Following its acclaimed new translation of selections from André Bazin's What is Cinema?, caboose is pleased to announce the first-ever English translation of this brief early monograph by Bazin on Orson Welles, accompanied by a ‘portrait’ of Welles by Jean Cocteau. This is the volume that Jonathan Rosenbaum now wishes he had known about before translating a later monograph on Welles by Bazin, foisted on him by François Truffaut and of decidedly lesser interest. Here the young Bazin, 31 years old at the time of its writing, lays out an early sketch of his theory of cinematic découpage at the heart of his radical assessment of Welles, even before the director’s European career began. Originally published in 1950 and perhaps the first French-language film director monograph, this cult item is now finally available in English. It is accompanied by Bazin’s seven-page review of Citizen Kane for Jean-Paul Sartre’s journal Les Temps modernes in 1947, where he first proclaimed ‘O Minotaur! Here is your Ariadne’s thread: découpage’.
Every great work of film art undoubtedly reflects more or less explicitly the moral vision and spiritual leanings of its author. Sartre wrote of Faulkner and Dos Passos that their writing technique was necessarily a part of a metaphysics. The old style of découpage could not contribute to expressing this metaphysics, if metaphysics there was. The world of Ford and Capra can be defined by their scripts and themes, the dramatic effects they seek and their choice of scenes. This world is not in the découpage as such. In the work of Orson Welles, on the contrary, depth of field découpage becomes a technique for constituting the meaning of the film script. It is not merely another way of staging the action, but questions the very nature of the story. With it, cinema distances itself a little further from theatre and becomes more of a narrative than a stage performance.
— André Bazin