Wherever he has been (Louvre Museum, French Cinémathèque, Center Pompidou…), Dominique Païni, self-taught stripper and feverish thinker of images, will have elegantly left his mark. At 74, he went from police station to police station, satisfying his passion for picture rails where his most constant challenge was to hang the cinema. After Hitchcock, Cocteau, Godard, Gaumont and Antonioni, it’s the turn of Wang Bing, a Chinese documentary maker who imploded the genre.
Why exhibit Wang Bing?
Because obviously, he is an immense inventor of forms, who goes beyond the documentary genre to which one would be tempted to reduce him. No documentary filmmaker has given me, like him, the feeling of a total absence of ready-to-think, preconceived ideas. Wang Bing is a “lumiériste”, a “Rossellinian”, he does not place anything on reality, he just believes in his promise to generate emotion and knowledge. His films don’t try to think for us. Moreover, as a documentary filmmaker, he does not fear beauty, he has no guilt towards it. As Brecht puts it, it’s being so aesthetically fair that allows him to be so politically right. As such, he talks to us about China of course, but even more about the world, in an artistic gesture that may as well recall that of Chantal Akerman or Gus Van Sant.
“Wang Bing is a ‘light worker’, he does not place anything on the real, he just believes in his promise to generate emotion and knowledge”
Where does your taste for exhibiting cinema come from?
Malraux said in his Imaginary museum that it is photography that will have finally made it possible to make a history of art. The appearance of cassettes will play the same role for the cinema. Whereas before, there were only film memories, video suddenly becomes the historiographic tool of cinema. There is no history of an art until this art invents its means of reproduction. This shock changed my life. Hence the idea not only of doing retrospectives, but of exhibiting the cinema, of visually comparing the works with each other.
You share with Jean-Luc Godard this idea according to which cinema is the culmination of a long history of visual arts. At the same time, is it not so unique that it frees itself from it?
I really have the feeling that cinema undoubtedly emerges from what precedes it and at the same time, it ignores it. It denies everything that the history of art has implemented for the enhancement of what has been called beauty. Look at what Rodin and Méliès de Pygmalion and Galatea. At the same time, a certain cinema immediately betrays concerns similar to those of art. Take Wind, by Sjostrom, it is a pulverization on the scale of an hour and a half, which participates, like Impressionism a few years earlier, in the same indifference to narration. On the other hand, in fact, only cinema has the capacity to represent what is happening and to repeat this experience infinitely. This is an unprecedented gesture in human history. Nothing has really been invented on this ground since.
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