THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF FILM by Jean-Claude "Cartière


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One of Europe's most distinguished screenwriters offers a philosophical rumination on his chosen medium, but those led by the title to expect a glimpse into the hidden world of filmmaking will be disappointed. Film is an art that has evolved at a highly accelerated rate. As Carrière points out, movies have crammed into less than a century the same process of artistic development that led painting from the walls of the caves of Lascaux to the work of the great modern artists. The result, combined with the intense proliferation of television and videotape, is that we are bombarded relentlessly with images. Even film itself is moving faster, he writes, with quick-cutting moving from rock videos to the big screen at an alarming rate. Today, Carrière argues, visual Muzak surrounds us constantly, and the image is increasingly devalued. Much of the book is taken up with his thoughts on this phenomenon, which he finds quite disturbing. Elsewhere, Carrière talks about the ways in which film alters our sense of time, the subterfuges by which film editing expands or compresses ""real time"" into reel time. He also offers an essay on the process by which a screenplay becomes a fire, but there is little of practical value here. The author is at his most engaging when he recalls his early apprenticeship under Jacques Tati and some moments from his 19-year collaboration with Luis BuÑuel. Unfortunately, his attempt at film history is filled with generalizations that won't stand up to serious scrutiny, repeating stories that have been disproved by the scholarship of people like Charles Musser and John Fell. Despite that, the book is engaging, and Carrière's tone -- witty, self-effacing, and concerned -- manages to be at once disturbing and soothing, a rare combination indeed. Deserves a place on a small shelf alongside such oddities as Bresson's Notes on Cinematography and Tarkovsky's Sculpting in Time, studies in the philosophy of film written by great practitioners of the art.

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 1994
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Bessie/Pantheon