From Film Comment (March-April 1974). — J.R.
December 7: To enter the sound stage at Epinay-sur-Seine, a Parisian suburb where Alain Resnais is working on his new film about Alexandre Stavisky, you have to go through a heavy door that resembles the entrance to a bank vault, where you’re promptly greeted by Alexandre, a friendly dog who seems to be serving as the crew’s mascot (a younger dog named Sacha figures in the cast). Continuing past Alexandre, you weave your way through a labyrinth of construction that eventually resolves itself into a gargantuan neo-Lubitsch set comprising Stavisky’s office complex — a rather awesome 1933 décor the size of a country house that took forty people a month to build, even though it’ll only be used for a relatively short part of the film.
It’s the kind of set you can get lost in, with multiple exits and three separate stairways leading off of a giant central conference room with golden chandeliers, a large semi-circular table, light-green walls, tall windows with pink drapes, and no ceiling; a set where long hallways on the second landing go past doors that open on nothing, and members of the lighting crew move about in obscure corners carrying equipment and muttering to themselves.… Read more »
Originally published in the May-June 1973 issue of Film Comment; it’s reprinted, along with my 2002 Afterword, in my latest collection, Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia. (The following paragraphs are now slightly out of date, but I’ve retained them as records of where things stood at the time.)
Reprinting this piece has been prompted by two exciting pieces of news: the relaunching of a Raymond Durgnat website, thanks to the efforts of one of Durgnat’s old friends, Sue Ritchie, and the long, long overdue second edition of Durgnat’s irreplaceable 1970 book A Mirror for England: British Movies from Austerity to Influence, which the British Film Institute is bringing out next month, thanks to the efforts of another old friend, Kevin Gough-Yates, who provided a new Introduction (and has also been behind the earlier creation and the recent recreation of the Durgnat website).
The website, at raymonddurgnat.com, currently includes a biographical sketch, a very detailed, hefty, and rather awesome bibliography, four poems by Ray (all of them veritable collectors’ items), four “additional resources and links,” a Raymond Durgnat Forum that awaits commentary from visitors, and nine full-length articles that can be linked through the bibliography. One hopes that many more attractions, especially texts, can be added in the future, for a world is still waiting to be found in Durgnat’s writing.… Read more »