Many of the debates around documentary filmmaking can be framed in a wider context: the debate on the didactic genres of imagination. It has taken place over a long time in the history of literature and art and clearly affects cinema: in the form of biography, portrait, confession, memories, treatise, essay, as wells as the hermetic genres, have nourished the cinema from its origins to this day.
Radical didactic projects were carried out from the mid-60s until the late 1970s by Roberto Rossellini and Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville. Each one, in their own way, represented a break with filmmaking practice as it had been carried out until then, exploring a still-young medium: television. Rossellini’s “visual encyclopaedia” project, brought to an end by his premature death, was inspired by ideas of the Moravian pedagogue Iohannes Amos Comenius (1592-1670) such as “direct vision”. For their part, Godard and Miéville set up their own production company -Sonimage- in the early 1970s. The second channel of French TV commissioned them to make long series: Six fois deux / Sur et sous la communication (1976) and France / tour / détour / deux / enfants (1978)
We will allocate two sessions to this issue. First, we will screen three episodes of the work for TV by Rossellini and Godard-Miéville, followed by a round table with José Antonio Escrig, Professor in the Specific Didactics Department of the Faculty of Education at the University of Zaragoza, and José Ángel Alcalde, passeur and Socratic maestro of several generations of cinephiles in the Barcelona area, founder of Xcèntric. There will also be a talk by Paulino Viota, one of the best experts on the work of Godard, who has just published a book titled Jean-Luc Godard. 60 años insumiso (Athenaica, 2022).
Atti degli apostoli [chapter 2]
Italy-France-Tunisia-Germany-Spain, 1969, 57 min, 35 mm to digital
France / tour / détour / deux / enfants [chapters 1A & 1B]
Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville
France, 1978, 25 min + 25min, video 1'' to digital
The sensitive thinking of Godard
Talk by Paulino Viota
Just after hanging up, Deux ou trois choses que je sais d'elle (1967) came to mind. As it happens -everything happens by chance- I had seen an extract of it yesterday. If it is a case of relating Rossellini and Godard, and if we wish to see Rossellini in his didactic sense and highlight what he worked on in the last fifteen years of his prodigious career, to present us with the thinking that has marked out the path of the human race, when turning to Godard I cannot think of any film where this is manifested in such a direct and even shameless way as Deux ou trois choses que je sais d'elle.
Godard in person (his voice, which we hear in whispers, as if he were sitting next to us in the cinema and did not want to bother the other spectators) philosophises on the most everyday aspects, such as the foam on a cup of coffee in a bistro or washing a Morris Mini in a carwash tunnel (you know my analysis of that scene).
Godard becomes the philosopher and uses filmmaking, as Eisenstein wished, as an image, as ‘sensitive thinking’ that backs up his philosophies (based on Francis Ponge, a ‘cold’ writer -like our two filmmakers- who combines poetry and essay and takes sides on issues).
Rossellini does not philosophise, but shows us those who do in their daily lives, breeding goats, sowing seeds or making pots in Atti degli apostoli.
During my talk I may show some of these scenes and comment on them a bit.
An image has been etched in my mind, that of the Council of Jerusalem in Atti (if my memory serves me right) in which those shepherds, farm workers and artisans discuss -without any pomp- in the most friendly and ordinary way whether Christianity should just be for one ethnic group or for the entire human race. A matter that ends up being essential for everyone’s future takes the form of such a physical and material phenomenon (like the cup of coffee of the Morris Mini) as circumcision.
I would like to compare Rossellini’s wonderful scene with one from another powerful film where an important issue is being discussed -perhaps in the Roman Senate- in The Fall of the Roman Empire or Spartacus. I would highlight Rossellini’s originality.
Could my talk go in that direction? If you agree, this letter could serve as a presentation.
All the best,