Harun Farocki es un cineasta checo que emigró de su país por motivos políticos y formó parte del Nuevo Cine Alemán en los años 60. Ha sido crítico cinematográfico y ha experimentado con diversos soportes y narrativas cinematográficas. Su trabajo ha cuestionado y criticado el uso de las imágenes con fines de propaganda y la guerra.

Cuauhtémoc Medina
es investigador y curador de arte.
Eva Sangiorgi es directora del Ficunam.Una secuencia de imágenes se debe examinar en primer lugar en términos de lo que expresa y lo que puede expresarse en el contexto de otra toma, con el fin de determinar dónde se colocará en un montaje. Este trabajo de evaluación crítica siempre ha existido en las salas de edición, desde el nacimiento del cine.
Harun Farocki (cineasta, Rep. Checa) y Antje Ehmann, (cineasta, Alemania)


‘What is There to Smile At ? Lindsay Anderson’s O Lucky Man! by John Izod, Karl Magee and others[*]

In the final scene of Lindsay Anderson’s 1973 film O Lucky Man!, the director steps out from behind the camera and places himself in the centre of the action. The film’s young hero Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell) has been engaged on a futile quest for wealth and success which has ended with him destitute, wandering the streets of London. Enticed by a billboard to audition for a starring role, he is plucked from a drab group of similarly desperate young men by Anderson. Instructed by the director to smile, Travis asks ‘What is
there to smile at? I can’t smile without a reason.’ Anderson hits him across the face with the script and Mick smiles, a moment that has been described as the character experiencing a Zen-like revelation (see, for instance, Lambert 2000: 168).
What is Anderson saying about the director’s role with this provocative act? Is it a challenge to the traditional boundaries of film, a cinematic joke, or a piece of self-mockery, the brute on the screen reflecting Anderson’s bullish public persona? It is not wholly implausible to argue that Anderson was mocking his notoriously volatile temperament to amuse his associates.
However an insider joke says nothing to a film’s audiences. So something else has to be in play here (though that does not mean it cannot also reveal the director’s personal foibles). Anderson’s diaries and correspondence reveal that he invested the project with deeply held personal values and beliefs. Indeed, Lambert’s reading of the final scene picked up the association with Zen that Anderson noted in his diary in the hours after shooting it (Anderson, LA€6/1/64/160: 16€June 1972). Not that Lambert would have needed access to Anderson’s private writings to know it. In a 1957 review of Tokyo Story published in Sight and Sound (the journal Lambert edited until 1955), Anderson wrote of the wisdom and acceptance of life that comes with practising the Zen philosophy (1957: 582–583). When promoting O Lucky Man!, he expounded this idea to journalists, reflecting on the way the final smile echoed the grin with which Mick had ingratiated himself as a salesman at the start of his epic journey: ‘I thought of it more as Zen master and pupil than as directorand actor. It’s where the film comes full circle, where the smile at the end echoes the smile at the beginning, only it’s not the facile smile of compromise, but the hardened smile ofacceptance.’ (Blume 1973: 16)
Anderson had no doubt that as the film’s director he functioned as its key talent. He always referred to O Lucky Man! as his – as an auteur production. Intervention in the action would be one way of making the point. However, a dramatic intrusion such as that contrived for the final scene could fatally have ruptured the film’s narrative structure had it not in some way been prepared for. In fact, Anderson had been consciously influenced by the dramaticprinciples and practice of Bertolt Brecht since Mother Courage played in London in 1956.


For O Lucky Man! (like The White Bus and If… before it and The Old Crowd and Britannia Hospital to follow) Anderson adapted those dramatic principles for the screen, and broadly speaking shared their purpose of casting a fresh light on contemporary society. Like Brecht’s plays and Sergei Eisenstein’s films, these five productions keep the audience aware that they are watching a constructed artefact.
One of the many symptoms of this in O Lucky Man! is Malcolm McDowell’s presentation of Mick Travis’s journey. Mick has a chameleon nature and tries to adapt to fit the frequently changing milieux of his picaresque existence; but McDowell plays him with malfunctions to his camouflage. His performance illustrates Brecht’s concept of the ‘epic actor’ – defined as a player who does not seek to project a single, unchanging character but one that changes
all the time by leaps and starts (Gordon 2006: 231). Thus characters no less than plot are constructed in defiance of conventions guiding the creation of naturalistic, invisibly constructed and rounded personalities.
As Robert Gordon notes, Brecht sought to break from nineteenth- and twentieth-century naturalist and expressionist theatre in order to violate the identification of spectator with performer.
…epic theatre had to use every device of dramaturgy, acting and production to prevent the flow of empathy between spectator and performer. To achieve this, the actor had to avoid becoming identified with the character she was representing, but had to use her own personality as the basis for a dramatic role that involved her as both storyteller and character…
â•… The quality and style of epic performance is succinctly captured in Brecht’s injunction to actors to perform ‘consciously, suggestively, descriptively.’ The epic actor consciously describes character and suggests salient details to evoke the situation in a style appropriate to a street-singer or stand-up comic rather than a naturalistic actor. (Gordon 2006: 231–232). In English, the term ‘alienation’ is usually deployed to summarize Brecht’s intention in devising techniques to divest the world of its illusory appearance of being something natural, normal and self-evident. By making it unfamiliar and even unrecognizable, the alienation effect should require audiences to ask questions about the nature of the world so that ultimately it becomes more comprehensible in its underlying rather than its superficial reality (Slater 1977: 131–132). Despite his adoption and development of Brecht’s ideas in the cinema, Anderson (as he wrote in the introduction to the published script of The Old Crowd) was never happy with the term by which it was known.
‘Alienation’ is the Brechtian term – a translation of his Verfremdungseffekt – usually applied to such a style, but I have always thought this a heavy word and not a very accurate one.
The real purpose of such devices, which can include songs, titles between scenes, etc., is not to alienate the audience from the drama, but rather to focus their attention on its essential – not its superficial or naturalistic – import. (Anderson 1985: 140)

This at first seems little more than a quibble on Anderson’s part since on the surface his and Brecht’s positions appear very similar. However, their goals differ radically. A marxist, Brecht intended his productions ultimately to contribute to changing the world. Anderson, the Dean Swift of his age, had more limited ambitions, aspiring instead to excoriate the horrors and iniquities barely concealed in every stratum of British society. As he put it, People act from the worst of motives and you’ve got to anticipate that…If you are sentimental, then you are taking an unreal view of life. The whole essence of the film is to suggest we do have to understand the conditions of life, of being human beings. Stupidity must be mocked and laughed at. Wickedness must be mocked and laughed at. We have to accept we are human beings and our lot is not entirely a happy one. (Anderson quoted in Edwards 1973: 28)
Interviewed by Louis Marcorelles (1973: 19), Anderson volunteered that Brecht would not have been in agreement with the conclusion of O Lucky Man! because, although it corresponds to the poetic aspect of Brecht’s work, it does not embrace the marxist aspect.
Instead, its characters function as vehicles for keen satire, exposing the hypocrisies and corruption of rich and poor, powerful and powerless alike. Anderson would (contrary to Brecht’s ideals and marxist philosophy in general) have held with Matthew Hodgart that the form should be devoted to showing how things really are and demolishing existing follies rather than advocating a new dispensation.
The satirist appears in his noblest role when he accepts the challenge of oblivion, by taking on an ephemeral and unpleasant topic…[Politics] offers the greatest risk and the greatest rewards: politics is traditionally considered a dirty business, yet the satirist is most a hero when he enters the forum and joins in the world’s debate…What is essential is that he should commit himself boldly to his ‘impure’ subject, yet retain a purity of attitude, in his aesthetic disengagement from the vulgarities and stupidities of the struggle. (Hodgart 1969: 31–32). To flag up the satirical element, the characters in O Lucky Man! have a cartoon-like quality, noted by Anderson himself (Delson 1973: 30). That quality complements Brechtian principles and is further emphasized by the casting of actors in two or three roles apiece. Not only does each performer play various characters, but his or her roles differ radically from each other.
With the exception of Malcolm McDowell, none of these performers – some, like Ralph Richardson, Rachel Roberts, Mona Washington and Arthur Lowe, immensely popular in Britain – commands the screen long enough in any one role to draw the spectator’s empathy.
The film’s narrative structure is also fragmented in line with Brechtian principles. Episodes connect with each other only loosely in terms of character and plot development, giving priority instead to preserving purposeful thematic links. Shortly before the film’s release,

Anderson gave David Robinson, one of the few film critics whom he respected, an interview that set the agenda for many reviewers in the following months. He said that the form of the film was traditional in that the narrative featuring a hero journeying through numerous adventures and encountering lots of characters had stood the test of time. It was found in Pilgrim’s Progress, Gulliver’s Travels and Tom Jones, not to mention Voltaire’s Candide. The people whom the hero meets along the way mostly have the two-dimensional nature of ‘humours’ – figures in the picaresque tale representing the baseline of certain human characteristics, sometimes in a cartoon-like manner (Anderson 1973: 129).

In reviewing O Lucky Man! George Melly wrote that while the Brechtian mode seldom works in cinema, it did so triumphantly in this case. That he thought due in part to a strong screenplay by David Sherwin, excellent multiple performances from the actors at large and particularly Malcolm McDowell’s performance as the hero. One of the principal factors supporting the Brechtian mode was Anderson’s coherent view of how society works, that had given the narrative its robust scaffolding (Melly 1973: 34). It should be said that more than one critic derided the film because, to cite one, they thought that ‘in presenting us with corrupt policemen, power-crazy tycoons, sadomasochistic judges, murderous meths drinkers or suicidal Cockney housewives, Mr Anderson doesn’t seem to be in England at all’ (Weightman 1973: 48). For Melly, on the contrary, all the incidents (police looting a crash site, the sale of arms to an African despot, scientific experimentation on human beings, etc.) could be paired with reality: ‘… in the week of the Watergate disclosures, the film’s relevance needs no underlining’ (1973: 34).
Melly also reported that the music helps avoid the evident looseness of the episodic form. He liked the way the wry edge of the songs links and illuminates the various episodes obliquely (ibid.). Indeed, members of the band participate as characters in the narrative and also comment as if from outside it like an all-knowing Greek chorus. In that role they have two functions – firstly, strengthening the structure, and secondly, providing the moral context that frames the protagonists’ self-seeking behaviour.
In his interview with Robinson, Anderson had described the method he and Alan Price had adopted in their collaboration over the lyrics and music. These were written explicitly for the film and its companion album (also released by Warner Bros). Early drafts of the
script simply note the themes (‘song of luck’, ‘song of opportunity’, ‘song of money’, etc.) on which Price was to write. In fact, for each point at which music was to be inserted, Anderson wrote a paragraph stating what he thought the song should be about. Price took that and reinterpreted it in terms of his feelings and attitudes, which the director found sufficiently different from his own to provide creative tension, but also sufficiently the same for that tension to be productive (Anderson 1973: 129).
After a production meeting in the month before shooting commenced, Anderson mused in his diary: ‘In a sense the final zen-existential feeling of the film corresponds to [Alan’s] own feeling about life: be what you are: you are what you are: decisions won’t change anything.
But of course this is mixed with an instinctive, romantic individualism…’ (LA 6/1/64/41, 8 February 1972). Anderson believed (and in our view the film justifies his assertion) that

this mix of the political and the deeply personal made the songs an effective form of chorus. He thought that the songs ‘express the ironic attitude of the film quite directly, [and] the persona that Alan presents takes on an air of knowledgeableness’ (Anderson 1973: 129). As for Price’s role as a character, Anderson reckons he remains purposely enigmatic. He stands apart from the action because he has already attained the attitude to life that it takes Mick the whole story to get to. In short, Price’s character is a portrayal of someone who knows what life is about (Anderson 1973: 129–130).
Price and the band are the only ‘actors’ not to appear in multiple roles (in the prologue even McDowell plays another role – that of a peasant). Perhaps this is another device emphasizing his being the complete character who knows what life is about. All in all, while Price fulfilled a purpose on screen similar to the street singer in Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, he had a second major function: in the long process of making the film he was to Anderson what Kurt Weill had been to Brecht – an essential musical partner.
During the making of O Lucky Man! Anderson suffered recurrent despondency, even despair. His diary reflected on the difficulties that the Anglo-American cinema system posed auteurs such as Kubrick and Peckinpah. He thought it turned them into ‘monsters of
paranoia’ because only thus could they survive professionally. Noting the severe disturbance of his own emotions, he recorded feeling the enormous strain imposed by the attempt to straddle the worlds of personal (auteur) cinema on the one hand, and popular, commercial entertainment on the other (LA€6/1/64/7–8, 3€May 1972). Anderson’s exhaustion and depression continued through the weeks of post-production and he dreaded entering the cutting room to face the ‘dolts’ working with him (LA€6/1/64/236, 5€September 1972). It seems likely that such scathing remarks about his collaborators (of which this is typical), projected onto them his secret terror of suffering from a creative block. In one entry he diagnosed his own ‘critical sureness – after the event – but creative
uncertainty: which is what makes editing such agony’ (LA€6/1/64/201, 31€July 72, emphasis in the original). Paranoia aside, he had severe doubts over the quality of what he was seeing in the cutting room, thinking that some of it was adequate, but no more. Eventually his mood improved when Tom Priestley agreed to act as supervising editor. Under the latter’s guidance the movie began to take its eventual shape (LA€6/1/64/263, 3€October 1972).
When the time came to promote the film, Anderson’s paranoid doubts evaporated and gave way to enthusiastic commitment. Prior to its release, he submitted to numerous interviews with journalists and, as mentioned previously, the best of these set the agenda for
the majority of newspaper reviewers. With columns needing rapid filling, the latter found it convenient in time-honoured manner to draw on such material. For his part, Anderson seized the opportunity interviews afforded to not only promote the movie but also offer guidance toward what he thought was its proper interpretation.
Authorship was an issue that clearly mattered to him greatly; and in fact from 1948 he adopted a consistent concept of the director’s authorship in the cinema (as opposed to the theatre). He always asserted artistic ownership of ‘his’ films, referring to O Lucky Man!
both in public and private as if he had controlled both its scripting and direction. This was

not without a measure of truth since by his own admission he had constantly dominated his scriptwriter (and friend) David Sherwin as a means of bludgeoning work from him (Anderson 2004: 149). His relationship with Malcolm McDowell was different, but both enjoyed its intimate father–son quality. So here too he led even though the idea for the film started with ‘Coffee Man’, a rough script based on McDowell’s experiences selling coffee in the north of England (see LA 1/7/1/9–12). Anderson challenged his actor to develop the script and work with Sherwin before he himself introduced the ‘epic’ dimension.
With Alan Price, despite the age difference between the two men, Anderson achieved (not without minor difficulties at first) a relationship predicated on mutual respect and awareness that each had semi-autonomous command of his respective medium. In the case of his Czech cameraman, however, matters were different. It proved impossible for Anderson to dominate Miroslav Ondricek (Mirek) in the way he ruthlessly coerced Sherwin and others such as his production designer Jocelyn Herbert. A series of entries in Anderson’s diaries from March to August 1972 reads like a one-sided history of the two men’s contest for authorial control.
Anderson saw the nub of the problem as Mirek’s insistence on prioritizing composition and lighting. As director, however, Anderson tenaciously held the drama to have prime importance and reckoned that Mirek either did not read or failed to understand the script (not implausible since the Czech had limited command of English). By degrees Anderson convinced himself that he was partnered with an obstructive prima donna (see, for example,
LA€6/1/64/101, 12€April 1972; LA€6/1/64/108, 19€April 1972; LA€6/1/64/115, 26€April 1972; LA€6/1/67/3–6, 28€August 1972). The unhappy sequence ends with the director enraged after viewing poor rushes. He decides Mirek is a spoiled baby who has lost his respect because ‘he has not DELIVERED THE GOODS. FINITO’ (LA€6/1/64/226, 25€August 1972, emphasis in
the original). This outburst, in the final week of pick-up shooting, can be read as Anderson reclaiming authorship for himself.
Anderson did indeed believe that ‘cinema at its best and purest belongs to the director’ (1985: 139). He wrote these particular words 35 years after first expounding the same opinion in three articles published in Sequence between 1948 and 1950. Well before the Cahiers du Cinéma debate launched the politique that distinguished the work of metteur-en-scène from auteur, Anderson derived a broadly comparable dichotomy that differentiated two ways in which the film director might operate. He did not belittle the importance of contributions made by the principal talent; in particular he identified the scriptwriter and cameraman as indispensable creative members of a team (1948: 198–199). However, he argued that those writers who claim the dominance of their profession’s contribution most admire those films ‘in which the director’s function approximates closely enough to that of a stage director’ (1950: 207). For Anderson this view
puts the film director severely in his place, demanding of him technical capacity, sensibility to the ideas and characters provided for him by his author, but no independent response to his material, no desire to present it in the light of his own imagination, illuminated by it, or transformed (1950: 207).

For Anderson the almost miraculous fusion of the many creative elements that go into a successful film requires a central figure to bring those elements together, and that is the director. Implicit in this is more than the attribution of control alone. The work of the great directors who have made ‘rare and treasured works…alone entitles film to its present, indisputable position among the arts’ (1948: 199). In the making of those films of highest quality in which the director has a personal input, the authorial role becomes guarantor of the claim that the cinema is an art. Indeed, the director as author is often referred to as an artist. This was a theme to which Anderson returned often – see, for example, ‘Stand Up! Stand Up!’ (1956), and an unpublished piece ‘The Film Artist – Freedom and Responsibility!’ (1959). In this, as John Caughie has pointed out, Anderson was one of those who sought to install the individual, expressive and romantic artist in cinema (1981: 10). In his essays for
Sequence Anderson voices a position close to the idea of authorship that Andrew Sarris, the Movie group and others were to develop in elevating certain directors above all others for their artistry. But Anderson was contemptuous of the way these critics evolved that idea into a theory which exalted a bad film by an auteur over a good one by a non-ranking director.
Probably for that reason, he preferred in later writing to credit the Cahiers writers of the French New Wave with first formulating the idea that a director of a film should be called its author, rather than sharing the credit for something that he (among others) had advocated several years earlier (Anderson 1981: 271–272).
In a 1981 review of recent academic publications, Anderson’s contempt for auteur theory became all-engulfing. In part this was motivated by his disdain for ‘intellectual’ activity, with which term he condemned what he considered to be elitist self-indulgence that evaded the essential function of criticism. That function should be to discover and explore the relevance of art to experience (Anderson 1981: 274), an activity that he equated with the application
of intelligence. However, his complacent dismissal of developments in theoretical thinking about authorship cost him the opportunity to understand how audiences inevitably see authorship of films from a different perspective than their directors. To speak of one parameter alone, spectators stimulated by recurrent motifs, themes and unconscious traces that they discover in films directed by the same individual may construct through projective identification with them their own idea of a creative source. They name that source after the director but, as an imaginary construct, it is not identical with that person. To borrow Peter Wollen’s formulation: not Lindsay Anderson but the imagined ‘Lindsay Anderson’. To adapt an old warning, we should not uncritically trust the teller, but need to consider how the tale was received.
Projective identification shows clearly in some critical responses to O Lucky Man! not least because satire is a powerful weapon designed to arouse emotion in the receiver. The vivid contrast between personalized readings of the film by professional reviewers (some of whom clearly felt Anderson had attacked more than merely his lead player with a cinematic slap to the face) demonstrates these cathexes in play. In no review was this more clear than Stanley Kauffmann’s verdict that the film was ‘twisted by rancor’ and pickled in Anderson’s bile because he had not been called a genius for his previous movies. Kauffmann thought

it a three-hour effort at self-canonization exuding conceit and pig-headedness and steeped in self-display and self-reference (1973: 24). Less venomously, David Wilson found ‘an unappealing sanctimonious edge to this comprehensive spite…’ (1973: 128–129). In contrast, Charles Champlin observed that films are the man and Anderson – cool, guarded, rigorously unsentimental – finally preserves a certain detachment from his material and consequently from his audience.
If we are engrossed by his events and impressed by his characters we are denied some ultimate, easy empathy and moved to thought and admiration rather more than to deep feeling (1973: 22).
There is something to smile at (albeit ironically) for anyone reflecting on the respective careers of François Truffaut and Lindsay Anderson. One cannot but note the many striking similarities between them: their absent fathers and distant mothers; their passionate championing of the cinema and their belief in the centrality of the author. Truffaut’s Cahiers article, ‘Une Certaine Tendance du Cinéma Français’ is commonly regarded as the manifesto that launched both la politique des auteurs and the French New Wave. Anderson, a leading representative of the British New Wave, had financed and co-edited the film magazine Sequence until 1952. It is an instructive coincidence that Truffaut’s love poem about the near-impossible process of directing a feature film, La Nuit Américaine (also 1973), won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1974, whereas O Lucky Man!, despite being heavily tipped, had not won the 1973 Cannes Palme d’Or. In 2004 Cahiers du Cinéma marked the twentieth anniversary of Truffaut’s death (Burdeau 2004: 12–15). Their retrospective commences with a key sequence from La Nuit Américaine.
Truffaut, playing the director of the film within his film, steals a vase from the hotel where he and the film crew are staying, intending to use it as a prop. The Cahiers reading of the episode parallels our interpretation of Lindsay Anderson slapping Mick’s face in that both
men question the nature of cinematic reality. Que nous dit cet episode? Que le cinéma déborde sans cesse hors de son enclos. Qu’il
s’alimente à une source documentaire. Qu’il puise, vandale, dans la réalité. Mieux: qu’entre la vie et les films un partage s’opère – par exemple, celui d’un vase et de son bouquet. Partage dont le cinéma procède tout en le recueillant, puisque La Nuit Américaine combine film et film-dans-le-film. Leçon croisée: bien qu’arraché à la vie, le cinéma garde trace, à l’intérieur de lui-même, du rapt qu’il est. (Burdeau 2004: 12)
[The cinema ceaselessly outgrows its own limits. It takes advantage of documentary sources to feed off them: in the manner of a robber, it draws upon reality. More precisely, the cinema enables a meeting between life and the films themselves, just as the vase and the bouquet sequence exemplifies. The cinema both partakes in and of the very act of sharing as demonstrated by the film La Nuit Americaine which celebrates in its own right

Lindsay Anderson and Malcom Mackdowell on set

this ritual by allowing two experiences of the film to meet and merge: the film for the audience and the film within the film. A two-way lesson in short: the cinema has arguably been ripped off from life itself, and as a consequence it retains the trace of this very act of robbery within itself.]2
Seeing the film as overflowing into the real – feeding off reality as one would gather data from a documentary… The description of film as a ‘rapt’, a robbery from life, also sheds light on Anderson’s intervention in his own creation. Mick’s difficulty in smiling during the audition sequence effectively breaks down the fragile equilibrium that underpins the relation between cinema and reality. This is doubly persuasive in that McDowell found the smile
hard to perform and had to repeat the takes for five days (LA 6/1/64/160–162, 16–18€June 1972; LA 6/1/64/169, 25€June 1972; LA 6/1/64/208, 7€August 1972). Meanwhile Mick’s initial reluctance to give away part of his real self – his grin – to the fictional world which the mock audition foregrounds, mirrors Truffaut’s theft in La Nuit Américaine. Anderson makes his actor/ protagonist aware of the exchange with reality that needs to operate within the cinema. For his part, Truffaut gives the flowers from the vase to the script-girl in recompense for stealing. Burdeau reads the flowerless vase as a metaphor for Truffaut’s view of the way cinema moulds reality (2004: 13). Truffaut maintains the very equilibrium between life and art that Lindsay Anderson sought to challenge, a key difference between them.
The conscious choice on the part of Anderson and Truffaut to step into the screen as fictional versions of themselves suggests parallels with Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt. If Brecht was intent on making the audience aware of the artifice underpinning any artistic representation, Truffaut and Anderson supplement his technique with their own variants. As previously noted, Anderson was less interested in alienating his audience than in ‘focus[ing] their attention on its essential…import’. Arguably, the definition of this ‘essential import’ would account for the varying fortunes of Truffaut’s and Anderson’s films, O Lucky Man! being received with reactions much more divergent than Truffaut’s very popular movie.
Truffaut chose to show the audience how mainstream cinematic reality is constructed, whereas in O Lucky Man! Anderson engaged in visual and thematic deconstruction of cinematic realism. ‘Showing things how they really are’ implies total commitment to both the message and the medium – which Anderson’s film exemplifies better that Truffaut’s.
Since nothing is ‘natural, normal, or self-evident’, reflecting upon what is presented on screen requires the degree of acceptance and commitment that Zen philosophy calls for.
Revealingly, Truffaut’s alter ego in La Nuit Américaine never lets the audience know what function the stolen vase will serve in his film. As Burdeau remarks, Truffaut the ‘cineaste’ withholds as much information as he releases (Burdeau 2004: 12). Anderson bypasses any such ambiguity by stepping into the filmic space and challenging the dynamics operating between life and art.
When all is said and done, O Lucky Man! has epic qualities not only in its length, nor merely in observing the Brechtian paradigm (through does that too), but also by its deliberate inversion of the traditional epic framework. Whereas classic epic poetry surveys Britain presents a nation whose glory is a false memory deployed – but failing – to conceal meaner motives: greed, lust and the corrupting appetite for power. Whether a revelatory moment of Zen compensates in the dramatic balance for universal human unkindness and delusory hope is another matter altogether and (as the diverse opinions of the film’s critics and Anderson’s correspondents reveal) has always varied from one spectator to another.

1.╇When released in France, the film was titled Le meilleur des mondes possible, a direct quote from
2.╇Translated by the authors.
Anderson, Lindsay, archived materials held by The University of Stirling are referenced in the text by
folder, document number and, where recorded, date.
Anderson, Lindsay (1948), ‘Creative Elements’, Sequence, 5, in Paul Ryan (ed.), Never Apologise: The
Collected Writings, London: Plexus, pp. 194–199.
Anderson, Lindsay (1950), ‘The Director’s Cinema?’, Sequence, 12, in Paul Ryan (ed.), Never Apologise:
The Collected Writings, London: Plexus, pp. 200–209.
Anderson, Lindsay (1956), ‘Stand Up! Stand Up!’, in Paul Ryan (ed.), Never Apologise: The Collected
Writings, London: Plexus pp. 218–232.
Anderson, Lindsay (1957), ‘Two Inches off the Ground’, in Paul Ryan (ed.), Never Apologise: The
Collected Writings, London: Plexus, pp. 578–583.
Anderson, Lindsay (1959), ‘The Film Artist – Freedom and Responsibility!’, in Paul Ryan (ed.), Never
Apologise: The Collected Writings, London: Plexus, pp. 210–214.
Anderson, Lindsay (1973), interviewed by David Robinson, ‘Stripping the veils away,’ The Times,
21 April, in Paul Ryan (ed.), Never Apologise: The Collected Writings, London: Plexus, pp. 129–136.
Anderson, Lindsay (1981), ‘Critical Betrayal,’ Guardian, 2 March, in Paul Ryan (ed.), Never Apologise:
The Collected Writings, London: Plexus, pp. 271–276.
Anderson, Lindsay (1985), Introduction to The Old Crowd, in Paul Ryan (ed.), Never Apologise: The
Collected Writings, London: Plexus, pp. 137–147.
Anderson, Lindsay (2004), Never Apologise: The Collected Writings (ed. Paul Ryan). London: Plexus.
Blume, Mary (1973), ‘A Smile, an echo, a director’, International Herald Tribune, 27–28 October.
Burdeau, Emmanuel (2004), ‘Le Vase et le Bouquet,’ Cahiers du Cinéma, 592 (Juillet/Août), pp. 12–15.
Caughie, John (ed.) (1981), Theories of Authorship. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul/British Film
Champlin, Charles (1973), ‘A walk on the vile side in O Lucky Man!’, Los Angeles Times, 24 June,
Calendar 1.
Delson, James (1973), ‘O Lucky Man!’ Take One, May–June 1972, published 26€ September 1973,
pp. 29–30.

Edwards, Sydney (1973), ‘Watergate, W.1.,’ Evening Standard, 4 May.
Gordon, Robert (2006), The Purpose of Playing: Modern Acting Theories in Perspective, Ann Arbor:
University of Michigan Press.
Hodgart, Matthew (1969), Satire, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
Kauffmann, Stanley (1973), ‘O Lucky Man!’, New Republic, 16 June, pp. 24; 33.
Lambert, Gavin (2000), Mainly About Lindsay Anderson, London: Faber.
Marcorelles, Louis (1973), ‘O Lucky Man! Le dernier film de Lindsay Anderson: Un conte, un récit,
une aventure’, Le Monde, 12 October.
Melly, George (1973), ‘Mick grins and bears it’, Observer, 6 May.
Slater, Phil (1977), Origin and Significance of the Frankfurt School: A Marxist Perspective, London:
Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Walker, Alexander (1973), ‘What happened after If…’, Evening Standard, 3€May.
Weightman, John (1973), ‘Fantasia’, Encounter, 41: 1, pp. 47–49.
Wilson, David (1973), ‘O Lucky Man’, Sight and Sound, 42: 3, pp. 126–129.

* ‘What is There to Smile At?’ Lindsay Anderson’s O Lucky Man!
John Izod, Karl Magee, Kathryn Mackenzie and Isabelle Gourdin at Don’t Look Now
British Cinema in the 1970s. Edited by Paul Newland, The University of Chicago Press-Bristol-Intellect, 2010. Pages. 215-227.




From 1947 to the Mid-Sixties: Tezuka’s Classical Period by Susanne Phillips[*]

The legendary manga artist and anime producer Osamu Tezuka (1928–1989), known in Japan as the manga no kamisama or “god of Japanese comics,” played a crucial role in the development of postwar manga. Active artistically for more than forty years, he left
behind approximately 150,000 manuscript pages after his death. As a pioneer, he tested the narrative possibilities that word-picture combinations offer. Thus, the development of the so-called story manga (sutorii manga) is associated with his name.1 In his search for new forms of storytelling, Tezuka hearkened back to the Japanese
tradition of word-picture combinations and, at the same time, introduced new pictorial elements from U.S. and European cinema. Like novelists and movie directors, Tezuka gathered his themes and characters from all sources: Asian and European history, the world’s
fairy tales and myths, American science fiction films, and English detective stories. In the treasure trove of Tezuka’s manga, one can find all possible genres with the idiosyncratic narrative patterns and the characters associated with them. Tezuka’s manga are populated
not only by samurai and ghosts, and robots and extraterrestrials, but also by actresses like Marilyn Monroe and comic book heroes like Dick Tracy. Through his manga, many motifs and characters from western popular culture found their way to Japan.
At the beginning of his career, Tezuka was able to strike the right chord for the children who were his readers with his adventure and science fiction stories. In the 1950s, he dominated the manga industry, monopolizing it to a degree that would be impossible for any one artist to accomplish today. Like all who are involved in
popular culture, he was sensitive to the dictates of his readers: works that did not appeal to their tastes were quickly abandoned for projects that would sell. However, he was also at the mercy of his readership’s changing preferences. By the 1960s, Tezuka was no longer considered a trendsetter. His predominance was challenged
when new kinds of stories gained popularity. Called gekiga (dramatic pictures), these comics were new in several respects. First, they came from a new generation of artists located in Osaka, not Tokyo, where the established artists lived. Second, they were new because they were realistically drawn and featured graphic scenes of violence.
Tezuka found himself fending off journalists who declared that he was all washed up. Envious of gekiga’s success, Tezuka fiercely attacked his new artist-competitors, but he also responded by adapting gekiga’s stylistic innovations to his own work. Gekiga spurred Tezuka to abandon old formulas that he had favored for new themes, plots, and character concepts. Finally, after this phase of experimentation, Tezuka hit on a winning synthesis that used the gekiga format to embellish his dramatic manga epics about key moments in world history.
In terms of narrative style, we can distinguish three periods in Tezuka’s career: (1) his early “classical” period from 1947 to the mid-sixties, (2) his horror-gothic period in the seventies, and (3) his historical-realistic period from approximately the midseventies
to his death in 1989.

From 1947 to the Mid-Sixties: Tezuka’s Classical Period
Tezuka’s first manga, Shin-takarajima (New Treasure Island, 1947), is an adventure story combining elements of Tarzan, Treasure Island, and Robinson Crusoe. It became a best-seller with about 400,000 copies sold. Shin-takarajima marked a turning point in the history of manga: for the first time, children could read an exciting story not as a serialized newspaper column, but as a manga book of nearly 200 pages from beginning to end.
After the success of Shin-takarajima, Tezuka drew other manga that were published as “red-book manga” (akahon manga), so named because they were printed on cheap paper and bound in a red cover. They were sold by sweets merchants in the Matsuyamachi district of Osaka. His ideas came from a supply of approximately 3,000pages that he had drawn and bound into books as a youngster during the war. Here, one can find a major reason for the great success of Tezuka’s early publications; most of the adventure and science fiction stories of this early phase are revised versions of those that came from the pen of a boy who was not much older than his readership, rather than an adult who saw manga as a didactic tool to educate children.
In this early phase, Tezuka wrote three kinds of tales: adventure stories, science fiction stories, and period romances. In contrast to Shin-takarajima, these manga were not originally published as books but appeared in magazines running over many, many years, with a form and content that always responded to readers’ changing tastes. For each type he drew manga from dozens to hundreds of pages long. In the early fifties, when he developed his cartoon stars, these stories became long-running bestsellers.
All were hits, such as the adventure story Janguru taitei (Kimba the White Lion, 1950–1954, literally, “Ruler of the jungle”), the science fiction story Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy, 1951–1968, literally, “Ironarm Atom”), and the period romance Ribon no kishi (Princess Knight, 1953–1956, literally, “Knight with Ribbons”). The publication of these three serialized manga marked the first triumph of Tezuka’s career. They were so successful financially—all three even gained popularity abroad—that Tezuka was able to establish his own anime studio.

Adventure Stories
Adventure stories contain all the exotic locales and extraordinary situations that one
can imagine: The heroes struggle to survive in a tropical jungle, either because they
had to make an emergency landing or because they are on an unusual expedition to
solve some mystery. En route, they find strange old towers, ruins of Inca towns, springs
of immortality, and so on. The adventurers are attacked by eagles, crocodiles, black
panthers, and gigantic poisonous spiders, as happens in Sharigawa no himitsu kichi
(The Secret Base of Shari-River, 1948). The plot of these wilderness adventure stories
is always structured upon the opposition between civilization and nature: “civilization,”
personified by the heroes, is characterized by advanced scientific thinking,
whereas “nature,” personified by the ignorant savages they encounter in the jungle,
means silly superstition.
Science Fiction Stories
Tezuka’s science fiction manga are radically different from his exotic adventure stories.
Examples of this type include Chiteikoku no kaijin (The Mysterious Men Down in the
Earth, 1948), Metoroporisu (Metropolis,1949), Kitarubeki sekai (Next World, 1951),
38 doseij÷o no kaibutsu (The Monster on the 38th Parallel, 1953), Taiheiy÷o x-pointo


(Point X in the South Pacific, 1953), and Daik÷ozui jidai (The Age of the Great Flood,
1955). Rather than being escapist fantasies, these manga directly reflect Japan’s war
experiences and the privations of the postwar period. The stark realities of the time are
made clear in Tezuka’s sharply detailed portrayals of life, down to the small details
of its cruelties. The young Ken’ichi, for example, who appears in almost all of these
early manga, is a character with whom many Japanese could closely identify. He has
lost his parents in the war, and now his uncle, Hige Oyaji, has to take care of him.
In Tezuka’s science fiction stories, the conflict that structures the narrative is based
upon the opposition between democracy and dictatorship. While “democracy” stands
for sincerity and responsibility, “dictatorship” stands for unscrupulousness and callow,
self-serving egotism. Tezuka penned many stories about how the policies of an irresponsible
government run by a dictator end in disaster. The characters who are part of
the totalitarian regime ruthlessly oppress their subordinates and torture any dissenters.
The people, lacking will and incapable of action, have no influence on the decisions
of the selfish rulers. While the officers and governmental officials prosecute the war
from a safe distance, the populace—a mob whipped into a frenzy—is exposed to a
hail of bombs. Panicked, they try to flee, while others—buried alive and shouting for
help—are abandoned to their miserable fate. Reading these manga, Tezuka’s readers
could not only reexperience the horrors of war, but also feel fear about the possibility

of new ones. As such, these stories are a reaction to contemporary history, and, above
all, to the outbreak of the Korean War.
Tezuka’s story lines, therefore, are generally deeply pessimistic. The world has
become a slaughterhouse; there is no corner left to withdraw to and be safe from
violence. He repeatedly portrays the destruction of the world as a flood that buries
everything under it, as in Daikozui jidai (The Age of Great Flood,1955). He expresses
his hope for a rescue using the biblical image of Noah’s Ark. People try to escape on
rafts or leave the earth in spaceships. If enough time remains, pairs of animals are
entered on inventory lists to be taken along on board. These stories often have heroes,
too—young adventurers who rescue Earth and humanity. Here the opposition, narratively,
is between children and adults. The adults are selfish, uncompromising. and
incapable of handling the awesome powers of new technologies responsibly. Great
rulers end up being egotistical maniacs who cut ridiculous figures. By contrast, the
young are reasonable, self-sacrificing, and fight valiantly against the corrupt evil
adults to save the world.
As in all good science fiction stories, things do not occur by happenstance but can
be explained (pseudo)scientifically. For example, the apocalyptic flood is caused by
global warming after nuclear test explosions. Many stories end happily after the evil
knowledge that has wreaked havoc has been destroyed, but it is also clear that scientific
progress is unstoppable; the danger remains that some mad ruler will get his hands on
this new technology once again and use it for nefarious purposes. Tezuka’s ambivalence
toward science is personified by different scientists who appear as characters.
He repeatedly uses scenes of conferences and congresses where scientific experts
gather from all over the world. Among them, there is always a mix of personalities.
Invariably, along with the few modest and far-sighted researchers who warn of the
consequences of new discoveries, there are also arrogant braggarts who announce
smugly that “1+1 = 2,” and greedy scientists hungry for money and ready to sell their
inventions to the highest bidder, as in Meturoporisu (1949, 18–19).

Romantic Fantasies
In Tezuka’s romantic fantasies one can see influences from three main sources: German
fairy tales, from which he borrows plots; Disney characters, from which he takes
stylistic features; and the Takarazuka women’s revue, from which he takes scenes that
he incorporates into his manga tableau.
Tezuka’s stories are full of fairy-tale motifs. For example, Akai yuki (Red Snow,
1955) tells the story of an outcast orphan girl who later marries the son of the czar, a
version of the Cinderella tale that, in this manga, is set in old Russia. Extremely implausible
plot twists lead finally to a happy ending. The girl’s key talent, which allows
her to rise socially, is her singing. Thus, notes dance across the manga’s pages with
little birds, which flit around twittering the melody. Replete with romantic moments,
Tezuka won over girls as manga readers with these pieces.
Animal figures, which play an important role in all early manga of Tezuka, appear

Red Snow

in these stories in great numbers. Their resemblance to Disney deer, squirrels, bunnies,
and so on is obvious, and one can even encounter famous Disney versions of characters
from Western popular culture, such as Snow White or Peter Pan. Many of these
manga are set in czarist Russia. In sharp contrast to the ultramodern skyscrapers and
high-tech factories that form the backdrop of his science fiction stories, the scenes in
Tezuka’s romances are reminiscent of postcards of Russian Orthodox churches, filled
with round onion turrets covered with snow.
Many also call to mind the Takarazuka all-women revue’s costume plays, which
still remain popular today with sold-out performances at their Osaka and Tokyo theaters
(Robertson 1998). As a boy, Tezuka went to many of their performances with
his mother, and he liberally imported themes, plots, scenery, scene sequences, and
characters from the stage into his manga. Thus, these had enormous influence on
Tezuka’s girls’ manga.
Tezuka’s most famous costume drama is Princess Knight. It is the story of Princess
Sapphire, a medieval European princess who has to disguise herself as a prince to
succeed to the throne. The basic plot device in the story is that the princess must play
a double role, constantly changing her dress, and thus her identity, to fool everyone.
This gives Tezuka a wide latitude for thinking about gender roles and female identity.

As girls’ manga (shojo manga) developed, it is this exploration of what it means to
be a girl, fathoming the inside world of the heroines, that became a central element
of the genre.
Influences from Abroad
The adventure and science fiction manga of Tezuka’s early phase reveal his thorough
knowledge of American and European adventure tales like Tarzan, Treasure Island,
or Robinson Crusoe, Hollywood, and the UFA (the former German film production
industry) films. Over and over again, one finds famous film scenes reappearing in
Tezuka’s stories. For example, the being that is brought to life by scientists and slowly
rises from the operating table in Tezuka’s Metoroporisu (1949, 29) is inspired by Fritz
Lang’s robot woman in Metropolis, and the automatic food dispenser for factory workers
in Shinsekai Rur÷u (literally, New World Lurue, 1951, 192) comes originally from
Charles Chaplin’s Modern Times. Tezuka altered the scenes for his young Japanese
audience, gave them an entirely new context, and enriched them with the biological
knowledge he had acquired while studying medicine.
Tezuka had mixed feelings about the United States, a love-hate relationship that
alternated between rejecting and borrowing from American popular culture. On the
one hand, the United States was Japan’s former enemy. In one of Tezuka’s science fiction
stories, Sekai o horobosu otoko (The Destroyer of the World, 1954), for example,
American generals discuss dropping another newly developed bomb on Japan. On
the other hand, America positively symbolized adventure, progress, and the future.
Tezuka’s manga often featured idealized utopian American cityscapes depicting a way
of life that was still foreign to Japanese children. Popular culture scholar Mitsutoshi
Ishigami describes his ambiguous feelings as a boy toward Tezuka’s manga by saying
that he felt a sense of strangeness (iwakan) and curiosity when looking at Tezuka’s
cityscapes filled with their skyscrapers and foreign letters on the roadsigns because
English was the language of the enemy. Japanese children did not learn English before
1945 (Ishigami 1977, 36). More and more American English crept into the titles of
Tezuka’s manga. At first, Tezuka ornamented his title pages with transcriptions in the
Roman alphabet, which added an exotic flavor to them. Later, he added English subtitles
that were more or less correct translations of the Japanese originals, and finally,
he used English titles, as in Metropolis written in Latin script and in the Japanese
katakana (Ishigami 1977, 28–37).

In addition, Tezuka added American cinematic features to his manga. In particular,
he adapted the technique of cinematic montage by making sequences of panels to
mimic movement or scene changes. For example, he might use a sequence of several
panels that depicted a figure moving closer to the “camera” (viewer) of a scene.
A typical Tezuka narrative illustrates his special talent as an innovative borrower,
an artist who could seamlessly fold western plots into Japanese stories. Tezuka alternated
his basic five-part plot structure in various manga, such as Astro Boy, Mitsume
ga t÷oru, and Dororo. His five-part structure consisted of the following:

1. An imperfect child is born or created. In one version, the father promises
the body of his child to demons to enlist their help so he can stay in power
(Hyakkimaru in Dororo). In the other, more frequently used version, a mad
or obsessed scientist creates a son, as in the case of Astro Boy; this son starts
life as a child rather than a fully grown adult like the western Frankenstein
or the Terminator. In any case, the child has physical problems that were
caused by his father. Angry about the child’s imperfections, the bad father
abandons him against the wishes of the weak mother.
2. The child is found by a man who lovingly takes care of him. Here, we see
a central motif of Japanese fairy tales at work. This is the motif of the child
sent by the gods (m÷oshigo), as in the tale of the peach boy, Momotar÷o. Every
Japanese child knows this story, which exists in countless variations.2
3. The stepfather, who is a brilliant scientist or doctor, provides the boy with
special augmentations (e.g., Astro Boy’s special equipment, radar, rocket
drive, Hyakkimaru’s artificial organs that allow him to live).
4. Through these special enhancements, the boy gains new powers, but also
suffers a split in his personality. While living like an average schoolboy, an
experience he shares with children his same age (and also the readers), he
uses his unusual abilities for good. Because he is largely artificial, the boy
wonders about his identity: Is he a human being or a robot?
5. The child rewards his stepfather by fighting criminals or ghosts. This plot
becomes a kind of hero myth that also has the character of a detective story,
like Batman in American comics. Tezuka’s most famous crime fighter is
Astro Boy.

The Cast of Characters
Tezuka authored several instructional books on drawing manga that provide insights
into his understanding of style, character development, and narrativity. In
Manga no kakikata (How to Draw Comics, 1977), he compares manga to children’s
drawings. In his eyes, children draw innocently, not in the sense of a realistic
portrait, like a photo, but expressively, directly putting down their impressions of
their surroundings. Similarly, Tezuka argues that drawing good comics involves
omission (sh÷oryaku), exaggeration (koch÷o), and variation (henkei). Correct proportion
for a realistic sketch is unnecessary. On the contrary, to express an emotion,
abrupt alterations in figuration are appropriate. Thus, his characters may look like
rubber dolls whose heads can reach the ground when submissively bowing and
whose arms become elastic, unnaturally extending far out to grab a beer bottle
they desire. During a fight, the head, arms, or legs can even fly away temporarily
from the body. Strictly speaking, Tezuka’s ideal is to make manga with a childlike
innocence, but also in a way that takes its cue from early American animation,
which is like a stack of images that simulate movement when flipped at high speed.
The only component absent in Tezuka’s manga is the musical background that
accompanies the animated film.
It is in his treatment of his characters that Tezuka comes closest to the role of a
modern film director or stage manager. The science fiction and adventure stories of
Tezuka’s early period are not serials. Content-wise they stand as independent works.
Nevertheless, all his stories from 1947 to 1955 have the same characters in them. They
may get a little older or have slightly different names, but they look the same and have
the same personalities, jobs, and, therefore, the same social status. Like Hollywood
studios with their stables of stars, Tezuka gradually built up a cast of dozens of characters

that was like an actual theater troupe. Just like real actors who are typecast to
fit particular roles, these characters appear in different manga playing their assigned
bits. Tezuka called this his “star system.”
For example, Hige Oyaji is the most pleasant, most engaging character in Tezuka’s
oeuvre. He acts as the protective (step)father or uncle of the orphan boy Ken’ichi, a
figure for whom many Japanese children of the postwar period certainly yearned. A
dear old man with a moustache, Hige Oyaji is a traditionalist who is dependable and

intelligent, although sometimes a little bit clumsy and irritable. Having lived through
the horrific defeat in the war, he is an ardent opponent of nuclear weapons and atomic
bomb tests. In Tezuka’s stories, like Mah÷o yashiki (Satan’s House, 1948), Metropolis
(1949), and Janguru taitei (Kimba, 1950–54), Hige Oyaji plays either a responsible
doctor or a good-hearted detective.
In almost all of Tezuka’s early manga, Ken’ichi plays the youthful hero with whom
Tezuka’s young readers could identify. Ken’ichi has a strongly developed sense of
justice and responsibility, and does his utmost not only for his friends, but also for
world peace. His uncompromising idealism is astonishing, because Ken’ichi repeatedly
faces situations that show how naive he really is.
A third key character in Tezuka’s star system is Acetylene Lamp, or “Lamp”
for short, a character who is the embodiment of evil, the mirror opposite of Hige
Oyaji. He plays various roles, such as the sadistic criminal and the unscrupulous
saboteur. He murders people without showing the slightest touch of remorse.
While Lamp is always meticulously dressed, he almost always is a fiercelooking
man. His peculiar name comes from a candle’s flame that flickers on
Lamp’s head when he is surprised or annoyed. Lamp had his debut as the mean
newspaper journalist in Rosuto w÷arudo (Lost World, 1948) (Ishigami 1977, 111).
Acetylene Lamp is one of the few of Tezuka’s characters who also appears in his
later manga as well. Even after Tezuka had abandoned the star system, he still
cast Lamp in sadistic roles.
These and many other characters inhabit Tezuka’s early manga, even if most of
them never became the main characters in any of Tezuka serialized works.3 Tezuka
used this ensemble, giving his “actors” roles that would fit the specific genres in which
they appeared (e.g., the gunslinger hero in the western, the brilliant scientist-inventor
in the science fiction story, etc.).
An unpublished manuscript of Tezuka’s, on exhibit at the Tezuka Memorial Museum
(Tezuka Kinenkan) in Takarazuka, hints that he actually imagined his characters
to be actors that he had hired (Tezuka Productions 1994). He had drawn a lineup of
their faces, provided a short description of them, a curriculum vitae of their acting
careers (who worked when for which studio), and a salary chart of the fees they should
receive for appearing in a manga. Since his readers understand that Tezuka’s manga
are “cinematic,” most Japanese critics rarely mention this idiosyncratic way in which
Tezuka conceived his characters as real actors.
Having stock characters who are unambiguously either good or evil does not allow
much flexibility in terms of a story’s development. But it does allow for the possibility
of humor. For example, Tezuka frequently drew himself, first as a doctor or manga artist,
then as the head of his anime studio, Mushi Production. Sometimes, his characters
quarrel with each other, intrigue against each other, or argue with Osamu Tezuka as
the studio head about their “roles,” “salary,” and so on.
Tezuka also invented characters who have nothing to do with the plot per se, but
appear in cameo roles for comedic effect. The most famous of these is a strange being
called “Hyotantsugi.” It is shaped like a gourd bottle and covered with patches.

Ordinary characters can suddenly mutate into Hyotantsugi when they get angry,
excited, or are ashamed, only to be restored to their original form in the next panel
again. When Tezuka wants to stress strong emotions, the Hyotantsugi bursts straight
out of the panel. When something stupid happens in a story, it rains Hy÷otantsugi.
Occasionally, the gags are more interesting than the events at the center of the
story since they are inside jokes that only true Tezuka fans would comprehend. For
example, characters often step out of the proper story (and even the actual panels) to
remark upon the storyline and the cast of characters. They take on a life outside the
stories as if they were famous film stars. In Kitaru beki sekai (Next World, 1951), a
foreigner meeting Hige Oyaji remarks, “You say you are private detective Hige Oyaji!
I am familiar with your name from several manga” (Kitaru beki sekai, quoted from
a reprint of 1995, 87). Or, in another, when Hige Oyaji makes his first appearance
in Atomu taishi (later, Tetsuwan Atomu or Astro Boy), he asks the other characters
if they know him. They reply, “Of course, you are Hige Oyaji, the private detective
in Tezuka’s other manga.” Hige Oyaji then tells them, “Yes, now I am teacher, but
in former manga, as a private detective, I was an indispensible character of Tezuka’s
manga” (Tetsuwan Atomu 1995, vol. 1, 53). On this secondary comedic level, the close
bond between Osamu Tezuka and his contemporary readers becomes clear.

The Hero—Astro Boy, Leo, and Princess Sapphire
The three serialized manga that made Tezuka’s career all have good, strong heroes
who fight against despicable villains. Indeed, the stories of these three heroes mark
the zenith of popularity of Tezuka’s adventure, science fiction, and romantic fantasies.
The answer as to why Tezuka’s work became so popular lies perhaps in the new ways
he frames his heroes as characters. These stories are not a simple battle between good
and evil—something that we see, for example, in the American Superman comics
where the man of steel (aka Clark Kent) battles against the likes of Lex Luther and
other unrecalcitrant criminals. Tezuka’s heroes are also struggling against a corrupt
society filled with prejudice of which they are a part.
For example, the small robot Astro Boy lives in the Tokyo of 2003, a world of skyscrapers
and aircars that very much resembles today: the children are bored at school, the
police provide law and order, and the ministry of science charts a course for society’s
technological future. On the one hand, these stories are conventional myths of the hero
who protects society from evil outsiders. Like the American heroes in Batman, Superman,
or Spiderman comics, Astro Boy works on society’s behalf to hunt for dangerous criminals
who threaten the public order. With the extraordinary powers that the boy received
from his stepfather, he is often the only one able to fight the villains and save Tokyo, or
even the whole of Japan, from their attacks or from environmental disasters.
On the other hand, these stories do not portray a simple “us versus them” in which
society is good, and evil comes from outside dualism. In fact, the stories raise disturbing
questions about modern society. Unlike today, robots live among humans. Thanks

to scientific advances, in fact, the latest robot models are indistinguishable from humans.
Thus, the underlying theme of Astro Boy is that tension arises when robots and
humans live together. Using this fictional device, Tezuka is exploring real problems
in contemporary Japanese society. Astro Boy repeatedly confronts the problems that
minorities typically face today, particularly the evils of racism.
While Astro Boy faces down the evils of human prejudice, other manga heroes engage
in different battles. In Kimba the White Lion, the white lion Leo desperately fights for the
harmonious co-existence between humans and animals, and in Princess Knight, Princess
Sapphire has to deal with gender discrimination by disguising herself as a young man,
her only means of succeeding to her rightful place on the throne. By overcoming their
difficulties, all three heroes become more than stick figures. They attain an unusual psychological
depth because they are liminal figures. They stand between different groups
and thus have difficulty finding their place in society. Astro Boy stands between humans
and machines, the lion Leo stands between humans and animals, and Princess Sapphire
stands between men and women. Their identity issues open up worlds that they would
never have known if there were simply a machine, a wild animal, or a woman who fits
conventional gender-role expectations. Their new insights make them long for another
life and, at the same time, complicate any possibility of fitting into the status quo.

[*] “Characters, terms and narrative patterns in the manga of Ozamu Tezuca” in Japanese Visual Culture. Explorations in the World of
Manga and Anime. USA, Edited by Mark W. MacWilliams M.E. Sharpe, Inc. 2008. Pages. 68 – 81.





The Symphonic Film by John Grierson*

Berlin Symphonie. Walter Ruttman

The symphonic form is concerned with the orchestration of movement.
It sees the screen in terms of flow and does not permit the
flow to be broken. Episodes and events if they are included in the
action are integrated in the flow. The symphonic form also tends
to organise the flow in terms of different movements, e.g. movement
for dawn, movement for men coming to work, movement for factories in full swing, etc., etc. This is a first distinction.
See the symphonic form as equivalent to the poetic form of, say,
Carl Sandburg in “Skyscraper,” “Chicago,” “The Windy City”
and “Slabs of the Sunburnt West.” The object is presented as an
integration ofmany activities. It lives by the many human associations and by the moods of the various action sequences which surround it.
Sandburg says so with variations of tempo in his description, variations of the mood in which each descriptive facet is presented. We do not ask personal stories of such poetry, for its picture is complete and satisfactory. We need not ask it of documentary. This is a second distinction regarding symphonic form.
These distinctions granted, it is possible for the symphonic form
to vary considerably. Basil Wright, for example, is almost exclusively
interested in movement, and will build up movement in a
fury of design and nuances of design; and for those whose eye is
sufficiently trained and sufficiently fine, will convey emotion in a
thousand variations on a theme so simple as the portage of bananas
(Cargo from Jamaica). Some have attempted to relate this movement to the pyrotechnics of pure form, but there never was any such animal, (i) The quality of Wright’s sense of movement and of his patterns are distinctively his own and recognisably delicate. As with good painters, there is character in his line and attitude in his composition. (2) There is an overtone in his work which—sometimes after seeming monotony—makes his description uniquely memorable.
(3) His patterns invariably weave—not seeming to do so—a positive
attitude to the material, which may conceivably relate to (2). The
patterns of Cargo were more scathing comment on labour at 2d. a
hundred bunches (or whatever it is) than mere sociological stricture.
His movements (a) easily down; (b) horizontal; (c) arduously 45
up; (d) down again—conceal, or perhaps construct, a comment.

Flaherty once maintained that the east-west contour of Canada was
itself a drama. It was precisely a sequence of down, horizontal, 45
up, and down again. I use Basil Wright as an example of ‘movement in itself’ — though movement is never in itself—principally to distinguish those others who add either tension elements or poetic elements or atmospheric elements. I have held myself in the past an exponent of the tension category with certain pretention to the others. Here is a simple example of tension from Granton Trawler. The trawler is working its gear in a storm. The tension elements are built up with emphasis on the drag of the water, the heavy lurching of the ship, the fevered flashing of birds, the fevered flashing of faces between waves lurches and spray. The trawl is hauled aboard with strain of men and tackle and water. It is opened in a release which comprises equally the release of men, birds and fish. There is no pause in the flow of movement, but something of an effort as between two opposing forces, has been recorded. In a more ambitious and deeper description the tension might have included elements more intimately and more heavily descriptive of the clanging weight of the tackle, the strain on the ship, the operation of the gear under water and along the ground, the scuttering myriads of birds laying off in the gale. The fine fury of ship and heavy weather could have been brought through to touch the vitals of the men and the ship. In the hauling, the simple fact of a wave breaking over the men, subsiding and leaving them hanging on as though nothing had
happened, would have brought the sequence to an appropriate peak.
The release could have attached to itselfimages of, say, birds wheeling high, taking offfrom the ship, and ofcontemplative, i.e. more intimate, reaction on the faces of the men. The drama would have gone deeper by the greater insight into the energies and reactions involved.
Carry this analysis into a consideration of the first part of Deserter,
which piles up from a sequence of deadly quiet to the strain and
fury—and aftermath—of the strike, or of the strike sequence itself,
which piles up from deadly quiet to the strain and fury—and aftermath—of the police attack, and you have indication of how the
symphonic shape, still faithful to its own peculiar methods, comes
to grip with dramatic issue.

Walter Ruttman on set at Berlin

The poetic approach is best represented by Romance Sentimentale
and the last sequence of Ekstase. Here there is description without
tension, but the moving description is lit up by attendant images.
In Ekstase the notion of life renewed is conveyed by a rhythmic
sequence of labour, but there are also essential images of a woman
and child, a young man standing high over the scene, skyscapes and
water. The description of the various moods of Romance Sentimentale. is conveyed entirely by images : in one sequence of domestic interior, in another sequence of misty morning, placid water and dim sunlight.
The creation of mood, an essential in the symphonic form,
may be done in terms of tempo alone, but is better done if poetic
images colour it. In a description of night at sea, there are elements
enough aboard a ship to build up a quiet and effective rhythm, but
a deeper effect might come by reference to what is happening under
water or by reference to the strange spectacle of the birds which,
sometimes in ghostly flocks, move silently in and out of the ship’s
A recent sequence done by Rotha for his new film indicates the
distinction between the three different treatments. He describes the loading of a steel furnace and builds a superb rhythm into the
shovelling movements of the men. By creating behind them a sense
of fire, by playing on the momentary shrinking from fire which
comes into these shovelling movements, he would have brought in
the elements of tension. He might have proceeded from this to an
almost terrifying picture of what steel work involves. On the other
hand, by overlaying the rhythm with, say, such posturing or contemplative symbolic figures, as- Eisenstein brought into his Thunder Over Mexico material, he would have added the elements of poetic image. The distinction is between (a) a musical or non-literarymethod; (b) a dramatic method with clashing forces; and (c) poetic, contemplative, and altogether literary method. These three methods may all appear in one film, but their proportion depends naturally on the character of the director—and his private hopes of salvation.
I do not suggest that one form is higher than the other. There
are pleasures peculiar to the exercise of movement which in a sense
are tougher—more classical—than the pleasures of poetic description, however attractive and howrever blessed by tradition these may be. The introduction of tension gives accent to a film, but only too easily gives popular appeal because of its primitive engagement with physical issues and struggles and fights. People like a fight, even when it is only a symphonic one, but it is not clear that a war with the elements is a braver subject than the opening of a flower or, for that matter, the opening of a cable. It refers us back to hunting instincts and fighting instincts, but these plainly do not
represent the more civilised fields of appreciation.
It is commonly believed that moral grandeur in art can only be
achieved, Greek or Shakespearian fashion, after a general laying
out of the protagonists, and that no head is unbowed which is not
bloody. This notion is a philosophic vulgarity. Of recent years it
has been given the further blessing of Kant in his distinction between
the aesthetic of pattern and the aesthetic of achievement, and


beauty has been considered somewhat inferior to the sublime. The
Kantian confusion comes from the fact that he personally had an
active moral sense, but no active aesthetic one. He would not otherwise
have drawn the distinction. So far as common taste is concerned,
one has to see that we do not mix up the fulfilment of primitive
desires and the vain dignities which attach to that fulfilment,
with the dignities which attach to man as an imaginative being.
The dramatic application of the symphonic form is not, ipso facto,
the deepest or most important. A future consideration of forms
neither dramatic nor symphonic, but dialectic, will reveal this more
Kinematograph Year Book, i 934. (London: Odhams. ios.)
An essential book of reference for all connected with the cinema.
The year’s events, films registered, who’s who, and a classified
directory are included, along with other useful information.
“The Cinema” Buyers’ Guide. (London: Cinema Press. 155-.)
Contains brief reviews of the year’s films with details of production
and cast. A valuable handbook for students and secretaries.
For Filmgoers Only. (London: Faber. 2s. 6d.) Lectures
delivered to the London Y.W.C.A. Central Club. Paul Rotha on
the development of the cinema ; Andrew Buchanan on propaganda;
Mary Field on educational films; R. S. Lambert on “Why we get
the films we do” ; C. A. Lejeune on what to look for in films. A
useful guide for those who have just “discovered” cinema.
The Cinema and the Public. (London: Nicholson and Watson.
is.) An ‘exposure” of the British Film Institute. Contains both
opinions and facts, which the discerning reader may separate to his
own satisfaction.
Express to Hollywood. By Victor McLagen. (London:
Jarrold. 12s. 6rf.) The life-story of a star. A feast for fans and an
interesting sidelight on the inside of the commercial movie world.
Picture People. By Olga Rosmanith. (London: Long. ys. 6d.)
A novelette of Hollywood life in all its absurdities. May help to
disillusion star worshippers.
The Stranger’s Return. By Phil Stong. (London: Barker.
js. 6d.) Here we find in words the atmosphere and characters of
the American Middle West which Vidor re-created in his film.
Lionel Barrymore’s Grandpa Storr did justice to Stong’s powers of
characterisation. Two novels written, two novels filmed: perhaps
Stong will cast his next in film form and not wait for adaptation.

(Copy Left) *Film Quartely, vol. 2 Num. 3, Spring 1934, Uk. pages 155-160.


A_Fata Morgana2

Desde el cine de observación al cine experimental estructural y materialista: Wiseman, Gardner, Herzog, van Lishout por Veronica Stoehrel[*]

Meat. 1976, Frederick Wiseman

En el filme de observación la cámara sigue los eventos como suceden delante de ella, tratando de captar y revelar la “verdad” sobre ellos. Con un mínimo de corte y montaje, el director trata de “documentar” una realidad.
El filme estructural / material ha sido definido como una forma de cine experimental que llama la atención hacia su forma, hacia la acción y percepción del mirar. Como Russell lo define, es un filme documental pero que cuestiona su capacidad de documentar. La fijación de la posición de la cámara (desde el punto de vista del espectador) representa la orientación de la conciencia fenomenológica, al mismo tiempo que reconoce los límites de la posibilidad de conocer (Russell, 1999:158). A diferencia del filme de observación, la mirada voyeurista es tratada como una forma de representación y no como una técnica disciplinaria. La cuestión de quien mira y porqué es fundamental (ibid:160). Russell lo asocia a las ideas de Stephen Tylor sobre la etnografía postmoderna, donde no se hace ninguna diferencia entre el acto de describir y lo que se describe.
A pesar de que muchos de los filmes estructurales/ materiales pueden ser clasificados como filmes realistas, lo representado se enmarca en un encuadro metafórico o literal. Lo representado se muestran como imagen. El encuadro y el uso espartano del montaje, transforma esas imágenes en pinturas, nos dice Russell. Pero pinturas que el espectador
puede entender como pinturas (representaciones) o como objetos esenciales y exóticos desgraciadamente. Mientras el cine de observación ve al Otro como objeto de estudio, el objeto de estudio en el filme estructural y materialista es la representación de este Otro.
Pero es esta diferencia tan clara? O son las interpretaciones del público iguales a las pretendidas por los directores? A continuación paso a describir cinco filmes. El primero, Titicus Follies (1967) de Frederick Wiseman, un filme de observación. El segundo y tercero Forest of Bliss (1988) de Robert Gardner, y Winkelhart (2001) de Ben van Lieshout son dos filmes que pueden


ser vistos como en el límite entre el filme de observación y el estructural/ material. Los dos últimos, Fata Morgana (1971) de Werner Herzog, Innen aussen Mongolei (2002) de Sebastián Winkels, son filmes que podrían se clasificados de versiones modernas de
filme estructural/ material.

Un cine de observación: Titicus Follies (1967) de Frederick Wiseman
El instituto correccional de Massachusett en el año 1966. Una cámara tan intrusa que como espectador uno no puede dejar de preguntarse si no todo es ficción. Y si no lo es, cómo le fue posible al equipo de filmación filmar lo que filmaron. Pacientes, clientes, presos….¿Qué nombre utilizar para referirse a los sujetos de esa “casa correccional”?
Vemos supuestos médicos, siquiatras, carceleros. Sujetos que han cometido crímenes y se los ha clasificado de enfermos. Hombres que vemos estar drogados por las medicinas que reciben (cosa que uno de ellos corrobora verbalmente). Hombres que ya no tienen fuerza física ni síquica para revelarse o defenderse. Cómo siquiera contar sobre este filme.
Hombres de quizás 30 a 60 años que son obligados a pasearse desnudos ante los guardias y ante la cámara. Los menos todavía sienten algo de vergüenza de sus cuerpos viejos desnudos y tratan de poner una mano sobre su sexo. La mayoría parecen ya haber perdido
su condición de humanos. Maltratos físicos y psíquicos. Vemos como un “psiquiatra” se ríe de un paciente que él mismo ha definido de “esquizofrénico paranoico”. Pareciera que esos hombres encarcelados han incorporado en sus cuerpos una conciencia de que ellos ya no tienen nada que decir, que nadie los escucha, que no tiene sentido el protestar. La única salvación parece ser la muerte. Y la intentan, pero para eso están los médicos. Para salvarles la vida brutalmente. Vemos un hombre (desnudo) ser amarrado a una cama mientras un “médico”, fumando, le mete una sonda por la nariz hasta el estómago. En uno de los pocos montajes de atracción que utiliza el filme, vemos entrelazar la escena del hombre con la sonda con un hombre en un ataúd. Supuestamente el mismo. Pero al final de la escena de la sonda vemos salir a este hombre caminando por si solo (todavía desnudo) entre los guardias. Entendemos que, después de todo, el hombre consigue morir. La cámara parece estar en todas partes y nadie parece preocuparse de ella. Ni los médicos ni los carceleros, ni los presos. La pregunta persiste: ¿cómo lograron filmar esas condiciones inhumanas?
El filme termina con un texto que dice que la Corte judicial suprema de Massachusett ordenó que al filme se le agregara una explicación donde se aclarara que las condiciones del establecimiento filmado había sido mejorado desde su filmación. Y que esto había sucedido. Ningún otro comentario.

Titicut follies

La cámara de observación usada de una manera brutal. Sin comentarios. El espectador ve y escucha, convirtiéndose en la metáfora de “la mosca en la pared”. La mosca que puede ver y escuchar, sin molestar y sin ser molestada. La cámara –y supuestamente el espectador- ve al Otro como supuestamente es. Naturalmente una ilusión.

¿Un cine de observación o estructural /material? Forest of Bliss (1988) de Robert Gardner

Benares y el río Ganges en India. Imágenes chocantes sin explicación ninguna. Un filme sin voz en off. Es como si fuéramos turistas en un medio social y cultural extraño, el que apenas podemos imaginarnos que podemos entender. Lo que ve la cámara, Gardner y el espectador, parecen ser las primeras impresiones que tenemos de un mundo desconocido.
Las terribles imágenes en el filme de Gardner no nos permiten comprometernos con sus sujetos, apenas sentir empatía. La cámara en Forest of Bliss nos muestra pobreza, desesperanza, cuerpos cansados, respiraciones difíciles, flatos en medio de rezos. Las pocas veces que escuchamos ese extraño idioma no se nos traduce. Somos extranjeros
completos ante esas imágenes y esos sonidos, solo podemos acercarnos como turistas. Un cadáver desnudo que flota en el río, un perro que come del cadáver de otro animal en una calle que parece ser la misma calle donde vemos a un niño. Un ciego que trata de desplazarse, un hombre que arrastra un perro muerto por los peldaños de una escalera haciendo que la cabeza del animal golpee en cada peldaño. Tres niños pequeños que miran a un mendigo que canta sentado en una especie de coche de madera. El río. El mismo río donde sus habitantes se bañan, lavan la ropa, lavan a sus muertos y las vacas
toman agua. Animales que buscando comida caminan sobre los restos de brasas calientes.
Un perro enfermo cuyas patas traseras ya no le sostienen y que trata de subir unas escaleras. Risas tristes, mocos asquerosos, vacas desnutridas. Personas y monos que hacen sonar campanas (cual es la diferencia entre ellos?). Las gentes parecen vivir para enterrar a sus muertos.
El filme pareciera preguntarnos si como público o como siquiera investigadores podemos ver otras culturas tan social y culturalmente lejanas con otros ojos que no sean los de la propia nuestra. Podemos decir que el filme (como film) es bello? Podemos decir que está bien hecho, que provoca, que choca, que espanta, que nos afecta. Y bello? Podemos definir lo que está técnicamente bien hecho como bello? Y si es así, ¿no es un eufemismo de la pobreza y la miseria humana el presentarlas con signos fotográficos y fílmicos bellos? No es el esteticismo de la pobreza, el hacer la pobreza menos pobre, menos terrible? A veces, yo diría. También podríamos decir que el presentarla con malas técnicas hace que se pierda su contenido. En el filme de Gardner me parece que no hay


riesgo de ello. Las imágenes y los signos contribuyen a incentivar nuestra sensación de espanto ante esa miseria terrible. Russell interpreta este film como un filme que a pesar del uso de una estética estructural, tomas de escenas en tiempo real, ausencia de comentarios de voz en off y contexto antropológico y el uso de convenciones artísticas y fotográficas que llevan la atención al encuadre, no se escapa de su posición de captura voyeurista respecto al Otro. Para ella, el filme de Gardner sólo permite el mirar al Otro desde afuera, sin la separación del marco ventanal entre el que mira y el que es mirado. Para ella, Forest of Bliss se sitúa en un presente etnográfico, negando la historia. Lo que me parece que Russell no considera, es el que la intensidad del contenido y la forma, puede llevar la atención al propio cuerpo y que esa experiencia del cuerpo propio nos recuerda la imposibilidad de tratar de entender al representado Otro sino es a través de la conciencia de que lo que vemos es un filme. Un problema de recepción, donde algunos de los espectadores del filme convierten
las imágenes del filme en imágenes esenciales y exóticas suponiendo poder conocer al Otro a través de ellas. Para otro espectadores, por el contrario, la combinación de las imágenes con la ausencia de contexto, los hace conscientes de su imposibilidad de conocer. Yo me sitúo entre los últimos.


Winkelhart (2001) de Ben van Lieshout
Otro filme donde no tenemos ni una voz en off que nos explique nada, ni escuchamos a personas hablar entre ellas. En la primera parte del filme prácticamente no se ven personas. Solo callejones, escaleras vacías y murallas que atestiguan del paso de gentes en horas y días anteriores, que atestiguan la miseria humana. Pinturas murales de mala calidad, basuras en los suelos, destrucciones. En la segunda parte del filme vemos a gente tratando de dormir en suelos fríos de cemento en la estación del metro, tratando de crearse un lugar propio con cajas de cartón. En la madrugada llegan los barredores de basura que con fuertes chorros de agua hacen desaparecer los restos que nos recuerdan la noche anterior. La cámara observa a distancia. No hay nadie con quien poder identificarse o ver las cosas desde “adentro”. Con quien podría ser si en la mitad del filme no hay personas y en la otra mitad las personas que vemos parecen estar durmiendo?
Uno podría preguntarse si la cámara no trata a sus sujetos como objetos. Para acercarnos a una respuesta me parece que es necesario hacer una diferencia entre, por un lado, la cámara que observa y escucha conversaciones entre los sujetos filmados (lo que en la realidad es imposible) y / o las imágenes acompañadas de una voz de fondo que nos lleva a pensar de una manera determinada, y por otro lado, la cámara que solo observa desde afuera, como forastero, reconociendo su imposibilidad de escuchar o explicar. Esta segunda cámara me parece que no puede objetivar ya que reconoce sus limitaciones. El mirar de afuera reconociendo la imposibilidad de conocer no objetiva. El pretender ser invisible y grabar conversaciones como si el equipo de filmación no existiera, o el clavar las imágenes a través de la palabra, si objetiva.

Fata Morgana

Un cine estructural/ material: Fata Morgana (1971) de Werner Herzog

Un documental dramatizado, según la presentación del vídeo (el filme está hecho en 35 mm originalmente). Su contenido puede ser interpretado tanto como una crítica a la colonización e imperialismo occidental de algunos de los lugares más aislados, pobres, lúgubres y secos de África como también como un filme didáctico y supuestamente informativo. La primera parte del filme muestra un paisaje del desierto donde la cámara se mueve de izquierda a derecha o al revés, dando la impresión de estar montada en un tren que se mueve a lo largo de ese paisaje. Es como si la pantalla donde vemos el filme fuera la ventana del tren en que viajamos. Con música clásica y ópera de fondo se convierte el paisaje en un goce para los ojos del espectador. A una decena de metros de distancia vemos a unos niños que miran directamente a la cámara, seguramente preguntándose que hace esa gente tan extraña con aparatos extraños enfocados hacia ellos. Ninguna explicación, ni para el espectador, ni para los niños. El espectador y los niños se miran los unos a los otros como el Otro.
En la segunda parte del filme, irónicamente llamada El Paraíso, vemos la pobreza y las condiciones inhumanas en que los habitantes de esos lugares tratan de ganarse la vida. Tampoco ninguna explicación. Herzog pareciera querer decirnos que solo podemos ver
desde afuera, que solo podemos ver lo que por casualidad hemos logrado ver, que es imposible tratar de entender esa miseria. La cámara filma cantidades de tambores de hierro que algún país del mundo simplemente se ha deshecho de ellos dejándolos abandonados en el desierto, ruinas de vehículos oxidados que la gente del lugar ha tratado de utilizar para protegerse del sol y entre los cuales caminan niños. Construcciones abandonadas. Nada tiene explicación. ¿Quien o quienes habrán sido los desconsiderados?
No podemos entender. Ni la mejor de las explicaciones nos ayudaría a entender. Ningún texto, ninguna voz de fondo. Necesitamos ver “de adentro” para entender lo incomprensible, lo que no cumple ninguna función? La pobreza no cumple ninguna función, los deshechos no cumplen ninguna función. Lo único que podemos entender, es que alguien o algunos han cometido un abuso de poder al deshacerse de esa basura en un lugar de otros. Pero habríamos necesitado alguna voz de fondo que nos dijera esto explícitamente?
A veces podríamos pensar que sí. La segunda vez que vi este filme lo hice en una sala de cine junto a otras 150 personas. Escuché risas en escenas trágicas, como cuando la cámara muestra una mujer y un hombre que tratan de ganarse la vida tocando piano y batería con una melodía dulzona en un local de fiesta barato. Al mismo tiempo que esta escena se monta con otras que muestran turistas jugando en dunas de arena y los miembros del mismo filme ironizando sobre el medio ambiente. No pude dejar de preguntarme. Cómo se puede ver algo cómico en la desgracia de otra gente o es que el mensaje no se entiende? El montaje es casi surrealista. Pero la realidad también. Una escena no debería tener que poder verse junto a la otra, pero las vemos. En el filme y en la realidad.


¿Capta la cámara de Herzog la realidad “como es”? ¿O es esta realidad captada como podemos verla cuando viajamos en un tren, desde afuera, agregándole el entendimiento que llevamos con nosotros mismos?
Fuertemente influenciado por Fata Morgana de Herzog y por la elección de escenas del filme Urga de Michael Seydoux, Innen Aussen Mongolei (2002) de Sebastian Winkels también parece decirnos que solo podemos ver realidades externas con ojos de forastero donde la cámara y nosotros solo podemos tener impresiones de una realidad que vemos por primera vez y / o de la que no somos parte. En la pantalla/ ventana del tren, y con música de fondo vemos paisajes grandiosos. Y al igual que en el filme de Herzog vemos a gente que nos miran a nosotros (los espectadores) a través de la cámara. Forest of Bliss, Fata Morgana y Innen aussen Mongolei tratan de las impresiones de estos directores, de la cámara y de nosotros, en el encuentro con culturas lejanas. Como en todo filme
(documental), y en todo acto comunicativo, encontramos presentes las funciones referenciales, emotivas, poéticas, lingüísticas y pháticas utilizando las categorías de Jakobson. Cuando la phática, es decir la función que nos dice algo sobre el contacto físico y/ o emocional entre los comunicantes (en este caso el filme y los espectadores) se hace mas fuerte o al menos igual de importante que la referencial, y al mismo tiempo se combina con la función lingüística (que llama la atención hacia sí misma)y la poética, nos encontramos en el mundo de las impresiones, en el mirar desde afuera. Un mirar como forma de autorreflexión abierta, muchas veces mas honesta que la supuesta objetividad de la pura función referencial.

El definir el concepto de testimonio no es fácil. La mayoría de nosotros estaría de acuerdo en decir que un testimonio en un filme es cuando una persona cuenta directamente de sus experiencias a la cámara. Quizás también cuando esta persona le cuenta de sus experiencias a un entrevistador y la cámara registra la entrevista. Pero que pasa cuando la “entrevista” no es un registro histórico del momento mismo de ella, sino una actuación por actores que repiten las palabras de una entrevista previamente grabada, interpretan la
actitud corporal de las personas reales, su tono de voz, sus emociones, etc? Y que pasa cuando la entrevista ha sido interpretada de un idioma a otro? Y si la entrevista ha sido elegida para representar una situación entre cien otras entrevistas? Todas preguntas que requieren reflexiones teóricas y metodológicas y su respuesta depende de las posiciones teóricas de las que partamos. Mientras discuto los filmes de Trinh.T Minh-ha y de Jill Godmilow cuando tomo el filme experimental postmoderno en una sección posterior en este mismo capítulo, aquí me concentro en testimonios que podríamos llamar tradicionales.
La filmación de testimonios tiende a asociarse a una supuesta objetividad. Es bien conocido el hecho de que el periodismo utiliza testimonios como una forma de poder decir lo que se quiere sin ser acusado de tomar partido o de subjetividad. Las imágenes presentadas por la cámara nos muestran un referente que no sólo podemos ver, sino que también tiene una voz propia y es capaz de hablar por sí mismo. Que más pedir? Pero si bien es cierto que los testimonios tienden a invitar al espectador a una reflexión crítica en
términos de emancipación (quien podría dejar de reaccionar ante un hombre que cuenta de cómo ha sido torturado?), no así incentiva la posibilidad de reflexionar en términos de las posibilidades de conocimiento.

El filme Shoah (1979) de Claude Lanzman, es un testimonio de sobrevivientes judíos de la segunda guerra mundial. La cámara filma tanto a estos sobrevivientes mientras nos cuentan las historias de sus vidas en los campos de concentración nazistas como a testigos del destino de los miles de personas que fueron asesinadas en los campos de concentración. Esas imágenes son alternadas con otras de los mismos campos de concentración ya vacíos muchos años después o con otras que connotan las historias de esas gentes. La fuerza del filme está en su contenido. El entrevistador logra hacer que esa gente comparta sus pensamientos y sentimientos más íntimos. Vemos la expresión de sus caras al recordar hechos pasados. El filme sigue una estrategia realista. Los relatos de la gente, las imágenes que muestra la cámara, las tomas largas y el tiempo lento. Todo ello contribuye a que el espectador pueda “ver” esos recuerdos casi en imágenes reales.
El entrevistador y la intérprete aparecen delante de la cámara. El primero con una insistencia de entender las cosas correctamente, en varias ocasiones le pide a la intérprete el repetir la pregunta a la persona que entrevista. Por ejemplo cuando parece tener alguna duda del significado de la respuesta del entrevistado. También repite las respuestas, preguntándole al entrevistado si ha entendido bien. Repite la misma pregunta a un superviviente como a un testigo de los hechos que el sobreviviente judío relata, una estrategia tanto de control de las fuentes como también retórica. Dos fuentes distintas
relatan las mismas historias. Es difícil poner en duda la veracidad de los relatos.

La referencia del filme a su propia producción /construcción está en la filmación del entrevistador. La elección de las imágenes, la elección de las entrevistas (o parte de ellas), su montaje, los movimientos de la cámara y el tipo de planos filmados no son, sin
embargo, sujetos a discusión como interpretaciones de Lanzman. Los testimonios se presentan como tales. “Objetivos” a causa de su función icónica y auditiva referencial. Lo misma supuesta objetividad la encontramos en el filme En el umbral de los estudiantes Xavier Vidal y Raul Ruiz (curso de comunicación audiovisual de la Universidad Pompeu Fabra 1999-2000). Vidal y Ruiz entrevistan a tres hombres sobre su situación social en Barcelona. Un extranjero de África, dos de habla española. Común a los tres es que no tienen vivienda y que buscan poder dormir en un albergue para los sin casa en la ciudad.
El filme se construye casi sólo basándose en entrevistas. La mayor parte de las imágenes del filme son las imágenes de estos tres hombres, muchas en primeros planos de manera que podemos “ver” los sentimientos de esas caras. También aquí la fuerza del filme se encuentra en su contenido, en haber logrado que esos hombres compartan parte de sus vidas ante la cámara. Las tres entrevistas se combinan a lo largo del filme. A veces leemos un texto semi transparente al frente de la imagen de uno de los hombres y mientras esta se congela podemos leer algo sobre la historia o el contexto de cada hombre. Estos textos funcionan como suplencias a la voz en off. Pero este filme tampoco reflexiona sobre sí mismo. No hay nada que nos recuerde que la elección de las narraciones, el collage de las entrevistas o la elección de los planos fílmicos son construcciones de los autores. Una supuesta objetividad. Testimonios que permiten una reflexión en términos de emancipación pero no en términos de la posibilidad de conocimiento. Tanto Shoah como En el Umbral, un filme de un director establecido y un filme de estudiantes que nos lleva a reaccionar contra las injusticias humanas, pero ninguno de ellos invita a la reflexión sobre su construcción.

*Entre el documental televisivo y el académico. Suecia, Universidad de Halmstad- The Swedish Foundation for International
Cooperation in Research and Higher Educatiion (STINT). 2003.


The evolution of documentary by Paul Rotha[*]

What we have come to call “documentary” did not
appear as a distinct method offilm making at any given
moment in the cinema’s history. It did not suddenly
become manifest as a new conception of film in
any particular production. Rather has documentary
evolved over a period of time for materialist reasons;
partly as the result of amateur effort, partly through
serving propagandist ends, partly through aestheticism.
We have already observed that the major portion of
the Industry’s time has been spent in perfecting the
production and sale ofone kind offilm—the illustrated
story made largely in the studio. Relatively little
thought has been given to the potentialities of other
methods of cinema (except in such rare cases as the
advent of a Disney and, even then, we may recall
Disney’s struggle before he gained commercial success),
or to the possibility that the mass audience might be
comprised of many different kinds of persons with
a variety of outlooks.
As a direct consequence, the machinery of the film
factories and the elaborate, sometimes efficient,
system of salesmanship have been developed to deal
with one type of film and only one. It might be
extremely difficult for a film of a different type, should

the public make apparent its desire for such, to receive
adequate treatment from the Trade. Thus it is in no
way surprising that when, on various occasions, new
kinds of films have appeared, the Trade has not always
been able to give them capable handling even though
they may have possessed money-making possibilities.
For this reason, although they have frequently made
their appearance, pictures dealing with natural subjects
have seldom received the vigorous support of the
Trade, nor has any really serious attention been paid
to short pictures ofan c interest ‘ type for their own sake.
Short films have been regarded much as the proverbial
gift with a packet of tea, as fill-ups and make-weights,
often given away in handfuls with a major story-film.
They are often issued in a disgraceful state ofabbreviation.
The copies are frequently mutilated or in a bad
condition. They are seldom given the dignity of a
press presentation. Not only this, but there are even
cases when exhibitors, desiring to book certain short
pictures, have found it almost impossible to do so. Most
of the initiative for travel films has come from persons
outside the Trade. It has resulted from individual
amateur effort. There is no exaggeration in saying
that two-thirds of the attempts to employ cinema for
purposes other than fictional story-telling have come
about from sources quite apart from the Film Trade.
Nevertheless, from quite an early date in cinema,
such films have found their way into production. In
face of the indifference of producing companies and
renting concerns, the desire to use the film camera for
wider aims than story-telling has increased and since

the War there has been a steady growth in public
enthusiasm for them. 1 The fact that the film camera
and cinema screen have it in their power to show one
half of the world how the other half lives has given
birth to numerous simply-made travel pictures—such
as the current FitzPatrick Traveltalks and the Fox
Magic Carpet series—yet, until to-day, there has been
little attempt to classify and analyse their respective
virtues. But it was clear from these humble efforts that
the film had every possibility of expressing something
beyond fictional stories conceived and put on the
screen by departmental methods.
By virtue of the camera’s ability to record a reasonably
faithful image, pictorial description was—and
still is—the primary intention of these documentaires, as
the French called them. Their real appeal lay in the
obvious attraction ofscenic material gathered from all
parts of the world, interpreted by the academic skill of
their photographers. Although a decided advance on
the magic-lantern lecture, these Voyage au Congo’s and
Everest’s and Pamyr’s can hardly be said to add greatly
to the film as a medium of creative power but at least
they had the merit of exploring fresh territory.
The news-reel, of course, was also making use of the
camera’s reproductive capacities by building up an
ever-changing panorama of daily events; not with
much skill it must be confessed, for its value lay in speed,
hazard and impudence. Nevertheless, its basic appeal

again rested in presenting actual events in their actual
surroundings. It was a method, albeit a crude one, of
Many other subjects crept into this growing field
of non-story cinema, exploring the fascinating possibilities
of the camera as fast as the necessary resources
could be found. Cinemagazines of the Buchanan
brand carried into celluloid the style and method of
popular periodicals ; sport was approached in personal
interviews and skilful demonstrations ofthe underlying
sciences, such as the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer series;
microscopical cinematography investigated the phenomena
of natural history and biology, notably in Percy
Smith’s Secrets of Nature and in Jean Painleve’s
beautiful fish films ; events ofthe World Warwere made
to live again with suitable injections of patriotism, as
in Bruce Woolfe’s £eebrugge and Battle of Falkland and
Coronet Islands; experiments in science and medicine
were recorded for the benefit of posterity, as in Canti’s
cancer film : all humble efforts at utilising cinema for
more ambitious purposes than mere story-telling.
But the limits to which these pictures reach are
scarcely sufficient for us to regard them as anything
more than recorded facts, with no further virtue than
their frequent use of naturally existing material and
subjects in preference to the artificial conceptions of
the studios. They make no effort to approach their
subjects from a creative or even dramatic point of
view, no attempt to govern the selection of images by
methods other than those of plain description, no
endeavour to express an argument or fulfil a special

purpose. Nor do they fully explore the range of the
reproductive properties ofthe camera and microphone
and only occasionally attempt simple editing for a
lucid presentation of facts with commentary to match.
The step that exists between this type of general
‘interest’ picture and the higher aims of the documentary
method is wider than is usually imagined.
Because these ‘interest’, travel and lecture films often
embrace no story and make use of natural material,
it is believed that they fall within the documentary
grouping. The fallacy of this belief will, I hope, gradually
become apparent during our closer survey of the
evolution of documentary.
Without entering into complex technical discussion,
it is nevertheless important to make clear, at this point,
the fundamental distinctions that exist between the two
methods ofusing the apparatus and materials ofcinema.
One hundred years ago, the skill of a craftsman was
the only means by which a pictorial record ofa person,
a place or an object, could be secured for pleasure or
reference. To-day, that craftsmanship has been superseded
by the science of photography.
From the first days of film production until the
present, most story-film technique to have emanated
from Western studios has been based on the fact that
the camera could reproduce phenomena photographically
on to sensitised celluloid; and that from
the resultant negative a print could be taken and thrown
in enlarged size by a projector on to a screen.
In consequence, we find that more consideration is
accorded the actors, scenery and plot than the method

by which they are given screen presence, a system of
manufacture which admirably suits the departmental
organisation of the modern film studio. Thus the product
ofthe scenario, together with the accommodating
movements of the camera and microphone, create
numerous lengths of celluloid, which merely require
trimming and joining in correct sequence, according to
the original scenario, for the result to be something in
the nature of a film. Occasionally, where words and
sounds fail to give the required lapses of time and
changes of scene, ingenious camera and sound devices
are introduced. It is not, of course, quite so simple as
this but, in essentials, the completed film is believed to
assume life and breath and meaning by the transference
of acting to the screen and words to the loudspeaker.
The skill of the artist, therefore, lies in the treatment
of the story, guidance of the actors in speech and
gesture, composition of the separate scenes within the
picture-frame, movements of the cameras and the
suitability ofthe settings; in all ofwhich he is assisted by
dialogue-writers, cameramen, art-directors, make-up
experts, sound-recordists and the actors themselves,
while the finished scenes are assembled in their right
order by the editing department.
Within these limits, the story-film has followed
closely in the theatrical tradition for its subject-matter;
converting, as time went on, stage forms into film forms,
stage acting into film acting, according to the exacting
demands of the reproducing camera and microphone.
The opposite group of thought, however, while
accepting the same elementary functions of the

camera, microphone and projector, proceeds from the
belief that nothing photographed, or recorded on to
celluloid, has meaning until it comes to the cuttingbench;
that the primary task offilm creation lies in the
physical and mental stimuli which can be produced
by the factor of editing. The way in which the camera
is used, its many movements and angles of vision in
relation to the objects being photographed, the speed
with which it reproduces actions and the very appearance
of persons and things before it, are governed by
the manner in which the editing is fulfilled. This
applies equally to sound. Such a method presupposes
that one mind assumes responsibility for the shape and
meaning of the completed film, performs the editing
as well as, in some cases, the photographing; a procedure
which obviously does not fit smoothly into
mass-production methods.
Within these limits, departure has been made away
from the theatrical tradition into the wider fields
of actuality, where the spontaneity of natural behaviour
has been recognised as a cinematic quality
and sound is used creatively rather than reproductively.
This attitude is, of course, the technical basis of
the documentary film.
If dates will help, documentary may be said to have
had its real beginnings with Flaherty’s Nanook in
America (1920), Dziga Vertov’s experiments in Russia
(round about 1923), Gavalcanti’s Rien que les hemes in
France (1926), Ruttmann’s Berlin in Germany (1927)
and Grierson’s Drifters in Britain (1929). Broadly
speaking, documentary falls into four groups, each of

which demands individual estimate because each
results from a different approach to naturally existing


1 The remarks of Captain F. S. Smythe regarding Film Trade
methods in his book Kamet Conquered (Gollancz), 1933, are significant.

[*] Paul Rotha. Documentary Film. Great Britain, NEW YORK:
W. W. NORTON & COMPANY, INC., 1939. Pages 71 – 78.


Cine y revolución: “Memorias del subdesarrollo” de Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (1968) por Nancy Berthier[*]

La bio-filmografía de Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, el director de cine cubano
más conocido hoy en día, se identifica con un período histórico
preciso: el de la Revolución que se impone el primero de enero de 1959,
después de la huida del dictador Fulgencio Batista y la entrada de los
«barbudos» en La Habana. Entre su primer largometraje {Historias de
la Revolución, 1960) que es también la primera película producida por
el nuevo régimen, y su última obra Guantanamera (co-dirigida por el
cineasta Juan Carlos Tabío, en 1995), sus doce largometrajes de ficción
se dedican incansablemente a la revolución, sea en la forma de la exaltación
{Historias de la Revolución), del análisis crítico (en La muerte
de un burócrata, 1966; Memorias del subdesarrollo, 1968; o Fresa y
chocolate, 1993), o, de manera más indirecta, en sus películas históricas
que andan buscando los antecedentes revolucionarios del pueblo cubano
{Una pelea cubana contra los demonios, 1971; La última cena,
1976). Más allá de la diversidad de los géneros cinematográficos que
practica o de los temas que trata (burocracia, machismo, homosexualidad,
etc.), esta puesta en escena de una revolución a la cual se adhiere
plenamente desde un punto de vista ideológico, es el denominador común
de su carrera. Tomás Gutiérrez Alea es un artista decididamente
comprometido. En los textos que ha publicado a lo largo de su trayectoria
y que constituyen el complemento teórico de su práctica de cineasta,
su sentido de la responsabilidad social y por consiguiente política se
afirma incesantemente: «El cine es un arma ideológica del más grueso
calibre»^ declara, como un eco lejano de la célebre afirmación de Mussolini:
«El cine es el arma más fuerte». Y lo volverá a afirmar poco
tiempo antes de su muerte, en una entrevista concedida a José Antonio

Nunca he dejado de tener conciencia de mi responsabilidad como creador de
algo que -es el caso de una película- puede influir sobre tanta gente, y ese sentido
de la responsabilidad, más que abrumador, llega a veces a ser paralizante^.
Sin embargo, en ningún momento de su obra, en su vertiente ficcional,
esta compromisión será sinónima de propaganda en el sentido estricto
de la palabra:
No me interesa un cine puramente de propaganda política porque es algo circunstancial,
que solamente funciona en el momento de la arenga y no opera en un
público amplio ni en todo momento’.
La propaganda, en su sentido clásico es, en efecto, fundamentalmente
afirmativa y no admite otra versión de la realidad (y de la verdad) que la
que enuncia. La relación que establece con el destinatario es convencerle
y apagar su conciencia crítica. El cine de Alea se caracteriza a la inversa
por su naturaleza fundamentalmente interrogativa. No se trata de convencer
al destinatario imponiéndole un discurso de autoridad sino más bien de
abrirle los ojos, de despertar su conciencia crítica, como lo analizó en su
obra teórica, publicada en el año 1984 y precisamente titulada La dialéctica
del espectador. En el presente estudio, hemos decidido detenemos en
una de sus películas más representativas en cuanto a la reflexión sobre la
relación entre cine y revolución. Memorias del subdesarrollo, «un ñlme
sobre el compromiso y un ñlme comprometido»”*.
* **

Aeropuerto de La Habana, 1961: Sergio, intelectual burgués, se despide
de su familia y de su ex-mujer, que parten a Estados Unidos huyendo
de las nuevas condiciones de vida impuestas por el nuevo régimen. Él ha
decidido quedarse en la capital cubana para «ver qué pasa». Desde ese momento,
la cámara va a seguir sus solitarios vagabundeos por la ciudad a lo
largo de todo un año, hasta octubre de 1962, fecha de la crisis de los misiles.
En tanto que antiguo propietario, Sergio continúa viviendo de las rentas
que le procuran sus bienes inmuebles en su lujoso apartamento burgués
de casi trescientos metros cuadrados, situado en un precioso barrio de La

Habana. Desde ahí, con su telescopio, observa la ciudad y sus metamorfosis
al compás de la revolución todavía reciente. Tratando de recuperar su
frustrada vocación de escritor, consigna sus reflexiones en forma de diario
personal con su máquina de escribir: analiza la situación, trata de comprender,
recuerda el pasado, critica el presente. ¿Qué es la Revolución?
¿Qué es un intelectual? ¿Cuál es su grado de compatibilidad? Pero Sergio,
en su búsqueda de identidad, queda al margen de la dinámica revolucionaria
y persiste en una existencia determinada por unos valores de clase, los
del individualismo burgués: habiendo seducido a una chica del pueblo,
trata de modelarla igual que ha modelado a su ex-esposa, a través de los
esquemas estereotipados de las revistas de moda Memorias del subdesarrollo,
quinto largometraje del realizador cubano Tomás Gutiérrez Alea,
adaptación cinematográfica de la novela homónima de Edmundo Desnoes,
publicada en 1962, fue una verdadera revelación cuando salió a las pantallas
en agosto de 1968, en La Habana.
Cuando por lo demás se hojean los artículos de prensa internacional
que cubrieron su estreno, se encuentran los mismos adjetivos elogiosos, de
Nueva York a París, pasando por Roma, Londres o Montevideo: «excelente
», «formidable», «extraordinaria», «perfecta», «una de las mejores
películas de todos los tiempos», llega a escribir David EUiot en el Chicago
Sun-Times en 1978, mientras que Arthur Cooper declara a Newsweek que
«Memorias del subdesarrollo es sin duda alguna una obra maestra, una película
compleja, irónica y sumamente inteligente». Si las anteriores películas
de Tomás Gutiérrez Alea ya habían llamado la atención de la crítica internacional
sobre la pequeña isla del Caribe, que había llegado a producir
films dignos de figurar en una historia universal del cine, gracias a títulos
como Historias de la Revolución (1960) o La muerte de un burócrata
(1966), con Memorias del subdesarrollo, el interés se convirtió en admiración.
Más allá de las alabanzas y con el paso del tiempo, está claro que Memorias
del subdesarrollo, concebida en el contexto específico de una sociedad
post-revolucionaria, no es únicamente un film de circunstancia,
sino que va mucho más allá de eso. Como señalaba el francés Marcel Martin
en la revista Cine Cubano en 1979, esto es, diez años después del estreno,
«plantea un caso sicológico y moral que es el de muchos intelectuales
en un mundo en transformación. Y éste es un tema que tiene un valor
y una importancia universales»^. Lo que fascina hoy todavía en esta película,
y lo que verdaderamente fascinó en su tiempo, es la manera en que

Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, a través de una estética profundamente original,
plantea el problema de la relación, no solamente del intelectual, sino nada
menos que del hombre con la sociedad que le rodea, en forma de dilema
esencial: ¿solitario o solidario? ¿Distancia o fusión?
Ciertamente, hay que confesarlo, este dilema universal es de particular
actualidad en la Cuba de los años sesenta, como puede serlo, de manera
más general, en momentos de brutal transformación histórica. La revolución
que triunfa en 1959 es una revolución de intelectuales, en el amplio
sentido de la palabra. Entre los revolucionarios del primer momento, los
barbudos que hacen la guerrilla en Sierra Maestra, sus dos figuras emblemáticas
-el abogado Fidel Castro y el médico Che Guevara- y muchos
otros más, pertenecen a las capas superiores de la sociedad y han reñexionado
sobre el destino de su país. Por añadidura, la revolución atraerá hacia
ella muy rápidamente a intelectuales venidos de todo el mundo que proporcionarán
su apoyo a los cantores del socialismo a la cubana: Jean-Paul
Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir y muchos otros más, harán el viaje a través del
Atlántico. En cuanto a los intelectuales cubanos, muchos se adhieren a la
revolución en su etapa inicial. En 1961, una serie de encuentros reúne a escritores
y artistas para debatir sobre el estatuto del arte en la nueva sociedad
revolucionaria. Fidel Castro pronuncia entonces un discurso que será
publicado bajo el título de «Palabras a los intelectuales», en el que garantiza
la libertad de expresión artística siempre que no conduzca a la propaganda
contra-revolucionaria. En el plano cinematográfico, apenas la revolución
se pone en marcha, se crea el desde entonces célebre ICAIC
(Instituto Cubano del Arte y de la Industria Cinematográfica) destinado al
desarrollo de la industria cinematográfica nacional. El objetivo del ICAIC,
además del desarrollo material de la industria cinematográfica, es secundar
la revolución, poniéndose a su servicio. Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, jurista de
formación, es uno de sus miembros fundadores; el ICAIC le proporcionará
los medios necesarios para hacer cine, tras haber luchado bajo el régimen
de Batista con sus cortos o mediometrajes {El Mégano, 1955), realizados
en condiciones difíciles. Al frente del ICAIC, Alfredo Guevara, uno de los
compañeros de Fidel Castro, se esforzará por ennoblecer el cine cubano.
En este contexto tan particular, sólo algunos años después de la revolución
y en un momento fundamental de la historia del régimen en el que, si bien
es cierto que se han emprendido importantes reformas, todavía queda mucho
por hacer, es concebida Memorias del subdesarrollo. Este film complejo,
que asimila de forma completamente original las rupturas formales
de la historia del cine posterior a la segunda guerra mundial, lejos de reducirse
a la representación propagandística y maniquea de la revolución,

ofrece una imagen contrastada y dialéctica de lo que puede significar la
ruptura revolucionaria. A partir de la figura de Sergio, especie de antihéroe
al margen de la historia, Tomás Gutiérrez plantea cierto número de problemas
consustanciales a la revolución.
El realizador cubano elabora su representación a través de una estética
heredera principalmente del neorrealismo. El film es neorrealista no en el
sentido estricto del término -lo cual sería absurdo afirmar teniendo en
cuenta los años que separan su realización de la emergencia de un movimiento
fuertemente ligado a la historia- sino en su espíritu. Recordemos
que, en sus años de formación, bastante antes de la revolución, el joven Tomás
Gutiérrez Alea había ido a pasar dos años en Roma, entre 1951 y
1953, en el famoso Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografía, con algunos
camaradas de su generación: Julio García Espinosa o Gabriel García Márquez,
por no citar mas que a los más célebres de ellos. En Roma, los cubanos
entran en contacto con el movimiento cinematográfico más importante
de la postguerra, y lo hacen desde dentro: «en lo que al cine se refiere,
declara Gutiérrez Alea, el neorrealismo seguía siendo el movimiento más
vital, y yo me sentí, como tantos jóvenes que se acercaban entonces al cine,
literalmente arrastrado por esta tendencia»^. Del neorrealismo, Titón retiene
una enseñanza fundamental: el cine debe reflejar la historia. La historia
particular no tiene sentido mas que si se articula con la Historia.
Frente a la concepción hoUywoodiense, centrada en el individuo, el neorrealismo
rompe con un cliché representativo de la edad de oro del cine
americano. Esa será, por otra parte, una de las características del cine de
Tomás Gutiérrez Alea desde su primer largometraje. Historias de la Revolución,
en el que los protagonistas son utilizados en la medida en que su
historia personal remite a una historia que los trasciende y ello, hasta sus
últimas películas, como Fresa y chocolate donde, a pesar de que los personajes
están sumamente individualizados, no interesan al realizador mas
que porque su destino particular permite reflexionar de manera crítica sobre
la historia. Tanto más cierto, y en mayor grado, por lo que respecta a
Memorias del subdesarrollo. Empezando por el título del film -que no
hace sino retomar el de la novela homónima. Memorias del subdesarrollo-,
que conjuga la dimensión individual (memorias) referida a un problema
más general, el subdesarrollo. El subdesarrollo, en principio circunstancia
de naturaleza económica que considera el crecimiento como
factor de armonización entre los pueblos, se aborda en Memorias sobre
todo en sus aspectos socioculturales. Sergio, el personaje principal, vive y

razona como un occidental; su apartamento (su disposición y decoración),
sus referencias culturales y su manera de vestirse, están calcados de un modelo
occidental, posibilidad debida a sus recursos económicos. Pero está
completamente alejado de la realidad de Cuba, y también de la identidad
cubana, marcada por un subdesarroUo cuyas huellas rastrea Sergio en el
curso de sus vagabundeos. De este alejamiento nace la visión distanciada
de Sergio; distanciada y paradójica: él está dentro y fuera a la vez, implicado
y extraño a un mismo tiempo. La distancia va a permitir, nada menos
que la aproximación crítica que constituye el punto fuerte del film. «Lo
que nos interesa, en definitiva, declara Tomás Gutiérrez Alea a propósito
de su película, no es reflejar una realidad, sino enriquecerla, estimular la
sensibilidad, desarrollarla, detectar un problema. No queremos suavizar el
desarrollo dialéctico según fórmulas, representaciones ideales, sino darle
una vitalidad agresiva, constituir una premisa del desarrollo mismo, con
todo lo que conlleva de perturbación de la tranquilidad»^. Ésta será, por
otra parte, una de las constantes del cine del realizador oficial del régimen:
situar a sus protagonistas al margen de la historia con el fin de revelar los
problemas y suscitar el debate. En La muerte de un burócrata (1966), por
ejemplo, la reflexión sobre uno de los males engendrados por la revolución
como es la burocracia, se realiza, no a partir del aparato burocrático, sino
de un personaje marginal, el sobrino, marginalizado de hecho por el aparato
burocrático mismo y cuya mirada exterior sobre los burócratas propicia
un enfoque distanciado y crítico. En su última película, Guantanamera
(1995), los límites del sistema son abordados a través del personaje de Georgina,
interpretada por Mirta Ibarra. La técnica consistente en situar un
personaje exteriorizado con relación a un contexto había sido ya utilizada
por el neorreaüsmo italiano. Así, en Europa 51 (1952) de Roberto Rosellini,
la mirada exterior de la protagonista femenina, interpretada por Ingrid
Bergman, conduce a problematizar el tiempo histórico y a cuestionar los
valores de una sociedad en crisis. Pero la gran diferencia entre el cine italiano
del movimiento neorreaüsta y el cine cubano, y más particularmente
el de Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, es que la componente contextual determinada
por la revolución complica el enfoque. El cine cubano producido por el
ICAIC, explícitamente destinado a corroborar el entusiasmo revolucionario,
se inscribe en una dinámica constructiva. Ahora bien, lejos de producir
un cine de consenso que sancionara positivamente los logros del régimen,
el cine de Gutiérrez Alea mantiene hasta el fin esta distancia, esta
ironía fundamental que problematiza cuestiones y obliga a reflexionar sobre ellas.

No se trata ni de adular ni de oponerse, sino de tratar de mejorar
a través de una estética que, de acuerdo con la terminología marxista, el
mismo Alea calificara de «dialéctica». Es justo esto lo que constituye la
gran especificidad del cine cubano post-revolucionario, lo que complejiza
el enfoque, ambiguo si se quiere, pero en ningún caso maniqueo:
Hay que defender la necesidad de crítica como una necesidad de la revolución
para sobrevivir, proclama Titón en 1988. Si no tomamos conciencia de nuestros
problemas, no podemos resolverlos. Para el desarrollo de la revolución es
fundamental la crítica de la revolución, y esto no puede confundirse con darles armas
al enemigo*.
Alea toma prestado del neorrealismo, esta vez en el plano formal, un
anclaje en lo «real». Ésta fue la gran revolución estética que introdujo el
neorrealismo en la dimensión más amplia de la historia del cine: hacer salir
la cámara de los estudios, rodar en decorados naturales, utilizar a unos
actores no profesionales. El objetivo era, por una parte, desmarcarse de una
estética hoUywoodiense que había terminado por quedar fijada en estereotipos
con infinitas variaciones, por otra, realizar un cine en principio menos
costoso, más flexible con respecto a las precarias condiciones económicas
de la posguerra y, finalmente, ponerse al servicio de una mayor
autenticidad de la representación. Uno advierte inmediatamente en qué
medida podía arraigar la fórmula en Cuba, donde la industria cinematográfica,
prácticamente inexistente, no ofrecía la infraestructura necesaria
para el cine de estudio y donde las condiciones económicas post-revolucionarias
constreñían a la precariedad los procesos de realización de las películas.
También desde un punto de vista ideológico está claro que la preocupación
por la autenticidad inherente a esta práctica se correspondía con
los nuevos postulados revolucionarios. Considerando que el cine debía
servir al espíritu revolucionario, se trataba ahora de interrogar lo real en su
forma contemporánea e inmediata. Siendo así. Memorias del subdesarrollo,
film de finales de los años sesenta, adapta este principio a los tiempos
que corren y paralelamente se alimenta de la historia reciente del cine para
producir como resultado una fórmula cinematográfica original. Tomás Gutiérrez
Alea está al corriente de lo que ocurre en Europa, donde también ha
vivido, y especialmente en Francia, donde la Nouvelle Vague introdujo
gran cantidad de rupturas formales fundamentales. Jean-Luc Godard es
uno de los cineastas que él admira, a pesar de considerar demasiado reductora
la inclinación ehtista de sus films. Titón ha alimentado también su

reflexión cinematográfica con la consideración de la producción soviética
de los años veinte y la lectura de sus teóricos (Eisenstein sobre todo, cuyo
libro El sentido del cine fue para él decisivo^). Partiendo pues de un espíritu
neorrealista, va a inscribir su mirada sobre lo real en una estética sincrética
perfectamente adecuada a su tema.
Memorias del subdesarrollo está enteramente rodada en decorados naturales
en La Habana, donde se sitúa el marco de la acción. Sobre todo en
exteriores: las calles de la capital cubana son recorridas por la cámara, que
detalla la geografía urbana con precisión, con una mirada casi documental:
sus grandes arterias diseñadas según fórmulas específicamente norteamericanas,
el malecón, la arquitectura, con edificios que apuntan a la vez una
historia antigua -como es el caso de los viejos palacios de estilo colonialpero
también a la historia más reciente -como ocurre con los hoteles de los
años cincuenta-. La historia contemporánea se muestra sobre las paredes,
en carteles con slogans revolucionarios perfectamente descifrables. La cámara
se detiene en los interiores como el apartamento de Sergio, abierto a
la ciudad desde sus grandes ventanales acristalados. En estos decorados
naturales, objetos y personajes completan la impresión de descripción documental:
los lujosos automóviles norteamericanos abandonados allí como
irónico legado y cuya incongruencia en un contexto revolucionario acabaría
siendo, con el paso del tiempo, parte integrante del paisaje urbano de
Cuba; los transeúntes en sus vidas cotidianas como filmados al natural con
una cámara ligera.
Pero Gutiérrez Alea lleva más lejos aún el juego referencial insertando
en su película auténticos «pedazos de reahdad» que producen efectos de
ruptura narrativa y contribuyen a una estética del collage propia del arte
postmodemo. Los más evidentes cortes en la continuidad narrativa se dan
a través de la inserción, en momentos clave, de imágenes de distinta procedencia:
desde imágenes de noticiarios del momento de la crisis de octubre
de 1962 a fotografías de la época de Batista. Estas imágenes que remiten
a una realidad exterior al relato funcionan como garantía de
autenticidad por su dimensión histórica. Recordemos que Memorias del
subdesarrollo no presenta una realidad estrictamente contemporánea al rodaje
del film, sino que se sitúa algún tiempo antes -el tiempo del relato de
Edmundo Desnoes, aparecido algunos años antes, sí que es contemporáneo
de su contexto de escritura-, a una distancia de casi seis años.
Si, evidentemente, el film no puede considerarse relevante con respecto al
género histórico, tampoco deja de ser cierto que la diferencia de unos cuan-

tos años entre el rodaje y el contexto diegético hace necesaria una demarcación
temporal precisa. Alea utiliza las imágenes de los noticiarios como
marcadores históricos que contribuyen a la impresión general de autenticidad.
El collage en sí no es nada nuevo en la historia del cine en 1968; pero
el uso que de éste hace Alea es profundamente original: más allá de su función
de anclaje histórico, la imagen exportada, la imagen pegada, permite
importar un punto de vista diferente, paralelo al de Sergio. En consecuencia,
el procedimiento no sólo pone en evidencia el carácter subjetivo de la
mirada de Sergio, sino también, a la inversa y por contraste, la especificidad
discursiva de las imágenes de actualidad. Pero, a fin de cuentas, será
el espectador quien deba juzgar.
La impresión de collage es menos nítida -aunque se trate en el fondo de
un mismo procedimiento- en otros dos momentos claves del film. Por una
parte, cuando Sergio participa como espectador en una mesa redonda sobre
literatura. Alea introduce su cámara en una auténtica mesa redonda, filma
un debate de verdad que integra en la narración, filmándolo desde el punto
de vista de su protagonista, cuyos comentarios incluye en forma de discurso
en voz qff. Por añadidura, uno de los participantes de la mesa redonda es,
nada más y nada menos que el autor de la novela adaptada al cine por Alea,
Edmundo Desnoes. No se trata aquí de un simple guiño, o, incluso si hay
dimensión lúdica, ésta no lo es todo. Pues Alea redobla el procedimiento en
otra secuencia, situada en el recinto de la ICAIC: el realizador amigo de
Sergio no es otro que Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, que está trabajando en una película
que se presentará en forma de collage y que bien podría ser Memorias
del subdesarrollo. En este caso, los fragmentos fílmicos que el realizador
amigo desea integrar en su película están asimismo integrados en
Memorias: se trata de secuencias de contenido erótico censuradas por el régimen
anterior montadas junto con el resto. Sergio comenta irónicamente:
«¿y tú crees que te van a dejar montarlas?». Así, el juego reflexivo es complejo.
Los múltiples espejos enfrentados a lo real contribuyen a crear un
efecto de profundidad -en la representación, a la vez que en los cuestionamientos
que conlleva- que es, ciertamente, una de las razones mayores del
impacto del film en el momento de su estreno. El coqueteo entre lo real y la
ficción produce vertiginosos efectos que remiten al espectador a sí mismo,
y, en última instancia, al espectador contemporáneo del momento de salida
del film, sea el cubano de agosto de 1968, momento en que se estrenó en la
capital cubana, o el norteamericano de 1973, momento en que la peKcula
pudo verse en las pantallas neoyorquinas.
El contexto era, en efecto, propicio. Los años posteriores a 1968, correspondientes
a un momento en el que, en diversos grados, se experimenta

en el mundo occidental una nueva conciencia moral, sociocultural y política,
son años de crisis y de ruptura para los intelectuales. ¿Cuál es el lugar
del intelectual en la ciudad? ¿Cuál es su papel en relación a la política?
¿Cuál es la función del arte si se quiere subversivo? Y otras tantas interrogaciones
que suscitarían respuestas variadas y contradictorias, pero que harían
que, desde ese momento -y a lo largo de los años setenta-, el artista y
el intelectual no pudieran actuar y pensar sin posicionarse previamente con
respecto a estas cuestiones. Memorias del subdesarrollo se hizo eco de estas
preocupaciones a través de la figura de un intelectual banal, sin particular
envergadura, que vive su crisis intelectual en términos de crisis individual.
Está claro que Alea toma posición, que no se identifica con su
personaje, construido como antihéroe: Sergio, como le dice Elena, su
amante, «no es nadie». No se identifica con el mundo que la revolución ha
sentado, pero tampoco añora el régimen de Batista^”. Él no ha llegado a
abandonar su país, a diferencia de su famiüa, y, después, su mejor amigo.
Pero no por ello se compromete, y las últimas imágenes del film son, en
este sentido, representativas de un aislamiento que no ha dejado de crecer
al hilo de la narración: en el momento de la crisis de los misiles, el pueblo
armado resiste, ese pueblo que él observa desde el espacio atrincherado
que constituye su apartamento, observatorio que es su último refugio. Sergio
es un personaje condenado por la historia. ¿Qué será de él? Alea se
guarda muy bien de clausurar su película con lo que podría ser un mensaje.
Apela a la autoconciencia del espectador, a su propio juicio. En una primera
versión, el guión preveía el suicidio de Sergio como concreción de su
fracaso. Juzgada finalmente demasiado «complaciente» por los guionistas,
esta solución fatal será reemplazada por un final abierto: «Era más dramático
que viviera en esa agonía y dejar la posibilidad de un suicidio, de un
infarto u otro fin»^^
A pesar del carácter abierto de la película, del sentido del detalle del
realizador cubano, o quizás justamente en razón de estas cualidades, que
golpeaban ahí donde uno no lo esperaba. Memorias del subdesarrollo fue
objeto de cierta forma de censura por parte del «enemigo»: Estados Unidos.
El 17 de enero de 1974, el New York Times informaba a sus lectores
de que el Departamento de Estado había rechazado la solicitud de visado
hecha por Gutiérrez Alea -y por Saúl Yelín, que debía acompañarlo- para
recibir en Nueva York el premio Rosenthal de la Asociación Nacional de

Críticos Cinematográficos (2.000 dólares y un trofeo), debidamente invitado
por Andrew Sarris. Toda persona que se presentase para recibir el premio
en nombre del realizador cubano podía ser merecedor de una condena
por violación de la ley de comercio con el enemigo. El escándalo que sobrevino,
el carácter absurdo de ese rechazo en un momento en el que, tal y
como señalaba el mismo New York Times con fecha de 19 de enero, «la detente
con la Unión Soviética y la normalización de relaciones con la China
comunista se consideran con razón como triunfos diplomáticos»’^.
El incidente venía a confirmar la idea de que, matizado o no, maniqueo
o no, el cine -y más ampliamente, el producto cultural-, era percibido
como «acto subversivo» (sic) en la lucha entre los dos enemigos ideológicos,
Estados Unidos y Cuba, y por ello mismo confirmaba la legitimidad
de la utilización política del medio artístico. Tomás Gutiérrez Alea continuó
así su carrera de cineasta revolucionario en Cuba hasta su muerte, en
1996. Mantuvo hasta el final la doble exigencia que hizo de él un cineasta
intemacionalmente reconocido: mostrar infatigablemente desde el interior
del sistema sus propios límites, manteniendo criterios de cuaUdad estética
que, naturalmente, planteaban problemas de manera matizada y compleja.
Solamente con motivo del estreno de Guantanamera, Fidel Castro consideró
que Alea estaba jugando con fuego. Pero ésta fue la última película
del cineasta.


1 Cine cubano, n.” 2, 1960.

2 José Antonio Évora, To?ms Gutiérrez Alea, Madrid, Cátedra, col. Signo e imagen,
1996, p. 65.
3 Ibíd., p. 21.
4 Femando Pérez, Pensamiento crítico, n.° 42, La Habana, 1970.

5 Citado por Ambrosio Fomet, Alea, una retrospectiva crítica. La Habana, Letras Cubanas,
1987, p. 142.

6 José Antonio Évora, op. cit., p. 18.

7 Cine cubano, n.° 45-46.

8 José Antonio Évora, op. cit., p. 126.

9 Ibíd., p. 174: «Fue para mí un libro decisivo».

10 «Sergio is suspended between the oíd and the new», Michael Chañan, Memories of
Underdevelopment, Londres, Rutgers University Press, 1990, p. 4.
11 José Antonio Evora, op. cit., p. 35.

12 Ambrosio Fomet, op. cit., p. 147.

*(Universidad de París IV, Sorbonne)
Traducción al español de Sonia López. ULUPGC, BIBLIOTECA UINVERSITARIA, 2006.

Documental realizado en memoria de Tomas Gutierrez Alea (TITON) con la colaboracion y testimonios de Mirta Ibarra (actris y viuda de Titon), Julio Garcia Espinosa (Director de Cine), Leo Brouwer (Compositor y Guitarrista), Nelson Rodriguez (Editor), Jorge Perugorria (actor), Salvador Wood (actor), Sergio Corrieri (actor), Juan Carlos Tabio (Director de cine). Copy rights 2001 Guion y Realizacion: Roxana Conrado


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