LES CAHIERS DU CINEMA 1968-1977
Interview conducted and translated by Bill Krohn
(This interview was originally published in THE THOUSAND EYES, a zine published by the Bleecker Street Cinema, in 1977. Daney programmed a 5-day film series at the theater - Godard's ICI ET AILLEURS, NUMERO DEUX and COMMENT CA VA, Wenders' KINGS OF THE ROAD, Chantal Akerman's NEWS FROM HOME, Benoit Jacquot's L'ASSASSIN MUSICIEN, Jean-Marie Straub/Daneiel Huillet's FORTINI/CANI and Rene Allio's I, PIERRE RIVIERE... - and they published a special issue to promote the event. I've deleted a few questions which relate only to this series. The issue also included an introduction by Krohn, which detailed the changes the CAHIERS went through in the late 60s and early 70s, and a translation of Daney's essay on 70s Godard. The introduction will be added to this site soon - it's quite helpful at providing background and explaining some of the jargon used in this interview.--Steve)
Q:When did you join the CAHIERS DU CINEMA? What was it like in those days? what have you been doing when you weren't editing the magazine? What was May '68 like for you (if you'd care to talk about it)?
A:In 1959 I bought, for the first time, the CAHIERS. It was number 99. A Lang special. One used a lofty and complicated vocabulary to talk about Lang's American films, much despised at the time by "serious" criticism. This paradoxical artistocraticism pleased me. After many years of assiduously frequenting the cinematheque (Rue D'Ulm, then, after 1964, Chaillot), one got to know certain critics from the CAHIERS (especially Jean Douchet.) With two friends, in 1963, I put out a magazine that ran two issues: a Hawks special and a Preminger special. Which shows how much we defined ourselves at that time almost exclusively in relation to the American cinema, taking as its summit what was in fact its twilight. In 1964, with Louis Skorecki, I went to the U.S. to meet filmmakers and do interviews (Hawks, Leo McCarey, Jacques Tourneur, Jerry Lewis, Sternberg, Keaton..) That's how we "negotiated our entree into the CAHIERS." In 1964, a grave economic and ideological crisis shook the CAHIERS. Eric Rohmer had to give up the chief editorship and was replaced by Jacques Rivette, then by Jean-Louis Comolli. At the same time the magazine was taken over by a publisher (Daniel Fillipachi) until 1969, a date when, principally for political reasons, the magazine become autonomous again.
At this time "being on the CAHIERS" didn't have the same meaning as today. There was no editorial committee, and all the important decisions were made by one or two people. There were a lot of free-lancers who wrote a piece from time to time that might or might not be accepted, without feeling themselves to be part of a global point of view. It was that way until 1968. The magazine evolved considerably, abandoned its blind Americanism and adopted an increasingly intellectual, theoretical approach to problems. This was, in France, the breaking of the great wave of structuralism (and the first works by Christian Metz.)
1968 was experienced differently by the people on the CAHIERS. Insofar as I was concerned, as a profound shake-up and a wavering of all certainties. It seemed that one could never do films or a film magazine as one had before. The ideas developed by the Situationists on the "society of the spectacle" affected me greatly. Basically, our way of being "affected" by '68 consisted of putting in doubt and into play, in a slightly mystical way, what had been the source of our enjoyment: the position of spectator. During this period, I pulled away from the CAHIERS and didn't rejoin them until 1971. In the meantime, I took long trips (to India and Africa.) The magazine, it seemed, was becoming more and more politicized.
Q:There were great changes in the magazine at the end of the sixties - how did they come about?
A:I believe that the great event of those years was the introduction into the CAHIERS of a very theoretical way of talking about film. Far removed, in appearance, from the old cinephilia. There's nothing very astonishing about it: for the first time authors like Michel Foucault, Louis Althusser, Jacques Lacan and Claude Levi-Strauss reached beyond their usual public and were read by a larger group who immediately attempted a kind of savage application of their ideas. Very simply, the CAHIERS was the first magazine to plunge in this direction, with no precautions. This earned us, at the time, the sarcasms of "normal" criticism - impressionistic and hedonistic - which did not tolerate the use of a "jargon" to talk about films (this was the period of the polemic between Barthes and Picard.)
So there was a savage application of Althusser and particularly of Lacan, thanks to Jean-Pierre Oudart ("La suture"), beginning in 1969. There was also the influence of the magazine TEL QUEL. The CAHIERS at the time played the role of the middleman: they introduced theory to cinema and cinema to the university. Which is somewhat paradoxical, since none of us was a high-ranking academic; more like tinkerers. I think that this period is over. There exists more and more a monopoly of academic discourse on cinema, and the new generation of "cinephiles" will be formed more in the universities than in the cinematheques. We played a part in this mutation. Today we believe it's important not to limit oneself to the university. The CAHIERS has always been an uncomfortable and paradoxical place where it was possible to write about films and make films at the same time (see Godard.)
Q:The "new" CAHIERS was critical of its heritage: you reread Ford, dissected Bresson, psychoanalyzed Bazin. Why was this necessary?
A:This criticism was obviously a last homage, more or less avowed, that we rendered to what we have always loved. We wanted to reread Ford, not Huston, to dissect Bresson and not Rene Clair, to psychoanalyze Bazin and not Pauline Kael. Criticism is always that: an eternal return to a fundamental pleasure. Why, as concerns me, was my relationship to cinema bound up with THE INDIAN TOMB, RIO BRAVO, UGETSU MONOGOTARI, PICKPOCKET, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, PAISAN, GERTRUD? There is a dimension to cinephilia which psychoanalysis knows well under the name of "mourning work": something is dead, something of which traces, shadows remains...
Incidentally, in the collective text on YOUNG MR. LINCOLN, we distinguished clearly between ideology and writing. We were very conscious then of the danger (which we subsequently did not always avoid) of confounding ideology and writing. Now - it's quite simple - the cinema loved by the CAHIERS - from the beginning - is a CINEMA HAUNTED BY WRITING. This is the key which makes it possible to understand the successive tastes and choices. This is also explained by the fact that the best French filmmakers have always been - at the same time - writers (Jean Renoir, Jean Cocteau, Marcel Pagnol, Sacha Guitry, Jean Epstein, etc.)
Q:"The cinema that interests us is the one which plays on off-spaces...The great filmmakers - Hitchcock, Lang, Mizoguchi, Tourneur, Dreyer, Duras, Straub, Godard - are those whose mise en scene, writing, montage are articulated by off-space effects..." Why? And what about Griffith, Walsh, Chaplin, Hawks, Allen Dwan, Renoir, Monte Hellman?
A:This phrase of Pascal Bonitzer's is a little provocative in that it risks giving the impression that we only love those filmmakers. There are others, of course, including the ones you cited. As a matter of fact, it's the same question as the previous one and the one that follows (on naturalism.) The cinema which interests us is haunted by writing. Writing implies spacing, a void between two words, two letters, a void which permits the tracing of meaning. Writing implies, not immediacy, but an eternal movement of "bustrophedon." So how does all this happen in film? There, too, there is spacing, but it isn't the invisible bond between frames; it's the off-space. Each shot secretes its off-space. There are off-spaces and different ways of playing on them. There are off-spaces directed by the eye (fetishistic framing) and off-spaces directed by the ear (fundamental voice, voice of the mother.) There is a way for the voice to block or give access to the image. Each important filmmaker resolves this problem. So, when the CAHIERS was politicized, they took their examples more and more from the Soviet cinema of the twenties, but again it was to distinguish between Eisenstein (who "wrote") and Pudovkin (who "didn't write"), and this was the same as the distinction between Hitchcock and Huston. Today it may well be that with people like Godard and Straub we have reached the extreme limit of writing. These are filmmakers for whom an image is closer to an inscription on a tombstone than to an advertising poster. And cinema may no longer have any choice but to be a poster or an epitaph. In writing, you know, there is a relation to death.
Q:Public enemy number one, still at large: naturalism. Why do you distrust it?
A:The hatred of naturalism is as deep as the taste for writing, because it is exactly the converse. In naturalism there is a kind of "special effect" or trickery that is fundamental: the frame is there by chance and transforms the spectators into voyeurs. naturalism confuses the repressed with the invisible. One example: for years, in French films, one doesn't see immigrant laborers. Filmically, they don't exist. After 1968, the immigrants participated in numerous struggles and were politicized: so the French cinema is somewhat obliged to show them. Then we'll show them, but as if they had always been there and one had just forgotten to show them, when in fact one had repressed them, and for political reasons. This is ethnological voyeurism. On the CAHIERS we think that the question is not just one of "correcting an omission," but of lifting a repression: why has their image been missing? Cinema usually shows us people, events, places that we don't know; there's no reason for it to give us the impression that they are there, next door. Naturalism (precision of description) is only one part of the task. If you don't go beyond it, you necessarily end up asking questions about cinema in terms of advertising (as if it were nothing.) This is unfortunately what is happening more and more.
Q:What happened to the CAHIERS in 1973?
A:I'll have to tell the story of post-'68 in intellectual circles. It's the story of a shift. 1970 marked the apogee of the "Maoist" movement in France (with groups like "La gauche proletarienne," then "La cause du peuple"), its greatest moment of political inventiveness. After this date there is a decline in the movement, first in its spontaneous form ("Maoist"), then in its dogmatic form ("Marxist-Leninist".) Intellectual circles were affected by leftist ideas after a kind of delay. Why? It was especially those who have never belonged to the French Communist Party (like the people on the CAHIERS) who were affected by leftism. When the whole French cultural scene was politicized, it was natural to approach the FCP in order to assess their positions on questions of art and culture. The FCP, on the other hand, after having been badly burned in the debates in the fifties on "socialist realism," had renounced any conspicuous interference in the domain of art and had, at the same time, renounced any theory, any investigation of the relation between art and politics and, more precisely, of propaganda literature. Now the CAHIERS and TEL QUEL were magazines that had fought to introduce new methods (derived from structuralism) into the study of literary and cinematic texts. So there was an exchange of procedures: the FCP would supply political ideas and the ideal militant, and we would supply specialized (avant-garde) work of which the FCP was cruelly in need. But it didn't work out. Because basically the cultural policy of the Party was more cynical: on the one hand, to amuse a few researchers into "specific" questions (this was the period of Althusser and the famous duo, "ideology/practice," the period of "theoretical practice"), and on the other hand, to infiltrate as many cultural institutions as possible - the "Maisons de la Culture" - and train cultural programmers, relays for diffusing exactly the same culture and the same relation to culture as the bourgeoise.
Now the lack of political history on the part of the members of the CAHIERS staff meant that they could not be satisfied with the position of a laboratory cut off from everything else, isolated researchers, academics. We had to have the experience (painful but inevitable for any French intellectual) of the real. And "real" here should be understood in the sense of "bad encounter, trauma" (Lacan.) We had to emerge from cinephilia and go to the forefront of concrete tasks, new interlocutors, etc. This kind of "old style" engagement was basically nothing but a sped-up repetition of what the engagements of French intellectuals close to the FCP have had to be since 1920. And this caricature-repetition was something we could only live out through the intermediary of little "Marxist-Leninist" groups who themselves, hysterically (like a son who reproaches his father for not being severe enough), were living out their mourning for Stalinist politics through a Chinese imagery. They supplied the group superego and taught us our political ABC's, and we supplied "specific work on the front of culture." Reference to the text of Mao ("Interventions on Art and Literature at the Talks in Yenan") permitted us not to fall into the Trotskyist position, always lax and contemptuous toward art.
All this led to the "Cultural Front," composed of people like us who believed in politicizing culture and of leftist ex-militants who had understood perfectly their own political failure and had sought refuge on a "secondary front" where they could continue to intimidate others, while all they were really doing was negotiating their own survival (a few years later the most brilliant ones - like Andre Glucksmann - landed on their feet: journalism, literature, the pose of the "beautiful soul.") The result was: the artists were intimidated by the sheer weight of errors to be avoided and tasks to be undertaken, and the militants hid behind an overly general discourse their lack of ideas and motivations. This double block kept the Cultural Front from ever functioning. It evolved towards a growing interest in an area that had been long neglected: popular culture, the tradition of the carnivalesque, popular resistance, the popular memory, etc. The importance of Foucault can be seen here. A film like MOI, PIERRE RIVIERE... would never have been made without the questions advanced by the Cultural Front. And so the link to cinema, after the detour of militancy, was reaffirmed.
Q:What did you learn in your study of militant films? Why all these imaginary voyages to liberated zones: territories, factories, prisons? Why is the sound so important in these films?
A:I would say that the interest in militant cinema is as much as an effect of cinephilia as of the political superego. In CAHIERS-cinephilia (the kind staked out by Bazin), there is a demand for risk, a certain "price" paid for the images. In militant cinema there is also this idea of risk. No longer a metaphysical risk, but a physical one: the risk of not being there at the right moment, the risk of not having sufficiently mastered the techniques (militant filmmakers are amateurs), legal risks (Belmont and HISTOIRES D'A) and even the risk that the film, once it's been made and shown to the people it concerns (those who are fighting and who are not cinephiles) will not please them, will not help them, will not even be understood by them. Cinephilia is not just a special relationship to cinema; it is a relationship to the world through cinema. I remember what people like Luc Moullet and Godard said in the fifties: they had learned life from the cinema. And CAHIERS cinephilia, the cinephilia of the "Hitchcocko-Hawksian," is special in that it is a relationship - a perverse one - to the people, because the films of Hawks and Hitchcock at the time they were made were seen by the people and looked down on by cultivated persons. It's a relationship to the people through the forms which the people were subjected to and loved for a period of fifty years. When I started going to films, I was quite conscious in that this choice was bound up with my hatred for the theater. I hated, in theater, the social ritual, the assigning of seats in advance, the need to dress up, the parade of the bourgeoise. In cinema - the permanent cinema - there is a black space that is fundamental, infinitely more mysterious. The sexual aspect - more specifically, the prostitutional aspect - is very bound up with this kind of cinephilia: look at Godard, Truffaut, Straub, it's all they talk about.
To get back to militant cinema, if we have moved away from it, it's because it failed to furnish this imaginary encounter with the people. Because there were nothing but sectarian films, made hastily by people who didn't care about cinema. (But there are exceptions: ATTICA, KAFR KASSEM, THE PROMISED LAND.) Today I think that militant films have the same defect as militant groups - they have the "mania of the All": each film is total, all-inclusive. A true militant cinema would be a cinema which militated as cinema, where one film would make you want to see a hundred others on the same subject. That kind of militant cinema would have to break with the ponderous models of commercial cinema. I've had friends who spent a year editing a 16-millimeter film about a strike at a printing plant, at the cost of unheard of efforts and sacrifices, and the film had become totally incomprehensible by the time of its "release." The old militant cinema is bad because it includes no reflection on its economy. It's a big mess that doesn't think of itself as a big mess. It's too expensive, too long, too general, it takes up too much time in the lives of people who do it, etc.
In our frequenting of militant films, what we learned was, precisely, morality. That is, the way that the power which the camera represents (its capacity to intervene, interfere, extort and provoke, to modify the situation which it grafts itself onto) is or is not thought about by the people who make the films. Paradoxically, films denouncing bourgeois power, injustice and oppression are themselves totalitarian, non-dialectical, laid on like veneer. And it is of course by means of the voice (the voiceover which is the principal resource of any edifying cinema) that this operation of the forcing of the image is effected. There comes a time when you realize that what's important is not agreeing or disagreeing with the explicit ideology of the film, but seeing how far someone is able to hold onto his ideas while at the same time respecting the audio-visual material he has produced. It's a dialectical movement: at first the filmmaker - guided by ideas, tastes, convictions - produces a certain material, but then it's the material which teaches him things by resisting him (minimal materialism). Straub is the most coherent about this. There has to be a confirmation of what you already thought and an affirmation of something new to think.
Q: Has your attitude toward the Chinese films changed? You seem more inclined to criticize them now.
A:The Chinese films have never really interested us. And we've never vaunted them or even found them good. The only one I liked was RUPTURE. I had a strange feeling watching it: that in this dance-film full of movement there was a mise en scene of the official ideology as naive, consistent and total as in certain American films with, say, Debbie Reynolds. Europe, since its misadventures with fascism, no longer has the capacity to embody - in the form of puerile images - a moral consensus (good conscience.) I think it's only imperialist countries that have the capacity to represent, in the imaginary, the moral consensus (the norm) and what menaces it (the blot, the scapegoat.) It's only imperialist countries that can afford disaster films. And the Chinese films I've seen follow this model (like, on the other hand, Soviet films in the style of LE PRIME, coming twenty years after TWELVE ANGRY MEN.)
Q:Why do you object to films like Z and 1900? Are there any examples of good left-wing films being made for large audiences - in Italy, for example?
A:This has to do with the ideological and moral consensus in Europe today. Z and 1900 (and SOLEMN COMMUNION, THE QUESTION, THE RED POSTER, EXQUISITE CADAVERS, etc.) try to unify the biggest possible audience around a moderate imaginary of the left. In order not to offend anyone, the unification is accomplished with metaphysical themes devoid of concrete history: in 1900 the revolts of the anarchist peasants of Emilie-Romagne at the beginning of the twentieth century become a kind of peasant upheaval that anticipates the "historical compromise" of today; in THE RED POSTER the actions of the franc-tireurs became an episode in the history of the FCP; in THE QUESTION the courageous attitude of a Communist militant (in disagreement with his party) becomes a kind of abstract courage to resist in general, etc.
So the unification always happens on the basis of a kind of amnesia and the desire to nourish this amnesia with beautiful images (the red flags of 1900.) This amnesia is a paradoxical but important phenomenon in the lives of Franco-Italian intellectuals: these cultures imbued with Marxism are cultures where the history of the workers' movement is not well known, because it is the parties who write history.
On the other hand, for people haunted by writing like the CAHIERS, it's clear that writing divides, while images unify (through common fear or recognition.) Today, in France, in cinema, you have to divide. And it can only be done by making contemporary films (and not moving evocations.) For example, it's quite possible to make a Communist trade-unionist a fictional character; it's what Godard does in COMMENT CA VA. It's quite possible to film the suicide of a young person; it's what Bresson does in THE DEVIL, PROBABLY. But these are contemporary films, which do not surrender to the simulacrum of memory.
Why divide? The reason, I think, is sociological. The cinema is less and less a popular form of expression and more and more recognized as "art" by the middle class. Its instructional function has terminated (television has perhaps replaced it.) It is seen more and more by an increasingly enlightened petit-bourgeois audience and tends to play the role that theater used to play: a place of prestige, debates, parades. It's not at all clear that this new audience is better than the old. It is, at any rate, more adrift, less spontaneous. And around the films a whole apparatus of language has been established (critics, publicists, press attaches, the university) which means that there is no longer any freshness in the way they are received.
As for the question of whether there are any good left-wing films "for large audiences," it seems to me that this question divides into two parts: 1)I think that films with "burning political themes" never go very far, are superficial because they are too general. They aren't political films at all, but films expressing the politics of the union of the Left in France (and in Italy), vague and reformist, imprecise and unifying, right-thinking. These are films which could be called "operational," which is to say that they are immediately taken and digested as films illustrating the politics of the united left. Their mode of functioning is closer to an advertising poster than to any work with the signifying material. 2)Conversely, in all these films you can see a veritable fascination with power conceived as manipulation (one of the big problems of the European cinema is to create a successful stereotype of the "leftist cop" - cf. Francesco Rosi, Yves Boisset.) There does exist a tradition of comic films, mainly in Italy, where questions of class and power are not ennobled and mystified, but on the contrary rendered trivial and laughable, common. For me, the only good "left-wing films" have a carnivalesque dimension (cf. Mikhail Bakhtin) that is completely missing in French films, but still present in films by Dino Risi (A DIFFICULT LIFE) or Luigi Comencini (LO SCOPONE SCIENTIFICO, THE ADVENTURES OF PINNOCHIO.)
Q:The magazine has been changing again - a casual observer might say "returning to normal": more stills, articles about all kinds of films, references to old American films...What is happening now? What hasn't changed?
A:What hasn't changed? There are bits and pieces of an answer in everything I've said. There is a moment when you are led to renounce the "passion of the All" and when you want to elucidate (theoretically as well) on the basis of what fundamental experience you feel authorized to write about the cinema, and also to write in the direction of other people who come out of other experiences in the cinema.
Q:Why are you getting interested in "underground" films?
A:When the French film industry has gone under, there will be a place for an underground cinema in France. As has already happened in England. Up until now the big difference between France and the US was this: there is no bridge between underground films and the industry in the US, while there has always been one in France. In France there has always been the possibility of making a difficult film and commercializing it, even if only a little bit. The crisis (the end) of the film industry has very curious consequences: there is an acceleration of all the processes. For example, twenty years ago there were French filmmakers "de serie" with no talent, but a lot of know-how, who made one film a year. This was "la qualite francaise." These people no longer exist. The big companies are perfectly ready to offer enormous possibilities to young talents who come from the avant-garde. The example of Chantal Akerman is proof of this. So in France there is, for the moment, a big mix, rather than segregation. It seems to me that segregation has existed for a long time in the U.S., because of patronage and the recognition of the function of art as improductive expenditure. We're interested in the underground as something that will one day become a reality in France, a "domestic" cinema. Occasionally it happens that we see magnificent films - the films of Stephen Dwoskin and Jackie Raynal. There are no doubt many others. What's much less interesting is the critical discussion of these films. Probably the position of the critic is no longer justified at all in the case of these films, because these films don't need mediation, since most of them play directly on primary processes. It's one big difference between them and the European avant-garde (the one which interests us most: Godard, Straub) where any play on primary processes (on perception) has real impact only if it's also brought to bear on elements of thought, of the signified.
Q:Women's films: by women, or simply about women, about female sexuality...What are these films showing us? Why are they so violent?
A:Since this has to do with cinema, and therefore with the eye and ear, it would be better to talk about how cinema "au feminin" (made by men eventually) makes us rediscover what the imperialism of the eye (it's men who are voyeurs) had repressed: other modes of montage of impulses where what is seen and what is heard change perspective. For example, I said that militant cinema foundered on the question of the voice-over (the protected voice) - well, just as we saw feminism develop from the decomposition of the Marxist-Leninist militant political groups, so from the failure of the voiceover we have seen a whole adventure of the voice develop, an adventure that has been conducted "au feminin" (Duras, of course, Akerman, Godard, Marco Ferreri.) This is also one of the limits of cinephilia: rediscovering the voice of the mother heard from the interior of the body, before vision. The feminine limit of cinephilia. Suddenly I think the visual element is totally changed: in the three films by women that have impressed me the most - DEUX FOIS, JE TU IL ELLE, LE CAMION - there is something extraordinary: the way the actress-auteurs are both on both sides of the camera, without this having any consequences. There is a calm violence which points up the difference with the male actor-auteur. Look at Lewis or Chaplin: for them, passing from one side to the camera to the other means risking travesty, feminization and playing with this risk. Nothing of the sort with women.
Q:You've been talking openly about "cinephilia" again - the hardcore variety: loving Tourneur, de Mille, the late films of Fritz Lang...Do you see a virtue in it?
A:That is a very special kind of cinephilia. It isn't the whole of American cinema that is in play; it's a part, often the most despised: Lang, de Mille, Tourneur, Ray...I remember in 1964 we saw George Cukor and confided in him that WIND ACROSS THE EVERGLADES was one of the most beautiful American films. He broke out in a peal of laughter where all the contempt he had for this little film could be read. We were very wounded, but we have never changed our minds. In American cinema I think that it is easier to see, as it recedes, what interested us: always the excess of writing over ideology, and not the reverse (Huston, Delmer Daves, William Wyler, today Altman.) It's clearly a paradox: because this led us to take an interest in filmmakers who were not exactly left-wing. This excess of writing over ideology is only possible in the framework of a prosperous industry and a real consensus. This occurred in Hollywood until some time in the fifties; a little in France before the war; In Italy; in Egypt and India, no doubt; in Germany and England before the war. Outside this industrial framework (industry+craftsmanship), it's the reverse that happens: excess of ideology over writing. Look at the countries of the Third World, including China. This cinephilia is historically dated: the terrain from which it sprang is this mixture of industry and craftsmanship. It's not possible to revive it. But in the precision of the writing of Tourneur, Lang or de Mille, there is an exigency which continues with Godard, Straub, Robert Kramer, Wim Wenders, Akerman, Jean-Claude Biette, Benoit Jacquot.
Q:You said recently that the filmmakers who interest you now are all moralists. It's strange to hear words like "morality" and "tragedy" again. Why have they become so necessary now?
A:What is a filmmaker if not someone who, at one point or another, says: I don't have the right to film that, or to film that like that! And who believes that it's up to him to make that decision, that nobody else can make it. One of the texts that particularly marked me when I was a young reader of the CAHIERS was a piece by Rivette on Gille Pontecorvo's KAPO. he described a scene in the film, the death of Emannuelle Rica near the barbed wire. Pontecorvo - at the moment of his character's death - did a camera movement in order to reframe the face in the corner of the screen and make a prettier shot. Rivette wrote: the man who did this traveling shot is worthy of the most profound contempt. More and more, there are two kinds of filmmakers: those who have the feeling that "everything has been filmed" and consider it their mission to work with images that are already there, like a painter adding an extra coat of paint. And then there are those who are always aware that what they are filming also exists outside the film, is not just filmic raw material. Morality begins there. Always the idea of risk.
More generally, morality becomes a living question again because everyone has experienced the fact that there exists no morality for someone who thinks in terms of power (to be seized, held onto or dreamed of), and therefore no morality on the left or in Marxism. Morality is something individual; it's natural that returning to a certain politique des auteurs should reintroduce morality.
Q:What is television doing to our minds? What has Godard been doing to television?
A:It's a great mystery. I think that television is not taken seriously by anyone. Neither by those who make it (and who are all haunted by the cinema they can't make, which means that the possibilities of video have been explored ridiculously little and that one continues to produce in France horrible "dramas," very expensive, neither cinema, nor theater, nor television.) Nor by those who are subjected to it. TV is a cool medium from which people do not expect any truth. Its principal impact resides in the fact that it becomes a background noise which keps you from hearing other sounds. The catastrophic conceptions which would have us believe in television's power of stupefaction are very complacently exaggerated. What Godard has done to television is indeed considerable. He has demonstrated how it functions, as always, by the absurd, by doing it too much, He has shown that the simple fact of leeting someone talk for one hour at a stretch is already enough to break the hum, whatever is being said. He has shown that television, far from making people passive, demands from them on the contrary to produce a kind of work that the journalists don't produce.
Q:What about Jacques Rivette? You haven't spoken of him in a long time.
A:We have been very unfair to Rivette.
Q:What do you see now in American film that interests you? Why don't you like Robert Altman? Have you seen STAR WARS, etc.?
A:Robert Kramer, John Cassavetes, Paul Newman, Stephen Dwoskin, Monte Hellman, etc. As for Altman, I have the disagreeable feeling that he is a little master, very at ease in the notation of naturalistic detail, who has taken it into his head to rival Bergman or Antonioni. What is very unpleasant in his cinema that the only thing he asks us to believe in is the intelligence of the auteur. The auteur is always more intelligent than his guinea pigs, he always knows more than they do, but his knowledge is always protected. You don't find this contempt - I purposely cite very lofty auteurs - in Bresson or Antonioni, because these are people who could care less about what one has to look like one is thinking in order to appear intelligent (that is to say "non-dupe," in Lacanian jargon.) The films of Jerry Schatzberg, Scorsese, Coppola, etc. do represent a respectable and somewhat academic tradition. But I still have the impression that there has been no real innovation, for almost twenty years now, in this cinema.