André Bazin

Dudley Andrew

in Cinema and Media Studies

ISBN: 9780199791286
Published online October 2011 | | DOI:
André Bazin

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André Bazin (b. 1918–d. 1958) may well be the most influential critic ever to have written about cinema. He contributed daily reviews to Paris’s largest-circulation newspaper, Le Parisien libéré, and wrote hundreds of essays for weeklies (Le nouvel observateur, Télérama) and such esteemed monthly journals as Esprit and Cahiers du cinéma (which he cofounded). A social activist, he directed cine-clubs and, from 1945 to 1950, worked for the Communist outreach organization Travail et Culture. He befriended Jean Renoir, Roberto Rossellini, Orson Welles, and Luis Buñuel and was a father figure to the critics at Cahiers who would create the New Wave just after he died. He adopted the delinquent François Truffaut, who dedicated The 400 Blows to him. Bazin’s influence spread to critics and filmmakers in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Asia, where today, for instance, Jia Zhangke salutes Bazin as formative to his approach. One of Bazin’s first essays, “The Ontology of the Photographic Image” (“Ontology” essay; 1945), anchors much of what he would produce. It legitimates his taste for documentaries, for neorealism, and for directors who don’t use images rhetorically but to explore reality. Criticized by communists for writing “The Stalin Myth in the Soviet Cinema,” he would be posthumously satirized by Marxist academics for his presumed naïve faith in cinema’s ability to deliver true appearances transparently. These attacks now seem parochial. He was influenced by Bergson, Malraux, and Sartre. He specialized in literature as a brilliant student at the École normale supérieure, where he also was passionate about geology, geography, and psychology. Metaphors from the sciences frequently appear in his articles. While many of his acolytes are “humanists,” particularly devotees of the “auteur policy,” it is increasingly clear that Bazin attends equally to systems within which films are made and viewed, including technology, economics, and censorship. Of more than 2,600 articles he wrote, only 220 or so are easy to access in anthologies. He personally collected 52 of his most significant pieces in What is Cinema? Other collections then appeared thanks to Truffaut, Éric Rohmer, and other devotees. Obviously, those who have written about Bazin have done so knowing only a fraction of his output. Still, that output is considered consistent, rich, and consequential. Bazin’s impact will undoubtedly grow as more of his pieces become available.

Article.  9704 words. 

Subjects: Media Studies ; Film ; Radio ; Television

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