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Comédie musicale : les jeux du désir

Sylvie Chalaye
Gilles Mouëllic

Première partie

From An American in Paris: Identify and desire in two musicals by Vincente Minnelli

David Rodowick

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In Signs and Meaning in the Cinema, Peter Wollen recounts Joseph von Sternberg’s self-criticism for including a real exterior shot of the sea in The Saga of Anatahan, thereby ruining the ambiance of what was otherwise an artificially created film universe.1 It is interesting to note that the one startling exterior shot in Vincente Minnelli’s The Pirate is also of the sea. Doubtless, von Sternberg sought to place himself within an anti-realist tradition. As Wollen correctly points out, von Sternberg’s wanted to stress the iconic character of the cinematic sign at the expense of cinematography’s indexical and existential bond with reality. In this manner, he surely thought he was creating purer cinema by exploiting purely cinematic qualities.

It would be easy and obvious to place the American musical, especially in its mature form as practiced by Minnelli, in this context if it wasn’t for that exterior shot of the sea, for in this act I read Minnelli’s deeper understanding of cinematic...


David Rodowick is Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University. His most recent books is The Virtual Life of Film (Harvard University Press, 2007).

© Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2008