Judith Godrèche affair: “The attacks against auteur cinema and the “Cahiers du cinéma” are unfounded and misplaced”

Judith Godrèche’s accusations against Benoît Jacquot and Jacques Doillon, her reproaches and the questions addressed to the cinema community had the side effect of virulent attacks against auteur cinema, the politics that promoted it, the New Wave and Cinema Notebooks . These attacks abound in newspapers, on social networks, in various online magazines, on radio and television. The most concise expression was given by Laure Murat in a column in Le Monde on February 17, moreover precise and measured, with a formula used as a hook by the newspaper: “Through Jacquot and Doillon, it is symbolically auteur cinema, consecrating the omnipotence of the director, who finds himself targeted. »

I would like to say that this is a misinterpretation, old but now repeated everywhere, about what auteur cinema means and the direction that is inseparable from it. The notion of cinema author, the beginnings of which can be found in Louis Delluc, was promoted as a policy by Cahiers du cinéma in 1955, and the first mention of the term is found under the pen of François Truffaut in the February issue .

However, contrary to what is said or written here and there, this policy has never consisted of promoting the omnipotence of a capitalized (or masculine) author: it was equally valid for Agnès Varda, Marguerite Duras, Vera Chytilova or Shirley Clarke…), but that of the staging. To put it more clearly, she asserted that the true author of a film was neither the screenwriter, nor the leading actress or actor, nor the cinematographer or producer, but the director. The staging is understood not as a simple ornamental image of a pre-existing story, but as a spatio-temporal construction of a world of images and sounds populated by bodies speaking, acting, undergoing, looking or dreaming. And in its highest manifestation, the invention – to use Merleau-Ponty speaking of Cézanne – of a form that thinks.

Intimidation and terror

In the expression “authors’ politics”, it is to the always forgotten term “politics” that we must attribute the excesses, the injustices and the provocations which marked this moment in the history of cinema. Do we really believe the proponents of this policy are stupid enough to ignore that the making of a film is the result of collective work and that some owe a large part of their beauty to the excellence of the interpretation (that of James Dean, on whom François Truffaut wrote a long panegyric) or in the style of a producer, Val Lewton, David Selznick or Irving Thalberg? Should we take them seriously, did they do it themselves when they proclaimed that the best film of the coming year would be that of Jean Renoir, whose filming would begin eight days later?

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