André Bazin and Italian Neorealism – Sobre Alexandre Astruc
And do I need to recall here Bazin’s unfailing ability to detect, analyze, and of course admire new things? He supported Welles in his time against the resistance of puzzled technicians and the conservatism of his timorous fellow filmmakers; he supported neorealism, in its ideal form, against the advocates of “classical” moviemaking style; he supported Rossellini against those who, as of Europe ’51 (1952), were ready to burn him at the stake; he supported the ever resilient will of Chaplin against those who wanted to bury him with the character of the Tramp; and he supported Renoir’s seemingly confused changes of direction against those who wanted merely to see Toni (1935) over and over again.
But Bazin also supported the marginal forms of cinema (scientific or geographical, touristic or travel, amateur or nonprofessional) against the harsh defenders of standard filmic formats; he supported the advent both of CinemaScope and of television; finally, shortly before his death, he supported the emergence of filmmakers who were bringing with them a new artistic freedom (Astruc, Marker, Resnais, Rouch, Vadim, Varda, Chabrol, and Truffaut). To renew Bazin’s legacy today, then, is not simply to write the umpteenth essay on this or that film, theory, or critic, but to apply some of his strength, sharpness, and humor to the chaos of composite, “impure” pictures that come out everywhere, every day. It is to distinguish original cinematic experiment from falsely inventive sham, in the way that Bazin did—could not help but do—with every fiber of his being.
Truly mourned by many—among them filmmakers such as Renoir, Truffaut, Visconti, and Bresson—André Bazin died just ahead of the movement that placed cinema in college classrooms. He did his teaching in film clubs, at conferences, and in published articles. Yet while many people now make their livings teaching film (and far better livings than Bazin ever enjoyed), some teachers look back with longing to that era when reflection about the movies took place in a natural arena rather than in the hothouse atmosphere common to universities. Film theory as well as criticism is for the most part now an acquired discipline, not a spontaneous activity, and the cinema is seen as a field of “research” rather than as an aesthetic activity—indeed, a human reality. Current film scholars, including those hostile to his views, look in wonder to Bazin, who in 1958 was in command of a complete, coherent, and thoroughly humanistic view of the cinema.