April 9, 2010

Innocence and Malice


"When from behind the board-fence he unties the shoe-strings of the policeman who is seeking him, one knows, of course, that he is doing it on purpose, but one is less sure of his intention when he steps on the gouty foot of the man who is persecuting his sweetheart. His innocence and his malice go hand in hand, and by means of his malice he reveals his innocence. When he arrives late at his master's house and submits his poor body to the kick that does not come; when, from his bed, he rattles his wash-basin and drags his shoes about the floor to make his master think that he is getting up, a divine joy fills us, for he is avenging us all, those who have passed and those who are yet to come. Through his resignation and through his vitality he is the conqueror of fate and of despotism. What does death matter, or trouble? He brings laughter through his suffering. The gods flee in all directions."

-Elie Faure, "The Art of Charlie Chaplin", Art of Cineplastics, 1923.

*Double bill tonight of BOUDU SAVED FROM DROWNING and LE TESTAMENT DU DR. CORDELIER at LACMA (thank you Ian Birnie and Mathieu Fournet).*


Andy Rector said...

Grateful to We Can't Stop the Dancing Chicken for the Cordelier image.

Daniel Kasman said...

Terrific Andy. Do you know if the Faure book is available in English?

Andy Rector said...

Much obliged Danny. As far as I know (and if I'm wrong somebody please chime in) the translation (by Walter Pach) of THE ART OF CINEPLASTICS consists of only two essays: "The Art of Cineplastics" and "The Art of Charlie Chaplin" and was only published as a book in a limited run of 1000 in 1923, never to be reprinted again. If however these two essays are all the book ever consisted of, then we have access to it in several different anthologies:
1) the "Art of Cineplastics" essay is in both FRENCH FILM THEORY AND CRITICISM: A HISTORY/ANTHOLOGY: 1907-1939 (ed. Richard Abel) and FILM: AN ANTHOLOGY (ed. Daniel Talbot; one of those "musty" volumes one can find in a thousand used bookstores --where still existing-- and which one ends up returning to often...)
2) the "Art of Chaplin" essay is in THE ESSENTIAL CHAPLIN (ed. Richard Schickel).

Luckily Faure's enormous two volume HISTORY OF ART is still available used (addall.com) in very old editions for often very cheap considering its size and age. I learned about it from Godard. It's featured heavily in his HISTOIRE(S) (the Sabine Azema section) and first and foremost in the bathtub of PIERROT LE FOU.

There isn't much directly about cinema in Faure's HISTORY OF ART, yet his recounting of art's stories seems infused with the rhythm of film. Maybe this is a product of my first knowing Faure through Godard, and going backwards.

There's a life-changing chapter on art and morality called "The Powerlessness of the Policeman" which would certainly not have been possible without Chaplin, and Sennett. I don't understand why Faure's HISTORY OF ART is not canonical to this day. Maybe his revolution was a case of "too early, too late".

I should mention too that in the 30's Renoir proclaimed Faure's essay on Chaplin the first piece of film criticism.

Andy Rector said...

Also grateful to Jose Pepe Tito of VERSUS DVD (Spain) for including L'Album de famille de Jean Renoir on their dvd edition of ELENA AND HER MEN. It is where the still frames of Renoir above come from. Craig K. wrote up the edition here: http://cinemasparagus.blogspot.com/search?q=renoir

Ted Fendt said...

A collection of Faure's essays on cinema was published in 1953 and is titled "Fonction du cinéma: l'art de la société industrielle". It contains the following essays:

-La prescience du Tintoret
-La danse et le cinéma
-De la cinéplastique
-Introduction à la mystique du cinéma
-Vocation du cinéma
-Affinités géographiques et ethniques de l'art
-Défense et illustration de la machine

I haven't read the book but I'm going to make a point of looking for a copy.

Also, I believe Deleuze refers to him in either Cinéma I or II.

Daniel Kasman said...

Thanks for all the information Andy & Ted. I know Faure through the same Godard sources you do, and am actually am most the way through his wonderful book on medieval art. His film crit sounds terrific, I'll have to scour some used book shelves to find it!

craig keller. said...

Just a note to mention that a restored Boudu sauvé des eaux, with reimplemented?/never-before-implemented? footage, is premiering in Cannes Classics — and doing so with its proper original aspect ratio of 1.19:1 newly re-intact.