IV. Vanishing points (1975-1980) - The enigma-bodies (paranoid politics)
A word (“body”) had allowed everybody to eventually disengage from political jargon. Barthes, once again, was first. A great use and abuse of the word “body” will take place – in Cahiers, especially in the following texts. And not without reason. What other “politique” can a filmmaker film than that which, sooner or later, goes through observable and imaginable bodies? The body of actors predisposed to this affection, or the anonymous bodies collected randomly in documentaries?
These texts are a sort of Cahiers’ “retro period,” resolutely not naturalist, dealing with a series of disjointed, broken up, even burlesque bodies. It’s the end of the decade. Cinema is at the heart of a mutation: any certitude about the nature of the image is now collapsing. In a ricochet effect, television, video and electronic images bring the re-emergence of these archaic and raw things: theatre, cabaret, puppets, circus. The footlight is returning. Each film must somehow establish its own theory of the singular nature of its filmic objects. The chemical image tips over into the idea that it is “a thing of the past.” The computer-generated image realises the utopia (until now the exclusivity of cartoons) of an image without traces of the accumulation of something upon reality. The Bazinian issue and the associated ethics are, in worst cases, obsolete.
The “politique des auteurs” is still the order of the day. But it’s no longer joyous. As for the auteurs dearest to Cahiers, we should talk about them as Deleuze does, as single war machines, with cinema as one of their weapons, and a definition, each time personal, of their cinema.
Those mentioned here, far from the candid pleasure of narration, are concerned with known stories or cursed aspects of History. They are searching for a body of images for paranoid politics. They create it ex nihilo, or over the ruins of past cinema.
The body always remains an enigma as to what it can do or what it contains, as to what sets it in motion or what holds it down. An enigma with a thousand faces: erotic and political for Pasolini (the working-class body), smooth and inhabited by the demon for Spielberg (catastrophic and puritan America), playful and trivial for Syberberg (the puppets of Nazism), hypothetical and dreamed for Sembene Ousmane (the body of the African oral tradition), human, all too human for Straub and Fuller (even gods are an enigma!).This text introduces the following articles:
- The “off” discourse (Illumination by Krzyztoff Zanussi)
- Notes on Salo
- Grey matter (Jaws by S. Spielberg) (extract)
- The Syberberg-state (Hitler, a film from Germany)
- Praising Tati (extract)
- What did they say? (Ceddo by Ousmane Sembene)
- Morale of perception (From the clouds to the resistance by Straub-Huillet)
- The fury of story-telling (The Big Red One by S. Fuller)