Forgetfulness at Work: Film as a Site of Oblivion. Jaques Aumont

In most cases, to film implies capturing an event which actually takes place in order to create an image of this event – faithful or not, retouched or not, but always referring to it. We all know the momentous importance that the history of film theory has assigned to this conservation of the filmed event, situated in a filmic work that would perpetuate its memory. In this paper I am assessing the value of a wholly different, and highly paradoxical, hypothesis: a film produces as much forgetfulness as it does remembrance.

This thesis will be backed up with examples taken from documentary films by Imamura, but also from the work of Godard, Herzog, or Resnais; we shall try and appreciate what happens when, instead of recording reality, one records its sliding into oblivion. It is, of course, largely a matter of editing (or rather, of montage) and a question of duration – therefore, it has to do with the inherent proprieties of what we call a shot. It will not come as a surprise, then, that it is in the way it deals with this essential quality of forgetfulness that contemporary filmmaking mostly diverges from its classical and its modern state.

BIO/BIB ­— Jacques Aumont is Professor emeritus at Université Paris 3 and Director of Studies at EHESS (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales). After working at ORTF (Office de radiodiffusion télévision française) from 1965 to 1970 and serving as editor of the Cahiers du cinéma from 1967 to 1974, Aumont began his academic career at Université Paris I in 1970. From 1976 to 1983, he lectured at Université de Lyon. Aumont has been Visiting Professor in Berkeley, Madison, Iowa City, Nijmegen, and Lisbon, to name but a few. One of the most prominent figures in French film theory, Aumont held a fellowship at the IKKM from 2009 to 2010. Aumont’s major publications include Du visage au cinéma, Paris: Éditions de l’Étoile 1992; De l’esthétique au présent, Brussels/Paris: De Boeck et Larcier 1998; Matières d’images, Paris: Éditions Images Modernes 2005; Le Montreur d‘ombre. Essai sur le cinéma, Paris: J. Vrin 2012.