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December 07, 2010


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Joseph Neff

Outstanding piece, Glenn. I caught this on a double bill with 8 1/2 around six years ago. A great night and quite a study in contrasts, accentuated by the fact that CANCAN's print was as clean as the Fellini wasn't. I was surprised when everyone in my party expressed clear preference for the Renoir. After a bit of thought I acknowledged that, on that night at least, I did too.


"So is an auteur a director who only makes really good films that have a consistent point of view? Great, that leaves us with...two. Bresson and Tarkovsky, I'd reckon."

So which movie are we knocking off Dreyer for? And are we not including Kubrick for his first two movies and "Spartacus," or for most or all of his other ten movies?


Of course, not every auteur imbues each of his films with his sensibility. And while you could say that Carol Reed just stopped being an auteur one day, or that Boetticher didn't quite become an auteur until a certain point in his career, some directors' auteurism wanes and ebbs and wanes again. I suspect an auteur is just a director who's produced a critical mass (or share) of personal work.

david hare

Glenn the Gaumont Cancan Bluray is my disc of the year (possibly the decade) and the three strip digital resoration which the two guys from Lab Eclair and Gaumont describe in the 5 minute resto extra (unsubtitled)is every bit as awesome as the three strip resto for Red Shoes two years ago. I believe we've arrived at a point in the technoclogy where new digital and photochemical processing can actually recreate an image that's better than even the best original Technicolor.

I remember IB prints of Cancan from the late 60s and they were wonderful but this new print simply wipes out every previous viewing I've ever had (and there were many.) The lossless mono audio on this is also completely staggering.

And this is Renoir's greatest 50s picture. Cuts or no cuts.


Kenny: "So is an auteur a director who only makes really good films that have a consistent point of view? Great, that leaves us with...two. Bresson and Tarkovsky, I'd reckon."

Partisan: "So which movie are we knocking off Dreyer for? And are we not including Kubrick for his first two movies and "Spartacus," or for most or all of his other ten movies?"

Good being objective, 'n all, where does this leave The Bay, who has a consistent point of view?

Glenn Kenny

@ Bemo: Very funny. In any event, the argument I make with respect to consistent point of view is almost immediately implicitly rejected, so I don't know why I'm being taken to task for it. The perspectives expressed in the piece can of course only be taken as graspings towards a definition. I'm afraid that as long as people are debating movies and moviemakers, the best we're going to get...or maybe the most we're going to all be able to agree on...is that what an auteur is will always be defined along the same lines as Potter Stewart's famous definition of pornography, that is, "I know it when I see it." And of course even with that, especially with that, there's room for wiggling, debate, and such. Including the question of auteurist mojo always being a positive virtue...


Jacques Rivette says:

"I'm going to make more enemies...actually the same enemies, since the people who like Minnelli usually like Mankiewicz, too. Minnelli is regarded as a great director thanks to the slackening of the "politique des auteurs." For François, Jean-Luc and me, the politique consisted of saying that there were only a few filmmakers who merited consideration as auteurs, in the same sense as Balzac or Molière. One play by Molière might be less good than another, but it is vital and exciting in relation to the entire oeuvre. This is true of Renoir, Hitchcock, Lang, Ford, Dreyer, Mizoguchi, Sirk, Ozu... But it's not true of all filmmakers. Is it true of Minnelli, Walsh or Cukor? I don't think so. They shot the scripts that the studio assigned them to, with varying levels of interest. Now, in the case of Preminger, where the direction is everything, the politique works. As for Walsh, whenever he was intensely interested in the story or the actors, he became an auteur - and in many other cases, he didn't. In Minnelli's case, he was meticulous with the sets, the spaces, the light...but how much did he work with the actors? I loved Some Came Running (1958) when it came out, just like everybody else, but when I saw it again ten years ago I was taken aback: three great actors and they're working in a void, with no one watching them or listening to them from behind the camera."


That Fuzzy Bastard

So here's a question, Glenn---do you prefer comments showing up here, or at Mubi? MZS has urged FB commenters to take their discussions to Salon, both to elevate the tone over there and to show the editors that there's interest. Do you similarly want us to comment/discuss/argue over there for the sake of editor-impressing, or is it a matter of indifference to you?

P.S.: Regarding Bemo, I think that's what happens when you confuse "auteur" with "maker of good movies". One can make good movies without having a very consistent perspective (Carol Reed), and one can have a very consistent perspective while making one bad movie after another (most famously Ed Wood, but Michael Bay and Tony Scott too, among many others).

Glenn Kenny

@ Fuzzy: I like to encourage comments at MUBI, sure, but I don't have a preference when it comes down to it, myself, nor have I received any instructions or suggestions on the matter. So it's all the same to me, really.

Tom Block

>this is Renoir's greatest 50s picture

Having just rewatched "The River" I've gotta chime in here and say "NUH-UHHH!"


Nrh, I've read that whole Rivette interview before, and it's wonderfully catty and times and also endearing I'm terms of how much of a film lover the man still is (or was ten years ago, at least). I find it odd that the line he draws between Walsh and Preminger on one hand, and Minnelli on the other is one of work with the actors, instead of how he's using his images to forward whatever perpective he has on the material. I think it's a little reductive to claim that Minnelli's primary consideration was with sets and design, and while all of his films may not seem like auteurist statements (the man was as dismissive of his decisions and intentions to interviewers as the cagey John Ford), a good number of them do, going all the way up to Nina a.k.a. A Matter of Time (a criminally unavailable title save for old VHS copies).


More than a little reductive, I think... Reading that interview always brightens my day, especially when he gets to the bit about Hou Hsiao-hsien being the asian James Cameron. *sigh*


I always find that quote a real head-scratcher. I don't think of 50s Hitchcock or 50s Lang doing a great deal of "work" with the actors - especially 50s Lang, unless the work he did was to make Dana Andrews as flat and affectless as possible. Not that I'm complaining, it works for those films, but they're not about performance. On the other hand, Cukor, though obviously engaged more by some projects than others, obviously did wonderful work with actors - and SOME CAME RUNNING, after all, is one of the cornerstones on which any reputation Sinatra and Martin have for being great actors rest, especially Sinatra, so perhaps Minnelli had something to do with it. The only point in the film where I can even begin to see what Rivette's talking about is the confrontation in the classroom between Hyer and MacLaine, where the two do seem suspended in a bit of a shot/reverse shot void. Everywhere else I think Minnelli's wonderfully sensitive to the performances - without turning his direction into a mere vehicle for rendering those performances.


Well that's not as good as the part when he calls Spielberg an asshole and claims that Titanic was a success because "plump, slovenly girls" saw themselves in Kate Winslet. MEOW!

david hare

Tom, you're perfectly right - and I think both the River and Cancan are at the pinnacle of Renoir's work. But I guess I mean Renoir's post American films rather than just "50s films". The River is really an American picture made in India.

Anyway I don't think Cancan has ever really had its due, partly because of the lousy faded Eastman prints in circulation for the last 30 plus years. Part of the whole essence of the movie is the astonishing color and those ruinous prints, even the thin, pasty bland Criterion DVD are a pale shadow of the first IBs. The Gaumont brings it roaring back to life.

I would love to see a BD of The River one day - the BFI restoration is very beautiful and worth the upgrade to Blu.

Robert Cashill

A MATTER OF TIME is airing on TCM next Tuesday night (12/14). Maybe it'll be a decent print.


Great review, Glenn. This is one of my favorite discs of the year.
I review it, along with Gaumont's somewhat less successful release of A Man Escaped, at my blog: http://whitecitycinema.com/2010/11/22/sacre-blu/

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