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 Post subject: Godard Interview
PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2008 2:33 pm 

Joined: Thu Jan 24, 2008 11:34 am
Posts: 5
Food for thought!

This is an English translation of highlights from Jean-Luc's Godard's interview with Cahiers du cinéma - occasion is the honorary European Film Award he recived in Berlin. Orignally posted by dwhudson on November 30, 2007 on Green Cine Daily.

Godard: You know, it seems strange to me, receiving an award for my life's work in Berlin. For films that precisely these people who hand out awards in Berlin don't watch.

KN: Maybe that's the fate of all legendary directors.

Godard: You mean they're buried before they're dead?

KN: No, that the work disappears behind the name.

Godard: That may well be.

Several Qs and As later...

KN: What does the nouvelle vague mean to you now?

Godard: A feeling of youth. But youth wasn't really youth then, either. I shot Breathless in 1959. At the age of 30. That's not very young for a directorial debut. At 30, most people are in the middle of their careers. What I really liked about the nouvelle vague was the exchange among directors. It was a pretty happy time. These days, when I'm shooting, I only talk with the technicians, and I have no idea what they think about my film.

KN: What keeps you from calling up Jacques Rivette or Eric Rohmer?

Godard: We're not in touch anymore. And I don't like the films Rivette makes these days. I respect Rohmer. We were in touch for a while because I was living in the house in Paris where he worked. I'm alone, but I don't want to complain about it....


KN: When Alfred Hitchcock died in 1980, you wrote in your remembrance that it was the end of an epoch. And when, not too long ago, Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni died, the end of an epoch was declared again. How many deaths does cinema have?

Godard: Cinema, painting or literature - none of these die with their authors [he may have used the word "auteur"; the German is "Autor," used for both].... [same answer, but several sentences on...] The politics of the nouvelle vague auteurs concentrated on recognition of a director's contribution as a creator of images as opposed to the screenwriter. It was about treating the grammar of cinema as an independent visual grammar and saving [what] was invented by certain silent film directors - Griffith, for example. It's a grammar of narrative imagery which must constantly be renewed to ward off stereotypes and routine. And which places an image in relation to previous images. There are still films that stake claims for this position. But it's harder to make them. Not because it's harder to find the money. But the ideas that we had then have disappeared; they aren't being renewed. For me, it's become difficult to - have an idea, as they say.


Godard: It's not as easy as it used to be to use a camera to see something you otherwise wouldn't see. Directors are either confirming what they already know - or they're confirming themselves with the camera. Like a knight would confirm himself with a lance. I'm going to shoot my next film alone - but really alone. I'll adapt. I won't film the actors together, but instead, one after another. I'll make reservations in the hotel, too, if they come here to Switzerland. These are different films, but they're possible. Fortunately, I wasn't able to make all the films I wanted to.

KN: Why "fortunately"?

Godard: [laughs] Because they wouldn't have been good.


Godard: There's something that's stayed with me from the days of the nouvelle vague, even though it no longer exists in this form: arguing about cinema. Because the beautiful thing about cinema is that it still always allows us to argue. Fundamentally. You can get far more upset about an opinion about a film than one about a painting or a piece of music. For example, when I say to someone, "It doesn't surprise me at all that you like the new film by Robert Redford because I always knew you were daft." That sets things off immediately: "Who do you think you are! How dare you!" And if I want to get to know someone, let's say, for example, you, then I wouldn't ask for your opinion about Iraq or Yugoslavia or the train strike, but instead ask you to name a film you like.

KN: The Idiots, by Lars von Trier, what a coincidence!

The joke here is that, earlier, JLG pronounced The Idiots Lars von Trier's best. Which isn't exactly the same as saying he likes it, of course. (Probably does, though.) When Nicodemus asks him about his moviegoing habits these days, you do get the impression that he's seeing more on DVD now than in the theater.

Godard: And when it comes to the American DVDs, I always break off at the moment when I figure out how they're going to give the story a happy end after all. This dogged insistence on happy endings - I admire it quite a lot. And I'm like everyone else. I'd rather watch a bad American film than a bad Norwegian film.

Nicodemus asks him whether Anne-Marie Miéville will be involved in his next project.

Godard: She'll absolutely be involved in the next film. We imagine the film together. We call it forth into memory. It's as if clouds were, bit by bit, slowly taking shape. That's why I work best when I doze in my chair.

KN: How so?

Godard: I try to see things. With my eyes closed. Because you don't see the same thing with your eyes open. It's not any different with a camera. You use open eyes to see with closed eyes.

That's way less than a quarter of the conversation; just some passages I marked as I read through the first time, and I've translated here very quickly, very loosely. Here's hoping Berlin and the EFA give JLG a warm welcome tomorrow evening.

Update, 12/1: Spiegel Online is reporting that JLG has decided not to come to Berlin to collect his award. "If someone says I've created a life's work, I'll have to accept that. But my form of criticism is not to go."

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