All a philistine needs to do is see a few images of Rossellini’s film or Grandclaude’s “film about film”1 to realize that this is a different kind of cinema.

Not a cinema from another era, another horizon, but another way of filming, another way of making, another way of showing.

And yet cinema, less than any other true art, cannot hide its age; indeed, it is often risibly dated – however prestigious its signature may have been.

If these films bring to mind eternal music, music that still speaks to us after centuries – a Bach suite comes to mind, for example – or timeless paintings in which we sometimes even find ways of the future, as witness the Temptation of St. Anthony the Great from the Isenheim Altarpiece. if, then, these films seem timeless, it’s not because they’re similar to the so-called masterpieces of the genre, the Bergmans, the Hitchcocks, the Sautets, the Eastwoods – and we see in passing that they therefore belong to several genres – but, on the contrary, because they’re gems of another order, one that reveals the art of cinematography, the art of showing without showing, the art without strings, without gimmicks, without special effects ; the film that shows what the act of filming is all about: a lesson in cinema!

Thus, what at first appeared to be another cinema was in fact cinema itself, cinema in act, pure act, the act detached from its object.

A journalist may well quarrel with objectivity, denounce its impossibility, its pretension – and in so doing, he will have put his finger on the real subject – but he will not have seen what it was all about, he will not have looked at the right side of the image: he will have remained trapped in the phenomenological schema of an inextricable combination between a subject that looks and an object that is seen. While it’s true that the gaze makes the object, that the experimenter modifies the experience in progress, the journalist will have missed the crucial role of the camera – which is specific to cinema and without which it wouldn’t exist – and which is elevated here to a vehicle of objective intention. Indeed, it is undoubtedly one of the major pedagogical contributions of Grandclaude’s “film about film” that it reveals Rossellini, leaving the camera to do its own work.

The philistine – that’s us – who had nevertheless immediately seen another cinema, now knows that he has encountered cinema. For he has seen not all its possibilities, all its genres, all its ways, but the possibility of a cinema where, let’s say it again, the camera can be the means of objective intention.

We then discover the social and economic commitment that Rossellini intends to give to cinema, but we immediately understand its unacceptable subversion: to give the spectator back his freedom and, beyond that, to refuse the established manipulation of democracies that are necessarily media-driven – newspapers are born with them – and which, as Churchill said, necessarily degenerate into demagogy.

The fact that this realization could take place at the very time and, symbolically, in the very place that is at the service of the commodification of art – like that of man, religion and politics – by distorting the meaning of beauty, is what was unacceptable and had to be avoided at all costs. We’re not laughing anymore, there’s too much money at stake!

In a world where goodness is an outdated notion and truth a relative value, the only thing left to do was to prevent the corruption of beauty. A vast conspiracy – without plotters – in which the illusion of Dixieuvièmiste progress leads to the nowhere we call postmodernity.

While Plato of the good, the true and the beautiful is turning in his grave, there are still a few voices being raised and, certainly, some independent organization or group to preserve these testimonies to another possible world, be they names, texts or films on the art of filming, which, like the works of Plato, Bach or Rembrandt, must remain available to future generations.


  1. This is filmmaker and producer Jacques Grandclaude, who filmed Rossellini (1906-1977) filming his testament work : “Beaubourg, centre d’art et de culture”, 1977.[]