Werner Herzog

Kinski always says it’s full of erotic elements. I don’t see it so much erotic. I see it more full of obscenity. It’s just – Nature here is vile and base. I wouldn’t see anything erotical here. I would see fornication and asphyxiation and choking and fighting for survival and… growing and… just rotting away. Of course, there’s a lot of misery. But it is the same misery that is all around us. The trees here are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don’t think they – they sing. They just screech in pain. It’s an unfinished country. It’s still prehistorical. The only thing that is lacking is – is the dinosaurs here. It’s like a curse weighing on an entire landscape. And whoever… goes too deep into this has his share of this curse. So we are cursed with what we are doing here. It’s a land that God, if he exists has – has created in anger. It’s the only land where – where creation is unfinished yet. Taking a close look at – at what’s around us there – there is some sort of a harmony. It is the harmony of… overwhelming and collective murder. And we in comparison to the articulate vileness and baseness and obscenity of all this jungle – Uh, we in comparison to that enormous articulation – we only sound and look like badly pronounced and half-finished sentences out of a stupid suburban… novel… a cheap novel. We have to become humble in front of this overwhelming misery and overwhelming fornication… overwhelming growth and overwhelming lack of order. Even the – the stars up here in the – in the sky look like a mess. There is no harmony in the universe. We have to get acquainted to this idea that there is no real harmony as we have conceived it. But when I say this, I say this all full of admiration for the jungle. It is not that I hate it, I love it. I love it very much. But I love it against my better judgment.”
~ Werner Herzog

Michael Moore

“I think it’s better to be completely honest and to deal with what I believe is the reality in front of us, because if we are willing to accept just how bad the news is, we might hunker down and find ways to protect as many people as possible during this dark time. So. Think about how old you are right now. Now, think about how old you’re going to be in 2025, which is eight years from now. Add eight years on your age. That’s how old you’re going to be when Donald J. Trump is still your president in January of 2025. That’s how much of your life is going to be taken up with him as your president.”
~ Michael Moore

Colin Trevorrow

Not only did I grow up on these stories, like all of us did, I think that the values of Star Wars are values that I hold very close and very dear in my life. The message of the way that the Force teaches you to treat other people and show respect for others, and the way it guides you through life, is really important to me. And I hope everybody would realize that that set of stories has affected me as deeply in my life as it has affected them. Movies are very personal, and art is very personal, and for people to try to turn that into something that is salacious or something that will get clicks is frustrating and sad. There tends to be a lot of assumptions made about control, but the reality is, it’s a collaboration. It’s not me locked in a room with the producers trying to get in and me saying, ‘I’m making my decisions!’ It is a much more collaborative process. I think that except for very, very rare circumstances, there is no such thing as final cut anymore. And I think the best-case scenario for any film is that the producer and the writer and the director are all on the same page and making the same movie.”
~ Colin Trevorrow, July 2017

Kevin Smith

“When you became you for a living, which is essentially what happened to me, it encourages you to live a different or better life, or more outgoing life, than I was when I was just a filmmaker, because you always have to come up with some shit to talk about. Don’t focus one thing. If you focus on one thing, they can get you on that. You’re good or bad at that one thing. If you fancy yourself an artist, just make yourself the fucking art project.”
~ Kevin Smith

John Ashbery

This question comes up so often in reviews. “No one reads this poet so what demands does he have on our attention?” and so forth. It’s sort of like the Yogi Berra remark: “nobody goes there anymore it’s too popular.” It’s sort of like, people are alarmed that more people go to rock concerts than go to chamber music performances, but the people who go to both enjoy what they’re doing. Does it really matter how many of them there are? I suppose it would be alarming if there were only a dozen or so people who read poetry. But as I’m sure you know there are many more than is dreamed of in the mass media, or in the New York Times Book Review for instance. Of course critics say before the 20th century everyone read poetry, but I don’t think that’s true – although undoubtedly more people did. They say that since the 20th century began poetry has shut itself off from people by being so difficult and irritating. Maybe. On the other hand people seem to be attracted to poetry for just those reasons. It does require more effort and more attention, and it can be stimulating as a reader to give that to the poetry. As much as I like Carl Sandburg, I enjoy something that has a certain amount of crunch and resistance to it.
~ John Ashbery

Hillary Weston

You’ve mentioned working on a new project with John Ashbery. How is that taking shape?
MICHAEL ALMEREYDA: Sean [Price Williams] and I went to his house upstate and did a little interview with him, shooting in 16mm. Basically, because he’s old—he’s about to turn 90—it’s not as big a project as it might have been if we’d leapt in ten years ago. But I discovered a poem—it’s not like it’s hard to find, but there are so many Ashbery poems—called “The Lonedale Operator,” which refers to a remarkable D. W. Griffith movie. It’s a prose poem, and John matter-of-factly runs through the first movies he ever saw when he was a kid and goes on for about a page, and then veers into a discussion of loneliness, chance, and change. The poem suddenly has a whole different weather to it, and it’s a very moving summation of why we fall in love with movies, and how movies and life interact, how they support each other, even or especially when life happens to be out of control.
~ Hillary Weston

John Ashbery, “The Task,” 1969

Just look at the filth you’ve made,
See what you’ve done.
Yet if these are regrets they stir only lightly
The children playing after supper,
Promise of the pillow and so much in the night to come.
I plan to stay here a little while
For these are moments only, moments of insight,
And there are reaches to be attained,
A last level of anxiety that melts
In becoming, like miles under the pilgrim’s feet.
~ John Ashbery, “The Task,” 1969

“At North Farm,” John Ashbery

Somewhere someone is traveling furiously toward you,
At incredible speed, traveling day and night,
Through blizzards and desert heat, across torrents, through narrow passes.
But will he know where to find you,
Recognize you when he sees you,
Give you the thing he has for you?
~ “At North Farm,” John Ashbery

I’m curious about your movie-viewing habits. Do you go to the cinema a lot?
ASSAYAS: Yeah, I do but I also watch more at home. What I don’t like is going to previews of movies—I hate that. I like to see movies at multiplexes, both mainstream and indie movies. They are shown more and more in multiplexes in Paris. I do that but also I think I watch more classics on Blu-ray or DVD or whatever. That’s something I didn’t do that much before but lately I’ve been doing that more and more. I’m not dependent on the programming of the cinematheque and once in awhile there is this area in the history of cinema that I want to reassess. But it’s not an organized thing. It’s very random. I have broad tastes, put it that way. I’m a very basic viewer. I get carried away by the story, I just enjoy it. If I get carried away seeing something from the perspective of a filmmaker it means that it’s not much of a good film. I’m not trying to deconstruct it. Once in awhile if a movie’s bad… I suppose that I’m never bored in movies anymore because if they are bad I start dissecting them, looking at them from a technical perspective, if only from that angle. But a screenplay is not enough. Sometimes you watch a movie and say, oh, the story is good but if only it was a better filmmaker or had better actors or if they had chosen a slightly different angle it could have been a better film. I think screenplays are secondary to whatever the films are, in the sense that the experience of cinema is space, energy, color, the physicality of the actors, your attraction to the actors. I think all that is much more important that how good the screenplay is.”
~ Olivier Assayas


Denis Côté

“I saw Dario Argento’s films that were much more artistic. And when I was around fifteen or sixteen, I considered making films. At eighteen I went to college but had no friends there, because it was very far. All I could do then was to concentrate on cinema. My teacher was my best friend and we had a list of films we had to watch. Pasolini, Godard, Fassbinder, Cassavetes, Pialat, Zulawski. I was amazed and it was obvious I wanted to be a filmmaker. I never went to university after that, never been to film school. I was more of a rocker, I had very long hair and organized concerts, but was always at the local cinémathèque, watching three, four films a day, and losing girlfriends because of cinema… I was too passionate. One day I was asked if I wanted to talk about cinema on the radio… for free! I did that for four years and then they asked me if I’d like to write for a newspaper. I was twenty-four and had never touched a computer. It was 1999! They said, “Don’t make us laugh. Go see that film and tomorrow morning bring us back a diskette with the text.” I borrowed a computer from my friend who told me how to use it. I wrote my review and they said, “Very nice. Be back next week. We will give you your desk and computer and will hire. You are our film editor.” It was a small newspaper but had good readership. I would write a full page on an Abbas Kiarostami retrospective and then two or three lines on Spider-man. That is how I made my reputation as a film critic. In 2005, I made my first film, Drifting States. I really didn’t know what I was making. When it was finished, I watched it with my editor and we thought, “Is it a fiction, is it a documentary, what is it?” It was really exciting! Then I heard that Locarno Film Festival was interested in the film. I was like, “What is Locarno?” We sent the film and won the main award in the video competition. That was the beginning of my career. After that I made a film every year.
Denis Côté


Jeff Wood

“‘Twin Peaks: The Return’ is a synthesis, if not the apotheosis, of all of Lynch’s periods as an artist, and the glass box, as its opening puzzle-piece, is something of a sigil for the notion of that retrospective, or archive, and the collective potency it might wield if it were distilled into one archival object. It also vividly recalls the production design of Lost Highway, itself a reiteration of his earliest work, with its deeply encoded, deeply interior spaces-by-design; and quite possibly as though the signature sound of interstitial spaces on the Lynchian end of the bandwidth might originate here, in this very box. The physicality of the box is palpable, and renders the cinematic space alive, imbued with a dimension beyond the theatrical artifice. It’s also deeply effective, causing the viewer to crane forward and wonder at the edge of our seat: ‘What the hell is it!?'”
~ Jeff Wood

Where Alejandro Jodorowsky Finds Himself At The Age Of 88

“Happiness is to be what you are and not what the other wants you to be. The error of parents is they want a child, but they don’t see the child. They see themselves. They decide for the child whatever they want them to do. The schools do that also. Society also does that. History does that. We are not free. Inside, we need to be free. Industrial movies are like that. You are an artist and the producers will say, “I don’t know. The picture is too crazy. People will not like it.” And if you do what they say, you are not free. An artist searches for freedom. Now, I just deal with it myself. It took me years to learn that. It did not come to me in one day. It was a painful experience. I needed to learn how to be free.”
~ Where Alejandro Jodorowsky Finds Himself At The Age Of 88

Todd Haynes

“I think there are things you can locate [about American independent cinema] for good or bad, and we all have our feelings about it. If we are talking about today, you see a lot of independent filmmakers ending up in the world of cable and streaming and television. I myself have explored long-form television on HBO and I hope to continue to do projects like that. But for a while it felt like the only place you could tell darker stories with more sinister central characters was on cable not on the big screen. Now we have a much more competitive landscape, where a lot more is possible. So, I think when creative vitality can exist, that’s all really good. I’m a lover of cinema, and I don’t want that to completely expire.”
~ Todd Haynes

Pauline Kael On Quitting

“I suddenly couldn’t say anything about some of the movies. They were just so terrible, and I’d already written about so many terrible movies. I love writing about movies when I can discover something in them – when I can get something out of them that I can share with people. The week I quit, I hadn’t planned on it. But I wrote up a couple of movies, and I read what I’d written, and it was just incredibly depressing. I thought, I’ve got nothing to share from this. One of them was of that movie with Woody Allen and Bette Midler, Scenes From a Mall. I couldn’t write another bad review of Bette Midler. I thought she was so brilliant, and when I saw her in that terrible production of ‘Gypsy’ on television, my heart sank. And I’d already panned her in Beaches. How can you go on panning people in picture after picture when you know they were great just a few years before? You have so much emotional investment in praising people that when you have to pan the same people a few years later, it tears your spirits apart.”
~ Pauline Kael On Quitting

Biographer Shawn Levy on Jerry Lewis on Facebook

“My father was a Jerome. My daughter’s middle name is Jerome. But my most vexing and vexed relationship with a Jerome was with Jerome Levitch, the subject of my first book under his stage and screen name, Jerry Lewis.

I have a lot of strong and complex feelings about the man, who passed away today in Las Vegas at age 91. Suffice to say he was a brilliant talent, an immense humanitarian, a difficult boss/interview, and a quixotic sort of genius, as often inspired as insipid, as often tender as caustic.

I wrote all about it in my 1996 book, “King of Comedy,” which is available on Kindle. With all due humility, it’s kinda definitive — the good and the bad — even though it’s two decades old. My favorite review, and one I begged St. Martin’s (unsuccessfully) to put on the paperback jacket, came from “Screw” magazine, which called it “A remarkably fair portrait of a great American asshole.”

Jerry and I met twice while I was working on the book and spoke/wrote to each other perhaps a dozen times. Like many of his relationships with the press and his partners/subordinates, it ended badly, with Jerry hollering profanities at me in the cabin of his yacht in San Diego. I wrote about it in the epilogue to my book, and over the years I’ve had the scene quoted back to me by Steve Martin, Harry Shearer, Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette. Tom Hanks once told me that he had a dinner with Paul Reiser and Martin Short at which Short spent the night imitating Jerry throwing me off the boat.

Jerry was a lot of things: father, husband, chum, businessman, philanthropist, artist, innovator, clown, tyrant. He was at various times in his life the highest-ever-paid performer on TV, in movies, and on Broadway. He raised BILLIONS for charity, invented filmmaking techniques, made perhaps a dozen classic comedies, turned in a terrific dramatic performance in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” and left the world altered and even enhanced with his time and his work in it.

That’s an estimable achievement and one worth pausing to commemorate.

#RIP to Le Roi du Crazy

~ Biographer Shawn Levy on Jerry Lewis on Facebook

Jerry Lewis

“Billy Wilder said to me, ‘Those of us who are hyphenates deserve a couple more beats,’ and I knew what he meant. As a director, you make sure a scene is not beat-heavy. You need just enough beats in the rhythm. Billy also used to say, ‘Whatever you do, is your mark. You don’t have to go out and impress someone. Let them look at your work.’”
~ Jerry Lewis

You worked as second AD on Jerry Lewis’ The Day the Clown Cried,  about a clown entertaining Jewish children in a WW II concentration camp. 
Yes, and I never saw the film. I was just the second assistant and it was an incredible fairytale for me, to work with Jerry Lewis. Jerry Lewis, along with Louis de Funes—who, by the way, had a very similar career to Jerry Lewis. He was a huge comic in France, but never, ever until now, 20 years after his death, recognized as a great actor. But they both made me laugh as a child. Jerry Lewis did everything: he did stand-up. He could act. He could sing and dance. He’s a photographer. He’s a director. And his films, when you look at them, are extremely daring and inventive. So he was someone that I wanted to emulate, in a way. The cinematographer of the film, Edmond Richard, who had shot a film I worked on directed by Rene Clement, called Hope to Die, with Jean-Louis Trintignant, Aldo Ray and Robert Ryan. It was like I had been invited to the court of Queen Elizabeth. It felt like a real achievement. I tried to work as hard as possible, and be very speedy. Like the weather, you don’t wait for somebody to ask. The moment the director says “I would like to have a…” you know what needs and get it for him. The greatest moment on that set for me was, one day Jerry Lewis got really upset with his crew, and went off on them, saying “You’re all too lazy. You don’t work hard enough. There’s only one guy who understands!” And he pointed to me. I only worked on the film for 15 days, at the circus in Paris. I never heard a thing about it after. I knew it was bogged down in lawsuits after it was finished, but it was an important moment in my professional life. I worked with a lot of amazing people before I directed my first film. I was an assistant director for twelve years. It was a great training ground, watching those masters work. I have many great memories. I started making films very late, you know.”
~ Jean-Jacques Beineix

Quote Unquotesee all »

“TIFF doesn’t make attendance numbers for its Lightbox screenings publicly available, so it’s difficult to gauge exactly how many filmgoers the Lightbox is attracting (or how much money it’s bringing in). But the King Street West venue hasn’t become a significant draw for film enthusiasts. The Lightbox’s attendance has plunged – 49,000 fewer visitors last year, a drop of 27 per cent, according to figures recently reported in the Toronto Star. Its gallery space – designed to showcase the visions of cinema’s most iconic filmmakers – saw most of its exhibitions staff quietly axed this past fall. And its marketing barely escapes the Lightbox’s walls. Unless you are a TIFF member or one of the city’s most avid filmgoers, you could walk by the Lightbox and remain blissfully unaware of a single thing that goes on inside. TIFF “still has a world-class brand,” said Barry Avrich, a filmmaker and former board member, “but it’s going to take some fresh vision from retail, consumer programming and marketing experts, given how the lines have become intensely blurred when it comes to how people watch film. They will have to experiment with programming to find the right blend of function and relevance.”
~ Globe & Mail Epic On State of Toronto Int’l (paywalled)

“I’m 87 years old… I only eat so I can smoke and stay alive… The only fear I have is how long consciousness is gonna hang on after my body goes. I just hope there’s nothing. Like there was before I was born. I’m not really into religion, they’re all macrocosms of the ego. When man began to think he was a separate person with a separate soul, it created a violent situation.

“The void, the concept of nothingness, is terrifying to most people on the planet. And I get anxiety attacks myself. I know the fear of that void. You have to learn to die before you die. You give up, surrender to the void, to nothingness.

“Anybody else you’ve interviewed bring these things up? Hang on, I gotta take this call… Hey, brother. That’s great, man. Yeah, I’m being interviewed… We’re talking about nothing. I’ve got him well-steeped in nothing right now. He’s stopped asking questions.”
~ Harry Dean Stanton