2019 Balzan Prize for Film Studies
Jacques Aumont (1942), who is of world renown, is one of the founders of film studies as an academic discipline. His research has centred on the definition of film aesthetics in relation to the figurative arts, and may be summarised in a sentence appearing in the title of one of his recent books: Comment le cinémaest devenu le plus singulier des arts (How cinema became the most singular of the arts). His historical approach, which includes groundbreaking studies ranging from Eisenstein’s films to Jean-Luc Godard’s, has been pursued hand-in-hand with an innovative theoretical perspective. In Aumont’s eyes, film is a “figurative art”, which means inquiring into the specific essence of cinema and its relationship with time, space and the world. After studying the history of painting for the origins of the power of the image typical of film, Aumont contributed to the definition of this distinctive power, thereby giving credit to the metaphor “of a specifically filmic thought”. How do films “think”, and what do they “think” about? How does film narration work as compared with other forms of narration? What is the relationship between pleasure and interpretative challenges arising from a film? All these issues have been discussed by Aumont in several works that have become classic texts and have been translated into many languages.
Also worth mentioning is Jacques Aumont’s prose style, which succeeds in the rare feat of coupling scientific rigour with literary mastery. This is particularly evident in the books he has devoted to such landmark directors of the twentieth century as Carl Theodor Dreyer (1993), Jean-Luc Godard (1999), Ingmar Bergman (2003) and Carmelo Bene (2010).
Besides his academic publications and teaching activity, Aumont has made an important contribution as a critic for magazines such as Trafic and art press. For a considerable number of years, he has also served as a member of the editorial board of the magazines Cinémathèque and Cinéma, whose aim was to conjoin history, aesthetics and criticism. Mention must also be made of Aumont’s work as Director at the Collège d’Histoire de l’Art cinématographique, which has included the organisation of several cycles of lectures, well-attended and of high quality, virtually all of which were subsequently published, as well as the organisation of the now legendary colloquium of Cerisy-la-Salle in 1985 under the title Nouvelles approches de l’histoire du cinéma (New approaches to the history of cinema).
Aumont is read and admired in many countries, from Brazil to Korea, by way of England, Spain, Italy, Portugal, the Lebanon and elsewhere. He has been hailed as “the founder of film studies”, an accolade owed not only to his scholarly achievement but also to the fact that he has also been a generous and highly successful teacher.