Fernando Ganzo


GANZO, FERNANDO, "'Le Trafic du cinéma': On the Relationship between Criticism and Collective Programming Through a Publication; the Case of Trafic and the Jeu de Paume" in: Cinema Comparat/ive Cinema, n.1, 2012, pp. 66-74




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On the left column: The Leopard Man (Jacques Tourneur, 1943).
On the right column: Flammes (Adolpho Arrietta, 1978).


'Our politics is Auteur theory.' This sentence, perhaps never read, perhaps never said, was nevertheless ever present for the readers aiming to understand the ideological location of Cahiers du cinéma in the 1950s. The firsrt critical conclusion would be: the true authorial claim didn't so much lie on the film-maker as in the critic him- or herself, insofar as he (or she) had the power to establish hierarchies and relationships between the works.1  The second: a collective project, the project of a journal, could be defined by the films defended throughout its pages2 and by the decision to show them in the form of a film programme; in other words, by the impulse to translate writing into dissemination. The trace of that gesture can be followed up until the birth of a new publication, many years later, in 1992, founded by two former Cahiers critics, Serge Daney y Jean-Claude Biette: Trafic. With the arrival of the journal came the rupture with a number of Cahiers principles, and the adaptation to a quarterly publication: absence of images, rather longer texts, independence from the agenda of film premieres. But, perhaps most importantly, Trafic implied a strong gesture: criticism was no longer in monthly journals, in cinephilia, but rather it was sheltered in a different exercise: writing and the naked and atemporal return of the works themselves. Such double gesture was framed by the forewords and afterwords that bookended the first issues: the 'Journal de l’an présent' ('Diary of the Current Year'), where Daney took as much distance as necessary from cinema itself, and «À pied d’oeuvre» ('XXX'), where Biette return to the surface of the films themselves, be them recent or not.


A more intimate and less urgent criticism, more reflexive and isolated, implied that it was up to the films themselves – and the relationships traced between them in the pages of the journal – to define a collective project. Trafic continued then the model of the old Cahiers, defined by the strict selection of a series of film-makers or of a certain kind of cinema, but it had got rid of the need to go through the Auteur theory, or any other theoretical instrument to achieve this. On the way there, a certain transit was necessary – through the newspaper Libération, in the case of Daney, and through a critical silence in that of Biette.3 Daily writing forced Daney to a critical exercise just at the moment when, in his view, cinema had obtained its death certificate, sealed by the beginning of the Histoire(s) du cinéma (Jean-Luc Godard, 1988), which Godard had began three years before the birth Trafic, in an almost perfect communion with Daney's thought. To continue walking in uncertain grounds entails an opening up to reflection, the unfullfiled need to feed oneself off images, to make them speak. The development at work can be observed by comparing the list of best films of the 1970s selected by the Cahiers du cinéma,4 when Daney and Biette were part of the editorial team, with the programme 'Le Cinéma de Trafic', organised by the Jeu de Paume in Paris from 17 March until 12 April 1998.5 


Even if most of the names in Trafic's 1998 programme continue in line with the trail opened by Cahiers's list of the 1970s, the irruption of two names – Bruce Baillie and Jonas Mekas –6 signifies a violent clash. In 1977 Daney programmed the 'Cahiers Week' at the Bleecker St. Cinema in New York, directed by Jackie Raynal, and when he was interviewed by Bill Krohn, reflected on the absence of writing on avant-garde film (using Stephen Dwoskin or Jackie Raynal as examples) thus: 'Probably the position of the critic is no longer justified in the case of these films, because they no longer require mediation, insofar as most of the films act directly upon primary processes. There is a great difference between these films and the new European avant-garde (the one we are interested in: Godard and Straub) where any intervention upon primary processes (on perception) only has a true impact on us if it also implies an action upon the elements of though, of what is signified.'7 Hence it is particularly telling that the film by Jonas Mekas included in the programme was precisely Birth of a Nation (1997), which is almost a form of reconciliation with all the aesthetic arguments that this form of cinema may generate within critical discourse. Baillie or Mekas, whom in the 1970s were part of this cinema in response to which, according to Daney, it was not possible to generate an interesting critical position, gain a place within the critical discourse and editorial policy of the journal – helped by the relationship to an art centre, the Jeu de Paume, to which Mekas had always been close, and indeed it can be argued that his work gained a certain visibility and relevance within the French film scene thanks to his 1992 retrospective at that institution. They Lithuanian film-maker proofed top the right when he said: 'We are invisible, but we constitute an essential nation of cinema. We are the cinema.'8


Within this evolution, the task of translating ideas from writing into programming might have been, in the case of Trafic, a necessary step to prevent this more intimate work from being isolated, and to enable it to continue to develop conceptually. The case of Jean-Claude Biette is particularly interesting and effective in this sense, given his consistent critical approach, consisting in speaking of old films as if they were premieres, and of new films as if they were classic. In order to transform his critical method into a useful programming tool in the framework of 'Le Cinéma de Trafic', Biette decides on two criteria: closenees and cohesion. All the film-makers included (i.e. Adolpho Arrietta, Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, Manoel de Oliveira and Jacques Davila) have a more or less direct relationship with Biette: Arrietta, the film-maker he invited in the only introduced screening,9 not only had been in Biette's milieu for some time, but he had even filmed Biette's ear in his Le Château de Pointilly (Adolpho Arrietta, 1972). Jacques Davila, as Biette, participated in the collective film by the production company Diagonale (directed by Paul Vecchiali),10 which was also responsible for Le Théâtre des matières, the first film Biette made in 1977.11 Jean-Marie Straub used Biette as an actor in Othon, Les yeux ne veulent pas en tout temps se fermer, ou Peut-être qu'un jour Rome se permettra de choisir à son tour (Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, 1970), and finally, Party, by Manoel de Oliveira (1998), is produced by Paulo Branco, as are Loin de Manhattan (1982), Trois ponts sur la rivère (1999) and Saltimbank (2003), all by Jean-Claude Biette. Indeed Oliveira, and Portugal itself, are decisive influences in Biette's aesthetic evolution, which would culminate in the shooting in Lisbon and Oporto of Trois ponts sur la rivière. The discovery of Portuguese cinema (defended by Daney at Cahiers and became increasingly important in Trafic) meant for Biette the encounter of a more ludic relationship with words, a more equivocal urban landscape, labyrinthine, decadent and mysterious, and a way to take even further his interpretative style and its relationship to theatre (Biette's only theatre play, Barbe bleue, was staged in Portugal, with a performance by Luis Miguel Cintra). Portugal and Oliveira are a personal journey for Biette, an self-discovery that affects his cinema and his writing. If to show films is to present oneself, in the case of Biette this is more true than ever.


The first criteria is then, the family, so to speak. A criteria reinforced by the space where the programme takes place. The opening of the screening room of the Jeu de Paume is not only coetaneous to the birth of Trafic (which was marked by a round-table discussion in precisely that room), but also the programming criteria of the curator, Danièle Hibon, often coincide with the editorial criteria of the journal.12 (It is worth noting that a few months beforehand Trafic had programmed a shorter season, where Jean-Claude Biette had precisely included two films by Manoel de Oliveira.13) The notion of a 'collective project' should then be understood in its most literal sense, as the construction of a physical space (in the pages of a journal or inside a screening room) where films could coexist. Let's not forget that one of Jeu de Paume's trademarks is its close relationship to a number of film-makers (within and without the avant-garde), who are often invited to present their new works, or even at times their works in progress. As much as the usual film programme at the Jeu de Paume helps the journal to define a territory where it can programme films, Trafic also enables the institution to expand its agenda and enrich its position. To return, in this space, to the work of a number of film-makers of reference for the journal (for instance, to Oliveira) lays bare the permeability of certain films, their evolution in time, their own vitality. In short, to see film as a living body, and not as an inert object within an audio-visual society, which reserves for herself the right to change.


Second criteria, or second detail that calls the attention in this selection: even if the programme is not circumscribed to a geographical or temporal context – it ranges from Sherlock Junior (Buster Keaton, 1924) to La Vallée Close (Jean-Claude Rousseau, 1996) and Uirá, Um Índio em Busca de Deus (Gustavo Dahl, 1973) – Biette decides to show, over a six-day period, films from a relatively limited geography (Portugal, France and Germany) and time period (1956–90, although only one film from the 1950s is shown, jumping then to 1966). It may be argued that such time laps is, in fact, not so  brief.  But it's important to have in mind that Biette's critical trajectory at Cahiers du cinéma (later recovered in Poétique des auteurs), stands out for the large number of texts he dedicated to classical American film-makers such as Fritz Lang, Jacques Tourneur, Samuel Fuller, Allan Dwan or Frank Borzage. In fact, the idea behind his column 'Les fantômes du permanent' (dedicated to the films programmed in television, and which can be found in the issues of the late 1970s and early 80s) was, precisely to use television as an instrument to understand these films beyond the mantle that covered them at the time of their premiere (a mantle woven with advertising, critical reception, social context, the temporary and ephimeral notoriety of the people involved; in short, a mantle offering little shelter). It was a time of regeneration at the journal: the Maoist period seemed an insurmountable gap, and very few believed at the time that cinema could be spoken of in the same terms (Skorecki is the one to more precisely speak of the death of cinema 'as we knew it' with Río Bravo [Howard Hawks, 1959]14). What was at stake was overcoming this gap and being able to preserve a direct relationship to the film since a whole world could be evoked through the film itself.


It is true that since Biette founded Trafic together with Serge Daney, in 1991, the presence of classical film-makers goes down in his texts, but it never fully disappears. We may recognise a relatively higher theoretical weight in his texts (albeit in a ludic manner), even though theory could be said to define his trajectory at Cahiers: for instance, the reference to 'rhetorics' (a term used to define certain codes that would prevent a film from making 'noise' in its own context) in his article 'Qu’est-ce qu’un cinéaste'(BIETTE: 1996: 5-15) allow us to understand the critical implications of his column «Les fantômes du permanent». We may roughly sum up these references as follows: one should never consider a cinéaste, or film-maker, a director who accepts the rhetoric of his own work and its discursive code as part of  something given universally and naturally, and whose analysis is forbidden. That is, where the perception of reality of a film comes from 'the sensibility of a period and not from a single man', using as an example Bycicle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette, Vittorio de Sica, 1948).15 The idea used by Biette to define a film-maker (to be able to question the rhetoric of one's time), may also be applied to his own iniciative as a film-maker, attempting to understand classical films beyond their common rhetoric, and which may fall down as dead leaves when ones comes closer to these films as if for the first time.


The other great theoretical text published by Biette in Trafic, 'Le Gouvernement des Films' (BIETTE, 1998: 5-14), argues that in every film there is a struggle between three elements: drama, narrative and formal project,16 so that in order to understand the reality at play in a film one only needs to resolve this rule of three. Biette uses this (theoretical) method in later texts on a classical film-maker such as Raoul Walsh – one of Biette's favourites since his time at Cahiers –17 as well as on a modern film-maker such as Stanley Kubrick, in his analysis of Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999). Biette's critical process from the period of the Cahiers remains thus unchanged when writing for Trafic.


In short, the choices Biette makes in the programme are not due to an alleged and violent critical evolution, but rather to the conception of the programme as part of a collective project, of a collective idea of cinema which implies taking part (as a critic and film-maker) of a certain conception of cinema and of the world. A notion of cinema as a variable and mysterious universe, in which to plunge one time and another without thus exhausting its meaning; or, to paraphrase Oliveira, it is about accepting cinema as 'a saturation of magnificent signs bathed in the light of their lack of explanation' (GODARD and OLIVEIRA, 1993). A collective, or family, that is much more solid insofar as it comes from the social and geographical margins of cinema. With the exception of a film by Davila (though he was born in Argelia and is a film-maker who can be said to perfectly respond to an idea of marginality or exception), all the films chosen are marked by the idea of alien : in Flammes (Adolpho Arrietta, 1978), Spanish film-maker Arrietta films a young woman who plays with the idea of being saved by a Spanish fireman (Xavier Grandès, with an unconcealed accent) from the castle where she lives in isolation with her father; in Party (Manoel de Oliveira, 1996), brings together a French actor and a Greek actress at the Açores (Michel Piccoli and Irene Papas) in order to speak French with Leonor Silveira and Rogério Samora; and finally in the History Lessons (Geschichtsunterricht, Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, 1972), French film-makers Straub and Huillet film in Italy with German actors who perform the text by Bertolt Brecht Die geschäfte des herrn Julius Caesar. From these encounters emerges the idea of eliminating any patriotic and approach to language.18 It provides languages – since the four films screened are about the effect of words in the image) of an alienated sonority. The words pronounced by an alien soul immediately become matter, they are interpreted in the pure musical sense of the term, violently adhered to the film strip itself, which is modified, RETTORCIDA, forced to and thus manages to become the ineffable (Biette was a great film-maker of the ineffable, a concept expressed in his cinema not only through the use of foreign language, but also through the magical power of puns in his films). 


Hence Flammes becomes the most malleable film in the programme, and the one that most affects the rest of the screenings. Cocteau's influence is notorious (the other feature film he made, Merlin, is a direct adaptation of the French author), but it would be absurd to deny the atmosphere of American B-movie pemeating the film (BOZON, 2012: 92): from the first shot (a moon covered by clouds that become black due to the smoke) to the last one (the 'heroes' surfing the skies in a close-up shot of an airplane, next to which pass the clouds again, ever more black, with the cheapest of artifices).


It cannot be denied either that, given the artisanal value of the arriettian inventive of the scene, the film almost becomes an object, and once could even imagine that, only by changing its soundtrack, it could be part of a museum installation.


Such malleability is so powerful that it in fact makes Arrietta the film-maker that it is more difficult to write about among the ones included in the programme. It is not by chance that despite Arrietta's prominence in Biette's programme, he hardly ever wrote about his work (BIETTE, 1978a: 53),19 and during his presentation of Merlin he only formulated the basic idea: 'I will show you the work of a film-maker who makes one want to make films'. A cinema that is not easily translated into works, then, but which is open to programming, as if it was the most essential piece of a montage, or the critical cut of a film. Because after visiting the space far-away from all reality, such as the family mansion in Flammes, the garden in Party also becomes a mythical space, close to the elements of nature. The mechanical gestures of Arrietta's actors (the card games and the balancing acts) flood the thighs of Oliveira's women, highlighting the relationship between gesture and words, and highlighting, in the last instance, the presence of desire and Oliveira's old age. Similarly after the statism of the other two films, Straub's dialogues are all about the mobility of the actor. But the relationship is even more powerful in the case of Qui embrasse trop…, which opens, furthermore, with an almost identical establishing shot to Flammes. Between these self-reflective dialogues and Arrietta's fantastic territory, the silences and distances prompted by the evidence of the fugacity of desire, make Davila's lovers creatures marked by a fatal atavism, as if they were characters from Cat People (Jacques Tourneur, 1941). In short, the programme puts forward the monstrosity of the couple, insofar as both elements are unable to escape an evil mark that would prevent them from remaining together, or simply being normal. It is not by chance that Biette was literally obsessed by Freaks (Tod Browning, 1932) (BIETTE, 1978b: 23-26), or that his own film Trois ponts sur la rivière  – whereJeanne Balibar and Mathieu Amalric are subjected to the sign of an ill restlessness that starts to germinate when they meet back together – completely changes under the light of this programme. Let's remind ourselves of Tourneur's working method, marked by discretion, silence and the almost murmured address to the spectator(SKORECKI, 1978: 39-43). The presence of the invisible, of a spiritual world, in reality, can only be perceived if we approach it precociously, almost tiptoed. A film-maker characterised by a discrete but omnipresent editing, dialectic and open to the entrance of dissonant elements, intimate, shy and ludic (the famous shot of the squirrel in Le complexe de Toulon [1996]), Biette obtains from the union of similar but different elements, a time, a light and a voice that illuminates each of the films selected and, at the same time, as if in a film by Tourneur, allows reality to coexist with its spell: the work of the great film-makers are often characterised by their ability to illustrate the work of other film-makers and to understand it, no matter how distant or different they are. Arrietta, a film-maker who has been shown, but whose work is ineffable (wasn't it perhaps because of this ineffable character that Biette saw Arrietta as 'a film-maker who wants to make films', that is, a film-maker that makes emerge what is secret, in this instance, a relationship to Tourneur?) acts in this programme almost as the main characters of a Shakespeare play, who have more influence in the work when they are not present in the film than when they are.20 By invoking Tourneur without even mentioning him – even making him become an underground murmur in Straub's film – Arrietta's films become the wizards of the programme. In the faint tourneurian light invoked by Arrietta and Oliveira's mansions, the spiritual and mystical character of Straub's films, and in the streets across which the main character travels, it is not only the weight of history that we perceive, but also his gaze materialised in a thousand  invisible eyes.21 


Such silent and intimate encounters help Trafic to evolve through the programme,22 to incorporate violent and generous evolutions; a possible rediscovery of cinema that allows the entrance of increasingly diverse works. Cinema contemplated as a body in movement, subjected to the force of montage and time, which operate in the conception of a film programme.



Programme 'Le cinéma de Trafic', Jeu de Paume, 17 March - 12 April 1998.

Films selected by Jean-Claude Biette:

Le Crime de la toupie (Adolpho Arrietta, 1966)

Flammes (Adolpho Arrietta, 1978)

L’Imitation de l’ange (Adolpho Arrietta, 1967)

Merlín (Adolpho Arrietta, 1990)

Qui trop embrasse... (Jacques Davila, 1986)

Party (Manoel de Oliveira, 1996)

O Pintor e a Cidade (Manoel de Oliveira, 1956)

Geschichtsunterricht (Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet, 1972)

Films selected by Patrice Rollet:

In the Street (James Agee, Helen Levitt & Janice Loeb, 1952)

All my Life (Bruce Baillie, 1966)

Castro Street (Bruce Baillie, 1966)

Little Girl (Bruce Baillie, 1994-1995)

Quixote (Bruce Baillie, 1964-1965)

Roslyn Romance (Is it really trae?) (Bruce Baillie, 1977)

Valentin de las Sierras (Bruce Baillie, 1968)

Cockfighter (Monte Hellman, 1974)

Birth of a Nation (Jonas Mekas, 1996)

Sayat Nova (Serguei Paradjanov, 1968-1969)

La Vallée close (Jean-Claude Rousseau, 1995)

Leave me Alone (Gehrard Theuring, 1975)

Films selected by Raymond Bellour:

Saute ma ville (Chantal Akerman, 1963)

Charlotte et son Jules (Jean-Luc Godard, 1959)

Sherlock Jr. (Buster Keaton, 1924)

Time Indefinite (Ross Mc Elwee, 1992)

How I Learned to Overcome my Fear and Love Arik Sharon (Avi Mograbi, 1997)

Le Bassin de J.W.(João Cesar Monteiro, 1997)

Rock Hudson’s Home Movies (Mark Rappaport, 1992)

Archives de performances (Roman Signer, 1982-1997)

L’Enfant sauvage (François Truffaut, 1970)

Films selected by Sylvie Pierre:

Maïcol (Mario Brenta, 1988-1989)

Uirá, Um Índio em Busca de Deus (Gustavo Dahl, 1973)

Ke tu qiu hen (Ann Hui, 1989)

A Ilha de Moraes (Paulo Rocha, 1984)

Rentrée des classes (Jacques Rozier, 1955)

Les Sacrifiés (Okacha Touita, 1982)

Films selected for the 20th anniversary of the journal Trafic:

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg, 2001), introduced by Jonathan Rosenbaum

Le Bassin de J.W. (João César Monteiro, 1997), introduced by Marcos Uzal

La Belle Journée (Ginette Lavigne, 2010), introduced by Jean-Louis Comolli

Café Lumière (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 2003), introduced by Frédéric Sabouraud

Craneway Event (Tacita Dean, 2009), introduced by Hervé Gauville

Crash (David Cronenberg, 1996), introduced by Mark Rappaport

Encontros (Pierre-Marie Goulet, 2006), introduced by Bernard Eisenschitz

Film Socialisme (Jean-Luc Godard, 2010), introduced by Jean Narboni

Man Without a Past (Mies vailla menneisyyttä, Aki Kaurismäki), introduced by Leslie Kaplan

Inland (Gabbia, Tariq Teguia, 2008), introduced by Jacques Rancière

Far Away (Loin, André Téchiné, 2001), introduced by Jacques Bontemps

Mysteries of Lisbon (Mistérios de Lisboa, Raoul Ruiz), introduced by Jean Louis Schefer

Palombella rossa (Nanni Moretti, 1989), introduced by Fabrice Revault

Cassandra's Dream (Woody Allen, 2007), introduced by Marie Anne Guerin

Saraband (Ingmar Bergman, 2003), introduced by Raymond Bellour

Soy Cuba, O Mamute Siberiano (Vicente Ferraz, 2005), introduced by Sylvie Pierre

36 vues du pic Saint-Loup (Jacques Rivette, 2009), introduced by Pierre Léon

Vale Abraão (Manoel de Oliveira), introduced by Youssef Ishaghpour

Hat Wolff von Amerongen Konkursdelikte begangen? (Gerhard Benedikt Friedl, 2004), introduced by Christa Blümlinger

Zefiro Torna or Scenes from the Life of George Maciunas (Fluxus) (Jonas Mekas, 1992), introduced by Patrice Rollet






1 / On the long run, such authority forms part of the same gesture that draw these critics to become film-makers. Jean-Luc Godard was the one who best understood such initiative, since he literally continued it in his film work (SKORECKI, 2001: 18-19).

2 / At this point please allow me to make a personal reference. Anyone who has participated in a similar project can perfectly understand the idea. In my case, this was during the founding of the journal Lumière, reflected in its first editorial, which was but the films about which we were writing (ALGARÍN, Francisco, GANZO, Fernando, GRANDA, Moisés (Abril de 2009). El sonido y la furia. Last accessed in Novemeber 2012. Asociación Lumière. Availablte at: www.elumiere.net/numero1/num01_issuu.php).

3 / For the first, the situation was more crucial than for the second one; afterall Biette was already a film-maker before becoming a critic, therefore a brief lapse of time focused on his own film-making doesn't signify a drastic change in his evolution.

4 / The complete list of the editorial team of Cahiers du cinéma is available at the end of the interview with Jean Narboni. (First published in Cahiers du cinéma, nº 308, Feburary 1980). 

5 / We could understand the recent issue 80 (accompanied by a film programme) as an intermediate step, which celebrated the 20th anniversary of Trafic. It is also telling that the programme also took place at an arts centre, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

6 / Jonas Mekas is only mentioned once throughout the three volumes of La maison cinéma et le monde, the compilation of Daney's writings published both at Cahiers du Cinéma and the newspaper Libération. DANEY, Serge (2001, 2002, 2012). Lamaison cinéma et le monde. Vol. I, II y III. Paris. P.O.L. Éditeurs. 

7 / This interview was published at The Thousand Eyes, a magazine edited by Bleecker St. Cinema in 1977, and was afterwards partially republished in: KROHN, Bill (unknown publishing date). Les Cahiers du cinéma. 1968-1977. Last accessed in November 2012. Earthlink. Available at: home.earthlink.net/~steevee/Daney_1977.html

8 / These words by Jonas Mekas, of uncertain origin, were supposedly transcribed in the pressbook of the film, and have been published in, amongst other places: the programme notes of Peter Kubelka's «Was ist Film» («Filmprogramm Zyklus ‘Was ist Film’», Österreichisches Filmmuseum, Viena, 1995). 

9 / The film was Merlín (Adolfo Arrietta, 1998).

10 / L’Archipel des Amours (Jean-Claude Biette, Cécile Clairval, Jacques Davila, Michel Delahaye, Jacques Frenais, Gérard Frot-Coutaz, Jean-Claude Guiguet, Marie-Claude Treilhou and Paul Vecchiali, 1983).

11 / Vecchiali himself is the editor of the Davila film shown as part of Trafic's programme. 

12 / Other French publications were also invited to programme or to collaborate  in the screenings of the Jeu de Paume, such as the quarterly journal Vertigo, which participated in the retrospective of James Benning, or Cinéma, which is no longer published. As much as Trafic, the Jeu de Paume seemed to realise thet criticism no longer resides in monthly magazines. 

13 / Rite of Spring (Acto de Primavera, Manoel de Oliveira, 1963) and The Box (A Caixa, Manoel de Oliveira, 1994).

14 / This idea has been formulated in a number of texts and occasions. For the sake of concision, we will only mention one: 'As it is well-known, Río Bravo closes down, both symbolically and materially, the classical era of the great cinema of the monochrome deception; cinema.' (SKORECKI, 2001: 10).

15 / Biette formulates the definition of the film-maker as follows: 'A film-maker is the person who expresses a point of view on the world and on cinema itself, and whom in the act of making the film itself, achives a double operation of attempting to present a particular perception of reality (through a particular story, particular actors, a particular space and time) and to express it based on a general conception of the fabrication of a film, which is itself unique and singular, and which ensues from the perception and the assimilation of the films that precede it, and which allows him or her, through a long succession of underground movements that the film-maker can choose to ignore or let do, or alternatively to completely think through, to find personal and singular solutions as to how should the story, the actors, the space and the time be, with always a bit more of world than cinema.' (BIETTE, 1996: 5-15). 

16 / Although it is easy to understand what Biette means by project, form and narration, the meaning of 'dramaturgy' is more particular and complex. It refers to that something that emerges when filming an actor giving life to a character, something immediately dramatic, insofar as it is a raw material on which any film relies without being able to completely control it.

17 / In another text, 'La barbe de Kubrick', Biette applies this same method to a film-maker, whom is not amongst Biette's favourites. It is true that this method can hardly be said to be a theoretical one, it is rather the thought-process of a film-maker who seeks to penetrate the mechanism of the film, but Biette's texts prove its interest nonetheless, as does that fact that later critics such as Serge Bozon or myself, have attempted to apply the same method.

18 / In this sense, see Biette's brief text on the relationship between Josef von Sternberg, Robert Bresson and Jean-Marie Straub (BIETTE, 2001: 115-117).

19 / In this article, Biette foregrounds the ingraspable character of Arrietta's cinema: 'It suggests a multitude of fascinating shadows, which nonetheless defyany attempt at grasping them as objects.' 

20 / With this Biette also achieved a critical assessment of Arrietta's work, inspite of having hardly written about it, given its pregnant capacity within the programme, since it enabled the interpretation and assessment of the work of the other film-makers, which is a common characteristic of all great film-makers. 

21 / 'Anyone who has filmed landscapes, when immobilised, has sown them with eyes. Exactly as if they were characters.' (BREWSTER, 1983: 3).

22 / The aforementioned special issue of the journal and the programme at the Centre Georges Pompidou, both 2011, continue such invisible task of the critical off screen.  Twenty critics of the journal had to choose a film made after the foundation of the journal. It was a way of getting up to date with current times, but also a way of presenting its crop: the avant-garde, which was deemed beyond the territory of the journal in the past, is included in the programme through the work of Tacita Dean or Mekas, but the way is also complemented in the other direction, including directors such as Steven Spielberg or Woody Allen, while the 'official' American cinema had been ignored in the aforementioned list of best films of 1970s, with the exception of Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas. In order to grasp the point of development at which Trafic finds itself today, it should suffice to imagine the poetic weight that a film such as Craneway Event (Tacita Dean, 2009) may bring to the futurist universe of Artificial Intelligence: A.I. (Steven Spielberg, 2001) and the empty melancholy that the latter can give back, or how the speech on idealism in Palombella rossa (Nanni Moretti, 1989) may breath political content to the characters in Crash (David Cronenberg, 1996).





This essay studies the relationship between the critical task of a publication (Trafic) and its transposition into a film programme (the season organised by the journal for the Jeu de Paume in Paris in 1998). The author suggests that the dialogue established between the films included in the programme enabled both the critical discourse and the editorial line of the publication to move forward. The essay focuses on the films selected by Jean-Claude Biette (co-founder of the journal, together with Serge Daney) for this programme, and in particular on Biette's capacity to bring together recent and historical works, at times in a comparative manner. In this programme in particular, Biette sets the films of Adolpho Arrietta in relation to the work of Jacques Tourneur, an association which extends across the rest of the films selected (and which included works by Manoel de Oliveira, Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet and Jacques Davila). 



Film criticism, programming, museum, film journal, montage, Cahiers du cinéma, Trafic, Jean-Claude Biette, Adolpho Arrietta, Jacques Tourneur.





ALGARÍN, Francisco, GANZO, Fernando, GRANDA, Moisés (2009). El sonido y la furia. Lumière, nº 1, April, p. 3.

BIETTE, Jean-Claude (2001). Cinemanuel. Paris. P.O.L. Éditions.

BIETTE, Jean-Claude (1978). Freaks. Cahiers du cinéma, nº 288, May, pp. 23-26.

BIETTE, Jean-Claude (1978a). Le cinéma phénixo-logique d’Adolfo Arrieta. Cahiers du cinéma, nº 290/291, July-August, p. 53.

BIETTE, Jean-Claude (1998). Le Gouvernement des Films. Trafic, nº 25, Spring, pp. 5-14.

BIETTE, Jean-Claude (1998). Poétique des auteurs. Paris. Editions de l’Étoile.

BIETTE, Jean-Claude (1996). Qu’est-ce qu’un cinéaste. Trafic, nº 18, Spring, pp. 5-15.

BIETTE, Jean-Claude (1998), Le Gouvernement des Films. Trafic, nº 25, Spring, pp. 5-14.

BOZON, Serge (2012). Flammes. Cahiers du cinéma, nº 682, October, p. 92

BREWSTER, Ben (1983). Too Early/Too Late: Interview with Huillet and Straub. Undercut, nº 7/8, Spring, p. 3.

GODARD, Jean-Luc and OLIVEIRA, Manoel de (1993). “Godard et Oliveira sortent ensemble”, in Jean-Luc Godard par Jean-Luc Godard. Volume 2. Paris. Cahiers du Cinéma, p. 270.

SKORECKI, Louis (1978). Anexe sur Jacques Tourneur. Cahiers du cinéma, nº 293, October, pp. 39-43.

SKORECKI, Louis (2001). Raoul Walsh et moi. Paris. Presses Universitaires de France. 





Fernando Ganzo studied Journalism at the Universidad del País Vasco, and is currently a doctoral candidate at the Department of Information and Social Sciences at the same university, where he has also taught at the Painting Department of the Fine Art School. He is co-editor of the journal Lumière and contributes to Trafic, he has taken part in research groups of other institutions, such as Cinema and Democracy and the Foundation Bakeaz. He also holds an MA in History and Aesthetics of Cinema from the  Universidad de Valladolid. He has programmed avant-garde film programmes at the Filmoteca de Cantabria. He is currently undertaking research on Alain Resnais, Sam Peckinpah, and the isolation of characters via the mise en scene.

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