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Each [text] is accompanied by an impressive philological labour, consisting either in finding the original of a quotation that Bazin had distorted or in setting out hypotheses, backed up by evidence, as to the meaning Bazin accorded to one word or another. The most imposing (and conclusive) research concerns the meaning of a term essential to Bazin, découpage. Barnard devotes to this word and to the difficuty of translating it a twenty-page note that is a veritable exercise in historical semantics. Most of all, Barnard’s entire enterprise consists in reintroducing history into a body of work from which it had largely disappeared. Through his editorial choices, Barnard has in a sense turned What is Cinema? inside out like a glove, revealing part of its hidden historical dimension. Anchored by his apposite notes, Bazin’s texts recover their historical weight.
—Laurent Le Forestier, 1895
What is Cinema?
Rejoice! This definitive translation of selected essays from André Bazin’s What is Cinema?, the cornerstone of modern-day film theory, finally makes his true ideas available to English readers. Bazin shines through in this accurate, readable and elegant translation, which has already been adopted as the standard version of this essential text by leading film scholars. Rarely does a new translation radically alter our understanding of a thinker’s work. This is that book.
The caboose edition of What is Cinema? collects the most important articles found in the original four-volume French edition. In the first of these volumes, published the month of his death in 1958 at the age of 40, Bazin tackled the philosophical issues raised by film and the photographic image in mid-century French intellectual circles, responding to the giants Sartre and Malraux in a style that pioneered the philosophical film essay. These essays are complemented by studies of directors central to Bazin’s universe: Chaplin, Wyler, Tati (an article long out of print in English and re-translated here) and Jean Painlevé. In later, posthumous volumes, Bazin addressed issues around film’s relations with literature and theatre and the questions raised for film aesthetics by Italian neo-realism.
This edition of What is Cinema? is the only corrected and annotated volume by Bazin in any language. The translator’s meticulous research into Bazin’s sources has led him to a connection between the ideas of Bazin and Bertolt Brecht and to a pseudonymous article by a mysterious author named "M. Rozenkranz" which visibly borrows from the work of Siegfried Kracauer.
What is Cinema? is the most important event in English-language film publishing in a generation. Whatever one’s specialisation, no film library is complete without this handsome, cloth-bound and sewn volume. The titles of Bazin’s seminal articles are now part of the film studies lexicon—when they haven’t been corrected here:
- Ontology of the Photographic Image
- The Myth of Total Cinema
- On Jean Painlevé
- An Introduction to the Charlie Chaplin Persona
- Monsieur Hulot and Time
- William Wyler, the Jansenist of Mise en Scène
- Editing Prohibited
- The Evolution of Film Language
- For an Impure Cinema: In Defence of Adaptation
- Diary of a Country Priest and the Robert Bresson Style
- Theatre and Film (1)
- Theatre and Film (2)
- Cinematic Realism and the Italian School of the Liberation
- Read the translator's footnote on Bazin's use of the term découpage and its importance in film theory and criticism.
- Download a PDF of errata to print out and insert in your copy of the caboose What is Cinema?
For samples please select any of the chapter headings listed above.