August 18, 2006

Une visite au Louvre (2004, Straub/Huillet)

(dead link)

I know of one incident wherein an opportunist selling Straub/Huillet bootlegs on ebay received a hand-written letter from the Straubs telling him to STOP NOW (he instantly tried to sell the note!). I also know that the Straubs held their film CEZANNE back from being subtitled so as to preserve the integrity of the paintings. My posting of this clip goes against the Straubs presumed wishes on both these counts.

I don't quite understand the intention of posting the first 7 minutes of a film on youtube. And, as if to really test the idea's utility, the same man who posted the first 7 minutes of Une visite au Louvre has also posted the first 14 minutes of OUT-1 (759 minutes to go)! At 7 min intervals ("parts") that would be 109 "parts". Paul Gallagher, the good fellow who posted these, has well over 100 clips posted on Youtube, many worth checking out (Foucault conversation with Chomsky, Dans le noir de temps by Godard, etc).

I post it here because it brought me so much pleasure to see a bit of this film again. Perhaps it's because it reminds me of sitting in a packed house in Vienna to watch two sucessive versions of it in a row (I counted 3 differences between the 2 versions: 1) a variation in the pan across the Louvre exterior, 2) a variation on an overhead shot of the Seine later in the film, and 3) a minutely but distinctly varied voice-over intonation)...

Even in seven minutes I think you can see some of the eventfulness of a single Straub/Huillet shot. The pan across the Seine and Louvre exterior has the quality of an act; an action taken, not simply taken in. You can see the level of minutae on which the Straubs are working.

In any case, listen to Cezanne (the voice-over):

"Look at that...the Victoire de Samothrace. She's an idea, she's a whole people, a heroic movement in the life of a people, yet the fabric clings to her legs, her wings flutter, her breasts swell. I don't need to see her head to imagine her look, because all the blood which beats, circulates, sings in her legs, her hips, throughout her body, has passed in torrents into my brain and has entered my heart. When the head is gone, so what, the marble has bled...While up there in the primitives, you can chop the necks of all those little martyrs with the executioner's sword and there's a little vermilion, a few drops of blood...They have already flown bloodless up to God. Souls can't be painted. And here, Victory's wings, you don't even see them, I don't see them anymore. We don't think about them anymore, the seem so natural. Her body doesn't need them to be able to fly away in full triumph. It has elan...Whereas the haloes of the virgins and saints surrounding Christ, one sees only them. They impose themselves on us. They embarrass me. What do you want? You can't paint souls. You paint bodies, and when bodies are well painted, then, damn it, the soul, if they have one, the soul radiates and shows through from everywhere.

(...) but I know nothing colder than his (David's) Marat! What a petty hero! A man who had been his friend, who had just been assasinated, whom he should have glorified for all of Paris, for all of France, for all posterity. Did he just toss that sheet over him and wash him off in his bathtub? He was thinking about what people would say about the painter and not what they would think about Marat. It's a bad painting. And he had the cadaver right in front of his eyes!".

This film is Huillet/Straub's blast against a certain alienatation from art -- painting -- and from the spirit of nature and life that inspired the paintings (which the Museum isn't helping). And since every Straub film is about the class struggle in some way (even if by implying that that which gets in the way of lived nature must be done away with) it reminds me of an incident I once read about:

In 1920, a Kapp (fascist) putsch sparked riots in Dresden and while the people of Dresden were fighting to defend democracy a stray bullet hit a Rubens painting in the Zwinger museum. Oskar Kokoschka issued a public statement in which he suggested, in all seriousness, that the fighting be moved out onto the heath outside of town or even replaced by single combat between political leaders of opposing camps. George Grosz, Spartacist as he was at the time, said:

"(we're) delighted that bullets flew into galleries and palaces, into Rubens masterpieces, and not into the houses of the poor. Workers! Every time that the artist paints something that the bourgeois can cling to and that dazzles you with illusions of beauty and happiness, that artist is strengthening the bourgeoisie and sabotaging your class consciousness, your will to power."

Everything must be kept in mind.


Anonymous said...

very useful read. I would love to follow you on twitter. By the way, did anyone learn that some chinese hacker had hacked twitter yesterday again.

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