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

Rohmer's Full Moon in Paris: Shooting Methods


Eric Rohmer: Grace and Rigor
Or how the overall economy of a story, budget and crew settle in a point of clarity that is both the evidence and the secret of the film.  

By Alain Bergala and Alain Philippon

The Actors: In Search of Natural Grace

The keystone of Eric Rohmer’s work is the time he devotes to the preparation of a film with his actors, an amount of time that nine out of ten French filmmakers could not or would not take: eight months on average are devoted to familiarizing the actors with the project, with the lines, and with Rohmer himself.  At the very beginning, Rohmer vaguely hints that a film will maybe be shot.  With the greatest discretion, he lays out a slow approach to the film (in the words of Tcheky Karyo, “he distills the elements”).  A lot is spoken of around the film (women and seduction with Fabrice Luchini, architecture and painting with Pascale Ogier, Rohmer himself and his preoccupations as a filmmaker with Tcheky Karyo).  Rohmer and his actors, then, see each other a lot, but the talk isn’t necessarily about the film as such, except by detours.  This centripetal approach consists in approaching, step-by-step (vague allusions, then pre-projects) the dialogue itself.  (During the shoot, there will be no question, in principle, of touching this very precisely written dialogue.  Incidentally, this is one of the first worries Rohmer shares with Tcheky Karyo.  The filmmaker, however, will remain open to slight modifications).

This point is about midway between the first discussions and the shoot itself.  Fabrice Luchini, for example, knew about the project a year in advance and received the script six months before the shoot.  From this point on, the meetings without any specific purpose continue, while the preparation takes shape (text in hand this time), punctuated, in turn, by several steps: table readings and audio recordings, then what could be called “rehearsal/location scouts,” during which the actors familiarize themselves with their lines and with certain shooting locations at the same time, as if, more than ever, the lines and the location where they will be uttered cannot be thought of separately.

The audio cassette work is succeeded by a partial pre-filming on Super 8, Rohmer holding the camera himself.  According to Fabrice Luchini, these rehearsals represent “work that is not always clear for the actors.  It involves,” he says, “saying the lines in a variety of ways to arrive at an extremely sober point,” or, “to desert them.”  The shoot itself can only benefit from such a “desertion” since the faults and errors in direction will have been eliminated and detected in advance.  Then the rehearsals are interrupted before things become stale.  

On set, the takes themselves (sometimes even the take), then, benefit from all this preparation, but the knowledge has been so ingrained in the minds and bodies of the actors that they can both get in front of the camera in a totally fresh state and be happy with a small number of takes.  The preparation is like bedrock or a barely-conscious memory that allows for the reinvention indispensable to all living labor.  There are, then, very few takes, sometimes only one, and two or three on average.  It isn’t while watching the rushes, but on set, that Rohmer decides which take is the best.  It has sometimes even happened that the take to print is chosen while listening on to it on headphones.  Rohmer’s entire art consists in creating on set a veritable osmosis between himself, the actors, and the crew.  This osmosis - the term is used by more than one of his collaborators, Pascale Ogier even evokes the image of the hand’s five fingers - comes neither from a “boy scout” quality or a symbiotic relationship, but creates on set a mobilizing tension, to use Renato Berta’s term.  Even if small conflicts do take place, the same passion for the film circulates from one participant to another.

An Eric Rohmer film thus rests on a true economy of work with the actors, just as it rests on an economy of production: it consists in best managing the work opportunities and the emotional capacities of the actors.  Having an economy also means having a contract - more or less explicit according to each actor.  There is no contract without additional clauses (and no outline without fine print): since Les Nuits de la pleine lune deals with affairs to a large extent, let’s move on to the little negotiations that mark the singularity of Rohmer’s relationship with some of his actors. -A.P.

Pascale Ogier

Pascale Ogier is on her third collaboration with Rohmer, after a small role in the chorus in Perceval le Gallois and, in theater, Katherine de Heilbronn (by Kleist).  Rohmer wanted to work with her again, but with patience, waiting for the right time.  Pascale Ogier has a particular stature here since she also set designed the film.  Walks around Paris, visits to boutiques, finding props, materials, and colors.  After Ogier had made more than one proposition, Rohmer officially asked her to deal with the film’s set design.  He found in her someone who could help him attain one of his main goals: to show the 1980s.  As for the actress, she felt that her tastes and Louise’s could come together.  “In this film,” she says, “more than in Le Pont du Nord, I’ve really followed a line from beginning to end.  In any case, I didn’t work without knowing what I was going to do.  Eric always explained to me why he was asking for such and such a thing.”  The directions?  To take more time, so much so that Ogier recognized having the tendency “to enter the shot, and to leave it, like a fireball.”  She pays tribute to Renato Berta, who always “saved” her.  “Supported by Berta’s very attentive and comforting presence, I didn’t look to break Rohmer’s ban on seeing the rushes.  I told myself that if the image had to be hard on me, it would be.  It wasn’t my problem.”  

Finally, it was Ogier who took the initiative of the tears in the last sequence.  “Rohmer had written his script without specifying if Louise fell apart.  There was only the dialogue, entirely flat.  I thought with him that something moving had to be done, because it was the end of the film.  I offered to cry, and to start crying when I go upstairs to call Octave on the phone.  I thought that it was crucial, and yet it wasn’t fun for me to do it.  For Eric, I could do it, it wasn’t obscene.  When we talked about it, he told me, ‘I can’t do anything.  If an actor can’t cry, he can’t cry.  The film will be different.’”  Ogier was able to cry, like Marie Rivière in La Femme de l’aviateur.  -A.P.

Tcheky Karyo

Although the experience of Les Nuits de la pleine lune has been terrific for Tcheky Karyo, the shoot has sometimes been for him, if not conflictual, at least, he says, “feverish.”  This is his first collaboration with Rohmer, who noticed him in La Java des ombres.  A graduate of the National Theater of Strasbourg (one of the best French schools for acting), Karyo expressed legitimate demands on set that come from his experience in theater.  
Faced with the ban on viewing the rushes, he asserted himself - as he made Rohmer act in the theater just before the shoot - in order to be in good form.  To give weight to this character who is difficult because of his childish side didn’t only mean for him to slightly modify the dialogue.  “My work with Rohmer was to try to meet him.  I’m a tool, but not the subject of a Master.  I want to bring my area of creation.”  Karyo’s presence, then, somewhat altered the frontier between the two “camps” of direction and performance.  An example: for the violent scene at night between Rémi and Louise, Rohmer at first refused Karyo’s proposal to hit his head against the wall.  Yet, says Karyo, “I felt the need to find something that had the dimension of what I felt.”  Rohmer’s response: “But you’re intervening in the direction!”  The actor sums up the working atmosphere between Rohmer and himself like this, “Rohmer was intrigued, a bit defensive, but ready for combat at the same time.”  Like Pascale Ogier, Karyo benefited from Renato Berta’s complicity, with whom little conspiracies were spun.  A significant feature is that at the end of a take, Karyo’s gaze went towards Berta first, then towards Rohmer. -A.P.

Fabrice Luchini

Fabrice Luchini has known Rohmer for ten years.  Aside from his lead role in Perceval le Gallois, we’ve seen him in Le Genou de Claire and very briefly in La Femme de l’aviateur.  Aside from the films, he and Rohmer maintain “rather close contact.”  Luchini evokes “an absolute bond,” between him and Rohmer, “through work, through the dialogue, we no longer need to talk to one another, we’re in agreement, he puts you in a state of total ease.  He doesn’t let you do everything, but he doesn’t direct you either.  The work happens in this in-between.  As for the comments, they never relate to the acting.  Rohmer doesn’t indicate the color in order to obtain the emotion.  When this doesn’t work, it means you haven’t the found the natural grace...  Eric was never with me on set, because we know each other so well.  Still, I had the feeling of being loved.  It’s important to say it, since on a film shoot, the director’s attention falls more willingly on the heroine...”

Fabrice Luchini, who considers himself a “to-the-letter actor” (but who doesn’t want to hold himself to this style alone), defines his approach to the film like this, “to make a very written style work in real situations.”  In addition, Les Nuits de la pleine lune marks a step in his development, in the sense that he says he was preoccupied for the first time with his image, having looked to place himself well in the light, to have finally worried about the formal qualities.  He therefore defines the play between the constraints of the lighting and framing, and his freedom as an actor as the very essence of acting. -A.P.

Technique: The Risk of the Single Take           

“A film,” says Renato Berta, “is composed of several lines - the frame, the actors, the photography, the sound - and often all these lines don’t cross at the same point.  When it’s right for the frame, it’s not good for the light, when it’s good for the actors, it isn’t right for the crew.  That is the cinema of idiotic professionalism.  Each person does his work but it doesn’t work together.  Whereas here, very often, there are moments of grace.  A single take, and all the lines come together!  I’ve rarely seen that.  It builds little by little to the right moment, where everyone is complicit, where you have to be ready to film, and at that moment, the light is longer there, the frame is no longer there, you have to shoot.”

Everyone - actors, crew - told us about the beautiful risk of the single take.  “The difficulty and the pleasure of working with him,” says Georges Prat, his sound mixer since La Femme de l’aviateur, “is that the first take may be good and the only one shot.  On this shoot, there were single takes everyday where there is no second one.  Everyone is a little afraid, but it’s stimulating.  I felt like a gambler, it was risky!”

By his method and on principle, Rohmer does few takes, rarely more than three.  He himself says he abhors waste and prefers to prepare before instead of during the shoot.  When he says, “camera,” everything has been minutely regulated.  The actors have known their lines for months, everything was negotiated in advance with the crew and the actors, the necessary time was taken for a precise blocking, and there is no reason for the first take not to be the best one.  In the case of an error or accident, Rohmer very quickly goes on, soon does another take or two, but never any supplementary ones when he thinks that he has a good one.  This is not done, one suspects, for the actors, who would like to sometimes shoot an extra one.  -A.B.

The Director of Photography’s Place

“All directors,” says Renato Berta, “have in their heads a kind of image, but which is completely in the realm of dreams, and once you get on set, the dream falls apart.”

There is nothing of the sort on Rohmer’s films, where things, between him and his director of photography (it’s the first time he’s worked with Renato Berta), have advanced by successive attempts, negotiations, and the game of proposals and counter-proposals, within a very precise frame which is the film’s economy.

“It’s a film,” says R.B., “really based on a praxis.”  A first trip to the eventual locations several months before the start of shooting allows them to “breath in a bit of the atmosphere of the locations, to look for solutions for the découpage and lighting, but always in relation to the reality of these locations and our means.”  The definitive choice of certain sets is, then, decided in accordance with Berta.  Thus begins a second trip to the sets, two or three months before the shoot, where Berta takes pictures with the film stock he will use for the film (Kodak’s new Eastman 5294) while Rohmer, sometimes, tries things on Super 8.  The projection of these photos and Super 8 films allows them to advance to more specific points in the discussion, choices of light and material, for example.  “What scared Rohmer,” says R.B., “were the night shots, especially outside where we were starting from zero with the light, without any reference point in reality.  He was afraid, also, of the whole ceremony around this in the usual filmmaking.  To set up a light, when there is a team of four electricians, is really involved... Here, we used a system of batteries and low-voltage lights that I could set up in five minutes, without electricians.  Each light had its own battery, it never failed, and there wasn’t all the usual filmmaking fuss.”  Georges Prat also spoke with us about this constant care about discretion that animates Rohmer’s shoots: “Outside, he doesn’t like to set up, we have to be very mobile, almost like a news crew.  Passersby can't realize that we're shooting.  His problem is always to not get us noticed, to be as discreet as possible.”

In regards to the general lighting principles, Berta insists a lot on his need to light the actors because often, he says, “Rohmer has a tendency to choose lighting that comes from the set and not from the actors.”  But the actual lighting choices are negotiated as they go along, almost shot by shot, with great mutual respect.  Rohmer, says Berta, “worried a lot about the way in which we were going to light Pascale Ogier in the scene where she gets out of bed, in the middle of the night, to leave her apartment where Bastien is still asleep.  “I told him, let’s decide on a point of departure, a lamp on the floor, and from there, we add lights, but I’ll tell you everything I’m doing.  I proposed something, he looked and said, “it isn’t very good!”  So I did another thing, and so on... Well, it was real lighting work, and in filmmaking it is never done like that.  He said to me, “It’s bizarre, it’s as if we were painting.”

After two weeks of shooting, and seeing some of the rushes, Rohmer is sufficiently confident in his new director of photography to sometimes give him, on certain locations, the freedom to choose the placement of the camera himself.  And very quickly, on this shoot - all of the actors confirm - the director-actors-cinematographer triangle began to function in a harmonious manner, without ever posing itself in terms of territory or authority.  “If you are complicit in what is happening,” says R.B., “and you aren’t abandoned to your destiny, you inevitably get wet.  On this film, we only lit the actors, so you’re obligated, at one time or another, to negotiate about points of direction like: if we moved the actor a bit further from the wall?  Where are the borders and limits of the cameraman’s work and where does the work of mise en scène begin? -A.B. 

Story of an Ambiance

Lots of filmmakers let their sound mixer record the ambiances that he thinks are necessary and it is generally the sound editor who chooses them at the last moment, in the rush at the end of editing, at a table where one never hears very well.

Here is, as told by Georges Prat, the story of an ambient sound (meaning the lowest and most discreet sound there is, that isn’t even there to be consciously heard) in a film by Eric Rohmer.  It gives an indication of the amount of Renoirian care for detail and the demanding nature his cinema shows.

“One day, while we had been shooting for a week in Marne-la-Vallée, we heard kids playing in a little square, it was very calm, very Rohmerian, and this sound immediately interested Eric.  ‘This would be really good,’ he said to me, ‘for the sequence on Saturday, when Rémi comes back.’  Because there were only two sequences in this place where there could logically be kids outside.  I went out but I wasn’t able to record the sound because there were construction noises.  I went back on Saturday to have the kids without the construction but I didn’t find them.  So I spent my Sunday, in Paris, looking for places where there could be kids and acoustics close to Marne-la-Vallée’s, and I ended finding three places that could work.  Another day, I went on foot with Rohmer - he walks, as do I - to record.  We went to the three places, and at the third one, we had a sound of children that was very close to Marne-la-Vallée’s.  We worked almost undercover, sitting on a little bench, and I recorded three rolls almost one after the other.  It’s a real pleasure, for him, to make the ambiances.”

Once the film is almost finished being edited - here it was less than two weeks after the end of production - Rohmer makes a list of necessary ambiances with Georges Prat and he spends a day, in a good recording studio, listening to the original sounds again, at the level that he hopes they can be mixed in.  “That,” says G.P., “is a little dramatic, because he constantly asks me, ‘can’t this be lower?’”  He then makes his choice, but always keeps a complete ambiance, in its actual duration, even if there are dead times.  This choice always respects the logic of the location and the time: “He only puts on his soundtrack what could really exist, even if it is entirely reconstructed... Moreover, we shot almost all the scenes at the real times that they were supposed to happen.  And it’s true that the night scenes have a real night sound.”

During the mix, which lasts four and a half days, there are very few soundtracks, but Hennequin’s work must be very precise: “the soundtrack seems very simple,” says G.P., “but it has a rigor that is very difficult to obtain.  The difficulty, for the mixer, is that he is playing with very few elements, it is held together by a thread.” -A.B.

The Production: In Praise of Reason

Eric Rohmer and Margaret Menegoz’s collaboration, at the heart of Films du Losange (with Barbet Schroeder, who was there at the beginning), goes back close to ten years, to La Marquise d’O, exactly.  To speak with Menegoz about the production of Les Nuits de la pleine lune is to find a haven of calm, intelligence and coherence; something like a tangible utopia, a possible model, as well, of what should be more than a production, or at least a successful example of appropriateness between an aesthetic project and its structure.  According to Menegoz, “Eric Rohmer acts as the producer himself, and we are his assistants.  He has no assistant director, he has production assistants.”  Rohmer is, then, the only master on the shoot.  “A producer, normally, doesn’t have to step foot on set, since the shoot is the execution of everything that has been prepared and anticipated beforehand.”  Rohmer and Menegoz share “the same horror at waste, the same sense of economy, the same desire to eliminate everything that is superfluous,” which drives them to avoid the spirals of overtime (the taximeter, as Menegoz says) and union obstacles.  A preliminary agreement is signed with the crew, hired and paid for eight weeks, even if, in the end, they finish a week ahead of time (Rohmer envisions seven weeks for shooting, plus a “safety” week).  This initial agreement, which Menegoz recognizes as being facilitated by the smallness of the crew and the concentration of the shooting locations, allows them to not submit to the disturbing course that characterizes more than one film production, where every moment when one is not shooting is considered a waste of time.  Here, a day can be spent rehearsing, leaving between midnight and three in the morning to shoot without any problem if need be.  It is thus Rohmer himself who organizes his work schedule and who decides on the shooting time.  Menegoz broadens the principle, “It’s the director who has to decide.  Besides, schedules imposed from outside, by the producers, are never followed.”  In these conditions, what is the producer’s role?  Before the shoot, she worries about the financial plan, administrative and legal problems, and hiring the crew.  After the shoot, she works on the film’s release, the eventual festivals, the publicity, etc.

It is perhaps here that such a “micro-system” runs into some problems, in that the film, once finished, is obligated to enter into distribution as it is practiced (to confront the macro-system in its own territory: competition).  On the question of the film’s release, for example, the dialogue with Rohmer was, according to Menegoz, a bit difficult on the last three films.  Rohmer wanted neither publicity nor press screenings, and wanted the film to be released in one theater that would keep the film for as long as possible.  We know that this principle, which Rohmer isn’t the only one to use, goes totally against current distribution trends.  Menegoz and Rohmer met midway on the last three films, at a compromise.  For Les Nuits de la pleine lune, for the first time, Rohmer was hands off, all while keeping an eye on the film’s poster, for example (but with less attention than the film itself, we feel).

The pre- and post-production come together around a policy of principles that Menegoz defines like this, “It is a matter, while getting the financing together, of thinking as little as possible about the film’s audiovisual future.  For Pauline à la plage, for example, FR3 agreed to a co-production, but under conditions that were so abusive that I had to turn it down.  I then made recourse to the avance sur recettes, which has more loyal conditions than TV co-productions, and which doesn’t mean a sharing of property.  Pauline having been successful, this advance was, moreover, reimbursed.  But as soon as possible I do without it.  Pauline’s success let me finance Les Nuits de la pleine lune without going through the avance.

“The policies that underpin the financing of a film are inseparable from the spirit that reigns at Films du Losange.  Losange has always been a company for auteurs.  The true capital of a production company is the directors who are attached to it and the negatives of the films.  There is no other capital.  Here, each director has an account and each franc that comes back is available for his next film.”  In these conditions, how are new directors welcomed (like Jean-Claude Brissau with Un jeu brutal, last year)?  By agreeing to executive produce for other companies, Gaumont, for example (on Un amour de Swann).

Such a mode of production, whose healthiness is evident, obviously has its limits.  The year of preparation that Rohmer spends with Pascale Ogier would be difficult to imagine with another star.  But the essential lesson here is that a production like Losange-Rohmer’s completely turns on its head the idea by which the more money there is, the more luxury one has.  Today, as much luxury is found in “poor” films as in “rich” films: the real luxury is time.  Renato Berta, the cinematographer who is collaborating with Rohmer for the first time, considers Les Nuits de la pleine lune, “one of the most luxurious films I’ve ever shot.”  And that, on a budget that represents about half the budget of an average French film.

It must be acknowledged that at a time when aesthetics, ethics and economics are,
more than ever, one and the same, the real successes, the real artistic advances are produced, overall, in a kind of substandard economy.  From Garrel to Carax, Akerman to Doillon, Ruiz to Rivette, the examples multiply and constitute today the only alternative to standardization.  The “middle path” of subjects, styles, and actors that we have stigmatized more than once here, correspond most often to average budgets and standardized productions.  Save for some exceptions, only non-standardized modes of production favor the emergence of a new cinema. -A.P.

Orgiginally published in Cahiers du cinéma, no. 364, October 1984.   
Translation by Ted Fendt, 2012

Note: Another piece from this issue of Cahiers - on Straub-Huillet - can be found on Kinoslang here. The other one, on Rivette's shooting methods, will hopefully be up on here sometime soon.