Lettrism and Kinesthetic Scripts (1946–1959)
World War II led to a renewal of cinepoetry, not as utopian experiment but as a practice aiding in the reconstruction of the embodied self, of being-in-the-world and of the sensoriality of language. While the Occupation censored cinema, writers after 1943 increasingly turned to writing scenarios and theoretical texts on cinema, including Barjavel's Total Cinema (which Bazin recycled). When the Liberation finally arrived, France reconstructed itself in the shadow of the Hollywood backlist, launching new cinema institutions and studies. In 1946, three young Jewish refugees—Isou, Lemaître and Pomerand--met and together founded Lettrism, the first-avant-garde poetic movement of the postwar. This chapter argues that Lettrism's cinepoetic revaluation of the ‘letter’ must be understood as the intersection of the new filmic culture, Kabbalistic mysticism, and a damaged post-Shoah reality. Other poets connected with Surrealism also conducted cinepoetic experiments to reimagine and rematerialize what binds together their psyche, body and writing in the wake of the war and the Shoah. This chapter draws on Isou's theoretical works on poetry and cinema, Jean Cayrol's concentrationary Lazarean esthetics and his poetic text written for Resnais’ Night and Fog (1955), and Cayrol and Claude Durand's poetic theory of cinema.
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