Daney talks of the difference between cinema and television as the difference between projection and broadcasting (see also his "From Projector to Parade" article), of why he stopped writing on television (see also his piece on the TV coverage of the Gulf War) and what he meant when he was zapping between channels. It has the strange mix of assertiveness and bitterness charaterising the last months of his life. My translation.
Magazine: Is the death of the movie theatre necessarily the death of cinema?
Daney: No. For me, the love for cinema has never been confused with the love of the movie theatre. In the theatre, there was still too much society, too much consensus. I’ve always nestled against the screen. I have a relationship with a movie which is independent of everything, as if I had internally digitalised it before everyone. And I’m the only one by the way who has tried to see in detail how movies stood the test of the small screen. To say “you know, it’s not what we think.” One movie gains, the other loses out. For example, The Ten Commandments is great on television. Whereas India Song is made for an empty theatre. I was very happy with my paradoxes. And I had the hope, eventually a bit dashed, that it will trigger in people the desire to compare. No, really, I don’t care about movie theatres. I saw movies alone in a theatre. Well, it’s embarrassing. Especially comedies. To laugh alone, what anguish! The dilemma is therefore not between theatres and television, but between projection and broadcasting [“diffusion” in French]. And projection is not insignificant. To project oneself in a personal psycho-analysis, to have a project… Words are superb. What do young people have today? “Plans”, good or bad. The word “project”, they don’t dare pronounce it anymore. Personally, I have projected myself so much into the space of the image - this strange gaping hole - that I know something about projection that I will never forget. And I also know what it is to have a projector behind me.
Magazine: Is this why you say you want to stop writing on television?
Daney: I have the feeling of having closed a loop. No, not a loop: it would be too sad. I hope it’s only the first round of a spiral. Although… Television is a formidable thinking tool. You are like an analyst to whom society’s subconscious would be offered wide open… A rather raw subconscious (…) But if one is in good form and a good analyst, here’s a formidable machine to make you think and write. There is one problem though: it doesn’t bite. There’s no feedback whatsoever. If I attack Michèle Cotta [the news director of France’s main commercial channel], she doesn’t reply. If I write twenty thousand characters on Benetton Toscani, it’s not picked up on or quoted anywhere. It doesn’t trigger any debate. It’s considered as my own problem, my strange – and eventually likeable – whim. Me, Serge Daney, I have this strange whim which consists in writing on television with a film maker’s morality. They don’t hold it against me but I may as well not say anything.
Magazine: And the “Zappper’s wage”, your weekly chronicle in Libération?
Daney: The “zapper”, it was a very small niche, very narrow, which cannot be made a genre. Even “zapper” was a poor choice of word. If I zapped between channels, it was from one day to another. But I still watched the programmes from beginning to end. It wasn’t the video-diary of a TV addict under the influence of visual neuroleptics! I had kept my habits as a cinephile who likes duration and time in cinema. Anyway, after having been round the issue, from the news mass to advertising and decoration, I stopped. Serge July [Libération publication director] was annoyed. Because as an editor, he thought he had found a good gimmick, A grand child of Barthes. July has the original edition of “Mythologies” in his office and sadly still believes that it will help us understand our times…