Daily | Recently, Serge Daney

Serge Daney

Serial images

Laurent Kretzschmar has put together quite an entry on Serge Daney‘s “idea of a ‘mannerism’ in cinema, a concept he used a lot for a while before seemingly abandoning it.” He quotes, for example, from a 1982 review of Francis Ford Coppola’s One From the Heart in which Daney asks, “How can one define this mannerism? Nothing happens to human beings, everything happens to images—to Images. Images become characters with pathos, pawns in the game. We tremble for them, we want them to be kindly treated, they are no longer just produced by the camera, but manufactured outside it, and its ‘pre-visualization,’ thanks to video, is the object of what little love is left in the cold hearts (I am exaggerating) of the filmmakers. In a mannerist world, actors ‘of flesh, blood and celluloid’ are quickly reduced to the status of stand-ins and quotations of themselves, to visual signals. They’re still there, but they’ve ceased to be interesting ages ago.” Passages from other reviews and essays follow.

Stoffel Debuysere‘s translated an essay by Daney that appeared in the July-August issue of Cahiers du Cinéma: “Straub and Huillet basically start from a simple irrefutable fact: Nazism happened. Because of Nazism, the German people of today is not reconciled with itself (Machorka-Muff, Nicht Versöhnt), but the Jews aren’t either (Moses und Aron, Einleitung). Nazism, like any power but more than any other, challenges and provokes the artists, and as a result artists no longer have the right to be irresponsible: Schoenberg is still not reconciled with Kandinsky, neither is Brecht with Schoenberg. In the Straubian system, a retro mode is simply ludicrous. Everything is in the present.”

Debuysere‘s followed up, too, with a set of notes on the evolution of the notion of “point of view”—what it meant for Daney, the Cahiers crowd after the mid-70’s (“Bazin was back in the game, as if he had never been gone”), and eventually to Straub, who wrote: “Each image is a frame, and each frame is what the Germans call an Einstellung: which means one has to know how to situate oneself in regards to what is shown, at which distance, and at which distance of refusal and fraternity… It is a point of view on the world, touching upon moral and political opinions. One has to know how to einstell in relation to what one films and what one will show. If not one is just an irresponsible artist.” Debuysere: “This ethics not only applies to militant or ethnographic film, as one would think; as Godard and others have persistently tried to tell us, it concerns the very act of filming itself.”

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