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Review

Reviewed Work(s):
L'Esthétique du film
by Jacques Aumont, Alain Bergala, Michel Marie and Marc Vernet
Review by: Tom Conley
Source: The French Review, Vol. 59, No. 3 (Feb., 1986), pp. 501-503
Published by: American Association of Teachers of French
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/392728
Accessed: 01-03-2019 19:47 UTC

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REVIEWS 501

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Utica College of Syracuse University Marie-Noelle Little

Film

edited by Jean Decock


AUMONT, JACQUES, ALAIN BERGALA, MICHEL MARIE, ET MARC VERNET. L'Esthitique du film.
(Coll. Universite-Information-Formation.) Paris: Nathan, 1983. Pp. 224.
Voici un survol des ecrits theoriques qui dominent la pensee cinematographique
depuis le debut de notre siecle. L'ordre du livre est revelateur. Les auteurs amorcent le
sujet en dressant une typologie des ecrits cinematographiques (les publications "grand
public", les ouvrages destines aux cinephiles et, au sommet de leur triangle imaginaire,
"les &crits theoriques et esthetiques du cinema"). Ces derniers se projettent dans le plan
des cinq chapitres dont l'epure theorique se complique. Dans le premier chapitre, "Le
Film comme representation visuelle et sonore", il s'agit du champ et de son dehors; de
la perspective monoculaire heritee du quattrocento; de la profondeur du champ; de la
notion de "plan," de ses limites comme concept, de son mouvement (ou fixite) et de sa
dure'e; et, d'un point de vue qui se veut marxiste, des questions techniques et ideologiques
ai la base d'une histoire de la representation.

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502 FRENCH REVIEW

Dans le deuxieme ch
antithe'tiques de Baz
produisent toujours d
liaisons et aux disjon
(in et off). La presen
Bazin, explore le p
profondeur de cham
Bien plus theorique
"Cinema et narratio
representatif, mais
donner, de decouper
constater que le cin
"referents" et ses eff
Les auteurs entame
narration et de la die
de la lecture" (p. 81
fascination qu'il exer
D'apres les distinctio
vraisemblable, du re
quelques concepts li
Hollywood, ces rema
Dans le quatrieme c
classique et topique-
semantique. Procedan
une nomenclature stable de sens rattaches a leurs vehicules, il evaluent l'efficacite des
theories du langage en tant qu'outil d'analyse filmique.
Le cinquieme chapitre, "Le Film et son spectateur," traite de la subjectivite. En gros,
les the'ories du sujet dessinent les perimetres du moi suscitant et captant ses "desirs" a
travers l'6cran. Les auteurs remontent aux concepts d'identification et de scopophilie,
ide'es au fond du Moi et le ga; ainsi ils referment le parcours critique ouvert depuis le
debut de l'ere de la relativite de notre siecle.
L'appareil bibliographique est impressionnant. Les ecrits principaux de la theorie
cine'matographique s'etalent en appendice de chaque chapitre. Selon le mode du livre
scolaire frangais, le texte est classe, decoupe et schematise avec un tel acharnement que
le lecteur se demande si la repartition du savoir en est l'ultime verite. Pour cette raison
le livre garde un aspect assez localise. Il est situe dans les courants critiques qui remontent
aux effets des bouleversements de Cahiers du Cinema au debut des annees 1970; a la
suite des meditations de Christian Metz entre la linguistique et la psychanalyse laca-
nienne.

Aux Etats-Unis il est clair que la culture de masse est regie par des strategies dont u
partie de la force peut s'attribuer aux techniques, aux agencements de figures et a
modalites esthetiques herites des cinemas classiques et d'avant-garde. Les medias re
perent ce qui appartenait au domaine de l'art et de l'analyse afin, ensuite, de produ
et de programmer des subjectivites.
Si l'equipe d'Aumont, Bergala, Marie et Vernet avait pu diriger une pratique
l'analyse vers une critique perpetuelle et multiforme des formes qui veulent contr6ler
domaines de l'inconscient, ils nous auraient donne une pedagogie de grande force. I
restent trop ancres dans un ideolecte qui se veut auto-suffisant. Par la le lecteur
d'Esthetique du film entend que le livre n'est pas i l'ecoute de ses propres legons. La

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REVIEWS 503

relation critiq
lui fournit des
carcan ideolog

University of Minnesota Tom Conley

PELLETIER, FRANgOIS. Imaginaires du cinematograph


Pp. 235.
This highly readable book is one of the only discussions of the social function of
cinema since Edgar Morin's Le Cinema et l'homme imaginaire of 1956. Pelletier considers
cinema within a global notion of the aesthetic; for him, the proof that cinema is a vital
and influential art in French culture resides in the fact that it is still not perceived, by
and large, as an art form. This allows films to be consumed innocently while exercising
their power over imagination and behavior-what Pelletier calls the "imaginaire social."
The book's first section analyzes the filmgoing audience and the circulation of cinema
in the urban space through such means as posters (culturally coded), movie theaters
(typified as commercial, art, or neighborhood theatres), and media exposure. The author
develops the original notion that films with long runs in the same theatre become
extensions of the urban space, creating "inner-city suburbs" separated by the rest of the
urban environment. As people gravitate to these spaces, cinema begins to take over
social functions hitherto reserved for other art forms (society's need to tell stories about
itself in order to preserve the established order).
The most important function of cinema, Pelletier argues, is to supply current stereo-
types corresponding to the archetypes of our common cultural heritage. The archetypes
are kept alive by stereotypes that offer poles of identification and projection to serve as
catalysts for the maintenance of social identity. As the vehicle for the social imaginary,
cinema becomes a kind of glue that holds society together. In the second and longest
section of the book, the author proceeds to analyze in detail a number of archetypes
arising from traditional genres (epic, tragic) and modes (melodramatic, comic, didactic,
etc.). The scope of Pelletier's inquiry leads him to some surprising observations here; the
robot R2-D2 and the Seven Samurai are both presented as epic heroes, while tragic
stereotypes are offered by Chaplin, James Bond, and the star-crossed lovers of La Regle
du jeu. This avenue of research is promising, even if some of the rapprochements are
not ultimately convincing. A more serious failure seems to me the lack of any hierarchical
order of archetypes: Pelletier seems to suggest that we need the burlesque as much as
the tragic, but he never addresses the question of what their different functions might
be. He also totally ignores film directors who might have wanted to change society
rather than simply reaffirm its existing structures (Godard and Buijuel, to name just
two).
The last section, in which Pelletier analyzes the social make-up of the film audience
and addresses the questions of mimetism, appropriation of cinema by the media, and
marketing strategies used by the film industry, is the strongest. The author shows that
an understanding of film can be reached by other methods than the dominant theoretical
models of today (semiotics, marxism, feminism, psychoanalysis, etc.). One may hope
that this approach may enrich some of those theories by pointing out the importance of
a hitherto neglected aspect of film theory.

Northeastern University Inez Hedges

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