AndrDe Bazin's impact on film art, as theorist and critic, is widely considered to be greater than that of any single director, actor, or producer. He is credited with almost single-handedly establishing the study of film as an accepted intellectual pursuit, as well as with being the spiritual father of the French New Wave. Unlike nearly all the other authors of major film theories, he was a working or practical critic who wrote regularly about individual films.
Bazin at Work represents the first collection in English of disparate writings of Bazin'ssince the appearance of the second volume of What Is Cinema? in 1971. It includes work from, among other places, Cahiers le cinema (which he founded and which is the most influential single critical periodical in the history of the cinema) and Esprit. He addresses film makers including Rossellini, Eisenstein, Pagnol, and Capra and well-known films including La Strada, Citizen Kane, Scarface, and The Bridge on the River Kwai.
Despite his tragically premature death from leukemia, Bazin (1918-1958) was one of the most fabulously intelligent film critics who ever penned a review. The author of major books already translated into English on Orson Wells, Jean Renoir and Chaplin, Bazin also wrote a definitive four-volume anthology in French, What Is Cinema? that was shaved down to two books in English translation 25 years ago. The outtakes make up part of the present book, and they are as fascinating as the rest of Bazin's work. Bazin offers close readings of directorial choices, on a shot-by-shot basis, writing like a great director who was fed up and decided to do criticism instead of films. Bazin somewhat ironically calls the director William Wyler, who made the luscious Bette Davis vehicle The Letter, a Jansenist, and proves equally astute on political matters: "Stalin came to convince himself of his own genius," he says, "by means of viewing Stalinist films." In a particularly brilliant insight, he compares Henri-Georges Clouzot's 1956 film about Picasso's creativity, The Mystery of Picasso, to the philosophy of Henri Bergson, both being obsessed with time and duration. A turgid but mercifully brief preface by translator Cardullo does not mar what is certainly one of the most brilliant and valuable books on film published this year, of interest to anyone passionate about the cinema. Whether the subject is the Cinemascope or Fellini, Marcel Pagnol or Ren Clment, Bazin is entirely admirable, and these texts are his immortality. (Nov.)