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Deep Thoughts

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Jean Luc Nancy

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- An interview with the French philosopher about the long and impassioned conversation he had with Abbas Kiarostami about cinema. The piece won the FilmCritica-Umberto Barbaro Award

Jean Luc Nancy

Cahiers du Cinéma came up with the idea for this project as part of the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of cinema. It consisted in creating a history of cinema where every contributor would write an article about his favourite film.” French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy is talking about the genesis of a project that foundered due to the celebrated French publication’s lack of funds. However, all was not lost and the result is an article entitled “The Evidence of Film. Abbas Kiarostami”, a long conversation that the French philosopher had with the Iranian director about the relationship between images, photography and cinema. The piece won the International FilmCritica-Umberto Barbaro Award and is about to be published by Donzelli in March 2004.

Jean-Luc Nancy has written several articles about the finite quality of human existence and the world and, together with Kiarostami, he explored film and images. Nancy’s chosen film was Kiarostami’s Et la vie continue which he uses as a starting point of his examination of the philosophical consequences of cinema.

What attracted you to Kiarostami’s film and made you want to meet him and talk with him about cinema ?
“I am not a film expert and don’t know enough to make a comparison of the 100-year history of cinema. I also do not like looking to the past for new subjects for discussion and analysis. When Cahiers asked me to choose a film, I’d just seen Et la vie continue and was so impressed by it that I could think of nothing else. The thing that struck me the most was the director’s vision. This was not merely a panoramic view of a country devastated by an earthquake, it was the starting point for a much deeper analysis. I saw something completely new here in that Kiarostami makes films whilst, at the same time, managing to distance himself from Cinema.”

In the course of your conversation, the Iranian director appears eager to emphasise the importance of the audience: he firmly believes they are the only people qualified to say whether a film is good or not...”
“Artists tend to hold extreme points of view. The truth is that there are very few people as attentive as Kiarostami to his vision and shots. I was also struck by the way he reduced the story to the bare essentials, a mere sketch. In our conversation we discussed his filmmaking style up to and including Et le vent nous emportera. This was followed by titles like ABC Afrique and Ten where he pushed out the innovative envelope by, for example, using more than one camera. ”

What sort of films interest you the most right now?
“Oriental ones. There is a certain similarity with Iranian and Middle-Eastern cinema. This is a filmaking style that is distant both from great antique mythologies and also more modern films like Star Wars. Those filmmaking styles set down the roots for a new style of films that portray everyday contemporary life, the opposite of History. Returning for a moment to Europe, it is more a question of Nanni Moretti’s Dear Diary than Roberto Rossellini’s Roma Città Aperta.

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