Zicht op zee
Tue 18 Jun 2019, 21:00
Images d’Ostende

“Ephemeral, fleeting beauty on which the condensation of cinema imposes the living rhythm of dance. A retreating wave may leave ridges on the sand, but the wind will come and draw new geometrical forms. Storck records these forms as a moment of extreme tension, just when the wind forces a new shape to take the place of the old.”

Oswell Blakeston1


“Without a doubt this can be called experimental. But it must also be said, that contrary to many others (pure rhythms, diagonal symphonies and mechanical ballets), in this film of Storck’s, the tendency towards abstraction does not undermine the material, dense, sensual dimension of the elements but rather exalts it by getting down to an organic, elementary, vital level. The tourist’s Ostend remains out of frame (it is winter); the wind chases away the few holidaymakers, just as the lens does all trace of humanity. All that is left is the sea.”

Michel Canosa2


“De pianist leek er veel plezier in te scheppen en was steeds erg vernuftig, of hij nu improviseerde, een speciaal voor de film geschreven partituur bracht, of de voorschriften volgde die bij de kopie van de film waren gevoegd. Met de behendigheid van een aap speelde hij virtuoze slagpartijen met de naast zijn piano opgestelde objecten: neppistolen voor de revolverschoten van de passiemoord, castagnetten voor de hoeven van de paarden, voor de klank van de golven: loodkorrels die van een canvas streken, en met emmers water en sponzen bootste hij de klank van regendruppels na. Hoog in mijn kleine kamer aan de andere kant van de straat kon ik de klanken van de piano horen, waaruit ik dan kon opmaken om welk genre film het ging: een komische farce, een burgerlijk drama, een sentimentele komedie, of zelfs een geweldige storm op zee, of de galop van losgeslagen paarden. De muzikale begeleiding verrukte mijn fantasie en ik viel in slaap met een hoofd vol beelden.”

Henri Storck beschrijft zijn vroegste herinneringen aan de cinema3


« Le pianiste semblait s’amuser beaucoup, toujours très inventif, soit qu’il improvisât, soit qu’il suivît une partition écrite spécialement pour le film, ou encore qu’il jouât des airs du répertoire d’après des indications jointes à la copie du film. Adroit comme un singe, il manipulait en virtuose une batterie d’objets disposés à côté de son piano : pistolets pour les coups de revolver des crimes passionnels, castagnettes pour imiter le bruit des sabots des chevaux, graines de plomb glissant sur une toile pour le bruit des vagues, seaux d’eau et éponges pour le bruit des gouttes de pluie. Du haut de ma petite chambre située de l’autre côté de la rue, j’entendais les sons du piano, ce qui me permettait de comprendre le genre de film dont il s’agissait; une farce comique, un drame bourgeois, une comédie sentimentale ou encore une violente tempête en mer ou une galopade de chevaux emballés. L’accompagnement musical excitait mon imagination et je m’endormais la tête pleine d’images. »

Henri Storck décrivant ses premiers souvenirs du cinéma

  • 1. Oswell Blakeston, “The romantic cinema of Henri Storck,” Architectural Review, 1931.
  • 2. Michel Canosa, Henri Storck. Il litorale belga, Campanotto Editore, Udine, 1994. [Translation by the Henri Storck Foundation]
  • 3. Henri Storck, “Vier witte paarden stormden op de toeschouwers af”.


“Drifters is about the sea and about fishermen, and there is not a Piccadilly actor in the piece. The men do their own acting, and the sea does its – and if the result does not bear out the 107th psalm, it is my fault. Men at their labour are the salt of the earth; the sea is a bigger actor than Jannings of Nitikin or any of them; and if you can tell me a story more plainly dramatic than the gathering of the ships for the herring season, the going out, the shooting at evening, the long drift in the night, the hauling of nets by infinite agony of shoulder muscle in the teeth of a storm, the drive home against a head sea, and (for finale) the frenzy of a market in which said agonies are sold at ten shillings a thousand, and iced, salted and barrelled for an unwitting world – if you can tell me a story with a better crescendo in energies, images, atmospherics and all that make up the sum and substance of cinema, I promise you I shall make my next film of it forthwith. [...]

The life of Natural cinema is in this massing of detail, in this massing of all the rhythmic energies that contribute to the blazing fact of the matter. Men and the energies of men, things and the functions of things, horizons and the poetics of horizons: these are the essential materials. And one must never grow so drunk with the energies and the functions as to forget the poetics.”

John Grierson1


“Dear John Grierson,
Thanks for the word ‘documentary’, which you came up with in 1926. Thanks too for saying that we see more in a real person on the screen than in an actor. Thanks for believing in raw cinema.”

Mark Cousins2


« Le documentaire était depuis le début – quand nous avons séparé nos théories sur la cause publique de celles de Flaherty – un mouvement anti-esthétique. Nous avons tous, je suppose, sacrifié des aptitudes personnelles en « art » et l’agréable vanité qui va avec. Ce qui complique l’histoire c’est que nous avions toujours le bon sens d’employer des esthètes. Nous le faisions parce que nous les aimions bien et nous avions besoin d’eux. C’était paradoxalement avec l’excellente contribution esthétique de gens comme Flaherty ou Cavalcanti que nous maîtrisions les techniques nécessaires à notre cause inesthétique. »

John Grierson3

À propos de Nice

“A social documentary is distinguished from an ordinary documentary and weekly newsreels by the viewpoint that the author clearly supports in it.

This kind of social documentary demands that one take a position because it dots the i’s.

If it doesn’t interest an artist, at least a man will find it compelling. And that’s worth at least as much.

The camera is aimed at what must be considered a document, which will be treated as a document during the editing.

Obviously, self-conscious acting cannot be tolerated. The subject must be taken unawares by the camera, or else one must surrender all claims to any ‘documentary’ value such a cinema possesses.

And the goal will be attained if one succeeds in revealing the hidden reason behind a gesture, in extracting from a banal person chosen at random his interior beauty or caricature, if one succeeds in revealing the spirit of a collectivity through one of its purely physical manifestations.

And all this with such force that from now on the world, which we, indifferent, have heretofore passed by, will be presented to us, in spite of itself, over and above its outward appearances. A social documentary should open our eyes.”

Jean Vigo1


“Jean Vigo’s À propos de Nice (1930) shows how social injustice is inscribed within flesh itself, on walls, within the very fabric of urban organisation, in the concrete occupation of space (rich beaches/poor quarters) and time (leisure/work). It describes injustice’s physical dimension, reconstitutes its symbolic function, demonstrates its violence.

In order to achieve this, a way of organising images must be invented that will join the powers of syntax (what can be shown as a relation, in a conflictual form: class struggle) and parataxis (what refuses relation, generating caesurae, cracks, breaks: for instance, the workers’ smiles). Thus establishing that cinema can elucidate phenomena by removing appearances and recovering social logics.”

Nicole Brenez2


“Jean Vigo has been the key figure in my cinematic education. He made me discover that serious social engagement and formal complexity (or playful consciousness of form) aren’t at odds with each other, that the alleged gap between the two is false, that one is inextricably linked with the other. He taught me that form is always political and conveyed the importance of improvisation, that you have to get to work with reality, that documentary film is always fragmented, always fashioned and processed. Because of him, I now think: documentary films are sounds and images that are left ajar, making documentary films is like swimming.”

Elias Grootaers