Essays On Chaplin Andre Bazin

André Bazin

André Bazin on the cover of the third volume of the original edition of Qu'est-ce que le cinéma?

Born(1918-04-18)18 April 1918
Angers, France
Died11 November 1958(1958-11-11) (aged 40)
Nogent-sur-Marne, France
Alma materEcole Normale Supérieurede Saint-Cloud
OccupationFilm critic, film theorist

André Bazin (French: [bazɛ̃]; 18 April 1918 – 11 November 1958) was a renowned and influential Frenchfilm critic and film theorist.

Bazin started to write about film in 1943 and was a co-founder of the renowned film magazine Cahiers du cinéma in 1951, along with Jacques Doniol-Valcroze and Joseph-Marie Lo Duca.

Bazin's call for objective reality, deep focus, and lack of montage are linked to his belief that the interpretation of a film or scene should be left to the spectator. This placed him in opposition to film theory of the 1920s and 1930s, which emphasized how the cinema could manipulate reality.


Bazin was born in Angers, France, in 1918. He died in 1958, age 40, of leukemia.[1]

Film criticism[edit]

Bazin started to write about film in 1943 and was a co-founder of the renowned film magazine Cahiers du cinéma in 1951, along with Jacques Doniol-Valcroze and Joseph-Marie Lo Duca. Bazin was a major force in post-World War II film studies and criticism. He edited Cahiers until his death, and a four-volume collection of his writings was published posthumously, covering the years 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.[2]

The long-held standard view of Bazin's critical system 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 could 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. He watched film as personally as he expected the director to undertake it. His personal friendships with many directors he wrote about also furthered his analysis of their work. He became a central figure not only in film critique, but in bringing about certain collaborations, as well. Bazin also preferred long takes to montage editing. He believed that less was more, and that narrative was key to great film.

Bazin, who was influenced by personalism, believed that a film should represent a director's personal vision. This idea had a pivotal importance in the development of the auteur theory, the manifesto for which François Truffaut's article, "A Certain Tendency of the French Cinema", was published by his mentor Bazin in Cahiers in 1954. Bazin also is known as a proponent of "appreciative criticism", the notion that only critics who like a film should review it, thus encouraging constructive criticism.

In popular culture[edit]


In English[edit]

  • Bazin, André. (2009). What is Cinema? (Timothy Barnard, Trans.) Montreal: caboose, ISBN 978-0-9811914-0-9
  • Bazin, André. (1967–71). What is cinema? Vol. 1 & 2 (Hugh Gray, Trans., Ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-02034-0
  • Bazin, André. (1973). Jean Renoir (François Truffaut, Ed.; W.W. Halsey II & William H. Simon, Trans.). New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-671-21464-0
  • Bazin, André. (1978). Orson Welles: a critical view. New York: Harper and Row. ISBN 0-06-010274-8
  • Andrew, Dudley. André Bazin. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978. ISBN 0-19-502165-7
  • Bazin, André. (1981). French cinema of the occupation and resistance: The birth of a critical esthetic (François Truffaut, Ed., Stanley Hochman, Trans.). New York: F. Ungar Pub. Co. ISBN 0-8044-2022-X
  • Bazin, André. (1982). The cinema of cruelty: From Buñuel to Hitchcock (François Truffaut, Ed.; Sabine d'Estrée, Trans.). New York: Seaver Books. ISBN 0-394-51808-X
  • Bazin, André. (1985). Essays on Chaplin (Jean Bodon, Trans., Ed.). New Haven, Conn.: University of New Haven Press. LCCN 84-52687
  • Bazin, André. (1996). Bazin at work: Major essays & reviews from the forties and fifties (Bert Cardullo, Ed., Trans.; Alain Piette, Trans.). New York: Routledge. (HB) ISBN 0-415-90017-4 (PB) ISBN 0-415-90018-2
  • Bazin, André. (Forthcoming). French cinema from the liberation to the New Wave, 1945-1958 (Bert Cardullo, Ed.)

In French[edit]

  • La politique des auteurs, edited by André Bazin. Interviews with Robert Bresson, Jean Renoir, Luis Buñuel, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, Orson Welles, Michelangelo Antonioni, Carl Theodor Dreyer and Roberto Rossellini
  • Qu'est-ce que le cinéma? (4 vols.), by André Bazin, originally published 1958–1962 (1958, 1959, 1961, 1962). New edition: Les Éditions du Cerf, 2003.
  • Oeuvres complètes d'André Bazin, éditions Cahiers du Cinéma, 2014


Further reading[edit]

  • The André Bazin Special Issue, Film International, No. 30 (November 2007), Jeffrey Crouse, guest editor. Essays include those by Charles Warren ("What is Criticism?"), Richard Armstrong ("The Best Years of Our Lives: Planes of Innocence and Experience"), William Rothman ("Bazin as a Cavellian Realist"), Mats Rohdin ("Cinema as an Art of Potential Metaphors: The Rehabilitation of Metaphor in André Bazin's Realist Film Theory"), Karla Oeler ("André Bazin and the Preservation of Loss"), Tom Paulus ("The View across the Courtyard: Bazin and the Evolution of Depth Style"), and Diane Stevenson ("Godard and Bazin"). Introductory essay, "Because We Need Him Now: Re-enchanting Film Studies Through Bazin," written by Jeffrey Crouse.

External links[edit]

Online essays[edit]

The first scanning of Bazin as a thinker with a full view of the cinema came in the months after his death and was provided by his successor as editor at Cahiers du cinéma, Éric Rohmer (Rohmer 1989), and by the British critic Richard Roud (Roud 1959). It would be well over a decade before Bazin received sustained treatment in English, and then it was thanks to the translation of his key essays. This came at the moment of the arrival of academic film studies, where Bazin naturally was taken up in the first textbooks that laid out film theory as a field of study. Tudor 1974 and Andrew 1976 both aim to put Bazin into a small lineup of “classical theorists,” with the former finding fault with the realist tradition and the latter believing it to have been liberating. Much later, in Andrew 1997 and Andrew 1998, the author composed several entries to summarize Bazin, the first of these attending to the debates his theory has occasioned and the second serving as a description of the logic of the work and its putative unity. The question of unity has been in dispute, with Henderson 1980 and later Carroll 1988 insisting on a division in Bazin between his theory and his critical-historical practice, while Perkins 1972 upholds his continuity of thought, the author taking his cue from Éric Rohmer’s initial pronouncement. Elsaesser 2011 looks beyond Bazin’s period to see how the problems he addressed and his usual approach line up with the work of film scholars in later decades, extending to the present.

  • Andrew, Dudley. “André Bazin.” In The Major Film Theories: An Introduction. By J. Dudley Andrew, 134–178. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976.

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    In this early textbook laying out film theory as a field, the chapter on Bazin positions him on the side of “realist theories” and in opposition to the “formative tradition.” He is differentiated from Kracauer through his views of cinema’s raw material (tracings of reality), its way of manipulating that material, and its purposes.

  • Andrew, Dudley. “Bazin’s Evolution.” In Defining Cinema. Edited by Peter Lehman. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1997.

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    The first half of this eighteen-page article lays out the logic underlying Bazin’s scattered writings. The second half examines the fate of those ideas in the debates that are part of film studies. Bazin’s refusal to “essentialize” cinema keeps his theory open to new developments and has enabled him to outlast local debates.

  • Andrew, Dudley. “André Bazin.” In Encyclopedia of Aesthetics. Vol. 1. Edited by Michael Kelly, 228–232. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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    A succinct summary of the core of Bazin’s ideas and attitude toward cinema. Historical concerns are minimized while the logic and connectedness of the various directions of Bazin’s thought are emphasized.

  • Carroll, Noël. Philosophical Problems of Classical Film Theory. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988.

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    A substantial, carefully formulated accusation that Bazin’s so-called “theory of cinema” in fact applies only to a certain strain of films that he promoted. He may have been a fine critic, but criticism cannot dress up as theory. Moreover, Bazin’s realism rests on a crumbling foundation.

  • Elsaesser, Thomas. “A Bazinian Half-Century.” In Opening Bazin: Postwar Film Theory & its Afterlife. Edited by Dudley Andrew, 3–12. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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    An encyclopedic film scholar assesses Bazin’s place, not just during the time his ideas were in force but in debates about early cinema and post-cinema. The former comes under the rubric “Bazin as media-archeologist”; the latter debates are grouped under “indexicality” and “philosophy.”

  • Henderson, Brian. “The Structure of Bazin’s Thought.” In A Critique of Film Theory. By Brian Henderson, 32–47. New York: Dutton, 1980.

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    Originally appeared in Film Quarterly (Summer 1972). Opposed to Rohmer 1989 and Perkins 1972 and anticipating Carroll’s later critique (Carroll 1988), Henderson breaks down Bazin into a “theoretical” and “critical-historical” thinker. These irreconcilable dimensions Bazin strives but fails to unite via the concept of “evolution.” A fair, cogent examination of extant materials that would need revision today, given Bazin’s greatly expanded corpus.

  • Perkins, Victor F. “Minority Reports.” In Film as Film: Understanding and Judging Movies. By Victor F. Perkins, 28–39. London: Penguin, 1972.

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    One of the earliest and best considerations of Bazin, whose theory Perkins believes rescued cinema from those who value it insofar as it behaves like the other arts. But cinema’s recording function is something to be exploited, not overcome. Bazin honored a range of films that gain by being records.

  • Rohmer, Éric. “André Bazin’s ‘Summa.’” In The Taste for Beauty. By Éric Rohmer. Translated by Carol Volk, 93–104. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

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    Part eulogy, part review of the first two volumes of Qu’est-ce que le cinéma? Rohmer pleads for the coherence of work that until then had been seen only piecemeal. Unapologetic in his allegiance, Rohmer stresses the “objectivity axiom” that orients all Bazin’s writing and guides his appreciation of diverse genres and of impure cinema. Originally published in Cahiers du cinéma 91 (January 1959).

  • Roud, Richard. “Face to Face: André Bazin.” Sight and Sound 28.3–4 (1959): 176–179.

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    The first English summary of Bazin. Strikingly accurate, Bazin’s source is located in Roger Leenhardt and his effect in François Truffaut, the men to whom Qu’est-ce que le cinéma? is dedicated. Bazin linked silent realist masters to postwar cinema via Jean Renoir and insisted that adaptations paradoxically provide cinema its best route by which to evolve.

  • Tudor, Andrew. “Aesthetics of Realism: Bazin and Kracauer.” In Theories of Film. By Andrew Tudor, 98–115. London: Secker & Warburg, 1974.

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    This early textbook summary links Bazin to Kracauer, rejecting both for fantasizing “an aesthetic from which human interference is absent.” Although a source of many crude “bazinisms,” Tudor usefully distinguishes “pure realism” from “spatial realism,” while asking Bazin to go beyond both and include montage.

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