Andre Bazin would have been one hundred years old today, had his life not ended so prematurely at the age of just 40. As it was, Bazin didn’t live to see the legacy of the work began by theorists and film programmers like himself and Henri Langlois in the wake of the Second World War, with his own legacy instead intertwining with that of the likes of Francois Truffaut, Alain Resnais, Jean-Luc Godard and Agnes Varda.
One of my favourite things Bazin ever wrote is the essay ‘Charlie Is A Mythical Character‘, concerned with Charles Chaplin, the opening section of which is reprinted without permission below. The full piece can be found in the first volume of What Is Cinema?
Charlie is a mythical figure who rises above every adventure in which he becomes involved. For the general public, Charlie exists as a person before and after Easy Street and The Pilgrim. For hundreds of millions of people on this planet he is a hero like Ulysses or Roland in other civilizations — but with the difference that we know the heroes of old through literary works that are complete and have defined once and for all, their adventures and their various manifestations. Charlie, on the other hand, is always free to appear in another film. The living Charlie remains the cre- ator and guarantor of Charlie the character.