - spettacolo" cannot really be translated; time passes-that particular,psychologicalpas-
"spettacolo" essentially means a demonstration sage of time which gives a film its style. Perhaps
BERTOLUCCI
BERTOLUCCI 77

it is a matterof percorso, of how a man moves of him. What he is doing to her, thus, is a sort
through time, in the historical and in the prac- of didactic savagery.
tical, daily sense. That, in fact, is what holds Do you mean to tell me that he uses perversion
Tangotogether,as I see it now: Brando'sretreat in the guise of anti-bourgeois teaching?
from being a man of 48 back to being an adoles- It's a moment of catharsis. He is conscious,
cent and finallydying like a foetus. Jean-Pierre, but also divided, in that moment, between his
filminghis life with Maria,at one point, pushing consciousness and the pleasure of perversion.
the camera at her and forcing her to retreat, He immerses himself in perversion as personal
says: "Avanceen reculant!" Advance by going catharsis, and also, partly, because perversion
backwards. That is exactly the percorso of the in that moment serves him as an escape.
characterof Brandoin the film. Do you mean from impotence? Because he
At the beginningof the film he is supervirile, can never, obviously, live according to the prin-
desperatebut determinedin his despair. Look ciples he is talking about. Throughout the film
at how he fucks the girlthe firsttime. But slowly you show him as a man who defends one prin-
he almost loses his virility. At a certain point ciple and lives by another, or by none.
he makes the girl sodomize him: going back- Partially yes, but also as an escape from the
wards, he has arrived at the anal stage. Let's pain caused by his wife's suicide. There are
say, the sadico-analstage. Then he goes back many ways of getting over that kind of pain,
even further and arrivesin the womb of Paris, perversion and sex are obvious ones. Sex is very
dying with mother Paris all around him, her close to death in feeling.
rooftops, TV-aerials, her grey, grabbing ano- Certainly the metaphor you are suggesting
nymity. Much of this feeling was born during seems to land the character of Brando in a
the shooting of the film, althoughI had planned duality of motivation. Your film, especially in
for him to die like an embryo even when we America, where we tend to equate sexuality with
wrote the script. But now I find that all this liberation as you seem to do, has been hailed as
comes out very specifically;that there is a clear an erotic masterpiece. To me it seems the oppo-
departureand a clear arrival in death. When site, and the sequence we are discussing, in its
we were planning the film, all this was only in sadness and desperation, proves rather that you
my subconscious. My cameraresearchclarified use sex as a symbol of the impossibility of rela-
it for me. The irrationalbecomes lucid. tionships.
In your script,I found the words of the scene I didn't make an erotic film, only a film about
where he lectures to the girl on the restrictive eroticism. In any case, you can not separate
structuresof the bourgeoisfamily, but he does "erotic" behavior from the rest of human action.
not have anal intercoursewith her while he is It is almost always like this, that things are
talking. Why did you add this in the filming? "erotic" only before relationships develop; the
It seemed clearer to me, if he accompanied strongest erotic moments in a relationship are
the oral lecture with sufferingcaused to her in always at the beginning, since relationships are
a direct way, performingfor her, by using her, born from animal instincts. But every sexual
the double-facedviolence he was describing. It relationship is condemned. It is condemned to
is a violence that wants to teach, the violence of lose its purity, its animal nature; sex becomes
the teacher, and on the other hand there is the an instrument for saying other things. In the
violence of the family, the destructivenessof the film, Marlon and Maria try to maintain this
idea of the family. Her drive to be free, when purity by avoiding psychological and romantic
she screams and repeats "Liberty, liberty!" is entanglement, by not telling each other who they
very real and also double-faced: she wants to are, etc., but it proves impossible, since depen-
be free of what he is talking about but also free dencies of various types develop. Brando tries
8 8 BERTOLUCCI
BERTOLUCCI
in vain to defend himself from his innate senti- relationship can be saved. But most of the time
mentality, which is why he goes to such extremes it works against ourselves.
in putting down both himself and her precisely What about man's other, less personal rela-
at the moment he discovers that the man she tionships? You have changed your emphasis
claims to love is he. He already knows, deep away from social and political themes, at the
down, that he will give up his strong-man act, same time becoming more contemporary. And
that he will put on his pointed shoes and his red yet you defend a single political party.
tie and will, over champagne, tell her who In a way, I feel an even stronger political
he is and accede to her bourgeois ideals, fearing obligation now. But I think more clearly. I feel
that they are in reality more his than hers. It is that my political engagement is more mature,
the last dance of his chaotic solitude, his last less linked to personal neurosis. I feel my pres-
defense. Asking her to cut her nails and insert ence is a historical continuity, in a cultural in-
her fingers in his anus is like saying: Fuck me, volvement. A modest presence, of course, but I
break my virility, destroy it! perceive it in a more liberated way, probably be-
Why do you feel every relationship is con- cause I am also less frustrated. At one time I
demned? could not distinguish between that which was ra-
tional and profoundly necessary, and that which,
Every relationship is condemned to change,
on the other hand, was more of an alibi, that is,
anyway. Perhaps it can improve, but generally
it deteriorates. It cannot remain just itself. Thus linked to neurotic structures and the search for
there is always a sense of loss. It is this sense of a clean conscience. In a way, I think, all of us
loss that makes me use the word "condemned" European intellectuals have lived in this dis-
rather than saying "destined." torted political dimension for the past few years.
Do you feel there has been a lack of political
So you do not believe at all in the possibility
of a romantic relationship? clarity? We do not seem to have been able to
give the most recent generations any background
Well, I am myself being a romantic when I
by which to judge their current political moment.
say that first emotions cannot be repeated. But
I do not believe that relationships can develop They seem more rootless than we were.
lIhis problem interests me greatly. The film
on a romantic level, because . . . well, because I want to make next is, in fact, concerned with
there isn't really a reason why they should: his-
the rediscovery of roots. The film will be called
tory, reality, are all but romantic. And a rela- 1900 (Novecento) and tells the story of two
tionship must feed on reality in order to con- children born in that year at a distance of a few
tinue.
hundred yards from each other, one in the house
So what can develop between a man and a of the peasant and one in the house of the land-
woman on a conscious level? owner, in Emilia. The film follows their lives
Not a very cinematographic question . . . through the century, living moments of Italian
What can develop is only possessiveness, which history with them. Friends at first, then enemies,
brings about the destruction of the loved object. with the rich one financing the first fascist clashes
That is the sadomasochism at the center of the and the poor one in the Communist Party, navi-
relationship, a constant presence in all relation- gating through the whole period of fascism in
ships. It is a component which in rare cases can Italy. I want this to become a film about the
be dominated and regulated and can find a agony of the culture of the land, of peasant cul-
channeling which instead of harming the rela- ture, of a civilization that lasted thousands of
tionship itself finds victims outside, a sort of years and has practically died in only 50-70
centripetal instead of centrifugal sadomaso- years of industrial "progress." It is a film I want
chism. When we manage to channel and express to dedicate to the young generations; I want to
our aggression outside of the relationship, the carry them back to the rediscovery of their real
~~~
BERTOLUCCI BERTOLUCCI~ 9

roots which are those of the peasant world. I somewhere-I just don't believe that a few
want to carry the camera into the cornfields, decades can cancel out generations of genetic
into the furrows of earth during irrigation, into memory; in our nucleic acid there must be a
the ground itself; and in a less physical sense memory of the values of the land. At least a
bring them to rediscover certain popular values sediment! Nobody has ever posed this problem.
which we, for imperialistic reasons, have com- Do you feel more clarity now, at least in being
pletely throttled. It's for those who today are able to provide some guidance to this generation
25 or younger-that means for all those who you are describing?
know this kind of world only from literature No, no. I have no clear lessons to impart.
(and that, too, is a privilege, after all), for all Personally, I do not see clearly, neither the prob-
those of the great mass who know nothing at all lems nor the perspective. But I feel that within
about these values, who are perfectly ignorant the party one is now given space to develop, per-
of their own roots, which must still be there haps, a clearer view.

JOAN MELLEN

Sexual Politics and Last Tango in Paris


Last Tango In Paris seems as if it is about sex,
an inquiry into whether violent, "real" sex (the
kind that makes Maria Schneider's hair curl by
the middle of the film) is possible in a world of
false values. The real significance of the film
has been obscured and contained by the irrele-
vant furor over its purportedly explicit sex. What
is particularly striking about the film, once we
get over the sight of Marlon Brando performing
anal sex, albeit with his clothes on, is that it is,
in disguise, the most political of Bertolucci's
films so far-his most ambitious attempt to in-
tegrate Marx and Freud. The means this time
are not those of the superficia of external politi-
cal behavior, as in The Conformist, but a start-
ling visualization of the conflict between sexual
freedom (conceived in Last Tango as license)
and the psychological repression of which we
are all victims.
The premise from which Last Tango begins,
and which none of the American critics have
~~~
BERTOLUCCI BERTOLUCCI~ 9

roots which are those of the peasant world. I somewhere-I just don't believe that a few
want to carry the camera into the cornfields, decades can cancel out generations of genetic
into the furrows of earth during irrigation, into memory; in our nucleic acid there must be a
the ground itself; and in a less physical sense memory of the values of the land. At least a
bring them to rediscover certain popular values sediment! Nobody has ever posed this problem.
which we, for imperialistic reasons, have com- Do you feel more clarity now, at least in being
pletely throttled. It's for those who today are able to provide some guidance to this generation
25 or younger-that means for all those who you are describing?
know this kind of world only from literature No, no. I have no clear lessons to impart.
(and that, too, is a privilege, after all), for all Personally, I do not see clearly, neither the prob-
those of the great mass who know nothing at all lems nor the perspective. But I feel that within
about these values, who are perfectly ignorant the party one is now given space to develop, per-
of their own roots, which must still be there haps, a clearer view.

JOAN MELLEN

Sexual Politics and Last Tango in Paris


Last Tango In Paris seems as if it is about sex,
an inquiry into whether violent, "real" sex (the
kind that makes Maria Schneider's hair curl by
the middle of the film) is possible in a world of
false values. The real significance of the film
has been obscured and contained by the irrele-
vant furor over its purportedly explicit sex. What
is particularly striking about the film, once we
get over the sight of Marlon Brando performing
anal sex, albeit with his clothes on, is that it is,
in disguise, the most political of Bertolucci's
films so far-his most ambitious attempt to in-
tegrate Marx and Freud. The means this time
are not those of the superficia of external politi-
cal behavior, as in The Conformist, but a start-
ling visualization of the conflict between sexual
freedom (conceived in Last Tango as license)
and the psychological repression of which we
are all victims.
The premise from which Last Tango begins,
and which none of the American critics have
10 10 PARIS
LASTTANGOIN PARIS

perceived to date, is an indictment of the bour- meaning of history during the ascendancy of the
geois family which dominates culture and so- bourgeoisie. It denies our ability to move be-
ciety, suppresses feeling and "civilizes" the yond the logic of what we have been or where
"savage" in us all by repressing bodily needs. we have come from. If it is not about politics, it
Unexperienced and unacknowledged, these feel- is more political than either The Spider's Strata-
ings emerge is a distorted form, either through gem or T'he Conformist because it explores how
the political savagery of the heroine's father (a people are afflicted by the dominant values of
colonel who died in Algiers) or in sexual rela- the time, seeking in sexual release a means of
tionships. With the heroine Jeanne (Maria escape both from the social past and from the
Schneider) and her fiance Tom (Jean-Pierre personal history of character. Brando-Paul ex-
Leaud) deep feeling is shunned and feared. The periences feeling as inseparable from rage and
wild sexual frenzy of Jeanne and Paul (Marlon violence because this association occurs when
Brando) is achieved through complete seclusion deep needs are repressed from earliest years.
from society. Only then can they risk real and And he can risk their expression solely in an
unbridled emotion. The impossible and hope- insular, artificial environment isolated from
lessly romantic goal of the figure portrayed by bourgeois reality because the violence outside
Marlon Brando is to unleash feeling outside of is not merely the concomitant of surfacing need,
the framework of relations fixed by the external but brutalization and murder, as the colonel's
world, using a girl with whom all personal and boots and gun intimate. Jeanne submits, fas-
past history will be denied and disallowed. cinated by the power of Paul's rage-but when,
Bertolucci has said that "in our society even late in the film, it bursts inevitably into the out-
adultery becomes a bourgeois institution."* side world, it is thereby transmuted and assimi-
Bourgeois man, he perceives, represses his pri- lated to a sordid reality as oppressive as it is
mal feelings, but winds up acting them out even dreary.
as he imputes them to his victims-the poor The predominant camera movement deployed
whom the colonel's dog, Mustapha, would im- by Bertolucci is the tilt, usually beginning high
mediately recognize and attack when they en- up and moving down to earth, inexorably, fa-
tered his gates. The individual psyche and the tally. Through its frequency, it runs by the end
social behavior of the bourgeois invariably con- of the film in dialectical counterpoint to the plot,
verge and synthesize. During the most abusive working in satire of Paul's attempt to escape
sex act in the film, a rape involving anal inter- from time and space in his idyll with Jeanne.
course, Paul forces Jeanne to intone a ritual of In despair, experiencing a trauma of isolation
denunciation of "the holy family" and the and abandonment after his wife Rose's unex-
"Church" which makes "civilized people of sav- plained suicide, Paul pursues a 20-year-old, cal-
ages," renouncing "all that children are taught low, waif-like half-child, Jeanne. He corners her
until their wills are broken." in a run-down, rat-infested Paris apartment,
Although Last Tango is set in no particular virtually rapes her and then sets up a liaison.
historical epoch, the film is preoccupied with the The tilt expresses the presence of Bertolucci
himself, warning Paul of the downward motion
*Many interviews have recently been published with by which life returns us to what we have al-
Bertolucci, Brando, and Schneider. Quotations in this
article are drawn from: New York Times, Feb. 11,
ways been. Paul's inability to save his wife from
1973; Newsweek, Feb. 12, 1973; The Village Voice, suicide, and his absolute failure to know her,
Feb. 8, 1973; and from personal conversations with will be repeated in his failure to give himself
Bertolucci in Rome, May 1972. Pauline Kael's influen- without brutality and machismo to Jeanne (as
tial early review of the film was in The New Yorker, well as in Jeanne's failure to accept him without
Oct. 28, 1972; Judith Crist's review was in New York, this machismo). Only after his wife's death does
Feb. 5, 1973. Paul learn that her hotel had been a way-station
LASTTANGOIN PARISLAST
TANGO
INPARIS 11
11

for street whores. She in her "purity" shared to carry out his relationship in absolute seclusion
the aura of the aging prostitute whom she be- from the world, members of Paul's, Jeanne's,
friended. The tilt foreshadows Paul's return to and even Rose's family appear unexpectedly in
the present by means of the past, as at the end the mise-en-scene. Paul recollects his mother
of the film he offers Jeanne the gift of his real and father, Jeanne's mother recalls the colonel
name, age, and history. whose boots, gun (with which Paul will be mur-
But at the beginning of the film, in trauma dered) and hat remain physically present and
over the suicide he had been unable or unwilling continue to arouse her. Rose's superstitious,
to prevent, Paul rejects even the rudiments of meddling mother haunts Paul physically, pre-
furniture for his retreat with Jeanne. They sug- senting the source of Rose's devastation. They
gest the appointments of his past and the suicide are there to establish that neither we nor Paul
of Rose from which he is in flight. Paul demands nor Jeanne have been inherently predetermined
that he and Jeanne tell each other nothing of to behave as we do. The coercion of family,
their real lives, not even their names or the church, and state have been internalized-the
names of anyone they know. very institutions Paul forces Jeanne to repudiate
Paul's method of escape from the pain and during acts of sexual brutality.
despair of unrequitable need (as revealed in the Because he handles his political radicalism so
cineina ierite account of his childhood) is, as unobtrusively in Last Tango, critics have been
Bertolucci has called it, "the present of fucking." misled into seeing crude Freudian mechanics in
The structure of the film, like the camera's re- the characterizations-the result, perhaps, of
turn to the tilt, passes judgment and turns upon their knowledge that Bertolucci began psycho-
each of the character's futile attempts to tran- analytic therapy during production of The Spi-
scend the conditioned responses of human con- der's Stratagem. The Freudian motif infuses the
nection. Jeanne, in a moment of gaiety, suggests earlier works as well. Athos Magnani and his
to Paul that they try "to 'come' without touch- son in Spider's Stratagem are played by the same
ing." They sit, naked, staring at each other, man; the betrayal of resistance against Mussolini
their eyes tightly shut. The moment is early in is conjoined to oedipal strife. In The Conformist,
the film, in the first flush of delight in discover- Clerici is shown in sexual play with his mother
ing the joy of sexual play, through which they and in abuse of his psychotic father. Out of the
made contact with themselves, beyond the bonds oedipal drama flows a feared homosexuality, the
conscious and social life have placed around root cause of Clerici's embrace of fascism. And
them. It is also the beginning of the end of their Paul and Jeanne in Last Tango are also mis-
idyll, as they make a failed attempt to deflect shaped by the conjunction of instinctual need
sexuality ever so slightly away from the abrupt and the social repression of that need. Yet al-
penetration Paul demands as the sole mode of though he has denied particular interest in Wil-
passionate relation. helm Reich, like Reich, Bertolucci pursues a
Bertolucci works within Freudian conviction, concrete mediation between Freud and Marx,
centering the organization of Jeanne's psyche in and there is little of the tenuousness of Freudian
the oedipal relation to her father. Nonetheless, absolutism in Last Tango In Paris.
Bertolucci has adapted Freudian perception to With Last Tango Bertolucci abandons an ex-
his own sociology, invoking Freud's dynamics cess of historical detail, achieving with color
of character more in spirit than in form. His alone most of the work of set design. This is
people therefore behave as they do not because because Paul searches for a pure moment in
they are determined by Freud's model for all of which past conditioning and external demand
human nature, but because they have been so- are cast off, however briefly. The emotional re-
cialized by the repressive bourgeois family. sults, the process of failure, and the insidious
This is why in a film in which the hero hopes intrusion of both the past and the society Paul
12 12 LASTTANGO
LAST IN PARIS
TANGOIN PARIS

would defy, grant the film its beauty and a dar- Jeanne is allowed to experience only the
ing which is unnerving. abuses of the sexual and we may ask why Berto-
Paul and Jeanne at fleeting moments believe lucci feels the tormented struggle should be that
they can exist outside of their own personal of the male alone. It is true that Jeanne herself,
histories and past, but the very necessity to leave through her father and family, epitomizes the
their hideaway and re-enter the time, space, and bourgeois, and she at the end is Paul's literal
reality of the outer world foredooms them. Even destroyer. But Paul had been unable to love his
their escape is marred by a constant awareness wife who killed herself in emptiness. He is no
that they cannot live in the world and preserve more valuable a human being, and is, in fact,
what they have achieved only in flashes and in- far less capable of expressing love. Each time
stants. Bertolucci sees the tragedy and capitula- Jeanne shows him real feeling, he finds a new
tion to the world as inexorable in this age, what method of humiliating her sexually and bending
Marx called the "pre-history of man"-a cap- her to his will; and it is he and not she who in-
italist era incapable of humane relations. The sists at the end upon the return to the bourgeois.
disjunction between "savage" or intense feeling It is, therefore, legitimate to challenge Berto-
and civilization makes inevitably romantic the lucci's conception of male and female roles.
attempt of isolated individuals to remake them- Jeanne is passive, masochistic, and arousable
selves, while the world whose shape they would only by brutality. She is singularly unmoved by
shed, remains. In fact, it is only Paul who is con- the good-natured egotism of her fiance, the cine-
scious of what is being attempted and who sees ma verite movie-maker played by Leaud. He
that it can work in the hideaway alone. Only is a callow, narrow-hipped unisex counterpart to
when Paul gives in to his need to live in the Schneider herself. Bertolucci has found it neces-
world, and seeks to live with Jeanne on bour- sary to tell interviewers that he is "absolutely
geois terms, does she realize that it is over and for women's liberation. I like women better
can't work, indeed that it all becomes an en- than men." It was in this context that he also
slavement. has said that Jeanne is "not the woman of the
A weakness of the film is that Jeanne is too future or the liberated woman, but the woman
young and unseasoned, too integrated within the of the present," who can tell a man she would
relations of the pop present to understand Paul copulate with a pig for him and submit, if un-
or his purpose. When he abandons his demonic willingly, to anal sex.
quest and approaches her outside, he becomes a It is precisely when Jeanne tells Paul he is the
gum-chewing man of limited intelligence and man she loves, the one who can save her from
achievement, as pathetic as the tango palace loneliness, that he humiliates her most com-
whose last dance he performs not only in de- pletely. He forces her to stick two fingers up
rision, but in self-parody. When they speak to his ass while he indulges in reviling her as the
each other outside, all is sordid and unappeal- embodiment of the society on which he would
ing: the flop-house hotel Paul inherited from revenge himself: "I'm gonna get a pig and have
Rose, the "cowshit" of the country where he it fuck you and vomit in your face and you have
would "take" Jeanne to live and his inability to to swallow the vomit and then go behind it and
have children because of "a prostate like an smell the guts of the pig." But because Jeanne
Idaho potato," caused by "a 'nail' I picked up in is made the bourgeoise and Paul the social rebel,
Cuba." Gone is the excitement of this abuse of she is violated by a rebel-hero as a bourgeoise
her in the apartment, the lingering memory of and not as a victim of a bourgeois. Bertolucci
the butter with which he stuffed her anus in a thus sustains the culture's degradation of women
moment of sexual frenzy-to which she had in his film. Jeanne is never a participant in Paul's
submitted masochistically as a guilty upholder rebellion, but a foil and the vehicle of the culture
of the norms of her social class. and society, even when, ambiguously, she be-
LASTTANGOIN PARISLAST
TANGO
INPARIS 13
13

comes the agency of his death. and alluring, but she is without depth, real char-
Bertolucci constantly lights up Brando's face acter, or the capacity to rise to the role of heroine
in gold (the set designer has called it "uterine"), or rebel. Her entire body, complete with pubic
and the quest for the absolute erotic present hair, is continuously revealed to us because it
in sex is clearly his and Bertolucci's, with Jeanne is irrelevant to the dynamic of the film-as
playing the part of necessary tool. Brando, Bertolucci has admitted in his explanation of
notoriously, posted his lines all over the set and why he cut the shot he filmed of Brando's geni-
even asked Bertolucci if he "could write lines tals. "I cut it out simply for structural reasons,
on Maria's rear end"-no better example of her to shorten the film," Bertolucci dissembled. Too
role as instrumentality. Schneider herself has honest, however, to allow himself this pretense,
insisted there was no real correspondence be- especially for a film so replete with the presence
tween herself and the passive Jeanne: "I have of the director, Bertolucci added, "It is also
never been submissive like her. I am very free possible that I had so identified myself with
sexually, and it was still difficult to do Jeanne." Brando that I cut it out of shame for myself.
And of his collaboration with Brando, who im- To show him naked would have been like show-
provised continuously on the set, Bertolucci has ing myself naked." Bertolucci does not value
said, "It was like a love affair," nowhere better Jeanne or feel her worthy of such concern be-
minimizing Jeanne's significance as a human be- cause she is chosen to carry the persona and the
ing to the project, let alone her equality as a quality of the bourgeois world itself, the worm
presence in the film. in the wood of Paul's retreat. Jeanne is not the
Judith Crist has thus expressed the chagrin adult carrying the themes of the film, as she
of many in her revulsion for the image of woman might have been had the part been played by a
conveyed in this film: "The film is all machismo Simone Signoret to a Paul performed by a
filled with such detestation of and contempt for charming if unknown boy actor. The male is
women that its universality is limited." Only the real character and his sexual abuse of Jeanne
Pauline Kael, whose rave review reads at a far expresses the moment of Bertolucci's conscious-
lower level of consciousness than the film itself, ness. As Maria Schneider herself has said, she
seems to be at home with the film's treatment and Brando were "acting out Bernardo's sex
of Jeanne. But this may be because, applaud- problems . . . Bernardo was getting free of his
ing "hypnotic excitement . . . primitive force sex problems. In effect we were trying to trans-
[and] thrusting, jabbing eroticism," she herself fer them to the film."
seems to have been seduced by the scenes in Bertolucci's handling of the male and female
which Paul attempts to mold Jeanne like clay thus brings us back to his dependence upon
and bend her body to his will. Responding only Freud, whom he has called "very important in
to the surface of the film imposed largely by the my biological-physical life." As sexual violator,
star, Brando, Kael feels it necessary to assert Paul was no threat to Jeanne's love for her father
that the girl Jeanne gets only what she deserves because only symbolically had he become the
and, in any event, through her very callowness, agent of the paternal, denouncing the father's
triumphs over her aggressor: "It is the soft ones world and values. But as a real man who would
who defeat men and walk away, conscience- occupy the place reserved for her father, he can-
lessly." not compare. He is dissolute, repellent, and
And indeed the imagery of the film is gov- lacks the actual power and authority in the world
erned by the grand, machismo beauty of Paul which her father fully and comfortably pos-
and the inferiority of Jeanne. Even at the end, sessed. Jeanne shoots Paul with her father's gun,
when Paul is no longer the bestial rebel, an in- an obvious symbol of the penis, which Paul had
verted father come alive, Bertolucci's distaste playfully called her "happenis." (The shooting
for Jeanne emerges. She may be sexually vibrant takes place with Paul curled up in a fetal posi-
tion: Bertolucci diminishes the film at the mo- milk the cow. With cowshit on his shoes, Paul
ments when he unnecessarily reduces it to for- collected the girl and smelled in the car all the
mula.) way to the game.
But Bertolucci largely succeeds in integrating The "cowshit" for Paul, Brando, and Berto-
his Freudian view of personality into the felt lucci represents all from which it is impossible
life of the film. One of its richest moments re- to escape, the damage done us, the humiliation
stores the inexorable realities of the present to which confuses need and resentment, the pain
Paul's fleeing psyche. It comes from Brando him- of human connection and the enclosing history
self, in a monologue which both brings us close of one's existence. This dynamic animates a
to the man and intimates why the world is un- sexual politics which circumscribes Paul despite
avoidably with him, and will claim him despite his desperate attempt to transcend himself.
his mythic attempt to defy and transcend it Bertolucci expressed it schematically: Paul be-
alone. For Bertolucci as for Freud, childhood gins as a man in battle to surmount but "goes
is always with us. During the shooting, the film back to adolescence and through a period of
dissolved into cinema verite. Brando the actor anal sadism," and is reduced in the final shot to
becomes Brando the screenwriter, his remem- a dead fetus. We progress from hopeful begin-
brance of his own past deployed as an emblem nings to failed but identical ends.
of the roots of Paul's character. In defiance of Paul, who demanded that all
Brando recalls his father as "a drunk, tough history and identify should be ignored, Jeanne
. . . super-masculine," his mother as "very tells him when he lapses into describing his past,
poetic-and also a drunk." He recounts how "You've been had. I don't want to know any-
she was arrested nude and how he had to milk thing about your past, baby." Quoting him,
the cows every morning and evening. One eve- Bertolucci allows her, playfully, to undermine
ning when he was to take a girl to a basketball the whole structure of his futile existential quest
game, his father tyrannically demanded he first to live absolutely in the present. The scene was
LASTTANGOIN PARISLAST
TANGO
INPARIS 15
15

shot in one take, itself an expression of the re- plicitness to pornos like Deep Throat. It is,
silience of the past in its drive to overtake us. rather, the use of sex as a catalyst to explore our
Bertolucci brilliantly shows the hopelessness of mythological capacity to forever begin anew and
instant salvation or existential "freedom" out- live life in defiance of what we have been.
side of history or social change. Always with Bertolucci at his best, style re-
Jeanne also seeks to deny the past, but in her news substance. The opening shot of the film is
case, as a model bourgeoise, by lying about its a dolly on a diagonal down to an agonized
meaning and its hold upon her. Paul is honest Brando crying out in a cathartic scream, "Fuck-
about the way it was. Jeanne insists that child- ing God!" while a Metro train on a viaduct goes
hood was "beautiful." And Paul with feeling by over his head. The walkway on which we
rejoins, "Is it beautiful to be made into a tattle- first see both characters comes to represent the
tale . . . or to sell yourself for a piece of precarious bridge over which people travel in
candy?" Jeanne, who was trained by family and danger of falling into the abyss of their feelings.
class to live on the surface, thinks she is free Jeanne enters the shot dressed outlandishly,
of her past-even as does Maria Schneider, who swinging along with a carelessness that accentu-
was well chosen by Bertolucci for his concep- ates the tears of Paul whose anguish goes un-
tion of Jeanne. Schneider talks identically about answered and unheard. The apartment at which
herself as "free": "He's [Brando] not so free as they come together is on the Rue Jules Verne.
I am. I'm more beautiful than he is." As a child Like the submarine of Captain Nemo, it will be
Jeanne drew pictures of towers: a prisoner of an enclosed cocoon shut away from the harsh
the sexual and emotional world of the nuclear world, in which the soiled relations of the earth,
family, bound by envy and need for the penis the past, cannot enter. Like a womb, it is a
denied her by nature and celebrated by her cul- place where Paul and Jeanne can express their
ture. Through Jeanne, if not through Paul, the rages and needs as infants.
shadow of Freud continuously dominates Berto- Several surreal notes in the opening sequence
lucci's image of female identity. provide cinematic equivalents for the emotions
of Paul. A woman brushes false teeth in the
United Artists must have been delighted to toilet as Jeanne enters to make a phone call.
print Pauline Kael's review in full in the adver- In a flood of yellow light Paul passes her in the
tisements for Last Tango because it focusses on cafe. (The use of yellow in this film recalls
the sex. In Kael's by now long familiar anti- Eisenstein's brilliant essay on "Color and Mean-
intellectualism, her article ignores the true theme ing" in The Film Sense.) The mad laughter of
of the film, the whirling of the past which slowly the black concierge creates a mood of the de-
advances, deadly and implacable, on both char- monic, expressing Bertolucci's sense that inside,
acters. What is interesting about Last Tango is Paul and Jeanne are in the clutches of their
not its simulation of forbidden sex (sodomy and obsessions and fantasies. The concierge grabs
masturbation), but its tracing of the boundaries Jeanne's hand and won't relinquish it, like our
of free choice in controlling one's relationships compulsions which we are destined to act out.
and forging one's separate identity. Last Tango Paul's entrance into the apartment itself is
is about the elusiveness of our hold on the pres- mysterious. He materializes out of nowhere,
ent, which remains the only means by which we hunched in a corner like a demon or a ghost,
can live with the past. Pier Paolo Pasolini, like an unconscious urge which unexpectedly
Bertolucci's mentor with whom he worked on possesses us, playing itself out within its own
his first film, Accatone, has called Last Tango closed logic. Brando sits as if rolled into a ball,
"a betrayal of culture," asking, "what's new clutching himself to provide the comfort he has
about sadism?" But what is original about Tango been unable to obtain in the world.
cannot be its eroticism, which must bow in ex- Jeanne is both repelled and fascinated by the
16 16 LASTTANGOIN PARI
LASTTAGO PARIS

nihilism of the situation. The mirror in the where-on the walls, the door of the bathroom,
apartment is cracked, another indication that the and the shower curtain; the bathtub has thick
events which will take place here will be only red bloodstains, suggestive of violently primal
a distorted reflection of the "real." Jeanne urin- acts, birth, ritual, violence, death. The girl who
ates with the bathroom door open; she is not is cleaning has told the police. "One day he
wearing any pants. The apartment on the Rue debarks in Tahiti," an explicit reference to
Jules Verne is a place where inhibition must Brando himself as a person incapable of giving
vanish, in which the raison d'etre of their being enough love, escaping from himself into the
together is to peel off what is external to their exotic, the strange and the forbidden.
deepest selves. When Paul takes Jeanne for the Paralleling Paul's disintegration in the decay-
first time, her response is almost immediate, ing hotel where the final arrangements for the
wrapping her legs around him as he bends over funeral proceed, are the scenes at the Rue Jules
her. The act has been prepared for by all these Verne in which he seeks to dominate Jeanne.
images suggesting a stripping away of facade, a He is in flight from the truth about his relation-
return to the primal. ship with Rose, who took one of the hotel board-
Leaving Paul, Jeanne hurries along a train ers as her lover. In one brilliant surreal scene,
platform to meet Leaud. The mad rush of the Brando and the lover, sitting in the identical red
train on the Rue Jules Verne symbolized the plaid bathrobes given them by Rose, drink the
emotion of Paul. It conveys the compulsion of bourbon she had given her lover in emulation
Jeanne's attraction to him and his need. Its of her wished-for relationship with Paul. Im-
counterpart is the tame, static train from which potently, trying to understand why Rose has
Leaud exits. He walks through life filming his killed herself, Paul tells the man, "I can't under-
experiences rather than living them, as Jorge stand what she saw in you"; the irony is that in
Luis Borges has called the tango a way of walk- her entrapment what she saw in the man was
ing through life. Tom-Leaud is making a film Paul. She tried to make of her lover a replica of
about his relationship with Jeanne called "Por- the Paul who could not give her the love she
trait of a Girl," and she calls him the coward he sought.
is, hiding from life behind the parasitic role of The hotel, lit with a sinister yellow, is no less
the artist. enclosed than the apartment. Rose, like Jeanne,
In the character played by Leaud, Bertolucci was condemned to the paltriest of emotional
also seems to be satirizing Jean-Luc Godard and choices. In the apartment Bertolucci uses very
the bourgeois film-maker pretending to be a shallow depth of field, paralleling Paul's struggle
revolutionary. L6aud plans with Jeanne to name to keep everything in the one-dimensional pres-
their children "Fidel" and "Rosa," recalling ent. He frequently cuts during a tilt from Paul
Godard's Vladimir and Rosa; he wishes to re- and Jeanne to Paul in the hotel, indicating the
peat the cycle of the destructive bourgeois fam- inescapable motion from the willed and the fan-
ily which drives its children to suicide. Leaud tastic to the real. The camera itself tells us of
rushes around with his hand-held camera, is the futility of Paul's quest to escape to the pres-
humorless and uses his pretty girlfriend in his ent from what he has been.
movie, as Godard used his wives, Anna Karina With Paul, Jeanne becomes a child, as they
and Anna Wiazemski. But even without these gurgle and groan together. As Brando says, in
thinly veiled allusions he is ludicrous. fatigue over his own life matching Paul's, "Oh,
In an impressionistic series of intercuts Berto- God, I've been called by a million names all my
lucci draws us into the world of Paul which runs life." The childish sounds the two make in lieu
parallel to his affair with Jeanne. The first is of names are cut into the barnyard of ducks
the most shocking, that of the scene of his wife's recorded by Leaud's soundman. The priggish
suicide in which blood has been sprayed every- Leaud is always at one remove from feeling. He
LASTTANGOIN PARISLAST
TANGO
INPARIS 17
17

records the duck's quack instead of reaching for pressed up to the glass of being.
the sound from within himself. Even in the apartment, however, pure experi-
He believes that to be adult one must be ence cannot be sustained, although its imper-
"serious, logical, cimcumspect, and hairy," fac- manence is suggested as a necessary hazard of
ing all problems. He is a child, despite his pos- existence rather than as a result of the neurosis
session of pubic hair, and not an adult like Paul, or inadequacy of Paul. Jeanne finds that his
who knows that all feeling is childlike, that only "solitude weights on her" because "it isn't in-
a child is embarrassed by childishness. The film- dulgent or generous." He talks about his past,
maker is both child and parasite, urging Jeanne yet he won't let her talk about hers. In defiance
to recall her past and her father so that he can she lies down on the mattress and masturbates.
"use" it and so deny its meaning. With Leaud, He sits on the floor and cries in desperation, an
Jeanne can never communicate. "His eyes are effective cut from his life with Jeanne to that
closed," Leaud murmurs. "He played the piano with Rose, indicating through the editing that
very well," is her reply in non-sequitur. the two relationships are essentially similar, and
Thus, however much distance Bertolucci ultimately evoke similar emotions.
creates between himself and Paul, the impulse in Like Rose, Jeanne discovers that at a deep
the film is constantly to diminish it. Leaud pro- level, he hates women: "Either they pretend to
vides the film with a nonauthentic choice for know who I am or they pretend that I don't
Jeanne. The boy her own age, who wants to know who they are." Jeanne is as unhappy with
know everything about her past and is willing to him as she is with Leaud, whom she attacks in
marry her, is also superficial, unfeeling, and in- terms that apply equally if not more to her re-
capable of reaching her real self. The rough, lationship with Paul: "You take advantage of
dominating Paul-Brando who rages and is sadis- me. You make me do whatever you want. The
tic is the "real man," the "good stick man" de- film is over. I'm tired of having my mind raped."
spite his ruined prostate. The film shows no love- Bertolucci seems to anticipate the reaction to his
making between Jeanne and Leaud, suggesting portrayal of Jeanne, although he does not an-
that if Paul is forever returning to the fetal, swer it.
Leaud has not even come as far as puberty. Still The film thus progresses to a reductionism in
a boy, he can only talk about "being," and fool- which all relationships coalesce into one, even
ishly believe he can "change everything," en- that between Jeanne and director Bertolucci, for
couraging Jeanne to "change chance to fate." whom Leaud in part stands as a satirized em-
Hiding behind his camera he has not yet the blem. In response to Jeanne's tirade, all Leaud
courage to make himself vulnerable, as Paul can. can do is make gestures with his hands across
Bertolucci ultimately shares with Sam Peckin- a Metro platform, framing a shot of her angry
pah, despite their political differences, the idea face. Her anger becomes that of Rose who tried
that the successful relationship between a man to rip the wallpaper off the wall of her lover's
and a woman occurs when the woman is passive apartment with her fingernails because she
and the man as furiously domineering as a stud wanted the walls white, identical to those of her
bull. However inadequate Paul is made to seem room with Paul. Rose was as powerless to con-
outside the apartment, the idyll inside forms a trol her life as Jeanne is to control hers.
"set piece," a pure cinematic moment of authen- The frequent tilts also convey the motion of
ticity beside which every other experience re- one life merging into another. It is a closed
corded in the film is derivative and as inauthen- notion of human existence, at moments deter-
tic as the life preserver stamped "L'Atalante," mined in the most limited sense. As the central
pace Jean Vigo, thrown into the Seine by Leaud. premise behind all the action it imposes the most
Paul lives L'Atalante. The apartment is his diminishing element on Bertolucci's film. It un-
barge. Leaud is an outsider on life, his nose derlines the reductionism of his characteriza-
18 18 PARIS
LASTTANGOIN PARIS

tions, which increases as the film goes on. The out by the dance. When the MC interrupts their
cries of Jeanne after anal intercourse merge with love-making, ("It's a contest, where does love
the shrill sound of the train passing once again fit in?") Paul, again in absurd futility, can only
overhead, as she lies amidst the debris on the take his pants down to the woman, a parody of
floor: bread, butter, and knife. It is like the the exciting, violent passion he and Jeanne knew
humor and panache with which Brando swings before. He becomes a real child rather than an
the dead rat, a symbol of the decay of their rela- adult accepting a child's needs. And Paul, like
tionship, in Jeanne's face. Despite the play, it Leaud, has assumed an inauthentic facade, as
is still a dead rat. we all do so often, despite ourselves. When he
At the same time the film nowhere denies does an imitation of James Cagney, Jeanne in
Paul's assertion that a love where you never have desperation grabs his penis, and the camera
to be lonely does not exist; we are all "alone, all tracks past the empty tables in disappointment
alone." We never learn the truth about each as she makes him come for the last time, his
other, as Paul says to the flower-bedecked corpse "last tango."
of Rose before which he breaks down. Each The final shot of the film belongs to the mur-
wanted the other to take care of him/her. He deress Jeanne, in shallow focus so that the body
calls their marriage a "foxhole" because they hid of Paul on the terrace beyond is barely defined;
their real needs from each other. Like Leaud in terror, she plans her story for the police: "I
and Jeanne and, as Bertolucci implies, like all don't know his name, I don't know who he is,
people in our age, they could not communicate. he tried to rape me, he's a madman, I don't know
Paul's last gesture to Rose, wiping the obscene his name." He had, in fact, become a man she
cosmetics from her face, is even interrupted by did not know, the husband of Rose, a 45-year-
the knocking at the hotel door of a whore with old adventurer. In his need Paul, all men, be-
her prey, to whom "the owner (Rose) has al- come devourers. Rose escaped him by killing
ways been helpful." And Paul becomes her herself; Jeanne escapes by killing him. Fearing
pimp, as Rose had been. For Bertolucci we are the perversity and destruction of human rela-
all "pimping," buying love when we cannot tionships, as he had known them, Paul concealed
evoke it. With Paul in pursuit of the whore's his need of her as long as he could. As soon as
client, Bertolucci cuts to the cafe sign: "La she recognized that he was no longer the strong
Boheme," satirizing the sentimental love story father figure, but a real man beset by the iden-
which still provides the romantic ideal for our tity of a flawed, inadequate human being, like
society. "Love," says Bertolucci, is beating up all of us, she no longer wanted him. Jeanne
a client for an ugly old whore, even as our love could be won only by brutality, by savagery.
is tawdry, unreal, and self-seeking. But there is also a brilliant combination of the
The ending confirms the characters in their unconscious and the political at the end. In don-
destinies; Paul is as worn-out as the chewing ning the colonel's hat in jest, Brando becomes a
gum he takes out of his mouth before he dies bourgeois like him, one of those who "civilize
and deposits under the terrace railing of Jeanne's the savage" rather than allow primitive uncon-
bourgeois apartment. He is as out of date as scious impulses to surface and express them-
the tango dancers with their artificial heads selves. As a bourgeois in the apartment of
locked in a distorted position, emphasizing again Jeanne's bourgeois family, he becomes repres-
that he is of another era and that there is no sive, both politically (through the dialogue) and
"beginning again." psychologically. "I ran through Africa, Asia,
The mistress of ceremonies calls for "all best and Indonesia and now I found you," he tells
wishes for the last tango" and a long sweeping Jeanne. He is no better than Rose's religious
tilt takes us down beneath the tango couples to mother whom he accused of teaching the dead
Paul and Jeanne whose destiny together is played woman to repress her feelings and of being an
LASTTANGOIN PARISLAST
TANGO
INPARIS 19
19

indirect cause of her death. It is after he sym- from his subject to offer us the exquisite ironies
bolically becomes the bourgeois colonel that with which Bufiuel invests The Discreet Charm
Jeanne shoots him in revolutionary rebellion- of the Bourgeoisie, which Bertolucci encouraged
although throughout the film she has been Berto- the viewers of his film at the New York Film
lucci's vehicle for the bourgeois. At the very end Festival to go out and see.
the two exchange roles, revealing the duality in Yet as a paean to the damage inflicted on us
human nature which forces us to become the all by bourgeois values, and on the inability of
very thing we despise. (That we are what we even pure sex to rescue us from bondage to the
claim to hate, that we are always ambivalent, family and its lifelong hold on our sensibilities,
was equally the theme of Bertolucci's Partner, Last Tango is a brilliant film. Where it lacks
based upon the idea of the double.) distance, it offers passion. Where it chronicles
Last Tango, visually complex, its imagery only failure, and where Jeanne and Paul, but
constantly revealing character and sensibility, especially Jeanne, seem too diminished to repre-
both of people and of the age in which they live, sent us, the attempt they make to come together
offers too narrow a conception of what human (with or without touching) carries gaiety, cour-
beings can give to each other to be a great film. age, and a large conception, if not its complete
And Bertolucci is not consistently distant enough realization.

BOLESLAW MICHALEK

The Cinema of Krzysztof Zanussi


Krzysztof Zanussi does not look like a film di- and Lodz-the leading figure in the Polish film
rector: he is tall, rather thin, wears glasses, and industry.
although he appears to be a rather young scholar, Zanussi partly owed his rapid success to spe-
he is very sure of himself. And indeed, he is cific qualities of character: excellent organiza-
scholarly. For four years he studied physics at tional instinct, tactical skill, and precision. The
the University of Warsaw and planned to be- pace at which he works is rarely encountered
come a solid-state physicist, but then transferred under Polish conditions. But his films convince
to Krakow where he directed his interests to us that he is also a great film talent.
philosophy: specifically theory of values, moral- As his thesis film at the film school Zanussi
ity, psychology, and finally aesthetics. During presented "Smierc Prowincjala" (Death of the
these studies he made several amateur films, won Provincial). This half-hour film was not meant
quite a few amateur competitions, and so be- to be publicized, but it nevertheless received a
came the terror of the amateur film movement. lot of publicity. Up to this day I do not know
Finally he enrolled at the national film school whether this happened because of its unques-
in Lodz, and immediately upon graduation pro- tionable aesthetic and philosophical values, or
duced one film after another: four feature films because it was startingly different from anything
and a whole series of half-hour TV films. Within thus far produced at the film school or in the
four years this young scholar became-to the Polish cinema. It is certain, however, that the
amazement of the entire film world of Warsaw "singularity" of Zanussi's films as compared with
LASTTANGOIN PARISLAST
TANGO
INPARIS 19
19

indirect cause of her death. It is after he sym- from his subject to offer us the exquisite ironies
bolically becomes the bourgeois colonel that with which Bufiuel invests The Discreet Charm
Jeanne shoots him in revolutionary rebellion- of the Bourgeoisie, which Bertolucci encouraged
although throughout the film she has been Berto- the viewers of his film at the New York Film
lucci's vehicle for the bourgeois. At the very end Festival to go out and see.
the two exchange roles, revealing the duality in Yet as a paean to the damage inflicted on us
human nature which forces us to become the all by bourgeois values, and on the inability of
very thing we despise. (That we are what we even pure sex to rescue us from bondage to the
claim to hate, that we are always ambivalent, family and its lifelong hold on our sensibilities,
was equally the theme of Bertolucci's Partner, Last Tango is a brilliant film. Where it lacks
based upon the idea of the double.) distance, it offers passion. Where it chronicles
Last Tango, visually complex, its imagery only failure, and where Jeanne and Paul, but
constantly revealing character and sensibility, especially Jeanne, seem too diminished to repre-
both of people and of the age in which they live, sent us, the attempt they make to come together
offers too narrow a conception of what human (with or without touching) carries gaiety, cour-
beings can give to each other to be a great film. age, and a large conception, if not its complete
And Bertolucci is not consistently distant enough realization.

BOLESLAW MICHALEK

The Cinema of Krzysztof Zanussi


Krzysztof Zanussi does not look like a film di- and Lodz-the leading figure in the Polish film
rector: he is tall, rather thin, wears glasses, and industry.
although he appears to be a rather young scholar, Zanussi partly owed his rapid success to spe-
he is very sure of himself. And indeed, he is cific qualities of character: excellent organiza-
scholarly. For four years he studied physics at tional instinct, tactical skill, and precision. The
the University of Warsaw and planned to be- pace at which he works is rarely encountered
come a solid-state physicist, but then transferred under Polish conditions. But his films convince
to Krakow where he directed his interests to us that he is also a great film talent.
philosophy: specifically theory of values, moral- As his thesis film at the film school Zanussi
ity, psychology, and finally aesthetics. During presented "Smierc Prowincjala" (Death of the
these studies he made several amateur films, won Provincial). This half-hour film was not meant
quite a few amateur competitions, and so be- to be publicized, but it nevertheless received a
came the terror of the amateur film movement. lot of publicity. Up to this day I do not know
Finally he enrolled at the national film school whether this happened because of its unques-
in Lodz, and immediately upon graduation pro- tionable aesthetic and philosophical values, or
duced one film after another: four feature films because it was startingly different from anything
and a whole series of half-hour TV films. Within thus far produced at the film school or in the
four years this young scholar became-to the Polish cinema. It is certain, however, that the
amazement of the entire film world of Warsaw "singularity" of Zanussi's films as compared with
20 20 ZANUSSI

and technique. Two friends meet again after


many years. One of them, Marek, is a young
scholar building himself a career, well organized,
flexible, skillful, adaptable, and ambitious. The
other, Jan, Marek's long time friend, abandoned
all scholarly aspiration long ago. He lives in a
remote village, and works at the small local
meteorological station. He believes that in this
solitude he is able to realize better his ideal of
humanity, that life is richer when its rhythm is
slower, and his experiences are deeper when
there is time for reading and meditation. The
DEATH OF THE PROVINCIAL
film consists of disjointed conversations at tea-
time, interspaced with long moments of silence,
the Polish cinema and the "cinema of the young" walks in the snow-covered fields, an occasional
the world over, is of great importance. The plot lecture by a visitor to the local school, the village
of Death of the Provincial takes place in the inn smelling of beer, a short trip to the nearby
secluded atmosphere of a monastery. It is the town, again conversations, small clashes, and
story of a young student restoring the frescoes Marek's departure to the capital. That is all.
of a chapel, and the Provincial of the monastery But these are only surface appearances. Un-
who is about to die. They don't exchange a word derneath lies a mass of questions. Did Marek
-only a few glances just before the Provincial really achieve success, or did he visit his isolated
dies. This suffices to bring out a subtle feeling friend only to play the role of a successful man
of unease, and a certain number of questions against the background of a forgotten village,
(rather than answers) concerning youth and old to exalt himself and to humble the other? And
age, faith and doubt, life, transience, and death. what about his friend and rival Jan? Does his
Shortly afterwards Zanussi made Zaliczenie withdrawal from normal life, and his existence
(Summation), one of several films for Polish in seclusion signify a victory? Or rather a de-
Television. It is a short, almost theatrical scene feat which he is unwilling to admit even to him-
of a psychological duel between a professor and self? Is his desire for contemplation, his search
his student during an examination. Here Zanussi for riches within himself, an authentic need or
demonstrated not only his capability of creating just a pose, a gesture of defense against defeat?
a volatile atmosphere full of anxiety-as in Has the dispute between the two friends some
Death of the Provincial-but also his dramatic general social and psychological meaning, or is
sense, narrative discipline, and his knowledge it only a confrontation between two different
of psychology. personalities? Zanussi has touched here some-
thing very real: the problem of what constitutes
KRYSZTALU
STRUKTURA success under conditions within a socialist so-
OF CRYSTALS)
(THESTRUCTURE ciety. On the one hand, in Marek's attitude
The above-mentioned films were only overtures
to Krzysztof Zanussi's later creativity. His real
direction became clearer in his first feature film
under the rather pretentious title The Structure
of Crystals. Modest, gray, not very dramatic,
this film reminds us of a chamber music com-
position for two instruments rather than a nor-
mal composition rich in motifs, instrumentation.
____ __ 21

ZYCIERODZINNE (FAMILYLIFE)
After many years, a young man returns to his
family home. Such would be a laconic descrip-
tion of Family Life, Zanussi's second feature.
This homecomingis a great confrontation. On
one side is the young engineer, very contem-
porary: he probably lives in a tiny, modern
there exist the traditionalelements of the battle apartment.He sharesthe hopes and anxietiesof
for success: contempt for solutions which are all young men. On the other hand is his family
unrealistic, impractical, ineffective- even if home which he desertedlong ago. It is strange,
they have a moraljustification.But do not such and falling apart. It houseshis father,sister,and
mechanismsof success imply a complete rela- aunt-all embittered and angry at each other
tivism of idealistic and moral principles? Does and the world. Is the returnof the young man
it not force a person to constant never-ending only a very outspokendramatizationof certain
compromises and conformity? On the other social conditions: a confrontation of healthy
hand, Jan rejects not only the negative and young people, the products of new times, with
doubtfulimplicationsin the traditionalphiloso- the old, neurotic,sick and crumblingworld? Is
phy of success, but even the very existence of it only the "old"and the "new"presentedin the
success and advancement-he is virtuallya mis- most traditional,but simultaneouslya very sim-
anthrope. It is necessaryto note that these ques- plified way? It was so understood by foreign
tions posed by Zanussido not concern only the critics when Zanussi'sfilm was presentedat the
individual motivations and purely personal 1971 CannesFilm Festival: the deteriorationof
choices of Marek and Jan. These doubts apply the middle class and its hierarchyof values, in
to the entire society, as well as to the organiza- an atmosphereof mutual cruelty practicedin a
tion and the principlesdirectingit. closed, small circle. It is somethingwe know so
All the above evolves from the disjointedcon- well from the literatureof the turn of the twen-
versations of the two friends. Zanussi cannot tieth century: French a la Gide, Scandinaviana
be accusedof idealizingone hero more than the la Strindberg,Russian a la Gorki.
other. He criticizes and affirmsboth of them
equally-in moral and social matters as well.
This unresolveddispute is precisely what gives
such a strange dramaticform to The Structure
of Crystals.Thereareno excitingconflictswhich
create new situationsor enliven the drama,nor
are theremountingclimaxes. The front-as in a
positional battle-is always the same: there is
no victor and no loser.
In thus departingfrom the classicalforms of
drama,Zanussiestablishedthe form of an essay,
i.e., a free narrationabout people, their ideals,
and the reality in which they live. These were
the characteristicswhich made The Structureof
Crystalsa banner-filmfor all who see the future
of the cinema in its intellectualization.The film
received the annual award of the Polish film
critics, but it did not get large audienceseither
in Poland or abroad.
Zanussi's
FAMILY
LIFE

This is a greatmistake. Such a subjectshown social, psychological, and class conditions, but
in Poland around 1970 has other sources and is unable to do so. When he realizes it, he ac-
leads to other conclusions. The Polish middle cepts-in a certain way-his moral and existen-
class is by no means victorious and arrogantas tial status as well as his personality.
in the literaturementioned. In Family Life it
has no authenticexistence-only a seeming ex- ZA SCIANA(BEHIND THEWALL)
istence based on a system of vestigialvalues. It A similar existentialtheme appearedwith great
is not a threat, nor does it rule anybody. It is force in Zanussi'snext film, Behind the Wall.
a segmentof society separatedfrom the normal His plans for the film were modest-a one-hour
values and possessions,drownedin autocontem- televisionfilm, like hundredsof othersproduced
plation. Its only reality is memories. It is a all the time. However,the theme, with Zanussi's
shadow. Such a picture-contrasting sharply perspectives and maturity, made Behind the
with the above-mentionedliterature-does not Wall one of the most important films of the
evoke distasteor anger, but only contemplation Polish cinema in recent years.
on the transcienceof life, and a certainnostalgia The apparentbanality of the situation is in-
or some kind of tenderness. credible. It is the story of a meeting between
This is the correct descriptionof the hero- a successful young scientist (note that all Za-
the young engineer-and of the drama'stem- nussi's heroes are scientists, scholars, intellec-
perature in Family Life. Wit belongs to both tuals), very stableand holdinga secureposition,
worlds: the dead one of the past, and the world and a frightened, frustrated,desperate, unsuc-
of the living. He feels aversion and hate be- cessful woman. We soon guess, moreover,that
cause he knows this house and this "so-called she has also had an unsuccessfulerotic life. The
life" much too well. Simultaneouslyhe feels film takes place in only a few interiors: at the
tenderness,becausehe cannot free himself from elevator of their mutual staircase (accidentally
memories. Family Life is thereforea drama of they live next to each other in the same apart-
a man who would like to free himself from his ment house, which is impersonal and rather
ZANUSSIZANSS 23

similar to an ant-hill), in his office where she developsbetween them, there is nothing stereo-
comes seeking a job, and finallyin her own tiny typed, no concession to cinematographiccon-
apartment. In these modest locations, and in ventions. This achievement owes much to
the course of gray, trivialeverydaylife, the ac- ZbigniewZapasiewiczwho plays the young sci-
tion unfolds into a beautiful parableof human entist, but it is above all due to the magnificent
destiny. The girl comes to understandthat her Maja Komorowska-Tyszkiewicz.She was dis-
neighborfrom behindthe wall is in reality very covered by Zanussi one year earlier (Family
far removedfrom her: not only on the ladderof Life). Before that she was a little-knownactress
professionalcareer, but also in the scale of hu- in a Wroclawtheatercalled Teatr13 Rzedow-
man concord. He can not, or perhaps he does The 13-Row Theater-which was the corner-
not want to, help her. His interestin her is con- stone of the GrotowskiLaboratoryTheater.Her
ventionally courteous, and one senses in him a creation in Family Life was very mature and
terribly cold egoism. The girl commits suicide studied,with traces of hidden eccentricity. But
. . . unsuccessfully-it is one more of her un- it was in Behind the Wall that Maja Komorow-
successful ventures. The scientist sees the am- ska-Tyszkiewiczcreated a truly heart-rending
bulance in front of the house from the window image. She presented a picture of human de-
of his apartment. On his neighbor'sbalcony he spair, not in screams and tears, but in a bitter
sees a hospitalattendant. He goes to her apart- smile which covers up hopelessness, in sharp
ment frightened,perhapsfeeling vaguely guilty. gestureswhich cover up wretchedness,in a voice
But he hears the girl assuringhim that it is not which breaksbecause of fear that it will reveal
his fault, neither the fault of his egoism-just the pain . . . but mainly in the eyes: the fright
an accident. of a hunted animal is expressedin them. In a
film with a banal theme, with the action taking
place in mundane interiors and among undra-
matic and unprepossessingpeople, a certain
sublimityand gravityof issues is apparent. Be-
hind the Wall, which was broadcastby Polish
Television, and later shown abroad, is a small
masterpiece.
ILLUMINATION
Illumination (1972), Zanussi's fourth film, is
closer to The Structure of Crystals than to the
traditionaldrama of Family Life. It uses con-
secutive scenes marking the stages of life of a
young scientistright after school, and up to the
time when he becomes 30 years old. These
scenes are interwoven with documentaryma-
terialwhich illustratesthe epoch, and with state-
ments of contemporaryscholars who comment
This shortfilm attainsa degreeof authenticity on the problemsraisedin the story. The story of
not otherwisefound in Polish cinema. The film, the hero is similar to the stories of thousands
besideshavingbeen made in authenticinteriors, of other young people: he enters the university
portrays both characters with painful real- hungryfor knowledge. He has the temperament
ism. Also the psychologicalmechanismwhich of a scientist. Meets one girl, then another
evolved between them! In their movements, whom he marries. He is forced to interrupthis
words, reactions, in the specific relation which studies by military duty and the birth of his
24 24 ZANUSSI

ceiving it in entirety and understanding its


deeply hidden structures-is today only a will
o' the wisp. His professor enlightens him, in the
end, that the contemporary scientist must always
remember the relativity of his knowledge, of his
limitations, its victories and defeats. He must
sometimes treat his research as a game, and
conduct it only for the sake of a game.
Finally, still another anxiety fills this film-
one which we find in all Zanussi's films: the
existential anxiety. When the hero at the end of
the film enters the apogee of his life and success,
it is already too late. Because at this point the
slow but irrepressible decline begins-the sec-
child. Then again studies, assistantship, sepa- ond half of life, "over the hill," which puts
ration from his wife, and reconciliation. All one's entire existence under a question mark.
this is not presented as rotating around one basic Repeated questions about the meaning of
choice, as is customary in similar biographical existence can bring impatient smiles to the face.
films: a certain "either-or" which the hero has But in this film-as in Zanussi's previous films
to decide. It is rather a biographic essay full of -his serenity does not change into aridity, and
ellipses, narrated in a beautiful rhythm, about his perseverance and inquisitiveness do not
the life of a young Pole. It is full of small asides, transform into boredom.
lyrical notations, personal and other people's
reflections. All this material is organized, how- A THIRDPOLISH
CINEMA?
over, into a few main themes. Four feature films and a few shorter films in-
Most prominent is the traditional theme de- tended for television . . . is this all? None was
scribing the formation of a personality: the slow a shock for the audience, none caused a revolu-
development, crystalization of morality and the tion in the cinema world. On the contrary: all
hardships connected with it, resignations which were chamber films and without great resonance
can not be avoided, and determination. On this in the world. At first glance their import was
level, Illumination can be considered a pedagogi- scarcely detectible. But something very signifi-
cal story for young people, but presented nobly cant for the Polish cinema and for the constant
and convincingly without insistence. changes in Polish society is visible in these films.
However, from the behavior of the young Let me try to put it in perspective.
man, from his conversations, and the comments
loosely woven into the action of the film, a sec- Krzysztof Zanussi first came to notice with a
ond, very interesting theme appears: the process group of graduates who appeared on the horizon
of discovery. The young man is ambitious and of Polish cinematography between 1967 and
anxious to discover physics completely-and 1969. They were called-perhaps too hastily-
through it certain ultimate laws of the world. "The Third Polish Cinema," in comparison to
Simultaneously, he wants to study it deeply and the two earlier generations of postwar film-
broadly. Soon, however, he meets resistance in makers. Their appearance was accompanied by
the form of an outdated method of teaching: too great a scepticism about one group, and too
specialization and automatization of scientific great enthusiasm for the other. The greatest
processes brought to absurdity. He finds that the satisfaction was manifested by the film critics,
ideal scientist-humanist-a man who studies who were not so much convinced of the new
only a segment of nature but is capable of con- group's success, as disgusted with the stagnation
ZANUSSI ZANUSSI 25
25~~~~~~~~~

of Polish cinematography during the sixties. The films the dilemmas of young people entering life:
new group consisted of the following: Witold the drama of the young who demand a place in
Leszczynski (Life of Matthew), Marek Piwow- a society which is already stabilized.
ski (Voyage), Wojciech Solarz (Pier, Sum-
AND THEINDIVIDUAL
SUCCESS
mons), Andrzej Kondriatuk (Hole in the Earth,
Scorpio, Virgo, and Sagittarius), Roman Za- Zanussi expresses these dramas in all his films.
luski (Cardiogram, Plague, Anatomy of Love), He also touches upon social problems character-
Andrzej Zulawski (Third Part of the Night, istic for a socialist society of the sixties and
Devils). Krzysztof Zanussi was outstanding seventies. These were years in which a longing
among them. for a less severe life dominated our society: bet-
Why were these young film-makers so dif- ter and more available consumer goods, and a
ferent? The whole Polish cinema-like all of higher material and status level, especially for
Polish postwar culture-was dominated by a the younger generation. One could also sense a
generation with war experiences, which became certain tiredness with the old stereotype model
their source--directly and indirectly-for their of a human and citizen: one who was the in-
art. However, war was for them not only de- carnation of social service, of self-sacrifice for
struction, suffering, the absurdity of death, etc. the good of the entire society (and his self-
It was also the great transformation which took satisfaction). A more contemporary model of
place in the country in those years: the change a human appeared: less severe, and with less
of government brought changes in social struc- accentuated discrepancies between personal as-
ture, human relations, and in the hierarchy of pirations and social goals.
values. Everyone who even slightly observed the Such problems, which had appeared in Za-
Polish cinema of the fifties and sixties, must nussi's The Structure of Crystals, trailed through
have realized that the war and revolution had all of his films and were presented again with
an overriding impact on Polish culture in the new sharpness in his last film Illumination. Za-
postwar 20 years. nussi is one of the few people who approached
The young generation, however, is not at all the new problems with clarity, fully understand-
touched by the war. Zanussi: "I understand the ing all their social complications. It is a very
earlier Polish cinema and its power in the works complex process: professional success and pres-
of Andrzej Wajda. But it is not problematical tige in a socialist society are not synonymous
to me. I was born in 1939. During the Warsaw with material success. Therefore a degenerating
Uprising I was five years old. My memories influence of objects is smaller than in a typical
from that time are not very clear. My friends consumer society. But similar dilemmas de-
two or three years older than I bear already the velop: when and in which situations does per-
marks of this period-but not I." Such young sonal success transform into an egotistic per-
people, free of the trauma which so decidedly sonal gain? What are the moral goals to success?
influenced Polish postwar art, had been shaped When and in what situations does one have to
in conditions of relative social stability. They pay for success with conformity? Let's repeat:
try to record in their arts the aspirations and none of these questions had ever been touched
problems of their own generation. The "Third upon by the Polish arts. They were still im-
Cinema," therefore, was on the same thematical mersed in war traumatics, more and more re-
and historical level (although not on the same moved from everything of importance to the
aesthetic level) as was the cinema of their new generation entering life in the sixties and
slightly older colleagues such as Roman Polan- seventies.
ski (Knife in the Water) and Jerzy Skolimowski There is another point of great importance.
(Identification Marks-None, Walkover, Bar- Zanussi, together with his contemporaries from
rier, Hands Up). Both generations show in their the "Third Cinema," looks at society from an
26 26 ZANUSSI
ZANUSSI~~~~~~~

entirely different perspective than their prede- sations that his films are not aggressive enough.
cessors. It is the perspective of an individual That in an epoch of youthful movements, con-
who searches for a place of his own in society, frontations, and aggressive radicalism-when
who looks at the world and society with its the conflicts of generations, races, classes, has
mechanisms, changes and crises from the per- become intensified-these young film-makers
spective of an individual. are excessively concerned with merely individual
It is a very important point, because with us complications, as well as with ageless concerns
it used to be just the other way around: the about existence. Usually their contemporaries
individual was looked upon from the perspec- in Western Europe and the US are given them
tive of the all-social processes. The fate of the as bad examples. Such a way of thinking will
individual was taken to be a straight conse- not stand the test of any dialogue. In the cap-
quence (sometimes even a simple exemplifica- italistic societies the individual is concerned with
tion) of general situations. He was determined the fate of humanity at large because its uncer-
historically, and identified with the aspirations tain fate hangs upon uncontrolled games of
of a group, a class, or the nation. We must re- group, class, and national interests. This is why
member that, in the tradition of socialist culture, the young Western film-makers look in their art
art was always considered above all the instru- for simple diagnostics and uncover increasingly
ment for knowledge of the laws ruling a society, often now-perhaps unintentionally-the social
rather than for knowledge of individuals within and class dimensions of their world. The Polish
their inner, complicated world. film-maker-especially the young one with a
As a matter of fact, the established Polish great sense of responsibility and sensitivity-is
artistic tradition-including the literature and concerned rather with the individual experience,
poetry of the nineteenth century-had in reality with the ambiguity of human motivations, with
a similar point of departure: always more im- the longings, the failures and triumphs of the
portant was the social and moral order of the individual. Much as his western contemporaries
world, rather than the individual. Therefore, are discovering the social dimensions of the
traditional Polish art was not greatly enthused world, he wants to discover again the unique
for the toilsome observation of realities: Po- individual dilemma in the world that surrounds
land's greatest literary works were rather a him.
demonstration of general rules than truths of It is, of course, a paradox: and one which
personal life. Such was the source of Polish Zanussi's films quietly illuminate.
cinema and literature of the fifties and sixties:
they sought to transpose reality into a language [Translated by Wanda Tomczykowska]
of poetic metaphor, to mystify or caricaturize
it rather than to present it in a factual light. Za-
nussi and his contemporaries propose a change:
for them it is reality alone (not a transposed,
mystified, or caricaturized version of it) that be-
comes the substance in which all the dramas,
concerns, defeats, and triumphs of the individ-
ual and society takes place.

PARADOX
OF THEYOUNG
As a sort of postscript, I would like to draw cer-
tain distinctions about Zanussi's (and his con-
temporaries') cinema, which has been a subject
of many misunderstandings. Often I hear accu-
27

GRAHAM PETRIE

Alternatives to Auteurs
First naturalized in the United States through the work of
Andrew Sarris, the auteur "theory" has been violently attacked and
ingeniously defended; critics considering themselves auteurists
in some sense now occupy posts of academic and other power, with
beachheads at such influential publications as the New York Times and
with sometimes astonishingly solemn influence on neophyte critics.
Lately, however, two new tendencies have appeared:
some critics generally outside the fray are willing to admit comfortably
that "Nous sommes tous auteuristes" (reducing the great debate to
the triviality some say it always deserved) while others have begun,
as in the article below, to attack auteurism at its heart: as a factual
misunderstanding of the film-making process. Sarris, who can be
a genial polemicist, is no doubt capable of following Marx's lead
and announcing one day soon that he is not an auteurist.

"No one ever really has final cut, even matters as: Who instigated the project, and for
when you're the producer. Somebody else what motives? Who actually wrote the script,
always owns the picture, and there's al- and how much of it survived? Who cast the film,
ways always someone ready to take it and for what reasons? Who edited the final
away from you and screw it up." product, and under whose directives? All these
JOHN HUSTON1 could gratefully be swept aside, and attention
GEIST: I don't know if you have final concentrated on what was really of significance:
cut . . . the discovery of recurring themes, characters,
SCHAFFNER: I don't. I don't think any- and situations in film after film of one's chosen
body in the U.S. of A., who makes a film hero.
The contempt for fact displayed by auteurists
for a major distributor, has final cut.2
at their peak sometimes achieved breathtaking
The auteur theory was essentially an attempt to proportions. Time and again they would confess
by-pass the issue of who, ultimately, has control ingenuously that they hadn't the faintest idea
over a film-an issue that Huston and Schaffner whether Hawks or Ford or Fuller or Aldrich had
disclose with brutal frankness. By distilling really wanted to make a particular film, had con-
something called "personal vision" from a film, tributed anything to the script or casting, or had
and marketing this as the "essence" of its suc- even directed several of the key sequences. All
cess, it was hoped to evade all the sordid and this, they confided was of little importance when
tedious details of power conflicts and financial set against their own intuition that the film obvi-
interests that are an integral part of any major ously bore the director's personal stamp from
movie project. "Personal vision" made it un- beginning to end. This habit of arguing from
necessary to pay much attention to such minor preconceptions has so thoroughly permeated
28 28 ALTERNATIVES AUTEURS
TO AUTEURS

contemporary film criticism that a recent article dissatisfied with a particular interpretation and
on "Welles's Use of Sound" can use the railway not with the original work itself. One has only
station scene in The Magnificent Ambersons as one version of a film to judge, however, and it
one of its key illustrations without mentioning- is that which becomes either bad or good.)6
or even showing awareness of-the fact that this And a second might be a serious attempt to ana-
scene was not directed by Welles himself.3 lyze the status of the director in Europe (and
After this kind of thing it is something of a perhaps America in the silent period and the
relief to read Garson Kanin's malicious com- last five years) as opposed to the Hollywood of
ments on the Warner Brothers assembly line and 1927-1967-the heyday of the big studios and
to discover that Michael Curtiz (a recent candi- producers.
date for hagiography) "sometimes started shoot- It is ironic that, at the very moment when
ing a script without reading it" and that "fre- auteur critics have begun to get over their obses-
quently a director at Warner's wouldn't even see sion with themes and are making daring forays
his assembled stuff."4 To a hard-core auteurist, into the territory of visual style, the whole ques-
of course, this would merely provide further con- tion of the responsibility for the way a film
firmation of his belief that a director's personal "looks" should be thrown into doubt by camera-
vision can somehow transcend otherwise insur- men who tell us that X "knew nothing about
mountable obstacles, but the recent massive lighting" or Y "left all the lighting to me." But
accumulation of evidence of this kind must this in turn may produce unexpected benefits,
surely give the rest of us pause. for it forces critics, perhaps for the first time,
As books on cameramen and scriptwriters be- to ask what it is that constitutes a "visual style."
gin to pour off the presses, and interviews with To what extent is it the arrangement of the lights
them begin to fill the pages of the magazines,5 and the choice of lenses, filters, and gauzes
it becomes evident that some radical rethinking (almost invariably the prerogative of the direc-
will have to be done, and that most of the lazy tor of photography), and to what extent is it
and comfortable assumptions that have become framing and composition, the use of a static or
habitual even to many who would indignantly moving camera, the type of location and setting,
deny that they were auteurists will have to be the establishment of a particular color scheme,
abandoned. It is no longer going to be enough the choice of costumes and make-up, and the
to assume that the director's contribution is creation of a basic editing rhythm (all of which
automatically of major significance; equally, it may be the responsibility of the director)? The
will be necessary to avoid the dangers of replac- complexities of this type of approach are evident
ing one culture hero by another and launching when one considers that it is perfectly possible
into "The Cameraman as Superstar" and solemn that in a given film the balance of light and
studies of the personal vision of Sol Polito or shadow, the visual effect of the close-ups, and
James Wong Howe. the movement of the camera may be totally the
There are two directions that this reassess- work of the director of photography; the pattern,
ment might fruitfully take. One could be a order, and type of shot may have been laid down
thorough consideration of the cinema as a coop- in the script; the costumes and sets may have
erative art and of the ways in which it thereby been chosen by the studio; and the editor and
differs from fiction, poetry, painting, and even producer may create the final shape of the film
music and drama. (The two last require collab- between them without even consulting the direc-
orators before they can fully exist and they can tor. In these circumstances what sense does it
be performed badly or well, but King Lear is make to talk confidently of so-and-so's "visual
still a great play and Beethoven's Ninth a great style" and how can we ever be sure that we are
symphony despite all the inadequate or horren- attributing credit where it really belongs? Yet
dous incarnations they have achieved: one is these are questions that have to be answered if
ALTERNATIVES
TO AUTEURS
ALTERNATIVES TO
AUTEURS 29
29

we are ever to go beyond the bland assumption Grabmaland bewail the "slaughter"performed
that "everything"(or at least "everythingthat on them by English and American distributors,
matters")in a film can be creditedto its director. when Lang spent most of his time on the set
It is also worthy of note that, once the young lamenting the depths to which he had sunk in
French critics who had inauguratedand pole- beingobligedto makethese films,and concerned
micized the auteur theory actually came to the himself chieflywith adjustingthe folds of Valery
stage of making films of their own, their enthu- Inkijinoff'scostume and saying that what he
siasm for their earlier ideas began rapidly to really wanted to do was to film Camus?7 One
fade. Truffaut has recently been expressing of the auteurist'smain defensesis that his meth-
much more interest in the nature of a film's ods allow him to rescue neglected films-but
scriptthan its direction,while Rohmerhas aban- there are some films that probably deserve to
doned the whole process of film criticism com- remain neglected.
pletely. It is possible that their own experience By focussing attention so exclusively on a
of the complexitiesof gettinga film into produc- limited number of figures the auteurist also
tion has led them to see how over-simplified runs the opposite risk of overlookingeminently
their previous assumptionshad been-at a time worthwhile films that cannot conveniently be
when, paradoxically,their own films have given slotted into any of his favorable categories.
the term "personalcinema"a coherentand justi- Films like Dark Victory and Now, Voyager are
fiable meaning. The theory can then be seen as left in limbo because Edmund Goulding and
a kind of wish-fulfillment,a convincingof them- Irving Rapper are not considered worthy of
selves that it was possible for them to make auteurstatus;yet both films are still thoroughly
films, their own films and on their own terms; watchable and transcendmagnificentlythe stu-
once they had succeededin doingthis, the theory pidity of their plots. It is not, however,through
had servedits purposeand could be left behind. the "personalvision" or "personalstyle" of the
The staunchestdefendersof auteurismnow are directorthat the films achieve this, and it would
probablyto be found in America,where it serves be impossible to take five minutes at random
to bolster the self-respectand boost the egos of from either Dark Victory or Now, Voyager and
Americandirectors,as well as providinga con- attribute them with any confidence to either
venient way of organizinga film course or get- Goulding or Rapperon the basis of visual style
ting a book into print. Its connectionswith the or thematicmaterialalone. In most respectsthe
realities of film-making, however, remain as two filmsareinterchangeable:they arethe prod-
tenuous as they ever were. uct of a particulargenre and a particularstudio,
The flaw in the auteurtheory is not so much and in theme, structure,moral tone, sets, cos-
its assumptionthat the director'srole is of pri- tumes, lighting, and camera style they meet the
mary importanceas its naive and often arrogant requirementslaid down by these ratherthan ex-
corollarythat it is only the directorwho matters pressinganythingdeeply felt on the part of di-
and that even the most minor work by auteur rector or cameraman.
X is automaticallymore interestingthan the best The films, however, are not totally anony-
film of non-auteurY. What good does it do mous: they are studio products,put togetherby
Kazan's reputation, for instance, to insist on craftsmenwho were also minor artists,but what
includingin a retrospectiveof his films the un- gives them their lasting qualityis the artistryof
watchableSea of Grass, a work that Kazan him- Bette Davis, who wielded much more power at
self has disowned as a purely commissioned Warner'sat that time than most directors (and
piece, and that the programnotes to the showing even read her scriptsrightthroughbefore com-
at the BFI glumly admittedis worthless? And mitting herself to filmingthem). She is not in
why continue to inflict on Fritz Lang "credit" any sense the "author"or "creator"of these
for Der Tiger von Eschnapur/Das Indische films, she did not write or photographor direct
30 30 TO AUTEURS
ALTERNATIVES
ALTERNATIVES
TO AUTEURS

them, but in a very real sense they were con- preferable to distorting Ninotchka by trying to
ceived for and around her, and she probably see it as "all" Lubitsch, or neglecting Now,
had as decisive an effect on their shaping as any Voyager because there is no convenient category
of her collaborators. They are her films, and in which to slot Irving Rapper. Indeed we might
when people go to see them today it is Bette begin to develop a degree of sophistication that
Davis they go to see them for. allows us to enjoy a film for something more
The situation becomes more complex if we than the "personal vision" of its director-for
try to apply a similar approach to a film that is its photography, its costumes, its music and even
almost universally considered to "belong" to its (like the humble and much-despised fans of
director: Ninotchka. Certainly this film is full Hollywood's past) for its stars.
of Lubitsch "touches": it displays the elegance, There is no need, of course, to neglect or de-
the wit, the cynicism, the total lack of respect grade the director and it is worth remembering
for conventional moral susceptibilities that we that many European and even American direc-
associate with his work (and which even pre- tors had been identified (and written about) as
auteurist critics of the thirties had managed to artists with something personal to convey many
isolate and identify). In moral tone and social decades before the auteur theory appeared. A
milieu, in characters and situations, it forms part partial list of these figures would include: Eisen-
of a world that Lubitsch had been creating as stein, Griffith, Hitchcock, Murnau, Pudovkin,
recognizably his own for the previous 15 years. Chaplin, Von Stroheim, Ford, Lubitsch, Capra,
And yet, from today's standpoint, the film be- Mamoulian, and Preston Sturges. The auteur
longs as much to Garbo as it does to Lubitsch. theory had the effect of shaking up and often
It forms an integral stage of her own career-a reversing conventional evaluations, and its most
career that displays a degree of continuity and lasting contribution has probably been the dis-
artistic coherence comparable to that of most covery and rehabilitation of the neglected figures
Hollywood directors. It was a film that Garbo of the formerly despised "action" genres, to-
wanted, and needed, to make at least as much gether with the American films of Lang and
as Lubitsch did: it gave her a chance to display Renoir; yet here too it should be pointed out
a neglected facet of her talent and to show her that Manny Farber has been praising the "mas-
potential as a comedienne. She had more say in culine" values of Walsh, Fuller, and Siegel for
the choice of technicians than Lubitsch and in- many years and for reasons that have little to
sisted, as usual, that William Daniels act as do with auteurism. What we can usefully do
director of photography. The film was made now, is to start sorting out and re-examining
by Garbo's MGM rather than Lubitsch's Para- some of the auteurist preconceptions that have
mount, and though the differences between become petrified into meaningless dogma.
Paramount glamor (in terms of sets, costumes, Granted that the cinema can be a "personal
and lighting) and MGM glamor may be slight, art," how do we set about defining this? It is
there is no doubt that thev exist. And although certainly possible to identify recurring themes,
Lubitsch supervised and contributed to the characters, and situations that reappear through-
script, it is certainly possible to see Billy Wilder out the work of many directors, but to rely on
and Charles Brackett's writing as having as much these alone, as auteurists tend to do, is to court
connection with Wilder's later One, Two, Three disaster. The continuity may be the result of
and Some Like it Hot as with Lubitsch's earlier working within a certain genre, or for a particu-
films. lar studio, or in habitual collaboration with a
An understanding of the basic intersecting favorite scriptwriter or actor, just as much as it
forces that went together to make up films like may spring from a deeply felt need of the direc-
Ninotchka and Now, Voyager can only help to tor's temperament (and even here the recurrence
enrich our appreciation of the films, and is surely of a particular theme may indicate a shallow or
ALTERNATIVES ALTERNATIVES
TO AUTEURS TOAUTEURS 31
31

obsessivevision ratherthan a fruitful one). To sole credit. It is at least consistent with this
try to isolate a "personalstyle" based on visual standpointthat those few Hollywood figuresof
qualitiesis even more dangerous:there are not the thirtiesand fortieswho did manageto secure
more than a handful of American directorsto somethingof this kind of control, being able to
whom one can safely attributea distinctivevisual choose, write or produce their own projects-
(or aural, or editing) style that persistsno mat- men like Stevens,Wyler,Huston,Capra,Sturges,
ter with whom they are collaborating or for and Mamoulian-have been steadfastlybelittled
whom they are making the film. My own list by auteurists and insulted for displaying no
would include Griffith,Welles, Keaton, Chaplin, "personality."Or one can try to work towards
Von Sternberg(in the filmswith Dietrich), Ford a viewpoint based on some kind of knowledge
(in the Westerns at least), Nicholas Ray (for of who actually did what in a particularfilm,
the consistentlybizarre quality of his images), and why; and only then begin to applycriteriaof
andKubrick. artistic evaluation. As far as the status of the
Even if these difficultieshave been overcome, directoras an artistis concerned,a useful start-
and we have succeededin agreeingon something ing point (though it would have to be used with
-in theme, characters,visual composition,edit- modesty and flexibility) might be this quotation
ing, settings,use of music, or what have you- from Eisenstein:
that sets one directorapartfrom his fellows and Unity makes any form of creative coop-
can reliablybe traced as persistingin at least a eration possible-not only between a di-
significantnumber of his films, there are other rector and an actor, but between a direc-
problemsto be taken into account. Do we insist tor and a composer and, particularly
on pursuingthis personalfactor into the deepest betweena cameramanand a director.This
recesses of the hack and commissioned work appliesprimarilyto the cinema, where all
that the directormay have been forced to churn these problems acquire particularsignifi-
out, or do we settle on some kind of dividing cance and acuteness. Cooperationexists
line that marks off work that is worth consider- in every collective where there is unity of
ing from that which is not? How do we cope style.
with actors, cameramen,composers,set design- When, then, is a "conflict" justified?
ers, and scriptwriterswho may also have evolved When can the director behave like a
a "personalstyle"over a series of films (bearing "tyrant"? First, when a member of the
in mind that here too we have diffculties in collective does not fully perceive the im-
establishingdegrees of freedom and of choice, portanceof stylisticrequirements.Useless
many cameramen having confessed that they to cry dictatorship;it is the directorwho
changed their lighting style according to the is responsiblefor the organicunity of style
studiothey workedfor; while the precariousand of the film. That is his function, and in
often humiliatingstatus of the writer in Holly- this sense he is a unifier.8
wood needs little furtherdocumentation)? It may very well be true, as Andrew Sarris
All these questionslead ultimatelyback to the has argued, that English-languagecritics and
issueof controlraisedin the quotesfrom Huston audiences have over-estimatedthe freedom of
and Schaffner. One can take the auteuristposi- the Europeandirectorand that he has often had
tion that "personality"is some kind of mystic to put up with restrictionsat least as confining
quality that exists in a vacuum, and can be ex- as those of his Americancounterpart. The fact
amined in total isolation from such mundane remains,however, that Hollywood between the
factorsas whetherthe directorhad anythingvery coming of sound and the end of the fifties had
much to do with initiating, writing, casting, no exact equivalentanywhereelse in the world.
photographing,scoring,designing,producing,or Films were shaped to suit the talents and the
editing the film for which we are giving him tastesof the producersand the stars,or to fit the
32 32 ALTERNATIVES
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requirements of an established film genre, or to ter artist (and many film-makers have wasted or
exploit a mood or a theme that was fashionable abused the freedom granted to them); but a
(or thought to be fashionable) at that time; they knowledge of the degree and type of freedom
were rarely made because a director desperately enjoyed will allow us to replace fantasy by com-
wanted to make them. Once filming began, the mon sense when talking about their work.
director had to adapt himself to the whims of his The listings also make no pretense at being
producer, the accepted "look" and moral tone exhaustive and are intended simply to suggest
of his studio, the requirements of a script that, the considerations that should be taken into
in most cases, someone else had written, the account and to offer a few representative names
limitations imposed by the talents or the screen of each type.
image of his actors, a tightly organized budget
and production schedule, and the knowledge CREATORS
that, once he was finished, the film would be Those who, in all or most of their completed
taken away and edited by someone else, often films, were able to do all or most of the follow-
in accordance with imperatives that had nothing ing: write, choose, or collaborate closely on the
whatever to do with what he may have been script; have a decisive voice in the choice of
actors and technicians; direct; produce, or work
trying to express. All this is familiar enough,
but it bears repeating in the light of some of the closely with a sympathetic producer; edit or
more starry-eyed versions of the Hollywood di- supervise the editing of the version that was re-
rector that we have been given in the past few leased for public viewing.
years. The European director encountered some Strictly speaking, only Chaplin truly belongs
or all of the same limitations, but rarely in so in this category: he is the only figure in the his-
massive and uncompromising a form, and there tory of the cinema to have been able to make
has always been a greater opportunity in Europe all his feature-length works exactly as he wanted
for the director to inaugurate his own film and to make them and to release them without inter-
not merely do the best he can with material ference or alteration to the finished product.
allotted to him. However, some others come close to this level:
In the groupings which follow, therefore, I Eisenstein: if we leave aside films like Que
have placed together figures from the American, Viva Mexico! and Bezhin Meadow. that were
European, and Oriental film-making traditions, never completed, Eisenstein was given total ar-
not on the basis of some elusive and idiosyn- tistic freedom in the preparing and shooting of
cratically applied "personality," but according all his films. Only October was altered after
to the degree of creative freedom they can rea- completion, and even Ivan the Terrible, Part II
sonably be assumed to have enjoyed during the was finally released exactly as he had made it.
most important periods of their careers. A re- Griffith: from about 1914-1925 had complete
formulation of this kind might provide a valu- artistic and usually financial control of his work,
able antidote to the almost maniacal "Pantheon- writing his own scripts and editing the films him-
building" that has dominated much of the dis- self. Any assessment of his work, however,
cussion of film during the last decade (in Cahiers should take into account his collaboration with
du Cinema and Movie as much as by Andrew Billy Bitzer, Lillian Gish, and others, and should
Sarris). My aim is to restore some sense of note the decline of his career after 1925.
practicality to an activity that has become in- Keaton: enjoyed a freedom similar to that of
creasingly divorced from reality, and my group- Chaplin between 1920 and 1928. The Camera-
ings are not intended to imply value judgments man and Spite Marriage after that period are
as between one category and its fellow. The fact still recognizably, and beautifully, Keaton, de-
that one man had more creative freedom than spite the pressures that were to destroy his ca-
another does not automatically make him a bet- reer soon afterwards.
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TOAUTEURS 33
33

Von Sternberg: seems to have possessed a MISFITS, REBELS, UNFORTUNATES, AND


good deal of freedom even before the collabora- PROFESSIONALS
tion with Dietrich. For her, he wrote, designed, Those who had this kind of control often
and often photographed the films, and was left enough for it to make sense to talk about some
in peace by Paramount to do so, as long as box- at least of their films as displaying artistic co-
office receipts held up. herence and continuity. At significantstages of
Lubitsch: was his own producer at Paramount their career, however, they did work that was
for most of his career in sound films and was able purely routine and to which it is probablyun-
to control scripts and casting to a very large necessary to devote much attention (whereas
extent. with the first group almost every film is one
Capra: enjoyed almost total freedom at Co- which the directorchose to make and all should
lumbia during the thirties, his work being both thereforebe taken into accountwhen evaluating
financially and artistically profitable. his achievement). Or, in some cases, several
Hitchcock: both in Britain in the thirties and key films have been so mutilatedbefore release
in Hollywood after that obtained a position of that criticsspend more time lamentingthe "lost"
and Some of his
film than studyingwhat remains.
respect authority. early Holly-
wood work is largely routine, but over his career Von Stroheim:the archetypalrepresentative
as a whole he has generally made only the films of this group.
he wanted to make, and on his own terms. He Welles: had complete control over Citizen
is far from being a one-man show, however, Kane. But to what extent in The Magnificent
and his writers, cameramen (especially Robert Ambersonsand Touch of Evil are we seeing the
film that Welles intendedus to see?
Burks), composers (Bernard Herrmann), and
actors (James Stewart, Grace Kelly, etc.) de- Ford: the thorough professional,who makes
serve a good deal of credit for the success of his three films he has little interest in, in order to
films. make the fourththat he reallycares about.Some
25% of his work, then, was made with a large
Bergman: since 1950 has exerted total control of creative freedom. But which is that
over all his films. But he works with collabora- degree
25 %? Ford, for one, won't tell us, and his
tors of genius: Gunnar Fischer, Sven Nykvist,
Britishadmirersthink that it was Seven Women.
Max von Sydow, Eva Dahlbeck, Bibi Andersson,
Bunuel: since Viridiana(1961) has obtained
Liv Ullman, etc.
the freedom that he possessedonly sporadically
Fellini: since The White Shiek has made films in Mexico in the fifties.
on his own terms, to the extent that his name is
Lang: the Germanfilms were made by a man
now routinely attached to their titles. with a pretty free hand (though he was heavily
Truftaut: all his films have been his own proj- indebted to the
scripts of Thea von Harbou).
jects, scripted or co-scripted by himself. Only The American films were mostly assignments,
The Mississippi Mermaid has suffered from ex- though he did a
good job on many of them.
ternal interference, and there only in the version Renoir: a few beautiful, uniquely personal
shown in North America. films, and many that sufferedfrom the demands
Kubrick: the most totally independent of ma- and compromiseseffected by studios. Madame
jor contemporary American film-makers. But he Bovary, Toni, Elena et les Hommes and La
"voluntarily" cut 2001 and has just done the Regle du Jelu(until its restorationin 1965) were
same on A Clockwork Orange. The scale of his among those that suffered from cuts by
pro-
projects requires a good deal of assistance on the ducersand distributors.Most of the films of the
level of special effects, but, on the other hand, twenties and some in the thirties were done
script and photography are often handled by purelyon commission.
Kubrick himself, uncredited. Losey: his career has been a running battle
34 34 TO AUTEURS
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with producersand distributors.Only the films in tryingto establishpatternsof continuity.


with Pinter perhapsemerge as "pure." Among film stars, for example, Greta Garbo
Pudovkin: had something of the freedom of and Bette Davis were, at the peak of their ca-
Eisenstein in the twenties and up to Deserter reers,almostinvariablythe factor aroundwhich
(1933). His work after that serves the Russian discussionof a film would start. Director, cam-
state more than himself. eraman, and supportingactors were chosen to
Kurosawa: The Seven Samurai and The Idiot suit them, and they possessedpowers of veto or
were butcheredby his studio. Otherswere only noncooperationwhich ensured that any debate
lightly masacred. A few have survived intact. was usually settled to their satisfaction. Each
Chabrol:a period of total self-indulgencein developeda consistentartisticpersonalityon the
the late fifties and early sixties (originally fi- screen, aroundwhich the script, sets, and light-
nanced from his own funds) was followed by ing were shaped: there is a fine line to be drawn
the routinethrillersof the mid-sixties. The films between this and mere type-casting, of which
since Les Biches have been very much a team Garbo was more nearly the victim than Davis.
effort, with StephaneAudran, Michel Bouquet, James Stewart might come into this category
Paul Gegauff,and Jean Rabiercontributingper- too, so many films of quality-from Mr. Smith
haps as much as Chabrolhimself. Goes to Washington, through Vertigo and The
Mann:the Westernsof the fifties (and El Cid) Man from Laramie to The Man Who Shot Lib-
form a coherent group of films on which Mann erty Valance-having centered round his varied
suffered little outside interference or pressure personae as the slow-burning,passive, almost
and worked with sympathetic producers and victimized spectatorwho finally rouses himself
scriptwriters. to action.
Val Lewton is perhapsthe classic example of
SCENE-STEALERS AND HARMONIZERS a producerwhose films display a homogeneity
This is not limited solely to directorsand in- of theme and atmosphere,no matterwho hap-
cludes any major collaboratoron a film whose pened to directthem.
influenceseems to have been decisivein creating Boris Kaufman, Gregg Toland, and Raoul
its qualityor lasting impact. It could be the star Coutard are cameramenwhose work is recog-
round whom the script was written and for nizableno matterwhich directorthey arefilming
whom the technicians were chosen; the script- for. Normally they have worked with men of
writerwhose work was so powerfullyvisualized great distinction, but we will have to learn to
that it needed little alterationin the filming;the talk of the visual style of Godard and Coutard,
directorof photographywho createdimagesthat of Vigo and Kaufman,of Wylerand Toland.
transcended a banal script and poor acting; a Scriptwriterswould include Dudley Nichols
creative or domineering producer in whose (takinginto accounthis collaborationwith Ford
handsthe directorwas little more than a puppet; in particular),JacquesPrevert(who imposeshis
or an erraticor routine directorwho rose to the own patternson Renoiras well as on Carne) and
challenge of particularlycongenial material or Thea von Harbou and Carl Mayer, whose impact
circumstances. on German Expressionistfilm is all-pervasive.
This category includes several figures men- There are many directorswho were identified
tioned already as collaboratorsin the first cate- with a particular kind of film and could be
gory. It also overlaps with the second, to the trustedto carrythat throughefficiently,but have
extent that these people rarely had total artistic displayed little noticeable talent outside their
control over their films and that their influence chosen area. Some of these would be: James
is evident only in a proportionof the films on Whale (horror films), Vittorio de Sica (neo-
which they worked. There is value, however,in realism), Raoul Walsh (gangster and war),
studyingaspects of their careersas a whole and Michael Curtiz (melodrama and costume dra-
ALTERNATIVES
TO AUTEURS 35

mas), Roger Corman (horror), and Budd Boet- NOTES


ticher (Western). All these enjoyed a consider- 1. New York Times (Sunday, December 10, 1972).
able degree of freedom in making films of this 2. Film Comment, Vol. 8, No. 3 (September- October
type (partly because so many of them were low- 1972), p. 36.
3. Phyllis Goldfarb. "Orson Welles's Use of Sound,"
budget) and all are quite heavily dependent on
Take One, Vol. 3, No. 6 (1972), p. 11.
the quality of their collaborators.9
4. Sight and Sound, Vol. 41, No. 3 (Summer 1972),
p. 136. Kanin also claims that, to the best of his knowl-
It would be possible to continue, inventing edge, no Hollywood director of this period (the late
other categories and drawing more and more thirties and early forties) had the right to final cut.
refined and tenuous distinctions, but I prefer to 5. Spreading, in an interesting reversal of the usual
stop here. I am concerned simply with suggest- trend, West-East across the Atlantic: see Cindma 72,
ing that there are other ways of thinking about No. 168 for one of the rare French articles on cinema-
the personal factor in film-making that those tographers.
6. This is true even of a remake, which-unless it
propagated by auteurism and the common as-
was originally taken from a stage play-is never exactly
sumption that one must start with the director the same material merely performed in a different man-
when trying to determine the quality or value of ner. Which also accounts for the fact that a script that
any particular film. In many cases, of course, was never made into a film-even one by Eisenstein-
the director is the decisive influence-in one or has a curiosity rather than an artistic value.
two or a group of films, or, more rarely, over his 7. "Souvenirs de Valery Inkijinoff (II)," Cinema 72,
entire career-but this is far from being always, No. 168, pp. 82-83.
or even normally the case, at least as far as 8. Notes of a Film Director (Dover, New York,
Hollywood is concerned; and too much injustice 1970), p. 113.
and distortion has been performed in recent film 9. I am not intending to slight these men by calling
attention to their limitations. Bergman would probably
criticism for the sake of providing a neat and
make a mess of directing a Western. The point is that
tidy solution to the extremely complex question he has not tried-or been forced-to do so.
of artistic freedom and creativity in the movies.
Good and even great films have been produced
in circumstances where directional control has
been negligible, or where other contributors
have played an equally significant role; a major
concern of film criticism should now be to dis-
cover how and why this should be so.

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Ousmane Sembene:
An Interview

Photo: James Korger

Ousmane Sembene is a slight but sturdy Sene- ture, Mandabi,has been widely distributedout-
galese, a charming and provocative conversa- side of Senegal.
tionalist,a committedrevolutionary. He is also The 49-year-oldSembenewas born at Ziguin-
a Third World film-makerof major force and chor in the rural southern region of Senegal,
accomplishment,whose internationalreputation where the action of Emitai, his latest film, takes
as Africa's most importantdirectoris based re- place. Unlike other European-educatedAfrican
markablyon a total output of only five films, film-makersand writers,Sembenehad little for-
though he was previouslywell known as a nov- mal schooling-only three years of vocational
elist. trainingbeyond the primarygrades.
As a leadingspokesmanof sub-Sahara'sblack Sembene'slife paralleledthe story of French
artistry,Sembene has travelled the world per- recruitmentof unwillingAfrican natives told in
sonally, projecting his films and spreadinghis Emitai: he fought in the French army during
basic message of pride and confidence in the WorldWar II as a forced enlistee. He remained
heritage and culture of Africa's native peoples. afterwardfor a time in France, employed as a
On such occasions in America and on the dockworkerand union organizer in Marseilles
Continent, the films of Sembene have been while traininghimself to be a writer.
heralded. In Africa, however, these volatile Sembenehas publishedfive novels and a col-
works usually are banned, typically through lection of short stories, a body of work so im-
pressure brought by the French government, pressiveas to place him at the forefrontof Afri-
which maintainsa vigilantwatch over its former can writers. His most famous novel, Les Bouts
colonies. Only Sembene's first full-length fea- de Bois de Dieu (translated in America as God's
SEMBENE SEMBENE 37
31~~~~~~~~~

Bits of Wood) documentsin semifictionalform The following interview is an edited version


the historic Dakar-Nigerrailroadstrike of Oc- of OusmaneSembene'sday at Madison.
tober 1947, a major step toward Senegalese
independencefrom the French. His last novel, Originally you were a highly successful ac-
Le Mandat (1966), was the basis for his cele- claimed novelist. Why did you make the switch
bratedfilm, Mandabi. to film-making?
Sembene trained briefly in the Soviet Union I've just finished anotherbook but I think it
before turning his talents to film in the early is of limitedimportance. First, 80% of Africans
sixties. But to try to detect Russian influence are illiterate. Only 20% of the populace pos-
on his work, or indeed any influences,is mostly sibly can read it. But further, my books indis-
futile,for Sembeneis very muchhis own creator. pose the bourgeoisie, so I am hardly read at
He is one of those rare talents who make film home.
productionseem an absolutelynaturalact. My movies have more followers than the
Nevertheless,one might view Mandabias no political parties and the Catholic and Moslem
less than an African Bicycle Thief, with the religions combined. Every night I can fill up a
same universalpower and appeal. It relates a movie theater. The people will come whether
similarstory of a simple, uneducatedman in the they sharemy ideas or not. I tell you, in Africa,
city (a non-actor,as in the DeSica film) who is especiallyin Senegal,even a blindpersonwill go
reducedto hopelessnessin his circularconfron- to the cinema and pay for an extra seat for a
tation with the bureaucracy, and brought to young person to sit and explainthe film to him.
despairwhen stolen from by a younger genera- He will feel what's going on.
tion made corruptby a society which has lost its Personally,I prefer to read because I learned
humanvalues. from reading. But I think that cinema is cul-
Emitai, Sembene's latest work, trades the turally much more important, and for us in
slightlyabstractsocial consciousnessof Mandabi Africa it is an absolutenecessity. There is one
for a direct, historically oriented attack on thing you can't take away from the African
French colonial practices in the African rural masses and that is having seen something.
areas. In its use of a provincial setting, in its But are the films by native black Africans
almost surreal treatment of tribal rites, in its being seen at home?
absurdly comical caricatures of the fascistic In West Africa, distributionremains in the
oppressors,and in its utilizationof a mass hero, hands of two French companiesthat have been
Emitai also offers a parallelto Rocha'sAntonio theresince colonial times. Becauseof the active
das Mortes, a film from anotherneocolonialized push of our native film-makers,such as our
country,Brazil. group in Senegal, they are forced to distribute
Sembenetoured the United States late in the our films,though they do so very slowly. Of the
fall of 1972, in order to raise funds for his next twenty filmswe have made in Senegal,five have
filmproject. He stoppedin Madison,Wisconsin, been distributed.It is a continuousfight, for we
for a day, exhibitedEmitai, and spoke at length don't think we can resolve the problemsof cin-
to student groups at the University. Visibly ex- ema independentof the other problemsof Afri-
haustedfrom his tour, he neverthelessanswered can society.
a continuousstreamof questionswith seemingly Neocolonialism is passed on culturally,
endless patience, a task made doubly difficult through the cinema. And that's why African
by the fact that he speaks only halting English. cinema is being controlledfrom Paris, London,
Luckily, the questionswere skillfully translated Lisbon, Rome, and even America. And that's
into French for Sembene's benefit, then the why we see almostexclusivelythe worst French,
answersback again into English by his superb American, and Italian films. Cinema from the
American interpreter,Carrie Moore. beginninghas workedto destroythe nativeAfri-
38 38 SEMBENE

can culture and the myths of our heroes. A lot debts, we can begin a new film. The sources of
of films have been made about Africa, but they the money vary.You can find a very small group
are stories of Europeanand Americaninvaders of people who have money which they might
with Africa servingas a decor. Insteadof being lend you in exchange for participatingin the
taught our ancestry,the only thing we know is filming. Perhaps you can locate a friend who
Tarzan. And when we do look on our past, has credit at the bank. But most of us make
there are many among us who are not flattered, only one film every two years.
who perceive Africa with a certain alienation The editing of Emitai was financedwith lab-
learned from the cinema. Movies have infused oratory credit. But the laboratoriesthat know
a European style of walking, a European style us are in France, where we have to go for our
of doing. Even African gangsters are inspired montage and technical work. That's very ex-
by the cinema. pensive. We're not against France, but we'd
African society is in a state of degeneracy, prefer to stay at home. Emitai was shot on
reflected also in our imitative art. But fortu- money I received on a commission from an
nately, unknown even to many Africans them- Americanchurchfor makinga filmcalled Tauw.
selves, African art has continued, even as the We do not refuse any money, even from a
black bourgeoisie had aped European and church.
Americanmodels. In African cities is produced Our films are shot in 35mm for the city thea-
what we call "airportart," whittled wood that ters, then presentedin 16mm in the rural areas
has been blackened; true art remains in the where there is no 35mm. It is difficultto find
villagesand ruralcommunities,preservedin the 16mmprojectorsin the cities, a problemcreated
ceremony and religion. It is from believing in intentionallyby those in charge of distribution.
this communalartthat we can be savedfrom the We beganby makingour filmsin 16mm-much
internaldestruction. more economical. But the distributorswould
What are the particular circumstances in mak- refuse to project the films in the cities because
ing films in Senegal? of the 16mm, so we had to adapt ourselves to
We produce films in a country where there theirgame.
is only one political party, that of Senghor. If On paper,we could have our own distribution
you are not within the party, you are againstit. company. But we think that isn't the solution.
Thus we have lots of problems, and they will Why create a parallel market, spend a lot of
continue while Senghor is in control. For in- money, then be beaten down? What exists al-
stance, his governmenthas just vetoed distribu- ready should be nationalized.
tion of the film of a young director,the story of Are your films distributed throughout Africa?
a black American who discovers Senegal. The The only film I've made that has been shown
film began with cinema verite style, but soon all through Africa is Mandabi, because every
becameorientedand plotted out to focus on our other country claims that what happens in the
problems,as it shouldbe. Whenthe government movie occurs only in Senegal. And I say it isn't
saw the change, it vetoed the film. true. Emitai has been banned everywhere in
We are approximatelytwenty film-makersin Africa except in Senegal, where it was allowed
Senegal. Last year we made four long films. only after a year of protests.
They were of unequal value, but we produced We tried to show Emitai in Guadeloupe,but
them through our own means. the ambassadorfrom France interceded. The
Financingis our most complex problem. We film had one night of exhibitionin Upper Volta
go all over the world giving talks, carryingour but never again. When I was invitedby the gov-
machines and tape recorders, projecting our ernment and students of the Ivory Coast to
movies, trying to find distribution. When we show it, Emitai was first screenedthe night be-
secure a little bit of money and have paid our fore by a censorboardof eight Africansand two
SEMBENE
SEMBENE 39

Frenchmen. The eight were in agreementbut nificantlymoreimportantpoliticalpurpose.Dur-


the two Frenchmenwent to the Frenchambassa- ing the colonial period, all of the information
dor who went to see the head of the government. that was diffusedamong the people was passed
I was told that it wasn't an "opportunetime" to on by music at the largecentralgatheringplaces,
show this film. They were all very polite, so I such as the water fountainsor wells in the city.
didn'tsay anything. I took my film and left. The musicalrefrainwas dispersedlike a serpent
Has Emitai been seen in France? thatbitesits tail.
Every time I want to show this film, the date I composedthe music for Mandabi,and tried
falls on "a day of mourningfor de Gaulle." De to make it of maximumimportance. After the
Gaulle dies every day for my film. film was presented in Dakar, people sang the
Who were the actors in Mandabi? theme song for a while. But the song was
They weren'tprofessionals. The old man who "vetoed"from the radio, which belongs to the
plays the main role, we found workingnear the government and is sacred. (Since the coup
airport. He had never acted before. I had a d'etat, the radio station is guarded even more
team of colleagues and together we looked than the government.) So things changed. All
around the city and country for actors. We you neededwas a new sound and it chased away
didn'tpay a lot, but we did pay, so it was very the old one.
painful to choose. There was always the influ- Anotherfactor: we who make filmsin Senegal
ence of my parents, my friends, and even the are looking for music that is particularlysuit-
mistressesof my friends, and we had to struggle able for our type of film. I think it is here where
againstall of that. You laugh, but I assureyou African cinema still suffers certain difficulties.
it was very difficult. We are undergoingAfro-Americanmusic and
Once the police telephonedme and soon this Cuban music. I'm not saying that's bad, but I
fellow arrivedwho was their representative. I would prefer that we would be able to create
was a little disturbed. But he had just come to an Africanmusic.
tell us that he had a friendwho wantedus to put
his mistressin the film. I was forced to accept
or else it would have cost me. It is concessions
like this one which makes work difficult.
How did you rehearse Mandabi?
We rehearsedfor one month in a room very
much like this lecture hall. Mandabi was the
first film completelyin the Senegaleselanguage
and I wanted the actors to speak the language
accurately. Therewas no text, so the actorshad
to know what they were going to say, and say it
at the right moment. Cinema is very arbitrary,
yet thereis a limitedtime and duringit the actors
must statewhat needs to be stated. People often
reproach Senegalese film-makersfor slowness,
so we must be awarethat cinema is not only the
image but it is a question of punctuation.
Could you talk about the role of music in
Mandabi?
Contrary to what many people around the
world think, that Africa only spends its time
dancing, our music sometimeshas served a sig-

MANDABI}
40 40 SEMBENE
SEMBENE

Are you satisfied with your conclusion to to pay out their money like the person in my
Mandabi? movie. They reportedthose trying to victimize
I don't think I really have to like the ending. them, which led to many arrests. But when they
It's only up to me to give the situation. The denouncedthe crooks, they would say it was not
ending is linked to the evolution of the Sene- the person but the governmentwhich was cor-
galese society, thus it is as ambiguous. As the rupt. And they would say they were going to
postmansays, either we will have to bringabout changethe country.
certain changes or we will remain corrupt. I I know my own limits. But throughnothing
don't know. Do you like the ending? more thanjust supplyingthese people with ideas,
What we wonder is this: do you believe it is I am participatingin their awareness.
the duty of the political artist to go beyond pre- Do you find that people in America find sim-
senting a picture of corruption-to offer a vision ilar associations with Mandabi?
of the future, of what could be? Initially, the film was not destined for other
The role of the artist is not to say what is people thanAfricans,but we can see that certain
good, but to be able to denounce. He must feel films, whether made in Africa or in America,
the heartbeatof society and be able to createthe can give us somethingand teach us, and that a
image society gives to him. He can orient so- contactis possiblefrom people to people. There
ciety, he can say it is exaggerating,going over- is an old film that I like a lot, The Grapes of
board, but the power to decide escapes every Wrath,which dates from a moment of crisis in
artist. America. But the present-daypeasantsin Africa
I live in a capitalistsociety and I can't go any are at that level. So, you see there are works
furtherthan the people. Those for change are that create communication.
only a handful, a minority, and we don't have Do you find similar communication and in-
that Don Quixote attitude that we can trans- spiration in the cinema verite of the French-
form society. One work cannotinstigatechange. man, Jean Rouch?
I don't think that in history there has been a Inspiredby Rouch? He appliedhis methods
single revolutionarywork that has brought the a few years ago to the French problem, but
people to create a revolution. It's not after hav- didn'tgo far and didn'tbringa revolutionto the
ing read Marx or Lenin that you go out and French cinema. I think the New Wave of God-
make a revolution. It's not after reading Mar- ard and Truffauthas contributedsomething.But
cuse in America. All the works are just a point cinemav erite in the fashion of Rouch is not
of reference in history. And that's all. Before really cinema veritenor is it his invention.The
the end of an act of creation,society usuallyhas methodsdate from the Russiansocialistfilms of
alreadysurpassedit. Dziga-Vertov.
All that an artist can do is bring the people Would you comment on your own experi-
to the point of having an idea of the thing, an ences as a student of film-making in Russia?
idea in their heads that they share, and that I don't talk about my Russian experiencesin
helps. People have killed and died for an idea. America just as I didn't talk of my American
If I understandyour criticism,then I'm happy. experiences in Russia. Every country has its
I had no belief that after people saw Mandabi, methods and every system of educationtries to
they would go out and make a revolution. But perpetuatewhat it represents. Their teachingis
people liked the film and talked about it, though socialistor communistjust as teachingin Amer-
my governmentdidn't. They wanted to censor ica is linked to the establishment.You can take
the movie at the point where it said that "Hon- it or leave it. And since I was ignorant, I was
esty is a crime in Senegal." forced to take what was given to me, and after-
People discussedMandabiin the post officeor wardsI used it as I thoughtI should.
in the market and decided they were not going Why did you make Emitai, "God of Thun-
SEMBENE
SEMBENE 41
41

der," a political film addressed particularly to our rice, the women refused but the men ac-
the peasantry? cepted the orders. Women have played a very
In African countries, the peasants are even important part in our history. They have been
more exploited than the workers. They see that guardians of our traditions and culture even
the workers are favored and earn their pittance when certain of the men were alienated during
each month. Therefore, the element of discon- the colonial period. The little that we do know
tent is much more advanced among the peasants of our history we owe to our women, our grand-
than with the workers. This fact doesn't give mothers.
the peasantry the conscience of revolutionaries, The African women are more liberated than
but it can lead to movements of revolt which elsewhere. In certain African countries, it is the
bear positive results. women who control the market economy. There
There are many peasants who live fragmented are villages where all authority rests with the
in a closed economy, producing enough to eat women. And whether African men like it or not,
without commercial relationship to the govern- they can't do anything without the women's con-
ment. But there are other peasants involved in sent, whether it be marriage, divorce, or baptism.
commercial activities who are beginning to un- What were the circumstances in filming
derstand economic exchange. Last year there Emitai?
were rumors of discontent among the peasants. The Diollas are a small minority with a native
To tear apart this discontent, Senghor distrib- language about to disappear. For two years, I
uted three billion francs to the peasants. You learned and practiced it. Then I set out to make
see, you can have hope in the peasant, but you contact with the Chief of the Sacred Forest. In
can't base your revolutionary movement around order to be able to speak to him, I needed to
them. But we're not discouraged. The peasan- bring a gift offering. He preferred alcohol but
try is a force on which we can depend. I myself drank it up along the way. When I
What is the historical background of Emitai? arrived and was hungry, the chief ate without
I came myself from this rural region and these inviting me. That hurt me. Afterwards he said,
true events of the Diolla people inspired me to "You know well that to speak to the king you
present an image of French conduct in my home have to bring something. Since you didn't bring
territory during my early manhood. During the anything, I couldn't invite you."
last World War, those of my age, 18, were forced The people in the movie are not actors, but
to join the French army. Without knowing why, people from the village. I had a limited time to
we were hired for the liberation of Europe. Then tell my story, so I couldn't permit them to do
when we returned home, the colonialists began only what they wanted. We would rehearse be-
to kill us, whether we were in Senegal, the Ivory ginning fifteen minutes before the filming, but
Coast, Algeria, or Madagascar. Those of us who all the movements were free. I brought red bon-
had returned from the French war involvement nets for the young people to wear who played
in Vietnam in 1946 came back to struggle soldiers. They refused at first because such bon-
against the French. We were not the same as the nets are reserved for the chief.
black soldiers at home from French-speaking The chief is not chief by birth, incidentally,
Africa who participated in colonialism instead but initiated after receiving an education and
of demonstrating against it. Now, 10 years after training. No elected person holds advantage
independence, it is these same ex-soldiers who over another. There have been moments when
are bringing about coups d'etat. the Diollas elected leaders who then left during
Aren't the women the true heroes of Emitai, the night. That's the reality.
as they also were in your revolutionary novel, Were you aware of evolving in your choice
called in America God's Bits of Wood? of a hero from the individual in Mandabi to the
As Emitai shows, when the French wanted collective hero of Emitai?
42 42 SEMBENE
SEMBENE

I'm not the one who's evolving. It's the sub- And the reaction in the cities?
ject which imposes the movement. This story Many asked me why I wanted to make a film
happened to be a collective story. I wanted to about the Diollas. You have to know that the
show action of a well-disciplined ethnic group majority of maids in Senegal are Diollas to give
in which everyone saw himself only as an in- you an idea of the superiority felt by others in
tegral part of the whole. relation to them. (The African bourgeois have
Have the Diolla people seen the film? two or three maids. It's not very expensive.)
Before premiering the film for the Senegalese To see Emitai, the maids left the children. They
government, I went back to the village to project invited each other from neighborhood to neigh-
it. I remained three nights. All of the villagers borhood to see the film. Finally, the majority
from the whole area came and, because they Ouloofs went to see the film and realized that
have no cinema, their reaction was that of chil- the history of Senegal and of the resistance was
dren looking at themselves in a mirror for the not just the history of the majority of Ouloofs.
first time. After the first showing, the old men The Diollas are a part of Senegal. And so are
withdrew into the sacred forest to discuss the the other ethnic groups. And when the Sene-
film. When I wanted to leave, they said, "Wait galese government finally decreed that they were
until tomorrow." They came back the second going to teach Ouloof, they were in a hurry to
evening, then returned to the rain forest. add Diolla. I don't know if that is because of
The third evening there was a debate. The the film, but that's what happened.
old men were happy to hear that there was a Your films obviously are influential political
beautiful language for them, but they weren't instruments in Senegal. Could films made in the
happy with the presentation of the gods. Though United States have the same effect?
these forces obviously did not manifest them- Alone, no. With the people, yes. There are
selves when the French arrived, the gods still those who stay secluded and say that artists are
were sacred and helped the old men maintain creating important works and everything is
authority. going to change. Nothing will change. You can
The young people accused the old of coward- put all the revolutionary works on the television,
ice for not resisting at the end of the war. The but if you don't go down into the streets, nothing
women, of course, agreed, but were very proud will change. That is my opinion.
of their own role.

LYLE PEARSON

Four Years of African Film


I have seen in Persia a film which doesn't exist in Iran-there are in fact festivals now sprinkled
and which was called The Life of Charlie. over the Near East and the northern half of
-Andre Malraux, Esquisse d'une Psychologie Africa, in Damascus, in Ouagadougou, and
du Cinema, 1946 sometimes in Rabat. The Dinar, France, franco-
phone film festival has just cut itself loose and
I haven't been to Persia, which doesn't exist any- from now on will take place every other year
more. But there is an annual festival of films in a Third World country-and the Federation
42 42 SEMBENE
SEMBENE

I'm not the one who's evolving. It's the sub- And the reaction in the cities?
ject which imposes the movement. This story Many asked me why I wanted to make a film
happened to be a collective story. I wanted to about the Diollas. You have to know that the
show action of a well-disciplined ethnic group majority of maids in Senegal are Diollas to give
in which everyone saw himself only as an in- you an idea of the superiority felt by others in
tegral part of the whole. relation to them. (The African bourgeois have
Have the Diolla people seen the film? two or three maids. It's not very expensive.)
Before premiering the film for the Senegalese To see Emitai, the maids left the children. They
government, I went back to the village to project invited each other from neighborhood to neigh-
it. I remained three nights. All of the villagers borhood to see the film. Finally, the majority
from the whole area came and, because they Ouloofs went to see the film and realized that
have no cinema, their reaction was that of chil- the history of Senegal and of the resistance was
dren looking at themselves in a mirror for the not just the history of the majority of Ouloofs.
first time. After the first showing, the old men The Diollas are a part of Senegal. And so are
withdrew into the sacred forest to discuss the the other ethnic groups. And when the Sene-
film. When I wanted to leave, they said, "Wait galese government finally decreed that they were
until tomorrow." They came back the second going to teach Ouloof, they were in a hurry to
evening, then returned to the rain forest. add Diolla. I don't know if that is because of
The third evening there was a debate. The the film, but that's what happened.
old men were happy to hear that there was a Your films obviously are influential political
beautiful language for them, but they weren't instruments in Senegal. Could films made in the
happy with the presentation of the gods. Though United States have the same effect?
these forces obviously did not manifest them- Alone, no. With the people, yes. There are
selves when the French arrived, the gods still those who stay secluded and say that artists are
were sacred and helped the old men maintain creating important works and everything is
authority. going to change. Nothing will change. You can
The young people accused the old of coward- put all the revolutionary works on the television,
ice for not resisting at the end of the war. The but if you don't go down into the streets, nothing
women, of course, agreed, but were very proud will change. That is my opinion.
of their own role.

LYLE PEARSON

Four Years of African Film


I have seen in Persia a film which doesn't exist in Iran-there are in fact festivals now sprinkled
and which was called The Life of Charlie. over the Near East and the northern half of
-Andre Malraux, Esquisse d'une Psychologie Africa, in Damascus, in Ouagadougou, and
du Cinema, 1946 sometimes in Rabat. The Dinar, France, franco-
phone film festival has just cut itself loose and
I haven't been to Persia, which doesn't exist any- from now on will take place every other year
more. But there is an annual festival of films in a Third World country-and the Federation
FILMFOUR
FOURYEARSOF AFRICAN YEARS
OF
AFRICAN
FILM 43
43

of Panafrican Cineastes has suggested that an Maldoror, who is married to an Angolan writer
anglophone African festival may soon take place and who has made a well-known short film on
in Tanzania. Angola, Monangambee (The Cry), in Algeria
There is also the Cinematic Days of Carthage, and an earlier but as yet unseen feature on
the biennial festival which gave birth to the Portuguese Guinea, is not African-she is from
FEPAC. It is the oldest of such festivals and, Martinique. She lives in France, and is no more
being in Tunisia, ties Africa and Asia together African that Franz Fanon. Her films show it;
for at least ten days every two years. Actually the photography is by Claude Agostini, and all
I have attended only this Carthage affair, in of the technical aspects of the film are handled
1970 and 1972, and the 1969 festival in Rabat. by Frenchmen.
But, as the director of the Carthage Festival, The first film from Gabon, Phillippe Mory's
Tahar Cheriaa, has said, the 1970 festival in- Les Tam-Tams Se Sont Tus (The Tom-Toms
cluded "practically all the African production Are Silent), points up the problems with making
since 1968," (with a hefty amount of films from a film in the way Sambizanga is made-both
the East) and African cinema outside of Egypt films are slick and made with a French crew
has been born only in the last decade.1 While but Mory, who has appeared in French films, is
there were at least five American observers at Gabonese and he takes for his subject prostitu-
the 1972 festival-there has never been a black tion (as well as polygamy).* I asked Mory if
American representative there, to my knowledge the central character of Les Tam-Tams, which
-I was (outside of Frederick Gronich of the he plays himself, was aware of his own acts of
MPAA and someone from the Tunisian division prostitution and Mory said Yes; prostitution in
of the USIA) the only US observer at the 1970 Mory's film equals collaboration.
festival. In addition, I've been seeing African Is a well-made color feature in French that
films in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Paris takes for its subject prostitution any better than
for three years; and I thus modestly suggest that a well-made color feature in Portuguese that
I probably know more about African film from takes colonization for its subject, but that tries to
a recent historical point of view than anybody pass itself off as happening in another country?
else. About all Miss Maldoror does to convince us
that we're not in the Congo is to slap up a sign
In 1972 African feature film production crept that reads "Angola" in front of what is sup-
down to the equator (that is, if one is to ignore posedly a police station. The six-member all-
Lionel Rogosin's Come Back, Africa and the Third World jury at Carthage thought that was
features made by the white South African com- all right and Sambizanga shared top honors with
munity for its own consumption). This distinc- a Syrian film, and Les Tam-Tams won nothing.
tion can be shared by two equatorial African This is rather a pity I think for Les Tam-Tams
countries, Gabon and the Congo Brazzaville; has the look of an honest B-movie, of Samuel
the film from Gabon takes place in Gabon, while Fuller without the violence, and Mory con-
that from the Congo Brazzaville is supposed to
sciously raises the question of ethics in film-
take place further south, in the Portuguese col-
making. Sambizanga looks like the least repel-
ony of Angola. lent work of Bo Widerberg, and Maldoror un-
It should be noted that the film from the
Congo, Sarah Maldoror's Sambizanga (the title
is the name of a quarter), is not the first feature *These are also central themes in Oumarou Ganda's
Le WazzoPolygame(The PolygamousHoly Man), a
to be shot in the Congo by a Third World direc-
medium-length film, which doesn't look French at all.
tor, Glauber Rocha's rather miserable The With Sembene's Mandabi, polygamy has appeared in
Lion Has Seven Heads having been shot there at least three African films; prostitution, however, ap-
three years ago. It should also be noted that Miss pears more rife south of Senegal.
44 44 FOUR
FOURYEARSOF
YEARS FILM
AFRICAN
OF AFRICAN
FILM~~~~~~~

consciouslyraises the same question. If Sambi- adaptation of Gogol's The Inspector General to
zanga is a hit in France and not in Africa the Senegalese reality. Like his Diegue-bi (The
Frenchbourgeoisiewill have won out again;that Wife) which I saw in 1970, Traore's new film
is, Africa will have been forgotten in the wake is awkward in its beginning scenes; unlike
of French aesthetics and profits. Mory com- Diegue-bi it is not a satire on other African films.
plained, "You can't win here if you don't make In the former, the hero has financial difficulties
a political film," but Sambizangabrings up this caused by his femme, as in Oumarou Ganda's
other problem,which seemed to irritatea larger Cabascabo; she in turn lies to the local grocer,
part of the Carthagepublic-the idea of collab- telling him that a mandabi will soon arrive to
orationwith the French. take care of their bills; also, a young rake is
It is unfortunatethat in tracing African-by- named Ousmane. Where Sembene uses a small
Africans feature film productionit is necessary economy car for an effect in Mandabi, Traore
after these two African-Frenchco-productions uses a Corvette. Diegue-bi pulls a final switch
to jump half way up the coast to Senegal,but it on Mandabi in that the husband is arrested and
is also indicativeof the African film scene. Film- his wife is left alone with the bills. In both
makingis even more sparsein the interiorthan Diegue-bi and Lambaaye a priest or marabout
on the coast, and more so in former Britishter- appears; in the former almost everybody asks
ritories than in the French. A 16mm feature him for advice and he demands a fee, which
from Gabon, II Etait Une Fois Libreville by everybody pays a part of; in Lambaaye he sim-
Simon Auge, was withdrawnfrom competition ply poses a benediction, "This must be the in-
at Carthage because Auge views it as merely spector," and then is seen no more. Much of the
"research"preliminaryto a real feature. The humor here is in the dialogue and the satire of
only possible stop between Gabon and Senegal Islamic custom; the fake inspector speaks Ouloof
is Ghana,which had a 35mm featureat Carthage like the rest of the cast but dresses up his speech
in 1970, Sam Aryeety'sNo Tearsfor Ananse- with both Arabic and French expressions. At
the only African feature I know which is based the local hospital, the patients of which are for
on national folklore. King Ampew, a Ghanian the sake of the fake inspector en conge, he asks
who has studied film in Munich, had his final the staff how they pass their time, "Playing
thesis film, They Call It Love, in competitionat cards?" (Gambling is forbidden by the Koran.)
Carthagethis year but it was filmed in Munich Satirically presenting another Islamic custom as
in eleven days on a very reduced budget and is well as the desire to climb the social ladder, a
hardly a movie; its subject, like that of Denis young girl is prepared for a forced marriage
Sanders's Soul to Soul, is Ampew's view of with the "inspector." The big switch from
American blacks, living in Munich, and their Gogol's plot comes when the non-inspector
music. (Soul to Soul, while being shot and starts borrowing money from everybody; this is
shown in Ghana, remains a sort of inverted a theme common to most Senegalese films.*
traveloguein which black Americanperformers The technique is often crude in a Traore film
rather self-consciously search for their own
"soul"-Wilson Pickettis the worstoffender.We *It occurs not only in Diegue-bi, Lambaaye, and Man-
did not get Soul to Soul at Carthage,nor Ossie dabi but in Momar Thiam's 1971 Karim (The Generous
Davis's Nigerian-American-Swedishcoproduc- One). The themeof man seducedfrom his moneyby
a womanis also commonin Africanfilm; it exists in
tion shot in Nigeria in 1970.)
Diegue-bi, Karim, probably in Thiam's Mon Beau
Since 1969 Senegalhas made at least one fea- Pays, L'Option (My Beautiful Country, the Option),
tureevery six months. We got, as far as I know, and in Ganda'sfilm from Niger Cabascabo(The Old
every one of them at Carthagealthoughonly one Warrior).Ganda,beingfroma moreheavilyIslamized
was in competition, Mahama Traore's Lam- countrythantheseotherfilm-makers,providesa refer-
baaye (the title is the name of a town), a 16mm ence from the Koranto Samsonand Delilah.
FILMFOUR
FOURYEARSOF AFRICAN YEARS
OFAFRICAN
FILM 45
45

-bad lighting, unbalancedcompositions, awk- Warhol isn't such a freak after all (and that
ward angles. But, perhapsbecause this year he there may be more weight to the ontological
lacked the competition of Djibril Diop (whose theory of film than was formerlythought).
Badou Boy tied for second place at Carthagein On the other hand, Babacar Samb, who re-
1970) Lambaayecame in on a three-waytie for mainsa friendof JeanRouchsince theirwork on
third place; only African and Arabic films at a short film together ten years ago,* has made
Carthage are in competition. And there is in Codou in non-handheld35mm black and white,
spite of this occasionalawkwardnessan element the story of a young girl who loses her mind
of spectacle here that Diegue-bi does not have. after failing a ceremony in which her lips are
Near the end of the film we see an outdoor to be pierced. Modernpsychiatricpracticesfail
entertainmentsession, with some remarkably to bringthe girl, Codou, back to sanity although
sexy dancingand a sort-of-bluessingerin a blue traditionalmethods of cure do. The question
satin dress, battery-operated microphone in remains:will she remainsane for long? Accord-
hand. The scene is handled as if it were in a ing to Samb-
documentary-pans movingacrossthe audience Each time someone has tried to grafta culture
in which you have to searchprettyhardto locate on our own, it has been a failure. We have
the protagonist (the entertainmentis being pre- our feet in the middle ages and our head in
sented for his benefit) and hand-heldclose-ups the modern world. To want access to the
of the singer-there is an air of hand-heldspon- modernworld without taking account of this
taneity here, as there is in a more subtle way in middle age is a serious fault. ... to want at
most of the film. It is as if Paul Morrisseyhad any price to return to the middle ages is no
headed for the veldt and cut out his dirtiest moreviable.
jokes. In my film, I affirm that it is necessary to
Traoreand Morrissey-the events and people assumeone's own cultureto gain access to the
they tend to show us are often more important modem world.2
than the stories they tell. Do we like, or dislike This really is the same concern that we find in
Holly Woodlawnbecause of a predicamenthe/ Les Tam-Tams, the same question that Sambi-
she may find him/ herself in, or becauseof him/ zanga raisesunconsciously,and both the subject
herself? The same for the singer in Lambaaye, and the major problem with the new film by
who is probablytotally unawareof the plot into OusmaneSembene,Emitai.
which she has been tossed;in fact we can'treally Ousmane Sembene in Emitai (The Angry
relate her to that plot, she is interestingonly as God) definitelytells us that collaborationwith
a singer, we are curious to see her manner of the French is a bad thing. Emitai is a compli-
presentation,to know how she sings a song. And cated film, much more so than any of these
there is a similarityin the way Morrissey and others, and I'm going to deal with it from this
Traore make films-while the credits of Lam- one point of view. The point is that Emitai,like
baaye list more techniciansthan an Andy War- Les Tam-Tams,describesbut also suffersfrom
hol film ever does, both make 16mm story fea- this collaboration, albeit on another level. It
tures in color with improvised dialogue and does not sufferfrom it in a preconceivedor self-
direct sound and often take their jokes from
other movies. Traoreeven looks like Warhol- *Few African directors have. Sembene, for instance, is
dark glasses, an AmericanArmy jacket, a small fond of saying that Rouch, outside of Moi, Un Noir
under-the-chinbeard, and a slinky movement (Me, a Black), treats Africans like "insects." Ganda,
who is featured in Moi, Un Noir, has to my knowledge
that would make you sure, if he was from the
expressed no opinion on Rouch, but the Carthage fes-
United States, that he was a pusher. It's nice to tival refused Rouch's Petit a Petit (Little by Little) in
know there's someone making anti-establish- 1970. The problem, again, may be one of reluctance
ment filmsin Africa;it somehow assuresme that to collaborate with the French.
46 46~~ FOU YEARS
FOURYER OF AFIANFL
AFRICAN
FILM

justifyingway; it would be unfair for Sembene galese alreadyenlistedinto the French army are
to make such a film, for his very point is that forced to fire on the village women-and it is
collaborationwith France is a bad idea. But here that the censorshipenters. Originallyone
this collaborationexists in Sembene's films by was to see the soldiers fire followed by the
virtue of their historical situation-they are bloody bodies of the Senegalese women; now
made with French governmentmoney, through this is "left to your imagination,"as the Sene-
the advance-on-receiptslaw used by many galese consul to Tunisiatold me: we see the sol-
French directors;and Emitai, unlike Mandabi, diers fire, the screen goes black-and that's the
has been censored. end of the movie.
In Emitai, which takes place near the end of Sembene'snew film has been marredby cen-
the Second World War, when Sembene was a sorship but what we can see of it is a master-
boy, the French army tries to enlist Senegalese piece-a new style of film, unlike the Musee de
citizensagainstthe Germans,but the Senegalese l'Homme documentary quality that hinders
have little interest in this "white man's war"; Mandabistylistically,and totally differentfrom
their apathy is entirely reasonable and very all westernmannersof story-tellingon film. Few
funny. The film takes place in the south of films cannot be related to other films in their
Senegal among the Diolla, an animist and not story or in their style; Sembene'sEmitai can be
an Islamic people (Emitai is a Diolla and not relatedto Sophocles'sAntigone in its story, but
a Ouloof word). From the French comes the not to any film in its style. This is true in its
commandthat the rice in the village is to be con- manner of photography-almost entirely long
fiscatedfor the troops;the women of the village shots, never extracting its charactersfrom the
hide the rice and the local priests, acting under environment,but making the environment an
the advice of their animistgods, which are pre- integralpartof the story-and in its pace. There
sented as masks in pink-tintedclose-ups, attack are no flash or quick shots, the editing is never
the French officers. The attackfails, the priests manipulatedto gain speed on events, everything
begin to doubt their own gods, and the Sene- is made ultra-clear,as if the length of the action

Sembene's
EMITAI
FILMFOUR
FOURYEARSOF AFRICAN YEARS
OF
AFRICAN
FILM 47
47

and the objectivity of the photography were or aesthetically and even in its reduced form is
enough to clarify not only the story but Sem- probably not going to be seen very much outside
bene's thought processes behind the story. of the festival circuit. Even at Carthage a group
Jean Narboni claims that in La Noire de of young Tunisians after laughing through sev-
. (The Black Girl from . . . ) Sembene eral reels walked out on it.
treats "the two employers . . . as blacks are It is a pity that we, partly through bureaucracy
treated by Griffith, but Sembene is not so cine- and partly through taste are not free to see and
matically inventive" (Cahiers du Cinema, May to accept this beautiful, path-finding work from
1967). So be it; but here he breaks away from a major artist-be he black, white, or like the
all the Griffith-inspired devices - subjective photography surrounding the gods which he so
angles, cross-cutting, the speeding up of reality objectively presents-pink.
by progressively shorter shots, the devices of
emotional story-telling-that have plagued film- There were also seventeen African short films
makers ever since Griffith. Who has bothered at Carthage in 1972, from ten different coun-
to get away from the bourgeois syndrome be- tries. The jury couldn't decide which was the
sides Godard (and possibly Rainer Winder best and gave equal prizes to five short films.
Fassbinder) previously in commercial story- Four of these films were in 16mm, and Moise
telling film? Le Lecourt's Le Mvet, about the making of a
I don't mean that the story remains clear at musical instrument, shot in the Cameroun and
all moments in Emitai-with this new ultra-clear edited through various ethnographic services in
presentation of action, in which every action is Paris, is the most technically advanced short film
presented in one shot, a consequent breakdown that I have yet seen by an African. As well it
in continuity appears. If one is not aware of should be-it took him eight years to make.
the story in advance or if one loses just one shot The many features from North Africa and
-as, unfortunately, happened at the second and the Near East which were also shown at Car-
last showing of the film at Carthage, when we thage must be the subject of a later article.
were not shown the soldier firing on the village
women-one is aware only of clearly presented
action but not at all of how those actions relate NOTES
to one another. This may be intentional, as far 1. An interview by "H. G.," "I1 faut faire eclore dans
as the desire to stimulate thought goes-Sem- toute l'Afrique des cinemas nationaux," Algerie-Actual-
bene likes Brecht. Sembene has not made a film ite, April 2, 1972, p. 18.
for everyone-not the French, nor the Frenchi- 2. Interview by D. Bouzid, Contact [Tunisian cultural
fled Senegalese bourgeoisie. Mandabi, in spite magazine], n.d., p. 7.
Additional Bibliography
of its success in the US and the USSR plus a Hennebelle, Guy. Les Cinemas Africains en 1972.
showing on French television, still has had only Paris, Soci6te Africaine d'Edition, 1972.
limited showing in Dakar, and I'm sure this has . "Petite Planete: Afrique," Cinema '70, No.
somewhat isolated Sembene from other Sene- 142, January 1970, p. 66ff.
galese film directors. Here he has created a film Kamphausen, Hannes. "Cinema in Africa: A Survey,"
for serious-minded people who are willing to Cineaste, Vol. V, No. 3, Summer 1972, pp. 29-39, with
think and to decide. Sembene, having trained appendixes on "Cinema Facilities" and "Media Devel-
in the USSR under Marc Donskoi, and having opment" from 1966 USIA material, pp. 40-41.
Vieyra, Paulin. Afrique et le Cinema. Paris, Presence
previously been active in dockers' unions in Africaine, 1969.
France, considers film a political tool but he . "The Cinema and Africa," Topic, No. 70,
remains a victim of the trap that both French USIA Publication, Washington, D.C. and Beirut. (The
and Senegalese bureaucracy have set for him. same issue of Topic includes interviews with Babacar
Emitai is not a film for tout le monde politically Samb and Ousmane Sembene.)
48

GIDEON BACHMANN

In Search of Self-Definition
ARABAND AFRICAN
FILMSAT THECARTHAGE
FILMFESTIVAL
(TUNIS)

It is useless to approach the cinemas of strug- and stories that resolved themselves at film's
gling countries with aesthetic criteria. A burning end. The few that took the other road, like the
subject matter doesn't always allow for refined excellent El Fahhaam (The Charcoal Maker)
packaging. But the colonial traditions of the from Algeria, will undoubtedly be seen by audi-
cinema have formed an audience here, over the ences and be appreciated for their honesty-but
generations, that responds to a film language whether they will succeed in making an inroad
composed of melodrama, music, and dramatic on the mind of rural Algerian villagers must be
buildups resolved at the end and in happy com- doubted.
promise. It may be possible to change film- Since this dilemma cannot really be resolved
making, but it is much more difficult to change except by slow education, one could almost
film viewing. reach the conclusion that the cinema, as we are
There are film-makers in the developing coun- familiar with it today (the few talking to the
tries today who are able to present works of many) may not be a useful form for the transfer
immediate concern in a style that corresponds to of political ideas. Drawing the balance after
this immediacy, and to forego aesthetics. But having exposed oneself for a week to the reac-
often these remain films made for their peers, tions of Tunisian audiences (Carthage is a pop-
appreciated only by intellectuals and critics, ular participation festival, unlike Venice or
which do not reach their target audiences be- Cannes) on the one hand, and the refined com-
cause there is no tradition of veracity in popular ments of Third World intellectuals, present here
film viewing in the countries for which these in large numbers, on the other, one begins to fear
films could be of major importance. Audiences that the political cinema of direct utility has not
are not used to films that make them think. yet been born. As a microcosm of the communi-
Two roads are open to film-makers: choose cation problem that besets the Third World,
an antiquated form to carry a new idea, or risk Carthage, while not offering solutions, at least
losing their audience by refusing to make this clearly delineated the contradictions.
compromise. Both alternatives were represented These are many, and similar in most Third
in the large group of films from African and World countries. The liberation from colonial
Arab countries that were seen at the 4th Interna- rule, which took place mostly in the fifties, has
tional Film Festival of Carthage (which doesn't created republican autonomies which are still, in
take place in Carthage at all, but in a few terrible effect, cultural dependencies. Tunisia, for ex-
cinemas in the center of the new city of Tunis). ample, independent since 1955 (but under Bour-
The majority chose the first solution, with the guiba since 1956), is intellectually a French
result that a variety of important contemporary country. Tunisian intellectuals study in France
subjects (Palestinian refugees, agrarian reform, and often end up living there. The children of
guerrilla warfare, unemployment, lingering the French do not mix with the Arab ones, and
bourgeois tendencies in the new democracies, the French here do not speak Arabic. The pub-
the reactionary influence of Islam, etc.) were lications offered by the Arab vendors that make
wrapped in B-movies complete with chases, dra- the rounds of the three cafes of central Tunis,
matic low lighting, electronic music, ham acting, are Le Nouvel Observateur and Afrique Asie;
FILMS
FILMSAT CARTHAGE ATCARTHAGE 49
49

only tourists buy English-language publications, often didactically polemicised at the public dis-
and the Arab papers, the French will tell you cussions, blindly maintaining patently unmain-
from third-hand knowledge, are not worth read- tainable positions of political extremism, in
ing. In fact, the French-language local papers many ways were more interesting than the films
are poor copies of France Soir, headlining daily they had made. All their frustration and convic-
the exploits of the head of state. The police are tion was pumped into this essentially sterile pub-
everywhere, watching against leftist turmoil, and lic of their peers, to no practical avail, since their
after the 1970 film festival here, it appears that contradicting vehemencies cannot, by definition,
its head spent six months in jail. This year, all convince, and since none of what was aired in
films shown were censored first. that room ever went beyond its walls.
This was the setting for seeing films from more Of the films seen, few risk exposure in Europe.
than 20 countries, where the situation is similar. To make sense in London or New York, for ex-
Even in Algeria, the country on this continent ample, very few of them could do without an
most often looked to for revolutionary leader- introduction. Both in style and content they are
ship, a girl can end up in jail for hosting black very local films, and paradoxically only the
friends after a certain hour. And any Algerian worst (such as the major prize winners Sam-
in an advanced state of friendship will avow that bizanga and The Duped Ones, both made away
intellectuals there consider the revolution ini- from their locale by accomplished film-makers)
tiated but not achieved. The African countries of may end up with any kind of a run in Paris,
the West Coast, each with between five and 60 where they have a small guaranteed audience of
languages spoken internally, with economies de- well-wishers and where the Tunisian prize may
pendent on autonomously controlled resources carry some small weight in the Left Bank. Only
but externally controlled means for their exploi- two of the films seen are definitely worth bring-
tation, even in the best cases steer a meandering ing to Western audiences, and only one of these
course of political indecision. No two countries comes from the African continent.
have similar problems, or speak similar lan- El Fahhaam was made by Mohammed Boua-
guages, except French. And each is convinced mari, who was assistant to Costa-Gavras on Z,
that its problems are central, unique and burn-
to Bertucelli on Ramparts of Clay and has
ing, and their solutions applicable universally. worked with Lakhdar Hamina and William
The result, in both films and the discussions that
Klein. Since 1966 he has made three short films,
followed them, is total disunity.
and this is his first long one. It was financed by
And yet each representative, either film- the Centre National du Cinema, but had not
maker or cultural worker, that one meets, is full passed the strict Algerian censorship by the
of self-consuming zeal. There can be no doubt time it was shown in Tunisia (the print came
about their honesty. Caught in a political di- straight from the lab), and it is hoped that the
lemma but fighting on a cultural front, film- critics' prize and the second major prize it ob-
makers find themselves thwarted not only in tained at the festival, will help it take that hurdle
their difficult relationship to their audience, but when it gets home, since the material it touches
equally, and often more so, in their relationship has often been subject to restrictions in Algeria
to the authorities of their countries in trying to before. It has no great revolutionary idea, but it
obtain means to make the films and freedom to attacks certain prejudices which the new Alger-
attack certain themes. What was seen in Tunis, ian society has not eradicated: the position of
therefore, were films either made independently women in rural areas, the flight from the soil,
abroad (or in countries where the action did not the remaining social class structures, the retard-
take place), or films made under considerable ing influence of the Moslem religion, and the
technical and/or ideological difficulties. These new bureaucracy. All this is done without undue
often very young men, who vehemently and dramatization, in a calm, poetic, documentary
50 50 FILMSAT CARTHAGE~~~~~~~~~
CARTHAGE

style, following the daily life of a charcoal- jector in remote villages; in popular Algerian
maker in the brushy woods somewhere in the cinemas it risks boos. It is not entertainment,
Algerian mountains. but a sort of documentary of a state of soul.
Not much happens. We watch the making of John Dos Passos, his friend, said of John Reed
charcoal: the cutting down of a tree that has that it was Pancho Villa who taught him to write,
become state property as a consequence of land in 1913. Paul Leduc's film Reed: Mexico Insur-
reform (but the local policeman closes an eye), gente, traces Reed's trip to Mexico as an Ameri-
the tedious labor unaided by appropriate tools, can reporter and his growing conviction that
the burning smoke that attacks the lungs (in- one cannot watch revolutions, but must take
stead of using precious charcoal herself, which sides-a conviction that took him to Russia four
burns clean, the charcoal-maker's wife uses years later, where he wrote Ten Days That
wood, which is bad for her health, as a form of Shook the World. I do not know by what for-
mute sacrifice at her home hearth). But "pro- tunate fluke this film ended up in an African and
gress" and the nationalization of the oil industry Arab film festival, except that its theme, more
have brought natural gas to the villages-so the perhaps than those of films from the area itself,
hard-earned charcoal goes unsold, the family touches the core of the colonial problem: that
suffers hunger in the deserted village, where they which happens in a man's heart when he lives a
are the sole inhabitants left after the emigration period of social and political change. More
to the cities. The man goes off to Algiers, to than those from the countries contemporarily
seek a friend with whom he had been during the involved, this film managed to convey the tex-
fighting for independence. The friend has be- tures, feelings, concerns, and contradictions of
come a functionary, with a pretty secretary and a revolution in progress with sensitivity and
an immobile face, who affably disposes of the immediacy.
embarrassing guest with the excuse of an im- Leduc undertook a dangerous experiment: he
portant phone call. To work in town, in indus- attempted to make a historical documentary by
try, seems the only way out, and at film's end an recreation. Photographed by Greek cameraman
obstinate gesture is indicated: in the presence of Alexis Grivas in a muted, brownish tint, on
the district's notables, the woman removes her 16mm, without sets or cinematic splendor of
veil, and the family seem to be parting for a new any sort, everything we see seems to be material
life. We are not told whether this is a dream from the period. Reed himself is played-al-
sequence, nor does the director make a clear most entirely in longshot-by Claude Obregon,
statement concerning his own attitude towards a performance which in its underplaying
the gesture. In a way, he seems to say, all solu- achieves the greater sensibility. Based on Reed's
tions are partial, and the real problem lies in the own book, the story carries through from his ar-
hardheadedness of men and the impossible situ- rival at the Mexican border until the battle of
ations that they have created. Gomez Palacio-roughly a year of campfires,
What distinguishes this film from most others encounters, losses of friends in battle, inter-
seen here, is that it does not impose a strict view-
point on the material. Remaining open in this
way, it allows for more identification on the part
of the viewer, and does not preclude his own
search for answers. As such, it pleases both
cinephile and progressive, but it remains to be
seen if its utility in the field, when shown to peo-
ple whose consciousness and self-awareness it
might help to increase, can surmount the ob-
stacle of an essentially elitist filmic style. It
might work when shown with a portable pro-

REED: MEXICOINSURGENTE)
- -
FILMSAT CARTHAGE

views, hardshipsshared, and convictions grow-


ing. Never is there an attemptto editorializeor
to present an "objective"view of the events-
everythingis seen throughthe eyes of Reed, but
with a fine camera distance, a razor'sedge bal-
ance which for once has totally succeeded, cre-
ating a surface of truth without doctrine.
The use of a documentarytechniquein a fic-
tion film, which is characteristicof the films
of both Bouamari and Leduc, also showed its
validityas an instrumentof idea promulgationin
anotherfilm not shot on the African continent,
but representedhere as a Ghana entry because
of the nationalityof its director,King Ampew. THE FORBIDDENSTEP
Made as a thesis film at the film school in Mu-
nich, this feature follows the routine of a black
singer in a club there, which seems to consist ences are extremely sensitive and often childish
mainly of accepting, without emotion, the ad- when it comes to even the slightest sexuality in a
vances made to him by a seriesof white women. film, obviously bearing witness to deepset con-
In absolutely deadpan style we are introduced flicts in what remains to this day a restrictive
to a grey town and a grey existence, a joyless society. But despite the fact that Ridha's film
and emotionlesscontinuityof faces and environ- shows masturbation and some nudity, the audi-
ments,which in their total impactcreate a harsh ence (mostly young people) took the film in a
attack on contemporaryGerman society. Few serious fashion, without the customary outbreaks
have treatedthe racial problemin sexual terms -a testimony to Ridha's sensitivity and sense of
(Lionel Rogosin's cumbersomeBlack Fantasy, balance. This may not be much of a film in
also seen here, is an exception), and few have another context, and to Western eyes seems
treated the sexual problem in a society of sur- banal and perhaps dated, but it is revolutionary
face wellbeingwithout melodrama. Ampew has for Tunisia. Bourguiba's picture next to Sophia
done both, seemingly without effort, and has Loren's on the wall of the boy's dirty hovel (he
created a valid documentof a state of mind. It spits his toothbrush water on it) and Bourguiba's
is not the whole problem,many will say, and he words repeated to him by the judge at the trial,
shows neither cause nor solution. But in the exemplify the conflicts inherent in his daily ex-
German context he certainly makes one see istence. And the hushed attention of the public
clearlythat which perhapsone has always seen, to the film bears witness to its topicality for
but not paid attentionto. Especiallyas a stimu- them.
lant to discussion, in the milieu where it was Perhaps saying, again and again, "for them,"
shot, this film could representa valid recipe for gives the measure of this festival-precariously
a style that begins to bridge the gap of making perched between an essentially colonial, liberal
political films in an atmosphereof unprepared progressivism, and the exigencies of newly inde-
audiences. pendent cultures steering in stormy seas between
The same can be said for the short Tunisian growing economics and uncertain cultural heri-
film The ForbiddenStep by Behi Ridha. Cen- tage. The fact is, that all the goodwill cannot
soredafterselectionfor the festival,it was shown eliminate the differences, and that revolution, in
privately. It concernsthe sexual frustrationsof each area, must be achieved by the people of that
a seller of postcards in the holy town of Kai- area, each individual for himself. Festivals that
rouan,who finallyattemptsto rape (or rapes) a attempt to pretend that there is more in common
German tourist in a mosque. Tunisian audi- than there is, risk showing up only the difference.
52

JAMES ROY MacBEAN

The Working Class Goes Directly to


Heaven, Without Passing Go:
OR, THENAMEOF THEGAMEIS STILLMONOPOLY

"The factory is a prison," says a militant on the gives a bitter discourse on human nature in the
picketline in Elio Petri's La Classe Operaia Va film's first sequence. For him, man is thought of
in Paradiso (The Working Class Goes to in crudely mechanical terms: "You put in a little
Heaven), a film whose jarringly abrasive depic- raw material called food; various machines in
tion of life in a factory reminds me a bit of the body go to work on it; and the final product
Jonas Mekas's harrowing presentation of life in that comes out the other end is . . . shit! Man
another sort of prison, a military one-The is a perfect little shit-factory. Pity there's no
Brig. While full of humor-and therefore not market for the stuff; we could all be capitalists."
nearly as unrelenting in its assault on the spec- That's a cynical, dehumanizing attitude, to be
tator as The Brig-The Working Class Goes to sure; but, as the film brings home to us con-
Heaven, like the Mekas film, effectively employs stantly, working conditions in a factory are over-
a dissonant orchestration of jerky hand-held whelmingly dehumanizing. And, as Petri empha-
camera movements, aggressive close-ups, a con- sizes, the machine-patterns of factory life not
stant barrage of noise, and a histrionic acting only impose themselves on the worker physically
style (full of violent hand gestures, sudden head -buffeting him relentlessly in the factory's fre-
jerks, and abrasive voices whose habitual mode netic rhythms and cadences of movement and
of speech is the shouted expletive) in order to noise-but also may impose themselves on him
give the spectator a gut-level feel of the brutaliz- conceptually -channelling the worker's con-
ing system-in this case, industrial capitalism- sciousness into very linear, mechanical models
which, in a very real sense, imprisons the film's of thought which limit his ability to understand
protagonists. and transform his situation.
And, in fact, Petri's factory-prison and In many ways, The Working Class Goes to
Mekas's military-prison have much in common, Heaven is an extended analysis and dramatiza-
for both impose their ironclad regimentation on tion of a situation which was only sketched, how-
human beings in the name of machine-like ever pointedly and insightfully, by Godard in the
efficiency. And neither in the military nor in assembly-line sequence of the Dziga Vertov
the factory are you allowed to question just Group's British Sounds. Exploring, like Godard,
where that machine-like efficiency leads. A ma- the effect of factory working conditions (par-
chine, after all, doesn't ask questions. And if in ticularly the constant barrage of machine-noise)
the process of becoming as "efficient" as a ma- on the consciousness of the worker, Petri has
chine, you become a little less human, well, as found a way to demonstrate dramatically-from
drill sergeants and shop foremen would say, the standpoint of the individual worker-what
tough shit! Godard suggested intellectually-through a pro-
What is human nature anyway? Massa, the vocative juxtaposition of various elements on
factory-worker (colorfully portrayed by veteran the sound track. Already assailed by more than
actor Gian-Maria Volonte) who is the chief pro- enough noise on the factory floor, the worker
tagonist of The Working Class Goes to Heaven, may simply tune out or even resent any attempt
WORKING
CLASSGOESTO HEAVEN
WORKING CLASS
GOES
TO
HEAVEN 53
53

to raise his political consciousness-particularly tracts from the overseers tacit approval to smoke
when, as in The Working Class Goes to Heaven, a cigarette in spite of the strict "No Smoking"
the militants' agitation (with bullhorns in front rules.
of the factory gates) may very well sound to the Asked to break in a couple of new workers,
beleaguered worker like just more abrasive noise. Massa explains that the secret of his produc-
In short, the alienation of the worker on the job tivity is concentration. "You gotta pick out
is so pervasive that it effectively impedes the something that'll hold your concentration. Me,
development of the Marxian political conscious- I concentrate on Adalgisa's ass over there," he
ness that would enable him to understand and says, pointing to a factory errand girl. Thinking
to start changing his situation. of that ass and what he'd like to do with it, he
Bombarded with noise on all sides, the work- explains, enables him to work up just the right
er's resentment may even be exacerbated by the rhythm with his machine, so that once this basic
bitter recognition that the militants are right in rhythm is established-"a piece . . . an ass
pointing out the unnatural bleakness of a work- ... a piece . . . an ass"-he can gradually
day routine which begins before sunrise, ends increase the pace to turn out the maximum num-
after sunset, and, day after day (at least in the ber of pieces.
Northern Italian winter), imprisons the worker It is through this crude male-chauvinist sexual
in a sunless world where, as Petri emphasizes, imagery that Petri introduces the film's under-
the rhythms of nature are overwhelmed by the lying theme-that sexuality is the charactero-
rhythms of the machine. Moreover, as Petri logical ground that will tell us the most signifi-
subtly points out, management-adding their cant information about how and to what extent
paternalist verbiage to the barrage of noise- the machine-patterns of the factory workday
actively encourages the worker's identification permeate every aspect of the worker's life. Using
with his machine. As Petri's workers enter the this scene's obviously sexual associations of the
shop each day, a taped public-address message thrusting motions of the machine, Petri develops
wishes them buon giorno, and, in a little peptalk, throughout the film the way even the worker's
encourages them to treat their machines with ideas of sex are geared to the productivity para-
"tender loving care," reminding them that the digm of his relation to his machine.
key to "a good productive workday"-and to Sex, like everything else for the worker, is
the piece-work bonuses that go with increased thought of in terms of output. Quantity is em-
output-lies in each worker's intimate relation phasized. Massa is always bragging emptily
to his machine. about how many times a night he can do it, with
Massa may be bitter about his workday rou- no concern for the quality of experience shared
tine, but he has taken on some of the qualities by two persons. (After subjecting a young virgin
of a machine and is a super-productive worker. from the factory to a joyless quickie in the front
He boasts that his name heads the factory list seat of his car, Massa insensitively boasts how
each month for total output; he gloats over the she ought to be grateful to be "broken in" by
extra money he earns on the piece-work system. someone as good as he is; and he likens his "per-
Contemptuous of the other workers who cannot formance" to that of his car-a remark which
keep up with his productivity, Massa even lets Petri has made ironically appropriate by stag-
himself be used by the shop supervisors to set ing the scene in the cramped quarters of the
extremely high, frenetic rates of output which front seat of Massa's car so that the girl's initia-
are then imposed on everyone as "shop stand- tion into sex seems to be accomplished as much
ards." Although he is slightly ill at ease about by the gearshift lever as by anything else.)
doing this, Massa obviously can't resist the op- At first glance Petri's emphasis on sexuality
portunity to show off and lord it over his fellow in The Working Class Goes to Heaven might
workers-especially since, as a reward, he ex- seem a direct extension of his treatment of sex-
54 54 CLASSGOESTO HEAVEN
WORKING

uality in his preceding film, Investigation of a cially thought-provoking in Petri's film is his
Citizen Above Suspicion; but a closer look re- thorough examination of the concrete, tangible
veals, I think, some striking differences. As I effects of the factory work-experience on the
have argued elsewhere ("Sex and Politics," FQ, character-structure of the individual worker. If
Spring 1972), Petri's Investigation seems to me the worker seems a little neurotic, Petri is clearly
to share with several other recent films an over- saying, no need to go back to his childhood re-
simplified view in which homosexuality-or la- lations with mama and papa; just go take a good
tent, unacknowledged homosexual tendencies- look at your nearest factory. For a factory
are suggested as the root cause of fascism. In worker in his middle or late thirties like Massa,
any case, the methodology of Petri's Investiga- that work experience, day after day, year after
tion is the familiar one of examining an individ- year, all his adult life, is bound to leave its mark
ual's behavior in search of clues that will suggest on his character.
the underlying psychological causes (invariably And, sure enough, Massa has quite a few
childhood traumas) of that behavior. problems. His home life is unstable and obvi-
Surprisingly, however, in The Working Class ously less than wholly satisfying. Separated from
Goes to Heaven Petri boldly changes direction: his wife (who has custody of their young son,
for once the "present factors" of neurosis are and who is now living with one of Massa's co-
not glossed over as merely superficial symptoms workers), Massa is currently carrying on a list-
of an older, "deeper," unresolved oedipal com- less affair with Lidia, a divorced hairdresser with
plex. For once the methodology is not infinitely a young son (about the same age as Massa's own
retroactive; and instead of invoking a rather son); they live with Massa in his apartment.
crude psychosexual determination, Petri in this This particular family arrangement serves to
film explores the way in which even the sup- point out the way industrial capitalism tends to
posedly deep-seated character-structures of sex- reduce people, even in their most intimate rela-
uality are not necessarily "fixed," once and for tions to one another-such as marriage and par-
all, in earliest childhood, as most Freudians enthood-to interchangeable parts in the big
would maintain, but may on the contrary be social machine. Moreover, this family arrange-
constantly in process of formation even well into ment has certain financial ramifications. While
maturity and perhaps all through one's life. And, contributing to the financial support of his own
significantly, what Petri concentrates on in The son (and Massa seems just a little resentful about
Working Class Goes to Heaven are the relations handing over money to his wife's new lover),
between sexuality and the machine-patterns im- Massa also finds himself having to support
posed on the life of the mature adult factory Lidia's son. When asked why Lidia's ex-husband
worker in industrial capitalism. doesn't pay to support his own kid, Massa can
This approach to the relations between sex only reply-with a mixture of scorn and resigna-
and politics is long overdue;* and what is espe- tion-that the guy is a clerk and therefore
doesn't make enough to support a kid. Thus
*The call for a revolutionary, materialist psychoanalysis Massa's productivity is a vicious circle: as a par-
has recently been issued with great insight by Gilles ticularly fast and efficient worker, Massa earns
Deleuze and Felix Guattari, whose book Capitalisme more money than most men; but precisely be-
et Schizophrenie: L'Anti-Oedipe (Editions de Minuit, cause he makes so much and the wages of so
Paris) denounces and demystifies the idealist notion of
the unconscious which reigns in psychoanalysis today. many others are barely above subsistence level,
he finds himself having to assume more financial
[Incidentally, it was Godard and Gorin who first called
this book to my attention during a conversation in responsibilities than would normally be his.
which they also expressed their admiration for Petri's Finally, Massa's productivity causes him trou-
examination of the worker's psyche in The Working ble in still another way. His fellow workers,
Class Goes to Heaven.] envious of his high output and resentful of his
CLASSGOESTO HEAVEN
WORKING WORKING
CLASS
GOES
TO
HEAVEN 55
55

collusion with the overseersin the speed-up,be- Massa, who came in blustering with self-con-
gin to heckle and harass Massa in the factory. fidence to cheer up old Militina by bringing him
When this happens,Massa'stemper really boils a book he had requested (Quotations of Chair-
over, and contemptuously shouting that he'll man Mao) and to give him news of the rising
show them what "a real Stakhanovite"can do, sentiment for a strike at the factory, ends up
he furiouslypushes himself to work faster than listening with awe to the supposedly crazy Mili-
ever. Sputteringwith rage, Massa quickens his tina give a very forceful and articulate critique
already frenetic work pace - grabbing each of the workers' petty, opportunistic strike plans
piece with his fingerswell before it has stopped and point out vividly the need to overthrow the
turning in order to move on to the next piece entire capitalist system. Militina's spirited mono-
a few seconds faster. Suddenly,however,in his logue includes his recounting that what ulti-
anger, Massa loses concentrationfor an instant, mately got him fired from the factory and put in
loses the rhythm, and, missing his timing by a a mental institution was stepping out of the
split-second . . . loses a finger in the moving assembly line one day, grabbing a passing boss
partsof the machine. by the neck, and shouting "For God's sake tell
With this accident Massa's life undergoes a me what product I'm working on or I'll strangle
profoundchange.The loss of most of one finger, you!" Massa is so confused that he almost for-
itself, is not disabling: he'll be able to go back gets that it's he, and not Militina, who is sup-
to work after a brief layoff for the hand to heal. posed to leave the mental institution when the
But duringthis enforcedrespite,Massa has time visit is over. (And to add to his surprise and
to think. Suddenlyremovedfrom the relentless confusion, Militina's parting request to him is
rhythms and exhausting pace of the factory simply "Next time, bring guns!")
work-day, Massa can pass his time in a more In one way or another, the visit to Militina
relaxedbut also disorientedway-paying a visit gets to Massa, for when he returns to the fac-
to his son to show off the now four-fingered tory to resume work (and is greeted by an unc-
hand, and also visiting a grizzledold ex-worker, tuous supervisor who welcomes back "such a
Militina,who is living out his old age in a men- productive worker") Massa inexplicably takes
tal institution. his own sweet time, singing while he works,
This latter experience,however, proves most apparently not giving a damn anymore about
disquietingto Massa. For one thing, he recog- productivity. When asked by one of the time-
nizes in himself some of the same behaviorpat- study overseers if he can't work fast anymore
terns-a compulsive orderingof the silverware because of the missing finger, Massa contemp-
wheneverhe sits down to table-which Militina, tuously demonstrates that he can work as fast as
probablyechoing some psychologist'sreport on ever, but bursting into anger he declares that he
his own case, offers as the first hint he had that no longer sees any sense in busting his gut to fill
he was going crazy. (Militina also makes the the pockets of the bosses. This outburst-along
excellent point, however,when asked just when with his new snail's pace-quickly gets Massa
he actuallywent crazy, that "It'sotherswho de- in trouble; and he is ordered to report for an
cide that.") interview with the factory psychologist, who
Equally disturbingto Massa, however, is the asks him what a certain obviously phallic-shaped
disorientingambianceof the mental institution figure suggests to him.
(which Petri has accentuated by staging this With a vague awareness of what he's getting
scene in a fenced-in compound which even into, Massa acknowledges that it reminds him of
seems to have a wire-mesh roof). In fact, so a "cock," but then to cover his tracks he warns
disorientingis this encounterwith Militina that the psychologist not to think he's having any
in the course of their conversationtheir roles troubles with his sex life. "Any rumors you
somehow get reversed, with the result that might have heard about me are false," he de-
56 56 CLASSGOES
WORKING
WOKN CLS OS TO
OHAE
HEAVEN

clares,not realizinghe is giving himself away as students: this faction calls for an end to the
he goes on to explain that if he can't make it piece-worksystem. Massa, arrivinga few min-
with Lidia it's simply becauseshe's such a bitch, utes late at the meeting, impulsivelyspeaks out
and that, in any case, he can do it as many times in favor of the more militant position, calling
a night as ever with other women. for abolition of piece-work in spite of the
This brief interviewwith the plant psycholo- bonuses he himself reaps by his extraordinary
gist is a nice touch-revealing as it does both productivity.Dramaticallywavinghis now four-
the facile applicationof psychoanalyticdogma fingeredhand in the air, he shouts that it isn't
(the rote ferretingout of Freudiansymbolism) worth it, that the system makes everybody a
and the fact that a worker'spsychologicalprob- victim!
lems only get attentionwhen they begin to inter- Despite the impressivenessof Massa'ssudden
fere with his output on the job and thereby en- turnabout,the vote is overwhelminglyin favor
danger the boss's profit-margin.Moreover, it's of the reformistproposal of the union leaders;
interestingthat Massa, who is now starting to and the workers again opt for the more mod-
see the absurdityof his old compulsiveproduc- erate, union-sponsoredproposal of a limited
tivity as a worker, is unable to see that his atti- strike (two hours per day) instead of the total
tude towardssex sharesthat same obsessivecon- shutdown called for by the Maoists. Massa's
cern for output-and this insight into Massa's disgust and disappointmentat the outcome of
problemsis not likely to be recognized by the the meeting, however, are then somewhatcom-
plant psychologist, whose job is to reintegrate pensated for by his taking quick advantageof
the problem worker back into the productivity his newfound popularity-by seducing the fac-
pattern and who thereforewill simply not even tory virgin in the car-seatencounterreferredto
consider the possibility that this obsession with earlier.
productivityis a large part of the problemitself. As the strike begins, Massa plays a leading
Meanwhile,the workershave called a general role in physically preventing the white-collar
meeting to hear various proposals for a strike. workersfrom enteringthe factory.First he hauls
The large Communistunion, attemptingto take a frightenedtime-studyoverseer out of the em-
advantageof-and at the same time head off- ployees' bus and extracts from him a hasty
the rising momentumstirredup by the Maoists pledge to honor the picket-line. Then Massa
who are agitatingeach morning at the factory leaps on the hood of the shop supervisor'scar
gates, has formed a united front with the two to prevent him from entering the parkinglot-
small noncommunistunions who are calling for an act which touches off a melee as the riot cops,
an increase in the incentive pay-rate on piece- who have obviously been on hand all along
work. A more militant stand is taken by the though hidden from view, charge the striking
small group of workersalignedwith the Maoist workers with clubs flailing. The strikers are
forced to flee; Massa offers his apartmentas a
refuge for the Maoists. This gets him in trouble,
however, with Lidia, who resents finding the
apartmentfilled with bearded longhairs, fears
that they'll steal her trinkets, and generallydis-
approvesof their politics. Shouting "I'll never
be a communist,"she indignantlyexclaims "I
want nice things and I'm willing to work for
them. I want a fur and I'll get one because I
deserve one." Taking the TV-set and her son
with her, she storms out, while Massa, trying to
cajole her into staying, promises "I'll get you a
CLASSGOESTO HEAVEN
WORKING WORKING
CLASS
GOES
TO
HEAVEN 57
57

fur." The Maoists, fearing that Lidia's wrath fronts simultaneously, in the local high schools
might prompt her to denounce their whereabouts as well as in the factories, the Maoists bluntly
to the police, quickly leave-sententiously citing tell Massa that his case doesn't interest them
"revolutionary caution." "at a personal level, only at a class level"-
Back at the picket line the next day, the strik- pointing out that their own personal careers and
ers are told that management wants to negotiate. health are being sacrificed to the cause.
However, when Massa tries to pass through the Thoroughly confused and demoralized, Massa
factory gates with his fellow workers to attend visits Militina once again at the mental institu-
the negotiating session, he is prevented from tion. Now fearing for his own sanity, Massa
entering and handed a notice of dismissal for his listens numbly as Militina recounts a dream of
role in the previous day's riot. Confused and knocking down the wall to Paradise. "Wherever
frustrated, Massa runs along the fence which there's a wall," shouts Militina, "knock it down!"
surrounds the factory, trying to find an un- Still in a funk, Massa leaves, but not before
guarded spot where he might climb over to join handing to Militina a big red package looking
his comrades. Petri expressively emphasizes suspiciously like guns.
Massa's sense of panic at this sudden disorient- Back in Massa's apartment, we come to the
ing of his life by having the camera track giddily real crisis, the central moment of the film-the
apace with Massa as he runs along the fence. individual worker, isolated and powerless, re-
Massa gets small consolation from a comrade duced to stasis and despair. The unshaven, ab-
who yells to him from inside the fence that his ject Massa morosely takes stock of what little
immediate reinstatement has been added to the remains of the threads of his life: innumerable
workers' demands-adding, however, that "the knick-knacks, four alarm clocks, "magic" can-
negotiations are likely to be long and compli- dles by Ronson (never used), a "loving couple"
cated: you'll just have to be patient." vase, a few worthless stock shares tucked away
Disconsolate at being cut off from "his" world, in a basement closet, and a huge inflatable Don-
Massa passes seemingly endless days in this ald Duck belonging to Lidia's son. Suddenly
limbo state. The negotiations drag on. Earlier, overwhelmed by the absurdity of this existence
when laid up with the hand-injury, Massa hadn't geared to mindless accumulation, Massa grabs
minded having time to reflect on his situation Donald Duck and tries to wring his neck-only
as a worker; but his lay-off then was only tem- causing the duck to emit a screeching sound.
porary. He knew he would soon go back to Finally, in a fit of fury, Massa presses his burn-
work, even if less dedicated to productivity. ing cigarette into Donald Duck's body, causing
Now, however, faced with the prospect of never Donald slowly to deflate. (At which point the
being able to return to his familiar place, Massa San Francisco Festival audience broke into loud
experiences tremendous anxiety. After all, it's applause.)
the only job he knows. Moreover, separated His frustration now spent, Massa wearily
from his wife and son-and now deserted by slumps down on the couch, and, without bother-
his mistress (and her son)-Massa fears that his ing to undress, pulls a blanket over himself and
whole world is falling apart. And to top it off, falls into a fitful sleep, only to be awakened
there's his nagging awareness that his sex life shortly thereafter by Lidia's unexpected return.
wasn't really that good-and now he's even got Petri moves the narrative swiftly at this point,
to put up with the psychologist's transparent at- signaling the couple's reconciliation simply by
tempts to read a castration complex into his cutting from Lidia's unexpected arrival (with
loss of the finger. the abject Massa asleep on the couch) to a shot
Desperately seeking reassurance and help, of the two of them being awakened in their dou-
Massa even finds himself rebuffed by the Maoist ble bed, an indeterminable amount of time later,
students. Carrying on their struggle on several by the buzzing of the doorbell.
58 58 WORKING
CLASSGOESTO HEAVEN

This time it's the jubilant union delegates, who up the finished product as it rolls off the assem-
tell the dazed Masa that the strike is settled, that bly line.
he's been reinstated, and that the workers have But just as he gets ready for the pick-up, the
won "a great victory." "It's the first time in our film ends: the shot freezes. We never see the
region that a worker fired for political activities finished product. It remains a mystery, although
has been reinstated." The irony of this is beau- a huge finger painted on the wall points down
tiful. All through the film, we, along with Massa, ominously and insistently to the spot where the
have gradually achieved a gut-level awareness end-product of the worker's labor should be.
of just how dehumanizing life in a factory really Having some of the qualities of a dream itself,
is; and now the "great victory" of the reformist this conclusion seems to suggest that even work-
unions merely allows a worker who was fired for ers' dreams are likely to be linear, mechanical
rebelling against the intolerable system to go models wherein all it would take to achieve a
back to work under that same intolerable system workers' paradise would be-as Militina, in his
. . . and be thankful for the chance. "And younger days, had demanded-knowledge of
what's more," the union men add, "we won the what product they were working on. Unfor-
pay increases on piece-work." tunately, as old Militina now realizes-in his
So the next day, life at the factory returns madness?-the task of achieving a workers'
to normal. Once again the workers, Massa paradise requires, among other things, guns
among them, file through the factory gates while . . . and the willingness to knock down walls.
Maoist militants with bullhorns try to stir them But the walls that present the biggest obsta-
up: "The sun isn't even up yet and you're going cles, as Petri's film provocatively emphasizes,
into the factory. When you come out it will be may be the walls imposed on the workers' minds
night. You won't see the sun today." -barriers erected by an industrial capitalist sys-
But the film doesn't quite end yet. In a brief tem which insidiously perpetuates the vulner-
concluding sequence we see Massa back at work. ability of the exploited worker by imprinting its
Only now, instead of turning out pieces on his machine-patterns on even the deepest level of
own machine, he's at work on the assembly line. his character.
As always, there's a lot of machine-noise, but
Massa manages to shout loud enough to com-
municate with the man next to him, telling him
about a dream he had the previous night. As
Massa recounts the dream, the man next to him
repeats the story, in turn, to the next man down
the line, and so on. Massa's dream, very similar Correspondence
&
to the one Militina recounted to Massa earlier,
is about breaking down the wall to Paradise.
When they hear it was a dream about Para- Controversy
dise, the workers each ask "How about me, was
I there too?" And the word gets passed on that ON INTERPRETING
BAZIN
all of them were there together in Paradise. There is a complexity about Brian Henderson's
Another question gets passed back up the line to analysis of the structure of Bazin's thought that,
Massa: "What were we doing?" But before we I cannot but feel, would have surprised Bazin
get a chance to hear the answer the camera sud- as much as it puzzles me. This is not to say that
denly picks up a worker pushing a cart and, in Mr. Henderson must therefore be mistaken,
a panning movement, follows him as he goes only that I find it hard to accept on the basis of
down the assembly line. At the end of the line his analysis that what I have so long felt to be
he swings the cart into place, adjusting it to pick so much of a piece, so whole and, while full of
58 58 WORKING
CLASSGOESTO HEAVEN

This time it's the jubilant union delegates, who up the finished product as it rolls off the assem-
tell the dazed Masa that the strike is settled, that bly line.
he's been reinstated, and that the workers have But just as he gets ready for the pick-up, the
won "a great victory." "It's the first time in our film ends: the shot freezes. We never see the
region that a worker fired for political activities finished product. It remains a mystery, although
has been reinstated." The irony of this is beau- a huge finger painted on the wall points down
tiful. All through the film, we, along with Massa, ominously and insistently to the spot where the
have gradually achieved a gut-level awareness end-product of the worker's labor should be.
of just how dehumanizing life in a factory really Having some of the qualities of a dream itself,
is; and now the "great victory" of the reformist this conclusion seems to suggest that even work-
unions merely allows a worker who was fired for ers' dreams are likely to be linear, mechanical
rebelling against the intolerable system to go models wherein all it would take to achieve a
back to work under that same intolerable system workers' paradise would be-as Militina, in his
. . . and be thankful for the chance. "And younger days, had demanded-knowledge of
what's more," the union men add, "we won the what product they were working on. Unfor-
pay increases on piece-work." tunately, as old Militina now realizes-in his
So the next day, life at the factory returns madness?-the task of achieving a workers'
to normal. Once again the workers, Massa paradise requires, among other things, guns
among them, file through the factory gates while . . . and the willingness to knock down walls.
Maoist militants with bullhorns try to stir them But the walls that present the biggest obsta-
up: "The sun isn't even up yet and you're going cles, as Petri's film provocatively emphasizes,
into the factory. When you come out it will be may be the walls imposed on the workers' minds
night. You won't see the sun today." -barriers erected by an industrial capitalist sys-
But the film doesn't quite end yet. In a brief tem which insidiously perpetuates the vulner-
concluding sequence we see Massa back at work. ability of the exploited worker by imprinting its
Only now, instead of turning out pieces on his machine-patterns on even the deepest level of
own machine, he's at work on the assembly line. his character.
As always, there's a lot of machine-noise, but
Massa manages to shout loud enough to com-
municate with the man next to him, telling him
about a dream he had the previous night. As
Massa recounts the dream, the man next to him
repeats the story, in turn, to the next man down
the line, and so on. Massa's dream, very similar Correspondence
&
to the one Militina recounted to Massa earlier,
is about breaking down the wall to Paradise.
When they hear it was a dream about Para- Controversy
dise, the workers each ask "How about me, was
I there too?" And the word gets passed on that ON INTERPRETING
BAZIN
all of them were there together in Paradise. There is a complexity about Brian Henderson's
Another question gets passed back up the line to analysis of the structure of Bazin's thought that,
Massa: "What were we doing?" But before we I cannot but feel, would have surprised Bazin
get a chance to hear the answer the camera sud- as much as it puzzles me. This is not to say that
denly picks up a worker pushing a cart and, in Mr. Henderson must therefore be mistaken,
a panning movement, follows him as he goes only that I find it hard to accept on the basis of
down the assembly line. At the end of the line his analysis that what I have so long felt to be
he swings the cart into place, adjusting it to pick so much of a piece, so whole and, while full of
CORRESPONDENCE
AND CONTROVERSY
CORRESPONDENCE CONTROVERSY
AND 59
59

paradox, so basically without contradiction or REPLY


self-conflicting concepts, is in many respects the Gray proposes a simple Bazin, whom I have
opposite. made complex. He does not, unfortunately,ad-
No one, it has always seemed to me, has held dressmy argumentsspecifically. Gray still finds
more consistently that the ontology and the Bazin consistent and unified; my argumentsto
philosophy of film are inseparably and casually the contrarymustbe faulty,but how arethey so?
connected. Nor, may I add, although this is not Grayperhapssuggeststhat a thinkeris presumed
the main point at issue, do I know of any critic consistentuntil proven inconsistent,as though:
(except his friend Amedee Ayfre) whose ontol- innocentuntil provenguilty. Since I have failed
ogy has such historically respectable roots in to make out the oppositecase (or at least failed
the schools of the west. to convince Gray), the consistency of Bazin's
Surely nothing more succinctly and neatly system stands. Gray may therefore ask me in
summarizes Bazin's historic - ontological ap- effect to begin all over againandto tell the court,
proach to cinema than the analogy of the on new grounds,why Bazin is inconsistent. But
in thought,unlike law, consistencyis no more a
asymptote. Nor could he have put it more
clearly than in his expression of a belief that the presumptionthan its opposite. In orderto make
year 2000 will salute the advent of a cinema free out a case for the unity of Bazin'ssystem, Gray
of the artificialities of montage, renouncing the (or someone else) would first have to construct
role of an "art of reality" so that it may climb it-identifying the principalpremises, showing
to its final level on which it will become, once theirinterrelations,etc. This has not been done.
and for all "reality made art"-a possibility that Under the terms of Gray's criticism,I am to
he sees foreshadowed in the films of de Sica- reread his introduction to Volume II, reread
Zavattini. One might even say that here ontology Bazin'sessays on neorealism,and then, it seems,
and history are fused! to recantof my own free will. I've done my re-
Introductions are notoriously unread and the readingand I do not recant. The historicalback-
only reference publicly made to my attempts to ground which Gray's introduction provides is
deal (in the introduction to Vol. II) with the quite interesting;it does not, however,settle the
ontology of Bazin's history and the history of question of the meaning of the texts writtenby
his ontology dismissed me as a would-be erudite Bazin. It is this question which my article ad-
showoff. May I ask Mr. Henderson to ignore dresses. I will not reproduce my arguments
that warning and to glance at those pages and here; I will only recall certain of the more im-
to reread, especially, the essays on neorealism. portant areas of inconsistency (or problem
He will then see how it could be that I might be areas) discovered in the Bazin texts. At the
theoretical level, Bazin uses the concepts of
puzzled along with others who are reading his
interesting study of Bazin's thought. reality and relation to reality in at least three
ways: physical and social reality as recordedby
Perhaps he would also be so kind as to indi- the camera;in the case of adaptationsfrom the
cate who the writers are in France, England and
theater,the reality of the play's text, its theatri-
America who are engaged in the "healthy and
cality; and the reality of film history. Fidelity
necessary process of going beyond Bazin"? What to each of these realitiesis different. Fidelity to
and where is this "beyond" for which these
physical reality is apparentlyinherentin photo-
scurrying critics are headed? Perhaps in his graphic reproduction but is achieved well or
third installment Mr. Henderson-whose in-
badly by different shooting and cutting styles.
telligence and integrity I deeply respect-will Directors of adaptationsmust be faithful to the
clear up these points for some of us.
theatricalityof the text; here the introduction
-HUGH GRAY of physical and social reality may be ruinousto
[Translator of What Is Cinema?] the film. The film critic must be faithful to the
60 60 CORRESPONDENCE
AND
CORRESPONDENCE CONTROVERSY
ANDCONTROVERSY

reality of film history, which includes all film the outset and proceeded to explore them in an
styles and all modes of adaptation known. Bazin open-minded way. I should have dropped the
uses the concept of film history or himself writes propositional-conclusory form, which suggests
about film history in at least three ways also. that I have the answers in advance, and adopted
'Theater and Cinema" and "In Defense of an investigatory form. As it is, the piece begins
Mixed Cinema" concern large-scale develop- several explorations which are somewhat cur-
ments in the international film industry, 1940- tailed by its rigidified form. There is another
1952, principally its turning to plays and novels point about the inconsistency theme. This was
for film subjects. In the majority of Bazin's es- not meant as a criticism of Bazin: inconsistent
says, individual films and directors are chosen therefore deficient. Since Hegel we know that
and discussed by Bazin as aesthetic highpoints contradictions are the constituent elements of
within film history, conceived on an art-histori- thought systems and their link with later work
cal model of formal innovation and excellence. also. We analyze the contradictions in a body
(My original article argues that reality means of work in order to see how it is put together
something different in each of these essays. Vis- (dismantling -- demystification) and to deter-
conti's "aesthetic realism," Fellini's "poetic real- mine what it cannot explain. The premises we
ism," etc.) "The Evolution of the Language of differentiate can then be put together differently
Cinema" propounds a version of film history or combined with others to produce new theo-
wherein film production as a whole has become retical structures overcoming previous contra-
more realistic at each of several technological dictions. Thus contradictions in Bazin are both
stages: sound, panchromatic stock, composition a key to his work as it stands and a key to post-
in depth, etc. These are some of the opposing di- Bazinian developments as well. In short, film
rections in which Bazin's work goes; I leave it theoretical work, like other kinds, will often be
to the reader to work out the strictly logical con- this plodding activity of deriving and reworking
sistencies and inconsistencies involved, if inter- premises through the method of consistency.
ested. It is true that Bazin sometimes uses the That there is a great deal more to discover in
analogy of the asymptote, but he speaks of real- Bazin, especially in Volume II, I am sure Gray
ity and history in the other ways I have indicated and I agree. But film people seem to be bored
also. with Bazin now, few have read Volume II care-
Despite my protests, I will do some self-criti- fully. And they are certainly bored with neo-
cism anyway. Though I adhere to its principal realism. Nevertheless (I assert) Bazin's neoreal-
analyses and conclusions, certain aspects of my ist essays contain the key to Rossellini, the key
article were unclear and perhaps misleading. I to Fellini, even perhaps the key to Visconti.
over-simplified in suggesting (at times) a clear- Bazin's essays on these directors remain the best
cut, overall conflict between ontology and his- written on them, often illuminating films made
tory, when these are more accurately tendencies by them after his death. And through these fig-
or motifs which overlap and interweave in many ures, other figures are illuminated. Any key to
different ways in Bazin's work. (If anything, Rossellini is at least half a key to Godard. Any
then, my analysis of Bazin's thought is insuffi- key to Rossellini and Godard is at least two
ciently complex.) This over-schematizing is ac- thirds a key to Bertolucci. Of course I exagger-
centuated by the rhetorical form of the article, ate. There are in any case no ultimate keys.
which proposes a division in Bazin's work, mar- One must agree with Barthes that every critic is
shals arguments in support of this thesis, then "utterly subjective, utterly historical." Still, due
returns to it and restates it in conclusion. This partly to the paradox that all of his favorite di-
conclusion-that Bazin is inconsistent-is not rectors are still making films, Bazin remains not
very interesting in itself and it leads nowhere. I only better than contemporary critics but even
should have assumed Bazin's inconsistencies at more contemporary than they are. And while
FILMREVIEWS _L_

we are on the subject, it becomes necessary to


urge Hugh Gray and the University of Califor-
nia Press to carry through their Bazin project
to its end, by translatingthe rest of Qu'est-ce
que le Cinema? There are essential things re-
maining, the essays on Senso, La Strada, II
Bidone, Europa 51, L'Oro di Napoli, Los Olvi-
dalos, and many others. We must have these.
-BRIAN HENDERSON

Film Reviews

SOUNDER
Director:MartinRitt. Producer:RobertRadnitz.Script: LonneElder
Ill. Photography:John A. Alonzo. TwentiethCentury-Fox. SOUNDER
Sounderis a celebrationof black Americanlife.
It shows us a family of sharecroppersin the De-
pressionwho, despitethe continual,inescapable tion becausetheir needs and potentialas human
social, political, and economic injustice waged beings are so much less than those of white
againstthem-as againstall black Americans- people. At the sametime, it escapesthe counter-
survivenot justphysicallybut spirituallyas well: vailing modern white liberal or radical view
each member whole in himself and the family which sees blacks as only a social problem or
itself intact, despite the year-longseparationof sees them as people only negatively:as maimed,
the father. In showing us this family, the film deprived, suffering, destroyed. Answering a
tells us, or shows us, that black Americanshave white critic who seemed to feel "thatunrelieved
as rich a tradition as white Americans or any suffering is the only 'real' Negro experience,"
other group; that their lives have been full of who seemed to look at a black man and see "not
strength,joy, family feeling, and heroism;that a human being but an abstractembodimentof
even while excluded from, or oppressedwithin, living hell," Ralph Ellison wrote:
the mainstreamof American society they have But thereis also an AmericanNegro tradition
been as much part of the land, as American, as which teaches one to deflect racial provoca-
any other Americans. The film does this with tion and to master and contain pain. It is a
a full sense of the weight of the injustice,of the traditionwhich abhorsas obscene any trading
continualsufferingit causes, and of the need to on one's anguishfor gain or sympathy;which
eliminateit. springsnot from a desire to deny the harsh-
Thus the film escapes the old benign racist ness of existence but from a will to deal with
stereotypeof blacks as content in their depriva- it as men at their best have always done. It
FILMREVIEWS _L_

we are on the subject, it becomes necessary to


urge Hugh Gray and the University of Califor-
nia Press to carry through their Bazin project
to its end, by translatingthe rest of Qu'est-ce
que le Cinema? There are essential things re-
maining, the essays on Senso, La Strada, II
Bidone, Europa 51, L'Oro di Napoli, Los Olvi-
dalos, and many others. We must have these.
-BRIAN HENDERSON

Film Reviews

SOUNDER
Director:MartinRitt. Producer:RobertRadnitz.Script: LonneElder
Ill. Photography:John A. Alonzo. TwentiethCentury-Fox. SOUNDER
Sounderis a celebrationof black Americanlife.
It shows us a family of sharecroppersin the De-
pressionwho, despitethe continual,inescapable tion becausetheir needs and potentialas human
social, political, and economic injustice waged beings are so much less than those of white
againstthem-as againstall black Americans- people. At the sametime, it escapesthe counter-
survivenot justphysicallybut spirituallyas well: vailing modern white liberal or radical view
each member whole in himself and the family which sees blacks as only a social problem or
itself intact, despite the year-longseparationof sees them as people only negatively:as maimed,
the father. In showing us this family, the film deprived, suffering, destroyed. Answering a
tells us, or shows us, that black Americanshave white critic who seemed to feel "thatunrelieved
as rich a tradition as white Americans or any suffering is the only 'real' Negro experience,"
other group; that their lives have been full of who seemed to look at a black man and see "not
strength,joy, family feeling, and heroism;that a human being but an abstractembodimentof
even while excluded from, or oppressedwithin, living hell," Ralph Ellison wrote:
the mainstreamof American society they have But thereis also an AmericanNegro tradition
been as much part of the land, as American, as which teaches one to deflect racial provoca-
any other Americans. The film does this with tion and to master and contain pain. It is a
a full sense of the weight of the injustice,of the traditionwhich abhorsas obscene any trading
continualsufferingit causes, and of the need to on one's anguishfor gain or sympathy;which
eliminateit. springsnot from a desire to deny the harsh-
Thus the film escapes the old benign racist ness of existence but from a will to deal with
stereotypeof blacks as content in their depriva- it as men at their best have always done. It
62 62 FILMREIW
FIL REVIEWS

takes fortitude to be a man . . . ["The would be hollow without it. When Rebecca,
World and the Jug," in Shadow and Act]. setting out on the long trek to town to see
There is nothing commendable, let alone Nathan in prison, says goodbye to her children,
heroic,in acquiescencein an avoidableinjustice. preparingthem for her absence, we are shown
But insofar as the injusticeis intractable,insofar in the most unemphatic way, through small
as the choice is betweenliving with injusticeand nuances, both her anxiety and the way she is
not living at all-and this has been the principal concealingit to protectthem.And we get a sense
choice for blackAmericansthroughouttheirhis- of the deep, complex, unmeditatedstructureof
tory-then survivalwith injusticecan be heroic. this woman's love for her children-its com-
This is the heroismthe film is about-a heroism bination of strength, tenderness,intuition, and
of an altogetherdifferentand more meaningful courage-and of the structure of feeling uniting
order than the fantasy heroism of the recent the whole family. And there is the same kind of
black James Bond-type super-heros. resonancein scenes of more ordinarymoments,
The screenplayby Lonne ElderIII was adapt- which convey the everydayrhythmor risingand
ed from WilliamH. Armstrong'sbook Sounder, going to sleep, work and play, and the minute
which won the Newberry Medal, a children's interchanges between characters and between
book award. The storyis simple,and I'm simpli- the charactersand their environment.
fying it more, leavingout a numberof incidents, In all this the film's visual style is funda-
including almost everything concerning the mental. Martin Ritt, the director, has chosen a
hunting dog, Sounder. The Morgans-Nathan, style built largely on long shots and long takes,
Rebecca, their son David, and his younger and the result is a naturalismcharacterizedby
brother and sister-are a family of sharecrop- a respect for wholeness, proportion, and con-
pers in Louisianain 1933. Unableto get enough tinuity-for natural spatial and temporal rela-
food to feed his family,Nathan stealssome meat tions. In the long shots which take in the house,
from a white man's home. He is apprehended, the land around it, and the members of the fam-
tried, and sent to prison camp for one year's ily fulfilling their various functions, together
hard labor. There is some questionwhetherthe even when they are not in each other's field of
rest of the family can plant and gatherthe crops vision; or in tracking shots, such as the one which
in his absence; if not, they may lose the farm. moves from Rebecca outside to the children
David, who is around 11, walks for days with waking up, follows them through the kitchen
Sounderto the prisoncamp to see his fatherbut and then outside to their parents, or the ones
cannot find him. On this journey he meets which follow the family and friends on their way
Camille, a young teacher, educated and en- from church, the meaning is inseparable from
lightened as well as kind, who is mistress of a the style itself: the unity of these people with
school with only black children. He stays with each other and with the land; the way each of
her for a day or so, then returns home. The these lives is a whole in which joy and suffering,
family succeeds in finishing the crop on time. work, play, and rest, inner life and the external
Nathan comes home, and the family is reunited. world in which the person moves are finally uni-
But Camille has invited David to stay with her fied and continuous.
and join her school, and the story ends with Ritteschewsthe use of cuttingespeciallywhen
Nathan driving him there. it would falsify or distort a situation. He never
The simplicity of the story frees the film- uses it for surprise and seldom to emphasize a
makersto concentrateon the real matter of the point, preferring to let the effect derive from
film: the textureand nuancesof the life they are the situation itself. Thus he almost never uses
depicting. This is what gives the film its force a cut to introduce a character new to a sequence.
and meaning and gives substance to the grander As the family nears home and the sheriff and
implications of its story and dialogue, which his deputy are waiting there to arrest Nathan,
FILMREVIEWS I~~~~~~~~~~
FIMIEVEW 63
6

we know something is wrong first from Sound- than beatings and lynchings.
er's barking. We initially see the men quite Nevertheless Sounder strikes us with some of
small, in long shot, in the right side of the frame. the quality of a fairy tale or a fable-and is open
Whereas most directors would cut to a close-up to the charge of sentimentality. This charge is
or medium shot long before, Ritt does not allow valid in only a very limited way. The film is
us to see them even in medium shot until Nathan sentimental, I find, in the absence of almost any
has reached them. This restraint, proportion, harshness in the soft, lyrical tones of its colors
and lack of emphasis, this refusal to draw more and its composition or any harshness in the way
from the situation than is inherently there, makes the members of the family impinge on each
the scene more, not less, forceful, because we other. The kind of restraint, the suppression or
believe it more and do not feel manipulated. perhaps the sublimation of rage that character-
I wish Ritt had gone even further in his avoid- izes the parents' behavior toward their children
ance of conventional montage. I have the feel- -they virtually never let out the force of their
ing that, from fear of monotony or some other anger or frustration against them-seems to me
lack of conviction, he failed to follow his much more characteristic of a middle-class fam-
stylistic inclination to the limit. But when, after ily, white or black, than of a poor, unlettered
Nathan's sentence is declared, Ritt cuts to a re- laboring family. In even the most loving such
action shot of David's face falling-or in other family I would expect a much freer and more
places where he gives in to conventional montage open expression of minor, momentary hostility.
-the weakness, the hackneyed quality, the But another part of the fairy-tale quality
slight sentimentality come precisely from the comes from a kind of modulation, a refusal to
way of cutting. go to the extremes of violence, suffering or con-
A major aspect of the film's wholeness, even- frontation. For example, when Mrs. Boatwright,
handedness, and sense of proportion-and it is the "good" white woman, peeks at the files and
of course the combined product of Elder's finds out what camp Nathan is in, the deputy
screenplay, Ritt's handling of his camera, his threatens to ruin her reputation in the town if
handling of his actors, and their performances- she discloses the information. But she tells the
is a refusal to caricature. In a film with black Morgans, and nothing comes of the threat. This
heroes the temptation to caricature the whites may seem like an evasion. Yet the deputy would
who are the agents of their oppression is very have almost no way to find out she told them.
great. In fact this is so much what we expect Or when Nathan, slightly lame after his return,
that the thwarting of these expectations is a con- stumbles and gets hit by the draw-bar of the
siderable source of power. The "villains" we see cane press, we think he is going to die or have
here-the sheriff, the deputies, the judge, the a concussion or at least be knocked unconscious.
landlord, David's regular schoolteacher-mere But no, he is just stunned and humiliated at the
toadies of a larger structure, are seen as medi- diminishment of his powers.
ocre, pathetic, petty, prejudiced. But they are If we rush in to call such modulations or
not made into raving sadists, and their being omissions dishonest or sentimental, I think we
granted their small share of humanity makes us are measuring the movie not against life but
all the more able to appreciate the superior hu- rather against other movies, or against plays and
manity of the Morgan family. I would guess novels, which-taking their cue originally from
that the constant humiliation and oppression that Greek tragedy-have almost always been found-
the Morgans are seen to suffer at their hands, ed on a radical deformation of the shape of
generally not dramatic or even too overt pre- existence: on coincidence, extreme situations,
cisely because it is a stable symptom of a stable denouements. In real life, head-on unmodu-
racism, is much closer to the actual day-to-day lated confrontations and violent deaths are the
experience of sharecroppers during this period exception. For most people, death is a gradual
64 FILMREVIEWS

process of weariness and loss of one's powers-


such as we see beginning in Nathan-of which
the actual death is merely the ultimate step. Film Studies from
What may first seem sentimentality is really the G.K.HALL&CO.
opposite: a respect for the real form and propor-
tions of life, including the real forms and pro- MOTION PICTURES: A Catalog of
portions of its suffering. Books, Periodicals, Screen Plays and
When David is at Camille's house the first Production Stills. Theatre Arts Library,
time, she reads him a beautiful passage from University of California at Los Angeles
W. E. B. DuBois about how the unique wisdom This invaluable guide to the primary sources and
blacks have gained from their experience could secondary studies on motion pictures represents
the holdings in the University Library Collection.
contribute to the culture at large. The passage It is divided into three sections: Books and Peri-
comes from The Souls of Black Folk (1903) odicals which is a comprehensive research collec-
from (although one would not guess this from tion on the historical, critical, aesthetical, bio-
the passage alone) a chapter called "On the graphical, and technical aspects of motion pic-
tures. The personal papers, records, and mem-
Training of Black Men," a strong statement orabilia of many personalities including Jack
about the need for education for black people. Benny, Stanley Kramer,John Ilousemen, Charles
And by education, DuBois-unlike Booker T. Laughton, and King Vidor are listed here. An
important part of the sources is an extensive
Washington-means not just technical training, number of clippings, production records and
preparation for particular trades, but, as he in- screenplays from the Republic Studios Collec-
tion; Productioni Stills which lists alphabetically
sists, education in the widest sense: culture, by title 87,000 stills for American and foreign
knowledge of the world outside and of "the rich films dating from 1905. Included are listings
experience of the past." For DuBois this is an for the Jessen Collection, the Faragoh Collec-
tion, Richard Dix films, and the Columbia Pic-
absolutely necessary and inseparable part of the tures Stills Collection; The Screenplays section
movement toward the complete political, social, covers the unpublished scripts of over 3,000
and economic equality of blacks, which he, also American, British, and foreign films-including
in contrast to Washington, insists on. those of Ingmar Bergman-with the Metro-Gold-
wyn-Mayer feature films from 1924 to 1947.
This kind of education, which David is about 2 volumes (7 x 10), 1169 pp. 197.3 $70.00
to embark on, is something that Rebecca and ISBN: 0-8161-1027-1
Nathan, for all their humanity, lack-and which
offers something further: knowledge of the FILM RESEARCH: A Critical Bibliog-
world outside, of one's place in it, of how one's raphy with Annotations and Essays
position needs to be changed, and of some of Compiled by Peter J. Bukalski. This new work
concentrates on books in film history; theory
the means to do so. The film doesn't say, or and criticism; film production; film genre; the
even explicitly ask, what political conclusions or sociology and economics of film; national cine-
political results this education will lead to. Will mas; film scripts; works about particular films;
personalities, biographies and filmographies;
it show that assimilation is the answer and per- film education; film related works; bibliogra-
haps help bring it about? Or separatism? Or phies, guides and indexes.
revolution? Or is there a solution? Has anyone, 1 volume (7 x 10), 215 pp., approx. 3,110
en tries. 1972. ISBN:0-8161-09 71-0 $12.50
in the 40 years since the film takes place, found
the answers to these questions? We cannot blame Complete descriptive material available
the film for not answering them, and even posing upon request.
l^^ l Prices 10% higher outside the U. S.
them explicitly would have misshaped it and
made it a worse, not a better film. It ends by
pointing to the first step in the journey, but it
G.KI ALL &CO.
never says the journey will be short or easy. 70 Lincoln Street Boston, Mass 02111
-PAUL WARSHOW
Were in
the Money
Depression America And It's Films
Andrew Bergman
During the years of the Great Depression, 70 million Americans
went to the movies every week. Setting Hollywood's products
against the background of economic and social disaster, Mr.
Bergman traces the assumptions and myths embodied in the movies
and demonstrates the subtle ways in which they helped the
nation's institutions and values survive the decade intact. ". . . An
important contribution to the study of movies as cultural
artifacts. "- Journal of Popular Film "This work is well
documented with a good bibliography and a six-page index.
Hopefully, Bergman will one day examine the films of other
decades. Highly recommended. "- CHOICE

192 pages Illustrated LC 74-159533


SBN 8147-0964-8 7.95

THE

Standish Dyer Lawder


A study in the history of film as modern art. It is a scholarly ORDER
FROM:
DIRECTLY
examination of the interrelationships between the Cubist
movement in painting and its manifestations in film. It seeks to
explore such questions as the nature of early filmic expression and
its significance in early 20th century art. How might the earliest
IL
films have been perceived by modern artists? How has film
influenced modern art? What films in themselves are notable
contributions to early 20th century art, particularly Cubism?
New
256 pages 70 Illustrations LC 72-96466
SBN 8147-4956-9 York
Univei rsity
ISQARE,
WASHINGTON
Press
NEWYORK 3
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