March 22, 2014

March 12, 2014

Interview with Luc Moullet by John Hughes and Bill Krohn


The following interview with Luc Moullet was conducted in April, 1977 in New York City by John W. Hughes and Bill Krohn. It went unpublished at the time, and was recently rediscovered as a typescript among Krohn's papers. Many thanks to Moullet and Krohn for their permission to publish the interview in full here for the first time. Readers of this blog will be familiar with the work of Moullet and Krohn, and so the interview––mainly about Moullet's then new ANATOMIE D'UN RAPPORT (ANATOMY OF A RELATIONSHIP, a.k.a. FARTHER THAN SEX, 1976)––will commence without further comment. However, a note on the untold story of John Hughes is due: referred to here by Krohn as Nicholas Ray's "first and only Lacanian critic," and here in a brief remembrance by Jonathan Rosenbaum, Hughes is perhaps best known in the anglophone film world for his interviews with Rivette and Rossellini (with Tag Gallagher) and his articles in the more radicalized Film Comment of the 1970's (for example, this "Autodialogue"). Having made a film in the late 1970's entirely in a bathtub (title unknown), Hughes decided to expand his filmmaking activity in the early 1980's, leaving New York for Czechoslovakia to work on a science-fiction film. The fate of this project, and his life across the Atlantic, is unknown to us. Sometime in the 1990's Hughes committed suicide in the Swiss Alps.

                                                                              ––Andy Rector


(Bill Krohn arrives at the French Film Office as John Hughes struggles with the cassette device. Luc Moullet is serenely watching the skyscrapers beyond the large, open windows. Finally the device begins to operate.)

John Hughes (to Bill Krohn): He's been asking me about (Anatole) Dauman. He says that Lacan's a father-figure to Dauman.

Luc Moullet: Oh, probably. More than that. But I haven't read Lacan, he's very difficult...

Hughes: ANATOMY OF A RELATIONSHIP is very psychoanalytical, especially the fantasies of your autobiographical character: the film cans that he imagines rolling into the street-corner sewer, for example. An image of castration...

Moullet: It's part of life, so it's easy. It's practical psychoanalysis, not theoretical.

Hughes: How do you see the film reconciling your point of view and that of Antonietta Pizzorno? In the MOMA hand-out your attitudes, as quoted, seemed quite divergent. She talks about nudity as a Marcuse-like way of sexual liberation; you see it as "fragility." She talks about women; you talk about the relationship between man and woman. That's what's fascinating about the film, it's totally open-ended in regard to these divergent viewpoints. 

Moullet: It's unusual for two people to direct a film. But each of us had our own area of control within the film, although we come together at the end. When I was filming the sequences with the man, Antonietta was away at the theatre, performing a role. And when the sequences with the girl were shot, I was in the water closet planning my next shots. I was not allowed to watch the shooting.

Hughes: Who was that very intense, androgynous woman who appears in the long-take monologue scene of Christine Hébert's? One becomes aware of an incredible feminist consciousness at work...

Moullet: I don't think she's an androgynous woman. Of course, she's a little skinny and wears pants....

Hughes: I was talking more about her acting style...

Moullet: A lot of women look like that and are still very feminine.. She happens to be one of the best living French directors. Her name is Vivianne Berthommier. I had a little part in her last film, which was out. As an exchange, she had a little part in our film.

Bill Krohn: What was her film?

Moullet: ALICE, BABAR AND THE FORTY WATER-LILIES. A very interesting film, a subjective creation. I would like to make totally subjective film like hers but I don't have the talent for this.

Hughes: But there are incredible subjective shots in ANATOMY. When, for example, the two of you are going for a walk in the country and the camera pans from your head into the lovely expanse of trees and hills, while on the soundtrack you're talking about a new intimacy in their relationship...

Moullet: I like to make things very simple. I am a great admirer of Mizoguchi's way of making films, which is the shortest way -- as opposed to John Ford's way. He's stronger than John Ford. It's interesting to find exactly the shortest way to present an idea or a landscape. 

Hughes: Most of our local critics disliked the ending, where you and Pizzorno argue about the way the film should end... I thought the scene with the beach umbrella (which casts a shadow on the face of Christine Hébert, Pizzorno's double in the film) quite stunning.

Moullet: Many critics dislike this ending, and their arguments are similar to many arguments about previous films, like Jean Rouch's CHRONICLE OF A SUMMER. A couple of films every year bother to reflect about themselves, and this disturbs the critics... This was an incidental way of ending the film. It developed that Antonietta disagreed with the ending described in the script. We decided on an additional scene showing our differences. This provides a new opportunity for film audiences, who usually begin talking about a a film after it has ended. In ANATOMY they can begin discussing the film seven minutes before the end. Anyway, we see no difference between talking about a film during the film or afterwards in the street.

Hughes: It reminds me of the ending of THE PATSY... When Jerry Lewis kicks over the backdrops. 

Moullet: There are other tricks of this kind, for example the zoom-backs in THE HOLY MOUNTAIN. 

Hughes: You like Jodorowsky?

Krohn: Or do you just like mountain films?

Moullet: Both...

Hughes: But EL TOPO was terrible!

Moullet: Terrible in the bad sense of the word?

Hughes: I think he's pseudo-Third World, with a whole mishmash of Buñuel, Fellini, etc..

Moullet: I don't agree. Of course he's into a different kind of movie-making, but I find it fascinating. 

Hughes: By the way, I was especially interested in the ending of the scene where "She" says to "He," "I'd like to cut your cock off..." Then we have a quick fade-out. Who came up with that dialogue?

Moullet: Cut what?

Krohn: Coupe le phallus...

Moullet: It's a theme that we can already see in a few contemporary films: THE LAST WOMAN, IN  THE REALM OF THE SENSES. I think that the cinema of the future will be a cinema of phallus-cutting, it's part of the consciousness of the times. Earlier, around 1968, every interesting film dealt with the existence of detergents: for example, certain films by Godard and Bertolucci have crucial dish-washing scenes. Now we have a cinema of phallus-cutting. But that bit of dialogue, I should mention, was suggested by Antonietta, not by me. I am not at all interested in phallus-cutting! But it's not exactly a fantasy, it's a reality: she has just observed a bus in the streets, and the shape of the bus reminds her of the man's phallus. It's a typical kind of fantasy.

Hughes: Why did you make the film in black and white?

Moullet: I wasn't thinking in color when I planned this film. In color it would have been a very different film, a more pornographic film. This would have distracted the audience from the true subject of the film. Also we had very little money. But, most importantly, I was not dreaming this film in color, although I am presently dreaming other films in color. 

Hughes: What are these other projects?

Moullet: My next film will be a documentary, in black and white, about the circuits of food distribution between France and the rest of the world. In this film I will be shown eating a banana from Ecuador, two eggs from France, and some fish from Senegal. Then I will bring a film crew to these countries in order to show the exact place where the banana, eggs and fish came from. I will also 
explore the living conditions of the people who produce these foodstuffs, and will study the process of production of the film itself. It will be called GENESIS OF A MEAL. We will track down the products from which the film-stock are made: the oil in Africa, the cotton from Togo, and the pig from I-don't-know-where. The pig that is used to make the gelatin for the film-stock. 

Krohn: As you've probably guessed, I haven't seen ANATOMY OF A RELATIONSHIP. But I'm wondering whether you were influenced by Godard's NUMERO DEUX

Moullet: I've seen NUMERO DEUX. People tell me that the two films have a lot in common, probably elements concerning sex... I think it's possible. I've always been close to Godard, although recently he's in his own world. But I'm always interested in his films. For example, LETTER TO JANE is a magnificent film that is ignored by many cineastes.

Hughes: Anatole Dauman, for example, who told me that "Godard exploded nine years ago...." By the way, how do you relate your treatment of sexuality to IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES?

Moullet: The Japanese seem to be better at this type of thing. Oshima's film has a very romantic view of love, therefore it's also very crude. That's in line with the Japanese civilization. There are many strong films about sex from Japan, like Masumura's WAREHOUSE (a.k.a. BLIND BEAST). French films don't deal with sex so interestingly. 

Hughes: But the problems ANATOMY raises are specifically sexual: the clitoral orgasm, etc. But they aren't resolved...

Krohn: Why don't you ask the question that everybody at the screening was asking?

Hughes: Some of the more cynical people at the press screening, in particular a certain professional hippie, were mumbling "Why was there no cunnilingus in the film? If she wasn't satisfied, why didn't he go down on her?

Moullet: That's an intelligent question. 

Krohn: Maybe it's a solution...

Moullet: But films are not made to give solutions. Elements maybe, but not solutions. If a solution exists then the film doesn't have to be made... I think the best films in France about sex are made by foreigners: Borowczyk or Buñuel or Ferreri. It's difficult to find French directors concerned about sex in a positive way.

Hughes: What's the meaning of the check you receive near the end of ANATOMY?

Moullet: I was merely showing the actual way the film was financed. 

Krohn: How was it financed?

Moullet: In the way shown in the film. My bank's computer made a mistake. The bank sent me a check which enabled us to make the film. 

Hughes: This is true? everyone at the screening thought it was part of the fiction.

Moullet: No. The check was for the exact amount needed to make the film: $15,000.

Hughes: Are they trying to get it back from you?

Moullet: Yes, they are trying. But they won't be able to put me in jail. Not in France.

Hughes: Can we publish this?

Moullet: In America, of course.

Hughes: Will you ever do a sequel to ANATOMY?

Moullet: I intend to make ANATOMY II in 2001.

Hughes: It will be like the end of GERTRUD by Dreyer, where they all have white hair. 

Moullet: Yes, I like GERTRUD very much and it gave me many ideas for ANATOMY. 

Hughes: Also Rivette gave you ideas. Like the bizarre shots where you pace around in the room. 

Moullet: He's an old friend, and I like his films. When he saw ANATOMY he was very interested in the mixture of acting styles, as well as in the different levels of reality the film explores. Like an endless mirror-game mixing fiction and reality.

Hughes: The new project, GENESIS OF A MEAL, sounds more like Marx than Rivette.

Moullet: It's difficult to make a film about economics that wouldn't be Marxist. But the film will not, at least at the beginning, be linked to some theoretical point of view. If it becomes Marxist, that would result from the usefulness of Marxism's ability to illuminate certain areas of reality. And truth is a reality. But it's not exactly a message film, although I know the facts about the relations between the workers of the Third World and the workers and peoples of Europe. So I guess you could say it will be a Marxist film!

Hughes: And what will come after GENESIS? Do you know yet?

Moullet: THE NINTH CURVE UNDER PORDOI PASS. This untranslatable title means nothing and many things at the same time. It will be shot in the mountains of Italy, on two horizontal passes between vertical ridges where you can see people walking. In this setting we will see a microcosm of society. I will try to make a truly fantastic film. 

Hughes: What genre of fantastic film?

Moullet: I will attempt to make a film that has no genre. That's my purpose, even if I fail. 

Hughes: Weren't you interested in Gurdjieff at one time?

Krohn: You wanted to make a film of Mount Analogue, that's why I mentioned Gurdjieff to John.

Moullet: I once made an adaptation of Mount Analogue for an English producer. But it never materialized. It would not have shown mountain-climbing because the terrain would have been a very bizarre horizontal pass created by the dictates of Mussolini, as are many fine Italian mountain passes... Anyway this film, if I ever make it, could be an interesting combination of the high-budget and the avant-garde. I would do something similar to Murnau's FAUST, where the travels are seen from a horizontal point of view. But I would show it from a vertical point of view. I am verymuch interested in vertical forms of expression. My previous film, a western called A GIRL IS A GUN is constructed on vertical principals. We live in a horizontal civilization, despite these skyscrapers. We don't know how to live with vertical images and meanings. In A GIRL IS A GUN I used vertical shots to create ruptures, flashes, within the film...

Krohn: Is A GIRL IS A GUN in color?

Moullet: Yes, and Jean-Pierre Léaud is the lead actor. It is a western in the same way that ANATOMY OF A RELATIONSHIP is a sex film.

(The interview seems over: addresses and phone numbers are exchanged. Moullet promises to lend us the print of THE SMUGGLERS that he plans to withdraw from New Yorker Films. A lady from the F.F.O. comes in to inform us that we have considerable time left. Hughes gets up in order to visit the water closet.)

Hughes (to Krohn): Is there anything you want to get in?

Krohn: Not really. I'm looking forward to seeing THE SMUGGLERS again.

Moullet: It's my best film.

Krohn: Jean-Pierre Oudart, the Cahiers critic, liked it very much. Do you still write articles?

Moullet: I still would like to write articles, but since Cahiers changed I have not been asked to write anything.

Krohn: I've read your Fritz Lang book with interest, although I disagreed with your appraisal of SECRET BEYOND THE DOOR.

Moullet: The book is O.K. although a bit academic. I am more interested in SECRET now, although the film has its limits. It's more baroque than Lang's other films. 

Krohn: I would imagine that you still like Lang's BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT. It's an extremely objective film. An incredible simplification of style...

Moullet: Yes, he has four-second shots that accomplish what others would do in two minutes. That's not as easy as it looks.

Krohn: I wanted to ask you something about ANATOMY. I've been told that you show yourself having an erection during the film. This explicitness about physical functions that would previously have been simulated by the actors seems to be a new trend: the shitting in KINGS OF THE ROAD, Louis Skorecki masturbating in his film, Jackie Raynal urinating in DEUX FOIS, and of course the sexual scenes in IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES and NUMERO DEUX...

Moullet: It's a normal evolution. It goes back to the days when actors were shown with tears in their eyes. Maybe they were sometimes real tears! If a film wants to be a representation of reality it must be willing to portray every aspect of life. Then there is the problem of the actors and the director himself acting in this way.

Krohn: As if the director were saying, "I'm willing to do it too..." Is this a moral choice on the director's part? 

Moullet: Yes, although the directors very often project themselves onto the actors. We see Michel Piccoli in many films because he's a reflection of French directors who are forty years old and have the same appearance and social position. At the same time, Jean-Pierre Léaud is the reflection of the New Wave filmmaker... I think it is best, in many ways, for the director to act himself instead of having the actor work for him. Because neither the actor nor director is happy with this "double" relationship... And you should remember that, in the beginning of films, there was the director-actor, in comic as well as in dramatic films. Afterward there was confusion, and a division of the two. But this division is not a logical thing, it is merely the result of the historical period which has classical cinema as its point of view... But I won't act in all my films, it's too tiring!

Hughes: Your "normal evolution" is also related to this process of opening the control of direction to others who are outside of the closed world of the director's fantasies. 

Moullet: I found it very interesting to act myself, and it would have put me in a difficult position if I had to ask an actor to do these sexual acts for me. He would have become a sexual object. But this is not the case when I perform these acts myself.

Hughes: We haven't talked about Christine Hébert, who plays Antonietta in ANATOMY. 

Moullet: She acted in A GIRL IS A GUN and in a few short films. She has a part in LAST TANGO but it was cut. Before acting in films, she wrote her university thesis on Dreyer's VAMPYR.

Hughes: Have you seen Straub's new film, FORTINI-CANI?

Moullet: Yes. It's very simple, and yet provocative. Not provocative like a Ken Russell, but as a result of its simplicity. 

Krohn: Speaking of directors, do you know Eustache? We've just seen MES PETITES  AMOUREUSES.

Moullet: I saw him yesterday at the airport in Paris. He's an old friend of mine. He was on his way to a film conference in Tel Aviv. He was the only French director to attend. But everybody knows Eustache isn't political. Anyway, I didn't like MES PETITES AMOUREUSES very much. Although LA MAMAN ET LA PUTAIN is a very great film. 

Krohn: It's a very ambiguous film, there's no way to take hold of it. It's hard to judge the characters because they keep changing...

Moullet: Yes, and there is a change in the leading role of the film. We see the boy for two hours, then he disappears and we see the girl for an hour. It's very original. It happens also in PSYCHO, but this kind of construction is more original than Hitchcock. His leading character doesn't just vanish, he is overthrown by another character.

Hughes: Have you seen any of Fassbinder?

Moullet: I like FOX and MOTHER KüSTERS' but not the more recent CHINESE ROULETTE. 

Hughes: FOX is extremely Walshian.

Moullet: It's an intelligent narrative film. Most narrative films today are very academic. FOX deals with a new subject in an ironic way, and the irony is even stronger in MOTHER KüSTERS'. In this film every possible polticial viewpoint is undercut...

Krohn: Have you seen the historical films of Rossellini?

Moullet: I think a film like BLAISE PASCAL is a new direction in the cinema. But I hate SOCRATES.

Hughes: I'm one of the few defenders of SOCRATES. It's a very personal film.

Moullet: I haven't seen all of his late films but I still consider Rossellini to be one of the most important Italian directors, maybe the most important.

Hughes: How about Fellini? I see him as the Dionysius to Rossellini's Apollo. Bill and I liked CASANOVA very much.

Moullet: CASANOVA has many good qualities, but it's not one of my favorites. 

Krohn: There's something I'd like to pin down that connects your work to the directors we've been discussing. It's really a simple idea, call it materialism, or literalness, or objectivity... Do any of these words satisfy you as a description of your intentions? When you speak about doing documentaries, and of adding a documentary element to your fiction, aren't you trying to depict reality in the simplest way possible? You don't like Fellini who is loaded with symbols and connotations, you seem to like denotations: this chair is a chair, a woman is a woman, a girl is a gun... Is there any opening in your films toward the symbolic connotations of things, or are you totally oriented to the literal?

Moullet: Well, I am a peasant in many ways. I am from a family of mountain peasants and am used to thinking concretely. But THE SMUGGLERS could be seen as a fantasy film. The essential consideration is money, for we can make simple and realistic films very cheaply. But fantasy films are, of course, more costly. 

Krohn: You spoke years ago (in a Cahiers interview) about wanting to film Mount Analogue with the budget of BRIGITTE AND BRIGITTE. It seems that the theme of money, economics, the restraints on productivity, the process of production, has surfaced in your films. You're showing the check that arrives and enables you to make the film, the materials that are used to make the film itself, etc. I almost wonder if you aren't deliberately pursuing a course that will not allow you to film Mount Analogue, or whatever big and expensive film you might have in mind. Or is this your own sordid fate, that you're unable to do the large-budget picture? Again, is there a morality of... economy?

Moullet: Yes, but I don't make films in order to struggle against economic realities. I make films which are in harmony with their budgets. If you gave me two million bucks, I'd enjoy making a film with a lot of fantasy. I tried this in THE SMUGGLERS, even though it was a $14,000 film.

Krohn: Is it true that you were interested in Gurdijieff?

Moullet: I became interested in Gurdijieff through Jodorowsky.

Hughes: Through him or through his films?

Moullet: Through both.

Krohn: Why? When everyone else was becoming a Marxist you were talking about Gurdjieff...

Moullet: Some English producers wanted Truffaut to film Mount Analogue. Truffaut sent them to me, and I found the book fascinating and wrote an adaptation for them. I am, after all, interested in both mountains and fantasy...

Hughes: You may be a mountain peasant, but you're awfully good at giving us a satirical look at the archetypal French intellectual in ANATOMY.

Moullet: There is a considerable amount of humor directed at myself. I didn't set out to make a true portrait of the French intellectual, maybe it happened by chance. 

Krohn: You said in an interview once that stupidity interested you as a film subject. 

Moullet: I said that stupidity and intelligence are the same thing, because they are two ways of seeing the same phenomenon. It's like saying that Catholicism and gnosticism are in some ways the same thing: a relationship to religion that is either positive or negative. Indeed, in Buñuel's films it's difficult to separate the two. So intelligence and stupidity should be seen as parts of the whole, not as contraries. Some people say that I am very stupid, while others see me as very intelligent. The girl who lives with me says that she doesn't know who I am because I am both these things at once.

Hughes: I was sorry to hear she hadn't arrived. Could you tell us about her?

Moullet: Antonietta is a filmmaker. She has made several short, experimental films. Her last film has 1,800 shots in eight minutes. There are no people in the film, only shadows and lights...

Hughes: She's influenced by the American underground film?

Moullet: Yes, she's seen many of them. She laughs when I say I'm making experimental films. She thinks experimental films should not include the representation of people or objects. She calls me an "old classical filmmaker." Of course, ANATOMY OF A RELATIONSHIP isn't really classical, at least in its subject matter: the way we live together. And that's why Antonietta wanted to film it.

Hughes: I wanted to ask you if you've been influenced by the documentary elements in the Rossellini films with Ingrid Bergman.

Moullet: No, I have a great admiation for all of Rossellini's films. Rossellini's evolution is the same as Godard's, a movement towards a didactical cinema. The Bergman films of Rossellini, unlike my own films, demand a certain empathy towards the characters. But my next film, GENESIS OF A MEAL, is influenced by Rossellini. I wrote the presentation in reference to Rossellini, because I feel that the didactic method of filmmaking is an important step forward. I was also influenced by Vidor's TRUTH AND ILLUSION. 

Krohn: I was just thinking that there are three directors who deal with the theme of stupidity: you, Boetticher, and Chabrol. I think you and Boetticher are much better than Chabrol and I wanted to know what you think of Boetticher's work. 

Moullet: I was the first of the French critics to write about him. But I don't see this theme of stupidity. 


Moullet: Yes, but this theme isn't in his best work like SEVEN MEN FROM NOW, COMANCHE STATION, DECISION AT SUNDOWN.

Krohn: BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE is about an entire town where the average IQ is about 30. 

Moullet: Yes, but he's an architect of landscape and of the screenplay, not an analyst of human emotions. But in LEGS DIAMOND it's true.

Krohn: You used to write a lot about mountain-climbing films. That's a vanishing genre, isn't it?

Moullet: Yes, unfortunately. You can experience the point of view of the mountains in films by Anthony Mann and Budd Boetticher. But there's no competition left in this genre. 

Krohn: For years you, along with directors like Rivette and Eustache, have provided an alternative to the Marxist-Freudian ideas that have been dominant since the late sixties. Now you have, comme par hasard, made a Freudian film, and are about to make another that may turn out to be Marxist. Do you find it difficult as an artist to exist in a community that is so homogeneous and rigid? Or am I getting the wrong idea of Paris from my reading the Cahiers...

Moullet: It comes from life; I get the theories from other people. But the problem of the Thrid World comes from life-experience. I'ver read little Marx and no Freud. 

Krohn: Oudart referred to you as a bricoleur, a tinkerer.

Moullet: My brother, a musician, is also a tinkerer. He makes a strange music instrument out of pieces of old bicycle brakes. It gives very interesting sounds and is called a "percuphone."

Krohn: So bricoleur is a good word for you because you don't take your ideas from the ideological mainstream -- psychoanalysis, anthropology, structuralism, etc.. You take whatever means are at hand to construct your own views about life and your own esthetic. That seems unusual at this point in France, where directors like Téchiné or Allio  seem to feel that they can find a recipe for making films out of Cahiers or the writings of Barthes. 

Moullet: These directors are, of course, influenced by Brecht... But we have to say that movies, and other kinds of expression, are arts of the relations between things. We can not discover new things but we can discover new relationships. 

Hughes: Are Téchiné and Allio any good, or are they impostors?

Krohn: In the sense that they don't really have the talent of a Godard...

Moullet: Well, I think that filmmakers are all impostors... I like some of their films, such as FRENCH PROVINCIAL. Also MOI, PIERRE RIVIERE. And some of their films are not so interesting. 

Hughes: Bill didn't like MOI, PIERRE RIVIERE, which he thought was a mere blueprint from the Foucault book.

Moullet: But it doesn't show Riviere's life, it's a visualization of what he wrote. It has an ambiguous point of view on reality. It is the reality of something which is written. There are realistic and unrealistic things in the film. The costumes are exact and the peasants talk in beautiful accents, it's like reading a book -- a book like the one written by Pierre Riviere. So there is a great ambiguity in this film. 

Krohn: Could you talk about your relation to the Cahiers du cinéma? I suppose it's what I've been trying to get you to do.

Moullet: Yes, I was a critic for Cahiers, and afterwards I made films and wrote articles. When the structural-Marxist phase began in '68 I wasn't able to keep up with the Cahiers people. I hadn't read the things they were talking about. But I now think that I was wrong to oppose their evolution. They brought many new ideas into film criticism, some of which I might contest, but in the long run I approve of the results. And they've been saying good things about my new film, so...

Hughes: Are you still on friendly terms with the Cahiers editors?

Moullet: Some of them belong to the Society of Film Directors, of which I am Executive Secretary. And we have other contacts, since many of them are interested in experimental films and other new directions...

Hughes: I know that you've seen LA CECILIA, and I was wondering what you might think of Robin Wood's article on the film in the current Film Comment. He rates the film above NUMERO DEUX because of Comolli's supposed "Bazinian" tendencies.

Moullet: I don't think the film is Bazinian, and I'm not sure that there is a Bazinian way to make films. I absolutely don't understand Wood's point of view. The screenplay of LA CECILIA is extremely well-organized. I did not find the film very moving on an emotional level, but it has certain strengths which are similar to those of the Rossellini historical films. 

Krohn: Could you name quickly some new French directors whom we wouldn't know? 

Moullet: I spoke about Vivianne Berthommier. Her recent film is among the greatest of our time. I should also mention the first two films of Jacques Bral, and the films of Michel Boulez. Also (Philippe) Garrel. 

Krohn: All we get here is COUSIN, COUSINE..... I also wanted to mention Jean-Daniel Pollet. John and I liked L'AMOUR C'EST GAI, L'AMOUR C'EST TRISTE very much.

Moullet: He has made a film called THE ACROBAT, which is interesting enough.

Krohn: You once said to Roland Barthes, according to Godard, "language, monsieur, is theft." Is that true and what did you mean?

Moullet: Because in films we have the language of MGM, Warner Bros., Fox...

Krohn: The studios...

Moullet: Yes, and I think the people of these studios are thieves. What's interesting are films which are not yet a language, which are coming to language but have not yet achieved it...

Krohn: Do you consider yourself a political artist? No irony.

Moullet: It depends. Yes, I'm interested in politics, since I will make a film which will be about politics; but politics in the strict sense of the word is not all of life. It's a part of life, but it's not all of it. There's a politics of individuality, too.

Krohn: You once said -- in the interview which I obviously read -- that you are interested in people not in a mass, but one at a time, that you have to consider people one at a time if you want to change society...

Moullet: I don't think that a mass conception of people -- thousands and thousand of people -- has any reality. The exploitation of masses of people: yes. But not masses of people thinking the same thing. 

Krohn: You are an independent filmmaker working in an industry that is massively dominated by capitalism -- here by the studios, to which there is almost no alternative, in France less so, because you have government financing of films. What would you like to see changed in the system of production? Clearly it hasn't been much to your advantage because you haven't been able to make very many films. Do you think that is an important issue for a filmmaker to consider?

Moullet: Yes, but it would take a long time to answer your question. There will be some changes in France in the way of production because in a year or five years France will change its political position. We will have other difficulties. We will be in a society similar to Portugal, in some ways. 

Hughes: France has become a socialist country, hasn't it? It's hard for us over here to understand that.

Moullet: Yes, maybe next year, maybe in five years -- but it will be. 

Krohn: There isn't much room for people working in film in this country. It's an old complaint, but it's true now; it wasn't true when people like Lang and Walsh and Hawks were working in Hollywood. Do you like any American filmmakers now? I can only mention Monte Hellman who interests me...

Moullet: Yes, I like Hellman's films; not all of them, but many of them. I also like Cassavetes. But as far as I know, the American cinema is not the American cinema of twenty years before. What can be said is that we must make a struggle against the invading films. I think there's a need for publicity against films now. We would like to have a budget to use against films which have a great success and are not interesting. It's a very general problem. 

Krohn: And you'd like to attack it?

Moullet: Yes, I think it's interesting work. In some democratic countries there is an attack against this kind of film.

March 8, 2014

March 5, 2014

The above texts are excerpts from a questionnaire appearing in Film: Book 2, Films of Peace and War, edited by Robert Hughes (available here). Besides Bresson, Fuller, Renoir, Godard, Truffaut, and critics Noel Burch, Marshall McLuan, and Guido Aristarco, all quoted above, the other respondents were: Claude Autant-Lara, Andre Cayatte, Sergei Gerasimov, Richard Griffith, Alexander Hammid, Kurt Hoffman, Stanley Kaufmann, Stanley Kramer, Len Lye, Roger Manvell, Louis Marcorelles, Arthur Miller, Robert Osborn, Gian-Luigi Polidoro, Tony Richardson, Dore Schary, George Stoney, Archer Winsten, Robert Wise, and Paul Goodman. 


Billy Woodberry's words to the young...

From the closing remarks of a talk given last night by Billy Woodberry after a screening of the great Bless Their Little Hearts (1984):

(Of change,) devise the means, discern the questions. 
There are more means, more avenues for films today but, as James M. Cain said, we can't all be selling hot dogs to each other: you send me a youtube, I send you a youtube...
Diversity lost, imperium triumphed, and the rest withdrew from the fight.
Small circles resist. They encourage and applaud each other, and that is refined. 
Look, the example is there. We can dust it off.
What we're living might look like an apocalypse, but do not relent. That is not your job. You say: the world could be better, and accept nothing less. You go ahead and try on cynicism. But that's not your coat.

The Pocketbook (Woodberry, 1980)