Truffaut, Rivette and woman's portrait: Traces, fragments and remnants of the nineteenth century
This article proposes to examine traces of the nineteenth century in two films by directors emblematic of the New Wave; François Truffaut and Jacques Rivette. It begins with the observation that, though nineteenth-century texts and images are omnipresent in the works of directors affiliated with this movement of the cinematographic avant-garde, this topic has nonetheless not yet been subjected to systematic critical analysis. This article specifically studies the esthetic motif of the woman's portrait in two films: La Chambre verte (1978) and La Belle Noiseuse (1991). An analysis of this underlying theme reveals that these films are part of a reactivation, often implicit, of the literary and visual heritage of the nineteenth century. This article analyzes how these persisting themes function as materializations of the phenomenon of the relic or legacy defined by Aby Warburg as a specific trace, at once symptom and cultural phantom. Particular attention is given to the role played by the shorts stories of Henry James and Honoré de Balzac in affirming a romantic and spectral vision of cinema. This exploration of two singular films provides a glimpse of cinematographic modernity through the prism of the nineteenth century and "against the grain," according to Walter Benjamin's famous formulation. © 2014 Taylor and Francis.
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