Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Dinosaur and the Baby

The Dinosaur and the Baby (1963) / Perrot-Minnot
In G.Perrot-Minnot's 1967 accompaniment to Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt, Fritz Lang and Godard deposit themselves at a table to discuss matters that are 'une common', and represent, collectively, the first half of the history of cinema. Lang, armed with a sage-like patience for the young provocateur, on many occasions, does not converse with him, but merely tolerates His Grumpiness. Godard, furtive as always and guarded by his goggle-armor, accepts Lang's generous praise for his prodigal talent with measured humility. 

Godard seeks permission to call him 'un dinosaur', one which Lang grants immediately. Lang belongs, as Godard believes, in a cinema of 'once upon a time', not cinema of 'coming soon' - but that is untrue, ofcourse, because the old fox Lang was 'newer' than many of the new directors. At one point in the film, both directors discuss the respective method(s) by which they will conduct a scene - a problem of aesthetics is transformed into one of mathematics. Lang takes out a sheet of paper and through a diagram, represents a room which has a chair, a table, a window and two people inside it. He then proceeds to use arrow-figures to depict camera angles. Godard rejects the method straightaway and says, 'I cannot direct like this. For me, the window, the chair, the table and the door must really exist. I should be able to see them. ' Pause. 'I can keep shuffling the two people though.'

In a moment, the two mutual admirers reach a stage of no possible reconciliation : Lang must continue to shoot a scene set in hypothesis, Godard must shoot what 'he can see'. As he said in a famous essay, he wouldn't believe in anything a priori. 

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