Serge Daney

Serge Daney (1944 - 1992) was an influential French movie critic who went on from writing film reviews to developing a “television criticism” and onto building a personal theory of the image. Although highly regarded in French and European film criticism circles, his work remains little known to English-speaking audiences, largely because it has not been consistently translated.

Serge Daney began his career as a movie critic at Cahiers du cinéma in 1964 with interviews of American film directors he had met in the U.S. (Howard Hawks, Leo McCarey, Jacques Tourneur, Jerry Lewis, Joseph von Sternberg, Buster Keaton, etc.). The Cahiers du cinéma had moved on from their "yellow cover” beginnings (the time of André Bazin, François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer and Jacques Rivette - roughly 1951-1959) and were about to enter a period of heavy theoretical debates and radical political engagement after 1968. Between 1968 and 1971, Daney made a series of travels in India and Africa. He also lectured cinema at the Censier University (Paris III). He became editor-in-chief of Cahiers du cinéma in 1973, marking a "return to cinema" for the magazine. He left the magazine in 1979.

In 1981 Daney joined the newly created French daily newspaper Libération with the ambition to create an "Image" section. His focus had turned to television and Daney wrote several series of articles about movies shown on French television and television programs. In 1991, after a critical analysis of the television coverage of the first Gulf War, he abandoned writing about television. Decided to get his focus back on cinema, he founded the quarterly film magazine Trafic. Daney had other passions such as tennis and bullfights. He died of aids in June 1992.



Daney published four books during his lifetime which are collections of his articles: La Rampe (Gallimard/Cahiers du cinéma, 1983), Ciné-journal (Cahiers du cinéma, 1986), Le Salaire du zappeur (P.O.L., 1988), Devant la recrudescence des vols des sacs à main (Aléas, 1991).

In the years after his death, several other books have been released: L'exercice a été profitable, Monsieur (P.O.L, 1993), L'amateur de tennis (P.O.L, 1994), Persévérance (P.O.L, 1994), L’itinéraire d'un ciné-fils (Editions Jean-Michel Place, 1999).

POL Editions have begun the publication of Daney's complete writings in several volumes called La maison cinéma et le monde. So far volumes I and II have been released, covering the period from Daney’s first articles in 1962, to his writings at Cahiers du cinéma and his texts for Libération until 1985.


Serge Daney participated in several documentaries:

Lettre de Paris à l'ami suisse no 7 (1987), 30min, directed by Maria Koleva
Jacques Rivette, le veilleur (1990), 2h20, directed by Serge Daney and Claire Denis
Damned! Daney (1991), 55 min, directed by Bernard Mantelli
Océanique: Serge Daney - itinéraires d'un ciné-fils (1992), 3 parts of 63min, 60min and 64 min, directed by Pierre-Andre Boutang and Dominique Rabourding
Daney-Sanbar, Conversation Nord-Sud (1993), 46min, directed by Simone Bitton and Catherine Poitevin
Serge Daney, Le Cinephile et le village (1993), 55min, directed by Pascal Kané
Du cinéma à la télévision, propos d'un passeur, Serge Daney (1993), 55min, directed by Philippe Roger
Télé(s)-Flux: le gué Daney (1994), 44min, Directed by Bernard Mantelli


Serge Daney hosted a weekly broadcast on French radio station France-Culture called Microfilms from the last quarter of 1985 to July 1990. Daney invited a guest speaker (a film maker, a film shoot photographer, an actor) to talk about a film, a particular subject, or to sum up the events of a film season or a festival.

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