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New Left Review I/27, September-October 1964

Geoffrey Nowell-Smith

Alain Resnais

It is a strange but much noted fact that in the cinema there is rarely any simple correlation between a director’s output and his reputation. John Ford had made some 50 films, mostly two-reelers, before ever making a name for himself: Roger Corman has made over 40 in ten years, and it is still too early to decide whether his present reputation is anything more than a transitory fad. At the same time other directors like Resnais and Truffaut have seen their names made at festivals overnight, on the flimsy basis of an interesting first film: or, like Jean Vigo, have acquired and held an enormous reputation with a total output of three films—one full feature, one short feature, and one documentary, left unfinished. Some of the reasons why this should happen are obvious, and would apply in any artistic field—publicity build-ups, intellectual fashions and changes of taste, and of course the lasting quality of the films themselves. But there is a further factor built into the structure of the cinema as we know it today, which is unique to the film, and which is responsible for the basic dichotomy between what I would call transparent and opaque cinema.

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Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, ‘Alain Resnais’, NLR I/27: £3

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