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Quote of the day

Documentary is the falsest sort of cinema. Reality has value only when it is transposed…

Documentary is the falsest sort of cinema. Reality has value only when it is transposed. In other words, an artist exists only if he has managed to create his own little world. It's not in Paris, Vienna, Monte Carlo or Atlanta that Stroheim's, Chaplin's and Griffith's characters evolved. It's in the world of Stroheim, Chaplin, and Griffith.

—J.R. courtesy of T.G's The Adventures of R.R.
I disagree: If untransposed reality has no value, then documentary is the truest sort of cinema because it best-expresses that untransposed, value-less reality. The one who makes it may not be an artist, but that doesn’t make his cinema false. On the other hand, if to add value (and create art) means to take reality and transpose it, then I can hardly think of a more valuable (and, therefore, truer) film than a great work of documentary propaganda—nor a greater artist than an excellent propagandist! But who says cinema needs artists, anyway: a famous artist’s son? There’s a good article on film production in the Spring ‘76 issue of Cinema Journal (“The Aesthetic Relevance of the Organization of Film Production”) in which the author, Calvin Pryluck, relates Orson Welles’ notion that, “people not involved with the commercial world of film making always want to talk about art, whereas [Welles] was a businessman.” Renoir’s statement doesn’t quite fit because Renoir was from within the film-production world, but I think the point stands. Cinema and art are not synonymous and an artist is not a precondition to a film.
I’d agree with my full heart to the first phrase: documentary could indeed be the falsest form of cinema because it is the one often claiming to be the truest. My problem begins with what comes next:saying that “reality has value only when it is transposed” is one more of those cages documakers, academics and critics take turns in imposing creative fact-based directors. I’d say reality has value only when played. The key is that this is art, so there is no point in saying a certain path is superior to others. As for what follows, saying that Rouch, Ivens, Wiseman, Marker or Coutinho haven;t created a uiverse on their own is downright ignorant – even if the JR of the quote is Rouch himself. tw, it would be greatly appreciated if the website identifies better the authors of the quotes.
Hi Douglas, The abbreviation was a choice on the part of the contributor who picked the quote, and I think your brilliant partial assumption that the author may be Jean Rouch practically legitimizes the decision. But as Pacze notes above, the JR is Jean Renoir. I don’t think Renoir’s quote implies that more “purely” documentary filmmakers aren’t creating their own world, but rather challenging the notion that they haven’t, that they are documenting but what there is. Pacze: but is documentary untransposed reality? I suppose the quote implies it is, but I presume (and of course I could be wrong), that Renoir means that nothing filmed is untransposed and therefore the notion of documentary as it is usually taken to mean is false.
As “the contributor”—I suggested the acronymns as a joke, and was thrilled to see such snobbery enacted and Rouch suggested. This is what vague suggestions are good for. But to make up for myself, I’ll note that Tag Gallagher’s wonderful book on Rossellini is available as a free download from his website, here: That Renoir said the quote is important, though (we’d expect this sort of thing from Sternberg), since Renoir was one of the superb pseudo-documentarians: La Marseillaise is a real-time documentary of some kind, perhaps of actors dressing up for a period reenactment, perhaps of the Popular Front.

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