By MCN Editor

Pialat/Godard (1984), translated by Craig Keller

JEAN-LUC GODARD:  I think what gets called an “auteur film” has been a real — in the end every catastrophe is beneficial, maybe — but has been a real catastrophe, and those who get called auteurs [authors] these days in movies, people wouldn’t dare call them auteurs in literature.

MAURICE PIALAT: […] Wrong or right, those I recognize as having always had something like ambition, that gets closer to the auteur, but the auteur as he’s understood in theatre. In fact, what I have regrets about in all my films has to do sometimes with the absence of the scenario, and even when it’s there, it’s too diffuse, poorly put together, not worked out enough. And when it comes right down to it, if I continue making films in a certain sphere, and since we’re condemned to intimist cinema due to a lack of access to funding, I’d essentially have to turn into a writer — whereas I don’t consider myself a writer — I have a lot of trouble writing — I’d end up writing a film the way one writes a theatrical play. I don’t think it’s what you yourself are looking to do; you’ve shown as much up to the present.
GODARD: When “auteur” gets said, it conjures up what became of Duvivier, or even Carné in a sense… I mean: the subject was no longer there; you find it more in Guitry, Pagnol, or Cocteau, or in Renoir, who was accused of doing rush-jobs, and we said: No, he rushes things through in the name of a superior interest. This is what it was, this auteur notion. Or because it was in your self-interest, or out of fatigue, or out of going off and having a good time…
PIALAT: Neither out of self-interest nor going off having a good time.
GODARD: Are you being serious?
PIALAT: Oh, of course I am!
GODARD: Because for me, I realized that whenever I’d say that, actually, itwasn’t sincere. I said to myself: “I’d really like for once to shoot a film on the equivalent of the big soundstage at MGM, or have a big film to make every now and then.” But I see that that wasn’t really me being sincere.
PIALAT: I put a lot of time into mulling it over, and I continue to believe that you have to have a decent budget to shoot. I think the importance, the quality of the means at hand, exert their influence on the merit of the works produced. Not a little bit — a lot. After shooting Loulou [1980] I had the desire to write a book, as objectively as possible, which would have revisited the script pages, the notes in the margins. I let it go because I figured it would put people to sleep. But the shoot of the film had been exhausting. The three lead actors were no longer around at the end of the shoot, they’d all taken off. I had to wait one year before redoing continuity shots.
Pialat/Godard (1984), translated by Craig Keller

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“When books become a thing, they can no longer be fine.

“Literary people get mad at Knausgård the same way they get mad at Jonathan Franzen, a writer who, if I’m being honest, might be fine. I’m rarely honest about Jonathan Franzen. He’s an extremely annoying manI have only read bits and pieces of his novels, and while I’ve stopped reading many novels even though they were pretty good or great, I have always stopped reading Jonathan Franzen’s novels because I thought they were aggressively boring and dumb and smug. But why do I think this? I didn’t read him when he was a new interesting writer who wrote a couple of weird books and then hit it big with ‘The Corrections,’ a moment in which I might have picked him up with curiosity and read with an open mind; I only noticed him once, after David Foster Wallace had died, he became the heir apparent for the Great American Novelist position, once he had had that thing with Oprah and started giving interviews in which he said all manner of dumb shit; I only noticed him well after I had been told he was An Important Writer.

“So I can’t and shouldn’t pretend that I am unmoved by the lazily-satisfied gentle arrogance he projects or when he is given license to project it by the has-the-whole-world-gone-crazy development of him being constantly crowned and re-crowned as Is He The Great American Writer. What I really object to is this, and if there’s anything to his writing beyond it, I can’t see it and can’t be bothered. Others read him and tell me he’s actually a good writer—people whose critical instincts I have learned to respect—so I feel sure that he’s probably a perfectly fine, that his books are fine, and that probably even his stupid goddamned bird essays are probably also fine.

“But it’s too late. He has become a thing; he can’t be fine.”
~ Aaron Bady

“You know how in postproduction you are supposed to color-correct the picture so everything is smooth and even? Jean-Luc wants the opposite. He wants the rupture. Color and then black and white, or different intensities of color. Or how in this film, sometimes you see the ratio of the frame change after the image begins. That happens when he records from his TV onto his old DVCAM analog machine, which is so old we can’t even find parts when it needs to be repaired. The TV takes time to recognize and adjust to the format on the DVD or the Blu-ray. Whether it’s 1:33 or 1:85. And one of the TVs he uses is slower than the other. He wants to keep all that. I could correct it, but he doesn’t want me to. See, here’s an image from War and Peace. He did the overlays of color—red, white, and blue—using an old analog video effects machine. That’s why you have the blur. When I tried to redo it in digital, I couldn’t. The edges were too sharp. And why the image jitters—I don’t know how he did that. Playing with the cable maybe. Handmade. He wants to see that. It’s a gift from his old machine.”
~ Fabrice Aragno