Two responses from filmmakers to a questionnaire from the January 2000 issue of Cahiers du cinéma.

1. In your opinion, what are the major events — films, filmmakers, actors, images, techniques, etc. — that have marked the 1990s?
2. How did your filmmaking evolve over the course of the decade and how do you see it evolving in the next one?

Pedro Costa
1, 2.
The death of Antonio Reis.
My four films, between 1989 and 1999.
Less and less money for making them.
I need less to make them.
JLG’s Nouvelle Vague (1990) and DH, JMS’ Sicilia!

Luc Moullet
1. A lot of events. Due to the lack of space, I’ll stick to the two main ones.

First, the eruption, throughout Iranian cinema, of the film within a film. Kiarostami, Mahmalbaf and the others continue (probably without being conscious of it) May 68 and the lesson of Vent d’Est, La Concentration, Faire la déménageuse, Rendez-vous d’Anna and La Vérité sur l’imaginaire d’un inconnu. May 68 and situationism in the country of the Ayatollahs - who would have believed it? As much as this direction (described as self-absorbed) was criticized in the French cinema of the time, it has been accepted without regrets in the framework of a third world cinema, presumed to be social above all else, that has become the best cinema in the world, in part thanks to this orientation.

The other, more recent, event is the release of Alan Rudolph’s Breakfast of Champions, from Vonnegut’s novel. It’s one of the best adaptations of literary work, a domain Americans are very strong in (The Magnificent Ambersons, Greed, The Grapes of Wrath, The Tarnished Angels, A Place in the Sun, A Farewell to Arms, The Group), and in which the French (except sometimes Bresson) always fail. It’s one of the rare films where the use of video is fully integrated, giving the film a fresh and very surprising dimension in its final part. It is a mind-blowing vision of the New America — a commercial city off a highway exit — where the excess of mush, dumps, and mud is becoming vomit-inducing. The film rediscovers, through an itinerary full of contradictions, the holocaustal value of the cinema of thirty years ago (Les Carabiniers, Jeanne Dielman). One also thinks of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? It’s sometimes Fellini-esque, but without the Romagnol filmmaker’s complaisances. It’s also the unusual avant-garde film made with every available means and Hollywood actors.
Bruce Willis’ best film or, rather, his only film.
The full confirmation of an exemplary filmmaker, who is the only one in Hollywood that takes risks. 

2. No change in method for me. Recently, I tried to do something other than always make people laugh. Two films of a more dramatic character (an adaptation of Henry James and Au champ d’honneur) have often been welcomed with scepticism and rejected by festivals that were going easy on me. Does this mean that I’m only made for comedy? Or did I only transgress my trademark image and throw off my fans? Which of the two theories is correct? I’d like to know. To be safe, I decided to stick with comedy for the next one, assuming there is a next one: I always have the feeling that the film I’ve just done will be the last one. In any case, I know that I must absolutely avoid big budgets, for which I won’t find enough dough, and that I can’t go above 3 million francs for a feature and 200,000 francs for a short.

Adieu au TNS

My article on Godard's Adieu au TNS and refutation of Richard Brody's claims regarding it, as well as a translation of the full text Godard recites in the video, is now online at Kino Slang.


Renoir on Bazin


A tender winter sun yellows the old house that I see from my window. What a beautiful evening. André Bazin would have loved it. The pale gold of the luminous rays would have made him forget this famous “dry cold” that Musset preferred to call “a good head cold.”

I forget the script I’m in the middle of writing and I think of all the time I’ve lost. Life is spent wasting time, neglecting a good opportunity, turning one’s back on what is useful to rush towards what is useless.

André was part of the very small crowd of very useful people.

Of course, he was very busy and sick. It would have been indecent to abuse his tireless sociability. And now, I regret not having had this indecency. I miss him all the time. How many questions I still have to ask him, how many dark corners he could have shed light on, how many passionate discussions that will never be born!

In one of his studies, he draws the readers’ attention to the secondary role that scholars have played in the development of the cinematograph and insists upon all that we owe to the visionaries, the obsessives. Reading it, I was thinking of the “Bazins.”

In the simplistic language of our 20th century, we would say “artists,” in opposition to scholars.

An artist’s mission is to precede the pack. He has to reveal hidden feelings, open the window on landscapes that, of course, already existed, but that we poorly discerned, hidden as they were by the fog of false traditions. The artist’s function is to tear away some of the veils covering every reality.

I’m looking at the last spot of sun on the roof of the old house. It reveals some stunning grey moss to me. Some pigeons stretch their wings towards the fleeting light, assuming positions revelatory of their pigeon spirit. The shade increases. I get up and, standing on my toes, I can catch a last ray of the setting sun.

I forget the old house and the pigeons. This light has erased them from my mind.

Certain directors of films, whose work André Bazin analyzed so scrupulously, will only remain in man’s memory because their names will be read in his books. Their worth is not in question. To tell the truth, it matters little to me. I’m grateful to them for having inspired a clear poet, an artist who, by dint of objective humility, made his work the moving expression of his generous personality.

Originally published in Cahiers du cinéma, no. 91, January 1959.
From Epic to Entr’acte: How the West Was Won
Jean-André Fieschi

Everything happens as if it were a matter of the conscious destruction of realism, for the benefit of another reality, one whose essence is purely mythological. Not the mythology of the West, as we’re invited to believe, but that of the cinema itself. One thinks a little of The Longest Day where, like here, the face of History fades behind the faces of the actors who incarnate it, a Grand Parade of all Hollywood. There are no more characters, just a giant “show.” The viewer can only be the ‘conscience of the show.’ The two seams and the roundness of the Cinerama screen inevitably increase this feeling.

The first programs – eye-catching documentaries where the Fitzpatrick’s aesthetic was increased as much as possible – accommodated themselves somewhat poorly to a particularly heretical process. To narrate a story with this all-consuming tool, even one reduced to its simplest expression, bordered on being an impossible challenge. You can’t scorn the auteurs, then, for having tried. At least the dialectical linearity of the screenplay allows the imagery to assert itself, a point so elementary at heart as might have been feared. Or rather, a heroic naivety that joins the film, through an unexpected detour, to the spirit of the pioneers whose gesture it had been charged to sing. Hathaway – this honest illustrator who sometimes emerges from a sage-like sleep to suddenly become passionate about the rhythm of a fight – knew to conserve in his work the academic dignity expected from him. If he works in convention, he also allows the film to exist, a film that has, precisely, certain conventions of American cinema.

It is not, for all that, a revisionist western, but the sum of ideas that one generally can have of the western when it is imagined as an epic. It obviously is lacking the seed of madness with which the epic imposes itself, but Hathaway isn’t Vidor, and it’s Vidor who would have been needed. You think more or less about all this during the screening and your own ideas added to what is happening onscreen banish any boredom, all the more so as the awaited and thundering bravura sequences every ten minutes arrive just in time to avoid any hint of drowsiness. In short, all this sticks out disagreeably, a kind of cocktail of the mind, a circus, a rodeo, and comic strip.

After the entr’acte, a mother’s sudden farewell to her son who is leaving for the Civil War – on the family farm, with the patch of graves and blooming trees – instills the serenity of the old legends, a biblical, elegiac tone that is unable to prevent, in spite of everything, a certain emotion from arising. Then the red uniforms shine like stripes on the blue of the night, the canons boom, the dead are stiff with fear like in a painting by Gros, the blood on the table where the wounded are operated on is cleared off with big buckets of water, the door opens and Wayne appears as Sherman, muddy, unkempt and tired, like himself in his stubborn, catlike approach. It’s John Ford’s passage, an incredible anthology, with a superior, elegant form that one takes as either good-natured or routine.

In fifteen minutes, everything is said with a Griffithian sharpness; thenceforth the show fades and seems worn out. It’s a bad idea to mix cinema into this parade.

Originally published in Cahiers du cinéma, no. 148, October 1963.

"With the Straubs, in Too Early, Too Late, we shot outside, a bit all over France.  We had about two shots a day and we filmed the same thing from morning to night.  The light evolved over the course of the day and, then, they chose while editing.  It was a 15 day shoot that could have been done in 3 if someone else had done the scheduling.  We had amazing moments, black skies Brittany...But it's a director's demand, who in this case was his own producer."

-William Lubtchansky, 2003


"Women directors are a rarity in Portuguese cinema, although there are a couple of first works in post-production at the time of writing. But the filmmaking team of Margarida Cordeiro and António Reis has produced a number of films since Jaime, their 1972 debut. Ana is a marvelous introduction to their surreal vision of the world. Lyrically photographed to capture the atmosphere of the region in which the film is set, Ana is a portrait of a simple, selfless grandmother, filtered through the memory of her grownup granddaughter. Childhood memories, incomplete and half-remembered - the return of a young girl in the middle of a storm, the walk the grandmother takes to a lake - combine to create a timeless, almost liturgical tone. Rejecting the traditional conventions of narrative cinema, Cordeiro and Reis concentrate on incident and form, celebrating the darkness and somberness of the primitive mountain people whose lives are briefly interrupted by a team of ethnographers. 'Let us guard ourselves against looking at the film as if it were a simple ecological requiem advocating a return to nature. The cinema of Reis and Cordeiro has reached a crucial point in which categories like nature, civilization, rural, and urban are condemned to lose their aesthetic relevance. Only knowledge remains. This cinema knows. Ana is a film that has entirely conquered the time and space it evokes.' -João Lopes"

-Piers Handling in the 1990 Festival of Festivals Program

Rohmer on 1.33:1

Wide and Tall
by Eric Rohmer

In issue 31 of the Cahiers, François Truffaut’s famous article, “A Certain Tendency of the French Cinema,” coincided with the collective review of the presentation of the first film in Cinemascope.  The magazine’s position was defined not only by what it denounced (content nourished by hackneyed libertarian themes), but by what it highly approved of: a form regenerated by the newest techniques (color, zoom, 3D), but kept in doubt by the nomenklatura of the time.  

Among the six writers collaborating in this group, only two, Bazin and Doniol, risked a few timid reservations.  The other four - Dorsay, Astruc, Rivette and myself - exhibited an almost delirious enthusiasm; an enthusiasm justified by the long and happy life Cinemascope has known since, and will continue to know, in intimate as well as spectacular films.  The paradox, however, is that Rivette and I, its biggest supporters (contrary to Truffaut, Astruc, and Godard at the time), have never, in our films, used the Chretien process.  To stick to myself, I’d say that I’ve become a more and more determined adversary of ‘scope in particular and even, in general, of the wide screen.  My only 1.66:1 films, aside from my first, The Sign of Leo, are the ones I shot on Super 16.  All the others are 1.33:1.

Re-reading this article, I’m alarmed to see that I was praising as “virtues” what I’d now like to denounce as the most insidious vices of contemporary cinema.  In a word, I think that, far from favoring directors’ formal inventiveness, widescreen, instead, stifles it.  It is, I’m more and more persuaded, if not the only, at least the main culprit for the expressive poverty of the image today.

In believing we were rediscovering the visual dynamism of the silent masterpieces, we were only turning our backs on them, and I’m surprised that widescreen continues to be popular in the profession, without anyone, critics or technicians, daring to bluntly confess that the low ceilings in multiplexes are the real reason behind a commercial rather than an aesthetic choice.

Scope, I said in this article, allowed the film to do away with a certain number of cliches inherited from academic painting.  It liberated the frame from the constraints of “composition,” going so far as to render the very notion of “framing” futile.  This freedom has revealed itself to be only an illusion: a fact once and for all, inevitably, far from stimulating the directors’ imaginations, it paralyses it, and, thinking they’re escaping stasis, they only fall back into it with renewed force.  I don’t think I’m exaggerating by saying that a slightly bigger screen offers a thousand less combinations to filmmakers in the dynamic organization of line, surface and volume than the good, old standard format.  It no longer inspires so easily, for example, the frame within a frame constructions in which the “cine-plastic” genius of Griffiths, Murnaus, Langs, Hitchcocks, Renoirs, and a hundred others revealed itself.  It weighs down shot/reverse shots, a major element of cinematographic syntax that, even with my love of Welles and Bazin, I’ve never been close to renouncing.  

There’s more: “Cinemascope,” I wrote, “finally introduces in our art the only tangible element that escaped it: air, the divine ether of poets.”  Now, it is precisely against this lack of air, imposed by current framing, that I do not cease to combat.  Because where is the air, if you really look for it?  To the left, to the right?  No, it is to the top that our eyes looks for it, and it is this upper part that has disappeared.  It’s at the top that one breathes, and it is at the top that the poetry is often found!  I like that my characters’ heads don’t bump against the top of the frame.  I like to show the sky, the trees, the mountains, even the roofs of houses, so much so that I only feel at ease in rooms with high ceilings.  It’s a matter of taste, they’ll say.  Very well.  But, if I miss the upper part of the screen, the lower part is often also lacking for me.  The sides aren’t too important: the slightest pan is enough to extend them.  On the other hand, knowing that my frames will be “enlarged,” (in fact, “narrowed,” I’d put it) by the projection in most theaters, I have trouble showing with enough “presence” what seems to me to be the most expressive part of the human body (the head, shoulders, and hands) by shots that used to be called “close-up,” that continue, in spite of everything, to make me happy, but that I look for in vain in the films of my younger colleagues.  How often have I had to regretfully employ this or that ploy to avoid having my actors’ hands go too low, hands that are often more eloquent than a word or a face!  Long live Eisenstein, I’d prefer to proclaim today, who only dreamed of the square screen!

My last film, however, The Lady and the Duke, for the sole purpose of preventing the mangling at the hands of distributors and TV channels, was shot in 16:9.  Unfortunately, this format doesn’t exist in movie theaters: its equivalent would be 1.77:1, which projectors can’t do.  That’s why the 35mm copy will be printed 1.66:1, to avoid any choice, by the projectionist, of 1.85:1.  This policy of the least evil hardly delights me.  Shall I say it’s the fault of Cinemascope’s?

Originally published in Cahiers du cinéma, August 2001.      

Moullet on Minnelli (x2)

Designing Woman
Luc Moullet

One explosive evening, a sports reporter meets a ravishing fashion designer.  Their friendship is established under rather extraordinary circumstances.  Four days later, they get married.  In her luxurious New York apartment, the designer (and not the female model, as we are led to believe by a poor translation, plus a bad pun, that a belies the colossal difference between the respective salaries of the two careers)* receives and entertains dressmakers, dancers and writers while, in the room next door, the journalist plays cards with boxers and managers.  After falling in love at first sight, they discover their differences: it’s the story of a relationship.  Disagreements increase with misunderstandings: she suspects him of infidelity at the very moment when, chased by the corrupt boxing gang he’s fighting in his articles, he’s forced to hide under a false name in a hotel room.  After a certain number of quiproquos worthy of Molière, everything ends well, thanks to the intervention of the virtuous dancer while the scores are being settled.

It’s clear that genres are mixed, but the film’s tone fills us in immediately: it’s a comedy.  A serious comedy, however, because it seems that Vincente Minnelli, an interesting, but uneven auteur, tried to direct the film of his life by describing certain dramatic and paradoxical aspects - hence the recourse to comedy - of American life, that take on an importance at once eternal and universal.

Is this an exaggeration of the range of a film that was made, above all, to entertain?  I don’t believe so because Minnelli expresses himself not by words and theories but rather through extremely subtle brush strokes in the dramatic construction as much as in the arrangement of the lines.  

It isn’t necessary, however, to possess a deep knowledge of American sociology to grasp Minnelli’s intentions, all the more so as the difference between this sociology and our own is slim.  Two milieus are, then, opposed, modeled after reality: that of the intellectuals or pseudo-intellectuals - from Greenwich Village and Broadway - and that of the sports fans, regulars at Madison Square Garden; two milieus that are absolutely foreign to one another, inheritors of two opposite civilizations.

Minnelli belongs, moreover, to one of these clans: that of the snobs whose position he takes by exploiting certain very personal considerations.  Both groups have chosen to live by abstracting reality - either intellectual or physical reality - therefore becoming unfit for their jobs in order to be content.  Stupid and defeated boxers, corrupt managers, and vicious gangsters having nothing to envy of artless artists, effeminate dancers, and accomplished gossipers.  Their movements are similar, not by what they are (though let’s not forget the extraordinary gag with the henchman who elegantly wipes up his adversary’s blood), but by their baseness, highlighted by the director’s talent.  The stunning A Song is Born had already established the connection between the mores of gangsters and library rats.

Our two heroes (and the dancer in the final scene - but her case is special!) partially escape from this fallen world because they love each other and because they are originally from opposite worlds.  And the climax explains the film’s structure in a way that I hope you’ll allow me to qualify as brilliant: Lauren Bacall finds happiness because she learns to overcome her fear of physical violence, and she calls for action four times; Gregory Peck is saved from the fight not thanks to the all powerful blows of his moronic bodyguard, but thanks to the ballet routine of the dancer with bizarre movements. 

Carried by such a big subject, Minnelli seems to have resolved the formal questions that previously limited his talent.  He directs his actors better, without, however, attaining perfection in this area.  Lauren Bacall remains the goddess of American cinema, but a better director would have known how to make better use of the possibilities of her skills.  Just like the script, the photography and colors are remarkable.  The cinematographer John Alton, who does a good job with the very short camera movements, isn’t there for nothing.  But what is essential remains the liveliness of the strokes and the economy of means (not on the financial side, the cost being more than a million, but on the dramatic side).  Fifty or so out-of-the-ordinary gags - not to mention the effects from the voice over - make up the film’s force (but also its relative weakness because the ideas of the intellectual Minnelli and the distinguished hedonist Minnelli are inspired by the conventions of comedy rather than by the subject’s internal necessities).  

In any case, this is a miniature masterpiece of finesse at which you can’t not laugh throughout its two hours.   

*The film was released in France as La Femme modèle (The Model Woman).

Originally published in Arts, August 15, 1957.

The Cobweb
by Luc Moullet

Behind the Curtain

Executive Suite - a film entirely consecrated to the narration of a meeting of the board of directors of an important company and an account of the motives of the board members - had a lot of commercial success.  John Houseman tried to do it again with this Cobweb: for over two hours the managing members of a psychiatric house compete for power.  The reason for their struggle?  Will the patterns of the curtains in the boardroom be designed by the doctors or by the patients?  Two generations of psychiatrists confront one another.  This affair is on the verge of destroying the career and threatening the homes and lives of a dozen characters.  This time, the stunning thinness of the subject matter and, especially, the absence of suspense caused the failure with the public.

One might be shocked that the film was directed by Minnelli, classified once and for all among the specialists of musical comedies.  Let’s not be mistaken, Minnelli is just as much an intellectual and The Cobweb, just like an earlier attempt, The Bad and the Beautiful which it strongly resembles, carries the mark of his personality.  Helped by his screenwriter John Paxton, who is interested in psychological and social problems (cf. The Wild One), Minnelli looked to reconnect to the old tradition of realism - inspired by the French novel from the end of the last century, and the Anglo-Saxon novel that followed it.  There is some of William James and Frank Norris in this film.  The patients, because they know their faults, sometimes behave more normally than the sane people, who experience multiple distractions.  If our psychiatrists appear like the mentally ill it’s because no distinctions can exist between human beings: there are neither good nor bad ones; nor crazy ones, nor sane ones.  Everything is relative.  As the hero of the film says, as Minnelli told the French press, we have, in our thoughts, good and evil, which are equally reflected in our actions.  And we are submitted to this destiny that creates, on this cobweb that is spun, the diverse actions of life; in the same way, our private life cannot escape from the influence of our professional life: all the facts of existence are inseparably linked, whether we want it or not.  From this subtle dance of the acts and the characters comes the apparently casual construction.  The famous curtains are always there, whatever happens.

Note Minnelli’s taste for troubled feelings: madness interests him a lot, more particularly, the artist’s madness.  He himself is a filmmaker on the margins: he is very ambitious, however he prefers to shoot entertainment films.  We discover here, in certain moments, a desire for self-justification.

The direction doesn’t keep the promises contained in such a brilliant theme.  Relativism has unfortunate influences on the aesthetic.  Minnelli considers his characters like typical cases, entities, rather than human beings.  The best actors in Hollywood are here.  Richard Widmark, Lauren Bacall, Lillian Gish, Susan Strasberg, John Kerr, Charles Boyer are more or less below their capabilities.  Only Gloria Grahame, because she doesn’t know how to act, because she is always like she is in real life, contrasts with the hamming of certain actors around her.  She walks in a bizarre manner, which makes her sometimes deviate from her path; she takes off her shoes, makes a phone call, frowns with a marvelous naturalness.  The scenes with two actors lack nerve (cf. the break between Widmark and L. Bacall).  These weaknesses are, however, made tolerable by the diversity and multiplicity of what we are shown.  This baroque film leads us to bizarre, messy residences that we didn’t suspect in the New World, to poetic landscapes, natural or recreated in the studio, like the nocturnal river lit by the liveliest colors.  More than Minnelli the philosopher, it’s Minnelli the mannerist, the decorator, who brings to his film a certain positive element: the beauty of insignificant details, a rickety telephone, suddenly revelatory lighting, the beauty of a tracking shot, the beauty of strong and precise framing.  The color, alone, with its yellowish browns, is rather ugly; but such is the house style at Metro Goldwyn Mayer.  

Originally published in Arts, 1955.

Jusqu'à la victoire/Ici et Aillieurs

Pages 467-473 of Antoine de Baecque's GODARD BIOGRAPHIE on the making of Godard and Gorin's Jusqu'à la victoire.

In February 1969, Yasser Arafat is elected president of the PLO – the Palestinian Liberation Organization, created in 1964 – and his party, the Fatah, becomes the majority leader of it.  In this frame, the first films of the Palestinian cinema appear since a film unit is founded by the Fatah in Amman, Jordan under the aegis of three pioneers, Hany Jawhariyya, Sulafa Jadallah and Mustapha Abu Ali, who made, for example, The Burnt Land in 1968 and No to the Defeatist Solution in 1969, the first militant films against the Israeli attacks and the Rogers Plan.  It is also by the intermediary of the Fatah, at least due to its financial, logistical, and ideological support, that a Western “anti-Zionist cinema” is born with films such as Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan’s Palestine vaincra, the current events series Palestine made by French reporter Paul-Louis Soulier, and the medium-length film Biladi in 1969 and 1970, an inspired and lyrical but equally poetic and sometimes disenchanted piece of reporting about the Palestinian people directed by Francis Reusser (a young Swiss filmmaker of the extreme left).

It is in this political and cinematic context that Godard and Gorin’s project, entitled Until Victory, is born.  Contacted by the Arab League, via Hany Jawhariyya (the “official” filmmaker of the Fatah), Godard received a commission in 1969, for about 6,000 dollars, and an invitation in good and due form to be able to shoot in the Palestinian camps in Jordan, the West Bank, and Lebanon, under the protection of the Fatah, who also put guides and interpreters at his disposal.  Godard obtained supplemental financing from Jacques Perrin (the actor-producer gave 20,000 francs), German and Dutch TV stations (8,000 and 5,000 dollars respectively), and the usual Claude Nedjar (8,000), or a total of about 70,000 francs.

Before leaving, Godard, Gorin and Marco drew up the “outline of a Palestinian film commissioned by El Fatah” that summed up in several slogans their still imprecise intentions: “What happened to the American Indians can not happen to the Palestinians.  The armed struggle is not a military adventure; it is the struggle of the people.  Palestinian face and Arab heart.  War of national liberation = social struggle.  First create unity (El Fatah).”  This preparatory document ends with several verses from Mahmoud Darwish’s poem Identity Card, a veritable Palestinian hymn published in the collection Leaves of Olives in 1964:

I am an Arab
You have stolen the orchards of my ancestors
And the land which I cultivated
Along with my children
And you left nothing for us
Except for these rocks.
So will the State take them
As it has been said!?

Record on the top of the first page:
I do not hate people
Nor do I encroach
But if I become hungry
The usurper's flesh will be my food
Of my hunger
And my anger!”

Next, Godard and Gorin worked non-stop to put together a precise storyboard about what they wished to film in Palestine.  This takes the shape of a big spiral-bound notebook where most of the shots of the future film are drawn, often sequences of an allegorical kind or short cautionary sketches, accompanied by slogans, words and emblematic phrases, including notes about movements, colors, and references to certain texts.  The explicit goal of the film as prepared in Paris consisted in “understanding the thought and working methods of the Palestinian revolution”: “As Frenchmen, we have conceived the film as a film on the Arabs that was never made during the Algerian War.”  Godard seemed to want to make up for the time lost ten years before when he made Le Petit soldat instead of a film supporting the NLF. 

The three Vertovians left for Jordan for the first time at the end of November 1969, and made a total of six trips to the Middle East until the following August, regularly punctuated by return trips to Paris or trips to other parts of the world – especially for Godard who was often called back to France, for example, to attempt to deal with the crisis that effected his relationship with Anne Wiazemsky.  Elias Sanbar, a young intellectual and militant French-speaking Palestinian called from Paris by the Fatah to serve as a guide and interpreter recounted his visits and the shoot in a beautiful article published in Trafic.  The future editor-in-chief of the Revue d’études palestiniennes returned to Amman, the capital of Jordan, in the beginning of March 1970 at the request of Mahmoud Hamchari (the Palestinian leader in Paris), and met the “three Frenchmen,” including Godard who, during the first meeting at the Continental Hotel, arrived walking on his hands to the amazement of the young Palestinian militants.  Setting off on a location scout towards the Jordan Rift Valley in a Land Rover, Sanbar quickly perceived the degree of the film’s preparation in the two French filmmakers’ heads and notebook.  The film was already partially done “on paper”: “Throughout the trip,” writes Sanbar, “Godard did not cease to look at his notes, to add comments to them, to eliminate passages with the help of three different colored markers.  This manner of preparing the shoot was maintained for the length of time that work on the film lasted.  Godard wrote a lot, with a certain jubilation that seemed to abandon him during the shooting to be replaced by a certain detachment.  The scenes were thought out in the smallest details before being filmed.  At the beginning, I had the feeling – with everything being discussed, systematized, written and planned – that the film was a kind of pre-established succession of empty cases that we had the task of methodically refilling.  […]  So well that when something was happened and we were saying to him, ‘Come film this,’ he would respond: ‘I don’t need it for the film…’”     

Thus, it was sometimes more a matter of confirming an established plan on location than going to discover a country and a people.  According to the Dziga Vertov group, revolutionary cinema is done at this cost: structure and manufacturing precede the recording of reality.  Marco attests to this: “We went there to confirm a plan, not to discover a situation that we didn’t know.”  This obviously lead to some misunderstandings, like the time when, in a Fedayeen training camp in southern Jordan, Godard and Gorin asked Palestinian fighters to recite an extract from Mao’s Little Red Book that they didn’t know anything about, which they did while laughing wildly behind their keffiyehs.  Another time, returning from a mission, Godard waited for the fedayeens to propose to them a “critique and self-critique” meeting, which the Palestinians did not understand, setting themselves to talking in Arab in the background while in the foreground an interpreter continued in English with conventional Fatah slogans.  If they had a revolutionary manner – at this Godard started regularly wearing military fatigues, as reported by a journalist from L’Express who went to meet them in Amman in 1970 –, the two French filmmakers were sometimes a bit lost in an unknown territory. 

Neither Godard, Gorin, or Marco spoke or understood Arabic, and on both sides the incomprehension mounted.  Gorin recounted this often delicate dialogue: “It was a long difficult gestation.  We had drawings, outlines in black and red, plans, interruptions.  We showed them to the Palestinians who didn’t understand.  We didn’t understand any of the language.  The translators translated as they wished, generally by slogans they knew by heart.  This sometimes became comical, everything that was said to us was summed up as “We will fight until victory,” so often that we ended up laughing.  In a pathetic way it confirmed our title.  For us, it rather quickly became a silent film, or rather a musical.”  But Elias Sanbar describes just as much the opposite phenomenon, when the environment made the filmmakers rethink their judgement and to “remake the film” in another way.  Godard returned to his ultra-quick “thief” and “disrupter” of reality reflexes, which greatly impressed his Palestinian companion.  “Often, from the moment of return from meetings or filming, and the immediate viewing of the images that we had just “brought back” thanks to heavy video equipment, a confrontation began between the pre-existing text and the images that had just been shot.  It ended up most of the time with re-writing and a new request to shoot the same scene, to the great astonishment of the Palestinian representatives.  Over the course of days and weeks, Godard appeared to me more and more of a terrific destabilizing force. […] There is something very playful about working with him, but mixed with a form of permanent irritation, because hardly had things been constructed with his meticulous care that he pressed himself to deconstruct them with care to disrupt the gaze that you can bring to the reality that surrounds you.”

The shoot, which actually began in March 1970, to continue with breaks until August, was one of Godard’s longest, and he returned to Paris with more than 40 hours of rushes.  Certain things had been impossible to shoot which the Frenchmen had not foreseen.  “When the women were teaching themselves to read and write in the Palestinian camps,” remembers Gorin, “the presence of men bothered them, so they refused to be filmed and we didn’t understand why.”  Likewise, Jean-Pierre Gorin being Jewish, some other doors were closed to them, notably in the Fatah training camps.  Other events fortunately jostled the foreseen plan, notably the meetings with the combatants, animated and joyful in the middle of the dangers of the desert, like in Ghawr al-Safi, in southern Jordan, coming back from which Godard confided to Sanbar, “You know, every people, every revolution possesses a particular characteristic, like an element of its own identity.  For the Vietnamese, it was hard labor; for the Cubans, it was dance, and for you, it’s certainly laughter.”

Godard also wanted to meet and film the Palestinian leader.  He secured a meeting.  The filmmaker posed two questions to Yasser Arafat, the first about the concentration camps.  “I asked him if the origins of the Palestinians’ difficulties had something to do with the concentration camps.  He said to me, ‘No, that’s their story, the Germans and the Jews.’  And I said, ‘Not exactly, you know that in the camps, when a Jewish prisoner was very weak, close to death, they called him Muslim.’  And he responded, ‘So?’  I said, ‘You know, they could have called them black or an entirely different name, but no, they said Muslim, and that shows that there is a relationship, a direct relationship between the Palestinians’ difficulties and the concentration camps.”  The second question was very short, “what is the future of the Palestinian revolution?”  And Arafat’s response was even shorter, “I have to think about it, come back tomorrow.”  Godard finished the story, “He never came back.  At least he was honest.”  In mid-July 1970, Armand Marco had to return to France after having badly sprained his knee.  The shoot neared its end, Gorin returned to Paris, leaving Godard and Sanbar alone in Amman.

At the beginning of the month of August 1970, Kamal Adwan, Fatah’s information manager, asked Godard to go film Palestinian dancers.  As Elias Sanbar recounts, “Kamal greeted us and, a very unusual thing for Palestinians, went directly into the subject, ‘Tell your friend that a Palestinian folklore troupe just arrived in Cairo and that I want you to leave tomorrow to film the show.’  I transmitted the request, smoothing out the angles with paraphrased bits, I didn’t wanted Godard to be hurt.  Godard immediately told me and with a stubborn tone, ‘Tell him that his dance story is entirely stupid.  I won’t go to Cairo.’ [...] Kamal looked Godard straight in the eye and said, ‘And I think you have to go film this troupe,’ to which Godard responded again, ‘I won’t go to Cairo...’ I was allowed two or three repetitions of this exchange before Kamal got up and said, ‘Go to your hotel and wait for instructions.’...”  Consigned and forgotten in their rooms at the Amman Continental, Godard and Sanbar waited a good week before discretely leaving for Tyre in south Lebanon, where the filmmaker left a part of his video equipment with the local Fatah director, a movie fan and amateur filmmaker.  Then they stayed at the translator’s mother’s house in a village in the Lebanese mountains, before going to Beirut where they met with militant Palestinians from the information section.  Godard returned to Paris on August 21, 1970, not without leaving Elias Sanbar, who had become a close friend, the ten volumes of Brecht’s complete poetry.

Gorin and Godard, upon their return to Paris, put in a notebook the list  of “filmed images,” notably: “Fedayeen march.  Darwish’s poem ‘I Resist’ in the ruins of Karameh.  Militia construction.  Meeting in the south.  Militia in the cave.  Two women at typewriters.  Militia with machine guns.  Preparations, leaving, operation.  Dispensary.  Ashbal-Zaharat training.  Abou Hassan conference.  Peasant militia text.  Doctor text.  Women reading Abou Hassan text.  Democratic Front school.  “Grassroots organisation” discussion and self-critique.  Two AK-47s firing.  Safi song.  Militia training, with flag.  Crowd of children.  Fedayeen camouflage.  Directors: Abou Latov, Abou Ayad, Abou Daoud, Abou Hassan.”  Or, an enormous amount of rushes to view and texts to decipher and translate.  The work appeared like it will be long, but Godard and Gorin were happy about one thing: Armand Marco’s cinematography was beautiful and rarely had the filmmaker found himself with material so dense and of such a large quantity, in spite of the numerous misunderstandings of an overly prepared shoot in an unknown land.  It is no doubt that it is the quantity, quality and cryptic character of this film material that explains in part the difficulty of transforming it into a film.

Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin – barricaded in their editing studio on Avenue du Maine, completely closed off because they were afraid, at this moment of high tensions in the Middle East, of being victims of agents from Mossad, militants from Betar, or Jordanian secret service agents – will not manage to finish Until Victory.  Several reasons may explain the abandonment of the project.  First, the ambiguity between two irreconcilable positions - felt on location while shooting - had not been resolved.  Was it a propaganda film for the Fatah or a political essay, and thus a critique, on the methods of the Palestinian resistance?  The Dziga Vertov group refused to create a militant film as they had been commissioned.  This paradox was not new and re-surged with Until Victory as Jean-Henri Roger said, “It wasn’t a question of produce or not producing propaganda images.  Now, when you find yourself in front of political apparatuses that is the only kind of request.   The PLO wanted Jean-Luc Godard, the great, world renowned filmmaker, to make a ‘progressive and democratic’ film that told the world that the Palestinians were suffering and that the PLO was right.”

Moreover, several weeks after Gorin’s and then Godard’s departure from Jordan, a fair number of fighters, militants, and Palestinian leaders who were in the film were killed during the Black September massacres, when King Hussein decided to liquidate the Palestinian resistance and send its remains to the refugee camps in Amman.   25,000 were counted dead.  Gorin said he felt the tension mounting, “the arming of the Jordanians by the Americans,” and the rivalry sharpen between the Jordanian power and its two opponents which were the Fatah and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.  Following these massacres, the Palestinian situation changed completely.  Decapitated and decimated, the liberation movement no longer thought of “victory,” but thought instead about rearming and regrouping.  This explosion of internal violence in the Arab camp began to frustrate the Until Victory project, as if the armed struggle, that occupied the film, had been displaced to the very heart of the Palestinian camp.  Godard and Gorin were profoundly shaken by Black September.  Additionally, the idea of showing the rough cut of the film to the Palestinian militants, dear to the filmmakers, that they had filmed became impossible, since the majority of them had died and going back to the location was problematic.  Until victory thus lost its first audience.  Godard and Gorin, orphaned, conceived of three or four different versions of the film, but none satisfied them.  The later recognized this in an interview with American critics, “There’s still the Palestinian film, that changed a lot.  It’s in its third or fourth version and now it is going to have to be done in another way.  We can no longer make a film about Palestine because the situation there has changed so radically that, as a result, it will be a film about how to film history.”  Until Victory was overtaken by the dramatic story of the people of whom it wanted to offer a revolutionary portrait.

Love on the Ground

Jacques Rivette: The Outline and the Adventure
Or, how to let the film dangerously live its own life and tell what only happened once during the shoot due to a coincidence of secret plotting. 
By Marc Chevrie

“Reorganizing chance: that is the basis of our work.” (Jean Cocteau)
“You have to set off knowing that you don’t know anything and want to discover everything. (…) Allow yourself to be overtaken by the surrounding elements, and then afterwards you will maybe manage to overcome them, but first they will overtake you.  You must first be passive before being active.” (Jean Renoir)

Plot elements.  A book is often the basis of a Rivette film; here it is a novella by Schnitzler, The Prediction, in which a character has a vision of his death that comes true the moment it is performed in the theater.  There was a desire to integrate certain elements from the novella into the film, but everything derived from Rivette wanting to have women as the main characters, as well as a magician (more important than in Schnitzler’s book and ignoring the powers with which he is gifted, evoking visions without having them), and especially to base the film on the idea of the domestic theatrical performance.  This partially determined the collaboration of Pascal Bonitzer, who, coincidentally, had just taken part in one of those performances.  Rivette likes coincidences too much to not take that into account.  The work of the co-writers (Bonitzer, Marilu Parolini, and Suzanne Schiffman, two of Rivette’s old collaborators, and Rivette himself) consisted in integrating these disparate elements in a group structure with the help of several references: Céline et Julie, The Rules of the Game (the romantic intrigues), Rebecca (a vanished woman whose shadow weighs on the house).  This led to finding a certain number of narrative principles, but not to a script.  From one end to the other of the film’s development, Rivette refuses to apply any pre-established plan, wanting, instead, to constantly remain open to the possible, to the unforeseen, and to chance, to preserve a portion of them, to be situated in the middle of them to play with and re-appropriate them.  An art of creation, not of a finished product, that refuses like a straitjacket the safety of a written outline.  As Bonitzer says, “A jazz musician isn’t asked to write a score, Jackson Pollack isn’t asked to do a rough sketch.”  The four collaborators instead go to see the sets, meet the actors, and, over the course of on and off conversations, dream aloud, stitch together a possible network, a fiction – a work of tactical construction and scaffolding.  Things start to come together by successive eliminations, by the need to make choices.  Suzanne Schiffman acts, says Bonitzer, “with her efficiency, her Cartesian side, her sense of narrative economy, as the first assistant who is going to have to take charge in the field of a material that has to not go in every direction.”

Rather quickly, however, Bonitzer writes the beginning of an outline (the prologue and the meeting with the magician) to put in the file for the avance sur recettes, along with the two plays that the characters will have to rehearse and perform, from the plans for Labiche’s plays given by Rivette.  The remainder of the written material consists of a biographical sheet for each of the characters and a list of numbered scenes providing a course of action, mostly related to the work schedule.

The rules of the game.  This plan – a simple list of the situations – is given to the actors before the shoot, from which comes the need for explanations that Rivette barely or does not give.  André Dussollier: “He doesn’t want to say everything, he gives the minimum.  He amuses himself both with what he tells and the mystery that he sets up.  They definitely knew a lot more of it, they had a lot of material, but they weren’t giving it to us since he wants to be open to everything that can happen and he wants a film that is in the process of creating itself.”  Logically, he is the same way with his crew.  William Lubtchansky, to whom the script is usually given, must, in the Rivette’s case, steal information here and there (in particular from Suzanne Schiffman who acts as a go-between and source of reassurance) “that he doesn’t really want to give us.”  Lubtchansky agrees to the choice of the big house in which the majority of the film must take place in, decorated based on the mock-up that Rivette let Roberto Plate do according to the dual principle of theater and the reference to Matisse.  This big set, necessitating a lot of work, lots of material to put up and take down, demanded a crew of four electricians (plus two grips and two camera assistants).  The photographic material is classic, the Kodak 400 ASA film stock that allows for, in particular, with an equal quantity of light, having a depth of field that is a determining factor in Rivette’s mise en scène.  He wants the set to be seen and for the colors to be perceived in a rather raw manner, which implies, for Lubtchansky, “to not leave the walls in semi-darkness, in any case not in a uniform fashion, with parts of the image where it smacks, where the colors are really felt.”  Otherwise, all while knowing where his cinematographer is going, there are no precise demands.  It is likewise for the sound.  Pierre Gamet: “He plunges me into the film.  It’s up to me to understand what he has in his head and to react in function of it.”  There are therefore neither experiments nor rehearsals before the shoot.  It is a time for defining the rules of play, dealing the cards and putting the crew, and especially the actors, in a state of permanent risk (of permeability) already, of maintaining for as long as possible the role of chance.

On a thread.  At the moment that the shoot begins, the financing (with the avance sur recettes and help of the Minister of Culture) is far from having been obtained: two and a half million out of the six that it will ultimately cost (nevertheless two or three less than in more standard conditions).  On the financial side as well, and very voluntarily, Rivette works “without a net.”  The schedule, established collectively, provides for a maximum amount of time (four out of seven weeks) in the big house that becomes a bit like a studio for the crew, smoothing out a certain number of material constraints.  The actors are available on set almost permanently. 

If there is any obligation – to save time, to group the shoot by steps – it is overall chronological, and it is important that it is since the scenes are written as they go along.  Although it takes place on three floors, the big final sequence is, however, saved for the end because the ending is not only not written, but can only be determined during the shoot, in the movement from which it is must be born.  Far from indecisiveness, this is a willingness to remain open until the very end to interesting things and to the logic of characters progressively discovering themselves during the writing of the dialogue.  Consequently, some lose importance, others are developed.

If there is no script, there is as little improvisation and the actors have a very precise text, written over the course of the shoot based on the initial plan.  The writing consists of adjusting each time what has been shot with the possibility of making something coherent within the time decided at the start (at the end of each week, what has been done as well as the following events are finalized).  It is up to Marilu Parolini and, for the most part, Pascal Bonitzer to write the details of the scenes and the dialogues, “to fill the orders,” as they say.  These are the orders of a game from which the film, without the safety barrier of a pre-existing script, makes its moves.  And this takes place on set.  Bonitzer works in the house where the fiction he is writing is playing itself out.  “Being on set, I was inspired by what was happening there.  I saw how the actors worked.  There were the sets, the atmosphere.  All that fed, as we went along, what I was able to write, taking into account the fact that we had, even if it wasn’t rigid, a line that was, overall, marked out.”

The film, constantly developing, evolves like this until the final week.  Dussollier: “When you shoot a Rivette film, you don’t have any overall view, they keep it for themselves in their secret conversations.  The scenes being written day by day in view of what is happening on set, you become even weaker than usual.  One has the impression of being on a string.  Rivette wants that, wants to keep to himself the role of the deux ex machina that nobody knows, in order to change, invent, and redirect it each time.”  This is obviously a dangerous move.  Nothing else is sought after than the weakening of the actor by the absence or reduction of material that pushes him to bring his own.  Caroline Champetier: “Contrary to another director where the character would already exist, he wants to meet a character.  What he gives to the actors is the need for a character, the need to create it, and that’s what they work with, not with something that is done, closed, finished, and that has to be executed.”  That’s why he says little about the characters, gives few instructions about the outline, correcting instead the way to do or to say this or that thing.  Dussolier: “He has a very refined view of what works or not.  But he says very few things, he has a cold, clinical opinion.  He’ll say, ‘Ah, that’s no good!  Don’t do that like that!’  The way to get there, it's up you to do your best.”

The application.  It goes without saying that Rivette shoots without a shot list.  Even if, sometimes, what he wants to see is so precise that the camera movements get made almost beforehand, he does nothing as long as he has not seen the scene performed by the actors.  He has certain desires: that the scene is played in a certain corner of the room, on the bed, but he waits to first see what happens between the actors, without lighting or camera.  Then they make their proposals, there is an exchange between them, Rivette and Suzanne Schiffman.  Dussolier: “At first, he gives a vague suggestion, but he clearly waits for someone to take over.  I see if I want to be next to Jane or move and lie down on the bed.  And if that pleases him, he’s a taker.  If something isn’t right, Suzanne may intervene.  But he’s the one who always directs the movement and who decides.”

When the scene has been seen two or three times, there is a discussion between Rivette and Lubtchansky about how to film it, in a sequence-shot or in several shots.  Lubtchansky: “the problem is not knowing where to put the camera but how the scene is played out.  From there, it films itself, there is only one possible camera position.”  Rivette says how he wants to see the scene and with which lens: depending on the film, he has a regular one - the 25mm here (for the vastness of the sets and the choreography of the direction) - aside from certain shots with the 50 or 75 to see the actresses or to try something different.  It is William Lubtchansky who, from these directions, frames the shot.  Only then can he begin to light: “We come to an agreement overall, he knows how I work, and mostly, he leaves me to do what I want to do.  For example, the shadow on the wall in the beginning, when the characters go up stairs, he left me free to put that there or not, but he saw it, and he used it in his mise en scène.”  This is an attitude specific to Rivette, of waiting then of re-appropriating and mastering the unforeseen (“Surprise me,” he simply said to his set decorator).

The lighting done, the first rehearsal with actors and camera takes place, with lighting, then a few changes, and they shoot.  Filming, far from being comfortable and safe, as if done before it was started, is done instead in playful jubilation of the difficulty to overcome.  The long sequence-shots, with movements and focus changes, are often very complex (Gamet: “He says it himself, it’s a bit 'why make it simple when you can make it complicated?'”), and impose the importance of creating, performing with difficulty, and, consequently, risk.

If Rivette does any retakes (four or five at least), it’s not only to improve the performance, but because he thinks that he can get something else from the actors.  If the first take is good, he will do another one, not for safety, but, instead, to see what could happen otherwise and unexpectedly.  And he always prefers to keep a take that is less good technically if the actors do something special.  Suzanne Schiffman: “I even think that those are the ones he prefers.  It often happens that when they are less good technically, he is certain that those are the ones where the actors are best.”  Hence the script supervisor Lydie Mahias’ witty remark “He retakes shots to have continuity errors.”  This is why it isn’t a question of listening to the takes or redoing them for the sound.  Pierre Gamet: “You know that with Jacques you have to immediately have a good result.  That’s why you have to really know how to survive.  He loves being surprised, he adores mistakes, and systematically, if there is a take where there is someone who falls over or makes a noise, if there is mic shadow, that’s the one, the mistake, that will be in the film.  Same thing if the actress stutters or messes up.”

The risk of direct sound.  Pierre Gamet: “He gives us a lot of freedom.  But he puts us in tough situations, he pushes the crew to their wits end, you have to go there, play the game.  You have to be available at every instant and take up the challenge each time, with plenty of risks.  I risk things that with others I would never risk because that’s an unconditional of direct sound.  With Rivette, there is an aural mise en scène that is obvious when he puts musicians onscreen, but that exists elsewhere.  There is something that happens in the shot at the level of the sound, it doesn’t simply copy the image.  He will never dub.  He wants direct sound in all its rawness.  In a house, you have to have the windows open to the outside.  You have to record with what you have.  The challenge that I try to take up with Jacques is to overcome the problems and go to the limit with the boom (I find that wireless mics are somewhat of an easy solution).  This demands a virtuous boom operator, my collaborator Bernard Chaumeil, who delights in Rivette’s films where you have to capture the dialogue in crazy positions, in very mobile takes, sometimes within small sets that require him to do acrobatics.  This is terrifically exciting.  I had to use a wireless mic one or two times because there were even conditions where there was absolutely nowhere to boom from, but I only do that when I can really do nothing else.  It isn’t the same sound, the same presence, the same respect of the place that you’re in.  And it’s unfortunate to not go all the way with the risk, to not play Jacques’ game.  It’s up to me to overcome the sounds of insects, footsteps, etc.  As soon as the crew moves, if there is no dialogue, I stop, and as soon as I can, I get up.  I work with a mono Nagra on which I try to mix the maximum number of things over the course of the shoot, and often with two microphones.  The camera moves around a lot, there are characters off-screen that have to be recorded.  It’s really work about moments, about feeling, you have to be very attentive.  Most of the time, when you hear a noise from outside, it’s because it was there during the shoot.  At a certain point, there was a helicopter that passed by during one of the takes, and Rivette added the sound of one on top of the one from the shoot that had given him the idea.  And if there is a sentence that is said that wasn’t planned, he is excited.  To recuperate chance, accidental sounds, he loves that.”

Rivette doesn’t go to the rushes.  Suzanne Schiffman: “It doesn’t do anything for him, it demolishes his morale because it is never as good as he dreamed.  Whereas when he can see it and re-watch it at the editing table, its no longer the same thing: he can cut into the material that he has.”  He prefers to store up during the shoot so as to discover the film and boost his confidence while editing, which doesn’t begin until the shoot is over.  There is often an enormous amount of material (L’amour par terre was rather an exception in this regard): he shoots a lot and considers everything that is filmed as usable.  As opposed to other filmmakers who eliminate while editing, he works by accumulation during the shoot and then makes a puzzle in the editing room so that everything works and nothing is lost.  Even if in this case he knew the order of the pieces of the puzzle, contrary to some of his other films that are constructed more so while editing.  This one being a lot more “in place” since the shoot didn’t lend itself to that style, the editing was more classical (a bit like Duelle and Noroît), and thus unusually short for Rivette: twelve weeks, in comparison to six months for Céline et Julie or seven for L’amour fou.

It’s the viewing and choice of takes that constitutes the essential editing work (Rivette prints several of each, indeed all of them, to be able to compare them, to use some of each).  The assembly follows next, without much hesitation on the places to cut, for example (it’s Rivette – always present – who decides the images to cut on and the continuity).  It is the actors’ performances, more than anything else, that determine the choice of the take.  Now, there are first-take actors and others are last-take actors.  In this case, Geraldine Chaplin is a first take actress, while Jane Birkin simmers the scene over time, adding things, useful nuances.  When the dilemma is too difficult to resolve, Rivette and Nicole Lubtchansky (who also does the sound editing) often use several takes.  Not (save one exception) for the image, since, in this case, he had foreseen an editing plan since the shoot, but, unusually, for the sound.  While editing, he plays with the direct sound by taking a sentence that he prefers in one take to replace it in another.

In the sound mix, Rivette’s films have, first of all, a great respect for voices: there is no question of manipulating the sound to make the film smoother but so that the voices are not respected, especially since he loves very firm entrances, that one sequence follows another in a very direct manner (this passage is even amplified a bit sometimes), and because of his great respect for (already very rich) direct sound that is mixed first, before ambiances and sounds “to bring in some air” are added.  The mixer can make suggestions, but Rivette is involved a lot, knowing what he wants.  Except, precisely, for the added sounds: bells, rain, the ambulance siren that goes by.  With other filmmakers these are decided beforehand and mixed before the mixing session, but Rivette doesn’t accept that, feeling like it would put him in a straight jacket.  He decides where there will be bells but they are only edited during the mix.  There are always things added, but for him the principal is that there are things that can only be determined at this stage.  This is where the unusual length of his mixing sessions and the importance of the choice of the mixing room comes from.  He puts himself in front of the mixing panel, to raise the level of a line of dialogue, to bring out effects, particularly for the added sounds.  This is part of the game and because he better feels what this gives, how something should be mixed.  After the freedom and delegation, after having “played dumb”, to again cite Renoir, it is now a matter of appropriating and definitively mastering the material produced (and not managed) during the shoot.  It is also why the color correction is always very long (one must be resolved to finish up, to close things).  Willy Lubtchansky: “He intervenes a lot there.  Color correction is very important to him.  And it’s tougher than on the shoot.  Because during the shoot he leaves me be, whereas there he has very precise demands that have to be satisfied.”  Meaning that here, the definitive overcomes chance, but also that with Rivette, instead of an invention phase (pre-production) preceding an execution phase, the film is invented from one end to another, not in phases separated from each other, but successive moments of the same spirit, the same burst, the same adventure during which the truth of the film is revealed little by little.  Only like this are the moves made.  It is up to viewers to make their own.   

Translation by Ted Fendt, 2012