segunda-feira, 24 de dezembro de 2012

segunda-feira, 17 de dezembro de 2012

Dans ONCE UPON A TIME A HONEYMOON, l'appel à la lutte contre le nazisme vient s'immiscer dans le schéma d'une comédie américaine classique et s'exprime à travers la prise de conscience d'un personnage traditionnel du genre, et donc peu préparé, au départ, à de telles révélations. Dans SATAN NEVER SLEEPS, qu'on pourrait décrire comme une fuite hors de l'Eden envahi, s'installe presque malgré l'auteur une amertume qu'on voyait poindre déjà dans telle séquence de MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW ou dans MY SON JOHN. Modernes malgré eux (n'est-ce pas la meilleure façon de l'être?), ces films, qui dissimulent à peine la colère rentrée du plus pacifique et du plus chaleureux des hommes, ne disent-ils pas, d'une manière plus persuasive encore que si l'auteur avait voulu le dire ouvertement, la difficulté du bonheur, de l'harmonie, et combien un monde qui serait fondé sur eux est encore loin du nôtre, est encore à créer.

Jacques Lourcelles, McCarey, Anthologie du cinéma nº 70, L'Avant scène du cinéma, novembro 1972

domingo, 16 de dezembro de 2012

Ok, Ruy, vamos fingir então que a mesma revista não falou bem de Melancolia, Cavalo de Guerra, As Aventuras de Tintim, Cisne Negro, Honoré, Xavier Dolan, além de umas merdas insípidas ou simples papagaiadas nas quais você adora cair (obviamente na cola dos Cahiers - novidade...) tipo Super 8 e A Árvore da Vida, as quais já estão com os dias mais do que contados, e pelas quais você apenas manifesta sua já habitual incapacidade de discernimento somada a uma articulação precária de gosto com intuição e visão (lembra do Andrucha, Casa de Areia? Frat Pack? Aquele gênio-sumidade do McG que agora vai co-dirigir filme com Luc Besson? Feio feio fail...). É necessário ver os filmes, não só olhá-los, e basta ler as trivialidades que você escreve hoje em dia - sobre Hong, por exemplo - para dar-se conta de que já há algum tempo você se empenha mais no segundo que no primeiro, o que resulta nessa crítica puramente temática e tautológica que se pretende formalista da maneira mais apressada e desengonçada, e pelo seguinte: como formalista você tem que voltar pra escolinha, bicho, visto que o teu entendimento do papel e da importância da síntese da concepção na realização técnica dos filmes, do abstrato com o concreto, é uma coisa totalmente inorgânica, e portanto não só programática como praticamente nula. Quando muito, e talvez esta tenha sido a sua principal contribuição ou importância como crítico numa época já bastante remota, você consegue notar e escrever sobre o vácuo ao redor da estrutura, num reconhecimento bem superficial de certos conteúdos formais que, julgando pela leitura de um texto seu, existem numa ausência de qualquer estrutura, na inexistência de qualquer composição pela qual viriam a ganhar um peso, uma importância na forma com que atuam no interior do filme (a tal "tessitura" que vocês adoram suscitar mas que discutem sempre da forma mais vaga), ou mais simplesmente um papel (talvez por isso nenhuma análise real de um filme pelo ponto de vista da construção num texto seu). Antes de se falar de conceito, de idéia, de mise en scène em suma - que é o quê você e todos sempre tentam, com ou sem ciência, com ou sem partícipes mourletianos, demonsablonianos, rivettianos, bazinianos, labartheanos, bietteanos ou o que seja (Deleuze, Burdeau, Aumont, Tesson e o raio que o parta) - tem que saber ver minimamente a realização, e só a partir daí se pode ambicionar abordar aquilo que o teu amiguinho Roland Barthes chamava de "grau zero". Julgando pelo que você tem escrito já há alguns anos, passou da horinha de voltar ao be-a-bá - porque antes de Barthes vem Delluc, antes de Delluc vem Braque, antes de Braque algum japonês filósofo-samurai-pintor-eremita que daria uma surra em mim e em você.

Vamos aproveitar e fingir também que vocês, que adoram apontar os dedos para os que supostamente não dão "nomes aos bois", não são uns completos cagões cínicos que se utilizam politicamente tanto das indiretas como das diretas - quando, como e o quê for mais adequado para vocês. Política escrotíssima, diga-se de passagem, mas que não surpreende quem os conheceu da época da Contra.

Vamos continuar fingindo, inclusive, que não é você quem se ressente até hoje das duas esculhambadas que levou de mim por e-mail, logo após a cobertura do Festival do Rio de 2008 (em parte relacionadas a essa cobertura mas no geral tocantes ao teu projeto e ao teu trabalho lambão de editoria da Contra), ou seja, mais ou menos uns três meses depois de você ter pedido para a Juliana Fausto falar comigo para ver se eu topava escrever novamente para a Contra (pedido que antecede, inclusive, o convite que o LCOJr. e o Alpendre fizeram para que eu participasse da pauta Losey). Estranha cronologia essa: a pauta Losey sai, não recebo um senão seu, e depois dessa troca de e-mails nem um pouco amistosa, na qual fiz críticas duras, as quais ninguém nunca teve coragem de fazer por conta da tua postura verdadeiramente coerente de encarar quaisquer críticas feitas a você como um desacato, começa esse papo babaca e futriquento de neo-macmahonismo. Falando neste, você realmente quer que eu lembre desta vergonha de incompreensão e de má leitura sisuda e deformadora; quer que eu realmente sublinhe pérolas da heresia da incompreensão como "o cinema deveria lidar não com a realidade vivida em conjunto entre os indivíduos de uma comunidade, mas exclusivamente com os anseios mais marcadamente individuais e fantasiosos que temos –, essa frase e essa defesa do cinema exclusivamente pela fascinação assustam por retirar do cinema seu elo com o mundo real, fazendo com que uma mulher não seja uma mulher, mas a mulher; não um amor, mas o amor; não um gesto belo, mas o gesto belo por excelência"; quer que eu comente como é feio misturar semiologia com ontologia, cientificismo jeca com abstração, a tautologia mais vaga com uma objetividade vergonhosamente confundida com subjetividade; como, conseqüentemente, é estúpida a sugestão de que só poderia existir objetividade na ordinariedade, no mundano pelo mundano, zavattinismo ainda mais incompetente que o original; como é tosco alguém que fala em termos sub-Joyardianos do tipo "plano ponto-de-vista sentimental" querer a todo custo rechaçar o Mourlet por uma coisa que, por sinal, o Mourlet não faz porque simplesmente não existe no macmahonismo essa projeção de sentimentos e subjetividades pessoais nos filmes; como, em suma, é feio bancar o sabichão sem estudar direito as coisas... Ou eu posso te fazer um favor, tentar pegar leve e lembrar disto aqui, escrito um pouquinho antes da nossa desavença e, surpresa!, num tom bastante próximo do do macmahonismo, veja só. Mas talvez o que você deva fazer mesmo é lembrar do que falava de mim para as pessoas antes de ser colocado na parede naquele e-mail, lembrar o ponto em que isso muda e como difere de forma assustadoramente completa do que você diz hoje. Reveladora essa completa inversão das coisas, para não dizer simples desonestidade intelectual, algo por sinal bastante recorrente nos teus hábitos intelectuais... Famosa tática da falácia do espantalho.

Vamos fingir também que essa sua atitude de ditadorzinho patrulheiro formador de consensos não levou a crítica de cinema que nasce com a Contra primeiro prum puta impasse e depois pro brejo.

quinta-feira, 13 de dezembro de 2012

NO COMMENT

Do you feel class is something not addressed enough in U.S. film?

[Class is] not discussed in American life very much -- there’s a notion that social or economic class divides don’t exist when of course they do. But that wasn't always true in film -- think of John Ford, it’s always all over his films. The idea of "Vertigo" is partly genius because of social class -- the idea is he has to make Kim Novak up to the fancier version of Kim Novak in order to rekindle his obsession. So class becomes part of that story. Today, I mean, what social class can you find if someone’s a fucking Spider-Man? What the fuck does that mean?

I'm sensing a degree of dissatisfaction with current mainstream U.S. film from you...

I think it’s in profound trouble in a way that is not reflected by people writing about cinema now. What I find troubling is, I’ll read, for example, conversations between AO Scott and Manohla Dargis [in the New York Times] and I find that they’re extremely erudite, and I love what they say.

But sometimes I feel like the subtext is them trying to convince themselves and each other that the state of cinema not so bad. And what neither of them has ever really addressed, and I have not read it anywhere else either, is the troubling disappearance of "the middle." Which is not to say the middlebrow -- that exists with flying colors. But there is tremendously interesting cinema being made that is very small, and there are very huge movies which have visually astounding material in them, but you know Truffaut said that great cinema was part truth, part spectacle, so what’s really missing is that. It’s what United Artists would have made in 1978 or something.

Like "Raging Bull" could not be a low-budget movie, it just couldn’t, there’s a certain scale that’s involved in making it, and no one would make "Raging Bull" today. The last example of the industry doing this middle movie that I’m talking about, to me would be Michael Mann’s film “The Insider” which I really like. That has scale and also a bit of truth it. What I don’t see as part of the discourse is a discussion on the economic forces that have forced out the middle. There is some discussion, some awareness, but not enough, because to me that is the central crisis of American movies: the disappearing middle of the mainstream.

So where has the audience for these films gone?

They’ve migrated to television. So there’s superb television, but it’s not for me because first of all, the two-or-three hour format is just perfect, because it replicates best our birth-life-death cycle. "The Sopranos" was genius television but it went on forever, and it never seemed to culminate in anything, and then everyone was pissed off at the ending but that’s exactly why TV cannot substitute for a great movie because the swell of the architecture of a movie is part of what makes it the most beautiful visual art form.

And it’s true, right? There’s a kind of beautiful movement to a wonderfully structured film which is not reproduce-able by the best "Breaking Bad" [episode], which, by the way, is great. But it’s not the same thing - that’s a kind of luxuriate, get the food delivered, sit down in front of the TV and for that moment, that hour, you’re in pleasure, and then you go back to your life until the next week. It’s not quite the same [as a movie], not as transformative.

(...)

Does storytelling feel too unironic for our ironic times?

Yeah, I’m not exactly certain when that began. And it’s not just movies, it’s culture-wide. Look at music, the idea of melody. I would say over the last 30 years melody is not really particularly important. Isn’t that analogous to story [in film]?

I think that people have done [the destruction of narrative thing]. Derek Jarman made "Blue," and that’s it. Once he made "Blue" you can’t do anything else. Once Andy Warhol shot the Empire State Building for 8 hours what are you going to do? What more can you do? Jackson Pollock "broke the ice." And by the way I love these people. Jackson Pollock is the greatest, I’m not badmouthing these people, but cinema, for me, the meaning of it is telling a story on film.

For me, it’s an act of hubris to say that you don’t need story because it means that we would be members of the first group of human beings in the entire history of the human race that didn’t need story. And I’m not so arrogant as to suppose that’s the case.

terça-feira, 11 de dezembro de 2012

[...] Modernité, splendeur et magnificence de Parole et utopie.

Sobre Olivier Assayas, ou "the-interview-giver".

(ou ainda: porque os fanboys de gente como o Assayas não assistem nem têm curiosidade de assistir filmes de gente como Richard Dindo, Clemens Klopfenstein, Matjaz Klopcic, Jean-Claude Guiguet e Raffaello Matarazzo)

segunda-feira, 3 de dezembro de 2012

Die Erschiessung des Landesverräters Ernst S. e os vinte e quatro primeiros números da Movie subidos no KG.

sábado, 1 de dezembro de 2012

quarta-feira, 28 de novembro de 2012

quarta-feira, 21 de novembro de 2012

E até onde eu sei, a modalidade "escrever sobre filmes de que só se viu a metade ou menos" foi de fato inaugurada ou por Serge Daney ou por Glauber Rocha. O Jairo Ferreira - sim, aquele do prêmio - também andou pegando carona nessa inaceitável prática.

Mas que injusto: esqueci que as daneyzettes brasileiras são essas reservas de coerência e consciência, indo às lágrimas ao reler O travelling de Kapò e depois às nuvens vendo Bastardos Inglórios.

Ah tá, porque a Cinética não tem uma (ou duas, ou três) idéia pronta - e errada, e mentirosa, e conveniente, hipócrita, complacente e auto-complacentemente vira-casaca (delírio-rio-rio-rio-rio-rio, deslumbramento-to-to-to-to-to) - do cinema brasileiro.

Antes de bancar os detentores da razão absoluta da esquerda cultural, que tal carregar 57 kg. de argamassa debaixo de um sol de 38º em Goioerê, coisa que talvez fizesse o Ainouz, o Belmonte e vocês entenderem um punhadinho de coisas sobre o mundo concreto que vocês aparentemente nunca entenderam e até hoje não parecem capazes de entender lendo Agamben, Marcuse, Debord e todos esses clichês do mundinho academia (molóides, covardes, acomodados culturo-intelectuais) de que vocês parasitam?

Showgirls é o único filme verdadeiro da história do cinema.

sábado, 17 de novembro de 2012

quarta-feira, 14 de novembro de 2012

(...) o grande segredo desta arte que vinga, tudo devora, se autodestrói e o caralho a mil mas que ao mesmo tempo é fonte de todas as dádivas, amores, paixões, beijos, reposições e devoluções ao grande ecrã do que lhe roubaram. Saudades de rostos e de olhares. A beleza do gesto como móbil de resistência, como no princípio. Só por isso.

Giusto, il mio film lo descriverei così. E ai corpi e alle atmosfere aggiungerei anche pensieri, amori. La vita non basta. La mia vita non basta più. Sono un onnivoro, però mi accorgo che non mi resta più molto tempo. Non c'è abbastanza spazio nella mia memoria.

terça-feira, 13 de novembro de 2012

segunda-feira, 12 de novembro de 2012

quarta-feira, 7 de novembro de 2012

Bernard Eisenschitz apresenta La Petite Lise

Limitação não é gostar de algo e, pior, assumir que se gosta de algo... Limitação é gostar e dizer que não gosta, ou desgostar e dizer que gosta. Ou ainda passar os anos 2000 todinhos pagando pau pra Hou, Kiarostami, Hong, Eastwood, Tarantino, Yang (cineastas do Rissient, portanto cineastas, esses sim, de um possível neomacmahonismo), falando inclusive de "suprema beleza" no caso do Hou, sem se dar a menor conta de que se é neomacmahoniano, e o sendo ainda por cima pelo intermédio de um pateta legitimado por etimologias acadêmicas histriônicas como o Burdeau - que, como o Assayas nos anos 80, adorava pegar uma caroninha nas valorações do Rissient (nem mesmo com o conhecimento do que um Bozon, uma Camille Nevers ou uma Frappat, para ficar em apenas três críticos bem superiores ao Burdeau e do mesmo período, estavam fazendo nesse período com a herança incontornável, ao menos no campo da crítica cinematográfica, da ação macmahonista, passando por territórios antes explorados e levando-a a campos até então inexplorados - cf. Lettre du cinéma).

Isso sim é limitação.

O melhor a se fazer, em todo o caso, é beber da água direto da fonte - ou seja, não do Rissient, do Lourcelles ou do Mourlet, mas do T.S. Eliot, do Faure, do Borges ou do Winckelmann. Pelo menos se ainda estamos falando de crítica de arte, e não de estudos culturais.

terça-feira, 6 de novembro de 2012

E quem acha que o que dizemos é alienar-se das discussões sobre o que o cinema no Brasil tem potencial para ser pode rever O Viajante para entender o que uma mise en scène moderna representa, assim como a viabilidade, a vitalidade e a pertinência de um cinema romanesco.

segunda-feira, 5 de novembro de 2012

Quem não entendeu que num filme do Griffith, do Pedro Costa e do Tony Mann o valor de um rosto JAMAIS será intercambiável com o de um arbusto - apesar de rostos e arbustos serem igualmente sublimados, supliciados, magnificamente filmados, fundidos de maneira harmônica ao universo ficcional como em Oliveira e Visconti -, quem não vê que há um verdadeiro abismo entre o que eles fazem e a paridade biológica absoluta com que a câmera de Apichatpong registra rostos e arbustos nivelados a "puros corpos", não viu nem entendeu NADA.

Tiago, você tá TOTALMENTE errado, e não só na forma como entende o que chama de "moderno" - que não é o novo e sim a RELAÇÃO entre a novidade e a tradição, e nesse sentido sim, é uma coisa à qual "estamos condenados" - como também na forma como entende o que chama de "neomacmahonismo fora de época" (que é o que toda uma ala contrariada da crítica brasileira, no conforto de suas "igrejinhas", sejam estas acadêmicas ou político-administrativas de outra espécie, pretende, ou pretende acreditar, que estamos fazendo, quando na realidade o regressismo e o academicismo está, precisamente, nas percepções e nas imprecisões dessa ala - favor ler ou reler com atenção o que se escreveu sobre Lupino, Newman, Eugène Green, Guiguet e o próprio Gray).

Moderno é propriamente o que o Rivette fazia nos Cahiers, é o que mais tarde o Vecchiali, o Biette e o Guiguet vão fazer na Diagonale, é também o que o Sganzerla fez aqui no Estadão e no Copacabana Mon Amour, é se situar como o Resnais fez na aventura do cruzamento entre cinema e teatro: ou seja, é atravessar Fritz Lang e Holderlin por música serialista, Borges e Ionesco; é diagonalizar Cocteau, Mizoguchi e Grémillon com pornografia e Gabriel Faure; é achatar Uchida e chanchada com Noel Rosa, Godard e Jimmy Hendrix; é vitalizar as adaptações de peças do Ayckbourn com o teatro do Sacha Guitry, irrigando o segundo no primeiro a fim de evitar um engessamento da modernidade em formas puramente ecunêmicas (ou seja, a enésima imitação de cacoetes marienbadianos).

Muito, mas muito mais importante - moderno, contemporâneo e, portanto, urgente - que colocar lado a lado "o Fassbinder dos anos 70" (...) "com o Godard dos 60" (esta sim "a repetição de um debate muito gasto pela 'política dos autores'", basta lembrar do que escreveram nos anos 80 Yann Lardeau, Daney, Bergala, Aumont, whatever) é colocar lado a lado o Fuller ao Fassbinder, o Fassbinder ao Vecchiali, o Vecchiali ao Brisseau, o Brisseau ao Laurent Achard, e dar continuidade a esse esforço não numa forma linear impossível, nessa idéia absurda de que a modernidade se depaupera, apenas "segue em frente", e sim numa forma circular possível - isto é, fechando esse círculo com o Laurent Achard sintetizando Argento e Treilhou, Michael Powell e, quiçá, Holy Motors.

Ao invés disso, o que se vê por aqui é sempre a mesma coisa, sempre as mesmas figurinhas tarimbadas falando do Apichatpong, do Garrel, do Wes Anderson e do resultado do Festival de Brasília. Desculpe-me, mas quem são os conservadores? Para essas coisas já bastam a Film Comment e o Rosenbaum.

Sobre a "realidade do cinema brasileiro", uma última pergunta: por que essa impressão de que ao se falar sobre "moderno cinema brasileiro", a palavra mais importante é sempre "brasileiro", seguida de "moderno" e só depois de "cinema"?

domingo, 4 de novembro de 2012

É preciso mais coragem para matar os velhos deuses que para adotar os novos. - Élie Faure

sexta-feira, 26 de outubro de 2012

Da pesada.

Hora de pôr os pingos nos Is nos impropérios debabaecqueanos.

Por que será que vi confirmada minha tese de que nomes como os de Assayas, Rosenbaum e Burdeau jamais poderiam constar num filme desses?

Pocas películas de su tiempo lo contienen todo.



Eran los últimos minutos del cine que fue, como versaba Godard en su "Dans la nuit su temps". Después no quedará nada.

Um pouco do que falávamos logo abaixo.

quarta-feira, 17 de outubro de 2012

Para os brechtianos de plantão (ou seja, para os que como Losey, Ford, Gray e Straub entendem brechtismo não como mostrar câmeras e refletores dentro da cena, entupindo o plano de grafismos gratuitos a fim de hipertrofiá-lo de "significações" ou inserindo claquete batendo na frente da câmera para "acusar/acentuar o dispositivo", mas sim como "a importância da precisão do gesto, da textura e da linha nos objetos", "a economia do movimento, de atores e de câmeras; não fazer nada se mexer sem propósito; a diferença entre calma e estatismo"): Troublemakers no KG e A Velha Dama Indigna no MKO.

sexta-feira, 12 de outubro de 2012

segunda-feira, 8 de outubro de 2012

Sem dúvida, a indústria necessita deixar fora de circulação os verdadeiros criadores para que possam prosperar os suplantadores, os simuladores e os falsificadores (são tantos e tão venerados que é melhor nem nomeá-los) que hoje triunfam com facilidade e, para completar, entre os elogios unânimes e cada vez mais bregas de uma crítica majoritariamente cega e surda, que não pensa para melhor escrever ao ditado das modas.

domingo, 7 de outubro de 2012

segunda-feira, 1 de outubro de 2012

La parure, Não Toque no Machado, os três últimos Rohmer e Coisas Secretas.

Nada melhor no cinema dos anos '00.

... l'important du cinéma sera toujours plus macmahonien que nous, et nous précède.

domingo, 30 de setembro de 2012

quinta-feira, 27 de setembro de 2012

De como sempre podemos contar com o discernimento e com a justeza das hierarquias cinematográficas dos nossos "cinéfilos":

Tony Scott morre = noticiado imediatamente e seguem-se cinco dias entulhados de especulações sobre o suicídio, últimas homenagens ("grande estilista", "ao mesmo tempo cineasta experimental e comercial" e toda aquela ladainha me-engana-que-eu-gosto que impressiona fácil gente sem gosto, sem olho e sem faro), em suma, todo um muro de lamentações em volta do cara;

Marcel Hanoun morre há cinco dias atrás = hein? o que? (sons de cigarra)

terça-feira, 25 de setembro de 2012

... For the first time, I feel like I’m seeing a bit more clearly. First of all, parallel to the “erasing” that I tried to do from film to film since the beginning, I wanted to be “revolutionary,” in other words to not make steps forward in cinema, but to try to make big steps backwards to return to the source. The goal I was trying to attain since my first film was to return to Lumière... I’ve always been against new techniques. Maybe I’m “reactionary,” but I believe it’s “revolutionary.” So, there’s a misunderstanding to clear up. I’ve been against the techniques that have now brought the cinema of Lumière to TV because I find that the process that led from the first film to TV news reports and to the current cinematic virtuosity (I’m talking about TV because I see a lot more films on TV than in theaters) comes from a degradation that painting has known, that others arts have known, and that need, at a certain stage, an internal revolution like the “impressionists,” and not to make a step forward, but to return to the point of departure.

Basically, I have the feeling that cinema has lost its way, that there only remain capabilities, signs of what it was. In this spirit, I’ve always refused to make my cameraman's work easier, so I’ve never had rails for tracking shots or a dolly, I’ve always had, not a gyro-head tripod that is easy to use, but a rigid tripod whose balls don’t roll very well... In fact, I’ve wanted the camera to be fixed and that even with the greatest desire in the world it isn’t able to move at all. And that, I didn’t know it, but it’s one of the most important things I've learned.

domingo, 23 de setembro de 2012

O BEZERRO DE OURO FOTOGÊNICO

Vale bastante pra crítica cinematográfica também.

domingo, 16 de setembro de 2012

sexta-feira, 14 de setembro de 2012

Então o caricatura de esquerdinha subtropical (posa de esquerdinha mas não se interessa e tem suficiente cara de pau para continuar não se interessando em saber o que é e o que foi a CBCA) resolveu romper o pacto de trégua que tinha com o Eastwood desde que o Inácio e os Cahiers o elogiam porque o autor de Poder Absoluto resolveu ir a uma convenção republicana?

Não apenas são coerentes como inteligentes: nossa hein, quem diria que o autor de Bronco Billy e Hereafter (dica: filme da era Obama que adota um ponto de vista planetário sobre a história de um estivador vidente de-sem-pre-ga-do) é um republicano conservador e, como ousa?, pasmém!, libertário ao mesmo tempo...

Se você encara ou decidiu encarar (a escolha é sua, filho) o mundo com antrolhos, evite fingir que entende, ou mesmo que gosta, de Eastwood e de Rohmer (ambos pedagogos); tenha a higiene de se restringir a Gillo Pontecorvo e Fernando Meirelles (ambos demagogos, ou seja, perfeitos porta-vozes de uma cultura confusa, sofista, deliberadamente prolixa e portanto depredatória).

sábado, 8 de setembro de 2012

quarta-feira, 5 de setembro de 2012

terça-feira, 4 de setembro de 2012

... apenas para dizer que do ponto de vista da sustentabilidade de uma ecologia da crítica e do pensamento cinematográfico, a geração Movie Mutations foi uma catástrofe.

segunda-feira, 3 de setembro de 2012

Onde começa o Moderno

That I adored making - I loved it! I had no script - I did a Rossellini again. This was a picture I was never going to make; [Russel] Rouse and [Clarence] Greene were going to make it. Fromkess had hired a whole staff and everything, and then threw the script out, a week before we were to shoot. He call me and said "ok, you say you can do things - shoot it without script - invent it." So I got myself some actors. I had only one page - an outline. Shüfftan did that picture for me, too. I really had fun on that one - we shot the whole picture on one set. We had quite a musical success with the cockeyed thing: "Tico Tico" was used in that for the first time. I wanted to make something special - to be able to do a Grand Hotel in one place.

Ulmer, sobre Club Havana, entrevistado por Peter Bogdanovich

Club Havana est à la fois grand "petit film" et une métaphore, une allégorie poussée à l'extrême de tout travail dramaturgique qui consiste à bien enfermer des destinées entières dans un cadre contraignant (en espace, en temps) mais dont la contrainte ne doit pas être ressentie comme telle par le spectateur. Au contraire, dans Club Havana, l'étroitesse du budget, la concision du récit lui procurent une évidente jubilation. C'est si l'on veut le Carosse d'or d'Ulmer ou, pour rester dans la comparaison renoirienne, le Petit Théâtre d'Edgar Ulmer. Théâtre d'ombres évidemment.

Jacques Lourcelles, Edgar Ulmer, l’empereur du bis, em Le bandit démasqué

sexta-feira, 31 de agosto de 2012

Ce qu'on a vu en Venise est d'une vivacité, d'une variété de tons et de lumière qui a elle seule vaut à Heaven's Gate d'accéder à la catégorie des films-monde.

domingo, 26 de agosto de 2012

"Impressions anciennes"

Que savons-nous de la Grèce aujourd’hui... Que savons-nous des pieds agiles d’Atalante... Des discours de Périclès... A quoi pensait Timon d’Athènes en grimpant au forum... Et cet écolier de Sparte pendant que le renard mangeait son ventre. Elargissons le débat... Que savons-nous de nous-mêmes, hormis que nous sommes nés là il y a des milliers d’années... Que savons-nous donc de cette minute superbe où quelques hommes, comment dire, au lieu de ramener le monde à eux comme un quelconque Darius ou Gengis Khan, se sont sentis solidaires de lui, solidaires de la lumière non pas envoyée par les dieux mais réfléchie par eux, solidaires du soleil, solidaires de la mer...

De cet instant à la fois décisif et naturel, le film de Jean-Daniel Pollet nous livre sinon le trousseau complet, du moins les clés les plus importantes... Les plus fragiles aussi... Dans cette banale série d’images en 16 sur lesquelles souffle l’extraordinaire esprit du 70, à nous maintenant de savoir trouver l’espace que seul le cinéma sait transformer en temps perdu... Ou plutôt le contraire... Car voici des plans lisses et ronds abandonnés sur l’écran comme un galet sur le rivage... Puis, comme une vague, chaque collure vient y imprimer et effacer le mot souvenir, le mot bonheur, le mot femme, le mot ciel... La mort aussi puisque Pollet, plus courageux qu’Orphée, s’est retourné plusieurs fois sur cet Angel Face dans l’hôpital de je ne sais quel Damas...

Jean-Luc GODARD.

Cahiers du cinéma n° 187, fevereiro 1967

sábado, 18 de agosto de 2012

(...) a reminder of a history that runs a serious risk of being entirely forgotten soon.

segunda-feira, 13 de agosto de 2012

sábado, 11 de agosto de 2012

quinta-feira, 9 de agosto de 2012

sexta-feira, 3 de agosto de 2012

quinta-feira, 2 de agosto de 2012

Um livro que, após haver demolido tudo, não se destrói a si mesmo, exasperou-nos em vão.

quinta-feira, 26 de julho de 2012

A grandeza da verdadeira arte consiste em captar, fixar, revelar a realidade longe da qual vivemos, da qual nos afastamos cada vez mais à medida que aumentam a espessura e a impermeabilidade das noções convencionais que se lhe substituem, esta realidade que corremos o risco de morrer sem conhecer, e é apenas nossa vida, a vida enfim descoberta e tornada clara, a única vida, por conseguinte, realmente vivida, essa vida, que, em certo sentido, está sempre presente em todos os homens e não apenas nos artistas. Mas não a vêem, porque não a tentam desvendar.

terça-feira, 17 de julho de 2012

LES AMBIGUÏTÉS DE LA VERTU
Par Bernard Eisenschitz

Allan Dwan l’a découverte, Raoul Walsh en a fait une actrice. Issue d’une dynastie de comédiens et comiques anglais, Ida Lupino tourne à dix-huit ans dans Her First Affaire avec Dwan, puis est amenée à Hollywood pour jouer Alice au pays des merveilles sous la direction de Walsh. Après quelques fous rires, il n’en est plus question mais ils sont amis et se retrouvent à la Warner Bros., où Walsh lui donne trois de ses plus beaux rôles (They Drive by Night/Une femme dangereuse, High Sierra/la Grande Evasion, The Man I Love) et fait d’elle une des actrices les plus énergiques et les plus émouvantes des années 1940. Chez Warner, Lupino se révèle comme actrice mais aussi comme tête de cochon, refusant les rôles qui ne lui plaisent pas et allant de suspension en suspension. A l’en croire, c’est Walsh qui lui a conseillé de changer d’emploi et de devenir réalisatrice. « Hors de mon temps de travail, j’ai beaucoup observé dans le département montage, le département décors, tout cela… grâce à Raoul (1). » De lui elle apprend à ne jamais perdre son calme avec un mauvais comédien. Sa préférence personnelle ira « à des acteurs qui n’ont pas été gâchés par des cours d’art dramatique. Ils ne sont pas forcément jeunes, on en trouve à tout âge. » Ayant quitté Warner dans l’après-guerre, elle se trouve dans la situation de bien des stars qui ressentent le besoin de respirer loin des studios et du code Breen d’autocensure. Productrice et coscénariste de Not Wanted, Ida Lupino devient réalisatrice lorsqu’Elmer Clifton, director en titre, est frappé d’une crise cardiaque. C’est le début d’une filmographie brève et dense : six films en cinq ans (avec un post-scriptum treize ans plus tard), et d’une petite production familiale (Emerald, puis The Filmakers) qui se consacre à des sujets de la vie quotidienne américaine sous ses aspects les plus modestes. (Pour information, Ida Lupino ne confirmait pas la rumeur selon laquelle elle aurait brièvement participé à la réalisation de la Maison dans l’ombre [Nicholas Ray, 1950-52], mais revendiquait le retournage de plusieurs scènes dans Jennifer [Joel Newton, 1953].)

On aimerait imaginer le personnage tourmenté de Walsh, Vincent Sherman, Jean Negulesco ou Ray faisant passer son univers à l’écran. Mais mieux vaut ne pas confondre les rôles et la réalisatrice – bien qu’à plusieurs reprises, elle fasse elle-même de ses films des relectures de ses rôles : le carriérisme familial et prolétarien de The Hard Way (Vincent Sherman) dans Hard, Fast, and Beautiful ; la cécité de la Maison dans l’ombre devenue surdité dans son premier film de télévision, Nr. 5 Checked Out (Recherché pour meurtre, 1956) ; la machination meurtrière et la folie de They Drive by Night dans un autre téléfilm, The Threatening Eye (Pas pour vos beaux yeux, 1964).

Ida Lupino, écrivait Jacques Rivette en 1963, « échoue complètement à raconter quelque histoire que ce soit : ses ruses sont si naïves, ses effets si démesurés, qu’ils touchent à contretemps. Son fort : le portrait, en quelques gestes, d’un personnage féminin, désarmé ou désarmant (…) Les infortunes de la vertu ? Mais plutôt ses ambiguïtés. » Au centre de ses trois premiers films, des personnages féminins dans des situations traumatiques – grossesse non voulue (Not Wanted), poliomyélite (que Lupino avait connue – dans Never Fear), viol (Outrage). Des jeunes filles crispées, maussades, victimes qui se punissent et s’isolent elles-mêmes. Ses personnages sont passifs, cèdent à leur sentiment de culpabilité ou d’échec. La maladresse de ses jeunes interprètes, auxquelles ou auxquels elle tenait tant, exprime aussi leur malaise dans la société où ils sont jetés, ainsi qu’une vision assez conformiste où une bonne décision suffit à tout résoudre.

Si elle s’est toujours définie comme une directrice d’acteurs avant tout, on peut être sensible à son oeil pour les extérieurs urbains – qu’ils soient photographiés par Henry Freulich, Archie Stout ou George Diskant. Le plus beau plan de ses films est peut-être le premier de tous, le générique de Not Wanted : La montée d’une jeune femme dans une rue en pente d’une grande ville, vision de quotidienneté américaine au terme de laquelle on devine l’égarement sur son visage en gros plan.

De fait, c’est peut-être un personnage central masculin, celui de The Bigamist, qui illustre le mieux le propos de la cinéaste sur des personnages passifs dans des situations inextricables. Edmond O’Brien (« dans le rôle du Bigame », annonce le générique) est un de ces personnages solitaires et vulnérables, aussi sympathique que possible, s’efforçant de préserver le bonheur de deux femmes à la fois et obtenant le résultat inverse tout en se mettant au ban de la société. Tout le monde a ses raisons, affirme une séquence après l’autre, mais elles ne vous laissent aucune chance ; et le trio d’acteurs (O’Brien, Joan Fontaine et Ida Lupino elle-même, pour la seule fois dans un de ses films) atteint par moments à une émotion rare. Le film se termine en suspens : la décision du juge ne sera pas connue.

Comme tous les réalisateurs et producteurs de son époque, Ida Lupino reste dans le cadre de l’industrie : son ancien courtisan Howard Hughes offre aux Filmakers les facilités et la distribution de RKO. Aucune remise en question de la société chez elle, mais parfois une perception sensible de celle-ci. Son cinéma entre dans le cadre de ce que Thom Andersen a appelé le « film gris » : un travail qui s’inscrit dans les conventions des genres, mais en tire une lecture plus critique de l’Amérique. Pour le meilleur, elle se trouve ainsi proche de ses contemporains Ray, Aldrich, Brooks ou Fuller. Dans un mouvement inverse, le traitement de ces sujets est bridé par un puritanisme croissant qui, s’il ne peut plus les écarter (la guerre a ouvert les yeux), en soumet le traitement à des limitations strictes. Entre le script de Paul Jarrico (bientôt blacklisté et producteur du Sel de la terre), refusé par Columbia, et la version tournée de Not Wanted, il n’est plus question de montrer un séducteur gosse de riche ou un patron cherchant à exercer son droit de cuissage. C’étaient peut-être des libertés dérisoires, mais elles disparaissaient pour une décennie. Le conformisme omniprésent des années 1950 imposait comme une évidence qu’il était malséant d’« aborder des sujets » s’ils n’étaient pas filtrés par un genre, policier de préférence. Mieux valait oublier l’aspiration de l’après-guerre à ouvrir d’autres espaces et d’autres réalités au cinéma, la richesse de sa génération fauchée par la chasse aux sorcières. Lupino elle-même a payé son tribut à l’esprit du temps avec un pur film de « red scare » : The Hitch-Hiker, portrait sinistre d’un tueur en série (l’expression n’avait pas encore été inventée), joué dans un registre monocorde par William Talman (à qui elle donnera un contre-emploi plus intéressant dans Nr. 5 Checked Out). N’y ont plus cours toutes les ambiguïtés qui faisaient l’intérêt des premiers films – et qui imprègnent alors les films d’Aldrich ou Don Siegel, compagnons de route de Lupino : l’autostoppeur, c’est l’inconnu donc le mal, il faut s’en tenir loin et le détruire comme un vulgaire extraterrestre.

A la fin de l’aventure des Filmakers, Lupino comédienne retrouve Fritz Lang – après un rendez-vous manqué en 1942 pour Moontide (la Péniche de l’amour, terminé par Archie Mayo) – dans la Cinquième Victime, où le cinéaste a engagé l’actrice qu’elle avait découverte, Sally Forrest. Et le scénario que Lang dirige ensuite, l’Invraisemblable Vérité, avait été à l’origine préparé pour les Filmakers. De plus en plus, elle se consacre à la télévision, se moulant dans les formules d’innombrables séries : son excellent Sybil, pour Alfred Hitchcock présente, ressemble plus à Suspicion qu’à ses propres films, et The Masks est un Twilight Zone typique, sans parler des Fugitif, Virginien, Incorruptibles et autres Thriller que nous n’avons pas vus, ou il y a trop longtemps. Elle ne réalisera plus qu’un film de cinéma, The Trouble With Angels : encore une fois son aisance avec les jeunes actrices, sa masculinisation voire militarisation de l’institution religieuse, se laissent deviner, mais tout juste, dans un enchaînement de sketches où deux gamines provoquent des catastrophes, calamiteuses mais toujours gentilles. Puis c’est la disparition de l’écran et de la vie publique, qui laisse d’elle, comme dernière image, celle d’un autre Twilight Zone,dont elle n’était que l’interprète : The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine (Mitchell Leisen, 1959), belle variation en mineur sur Sunset Boulevard.

(1) B.E., Entretien avec I.L., Pacific Palisades, 11 avril 1983.

Remerciements à Damien Bertrand, Thom Andersen

sábado, 14 de julho de 2012

Means of Survival

Um desses auges de ousadia e experimentação de uma mise en scène totalmente concentrada, que jamais enfatiza mas também não neutraliza nem atenua o quadro hiperdramático e freqüentemente incrível no qual a ação se desenrola, uma mise en scène em que tudo é fatal, trágica e nitidamente geométrico como em Lang, Dwan, Rohmer, uma mise en scène perfeita que Matarazzo passou os anos 50 todinhos consumando.

Atenção ao fade to black fulcral ao término da primeira cena/plano (num Cinemascope rigorosamente mizoguchiano - uma cena, um plano) entre o casal Folco Lulli-Lilla Brignone, que em termos de ritmo, concisão e exatidão na descrição das ações sedimenta instantaneamente todo um passado de sofrimentos e incompreensões da convivência dos personagens numa forma de insensibilidade flagrante e glacial que deixaria um Fassbinder de cabelo em pé, visto que foi exatamente o que o alemão perseguiu durante toda a sua carreira, além de ser uma mise en scène da alienação muito mais potente, lacônica e precisa como representação da incomunicabilidade que o top do top do Antonioni.

Não se vai mais longe no registro e na reprodução da materialidade irredutível das coisas (cf. o conversível vermelho de Michel Auclair, a lata velha de Folco Lulli, o jipe-guincho de Rik Battaglia) do que isso.

quinta-feira, 12 de julho de 2012

terça-feira, 10 de julho de 2012

sexta-feira, 6 de julho de 2012

sábado, 30 de junho de 2012

Aula de cinema.

"(...) observando de uma distância cósmica, permite que a comédia da criação, da existência e do desaparecimento siga seu curso. Ele quer ser um olho lunar, uma consciência desligada do objeto; não escravizado por deuses, nem pela luxúria; não preso por amor ou ódio, por convicção ou preconceito. O desprendimento da consciência é a meta que começa a se manifestar por trás da cortina nebulosa (...)"

sexta-feira, 29 de junho de 2012

segunda-feira, 25 de junho de 2012

terça-feira, 12 de junho de 2012

sexta-feira, 1 de junho de 2012

Halloween III: Season Of The Witch [Collector’s Edition] (Blu-ray) with Bonus Poster!

Halloween III: Season Of The Witch
Release Date: 9/18/2012
Categories: Horror Gifts With Purchase Feature Films Blu-ray
BLU $29.93 + S&H *
Halloween III: Season Of The Witch [Collector’s Edition] (Blu-ray)

John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing) Presents the Third Chilling Film in the Halloween Franchise

When a terrified toy salesman is mysteriously attacked and brought to the hospital, babbling and clutching the year’s most popular Halloween costume — an eerie pumpkin mask — Dr. Daniel Challis (Tom Atkins, The Fog, Night Of The Creeps) is thrust into a terrifying Halloween nightmare. Working with the salesman’s daughter, Ellie (Stacey Nelkin), Daniel traces the mask to the Silver Shamrock Novelties company and its founder, Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy, RoboCop).

Ellie and Daniel uncover Cochran’s shocking Halloween plan and must stop him before trick-or-treaters across the country are kept from ever coming home in this terrifying thriller from writer/director Tommy Lee Wallace (Stephen King’s It).

Bonus Features:

Audio Commentary with director Tommy Lee Wallace
Audio Commentary with actor Tom Atkins
Stand Alone: The Making Of Halloween III: Season Of The Witch featuring Tommy Lee Wallace, Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dick Warlock, Dean Cundey and more
Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: Revisiting the original shooting locations
Still Gallery
Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots

Also available on DVD.

new awakening


Without doubt, there was an underlying sense of gnawing depravity that surfaced in Certified Copy and took me by surprise. I was sure that I already had a good understanding of the work of this film-maker that I have been lucky enough to come across so often in the past 25 years. So I was not expecting his latest film to outstrip the already high opinion I have of his work. Some people like to feel that they can describe and pigeonhole his films as ‘pseudo-simplistic modernism’. But Abbas’ films have never failed to surprise and now here, not for the first time, is a new wake-up call, for me, and I am sure many others. With this film, Abbas propels his filmmaking into another dimension.

Like Someone In Love dissects the very spirit of human beings, delves into their most private feelings, feelings that even they are unaware of and reveals the fate that inextricably takes hold of each one of them. A fate that seems to have swept them all up on the same high-rolling wave, before spitting them out, naked and frozen. I had already felt this tide of emotion when reading the pages of Alfred Hayes. His words could have swallowed me up, swept me away and dragged me off course. They frightened me, and the more I was gripped by fear, the more lucid I became. I should also mention the black light with which Carco thought he could spectrograph his characters’ inner life and the life around them.

The more feelings of fear and lucidity come to the fore in films such as Like Someone in Love, the more opaque and mysterious the film becomes, in a similar way to the lesser known films of Jacques Tourneur, They All Come Out, Circle of Danger, The Fear Makers. Such subtle and clever film-making all shows the almost intangible uniqueness of their director.

Like Someone in Love is an outstanding example of “mise-en-scene”, an almost forgotten art in cinematography that has gradually been replaced by different aesthetic values. Here, one is reminded of the masterful skill of Preminger, at the height of his career, but Like Someone In Love is not just a show of masterful craftsmanship. The film is concrete, physical and profoundly enigmatic.

One leaves the cinema knowing a little bit more about life.

Abbas, I did not see this film coming, I thank you and I know others will too…

Pierre Rissient, 25th April 2012

quarta-feira, 30 de maio de 2012

A verdadeira pergunta a se fazer não deveria concernir somente o editorial do Delorme na última edição dos Cahiers, que tem pouco ou nenhum sentido numa revista que tem feito escolhas cada vez mais ecunêmicas ou pseudo-iconoclastas, as quais involuntária mas não tão inesperadamente resvalam na mesma coisa consensual e ordinária (fãs de Tony Scott e Super 8 deveriam saber exatamente do que estou falando, mas como nem sabem direito de quais filmes gostam e, principalmente, porquê gostam, é melhor esperar que entendam exatamente a mesma coisa de sempre no que diz respeito a esses assuntos - ou seja, nada) ou ainda o outro texto que tem feito correr tanta tinta, este sobre os cineastas sumidades, os auto-conclamados "especialistas" e "experts", os que fizeram a moda da última ou farão a da próxima semana - coisa que tem pouco ou nenhum sentido numa revista que nos últimos tempos deu destaque para coisas como Abrams, Aronofsky, Fincher, Gondry ou aquele mausoléu lúgubre e pestilento chamado L'Apollonide...

A pergunta a ser feita deveria dar conta simplesmente do seguinte: como disto se chega nisto?

É o que, como leitor (não digo "ex" porque as antigas continuo lendo), gostaria de ver respondido.

quinta-feira, 24 de maio de 2012

quarta-feira, 23 de maio de 2012

Daqui para aqui e aqui.

terça-feira, 22 de maio de 2012

segunda-feira, 21 de maio de 2012

quinta-feira, 17 de maio de 2012

Proximamente

La fiction épaisse dont il se réclame, il peut aller la retrouver en revoyant (...) ou, pourquoi pas?, (...). Mais pour que la fiction fictionne, il faut un spectateur, ce que, d'évidence, (...) n'est pas.

quarta-feira, 16 de maio de 2012

Agora afetação ornamental virou precisão estética.

A crítica de cinema está igualmente bem servida de estilistas, que se diga.

segunda-feira, 14 de maio de 2012

domingo, 13 de maio de 2012

terça-feira, 8 de maio de 2012

sexta-feira, 27 de abril de 2012

quinta-feira, 26 de abril de 2012

« On peut être dérouté par le cinéma d'Ozu. Car en apparence, son langage est simple. Mais il contient en fait une grande spiritualité dont les signes ne sont pas forcément reconnaissables par les Occidentaux. Le langage formel d'Ozu comporte, ainsi, six éléments importants qu'il convient de décrypter. 

- La place de la caméra : La caméra est le plus souvent posée sur le sol car c'est la façon la plus habituelle au Japon de s'asseoir. Naturellement, l'objectif est dirigé vers le haut en visant le ciel (Ozu filme les plafonds bien avant Orson Welles). La caméra devient alors le lien entre la terre et le ciel captant à la fois une énergie tellurique et une énergie spirituelle. 

- Le cadre : L'élément principal est absolument centré à l'intérieur du cadre. L'image est souvent symétrique. Par exemple : un vide, un plein, un vide. C'est assez rare ailleurs dans le cinéma. Avec l'architecture, il aime aussi créer un cadre dans le cadre. Il utilise la perspective chinoise où toutes les lignes de l'image convergent vers le spectateur. S'y ajoute un élément repoussoir au premier plan de l'image : un tronc, un vase, une table basse… Il crée ainsi l'idée d'un espace en-dehors du cadre pour inciter le spectateur à se situer dans cet espace hors-champ, et en même temps il l'oblige à se concentrer sur ce qui se passe à l'intérieur de l'écran. 

- Le champ-contrechamp : C'est la figure de style par excellence utilisée par Ozu dans les rencontres où quelque chose qui paraissait très solide, comme le lien familial, se dissout. Ses champs-contrechamps sont le plus souvent obliques et non pas frontaux (type le plus classique en Occident, générateurs d'une grande tension). Quand ça se tend au niveau du discours, l'autre personnage entre dans le champ en amorce. 

- Le jeu des acteurs : C'est un jeu stylisé. Il crée un masque cinématographique. Le sourire est un sourire de convenance pour exprimer le moment juste avant la colère. Ce sourire est d'une extrême violence. 

- L'extérieur : Chez Ozu, les scènes d'extérieur sont rares, mais importantes. Il capte les forces d'énergie et de spiritualité universelle. Elles s'opposent à l'énergie humaine qui, elle, existe à l'intérieur de la maison. En filmant le mouvement de l'eau, les feuilles des arbres, Ozu rappelle que malgré son apparence changeante, la nature est durable car cyclique. 

- Les plans sans personnages : La nature morte est une expression picturale occidentale. Chez Ozu, les plans sans personnages permettent de situer l'action, mais ils sont aussi l'image de quelque chose de solide en contrepoint à la fragilité de la vie. » 

Eugène Green, Cinemateca Francesa, 2004

segunda-feira, 23 de abril de 2012

sábado, 21 de abril de 2012

The Perverted Dream

by Michael Henry

With what arrogance, what audacity, does Michael Cimino continue to work, not so much against the times, as against the social current. At the hour when the guilty consciences of “bleeding heart” intellectuals was sprawled across movie screens, The Deer Hunter gave America several reasons to exorcise the nightmare of Vietnam, and to rediscover a faith in itself. Now, when they are clearing their consciences by embracing Reaganite certainty, here comes Heaven’s Gate, clashing with it head-on, forcing them to face a truth that has been systematically suppressed for a century. If Cimino must be reprimanded, as an idiotic press believes he should, one certainly could not accuse him of opportunism…

Yesterday, he was the first to dare keep enough of a distance from the tragedy of the war so as to offer us a spiritual odyssey which both transcended and sublimated that tragedy at the same time. He was also the first to ignore the political and ideological elements of the conflict, so as to better espouse his chosen point-of-view, that of small-town America. The war? His “blue-collars” would never dream of contesting it; it was perceived in terms of individual survival, like a rite of passage, an initiative step into the larger history of the community and, beyond it, of the entire nation. Today, by examining the sources of America violence, he is tackling a carefully concealed heritage. Far from dressing an open wound, he is reopening a forgotten one, laying bare a trauma even deeper than that of the Indian genocide: the “original fratricide”, the massacre of the poor by the rich.

This time, political power is directly accused: the stock-growers claim they have the support of Congress and the President; the stars-and-stripes, brandished by the blue-coats, ultimately arrives to cover-up the crimes of the aggressors, and thwart the immigrants’ victory over the land… “It's gettin' dangerous to be poor in this country,” sighs Jeff Bridges. To which Kris Kristofferson replies: “It always was!” One could articulate it better only by saying that the pioneers perverted their dream through the very means by which they obtained it. It’s as if America could only build itself and prosper at the expense of the very ideals on which it was founded. How does one become American? To this question, which obsesses him, Cimino responds: sometimes in disregard of rights, sometimes in disregard of morality. Is it necessary to add that he places himself, as in The Deer Hunter, on the side of the lifeblood of the masses, on the side of the humiliated and the wronged, the voiceless and those forgotten by history?

The individual experience, as we now know, only interests this filmmaker as far as it emerges from a national scale. The Deer Hunter put the ethical nature of its hero, Michael Vronsky, to the test. Attached to his “tribe”, but yearning for the solitude of nature, he is an individualist cultivating his separateness, but also a natural leader who galvanizes his companions, struggling to contain the violence dwelling within them, up to the point of renouncing the thrilling emotions of hunting; this “control freak” embodied the opposite representations of America. Like Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, King Vidor’s masterpiece which Cimino has long planned to remake, he preserves his integrity at the price of a permanent asceticism.

Conversely, as victims of their own ambivalence, stuck between two antagonistic worlds, the characters in Heaven’s Gate have no grasp on the ensuing events. Failing to control their destiny, they are overwhelmed by their own insurmountable contradictions: Nate, the illiterate mercenary, betrays his community by carrying out the Association’s dirty work; Averill, the son of a powerful family, betrays his class by siding with the poor. This commitment, which neither of the two can maintain to the very end, doesn’t come without contempt. Both contempt for themselves and contempt for their allies. They both come to the point where they take up arms against those they serve: after Ella’s rape, Nate shoots one of Canton’s lieutenants, while Averill welcomes a delegation of “collaborators” with the blows of a whip. The poet Irvine, the weakest of the three, doesn’t even have the courage of deserting his side: the powerless and tragic witness to the abuses of his class, he seems to extend a looking-glass to Averill, who in his turn, like mimicry, will ultimately attempt to forget these events with alcohol and reclusiveness. Arriving far too late, their respective awakenings-of-conscience will not change the course of events: Nate will be murdered by his employers, Averill deposed by the local government, and Irvine will be delivered from his torment in the course of bloodshed, of which he was nothing more than the spectator.

For the essentially physical communion offered by masculine camaraderie, The Deer Hunter substitutes, little-by-little, a spiritual communion with the values of a small society which still remains close to its ethnic origins. Michael, in particular, confronts one after the other, the ambiguous savagery of war and the primordial forces of nature, discovering at the end of his quest a painful regeneration. The acknowledgement of evil marks the loss of innocence, but as with the thwarted dreams of a wasted life, it was a lesson that needed learning, a heritage that had to be recognized. Beyond the sorrow, the mourning community imperceptibly rediscovers its deep roots. There is no irony in the “God Bless America” which the survivors sing – it is but an act of faith in the tangible reality which unites them. In Heaven’s Gate, that life-force retreats prematurely, unavoidably, starting at the end of the prologue. Hardly had the graduation celebration reached its peak that the fervor begins to wane. “Let our friendship be forever,” sings a chorus of Harvard’s golden youth, but already blows have been exchanged, bursts of violence which anticipate the frenzy of the confrontations to come. And above all, an unexpected, deeply-moving change of framing occurs, isolating Irvine, the jester, the soothsayer, who shouts, while laughing and crying: “It’s all over!” Long before Averill, who will need twenty more years to understand what his friends perceives at that moment, he senses that never more will his generation participate in such a journey, have such unity in the same calling – “the education of a nation.”

Their paths will diverge: some, like Averill, will carry out the migration of their contingency from the East towards the West, without finding the Promised Land there; others, precisely Irvine, will flee towards Paris, towards Europe, creating a New World which is nothing more than a caricature of the Old. From that point on, the future will only be built on lies and denials. “It’s all over!” prophesizes Irvine, and at that point, the story is immediately placed in the context of lost time and romantic disillusionment. The drifting of souls, the loss of vigor, the degradation of values, this is the register which Cimino adopts. In this romantic lament, friendship itself – and we know how precious this filmmaker holds it – will remain unformulated or inexpressible. Averill and Irvine will meet again, but on opposing sides. Nate and Averill will not be able to love each other, except through the women who they fight over: nothing more than a potential friendship which can only express itself when one party is unaware (“You’ve got style, Jim!” Nate tells Averill when he is black-out drunk) or gone (Averill gazes lengthily at Nate’s remains). Undoubtedly, the sheriff will outlive his companions, but only as a phantom, a living corpse, a wreck of a man abandoned, by the end of the century, to the posh shores of Newport. Still capable of remembering, perhaps, but not of testifying for the “great cause” which he believed he could serve in the West.

In The Deer Hunter, the view of the world expanded itself at each turn of the story, until it embraced, like a Pantheist Assumption, the harmony of the universe, such as it is revealed in Michael’s eyes when he gazes at the immaculate glaciers of the mountain. In Heaven’s Gate, to the contrary, John Hurt’s cry marks a clean break from the dynamic enthusiasm which the film’s overture promised. The Prairie dreamed of by Averill is already irreparably sullied. In three vignettes which are much like engravings, we are presented with the victims of Myth, the outcasts from Heaven: the black silhouettes of the destitute cling to the roof of a supply train, Hungarian immigrants wading through the mud, the blood and viscera of a Soutine painting, a convoy of the hungry-and-downtrodden escaping from the ghettos of Central Europe, and who look like an offense against the radiant beauty of nature… As a measure of the extent to which they shatter the illusion and waste their energy, the landscapes of the film never cease to shrink, as if the world itself was collapsing, until it’s ultimately reduced to the dimensions of a yacht-cabin, Averill’s final cell.

It is true that among these landscapes everything moves with a rigorous choreography. The motif of the circle commands the mise-en-scène of groups. The privileged figure of ritual, it appears in each episode of the film: at Harvard, where The Blue Danube carries three circles of dancer waltzing in opposite directions (each circle itself animated by the whirl of each couple) before two new circles, both exclusively masculine, form around the May Tree and its trophies; – at Sweetwater, where the motif reappears during the rare moments of euphoria: the mad ride on the Ella’s buggy, the cockfight in a smoke-filled backroom, the roller-skate dance in “Heaven’s Gate”; – during the final battle, lastly, which finds the killers encircled by wagons of immigrants, who are in their turn encircled by the Calvary… The complementary figure of the circle which closes off its movement, the arc of the circle is associated with immobility: it dominates arrangements of groups which are frozen in wait: parishioners posing for a photo, mercenaries waiting in ambush around Nate’s home, villagers holding a meeting to organize the resistance…

Many have noted – starting with Cimino – the references to paintings which appears throughout the composition and lighting of shots. But have they also emphasized the masterful novelistic structure, already visible in The Deer Hunter? Despite the vicissitudes of montage, this talent emerges at each and every turn of a narrative whose visual elements never ceases its escalating search for new metaphors. Between the dominant caste and the immigrant subordinates, a network is established, one of connections, antitheses, of internal rhythms, each more clever than the last: the parade at Cambridge is answered by the cortege of the destitute through the desert; the sumptuous order of the waltz by the joyous indiscipline of the violinist and the skaters; the choral singing of students, the Slav and Yiddish chants carried by the wind to the opposing camp; the conference of stock-growers in a plush club, the gathering of a people’s war tribunal; the faces of young girls in flowers illuminated by candles, those of Ella and prostitutes lit by the gas lamps of the brothel; the role-call of members of the Association which is composed only of very Anglo-Saxon names, the reading of the “death list” containing the family names of “foreigners” originating from all the countries in Europe… “To have and have not?” Two Americas, each as different as shadow and light, who in their fratricidal ballet, never cease from meeting and tearing each other apart. At heaven’s gate, nothing remains but the broken pieces of a shattered dream.

Positif nº 246, setembro 1981

sexta-feira, 20 de abril de 2012

quinta-feira, 19 de abril de 2012

Interview with Michael Cimino

by Bill Krohn

Michael Cimino was the major absence of our first “Made In U.S.A.” issue, published last April. He was, however, part of our list of American filmmakers to meet first (He was a “seeded player”, in the same way as many of the others). We weren’t able to meet then because he was absent from Los Angeles, somewhere in Montana, undergoing location-scouting (something which he especially likes, as his words here show, and which is an integral part of his cinematic vision: to rediscover the American cinematic landscape). His producer, Joann Carelli, had promised us his consent and the interview was scheduled after our publishing, with Bill Krohn, Cahiers’ correspondent in California. To elaborate on things, the interest with which we held Michael Cimino, going in to this meeting, was vague, without doubt not fully established in our minds. It was founded more out of a curiosity that lies in finding a filmmaker destroyed through a monumental failure, and victim of a cabal on part of American critics such as one has rarely seen in all the history of cinema, than in a passionate, genuine aesthetic or cinephilic interest. Of course, all-the same, Heaven’s Gate found here a response more than favorable. The viewing of the longer version confirms and amplifies this sentiment. If it remains then that Cahiers wasn’t familiarized with the films of Cimino, then it’s explained in part by the trouble provoked by The Deer Hunter during its release. We thought, naively and perversely, that the failure suffered by the filmmaker offered the occasion for a long and frank discussion with the press during which Cimino would risk speaking truthfully. The text of the interview carried out by Bill Krohn more than reached our expectations. More than that: here is one of the most passionate interviews ever published in Cahiers. Not only did we discover a true filmmaker, but we penetrated, at the closest and most deep spot, the interior of his vision of things, of his conception of cinematic work, and of his morals.

And if the pleasure you obtain from reading his remarks is as intense, it is without doubt that they raise definitively the problem which became ours when this interview wasn’t even yet a plan. In this period of mutation for the American cinema, Michael Cimino embodies a certain permanence of classical cinema, and of the morality which accompanies it, removed from all cinephilic regression and of all nostalgia.
- S.T. [Serge Toubiana]


Cahiers: How did you become a director?

Michael Cimino: I never learned film.

Cahiers: Do you watch films?

M. Cimino: I watch films in fits and starts: lots of films during a short period of time, then none for a long time; I don’t have the urge to watch films constantly. The only experiences which, in my opinion, I’ve truly picked up something, as concerns my cinematic work, is the rhythms of comedy. I studied theater during a certain number of years in New York, and I think that all my writing comes from that. If you demanded which influences I have been subjected to, I’ll say, among others, Ford, Minnelli and Degas, Kandinsky, Turner: moreso painters than filmmakers. I don’t know where my desire to make films comes from; I don’t have any idea about it. It seems to me that to make films is to pose questions rather than to be capable of giving the answers. It’s why interviews are so difficult: one doesn’t really have the answers, you pose questions, and it works only to thicken the mystery. I have never been capable of responding in a satisfactory way to the question of the origin of films: I don’t know where my films come from – the same; I don’t know why such-and-such American landscape can, at a certain point, become an obsession. Can one really know what, in Monument Valley, obsessed Ford? Of course, visually, it’s impressive, but why? For what reason does he return there? Why make so many films in the same place? I think he himself wouldn’t have an answer to that question. When you talk of obsession, of mystery, to questions, this appears horribly pretentious: yet it’s the sheer truth. So, you use a façade, you say: “I simply try to be like Ford, to tell an interesting story, about interesting people.” You require a defense of some kind.

Cahiers: You use the word “obsession”. Have you had in your life other elements that have taken the shape of an obsession?

M. Cimino: There is always that need to feel that you’re doing your possible best. On a certain level, this is what the creator feels, whether he is a maker of furniture or a maker of arms: it is the feeling of all who work with their hands. Even the details of a rifle, which are nothing but mechanical, if they are made carefully, with attention, become beautiful, satisfying. It is very gratifying to see something well-made, whatever it may be: it touches a nerve of feeling in everyone; it touches something in human nature. It makes one feel good, it gives a feeling of peace, in some way. It’s a thing which we all desire, which we all need; and everyone, in their own manner, uses this need, when one arranges their house, when one personalizes their car, their office, we all try, in some manner or other, even if we end up making mistakes.

Cahiers: How did you spend the Sixties?

M. Cimino: Vietnam was such a dominant fact over the milieu, up to the end of the sixties, that it would be difficult to find anyone that wasn’t affected by that war. When I recall it, I essentially feel a grand optimism and a grand anxiety, inextricably tied up in each other. It oscillated daily, and with a certain malaise between those two feelings. People seemed to set out in every direction, at once geographically and spiritually. I remember criss-crossing the country alone, in a car: I recall the sky, the night; I was stranded, one night, in some part of North Dakota, on a road flat as the eye could see; I got out, it was the dead of winter, it was terribly cold, everything was silent, and I walked. The sky looked unreal, incredibly unreal, and, I don’t know, I remember falling in love with that road, in someway falling in love with the “journey”, and I never stopped.

Cahiers: I ask the question because of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. Jeff Bridges is amazing in that film. Lightfoot is probably the most complete character you’ve ever created, and he is the expression of that period.

M. Cimino: We all love to explore, discover things, new places. There lies in the act of exploring, hitting the road, the discovery of something about the true order of things. We all have bit of this sentiment in us; some use it, others don’t. I believe it is characteristic of Americans, and without doubt of the Western. I really love that character, but I love all my characters, like old friends. When I happen to re-watch my films, it’s as if I’m watching a film by friends; it never comes to mind that I’m watching the actors playing a role, I have the impression of watching a film from a vacation relating to an event which I participated in without seeing myself, although I sense my presence. It’s like the drawing of a moment in which one shared. I smile when I think of Jeff. In fact, he dominated the film a bit more than expected.

Cahiers: I was surprised that Clint Eastwood, who was not only the star of the film but also the producer, showed himself to be so generous toward another actor.

M. Cimino: Clint was well aware of what had happened, but he loved it so much that he could only watch it evolve, like on watches a natural element evolve, without wanting to interrupt it. In fact, if I remember well, the crew sent me a spokesperson to ask me to reconsider my idea of having him die at the end of the film; we were pretty much halfway through shooting… they told me: “We love him so much right now, could we save his life, please?”. Clint revealed himself to be very generous.

Cahiers: For starters, very few actors of that importance allow themselves to be led by a first-time director.

M. Cimino: “I don’t sell a screenplay unless I direct it myself”: it was my condition, and I was ready for it. But I think Clint was happy during the shooting, he seemed to take great pleasure at seeing the film and follow its stages. Before starting, I said to Jeff: “You have a job to fill. You must make Clint laugh in this film”; that’s exactly what he did!

Cahiers: It’s a film which shows that which many films of the era tried to show: the relationship between generations – which, at that moment, had become problematic.

M. Cimino: Of course, the characters of Eastwood and George Kennedy talk about their experience in Korea, and their attitude is in large part that of that generation; Jeff was a headache, for them. They don’t situate themselves in the current majority of American society, far from it; but Jeff was the bearer of change. Now that I reconsider it, it seems that Eastwood had a very brief moment of loving life, when he let himself go: for an instant, he gives himself to the illusion that he can be free, that he can regain that which he had before. That which we remember the most is the moments of freedom, of loving life. It is, in part, the subject of the film; it contains moments of that kind.

Cahiers: It has other aspects which are more “mainstream”; after all, it is a “genre” film. But it gives the impression of being a major film, not because of its budget, but because the range of its references. Foremost, simply because of the range of territory it covers, you truly have the impression of having seen the land, having experienced the places we pass through. In a sense, it is another film about people who search for America, or the idea of America.

M. Cimino: That pleases me; I wanted one to get a sense of America, I wanted one to experience the land, to see it, to feel it.

Cahiers: Where did you film?

M. Cimino: Thunderbolt and Lightfoot was entirely shot in Montana, but in very different places; we traveled a lot, especially around the Great Falls; in the banks of the Dearborn and the Missouri; in the fields of wheat, east of Great Falls. The schoolhouse, with its single room, is an exact replica of a school found on the other side of the mountains, to the west. It was so pretty, where we built it, that we had trouble keeping the tourists away during shooting. It was at Wolfcreek, just outside of Helena. We filmed in a small town north of Great Falls, Fort Benton, which is the furthest west that one can go on the Missouri, where industrial equipment and goods arrive from St. Louis by steamboat. The old photographs of Fort Benton show hundreds of steamboats along the banks; one would think that Fort Benton would have became a metropolis. It is in this small town that Clint, sitting under a tree with Jeff, recounts his past. Fort Benton has a very rich history in the development of the West. It is there that they unloaded all the merchandise, to then pile them on the wagons which followed the path of the Oregon Trail, or scattered about in other directions. It was one of the regions where they exploited the goldmines, at Monarch Pass, to the east of Great Falls, the length of the Missouri, etc. It is a limitless open country. It is in large part the region of Charlie Russel: south of Great Falls, there is a bar where many of his paintings are found, from a certain era; and if you continue south of Great Falls, you’ll recognize many figures he represented in his paintings; the territory seems very familiar. I found the land east of the Great Divide very fascinating, because it is there that the Great Plains encounter the mountains. It is very steep; no hills you could climb on-foot, particularly above Interstate 2, north of Browning, which is a reserve for Blackfoot Indians. If one looks to the east, one can see practically to the Dakotas, and the mountains rise from all around. The east is dry and flat, and to the west, lies the Pacific. I found that it was a place of much contrast; the climate is completely different in the eastside and the west. What more could you ask for: some of the most beautiful mountains in the world, the rivers, the pines, the lakes, the plains; all that one could desire.

Cahiers: What brought you to this place besides what you had in mind before shooting?

M. Cimino: It surpassed my hopes in a number of ways. It revealed itself to be much more mysterious than I hoped it to be. I found it to be unreal: and each time that one glanced at the peaks in Glacier National Park, in every season, but especially in winter, when they are white, early in the morning, it is impossible not to feel a… an extraordinary contentment. In the presence of those mountains, all mountains in this case, - when one approaches them, one feels their spirit rise up, one begins to feel good; I don’t know from where this comes from, but it can’t be an accident that the Indian tribes of the Old World, who lived in the presence of tall mountains, made them, in some manner or other, gods. One must love a place to be able to show grand landscapes on the screen. Nobody showed and made one feel Monument Valley like Ford, although many tried. But him, he loved it, and if he was there and one could pose the question, “Why?”, I am certain that he couldn’t articulate a response, except to say that he deeply loved that place. When one loves a place, it shows in the images one makes.

Cahiers: There are other things, which are maybe tied up in that, like all the flags.

M. Cimino: There are a lot of flags in all the films…

Cahiers: This is also an era where we saw the American flag on people, on car-bumpers, in places where it wasn’t intended, with slogans like “America, love it or leave it.”

M. Cimino: I could never do that; it’s too noble a symbol. I think that even at the end of Heaven’s Gate... it’s curious, despite the circumstances, despite the ending, one feels at the same time a certain nobility in that flag. It’s crazy, but its how it is; it transcends, in some way, that moment; I suppose it’s because it is an extraordinary symbol of hope; even at that moment, in Heaven’s Gate, it still seems to me like a symbol full of nobility, despite what happened, despite the genocide, as if even that couldn’t degrade it; it is still beautiful, the imagery is clear, brilliant, there’s no mistaking it. One can’t confuse that flag for any other. And to me, seeing that flag flapping in the wind, in that place, it’s a little magical.

Cahiers: Where did you film The Deer Hunter?

M. Cimino: There exists a real Clairton, in Pennsylvania, but we didn’t use it except for the name. The town, in the film, is one complied from seven or eight places, taken from several states. The church is in Cleveland, as well as the supermarket; the interior of Lenders’ house is in Steubenville, the exterior of Angela’s house is found in Follansbee, in Virginia; the bar, interior and exterior, is found in Mingo Junction (Ohio) the same as the exit to the steelworks, the parking lot. The interior of the steelworks is in Cleveland. It is therefore truly a composite place.

Cahiers: How did you go about creating a place when it doesn’t quite exist? Do you send people, do you look at photos?

M. Cimino: This place exists in your head, so you are in search of that you would like to find. I do most of the work myself, because I take pleasure from it. For The Deer Hunter, I was going to do one job prior to the others, but in the end, you say to yourself that you must do it all yourself. One learns a lot: one meets people that one would never have met otherwise, one gets to know the country better, also; that enriches the film, in some ways. The story of the two cups happened to a girl who worked for me looking for exteriors: she had helped at a wedding where two cups came, in the same circumstances; I immediately reused this anecdote, she was terrific. That wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t traveled endlessly. The majority of things, you find them completely by accident. I didn’t know that there was this marvelous church over there, I glimpsed it from afar, by accident, from the highway, and the hills are so beautiful! In fact, I found this church and that while starting Thunderbolt and Lightfoot on a really cloudy day, all of the sudden, the sky cleared up, and there it was! I believe that this research is an integral part of the film: the time spent watching people, talking to them, hitting the road, sleeping in those towns, walking down those streets. You notice things, some consciously, others involuntarily, that otherwise… It really approaches the work of an actor, you absorb a number of details; you notice a lot of things which, in a certain way, find their way back into the film.

Cahiers: Did you construct the important sets, for the American half?

M. Cimino: Yes, all the interior of the bar is a set.

Cahiers: Is it a reconstruction?

M. Cimino: No, it was from half-a-dozen details, pretty much, drawn from photographs essentially. The exterior existed, but the interior, nothing but plaster! So we entirely constructed the interior set, but it doesn’t show. We designed it down to the floorboards, nothing is real, it was constructed that way; the curve of the ceiling, the walls, the floor due to time were reconstructed. The trailer was entirely built according to photographs which I took, and the motel also, along with its sign. The door and the exterior of the steelworks were built.

Cahiers: So that’s what you do when you can’t find the place that you’re looking for.

M. Cimino: Sometimes you find the right place, but not the structure that you need. There, for example, everything was perfectly arranged, the railroad, the bar, etc., it couldn’t better, except that it didn’t have an entrance. So, we simply copied the entrance of another steelworks, which was found in another town, and we brought it there. The rest was perfect, the underground passage, etc., it was only missing the entrance, so we built it. We built a cabin in the mountains. We had it prefabricated in Pittsburgh, and delivered up to Washington. We assembled it, painted it, then removed it and put it in a truck, then transported it to the mountains.

Cahiers: Do you work a lot in the studio?

M. Cimino: No, I never film in a studio. We work around real existing places, and we modify them. You try to work, as much as you can, from what you find. For example, in Heaven’s Gate, we needed the train to run through the town, and there are very few cities, in the West, where you can find that combination. In that occasion, I had location scouts looking, and then I went, in my turn, to see if it would work. Surprisingly, very few towns like that actually exist! We had to get our train from Denver, Colorado, because such trains don’t exist. We worked as much as we could with what we found, and then we idealized them.

Cahiers: Why do you consider it so important to work on location?

M. Cimino: There is a current which flows when you film on location that you can’t get easily in a studio: you get off at night to go home, you don’t work on the weekends, it’s almost deskwork. Some like that; me, I like to feel far from home, that satisfies me; you get qualities from it, textures, which are doubly difficult to get in studio. And then, in studio, you don’t have real people, you have professional extras, which is completely different. In each of my films, we used a lot of locals and a small number of actors. The state of mind of people who live over there has never been truly shown in films. They brought an exceptional characteristic to the film. In the wedding scene, for example, in The Deer Hunter, these are the actual parishioners; it was very difficult to find that current, that life, from people who had the habits of an extra; you could obtain a perfectly satisfying result, but not the same result. Those people were really Russian-Americans, who actually spoke the language, actually danced those dances, who had spent all their lives in that community, had certain facial expressions. You couldn’t create that in professional extras.

Cahiers: Were you already familiar with that milieu and those people?

M. Cimino: No. I knew people like that, and I grew up with people from that milieu. I was a groomsman in a wedding similar to that one; I was very young, and in fact, my grandmother frequented a Polish church, one the Pope went to when he came to New York. It’s the Polish community that I know, not the Italian. I was therefore accustomed to these sounds, and I think that the music of Russian weddings is the most extraordinary that one can find. Of course, we could have reconstructed that church in Hollywood, New York or London, but it would be difficult to find the same people. This contact is an inestimable contribution for the actors.

Cahiers: Why did you want to make a film about Vietnam?

M. Cimino: One is always drawn to confronting the war when one has lived through that generation. People like Capra, Ford and Hawks dealt with WWII; the following generation, the Korean War; and us, we are grappling with the problem of Vietnam, it’s our point of reference. It’s an inevitable and natural consequence of our belonging to that generation.

Cahiers: It sounds like you’re talking about a form of therapy.

M. Cimino: One shouldn’t talk about films like its therapy. I don’t like that word. The principle subject of Ford, it seems to me, was the civil war and its consequences; that pervades his work. I think that the United States changed more profoundly during the Civil War, and after, than during WWII: there was certainly many more technological inventions during the World War, major material changes, but for that which concerns our mentality, the Civil War had a deeper impact. The Civil War and that of Vietnam resemble each other; both of them were concerned with the problems of race, which was never really central to WWII. Japan was certainly involved, but it wasn’t a war which distinctly opposed a different culture: it was principally the West against itself. In Vietnam, we found ourselves embroiled in the civil war of others. It is very interesting; the majority of profound changes that took place in our society came from our civil war, and a hundred years later, we were thrown into a foreign civil war. It was we who changed more than the Vietnamese. That conflict was a thousand years old, we didn’t change it, but our presence changed us a lot.

Cahiers: Which bridges the two events: it’s that our participation in Vietnam started a sort of civil war here, but this isn’t what you wanted to deal with. You focused on the people who went to fight in Vietnam, and on the effect of the war on them. In The Deer Hunter, you don’t mention the national division which the Vietnam War provoked.

M. Cimino: No, it was a fully deliberate choice. It is interesting to note that Heaven’s Gate starts just after the period of the Civil War: in fact, in the longer version – but this vanished from the shorter version – Joseph Cotton, at the end of his speech, uses these words: “When our hearts and minds…”; its taken from a speech which was made after the Civil War. They are very similar periods to one another, where we strived for reconciliation. In Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Lightfoot, after all, is killed by Kennedy, a soldier, and in his mind, he has this feeling of having participated in a war. I believe his last words are: “I feel like we’re heroes,” as if they came back from hell, which is the case. But, during the war, people of the type depicted in The Deer Hunter, were ignored by the media; in general, we belittled them, we treated them stupidly, like reactionaries, like fascists, it was unjust. I found, and I find in general, in that environment, a lot more intelligence and sensitivity regarding what happens in the world; and I find that in general, the people of Los Angeles and New York who wrote about the war navigate between these two cities, plus Paris and Saigon, and it is very rare that they reach these people, they don’t know them; they have narrow opinions about them, and don’t look further. After the war, and up till the end, these people showed themselves to be more capable than them in changing opinions that they professed beforehand; they had a bigger intellectual adaptability. A lot of people from New York are still fixed on the war; none of that which happened in these seven or eight years has changed their opinions. And of course, for a lot of people who write about the war, this became the center of their life. They don’t want to go beyond it; they’re hung up on that period, they’ve become reactionaries. That which isn’t at all like the case of that environment is what interests me: I found a lot more flexibility and honesty in those who went to the front. I found that they had more courage for adapting themselves to changes in their life, in their family, in the country, than the people who didn’t go but write about the war. That isn’t to say that there weren’t great journalists, people of great courage, for taking very difficult positions from the start of the war. A number of diplomats, Foreign Affairs officials, took the position very early, saying that it was a situation without an exit, and furthermore, wrong. Doing that, a lot of people ruined their careers. A lot of courageous people spoke up early on, and were buried, ignored. But in general, American journalists were wrong for pushing around the public, and they did not reach people on the subject of the war; I think they still feel guilty. They wait lasted until Walter Cronkite changed his mind: they waited for somebody to make the move for them, and when that was done by a visible figure like Walter Cronkite, they followed. This explains in part the anger of critics against The Deer Hunter, which in some ways encroached on their territory; I think that journalists felt that they were fooled by the administration, by McNamara, by Johnson, that they were had; they were, for too long, without any critical sense; I believe that still torments them and it was what mattered to them when they changed their positions. Nobody attached any importance to it.

Cahiers: What research into the war did you conduct for the film?

M. Cimino: Joann Carelli conducted a lot of research from private television channels, in New York. She and her assistant saw perhaps thousands of meters of film shot during the war. There was a great amount of material, because the films arrived daily, at the end of the war. She gathered a certain amount of documents which we kept in our library of newsreels – some had already been shown, but the majority were never broadcast on television. It was very important work, which took several months. I forgot how much we finally assembled, but it represented several hours of film.

Cahiers: Where did you film?

M. Cimino: We filmed in Thailand, on the River Kwai, near the Burmese border; we wanted to film near the Cambodian border, but we couldn’t find a suitable river over there; they were all too shallow that year; so we went west, next to Burma. We lived and filmed over there during monsoon season. The rest was shot in Bangkok, and around Bangkok. Thailand was the best solution, because we also had to show Saigon - and in Bangkok, we used the streets, like Pathong, to represent an area of R&R; the architecture of Saigon is very close to that of Bangkok, the people really resemble each other.

Cahiers: Now that I know a little of how you work, I would say that it was a bold artistic move to depict, in the central scene of the film, events which never really took place: the Russian roulette… You had taken great care over the historical details of the war, and smack in the middle, you introduced purely imaginary events.

M. Cimino: This has already been so controversial that I’m tired of talking about it. A lot of people say that this really happened, and many say the opposite. Some journalists allege to have witnessed similar scenes; some people recounted seeing such games, but among women; some have sworn and still swear that it never happened. I find that all beside the point. What is important is that it’s very difficult to find the means to express, in a film, that dominant aspect of war: it’s what the majority of people could tell you; it’s the waiting. Each time there’s a firefight, it disappears; it’s extremely fast; but there is a terribly long period of waiting before; waiting for an event, waiting to be overtaken, waiting for a random shot. How do you show that type of tension, how do you make the spectator feel it? It’s a simple problem: how can I communicate to a public, in telling my story, what exactly this tension is? By making people wait five hours in a foxhole, with background sound of explosions? On the level of mise en scène, this isn’t very good… You have to find a means of communicating it, in a clear and vivid manner. Yet, contrary to what happened during WWII, the people of our generation were under the influence of Vietnam seven days a week, through this damned news. We were saturated with images of the war. Nothing like the people who, during WWII, saw the newsreels at the cinema each Saturday, so that each film made the war become an experience fresh and vivid. The contrary happened to us: our imagination was saturated, it had too much information. So we started to minimize it, ignore it. The problem was the following: how to communicate the tension, the experience of combat?

Cahiers: My favorite moment is when De Niro recreates the game of Russian roulette…

M. Cimino: What he tells Stanley is that he's killed; what he tries to do is teach Nick, in some way, to make sure it isn’t repeated. He tries to free Nick and the others from their romantic ideas, their illusions. There is a very short shot in that scene of a deer that he doesn’t shoot – you’ll notice that, when they argue, in the car, there is a nearly subliminal shot, only eight or nine frames, of a young deer; De Niro sees it take off like an arrow, none of the others see it; but he doesn’t fire on it; he could have done it, the shot was easy. If others had seen it, they would have all probably fired. But I think he’s not fully prepared for the events that happen. During the hunt, he talks about “one shot”; he attaches a lot of importance to it. In Vietnam, he doesn’t use a gun; he uses a flame-thrower and destroys a North Vietnamese soldier, in a way that would have been terrifying, unthinkable for him beforehand. He’s still the same person, but he has become conscience of a thing, in that war, which he wasn’t prepared for. We see a North Vietnamese soldier throw a grenade into a trench filled with women and children. It’s something shocking for a character like De Niro, and for us. Then you see De Niro kill him with the flame-thrower, not clean, not one shot… he shields their escape by emptying his cartridge… So he also changed a lot.

Cahiers: I understand that some criticized Meryl Streep’s character in this film.

M. Cimino: They criticized the fact she wasn’t very independent. It is interesting to notice at which point the articles about The Deer Hunter and Heaven’s Gate reveal, for the majority of critics, a deep – how do you say – “petit bourgeois.” They wouldn’t recognize a real worker if he popped out of their toasters. That a girl like her, in a small town like that, where everyone knows everyone, where everyone knows what you do, where everyone talks about it, would leave her father’s to go live, in a trailer, with those two guys, and stay after only one of them returns! That shows that she is a character with a very strong will; one must be very strong to act thusly, in a community like that, where religion plays a very important role. A large part of those same critics couldn’t accept the roller-skating scene in Heaven’s Gate. It’s unimaginable; there were people who thought that this scene was made because skating became fashionable! They refused to accept the fact that this activity existed in that period, and that often cattle-drivers went out on the rink, got drunk, and began skating; there weren’t any women around so these guys were sometimes very tired, but they continued. It was a very popular activity. They couldn’t understand: “If these people were so poor and so oppressed, why were they allowed to dance?” But it’s what the poor could do better than anything else: they didn’t have the money needed for other entertainment. It’s still true today, the whole world over. In the favelas of Rio, in La Boca in Buenos Aires, what do the poor do on weekends? They dance, for god’s sake; it’s from them that dances come from, not the upper classes. I was astounded, appalled, to see that that kind of ignorant criticism could exist. You show them farmers in the new world: they demand to see them crawling, not having fun. You show them an oppressed class: they demand to see people oppressed every second of the film. It’s disconcerting.

Cahiers: Why do you think The Deer Hunter was a world-wide hit?

M. Cimino: I was surprised by the rest of the world’s reaction. Everywhere, the emotion of the audience was the same as here. I never dared dream of that success, mainly because the film dealt with Vietnam. Maybe it’s because it shows ordinary people, who, like other ordinary people, have a lot of courage in them, that particular kind of courage which galvanizes us; people without a doubt identified themselves with them, they identify themselves with those that resemble themselves; the fact that it’s about a different culture, the fact that it’s about Vietnam, wasn’t ultimately important; it was simply a war, about ordinary people faced with disaster, and reacting with a lot of courage. What happens to this small group, this small family – because this small group of friends forms a family – is shared by everyone. The tragedy of growing up, growing old, the tragedy of marriage, of war; every culture experiences that. This is what people identified with, and this has nothing to do with Vietnam.

Cahiers: What attracted you to the story of the Johnson County War for Heaven’s Gate?

M. Cimino: The history of the West, in general, is inspiring, it overflows with events; it’s a source of constant fascination. The episode of this small war, when I came across it, fascinated me, I really don’t know why. Maybe it was above-all else the death list, drafted in due form, sanctioned by the central and federal government. It’s what always interested me; knowing how one makes decisions which bring about the death of people. McNamara, Kissinger and the others; this group sits at a table and makes political decisions concerning Vietnam – more bombs or more troops? Their decision always entails the death of thousands of people. The decisions of war were made with the best reasons in the world, no doubt; lawful reasons like protecting the peace, protecting economic and political systems. I believe they are always made with those intentions, and calmly too! A group of men, sitting around a table, in a hotel suite, in the middle of eating breakfast or lunch, eating some choice food off of fine china, in a pleasant setting, calmly discussing how many people to kill…

Cahiers: I read what Asa Mercer wrote about the war; it’s a book (“Powder River Invasion”) which the French like to call very “committed”. It’s a book of reminiscences, written to clear up the attitudes of certain people and find out who was on the right or wrong side. You often come across words like “the shame”… It’s a book which one is surprised to find in the history of the West.

M. Cimino: No, you find a lot of writing of that type. It’s not so exceptional in itself; but when you come across it, you’re amazed.

Cahiers: Some didn’t make note of it, but it seems to me that you were faithful, on a number of points, to the description of events given in the book. In fact, a number of details which the critics reproached you for came from the book.

M. Cimino: People used Heaven’s Gate to vent so many things, particularly the critics. Firstly, they rejected the material reality of the film. Yet our perception of the West is molded more by films than by the actual history of the West. The same people who we think of as very cultivated have the idea that the West was something like what films have shown us. What they have seen, or what they remember, is what they are accustomed to; bad, rushed movies, where there were never any extras in the background, the street were always empty, because it was simply cheaper to do so. I’ve listened to people tell me: “Why telegraph poles; did they even have electricity in that period?”; “Why are the streets so full of people; what are these people doing?” Have you ever seen a photograph from the era? Paradoxically, it’s one of the periods of American history which has the most photographic documentation. It coincides with the sudden blossoming of photography. The photographers captured everything in photos, and we had a very complete documentation of the era from looking only at photos. What they always show is an enthusiasm in these towns in development and construction; the stiffness of buildings, of people, of clothes; but the activity, the energy, the crowds which flocked to the major streets, the businesses; we have never shown that. We are used to seeing the sets from films, not real places. We are used to Old Tucson, which has been used maybe 150 times for 150 different films; it’s been thirty years of seeing the same town, without knowing it. My artistic director on Heaven’s Gate, who was also that of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, built, I believe, the original Old Tucson, and he worked on it again about thirty times, changing and remodeling it over the course of years. What they created, in fact, is a cinematic reality instead of a historic reality. People didn’t want to confront this idea, so they began by rejecting the material reality shown: the crowds, the businesses, the telegraph poles, the skates, people’s clothes, and the formalism in the nineteenth century manner of speaking. In the film, there isn’t a single building, a single interior design, that wasn’t inspired, in one way or another, by photographs from that era. Each element of the wardrobe, both the principals’ and the extras’ costumes, was designed in part by photographs, and yet all of that was completely rejected. Even the music was rejected; some think that the music of the West was born in the head of some god, as is; I wanted music which was as it was then; it was the beginning of what we know as modern Western music, but they still didn’t have it fully established; it was still close to its origins: for example, the skating music has Cajun feel to it; the rest of the music consists of Russian, Ukrainian, German and Polish folklore; “The Blue Danube” was a popular song in that era. But they threw all that aside.

Cahiers: Did you try to do as in The Deer Hunter, to show a reality which has been masked by its representations?

M. Cimino: Exactly. But The Deer Hunter was easier to accept, because it was contemporary, and it’s a reality which is still part of our visual baggage. Even to this day, we still recognize that small-town life very well. In Heaven’s Gate, it’s a question of going a hundred years backwards, and people can’t compare that period with what they have seen in other films; not with what they know, but what they’ve seen. Yet it was different from what they had seen up until then. This wasn’t the confirmation of something accepted, it was new. I’m talking about critics. When you read books on this period, on the war, even the clothes, the wardrobe, the hats of the mercenaries – there is a photograph of this group of mercenaries, with their names underneath, like a class photo; they are all wearing hats and they exactly resemble those in the film. The costumes, the ties are the same. The group in front is sitting, those behind them are kneeling, and the furthest group is standing. Even the death of Nate Champion: “Why did they shoot so many times?” – They found the real Nate Champion with 26 bullets in his body, and it’s precisely what we redid with Christopher Walken, and even that wasn’t accepted. The rejection was total, even had the film stuck exactly to the historical facts.

Cahiers: What alarmed me in the film, and which I later found in Mercers’ book, is that Champion died like a hero, guns by his side, just as you depicted, while writing his last testament.

M. Cimino: I used exactly what he put on paper.

Cahiers: You said somewhere that you weren’t so accurate concerning the war: that can maybe lend to the confusion.

M. Cimino: Yes and no. In other words, there were many elements which were very accurate. Likewise, for Vietnam, we worked in details for the hospital, the row of refugees on the road, the way which De Niro dressed, and the embassy sequence. We tried to be very accurate in what we did, in general; on the other hand, we took the liberty to use reality as we pleased, to not be left chained to the events down to the letter. But I don’t believe that we distorted reality enormously, whether in The Deer Hunter or Heaven’s Gate. I think that in spirit and tone they reflect a certain reality, a certain truth.

Cahiers: That also brings us back to what you said about places: how you find those that are suitable and how you idealize them. Could you maybe talk about the creation of towns: we have already spoken about Clairton; how did you choose a location for Sweetwater?

M. Cimino: I know the region; I often went there, and I always had, in the corner of my mind, the intention of using it one day. The problem was I wanted a town which appeared to be in the mountains, and not with mountains in the background; a place which looked stuck in the middle of mountains. We were stationed in Kalispell, to the west of the Divide, two good hours from this town. There was no discernible town; we needed extras for the roller-skating, which had to be based near a populated place. I traveled a lot in Montana, Washington State, Colorado, Idaho; we had driven 20,000 miles in Colorado alone, crossing the mountains, trying to find landscapes, prospects which had yet to be used. I wanted to show places which weren’t visually exhausted, which we haven’t seen. We are accustomed to landscapes from the southwest, towns like Old Tucson which we’ve already seen, against our will, in 200 films. We have seen and re-seen those places; I wanted to give people the impression that they were in the West for the first time; I thought that it would be exciting for them. These places had never been photographed, never been used; they radiate very strong vibrations. That took a lot of work, because a lot of those places are found in the National Park, and you have to respect the ecology: thus the exteriors of Sweetwater, the entire town is built on a raised three-feet platform, so as to protect the grass that is underneath; few people know that; in fact, it was better, because when the wagons crossed the town, they made a brilliant sound, which they don’t naturally produce; I put mikes in the dust, under the roads, and when they make their mass entrance at the end, one hears a marvelous sound. That’s the exterior scenes: we built the interior sets at Kalispell and in that region; which means we had shot the interior scenes months before those in exterior. We had decided that the lighting would be very directional, with the exception of the skating, which is in a tent; we had to get dark interiors, filled with smoke. So we had to determine, three months in advance, precisely where the sun would be. I don’t think it has any mistakes, I believe it’s completely accurate. In the bar scene, for example, where the light comes from the south, through the front door, when you see the exterior, the sun is at the right place; people didn’t pay it any attention, but it’s accurate. It was a method of searching for new exteriors, a new look, something different. The work was difficult, because the places were separated by 200 miles, but I don’t think you notice it, like you don’t notice that Clairton is composed of seven or eight towns. The same in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, you don’t know that it takes place in the same state, you feel as if you travel the entire Northwest. It’s the reality of the film which is important, I believe; the illusion was successful, in general. These places were found searching, in car or on foot, not in helicopter, on mountain trails, on dirt roads. You see fucking all from a helicopter. You get a feeling from arriving at a place, from discovering it; you perceive it differently, if you find it by accident; when someone tells you to go see such and such place, it never works, you must find it yourself. In general, when you follow your intuition, you find the place then you know that it’ll work; you find what you need, if you really need it, you find it; it’s a question of faith; that’s it, its waiting. We always had trouble returning the cars that we rented; the renters always thought that the odometers displayed incorrect numbers; we took a car for a week, and it showed 10,000 miles; they believed that the meter was broken.

Cahiers: Were you inspired by photos while building that town?

M. Cimino: In part, yes. The church appeared in a photo, all the tents of the town also, with their leather dressing; the bar, all of it, interior and exterior; the interior of the skating-rink also is a very typical building, a framework with a tent over it. The name 'Heaven’s Gate" is purely imaginary, however.

Cahiers: Is it pulled from Shakespeare?

M. Cimino: Yes.

Cahiers: The interior appears completely unreal, above all because it’s so big.

M. Cimino: Those are the exact dimensions of the wedding hall in The Deer Hunter, 40 by 100, and the same amount of people, 200, with the band at one end.

Cahiers: The representation of immigrants like a community, at the skating-rink or the bar, is parallel to the opening scene, at Harvard: they are communities with their rituals, their order and their own social divisions.

M. Cimino: Yes. They have already started becoming all that which Averill (Kris Kristofferson) has rejected. Its one reason for Averill’s disillusionment: he sees that transformation, that evolution; he sees it in those divisions which already mark the community; the merchants are separated from the others; already, they want to adapt themselves to something as horrible as the death-list. It’s the natural order of things, they group together and distinguish themselves from others in their own way; they don’t dance to Strauss, they dance to their own music. A carriage doesn’t circle around 800 magnificent dances gliding through the lawn of a college; it navigates a small, overwhelmed main street of a village bordering a lake, in the middle of mountains. Averill doesn’t take into account the importance of material thing for those people, for Ella (Isabelle Huppert) particularly. He doesn’t take into account the importance of the gift which he gives her himself, what it means, what it really represents. After all, he rejects the material aspect of his world; he’s certainly an idealist, and I think his gift is more a whim than anything else, and she takes it as something more meaningful. The aristocrats who are idealists are always disappointed when the people which they hope to help express an interest in material things; they expect in some way to find the reflection of their own idealism, and they encounter it very rarely.

Cahiers: I suppose that’s the outcome of the optimism which we see at the beginning of the film. You without doubt know the famous essay by Frederick Jackson Turner, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History”, which talks about the closing of the Frontier, one year after the Johnson County War. Did you want to show the end of something in the film?

M. Cimino: In a literal sense, it was the end of one century and the start of another: so, yes, it was the end of one thing and the beginning of another. The America of 1900 was certainly very different from the America of 1870: Newport, in particular, could not have existed before: it required a particular combination of forces to produce that display of extravagant opulence. Do you know Newport, in Rhode Island? It doesn’t look like anywhere else; rows and rows of extravagant mansions. It was the place in America which contained the most wealth, and they flaunted it with the grandest ostentation; and it happened over the span of fifteen years! So it was the end of an era and the beginning of another.

Cahiers: I think that your decision to add an epilogue and a prologue situated the event in history. Furthermore, Averill talks constantly about aging. Perhaps because Heaven’s Gate deals, above all, with passed times.

M. Cimino: Yes, it’s a film about passed time, and about a man who reflects on passed time, on his journey, on his past. Often, it seems to us barely possible to have lived through so much, and to still be alive, to have survived. How was I able to pass through such turmoil, so many events, meet so many people, so many things, which rush by in a frame of time which appears, to me, so short? How did I get there, how did I accomplish what I did, how and why did I survive? What is real in all that and what did I embellish? What part of my relationship with others was real, or were they more or less imaginary? Did my life really take place as I remember it; if it was different, what was it? It’s the type of question you ask yourself when you think on your past. It’s as if all the film consisted of flash-backs from his meditation at the end, on the boat. He’s someone who felt pressed to do what he believed was right; at the beginning of his life, he felt obligated to do what Reverend Gordon (Joseph Cotten) proposed: to act responsibly, work hard, have a useful life, conduct oneself according to the church, give his heart and mind to his country. In the end, he’s not sure of what he’s done; he poses a lot of questions about what he’s lived through; he is drawn anew towards what he is familiar with, he returns towards his class of origin; like Fitzgerald said, he retreats back into his money – I believe those are his words. It appears to him, at that moment, on the boat, that it was impossible that all that could have happened: the more he thinks about it, the more the mystery grows in his eyes. All those people are literally gone, in fact; it’s not like they were still alive; they have all gone; and that amplifies the impression of the unreality of that moment; it is impossible to go back, to see them, to speak to them, to ask them questions… I think that boats have always been a refuge; the people who sail, who fly planes, always say that they are freed from problems up there or on the sea: it’s a relief; the problems appear much less real.

Cahiers: You feel, in this passage, that this which they call reality is put into question. It’s what also happens in the roller-skating scene, which you play out in the mountains. You spend the entire scene with the dancers, then Averill sends Bridges to go bring the carriage, and you have a close-up of Ella. Her facial expression has something of worry or melancholy. Then you come back to the interior and all the dancers are gone, without you having seen them leave.

M. Cimino: It seems important: at a certain moment, the people disappear to her, she returns to her head with thoughts of what is going to occur between them, what their relationship is going to become. She is intelligent enough, visibly, to understand that they are from two completely separate worlds. Like I already said, she interprets his gift in a completely different manner than he does. Now that you gave her more, she expects more; her expectations increase with the gift. It’s in human nature; the more you give yourself, the more you desire, the more you need. But she isn’t sure of him; he isn’t someone who really expresses his feelings.

Cahiers: The relationship between Averill, Ella and Champion is often ambiguous or difficult to decipher…

M. Cimino: That was part of my intentions, to keep that ambiguity, to let the spectator draw their own conclusions: about whom she'll end with, what she’ll do; it isn’t precise. It’s like real relationships, not like fiction, where nothing is left to the imagination. In life, in all love triangles, whether between three men, two women and one woman, two women and one man, you’re never sure of the equation, because it always changes; you never can tell.

Cahiers: To take another example, you never see the friendship between Averill and Champion: you can infer it, on the part of a phrase: “Mr. Averill is lucky to have a friend like you”, but you never see that friendship in the picture. Their rivalry for Ella, and the political situation, has already spoiled that friendship; in a sense, it is left aside from the picture. Why did you leave something like that aside? You also said that you didn’t want the spectator to know everything about a character when they see them for the first time, but only when the film ends. Can you elaborate on that?

M. Cimino: I don’t know what I can add to the question… I wanted to say something important: there are often moments where I think… just in the pleasure of making the film; you feel a joy using the means of expression; the pleasure it gives you, the pleasure it can give to others; particularly in the musical sequences. You should not leave aside the pure pleasure of the form in-itself; it’s like driving a good car: there is also a joy in pure speed. You don’t have to lose sight of it when you talk about the work of somebody, or of films in general. It is rare that the cinema, as a means of expression, is used to make one feel joy. Film is also its form, and it explains in part the pleasure that one gets watching the films of Kubrick; the control which he exercises on formal elements is completely remarkable.

Cahiers: I asked in fact a question about form, and it has to do, without doubt, with what you said about speed.

M. Cimino: I don’t know what else you can say on the subject, but that film seems to end very quickly, because it isn’t encumbered by that which encumbers the majority of films. With certainty, the characters explain themselves, they explain one-another, they explain the meaning of the story; they say what they feel, what the others feel, what you should feel. To return to your question about Champion, it didn’t seem, to me, to have been an important element of the story: if I thought it was, I would have shown it.

In The Deer Hunter, you miss, by all evidence, the Vietnamese point-of-view; it isn’t the subject of the film, why talk about it? It’s a deliberate choice. This isn’t to say that it’s the right choice, but that you consider such-and-such aspect secondary in comparison to such-and-such other. Maybe I expect too much understanding, too many deductions from people; it’s possible.

Cahiers: You also put so many elements into the film that you can’t see them all from watching it once, or even twice. I’m talking about the details in the appearance of things and peoples, the faces, the costumes; it’s all like a foreign language, because you have never seen it before. Yet they’re very significant details; for example, you notice that one character is better dressed than another, even if it’s only an extra.

M. Cimino: I loathe the word extra; it’s horrible, because you use people as you define them. Extras – foreign to the scene. For example, the big street-scene in Kalispell, when Averill arrives by train; you see that enormous crowd, very clearly: everyone does not have the same rank; all different social level and classes are represented in that street. The people – the extras – are arranged with great detail. Each extra was carefully chosen, dressed and even redressed if it wasn’t right; we cut the hair off some of them. We classified them, by such sorts of groups one could find in a station – there are figures of immigrants, of merchants; we divided the people into squads, into sections; there is a procession of masons in the streets. All the society of a town is visible in the street. It isn’t a concept; the idea is that you must be able to look at any part of that immense screen and isolate from it any small piece according to your choice – you should maybe try, the next time you see it, taking a small telescope and scanning the screen with it, examining and isolating small parts. I think that, whatever part of the screen you choose, you won’t be disappointed: you will find equally swarming activity everywhere. Why do that? The majority of people will go see the film once, although, in cases where a film is successful, many people go see it two or three times; it’s true, even for Heaven’s Gate: many people returned two or three times to see it; they also rewatched The Deer Hunter many times. It’s because, especially for a period film, you don’t want to violate people; you don’t want them to say, suddenly: “Oh my god, there’s a bus!” for example. In many major films, films which were successes – I’m not saying which – you see the extras, in numerous scenes, without know what they say, but it’s clear. They’re counting sheep; when they should be singing, it’s obvious they don’t know the words; or else they are completely irrelevant to the shot. That weakens the film, even if the public isn’t directly conscious of it, they notice it; it forms a deposit in them, and people, I believe, respond to films from that strata deposited in them. You threaten the film; you also threaten the credibility of characters, by lack of judgment. If you pay great attention to the place you film, you must do the same for the people you film. The effectiveness of The Deer Hunter comes from you accepting the reality of that community of people, and their environment. You can look at any part of the screen during the wedding reception; you’ll see everyone participating, everyone taking part in that event. It was done very carefully, not out of self-indulgence, but to make the story more credible.

Cahiers: There is nothing but credibility – everything is obviously very important: even if people don’t see all the details in that street-scene, on first viewing…

M. Cimino: There is even a hanging; they hang a man in the middle of all that activity!

Cahiers: …what’s important is that the details are there to be read, if someone wants to see them. The film doesn’t create the portrait of a socially homogeneous world, but of a very differentiated world.

M. Cimino: Take the example of a hundred-piece orchestra: if one bow is slightly twisted, it is easy to tell which person doesn’t realize it, by all means. But the conductor will hear it. But why should he nit-pick? The public, 99% of the time, won’t hear a thing. Why is Balanchine endlessly done, not only by the soloists, but all the ballet? The public only watches the center of the stage. People don’t ask themselves questions about choreography, the direction, and the composers. If a director does it, he passes for a narcissist. The big battle scenes of Kurosawa are, in general, worked to the smallest detail. We shouldn’t have to talk about it; it’s simply part of our work. See what happens in the American auto-industry: the sales of Japanese cars are always rising, while American sales continue to decline: because the people have that which they perceive as a better product, better made. The lack of taste in good work can have disastrous results for a country, for all of society; it doesn’t simply concern fabricated products, but our entire system of values. It is important to value good work and the pride from working.

Cahiers: It seems to me that the majority of criticism directed at the film concern the way it was made and the deliberate choices you made. For example, the soundtrack, in certain scenes, isn’t conventional: it is particularly striking in the scene next to the train, with Cully and Averill, where you listen with difficulty to what they say, you miss dialogue. It is all the more striking as it’s a scene with very important exposition.

M. Cimino: My position was very simple: if you are next to a locomotive, among all those people, all that noise, you must strain your ears to listen, and you miss parts of what’s said to you. We’ve all seen scenes in movies in airports, in subways or on trains, where you don’t hear a single sound, nothing but the dialogue: it’s only a picture of two people in the act of speaking! All other forms of life are suspended; we abandon that which was in progress all around. I wanted people to listen more attentively, listen perhaps in the manner which the characters must listen: they’ll bend down, they’ll work a little bit so as to catch everything, perhaps they’ll read their lips; I expect a lot from people. The public has become lazy; maybe that was going too far, but there is also a great density in the soundtrack, numerous details. The sound was also recorded as carefully as the visuals. If there’s a market on one side of the screen, you hear the appropriate sounds, just as, if on the other side, other activities happen. The soundtrack is very rich. People aren’t perhaps used to that, they expect the dialogue to be emphasized: I believe this comes above all from television. That leads us to this representation of intense activity: when a scene includes a whole place, it includes many people, therefore many sounds, all sorts of peripheral sounds. When Averill walks down the street, for example, to go to the store, you can remove the sounds, it’s very easy, you erase it, and you pass directly to the soundtrack of the store. I wanted you to feel what it was like to walk down a street in that period: to follow those noisy wagons, to cross all that activity, what you felt, what you heard. People made so much dust; my god, was it dusty! That makes the streets dirty… when hundreds of wagons go around, they raise dust. And very often, we took the time to record the background sound. In the store, for example, we recorded numerous conversations, with the intention of inserting them into the soundtrack later. This isn’t general background noise; you hear people, in a corner, argue over the price of a knife, discuss the merits of a particular rifle… each of those people are engaged in a very specific activity and you hear them.

Cahiers: That is the second time that you’ve said: “Maybe I expect too much from the public.” But you have received letters on the subject: what do they say?

M. Cimino: All the letters I received told me that people understand the film perfectly. They essentially spoke of the critical reaction. I didn’t receive a single letter saying: “I don’t understand”; the letters say the contrary, and they come from people of all ages and all walks of life; thoughts, well-written, some longer than twenty pages. Some people in New York took an airplane to come see the four-hour version; people moved in groups to go see it. It was very gratifying, in fact, to see that they didn’t believe what they read. Curiously, many cited Moby Dick, taking into account the initial reception that it had received. They all used the words “flowing” and “like a river.” Many said that they had seen the film two or three times and that they appreciated it more and more with each viewing. All wrote to me: “We hope that you aren’t discouraged.” Many knew that I worked on a modern version of The Fountainhead. They sent me quotes from The Fountainhead, from other novels about individualism. Nearly all said something on the subject.

Cahiers: Do you think people were offended by your political positions?

M. Cimino: I don’t see it as a political film. I don’t see The Deer Hunter as a political film. I really don’t like politics. They aren’t stories concerning politics, but stories about people, caught up in events, whatever its reasons may be. They reveal the event. Americans are very poor, on all levels, in that which concerns political statements. We don’t know how to make them, and when we do, we make them badly. We aren’t adapted to that.

Cahiers: They say you’re always trying something new, and your style evolved very quickly from Thunderbolt and Lightfoot to Heaven’s Gate. How do you see your current situation? For example, would you be interested in going back and making another “genre” film, where one finds what one expects, like Thunderbolt and Lightfoot still was; or will you make another film like The Deer Hunter?

M. Cimino: It will always be people who will interest me, I believe. It’s people who give you the urge to make movies, characters. You have an attraction to a character, if he’s interesting enough, that what’s important. I don’t see myself making a film because it’s from a certain genre, except a musical comedy; I would love to make a musical comedy, it provides a special pleasure which tempts me; I think it would take me to a state of pure joy which I dream about. I have already begun a story about Indians; in short, it’s a story of a boy who wasn’t entitled to his vision and because of it, he doesn’t have a name. To receive a name, he attains his vision, and when he has a name, he must earn it; it’s a story of the American plains, it takes place in the Dakotas and Montana. I have two other subjects on the West, on which I’ve been working for some time: they are all journeys in that genre. I hope to eventually make a film on the gangster Frank Costello.

Cahiers: Are you tempted to protect your rear-end, like Hitchcock said?

M. Cimino: We are all confronted with the reality of the film industry. You must have a sense of money to make films in our age. A failure doesn’t make your life easier. Hitchcock could make films to protect his behind, Ford also…

Cahiers: “Make one for them,” he would say.

M. Cimino: Even when Hitchcock made films for them, to protect his rear-end, they had something special. Making films isn’t easy; you always have spats, harassment: it’s an unpredictable profession. What’s important is that you and others continue to make films; up to the end, Hitchcock and Ford stayed true themselves, they worked late, like Huston right now, and it is amazing to see the energy that they retained after all the obstacles that they’ve overcome. When you think of what Cukor suffered, when he was fired from filming Gone With the Wind; he worked three years to prepare that film, he was consumed by it, he filmed several weeks, and then he’s replaced on a film which became the most well-known and most important of its era, it must have been a terrible blow! That shouldn’t have been as easy to experience as it looks in retrospect: not only did he made it through that period, but he continued to make marvelous films. His parking spot is next to mine, at MGM, and as I said once in an interview, I believe it was at Cannes: Selznick is dead, Thalberg is dead, Louis B. Mayer as well, and the guy who’s my neighbor at MGM is named George Cukor, he was still making films at MGM! It was true; he was making Rich and Famous. It’s very hard work. When I arrived here for the first time, I think it was because I had to meet Clint, I was invited to a party, I think it was Clint who asked me to go. I didn’t know what it was; I though it was going to be some sort of screening, he had said there was going to be an awards ceremony. I wandered around all corners, looking to recognize people; it was a tribute to David Lean, and there were only filmmakers; Hitchcock was there, I believe, Capra also, Huston; all those who were alive were there. We saw twenty minutes of film-clips from Lean, and, as I understood, Lean isn’t sensitive. I forgot who handed him the award; everyone stood up and I believe they gave him a ten-minute ovation, all standing: only filmmakers, no press, no television. It was an extraordinary moment, Lean cried. Seeing Hitchcock, Capra, Huston, Billy Wilder, Minnelli… he couldn’t find the words. Who were they applauding? Someone who had gone out there, as they had themselves: what a marvelous tribute! It was so sweet, so enthusiastic, so personal; it must have been a shock for him to see that bunch of old marksmen standing to applaud one of their own. They all know what it is to be booed.

(Interview conducted by Bill Krohn in Los Angeles, the 27th and 28th of April, 1982. Translated from the English by Francine Arakélian)

Entretien avec Michael Cimino, Cahiers du cinéma nº 337, junho 1982

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