André Bazin


Biography of André Bazin

André Bazin (18 April 1918 – 11 November 1958) was a renowned and influential French film critic and film theorist.

Bazin started to write about film in 1943 and was a co-founder of the film magazine Cahiers du cinéma in 1951, along with Jacques Doniol-Valcroze and Lo Duca. Bazin was a major force in post-World War II film studies and criticism. In addition to editing Cahiers until his death, a four-volume collection of his writings was published posthumously from 1958 to 1962 and titled Qu'est-ce que le cinéma? (What is Cinema?). A selection from this collection was translated into English and published in two volumes in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They became mainstays of film courses in the English-speaking world, but were never updated or revised. In 2009, the Canadian publisher caboose, taking advantage of more favourable Canadian copyright laws, compiled fresh translations of some of the key essays from the collection in a single-volume edition. With annotations by translator Timothy Barnard, this became the only corrected and annotated edition of these writings in any language.

The long-held standard and highly reductive view of Bazin's critical system, now being subjected to more sophisticated analysis by Bazin scholars worldwide, is that he argued for films that depicted what he saw as "objective reality" (such as documentaries and films of the Italian neorealism school) and directors who made themselves "invisible" (such as Howard Hawks). He advocated the use of deep focus (Orson Welles), wide shots (Jean Renoir) and the "shot-in-depth", and preferred what he referred to as "true continuity" through mise en scène over experiments in editing and visual effects. This placed him in opposition to film theory of the 1920s and 1930s which emphasized how the cinema can manipulate reality. The concentration on objective reality, deep focus, and lack of montage are linked to Bazin's belief that the interpretation of a film or scene should be left to the spectator. Bazin also preferred long takes to montage editing.

Bazin believed that a film should represent a director's personal vision, rooted in the spiritual beliefs known as personalism. These ideas would have a pivotal importance on the development of the auteur theory, the manifesto for which was François Truffaut's 1954 Cahiers article "A Certain Tendency of the French Cinema". Bazin also is known as a proponent of "appreciative criticism," wherein only critics who like a film can write a review of it, thus encouraging constructive criticism.

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