Daniel FairfaxJun 3, 2022
The Red Years of Cahiers Du Cinéma (1968-1973)
Amsterdam University Press 2021
The uprising which shook France in May 1968 also had a revolutionary effect on the country's most prominent film journal. Under editors Jean-Louis Comolli and Jean Narboni, Cahiers du cinéma embarked on a militant turn that would govern the journal's work over the next five years. With a Marxist orientation inspired by the thinking of Louis Althusser, Jacques Lacan and Roland Barthes, the "red years" of Cahiers du cinéma produced a theoretical outpouring that was formative for the establishment of film studies as an academic discipline in the 1970s, and is still of vital relevance for the contemporary audiovisual landscape. It was also the seminal experience for a generation of critics who have dedicated the following half-century to the task of critically responding to the cinema. Daniel Fairfax's The Red Years of Cahiers du Cinéma (1968-1973) (Amsterdam UP, 2021) gives a historical overview of this period in the journal's history, combining biographical accounts of the critics who were involved with Cahiers in the post-1968 and theoretical explorations of the text they wrote.
In this conversation with host Annie Berke, Dr. Fairfax describes the beginnings of his love of cinema, breaks down the most pivotal essays from this moment in Cahiers' history, and argues for the "annees rouge"'s continuing relevance to contemporary film and cultural criticism.
Note: This interview was conducted on May 16, three days before the passing of Jean-Louis Comolli at the age of 80. One of the most influential figures of Cahiers' Red Years (and, indeed, of the entire journal's run), Comolli made a tremendous impact on film theory and criticism, and he will be missed by cinephiles all over the world.
Daniel Fairfax is Assistant Professor of Film Studies at the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt.
Annie Berke is the Film Editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books and author of Their Own Best Creations: Women Writers in Postwar Television (University of California Press, 2022). Her scholarship and criticism has been published in Feminist Media Histories, Public Books, Literary Hub, and Ms.