May 1, 2023


GASQUET––  A method?

CÉZANNE––  Mine, and I've never had a different one, is hatred of the imaginative. My method, my code is realism. 

The immensity, the torrent of the world in a tiny inch of material. Do you think that's impossible?

The colorful perpetuity of blood.
It is the evening of the world. 

Painting, like everything, is vanishing.


Unpublished 1975 Interview with 
Jean-Marie ​​Straub and Danièle Huillet
​by John Hughes​ and ​Bill Krohn

This interview was conducted in New York on September 26, 1975, and found among Bill Krohn's papers more recently. It has survived only as an incomplete, tattered typescript in questionable order. 

Due to the state of the typescript, I'd held off publishing it here until now. I've done my best to pull it together, keeping the oddities in brackets.

The interview was conducted mostly in French though the typescript is a mix of transcribed French (now translated below) and English.

The interviewers are critics John Hughes and Bill Krohn (their joint 1977 interview with Luc Moullet was also published on Kino Slang, with a note on Hughes). There were certainly one or two other interlocutors in the room, sadly unidentified.



J.H./B.K.:  ​Have you seen many American films​?​

HUILLET:  No​,​ in Germany and Italy they're all dubbed.

STRAUB: ​ N​ot many since ​'​58. Even in the provinces in France​,​ all the films are dubbed​.​ ​Between 1951 and ​'​54 I would hitchhike to Paris​,​ 300 km​,​ for two or three days​, ​eating sandwiches and sleeping at friends​' apartments​. Then between ​'​54 and '​58​​ I was in Paris​,​ and I could​,​ but since 1958, very little.

[​First trip to ​U.S..​ ​ 
S​tuff about embassy​.​ ​ 
A​lways in ghettos​.​ 
30,000 francs for.​..]​
J.H./B.K.: ​ You like Ford a lot.​..​

STRAUB: ​ Y​es​,​ more and more.

HUILLET:  T​HE SEARCHERS is a poetic film.
J.H./B.K.:  We​ want to present you in terms of American Cinema.


J.H./B.K.:  People here think ​Ford​ is a fascist, I think​ he's​ objective.
STRAUB: ​ Yes. Exactly. He is more than objective. For me, Ford is a ​Brechtian filmmaker. With an ideology opposite ​of Brecht's​, he does a ​Brechtian work. He makes films much more ​Brechtian than [illegible]​. ​W​e just saw the episode in ​HOW THE WEST WAS WON, which is magnificent, about the​ Civil War.
J.H./B.K.:  The battle at the end is both the thing and a parody of the thing, a subversion of the genre. In any case, I think you're just about the only classical filmmaker, or nearly so, who's ever existed.

STRAUB: ​ No. But maybe that's true of MOSES AND AARON (1975), in a sense, but..​.​
HUILLET:  How do you mean that?

J.H./B.K.: ​ But in the ​Bach​​​​ film...

STRAUB:  Sure, but that's logical, it was the first project...

J.H./B.K.: ​ On​ the on​e hand there are expressionist​ films​––like ​Ford's​, not the last, ​but ​nearly all ​of his ​film​s​​––but yours is a Marxian cinema​ and for me it's a cinema that is classical, analytical, of particles, of relationships, of objectivity. Yes?


HUILLET:  That's a funny conception of the word classic, and why I asked you what you meant.

J.H./B.K.:  In Europe people say classic and mean Ford.

HUILLET: Yes, exactly.

J.H./B.K.:  I mean it in the Renaissance sense, Raphael as opposed to Caravaggio.

STRAUB:  Yes, that's curious, perhaps truer of the Bach film than the later ones, because it was the first project.

HUILLET:  He means classical in the historical sense.

STRAUB:  Yes. MOSES UND ARON is actually a classical film, because it's an American film, and at the same time puts it into question. But it's more difficult apropos of HISTORY LESSONS (1972).

Louis Seguin wrote that MOSES UND ARON is classical, Jacobin theatre, in the open air, cut stones, not classical in the University of Paris sense, but in the after the Revolution sense.

J.H./B.K.:  Yours is a cinema of order, everything is presented for order. But also, yours is part expressionist.

STRAUB:  In what sense, METROPOLIS?

J.H./B.K.:  Yes but also THE SEARCHERS...


[Lang, Metropolis, rejected film, shitty, but important; 
stuff about brain and heart, reconciliation of labor and capital. 
"But there's something there which runs through Schoenberg and us."]

J.H./B.K.:  There's something very charged in your films... Rivette said HISTORY LESSONS is a very exuberant film.

STRAUB:  I'm glad to hear that because I think HISTORY LESSONS is my best film. In fact it's the film that interests me most now. Because it's the most dialectic. And then it's not blocks, 1, 2, 3, thesis, antithesis.

INTRODUCTION TO ARNOLD SCHOENBERG'S "ACCOMPANIMENT TO A CINEMATOGRAPHIC SCENE" (1973), it's very nice, very necessary, I'm not saying I no longer agree with it, but I think it's a bit terroristic, not dialectic. It's dialectical at the level of movement. 

HISTORY LESSONS is a film by us which is dialectical at every second. It's a story of an anger that rises, a coming to consciousness of that young guy.

J.H./B.K.:  Rome is very contradictory.

HUILLET:  Rome, Italy, teaches you many things. It's a land where strata still exist.

STRAUB:  And even in the countryside where there aren't any Romans, or in the villages, not just because of the Romans.

J.H./B.K.:  I want to show that Straub = Ford, and Ford = Straub a bit.

STRAUB: I'm very flattered. Not ideologically, but at the level of work...

J.H./B.K.:  With Renoir we don't see the bricks, defined, clear, precise, but in Ford and Straub there are always these blocks.

STRAUB:  And it's from that that your idea of classic comes? What about Mizoguchi? Because he's... that's Ford plus Straub, so to speak, and to be a bit pretentious.

J.H./B.K.:  You don't want to compare yourself to Mizoguchi?

STRAUB:  No, not at all. He's a great man, and I'm just a little guy. In any case it's very different because he's of a different generation, which is finished; one can no longer make films within the system like he did, it's impossible. When young people try to do that today it's catastrophic, an ideological catastrophe, even an artisanal ​catastrophe. But Mizoguchi could because his films worked commercially, not enormous successes, but played quite well. Some guy told me that now they don't play well anymore. But in their time they did.

J.H./B.K.:  And Renoir?

STRAUB:  Renoir never plays well, even in France, it's a catastrophe, with the exception of LA GRANDE ILLUSION.

J.H./B.K.:  And he could never understand it, he wanted to be popular.


HUILLET:  LA CHIENNE here (at Lincoln Center, NYFF) yesterday was terrible. The reaction was completely against the film. Except that now that Renoir is dying, he's respected, one is obliged to see him. People admire him because he's a museum piece, but nonetheless the reaction was against the characters, as it was at the time the film was made, except at the time it was twice as bad.

STRAUB:  And that's nothing against the Lincoln Center audiences or American audience, because we saw LA BÊTE HUMAINE at the Cinémathèque française, ten or 15 years ago in Paris, and then this Spring at Cannes, and it was just the same, we saw people coming out snickering, especially against Renoir's character, Renoir's acting. And then all the really real parts between Gabin and the rest. 

But the good thing about Renoir was that every time out he tried to do something different. CORDELIER was completely different.

HUILLET:  Renoir knew what you were talking about. He said... in Paris there's a large cinema, the Gaumont Palace, with 6000 seats, and that people think the cinema is made for 6000 persons...

STRAUB:  No, he said, no it was made for 3 among those 6000 people. And that was at the time of THE RIVER, in an interview with Truffaut, Rivette and company.

J.H./B.K.:  [Question about "camera across the clouds" in MOSES AND AARON]

STRAUB:  Yes it's a confrontation. All that Moses imagines and all that the crowd and people imagine, the column of fire, the cloud column, all of a sudden. One perceives that it's no longer poetry, it's reality, the poetry which comes from reality; it's at the same time much better, and very frustrating. It's much less and much more.

It's not a scene that we planned. We had planned to have Moses in the shot until the end. And to make a cut and to see him falling onto his knees. But that came much later, not during shooting, but just a few weeks before. We intended to cut. But while shooting it was very amusing, he had pain in his eyes, because the cameraman had a reflector shining in his eyes. He was crying. We cut at the moment we saw a tear. Then when we were editing it was very problematic because I wanted to keep the tear and the clouds, but I had to cut the tear. And so I put in the cloud in order to cut, which was conscious.

J.H./B.K.:  [Question about mysticism]

STRAUB:  In what sense?

J.H./B.K.:  [Objective/mystic, Plotinian.]

STRAUB:  There was an old guy who was a theology teacher at Florence and also a real Marxist––I'm not a real Marxist because it would take ten years of study, to know what Marxism is––I'd like to know what he says.

Mysticism interests me because it's something much more true and important than psychology. Let's say that mysticism interests me, as Peguy says, I'm not pious about God, and I think that religious sentiment is opposed to mysticism. Religious sentiment is an invention of the bourgeoisie, mysticism is something else.

J.H./B.K.:  Does mysticism have something to do, for example, with attention, because your films demand an almost monastic effort of attention by the spectator: wait, look, listen. Is that what mysticism is for you?


HUILLET:  That effort is only a question of patience.

STRAUB:  I hope it happens. And I think that if a revolution comes one day––if there's a revolution it won't be us who'll make it, nor our descendants, but a class to whom we do not belong––but I think it will only be possible when people know how to look and listen. Yes, in that sense, that's what we want to do in our films, and then, perhaps in the sense that there's a phrase by Rosa Luxemburg which touched me; she said, the fate of an insect, in the middle of a life and death struggle, the fate of an insect is at least as important as the future of the revolution. I think we must arrive at that, if it doesn't happen... [Huillet says something in Straub's ear.] She is accusing me of surrender: Rosa didn't say "at least."

It's necessary, if not, we risk not taking a step forward, or if forward, we rapidly risk transforming that step into a defeat, into an illusion––but in any case we have to begin.

Huillet with soundman Louis Hochet 

J.H./B.K.:  Why did you choose MOSES AND AARON? How was this choice different from your other films?

STRAUB:  I wouldn't choose to do it today. If I went into an opera where they were doing Moses und Aron, I wouldn't do it.

J.H./B.K.:  But why this subject of the Jews?

STRAUB:  I've been interested in the Jews since I was very small because I saw that there was anti-Semitism in my family, a petit bourgeois family. Anti-Semitism began in France, it was not the Germans or Austrians who invented it, it was the Parisians. No, it's true. The theory began in Paris, it went to Vienna, became popular in Vienna, and passed from there to Germany. Modern anti-Semitism, which became that of Naziism, not the previous anti-Semitism, I saw that in my family. I heard all the time phrases like, "Ah yes, Monsieur Salamande is a good one because he has a big store." I heard stuff like that when I was little. My parents were anti-Semitic like the Nazis, there were traces there, even for people who thought themselves anti-Nazi. It's an old story with me, but it took ten years for it to arrive in my work.

J.H./B.K.:  But what does this film have to say about the current political situation in Israel?

STRAUB:  It says that the very idea of a Jewish state, for me, is an absurdity. And I think also, partly, for Schoenberg. I think maybe for Schoenberg, but for me it's clear. My reading of Schoenberg is that Moses's idea is really that a people should never establish itself.

J.H./B.K.:  But how do you situate yourself? The Jewish state exists now and we have to manage somehow.

STRAUB:  Absolutely, I agree. It's a utopia. But that's the story of our next film, that's what we're going to clarify with the aid of Franco Fortini whose texts we'll use in our next film. There's no title yet, but it's from a little book called Carnets de Sinai. '66 or '67.

J.H./B.K.:  What's your position now?

STRAUB:  It's quite simple. Israel must face reality, she must correct herself. We refused to step foot in Israel. We went, just the two of us, to find the two panoramic shots along the Nile (for MOSES AND AARON), which were shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm, then we went back three weeks later, we were there only ten days with the cameraman to shoot, and between these two trips we had dozens of chances to enter Israel––you know there's no connection with Exodus––but we refused to go for political reasons, to step foot in Israel. 

My position is even caricatural, and bad in that sense. I think that Israel is uniquely the product, first, of the bad conscience of the West, the social democracies, the bourgeois democracies in Europe, and secondly that it's something that would not exist were it not held up by American imperialism, it would have long ago been swept away. Now, starting from there, it's necessary to know, to perceive, now, that American imperialism is in the process of abandoning the state of Israel, more or less. And then, there is the problem that, once a state has been set up, you can't say we'll go back to nothing, that the state of Israel be swept away, that it doesn't exist––that would be monstrous. So there's a problem which our position, such as it is, does not cover: the problem exceeds the limits of our position.

HUILLET:  But it's true that if the Jews had been more distrustful of this idea of the state of Israel, if they had not trusted in a state founded on force, if they had sought an understanding with the Arabs who were there, it would have been in their interest, because one day it will be in the interests of the Americans to let Israel fall. Now it might be too late.

J.H./B.K.:  Did you really teach grammar to children?

STRAUB:  No, no, a little French, grammar, spelling, and writing, to Algerians who couldn't read or write, even in their own language.

J.H./B.K.:  [Question regarding if teaching has influenced the Straubs' filmmaking]

STRAUB:  It's a method, sure, it had to have had an influence. I haven't analyzed it, but there must be something there. And not just the result of making a film, but the relationship with the spectator. That's what we argue about, violently, over a single shot, all the time. Or else we agree, and go on to something else. Or else we can't agree at all, and get so violent that we have to wait three days, two weeks until we can discuss the shot again. It's not just for the pleasure of the dialogue, it's with respect to a third pole, which is the spectator, he who is seated in front of that shot, what can he see, how will he react, what will his response be to that, what is the danger of the choice we are making, the risk, or the absence of risk, what will he understand, what will he not understand if we take that out? If we take this out, he won't understand that anymore, but he'll understand something more important which will have such and such an effect. All this does imply a teaching relationship with the spectator.

J.H./B.K.:  You address Germany....

STRAUB:  Yes, in everything except OTHON, and the next film which will be in Italian. I'm not even going to try to get money for it in Germany or France, I'll look for the money in Italy.


[Here the typescript is written in summary form and indecipherable short-hand, so can't be transcribed here as anything resembling statements by Straub, Huillet, or the interviewers. The discussion is of Schoenberg, his representation of the Moses and Aaron characters, how the he and his opera differ from Straub/Huillet's film and their positions, etc.. It's very close to the main subject of Joel Rogers's interview with Straub/Huillet published a year later in JUMP CUT. ––A.R.]


...what's funny about Schoenberg is that he had connections with people living in Israel; he even aided Israelis to get visas to come here. That's very strange. He never said anything for or against the state of Israel, but he was never there.

J.H./B.K.:  He is for Moses...

STRAUB:  He identified much more closely with Moses than we do in the film, that's for sure.

J.H./B.K.:  You said that MOSES AND AARON is very different from HISTORY LESSONS.

STRAUB:  No, no, I just wanted to say one thing, that Schoenberg really had an idea of a Jewish state, but before MOSES AND AARON. He flirted with the idea, but not in Israel, it was an African histoire with Herzel. He had a theatre piece that he refused to publish. It was published in Italy after his death, and he certainly wouldn't be happy about that.

J.H./B.K.:  What's the difference between MOSES and HISTORY LESSONS? Is MOSES less dialectical?

STRAUB:  No. It's the work after HISTORY LESSONS, a step forward as a work at the artisanal level, and in the relationships between the characters, the people, the audience, and in the rapport with the audience, but it's a project from '59, the second project after the Bach film, it's even a project before NOT RECONCILED (1965).

J.H./B.K.:  So you're always running behind your thought.

STRAUB:  Yes, that's true. HISTORY LESSONS is an exception, and another is INTRODUCTION, where I ran ahead of my thought.

J.H./B.K.:  So really MOSES AND AARON comes before HISTORY LESSONS.

STRAUB:  Yes, but not at the working level, not the finished film.

J.H./B.K.:  In HISTORY LESSONS, why are these old Roman heads filmed in shot/reverse-shot? Maybe it's not shot/reverse-shot at all, but to simplify there's a lot of shot/reverse-shot with the lawyer, I believe, sticking to to the axis. These are fairly classical procedures of filmic rhetoric. Why these procedures with this comic material, Roman and of the classical period? It seems to me a sort of step forward in classicism, the rhetoric of classicism. For example the young man who is there, I feel he has a very classic function, like the reporter in CITIZEN KANE or Bogey in THE BIG SLEEP.

STRAUB:  Yes, that's for sure. Have you read Brecht's novel? You should read it.

J.H./B.K.:  It doesn't exist in English.

STRAUB: It's all there. He goes to find the banker, [illegible] he comes back, that's exactly it.

Straub with cinematographer Renato Berta on HISTORY LESSONS,
standing in front of the fascist map of the Empire at the time of Caesar's death.

J.H./B.K.:  [About shooting outdoors]

STRAUB:  ...we always wanted to shoot MOSES AND AARON totally en plein air, but not for the pleasure of shooting outdoors, because at that time I hadn't yet made a film, so I didn't know I liked shooting movies outdoors like John Ford and the rest, not because I don't like being locked up, but because I wanted a light that came from above, precisely to be able to show afterwards that it's only light. It was conscious. 

It connects to Schoenberg's idea about perspectives. There's another example of perspective in HISTORY LESSONS: that at first we want to show a character flattened against the ground, isolated, giving the impression that the cinema is two dimensional, even if the image, the frame, is three, like Egyptian bas reliefs, but is projected two-dimensional. But then we discover the scenery and see that this banker lives among the flowers, etc.

J.H./B.K.:  As the film progresses we have more and more shot/reverse-shots, like with the peasant.

HUILLET:  No. I wanted to say that the beginning of the film teaches the young man something that is not about the rhetoric of the shot/reverse-shot, as we link a banker's shot to a banker's shot, to a shot of a banker.

STRAUB:  It's like what the police do when you go to the station and have your picture taken, which they did to me once. And that's going back to the police process, it's possible we shouldn't have done it, but we really feel there's another class there.

J.H./B.K.:  These other processes, which perhaps come from German cinema, interest me because I want to know how it works, how you subverted these processes by using them. For example, the young man, these car shots, they're very classic, it's like CITIZEN KANE, it's like THE BIG SLEEP, but when you see Bogey in a car, for example, it doesn't last; these sequences last.

STRAUB:  You're right, it comes first from the duration. Everyone comes to us afterwards saying why does it last so long, it doesn't make sense, and it only becomes subversion because it lasts so long. It's reality, insofar as when you see people in a car in an American movie, it's always dubbed, even in a movie that isn't generally dubbed. So it's an invasion of the sound universe, an irruption of the sound universe, and moreover the roof of the car is open, and not like an American convertible.

J.H./B.K.:  Why this duration?

STRAUB:  Simply to obtain this transformation, so that this transformation can take place.

HUILLET:  It's not like in American cinema where you're only interested in the main character, because even in very good American films there's always that aspect, there's always the hero and it's always been about him, but what's telling here is precisely what's outside, and for that to tell us something, it has to have time to exist, to take on its weight, and to change.

STRAUB:  That's it––and then it establishes a really democratic relationship.

J.H./B.K.:  Between you and the hero for example.

STRAUB:  And between the hero, who is invaded by an external reality, and especially between the film and the spectator.

J.H./B.K.:  So it's not the clutch of the film, it's not the thing that connects the sequences of shots, it's that plus another [typescript cut]... The gear-shift is his social practice, the rear-view mirror his conscience...

STRAUB:  The rear-view mirror, it's that, plus the film will come back to what we said earlier; he's not only a young man, a student, therefore someone who belongs to the bourgeois class, which is completely politically unconscious; at the beginning (although it's been said about him that he drives very carefully, but anyhow it's not only that) he's also a stranger who arrives, that is to say I believe one must feel he's a German, well not necessarily a German but a foreigner, a tourist who is changing: what makes the film interest me more and more is that for the first time, and only as a spectator in the cinema did I discover this; I saw it again, I experienced it only two months ago while checking a print in the laboratory: it's the first film I've seen where I feel there's a psychological transformation which is not based on psychology. You feel an anger, an awareness that begins, and at the end––in the beginning it's only a glimmer––there's an anger that rises and at the end it bursts, and the water continues to flow.

And I don't think there's any other film, maybe there is but I don't know one, as a spectator, where we feel the anger rising like this.

J.H./B.K.:  In the young man or in the spectator?

STRAUB:  Well, precisely one finds the relation in the car. It's the young man as an objective character, and it then becomes the young man as a subjective character, to the extent that hopefully it's also the viewer, who somehow in the end has to stick to the young man more closely than at the beginning.

J.H./B.K.:  It becomes more subjective.

STRAUB:  Yes, because afterwards we see him listening for the first time in the last sequence.

J.H./B.K.:  Are these old Romans the fathers of the young man? The presidents of Mt. Rushmore in NORTH BY NORTHWEST, for example, are now said to be castrated fathers. In this film we don't see women except in the streets and when we hear about a marriage of the State, and about Caesar's love and homosexuality.

STRAUB:  I think there's something like that because when we were filming I felt greatly embarrassed and I understood it only afterwards, already since it was an endless film, and then especially while working with (Günter Peter) Straschek on the letters of Schoenberg–– he's the one who reads the letters of Schoenberg (in INTRODUCTION). So I became conscious about HISTORY LESSONS while working on the letters of Schoenberg. Suddenly Straschek said "But what do you want?" because he hated these letters, though he admires Schoenberg, but the letters put him in a state of rage... He said to me "But you want me to read this as if it were a letter from my father??" and I said fine, go ahead. And Straschek had the same relationship with Schoenberg that the young man probably has with these Roman ghosts. 

With the peasant, it's not the same. I believe the peasant is the father the young man would've liked to have had, and that he couldn't because of the class struggle. With the peasant, at first he's like a journalist getting the story, and then all of a sudden it changes, he doesn't understand anything anymore, and he's pissed off at the end.

J.H./B.K.:  In the second part of INTRODUCTION you stage a Marxist speech for the first time in one of your films, a text by Brecht, and a woman starts it. The irruption of Danièle in this film is dramatic because of the absence of women up to this point. Why this Marxist discourse after the long detour of the other films? Why from a woman's mouth, and one with a cat? Why is there a cat?

STRAUB:  There's an erotic connection there, I believe; there's also a relationship with the cat. And because I think the conscience of humanity is feminine and there's always a class relationship with women. Women as women, if they refuse to integrate––to be more man than men––belong to the proletariat on the one hand, and on the other hand––we don't need to make an MLF (Women's Liberation Movement) speech––a woman is more of a terrorist, I believe. She (Danièle) is much more of a terrorist than me. 

Le chat-bon, that's a story from our private life: we found a sick cat in the street; this is the one who had kittens twice; the first time four, and two died at birth, then again four more...

J.H./B.K.:  I thought it was a reference to Marx who had eight cats.

STRAUB:  That I didn't know. It was a conscious reference to Lenin, because we've seen many photos of Lenin with cats on his back.

J.H./B.K.:  Perhaps it's because dogs are like slaves.

STRAUB:  That's what's terrible... when we see the relationship between dogs and men we have the feeling that dogs are more attached to the boss. Then there's simply the realization of something I discovered: that the day the proletariat has taken power, I really believe that we'll have to take care of animals, because there's a relationship with animals, a relationship that really goes beyond the worst moments of class struggle. It's amazing what has happened in the history of mankind to animals! That's something very new for me because I was raised in a humanistic way, so it's the opposite, my grandfather despised animals, etc.; so for me it's a new and recent awareness.

J.H./B.K.:  You don't kill animals to eat.

STRAUB:  No exactly.

J.H./B.K.:  Let's talk about enunciation. The Cahiers du cinéma speaks of enunciation these days. You've made films, let's say Marxist films, where you don't pronounce a Marxist discourse (that is, before the film on Schoenberg). Do you believe that the image can state something?

STRAUB:  No. I might change, or be wrong, maybe it's a position like that, but for now, I don't think so.

J.H./B.K.:  You believe it will come to pass that images will have this power?

STRAUB:  Yes, if society changes perhaps, but not before that.

J.H./B.K.:  Why can't images....

STRAUB:  I don't know, to be honest. I have to say that I don't know, because first of all I'm not sure they don't.

J.H./B.K.:  You have to read the images, you have to see people in LES YEUX NE VEULENT PAS EN TOUT TEMPS SE FERMER OU PEUT-ÊTRE QU’UN JOUR ROME SE PERMETTRA DE CHOISIR À SON TOUR (OTHON) for what they are, like you see people in THE SUN SHINES BRIGHT (1953, John Ford) for what they are.

STRAUB:  Watch out. THE SUN SHINES BRIGHT is already full of relationships, it's already more than the images, there are already relationships we can't judge anymore. We can doubt my negative answer but...

J.H./B.K.:  Because what binds the shots is perhaps the enunciation.

STRAUB:  Yes, I think so. I think that if there's a film of ours where [typescript muddled] passes between the shots, it's in OTHON.

J.H./B.K.:  Do you have reverse shots in OTHON?

STRAUB:  It's not really shot/reverse-shot.

J.H./B.K.:  You've said you don't have shot/reverse-shots, only cuts; the shot/reverse-shots in HISTORY LESSONS are not true shot/reverse-shots. Why?

STRAUB:  Because shot/reverse-shots are a photographic process, especially when it involves––and even great filmmakers like Fritz Lang can make mistakes––making the other character's neck out-of-focus to show a space or lock the image, and I can't stand that, because it transforms the out-of-focus person––it transforms them into decor––and although the films we make struggle against the difference between the actor and the setting, there is a unity that we hope enters between the setting and the man, or the character, there's also a contradiction that intervenes, a difference, although our films are among those where the character is most linked to the land and the setting. So there are rarely out-of-focus shots, and we are very wary of out-of-focus shots too. We tried one in MOSES AND AARON––it interested me to do it, now it's done with––but even there it's not the same: there is a character and there is the earth [Straub shows photo of MOSES AND AARON in the Cahiers.] It's before the blood I believe, the blur is justified because we then see the blood flowing.

HUILLET:  We have a choice when the character leaves the shot, we would have to change the focus to make the background sharp.

STRAUB:  But there we couldn't because we chose a lens such that we could no longer have the shot in-focus, and which was essential at the starting point and at the point of arrival; we couldn't do it with another lens. Due to the fact that there's blood afterwards, I think it's justified.

J.H./B.K.:  You have a perfect POV shot in MOSES AND AARON; when Moses comes down from the mountain you have a shot from the point of view of the golden calf...

STRAUB:  You know that calf was a bull. No, but it's true, it's not like in Carmen, "the golden calf is always still standing," you know how Cocteau wrote, the golden calf is still standing? But it's not at all the same thing. [Straub draws it in the way Cocteau drew it]. It is a symbol of fertility, the bull; it was the prophets who said it was a calf afterwards, in derision, because the bull is fertility, that's all.

J.H./B.K.:  You've said the camera is the gaze of the people.

STRAUB:  Yes, I believe so.

J.H./B.K.:  But all the shots are not from the point of view of the people. What are they? Yours? God's? The spectator's?

STRAUB:  No, no. It's always the people, even when it's not the people, it's the people's gaze.

J.H./B.K.:  If it's the heart... [typescript cut]

STRAUB:  Because when the choir is there at the beginning, when the choir appears, it takes a certain time for it to change, I think it changes and it becomes precisely what we've just said––precisely when there's the tracking shot turning around Moses and Aaron. From there, it's almost always there, and there at the beginning, as the people at that moment are crushed into a situation of servitude; they can only begin to have a gaze from the moment they begin to revolt––and they begin to revolt: firstly against Moses' idea. They can't have a gaze as long as they don't revolt. So at the beginning we don't know, and maybe there's a cruelty there at the beginning, I don't know.

J.H./B.K.:  How do you collaborate, are you the author?

STRAUB:  No, it's not a question that can be answered like that.

J.H./B.K.:  Have you seen Rossellini's latest film, THE AGE OF THE MEDICI?

STRAUB:  I saw the first episode of St. Augustine, and I rewatched LA PRISE DE POUVOIR PAR LOUIS XIV for the second time and I really hate it and all the latest ones. They don't say anything, they're neither didactic nor historical, they only tell us about Rossellini's ideology, and consequently that of RAI, even if he claims that he has nothing to do with it, I'm sure it's exclusively Italian Christian Democrat. I haven't seen THE MEDICI, but SOCRATES is like that, AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO is like that, THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES is like that.

J.H./B.K.:  And LOUIS XIV?

STRAUB:  LOUIS XIV makes us think there's a subject, that it's a discourse on history, using a machinery of pomp, and that this is consequently a means of filming the Louis XIV period, and in the end, as in 90% of Italian films, the spectator leaves empty-handed, is taken in and falls into the decor. Instead of being a discourse on the decor, it's décoratisme.

J.H./B.K.:  You were a friend of Truffaut's...

STRAUB:  Yes, we met in Paris at the Cahiers office... no, in a cinema called Parnasse one evening between '51 and '54, after I had come to.... [TYPESCRIPT CUT]


Past May Day Dedications to 
Danièle Huillet on Kino Slang
2007 - Examine Caesars 
2008 - Song of Two Humans, But...!
2009 - This Land is Mine
2010 - Men Without Women
2011 - Freedom
2012 - Small Grasses
2013 - That's Just What We Intend
2014 - The Lizards
2015 - (no post - misery)
2016 - Complete Animals
2017 - Huillet at Work (interview)
2017 - Venez m'aider! (plus Duras on Othon)
2018 - Straub/Huillet/Talking (interview)
2019 - Born May 1st. . .
2020 - We Caught a Political Conscience like One Catches Chickenpox
2021 - May Night
2022 - ...progress / away from / the bulk of humanity