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Saturday May 28, 2016

happened to be watching Film Noir on my iMac, specifically The Big Sleep, adapted from the Raymond Chandler novel by William Faulkner et al, starring Humphrey Bogart as Marlowe and Lauren Bacall as Vivian, directed by Howard Hawks, 1946 and I found the main characters mentioning Marcel Proust,

Vivian : So you do get up, I was beginning to think you worked in bed like Marcel Proust.

Marlowe : Who’s he ?

Vivian : You wouldn’t know him, a French writer.

Marlowe : Come into my boudoir.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler 1939, 

Vivian « Well, you do get up »

Wrinkling her nose at the faded red settee, the two odd semi-easy chairs, the net curtains that needed laundering and the boy’s size library table with the venerable magazines on it to give the place a professional touch.

Vivian « I was beginning to think perhaps you worked in bed, like Marcel Proust. »

Marlowe « Who’s he ? »

I put a cigarette in my mouth and stared at her. She looked a little pale and strained, but she looked like a girl who could function under a strain.

Vivian « A French writer, a connoisseur in degenerates. You wouldn’t know him. »

Marlowe « Tut, tut, come into my boudoir. »

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
5/27/2016 9:54 pm

In the mid '80s,

... (A)t a critics meeting, Pauline Kael leaned over to Richard Schickel and whispered, “It isn’t any fun anymore.” When Schickel asked why, she answered, “Remember how it was in the ’60s and ’70s, when movies were hot, when we were hot? Movies seemed to matter.” 

The Complete History Of American Film Criticism (2010) Jerry Roberts, Loc 4905.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
5/25/2016 5:13 pm

I wish somebody could convince me that the movies are not just about over. They’re so sensationalistic, they’re so empty, they’re so cruel, they’re so fast paced. The only thing that convinces me I’ve been to the movies is that I’m sick to my stomach.

Mark Crispin Miller, Head of the Media Studies program at Johns Hopkins University in The Atlantic Monthly.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
5/25/2016 5:07 pm
Director Billy Wilder’s indelible quip on film critic Judith Crest—on NBC's The Today Show from 1964 to 1973—was: “Inviting her to review your movies is like inviting the Boston strangler to massage your neck.”

The Complete History Of American Film Criticism (2010) Jerry Roberts, Loc 3908.

To be a film critic, she said, you have to have three percent education, five percent intelligence, two percent style, and ninety percent gall and egomania in equal parts.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
5/24/2016 8:51 pm
Labels: Judith Crist

In the evening I watch Film Noir, a late 1940's term coined by French cinema critics. Film Noir describes Hollywood crime film, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes of characters and their sexual motivations.

An example of Film Noir is Touch Of Evil in which Orson Welles' performance, as the crooked cop Quinlan, was so much better than every actor in the film and he should be faulted as the director (which he was) for not bringing up his fellow players to his level. The one possible exception is Marlene Dietrich; she was marvelous at Tana, a restauratrice.

In the daylight for four hours every Thursday on my way to the tannery I listen to books read to me by a narrator on I now listen to The Philosophy of Film Noir edited by Mark T. Conrad. According to the book Film Noir extends from 1941 to 1958, from The Maltese Falcon to Touch Of Evil; later films that fall into that category, like Chinatown 1974, are called Neo Noir.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
5/19/2016 11:06 pm

Ferguson’s conversational tones, his populist sentiments, and his succinct, punchy writing style established him as a thinking man’s proletariat with his cerebral gears usually engaged on the how and the why certain movies worked. He fit his forum, The New Republic, as his tone seemed to court cineastes and intellectuals as well as the politically aware and literarily minded casual readers. His opinions were provocatively and often amusingly presented.

“No one can study the deceptive effortlessness with which one thing leads to another without learning where the true beauty of this medium is to be mined,” he wrote, admiring Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938). The critic tried to enlarge on this notion with his assessment of Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent (1940), writing, “If you have any interest in the true motion or sweep of motion pictures, watching that man work is like listening to music ... . If you would like a seminar on how to make a movie travel the lightest and fastest way, in a kind of beauty that is peculiar to movies alone, you can see this once, and then again to see what you missed, and then study it twice.”

Ferguson recognized that film art is based in the primary aspects of dialogue writing, acting, camera framing and camera movement, and film editing. And he felt that the more seamless that these and other ingredients were combined by the director, the more effective any film would be. Ferguson felt that if he could detect showboating in a filmmaker, the less effective the final result would be. Unlike critics who would zero in on directors as distinctive stylists with persistent themes—Von Sternberg and Lubitsch—Ferguson argued that direction should parallel musical composition and should show little or no sign of itself.

The main reason Ferguson felt that Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane (1941) amounted to “retrogression in film technique” was that it was unnecessarily showy, a movie that brandished technique.

The Complete History Of American Film Criticism (2010) Jerry Roberts, Loc 816.

My emphasis.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
5/16/2016 4:13 am
Labels: Otis Ferguson

HT-H or @catskill_luxeknitz beautifully knit this sweater from our Saxon Merino Worsted yarn dyed with natural colors (Indigo and Indigo overdyes) and we have a pattern for it too.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
5/9/2016 7:32 pm

Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) with Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart written and directed by Olivier Assayas

Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) is an older and accomplished actress and she travels with her personal assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart) through Switzerland. Their ultimate destination is Zurich to accept an award for a playwright who famously shuns publicity—Maria starred as Sigrid in his play, Maloja Snake two decades ago—but shockingly the playwright dies when they are on their way to see him before the ceremonies: the award becomes a memorial for him.

In memorium, Maria reluctantly agrees to return to the stage in a revival of Maloja Snake (proposed by a hot director) but she will play Helena who is in love with a younger woman; because Helena can't have Sigrid she kills herself, but Sigrid was Maria's breakthrough role twenty years ago and she lives it. 

In the opening shot and from the first word she utters into her cellphone on the jostling  train across Switzerland Kristen Stewart as Valentine is unsurpassed in her performance (she won a Cesar, a French Oscar); but comparatively, Juliette Binoche's role of Maria was strained because she spoke English rather than French in the Clouds of Sils Maria; she seemed to miss the native nuances that a childhood language makes obvious, that would have been hers speaking French.  

Maria and Valentine argue over the teen star Jo-Ann Ellis, (Chloë Grace Moritz) who plays Sigrid in the revival. After watching a film of Jo-Ann's, Maria ridicules her performance but Valentine sees deep meaning in the role she played, but one can't take offense from an employer when you are an employee. The film has multiple self-confrontations but they happen at different times for the characters—if they happen at all.

In their villa or outside in the summertime Swiss Alps, when Maria and Valentine rehearsed Maloja Snake, I had to have another look at the film to ascertain whether what they spoke what was written on the pages of the play or what it was that Maria and Valentine personally felt; and to the credit of Olivier Assayas it wasn't clear another time through.

The small and lifelike mystery of what happens to Maria and Valentine in the Clouds Of Sils Maria and beyond is worth wondering about.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
5/4/2016 6:45 am
From Critical Approaches To Writing About Film 1999, John E. Moscowitz in the third chapter entitled, Types of Film Criticism: The Review on P. 51 he says,
... the reviewer has the obligation to both summarize and evaluate the film. In so doing, the reviewer furnishes the necessary boilerplate: title, director, literary source (if there is one), other technical staff, genre, and major cast members. In addition, a plot synopsis gives the reader some idea as to what can be expected of the film. However, the critic must be sure to avoid detailing the climax and ending, especially in a thriller, suspense drama, or mystery. The reviewer is then expected to develop one or two aspects of the film that have had a particular impact on him or her. All of these elements are considered part of the overview section—a major responsibility of the critic. Without some subjective evaluation, however, the reviewer is basically dispensing a plot summary with screen credits and a few insights but little else. ... In summary, the review should include these components:
Boilerplate—title, director, literary source, other technical staff, genre, major cast members;
Plot synopsis;
Point(s) for development; and
• Evaluation/recommendation.
Now I assume that A. O. Scott, as a current reviewer for the New York Times, has all these components that Mr. Moscowitz lists or even better. Where I chose to differ or agree with the subjective portions of the review, the points of development and the evaluation, of L'Attesa with the reviewer I will discuss them.
L'Attesa Turns Life Into A Ghost Story
April 28, 2016 in the New York Times

"L'Attesa" (“The Wait”), Piero Messina’s debut feature, is an elegant melodrama of maternal grief with overtones of horror, a psychological rather than a supernatural ghost story. 
In the first sentence of the review the film should be described as a drama not a "melodrama" and a true-to-life rather than a "psychological" ghost story. The word melodrama has a pejorative character that the film doesn't merit and psychological is a term which has many definitions and, by that, is less defined.

Set in Sicily around Easter, the film partakes freely of religious imagery to add gravity and mystery to its domestic tale of loss, longing and deceit. The landscape — volcanic rock and quiet forests surrounding a sparkling lake — is captured in long, wide takes, a beauty surpassed only by close-ups of the two lead actresses, Juliette Binoche and Lou de Laâge.

Ms. Binoche plays Anna, a Frenchwoman who lives on an estate that belonged to her former husband’s family. Ms. de Laâge is Jeanne, the French girlfriend of Anna’s son, Giuseppe. Jeanne, who has never met Anna, arrives for a visit at a tragically inconvenient moment. Giuseppe has just died in an accident — the first images in “L’Attesa” are of his funeral — and Anna is too distraught to break the news to Jeanne. When the young woman calls from the airport, Anna tells her that Giuseppe isn’t home and dispatches the caretaker, Pietro (Giorgio Colangeli), to pick her up.

“I’m waiting for the right moment to tell her,” Anna tells her sister-in-law after Jeanne has stumbled downstairs into a houseful of black-clad mourners. But Anna’s lie, initially a sin of omission, grows deeper, more complicated and more cruel as Jeanne hangs around, waiting for her lover to return and leaving plaintive messages on his cellphone. Anna listens to them, with what seems to be a complicated blend of masochism, jealousy and wishful thinking — as if the fact that someone believes her son is still alive might make him less dead.

“L’Attesa,” loosely based on a 1923 play by Luigi Pirandello called “The Life I Gave You,” is a delicate, slightly artificial study in time and emotion. Its slow pace captures the stasis of Anna’s condition, her feeling of being stuck in an agonizing limbo between denial and acceptance. Jeanne’s presence is both an unbearable reminder of her own loss and a token of her son’s presence, and Mr. Messina is more interested in the nuances of the situation than in the mechanics of plot. At times the plausibility of the story starts to fray, but the feelings and images are strong enough to keep such doubts in check.

The setting has an atavistic, primal grandeur. Sicily is a place of ancient blood feuds, medieval rituals and Greek tragedies. And there is something similarly timeless about the contours of Ms. Binoche’s face. In anguish and repose, Anna could be a figure in an Italian Renaissance painting, a pale image of sorrow against a dark background.

Jeanne, first seen in the blinding, sterile light of the airport, can seem as much a time traveler as a tourist, a visitor from the European modernity that is also Anna’s native realm. She comes to regard her would-be mother-in-law — there’s no real word for what they are to each other — as a wise aunt or an older sister, and despite the weirdness of the circumstances, the two women strike up a tentative friendship. It’s a pleasure to watch Ms. Binoche and Ms. de Laâge onscreen together. And there are scenes of each of them alone that are piercing and lovely. At one point, Anna wraps her arms around an inflatable raft and releases the valve, catching her son’s preserved breath on her face as it escapes.

L’Attesa,” while it is about the stasis and confinement of its characters, suffers from a different kind of claustrophobia. A model of craft, refinement and visual decorum, it is both a hothouse flower and a cinematic hothouse, nurturing blossoms of exquisite feeling protected from the air of reality. Compared, say, with the Sicily of Michelangelo Antonioni’s “L’Avventura” or (to take a more recent example, also starring Ms. Binoche) the Alps of Olivier Assayas’s “Clouds of Sils Maria,” Mr. Messina’s Sicily has the shallow picturesqueness of a tourist destination. And Anna’s house, a stately pile of stones, is little more than an impressive piece of real estate, haunted not by history but by a single ghost.

The performances are vivid and moving, but there is ultimately less to this well-made, impeccably acted film than meets the eye. Its meticulousness is to some degree a flaw, an evasion of nearly every variety of human messiness. You wait in vain for the full weight of bereavement to become apparent, and also for an indication of the density of experience. You wait in gorgeous surroundings, in marvelous company, for something that never arrives.
The review that follows the first sentence, of which I had personal qualms with, is purposely subjective and well done. A. O. Scott does his plot synopsis and he furnishes the film's boilerplate.
Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
5/1/2016 2:11 pm

The beautiful has the power to turn you into a beloved or to turn you into a liar. If beauty is not valued as the ne plus ultra, to describe it as "the beautiful" (as is occasionally done) is a lie.

However, the power of beauty—as subjective as it is—can change a person from a subject into an object, or in other words, from a lover searching for the beautiful into a sought object of the beautiful. We are a lover and we look for beauty and when we find it—as rare as that is—we become the beloved.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
4/24/2016 10:26 am
Labels: Beauty

also read the playscript adapted by Harold Pinter and Di Trevis from his The Proust Screenplay called Remembrance Of Things Past.

The playscript has all the problems of the screenplay and worse, i.e. it tries to cover too much of the novel and becomes even more choppy. There are obvious short cuts in dialogue that make those-who-know-the-novel blush. Furthermore the playscript only quotes Proust in the third person of his characters; it ignores the voice that that he is famous for: his older reflective Narrator in the first person.

Because it was a produced play (in 2000 at the Cottesloe Theatre at the Royal National Theatre) it necessarily ignores the voice that Proust is remembered for; there is no space for his older Narrator except in a chorus like the Greek (Aeschylus, etc.) tragedies or possibly in the more modern musicals.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
4/12/2016 6:09 pm

I read Harold Pinter's adapted screenplay of Marcel Proust's novel À la recherche du temps perdu called The Proust Screenplay. Here is Harold Pinter from the Introduction:

Early in 1972 Nicole Stéphane, who owned the film rights to À la Recherche du Temps Perdu, asked Joseph Losey if he would like to work on a film version of the book. He asked me if I was interested.

For three months I read À la Recherche du Temps Perdu every day. I took hundreds of notes while reading but was left at the end quite baffled as to how to approach a task of such magnitude. The one thing of which I was certain was that it would be wrong to attempt to make a film centred around one or two volumes, La Prisonnière or Sodome et Gomorrhe, for example. If the thing was to be done at all, one would have to try to distil the whole work, to incorporate the major themes of the book into an integrated whole. We decided that the architecture of the film should be based on two main and contrasting principles: one, a movement, chiefly narrative, towards disillusion, and the other, more intermittent, towards revelation, rising to where time that was lost is found, and fixed forever in art.

In Le Temps Retrouvé, Marcel, in his forties, hears the bell of his childhood. His childhood, long forgotten, is suddenly present within him, but his consciousness of himself as a child, his memory of the experience, is more real, more acute than the experience itself.

Working on À la Recherche du Temps Perdu was the best working year of my life.

The money to make the film was never found.

Collected Screenplays 2, Harold Pinter 2000, Introduction,  pages vii-viii.

As much as I loved his adaption of The Servant (Pinter for Losey, 1963), I find that The Proust Screenplay tries to cover the entire novel—500,000 words, the longest fictional work ever written—and it fails, undoubtably. Reading the screenplay feels like one is glancing over the synopses in the rear of the 6 volumes of the Modern Library Edition; it contains the structure but little of his writing. Harold Pinter rarely quotes what Marcel Proust is celebrated for:

J’étais dans une de ces périodes de la jeunesse, dépourvues d’un amour particulier, vacantes, où partout –comme un amoureux la femme dont il est épris –on désire, on cherche, on voit la beauté.

À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurMarcel Proust 1919, Humanis Edition, Loc 14214.

I was passing through one of those periods of our youth, unprovided with any one definite love, vacant, in which at all times and in all places —as a lover the woman by whose charms he is smitten —we desire, we seek, we see Beauty. 

Within A Budding Grove, Marcel Proust 1919 and translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1924, Loc 6279.

Marcel Proust's quoted passage is just before Albertine is introduced. Thoughout the novel she is an enigma. Writing the screenplay, I would have focused on Albertine, spanning Vol. 2 to Vol. 5, and I would have quoted extensively Proust too. To differ from screenwriting per se, I would have the director write the 'screenplay' to detail the camera angles and what the director exposes to the camera: occasionally that will be an atemporal documentary realism (as the author writes nonfiction from time to time) while living with Marcel Proust's V.O. narration.

I would write a shooting script rather than a screenplay, which has been already done by Harold Pinter, and present it to the audience as images, both fictional and non-fictional, in the midst of Proust's quoted voice-over narration for a movie called Albertine.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
4/8/2016 5:35 pm

It was promptly settled between us that he (Saint-Loup) and I were to be great friends for ever, and he would say ‘our friendship’ as though he were speaking of some important and delightful thing which had an existence independent of ourselves, and which he soon called —not counting his love for his mistress —the great joy of his life. These words made me rather uncomfortable and I was at a loss for an answer, for I did not feel when I was with him and talked to him —and no doubt it would have been the same with everyone else —any of that happiness which it was, on the other hand, possible for me to experience when I was by myself. For alone, at times, I felt surging from the depths of my being one or other of those impressions which gave me a delicious sense of comfort. But as soon as I was with some one else, when I began to talk to a friend, my mind at once ‘turned about,’ it was towards the listener and not myself that it directed its thoughts, and when they followed this outward course they brought me no pleasure. Once I had left Saint-Loup, I managed, with the help of words, to put more or less in order the confused minutes that I had spent with him; I told myself that I had a good friend, that a good friend was a rare thing, and I tasted, when I felt myself surrounded by ‘goods’ that were difficult to acquire, what was precisely the opposite of the pleasure that was natural to me, the opposite of the pleasure of having extracted from myself and brought to light something that was hidden in my inner darkness. If I had spent two or three hours in conversation with Saint-Loup, and he had expressed his admiration of what I had said to him, I felt a sort of remorse, or regret, or weariness at not having been left alone and ready, at last, to begin my work. But I told myself that one is not given intelligence for one’s own benefit only, that the greatest of men have longed for appreciation, that I could not regard as wasted hours in which I had built up an exalted idea of myself in the mind of my friend; I had no difficulty in persuading myself that I ought to be happy in consequence, and I hoped all the more anxiously that this happiness might never be taken from me simply because I had not yet been conscious of it. We fear more than the loss of everything else the disappearance of the ‘goods’ that have remained beyond our reach, because our heart has not taken possession of them. I felt that I was capable of exemplifying the virtues of friendship better than most people (because I should always place the good of my friends before those personal interests to which other people were devoted but which did not count for me), but not of finding happiness in a feeling which, instead of multiplying the differences that there were between my nature and those of other people —as there are among all of us —would cancel them. At the same time my mind was distinguishing in Saint-Loup a personality more collective than his own, that of the ‘noble’; which like an indwelling spirit moved his limbs, ordered his gestures and his actions; then, at such moments, although in his company, I was as much alone as I should have been gazing at a landscape the harmony of which I could understand. He was no more then than an object the properties of which, in my musing contemplations, I sought to explore. The perpetual discovery in him of this pre-existent, this aeonial creature, this aristocrat who was just what Robert aspired not to be, gave me a keen delight, but one that was intellectual and not social. In the moral and physical agility which gave so much grace to his kindnesses, in the ease with which he offered my grandmother his carriage and made her get into it, in the alacrity with which he sprang from the box, when he was afraid that I might be cold, to spread his own cloak over my shoulders, I felt not only the inherited litheness of the mighty hunters who had been for generations the ancestors of this young man who made no pretence save to intellectuality, their scorn of wealth which, subsisting in him side by side with his enjoyment of it simply because it enabled him to entertain his friends more lavishly, made him so carelessly shower his riches at their feet; I felt in him especially the certainty or the illusion in the minds of those great lords of being ‘better than other people,’ thanks to which they had not been able to hand down to Saint-Loup that anxiety to shew that one is ‘just as good that dread of seeming inferior, of which he was indeed wholly unconscious, but which mars with so much ugliness, so much awkwardness, the most sincere overtures of a plebeian. Sometimes I found fault with myself for thus taking pleasure in my friend as in a work of art, that is to say in regarding the play of all the parts of his being as harmoniously ordered by a general idea from which they depended but which he did not know, so that it added nothing to his own good qualities, to that personal value, intellectual and moral, to which he attached so high a price.

Within A Budding Grove translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1924, Loc 5419.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
4/5/2016 6:55 am

From Proust, Woolf and Modern Fiction, Pericles Lewis, The Romanic Review Volume 99 Number 1, Columbia University,

Letter from Virginia Woolf to Roger Fry on May 6, 1922,

'But Proust so titillates my own desire for expression that I can hardly set out the sentence. Oh if I could write like that! I cry. And at the moment such is the astonishing vibration and saturation and intensify cation that he procures—there’s something sexual in it—that I feel I can write like that and seize my pen and then I can’twrite like that. Scarcely anyone so stimulates the nerves of language in me: it becomes an obsession.'*
* ... At this point, Woolf was reading Proust in the original, but she probably later read C. K. Scott Moncrieff’s translation of at least some volumes.

And again, to Roger Fry on October 3, 1922, 

'My great adventure is really Proust. Well – what remains to be written after that? I’m only in the first volume, and there are, I suppose, faults to be found, but I am in a state of amazement; as if a miracle were being done before my eyes. How, at last, has someone solidified what has always escaped – and made it too into this beautiful and perfectly enduring substance? One has to put the book down and gasp. The pleasure becomes physical – like sun and wine and grapes and perfect serenity and intense vitality combined.'

The Letters of Virginia Woolf, ed. Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautman (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975–1980), vol. 2.
Woolf ... had returned to work on Mrs. Dalloway, when, on February 10, 1923, she wrote in her diary, “I wonder if this next lap will be influenced by Proust? I think his French language, tradition, &c, prevents that: yet his command of every resource is so extravagant that one can hardly fail to profit, & must not flinch, through cowardice.”
Nonetheless, it seems to me that Proust served as an important model for Woolf’s own fiction, and that one of his functions for her was to counter-balance the influence of Woolf’s own most famous English-language contemporary, James Joyce. Much has been made in Woolf criticism of Woolf’s antagonism toward and anxiety about the influence of Joyce. She compares Joyce unfavorably to Proust in a letter to Fry of Oct. 3, 1922. “My great adventure,” she writes, “is really Proust.” ...
... The pleasure becomes physical—like sun and wine and grapes and perfect serenity and intense vitality combined. Far otherwise is it with Ulysses; to which I bind myself like a martyr to a stake, and have thank God, now finished—My martyrdom is over.
A diary entry (from September 6, 1922) documents her rejection of Joyce:
I finished Ulysses, & think it a mis-fire. Genius it has I think; but of the inferior water. The book is diffuse. It is brackish. It is pretentious. It is underbred, not only in the obvious sense, but in the literary sense. A first rate writer, I mean, respects writing too much to be tricky; startling; doing stunts. I’m reminded all the time of some callow board school boy . . . full of wits & powers, but so self-conscious & egotistical that he loses his head, becomes extravagant, mannered, uproarious, ill at ease, makes kindly people feel sorry for him, & stern ones merely annoyed; & one hopes he’ll grow out of it; but as Joyce is 40 this scarcely seems likely.
The Diary of Virginia Woolf, ed. Anne Olivier Bell (San Diego: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, 1977–1984) vol. 2. 
Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
4/3/2016 4:48 pm

Si un être peut être le produit d’un sol dont on goûte en lui le charme particulier, plus encore que la paysanne que j’avais tant désiré voir apparaître quand j’errais seul du côté de Méséglise, dans les bois de Roussainville, ce devait être la grande fille que je vis sortir de cette maison et, sur le sentier qu’illuminait obliquement le soleil levant, venir vers la gare en portant une jarre de lait. Dans la vallée à qui ces hauteurs cachaient le reste du monde, elle ne devait jamais voir personne que dans ces trains qui ne s’arrêtaient qu’un instant. Elle longea les wagons, offrant du café au lait à quelques voyageurs réveillés. Empourpré des reflets du matin, son visage était plus rose que le ciel. Je ressentis devant elle ce désir de vivre qui renaît en nous chaque fois que nous prenons de nouveau conscience de la beauté et du bonheur. Nous oublions toujours qu’ils sont individuels et, leur substituant dans notre esprit un type de convention que nous formons en faisant une sorte de moyenne entre les différents visages qui nous ont plu, entre les plaisirs que nous avons connus, nous n’avons que des images abstraites qui sont languissantes et fades parce qu’il leur manque précisément ce caractère d’une chose nouvelle, différente de ce que nous avons connu, ce caractère qui est propre à la beauté et au bonheur. Et nous portons sur la vie un jugement pessimiste et que nous supposons juste, car nous avons cru y faire entrer en ligne de compte le bonheur et la beauté quand nous les avons omis et remplacés par des synthèses où d’eux il n’y a pas un seul atome. C’est ainsi que bâille d’avance d’ennui un lettré à qui on parle d’un nouveau « beau livre », parce qu’il imagine une sorte de composé de tous les beaux livres qu’il a lus, tandis qu’un beau livre est particulier, imprévisible, et n’est pas fait de la somme de tous les chefs-d’œuvre précédents mais de quelque chose que s’être parfaitement assimilé cette somme ne suffit nullement à faire trouver, car c’est justement en dehors d’elle. Dès qu’il a eu connaissance de cette nouvelle œuvre, le lettré, tout à l’heure blasé, se sent de l’intérêt pour la réalité qu’elle dépeint. Telle, étrangère aux modèles de beauté que dessinait ma pensée quand je me trouvais seul, la belle fille me donna aussitôt le goût d’un certain bonheur (seule forme, toujours particulière, sous laquelle nous puissions connaître le goût du bonheur), d’un bonheur qui se réaliserait en vivant auprès d’elle. Mais ici encore la cessation momentanée de l’Habitude agissait pour une grande part. Je faisais bénéficier la marchande de lait de ce que c’était mon être complet, apte à goûter de vives jouissances, qui était en face d’elle. C’est d’ordinaire avec notre être réduit au minimum que nous vivons, la plupart de nos facultés restent endormies parce qu’elles se reposent sur l’habitude qui sait ce qu’il y a à faire et n’a pas besoin d’elles. Mais par ce matin de voyage l’interruption de la routine de mon existence, le changement de lieu et d’heure avaient rendu leur présence indispensable. Mon habitude qui était sédentaire et n’était pas matinale faisait défaut, et toutes mes facultés étaient accourues pour la remplacer, rivalisant entre elles de zèle –s’élevant toutes, comme des vagues, à un même niveau inaccoutumé –de la plus basse à la plus noble, de la respiration, de l’appétit, et de la circulation sanguine à la sensibilité et à l’imagination. Je ne sais si, en me faisant croire que cette fille n’était pas pareille aux autres femmes, le charme sauvage de ces lieux ajoutait au sien, mais elle le leur rendait. La vie m’aurait paru délicieuse si seulement j’avais pu, heure par heure, la passer avec elle, l’accompagner jusqu’au torrent, jusqu’à la vache, jusqu’au train, être toujours à ses côtés, me sentir connu d’elle, ayant ma place dans sa pensée. Elle m’aurait initié aux charmes de la vie rustique et des premières heures du jour. Je lui fis signe qu’elle vînt me donner du café au lait. J’avais besoin d’être remarqué d’elle. Elle ne me vit pas, je l’appelai. Au-dessus de son corps très grand, le teint de sa figure était si doré et si rose qu’elle avait l’air d’être vue à travers un vitrail illuminé. Elle revint sur ses pas, je ne pouvais détacher mes yeux de son visage de plus en plus large, pareil à un soleil qu’on pourrait fixer et qui s’approcherait jusqu’à venir tout près de vous, se laissant regarder de près, vous éblouissant d’or et de rouge. Elle posa sur moi son regard perçant, mais comme les employés fermaient les portières, le train se mit en marche ; je la vis quitter la gare et reprendre le sentier, il faisait grand jour maintenant : je m’éloignais de l’aurore.

À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleur, Marcel Proust 1918, Humanis Edition, Loc 11886

If a person can be the product of a soil the peculiar charm of which one distinguishes in that person, more even than the peasant girl whom I had so desperately longed to see appear when I wandered by myself along the Méséglise way, in the woods of Roussainville, such a person must be the big girl whom I now saw emerge from the house and, climbing a path lighted by the first slanting rays of the sun, come towards the station carrying a jar of milk. In her valley from which its congregated summits hid the rest of the world, she could never see anyone save in these trains which stopped for a moment only. She passed down the line of windows, offering coffee and milk to a few awakened passengers. Purpled with the glow of morning, her face was rosier than the sky. I felt in her presence that desire to live which is reborn in us whenever we become conscious anew of beauty and of happiness. We invariably forget that these are individual qualities, and, substituting for them in our mind a conventional type at which we arrive by striking a sort of mean amongst the different faces that have taken our fancy, the pleasures we have known, we are left with mere abstract images which are lifeless and dull because they are lacking in precisely that element of novelty, different from anything we have known, that element which is proper to beauty and to happiness. And we deliver on life a pessimistic judgment which we suppose to be fair, for we believed that we were taking into account when we formed it happiness and beauty, whereas in fact we left them out and replaced them by syntheses in which there is not a single atom of either. So it is that a well-read man will at once begin to yawn with boredom when anyone speaks to him of a new ‘good book,’ because he imagines a sort of composite of all the good books that he has read and knows already, whereas a good book is something special, something incalculable, and is made up not of the sum of all previous masterpieces but of something which the most thorough assimilation of every one of them would not enable him to discover, since it exists not in their sum but beyond it. Once he has become acquainted with this new work, the well-read man, till then apathetic, feels his interest awaken in the reality which it depicts. So, alien to the models of beauty which my fancy was wont to sketch when I was by myself, this strapping girl gave me at once the sensation of a certain happiness (the sole form, always different, in which we may learn the sensation of happiness), of a happiness that would be realised by my staying and living there by her side. But in this again the temporary cessation of Habit played a great part. I was giving the milk-girl the benefit of what was really my own entire being, ready to taste the keenest joys, which now confronted her. As a rule it is with our being reduced to a minimum that we live, most of our faculties lie dormant because they can rely upon Habit, which knows what there is to be done and has no need of their services. But on this morning of travel, the interruption of the routine of my existence, the change of place and time, had made their presence indispensable. My habits, which were sedentary and not matutinal, played me false, and all my faculties came hurrying to take their place, vying with one another in their zeal, rising, each of them, like waves in a storm, to the same unaccustomed level, from the basest to the most exalted, from breath, appetite, the circulation of my blood to receptivity and imagination. I cannot say whether, so as to make me believe that this girl was unlike the rest of women, the rugged charm of these barren tracts had been added to her own, but if so she gave it back to them. Life would have seemed an exquisite thing to me if only I had been free to spend it, hour after hour, with her, to go with her to the stream, to the cow, to the train, to be always at her side, to feel that I was known to her, had my place in her thoughts. She would have initiated me into the delights of country life and of the first hours of the day. I signalled to her to give me some of her coffee. I felt that I must be noticed by her. She did not see me; I called to her. Above her body, which was of massive build, the complexion of her face was so burnished and so ruddy that she appeared almost as though I were looking at her through a lighted window. She had turned and was coming towards me; I could not take my eyes from her face which grew larger as she approached, like a sun which it was somehow possible to arrest in its course and draw towards one, letting itself be seen at close quarters, blinding the eyes with its blaze of red and gold. She fastened on me her penetrating stare, but while the porters ran along the platform shutting doors the train had begun to move. I saw her leave the station and go down the hill to her home; it was broad daylight now; I was speeding away from the dawn.

Within A Budding Grove, Marcel Proust 1918; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1922, Loc 4008

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/18/2016 7:42 pm