Directors Talk Directors

by Peter_Wilson

Created 12/25/13

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A list of comments made by directors towards other directors.

  • [on Quentin Tarantino] Tarantino named his production company after one of my films. He'd have done better to give me some money.

    [on Steven Spielberg] I don't know him personally. I don't think his films are very good.

    [On Steven Spielberg] “It is strange, he had no idea about the Holocaust so he went and looked elsewhere for inspiration. When we don’t have an idea about something, we look first of all within ourselves.”

    Bresson [Robert Bresson] is to French cinema what Mozart [Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart] is to German music and Dostoyevsky [Fyodor Dostoevsky] is to Russian literature.

    [on Orson Welles] All of us will always owe him everything.

    [on Kenji Mizoguchi] The greatest of Japanese filmmakers. Or, quite simply, one of the greatest of filmmakers.

    Ugetsu Monogotari is Kenji Mizoguchi’s masterpiece, and one which ranks him on equal terms with Griffith, Eisenstein, and Renoir

    Cinema begins with D.W. Griffith and ends with Abbas Kiarostami.

    [at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival about filmmaker Michael Moore] Post-war filmmakers gave us the documentary, Rob Reiner gave us the mockumentary and Moore initiated a third genre, the crockumentary.

    [in Paris, 10/18/66] Until I am paid on par with [Henri-Georges Clouzot, [Federico Fellini and ['Rene Clément'], I cannot consider myself to be a success.

    "I don’t believe in the body of work. There are works, they might be produced in individual installments, but the body of work as a collection, the great oeuvre, I have no interest in it. I prefer to speak in terms of pathways. Along my course, there are highs and there are lows, there are attempts… I’ve towed the line a lot. You know, the most difficult thing is to tell a friend that what he’s done isn’t very good. I can’t do it. Eric Rohmer was brave enough to tell me at the time of the Cahiers that my critique of Främlingar på tåg (1951) was bad. Jacques Rivette could say it too. And we paid a lot of attention to what Rivette thought. As for François Truffaut, he didn’t forgive me for thinking his films were worthless. He also suffered from not ending up finding my films as worthless as I thought his own were”.

    There is theatre (Griffith), there is poetry (Murnau) there is painting (Rossellini), there is music (Renoir), there is dance (Eisenstein), and therefore there must be cinema; and the cinema is Nicholas Ray.

    If the cinema no longer existed, Nicholas Ray alone gives the impression of being capable of reinventing it, and, what is more, of wanting to.

    ...for five years, in my opinion, [Alfred Hitchcock] really was the master of the universe. More than Hitler, more than Napoleon. He had a control of the public that no one else had.

    [On Ingmar Bergman] In the Bergman aesthetic, those shots of lakes, forests, grass, clouds, the deliberately unusual camera angles, the elaborately careful back-lighting, are no longer mere showing-off or technical trickery: on the contrary, they are integrated into the psychology of the characters at the precise instant when Bergman wants to evoke an equally precise feeling: for instance, Monika's pleasure is conveyed in her journey by boat through an awakening Stockholm, and her weariness by reversing the journey through a Stockholm settling down to sleep.

    [On Ingmar Bergman] At the precise instant. Bergman, in effect, is the film-maker of the instant. Each of his films is born of the hero's reflection on the present moment, and deepens that reflection by a sort of dislocation of time–rather in the manner of Proust but more powerfully, as though Proust were multiplied by both Joyce and Rousseau–to become a vast, limitless meditation upon the instantaneous. An Ingmar Bergman film is, if you like, one twenty-fourth of a second metamorphosed and expanded over an hour and a half. It is the world between two blinks of the eyelids, the sadness between two heart-beats, the gaiety between two handclaps. - Jean-Luc Godard, Cahiers du Cinéma, July 1958

    In the temple of cinema, there are images, light and reality. Sergei Paradjanov was the master of that temple.

    Take a drawing by Matisse, a simple curve of a leg or a shoulder. Is there a basis, at the beginning when he starts drawing his curve? There isn’t. This is what I’m trying to say. And that’s what comprises the originality of Max Ophuls, which he acquired a little bit at a time, because in Liebelei, in Letter from an Unknown Woman, in his American films, it’s not there. It’s a freedom that is earned and that is found, that isn’t applied. On a basic level, it’s neither better nor worse as a way of making a film. But there’s something extremely original that we found so satisfying back in the day and that continues to satisfy me now … There’s a kind of pure cinema of that era – you might even call it experimental – which has disappeared. There’s no literature…not that there’s no text or dialogue, but there’s no pre-literature.

  • [on Mikio Naruse] Naruse's Method consists of staging one very brief shot after another; but when we look at them placed end-to-end in the finished film, they give the impression of one long single take. The fluidity is so perfect that the cuts are invisible . . . A flow of shots that looks calm and ordinary at first glance reveals itself to be like a deep river with a quiet surface disguising a fast-raging current.

    [On Kenji Mizoguchi] "The Japanese director I admire the most"

    [On Kenji Mizoguchi and The Life of Oharu] "We often said in joke "Mr. Mizoguchi must have undergone terribly bitter experiences with women!". I could never portray women in THAT way! Indeed, a cold shiver ran up my spine! The movie is incredible, its art as well, and its long shots as well. From Mizo-san I've learned pretty much."

    [on Kenji Mizoguchi] Of all Japanese directors I have the greatest respect for him. . . . With the death of Mizoguchi, Japanese film lost its truest creator.

    [On Kenji Mizoguchi] Now that Mizoguchi is gone, there are very few directors who can see the past clearly and realistically

    I am often accused of being too exacting with sets and properties, of having things made, just for the sake of authenticity, that will never appear on camera. Even if I don’t request this, my crew does it for me anyway. The first Japanese director to demand authentic sets and props was Mizoguchi Kenji, and the sets in his films are truly superb. I learned a great deal about filmmaking from him, and the making of sets is among the most important. The quality of the set influences the quality of the actors’ performances. If the plan of a house and the design of the rooms are done properly, the actors can move about in them naturally. If I have to tell an actor, ‘Don’t think about where this room is in relation to the rest of the house,’ that natural ease cannot be achieved. For this reason, I have the sets made exactly like the real thing. It restricts the shooting, but encourages that feeling of authenticity.

    [On Yasujiro Ozu] "His characteristic camera work was imitated by many dirctors abroads as well, i.e., many people saw and see Mr. Ozu's movies, right? That's good. Indeed, one can learn pretty much from his movies. Young prospective movie makers in Japan should, I hope, see more of Ozu's work. Ah, it was really good times when Mr. Ozu, Mr. Naruse and/or Mr. Mizoguchi were all making movies!."

    [On Roberto Rossellini] "He's one of the most important representatives of Italian Realism. But also representatives of Nouvelle Vague, Godard and/or Truffaut, e.g., made a model of him. Did you know it? His way of pursuing bare truth was really fresh. I also was very benefited by his work."

    [On Godzilla] "Mr. Honda is really an ernest, nice fellow. Imagine, e.g., what you would do if a monster like Godzilla emerges! Normally one would forget and abandon his duty and simply flee! You won't? But the personel in this movie properly and sincerely lead people, don't they? That is typical of Mr. Honda. I love it. Well, he was my best friend. As you know, I am a pretty obstinate and demanding person. Thus, that I had never problems with him was due to HIS good personality."

    [on Satyajit Ray] The quiet but deep observation, understanding and love of the human race which are characteristic of all of his films, have impressed me greatly... Not to have seen the cinema of Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon.

    [On Satyajit Ray] "His work can be described as flowing composedly, like a big river".

    [On Satyajit Ray and Abbas Kiarostami] "Words cannot describe my feelings about them ... When Satyajit Ray passed on, I was very depressed. But after seeing Kiarostami's films, I thanked God for giving us just the right person to take his place."

    [On Federico Fellini] "Fellini's cinematgraphic art is excellent. It's in itself 'fine art'. Nowadays no one has such a peculiar talent more... One feels in his movies, say, an existential power, which has a strong impact. Well, I met him several times, but he was so shy that he didn't talk about his movies to me."

    [On Mikio Naruse] "He was a truly severe person. When he, e.g., didn't like an actor's performance, he said simply "No" and nothing more, sat silent. It was hard for the actor, of course, because he or she must think all by him-/herself and try various performances by himself. I, compared with him, am not earnest enuogh - I cannot help giving instructions to actors and cann't let them think by themselves... Thus, actors disciplined by Mr. Ozu, Mr. Naruse and/or Mr. Mizoguchi were all really competent and could by themselves play rightly even if I said nothing."

    "Watching Woody Allen's pictures one clearly see that he's terrifically intellectual. Eh, I was afraid that he did not like my movies, for my movies are simple and are not such ones. But then Richard Gere told me Allen was my fan. I was very pleased!"

    [On Martin Scorsese] "Scorsese is, of course, a very good director and actor, but he is above all a wonderful person. He's energetically wrestling with various matters, e.g., how films, especially colour films could be kept undameged, he also looks after retired movie makers. He is, so to speak, a bundle of energy. The Japanese movie industry also would need such a person, I think."

    [On Nagisa Oshima and Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence] "With Mr. Oshima I discussed many issues, e.g., the issue of film directors' associations. Many people say that he is impatient or so, but he really is a very consistant, earnest person. 'I rely on you to develop Japanese movies', I said him several times when we dined together. This picture must have been a very hard work, for he's a person who cannot save work at all. The cast is also pretty interesting. A really skilled film maker he is!"

    “John Ford is really great…. When I’m old, that’s the kind of director I want to be.”

    [The following is excerpts taken from Kurosawa's obituary on Andrei Tarkovsky]

    "I miss him dearly. He died at the age of 54. He died too young...,"

    "He always looked at me with his adoring bright eyes. I will never forget the look in his amicable eyes. Both of us agreed on many things about life and film. But we are so different in disposition that our outputs are quite opposite in character. He is a poet, I am not."

    I was on very intimate terms with Tarkovsky. I used to have my office in the old building of the Akasaka Prince Hotel, where he managed somehow to visit me. It was our first encounter. And then he saw how Akasaka looked when night fell. You may see what I mean by viewing Solaris. He made a wonderful use of Akasaka by night, although he had the images processed by reflecting them against the mirrors. The night scene of Metropolitan Highway with bright red tail lamps coming and going symbolizes the future city life. You know, I saw the film by preview in Moscow for the first time, and the scene of the highway came. To my great surprise, it proves to be the route leading to my office! "Oh! I am heading for my office now." I felt as if I were doing so while staying in Moscow.
    Every film by Tarkovsky is marvelous, indeed. He was especially marvelous in handling the Water Element, as seen, for example, in Solaris and Sacrifice. He was somehow able to shoot a pond or water pool as transparent as to allow us to see through to the very bottom. You know, if you do it in an ordinary way, you will for sure find the sky reflected on the water surface. I, too, wanted to shoot water as he did, in making an episode of the Village of Watermills in Dreams. Can you imagine what we did to achieve that? We set up huge cranes soaring to the sky to put up a huge black cloth to prevent the sky reflection on the water surface. Now the riverbed became visible.

    You know, the crew on the space station in Solaris suffer from the longing to return to Planet Earth. That is why we see a long, long series of sequences of nature on earth, such as waterweeds softly dancing in a river. It makes the audience really want to return to Earth, indeed. The Japanese distribution company told me to leave a bit of it out, because nature shots were too long. If you had done so, the film should have become meaningless. After all, my insistence saved the film from being cut.

    This shows that there is something a little bit difficult about his films. I am sure, however, that it is to his great merit. His films are somehow a little bit different from the rest of many ordinary films easy to understand. I hear his father is a famous poet. So Andrei has a great poetic talent and quality.

    Tarkovsky told me that he always sees Seven Samurai before shooting his new films. This is to say that I always see his Andrei Rublov before shooting. [...]

    Andrei was an amicable, charming man. I heard he was in hospital in Paris when I was staying in Europe. I was anxious to inquire after him, and desperately tried to find out the hospital, until at last I had to give up because of the departure time of the plane. [...] Soon after that, I got news of his death. Well, in short, somehow, I always felt as if he was my younger brother.

    We talked with each other and agreed that a movie should not attempt to explain anything. Cinema is not a suitable medium for explanation. Those who view it must be left free to sense its content. It should be open to a variety of interpretations. However, Tarkovsky absolutely never explains, he gives no explanation at all. His thoroughness is incredible...
    I love all of Tarkovsky's films. I love his personality and all his works. Every cut from his films is a marvelous image in itself. But the finished image is nothing more than the imperfect accomplishment of his idea. His ideas are only realized in part. And he had to make do with it.

    "His unusual sensitivity is both overwhelming and astounding. It almost reaches a pathological intensity. Probably there is no equal among film directors alive now. For instance we often see water in his films, which is portrayed in a manifold variety of expressiveness. Such is the case in The Sacrifice; one sky-reflecting pool and one without sky reflection. The camera shot the images under strict guidance from the director, whose aim was extraordinarily hard to achieve."

  • [on Orson Welles] For me he's just a hoax. It's empty. It's not interesting. It's dead. Citizen Kane (1941), which I have a copy of, is all the critics' darling, always at the top of every poll taken, but I think it's a total bore. Above all, the performances are worthless. The amount of respect that movie's got is absolutely unbelievable.

    [on Orson Welles] I've never liked Welles as an actor, because he's not really an actor. In Hollywood you have two categories, you talk about actors and personalities. Welles was an enormous personality, but when he plays Othello, everything goes down the drain, you see, that's when he croaks. In my eyes he's an infinitely overrated filmmaker.

    [on Jean-Luc Godard] I've never gotten anything out of his movies. They have felt constructed, faux intellectual and completely dead. Cinematographically uninteresting and infinitely boring. Godard is a fucking bore. He's made his films for the critics. One of the movies, Masculin Féminin (1966), was shot here in Sweden. It was mind-numbingly boring.

    [On Jean-Luc Godard in an interview with John Simon (1971)] In this profession, I always admire people who are going on, who have a sort of idea and, however crazy it is, are putting it through; they are putting people and things together, and they make something. I always admire this. But I can't see his pictures. I sit for perhaps twenty-five or thirty or fifty minutes and then I have to leave, because his pictures make me so nervous. I have the feeling the whole time that he wants to tell me things, but I don't understand what it is, and sometimes I have the feeling that he's bluffing, double-crossing me.

    Among today's directors I'm of course impressed by Steven Spielberg and Scorsese [Martin Scorsese], and Coppola [Francis Ford Coppola], even if he seems to have ceased making films, and Steven Soderbergh - they all have something to say, they're passionate, they have an idealistic attitude to the filmmaking process. Soderbergh's Traffic (2000) is amazing. Another great couple of examples of the strength of American cinema is American Beauty (1999) and Magnolia (1999).

    [on Michelangelo Antonioni] He's done two masterpieces, you don't have to bother with the rest. One is Blow-Up (1966), which I've seen many times, and the other is La Notte (1961), also a wonderful film, although that's mostly because of the young Jeanne Moreau. In my collection I have a copy of Il Grido (1957) and damn what a boring movie it is. So devilishly sad, I mean. You know, Antonioni never really learned the trade. He concentrated on single images, never realizing that film is a rhythmic flow of images, a movement. Sure, there are brilliant moments in his films. But I don't feel anything for L'Avventura (1960), for example. Only indifference. I never understood why Antonioni was so incredibly applauded. And I thought his muse Monica Vitti was a terrible actress."

    [On Michelangelo Antonioni] "He’s an aesthete. If, for example, he needs a certain kind of road for The Red Desert, then he gets the houses repainted on the damned street. That is the attitude of an aesthete. He took great care over a single shot, but didn’t understand that a film is a rhythmic stream of images, a living, moving process; for him, on the contrary, it was such a shot, then another shot, then yet another. So, sure, there are some brilliant bits in his films… [but] I can’t understand why Antonioni is held in such high esteem.”

    [on Andrei Tarkovsky]: When film is not a document, it is dream. That is why Tarkovsky is the greatest of them all. He moves with such naturalness in the room of dreams. He doesn't explain. What should he explain anyhow? He is a spectator, capable of staging his visions in the most unwieldy but, in a way, the most willing of media. All my life I have hammered on the doors of the rooms in which he moves so naturally. Only a few times have I managed to creep inside. Most of my conscious efforts have ended in embarrassing failure- The Serpent's Egg (1977), The Touch (1971), Face to Face (1976) and so on.

    "Tarkovsky is the greatest of them all. He moves with such naturalness in the room of dreams. He doesn't explain. What should he explain anyhow? He is a spectator, capable of staging his visions in the most unwieldy but, in a way, the most willing of media. All my life I have hammered on the doors of the rooms in which he moves so naturally. Only a few times have I managed to creep inside. Most of my conscious efforts have ended in embarrassing failure..."

    [on Andrei Tarkovsky]: My discovery of Tarkovsky's first film was like a miracle. Suddenly I found myself standing at the door of a room, the key to which, until then, had never been given to me. It was a room I had always wanted to enter and where he was moving freely and fully at ease. I felt encouraged and stimulated: someone was expressing what I had always wanted to say without knowing how. Tarkovsky is for me the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.

    "I love and admire the filmmaker Tarkovsky and believe him to be one of the greatest of all time. My admiration for Fellini is limitless. But I also feel that Tarkovsky began to make Tarkovsky films and that Fellini began to make Fellini films."

    [on Federico Fellini] He is enormously intuitive. He is intuitive; he is creative; he is an enormous force. He is burning inside with such heat. Collapsing. Do you understand what I mean? The heat from his creative mind, it melts him. He suffers from it; he suffers physically from it. One day when he can manage this heat and can set it free, I think he will make pictures you have never seen in your life. He is rich. As every real artist, he will go back to his sources one day. He will find his way back.

    [On Federico Fellini] We were supposed to collaborate once, and along with Kurosawa make one love story each for a movie produced by Dino de Laurentiis. I flew down to Rome with my script and spent a lot of time with Fellini while we waited for Kurosawa, who finally couldn’t leave Japan because of his health, so the project went belly-up. Fellini was about to finish Satyricon. I spent a lot of time in the studio and saw him work. I loved him both as a director and as a person, and I still watch his movies, like La Strada and that childhood rememberance…

    [on Alfred Hitchcock] I think he's a very good technician. And he has something in Psycho (1960), he had some moments. "Psycho" is one of his most interesting pictures because he had to make the picture very fast, with very primitive means. He had little money, and this picture tells very much about him. Not very good things. He is completely infantile, and I would like to know more - no, I don't want to know - about his behavior with, or, rather, against women. But this picture is very interesting.

    [on Akira Kurosawa] Now I want to make it plain that The Virgin Spring must be regarded as an aberration. It's touristic, a lousy imitation of Kurosawa

    Fellini, Kurosawa and Buñuel move in the same fields as Tarkovsky. Antonioni was on his way, but expired, suffocated by his own tediousness.

    "Buñuel nearly always made Buñuel films".

  • [on Akira Kurosawa] I think he is the greatest example of all that an author of the cinema should be. I feel a fraternal affinity with his way of telling a story.

    With the death of Sergei Parajanov cinema lost one of its magicians. (July, 1990)

    [on Akira Kurosawa] Kurosawa is the greatest living example of what an author of the cinema should be.

    [On Ingmar Bergman] I have a profound admiration for him and his work, even though I haven't seen all of his films. First of all, he is a master of his metier. Secondly, he is able to make things mysterious, compelling, colorful and, at times, repulsive. Because of that, he has the right to talk about other people and to be listened to by other people. Like a medieval troubadour, he can sit in the middle of the room and hold his audience by telling stories, singing, playing the guitar, reading poetry, doing sleight of hand. He has the seductive quality of mesmerizing your attention. Even if you're not in full agreement with what he says, you enjoy the way he says it, his way of seeing the world with such intensity. He is one the most complete cinematographic creators I have ever seen.

    [On Charlie Chaplin] “A sort of Adam from whom we are all descended.”

    [On Michelangelo Antonioni] I feel my inheritance as a film director is from art, and Michelangelo’s is from literature. My films, like my life, are summed up in circus, spaghetti, sex, and cinema.

    [On Michelangelo Antonioni] I have respect for his constancy, his fanatical integrity, and his refusal to compromise. Antonioni had a very difficult professional beginning. His films for many years were not accepted, and another man, less honest, less strong, would have made retreats. But Antonioni kept on his solitary road, doing what he believed he should do until he was recognized as a great creator. This has always made an enormous impression on me. He is an artist who knows what he wants to say, and that's a lot.

    [On Vittorio De Sica] Great power of achievement, and a master of his actors. He stems from our marvelous era of neorealism. He is a very good director, someone almost untouchable, because of the special place he occupied after the war.

  • Always with huge gratitude and pleasure I remember the films of Sergei Parajanov which I love very much. His way of thinking, his paradoxical, poetical . . . ability to love the beauty and the ability to be absolutely free within his own vision.

    I am only interested in the views of two people: one is called Bresson and one called Bergman.

    I was truly fascinated when I saw Kurosawa's movies: The Idiot, Seven Samurai, Rashomon. Kurosawa gave me a joyful surprise by showing his wonderful comprehension of the characters of Ragojin and Muishukin in The Idiot, and I found Seven Samurai very impressive because it was a truly beautiful "people's movie," by making full use of Japanese people's traditions. Because the most important problem for the cinema artist is to create a "people's movie."

    "In Kurosawa's version of Macbeth we find a perfect example. In the scene where Macbeth is lost in the forest, a lesser director would have the actors stumbling around in the fog in search of the right direction, bumping into trees. And what does the genius Kurosawa do? He finds a place with a distinctive, memorable tree. The horsemen go around in a circle, three times, so that the sight of the tree eventually makes it clear that they keep going past the same spot. The horsemen themselves don't realise that they long ago lost their way. In his treatment of the concept of space Kurosawa here displays the most subtle poetic approach, expressing himself without the slightest hint of mannerism or pretentiousness. For what could be simpler than setting the camera and following the characters around three times?"

    Luis Buñuel, Ingmar Bergman, Andrzej Munk. I regret most of the French directors have lost French national tradition, and I consider François Truffaut the best now. Among my favorite directors are Luchino Visconti who directed The Earth Will Tremble and Rocco And His Brothers, John Ford who made Grapes of Wrath, and Orson Welles who created Citizen Kane. But as for Grapes of Wrath, I appreciate the original book better.

    I have a horror of tags and labels. I don't understand, for instance, how people can talk about Bergman's 'symbolism'. Far from being symbolic, be seems to me, through and almost biological naturalism, to arrive at the spiritual truth about human life that is important to him.

    There are few people of genius in the cinema; look at Bresson, Mizoguchi, Dovzhenko, Paradjanov, Bunuel: not one of them could be confused with anyone else. An artist of that calibre follows one straight line, albeit at great cost; not without weakness or even, indeed, occasionally being farfetched; but always in the name of the one idea, the one conception.

    What is Bresson's genre? He doesn't have one. Bresson is Bresson. He is a genre in himself. Antonioni, Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa, Dovzhenko, Vigo, Mizoguchi, Bunuel - each is identified with himself. The very concept of genre is as cold as the tomb. And is Chaplin - comedy? No: he is Chaplin, pure and simple; a unique phenomenon, never to be repeated.

    There are two basic categories of film directors. One consists of those who seek to imitate the world in which they live, the other of those who seek to create their own world. The second category contains the poets of cinema, Bresson, Dovzenko, Mizoguchi, Bergman, Buñuel and Kurosawa, the cinema's most important names. The work of these film-makers is difficult to distribute: it reflects their inner aspirations, and this always runs counter to public taste. This does not mean that the film-makers don't want to be understood by their audience. But rather that they themselves try to pick up on and understand the inner feelings of the audience.

    Bresson is perhaps the only man in the cinema to have achieved the perfect fusion of the finished work with a concept theoretically formulated beforehand. I know of no other artist as consistent as he is in this respect. His guiding principle was the elimination of what is known as expressiveness, in the sense that he wanted to do away with the frontier between the image and actual life; that is, to render life itself graphic and expressive. No special feeding in of material, nothing laboured, nothing that smacks of deliberate generalisation.

    Robert Bresson is for me an example of a real and genuine film-maker... He obeys only certain higher, objective laws of Art.... Bresson is the only person who remained himself and survived all the pressures brought by fame.

    Bresson has always astonished me and attracted me with his ascetics. It seems to me that he is the only director in the world, that has achieved absolute simplicity in cinema. As it was achieved in music by Bach, in art by Leonardo da Vinci... Tolstoy achieved it as a writer...for me he`s always been an example of ingenious simplicity.

    “What can one say, for instance, about the way Antonioni works with his actors in L’Avventura? Or Orson Welles in Citizen Kane? All we are aware of is the unique conviction of the character. But this is a qualitatively different, screen conviction, the principles of which are not those that make acting expressive in a theatrical sense.”

    When Tarkovsky was asked why he 'never showed up in Rome' he said: I was too shy. Bergman and Fellini are way too big for me.

    Chaplin is the only person to have gone down into cinematic history without any shadow of a doubt. The films he left behind can never grow old.

    Always with huge gratitude and pleasure I remember the films of Sergei Parajanov which I love very much. His way of thinking, his paradoxical, poetical . . . ability to love the beauty and the ability to be absolutely free within his own vision.

    Antonioni has made a strong impression on me with his films, especially with adventures... I realised then, watching this film, that "action", the meaning of action in cinema is rather conditional. There is practically no action going on in Antonioni’s films. And that is the meaning of “action” in Antonioni films. More precisely, in those Antonioni films that I like the most.

    I like Fellini for his kindness, for his love of people, for his, let`s say, simplicity and intimate intonation. If you would like to know - not for popularity, but rather for his humanity. I value him tremendously.

    I remember Vigo with tenderness and thankfulness, who, in my opinion, is the father of modern French cinema.

    [On Kenji Mizoguchi] One of the "exalted figures who soar above the earth... such an artist can convey the lines of the poetic design of being. He is capable of going beyond the limitations of coherent logic, and conveying the deep complexity and truth of the impalpable connections and hidden phenomena of life"

    [On Aleksandr Dovzhenko]...In that era of silent movies, he made miracles... poetic cinema.

  • Originally, I didn't like [John Ford]--because of his material: for example, the comic secondary characters, the brutality, the male-female relationships typified by the man's slapping the woman on the backside. But eventually I came to understand that he had achieved an absolute uniformity of technical expertise. And his technique is the more admirable for being unobtrusive: His camera is invisible; his staging is perfect; he maintains a smoothness of surface in which no one scene is allowed to become more important than any other. Such mastery is possible only after one has made an enormous number of films. Questions of quality aside, John Ford is the Georges Simenon of directors.

    [on Michelangelo Antonioni] Antonioni is the only important director I have nothing good to say about. He bores me; he's so solemn and humorless.

    The talent of Godard goes toward a destructive object. Like Picasso, to whom he's compared very often, he destroys what he does; the act of creation is destructive. I like to work in tradition, in the constructive tradition.

    [In a 1973 interview] {Eric] Rohmer is the best French director now. He became famous very late compared to the rest of us, but for 15 years he's been behind us all the time. He's influenced us from behind for a long time.

    "Hitchcock loves to be misunderstood, because he has based his whole life around misunderstandings."

    “Nowadays, the work of Alfred Hitchcock is admired all over the world. Young people who are just discovering his art through the current rerelease of Rear Window and Vertigo, or through North by Northwest, may assume his prestige has always been recognized, but this is far from being the case.

    In the fifties and sixties, Hitchcock was at the height of his creativity and popularity. He was, of course, famous due to the publicity masterminded by producer David O. Selznick during the six or seven years of their collaboration on such films as Rebecca, Notorious, Spellbound, and The Paradine Case.

    His fame had spread further throughout the world via the television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents in the mid-fifties. But American and European critics made him pay for his commercial success by reviewing his work with condescension, and by belittling each new film.
    In examining his films, it was obvious that he had given more thought to the potential of his art than any of his colleagues. It occurred to me that if he would, for the first time, agree to respond seriously to a systematic questionnaire, the resulting document might modify the American critics’ approach to Hitchcock.
    That is what this book is all about.”

    The main complaint against some critics--and a certain type of criticism--is that too seldom do they speak about cinema as such. The scenario of a film is the film; all films are not psychological.
    Every critic should take to heart Jean Renoir's remark, "All great art is abstract." He should learn to be aware of form, and to understand that certain artists, for example Dreyer or Von Sternberg, never sought to make a picture that resembled reality.”

    “There are two kinds of directors; those who have the public in mind when they conceive and make their films and those who don't consider the public at all. For the former, cinema is an art of spectacle; for the latter, it is an individual adventure. There is nothing intrinsically better about one or the other; it's simply a matter of different approaches. For Hitchcock as for Renoir, as for that matter almost all American directors, a film has not succeeded unless it is a success, that is, unless it touches the public that one has had in mind right from the moment of choosing the subject matter to the end of production. While Bresson, Tati, Rossellini, Ray make films their own way and then invite the public to join the "game," Renoir, Clouzot, Hitchcock and Hawks make movies for the public, and ask themselves all the questions they think will interest their audience. Alfred Hitchcock, who is a remarkably intelligent man, formed the habit early--right from the start of his career in England--of predicting each aspect of his films. All his life he has worked to make his own tastes coincide with the public', emphasizing humor in his English period and suspense in his American period. This dosage of humor and suspense has made Hitchcock one of the most commercial directors in the world (his films regularly bring in four times what they cost). It is the strict demands he makes on himself and on his art that have made him a great director.”

    [On Werner Herzog] "the most important film director alive".

    [On Jean Renoir] The world's greatest film-maker.

    [On Jean Renoir] "I think Renoir is the only filmmaker who's practically infallible, who has never made a mistake on film. And I think if he never made mistakes, it's because he always found solutions based on simplicity—human solutions. He's one film director who never pretended. He never tried to have a style, and if you know his work—which is very comprehensive, since he dealt with all sorts of subjects—when you get stuck, especially as a young filmmaker, you can think of how Renoir would have handled the situation, and you generally find a solution."

    [On Roberto Rossellini] In some of my films I’ve tried to follow a single character simply and honestly in an almost documentary manner, and I owe this method to Rossellini. Aside from Vigo, Rossellini is the only filmmaker who has filmed adolescence without sentimentality and The 400 Blows owes a great deal to Germany Year Zero.

    [On Jean Vigo in 1970] What was Vigo’s secret? Probably he lived more intensely than most of us. Filmmaking is awkward because of the disjointed nature of the work. You shoot five to fifteen seconds and then stop for an hour. On the film set there is seldom the opportunity for the concentrated intensity a writer like Henry Miller might have enjoyed at his desk. By the time he had written twenty pages, a kind of fever possessed him, carried him away; it could be tremendous, even sublime. Vigo seems to have worked continuously in this state of trance, without ever losing his clearheadedness.

    Like Fellini, I think that the "noble" film is the trap of traps, the sneakiest swindle in the industry. For a real film-maker, nothing could be more boring to make than a "Bridge On The River Kwai" - scenes set inside office alternating with discussions between old fogies and some action scenes usually filmed by another crew. Rubbish, traps for fools, Oscar machines.

  • The films that influenced me the most, however, were Fritz Lang's. When I saw Destiny (1921), I suddenly knew that I too wanted to make movies. It wasn't the three stories themselves that moved moved me so much, but the main episode--the arrival of the man in the black hat, whom I instantly recognized as Death, in a Flemish village, and the scene in the cemetery. Something about this film spoke to something deep in me; it clarified my life and my vision of the world. This feeling occurred whenever I saw a Lang movie, particular the 'Nibelungen' movies, and Metropolis (1927).

    I knew de Sica well and especially liked Shoeshine, Umberto D, and The Bicycle Thief, where he succeeded in making a machine the star of the movie.

    A great director and a wonderfully warm person, Huston saw Nazarin while he was in Mexico and spent the next morning telephoning all over Europe and arranging for it to be shown at Cannes.

  • [about Michelangelo Antonioni and his film Blow-Up (1966)] This young Italian guy is starting to worry me.

    [on Michelangelo Antonioni and Federico Fellini] Those Italian fellows are a hundred years ahead of us. Blow-Up (1966) and 8½ (1963) are bloody masterpieces. [1978]

  • The Color of Pomegranates, by Sergei Parajanov, in my opinion, one of the best contemporary filmmakers, strikes with its perfection of beauty.

    [on François Truffaut] I think his films are like a river, lovely to see, to bathe in, extraordinarily refreshing and pleasant. Then the water flows and is gone. Very little of the pleasant feeling remains because I soon feel dirty again and need another bath. His images are as powerful as those of Resnais or Godard, but his stories are frivolous. I suppose that's what I object to. René Clair told light stories too, but they touch me more. I don't know why Truffaut's leave me unmoved. I'm not trying to say that he has no significance. I only mean that the way he tells a story doesn't come to anything. Perhaps he doesn't tell my kind of story. Perhaps that's it.

    [On Federico Fellini] I believe Federico was more concerned with the outer life of the people in his films. I am concerned with their inner lives—why they do what they do.

  • [1976 comment on Luis Bunuel] I think today there are too many directors taking themselves seriously; the only one capable of saying anything really new and interesting is Luis Bunuel. He's a very great director.

    [on Ingmar Bergman] I don't begin to share his way of seeing things any more than his obsessions. All the same I find him interesting. And his universe is much stranger yet than any Japanese filmmaker.

    [on Michelangelo Antonioni] It seems that boredom is one of the great discoveries of our time. If so, there's no question but that he must be considered a pioneer.

  • [on D.W. Griffith] The whole industry owes its existence to him.

  • I believe Ingmar Bergman, Vittorio De Sica and Federico Fellini are the only three filmmakers in the world who are not just artistic opportunists. By this I mean they don't just sit and wait for a good story to come along and then make it. They have a point of view which is expressed over and over and over again in their films, and they themselves write or have original material written for them.

    [on Charles Chaplin] Chaplin is all content and little form. Nobody could have shot a film in a more pedestrian way than Chaplin.

    Eisenstein does it with cuts, Max Ophuls does it with fluid movement. Chaplin does it with nothing. Eisenstein seems to be all form and no content, Chaplin is all content and little form. Nobody could have shot a film in a more pedestrian way than Chaplin. Nobody could have paid less attention to story than Eisenstein. Alexander Nevsky is, after all, a pretty dopey story. Potemkin is built around a heavy propaganda story. But both are great filmmakers.

    [On Ingmar Bergman] “His vision of life has moved me deeply, much more deeply than I have ever been moved by any films. I believe he is the greatest film-maker, unsurpassed by anyone in the creation of mood and atmosphere, the subtlety of performance, the avoidance of the obvious, the truthfulness and completeness of characterization. To this one must also add everything else that goes into the making of a film; and I look forward with eagerness to each of his films.”

    "There are very few directors, about whom you'd say you automatically have to see everything they do. I'd put Fellini, Bergman and David Lean at the head of my first list, and Truffaut at the head of the next level." - Stanley Kubrick (1966)

    [On Elia Kazan in 1957] "without question the best director we have in America. And he's capable of performing miracles with the actors he uses."

    "Highest of all I would rate Max Ophüls, who for me possesses every possible quality.” It is such ambiguous but whole-hearted praise that Ophüls’s work continues to elicit."

    [On being asked if he consciously favors a particular style of shooting] If something is really happening on the screen, it isn't crucial how it's shot. Chaplin had such a simple cinematic style that it was almost like I Love Lucy, but you were always hypnotised by what was going on, unaware of the essentially non-cinematic style. He frequently used cheap sets, routine lighting and so forth, but he made great films. His films will probably last longer than anyone else's. You could say that Chaplin was no style and all content. On the other hand, the opposite can be seen in Eisenstein's films, who is all style and no content or, depending on how generous you want to be, little content. Many of Eisenstein's films are really quite silly; but they are so beautifully made, so brilliantly cinematic, that, despite their heavily propagandistic simplemindedness, they become important.

  • [on John Ford] Orson Welles was once asked which American directors most appealed to him. "The old masters," he replied. "By which I mean John Ford, John Ford and John Ford." Well, I studied "Young Mr. Lincoln," for example. As I say, John Ford had a big influence on me.

  • My films have been progressing towards a certain kind of minimalism, even though it was never intended. Elements which can be eliminated have been eliminated. This was pointed out to me by somebody who referred to the paintings of Rembrandt and his use of light: some elements are highlighted while others are obscured or even pushed back into the dark. And it's something that we do - we bring out elements that we want to emphasize. I'm not claiming or denying that I have done such a thing but I do believe in [Robert] Bresson's method of creation through omission, not through addition.

    Children are very strong and independent characters and can come up with more interesting things than Marlon Brando, and it's sometimes very difficult to direct or order them to do something. When I met Akira Kurosawa in Japan, one question he asked me was, 'How did you actually make the children act the way they do? I do have children in my films but I find that I reduce and reduce their presence until I have to get rid of them because there's no way that I can direct them.' My own thought is that one is very grand, like an emperor on a horse, and it's very hard for a child to relate to that. In order to be able to cooperate with a child, you have to come down to below their level in order to communicate with them. Actors are also like children.

    I am in Armenia for a few days, but already I feel the rhythm of Armenia's life, which resembles the inner rhythm of Sergei Parajanov's films. [Upon receiving the Lifetime Achievment Award at 2005 Yerevan International Film Festival]

    I think Woody Allen is Woody Allen, and no matter where he goes he still makes his Woody Allen films.

  • [on Robert Bresson] There's something in the way Bresson makes films which puts me in mind of a certain French tradition that comes from Racine. I don't really think that I was influenced by Bresson, but I would say that I wish I had been.

    Well, Fellini... there is always Fellini.

  • [on Ingmar Bergman]: I can identify with what Bergman says about life, about what he says about love. I identify more or less with his attitude towards the world... towards men and women and what we do in everyday life... forgetting about what is most important.

    [on Andrei Tarkovsky]: Andrey Tarkovsky was one of the greatest directors of recent years. He's dead, like most of them. That is, most of them are dead or have stopped making films. Or else, somewhere along the way they've irretrievably lost something, some individual sort of imagination, intelligence, or way of narrating a story. Tarkovsky was certainly one of those who hadn't lost this.

    I haven't got a great talent for films. Orson Welles, for example, managed to achieve this at the age of twenty-four or twenty-six when he made 'Citizen Kane' and, with his first film, climbed to the top, the highest possible peak in cinema. But I'll need to take all my life to get there and I never will. I know that perfectly well. I just keep on going. For me, [each film] isn't better or worse. It's all the same only a step further, and, according to my own private scale of values, these are small steps which are taking me nearer to a goal which I'll never reach anyway. I haven't got enough talent.

  • “Spielberg isn’t a filmmaker, he’s a confectioner.”

    In Goodfellas they have this one scene where the camera goes down some steps and walks through a kitchen into a restaurant and the critics were all over this as evidence of the genius of Scorsese and Scorsese is a genius.

  • I have always been a huge fan of Ridley Scott and certainly when I was a kid. Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982) just blew me away because they created these extraordinary worlds that were just completely immersive. I was also an enormous Stanley Kubrick fan for similar reasons.

    "Terrence Malick, more than almost any other filmmaker I can name, his work is immediately recognizable. His films are all very, very connected with each other and they're very recognizably his work, but it's very tough to put your finger on why that is or what you're seeing in that the technique is not immediately obvious."

    "When you think of a visual style, when you think of the visual language of a film, there tends to be a natural separation of the visual style and the narrative elements. But with the greats, whether it's Stanley Kubrick or Terrence Malick or Hitchcock, what you're seeing is an inseparable, a vital relationship between the image and the story it's telling."

  • [on Akira Kurosawa] Kurosawa never affected me directly in terms of my own movie-making because I never would have presumed that I was capable of that perception and that vision.

    Commercial success has no relation to a good or bad picture. Good pictures become hits. Good pictures become flops. Bad pictures make money, bad pictures lose money. The fact is that NO ONE REALLY KNOWS. Through some incredible talent, Walt Disney knew. Today Steven Spielberg seems to.

  • [On M. Night Shymalan] “I HATE that guy! Next question.”

    [on Christopher Nolan] What he is doing is some very interesting technical stuff, which, you know, he's shooting IMAX and in 3-D. That's really tricky and difficult to do. I read about it in American Cinematography Magazine, and technically, that's all very interesting. The movies, to me, they're mostly boring.

    Even Hitchcock liked to think of himself as a puppeteer who was manipulating the strings of his audience and making them jump. He liked to think he had that kind of control.

    I never thought I was doing the same thing as directors like John Carpenter, George Romero, and sometimes even Hitchcock, even though I've been sometimes compared to those other guys. We're after different game.

    “I think I’m a more intimate and personal film-maker than Kubrick ever was. That’s why I find The Shining not to be a great film. I don’t think he understood the [horror] genre. I don’t think he understood what he was doing. There were some striking images in the book and he got that, but I don’t think he really felt it.”

  • [Terrence Malick] is a guy who sees his movies and thinks, "I would have done that differently". I see mine and say, "Given the circumstances, that's what I did and that's what I'd do again". I don't know how much of a free-will guy I am.

    I would have loved to have been a '40s studio director like Vincente Minnelli. You ended up with a real diverse career. Now you don't get a call from [Darryl F. Zanuck] saying, "Come do this movie on Monday". So you have to do it on your own.

  • [on Orson Welles] Orson Welles is an animal made for the screen and the stage. When he steps before a camera, it is as if the rest of the world ceases to exist. He is a citizen of the screen.

    John Ford is a great man, no doubt. John ford is the man who gave a certain nobility to the western. But the western could exist without John Ford. The westerns are something very strong and John Ford is just, may I say, the best one among the western makers. But he is a man who is the head, who is the top of the group. You know, with the new wave, the new wave is very different. Each one of the new wave is just himself without any connections with anything else.

  • “I’m not against the word, and I use it, but not excessively. And some people speak that way. But, Quentin [Quentin Tarantino is infatuated with that word. What does he want to be made — an honorary black man?”

    Any film I do is not going to change the way black women have been portrayed, or black people have been portrayed, in cinema since the days of D.W. Griffith.

  • I'm not bitter about Hollywood's treatment of me, but over its treatment of D.W. Griffith, Josef von Sternberg, Erich von Stroheim, Buster Keaton and a hundred others.

    [on René Clair] A real master: he invented his own Paris, which is better than recording it.

    [on Federico Fellini] His films are a small-town boy's dream of a big city. His sophistication works because it is the creation of someone who doesn't have it. But he shows dangerous signs of being a superlative artist with little to say.

    [on Stanley Kubrick] Among the young generation, Kubrick strikes me as a giant.

    [on Jean-Luc Godard] His gifts as a director are enormous. I just can't take him very seriously as a thinker - and that's where we seem to differ, because he does. His message is what he cares about these days, and, like most movie messages, it could be written on the head of a pin.

    [To Peter Bogdanovich: On Luis Bunuel] 'He is a deeply Christian man who hates God as only a Christian can,'' and, of course, he's very Spanish. I see him as the most supremely religious director in the history of the movies.'

    [To Peter Bogdanovich: On Luis Bunuel] 'Jesus, it's all true. He's that kind of intellectual and that kind of Catholic [. . .] A superb kind of person he must be. Everybody loves him.'

    I think it's very harmful to see movies for movie makers because you either imitate them or worry about not imitating them and you should do movies innocently and i lost my innocence. Every time i see a picture i lose something i don't gain. I never understand what directors mean when they compliment me and say they've learned from my pictures because i don't believe in learning from other people's pictures. You should learn from your own interior vision and discover innocently as though there had never been D.W. Griffith or Eisenstein or Ford or Renoir or anybody.

    I never could stand looking at Bette Davis, so I don't want to see her act, you see. I hate Woody Allen physically, I dislike that kind of man. ['Henry Jaglom' (qv]: I've never understood why. Have you met him? Oh, yes. I can hardly bear to talk to him. He has the Chaplin disease. That particular combination of arrogance and timidity sets my teeth on edge...Like all people with timid personalities, his arrogance is ­unlimited. Anybody who speaks quietly and shrivels up in company is unbelievably ­arrogant. He acts shy, but he's not. He's scared. He hates himself, and he loves himself, a very tense situation. It's people like me who have to carry on and pretend to be modest. To me, it's the most embarrassing thing in the world-a man who presents himself at his worst to get laughs, in order to free himself from his hang-ups. Everything he does on the screen is therapeutic.

    [On his favorite Directors] "Well, I prefer the old masters; by which I mean: John Ford, John Ford and John Ford. With Ford at his best, you get a sense of what the earth is made of—-even if the script is by Mother Machree.”

    [On the death of Jean Renoir] "Jean Renoir: The Greatest of all Directors".

    [On Kenji Mizoguchi] "No praise is too high for him"

    [To Peter Bogdanovich] Chaplin's a great artist—there can't be any argument about that. It's just that he seldom makes the corners of my mouth move up. I find him easy to admire and hard to laugh at.

    [On Charlie Chaplin] a "genius" as an actor, but merely competent as a director;

    "Chaplin was deeply dumb in some ways,"

    I've never understood the cult of Hitchcock.

    [On Alfred Hitchcock] "I think he was senile a long time before he died."

    In handling a camera I feel that I have no peer. But what De Sica can do, I can't do. I ran his Shoeshine recently and the camera disappeared, the screen disappeared; it was just life . . .

    Keaton was beyond all praise…a very great artist, and one of the most beautiful men I ever saw on the screen. He was also a superb director. In the last analysis, nobody came near him. Keaton, one of the giants! … Now, finally, Keaton’s been ‘discovered’. Too late to him any good, of course - he lived all those long years in eclipse, and then, just as the sun was coming out again, he died. I wish I’d known him better than I did. A tremendously nice person, you know, but also a man of secrets. I can’t even imagine what they were.

    [On Michelangelo Antonioni] "I don't like to dwell on things. It's one of the reasons I'm so bored with Antonioni - the belief that, because a shot is good, it's going to get better if you keep looking at it. He gives you a full shot of somebody walking down a road. And you think, 'Well, he's not going to carry that woman all the way up that road.' But he does. And then she leaves and you go on looking at the road after she's gone."

    [On Josef Von Sternberg] “The King and Queen of camp”

  • (On why he would not add rap songs to the soundtrack to Scarface (1983)) "They said it would help promotion, presenting the film in a different way, but Giorgio's music was true to the period, I argued -- and no one changes the scores on movies by Martin Scorsese, John Ford, David Lean. If this is the "masterpiece" you say, leave it alone. I fought them tooth and nail and was the odd man out, not an unusual place for me. I have final cut, so that stopped them dead".

    I've never been accepted as that conventional artist. Whatever you say about David Lynch or Martin Scorsese, they are considered major film artists and nobody can argue with that. I've never had that. I've had people say it about me. And I've had people say that I'm a complete hack and, you know, derivative and all those catchphrases that people use for me. So I've always been controversial. People hate me or love me.

    [on Alfred Hitchcock] He is the one who distilled the essence of film. He's like Webster. It's all there. I've used a lot of his grammar.

    Godard is incredibly brilliant, the things he says. Apparently here in France, the most interesting thing when a new film of his is going to come out are his press conferences, because he's so brilliant.

  • [on François Truffaut, Claude Lelouch, and Jean-Luc Godard] People like Truffaut, Lelouch and Godard are like little kids playing at being revolutionaries. I've passed through this stage. I lived in a country where these things happened seriously.

  • On Stanley Kubrick: I admire Kubrick greatly. He is often accused of being a prodigious technician and rigid intellectual, which people say makes his films very cold. I don't agree. I think that "Barry Lyndon" or "A Clockwork Orange" are the most perfect marriages of personality and subject. But in fact, "Full Metal Jacket" is even more so. It looked at rigidity and brutality with an almost clinical eye. It is, for me, a singular film about the military, about war and its consequences. The famous scenes, like the induction with R Lee Ermey where he renames the soldiers and reshapes them into sub-human maggots, had a particular impact on me. Also the suicide scene with Vincent D'Onofrio in the bathroom. And the sniper set-piece at the end. Those are absolutely virtuoso pieces of filmmaking.

    'Stanley Kubrick''s absolute control over the medium turns his rock-solid framing and tense timing into real weapons pointed directly at the unsuspecting audience of The Shining (1980). No one has ever used the Steadicam as perfectly as he did in the tracking shots behind Torrance, Danny's tricycle. He uses the soundtrack brilliantly, fusing concrete music with sound effects and score to unsettle and position the uber-mannered, hyper-real performances of his actors. And, refreshingly, Kubrick is not above moments of Grand Guignol: the elevator doors spilling blood, the axe on the chest, the Grady twins bathed in blood or the old undead crone festering in the bathtub. He proves that great horror can be both shocking and a highly artistic endeavor.

    Kurosawa’s being one of the essential masters is best represented by these, his most operatic, pessimistic, and visually spectacular films. Try and guess which is which. How he managed to be both exuberant and elegant at the same time will be one of life’s great mysteries.

    Most people remember David Lean for his big-scale epics, like Doctor Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia, or The Bridge on the River Kwai. But here he is at his most precise and poetic.

    Terry Gilliam is a living treasure, and we are squandering him foolishly with every film of his that remains unmade. Proof that our world is the poorer for this can be found in two of his masterpieces. Gilliam is a fabulist pregnant with images—exploding with them, actually—and fierce, untamed imagination. He understands that “bad taste” is the ultimate declaration of independence from the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie. He jumps with no safety net and drags us with him into a world made coherent only by his undying faith in the tale he is telling.

    Kubrick was a fearsome intellect. His approach to filmmaking and storytelling remains as mysterious at it is compelling. The illusion of control over the medium is total. Both films speak eloquently about the scale of a man against the tide of history, and both raise the bar for every “historical” film to follow. Paths of Glory is a searing indictment of the war machine, as pertinent now as it was in its day. I suspect, however, that Kubrick was also a highly instinctive director, and that he grasped incessantly for his films. An anecdote tells us of him begging Kirk Douglas to stay in bed a few more days after an accident, because Kubrick was using the “downtime” to understand the film they were making.

  • [on Erich von Stroheim] In my opinion, there were only two directors in Hollywood who made films without regard to box-office success: Von Stroheim and myself.

  • My master in film, Buñuel, [Luis Buñuel] was a far greater storyteller than I. It was just that in my films miracles occur on the screen.

    Seventy years ago there were men like D.W. Griffith and seventy years later - now - there are not many men like Martin Scorsese. But so long as there is one there will be others, and the art of the cinema will survive.

  • People talk about my signature. But I ask them if they ever saw Howard Hawks' films. They're filled with overlapping dialog. Everything I've learned has come from watching other directors: Bergman [Ingmar Bergman, Fellini [Federico Fellini], Kurosawa [Akira Kurosawa], Huston [John Huston] and Renoir [Jean Renoir].

  • [on Orson Welles] An active loafer, a wise madman.

  • [on the untimely death of Pier Paolo Pasolini] A remarkable director - a great loss to Italian culture. It was as if he was discovering cinema from scratch.

    Kurosawa's movies and La Dolce Vita (1960), Fellini, are the things that pushed me into being a film director.

    What happened in the late Fifties, early Sixties in French cinema was a fantastic revolution. I was in Italy, but completely in love with the nouvelle vague movement, and directors like Godard, Truffaut, Demy. 'The Dreamers' was a total homage to cinema and that love for it.

  • Kubrick was a good model. He had an autonomy I've never had but that one desire. He organized things a certain way. And he had a good relationship with Warner Brothers. He was their class act.

  • [on Anthony Asquith] A hell of a good director.

  • I want to be able to make westerns like [Akira Kurosawa] makes westerns.

  • Truffaut loved [Alfred] Hitchcock. You feel there's something up even if you don't know what....There's discovery in this movie [ Jules and Jim (1962)]. You're discovering this woman but there's discovery in the filmmaking, too. You get involved in the story even though Truffaut uses narration and techniques that might seem distancing. He knows exactly what he wants to show you, and he only uses the voiceover when it's either going to get us further inside the characters or dispense with exposition. It gives the movie a classical structure and puts it all in the past tense. This is a time that is now over. It's both a celebration and an elegy.

    [more re François Truffaut and his Jules and Jim (1962)] Day for night in black and white is so cool. It was practical because it's such a long shot and would have been difficult to light. Whatever the reason, there's something so beautiful about this walk and talk; how they [Catherine and Jules] come toward us from that distance, and we dolly with them. Truffaut doesn't need to cut in. He just sets it up so they'll come closer. I love shots like that. If I could, I'd shoot everything that way. And the day for night makes it beautiful in a way you can't define. It's familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.

    {On his friend Wes Anderson ] I saw that he really was doing what was interesting to him, and he was trusting that that would be interesting to other people. I saw Rushmore (1998) and I thought, He's comfortable making his own genre.

  • I think Ken Loach is an extraordinary filmmaker. It is so effortless what he does. The effortlessness with which he can get some stuff is just extraordinary. You may not like his concerns as a filmmaker, that they are political or whatever, and you may actually think that the films should be more exciting, they should have more dramatic climaxes, but he is extraordinary. You think about The Godfather (1972) and that is shot in Ken Loach's fashion, in a way. It's effortless. That's one of the things about Coppola. You never had any fancy angles with Coppola. You don't get any of that Scorsese stuff. Those filmmakers are the real craftsmen, the real masters. They don't need the camera to do anything for them, the whole thing is set up - the camera just records it and you witness it. Whereas I tend to use the camera as part of the experience, the actual point of view is part of the experience. They didn't want to do that. They wanted something much more like looking at a painting. The camera is much more reliable and still. It won't confuse you, you just witness what is within it.

  • [On Federico Fellini and his film 8 1/2] Most people want to think life has got some structure, form and that you can distinguish the past from the future, and the present. I don't think it's true, I think Fellini admits to that and allows all of these things to enter into the process. Faces always coming at you - he's got the money, he's got everything, but he doesn't know what he's doing and everyone's coming at him. They're all wanting answers. They're all wanting something from him. I think one of the first times I was really aware of the camera as a partner in dance, because I think the film is like a dance. He shoots like a dancer would shoot. It's all moving, it's shifting. Things are coming in and out of frame. It's never still. It's what life always seems like to me. It always feels like the passage through life.

    I think Fellini just told me things about my future. He told me about the process of life. He told me things about the process of life. He told me things about memory that all seems true and honest and believable, even though he lies the whole time. That's what I love about Fellini, he's a liar. He's a constant liar. He twists and distorts the truth.

    Now whether any of us saw the world like Fellini showed us until he actually made his films I don't know. I have that terrible feeling he opened our eyes to a world that was sitting there all alone. Those of us who followed could come and see the world that he saw.

  • [When told he must have been influenced by Bresson] I want to make him seem like a director of epic action pictures.

    I have always considered Jean Vigo and Robert Flaherty close relatives. Between Nanook and L’Atalante, you can place practically all cinema except Bunuel’s L’age d’or.

  • The only person who has the right attitude about boxing in the movies for me was Buster Keaton.

    [on Stanley Kubrick] One of his films... is equivalent to ten of somebody else's. Watching a Kubrick film is like gazing up at a mountain top. You look up and wonder, "How could anyone have climbed that high?"

    [on Stanley Kubrick] Why does something stay with you for so many years? It's really a person with a very powerful storytelling ability. A talent... a genius, who could create a solid rock image that has conviction.

    [on Kathryn Bigelow] I've always been a fan of hers, over the years. (Her film) Blue Steel (1989). She's good, she's really good.

    [on Akira Kurosawa] His influence on filmmakers throughout the entire world is so profound as to be almost incomparable,.

    [on Akira Kurosawa] The term 'giant' is used too often to describe artists. But in the case of Akira Kurosawa, we have one of the rare instances where the term fits.

    "Let me say it simply: Akira Kurosawa was my master, and ... the master of so many other filmmakers over the years."

    L'Avventura (1960) gave me one of the most profound shocks I've ever had at the movies, greater even than Breathless (1960) or Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959). Or La Dolce Vita (1960). At the time there were two camps, the people who liked the Fellini film and the ones who liked L'Avventura. I knew I was firmly on Antonioni's side of the line, but if you'd asked me at the time, I'm not sure I would have been able to explain why. I loved Fellini's pictures and I admired La Dolce Vita, but I was challenged by L' Avventura. Fellini's film moved me and entertained me, but Antonioni's film changed my perception of cinema, and the world around me, and made both seem limitless. I was mesmerized by L'Avventura and by Antonioni's subsequent films, and it was the fact that they were unresolved in any conventional sense that kept drawing me back. They posed mysteries - or rather the mystery, of who we are, what we are, to each other, to ourselves, to time. You could say that Antonioni was looking directly at the mysteries of the soul. That's why I kept going back. I wanted to keep experiencing these pictures, wandering through them. I still do.

    "Kiarostami represents the highest level of artistry in the cinema."

    [On Francois Truffaut] His love affair with moving pictures was a profound and lasting one, and you can feel the intensity of it in his criticism, even in his acting. And most of all, in his films. Truffaut's passion for cinema, the desire that it stirred in him, animates every movie he ever made, every scene, every shot...

    Truffaut carried that sense of history into his moviemaking. Back in the early and mid-'60s, people were always talking about how this movie "quoted" from that older movie, but what almost no one talked about was why the quote was there, what it did or didn't do for the movie, what it meant emotionally to the picture as a whole. In Truffaut, you could feel the awareness of film history behind the camera, but you could also see that every single choice he made was grounded in the emotional reality of the picture...

    If you don’t like Sam Fuller you just don’t like cinema.

    Theo Angelopoulos is a masterful filmmaker. He really understands how to control the frame. There are sequences in his work—the wedding scene in The Suspended Step of the Stork; the rape scene in Landscape in the Mist; or any given scene in The Traveling Players—where the slightest movement, the slightest change in distance, sends reverberations through the film and through the viewer. The total effect is hypnotic, sweeping, and profoundly emotional. His sense of control is almost otherworldly.

    “When I hear the term ‘independent filmmaker,’ I immediately think of John Cassavetes. He was the most independent of them all. For me, he was and still is a guide and teacher. Without his support and advice, I don’t know what would have become of me as a filmmaker."

    "Nothing could have stopped Cassavetes except God, and He eventually did. John died much too soon, but his films and his example are still very much alive."

    Wes Anderson, at age thirty, has a very special kind of talent: He knows how to convey the simple joys and interactions between people so well and with such richness. This kind of sensibility is rare in movies. Leo McCarey, the director of Make Way for Tomorrow and The Awful Truth, comes to mind. And so does Jean Renoir. I remember seeing Renoir's films as a child and immediately feeling connected to the characters through his love for them. It's the same with Anderson. I've found myself going back and watching Bottle Rocket several times. I'm also very fond of his second film, Rushmore (1998)--it has the same tenderness, the same kind of grace. Both of them are very funny, but also very moving.

    [On Wes Anderson] Anderson has a fine sense of how music works against an image. There’s the beautiful ending of Rushmore, when Miss Cross removes Max Fischer’s glasses and gazes into the boy’s eyes—really the eyes of her dead husband—as the Faces’ “Ooh La La” plays on the soundtrack. And I also love the scene in Bottle Rocket when Owen Wilson’s character, Dignan, says, “They’ll never catch me, man, ‘cause I’m fuckin’ innocent.” Then he runs off to save one of his partners in crime and gets captured by the police, over “2000 Man” by the Rolling Stones. He—and the music—are proclaiming who he really is: He’s not innocent in the eyes of the law, but he’s truly an innocent. For me, it’s a transcendent moment. And transcendent moments are in short supply these days."

    [On Kenji Mizoguchi] Mizoguchi is one of the greatest masters who ever worked in the medium of film; he’s right up there with Renoir and Murnau and Ford, and after the war he made three pictures—The Life of Oharu, Ugetsu, and Sansho the Bailiff—that stand at the summit of cinema. All of his artistry is channeled into the most extraordinary simplicity.

    I’ve crossed paths with Andrzej Wajda a few times over the years, and I’ve always been in awe of his energy and his unflinching vision. I saw him again a couple of years ago, a little frailer but still as burning with energy as he’d been back in the ’90s, and he was preparing to make another film, now just completed, about Lech Walesa (the final installment of the trilogy that began with Man of Marble and Man of Iron). He’s a model to all filmmakers.

    [On Federico Fellini and his film 81/2] What would Fellini do after La dolce vita? We all wondered. How would he top himself? Would he even want to top himself? Would he shift gears? Finally, he did something that no one could have anticipated at the time. He took his own artistic and life situation—that of a filmmaker who had eight and a half films to his name (episodes for two omnibus films and a shared credit with Alberto Lattuada on Variety Lights counted for him as one and a half films, plus seven), achieved international renown with his last feature and felt enormous pressure when the time came for a follow-up—and he built a movie around it.

    [On Jean-Luc Godard and Michelangelo Antonioni] I used to think of Godard and Antonioni as the great modern visual artists of cinema—great colorists who composed frames the way painters composed their canvases. I still think so, but I also connect with them on the emotional level.

    [On Roberto Rossellini] "He changed cinema three times. First, he and Vittorio De Sica started what was called 'neo- realism.' Then, with his wife Ingrid Bergman, he made a series of intimate, almost mystical stories like Stromboli and Europa '51. Europa '51 is about two people in a car--it's what became the New Wave of cinema in the '60s. At the end of his career, he directed a series of didactic films for Italian television-- he always felt a duty to inform. He called these 'undramatic,' but The Rise of Louis XIV is an artistic masterpiece."

  • Bicycle Thieves is a triumphant discovery of the fundamentals of cinema and De Sica has openly acknowledged his debt to Chaplin.

    As for innovation, all artists owe a debt to innovators and profit by such innovation. [Jean-Luc] Godard gave me the courage to dispense largely with fades and dissolves, [François] Truffaut to use the freeze. But all innovation is not external. There is a subtle, almost imperceptible kind of innovation that can be felt in the very texture and sinews of a film. A film that doesn’t wear its innovations on its sleeve. A film like La Règle du jour. Humanist? Classical? Avant-Garde? Contemporary? I defy anyone to give it a label. This is the kind of innovation that appeals to me.

  • There are certain directors - Spielberg, David Fincher, John McTiernan - who sort of see things in three dimensions, and I was watching their films and sort of breaking them down to see how they laid sequences out, and how they paid attention to things like lens length, where the eyelines were, when the camera moved, how they cut, how they led your eye from one part of the frame to another.

    I learned from Richard Lester that as your career goes on, you learn more about how things can go wrong, but you never learn how things can go right. And it's really disorienting.

  • When [John Ford] was dying, we used to discuss how tough it was to make a good Western without [John Wayne].

    Frank Capra, until he went into the army, was one of the greatest directors we ever had. Made great entertainment. After that he couldn't make anything. He started to analyze his pictures, and put messages in them. He put messages into his other pictures, but he didn't think about it. He did it naturally. When he got to thinking about his messages, oh brother, he turned into really... ah, no good.

  • Quentin Tarantino called me once. Someone had written 'Is Michael Bay the Devil?' Quentin said, 'Don't worry, last year they called me the Antichrist.'

  • [on Stanley Kubrick] Every time out of the box he had a different dance.

  • Mike Nichols said in the newspaper he thinks of Buñuel every day, which I believe I do, too, or at least every other.

  • In a normal world, one would go out and walk into just any theater to see a film by Jacques Tati. Or Chaplin.

    In his top ten, Jean-Pierre Gorin tells you about John Ford’s praise of Jean Renoir. I’ll try to top his story: One day, Mizoguchi was asked who his favorite filmmaker was. “Ozu,” he answered without hesitation. And the journalist asked him why. “Because what he does is much more difficult than what I do.”

    My friend Shigehiko Hasumi told me that Naruse was a very silent man because he had the feeling the world had betrayed him. Naruse was one of the greatest craftsmen of all time, a man who always spoke softly about our weaknesses.

    Luis Buñuel always reminds us of what we’re constantly losing in this rotten society.

    When everything seems hopeless and lost, Dr. Lubitsch is the one to call.

  • Buñuel is my first deep love in cinema. He is the adult that pulled the plug on the human art of pretending. He blazes through the hypocrisy at the heart of our bourgeois lives mercilessly—no one is sacred, no ideal or moral is spared. He is perfectly modern, bold, and clear. I found myself laughing in joy and amazement. He understands human nature while refusing to sentimentalize it.

    No one today is as modern as Godard. There has never been a more daring conceptual, chic, and irreverent filmmaker.

    Fellini is a deep, deep master of film. As time goes by I adore him more and more.

  • Vilmos [Zsigmond] and all those guys have built themselves up to be bigger than directors. It's bullshit. Does anyone remember who shot Kubrick's movies? Do you remember who shot David Lean's movies? No one remembers who shot Dr. Strangelove or Barry Lyndon (1975).

    I'm not revisiting the past, like Francis Coppola, re-cutting Apocalypse Now (1979) 29 times. Why do you think Francis is re-cutting Apocalypse? He's dried up. I'm going forward; he's going backward.

    [on Oliver Stone] Oliver thinks he's the greatest thing since chopped liver. He's a great guy, a great writer; we have a great working relationship and I love him. But he's a better writer than director. He's incredibly, insanely jealous about the fact that I published a novel. He's always wanted to be the next Hemingway; he didn't want to be a director.

  • [On being asked about his "How Would Lubitsch do it?" sign above his office door] When I would write a romantic comedy along the Lubitschian line, if I got stopped in the middle of a scene, I’d think, How would Lubitsch do it?

    [At the funeral of Ernst Lubitsch] "No more Lubitsch,''

    Lubitsch could do more with a closed door than another director could do with an open fly.

  • [on Luis Buñuel] We have the same roots, we belong to the same family and I really recognise myself in his films. For me, he is a real master.

    I can get a lot of pleasure from a screening of Pink Flamingos (1972) by John Waters, and at the same time a Bergman movie, like Face to Face (1976) or Persona (1966). When I was a child, I remember very well that I saw a film by Michelangelo Antonioni. I was at school at the time, about 11 or 12, and I was deeply interested. But at the same time I saw silly pop movies that I liked too, because I was a child. I always combined these two tastes in my life.

    I'm a big fan of David Lean. I think David Lean is the only example of a filmmaker who made super-productions that were auteur super-productions. They're extremely personal. And I don't think anyone's making films like that, and I really miss a personality like David Lean's in Hollywood.

  • I wish Luis Buñuel had made Los Olvidados (1950) before I made Knock on Any Door (1949), because I would have made a hell of a lot better movie.

  • He was great. We called it the Roger Corman school of film technique. You really did learn on the job.

    I also love the absence of pressure, any kind of pressure, with documentaries. I know what Roger Corman's talking about when he says that a director has to be part businessman.

    [On Roger Corman] Roger also said something I'll never forget. He said that as far as he was concerned the formula for a director was 40 per cent artist, 60 per cent businessman.

    I think that a lot of the people, like Hal Ashby, were a lot more complicated and there was a lot more magic going on in their lives and their work than the book indicated.

  • Yes, actually ever since I saw his films and tried to write about them, Sirk's been in everything I've done. Not Sirk himself, but what I've learned from his work.

    “Women think in [Douglas] Sirk’s films. Something which has never struck me with other directors. None of them. Usually women are always reacting, doing what women are supposed to do, but in Sirk they think. It’s something that has to be seen. It’s great to see women think. It gives one hope. Honestly.”

  • [on Lewis Milestone] From Lewis Milestone I learned diplomacy in dealing with actors.

    [on Charles Chaplin, for whom he worked as assistant director on Limelight (1952)] He's the greatest actor in the world but he doesn't know how to direct.

  • "I think that with Malick you're seeing something that was thought about and meditated over and you're seeing somebody who's making choices that are specifically designed to evoke a feeling."

    I have a philosophy about the two extremes of filmmaking. The first is the "Kubrick way," where you're at the end of an alley in which four guys are kicking the shit out of a wino. Hopefully, the audience members will know that such a scenario is morally wrong, even though it's not presented as if the viewer is the one being beaten up; it's more as if you're witnessing an event. Inversely, there's the "Spielberg way," where you're dropped into the middle of the action and you're going to live the experience vicariously - not only through what's happening, but through the emotional flow of what people are saying. It's a much more involved style. I find myself attracted to both styles at different times, but mostly I'm interested in just presenting something and letting people decide for themselves what they want to look at.

  • [on making The Last Picture Show (1971)] I hope I'm not repeating what happened to [Orson Welles]. You know, make a successful serious film like this early and then spend the rest of my life in decline.

  • Mainly it's just real life around me that inspires me. I see someone on the bus, and I want to write about them. But among filmmakers, I suppose Tarkovsky. He has something spiritual about him. His book 'Sculpting in Time' is on my bedside table.

  • [on Alfred Hitchcock] Any American director who says he hasn't been influenced by him is out of his mind.

    [on Alfred Hitchcock] When I say I have been influenced by Hitchcock, I think every director in a certain way has been influenced by Hitchcock, because in many of his films, you find those marvellous moments; but I've never been fulfilled by a Hitchcock film. I would certainly never want to be Hitchcock, and would never want to make films like his because I think they're meaningless. I think all those kind of "after the fact" and "in depth" studies of Hitchcock are ludicrous. If ever there was a commercial director, it was Hitchcock. He's terribly good, but also terribly glib and really a very surface director. I don't think his films contain deep motivations. It's very easy to read things into certain films. He's a clever man and gifted and I often think of what he could have achieved if his talents had been directed toward something more meaningful.

  • I like to work on a film where it's continually opening up its secrets to me. I think any work of art, not just a film, is a mystery. I think it was Jean Cocteau who said it should reveal its secrets slowly.

  • Nothing essential has been added to the art of the motion picture since D.W. Griffith.

    [On Charlie Chaplin] "He inspired practically every filmmaker".

  • “I think of the area of magic as a metaphor for the homosexual situation. You know, magic which is banned and dangerous, difficult and mysterious. I can see that use of magic in the Cocteau films, in Kenneth Anger and very much in Eisenstein. Maybe it is an uncomfortable, banned area which is disruptive, and maybe it is a metaphor for the gay situation.”

    [On Peter Greenaway] "If Gucci handbags were still in fashion Greenaway would carry his scripts in them."

  • [on Emmanuelle Riva's performance in Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959)] She isn't a classical heroine, at least not one that a certain classical cinema has habituated us to see, from David Griffith [D.W. Griffith] to Nicholas Ray.

  • [on David Lean] "If he heard his best friend was dying while he was on the set, I doubt if he'd take it in. Once he's started a film, there's really nothing else in his life."

    [About Alexander Korda] I once had a meeting with him. I remember thinking, Korda can make you think black is white, or white is black that he would say at a meeting, "Well, you see, black is white, Ronnie." And you'd say, "Yes, yes." And then halfway up Brook Street after you'd left, you'd say, "Well, no. That's not so. Black isn't white."

  • [From his book: “On Film-making: An Introduction to the Craft of the Director”] “Hitchcock is suggesting that a good film should be ninety per cent understandable even if dubbed into a language no one sitting in the auditorium understands.”

  • I once told [Jean-Luc Godard] that he had something I wanted--freedom. He said, "You have something I want--money".

    When I refused to take directing credit for the film [Death of a Gunfighter (1969)], as did [Robert Totten], the Directors' Guild made up a pseudonym for Totten and myself, 'Allen Smithee". As the picture was well received, I told my young friends who wanted to be directors to change their name to Smithee and take credit for direction of the picture. I don't know if anyone did this. I still think under certain circumstances, they might have cracked the "magic barrier" and become directors.

  • We are not Spielberg. Spielberg is successful, not us. [on himself and his brother Luc]

  • All my films, up to and including The House of Mirth, were made with very small budgets and modest intentions. We all started out at the BFI. There was me, Bill Douglas, Derek Jarman, Sally Potter, Peter Greenaway. It was all modest, but all those people had a voice in a way that people haven't today.

  • “I had this unimaginable chance to work for Jacques Rivette. It took me many years to appreciate the New Wave: Chabrol, Truffaut, Godard, I found them sectarian. The only one who seemed absolutely incredible to me was Rivette.”

  • I could describe the art of Godard: it is to use himself and his opinion as material. I don’t think that he’s imposing his opinions on the spectator, he is using himself as a pure material instead of having a story or characters. But it’s not my way. Definitely I feel closer to Truffaut.

    What these two men, Godard and Truffaut, have in common, and what Godard perhaps at one point of his craft lost, I mean, he wanted to lose it and then he lost it, is the fact that being French or making films in France could mean to be in love with Americana in a specific way. What is so French is trying to pay a tribute to this little boy, 13 years old, who dislikes the French films and loves stupid American movies.

    I remember so clearly, until I was 25 years old Truffaut was really nothing and Godard was everything to me, because I could recognise something of myself in his political statements. It took me quite a while to understand, I’m not sure that I understood it, but to try to dig what Truffaut was trying to achieve, what kind of revolt he was trying to put on the screen. It was the same measure of anger and vivid violence, but in a different way than Godard.

  • I never expected to become a director. It never occurred to me to come to America, to Hollywood. It's all been a wonderful accident. I'm still amazed every time I finish a film. I'm the opposite of Steven (Spielberg) who's obsessed about making films since he was a child. It's all come as a surprise; I'm finding my way through the dark.

  • [on independent film-makers] Kevin Smith is the only one I don't like particularly. I respect most of them. He's the one I can't identify with in any way. He kind of created a Special Olympics for film. They just kind of lowered the standard.

  • [on Akira Kurosawa] I love Kurosawa's movies, and I got so much inspiration from him. He is one of my idols and one of the great masters.

    [The following is excerpts taken from John Woo's tribute essay released in the 1996 cahiers du cinema November issue dedicated to Jean-Pierre Melville]

    Melville is God to me.

    What Melville and I have in common is a love for old American gangster films. Although Melville was basically doing gangster films, the big difference between his work and the American films of that period was in his almost intellectual approach to the genre. Although they’re shot in a very cold way, Melville’s films always make us react emotionally. Melville is very self-controlled when he tells a story, and I find this fascinating. In my films, when I want to convey an emotion, I always use a lot of shots, extreme close-ups sometimes combined with dollies. On the contrary, Melville shoots in an almost static way, letting the actors deliver their performance, and thus allowing the audience to fully experience what is going on in each scene. As a result, his films are both psychologically and intellectually extremely involving.

    I love how Melville managed to combine his own culture with Eastern philosophy. And that’s why the Hong Kong audience was so responsive to his movies. Melville often used Eastern proverbs in the opening titles of his films. He understood Chinese philosophy even more than our own people. I think that I relate to his movies because his vision of humanity is so rooted in the Eastern tradition. His characters are not heroes; they are human beings. In the gang world, they have to stick to the rules, but they remain faithful to a code of honor that is reminiscent of ancient chivalry. In Melville’s films, there’s always a thin line between good and evil. His characters are unpredictable. You never know what they’re going to do next, but it’s always bigger than life. You cannot use any formula, any moral standards, to sum up his heroes.

    I believe that this connection I have with Melville also has to do with the fact that I was influenced by existentialism in the fifties and sixties. To me, Melville’s movies are existentialist, as you find in the loneliness of the characters played by Yves Montand in Le Cercle Rouge and Alain Delon in Le Samouraï. Nobody cares for them, nobody knows who they are; they are loners, doomed tragic figures, lost on their inner journey.

    Technically, I love the way Melville builds the tension before the action. I’m thinking of that scene on the bridge in Le Samouraï, where Delon has a meeting with a man who is supposed to give him money, but the whole thing is a trap. They both wait on the bridge. They’re walking toward each other, and nothing really happens, but there’s this dangerous feel throughout the scene, which is terrific. Suddenly, Melville cuts to a wide shot, you hear a gunshot, and he cuts back to Alain Delon, who is already wounded. In classic genre scenes of this type, you’d usually have a different setup, with a huge gunfight at the end. Melville prefers to play this in a very subdued, almost poetic, way.

    In 1988-89, during the promotion of The Killer, I remember talking to the press and saying that the film was a tribute to Melville, and I was shocked to find that almost nobody had heard about him or Le Samouraï. To my great surprise, the young generation did not know about him.

    Now, Melville is the new big thing, maybe because people like Quentin Tarantino and me often talk about him. Whenever I am at a film festival, I always mention Melville’s name, and I guess that has aroused some interest in him. When I toured the United States with The Killer, I was amazed to see that the American film buffs knew so much about Melville.

    Whoever watches Melville’s movies will realize how different he is from American filmmakers. He was a very spiritual director, with a unique vision.

  • I don't know if it's really important, or intelligent even, when people say to me I'm a white Spike Lee, because they said to Spike Lee you're a black Woody Allen.

  • There was a time when we all considered America to be a great country. That was during my student days. We were seeing all these fantastic American movies then. In our youth, the only access we had to the world was through the cinema; a kind of golden age of film. You had Frank Capra, John Ford, and many other brilliant filmmakers. I was deeply influenced by the movies those directors made. And their movies all portrayed the American common man - what was best about the middle class. We were deeply drawn to American movies, marvelling at the existence of such a bright world, free of restrictions. But movies the world over were great during those years. Yes, we were deeply stimulated by such movies in our youth.

    [On his view of Akira Kurosawa's place in Japanese film] "Kurosawa-san's works have had a tremendous impact on Japanese filmmaking. We cannot think or talk of Japanese film without him. I don't agree with those who say that his films have no direct connection with present-day Japan. They certainly have. I should say this, however. The present Japanese film industry placed him in a position where he could not create effectively. They ostracized him. I hold the opinion that Kurosawa-san is still capable of producing major films--now and in the future. He is an indeed a great artist. Oshima has been mentioned by many as a new Japanese filmmaker who has a finger on the pulse of modern Japan; I myself consider him a political figure rather then an artist, a filmmaker. I think Oshima will have many future problems in his filmmaking.

    [On whether there are any American directors that he admires or have influenced him] So many of them. Too many. But I can say that while I was a university student, I saw many films by Renoir, Duvivier, Rene Clair, and the Americans Frank Capra and Wyler. This must have been around Showa 15 or 16 [1940 or 1941 on our calendar] So I can say that I must have been influenced by them. I still think of there work with a bit of nostalgia. But in the end, an artist must rely on himself; you cannot depend on anybody. It is a very lonely, solitary existence. Last year I went to the Cannes Film Festival and met Charles Chaplin. They showed some of his works. I was deeply impressed by his greatness. His films, his methods and content, are modern and so contemporary. He is a great genius.

  • As filmmakers, we want the audience to have the most complete experience they can. For example, I interviewed Stanley Kubrick years ago around the time of '2001: A Space Odyssey.' I was going to see the film that night in London, and he insisted I sit in one of four seats in the theater for the best view or not watch the film.

    Could I have worked under a system where there were Draconian controls on my creativity, meaning budget, time, script choices, etc.? Definitely not. I would have fared poorly under the old studio system that guys like Howard Hawks did so well in. I cannot.

  • Maybe there really wasn’t an America, it was only Frank Capra.” Capra’s films were his love letters to an idealized America— a cinematic landscape of his own invention. The performances his actors gave were invariable portrayals of personalities developed into recognizable images of popular culture, “their acting has the bold simplicity of an icon...”

  • [On Charlie Chaplin] "Without him I would never have made a film"

    You won't find another Chaplin, you won't find another Keaton, because the school is closed.

  • ... It is through this elegant quietness that Ozu navigates his slight stories around the expected landmarks of dramatic curves and heightened emotions. Nothing is forced. All that is left on screen are the smallest details of human nature and interaction, delivered through a lens that is delicate, observational, reductive, and pure.

    “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to."

  • “The influence of Hitchcock for me has been exaggerated, I have enjoyed his films very much and learned very much. But others have influenced me more. My three greatest influences were Murnau, the great silent-film director. I believe his ‘Sunrise’ is the most beautiful film ever made. Then there is Ernst Lubitsch and Fritz Lang.”

  • For me the filmmaker Bergman is the greatest actor of all. His vision and his filmic force, the thing that the Frenchmen call auteur. What Kurosawa and Fellini also have — but to me Bergman is number one!

  • [On Federico Fellini] Though not as great as Chaplin, Eisenstein or Mizoguchi, Fellini is unquestionably an author rather than a director.

  • “If in our century, something sacred still existed, if there were something like a sacred treasure of the cinema, then for me that would have to be the work of the Japanese director Yasujirô Ozu… For me never before and never again since has the cinema been so close to its essence and its purpose: to present an image of man in our century, a usable, true and valid image in which he not only recognises himself, but from which, above all, he may learn about himself.”

    Ozu's work does not need my praise and such a sacred treasure of the cinema could only reside in the realm of the imagination. And so, my trip to Tokyo was in no way a pilgrimage. I was curious as to whether I still could track down something from this time, whether there was still anything left of this work. Images perhaps, or even people… Or whether so much would have changed in Tokyo in the twenty years since Ozu's death that nothing would be left to find.

  • [on Eyes Wide Shut (1999)] I really love Eyes Wide Shut. I just wonder if Stanley Kubrick really did finish it the way he wanted to before he died.

    “I love Stanley Kubrick, I can watch his movies over and over. I love Billy Wilder, Sunset Boulevard in particular, and I’ve watched it over and over. I loved the world Billy Wilder created.”

    [On his favorite films, and filmmakers] “I love Fellini, Watched ‘em over and over. If you want to see some great comedies, check out Jacques Tati’s Mr. Hulot’s Holiday. I like W.C. Fields. I like the movie It’s a Gift. I like Hitchcock, particularly Rear Window.” And after a moment of reflection: “I like a lot of different filmmakers, but those are… some of them.”

    In 8½, “Fellini manages to accomplish with film what mostly abstract painters do – namely, to communicate an emotion without ever saying or showing anything in a direct manner, without ever explaining anything, just by a sort of sheer magic.”
    In Sunset Boulevard, Wilder “manages to accomplish pretty much the same abstract atmosphere, less by magic than through all sorts of stylistic and technical tricks. The Hollywood he describes in the film probably never existed, but he makes us believe it did, and he immerses us in it, like a dream.”
    Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday wins his favor “for the amazing point of view that Jacques Tati casts at society through it. When you watch his films, you realize how much he knows about – and loved – human nature, and it can only be an inspiration to do the same.”
    Rear Window does the same “for the brilliant way in which Alfred Hitchcock manages to create – or rather, re-create – a whole world within confined parameters. James Stewart never leaves his wheelchair during the film, and yet, through his point of view, we follow a very complex murder scheme. Hitchcock manages to take something huge and condense it into something really small. And he achieves that through a complete control of film making technique.”

  • I saw Vera Drake and Mike Leigh is a masterful filmmaker. I think it's indisputable. He works with actors like no one else.

  • Any story that Billy Wilder told, you can tell in a Western.

    [On Stephen Spielberg] The great thing about Stephen is that he sees the movie as a separate thing, I think. He wants it to capture the essence of the book, and if he feels that's been done, then he's not too particular about the details. I think that's why he's happy.

    [On Steven Spielberg] You know, Stephen says, in the movies no one ever goes to the bathroom. They shave, they brush their teeth. He goes right at this sort of funny taboo we have about the bathroom, and he turned it into this nightmare, you know, your worst fear of what's in there.

  • The best conversation with Stanley Kubrick is a silent one: you sit in a theatre and watch his films and you learn so much.

  • [On Yasujiro Ozu] On Ozu’s gravestone is the word mu, which in Japanese means “emptiness.” For me, emptiness and silence are very familiar, important family members, and I think the forms come out of emptiness. In the way Ozu makes movies, I feel deeply aware of emptiness. There is something very wise, quiet, and powerful in it. So Ozu for me is like a big brother who helps me remember from time to time the really important things about the form of moviemaking, which have nothing to do with manipulating the audience or being clever. Form can have something to do with truth.

    [On John Cassavetes] Cassavetes’ movies to me are a kind of pure energy. He’s the very opposite of Ozu because he cared nothing at all about form. Yet for some strange reason, by not caring about form at all—he just went for it—this produced, in formal aspects, the same result as when you pay a lot of attention to form. His energy with actors can also be felt. In each shot, you can feel what he wants to tell us about story, and you get the feeling that this has to be acted now, shot in the very moment. I would say it’s possibly something very American. This pure energy of making is very American, and it’s very optimistic.

  • When asked to name a filmmaker who interested him, John Ford answered, “Renoir.” Pressed to name one film, he growled, “All of it.” Time to return the compliment: “John Ford . . . All of it,”

    [On John Cassavetes] Looking at a Cassavetes movie should persuade any viewer that there are no bad actors but only bad directors, and that acting has more to do with the strategic setting of gestures in space than it has to do with a trip to the flea market of emotions. The miracle of Cassavetes’s craft lies in that he makes the emotion surge, while obstinately refusing to illustrate it. No wonder his actors look always as if they were documented.


  • By Eric Levy
    March 12, 2014
    06:52 PM

    Wow! You must read a lot of film biographies. I can't find the quote just now, but in his published diaries, Tarkovsky speaks very highly of Cassavetes, though he disliked THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE. Let's hope Criterion finally releases some Greenaway, because his quotes about his colleagues are hilarious.
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    • By Peter_Wilson
      March 14, 2014
      08:03 PM

      I actually get most of my information online. I'll try to find the Tarkovsky Quote on Cassavetes so that it may be added to the list. And I'd love to see some Greenaway in the collection, he's got some great quotes.
  • By Scott_DAgostino
    May 15, 2014
    04:48 PM

    Ingmar Bergman was more catty than I thought. I love Godard, but that quote was hilarious.
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    • By Peter_Wilson
      May 16, 2014
      11:02 PM

      Yeah, I also like Godard, but that's ones still pretty funny.
  • By Max Zimmerman
    May 15, 2014
    07:53 PM

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    • By Peter_Wilson
      May 16, 2014
      11:33 PM

      Well, thanks to many of the great quotes above, I can't say I disagree.
  • By Ben
    May 16, 2014
    09:46 AM

    This was eye-opening, and it reinforces my thought that Kurosawa is the greatest director of all-time. He's about the only person on this list who was respected by just about everyone.
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    • By Peter_Wilson
      May 17, 2014
      09:50 AM

      Kurosawa has, and will most likely always remain my favorite filmmaker. And of course, his influence on others is extremely evident.
  • By Michael Brakemeyer
    May 16, 2014
    02:34 PM

    Great list and such a joy to read. Keep up the great work. We all notice out here.
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    • By Peter_Wilson
      May 17, 2014
      10:02 AM

      I'm so glad to hear that you enjoyed it. I must say that even I enjoy coming back for another read. Though any real credit belongs to the filmmakers, and there quotes. But either way, thank you so much for the appreciation you've given.
  • By Alexander Miller
    May 18, 2014
    07:50 AM

    Great work! This is quite the achievement my friend! I think it's great the way you come up with ways to be creative with these lists! PS I fine tuned my Criterion Summer list if you want to check it out. This will be tweeted!
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    • By Peter_Wilson
      May 19, 2014
      09:58 PM

      The list was already well worthwhile, as it gave me the goal of finding, and the opportunity of reading these great quotes. But the feedback you, and the others have given increases it to another level entirely.
  • By Johan Sigg
    May 18, 2014
    02:54 PM

    I loved reading this! Some of the comments these great artists have made really give you a window into their minds. I think it's terrific that Bergman disliked Welles, but loved Tarkovsky, who liked Welles.
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    • By Peter_Wilson
      May 19, 2014
      11:28 PM

      That's great to hear! And I've learned so much about many of the listed filmmakers through these quotes.
  • By Mike Prado
    May 20, 2014
    06:51 PM

    This is great, thanks for compiling this collection of immortality! An awesome read.
  • By Mike Prado
    May 20, 2014
    06:52 PM

    Some of these guys, like Godard, Bergman and especially Cimino, were pretty harsh on their peers!
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    • By Peter_Wilson
      May 20, 2014
      10:28 PM

      It was a pleasure putting the list together. And yes, some of these filmmakers made very rude remarks about each other. But hey, from where were sitting it's great.
  • By D.j. W.
    May 21, 2014
    04:12 AM

    It's ironic that John Alcott had more of a career than Michael Cimino.
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    • By Peter_Wilson
      May 21, 2014
      07:31 PM

      That's Hollywood for you.
    • By Wob
      May 22, 2014
      11:58 AM

      Absolutely true, D.j.W. !! Ought to be included at the quotes above ! Thank you very much for that list, Jack.
    • By Peter_Wilson
      May 24, 2014
      11:29 AM

      You very welcome.
    May 22, 2014
    10:10 AM

    This might be the best list I've ever seen on this website. This was a real treat !!!!
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    • By Peter_Wilson
      May 24, 2014
      11:41 AM

      Other then I'm really glad to hear that you enjoyed it, I don't know what else to say.
  • By Daniel W.
    May 26, 2014
    08:21 AM

    Yeah Cronenberg is one to talk. He says Christoper Nolan's films are boring (which they aren't). Has anyone seen Cronenberg's Cosmopolis? I nearly fell asleep in the theater watching that piece of crap. I eventually walked out. This isn't to say that Cronenberg hasn't made a good movie (Scanners, Videodrome, eXistenZ, Eastern Promises are all very good). I also would like to see Tarkovsky's quotes on Cassavetes
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    • By Peter_Wilson
      May 29, 2014
      08:44 PM

      I've been trying to find Tarkovsky's quote on Cassavetes for sometime now.
  • By Paddy
    May 27, 2014
    02:57 AM

    Who'd have thought Bergman would be such a dick!
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    • By Peter_Wilson
      May 29, 2014
      08:50 PM

      Well, he just didn't like some people.
  • By blough
    June 07, 2014
    10:41 PM

    Godard:"As for François Truffaut, he didn’t forgive me for thinking his films were worthless. He also suffered from not ending up finding my films as worthless as I thought his own were”. I love godard's films but he comes off as a very unlikable human being.
  • By Dustin Pizarro
    June 14, 2014
    06:09 PM

    This is a great compilation Jack. It's amazing to read that many of these admired filmmakers' opinions were as fierce and illuminating as the films they made. I would have absolutely loved to have read David Lean's thoughts on his fellow contemporaries .
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    • By Peter_Wilson
      June 15, 2014
      10:16 AM

  • By nightgoat72
    June 16, 2014
    12:05 PM

    Bergman is a badass.
  • By TruffautBergman
    June 21, 2014
    07:04 PM

    Great list, thanks. Nice to Tarkovsky, Bergman, Scorsese, and of course my love, Truffaut on the list (Godard's a bit of jerk, sorry). Maybe add Lars Von Trier the list?
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    • By Peter_Wilson
      June 22, 2014
      02:01 PM

      Thanks, your very welcome. I've looked for director quotes by Von Trier, but haven't come up with anything so far.
  • By Thomas Sheridan
    June 26, 2014
    01:03 AM

    I find David Gordon Green's comments on Kevin Smith a bit hypocritical, considering, as infantile as Smith can sometimes be, he at least never made Your Highness.
  • By GravyFudge
    July 12, 2014
    01:54 AM

    Very interesting read, thank you. Who would've thought Bergman would be so candid? It's kind of awesome.
  • By Adam Buffery
    July 15, 2014
    02:41 PM

    amazing. thanks so much for this and all your compilations of director's favorite films. a true internet gem!
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    • By Peter_Wilson
      July 16, 2014
      10:04 PM

      Your very welcome!

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