I just wanted to post a portion of an interview conducted with Jean-Luc Godard by Cahiers du Cinema
. The excerpts and translations appear in The 1960s: Cahiers du Cinema
edited by Jim Hillier.
: When you began the film, what did it mean to you?
: Our first films were all films de cinephile
--the work of film enthusiasts. One can make use of what one has already seen in the cinema to make deliberate references. This was true of me in particular. I thougth in terms of purely cinematographic attitudes. For some shots I referred to scenes I remembered from Preminger, Cukor, etc. And the character played by Jean Seberg was a continuation of her role in Bonjour Tristesse
. I could have taken the last shot of Preminger's film and started after dissolving to the title, 'Three Years Later.' This is much the same sort of thing as my taste for quotation, which I still retain. Why should we be reproached for it? People in life quote as they please, so we have the right to quote as we please. Therefore I show people quoting, merely making sure they quote what pleases me. In the notes I make of anything that might be use for a film, I will add a note from Dostoyevsky if I like it. Why not? If you want to say something, there is only one solution: say it.
The difference is that the Italian industry is pretty worthless, whereas the Americans are pretty good--less so, perhaps, since the disappearance of the studio system, but until then they were the best in the world. American scriptwriters, too, simply dwarf even the best French writers. Ben Hecht is the best scriptwriter I have ever seen. In his book, The Producer
, it is extraordinary to see how Richard Brooks manages to construct a very fine, coherent script based on the Red Sea story which had been suggested to him. The Americans, who are much more stupid when it comes to analysis, instinctively bring off very complex scripts. They also have a gift for the kind of simplicity which brings depth--in a little Western like Ride the High Country
, for instance. If one tries to do something like that in France, one looks like an intellectual.
The Americans are real and natural. But this attitude means something over there. We in France must find something that means something--find the French attitude as they have found the American attitude. To do so, one must begin by talking about things one knows. We have been accused of talking about certain subjects only, but we talk about things we know, looking for something which reflects us. Before us, the only person who really tried to see France was Jacques Becker, and he did so by filming fashion houses and gangsters. The other never filmed reality. All those reproaches aimed at us should have been directed against them, because their cinema was completely unreal. They were completely cut off: the cinema was one thing, life another. They didn't live cinema. I once saw Delannoy going into the Billancourt studios, briefcase in hand: you would have sworn he was going into an insurance office.