BOMB - Artists in Conversation
May 5, 2014

The editor-in-chief of Cahiers du Cinéma on Spielberg, politics, and the vitality of cinema.

Covers of Cahiers du Cinéma featuring, clockwise from upper left, Alfred Hitchcock (1956), François Truffaut (1984), Hong Sang Soo (2012), and Nanni Morretti (1989). Images courtesy of Cahiers du Cinéma.

Stéphane Delorme has been the editor-in-chief of French film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma since 2009, a position previously occupied by André Bazin, Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, and the late, great French critic Serge Daney, among others. Founded in Paris in 1951 by Bazin and critics Jacques Doniol-Valcroze and Joseph-Marie Lo Duca, Cahiers heralded the auteur theory, pioneered the transcribed interview, and served as a training ground for the French New Wave by publishing the critical writing of future filmmakers Rohmer, Rivette, Truffaut, Godard, and Chabrol. The magazine has appeared regularly since its launch over sixty years ago, going through a variety of phases and political orientations (including a radical Maoist turn in the early ’70s), but never truly deviating from its initial mission: the in-depth analysis of cinema as a way of seeing the world and forming a moral position.

Under Delorme, Cahiers du Cinéma has published special issues on young French and American filmmakers; spotlighted overlooked directors of the past, such as Jean Grémillon; and connected hidden currents in film history with contemporary masterpieces, such as Leos Carax’s Holy Motors. These enthusiasms will be highlighted in the upcoming Cahiers du Cinéma series at FIAF in New York, opening May 6 and running through the end of June, which I co-programmed with Delphine Selles-Alvarez in my role as Cahiers’s New York correspondent. This program of underappreciated treasures and galvanizing recent films is being held on the occasion of the release of Cahiers’s 700th issue, which features contributions from over a hundred international filmmakers, artists, writers, and philosophers.

This conversation with Stéphane began in a café in Paris in November 2013 and was updated by email over the last few weeks.

Nicholas Elliott I’d like to start by talking about your ambitions for what Cahiers du Cinéma can accomplish today. You recently wrote me that we should aim to write critical texts that could influence today’s films and, through that, change the world, which surprised me by its ambition. What is your vision for the magazine?

Stéphane Delorme You’re not beating around the bush! It’s clear to me that Cahiers du Cinéma is not a periodical that simply comments on the films that get released, like the enormous number of opinions you can find online. From the very beginning, the Cahiers's discourse was “we write about films to make films later.” Although founding editor André Bazin didn’t make films, all the young people who wrote forCahiers eventually did. So Cahiers is a very particular place where the ultimate goal was never to comment on a film, but to direct it. A Cahiers text allows a writer to remake a film and provides ideas for future films. So Cahiers du Cinéma has always been the promise of the cinema of the future; we’re not commenting on current cinema but announcing what lies ahead. Our mission is to prepare the cinema of tomorrow. That’s why I want to publish manifestos, which we started in April 2013 with a piece by actor/director Vincent Macaigne or my own text Lyricism!.

Your question also addresses something deeper. I want Cahiers du Cinéma to be not only a film periodical, but also the periodical of its era. I want us to be in accord with our era and also to try to change the era. That’s ambitious, of course, and for the time being I think many readers are not aware of it because we’re caught up with current releases. Some readers continue to find exactly what they always found in the magazine. They can see a film and go read what Cahiers thinks. But I’m trying to create new spaces in the magazine using other literary forms such as the manifesto, which deal not only with cinema but also the era. The world is lacking texts reflecting on our era. On our scale, within our field, and with our culture of cinephilia, we have a certain way of looking at things—of looking at images or the internet, for instance. On a larger scale, the modes of thought forming the works of art we see today, whether cinema or contemporary art and literature, make the era. I want Cahiers to be able to name these modes of thought and to do battle with some of them.

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