Question: The idea of modernity can only be associated with barbarism?
Danièle Huillet: If it is handled by the bourgeoisie, certainly...
--In May, 2003, Huillet sent a letter to the Brussels Cinematek (here), in reply to their interest in including Straub and her films in a themed program called Paysages. "The theme 'Landscape' is madness," she wrote, and listed the films of others that could be shown:
TROUBLE WITH HARRY (Hitchcock)
UNE NOUVELLE AVENTURE DE BILLY THE KID (Moullet)
DIE NORD KALOTTE (Peter Nestler)
and Nestler's latest film on the VAL D'AOSTE.
Contemporary with Erich von Stroheim's THE MERRY WIDOW (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), John Ford directed KENTUCKY PRIDE in 1925 for Fox (6597 feet).
Ford made four films in 1925: LIGHTNIN', KENTUCKY PRIDE, THE FIGHTING HEART, and THANK YOU.
KENTUCKY PRIDE is the story of a horse through a horse menaced by money, exploitation, and physical injury--which of course can mean death for a horse at the hands of man--and loved by stableboys and life's gamblers, to the point of fame.
KENTUCKY PRIDE was a popular film. It played at the Seattle, Washington, Pantages Theater preceded by the short "Hungry Hounds", a Pathe newsreel, and a Vaudeville musical program; at the Majestic Theater in Houston, Texas, with Pathe "Aesop's Fables" cartoons...
For no particular reason KENTUCKY PRIDE is one of the rarest, least screened of Ford's films, though MoMA New York holds a fine print...
The following is an English translation of an excerpt about KENTUCKY PRIDE from an interview with Huillet and Straub entirely on John Ford from the Ford Cahiers du cinémahors serie of 1995.
Huillet and Straub on
John Ford's KENTUCKY PRIDE
STRAUB: In Ford there is an absolutely insane social acuity with every character. After having seen KENTUCKY PRIDE and LIGHTNIN', both equally magnificent, I finally understood the question I'd asked myself for a long time about Ford. While there is a story, a fiction, a narrative that proves itself more and more rich as the film progresses, this does not prevent Ford from beginning in an extremely documentary manner, poor at the level of story, as if there weren't going to be any narration -- one also finds this in DR. BULL. Take a look at KENTUCKY PRIDE: for how long do we see the horses? (In the film we see many shots of horses before their "professional" life --Ed.) And it's even more amazing with the text on the screen, and to think of what Bresson said to us when we visited him in 1954 and told him about our project CHRONICLE OF ANNA MAGDALENA BACH. We talked a little and he let fly: "It is the word which creates the image." Danièle started getting pissed off. These horses, they're there and they tell a different story.
HUILLET: Ford, in his shots, doesn't tell the story that's in the text of the intertitles. We have the shots and understand what's going on between the characters.
STRAUB: One understands a silent Ford with Czech intertitles better than a Mizoguchi without subtitles.
HUILLET: He doesn't try to mimic something about horses that would correspond to the text. Ford and his horses, that was the technique of the miracles in MOSES UND ARON. That was Fordian, indeed.
STRAUB: It wasn't me who said it (laughs. Silence). He filmed his horses as we filmed the snake.
HUILLET: And Ford, who didn't love camera movement, here, because of the horses, moves a lot. Just as we did with the snake. It forced us to move.
STRAUB: We had planned a fixed shot with a snake crossing the frame, but that doesn't exist. We filmed 985 feet times three with a constantly moving camera. With horses it's the same. Incidentally there's no narration, just the documentary, a film begins. Slowly, the narrative becomes richer and it never kills the documentary, it doesn't vampirize it. With Ford, the fiction is never pretentious, it's not a parasite that kills the tree of cinema, an acid that eats everything, a smoke that gets in your eyes, but a thing set at the level of children's stories while still being extremely rich, with the full weight of reality.
HUILLET: That was the whole problem posed by MOSES UND ARON, namely, that one must not let the images block the imagination; it's like that with Ford from the very beginning, that's the way he breathes. Ford doesn't saturate the imagination or reality with anything he shows or tells, and that is extraordinary.
Past May Day Commemorations of Danièle Huillet on Kino Slang
Or the return to sources: it is, more than ever, the shot, the image that is guiding the film; it’s its logic that is in charge of the events. That is, any remark is in vain that doesn’t first take this into account: white and black, their nuances, their contrasts, their interplay and conflicts: this is the subject matter of Judex — but without referent, or reference, to some ‘beyond’, or abstract signification, within their appearances alone, and those by which they dress things up. Of those obscure silhouettes clinging to the length of a wall bathed by Kleig lights, there is nothing to infer, except to contemplate their inexorable ascent; of those human-birds, metaphysical-nothing, except to follow the ritual of an unknown ceremony, whose order is precisely (as we see it, as we go along) to open itself up by a pent-up pigeon, and to end in death: this is true, then false, but true resurrection, as Edith Scob, as it so happens [“au fil de l’eau”], is a real dead girl and a fake drowned one, then the opposite. Nothing but appearances, but all in the same movement as their emergence, their birth, their invention: secret of the origin of the cinema, that exists here as though it were, from now on, no longer referring to a secret. But at the same time, our astonishment before it: Franju is at once the one who, through science, rediscovers the secret, and the modern one who knows it’s lost — and, astonishing himself with his power, keeping watch over the secret, affirming it, at last, beyond all doubt.
Eisenstein's writings most often treat questions of montage and time, but his genius is nevertheless essentially plastic. Undoubtedly he devoted himself to problems of rhythm for such a long time simply because they always remained problems for him, problems he never really solved. That evolution which everyone deplores is deplorable only because there are always observers to lament the fact that creators extend themselves to the limit of their capacities. Ivan the Terrible, the culmination of Eisenstein's career, is also the apotheosis of his plastic genius. And we must understand "plastic" in its highest sense. Geometrical obsessions, the systematic deformation of lines, the amplification of stylization of gestures, all those processes which most diretors use only as affectation or in an attempt to disguise their weaknesses, are here really the goal of direction. There is no need to paraphrase Malraux to show that it is impossible to separate the role of metaphysics from that of expression, and that Eisenstein's greatness lies precisely in the union of the two. The most formal of directors is haunted by the sacred; in his work everything tends toward the ceremonial, and the ceremony can be that of the oratorio, of ballet, or of religious celebration. Everything is directed, not toward a new way of reproducing reality, but toward finding a style of "representation," almost an allegorical figuration. The combined influences of, among other things, Noh drama, Leonardo, and the rites of the orthodox Church, finally create a universe of pure liturgy in which the aesthetic replaces the mystical. Beyond all doubt, Eisenstein's ambition is of an esoteric order. But far from harming him, this esoteric quality is perhaps the best guarantee of his survival. Earth and Mother have lost their prestige within a few years because their directors had no secrets, they had only processes. Eisenstein, on the other hand, staked his all on the realm of the secret and voluntarily submitted all the spectacular elements of his films to wholly abstract and private thought.
The effort to publish and re-publish more of Jacques Rivette's writings must intensify. It is not right, a world without Rivette... it need not even be.
Prior to the first public showing of Truffaut's first feature, this Rivette article appeared...
Les Mistons was all right; The 400 Blows is better. From one film to the other, our friend François has made the decisive leap, the giant step toward maturity. It's obvious that he's not wasting his time. With The 400 Blows, we return to our childhood as we would return to a house that had been abandoned since the war. Our childhood (even if it is first of all a question of F. T.'s childhood) means suffering the consequences of a stupid lie, and involves humiliation, the revelation of injustice, abortive attempts to escape—no, there is no "sheltered" childhood. Speaking of himself, he seems to be speaking of us, too: this is the sign of truth, and the reward of real classicism, which knows how to limit itself to its object, but suddenly sees this object cover the whole field of possibilities. For reasons that might be guessed, autobiography is not a genre that is very widely used in films. But this should not surprise us as much as the serenity, the restraint, the evenness of voice with which a past that parallels his own so closely has been evoked here. The F. T. that I met, with Jean-Luc Godard, at the Parnasse at the end of '49 or at Froeschel's or the Minotaure, had already done his apprenticeship for The 400 Blows; I swear we talked more of cinema, of American films, of a Bogart movie being shown at the Moulin de la Chanson than we spoke about ourselves, or else we merely alluded to our personal lives: that was enough. Or a snapshot produced suddenly would reveal what F. T. looked like three years before, at a shooting gallery, dazzled by the lights, pale, a smaller-sized Hossein, with Robert Lachenay leaning against his shoulder; or would show the three ritual rows of schoolboys in a fossilized class photo. This mixture of vagueness and sudden enlightenment came finally to seem like real recollections, real memories. I'm almost sure of that now, for I recognized or rediscovered everything on the screen ... I should like the reader to really see my point: this film is personal and autobiographical, but never immodest. There is no exhibitionism of any sort here; Even prison is beautiful, but with a different sort of beauty. F. T.'s strong point is that he never directly speaks of himself, but instead patiently dogs the footsteps of another young boy (who perhaps resembles him like a brother, but an objectified younger brother), yields to him, and humbly reconstructs from personal experience a reality which is equally objective, and which he then films with absolute respect. Such a method of filming has a very fine name (and too bad for F. T. if he doesn't know what it is): its name is Flaherty . . . [One example] of the truth that can be attained by this method, and of the truth of the film in and of itself, is the admirable scene with the woman psychologist—which would have been impossible, incidentally, under the outmoded methods of shooting that people go on insisting we keep . . . Here, the dialogue and the direction emerge with all the truthfulness of "live" shooting; the cinema thereby reinvents television, and television in turn consecrates it as cinema; there is no more room here for anything except the admirable last three shots, shots that are pure duration, perfect liberation. The whole film mounts toward this moment, and little by little sloughs off time in order to rejoin duration: the idea of length and shortness that so haunts F. T. seems in the end to have hardly any meaning in his case; or perhaps on the contrary it was necessary to have such an obsession about length, about temps morts, such an abundance of cuts, of jerks, of breaks that eventually he could get rid of the old clockwork time and rediscover real time, that of Mozartian jubilation (which Bresson seeks too desperately to ever recapture)...The 400 Blows also represents the triumph of simplicity. Not from poverty, nor from a lack of invention, quite the contrary: but he who from the beginning places himself in the center of the circle, has no desperate need to seek to square it. The most precious thing about film, and the most fragile, is also what keeps disappearing day by day under the reign of "clever" filmmakers: a certain purity of gaze, an innocence of the camera which here seems never to have been lost at all. It is enough perhaps to believe that things are what they are to see them simply exist on the screen as they do in life; can this belief have been lost by others? But this eye and this train of thought opening on the very center of things represent the filmmaker's state of grace: to be inside cinema from the outset, master of the heart of a domain whose frontiers can then extend to infinity: and to this we give the name Renoir. I might also stress the extraordinary tenderness with which F. T. speaks of cruelty, which can only be compared to the extraordinary gentleness with which Franju speaks of madness; here and there, an almost unbearable force results from the constant use of understatement, and the refusal of eloquence, of violence, of explanation, giving each image a pulse, an inner quiver, that makes its mark in a few brief flashes that gleam like a knife-blade. We could speak, quite properly, of Vigo, or of Rossellini, or even more pertinently still, of Une Visite or Les Mistons. In the long run, all these references don't mean very much, but we must hurry and make them while there's still time. I just wanted to say, as simply as possible, that there is now among us, not a gifted and promising beginner, but a genuine French filmmaker who equals the very greatest, and his name is François Truffaut.