From theory to practice, from film criticism to filmmaking. His career was not unique but was able to reflect all the concerns and questions of a troubled time and a society that was questioning itself. Jean-Louis Comolli died on May 19 in Paris, at the age of 80. He was born on July 30, 1941, in Philippeville (now Skikda), Algeria.
Jean-Louis Comolli discovered cinema in the film clubs of Algiers, then in Paris. At the beginning of the 1960s, he frequented, with his friend Jean Narboni, the circles of the most demanding Parisian cinephilia. He begins to write to Cinema notebooks in 1962. He exalts the great artists of American cinema now at the end of their career, such as John Ford or Howard Hawks. In 1966, he defended, in a superb text, the film Red line 7000, of Hawks, which is not, far from it, the object of critical unanimity.
This admiration of the great Hollywood authors was nourished by the new concepts that the social sciences, in full effervescence, were generating at the time. Comolli, faithful to a requirement that the magazine has imposed on itself, is passionate about what are called “young cinemas”, the emergence, in the world, of new cinematographies, of a nascent generation of directors , far from the major industrial centers of film production.
Critics and free-jazz
Alongside his activity as a film critic, he collaborates with the review jazz-magazinetaking an interest in the evolutions of what has been called free-jazz, a music that was becoming more libertarian, more radical, in phase, perhaps, at least that’s how it was fantasized, with the social and racial movements of an era that was on fire.
Comolli becomes editor-in-chief of Cinema notebooks in 1966. It accompanies an increasingly theoretical shift in the journal. It is a time of profound questioning of a medium whose intrinsically political nature is questioned. In a series of texts grouped under the title Technique and IdeologyComolli attempts to unveil the historicity of the mechanisms and figures of speech in cinematographic staging, belying any idea of an illusory neutrality of technique.
It follows and accompanies the evolution of Cinema notebooks towards a Maoist line. It is the time of quarrels, repudiations, broken friendships too. In 1971, he co-wrote with Philippe Carles Free Jazz Black Power (republished in 2000 by Gallimard, “Folio”), affirmation of the revolutionary nature of the new forms of black music opposed to an alleged conservative dimension of so-called “classical” jazz and its structures (the great orchestras of the 1930s and 1940s) . The work provoked many discussions among amateurs.
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