Every Which Way but Loose: Duras and the Erotic Crimes of Montage

  • James S. Williams


After Camion the Duras image continues to approach the farthest limits of the visible. In Night (1978), for example, where three actors are filmed in silence as Duras and Benoît Jacquot recite a story of blind telephone passion on the sound-track, abstract shots of engulfing mirrors, under-exposed wooden interiors and overgrown woods are juxtaposed with dawn views of Paris filmed in extreme long-shot as if it were an ocean. Deleuze, who talks of the Duras image in terms of the visible covering itself over or burying itself, has proposed that such natural leanings to abstraction place Duras firmly in the French school of seascape painting.1 Yet while the image in Duras’s films gradually loses its accustomed iconic status and power, the soundtrack is refined to the point where it becomes a single voice, that of Duras. This is a deep and sometimes gravelly voice but which possesses an extraordinary hypnotic force, as Duras herself acknowledges. She may try to maintain as flat and neutral a vocal tone as possible, and, by means of ‘undisciplined punctuation’, attain that democratic ‘neutral territory where words arrive on an equal basis’ (Yeux, p. 175), yet a ‘lure’ operates just in the way her voice ‘resounds’, clearly and intimately, over the images (Yeux, p. 187).


Black Screen Black Rock Dura Image Commercial Cinema Vocal Tone 
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Notes to Chapter 3

  1. 2.
    See, for example, Carol Murphy, ‘New Narrative Regions: The Role of Desire in the Films and Novels of Marguerite Duras’, Literature/Film Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 2 (1984), pp. 122–28,Google Scholar
  2. and Dean McWilliams, ‘Aesthetic Tripling: Marguerite Duras’s Le Navire Night’, Literature/Film Quarterly, Vol. 14, No. 1 (1988), pp. 17–21.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Leslie Hill, ‘Marguerite Duras and the limits of fiction’, Paragraph, Vol. 12, No. 1 (1989), pp. 1–22; p. 19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    See Ginette Vincendeau, ‘Family Plots. The father and daughter of French cinema’, Sight and Sound, Vol. 3, No. 4 (March 1992), pp. 14–17, for a helpful history of this persistent trope.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    See Terence Cave, ‘Recognition and the reader’, Comparative Criticism, No. 2 (1980), pp. 49–69.Google Scholar
  6. 17.
    Maurice Lemaître, Pour en finir avec cet escroc plagiaire et généralisée, Paris, Centre de Créativité, 1979, p. 35.Google Scholar
  7. 19.
    Marie-Pierre Fernandes, Travailler avec Marguerite Duras. La Musica Deuxième, Paris, Gallimard, 1986, p. 189.Google Scholar
  8. 23.
    See Madeleine Cottenet-Hage and Robert P. Kolker, ‘The Cinema of Duras in Search of an Ideal Image’, French Review, Vol. 63, No. 1 (1989), pp. 87–98; p. 94.Google Scholar
  9. 25.
    Jean-Luc Godard, ‘Conférence-débat à la Fémis du 26 avril 1989’, Confrontations (1990), pp. 15–23; p. 18.Google Scholar
  10. 26.
    Stephen Heath, ‘Repetition Time: Notes around “Structuralist/Materialist Films” ‘, Wide Angle, Vol. 2, No. 3 (1978), pp. 4–11; p. 9.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© James S. Williams 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • James S. Williams
    • 1
  1. 1.University of KentCanterburyUK

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