Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
April 17
Andre Bazin November 11, 1958
Andre Bazin dies

On November 11, 1958, French film critic André Bazin passed away on the outskirts of Paris, finally losing his battle with leukemia, a disease he had been first diagnosed with in 1954. In the words of his biographer, Dudley Andrew, “André Bazin's impact on film art, as theorist and critic, is widely considered to be greater than that of any single director, actor, or producer in the history of cinema. He is credited with almost single-handedly establishing the study of film as an accepted intellectual pursuit.” Bazin is best known as the editor of Cahiers du Cinéma, the seminal film magazine he co-founded in 1951 with Jacques Doniol-Valcroze and Joseph-Marie Lo Duca. In this capacity, he not only wrote passionately about film, championing “objective reality” in cinema and advocating film as an act of personal expression, but also fostered the careers of Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette and Claude Chabrol, precocious critics who would soon make films themselves and become the vanguard of the French New Wave. Bazin, in fact, died on the very first day of shooting of Truffaut’s debut The 400 Blows, the film considered to be the opening salvo of the Nouvelle Vague. Bazin had been a mentor to Truffaut for the past decade, and it was to Bazin that Truffaut would dedicate The 400 Blows. (Truffaut called Bazin “a sort of saint in a velvet cap living in complete purity in a world that became pure from contact with him.”) In 1967, What is Cinema?, a collection of some of the more than 2000 essays on cinema Bazin had written over his short life, was first published, a defining volume of film criticism that put into perspective Bazin’s contribution to the form. In the introduction to the book, Jean Renoir wrote of Bazin that “he it was who gave the patent of royalty to the cinema just as the poets of the past had crowned their kings.”


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