Anthology Film Archives


April 8 – April 17

Though Roland Barthes insisted he didn’t like movies, he wrote about them for most of his career, from a defense of Bresson’s ANGELS OF SIN that numbers among his first published pieces to the homage to Antonioni that appeared in CAHIERS DU CINÉMA just after his untimely death. For nearly forty years, cinema offered him fresh perspectives on art and life, providing templates for reflection as well as deep reserves of pleasure and unease. Whether he dealt with Garbo or Brando, Eisenstein or Romm, the irrecuperability of SALÒ or the mussel lunch in Pierre Zucca’s ROBERTE, his brilliant essays were entirely in sync with the intellectual currents of their time, and their choice of subjects offers a singular perspective into film history. They also reproduce the central tensions in Barthes’ work, testifying to its ever-shifting ratio of abstraction to sensuality, and even suggesting how cinema may have managed to tip the scales.

Anthology Film Archives is thrilled to present a selection of films Roland Barthes cared for, decried, and, in some instances, helped make. We dedicate this series to his memory, and to that of Philip Watts, whose final book, ROLAND BARTHES’ CINEMA, will be published this spring by Oxford University Press. Featuring nine new Barthes translations as well as a concluding interview with philosopher Jacques Rancière, Watts’s study is the first full-length exploration of the critic’s complex relationship with the moving image, and many of the films it discusses have been included here.

Our opening night screenings of THE ANGELS OF SIN and A NIGHT AT THE OPERA will be preceded by a roundtable discussion of Watts’s book with editors Dudley Andrew, Vincent Debaene, and Sam Di Iorio at Columbia University on April 8. For more information, visit

This series has been co-curated by Dudley Andrew, Vincent Debaene, and Sam Di Iorio, and is presented with support from Cultural Services of the French Embassy; special thanks to Mathieu Fournet & Amélie Garin-Davet (Cultural Services of the French Embassy), as well as to Laura Argento (Cineteca Nazionale), Brian Belovarac (Janus Films), Nicole Brenez, Yves Citton, Michael DiCerto (Sony Pictures Classics), Régis Hébraud, Tim Lanza (Cohen Film Collection), Laurence Millereux (Forum des Images), Kristie Nakamura & Nicki Woods (WB), Shanny Peer, Alix Quezel-Crasaz (La Cinémathèque de Toulouse), and James Roberts (NFB).

Unless otherwise noted, all quoted descriptions are taken from Barthes’ writing.

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