Friday

Week 4 : Text : Genet's Encyclopedie du Cinema

PYNCHON, Thierry (1883 – 1959) Director, film theorist. Born in Ferney-Voltaire to school teachers Bertrand and Marie Pynchon. At the age of 13 Thierry fled from home to join Le Cercle Mystique travelling carnival. Apprenticed to magician ‘Le Incredible’ Pontoise until the age of 16, Thierry assisted the self-professed necromancer to enact his communications avec les morts. In his memoir Light Then Shadow: A Life Lost On Film, he was to recall that, “At no other moment in my life have I experienced religious fascination so complete as the moment Pontoise summoned me from the audience to deliver to me a message from my dear departed spaniel, Luluc. The bark was exact. The saliva Pontoise’s tongue left upon my face tasted of rancid marrow. My whole career in the theatre and in film has been devoted to recapturing that sensation of contact with the beyond.”
When the troupe departed Paris in 1899, Thierry remained to pursue a career in serious drama. There he was quickly swept up into the new wave of FILM D’ART cinema, a movement that sought to achieve for film the critical respect accorded to theatre. Under director Francoise ELAIN he worked on film adaptations of scenes from such classics as Euripedes’ The Bacchae, and Moliere’s The Misanthrope. Elan regarded the performance of a play as the embodiment of an eternally recurring story that exists in an archetypal realm beyond that of the senses. He believed that cinema represented the possibility of “capturing forever the all-too-transient moment of performance.” Pynchon would later expand upon Elain’s philosophy, declaring that, “Cinema peers directly into the abode of the immortals and records faithfully, and for all eternity, what it sees.”
In 1910 he wrote his manifesto Lazarus Lumiere in which he set out his agenda to “film the face of God”. His subsequent early attempts at short “Revelation” films are lost. His Revelation of Saint John (1910), The Book of Ezekiel (1911), and The Burning Bush (1911) were all destroyed by the blaze that consumed Le Cinema De L’Angel in July 1912, one of a spate of cinema fires most probably caused by the extreme heat of that summer and the flammability of early NITRATE FILM STOCK.
Claiming to have been duly chastised by the Almighty, Pynchon moderated the ambition of his subject matter and, upon his return to Paris after the end of The First World War, created a series of supernatural romances, including the feature length narratives Le Spectre du Mon Amor (The Ghost of My Love) (1919), Sommeil Creux (Hollow Sleep) (1923), and Le Adieu Longtemps (The Long Farewell) (1925). Every one of these films is lost due to misadventure involving fire, most famously the suicide by self-immolation of actor Jean SAGAN.
Upon the advent of talking pictures in 1927, Pynchon retired from cinema, declaring, “I shall not be tempted to take another flight towards the sun on frail celluloid wings only to have them melt away when I am at my zenith. Especially now that my screams may be recorded as I plummet back to earth.”
Pynchon died of a heart attack during the screening of The Long Goodbye at the 1959 VENICE FILM FESTIVAL when self-proclaimed “art terrorist”, Tara RIKOWSKI, set fire to the newly restored print of this previously thought lost work. Pynchon’s last words were, “Really, again? Must this tired old tale be told to my death?”

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