A Toast to Alain Virmaux
How is it possible to capture and convey the passion and curiosity, the stories and questions, of someone who searched endlessly to find answers and to better understand the cinematic art that he so loved? How can one paint a portrait of a friend and mentor whom in his every look, gesture, and action carried this inquisitiveness, only to turn and share it with such generosity? How can one reckon with such a tremendous loss? These things escape the capacity of words.
I am regretful that I missed meeting Alain in Paris during my last brief passage. I will forever wonder what queries, or discoveries he wanted to share. Like many of the memories and questions he brought to the table for shared erudition in earlier days, such missed occasions no doubt exemplify the loss felt by many in our search to understand an ephemeral and fleeing past.The details of letters, scripts, unidentified photos, and so many missing links that were the object of his passion were always tied to bigger inquiries not only about surrealism or the avant-garde, but also to vital questions about cinema, art, politics, and the things that shape our consciousness.
What greater joy than to share such moments of synergy with Alain, whose curiosity and passion were always contagious. For those of us who knew him and his work, he will always be with us in spirit. I feel truly fortunate to have worked with him first on the English translation of his essay “Artaud/Dulac, Quelques élucidations sur une querelle mythique” in 1999, for a panel on “La Coquille et le Clergyman: film surréalist, féminist, abstrait”at the Musée d’Orsay in 2005, and finally on a short film bonus for the award winning DVD of this surrealist classic. Yet my greatest memories of Alain will always be inhabited by the precious moments and encounters in between, at an archive, at his apartment on rue St. Denis, or at a café over a glass of wine. For this, I raise a glass in memory and in celebration ofa dear and beloved confrère and friend Alain Virmaux.
Still today, in his memory, Alain is teaching us to stay curious, and passionate in our pursuits, and to remain grateful for the serendipitous travellers who accompany us along our way.
Assistant Professor of Film Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee