Quotes of quotes of quotes of quotes, 10/22

Today’s quote comes from Jacques Rivette’s “The Essential,” an especially crunchy review of Otto Preminger’s Angel Face and The Moon is Blue that can be found in its entirety right here. The excerpt is quite long, I realize, but it’s jam-packed with insights into the art of both Jacques and Otto.

It should be pretty clear by now that I think a great deal of Rivette as both a critic and a director, though it’s worth mentioning that my interest in Rivette’s criticism and filmography is a relatively recent development. In the excerpt below, Rivette gauges a bunch of really fascinating topics (if you like Preminger’s work, that is): how Preminger extracts the utmost expressivity from the spaces he films; whether financial success “dulls” an artist’s raw potency; to what extent is a fiction film’s narrative a network of characters who collide with and transform one another; etc. Rivette explains Preminger’s distinctive brand of artistry as a product of his fascination with networks of humans and spaces… makes you wanna break out the Bruno Latour, n’est-ce pas?

So we should compose our eulogy to poverty, even were its sole advantage the necessity of ingenuity to conceal it and so stimulate creativity. Would it not be a good thing to subject every establish film-maker to it just once? It is well known that wealth dulls sensibility; what other test is left for the talent that has no self-doubt?


Preminger believes first in mise en scene, the creation of a precise complex of sets and characters, a network of relationships, an architecture of connections, an animated complex that seems suspended in space. What tempts him, if not that fashioning of a piece of crystal for transparency with ambiguous reflections and clear, sharp lines or the rendering audible of particular chords unheard and rare, in which the inexplicable beauty of the modulation suddenly justifies the ensemble of the phrase? This is probably the definition of a certain kind of preciosity, but its supreme and most secret form, since it does not come from the sue of artifice, but from the determined and hazardous search for a note previously unheard; one can neither tire of hearing it, nor claim be deepening it to exhaust its enigma—the door to something beyond intellect, opening out on to the unknown.

Such are the contingencies of mise en scene, and such the example that Preminger seems to offer, of a faith in the very practice of his art which enables him in another way to uncover his greatest depth. For I would not want you to imagine that [Angel Face] is some abstract aesthete’s experiment. ‘I love work more than anything,’ he told me. I do believe that for Preminger a film is in the first place an opportunity for work, for questioning, for encouraging and solving such problems. The film is not so much an end as a means. Its unpredictability attract him, the chance discoveries that means things cannot go according to plan, on-the-spot improvisation that is born of a fortunate moment and dedicated to the fleeting essence of a place or person. If Preminger had to be defined in one word it would really best be metteur en scene, even though here his stage directing background seems to have influenced him a little. In the midst of a dramatic space created by human encounters he would instead exploit to its limit the cinema’s ability to capture the fortuitous (but a fortuity that is willed), to record the accidental (but the accidental that is created) through the closeness and sharpness of the look; the relationships of the characters create a closed circuit of exchanges, where nothing makes an appeal to the viewer.


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