Renoir on Bazin

A tender winter sun yellows the old house that I see from my window. What a beautiful evening. André Bazin would have loved it. The pale gold of the luminous rays would have made him forget this famous “dry cold” that Musset preferred to call “a good head cold.”

I forget the script I’m in the middle of writing and I think of all the time I’ve lost. Life is spent wasting time, neglecting a good opportunity, turning one’s back on what is useful to rush towards what is useless.

André was part of the very small crowd of very useful people.

Of course, he was very busy and sick. It would have been indecent to abuse his tireless sociability. And now, I regret not having had this indecency. I miss him all the time. How many questions I still have to ask him, how many dark corners he could have shed light on, how many passionate discussions that will never be born!

In one of his studies, he draws the readers’ attention to the secondary role that scholars have played in the development of the cinematograph and insists upon all that we owe to the visionaries, the obsessives. Reading it, I was thinking of the “Bazins.”

In the simplistic language of our 20th century, we would say “artists,” in opposition to scholars.

An artist’s mission is to precede the pack. He has to reveal hidden feelings, open the window on landscapes that, of course, already existed, but that we poorly discerned, hidden as they were by the fog of false traditions. The artist’s function is to tear away some of the veils covering every reality.

I’m looking at the last spot of sun on the roof of the old house. It reveals some stunning grey moss to me. Some pigeons stretch their wings towards the fleeting light, assuming positions revelatory of their pigeon spirit. The shade increases. I get up and, standing on my toes, I can catch a last ray of the setting sun.

I forget the old house and the pigeons. This light has erased them from my mind.

Certain directors of films, whose work André Bazin analyzed so scrupulously, will only remain in man’s memory because their names will be read in his books. Their worth is not in question. To tell the truth, it matters little to me. I’m grateful to them for having inspired a clear poet, an artist who, by dint of objective humility, made his work the moving expression of his generous personality.

Originally published in Cahiers du cinéma, no. 91, January 1959.

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