← Part of the Collection: Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub

Une visite au Louvre (2004, 47 min.)


Une visite au Louvre (2004, 47 min.)

Where, during this “visit to the Louvre”, fifteen years after Cézanne (1989), is the painter whom Gilles Deleuze called “the Straubs’ master”? He is neither in the museum nor the series of paintings that make up this particular visit. Yet he occupies a central place through the text that a voice-over reads aloud; a material that could not be more impure, composed of memories, perforated with borrowed quotations, invented expressions, and passages of pure fiction in indirect style.

From his conversations with Joachim Gasquet, a twenty-three-year-old poet and son of Cézanne’s childhood friend, only the painter’s words are preserved – read aloud by a female voice – alongside a few of retorts by his young conversation partner – read out by Straub himself. The filmmaker’s voice resounds in this short question: “And Courbet?” Courbet, for several reasons. For having worked out a realism of the land and the peasants. For having painted Un enterrement à Ornans, an aphasic people, silently communicating with the deepest layers of its history. Courbet, arbitrarily kept hidden from the public’s gaze by the authorities, is the empty centre that Cézanne is trying to bring back to life in his conversation with Gasquet. “We always let ourselves be taken advantage of… It is theft… We are the State… I am… Painting… Who understands Courbet? It’s as if he was thrown in jail in this basement”. Cézanne made his young friend promise to do everything in his power to ensure that one day Courbet would be given his place in the salon of the Moderns, “in the light”.

To hear the painter’s protest (against the institutions and the academic art forms) in the Louvre itself would be the perfect example of the “Straubian fantasy: a state radio that speaks Brecht” (Serge Daney). The paint and words that form this visit’s material are the soil from which Straub and Huillet unearth Cézanne’s anger. Bemoaning that France was hiding these treasures, Cezanne told Gasquet: “Let’s set fire to the Louvre… right away”, recalling these other words that Straub often quoted: “Look at this mountain, once it was fire”.

Image from Une visite au Louvre (Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet, 2004)


With thanks to Oscar Pedersen, Viktor Retoft and Balthazar.

This is a translated excerpt from ‘Du feu dans la térébenthine’, published in Cahiers du Cinéma n°588, March 2004. Revised by Antoine Thirion in 2023 and published in Balthazar no. 9, 2023, dedicated to the work of Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub.

In Passage, Sabzian invites film critics, authors, filmmakers and spectators to send a text or fragment on cinema that left a lasting impression.
Pour Passage, Sabzian demande à des critiques de cinéma, auteurs, cinéastes et spectateurs un texte ou un fragment qui les a marqués.
In Passage vraagt Sabzian filmcritici, auteurs, filmmakers en toeschouwers naar een tekst of een fragment dat ooit een blijvende indruk op hen achterliet.
The Prisma section is a series of short reflections on cinema. A Prisma always has the same length – exactly 2000 characters – and is accompanied by one image. It is a short-distance exercise, a miniature text in which one detail or element is refracted into the spectrum of a larger idea or observation.
La rubrique Prisma est une série de courtes réflexions sur le cinéma. Tous les Prisma ont la même longueur – exactement 2000 caractères – et sont accompagnés d'une seule image. Exercices à courte distance, les Prisma consistent en un texte miniature dans lequel un détail ou élément se détache du spectre d'une penséée ou observation plus large.
De Prisma-rubriek is een reeks korte reflecties over cinema. Een Prisma heeft altijd dezelfde lengte – precies 2000 tekens – en wordt begeleid door één beeld. Een Prisma is een oefening op de korte afstand, een miniatuurtekst waarin één detail of element in het spectrum van een grotere gedachte of observatie breekt.