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Godard: ‘I get high staring at posters in the streets. I get high on people.’

Note: Godard who has just finished shooting his lates film One Plus One, agreed to meet Hermine Demoriane for this interview but would not consent to it being recorded. “What you don’t remember, make up”, he said. Excerpts from the interview follow.

We have a lot of professional filmmakers who would be better off doing something else.

 

HD: You have said everybody should make movies.

JLG: No. I did not say that,  I said more people should. There are not enough films. Look, there is no black cinema at all. Stokely Charmichael should make a film. But he can’t. Even if Mao sent him the money he would not find a distributor. There aren’t any films from the workers, either. I’d like to hand over my unit, lock, stock and barrel and let some of them get on with it. We need films FROM people, not FOR them. In the meantime, we have a lot of professional filmmakers who would be better off doing something else.

HD: What do you think of Claude Givaudan’s experiment?

JLG: Very good. You should be able to go into a shop and buy the latest Godard, take it home and project it with no more fuss than reading a paperback. In two years time we may be putting cassettes of our own films into TV sets.

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HD: You have said England was an American colony. Does this apply to its films?

JLG: There are no English films. There are American films set in London.

HD: What do you think of American cinema, then?

JLG: The most conservative in the world. It works on worn-out formulas totally irrelevant today. Its only aim is to lift people out of their environment for a moment and persuade them the world is a beautiful place so they keep quiet and allow the system which begats such films to continue.

HD: You didn’t even like Bonnie and Clyde?

JLG: Average. Very average.

HD: And the cinema in France?

JLG: Very conservative, too.

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HD: What do you reckon is the way to break the monopoly of the big companies?

JLG: Either drop a bomb or them or buy them.

HD: You have just made a film for French TV. Would you like to do more?

JLG: I see no difference between cinema and TV films. I would like to make more, yes, but I doubt if they’d get shown. TV is governmental, and not only in France. Governments are always clever enough to take it over. Consequently TV would be the same in Cuba as it is in Greece. I think opposition parties should have an equal influence.

HD: Do you believe that hippies could be a force to purge Capitalism, as the Red Guards purged Soviet Communism?

JLG: The hippies will do nothing until they are politised.

HD: They need a Mao?

JLG: Not necessarily. Only to get educated politically.

HD: The demonstration at the first night of the Green Berets proves that something is burning.

JLG: Yes, that was excellent. I wish someone had told me, I would have gone.

HD: Do you think the uprising could come from England eventually?

JLG: Yes, it is good here because there are plenty of people with money and open minds. But alas, they don’t use their minds, and they are usually corrupted by money. People could do things but won’t. Look at the Beatles for instance. And Peter Brook. He should have put his Marat/Sade outside Buckingham Palace.

HD: Are you aware to have prophested Sorbonne in La Chinoise?

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JLG: No. Prophesy is a mild form of fascism.

HD: What about your next film?

JLG: It is going to be produced and shot in America. That’s all I know about it. Except the title. I’ve got that. An American Movie.

HD: Have you ever taken acid?

JLG: No. Not interested. I get high staring at posters in the streets. I get high on people.

HD: Exactly what my mother says. Thank you.

 

*Interview with Jean-Luc Godard by Hermine Demoriane, published in IT (International Times) no. 39, 6-19 September 1968

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Moonlight

My brain is melting, can’t really read or write anything. Today is ‘take photos and post them on the Instagram instead of studying’ day.

Also, to continue with today’s grand achievements – I made ice coffee and poured in a couple of drops of spoiled milk, drank it right away, loved it. In my defense, it didn’t smell or taste bad, only the texture was… well, questionable.

To get myself mentally back on track, I am posting one of my favourite poems, the one that decorates one of my bedroom walls. Whenever I mention poetry, there’s 95 percent of chance that I’m turning into your grandma and talking about French 19th-century symbolism movement.  This is Paul Verlaine‘s Clair de lune (Moonlight) from his 1869 collection of poems Fêtes galantes. Read carefully, add a bit of (non spoiled) milk, three ice cubes, mix it all up in  a cocktail shaker and enjoy.

 

Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.

Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur
L’amour vainqueur et la vie opportune
Ils n’ont pas l’air de croire à leur bonheur
Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune,

Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d’extase les jets d’eau,
Les grands jets d’eau sveltes parmi les marbres.       

Your soul is a landscape fair and fine
Where charming masqueraders swarm
Playing the lute and dancing and being almost
Sad beneath their fanciful costume.

Singing together in a minor key
Of love conquests and the life of risks,
In their fortune they do not seem to believe;
And their song melts into the lunar beam.

The quiet moon beam, sad and beautiful,
That lulls the birds in the trees to dream
And makes the fountain jets sob in a spree,
The tall slender jets that soothe the marbles.

       

* Finding different versions of poems, even from professional translators can be pretty frustrating because the new version never completely captures the whole point, the core of what the poet had in mind. It’s probably one of the main reasons why I will never stop learning foreign languages – to be able to enjoy literature in its original form. One day.

 

 

 

Just another Jean-Luc Godard appreciation post

My romantic relationship with French New Wave in cinematography is public and stable, so firm that I’ve stopped referring to it as a simple love affair a long time ago. When in doubt, there’s always an inspiration hiding in some of my favourite titles and actors. And there’s still so much left for me to discover!

The last piece is a bit more  technical, not just a general praise to the cinematic genius.  I don’t think it’s necessary to copy the whole text, so here’s the link to my latest film related fangirling:  5 Important Lessons Modern Filmmakers Learned from Jean-Luc Godard.

Btw, WordPress keeps suggesting that I spelled the director’s name wrong, what’s up with that?

And also, other people’s thoughts and comments on that post’s subject are more than welcome.

The ‘Enfant Terrible’

About a week ago, a gun that Paul Verlaine used to shoot his lover Arthur Rimbaud was sold for 434 500 €. The story that led to one of the most famous love quarrels of the art world developed something like this (at least this is the version I’ve came across many times): on the morning of the 10th of July 1873 Verlaine bought the gun in Brussels with one goal on his mind – to end the passionate, but highly dysfunctional relationship with his 18-year-old teenage prodigy lover.

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The vagabond, tortured genius, a rebel, tragically lost and unadjusted, and to complete the cliché – died too soon. This is our hero – Arthur Rimbaud, the one that never grow up, but wrote better than anyone while it seemed like he’s not even trying. He probably wasn’t, it was a matter of true talent, just like when Bob Dylan described his 60s songwriting skills as something that simply came to him, he can’t completely grasp it or reproduce it, and just like the rest of us, now can  only admire it.

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This is the hotel where on the 10th of July 1873 P. Verlaine wounded  A. Rimbaud by a gunshot

Rimbaud didn’t die from the bullet coming from that famous  gun, during a drunk, probably absinthe induced fight in a hotel room, Verlaine fired two bullets at him with only one hitting him in the wrist. Nothing serious, especially for their bohemian, crazy, poetic, drunk standards, but Rimbaud got scared, called the police and Verlaine ended up serving a two-year sentence of hard labour. Apparently, Verlaine was feeling anxious and suicidal because he couldn’t get rid of his companion and wanted to move back to his wife and children, which obviously didn’t sound like an acceptable plan to Rimbaud.

Ever since the roots of my different interests were formed I created a firm connection between the two rebels I liked, although they were different and separated far away in time – Rimbaud and Sid Vicious. The latter I don’t appreciate through music as much as I did in my ‘formative’ years, but more because of his true punk attitude, although, lets face it – he was a junkie and an idiot.

Still, up to this day as a small, careless homage I wear a cheap locker pendant around my neck, just like I did for the last 8, 9, 10 years. During those early highschool years, Sid was to me an ‘ideal’ image of a fucked up friend/boyfriend who I could love only because I have never met him or had a chance to do so. Otherwise, things would’ve been different, needless to say (no pun intended).  When I grew up a bit I realized that having a Sid & Nancy relationship is not something I strive for (visual aspects aside), getting stabbed to death in a hotel in weird circumstances, even if it’s the cult Hotel Chelsea, is not at all attractive or glamorous. The edge, rebellious attitude and rejection of the rules of society and imposed authority are the traits that are still and always will be stuck with me.

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This also reminded me of a story when Patti Smith explained Arthur Rimbaud was kind of like her boyfriend when she was young because of so much time they’ve spent together. Their relationship obviously payed off and brought a lot to her unique expression, and Patti wasn’t alone of course – it wouldn’t be a real post without mentioning  an impressive list of musicians, writers, cultural  heroes who were directly inspired by Rimbaud’s surrealistic poetry: Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Dylan Thomas, Pablo Picasso, Vladimir Nabokov, Richey Edwards, Jack Kerouac….

What would have happened if he didn’t stop writing at the age of only 21? Maybe that’s where the magic came from – a sudden, intensive and mysterious explosion that will continue to inspire generation after generation of those who love to play with words in their own way. The imaginary old, long bearded Rimbaud would be sitting in a rocking chair at some point of his long life and say something like: ‘I don’t know how I did it or where it came from, it just happened and I was a lucky, reckless bastard who had the privilege to let those verses out, save them on paper and put my signature underneath.’

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Crazy for Godard

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There are movies you can watch with one eye closed, while texting your crush or thinking about your grocery list. There are movies you can watch with a bunch of friends and comment, laugh, talk about something else for a while, get up to get some more popcorn. There are movies who don’t demand your full attention, they are here to present a certain plot and try to entertain you while on the greater scale their sole purpose is to earn as much money as possible and then fall into the oblivion. Everyone who had at least a brief encounter with Jean-Luc Godard‘s movies is aware, of course, that this is not the case.

The average mind raised on the typical American style cinematography will get confused after five minutes, get bored after twenty and is most likely to give up from watching the movie after 45 minutes. But that’s no surprise and doesn’t mean that the average mind is stupid or uneducated. Godard’s work is an acquired taste, the one that when/if the viewer accepts it and gets to know it, falls in love more and more until you start looking at the everyday life scenes through Jean-Luc’s glasses.

That started happening to me after I watched Une femme est Une Femme (A woman is a Woman, 1961), my first Godard experience. I was a bit puzzled at first but it was love at first sight – the story, Anna Karina, Belmondo, the clothes, dialogue, colors, language… Freedom! Freedom is the key, freedom from the overpayed, overplayed, predictable script, nonchalant deconstruction of what is considered ‘normal’ or ‘succesful’. Godard himself says it all in one simple sentence:

“Improvising on the set is different from faithfully following the script.”

C’est vrai.

The last one I’ve (re) watched is also one of the most important French new wave titles – Pierrot le Fou (Pierrot Goes Wild, 1965).  It’s one of those movies that stuck with me and will always be important, also this time I had a chance to watch it in the cinema, on the big screen. What an experience, not even drunk people talking pretty loudly or leaving in the middle of the film couldn’t spoil the good feels and my overall excitement. If an extraterrestrial finally visits our beautiful planet one day, I suggest playing Pierrot for him/her/? to explain what ART means. You can’t define it in one word, it can be completely subjective, but once you come across it, you know it’s here.

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What I like the most about this film is the criticism towards Americanization, war and consumerism. We are so obsessed with things and accumulating stuff we don’t really need. We all know that, we’ve seen Fight Club for god’s sake, but still we remain clueless. I’m looking for winter coats online as we speak and I get that adrenaline rush because I’m in a hurry to pick the PERFECT one, the one that DEFINES me and at the same time I hate myself for it, but also can’t help it. Ridiculous, it’s like being stuck in between two worlds. That’s why artist that present sober critics to their public need to be even more appreciated. They are not just artists who create something for themselves and a small circle of people, they represent the state of society in general. Through the words, music, images and beautiful or funny scenes they can comfort us, but also implement a warning sign in our mind that something needs to be changed.

Like all great works of art, Pierrot le Fou is still very much relevant, I always laugh at the statement:

“Now we are entering the age of the ass.”

We are very much in that age and it seems like we will be in it for a while longer, don’t we? It’s hard to come out and look up, I guess.

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To conclude, i really think everyone should find some free time and dedicate it to watching good, classic movies, and not just so they can boast about it and act all ‘intellectual’ in front of others, it should be completely opposite, actually. Watching Godard helps me create my own little world, draw inspiration from it and learn. Finding out that  improvisation can coexist with author’s  control over  his work and what he’s trying to achieve is something I didn’t know before Godard, and now I very much appreciate. It is the unique pleasure of letting the viewer feel whatever he wants to, find his own way through the two hour movie watching experience without pulling his hand like he’s a kid about to get lost in the shopping mall. Let him get lost on purpose to find something new and exciting, that is the goal.

There are many little joys we all need to give our life true meaning, the memory of coming out of the cinema, snapping my fingers while singing quietly Ma ligne de chance is and always will be among my favourite instant mood boosters. And the best part is, I have yet to discover the rest of the ‘nouvelle vague’ familly – Truffaut, Chabroul, Rivette….

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FIN.