Murdering Cinema: Marguerite Duras’s Green Eyes

Marguerite Duras is one of my favorite writers. She was both a prolific writer and director. I have no desire to undertake a full review of Green Eyes, a book published in 1990 and translated by Carol Barko that collects Duras’s thoughts on cinema, including essays, reviews, and interviews.  I think Duras’s words can speak for themselves. So what I’m doing in this post is curating a collection of quotations and scanned images from the book that I find personally meaningful and that I think are important and would provide insight to any Duras fan. In Green Eyes, she talks about her own films, her relationship to cinema, and even shares what directors and films she loves (and hates!). If you love Duras, I think this book is a must-read.


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Marguerite Duras as a child



When I’m writing I’m not dying. — from The Letter


I tell you, too, we think we can’t survive knowing those abominable facts of the hopeless separation between people. Now, it isn’t true. You survive it. You can. You can do it your own way. — from I Wanted To Tell You


But you see, you don’t matter anymore to me now either. One cannot live off the dead. — from You, the Other, In Our Separation


There are films that stay with you, others that vanish in the immediate hours right after you’ve seen them. That’s how I know whether or not I’ve gone to the movies: what, the morning after, has become of the film I saw the night before. The way it looks the next day is what I’ve seen. Sometimes films become clear two months later. The majority of films are lost. — from Overnight Movies


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Edouard Boubat


Bresson is a very great director, one of the greatest who has ever lived. Pickpocket, Au hasard Balthazar all by themselves could stand for cinema in its entirety. — from Renoir, Bresson, Cocteau. Tati.


Bresson moves me to pain. Tati to joy. But probably Tati wrings fewer things from me than Bresson, he’s less wrenching. We ought to institute this kind of criticism: not to talk about film without a concern for things of this world but from the self relating to the film. When I see The Night of the Hunter, Ordet, City Lights, for the fifth time, it’s as if I were renewed every time in the presence of these films, and at the same time amazed at being the same me through the years of my life. — from Renoir. Bresson. Cocteau. Tati.


Bresson is tremendous. He’s the inaugurator of all of cinema. When you go to see a film by Bresson you have the feeling you’ve never been to the movies. — from In the Gardens of Israel, It Was Never Night


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Delphine Seyrig


I’m going to tell you the people I ought to have liked whom I didn’t like. There’s nothing I can do about it. There is Rene Clair, that sweet, nice side I cannot bear. I’ve never liked Guitry either. I know now he’s become fashionable. I don’t like Bergman. I like Dreyer but I saw Gertrud again and I was terribly disappointed. Cocteau, I don’t like much, no. Renoir, yes, I love. He’s probably my favorite among the ones who are dead. Le Fleuve (The River) is superb. That child with the snake, the pictures of the Ganges. I like Ozu, Satyajit Ray, Fritz Lang, John Ford, Chaplin, and Tati. There’s a filmmaker I’ve just discovered, it’s Rouch. What he does I find brilliant. — from In the Gardens of Israel, It Was Never Night


You have to go through this journey with the book you are giving birth to, this hard labor, the whole time of its writing. One acquires a taste for this wonderful misery. — from Solitude


When I’m making movies, I’m writing, I’m writing about the image, about what it should represent, about my doubts concerning its nature. I’m writing about the meaning it ought to have. The choice of the image which is then made is a result of this writing. The writing of the film–for me–is cinema. — from Solitude


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A leaf I used as a bookmark while reading Green Eyes



My relationship with cinema is one of murder. I began to make movies in order to read the creative mastery which allows the destruction of the text. Now it’s the image that I want to affect, to diminish. — from Solitude


One thinks up writing on one’s own. Everywhere. In no matter what case. Cinema, no. Films do not call. they do not await like the written work, that great rush into the book. When no one makes films, films do not exist, have never existed. When no one writes, the written work still exists, it has always existed. When everything is over, on the dying world. the gray planet, it will still exist everywhere, in the air of time, on the sea. — from Cinema, No


To write is to go looking outside of oneself for what is already inside oneself. — from The Written Image


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Barbara Loden in her film Wanda (1970)


I think there is a miracle in Wanda. Usually there is a distance between the visual representation and the text, as well as the subject and the action. Here this distance is completely nullified; there is an instant and permanent continuity between Barbara Loden and Wanda. — from The Tremulous Man


The miracle for me isn’t in the acting. It’s that she seems even more herself in the movie, so it seems to me–I didn’t know her–than she must have been in life. She’s even more real in the movie than in life; it’s completely miraculous. — from The Tremulous Man


I was very moved by her being herself in her movie. It’s as if she had found a way in the movie to make sacred what she wants to portray as a demoralization, which I find to be an achievement, a very, very powerful achievement, very violent and profound. That’s the way I see it. — from The Tremulous Man


There is a public for Wanda. Perhaps America is uncivilized in a way that I’m not familiar with, that I haven’t explored. But what I do know is that there is a public for this movie. It’s simply a matter of finding it, of letting it know that this film exists. — from The Tremulous Man


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Barbara Loden in her film Wanda (1970)


Directors and Films Duras Liked

  • Jean-Luc Godard
  • Charlie Chaplin
  • City Lights by Charlie Chaplin
  • American Graffiti by George Lucas
  • The River by Jean Renoir
  • Robert Bresson
  • Pickpocket by Robert Bresson
  • Au Hasard Balthazar by Robert Bresson
  • Jacques Tati
  • Playtime by Jacques Tati
  • The Night of the Hunter by Charles Laughton
  • Ordet by Carl Theodor Dreyer
  • Carl Theodor Dreyer
  • Jean Renoir
  • Yasujiro Ozu
  • Satyajit Ray
  • Fritz Lang
  • John Ford
  • Jean Rouch
  • Codex by Stuart Pound
  • Wanda by Barbara Loden
  • America, America by Elia Kazan
  • Wild River by Elia Kazan
  • Le Destin de Juliette by Aline Isserman

Directors Duras Disliked

  • Woody Allen
  • Ingmar Bergman
  • Jean Cocteau
  • Rene Clair
  • Sacha Guitry
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