From Sight and Sound (November 1991). -– J.R.
Play it again
The Cult Film Experience: Beyond AII Reason
J. P. Telotte (ed), University of Texas Press,
$36, 218 pp.
“It will be a sad day when a too smart audience will read Casablanca as conceived by Michael Curtiz after having read Calvino and Barthes”, Umberto Eco wrote in 1984. “But that day will come”. J. P. Telotte’s collection reminds us that Eco’s sad day is already well behind us — though it turns out to be Eco himself rather than Calvino or Barthes who provides the principal theoretical back-up.
Serious analysis of film cults can be traced back to a 1932 essay by Harry Alan Potamkin, but you won’t find Potamkin’s name in Telotte’s index. Indeed, apart from some cursory acknowledgments, the book fosters the impression that the arrival of film cults coincided with the burgeoning of film studies in the early 70s. This suggests that academic film study is itself an unacknowledged form of cult activity predicated on repeated viewings by a fetishistically inclined minority audience which reappropriates the film in question for its own specialized purposes.
One of these purposes is institutional, which accounts for the academics’ frequent recourse to the self- validating and ahistorical term ‘classical’ to dignify both mainstream movie-making and established film theory.… Read more »
The avoidance or frequent absence of history on the Internet is often a problem, but I’ve rarely seen it exploited so shamelessly and cripplingly as it is in a post supposedly “celebrating” Godard’s 82th birthday that quotes fifteen filmmakers on the subject of Godard, including Godard himself, arranged alphabetically from Chantal Akerman to Wim Wenders.
Let’s start with the first sentence in the first quotation, from Akerman: “You can see him excluding himself from the world in an almost autistic manner.” Is this the Godard of For Ever Mozart, the Godard of Film Socialisme, or a much earlier Godard? It’s impossible to understand, much less evaluate what Akerman is saying, without knowing the answer to this question. Pretend that this doesn’t matter and you’re pointlessly sliming both Akerman and Godard, for no good reason.
Five quotes later, we get, “Luis Buñuel: I’ll give him two years more, he is just a fashion.” Obviously, this statement was made when Buñuel was still alive, which means he had to have said it at some point between, say, 1960 and 1983. Lots of leg room in there — about 30 features’ worth.
And one quote later, from Godard himself: “I am not an auteur, well, not now anyway.”… Read more »
The BBC has just asked me for this list. I took care to split this evenly between fiction and non-fiction. — J.R.
1. The House is Black (Forough Farrokhzad, 1963)
2. The Enchanted Desna (Yulia Solntseva, 1964)
3. Mix-up ou Méli-Mélo (Françoise Romand, 1986)
4. Vagabond (Agnès Varda, 1985)
5. The Asthenic Syndrome (Kira Muratova, 1989)
6. Passionless Moments (Jane Campion, 1983)
7. From the Other Side (Chantal Akerman, 2002)
8. You Are Not I (Sara Driver, 1981)
9. Daisies (Vera Chytilová, 1966)
10. Aragane (Oda Kaori, 2015)… Read more »