Saturday 21 May 2016

Vale Alexandre Astruc 1923- 2016

Astruc in 1965
Born in 1923, Alexandre Astruc was a key figure in the French cinema as both a critic and a film-maker. He made one famous short, nine feature films and a number of documentaries. I'm hoping to assemble a little more about his life and art.

The last time I saw one of his films was at a screening of his 1957 Une Vie programmed by Barrett Hodsdon at the WEA Film Group maybe close to a decade or so ago now as part of a famous series which  examined the history of the French cinema.

When I started to have a look at some texts I pulled out my tattered now coverless copy of Raymond Durgnat's Nouvelle Vague: The First Decade (A Motion Monograph, UK, 1963). Several pages are devoted to Astruc's work. Here's the final para:

There is in Astruc's work a certain coldness, stemming not from directing "with" or "against" the script, but from the way in which his emphasis on gesture seems to shade into a "plastic intellectuality", a certain detachment.  His finesse sometimes co-exists with an odd reduction of character and relationship to an artificial primitivism - the maleness of the heroes in the three films reviewed here (Le Rideau Cramoisi, 1952, Une Vie, 1957 and La Proie pour l'Ombre, 1961), seems more uninflected, conceptualised than the dramas warrant. Yet this is perhaps only the vice of Astruc's virtue, his odd, clumsy yet haunting combination of a gentle directorial finesse with uncompromisingly  "harsh", unsentimental plots.

Contributions welcome

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