As a child, Bazin was moved from Angers to La Rochelle. He studied there and at Versailles, and in 1938 he entered the Eeole Nórmale Superieure at St. Cloud. His academic record was exceptional, but he was denied teaching credentials because of his stammer. So, in the war years, he joined the Maison de Lettres, a form ol schooling for the working classes and for those whose education had been disrupted by war. He also founded a film club and showed many films banned by the Nazis.
After 1944, he was made film critic on Le Parisién Liberé; he wrote for several other papers and magazines; he was made a teacher at IDHEC (Instituí des Hautes Etudes Cinématographiques); and he founded, with Jacques Doniol- Valcroze, Les Cahiers du Cinéma. He wrote books about Orson Welles and Vittorio de Sica, and at his death (from leukemia) he was at work on a large book about Renoir. But he was also the author of a variety of essays and reviews that make a coherent definition of cinema.
As a film theoretician everything for him was founded in the notion of film as a record of reality. As such, he loved documentan' and any style that tended toward the use of real light, deep space, and long, extended takes. Naturally, therefore, he loved Renoir. Rossellini, and Welles, just as he aspired towards a kind of cinema that elosely imitated real experience.
Cahiers was initially based on his work and example, and on an historic view that saw the best of American, European, and Japanese film working together (he was a great admirer of Mizoguchi). He also inspired and assisted the young directors who would become the New Wave, and made the essential assumption that critical writing and real filming need not be separate. Though seldom in good health, he worked very hard and lie cared for animals as much as he did for movies and moviemakers.
He was so widely esteemed as a man. Jacques Rivette has called him “saintly.” Jean Renoir said that his work would outlast cinema itself. Robert Bresson observed how he “had a curious way of taking off from what was false to arrive ultimately at what was true.” And for Francois Truffaut, of course, Bazin was nothing less than a surrogate father, a friend and teacher bringing the wild child into being, and dying the day after shooting on The 400 Blows had begun (that film is dedicated to Bazin’s memory).
He was also a humanist, devoted to the idea of performance and a lover of Chaplin and all kinds of natural acting. Though he was not overly fond of montage, or fragmented points of view, he was one of the first to grasp the importance of Bresson.