"Serge Daney was the end of criticism as I understood it."
December 13, 2010 5:57 PM   Subscribe

Serge Daney (1944 - 1992) is often cited as one of the greatest film critics. After joining the legendary film magazine Cahiers du cinéma (which he would eventually edit) at age 20, Daney wrote extensively on the changing place of movies in culture, on directors new and old and on television, war and even sports. He founded the film magazine Trafic before dying of AIDS in 1992.

Though some of his essays have been officially translated and a small book of his writings has been published in English, the vast majority of his work remains untranslated into English. That hasn't stopped a devoted group of cinephiles from taking matters into their own hands.

Now there's a treasure trove of Daney essays, columns and reviews available to read online in English. Recommended:

However, you want to start with this fantastic interview with Daney conducted by Bill Krohn in 1977.
posted by alexoscar (12 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
My first post. I apologize for the odd spacing towards the end.
posted by alexoscar at 6:45 PM on December 13, 2010

Thanks — this is is a fantastic collection of Daney material, some relatively familiar and some quite new to almost any (English) reader, I'd think. I'm especially glad to have seen the Rosenbaum piece, with this nicely cutting observation about how and why he came to read Daney:
In the final analysis, this sotto voce invitation - almost as if he were offering pornographic postcards to strangers passing on the street - may turn out to be a more authentic way of introducing Daney to American cinephiles than attempting to smuggle him into a classroom.
posted by RogerB at 7:57 PM on December 13, 2010

Thanks, RogerB. I wanted to strike a good balance between some of his best-known works and some of my personal favorites, while putting an emphasis on "accessibility." I ended up cutting a few favorites from the list because I realized they might read as too "obscure" to someone without a firm grounding in what Daney is talking about, such as his writings about Straub & Huillet.

I feel like I should have better emphasized the Rosenbaum piece, because it's not only a great introduction to Daney, but also to the place he holds for a lot of cinephiles, filmmakers and film critics, and to the importance of translating his work into English.

One thing I forgot to link was this report at Senses of Cinema on a Daney symposium that was held at the Harvard Film Archive, where Arnaud Desplechin describes Daney as "a jazz musician, in particular a free form jazz musician – not just the improvisational methods, but Daney's voice, his manner of speaking, the movement of his hands. "
posted by alexoscar at 8:09 PM on December 13, 2010

Interesting post, well done.
posted by nola at 9:21 PM on December 13, 2010

OK, I went to the blog, and the first thing I saw was
It's from "Le salaire du zappeur" (literally: the wave of the channel hopper)
— which is complete and utter nonsense. It's a play on «Le Salaire de la peur» ("The Wages of Fear"), a 1953 film by Henri-Georges Clouzot, where «zappeur» is French for both the operator of a TV remote control unit and the unit itself. Much as the wages of sin is death, (Romans 23), Daney earns his money by watching television and writing about it in Libé.

If the translation of this admittedly idiomatic phrase is representative of the rest of the content I'll continue to take my Daney in French, thanks awfully.
posted by Wolof at 9:29 PM on December 13, 2010

Romans 6.23
posted by Wolof at 9:33 PM on December 13, 2010

Agreed, a bunch of the translations I looked at on the blog were seemingly not that great. I still find them a lot better than having less Daney in English, and as Internet volunteer efforts go, not so bad.
posted by RogerB at 9:42 PM on December 13, 2010

wolof: If the translation of this admittedly idiomatic phrase is representative of the rest of the content I'll continue to take my Daney in French, thanks awfully.

The quality of the translations varies significantly, as they are all done by different people, or sometimes by a group of people in collaboration. Laurent Kretzschmar (the "LK" of the blog) seems to do a lot of them, but even then the quality varies, probably depending on the amount of outside output or the whether the translation is for the Daney in English blog or for some other online publication.

I think the "wave / wage" thing is a typo, by the way.
posted by alexoscar at 9:46 PM on December 13, 2010

To add an example: there's a big difference between the piece Wolof mentioned and another translation Kretzchmar did for the Australian online film magazine Rouge (also linked above), which was done with input from a few well-known film critics, including Bill Krohn. In relation to just the LK translations, I think the issue is less his French (which I assume is his first language) than his English...
posted by alexoscar at 9:49 PM on December 13, 2010

My dyspeptic point is, of course, the same as Rosenbaum's. Daney deserves a proper professional English translation.
posted by Wolof at 9:50 PM on December 13, 2010

Wolof: "My dyspeptic point is, of course, the same as Rosenbaum's. Daney deserves a proper professional English translation."

I think that's something everyone can agree with. Rosenbaum's own translations of Daney are very good, by the way, though I don't think I ended up linking to any in the above post, mostly because I wanted this is to also serve as Daney Primer.
posted by alexoscar at 9:55 PM on December 13, 2010

alexoscar appears to be an anagram of Léos Carax. I don't quite know what to make of this.
posted by Wolof at 5:23 AM on December 14, 2010

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