Among some common misconceptions is the idea that Cahiers was alone in taking American cinema seriously: Positif, founded shortly after Cahiers, in 1952, for example, also took American cinema seriously, though in a rather different overall perspective. But, more important, neither Cahiers nor Positif was being particularly radical or original in its interest. The cinema, and the popular culture aspect of it best represented by Hollywood, had long been taken more seriously in France than in Britain, while Britain in turn had often been a good deal more interested than the USA itself: one need think only of the French Surrealists' interest, for example, not only in the 1920s when cinema was more generally a respectable concern for intellectuals, but also consistently since then (Positif itself being an important manifestation of this continuing interest), while John Grierson's writings from the 1920s and 19305 on American cinemas provide a good example of (rather different) British interest. In the case of Cahiers the relationship to historically well-defined ideas and areas of interest is particularly clear. A great deal of Andre Bazin's important work had been done well before the inception of Cahiers in 1951, much of it in a journal that was very specifically the forerunner of Cahiers, the Revue du Cinema, which had been published 1929-31 and 1946-9 under the editorship of Jean-George Auriol. In the hundredth issue of Cahiers in 1959 Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, looking back, leaves no doubt about the relationship: 'In the minds of the founders of Cahiers it was never a matter of anything other than continuing the work undertaken by Jean-George Auriol.'
Even a cursory examination of the contents of the Revue du Cinema reveals a profile strikingly similar to that of the later Cahiers. In the 1929-31 period, more or less equal weight was being given to European 'art cinema' and avant-garde film (Pabst and Lang, Eisenstein and Pudovkin, Man Ray, Ruttmann and Bunuel, Dreyer) and American cinema (articles on Stroheim, Chaplin, of course, but also on Laurel and Hardy, Langdon, King Vidor, Hawks, Borzage, Sternberg, Lubitsch, Dwan), alongside discussions of technology and aesthetics (pre-eminently, at this time, the coming of sound, of course) and of historical origins (Melies, Emile Cohl, for instance). None of which would have seemed at all out of place in Cahiers in the 1953. It is hardly surprising that the similarities should be even greater between Cahiers and the Revue in its 1949 phase, when both externally (Cahiers inheriting its familiar 1950s and early 1960s yellow cover from the Revue) and internally (in content) clear continuities exist: a concern with American cinema, in particular films noirs and, via Welles, Wyler, Toland and Flaherty, questions of realism; an interest in realism also in relation to Italian cinema, and Rossellini in particular; a special concern with French cinema, with articles on or by Clement, Clair, Cocteau, Rouquier, Renoir, Autant-Lara, Gremillon, Ciouzot, Leenhardt, Becker; a continuing interest in the work of film-makers such as Lang, Eisenstein, Dreyer, Lubitsch, Hitchcock; regular critical contributions from subsequent Cahiers editors Buzin and Doniol-Valcroze, as well as from later occasional contributors to, and friends of, Cahiers (such as Lotte Eisner, Henri Langlois, Herman Weinberg, Georges Sadoul), plus the first articles by Eric Rohmer (then writing under his real name, Maurice Scherer), later also a Cahiers editor. If we then glance fonvard ten years to 1959, at the end of the period covered by this volume, what are the typical contents of Cahiers? A continuing concern with American cinema, with many names familiar from the Revue in the 1920s (Hawks, Hitchcock, Ford, Lang), as well as, of course, some newer names (Brooks, Fuller, Lumet and Frankenheimer, Ray, Minnelli, Tashlin, Mann, Preminger); a continuing concern with Italian cinema and realism (Zavattini, Visconti, Rossellini) as well as with realism more broadly (the first signs of interest in 'direct cinema'); a continuing attention to Soviet cinema (Eisenstein and Dovzhenko) and 'art cinema' generally (Bergman, Bunuel, Mizoguchi, Wajda); and polemics for French cinema, with articles on or by Cocteau, Becker, Renoir, Vigo as well as newer names more associated with the nouvelle vague, such as Franju, Chabrol, Truffaut, Resnais.
Clearly, polemical and influential though Cahiers proved to be, it inherited a great deal both generally from French culture and very specifically from a tradition of film cultural concerns and interests well established since the 1920s. More immediately, the central elements of Bazin's theses about realism - generally endorsed by Cahiers as a whole in the 19508 - had already been established in the 1940s through articles not only in the Revue du Cinema but also in the Catholic journal Esprit and elsewhere well before Cahiers began. Bazin and Pierre Kast had also written for the Communist-sponsored journal Ecran Francais, which also published, for example, Alexandre Astruc's important essay The Birth of a New Avant-Garde: La camera-stylo' in 1948,8 until, apparently, that journal's hostility to American cinema caused them to stop writing for it; Kast's first article for the Revue appeared in 1948. As well as Bazin, then, the Revue helped to establish Doniol-Valcroze, Kast and Rohmer: Bazin and Rohmer were to be decisive editorial influences on Cahiers in its first decade. Almost certainly Jean-George Auriol, editor of the Revue, would have become editor of the new journal already being planned before the final demise of the Revue. As it was, Auriol's death in a car accident in 1950 gave considerable impetus to the birth of Cahiers: the first issue was dedicated to his memory. But there had been other influences at work, linked to the same personalities. In 1948-9, something else was being born, as DoniolValcroze put it, which would 'constitute the first link in the chain which is resulting today in what has been called the nouvelle vague, the first jolt against a cinema which had become too traditional: "Objectif 49", a cineclub unlike any other, which under the aegis of Jean Cocteau, Robert Bresson, Roger Leenhardt, Rene Clement, Alexandre Astruc, Pierre Kast, Raymond Queneau, etc. brought together all those - critics, film-makers and future film-makers - who dreamed of a cinema d'auteurs'.
It was, then, from the background of the Revue du Cinema and 'Objectif 49' that Cahiers derived its main contributors and concerns when the first issue was finally published in April 1951, with Lo Duca (who had also been active on the Revue), Bazin and Doniol-Valcroze as joint editors (though Bazin was ill and was not officially on the editorial mast-head until the second issue) and Leon Kiegel financing. But by the end of 1953the tenor of Cahiers was already changing: over the period of a year or so in 1952-3 Jean-Luc Godard (initially under the pseudonym Hans Lucas), Jean Domarchi, Francois Truffaut, Jacques Rivette and Claude Chabrol wrote their first articles for Cahiers and became regular contributors, Truffaut coming from a close personal relationship with Bazin, and Godard, Rivette and Chabrol from an involvement during 1950-1 with Rohmer through the Cine-Club du Quartier Latin and its bulletin, edited by Rohmer, the Gazette du Cinema, which published articles by Rivette and Godard.
Among the early contributions to Cahiers which in retrospect he singled out as important, Doniol-Valcroze mentionsll Bazin on Bresson, Rohmer on Murnau, Flaherty and film space, the special issue on Renoir, the first articles by Godard and Truffaut, articles on Murnau by Astruc and Domarchi and Rivette on Hawks. Is Thus, in retrospect at least, the socalled 'young Turks' were seen to have made their mark on Cahiers very quickly. As if to emphasize the point, Doniol-Valcroze remembers that the publication of Truffaut's article 'Une Certaine Tendance du cinema francais' in January 1954 - apparently after some months of hesitation _ consciously marked a definitive new departure for the journal:
the publication of this article marks the real point of departure for what, rightly or wrongly, Cahiers du Cinema represents today. A leap had been made, a trial begun with which we were all in solidarity, something bound us together. From then on, it was known that we were for Renoir, Rossellini, Hitchcock, Cocteau, Bresson ... and against X, Y and Z. From then on there was a doctrine, the politique des auteurs, even if it lacked flexibility. From then on, it was quite nahlral that the series of interviews with the great directors would begin and a real contact be established between them and us. Ever afterwards people could pull the hitchcocko-hawksiens to pieces, get indignant about the attacks on 'French quality cinema', declare as dangerous the 'young Turks' of criticism ... but an 'idea' had got under way which was going to make its obstinate way to its most logical conclusion: the passage of almost all those involved in it to directing films themselves.
With Truffaut's salvo fired, the journal's complexion was now clearer, and everything seemed in place for Cahiers to do what its subsequent reputation suggested that it did. Editorially speaking, Cahiers was then relatively stable through the 1950: Bazin, Lo Duca and Doniol-Valcroze continued as joint editors, with Bazin (and perhaps Truffaut) exercising most influence, until early 1957, when Rohmer replaced Lo Duca and began to exert increasing influence, in part just because others were so busy (Truffaut and Godard were also writing for the weekly newspaper Arts and other publications while also, like Chabrol, preparing films), in part because of Bazin's illness; Rohmer's position as joint editor with Doniol-Valcroze was then confirmed after Bazin's death in November 1958 and continued until 1963. But it is always wrong to think of the Cahiers writers during this period as a really homogeneous group: Bazin and Rohmer were close in their Catholicism and their theses about the realist vocation of film, but Bazin argued strenuously against Rohmer on Hitchcock and Hawks; Rivette and Godard admired Rossellini for reasons considerably different from those of Rohmer; Godard and Rivette were more inclined, relatively speaking, to 'modernism' than most of their colleagues; Kast stood out in this period as almost the only Cahiers writer with clearly left-wing, anti-clerical sympathies, but like Bazin he opposed aspects of the politique des auteurs, though for different reasons; Truffaut was personally close to Bazin but proved very often distant from him in his tastes and values, and so on. Yet Doniol-Valcroze is right to talk about 'solidarity' in the sense that despite their differences there were usually broad areas of agreement and shared assumptions on some fundamental questions.
Cahiers du Cinema, Volume 1/ The 1950: Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave/Introduction
Christopher Vitale - Reading Cinema II, Part III: Noosigns, Lecto-signs, and the Cinematic Worldcreating for a People Yet to Come
Christopher Vitale - Towards a Cinema of Affects: A Manifesto, Part II – Characters, Objects, Plots, Settings
Nina Power and GEOFFREY NOWELL-SMITH - SUBVERSIVE PASOLINI: 'LA RICOTTA' AND THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW