Abstract

The essay considers Serge Daney's transition from a film critic schooled in New Wave cinephilia to a television critic fascinated by the possibilities of the small screen and the status of cinema as an old medium. Looking in the “rear-view mirror,” Daney challenges foundational film theory that situates cinema at the forefront of technological and cultural modernity, and he introduces the language of belatedness, aging, and delay into his writing on the “adult art” of film. In the 1980s, Daney began to chronicle the experience of watching cinema on television, with old and new media spiraling into each other and the critic engaged in a process of archaeology focused as much on absent or damaged images as the imaginary plenitude of the screen. Tweedie's essay frames the critic's work as a key reference point for film studies in the late twentieth century because it counters both the modernist euphoria of theory produced decades before and the enthusiasm surrounding the digital revolution in the years just after his death, with new media in the vanguard once occupied by cinema. Instead of recomposing this familiar narrative of innovation, succession, and obsolescence, Daney constructs a retrospective and intermedial theory of film, with the act of watching cinema on television revealing both the diminution and the persistence of its most utopian ambitions.

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