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Patrick Ffrench

Sartre's recollection, in Les Mots, of his first visit to the cinema is a multi-layered and ambivalent text through which Sartre proposes a number of interlocking arguments: concerning the contrast between the 'sacred' space of the theatre and the non-ceremonial space of the cinema, between the theatre as associated with paternal authority, and the cinema as associated with a clandestine bond with the mother. But the text also sets up a quasi-sociological account of the public Sartre encounters in the cinema itself as revealing to him the truth of the social bond, a truth he expresses with the term 'adherence', and which he says he only rediscovered in his experience of being a prisoner in the Stalag in 1940. Rather than the basis of a sociological account of the social bond, which would seem at odds with Sartre's social philosophy, I read this as the expression of a desire for physical proximity. The space of the cinema thus develops a fantasy, and this is in continuity with the role of the cinema in the evolution traced in Les Mots, in which it is described as instigating a withdrawal into imaginary life and an indulgence in daydreaming. Through reference to Christian Metz and to Roland Barthes, whose essay 'En sortant du cinéma' is proposed as a parallel and a response to Sartre, I suggest that the 'true bond' of adherence which Sartre encounters is an unconscious rather than an epistemological truth.