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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“The important thing is: what makes the audience interested in it? Of course, I don’t take on any roles that don’t interest me, or where I can’t find anything for myself in it. But I don’t like talking about that. If you go into a restaurant and you have been served an exquisite meal, you don’t need to know how the chef felt, or when he chose the vegetables on the market. I always feel a little like I would pull the rug out from under myself if I were to I speak about the background of my work. My explanations would come into conflict with the reason a movie is made in the first place — for the experience of the audience — and that, I would not want.
~  Christoph Waltz

This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.