From the Clouds to the Resistance

20 April, 2013 - 22:30
No filmmaker should make a film without it having a minimum of what Cézanne spoke about when he watched his mountain for years on end before being able, one fine day, to capture it and say, ‘Look at this mountain, once it was fire’.

The cinema of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet is one of the uttermost concentration, capturing the whirlwind of the world in every tiny inch of matter. The sensible and the intelligible cannot be separated. That is what they have learned from Friedrich Hölderlin: the dream of the community to come is not embodied in laws and governments, but in gestures of life and forms of nature. But for there to be a community, it must be divided, and that is what they have learned from Bertold Brecht: the changeability of the world does not insist on agreement, but on its contradictoriness. Between Brecht and Hölderlin, materialism and mysticism, at once dialectical and lyrical, the films of Straub and Huillet point to an abandoned yet irrefutable truth: we do not live in the best of possible worlds. The roots of Fascism, war, injustice and resistance are revisited by way of much older dramas, recounted by authors such as Cesare Pavese and Elio Vittorini. But these texts are not more important than the people reciting them, the space they find themselves in, or the movement of light and colour shimmering through. What matters, in the end, is the sensible intensity which is always there, always in the present, affirming the enduring capacity for the construction of a new common world: a community of sense.

Dalla nube alla resistenza (From the Clouds to the Resistance)

Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet

“Dalla Nube is composed of two separate parts, one mythological, the other modern, without any apparent relation. The Nube part is six of the twenty-seven Dialogues with Leuco (Dialoghi con Leucò), written by Cesare Pavese in 1947. The Resistenza part is extracts from another book by Pavese, The Moon and the Bonfires (La luna e i falo), published in 1950, a few months before his suicide. This latter part is not a surprise: every Straub film is an examination – archaeological, geological, ethnographic, military as well – of a situation in which men have resisted. To Nietzsche’s claim that ‘The only being known to us is being that represents itself,’ the Straubs would respond that only those who resist exist for sure: resist nature, language, time, texts, gods, God, chiefs, Nazis. Mother and father. This is how the shot, the basic atom of Straubian cinema, is the product, the reste (remainder), or rather the restance (remaining) of a triple resistance: texts resisting bodies, places resisting texts, bodies resisting places. One has to add a fourth: the public resisting shots “designed” this way, stubborn resistance of cinema’s audience to something intractable, something which renounces it as a public”. (Serge Daney)