June 20, 2008

Intent on charging for access — or just clueless — the New York Times fails to link to its own wonderfully rich archive.

I was reading the obituary for Jean Delannoy, the French film director who died on Wednesday at the age of 100. I didn't remember the name, though I see he directed the Anthony Quinn/Gina Lollobrigida version of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," which I loved when I was a teenager.



Yeah, it's not very good, but it really did have a very deep emotional impact on me. The old Charles Laughton version is so much better:



But let me get to my point. I learn from the obit that Delannoy was the sort of director that the French New Wave directors were rebelling against:
Mr. Delannoy had worked in the film industry for two decades when, in 1954, François Truffaut, then a 21-year-old critic for the film journal Cahiers du Cinéma, wrote his controversial article “A Certain Trend in French Film.”

In the article Truffaut attacked France’s commercial cinema and its so-called tradition of quality, as exemplified by Mr. Delannoy and certain colleagues, and advocated in its place auteurism, a new, director-centered filmmaking style, which Truffaut came to embrace as a filmmaker. Established French directors, Truffaut wrote, had failed to express their personalities or espouse a worldview. He said that the worst of Jean Renoir’s movies would always be more interesting than the best of Mr. Delannoy’s.

Stung, Mr. Delannoy responded by letter, calling the criticism “so low that I have never encountered anything like it in my 20 years in the profession.” He believed that a director’s job was to realize the work of the scriptwriters; Truffaut considered that attitude contemptuous of film as an art form.

Jean-Luc Godard shared Truffaut’s opinion, once suggesting that when Mr. Delannoy carried a briefcase to the studio, he might as well be going to an insurance office.
This is important!
Mr. Delannoy responded by writing an article for The New York Times. The film industry, he wrote, was “dying of infantilism.”
Wait! He responded by writing an article for The New York Times?! Where is the link?!!!

Now, I've had a little side project — which, admittedly, I've been ignoring for the last week or so — where I blog from the NYT archive for a date in the past as if I were blogging the news today. And I've struggled with the way the Times limits access to the archive for the years 1923 to 1986). Efforts to limit access to the current issue — the "TimesSelect" program — failed. But the partly closed historical archive remains. I'd love to be able to link to the old articles freely. They can't be getting much traffic. Why not let them burst out to a big audience when someone wants to talk about something, like what Jean Delannoy wrote in 1952 about the French New Wave?

The Times itself should be sending us back into its archive. It's boneheaded not to link to the old article by Delannoy!

So I'll have to be the one to go back and dig it out for you. It's here if you want to pay for access (or have an educational account and can get to 100 articles a month). Now, I'm reading the article, and it doesn't seem to be much of a response to Truffaut:
[T]he torture of the cinema in the world is, for the most part, due to the tightening of censorship....

The censors act in good faith, in the name of morality. But what is curious is that morality is not the same in one country as another....

All censorships are mistaken because they judge on the basis of pre-established criteria and not on the basis of intention. First and foremost, a film affects the understanding of an audience.... What the public looks for in the dimmed rooms is shocks, and emotions. Films that call upon the intelligence are rare and have only limited success....
He expresses concern that the movie "Savage Triangle" will be shown in New York for adults only.
[I]f I had a boy of 14, I would prefer him to get to know some "savage boys" as the one in the film, rather than to nourish himself solely on the violence of Robin Hood with his special interpretation of justice, or the ideas he has on religion, in the person of Friar Tuck, the monk with the cudgel who supports him.

The cinema is dying of infantilism. Will censorship finish the job?
One reason not to link to the archive — a terrible reason — is that the old articles don't actually support the point you are citing them for! Delannoy isn't responding to Truffaut here. He's pissed off at censors (and Robin Hood).

ADDED: There is a short paragraph that appears between the discussion of Truffaut and the reference to Delannoy's old article:
Mr. Delannoy had earlier had his own complaints about the industry, partly because of censorship. “L’Éternel Retour” (“The Eternal Return”), a retelling of the Tristan and Isolde story, was condemned by the Legion of Decency in 1948. “Le Garçon Sauvage” (“The Wild Boy,” released in the United States in 1952 as “Savage Triangle”), the story of a Marseilles prostitute and her son, also ran afoul of censors.
The old article did support that paragraph. I incorrectly assumed that the new paragraph, which began "Mr. Delannoy responded by writing an article for The New York Times," referred back to the Truffaut criticism. 

17 comments:

rcocean said...

Those were the days when people took film seriously. Very 20th century.

Spread Eagle said...

The MSM never understood the Internet. They still don't.

MadisonMan said...

I note that the obit states Delannoy was a door-to-door salesman for a bank. I'm puzzled about what such a person would be selling.

ricpic said...

Based on the excerpt of Delannoy's Hunchback shown it is an effective and moving work.

Truffaut's attack on Delannoy is of a piece with all modernist attacks on the traditional: totalitarian overkill.

rhhardin said...

You sure had to sit through a lot of crap to see a flash of tit in I am curious yellow, or blue, whichever one it was, is all I knew about film art in the 60s.

Approved by the sadists at the New York Film Board.

rhhardin said...

Years and years of C.L.Sulzberger opinion pieces are lost to the larger public too!

Audio ad for the NYT, March 9, 1966.

His prose is described as that sounding like the ruins of Pompeii.

Verso said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ann Althouse said...

Put that comment where it belongs, Verso.

Bissage said...

Put that comment where it belongs, Verso.

Might that be in a dimmed room full of shocks and emotions?

Ann Althouse said...

LOL.

Chip Ahoy said...

NYT confuses me. Sometimes their articles are open to me by subscription to their crossword, other times not. Maybe only certain unspecified sections are available. This one was closed, which is just as well since it's PDF and I'm biased against that format.

As to them being resolutely 20th century, money-grabbing, desperately flailing while pathetically sinking, holding on to what they got, elitist cluelessly unlinkable, you could stick with practicing your own auteurism captivating your eager audience with your own modern interpretation of the text, as you do so splendidly and entertainingly, without links to their rapidly failing selves. That's fine with me.

Maybe we could be clued when you're in not-linking-to-NYT mode by a sudden switch to those bullets, italics and bolds mentioned earlier. Those are cool.

^^^ Bank salesman. Bank services? Checking account, which might have required a bit of salesmanship in that day? The first time I saw my parents checkbook I was totally mystified. That they could just write their own money was like magic. Maybe it was like that, in France back in the day. Competitive car loans? Other banky deals like we see advertised on television today? College funds, Christmas funds, and funeral savings accounts! Just guessing.

blake said...

It's actually a decent argument for restoring copyright to seven years or twenty or whatever it was.

Even if the original owner of the property doesn't see its value, others will.

Ann Althouse said...

Blake, the Times wouldn't have to make the archive accessible just because it didn't have a copyright. The law wouldn't require them to let us into their computers.

blake said...

Blake, the Times wouldn't have to make the archive accessible just because it didn't have a copyright. The law wouldn't require them to let us into their computers.

It wouldn't need to, would it? I don't believe anyone let Project Gutenberg hack into Austen or Alighieri's servers.

Richard said...

There's a lot of self-loathing among liberals, so I'm not at all surprised that the Times doesn't link to itself.

amba said...

They, and other "straight," MSM web sites, have this dorky way of linking -- they'll put a link to their archives at something like "U.S. Senate," as if you didn't know what that was, or just felt like doing some random boning up on the subject. When I'm blockquoting them I always take that kind of link out.

The other dorky thing is that everybody now has to have a blog, including many people who don't really know what a "blog" is.

Steve said...

Once again, you seem unable to read the New york Times very well. Here is the passage whose meaning you misunderstood:

Mr. Delannoy had earlier had his own complaints about the industry, partly because of censorship. “L’Éternel Retour” (“The Eternal Return”), a retelling of the Tristan and Isolde story, was condemned by the Legion of Decency in 1948. “Le Garçon Sauvage” (“The Wild Boy,” released in the United States in 1952 as “Savage Triangle”), the story of a Marseilles prostitute and her son, also ran afoul of censors.

Mr. Delannoy responded by writing an article for The New York Times. the film industry, he wrote, was “dying of infantilism.”

As you see, Delannoy was responding not to Truffaut and Godard but to the censors of the previous paragraph. So you are, once again, wrong.