In a response to The Independent’s obituary of Serge Daney dated June 1992, Louis Skorecki wrote: “He [Daney] was the only film critic of real value in France in the last 20 years and one of the only original writers on moving images. He was at the same time something of a Robert Musil, an André Bazin and a Marshall McLuhan.”1 While Skorecki’s statement is highly debatable, it proves fertile as a starting point to explore Daney’s personality and role in the history of intellectual life in France in the second half of the 20th century. Ulrich’s character in The Man Without Qualities shows a sort of disenchantment and detachment from the prevailing social and political values of its time that echoes Serge Daney’s positioning. Moreover, André Bazin serves as the father figure of any French film critic, and maybe any critic coming after the end of the 1950s. Finally, Marshall McLuhan’s engagement with media theory and critical analysis, while on a different plane and with different perspectives and methodologies, finds a sensitive and almost poetic counterpoint in Daney’s career as a writer, a critic, an intellectual. 

Until now, for the non-French speaking reader, Skorecki’s statement could not be easily verified, something Jonathan Rosenbaum was already regretting in 2001 in an issue of Trafic entirely dedicated to Daney.2 Semiotext(e) started to rectify this anomaly with the publication in 2022 of The Cinema House, 1: The Cahiers du cinéma Years, 1962-1981, an almost exact replica of the volume published in 2001 by P.O.L. in France.3 Hopefully, this effort will continue with three more volumes to complete Daney’s almost entire collection of writings over the three decades spanned by his career.4

P.O.L.’s 2001 edition

A common theme can be found in reviews published since the release of Cinema House: in many respects the book, originally published in France almost ten years after Daney’s untimely death at the age of 48, arrives twenty years too late for its current readers. This feeling arises from a sense of disconnect between Daney’s prose, areas of focus, attention to morals, belief in the importance of cinema and its critics, and the ethos of the times we currently live in. Even in France, the intellectual figure and stature of a Serge Daney has all but disappeared from the mediatic field. Nonetheless, the sheer number of reviews and the critical attention provided to this release, to which this article contributes, testify to the importance of finally providing access to Daney’s work in the English language.5 This very review does not attempt to supersede the perspectives of illustrious critics such as Jonathan Rosenbaum, Richard Brody, or Greg Gerke. It adopts a factual approach with the hope to educate readers on what to expect from and in the Cinema House and it offers a few ideas on how to approach this difficult text. It also comments, from a French reader perspective, on the translation and it complements the print release with a missing table of content for Part One.

A Map of the Cinema House

Cinema House is organized in eight chapters, very uneven in length. In his major preface to the original French 2001 release of the book, also published in the Semiotext(e)’s version, French film critic Patrice Rollet explains this structure: “This edition’s design attempts […] to respect, by organizing into main sections whose dimensions and contents vary according to era […], the map of territories [Daney] charted […] as well as the velocities of writing that he had to adopt across them.” (pp. 10-11).

Part One, titled “In Film’s Wake”, is 255 pages long in a 597-page book. It offers critics of 132 movies in 129 articles written between 1962 and 1981, most of them (119) in Cahiers du cinéma, others (seven) in Libération the year it was created in 1973, and finally three in Faces of Cinema, a short-lived magazine Daney created with Louis Skorecki in 1962. Critics span movies from 22 countries (41 films from the US, 33 from France, 15 from Italy, five from Sweden, four from West Germany, UK, and the USSR, two from Poland and Portugal, two from Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Israel, the rest from Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Denmark, Haiti, and Jamaica). A small number of movies (nine) predate the start of Daney’s career as a critic, being filmed between 1932 and 1961. All the release years are then represented, with peaks of 13 movies from 1966, 11 from 1967, 12 from 1975, 15 from 1979, and 13 from 1980. Some other years are especially low with only one movie critiqued (1973) or two (1963, 1970, 1971), representing dips in Daney’s activity as a film reviewer (but not necessarily as a writer). Nonetheless, this goes to show Daney’s activity relates to current cinema more than to the history of the medium.

Rio Bravo: 19-year-old Daney’s first movie review in 1962 in which he writes: “If we have chosen a purely psychological approach to these characters, it’s because Hawks remains a moralist, and because Rio Bravo takes the form of a moral itinerary” (p. 35)

The second longest chapter is Part Six, “Here and Elsewhere”, 150 pages of report on festivals and travels everywhere in the world: Egypt, India, France, Scotland, Syria, West Germany, the Netherlands, the USSR, the US, Poland, Hong Kong, China, Portugal… Daney’s discovery of cinema is parallel to his opening up to the world at a time where little importance was given otherwise in magazines and among critics to cinema of countries from “the South,” or what was then referred to as the “Third World.” While embodying the epitome of the Parisian intellectual, Daney will remain for posterity the critic-traveller, sending thousands of postcards to his mother and his friends, sometimes daily, as postcards were for him the “absolute image,” more so than cinema.6

Part Two, “Auteur Theory”, treats of several important cineastes in a dense 40 pages: Mark Donskoy, Allan Dwan, John Ford, Éric Rohmer, Mauritz Stiller, Preston Sturges, Orson Welles, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Manoel de Oliveira, Johan van der Keuken, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, Nicholas Ray, Louis Daquin, and Satyajit Ray.

Part Three serves as the theoretical heart of the book: titled “The Critical Function”, it assembles a series of four dense articles of the same title published in Les Cahiers in 1973 and 1974. Having reached a greater maturity and taking hold of the magazine as its main editor, Daney synthesises his perspectives with density and poise.

Part Four, “Elaborations”, consists of nine articles published in various journals and magazines (Cahiers, Libération, Monde Diplomatique) between 1973 and 1981, on such diverse topics as cinema audience, the line between bourgeois and revolutionary cinema, live TV, or Mai 68.

Part Five, titled “Image-Proof”, is the shortest with just 10 pages of pictures and brief, incisive comments on them, including on the smile of Richard Dreyfuss, the rope in James Stewart’s hand, or the starlet’s leg.

Part Seven, “Answering Machine Chronicle”, is also very short and collects a few texts about TV published in the Cahiers in 1976. 

Part Eight, “Volleys”, contains four articles on tennis published in Libération between 1979 and 1981. These last two parts prelude Daney’s later commitment to the cultural pages of Libération in the ’80s and give a taste to readers of what’s to come in the next two volumes of the collection, should Semiotext(e) release them.7

The choice of movies in Part One draws an interesting map of Daney’s cinéphilie, one that is typical of French critics of these years’ Cahiers du cinéma. A large, if not over-representation of American cinema that translates into a love-hate relationship with Hollywood; a highly critical view of French cinema as it struggles between bourgeois conformism and ultra-ideologized leftism; a specific interest for Italian cinema, born in boundless admiration for neo-realism; an otherwise wide interest in European films; a few forays into other filmographies (Japan, Bolivia, Canada, Israel…); a great diversity in focus (111 different filmmakers for a total of 129 articles, with only Ingmar Bergman recurring three times, each fairly negatively as the Swedish director embodies for Serge Daney at that time the cinema petit-bourgeois; and a little over a dozen other directors recurring twice); all things confirmed by the two lists of ten best films published: that of 1962 and that for the decade of the ’70s (actually 13 films). The first list has seven American and three French films.8 The second list highlights four French films, three German, two from the US and Japan, and one each from Spain and Italy,9 which demonstrates Daney’s opening to a more geographically diverse cinema. About the list of the ’70s though, Daney himself states: “All of these films come from five or six countries. No new ‘national’ cinemas in sight. The hero of the sixties (the array of impoverished countries dubbed the ‘third world’) is stagnant in the seventies. Unequal exchange: poor countries are also lacking in images of themselves” (p. 284).

Methods to Wander in the Cinema House

With this structure in mind, The Cinema House proves a difficult book to read from cover to cover, especially since, as Richard Brody writes, it takes a while for Daney to become good at what he does.10 While this disciplined approach has its virtue, it may test one’s patience and result in fatigue that may jeopardize the reader’s ability to come to the book’s end.

A recommended method would be to use the table of content to start with articles that elicit connections with common interests between Daney and the reader. Navigating one’s way into the book according to taste or curiosity is the surest way to get acquainted to Daney’s style and idiosyncrasies. This is where some editorial choices made by Semiotext(e) are surprising, especially compared with the French publication: the lack of table of content is hard to defend, depriving the reader of a chronological visibility and readability of the opus. If anything, this review will be useful as it proposes an analytical table of content of Part One with titles (as stated in the translation), pages, movie date, article’s date, article’s publication, movie nationality (see at the bottom of this review). My French volume purchased and read in the early ‘00s still bears the pencil marks of my own prioritization: at that time, I felt an urge to read Daney’s views on Miloš Forman, Roberto Rossellini, Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman, Werner Herzog, Jean Eustache, Steven Spielberg, or Yasujirō Ozu. I probably had never heard of Johan van der Keuken, Werner Schroeter, or Marco Bellocchio, and it would take me years to return to Daney’s book and discover these authors through his pen and through their films.

The author’s pencilled table of contents in the French version of the book

A third way to wander the Cinema House is through the extensive index Semiotext(e) luckily retains. It also proves incredibly helpful to find one’s way in the richness of the book. While not flawless (I could not find The Deer Hunter [Michael Cimino, 1978], even though a full page is dedicated to its review at the time of the Berlin Film Festival (p. 458) and the film is referenced three times in the 2001 French version of the index), this tool allows another entry by film, actor, or director. As I wrote this review, I used the Godard entry, which is by far the most prolific of the book (50 different pages holding references to Godard) to reread everything Daney wrote in relation to the critic turned filmmaker between 1963 (My Life to Live [Jean-Luc Godard, 1963] appears as number 6 in Daney’s list of the ten best films of that year) and 1980 (Here and Elsewhere [Jean-Luc Godard, 1976] is also on the list that closes the chapter of film reviews). Godard’s name is uttered 11 times just in the introductory 1977 interview with Bill Krohn… This approach provides a fascinating chronological perspective on Daney’s ongoing admiration for Godard through all his evolutions, from trailblazer of the French New Wave to his experimentations with avant-garde documentary filmmaking.

Daney plays an important role in Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988-1998), and when the two authors dialogue in the early 1990s, we witness two dinosaurs11 of film theory and practice exchange under our eyes.12 From the parallel lives of these two giants stems an intuition: while Daney is 15 years younger than Godard, both shared the same cinéphilie in the ’60s. Both are guilty of the same ideological excesses and sclerosis in the early ’70s, exemplified in Daney’s critical texts for the Cahiers at that time and Godard’s militant films. Both redeemed themselves in the otherwise mediocre ’80s, to finally make amends in the ’90s: Godard with his masterful Histoire(s) du cinéma, Daney by gifting us shortly before his untimely death with the creation of Trafic,13 the theoretical and poetic antidote to his ’70s excesses.

Godard and Daney in dialogue

In the end, I counted 36 actual quotes referring to Godard in the entire volume, in addition to a full account of Vent d’Est (Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin, 1970). A careful review of these notes reveals a number of recurring themes that matter to understand Daney’s perspective on Godard as well as his more general critical outlook. Among many others: montage (“As Godard said again recently, ‘montage was what had to be destroyed, for it allows us to see’” (p. 480)); the legacy of cinéphilie (“Cinephilia is not only a particular relationship to cinema, it is a relationship to the world through cinema. I remember what people like Moullet and Godard said in the fifties: they learned about life at the movies. Cinema taught them how to live” (p. 19)); the central importance of Here and Elsewhere (Jean-Luc Godard, 1976) for Daney; the strong connection between Godard and Vertov, as well as with Rossellini; the key role Godard is already playing in relation to television and the media; and the importance of travel. I assembled the excerpts of these 36 quotes in a 3,000-word document: this document also illustrates Daney’s style, with its own sense for montage in the sentence and between sentences, its dazzling connections between cineastes and works, and its sometimes acerbic and deadening commentaries on otherwise well-regarded filmmakers (“Like Godard before ’68, Fassbinder has become a little factory, with his raw material, his specialized workers and his immigrants; the filmmaker is no longer the author of an oeuvre as much as he is the little boss of his little world” (p. 458)). A similar exercise on other directors, actors, or films awaits the reader according to her own interests and taste.

Finally, I would propose a fourth experimental approach, which is to focus first on Part Three, “Critical Function”, and to then return to Part One and read articles written around 1973 to test the degree to which Daney’s critical apparatus around utterance and enunciation helps explain his assessment of films at that period. One can then radiate forward and backward in time with the 1973-1974 theoretical articles serving as prolegomena for Daney’s entire work at the Cahiers. For Daney, when Louis Malle directs a movie about collaborationism with the Nazis during World War II, the film tells us more about Malle himself and France under President Pompidou in the ’70s than on a history 30 years passed. One should note, though, that the absence of any attempt at a critical apparatus, including translator footnotes, leaves a reader unfamiliar with France’s political and cultural history of the ’60s and ’70s naked in front of some difficult cultural gaps, such as figuring out who or what is hiding behind the names of French politicians or TV shows of these decades. 

Ultimately, when the reader leaves the Cinema House, she may experience a sense of longing or, even stronger, of melancholy for a bygone time of film criticism. The reward for the journey is high though, as Daney’s thought process proves incredibly fertile to help shape the reader’s taste and ability to confront today’s cinema, however different it might have become. Try it: I left a screening of Barbie (Greta Gerwig, 2023) recently wondering how it would fare under Daney’s razor-sharp pen in terms of utterance and enunciation. To paraphrase the title of a posthumous book by Serge Daney that quotes one of his favorite films, Moonfleet (Fritz Lang, 1955), “L’exercice a été profitable, monsieur” (“The exercise has been beneficial, sir”).14

A Note on Translation

The work of Christine Pichini translating Daney is rightfully being hailed in many reviews. Anyone taking on the translation of 600 pages of hard, theoretical criticism from the ’60s and ’70s deserves much praise, especially when the result reads with ease and flow. Nonetheless, a bilingual reader familiar with Daney’s original text will notice choices that, at times, get in the way of a thorough understanding of the critic’s original thinking. The first example comes, unfortunately, on the first line of the first article which reads: “Culmination of an oeuvre that is no longer impossible to ignore, Rio Bravo may very well be, along with Hatari!, Howard Hawks’s testament” (p. 31). The French reader will refer to the original and correct this awkward, contradictory statement to “Culmination of an oeuvre that is no longer possible to ignore”, while others are left to ponder whether the double negative is a first instance of Daney’s textual paratactic of the ’70s… In the major article on Kazan’s The Visitors (1972), the choice of “eternal” to translate “immarcescible” (p. 130), a word a reasonably well-read and well-educated person would have to look up in the dictionary, raises the question of choice of register. In the article on One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Miloš Forman, 1975), the translation of Kafka’s aphorism that opens The Trial (Orson Welles, 1962), while restoring Welles’s original text from the film, betrays the meaning from the French version written by Daney.15 In the appraisal of Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977), we read: “There are at least two schools among the great American comedies (the talkies, anyway)” (p. 210). The French original refers to comedians (comédiens), therefore the actors, not the films. With a more marked impact on understanding, in the devastating text on Höstsonaten (Autumn Sonata, Ingmar Bergman, 1978), Pichini translates: “Even as the last of his films is greeted as an event of immeasurable importance, he [Bergman] is no longer producing interesting cinema” (p. 223). The original text reads “he is no longer producing something that interests cinema”, which resonates very differently, cinema becoming the subject one should interest rather the object produced. Later, in the incredibly hard to translate texts of the “critical function” series, choice is made to translate the pair “énoncé / énonciation” with “the utterance (what is said) and the enunciation (when it is said and by whom)” (p. 332). Why not? The reader loses the oral parallel between the two words, but not their meaning. Why, then, wait for the third article of the series, more than ten pages later, to give the French words in brackets next to utterance and enunciation? (p. 345). And did Mao write “Dogmatism is lazy” (p. 354) or “Dogmatists are lazy” (Daney’s original text)?

Other mistakes abound that relate to sloppy copy-editing: in the introductory interview of Daney by Bill Krohn, the number of typos becomes irritating: éspacement instead of espacement (p. 16); “between Eisenstein from Pudovkin” (instead of “between Eisenstein and Pudovkin,” p. 16); “whose mission is to to begin” (p. 26). Further in the book, a review published in Libération is dated 1979 instead of 1974, creating a false idea that Daney was contributing at that time when all the film reviews published in the daily newspaper are concentrated in 1973-1974. Editing issues abound in the rest of the volume, a testimony of the state of publication in the US that should not reflect too badly on Semiotext(e). One can only hope that publication of the remaining volumes receives a more attentive scrutiny to accuracy.

Part One: Table of Contents

Filmmaker Title Movie date Page Article date Publication Nationality
Howard Hawks Rio Bravo 1959 31 1962 Faces of Cinema US
Howard Hawks Scarface 1932 37 1962 Faces of Cinema US
Otto Preminger Advise and Consent 1962 38 1963 Faces of Cinema US
Frank Tashlin Who’s Minding the Store? 1963 47 1965 Cahiers US
Mario Bava The Road to Fort Alamo 1964 49 1965 Cahiers IT
R.G. Springsteen Taggart 1964 49 1965 Cahiers US
Burt Kennedy The Rounders 1965 50 1965 Cahiers US
Claude Chabrol Our Agent Tiger (Le tigre se parfume à la dynamite) 1965 50 1965 Cahiers FR
Richard Quine Sex and the Single Girl 1964 52 1965 Cahiers US
Jerry Lewis The Family Jewels 1965 54 1966 Cahiers US
Blake Edwards The Great Race 1965 56 1966 Cahiers US
Roberto Rossellini The Taking of Power by Louis XIV (La prise de pouvoir par Louis XIV) 1966 59 1967 Cahiers FR
Leslie Stevens Incubus 1966 63 1967 Cahiers US
Wojciech Has The Saragossa Manuscript (Rękopis znaleziony w Saragossie) 1965 64 1967 Cahiers PL
Jean-Daniel Pollet The Horla (Le Horla) 1966 66 1967 Cahiers FR
Richard Fleischer Fantastic Voyage 1966 69 1967 Cahiers US
Vilgot Sjöman My Sister, My Love (Syskonbädd 1972) 1966 71 1967 Cahiers SWE
Luigi Comencini Misunderstood (Incompresso) 1966 72 1967 Cahiers IT
Joseph Losey Accident 1966 73 1967 Cahiers UK
Mikhail Shapiro Katerina Izmailova 1967 74 1967 Cahiers USSR
Jiří Menzel Closely Watched Trains (Ostře sledované vlaky) 1966 74 1967 Cahiers CZ
Jean-Louis Roy The Unknown Man of Shandigor (L’inconnu de Shandigor) 1967 75 1967 Cahiers FR
Glauber Rocha Entranced Earth (Terra em Transe) 1967 75 1967 Cahiers BRA
Uri Zohar Three Days and a Child (Shlosha Yamim Veyeled) 1967 77 1967 Cahiers ISR
Allan King Warrendale 1968 77 1967 Cahiers CAN
Jorge Sanjinés Ukamau 1966 78 1967 Cahiers BOL
Wim Verstappen Joseph Katus 1966 79 1967 Cahiers NL
Yukio Aoshima The Bell (Kane) 1967 80 1967 Cahiers JP
Palle Kjærulff-Schmidt Once There Was a War (Der var engang en krig) 1966 80 1967 Cahiers DN
Jörn Donner Rooftree (Tvärbalk) 1967 81 1967 Cahiers SWE
Jerzy Skolimowski The Departure (Le départ) 1967 82 1967 Cahiers BEL
Věra Chytilová Something Different; Daisies (Sedmikrásky) 1963; 1966 84 1967 Cahiers CZ
Billy Wilder The Fortune Cookie 1966 86 1967 Cahiers US
Otto Preminger Hurry Sundown 1967 88 1967 Cahiers US
Claude Chabrol Who’s Got the Black Box? (La route de Corinthe) 1967 92 1967 Cahiers FR
Don Siegel Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1956 92 1968 Cahiers US
Jan Troell Here Is Your Life (Här har du ditt liv) 1968 93 1968 Cahiers SWE
Ernst Lubitsch Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife 1938 94 1968 Cahiers US
Ernst Lubitsch Cluny Brown 1946 95 1968 Cahiers US
Vilgot Sjöman I Am Curious (Yellow) (Jag är nyfiken – en film i gult) 1967 98 1968 Cahiers SWE
Richard Brooks In Cold Blood 1967 99 1968 Cahiers US
Pier Paolo Pasolini Teorema 1968 101 1969 Cahiers IT
Tang Shu-shuen The Arch (Dong Furen) 1968 105 1969 Cahiers CHINA
Sergio Leone Once Upon a Time in the West (C’era una volta il West) 1968 105 1969 Cahiers IT
Primo Zeglio Killer Goodbye (Killer Adios) 1968 107 1969 Cahiers IT
Pier Paolo Pasolini Pigsty (Porcile) 1969 108 1969 Cahiers IT
George Cukor Justine 1969 109 1969 Cahiers US
Stanley Donen Staircase 1969 111 1969 Cahiers US
Barbet Schroeder More 1969 112 1969 Cahiers FR
Sam Peckinpah The Wild Bunch 1969 113 1970 Cahiers US
George A. Romero Night of the Living Dead 1968 115 1970 Cahiers US
François Truffaut The Wild Child (L’enfant sauvage) 1970 117 1970 Cahiers FR
Jerry Lewis Which Way to the Front? 1970 120 1971 Cahiers US
Jacques Demy Donkey Skin (Peau d’âne) 1979 123 1971 Cahiers FR
Joseph Losey The Go-Between 1971 127 1971 Cahiers UK
Elia Kazan  The Visitors 1972 129 1972 Cahiers US
Marco Bellocchio In the Name of the Father; Slap the Monster on Page One (Sbatti il mostro in prima pagina) 1971; 1972 138 1973 Cahiers IT
André Harris and Alain de Sédouy Français, si vous saviez 1973 146 1973 Cahiers FR
Michelangelo Antonioni Chung Kuo – Cina 1972 149 1973 Libération IT
Louis Malle Lacombe Lucien 1974 153 1974 Libération FR
Jorge Semprún Les deux mémoires 1974 154 1974 Libération FR
Pierre Granier-Deferre Creezy (La race des seigneurs) 1974 156 1974 Libération FR
Georges Perec and Bernard Queysanne The Sleeping Man (Un homme qui dort) 1974 157 1974 Libération FR
Barbet Schroeder General Idi Amin Dada 1974 159 1974 Cahiers FR
Miguel Littín The Promised Land (La tierra prometida) 1975 162 1974 Libération CHILE
Luigi Comencini Somewhere Beyond Love (Delitto d’amore) 1974 164 1974 Libération IT
Gudie Lawaetz May 68 (Mai 68) 1974 166 1975 Cahiers FR
Boaz Davidson Lemon Popsicle (Eskimo Limon) 1978 169 1976 Cahiers ISR
Jeannot Szwarc Jaws 2 1978 169 1976 Cahiers US
Jean-Luc Godard Number Two (Numéro deux) 1975 170 1976 Cahiers FR
Jean-Louis Comolli La Cecilia 1975 171 1976 Cahiers FR
Jean Genet A Song of Love (Un chant d’amour) 1950 175 1976 Cahiers FR
Jacques Demy The Pied Piper (Le joueur de flûte) 1972 176 1976 Cahiers UK
Jacques Doillon A Bag of Marbles (Un sac de billes) 1975 177 1976 Cahiers FR
Jacques Rouffio Seven Deaths by Prescription (Sept morts sur ordonnance) 1975 177 1976 Cahiers FR
Miloš Forman One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 1975 179 1976 Cahiers US
Roberto Rossellini The Messiah (Il messia) 1975 183 1976 Cahiers IT
Perry Henzell The Harder They Come 1972 185 1976 Cahiers JAM
Roger Pic Mao’s China (La Chine de Mao Tse-tung) 1976 186 1976 Cahiers FR
Bruno Muel With the Blood of Others (Avec le sang des autres) 1975 188 1976 Cahiers FR
Larry Hagman Beware! The Blob 1972 189 1976 Cahiers US
Akira Kurosawa Dersu Uzala 1975 190 1976 Cahiers USSR
Alain Tanner Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 (Jonas qui aura 25 ans en l’an 2000) 1975 191 1977 Cahiers SWI
Jean-Pierre Lefebvre; Bill Daughton L’amour blesssé; Corner of the Circle 1975 196 1977 Cahiers CAN
Arnold Antonin La nayif nan péyi kout baton 1976 198 1977 Cahiers HAI
Antonio Reis and Margarida Coredo Tras-os-Montes 1976 200 1977 Cahiers POR
Emile de Antonio Underground 1976 203 1977 Cahiers US
Johan van der Keuken Springtime 1976 206 1977 Cahiers NL
Woody Allen Annie Hall 1977 209 1977 Cahiers US
Ingmar Bergman The Serpent’s Egg (Das Schlangenei) 1977 212 1978 Cahiers WEST GER
Herbert Ross The Turning Point 1977 214 1978 Cahiers US
Mario Monicelli, Dino Risi and Ettore Scola The New Monsters (I nuovi mostri) 1977 217 1978 Cahiers IT
Andrzej Wajda Man of Marble (Człowiek z marmuru) 1977 219 1978 Cahiers PL
Ingmar Bergman Autumn Sonata (Höstsonaten) 1978 222 1978 Cahiers SWE
Stanley Kramer Judgment at Nuremberg 1961 223 1978 Cahiers US
Charlie Chaplin Limelight 1952 225 1979 Cahiers US
François Truffaut Love on the Run (L’amour en fuite) 1979 228 1979 Cahiers FR
Sergio Corbucci Odds and Evens (Pari e dispari) 1978 230 1979 Cahiers IT
Warren Beatty Heaven Can Wait 1978 231 1979 Cahiers US
Werner Herzog Nosferatu the Vampyre (Nosferatu: Phaontom der Nacht) 1979 232 1979 Cahiers WEST GER
Thomas Harlan Torre Bela 1975 233 1979 Cahiers POR
Manoel de Oliveira Doomed Love (Amor de Perdição) 1979 235 1979 Cahiers POR
Jacques Doillon The Hussy (La drôlesse) 1979 238 1979 Cahiers FR
Francis Ford Coppola Apocalypse Now 1979 243 1979 Cahiers US
Jean Eustache The Virgin of Pessac (La rosière de Pessac) I and II 1979 250 1979 Cahiers FR
Andrei Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky Sibiriada 1979 254 1979 Cahiers USSR
Pierre Granier-Deferre The Medic (Le toubib) 1979 258 1979 Cahiers FR
Werner Schroeter The Kingdom of Naples (Nel regno di Napoli) 1978 259 1980 Cahiers IT
Philippe Valois We Were One Man 

(Nous étions un seul homme)

1979 263 1980 Cahiers FR
Bertrand Blier Buffet froid 1979 263 1980 Cahiers FR
Yasujirō Ozu I Was Born, But… (Otona no miru ehon) 1932 264 1980 Cahiers JP
Jean Girault The Miser (L’avare) 1980 266 1980 Cahiers FR
James Ivory The Europeans 1979 267 1980 Cahiers UK
Peter Fleischmann The Hamburg Syndrome (Die Hamburger Krankheit) 1979 268 1980 Cahiers WEST GER
Steven Spielberg 1941 1979 269 1980 Cahiers US
Laurent Perrin Scopitone 1980 270 1980 Cahiers FR
Paul Schrader American Gigolo 1980 270 1980 Cahiers US
Rolf Lyssy The Swissmakers (Die Schweizermacher) 1978 271 1980 Cahiers SWI
James Goldstone When Time Ran Out 1980 272 1980 Cahiers US
Walerian Borowczyk Lulu 1980 272 1980 Cahiers FR
Georgiy Daneliya Autumn Marathon (Osenniy marafon) 1979 273 1980 Cahiers USSR
Stanley Donen Saturn 3 1980 274 1980 Cahiers US
Marco Bellocchio Leap Into the Void (Salto nel vuoto) 1980 274 1980 Cahiers IT
William Wiard Tom Horn 1980 275 1980 Cahiers US
William Friedkin Cruising 1980 276 1980 Cahiers US
Ingmar Bergman From the Life of the Marionettes (Aus dem Leben der Marionetten) 1980 277 1980 Cahiers WEST GER
Claude Zidi Inspector Blunder (Inspecteur la Bavure) 1980 278 1981 Cahiers FR
Gérald Calderon The Risk of Living (Le risque de vivre) 1980 279 1981 Cahiers FR
David Lynch The Elephant Man 1980 280 1981 Cahiers US

Serge Daney, The Cinema House and the World, 1: The Cahiers du cinéma Years, 1962-1981 (South Pasadena: Semiotext(e), 2021).


  1. Louis Skorecki, “Obituary: Serge Daney”, The Independent, 12 August 1992.
  2. Jonathan Rosenbaum, “Daney en Anglais: Lettre à Trafic”, Trafic, Issue 37 (Spring 2001): pp. 181-192.
  3. Serge Daney, La maison cinéma et le monde: Le Temps des Cahiers, 1962-1981 (Paris : P.O.L., 2001).
  4. For the reader unfamiliar with Daney, it is important to note that the original P.O.L. publication strived for exhaustivity with the notable exception of texts already collected by the author himself during his lifetime in other books, the most important for this period being La rampe: Cahier critique, 1970-1982 (Paris: Cahiers du cinéma, 1983). Luckily, a translation of all the articles collected in La Rampe can be found online. Semiotext(e) is also planning to release the book in December 2023. La Rampe proves a much more approachable and readable way to discover Daney than volume 1 of Cinema House.
  5. Some of the reviews also used in preparation for this article were released in ASTRA magazine, the New Yorker, LA Review of Books, Film Comment, The Nation, and Jonathan Rosenbaum’s website.
  6. According to what Daney himself is heard saying in Serge Daney, itinéraire d’un ciné-fils (Régis Debray, 1992): “I was not taking photographs, I was sending postcards, this is something I should have said from the beginning: for me the absolute image is the postcard, not cinema, my love for postcards never faltered, I sent tons of them to everyone my whole life, the postcard is my true relationship to image” (my translation).
  7. The next three volumes were published in France in 2002, 2012, and 2015 respectively. Volume 2 covers the years 1981-1985, volume 3 1986-1991, and volume 4 1991-1992.
  8. The list can be found in p. 46: 1. Advise and Consent (Otto Preminger, 1962); 2. Le caporal épinglé (The Elusive Corporal, Jean Renoir, 1962); 3. Hatari! (Howard Hawks, 1962); 4. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Vincente Minnelli, 1962); 5. Merrill’s Marauders (Samuel Fuller, 1962); 6. Vivre sa vie (My Life to Live, Jean-Luc Godard, 1962); 7. La Luxure (Lust, Jacques Demy, 1962); 8. Experiment in Terror (Blake Edwards, 1962); 9. King of Kings (Nicholas Ray, 1961); 10. Ride the High Country (Sam Peckinpah, 1962).
  9. The list can be found in p. 283. It is presented in five separate groups: 1. Tristana (Luis Buñuel, 1970), Dodes’ka-den (Akira Kurosawa, 1970), Parade (Jacques Tati, 1974); 2. Ici et ailleurs (Here and Elsewhere, Jean-Luc Godard, 1976), Milestones (John Douglas and Robert Kramer, 1975), Einleitung zu Arnold Schoenbergs Begleitmusik zu einer Lichtspielscene (Introduction to Arnold Schoenberg’s Accompaniment to a Cinematic Scene, Jean-Marie Straub, 1973); 3. Im Lauf der Zeit (Kings of the Road, Wim Wenders, 1976); Shōnen (Boy, Nagisa Ōshima, 1969); Des journées entières dans les arbres (Entire Days in the Trees, Marguerite Duras, 1977); 4. Salò o Le 120 giornate di Sodoma (Salo, or the 120 days of Sodom, Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975) ; 5. Six fois deux (Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville, 1976); Hitler, ein Film aus Deutschland (Hitler: A Film from Germany, Hans-Jürgen Sybeberg, 1977); La Région Centrale (The Central Region, Michael Snow, 1971).
  10. “To put it bluntly, it takes a little while for the book to get good”. Richard Bordy “A Visionary French Film Critic Finally Arrives in English,” The New Yorker, 8 September 2022.
  11. The choice of words voluntarily refers to Godard’s nickname in André Labarthe’s film title, where Fritz Lang is the dinosaur and Godard the baby: Le dinosaure et le bébé (André Labarthe, 1967).
  12. The 2-hour encounter between Daney and Godard can be found online in its entirety on the French Cinematheque’s website, in French only (no subtitles). With the slight age difference and posture, Godard now appears to endorse the role of the dinosaur, with Daney as a very mature and insightful baby. Later, Godard himself spoke of the role of this dialogue in his Histoire(s) with Youssef Ishaghpour in a revelatory book: Jean-Luc Godard et Youssef Ishaghpour, Archéologie du cinéma et mémoire du siècle (Tours: Farrago, 2000).
  13. For an account of Trafic’s 30-year history, see Emmanuel Bonin, “Trafic at 30, End of a Film Journal”, Senses of Cinema, Issue 102 (July 2022).
  14. Serge Daney, L’exercice a été profitable, Monsieur (Paris, P.O.L : 1993). Jonathan Rosenbaum comments on this title in his article on Daney in English: “Even though I’ve always loved Moonfleet (1955), ever since it came out (…) I can’t begin to imagine how one could translate the title of L’exercice a été profitable, Monsieur into a context that would make much sense to American cinephiles except as an exotic emblem of French cinephilia. Even starting with the English line spoken in the Lang film by Stewart Granger – “The exercise was beneficial” – would get one nowhere.”
  15. Daney, Cinema House, p. 182. Daney’s French version reads, with no quotation marks: cette porte devant laquelle tu attendais qu’on t’appelle n’était ouverte que pour toi, et maintenant elle est fermée, à tout jamais. This can be translated: “this door in front of which you were waiting to be called was open only for you, and now it is closed, forever” (my translation). Welles’s voiceover literally transcribed by Christine Pichini reads, in quotation marks: “This door… was intended only for you, and now… I am going to close it”.

About The Author

Emmanuel Bonin is an educator, a lifelong learner, and a passionate cinephile. He earned a master’s degree from Sorbonne University under the direction of Nicole Brenez and has since written in French and in English in magazines such as Panic and La Furia Umana.

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