Remi Coignet ( writer and critic)
Photographing cinema in the making might seem redundant outside the utilitarian images of the set photo. But Stefano de Luigi draws a stimulating double paradox from it. Why do we generally accept that what we see in a photograph is reality, even truth? And why, when we go to the cinema or watch a film on television, do we accept to believe in the veracity of what we know to be a fiction? Yet these two modes of expression have always lent themselves to manipulation, whether we think of the films of Méliès or recent controversies over digital retouching in the World Press Photo.
The answer to the first question may lie in the modes of appropriation of photographs: In a family photo, I recognize my relatives, so there would be a "truth" of the thing seen. In addition, the principal mode of diffusion of the photograph was for a long time the press. There is there an argument of authority: if "my" newspaper presents such image associated with a report it is that it is true.
For cinema, which has a much greater narrative capacity than photography through editing, movement and sound, the desire to believe rests, one might suppose, on the need for human narratives, from The Odyssey - Stefano de Luigi chose to live an iDyssey by retracing Ulysses' journey with a smartphone for a camera - to the latest fashionable novel. The resolution of the paradox that one observes at the vision of "Cinema Mundi" is perhaps found in an analysis of the philosopher Alain Badiou who wrote in 1998: "A film operates by what it withdraws from the visible, the image is first cut. The movement is hindered, suspended, turned around, stopped. More essential than presence is cutting, not only by the effect of editing but already and from the start by that of framing." These words can fully apply to photography also if we consider it as a serial work and not a sum of individual images. Hypothesis, for her it would be the non consideration of the frame by the spectator that would push him to think of a "truth" of the image, when in the cinema it would be precisely the cutting, the absence of out-of-field that allows to adhere to the fiction.
Stefano de Luigi puts his finger on this double paradox through the framing and editing effects of his series. In the majority of his images we do not see the cinematographic out-of-field: no cameras, no projectors, no booms. Or sometimes you have to look for them carefully: to determine that this young woman curled up on chairs in Argentina is an actress, you have to recognize the foreground element as a dolly track.
These aesthetic choices mean that, except in the case of costume films, it is often impossible for the viewer to determine whether he or she is looking at a real or fictional scene. How to know the status of this Indian policeman? The same indeterminacy reigns most often for the decor. Impossible to know if it is real or reconstituted in studio. The "editing" of the series (in photography we would rather talk about editing), alternating realistic images, off-camera elements and historical film views, allows the viewer to conceive the unity of the subject.
As a photojournalist, Stefano de Luigi has a reflexive practice of his profession and he thus questions our habits of thought, or our intellectual laziness, as the case may be. Because of journalism it is indeed question in "Cinema mundi".
Cinema, as we know, is a powerful tool of "soft power" that could be translated as "influence policy". Hollywood has understood this for a long time. The aim of this policy can be national or international. The photographer has attended film shoots in countries as different as Argentina, Nigeria and China. His images bear witness to the implementation of this "soft power". Very often, it is a question of edifying the masses through entertainment: exaltation of national or religious identity. This ranges from a gentle form in democracies to pure propaganda in authoritarian countries: in China the army has its own studios! Sometimes, in regions where it is possible, social problems are evoked: battered women in Argentina, AIDS in Nigeria, whose films are widely distributed throughout Africa, or flirting with the limits of censorship in Iran.
While raising the paradoxes of "truth" and the desire to believe in two mediums that could be said to be cousins, "Cinema mundi" reveals that around the world, while using the same editing technique, invented around 1900 by the Brighton School, each film-producing country has its own aesthetic and political agenda.