A look behind the lens at the famed French new wave director of 'Breathless' and 'Band of Outsiders'

A look behind the lens at the famed French new wave director of ‘Breathless’ and ‘Band of Outsiders’

by Jonathan Cott

Most questions derive from an interest or even from an obsession. In the latter case, they presuppose a protective, often rigid intellectual and emotional armor: one asks a question in order to affirm one’s own thoughts instead of as a means of looking around and discovering what is there. Thus, the structure of catechism and, in a sense, the questions in the following interview.
Having seen over fifteen of Jean-Luc Godard’s extraordinary feature films, I seem to have remained hanging on to that esthetic world created by Godard in which love, conscience, tenderness, and art (values implicit in films as late as Masculine-Feminine and Pierrot Le Fou) formed the silent horizon –— the screen —– on which one observed the players disjoined from their creator’s idealized perfections. As Godard once said: “Beyond the theater is life, and behind life, the theater. My point of departure was the imaginary and I discovered the real; but behind the real there was the imaginary.”
The “imaginary” is the world of love striven for, but the film attests to the impossibility of such striving and then marks death for those whose thin and pure elements gratuitously, violently, and naturally suffer to return to their extinction. Thus the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, heard in Breathless and Masculine-Feminine, presages death for the wounded, innocent heroes “disguised as princes” (Pierrot Le Fou). And the circular camera movements ’round that beautiful pastoral Mozart piano recital in Weekend signifies the end of this esthetic world. The hippie drum solo near this film’s conclusion ends the suggestion of “the film we had dreamed, the film we had carried in our hearts, the film we wanted to make – and secretly wanted to live” (Masculine-Feminine).
Like a hallucinating child who sees a page or object that is no longer before him, I failed to realize that Godard was always attempting to break through that mirage in which cinema equaled life— — a fantasy shared by his actors. “I know nothing of life except through the cinema,” Godard told Tom Milne in 1962. “I didn’t see things in relation to the world, to life or to history, but in relation to cinema. Now I am growing away from all that…. I thought Breathless was a realistic film, but now it seems like Alice in Wonderland, a completely unreal, surrealistic world.” As Susan Sontag has written: “Life — —the world; death— —being completely inside one’s own head.”
In Godard’s second feature film, Le Petit Soldat, the O.A.S. gunman protagonist quotes Lenin’s dictum: “Ethics is the esthetics of the future.” Looking back now, we see that this exile and deserter, in search of his self, not knowing “where to give his heart,” ironically was pointing to Godard’s recent unswerving and uncompromising concern with using film as a way to “change the world.”
There is no more joking self-consciously about the image of films –— no more references to Johnny Guitar. Godard’s new films are not about politics in the way that Le Petit Soldat or Resnais’ The War Is Over are. Rather they present a political consciousness in the guise of quasi-documentary footage and thus attempt to make you watch-and listen and think. “To look around one’s self, that is to be free,” Godard once said. This is true for life. But when one questions (rightly) and then does away with the barest paradigms of the “spectacle” film — —action, character, etc.— — one finds ones self in undiscovered territory, and the chances of losing the way in the capitalist woods with only little red books in the basket are great.
Godard’s new questioning of the relationship between art and politics reveals itself in recent personal confrontations such as when he asked the audience at last year’s London Film Festival to watch the uncut version of One Plus One outside the theater on a makeshift screen and return their tickets and send the refund to the Eldridge Cleaver Defense Fund. Put to a vote, only twenty persons decided to walk out. Godard said: “You’re content to sit here like cretins in a church.” During the shouting that followed, he hit producer Ian Quarrier who later explained why he added to the end of Godard’s film a complete recorded version of the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil (“ten million teeny boppers in America alone.”)
One Plus One intersperses shots of the Stones creating Sympathy for the Devil (from a slow ballad to the final rhythmic holocaust) with scenes of Black Power militants in a Battersea automobile junkyard reciting texts by LeRoi Jones and Cleaver, shooting white night-gowned girls; an interview in lush green woods with Eve Democracy (Anne Wia-zemski) who replies yes or no to questions defining the liberal temperament; a pornographic bookstore where Mr. Quarrier reads out from Mein Kampf while customers give the Nazi salute then slap two bandaged young men who chant “Peace in Vietnam.”
Godard’s uncompleted new film, Some English Voices, apparently emphasizes one angle shots in an attempt to demystify image-making. The film is supposed to include a car factory production line, the camera conveying the sense of the monotony of automation; car workers at home talking about their life; a speech exemplifying fascist undercurrents beneath the liberal veneer; students talking about the Beatles’ “Honey Pie,” one saying: the more beautiful the music, the more counterrevolutionary the effect, the other saying: it’s only a song; Godard’s dying hand reaching— — coming home— — for the Red Flag, symbolizing revolutionary internationalism exemplified by Spanish Civil War and N.L.F. songs.
While shooting up at the University of Essex, Godard encountered a manifesto published by the Situationists which concluded: “If you see a camera, smash it! It might be Godard.”
Nietzsche wrote: “War has always been the grand sagacity of every spirit which has grown too inward and too profound; its curative power lies even in the wounds one receives.”
The interview was recorded in English driving out to the airport and during an airport dinner.

When you were in Berkeley and met some of the students, you made a statement that a film is a practical rifle and a rifle is a practical film.
Well, I gave another definition in an interview I had with a French newspaper: the film is a scientific experiment. I will give you a theoretical example. You need a film just as guerrillas — —trekking about in the night, good users of rifles –— need a light, a small light, in order to see. But it’s not exactly a gun. It’s a light which helps you check with your gun. But I still think it’s a theoretical gun and I’ll keep to this definition.

Why is it that in the last few films, your portrayal of the hippie revolutionaries, in Weekend let’s say, and in One Plus One, those two boys in the pornography bookshop….
They were not hippies. Their long hair isn’t necessarily related to hippieness. It could be to clergymen, too. No, they were not hippies. They were just oppressed people.

Well, let’s stick to Weekend then, where you have the band of hippie guerrillas.
Yes, but that was two years ago and it was the French situation of that time. It was different. It was utopian. And even then, they were more Yippies than hippies because they didn’t hesitate to take up guns. Yippies in a French way, maybe. I remember a discussion in Berkeley this year. I had an interview with Eldridge Cleaver and he was reproaching people like Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman. He said, “Those Yippie people like toy guns. We Black Power people like real guns.”

One of the problems I felt about the Yippies you portrayed in Weekend was that I was never sure whether there was any causal relationship between their will and the situation they were involved in, whether they were really a reflection of what was happening, whether they were in fact controlling the situation in some way, or whether they were just victims.
They were terrorists. Or nihilists. Like the first young Russian nihilists putting bombs under the Tzar. They were nihilists and not really revolutionary, but revolutionaries are sometimes nihilists too.

Isn’t there a similarity between the two characters in Weekend who wander off on their trip to the mother’s home and the two characters in Pierrot le Fou. They have that picaresque quality to them. They travel around and things happen to them.
Maybe, because this movie was done with personal feeling and intuition. After the May-June events I became aware of how late I was. Weekend wasn’t done with a script. It came from a personal feeling, a personal intuition, as in Pierrot le Fou. But the intuition in Weekend was closer to the social situation in France than it was in Pierrot le Fou. It came from a clear political analysis and was then transformed into a movie.
One Plus One was more of that, and the next one, the American film, will be more yet. The idea is to make the script out of a political analysis and then to convey that, sometimes in poetry, sometimes science, sometimes all it takes is a film. The film itself is less and less spectacular because I think very strongly now that the more spectacular you are, the more you are absorbed by the things you are trying to destroy. You don’t destroy anything at all, and it’s you who are destroyed because of the spectacle. Some real examples are the films done in Hollywood about Che Guevara and Malcolm X. If Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is going to do a movie about Che Guevara, the Cubans should be making it, but if Fidel Castro writes the script, Metro-Goldyn-Mayer won’t distribute it. So you can’t do it.

After Pierrot le Fou, your films changed.
Let’s say that early period was my hippie period. I was addicted to movies as the hippies are addicted to marijuana. Now I went through marijuana (I don’t smoke marijuana, but I don’t need to because movies are the same to me), but now I’m over this movie marijuana magic thing.

All the earlier films were extremely romantic – the sensibilities of all your protagonists were related: all of them seemed to be dominated by the feeling of early death, lack of relationships and detachment. All those early characters died, except for the character in Le Petit Soldat, and he was a fascist character.
Yes, but I’m realizing that only today. Yes, because I was an idealist, and the idea of death relating to love and things like that is not completely fascist maybe, but if you get too much involved in that, you are going in the wrong direction. It’s a bourgeois philosophy, and it’s an ideology I was guilty of.

Wasn’t it hard for you to give it up?
No, because it was just one step after another.

Don Siegel’s films are usually very right wing. The idea of an action film, which you were obviously influenced by in your early films, usually leads to a kind of right wing philosophy, where-as now you’ve gotten rid of the action and…
I quite agree with you. The film that made Potemkin possible was a fascist American movie called Intolerance. But they took out of it just what they needed, from a very technical standpoint, and then they changed it.

You’ve gotten rid of the action sequences now in One Plus One.
That may be, for the moment. I don’t know what action is. I’m trying to demystify the movies at the same time as making them. I’m always amazed that so many of the militants are so fond of westerns, which I hate. They are not bothered by the fact that it’s a fascist form. They don’t care. They enjoy it. But a lot of people who lack their intelligence or their militancy are poisoned by that. The militants aren’t, but the other people, the so-called ordinary people are.
That’s why the scientists of the movie or of the theatre or of literature have to work on theory, to try to indicate how to found new bases, a new grammar, a new philosophy, a new mathematics out of it. And you discover how to do that by being linked to the militant people, by being yourself as militant as you can. It’s very well explained in a Mao quotation. He said: Where are the right ideas coming from? Are they coming from the sky? No. They are coming from social practice. What is social practice? There are three kinds. There is scientific experiment. There is struggle for production and there is the class struggle.
And I’ve discovered, at about the same time as the major events occurred in France, that I was working only in the field of scientific experiment, and I myself have to be related to class struggle and struggle for production, though scientific experiment is still necessary.

This means of course that people who loved your films such as Bande a Part are going to be disappointed now, aren’t they?
Yes. But movies like Bande a Part could still be done, but in a happier society, later, when we’ve found the right way to do it. Instead of being apart from the society, one will be in it. The fantasy at the end of Bande a Part will become real.

Do you think that’s really possible?
Yes. We will do it. To make the end of Bande a Part possible, we have to have a South American revolution. After they’ve done that, and if we could help them to do it, the situation in South America will be much better.

It’s all or nothing with you now, isn’t it?
I prefer all. It’s because I take it that all is possible, we don’t have to give it away for nothing. Or pretend that since all is impossible, we might as well prefer nothing for the moment, the way hippies and others think.

Towards the end of Weekend, you use a slogan to the effect that one can only surpass the horror of the bourgeoisie with more horror.
Yes, I think so. Especially in the scientific experimentation. Not in the struggle for production or power, but in scientific experimentation, yes. You have to burn the opera. Not British Motor Corporation or General Motors, because that’s not so clear. You do have to build some cars. But Covent Garden, Lincoln Center, the San Francisco Opera House, yes, we can burn them.

But there are still beautiful operas around.
We’ve tried other ways, but it’s no use. If we don’t burn them we’ll always be absorbed by going into them.

It’s strange that you would be willing to burn Schoenberg’s Moses and Aaron and not General Motors.
No, not burn them, just forget about them a bit. As Mao said, if we burn books, we would not know how to criticize them.

Is it unfair to say that in Weekend, the sense of aggression that you feel towards the bourgeoisie might not in fact be an aggression against yourself?
True. Of course. If it would have been possible to have made the film dirtier pornography, then I would have.

Why did you have to kill those animals?
Well, why not? A lot of people are killed in Africa and Vietnam. Why shouldn’t I kill animals? It was not done because animals are animals compared with human beings; it’s just that if I had killed a human being I would have been put in jail.

But the killing of an animal is naturally and too easily shocking.
I think an audience will be much more shocked by the death of a pig than by the death of a human being, even if it were told that it was a real human being. One is not used to the idea of shooting animals just for a movie.
In Bresson’s film Balthazar, the donkey is shot at the conclusion. And that death, because it’s located in a very Christian, Catholic sense of experience, makes that film an extraordinary emotional spiritual height.
Then it has to be destroyed. Catholic! It’s disgusting. I don’t think he died. And if it does die, I think it’s crueler to kill him later than right away.

You think it’s crueler to kill Balthazar than to kill the pig?
You just have to do it because it’s a further demonstration. This is the way we are. We are killing innocent people.

Because we’re killing innocent people, does it mean you have to show other kinds of destruction?
There’s no argument. You do it. Or you don’t do it.

You quote Lautreamont in Weekend. Now Maldoror in fact, underneath all the fantasy, is an incredibly strong indictment of the self-destructive processes of the bourgeois family. In other words, the attack on the bourgeoisie has been made often before. What makes your focal attack now different?
It’s no use to talk of attack in Weekend, which was just for fun. It was more of a Yippie movie I think. A toy gun.

But isn’t it true that the Yippies in this film are fascinating and nihilistic…
Oh, they’re just nihilists. They are not fascists, because they attack the fascists.

Well, a criticism that has been levelled against Weekend is that if you attack the fascists in that way, then you may be slightly fascistic yourself.
No, I don’t think so because you have seen that I’m attacking the fascists.

At the end of Weekend, the Yippies are shown to be cannibals. How do you justify cannibalism even in the world being as it is?
I’m not justifying it. You have to criticize it. This is not a Hollywood movie. In a Hollywood movie, after the movie is over, there’s nothing more. There is no relationship between the screen and the spectator. There’s just a duration. If you don’t like it, you go to sleep, the way I do. But in other movies, you can’t forget about it. You have to talk about it afterwards.

In Pierrot le Fou Belmondo says, speaking for you I suppose, that what he’s interested in are the colors and the spaces between people. And now apparently you’ve said that what is alive is not what is on the screen but what is between the spectator and the screen. What do you mean by that?
I mean that the movie is not on screen. The movie stems from moving. The movie is a mover. The move from the reality to the screen and back to the reality. And the screens are nothing, just shades. It’s like a swimmer doing a crawl until he arrives at the end of the swimming pool and then turning and going back again. This is the screen.

Who is the swimmer, filmmaker or spectator?
They both are. When you arrive, it’s the moviemaker; and when you start, it’s the spectator.

In One Plus One you show some interviews. There’s one with Eve Democracy. And there’s Frankie Dymon, the Black Power advocate in the film, being prompted and having statements fed to him…
I wouldn’t say fed. They were rehearsing, trying to learn from their comrades in the U. S., who are engaged in a more dangerous fight than their own in England.

But I had a sense of the impotency of the whole revolutionary movement because everyone was quoting something or someone else. There are all these microphones and cameras. Eve Democracy can only say yes or no.
Because she is democracy. What else can democracy say?

But Frankie Dymon too?
Yes, but this is the way it is. And it has to be shown and told frankly so that we can analyze it better and know how to do it. There is no meaning in the movie. The meaning comes before and after. The screen is nothing.

I just had a feeling of futility about everything that happened.
Yes, more or less. But the only ones to escape from that were the Blacks.

John Lennon recently replied to your comments about the Beatles’ not doing anything politically…
I’d like to see John Lennon play Trotsky in a film.

What did you mean when you were supposed to have said: the Jefferson Airplane is me?
I didn’t say that.

How do you feel about the Stones and the Jefferson Airplane? They’re two such different groups.
Well, the Rolling Stones are much more accomplished that Jefferson Airplane, who are more like tribal people. That is, they present something which exists: The music and the hippie. There is some invention, but it should be politicized. The Stones are more political than Jefferson Airplane, but they should be more and more so every day. The new music could be the beginning of a revolution, but it isn’t. It seems more like a palliating to life. The Stones are still working for scientific experiment, but not for class struggle or the struggle for production.

What did you want to do with the Rolling Stones in One Plus One when they constructed “Sympathy for the Devil”?
I just wanted to show something in construction. To show that democracy was nowhere, not even constructive. Not destructive, of course, just saying: “We are against war” but doing nothing for peace, not having the strength to follow the Black man who is going to be a revolutionary.

One of the points, too, was that Eve Democracy was walking in a lush green field and the Black people were in a junkyard.
That’s true.

And do you think of using colors conceptually in your films? You seem to use color almost symbolically in Contempt. And in Made in USA, the color seems much more aesthetically beautiful than what happens in the film itself.
They were just plain colors. I don’t know that they were beautiful. I think the ideology of beauty should be very well analyzed, first destroyed, and then analyzed. Because we are completely mystified by beauty. So maybe we have to make horrible songs first in order to destroy and then to learn what beauty is. We have been taught what beauty is, but we don’t really know.

You’re not interested in the idea of the eternity any more?
No, not at all.

You don’t feel a sense of loss at all? Are you happier with yourself?
Yes, much.

You’re making a lot of film critics and audiences unhappy.
I just forget about that. My idea of film hasn’t changed. It’s just gone further in its own direction and needs to find the right allies. I would have arrived at the same position I’m at now, but in five years. But because of the May-June events, it came in two months. And I was late and I’m still late compared to other comrades who have simpler ideas about these things.
It was exactly the opposite with Bob Dylan. Maybe he was too early. Maybe he was going in the right direction, but too early for him. And he couldn’t stand it, really, even if it was successful. He didn’t have the political mind and thought. And now he’s kind of broken and he has to protect himself and then go into the woods again.

The door to door theatre in La Chinoise: is that what you think you’re doing in films now?
Yes. I just think I have fewer ideas, and other less analytical people have better ideas, more militant ideas, in other words.

How do you feel now about your “war” film, Les Carabiniers?
I don’t feel. I don’t think you should feel about a movie. You should feel about a woman, but not about a movie. You can’t kiss a movie. Should you shoot about a movie or a painting? Let’s have a look and talk about it, but certainly not feel about it. That’s what the Church says, feel about God.

You’re attacking culture now the way people used to attack religion.
Yes, it’s the same thing.

When Malraux was asked in England about the May events, he quoted Marx and said that revolution occurs first as a tragedy and then as comedy. He said that now we’re in the comic phase.
Yes, he is in the comic phase. I quite agree.

He wasn’t talking about himself.
How does he know? We just have to take pictures of him. When French television is shooting in Parliament, the cameramen are told not to take any shots of Malraux because the people would laugh.

What do you think now about the disagreement you had with Ian Quarrier at the Film Vestival, your punching him and the people heckling you.
I’ll protect myself better next time, that’s all. I was very disappointed with the Rolling Stones. They didn’t even say it was the wrong idea to add the completed version of their song on to the end of the film. I wrote to them and they didn’t say anything. It was very unfair for them to accept their being emphasized over all the others in the film. Each group of people is equal to the other, and one shouldn’t overemphasize the playing of the Stones by repeating them. If the film is distributed, it will have a new title, the title of their song —– “Sympathy for the Devil” –— a producer’s idea. It’s unfair not from a personal point of view, but from a political point of view, unfair to the Black people.

Let’s say someone goes to One Plus One and comes out saying the whole revolutionary movement is useless.
This is because he doesn’t know how to look at pictures, because he thinks he has to say something afterwards. When you open a book of mathematics, if you’ve never studied mathematics, you can’t say anything. And here just because you have shadows which resemble reality, you think you’re the authority about that and that and that. No, obviously, there’s nothing to say. You can say something tomorrow or two days afterwards. You can talk to other people. But you have to say: I have seen that and that. I’ve seen a girl in the woods. She was named Democracy. I’ve seen Black people reading that and that. And then maybe you ask questions about it. Why was it that way? And then you try to see what it means.

The film might not convince you that the revolutionary movement was correct.
The film doesn’t have to convince. You shouldn’t speak like that. It has to convince that there are better people than others. It’s as if in one or two hours of a picture or twenty pages of a book you-want the whole truth about the whole society, about everything, and it has to be right. It’s absolutely wrong. It’s impossible. It took Mao fifty years to write his little red book. Fifty years of fighting. And then it was very natural. It came from everything he had learned.

But the Rolling Stones’ song covers a lot of ground, it contains a lot of material.
No, that’s wrong. It has very little. That’s why I was so angry with that ending. We should know only a little bit of it. We don’t know what kind of song it is. It’s just words, the beginning of words. It never goes to the end. Because the Rolling Stones are still at the very beginning.

But you hear what they’re singing about at the very beginning, about Satan, about the Kennedys, the Czar, about hippies getting killed before reaching Bombay. There’s a lot of content in that one song.
No, there’s very little. It’s just that you hear it twenty times.

You seem to have such a clear idea of what you’re doing, yet there are so many contradictions in the film.
Not in the film, but in the way you look at it. My films are much clearer than they were two or three years ago. They still might be very neophytic, because they’re very simple. When you go out of One Plus One— — ordinary people I mean, people who like James Bond— — you might say: This is very complicated, I don’t understand anything. But if you go out of the last James Bond film and I ask you, can you tell me what you’ve seen, you can’t No. There were 20,000 things in James Bond. The movie showed for two hours. I ask, was he in a car. Yes What colour was it? Do you remember the colour? He was with a girl. What was he saying to her? And just after he left the girl, what was he doing? He can’t remember. Maybe he could remember one or two moments. But he couldn’t remember or describe to me the sequence of the story. It’s like a mixed salad. You can’t describe a mixed salad. There are too many things in it.
And then I ask him, you have just seen One Plus One. Do you think it’s complicated. Well, let’s see if it’s complicated. Let’s remember what you’ve seen. People playing music. Yes, you remember that. What else? Well, there were Black people in a junkyard throwing guns and reading things. And there was a girl in the woods. And in four minutes he can remember everything there was in the movie. And there is no more. Yes, but why? he says. I didn’t understand why that girl was in the woods just before the sequence of the Black people.
And I ask him, what do you think? What’s she saying? She was only answering yes and no. Well, what kind of questions was she being asked? Do you remember any? And on and on like that. It’s a very simple thing, really very simple…. These people have been taught that a James Bond film is a simple movie, while in fact it’s really complicated and complicated in a dreadful, in a silly way because there was no need for complication.

I think you’re cheating now because a James Bond film is much simpler emotionally and intellectually than One Plus One.
Yes, maybe, in its reality. The world is more complicated, but not One Plus One.
What if a James Bond fan comes out of the movie and says, One Plus One bored me. You couldn’t really disagree with him if that was how he felt. One Plus One is a very intellectual film, it makes you think.
That’s because it’s the only film like that. If there were a hundred more, made by a hundred different people, it wouldn’t be like that. Forget about the film, just think about the Black people, think about the music people.

In the film you say that for an intellectual to be revolutionary, he has to give up his intellectuality; but in order to see the film you have to use your intellect.
You have to give it up at a certain time, but in order to use it again. It’s important to give up being an intellectual in the way that the bourgeois conceives of an intellectual. We have to give up being that kind of an intellectual. But you don’t have to blow up the world.

Why is it that One Plus One seems to be telling you what is happening in such a different and more difficult way than Agnes Varda’s Black Panthers?
That is because most of the militants in art are going into the struggle for production and the struggle between the classes. They are forgetting about the scientific experiment, and I’m trying not to do that. Since I came from the scientific experiment, I still have too much of that experiment in me. That’s why, when I have the money, I’m trying to make two pictures with other people for every one picture of my own.

Will you be working with more groups like the Jefferson Airplane or Rolling Stones in the future?
No, I don’t think so.

What about your idea of using television as much as possible now?
Oh, you can’t do that. You get more mystified than ever. Unless you think you can address 20 million people and you have something important to say and think you can go through all this mystification to get to the people, it’s very difficult.

So where is there to go now?
You make very small movies to show to fewer people more often. More movies to fewer people but much more often. So you can survive.

You have a lot of courage.
No, it’s very natural. I couldn’t do anything else. You have to know how to survive. You have to be optimistic, because the world situation is so bad. Marx said that. The very pessimistic situation makes me feel optimistic. I’m an optimist because things are so bad they must get better because they can’t be worse than they are. It’s the same today.

Chabrol’s Les Biches is a film that’s very far away from any political reality; yet it’s a very elegant film. In your terms, what is the correct response to this film? Do you say, this is just bourgeois reactionary indulgence, or that, considering what it is, there are some things going on in it which you’re interested in.
If there are, they’re so well absorbed that there’s no necessity to say so. I see no difference between that and even a picture like If, for example. I really think that a good picture, today, cannot be successful. Maybe a small minority will be good, but even so they won’t be shown– — Potemkin was banned for 30 years all over Europe.

But Weekend is doing well in the States.
Yes, but possibly in the wrong way. That’s why I’m sorry I didn’t make it dirtier.

A lot of what you’re saying sounds to me extremely suicidal.
Not at all. Maybe when I was doing Weekend I was that way, but not any longer.

I just hate to give up the idea of your old films.
They are what they are, what I was at that time.

What are you going to do after this English film?
We’re trying to find a script by Cohn-Bendit to make a film that I don’t really think is possible— — a Western, a political Western, one that will not be absorbed by the establishment. And again we’re going to try to make some money to make some small films.

So really, the filmmakers like Antonioni and your peers don’t interest you any more.
Not at all. I like Antonioni as a person, but I think he’s wrong doing a picture for MGM. You can’t make a good picture. Or if the picture is good then MGM won’t distribute it. Maybe in ten years it will be different, but that’s the situation today. Maybe he could do a lot of good things in it as a person, but he has to change his life. One has to change one’s life. Maybe this is easier for people who have nothing to do than for those who have something to do.
Antonioni is like Peter Brook and those other people. They don’t want to change really. They want to make pictures, they want to make plays. No, you don’t have to forget. I mean, I’m asking not to be killed but to be able to live with my wife and things like that, but I’m really not especially asking to make pictures. I like other people. I like to work with them and especially so since we are working in a more collective way.
When there’s a movie to be done, in Austria, in Japan, I can just take the train and say, oh you’re doing a movie, ok, I’m coming, I’ll work with you. I can go and discuss it with people, I don’t need to be behind the camera. Maybe one day it will be fun, and that’s all. I’ll be very glad. But most of these other people, no, they still want to have that camera. Of if I’m like that now, it’s because I feel more scientifically experimental than others. So I take from them the class struggle analysis and then bring in my own scientific experiment. It’s not because I’m the director. I really don’t care about that.

Do you feel more like a medium now, someone whom ideas go through?
No, more like a worker, a student, or a worker concerned with student power. When you do something bad, you’re not ashamed, you’re sorry for it. Ok, it’s bad, I must do it better, but you sleep very well. It doesn’t matter. And if a very good friend of mine says, I hate your picture, I’m no failure at all. I say, tell me why you think it’s bad. But five years ago, that response from a friend made me very sad. Which was crazy. I don’t understand how I could have felt that.

The Rolling Stone, June 14, 1969


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