On fire: Cézanne, Straub and Huillet

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Lübecker, Nikolaj
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Film and Screen Media, University College Cork
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This article considers Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet’s essay film about Paul Cézanne: A Visit to the Louvre (Une visite au Louvre, 2003). Remarkably, this film features no artworks by Cézanne, nor any photographs of the painter—instead, it combines three elements: a female voiceover reads Cézanne’s reflections on fifteen famous artworks in the Louvre; as we listen, Straub and Huillet show the artworks in static shots; finally, the directors add three further shots: first we see the Louvre from the outside; halfway through the film, we see the Seine from the Louvre; the film then ends with a circular shot of a forest clearing, lifted from the directors’ previous film Workers, Peasants (Operai, contadini, 2000). The article argues that Straub and Huillet teach us to see the world with the eyes of Cézanne. We understand that he searches for a fire-force beneath the level of figuration, and that he relies on colour to render this force. Next, the article examines how the directors communicate Cézanne’s fire-force through the singular diction of the voiceover and with their mainly static images. Finally, the article suggests that Straub and Huillet also aim to retrieve the fire-force for political purposes, boldly positioning Workers, Peasants as a continuation of Cézanne’s art.
Affect , Phenomenology , Merleau-Ponty , Deleuze , Kristeva
Lübecker, N. (2022) 'On fire: Cézanne, Straub and Huillet', Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media, 23, pp. 73-92. https://doi.org/10.33178/alpha.23.04