Directors Talk Directors

by _Peter_

Created 12/25/13

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Comments made by directors towards other directors, taken from biographies, essays, interviews, and additional sources.

  • [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.

    One evening in Hamburg there are three people in the auditorium. The show begins. Orson Welles comes on stage and introduces himself: author, composer, actor, designer, producer, director, scholar, financier, gourmet, ventriloquist, poet. Then he expresses surprise that so many people have come, even though there are so few. Doubtless The Trial proves that it isn't easy for a wonder kid to grow old gracefully, and maybe it is to be feared that his giant wings are hindering our Shakespearian albatross from making progress in old Europe. And yet may we be accursed if we forget for one second that he alone with Griffith, one in silent days, one sound, managed to start up that marvellous little electric train in which Lumière did not believe. All of us will always owe him everything.

    Alain Resnais is the second greatest editor in the world after Eisenstein. Editing, to them, means organizing cinematographically; in other words planning dramatically, composing musically, or in yet other words, the finest, film-making.

    There are several ways of making films. Like Jean Renoir and Robert Bresson, who make music. Like Sergei Eisenstein, who paints. Like Stroheim, who wrote sound novels in silent days. Like Alain Resnais, who sculpts. And like Socrates, Rossellini I mean, who creates philosophy.

    In the world of today, whatever the domain, France can now shine only through exceptional works. Robert Bresson illustrates this rule in the cinema. He is the French cinema, as Dostoyevsky is the Russian novel and Mozart is German music.

    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 "Strangers on a Train" 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.

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

    Kenji Mizoguchi was the peer of Murnau, of Rossellini. His oeuvre is enormous. Two hundred films, so it is said. No doubt there is a good deal of legend about this, and one can be sure that future centuries will bring quite a few Mizoguchi Monogatari. But there is also no doubt that Kenji is extraordinary, for he can shoot films in three months that would take a Bresson two years to bring about. And Mizoguchi brings them to perfection.

    There can be no doubt that any comparison between Mizoguchi and Kurosawa turns irrefutably to the advantage of the former. Alone among the Japanese film-makers known to us, he goes beyond the seductive but minor stage of exoticism to a deeper level where one need no longer worry about false prestige.

    If poetry is manifest in each second, each shot filmed by Mizoguchi, it is because, as with Murnau, it is the instinctive reflection of the film-maker's creative.

    Mizoguchl's art is the most complex because it is the simplest. Camera effects and tracking shots are rare, but when they do suddenly burst into a scene, the effect is one of dazzling beauty. Each crane shot (here Preminger is easily outstripped) has the clean and limpid line of a brush-stroke by Hokusai.

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

    [On Kenji Mizoguchi] He is probably the only director in the world who dares to make a systematic use of 180 degree shots and reaction shots. But what in another director would be striving for effect, with him is simply a natural movement arising out of the importance he accords to the décor and the position the actors occupy within it.

    The art of Kenji Mizoguchi is to prove that real life is at one and the same time elsewhere, and yet here, in its strange and radiant beauty.

    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.

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

    [On Stanley Kubrick] Began flashily by making glacial copies of Ophuls's tracking shots and Aldrich's violence. Then became a recruit to intellectual commerce by following the international paths of glory of another K, an older Stanley who also saw himself as Livingstone, but whose weighty sincerity turned up trumps at Nüremberg, whereas Stanley Junior's cunning look-at-me tactics foundered in the cardboard heroics of Spartacus without ever attaining the required heroism. So Lolita led one to expect the worst. Surprise: it is a simple, lucid film, precisely written, which reveals America and American sex better than either Melville or Reichenbach, and proves that Kubrick need not abandon the cinema provided he films characters who exist instead of idea which exist only in the bottom drawers of old scriptwriters who believe that the cinema is the seventh art.

    [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.

    There are two main groups of directors. On one side, with Eisenstein and Hitchcock, are those who prepare their films as fully as possible. They know what they want, it's all in their heads, and they put it down on paper. The shooting is merely practical application – constructing something as similar as possible to what was imagined. Resnais is one of them; so is Demy. The others, people like Rouch, don't know exactly what they are going to do, and search for it. The film is the search. They know they are going to arrive somewhere – and they have the means to do it – but where exactly? The first make circular films; the others, films in a straight line. Renoir is one of the few who do both at the same time, and this is his charm.
    Rossellini is something else again. He alone has an exact vision of the totality of things. So he films them in the only way possible. Nobody else can film one of Rossellini's scenarios - one would have to ask questions which he himself never asks. His vision of the world is so exact that his way of seeing detail, formal or otherwise, is too. With him, a shot is beautiful because it is right; with most others, a shot becomes right because it is beautiful. They try to construct something wonderful, and if in fact it becomes so, one can see that there were reasons for doing it. Rossellini does something he had a reason for doing in the first place. It's beautiful because it is.

    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. While it is easy to imagine John Ford as an admiral, Robert Aldrich on Wall Street, Anthony Mann on the trail of Belliou la Fumée or Raoul Walsh as a latter-day Henry Morgan under Caribbean skies, it is difficult to see the director of Run For Cover doing anything but make films. A Logan or a Tashlin, for instance, might make good in the theatre or music-hall, Preminger as a novelist, Brooks as a school teacher, Cukor in advertising - but not Nicholas Ray. Were the cinema suddenly cease to exist, most directors would in no way be at a loss; Nicholas Ray would.

    Like Orson Welles before him, Nicholas Ray left Hollywood before shooting ended, defeated, slamming the door behind him.

    ...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. Because Hitchcock was a poet. The public was under the control of poetry. And Hitchcock was a poet on a universal level, not like Rilke. He was the only poet maudit to have a huge success; Rilke wasn't one, Rimbaud wasn't. And something which is very astonishing with Hitchcock is that you don't remember what the story of NOTORIOUS is, or why Janet Leigh is going to the Bates Motel. You remember one pair of spectacles or a windmill -- that's what millions and millions of people remember. If you remember NOTORIOUS, what do you remember? Wine bottles. You don't remember Ingrid Bergman. When you remember Griffith or Welles or Eisenstein or me, you don't remember ordinary objects. He is the only one.

    Throughout his entire career, Hitchcock has never used an unnecessary shot.

    Before the war, the film director was not comparable to a musician or a writer, but to a carpenter, a craftsman. It so happened that among the craftsmen there were artists like Renoir and Ophuls. Today the director is considered as an artist, but most of them are still craftsmen. They work in the cinema as one does in a skilled trade. Craftsmanship does exist, but not as they see it. Carné is a craftsman, and his craft makes him make bad films. To begin with, when he was creating his craft, he made brilliant films: now he creates no longer. Today Chabrol has more craft than Carné, and his craft serves for exploration. It is a worthy craft.

    Dreyer, Antonioni, Rivette, Rohmer, Marker, Bresson do not and never will make anything but the film they want to make.

    [On Jacques Tati] He sees problems where there are none, and finds them. He is capable of filming a beach scene simply to show that the children building a sandcastle drown the sound of the waves with their cries. He will also shoot a scene just because at that moment a window is opening in a house away in the background, and a window opening - well, that's funny. This is what interests Tati. Everything and nothing. Blades of grass, a kite, children, a little old man, anything, everything which it at once real, bizarre and charming. Jacques Tati has a feeling for comedy because he has a feeling for strangeness. A conversation with him is impossible. He is par excellence, an anti-theoretician. His films are good in spite of his ideas. Made by anyone else, Jour de fête and Hulot would be nothing. Having become with these two films the best French director of comedy since Max Linder, Jacques Tati may with his third film Mon Oncle, become quite simply the best.

    [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.

    When Allen, De Palma, Scorsese, and Tarantino echo shots or sequences from other filmmakers, the gesture is always one of postmodernist appropriation, not one of critical transformation, and the same thing can be said about the homages of (among others) Truffaut and Bertolucci. But when Rivette literally quotes the "Tower of Babel" sequence from METROPOLIS in PARIS BELONGS TO US, thereby criticizing the metaphysical presuppositions of his characters, or when Resnais virtually duplicates a sequence of shots from GILDA inside Delphine Seyrig's room in LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, thereby locating the romantic mystifications of Alain Robbe-Grillet within the even larger romantic mystifications of Hollywood, a certain kind of critical commentary is taking place. The same process is at work on a much more elaborate scale in CELINE AND JULIE GO BOATING, when Rivette applies the critical discoveries of doubling in Hitchcock to the "double" structure of his own film, doubling shots as well as scenes. But the same thing obviously can't be said for Woody Allen and De Palma appropriating the baby carriage from POTEMKIN in BANANAS and THE UNTOUCHABLES or for Tarantino getting Uma Thurman in PULP FICTION to imitate Anna Karina's dance around a pool table in VIVRE SA VIE.

    Criticism taught us to admire both Rouch and Eisenstein. From it we learned not to deny one aspect of the cinema in favor of another.

    Rouch's originality lies in having made characters out of his actors – who are actors in the simplest sense of term, moreover, being filmed in action, while he contents himself with filming this action after having, as far as possible, organized it logically in the manner of Rossellini.

    [On Billy Wilder] After a seven year itch, he decided no longer to be tongue-in-cheek about tragedy but, quite the contrary, to take comedy seriously. In doing so took he took out a double indemnity for cinematographic survival, and success followed quickly. Even as he threw all the great human values to the wolves, he became one of the new great of Hollywood; and even as he replaced Wyler and Zinnemann in the hearts of the exhibitors, he established himself as a worthy heir to Lubitsch in the hearts of cinephiles, for he had rediscovered the Berlin jester's soul of Billy the Kid, and malice served him henceforth, as tenderness, irony as technical know-how. After Ariane and Marilyn, and in spite of One, Two, Three false steps, Irma la Douce, thanks to the keenness and delicacy of it's Panavision, thanks to the limpidity of the acting of Jack and Shirley, thanks to the delicacy of the colours of LaShelle and Trauner, sweet Irma, as I say, sets a wonderful seal on a twin ascension to box-office and to art. The outcome: a combination of qualities peculiarly sufficient to turn a gentleman-in-waiting into a film-maker arrived.

    We were the first directors to know that Griffith exists. Even Carné, Delluc, and René Clair, when they made their first films, had no real critical or historical background. Even Renoir had very little; but then of course he had genius.

    [On Charlie Chaplin] He is beyond praise because he is the greatest of all. What else can one say? The only filmmaker, anyway, to whom one can apply without misunderstanding that very misleading adjective, ‘humane’. From the invention of the sequence shot in The Champion to that of cinéma-vérité in the final speech of The Great Dictator, Charles Spencer Chaplin, while remaining marginal to the rest of cinema, ended up by filling this margin with things (what other word can one use: ideas, gags, intelligence, honour, beauty, movement?) than all the other directors together have put into the whole book. Today one says Chaplin as one says Da Vinci—or rather Charlie, like Leonardo.

    John Cassavetes, who was more or less my age, now he was a great director. I can’t imagine myself as his equal in cinema. For me he represents a certain cinema that’s way up above.

    [On Georges Franju] He seeks the bizarre at all costs, because the bizarre is a convention and behind this convention one must, also at all costs, discover a basic truth. He seeks the madness behind reality because it is for him the only way to rediscover the true face of reality behind this madness. This is why with each close-up one has the feeling that the camera wipes these faces, as Veronica's handkerchief wiped the face of Our Lord, becauce Franju seeks and finds classicism behind romanticism. In more modern terms, let us say that Franju demonstrates the necessity of surrealism if one considers it as a pilgrimage to the sources.

    [On Howard Hawks] ...the greatest American artist.

    [On Roger Leenhardt] The most subtle film theoretician in France. He hates paradoxes, but creates them. He hates false arguments, but offers them. He hates the cinema, but loves it. He doesn’t like good films, but makes them.

    The following is excerpts taken from BERGMANORAMA , which was originally published in Cahiers du Cinéma, July 1958

    In singing the praises of Welles, Ophüls, Dreyer, Hawks, Cukor, even Vadim, all one need say is, 'It's cinema.' And if we conjure the names of the great artists of past centuries for purposes of comparison, we have no need to say more.

    The cinema is not a craft. It is an art. It does not mean team-work. One is always alone; on the set as before the blank page. And for Bergman, to be alone means to ask questions. And to make films means to answer them. Nothing could be more classically romantic.

    Of all contemporary directors, admittedly, he alone has not openly rejected those devices beloved of the avant-gardists of the thirties which can still be seen dragging wearily on in every festival of amateur or experimental films. But this is audacity rather than anything else on the part of the director of Thirst: for Bergman, well aware of what he is doing, uses this bric-a-brac in a different context. 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.

    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.

    Employed almost systematically by Bergman in most of his films, the flashback ceases to be what Orson Welles called one of those 'poor tricks' to become, if not the theme of the film, at least its sine qua non. In addition, this figure of style, even if employed as such, acquires the enormous advantage that it considerably enriches the scenario since it constitutes its internal rhythm and dramatic framework. One need only have seen any one of Bergman's films to realize that each flashback invariably begins or ends in the right place; in two right places, I should say, because the remarkable thing is that, as with Hitchcock at his best, this sequence change always corresponds to the hero's inner feeling, provoking in other words a renewal of the action – which is an attribute of the truly great. What one mistook for facility was simply a greater rigour. Ingmar Bergman, the intuitive artist decried by the 'craftsmen', here gives a lesson to the best of our scriptwriters. Not for the first time, as we shall see.

    When Vadim emerged, we praised him for being up to date when most of his colleagues were one war behind. Similarly, when we saw Giulietta Masina's poetic grimacing, we praised Fellini, who's baroque freshness had the sweet smell of renewal. But this renaissance of the modern cinema had already been brought to it's peak five years earlier by the son of a Swedish pastor. What were we dreaming of when Summer with Monika was first shown in Paris? Ingmar Bergman was already doing what we are still accusing French directors of not doing.

    Wishing won't make just anyone a goldsmith. Nor will trumpeting from the rooftops mean that one is in advance of everyone else. A genuinely original auteur is one who never deposits his scripts with the homonymous society. Because that which is precise, Bergman proves, will be new, and that which is profound will be precise. But the profound novelty of Summer With Monika, Thirst or The Seventh Seal is first and foremost their wonderfully precise tone. A spade is a spade for Bergman, certainly, but so it is for many others, and is of little consequence. The important thing is that Bergman, blessed with a foolproof moral elegance, can adapt himself to any truth, even the most scabrous (cf. the last sketch in Waiting Women). That which is unpredictable is profound, and a new Bergman film frequently confounds the warmest partisans of the preceding one. One expects a comedy, and along comes a medieval mystery. Often their only common ground is the incredible scope of their situations, more than a match for Feydeau, just as the dialogue is more than a match for Montherlant in veracity and, supreme paradox, Giraudoux in delicacy. It goes without saying that this sovereign ease in building a script is accompanied, when the camera starts to turn, by an absolute mastery in the direction of actors. In this field Bergman is the peer of a Cukor or a Renoir. Admittedly most of his actors, many of whom also work with him in the theatre, are remarkably talented. I am thinking in particular of Maj-Britt Nilsson, whose stubborn chin and sulky contempt are not without a touch of Ingrid Bergman. But one has to have seen Birger Malmsten as the dreamy boy in Summer Interlude, and again, unrecognizably, as the respectable bourgeois in Thirst; one has to have seen Gunnar Björnstrand and Harriet Andersson in the first episode of Journey into Autumn, and again, with different eyes, different mannerisms, different body rhythms, in Smiles of a Summer Night, to realize the extent of Bergman's amazing ability to mould these cattle, as Hitchcock called them.

    Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of film-makers. Those who walk along the streets with their heads down, and those who walk with their heads up. In order to see what is going on around them, the former are obliged to raise their heads suddenly and often, turning to the left and then the right, embracing the field of vision in a series of glances. They see. The latter see nothing, they look, fixing their attention on the precise point which interests them. When the former are shooting a film, their framing is roomy and fluid (Rossellini), whereas with the latter it is narrowed down to the last millimetre (Hitchcock). With the former (Welles), one finds a script construction which may be loose but is remarkably open to the temptations of chance; with the latter (Lang), camera movements not only of incredible precision in the set but possessing their own abstract value as movements in space. Bergman, on the whole, belongs to the first group, to the cinema of freedom; Visconti to the second, the cinema of rigour.

    Should anyone still doubt that Bergman, more than any other European film-maker, Renoir excepted, is its most typical representative, Prison offers, if not proof, at least a very clear symbol. It tells, as you know, of a director who is offered a story about the Devil by his mathematics professor. Yet it is not he, but the writer he has commissioned to write a script who suffers all the diabolical misfortunes.

    As a man of the theatre, Bergman is willing to direct plays by other people. But as a man of the cinema, he intends to remain sole master on board. Unlike Bresson or Visconti, who transfigure a starting-point into something entirely personal, Bergman creates his adventures and characters out of nothing. No one would deny that The Seventh Seal is less skilfully directed than White Nights, its compositions less precise, its angles less rigorous; but–and herein lies the essential difference–for a man so enormously talented as Visconti, making a very good film is ultimately a matter of very good taste. He is sure of making no mistakes, and to a certain extent it is easy. It is easy to choose the prettiest curtains, the most perfect furniture, to make the only possible camera movements, if one knows one is gifted that way. For an artist, to know oneself too well is to yield a little to facility.

  • [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 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.

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

    [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.

    The great thing about Mizoguchi was his tireless effort to imbue every scene with reality.

    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 Ishirô Honda and 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 his films, have impressed me greatly. … I feel that he is a giant of the movie industry. … Not to have seen the cinema of Satyajit Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon.

    [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 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!

    [On Luchino Visconti] Visconti is a true blue blood. Whether because he was raised in such an environment or simply because of his blue-blood birth, he had a touch that none but he can have. I met him several times, but he was a hardly approachable person. If someone, e.g., during the shooting came in, he, I've heard, shouts at him in an aristocratic posture "leave from here!". He is a very severe person, I've heard.

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

    I have respected John Ford from the beginning. Needless to say, I pay close attention to his productions, and I think I am influenced by them.

    A person, who is able to make good films, knows how to find his or her way into the viewer's heart; such as John Ford, Jean Renoir, John Huston, Federico Fellini,[ Theodoros Angelopoulos], Sidney Lumet... I've met every one of them and have spoken to them. Just as they have exceptional works, they were also very distinguished in character. It was very easy to establish a cordial relationship with them, which is quite important. The people that are depicted on screen in their films are not predetermined characters. They express human problems in a natural way. That's why their films are fascinating. Sidney Lumet is a close friend of mine, and whenever we sit down to talk we never discuss cinema. We generally discuss trivial matters, social problems or our hobbies, and we quite enjoy it.

    [On Theodoros Angelopoulos] He's a wonderful person. What he says makes one feel as if one's deepst soul is looked into by him. A true mature adult one could call him.

    [The following is an excerpt of Kurosawa discussing Tarkovsky and Solaris]

    I met Tarkovsky for the first time when I attended my welcome luncheon at the Mosfilm during my first visit to Soviet Russia. He was small, thin, looked a little frail, and at the same time exceptionally intelligent, and unusually shrewd and sensitive. I thought he somehow resembled Toru Takemitsu, but I don't know why. Then he excused himself saying, "I still have work to do," and disappeared, and after a while I heard such a big explosion as to make all the glass windows of the dining hall tremble hard. Seeing me taken aback, the boss of the Mosfilm said with a meaningful smile: "You know another world war does not break out. Tarkovsky just launched a rocket. This work with Tarkovsky, however, has proved a Great War for me." That was the way I knew Tarkovsky was shooting Solaris.
    After the luncheon party, I visited his set for Solaris. There it was. I saw a burnt down rocket was there at the corner of the space station set. I am sorry I forgot to ask him as to how he had shot the launching of the rocket on the set. The set of the satellite base was beautifully made at a huge cost, for it was all made up of thick duralumin.

    It glittered in its cold metallic silver light, and I found light rays of red, or blue or green delicately winking or waving from electric light bulbs buried in the gagues on the equipment lined up in there. And above on the ceiling of the corridor ran two duralumin rails from which hanged a small wheel of a camera which could move around freely inside the satellite base.

    Tarkovsky guided me around the set, explaining to me as cheerfully as a young boy who is given a golden opportunity to show someone his favorite toybox. Bondarchuk, who came with me, asked him about the cost of the set, and left his eyes wide open when Tarkovsky answered it. The cost was so huge: about six hundred million yen as to make Bondarchuk, who directed that grand spectacle of a movie "War and Peace," agape in wonder.

    Now I came to fully realize why the boss of the Mosfilm said it was "a Great War for me." But it takes a huge talent and effort to spend such a huge cost. Thinking "This is a tremendous task" I closely gazed at his back when he was leading me around the set in enthusiasm.

    Concerning Solaris, I find many people complaining that it is too long, but I do not think so. They especially find too lengthy the description of nature in the introductory scenes, but these layers of memory of farewell to this earthly nature submerge themselves deep below the bottom of the story after the main character has been sent in a rocket into the satellite station base in the universe, and they almost torture the soul of the viewer like a kind of irresistible nostalghia toward mother earth nature, which resembles homesickness. Without the presence of beautiful nature sequences on earth as a long introduction, you could not make the audience directly conceive the sense of having-no-way-out harboured by the people "jailed" inside the satellite base.

    I saw this film late at night in a preview room in Moscow for the first time, and soon I felt my heart aching in agony with a longing to returning to the earth as quickly as possible. Marvellous progress in science we have been enjoying, but where will it lead humanity after all? Sheer fearful emotion this film succeeds in conjuring up in our soul. Without it, a science fiction movie would be nothing more than a petty fancy.

    These thoughts came and went while I was gazing at the screen.

    Tarkovsky was together with me then. He was at the corner of the studio. When the film was over, he stood up, looking at me as if he felt timid. I said to him, "Very good. It makes me feel real fear." Tarkovsky smiled shyly, but happily. And we toasted vodka at the restaurant in the Film Institute. Tarkovsky, who didn't drink usually, drank a lot of vodka, and went so far as to turn off the speaker from which music had floated into the restaurant, and began to sing the theme of samurai from Seven Samurai at the top of his voice.

    As if to rival him, I joined in.

    For I was at that moment very happy to find myself living on Earth.

    Solaris makes a viewer feel this, and even this single fact shows us that Solaris is no ordinary SF film. It truly somehow provokes pure horror in our soul. And it is under the total grip of the deep insights of Tarkovsky.

    There must be many, many things still unknown to humanity in this world: the abyss of the cosmos which a man had to look into, strange visitors in the satellite base, time running in reverse, from death to life, strangely moving sense of levitation, his home which is in the mind of the main character in the satellite station is wet and soaked with water. It seems to me to be sweat and tears that in his heartbreaking agony he sqeezed out of his whole being. And what makes us shudder is the shot of the location of Akasakamitsuke, Tokyo, Japan. By a skillful use of mirrors, he turned flows of head lights and tail lamps of cars, multiplied and amplified, into a vintage image of the future city. Every shot of Solaris bears witness to the almost dazzling talents inherent in Tarkovsky.

    Many people grumble that Tarkovsky's films are difficult, but I don't think so. His films just show how extraordinarily sensitive Tarkovsky is. He made a film titled Mirror after Solaris. Mirror deals with his cherished memories in his childhood, and many people say again it is disturbingly difficult. Yes, at a glance, it seems to have no rational development in its storytelling. But we have to remember: it is impossible that in our soul our childhood memories should arrange themselves in a static, logical sequence.

    A strange train of fragments of early memory images shattered and broken can bring about the poetry in our infancy. Once you are convinced of its truthfulness, you may find Mirror the easiest film to understand. But Tarkovsky remains silent, without saying things like that at all. His very attitude makes me believe that he has wonderful potentials in his future.

    There can be no bright future for those who are ready to explain everything about their own film.

    [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."

    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...

    "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."

    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.

    [The Following is an excerpt from Kurosawa's book "A Dream is a Genius", on Andrei Tarkovsky]

    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.

  • [On Orson Welles] For me he's just a hoax. It's empty. It's not interesting. It's dead. Citizen Kane, 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.

    [On Claude Chabrol] A marvelous storyteller in a specific genre. I've always had a weakness for his thrillers, just as I have for Jean-Pierre Melville, whose stylized approach to the crime drama is accompanied by an excellent sense of how to light each scene. I love seeing his pictures. He was also one of the first directors who really understand how to use CinemaScope in an intelligent and sensitive way.

    [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, The Touch, Face to Face and so on.

    [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.

    A French critic cleverly wrote that "with Autumn Sonata Bergman does Bergman." It is witty but unfortunate. For me, that is. I think it is only too true that Bergman (Ingmar, that is) did a Bergman.... 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. Yet Kurosawa has never made a Kurosawa film. I have never been able to appreciate Buñuel. He discovered at an early stage that it is possible to fabricate ingenious tricks, which he elevated to a special kind of genius, particular to Buñuel, and then he repeated and varied his tricks. He always received applause. Buñuel nearly always made Buñuel films.

    Fellini is Fellini. He is not honest, he is not dishonest, he is just Fellini. And he is not responsible. You cannot put moralistic points of view on Fellini; it is impossible. He is just—I live him.

    [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…

    Fellini, Kurosawa and Bunuel move in the same fields as Tarkovsky. Antonioni was on his way, but expired, suffocated by his own tediousness. Melies was always there without having to think about it. He was a magician by profession.

    [On Michelangelo Antonioni] He's done two masterpieces, you don't have to bother with the rest. One is Blow-Up, which I've seen many times, and the other is La Notte, also a wonderful film, although that's mostly because of the young Jeanne Moreau. In my collection I have a copy of Il Grido, 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, 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] Antonioni has never properly learnt his craft. 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 Michelangelo Antonioni] The strange thing is that I admire him more now that I have met him than when I only saw his pictures; because I have suddenly understood what he is doing. I understand that everything in his mind, in his point of view, in his personal behavior is against his film-making. And still he makes his pictures.

    [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.

    In my job it’s a torment not to be physically nimble. To have to drag a great heavy body around with one is dreadfully unpleasant physically.
    I’ve often thought how Hitchcock must suffer from it. Much of Hitchcock’s limitations, I think, but also his greatness within them, are to be found in his heavy body. His way of always working in the studio, using a static camera, not moving about, he has erected it all into a system, using long scenes where he won’t have to give himself the trouble to move about.

    [On Francois Truffaut] I liked Truffaut enormously, I admired him. His way of relating with an audience, of telling a story, is both fascinating and tremendously appealing. It's not my style of storytelling, but it works wonderfully well in relation to the film medium.

    I suppose I must have a particular weakness for silent films from the second half of the twenties, before the cinema was taken over by sound. At that time, the cinema was in the process of creating its own language. There was Murnau and The Last Laugh, with Jannings, a film told solely in images with a fantastic suppleness; then his Faust, and finally his masterpiece, Sunrise. Three astonishing works that tell us that Murnau, at the same time as Stroheim in Hollywood, was well on the way to creating a magnificently original and distinct language. I have many favourites among the German films of this period.

    [On Marcel Carné and Julien Duvivier] Carné and Duvivier were decisive influences in my wanting to become a filmmaker. It was between 1936 and 1939 when seeing Carné’s Quai des brumes, Hôtel du Nord and Le jour se lève, and Duvivier’s Pépé le Moko and Un carnet de bal had a huge impact on me. I told myself that, if I ever managed to become a director, that was how I wanted to make films, like Carné! Those films affected me enormously.

    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 is amazing. Another great couple of examples of the strength of American cinema is American Beauty and Magnolia.

  • [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.

    [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.

    Hitchcock I highly esteem, and for qualities the opposite of mine—for his qualities as a scientist, biologist, and his deep sense of humor that gives life to this vision that he has, which is so touching and scientific.

    [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.

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

  • 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.

    Why is Kurosawa so good? Because he doesn't belong to any genre. The historical genre? No, this is more likely resurrected history, convincingly true, not bearing any relation to the canons of the "historical genre."

    [On Akira Kurosawa] The main thing is his modern characters, modern problems, and the modern method of studying life. That's self-evident. He never set himself the task of copying the life of samurai of a certain historical period. One perceives his Middle Ages without any exoticism. He is such a profound artist, he shows such psychological connections, such a development of characters and plot-lines, such a vision of the world, that his narrative about the Middle Ages constantly makes you think about today's world. You feel that you somehow already know all of this. It's the principle of recognition. That's the greatest quality of art according to Aristotle. When you recognize something personal in the work, something sacred, you experience joy. Kurosawa is also interesting for his social analysis of history. If you compare The Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven, which share the same plot, it is especially visible. Kurosawa's historicism is based on characters. Moreover these are not conventional characters, but ones which issue from the circumstances of the protagonists' life. Each samurai has his own individual fate, although each possesses nothing except the ability to use a sword; and, not wanting to do anything else because of his pride, each finds himself serving peasants to defend them from the enemy. There is a text of pure genius at the end of the film, remember, over the grave, when they plant rice: samurai come and go, but the nation remains. That's the idea. They are like the wind, blown this way and that. Only the peasants remain on the earth.

    I love Kurosawa, although I don't like his Throne of Blood, for example. I think he copied Shakespeare's plot in a superficial manner and transferred it to Japanese history, without really succeeding. Shakespeare's Macbeth is much more profound, both in the character of its protagonist and in the tragedy that penetrates the action. I love The Seven Samurai and Sanjuro. Remarkable pictures. Remarkable director. One of the best in the world, what can I say.

    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.

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

    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, he seems to me, through and almost biological naturalism, to arrive at the spiritual truth about human life that is important to him.

    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.

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

    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.

    There are many reasons I consider Bresson a unique phenomenon in the world of film. Indeed, Bresson is one of the artists who has shown that cinema is an artistic discipline on the same level as the classic artistic disciplines such as poetry, literature, painting, and music.
    The second reason I admire Bresson is personal. It is the significance of his work for me–the vision of the world that it expresses. This vision of the world is expressed in an ascetic way, almost laconic, lapidary I would say. Very few artists succeed in this. Every serious artist strives for simplicity, but only a few manage to achieve it. Bresson is one of the few who has succeeded.
    The third reason is the inexhaustibility of Bresson’s artistic form. That is, one is compelled to consider his artistic form as life, nature itself. In that sense, I find him very close to the oriental artistic concept of Zen: depth within narrowly defined limits. Working with these forms, Bresson attempts in his films not to be symbolic; he tries to create a form as inexhaustible as nature, life itself. Of course this doesn’t always work. In fact, there are episodes in his films that are extremely symbolic and, therefore, limited–symbolic and not poetic.

    For me Bresson stands as an ideal of simplicity. And from that point of view, I, just like everybody else who strives for simplicity and depth, can’t help but identify with what he has achieved in this field. But on the other hand, even if Bresson would never have existed, we would have eventually come across this notion of a lapidary style, simplicity and depth. And when people tell me during the shooting of my film that a certain scene is in a way reminiscent of Bresson–and this has happened–I will immediately change the approach to avoid any resemblance. If there’s such an influence, it doesn’t show on the surface of my work. This is an influence of a deeper nature. It’s a moral influence between artists, without which art cannot exist.

    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.

    Bresson is a genius. Here I can state it plainly — he is a genius. If he occupies the first place, the next director occupies the tenth. This distance is very depressing.

    When I am working, it helps me a lot to think of Bresson. Only the thought of Bresson! I don't remember any of his works concretely. I remember only his supremely ascetic manner. His simplicity. His clarity. The thought of Bresson helps me to concentrate on the central idea of the film.

    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.

    Where are you, the great ones?! Where are Rossellini, Cocteau, Renoir, Vigo? The great poor of the spirit. What happened to poetry? Money, money, money, and fear... Fellini is afraid, Antonioni is afraid... Only Bresson is not afraid of anything.

    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. He is unadulterated hyperbole; but above all he stuns us at every moment of his screen existence with the truth of his hero’s behavior. In the most absurd situation Chaplin is completely natural; and that is why he is funny.

    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.

    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.

    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 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.

    Eisenstein was a director completely misunderstood by Soviet leaders, especially by Stalin. Misunderstood — because had Stalin understood the essence of Eisenstein's work he'd never have started to persecute him. This is a total mystery to me. I know how it happened, more or less I have an idea. Eisenstein was brilliant, thoroughly educated; at that time in cinema no director was so educated, so intelligent. Cinema was made by young boys then, typically self-taught, with no formal education at all, they came to cinema sort of straight from the revolution.

    Eisenstein was one of the few, perhaps the only one who appreciated the significance of tradition, he knew what continuity was, cultural heritage. But he didn't absorb it, in his heart, he was over-intellectualised, he was a terrible rationalist, cold, calculated, directed only by reason. He tried his constructions on paper first. Like a calculator. He drew everything. Not that he drew film frames but that he would think everything over and then he'd cram it all inside the frame. He didn't draw from life, life didn't influence him in any way. What influenced him was ideas which he constructed, transformed into some form, as a rule completely lifeless, rigid as iron, very formal, dry, devoid of any feeling. Film form, its formal features, photography, light, atmosphere — none of it existed for him at all, it all had this thought-out character, whether some quotes from paintings or other contrived compositions.This was in a sense a typical concept of synthetic cinema, where cinema appeared as a union of graphic arts, painting, theatre, music, and everything else — except cinema as such wasn't there. As if the sum of all these parts were to result in this new art.

    Eisenstein didn't succeed in expressing through his art what we call the specific art of cinema, he utilised a bit of everything and didn't notice what was specific to cinematography. Had he noticed, he'd have cut, thrown aside all remaining types of art and would have left only "it" in it.

    [On Sergei Eisenstein and Alexander Dovzhenko] It is difficult for me to speak about him because I am afraid of being misunderstood. Beyond a doubt, I consider Eisenstein a great director and regard him highly. I really love Strike, The Battleship Potemkin, and The Old and the New, but I cannot accept his historical pictures. I think they are unusually theatrical. Incidentally, Dovzhenko spoke exhaustively about this; perhaps they had some kind of problem with each other. Major artists often have sharp conflicts amongst themselves, but in any case his words "A daytime opera" seem correct. Because everything is flimsy. Cinema should capture life in the forms in which it exists and use images of life itself. It is the most realistic art form in terms of form. The form in which the cinematic shot exists should be a reflection of the forms of real life. The director has only to choose the moments he will capture and to construct a whole out of them.

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

    Dovzhenko is certainly closest to my heart because he felt nature like nobody else, he was really attached to earth. This is for me very important in general. Of course here I have in mind the early Dovzhenko from his silent period — he meant a lot to me. I'm thinking above all about his concept of spiritualisation of nature, this sort of pantheism. In some sense — not literally of course — I feel very close to pantheism. And pantheism has left a strong mark on Dovzhenko, he loved nature very much, he was able to see and feel it. This is what was so meaningful to me, I consider it very important. After all Soviet filmmakers could not feel nature at all, they didn't understand it, it didn't resonate with them in any way, it didn't mean anything. Dovzhenko was the only director who did not tear cinematographic image away from the atmosphere, from this earth, from this life, etc. For other directors all that was a background, more or less natural, a rigid background while for him this was the element, he somehow felt internally connected with nature's life.

    [On Alexander Dovzhenko] Of course, he could feel nature, having grown up in the country he could not but feel and understand it. He lived it, definitely. But Dovzhenko had the ability to show it, Shukshin couldn't show it at all, one can at most surmise it. His landscapes lack artistry, they are commonplace sometimes, they enter his films as if accidentally. But Dovzhenko paid great attention to them, he strived to find himself in nature.

    [On Miklós Jancsó] Trite and without an iota of talent. A rabid, incompetent Paradjanov disciple.

    A director like Spielberg has an enormous audience and earns enormous sums and everybody is happy about that, but he is no artist and his films are not art. If I made films like him — and I don't believe I can — I would die from sheer terror. Art is as a mountain: there is a peak and surrounding it there are foothills. What exists at the summit cannot by definition be understood by everyone.

  • 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.

    {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.

    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.

    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.

    [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] Rossellini reinforced a trait already evident in Renoir: the desire to stay as close to life as possible in a fiction film.

    I’m very influenced by men like Rossellini—and Renoir—who managed to free themselves of any complex about the cinema, for whom the character, story, or theme is more important than anything else.

    [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.

    Clearly, Vigo was closest to Renoir, but he forged further into bluntness and surpassed him in his love of the image. Both were brought up for the task in an atmosphere that was both rich and poor, aristocratic and common. But Renoir's heart never bled...[Vigo's] films were faithful, sad, funny, affectionate and brotherly...

    [On Jean Vigo] 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.

    My religion is cinema. I believe in Charlie Chaplin…

    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.

    Luis Buñuel is, perhaps, somewhere between Renoir and Bergman. One would gather that Buñuel finds mankind imbecilic but life diverting. All this he tells us very mildly, even a bit indirectly, but it's there in the overall impression we get from his films. Even though he has very little stomach for "messages," Buñuel did manage to make one of those rare, truly antiracist movies, The Young One (1960), the only film he has shot in English. It succeeded because of his masterful ability to intertwine sympathetic and unsympathetic characters and to shuffle the cards in his psychological game while he addresses us in perfectly clear, logical language.

  • 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.

    [On Jean-Luc Godard] I’ll give him two years more, he is just a fashion.

    [On John Huston] 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.

  • [On Michelangelo Antonioni] 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.

  • [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.

    [On Ingmar Bergman] ...he's a long way from me, but I admire him. He, too concentrates a great deal on individuals; and although the individual is what interests him most, we are very far apart. His individuals are very different from mine—but he's a great director. So is Fellini, for that matter.

    Parajanov, in my opinion, is one of best film directors in the world.

    [On Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut] Godard flings reality in our faces, and I’m struck by this. But never by Truffaut.

    [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.

  • [1976 comment on Luis Buñuel] 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 teacher of us all.

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

  • 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)

    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 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.

    [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.

    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.

    Highest of all I would rate Max Ophuls, who for me possessed every possible quality. He has an exceptional flair for sniffing out good subjects, and he got the most out of them. He was also a marvellous director of actors.

    [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.

    I think there’s an intriguing irony in naming the lifetime achievement award after D.W. Griffith because his career was both an inspiration and a cautionary tale. His best films were always ranked among the most important films ever made. And some of them made him a great deal of money. He was instrumental in transforming movies from the nickelodeon novelty to an art form. And he originated and formalized much of the syntax of movie-making now taken for granted.

    He became an international celebrity and his patronage included many of the world’s leading artists and statesmen of the time. But Griffith was always ready to take tremendous risks in his films and in his business affairs. He was always ready to fly too high. And in the end, the wings of fortune proved for him, like those of Icarus, to be made of nothing more substantial than wax and feathers, and like Icarus, when he flew too close to the sun, they melted. And the man who’s fame exceeded the most illustrious filmmakers of today spent the last 17 years of his life shunned by the film industry he had created.

  • [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.

    I want to add my voice to those of Scorsese and Merchant in asking the Academy grant Satyajit Ray an Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award. I have admired his films for many years and for me he is the filmic voice of India, speaking for the people of all classes of the country...He is the most sensitive and eloquent artist and it can truly be said in his case that when we honor him we are honoring ourselves.

    The first artist I admired in my life was Sergei Eisenstein. The second man I admired was Alexander Dovzhenko and a picture called Air City (Aerograd). These men were like idols, and you are affected by your idols, as I was by Renoir’s films. So, I became a film director out of admiration, out of wanting to be like that–hero worship. I think it’s the most wonderful art in the world.

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

    Tarkovsky's works separate me completely from physical life, and are the most spiritual films I have seen — what Fellini did in parts of his movies, bringing dream life into film, he does as well. Theo Angelopoulos' movies also find this type of spirituality at certain moments. In general, I think movies and art should take us away from daily life, should take us to another state, even though daily life is where this flight is launched from.

  • [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 Ingmar Bergman] This man is one of the few film directors — perhaps the only one in the world — to have said as much about human nature as Dostoyevsky or Camus.

    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.

  • 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.

    Leo McCarey understood people better than any other Hollywood director.

    The master of masters, the filmmaker of filmmakers, for me is still Charlie Chaplin. He has done everything in his films—script, direction, setting, production, performance and even the music… His films are not only examples of perfect unity, but all his work is one. One may say indeed of Chaplin that he has made only one film and that every facet of that film is a different enactment of the same profession of faith.

  • I met D.W. Griffith only once and it was not a happy meeting. A cocktail party on a rainy afternoon in the last year of the 1930s. Hollywood’s golden age, but for the greatest of all directors it had been a sad and empty decade. The motion picture which he had virtually invented had become the product—the exclusive product—of America’s fourth-largest industry, and on the assembly lines of the mammoth movie factories there was no place for Griffith. He was an exile in his own town, a prophet without honor, a craftsman without tools, an artist without work. No wonder he hated me. I, who knew nothing about film, had just been given the greatest freedom ever written into a Hollywood contract. It was the contract he deserved. I could see that he was not at all too old for it, and I couldn’t blame him for feeling I was very much too young. We stood under one of those pink Christmas trees they have out there, and drank our drinks and stared at each other across a hopeless abyss. I loved and worshipped him, but he didn’t need a disciple. He needed a job. I have never really hated Hollywood except for its treatment 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] He's as gifted as anyone making pictures today. His limitation--which is also the source of his charm--is that he's fundamentally very provincial. His films are a small-town boy's dream of a big city. Is 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 Federico Fellini] Fellini is essentially a small-town boy who’s never really come to Rome. He’s still dreaming about it. And we should all be very grateful for those dreams. In a way, he’s still standing outside looking in through the gates.

    [On Stanley Kubrick] Among those whom I would call 'younger generation' Kubrick appears to me to be a giant.

    ...I believe that Kubrick can do everything. He is a great director who has not yet made his great film. What I see in him is a talent not possessed by the great directors of the generation immediately preceding his, I mean Ray, Aldrich, etc. Perhaps this is because his temperament comes closer to mine.

    [On being asked how he felt about contemporary American directors] Stanley Kubrick and Richard Lester are the only ones that appeal to me—except for the old masters. By which I mean John Ford, John Ford and John Ford. I don't regard Alfred Hitchcock as an American director, though he's worked in Hollywood for all these years. He seems to me tremendously English in the best Edgar Wallace tradition, and no more. There's always something anecdotal about his work; his contrivances remain contrivances, no matter how marvelously they're conceived and executed. I don't honestly believe that Hitchcock is a director whose pictures will be of any interest a hundred years from now. With Ford at his best, you feel that the movie has lived and breathed in a real world, even though it may have been written by Mother Machree. With Hitchcock, it's a world of spooks.

    Hawks is great prose; Ford is poetry.

    [On Alfred Hitchcock] There’s a certain icy calculation in a lot of Hitch’s work that puts me off. He says he doesn’t like actors, and sometimes it look as though he doesn’t like people.

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

    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.

    The people who’ve done well within the [Hollywood] system are the people whose instincts, whose desires [are in natural alignement with those of the producers] — who want to make the kind of movies that producers want to produce. People who don’t succeed — people who’ve had long, bad times; like [Jean] Renoir, for example, who I think was the best director, ever — are the people who didn’t want to make the kind of pictures that producers want to make. Producers didn’t want to make a Renoir picture, even if it was a success.

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

    A comparison between the movie-maker and his father is not so easy. Nor is it necessary. Jean Renoir stands on his own: the greatest of European directors: very probably the greatest of all directors—a gigantic silhouette on the horizon of our waning century.

    Renoir has become a father-figure, a kind of saint in the academic establishment of world cinema. But though he always had his ardent partisans, a long-winded and murky dispute has ranged through the years over the question of which films are "true" Renoir and which are, if not "false," at least what many French aesthetes speak of as "deceptions." From his earliest beginnings, and many times throughout his long career, he had been charged with abandoning social realism, or with turning away from "nature" to a candid theatricality which outrages those who would tie his work to the impressionism of his father, or who would rate the films according to their ideological content

    [On Jean-Luc Godard] He’s the definitive influence if not really the first film artist of this last decade, and 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. But what’s so admirable about him is his marvelous contempt for the machinery of movies and even movies themselves—a kind of anarchistic, nihilistic contempt for the medium—which, when he’s at his best and most vigorous, is very exciting.

    [On Luis Buñuel In an interview with Peter Bogdanovich] 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.

    [On Luis Buñuel In an interview with Peter Bogdanovich] 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.

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

    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.

    [In an interview with 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.

    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 . . .

    [On Buster Keaton] 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 do 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] According to a young American critic, one of the great discoveries of our age is the value of boredom as an artistic subject. If that is so, Antonioni deserves to be counted as a pioneer and founding father. His movies are perfect backgrounds for fashion models. Maybe there aren’t backgrounds that good in Vogue, but there ought to be. They ought to get Antonioni to design them.

    [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 Josef Von Sternberg] Admirable! He is the greatest exotic director of all time and one of the great lights.

    [On William Wyler] Wyler is this man. Only he's his own boss. His work, however, is better as boss than as director, given the fact that in that role he spends his clearest moments waiting, with the camera, for something to happen. He says nothing. He waits, as the producer waits in his office. He looks at twenty impeccable shots, seeking the one that has something and, usually, he knows how to choose the best one. As a director he is good but as a producer he is extraordinary.

    [on Anthony Asquith] One of the nicest, most intelligent people who was ever in films . . . and my God, he was polite. I saw him, all alone on the stage once, trip on an electric cable, turn around, and say, "I beg your pardon" to it.

    [about director W.S. Van Dyke, aka "Woody"] Woody made some very good comedies. And what a system he had! . . . His retakes sometimes took longer than his original shooting schedule . . . He'd shoot a "Thin Man" or something like that in about 20 days. Then he'd preview it and come back to the studio for 30 days of retakes. For comedy, when you're worried about the laughs, that makes a lot of sense.

    I don’t condemn that very northern, very Protestant world of artists like Bergman; it’s just not where I live. The Sweden I like to visit is a lot of fun. But Bergman’s Sweden always reminds me of something Henry James said about Ibsen’s Norway—that it was full of “the odor of spiritual paraffin.” How I sympathize with that! I share neither Bergman’s interests nor his obsessions. He’s far more foreign to me than the Japanese.

    [On Robert J. Flaherty] I don't see where he fits into films at all, except as being one of the two or three greatest people who ever worked in the medium.

  • Of all the Japanese directors, Kurosawa has been the most accessible to the outside world. There are obvious reasons of this. He seems, for instance, to have a preference for simple, universal situations over narrowly regional ones. The fear of nuclear destruction, graft in high places, the dehumanising effect of bureaucracy, simple conflicts of good and evil, the moral allegory in Rashomon and so on. But most importantly, I think, it is his penchant for movement, for physical action, which has won him so many admirers in the west.

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

    If there is any name which can be said to symbolize cinema—it is Charlie Chaplin… I am sure Chaplin’s name will survive even if the cinema ceases to exist as a medium of artistic expression. Chaplin is truly immortal.

    Old masters like Chaplin, D.W. Griffith and Eisenstein aimed at a range of responses which the modern film-makers do not even feel obliged to attempt.

    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.

    [On Jean-Luc Godard] Godard especially opened up new ways of… making points, let us say. And he shook the foundations of film grammar in a very healthy sort of way, which is excellent.

    If Godard has a hallmark, it is in repeated references to other directors, other films (both good and bad), other forms of art, and to a myriad phenomena of contemporary life. These references do not congeal into a single significant attitude, but merely reflect the alertness of Godard's mind, and the range and variety of his interests.”

    [On John Ford] A hallmark is never easy to describe, but the nearest description of Ford’s would be a combination of strength and simplicity. The nearest equivalent I can think of is a musical one: middle-period Beethoven."

    [On Ingmar Bergman] It’s Bergman whom I continue to be fascinated by. I think he’s remarkable. I envy his stock company, because given actors like that one could do extraordinary things.

    On my first visit to Stockholm I was particularly keen to meet Bergman as I had been a great admirer of his work ever since I saw The Seventh Seal way back in mid-fifties. Bergman of today is not the Bergman of thirty years ago. He has pared down his style to a chamber music austerity. But he is still capable of handling big subjects, as witness Fanny and Alexander. At the opposite and more characteristic pole lies Scenes From A Marriage, a relentless study of two people — husband and wife — compelling and exhaustive…

  • [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.

    [At the funeral of F. W. Murnau] It is clear that the gods, so often jealous, wished it to be thus. They favoured him more than other men and caused him to rise astonishingly quickly, which was all the more surprising because he never aimed at success nor popularity nor wealth. Many centuries hence, everyone would know that a pioneer had left us in the midst of his career, a man to whom the cinema owes its fundamental character, artistically as well as technically. Murnau understood that the cinema, more than the theatre, was called to present life as a symbol: all his works were like animated ballads, and one day this idea would be triumphant....Let all sincere creators take the dead man as their example.... Aloha oe Murnau.

    [On Jean-Luc Godard] I like him a great deal: he is very honest, he loves the cinema, he is just as fanatical as I was. In fact, I think he tries to continue what we started one day, the day when we began making our first films. Only his approach is different. Not the spirit.

  • 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.

  • [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.

    In fact the worst thing possible is to be absolutely certain about things. Hitler, for example, must have been convinced in the certainty of his ideas and that he was right. I don’t think he did anything without believing in it, otherwise he wouldn’t have done it to start with. And I think Jean-Luc Godard believes he makes good films, but maybe they aren’t that good.

    [On Stanley Kubrick] We'd spend endless hours talking. I could see he was trying to understand my feelings and I don't blame him for it. He's a very wise man.

  • 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 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.

    He died too young, Stanley, and I'm sure he's absolutely pissed-off being dead. I think his movie (Eyes Wide Shut) definitely was not finished, because he had the sound mix still to do and the looping with the actors, where you add dialogue and so change performances. It's only people who don't know about filmmaking who think it will be Stanley's movie because a huge part of it won't be. And I wonder who the hell is finishing editing it. Are they going to get Spielberg? It did occur to me to finish it, especially given the subject matter. It feels a little like Crash to me on one level. But I don't know that I'd want to be in the middle of that. It could get very political. The answer for a filmmaker is ‘Don't die!'

    I relate to Kubrick's intelligence and literacy, and there seems to be a dearth of that in filmmaking these days, but I never thought of him as a comrade in arms. In terms of subject matter and methodology, I think we were at far distant poles. Even the way he made movies is much more techno-obsessed than I am. I don't think I'm techno-obsessed at all. I'm organic-obsessed. That's why my technology is all organic. My understanding of technology is as an extension of the human body. So when people say, ‘Are your movies about a fear of technology?' I don't see that. I see technology as innately human. It seems to be innate in us to create and so much of our creativity comes out as technological invention. And I don't think of it as being outside ourselves. I think it's inside us first and then it's an extension of us. And I don't get that from Kubrick's films.

  • Orson Welles is a kind of giant with the look of a child, a tree filled with birds and shadow, a dog that has broken its chain and lies down in the flower beds, an active idler, a wise madman, an island surrounded by people, a pupil asleep in class, a strategist who pretends to be drunk when he wants to be left in peace.

  • 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 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.

  • [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.

    In other words, we’re all the children of D.W. Griffith and Stanley Kubrick.

    [On Stanley Kubrick] There's many ways I look at his films, besides the big screen. I like watching them on the television. I like watching them with the sound off. Sometimes you can see the rhythm of the cutting and the camera moves...and when he cuts in a two shot conversation and when he destroys the invisible line and when the cut gets tighter...on which line of dialogue.

    Stanley Kubrick was one of the only modern masters we had.

    The last frontier may be sexuality and beyond sexuality the complexity of the human psyches. This is the territory that Stanley Kubrick has minded in his films, like Kazan, Kubrick was a New York rebel that converted into an iconoclast. He emerged from independent productions and film noir to create his own unique visionary worlds. His association with Kirk Douglas on Paths of Glory and Spartacus established him as a mayor player, but he couldn't stand being an employee on studio projects and moved to London to make Lolita. He stayed there and hasn't worked in Hollywood since. He is one of the rare iconoclasts who has enjoyed the luxury of operating completely on his own terms.

    If Kubrick had lived to see the opening of his final film, he obviously would have been disappointed by the hostile reactions. But I’m sure that in the end he would have taken it with a grain of salt and moved on. That’s the lot of all true visionaries, who don’t see the use of working in the same vein as everyone else. Artists like Kubrick have minds expansive and dynamic enough to picture the world in motion, to comprehend not just where its been, but where it’s going.

    [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.

    [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.

    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.

    [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.

    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...

    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. There are many echoes of Hitchcock in his movies, blatantly so in The Soft Skin (underrated at the time of its release, and a favorite of mine) and The Bride Wore Black, not so blatantly in many other movies, and it's almost impossible to quantify the importance of Jean Renoir to Truffaut (or, for that matter, of Henry James, of Honoré de Balzac—Truffaut was also a great reader). But if you look at those movies carefully, you will see that there's nothing extraneous or superficial.

    There are things that Truffaut did in those early movies that left a lasting impression: the opening expository section of Jules and Jim, where time and space is abolished and the images flow like music across the screen; the series of shots from Fahrenheit 451 (another underrated picture) where the camera moves in close-closer-closest on a character in imminent danger, which I admit I've duplicated many times in my own films. And the character played by Charles Aznavour in Shoot the Piano Player, who keeps almost acting but never does until it's too late, had a profound effect on me, and on many other filmmakers.

    Time—the desire to slow it down coupled with the harsh reality of its swift passing ... Truffaut had a great gift for giving form to this sensation. In a way, it's all encapsulated in a moment near the end of Two English Girls—yet another underrated picture, this time a masterpiece—where Jean-Pierre Léaud's character suddenly glances at himself in the mirror and murmurs the words: "My God, I look old." And then that moment is over. That's life. And that's Truffaut.

    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 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.

    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 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.

    [On Ingmar Bergman] I guess I’d put it like this: if you were alive in the ’50s and the ’60s and of a certain age, a teenager on your way to becoming an adult, and you wanted to make films, I don’t see how you couldn’t be influenced by Bergman. You would have had to make a conscious effort, and even then, the influence would have snuck through.

    [On Brian De Palma] Brian took me under his wing when I went out to LA. In the '70s, introduced me to De Niro, 'Paul Schrader' and other people, got me started. He gave me the Taxi Driver (1976) script, which he read. I once had very bad asthma, and Brian visited me in the hospital, took me home and took care of me until I got better. He is a warm, passionate, compassionate person who, I think, puts on a tough front.

    [Remembering the late Jacques Rivette] The news of Jacques Rivette's passing is a reminder that so much time has passed since that remarkable moment in the late '50s and early '60s when so many directors were redrawing the boundaries of cinema. Rivette was one of them. He was the most experimental of the French New Wave directors, probably the least known in those early years. I vividly remember the shock of seeing his first two films, Paris Belongs to Us (1961) and The Nun (1966). Two very different experiences, both uniquely troubling and powerful, quite unlike anything else around. Rivette was a fascinating artist, and it's strange to think that he's gone. Because if you came of age when I did, the New Wave still seems new. I suppose it always will.

    To me and to so many directors, John Ford is a towering figure and continues to be a profound inspiration. His films deftly convey his unique and acute sense of humanity, his deep understanding of people. When I first started watching his films, Ford's force behind the camera was palpable. He was a visionary in the truest form and his films are enriched with artistic energy. I see his films often, studying them and each time, I learn something new.

  • Griffith, [Victor] Sjöström, the German expressionists, Chaplin, [Abel] Gance, and Eisenstein have, in their own ways, created languages that proved to be almost as expressive, as rich, and as supple as spoken language.

    Alain Resnais is a cubist. I mean that he is the first modern filmmaker of the sound film. There were many modern filmmakers in silent films: Eisenstein, the Expressionists, and Dreyer too. But I think that sound films have perhaps been more classical than silents.

  • Mizoguchi was a supreme realist while also being a supreme fantasist. He appears before us as an extremely ambivalent figure...I think it's helpful to think of Mizoguchi in contrast with Ozu. Ozu doesn't move the camera. And he shoots from a low angle. For example, at this moment you and I (talking to interviewer) are speaking at eye level. Our view of the ordinary world is determined largely by our eye level. This is how we come to discover things. But shooting from a low angle, it's as if you're a Peeping Tom. If a woman wearing a miniskirt were to stand up in sight of Ozu's low-angle camera, he'd be arrested for indecency. At any rate, women back then were seated thoughout his films, so even with the low angle, he wasn't doing anything risqué. But it was still very unusual, an extremely out-of-the-ordinary shooting position. I like to call Ozu "the reclining god." This reclining god intently watches humanity while lying on his side. Ozu shoots from a low angle from beginning to end, without panning or moving the camera. In this sense he's an auteur of "absolute cinema." But Mizoguchi's camera almost never stops but just keeps moving. This movement clearly shows human lives moving as quietly as glaciers. That type of human time is then skewered by historical time within the frame of the camera. You can think of it as historical time and the time of human drama moving together simultaneously.

  • [Mizoguchi on Mizoguchi] This man they call Mizoguchi is an idiot!

    [On Hiroshi Shimizu] People like me and Ozu get films made by hard work, but Shimizu is a genius...

  • (On Being asked about his influences) I should tell you that I have very deep respect for Akira Kurosawa. This is someone that I idolised. At first I thought that he was a bit too rough but then learnt more about how he worked. For example, he used Toshiro Mifune in most of his films. I once visited Toho Studios and I saw Mifune and formed the opinion that he was not a good actor. He was really dreadful and had a dialect, a heavy accent in Japanese, and didn't seem to know the first thing about acting. But under the direction of Kurosawa he became a great performer. I was deeply impressed with how Kurosawa was able to mould Mifune from a ham into a really excellent actor.

  • [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.

    The great difference between Kubrick and Spielberg is - Spielberg is more successful. His films make much more money. But they're comforting, they give you answers, always, the films are answers, and I don't think they're very clever answers.

    I think there's a side of me that's trying to compete with Lucas and Spielberg — I don't usually admit this publicly — because I tend to think that they only go so far, and their view of the world is rather simplistic. What I want to do is take whatever cinema is considered normal or successful at a particular time and play around with it — to use it as a way of luring audiences in.

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

    I would not have made any of my films or written scripts such as Taxi Driver had it not been for Ingmar Bergman. What he has left is a legacy greater than any other director. I think the extraordinary thing that Bergman will be remembered for, other than his body of work, was that he probably did more than anyone to make cinema a medium of personal and introspective value.

    I always felt a little guilty because I thought I should like Tarkovsky more than I did. My head was telling me I should like it, but my heart wasn't going along.

  • 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 on François Truffaut and 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.

  • 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.

    [On Shane Carruth] I view Shane as the illegitimate offspring of David Lynch and James Cameron.

    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.

  • [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.

    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 Akira Kurosawa] How he managed to be both exuberant and elegant at the same time will be one of life’s great mysteries.

    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.

    [On Alfonso Cuarón] I’ve known Alfonso for a quarter of a century, so roughly half my life. I’ve seen his talent grow and mature, and I’ve seen him transform as an artist and as a human being. This parallel growth is not accidental — Alfonso’s films push the technical and artistic boundaries in search of one thing: the human spirit.
    He probes the emotional connection with the material at hand and then, and only then, does he define the technical challenge to bringing those emotions home. Like any great illusionist, he works indefatigably on the illusion; he hones the sleight of hand through countless hours until the illusion seems effortless … and real. Through the years, Alfonso has mastered the unbroken link between film and audience.

  • [On Robert 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.

  • 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.

  • [On Luis Buñuel and That Obscure Object of Desire] 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.

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

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

    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.”

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

    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.

  • 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. He also had a little pat speech that he'd give you before you did your first directing job, a lot of really good rules - stuff that most movie goers know anyway - just ways to keep the eye entertained, the value of well-motivated camera movement... that kind of thing. He was great. We called it the Roger Corman school of film technique. You really did learn on the job.

    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.

  • 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.

    Kubrick was a wonderful director. I love all his movies. These are pictures any director would be proud to be associated with, much less to make.

  • [On Douglas Sirk] 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.

  • 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.

    [On Orson Welles] Welles was an astute and worldly man about everything but his art. He couldn't afford to be otherwise.

    I asked Jean Renoir once what he thought of Lubitsch. Renoir said “Lubitsch? He invented the modern Hollywood.”

  • 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.

  • 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 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 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.

  • [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.

  • [On influences] You're influenced by who you like. I like Stanley Kubrick, I like Alain Resnais immensely. I like Andrei Tarkovsky, although there's very little in Tarkovsky I'd want to do myself. In fact I fell asleep through half of Solaris (1972), but I still love it. And Stalker (1979). He has a Russian, suffering nerve of pace that it's hard to relate to, but you can't help being impressed and moved by what you see.

    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.

  • [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.

    [On 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."

  • When I was a kid, Frank Capra was certainly America to me. In terms of today’s directors I think Marty Scorsese is phenomenal and singular. I very much like Don Siegel for what he does, and also Peter Bogdanovich, Melvin Van Peebles, Shirley Clarke, Michelangelo Antonioni, Sidney Lumet, and certainly Elaine May. In a way, I admire them all: each picture is different, every person has a different strength. When it comes right down to it, I admire anyone who can make a film.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • [On Charles 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.

  • 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!

    Yesterday I wore a particular shirt, which was Kubrick's favourite shirt. His last picture was costumed by an English costume designer who I used three times. She passed away a couple of years ago, but she said Kubrick had seven sets of this particular shirt. He'd only wear that shirt every day, so she made one for me and I love it. I just worship Kubrick.

  • 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.

  • [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 The Melville Style, released in the 1996 cahiers du cinema November issue]

    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.

  • 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 Jean-Luc Godard] For me, discovering cinema was directly connected to his films. I was living in Paris at the time. When Made in USA opened, I went to the first show—it was around noon—and I sat there until midnight. I saw it six times in a row.

    I was very privileged to start in the 70s, and really make a film a year for 10 years. The only living person who's still doing that is Woody Allen. He has a machinery going; writing in the winter, prepping in the spring, shooting in the summer, editing in the fall. He has it down. But he's the only living person who's still doing that.

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

    You can always feel underneath my love for Dreyer, Mizoguchi and Chaplin… I feel this mythic epicness in both Dreyer and Mizoguchi and Chaplin: all three see things from a point of view which is absolute, essential and in a certain way holy, reverential.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • I also like Stanley Kubrick. I think right now he’s about the coolest, I guess. The Shining really grew on me. I never miss it when it’s on cable. His best film for me, though, is Lolita. I’m absolutely captivated by it. Also, I like him because he likes Eraserhead. He said at one time that it was his favorite film.

    I have a profound admiration for Fellini. I met him lately and he’s just fantastic. I feel very close to him even though he’s very Italian. But his films could have been made in every country. When I say, I feel close to him, then also because we’re both born on January 20th.

    [On Federico Fellini] I love Fellini. And we’ve got the same birthday, so if you believe in astrology . . . His is a totally different time, and an Italian take on life. But there’s something about his films. There’s a mood. They make you dream. They’re so magical and lyrical and surprising and inventive. The guy was unique. If you took his films away, there would be a giant chunk of cinema missing. There’s nothing else around like that. I like Bergman, but his films are so different. Sparse. Sparse dreams.

    [Jacques Tati] I love that guy. His whole style, and how he sees things. And again, you know, the guy’s an inventor visually, and with the sound, choreography, and music. Then there’s his childlike love of his characters; I really dig it. I met his daughter. But, you know, I hear these stories, how he died a bitter man and he wasn’t really that loved in his own country. And it kills me.

  • [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.

  • 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 don't regard Bergman as a religious film-maker. I think he's an atheist and he's saying there's nothing beyond this life. But that doesn't stop him from being spiritual and humanist.

  • [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 Jean-Luc Godard] You can see him excluding himself from the world in an almost autistic manner. For people like me, who started doing film because of him, it is a terrible fright. And the fact that the long evolution that Godard has been through can lead to this, almost brings me to despair. He was kind of a pioneer, an inventor who didn’t care much about anybody or anything. And that a man at this stage of his life isolates himself, should also be a lesson for us other film makers.

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

    [On Charlie Chaplin] He inspired practically every filmmaker.

  • 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 Stanley Kubrick] People say he had these phobias, he wouldn't go here and wouldn't go there. The truth is he lived in a paradise -- there wasn't any reason for him to go anywhere. It was a kind of a heaven.

    [On Stanley Kubrick] I always think of Stanley literally on the edge of a smile. His eyes always had mischief in them. He always had this sense of the devil in him while he was very calmly asking questions. He read everything, and knew absolutely all aspects of the business, including literally what the box-office receipts of every theater in the world were over the past few years.

    [On Stanley Kubrick] I knew Stanley for 30 years but never met him until "Eyes Wide Shut." I had talked to him all my life, and he didn't believe that we'd never met. I had never even seen his face. I had no idea what he looked like. I got acquainted with him when I was working on "Jeremiah Johnson"... It had very archaic language and I was terribly worried about how it was going to be subtitled or dubbed. I worried that it would lose a lot of its flavor. The head of the studio was a guy named John Calvin. He was head of Warner Brothers at the time. I told him that I was worried about this and he said, "Well, talk to Kubrick, 'cause he knows everything about everything." I told him that I didn't even know Kubrick and he was like, "No, no, you guys will get along great." So he set up this phone call and I didn't get off the phone with Stanley for the next 25 years. He was big into faxing things. He kept up with the world through faxes and phone calls. He never left England; never, not once. Wouldn't get on a boat, wouldn't get on a plane, wouldn't do any of that. So he would call a lot just to check out what was out there. He'd ask, "What good writers are out there? What should I be seeing? What should I be reading?" I remember once we got into a discussion over there being too many words in English dialogue. So he started taping NesCafe commercials. At the time in France there were these NesCafe commercials that were basically mini-dramas. So Stanley would send me these little NesCafe commercials ... and he would edit them! Then he would say, "Now, there were 93 words in this and I took 17 of them out." He'd do stuff like this. He was a guy who was always interested in what you were doing. He'd talk for hours about a film I'd be working on over the telephone, suggesting, "What about this? What about that?" He was a very generous guy.

    His films are usually fairly dark; they always examine evil of some sort or another. I think Stanley is a sort of crushed idealist. I think he's a guy who was looking for some possibility of hope in a world he thought was pretty bleak and evil. However, I don't know how much of that was attained through experiences he had or from the natural impulses of his mind.

    His movies are not realistic in any way; they're operas. Stanley never had realism as an ultimate goal. When he was filming "Full Metal Jacket," Matthew Modene (Joker) finished a take and said, "That felt pretty real." Stanley looked at Matthew and said, "Real is good. Interesting is better." And he worked from that basis; one that wasn't too interested in reality, it was something more stylized. He was creating something much larger than life. It wouldn't be reality but would relate more vividly to reality.

    He did do one semi-realist film called "The Killing," but everything after that, from "Paths of Glory" on, was very stylistic.

    He was a technician, always his own cameraman, his own lighting director. By the time Stanley died he owned all his own equipment. As a result of this he could shoot in a year and a half on what it would cost one of us to shoot in four months. And that's how he got away with it. We spent a year and two months shooting "Eyes Wide Shut" and spent the same amount of money that any other director would have had to spend just on Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. After all, that's where a lot of the money goes ... He's only made a handful of films. He didn't work very often - he worked every six or seven years and took a lot of time in between pictures. But his pictures always attained a sort of cult status at the very least, and were always revered in Europe.

    When "A Clockwork Orange" first opened up, people were scandalized and furious. The same happened with "Full Metal Jacket," "The Shining" and certainly with "Eyes Wide Shut" ... No matter what, though, his films have always gained in stature over time.

    Stanley's had a career that's been singular in a certain way. There's no director's career that's been like his in the sense that he was a kind of independent filmmaker before there were independent filmmakers. It wasn't a mantle he was given, he just assumed it. He behaved that way his whole life. And his reputation supported it. No matter what happened with the introduction of his films, they all subsequently would end up being taught at schools.

    He was a chess player, a chess hustler, really, and on top of that was a great photographer. He would combine these two in his filmmaking in the way of examining every conceivable route. He had a chess player's mind ... That's why it was so maddening to work with him as an actor, because it was not at all uncommon to do a hundred takes. You would wonder, "Why in God's name is he doing this? How can he find something different after take 60 or 65?" The actors found it tortuous, but you know it produced something in terms of behavior that just doesn't get produced otherwise. I would be there and watch take 60, take 70, take 80, and things would change. You would cry sometimes, just weep - something would happen! He was maddening in his thoroughness, obsessive; it would push the performance out to the other end ... I don't know what he was looking for, but it worked for him.

  • [On Alfred Hitchcock] I admire him very much and am flattered when anyone compares a film of mine to his.

  • 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.

    It took me 20 years to appreciate Kubrick. I put Barry Lyndon on in my hotel room and couldn't look away. That's great film making.

  • 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 Preston Sturges] Jesus, he was a strange guy. Carried his own hill with him, I tell you.

    [On John Ford] He is pure Ford — which means pure great.

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

  • [On Stanley Kubrick] I must say I did like his attitude towards film and the fact that he was an artist and complete unto himself. He wasn’t under corporate censorship, and he was never trying to make a film that you’d be able to pigeonhole in any particular genre. I think that was the case with all his films.

  • Griffith's attitude about money was not without its adverse effects in his business life, as well, as evidenced by a career that ranged from untold wealth to downright poverty. He was a brilliant artist but a poor businessman. Like many another fine artist of the stage or screen, he did not fully understand the truth of Sir Henry Irving's statement that the theatre 'must be carried on as a business or it will fail as an art.' Griffith could never adapt himself successfully to the commercial necessities of picture making. Before generosity can exist, feelings of compassion and kindness toward one's fellow man must be evident, and all of the Griffith alumni describe him as a kind man, very understanding of one's feelings, and skilled in dealing with the emotions of his actors and actresses.

    David Wark Griffith was a great genius. We were thought to be rivals. In a sense, we were, but we were never enemies; and in another sense, Griffith had no rivals. He was the teacher of us all. Not a picture has been made since his time that does not bear some trace of his influence. He did not invent the close-up or some of the other devices with which he has sometimes been credited, but he discovered and he taught everyone else how to use them for more beautiful effect and better story telling on the screen.

  • The situation is that a thread has been cut off and it's been very difficult for the generation that came right after the nouvelle vague. Filmmakers like André Téchiné, Philippe Garrel, Jacques Doillon, Benoît Jacquot, Chantal Akerman, or in a significantly different context, Jean Eustache and Maurice Pialat, all have had to reinvent–without the support of film theory–a relationship to cinema. They are the ones who had to rebuild something. And whatever they rebuilt certainly benefited the following generation, meaning mine. And one of the important things they did–consciously or unconsciously–is that they substituted Bergman to the nouvelle vague. They found a symbolic father figure in Bergman that helped them redefine an intimacy with actors, a way to express the existential issues of their generation, reformulate the continuity between writing and filming, in a completely different way. If I had to define where Bergman's legacy is, I would say everywhere in French cinema.

    The avant-garde was a group of critics taking their first collective step toward becoming filmmakers. They were not heralding the new but something pre-existing yet hitherto unacknowledged in commercial cinema, and in the process they re-directed the attentions and priorities of film viewing through the language of discovery and revelation. The collective action of the Cahiers du cinéma critics (and of those who followed them at other publications) was fairly wondrous in and of itself, an endless lifting of the veil of surface beauty to reveal what they took to be another deeper and truer beauty. There was a great deal of excellent criticism (most of it written by Jean-Luc Godard), but it's the lovely tautologies and proclamations that are often invoked nowadays. Cinema was Bresson, Renoir, Hawks, Hitchcock, Nick Ray, and Rossellini; and cinema was not Autant-Lara, Delannoy, Decoin, Pontecorvo, Kubrick, or Wyler.

    I wouldn’t be here writing these lines but for Robert Bresson; when I was still a teenager, his films showed me what cinema could be, showed me how cinema could rival the masterpieces of the other arts. He showed me cinema was something worth devoting one’s life to.

    Cronenberg is a genius. He reinvented genre filmmaking, giving it the depth of the most ambitious fiction. ...I consider David Cronenberg to be one of the great modern artists.

    Steven Soderbergh totally rocks. He is the bravest, smartest, most original filmmaker in the U.S. today.

    My admiration for Jean-Pierre Melville has only been growing through the years. He is a minimalist, like Bresson, but not so much in the sense of emptying the frame—it’s more about getting rid of a lot of the visible to replace it with the invisible. I haven’t been filming a lot of gangsters, but I can understand his fascination for both outlaws and cops, for their world haunted by betrayal and death.

    I can’t believe how the genius of Sacha Guitry is misunderstood outside the borders of France. He is actually one of the most important figures in the history of French cinema, on a par with the greatest. I suspect he has this marginal status because when he started making films—the minute you could record sound—he was already a middle-aged ultra-recognized, ultra-successful figure of the stage. His style owes nothing to the silent era; he is the first French filmmaker, in a long line, who relies on language. But he was of course never content to simply record his own plays; he was obsessed with using the specificities of cinema to transcend them, and in doing so he pioneered a whole new language. Inspired by his wives—first Jacqueline Delubac, then Geneviève Guitry, then Lana Marconi, who most often had the lead—Guitry was the first French writer/director, and possibly the greatest.

  • 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.

  • The only ones I know well are my three loves: Buñuel, Bergman, and Bresson.

  • 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.

  • [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 the French New Wave] They made “intimate” films with some kind of elevator music—like Truffaut. I’m not criticizing Truffaut, but one day we inaugurated a movie theater in the suburbs where there were two theaters: a Truffaut Theater and a Carné Theater. And we went up on the stage together. Truffaut had dragged my name through the mud, mind you, but I was very honored to have my name together with Truffaut’s. I’m not sure he felt the same way. He said so many nasty things about me . . . Anyway, he had no comment, which was easy to do after ten years. He finished his speech by saying, “I’ve made twenty-three movies, and I’d give them all up to have done Children of Paradise.” What could I say after that? Nothing. He said it in front of three or four hundred people, but it was never written down . . . I am not upset with him anymore. At that time, if I was in a studio or whatever, and Mr. Godard came in, he said nothing to me, not even hello. It’s almost as if he turned his back on me. I mean, I didn’t like many of his movies, but I found some things interesting once in a while, like in Weekend and Pierrot le fou. Those movies were quite sassy. Well, sassy may be a bit slangy, so let’s say they were bold.

  • [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.

  • My favourite film-maker of the decade is Abbas Kiarostami. He achieves a simplicity that's so difficult to attain.

    I wait for each new film by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Abbas Kiarostami, Claire Denis and Bruno Dumont. I enjoy all sorts of films, but those are the people that really interest me. I admire the Dardenne brothers tremendously, but i feel closest, in my work, to Dumont. Dumont's films are basically existential works, philosophical films, not political ones. I think of my own films that way.

  • Joel Coen: I always admired Stanley Kubrick for the fact that he managed to beat the system somehow. I think he kind of had it all figured out.

  • [On Orson Welles] With Welles, everything began with the writing. And he was very good at it. He was a terrific guy. After I had done a few days' work, we'd go over the scenes. He had such a remarkable memory that if we'd get into a dispute about the way the story should or should not go, he'd say, "Well, let's see, now, in 'Lear'...", and then he would review the whole of the second act of "King Lear", doing all the parts! Or he could quote from the Old or New Testament by the yard. His wealth of information and background about story lines was inexhaustible. He was inventive. Fearless.

  • Mizoguchi was totally and utterly Japanese. He was unique in that he was not in any way influenced by the directors of the West. He preferred long takes, and managed to squeeze into that one take all the trials and tribulations of life.

  • Mizoguchi was, first of all, an outstanding poet who was able to express, with a fertile imagination and a sincere human profundity, the moral drama of his own generation. The destruction, the dreams, the forbidden loves which flow through his films are about the crisis of consciousness in modern Japan.

  • [On working with Orson Welles on Catch-22 (1970)] We were talking about Jean Renoir one day on the set and Orson said, very touchingly, that Renoir was a great man but that unfortunately Renoir didn't like his pictures. And then he said, "Of course, if I were Renoir I wouldn't like my pictures either".

    [On Stanley Kubrick] In the end, I think he began to have trouble, because if you can't leave home, you lose track of reality, and I think that happened to him. Still, he made great movies and he was a completely gifted director.

  • [On Vincente Minnelli] I’m going to make more enemies…actually the same enemies, since the people who like Minnelli usually like Mankiewicz, too. Minnelli is regarded as a great director thanks to the slackening of the “politique des auteurs.” For François, Jean-Luc and me, the politique consisted of saying that there were only a few filmmakers who merited consideration as auteurs, in the same sense as Balzac or Molière. One play by Molière might be less good than another, but it is vital and exciting in relation to the entire oeuvre. This is true of Renoir, Hitchcock, Lang, Ford, Dreyer, Mizoguchi, Sirk, Ozu… But it’s not true of all filmmakers. Is it true of Minnelli, Walsh or Cukor? I don’t think so. They shot the scripts that the studio assigned them to, with varying levels of interest. Now, in the case of Preminger, where the direction is everything, the politique works. As for Walsh, whenever he was intensely interested in the story or the actors, he became an auteur – and in many other cases, he didn’t. In Minnelli’s case, he was meticulous with the sets, the spaces, the light…but how much did he work with the actors?

    [On James Cameron] Cameron isn't evil, he's not an asshole like Spielberg. He wants to be the new De Mille. Unfortunately, he can't direct his way out of a paper bag.

    Mankiewicz was a great producer, a good scenarist and a masterful writer of dialogue, but for me he was never a director. His films are cut together any which way, the actors are always pushed towards caricature and they resist with only varying degrees of success. Here’s a good definition of mise en scène – it’s what’s lacking in the films of Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Whereas Preminger is a pure director. In his work, everything but the direction often disappears.

    Kubrick is a machine, a mutant, a Martian. He has no human feeling whatsoever. But it’s great when the machine films other machines, as in 2001.

    [On Pedro Almodóvar] He’s a much more mysterious filmmaker than people realize. He doesn’t cheat or con the audience. He also has his Cocteau side, in the way that he plays with the phantasmagorical and the real.

    [On Jean-Pierre Melville] ...he's definitely someone I underrated. What we have in common is that we both love the same period of American cinema – but not in the same way. I hung out with him a little in the late ’50s; he and I drove around Paris in his car one night. And he delivered a two-hour long monologue, which was fascinating. He really wanted to have disciples and become our “Godfather”: a misunderstanding that never amounted to anything.

    [The following "Mizoguchi Viewed From Here" originally appeared in the Cahiers du cinema 81 (March 1958) issue]

    How does one talk about Mizoguchi without falling in a double trap: the jargon of the specialist or that of the humanist? It may be that his films owe something to the tradition or the spirit of No or Kabuki; but then who is to teach us the deep meaning of those traditions, and is it not a case of trying to explain the unknown by the unknowable? What is beyond doubt is that Mizoguchi's art is based on the play of personal genius within the context of a dramatic tradition. But will wanting to approach it in terms of the national culture and to find it above all such great universal values make us any the wiser? That men are men wherever they may be is something we might have predicted; to be surprised by it only tells us something about ourselves.

    But these films -- which tells us, in an alien tongue, stories that are completely foreign to our customs and way of life -- do talk to us in a familiar language. What language? The only one to which a film-maker should lay claim when all is said and done: the language of mise en scene. For modern artists did not discover African fetishes through a conversion to idols, but because those unusual objects moved them a sculptures. If music is a universal idiom, so too is mise en scene: it is this language, and not Japanese, that has to be learned to understand 'Mizoguchi'. A language held in common, but here brought to a degree of purity that our Western cinema has known only rarely.

    Some will object: why retrieve only Mizoguchi from those hazardous probings that are our visions of Japanese cinema? But is Japanese cinema all that foreign tous anyway? It is in a language close to it, but not the same, that other film-makers speak to us: exoticism accounts sufficiently for the superficial tone that separates a Tadashi Imai (Darkness at Noon/Mahiru no ankoku) from a Cayatte, a Heinosuke Gosho (Where Chimneys are Seen/Entotsu ni mieru basho) from a Becker, a Mikio Naruse (Mother/O-kasan) from a Le Chanois, a Teinosuke Kinugasa (Gate of Hell/Jigokumon) from a Christian-Jaque, indeed a Satoru Yamamura (The Crab-canning Facotry/Kanikosen) from a Raymond Bernard. We may perhaps leave out Kaneto Shindo (Children of Hiroshima/Genbaku no ko) and Keisuke Kinoshita (She Was Like a Wild Chrysanthemum/Nogiku no gtoki kimi nariki); the unfamiliarity of their inflexions, however, owes more to preciosity than to the impulse of a personal voice. It is, in short, the best-indexed language of Western cinema: the classic case being Kurosawa, passing from European classic to contemporary 'adventure' films with the peevish and humourless affectation of an Autant-Lara. Moreover, just compare his Samurai films with the historical films of Mizoguchi, where one would search in vain for any trace of a duel or for the smallest grunt (those 'picturesque' qualities that made for the facile success of The Seven Samurai, of which we may now rightly ask whether it was especially aimed at the export market), and where an acute sense of the past is achieved by means of an disconcerting and almost Rossellinian simplicity.

    Enough of comparisons: the little Kurosawa-Mizoguchi game has had its day. Let the latest champions of Kurosawa withdraw from the match; one can only compare what is comparable and equal in ambition. Mizoguchi alone imposes the sense of a specific language and world, answerable only to him.

    Mizoguchi charms us because in the first place he makes no effort to charm us, and never makes any concession to the viewer. Alone, it seems, of all the Japanese film-makers to stay within his own traditions (Yang Kwei-Fei is part of the national repertoire by the same token as our Cid), he is also the only one who can thus lay claim to true universality, which is that of the individual.

    His is the world of the irremediable; but in it, destiny is not at the same moment fate: neither Fate nor the Furies. There is no submissive acceptance, but the road to reconciliation; what do the stories of the ten films we now know matter? Everything in them takes place in a pure time which is that of the eternal present: there, past and future time often mingle their waters, one and the same meditation on duration runs through them all; all end with the serene joy of one who has conquered the illusory phenomena of perspectives. The only suspense is that irrepressible line rising towards a certain level of ecstasy, the 'correspondence' of those final notes, those harmonies held without end, which are never completed, but expire with breath of the musician.

    Everything finally comes together in that search for the central place, where appearances, and what we call 'nature' (or shame, or death), are reconciled with man, a quest like that of German high Romanticism, and that of a Rilke, an Eliot; one which is also that of the camera -- placed always at the exact point so that the slightest shift inflects all the lines of space, and upturns the secret face of the world and of its gods. An art of modulation.

  • Hou Hsiao-hsien is not only the crowning jewel of contemporary Taiwanese cinema, but an international treasure. His films are, for me, among the most inspiring of the past thirty years, and his grace and subtlety as a filmmaker remain unrivaled. Film after film, Hou Hsiao-hsien is able to adeptly balance a historical and cultural overview with the smallest, most quiet and intimate details of individual interactions. His narratives can appear offhand and non-dramatic, and yet the structures of the films themselves are all about storytelling and the beauty of its variations. And Hou's camera placement is never less than exquisite.

  • [On Ermanno Olmi] ...this guy [Olmi] is a genius, and that's all there is to it.

  • The following is excerpts taken from Brakhage, Stan: Telluride Gold: Brakhage meets Tarkovsky, Rolling Stock, no 6, 1983:

    (On Andrei Tarkovsky) He's in this peculiar position of being for export only. It must be terrible for him because Russians love their country and their people and so exile in any sense — perhaps especially exile of your work — must be excruciatingly painful. So the man has a most problematical and in a way torturesome existence, except that one thing he does have on his side, that he can spend unbelieveable fortunes such as we haven't seen in this country since Cecil B. DeMille. In terms of budget, Apocalypse Now would look like a B movie in comparison. As long as the Russians agree to make it, he can have as big a crowd as he wants in his film and he can string them out in beautiful patterns across the mountains or he can rebuild villages and towns.

    I'm grateful that he can make these great movies under whatever circumstances but I also know the price for him, for this Russian people and for the rest of the world.

    "Some people have asked me, What do you mean, Tarkovsky is the greatest living narrative film maker? Well, enthusiasm is jumped on these days and any designation such as that, in the competitive atmosphere of film making, gets you into trouble. So I want to explain why I said that.

    "I personally think that the three greatest tasks for film in the 20th century are (1) To make the epic, that is to tell the tales of the tribes of the world. (2) To keep it personal, because only in the eccentricities of our personal lives do we have any chances at the truth. (3) To do the dream work, that is, to illuminate the borders of the unconscious. The only film maker I know that does all these three things equally in every film he makes is Andrei Tarkovsky, and that's why I think he's the greatest living narrative film maker."

  • [On Stanley Kubrick] We're all children of Kubrick, aren't we? Is there anything you can do that he hasn't done?

    Stanley Kubrick was a perfectionist and a man of amazing intellect.

    [On Robert Altman] I knew him pretty well, off and on for about 10 years, but I had gotten to know him particularly well in the last three or four years. I got to watch Bob navigate that film, and I watched how good he was at evading questions, in the best way. He was really good at not committing himself too early to something. He didn't impose his will early. He loved to work with people. He loved to see what they came up with. He would give things time to settle, to rise or to fall, and watching him do that was a great lesson in patience. Because at the end of the day, he invited everybody in to work on this film, but he ended up getting exactly what he wanted, and everyone else felt that they had been part of it, because they had. They really made the film with Bob. How he did that was a lesson to me.

    I love Godard in a very film school way. I can’t say that I’ve ever been emotionally attacked by him. Where I have been emotionally attacked by Truffaut.

  • [On Akira Kurosawa] Most directors have one masterpiece by which they are known, or possibly two. Kurosawa has at least eight or nine.

    Akira Kurosawa is one of the greatest directors ever to work in the cinema. His films meant an enormous amount to me when I was starting my own career.

    [On Stanley Kubrick] I think he's probably the greatest American film director. He's completely original. He's still ahead of anyone else.

    In the 60s they were four filmmakers who represented cinema and influenced everyone who came after: Fellini, Kurosawa, Bergman and Kubrick.

    [On Ingmar Bergman] My all-time favorite because he embodies passion, emotion and has warmth.

    Steven Spielberg is unique. I feel that the kinds of movies he loves are the same kinds of movies that the big mass audience loves. He's very fortunate because he can do the things he naturally likes the best, and he's been very successful. Martin Scorsese, I think, is different. If Exxon went to Martin and said, "Martin, we feel you're one of the best artists in the world today and we're going to finance any movie you want to make because we believe that at the end of your life those will be very valuable movies," he would be making very different movies from what he's making now. I think he probably has scripts that he's trying to get someone to enable him to make and then another one comes on and they say, "Look, we have Jack Nicholson and so on and so on. Would you do it? And of course he says, "Okay. Not that he doesn't like it or they're not good movies, but I think that his heart is maybe in more personal filmmaking.

    [On George Lucas] In many ways, because of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), we were deprived of the films that he was going to make and would have made. All the merchandising and financial success of those films aren't one-tenth to what he is worth as an artist and a filmmaker.

  • [On the failure of Modern Romance (1981)] The [studio heads] were angry. It was like I had shot a child . . . I was depressed, but then one day I was sitting at home and the phone rings. It's Stanley Kubrick. He had seen the movie and wanted to know how I did it. That's the first thing he said: "How did you make this movie? I've always wanted to make a movie about jealousy". I said to him, "The guy who did '2001' [2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)] is asking me how I did something?"

    [on Stanley Kubrick] He asked to see the script [for Lost in America (1985)], so I sent him a copy. He called back and said he liked it but had some suggestions. He thought the couple should split up and not get back together until the end--as a sort of surprise. I immediately said, "Oh, no, that's a terrible idea". That was the last conversation we had.

  • [Asked about some non-American directors he admires] The Thai guy with the unpronounceable name [Apichatpong Weerasethakul], he's good. Interesting rhythms. Weird. He has his own language. Um. Who else is good? One of the best films I've seen this century is an Uruguayan film from a few years ago called Whisky (2004). I've traditionally followed Pedro Almodóvar. Michael Haneke's Amour (2012) I think is the only true masterpiece we've had in the last how-many years. It's a tremendous film.