Godard face aux lycéens
Cahiers du Cinéma, december 2000, p.18-19, transcribed by Marie-Anne
At the Festival of Sarlat, november 9th 2000, 5000 students and their
teachers watched a pre-premiere of "Après la réconciliation",
the beautiful and bewildering film of Anne-Marie Miéville (official
release January 3). In a meeting that took place on request of the filmmakers,
Anne Marie Miéville and Jean-Luc Godard met the audience in an animated
discussion, moderated by Jean-Michel Frodon. Extracts of a not always soft
Anne-Marie Miéville: At the beginning, it´s a text
written for theatre. But it was not possible because theatre is a world
where one can´t enter just like this. Having made some films, I know
how to get a production started. Therefore I´ve tried to adapt the
text for cinema, a hard job because I had written it with the idea that
one sees all the four actors the whole time on the stage. For the film,
I took the inspiration of the rehearsels with the comedians on the stage,
I tried to be influenced by the atmosphere of this room, before starting
the cutting ["découpage"].
A man felicitates the comedians of the film, and surprised
and admirative for Godard´s comedians-talent, he asks about Godard´s
reaction when he discovered the text.
[translator´s footnote: both Godard and Miéville
played in the movie.]
Jean-Luc Godard: It was the second time for me, because in the
last film of Anne-Marie Miéville, I had to replace the actor and
improvise, too. At that time, I had lots of trouble to learn the text by
heart. This time, I had time to read and understand the text, to read it
with full voice to discover it again, and to hear it. I said to myself
that if one works as actor, one has to receive before one can give, and
if one has received, one can give back when the camera is there and demands
it. The giving-gesture is easy when one has received. While working as
director, I´ve often noticed that actors want to give immediately.
One gives them a text: "to be or not to be", and immediately, without taking
the time to understand it, they want to give an interpretation. But it
needs time. One can´t give "to be or not to be" in three seconds.
Emil Jannings and Richard Burton needed time. I say this because I remember
seeing Richard Burton in New York in his Hamlet-interpretation. When he
entered the stage, one had forgotten the whole text, one was surprised
by the text, as if one listened to it for the first time.
Anne-Marie, too, had to replace the comedienne at short notice. Therefore
for us both, our work consisted in playing together, excuse me, like children.
Then, when I looked at myself, I didn´t pay attention to my hair
or my nose, I listened to Robert who is not me, but I´ve accompanied
him for a moment. It´s a big pleasure to be allowed in the game apart
from the the name they usually give me.
A student expresses himself without hesitation and without quoting
the title of the film:
This film, full of references to a cinema and a literature that have
existed, is adressed to a generation that preceded my generation. Is it
a swansong, is it the funeral of a cinema that doesn´t exist any
more? Or do you think that cinema has still the means to renew itself,
to find a modernity that is essential for it and that especially Jean-Luc
Godard knows to find?
Anne-Marie Miéville: I don´t understand what you
want to say if you speak of a "swansong"...
Jean-Luc Godard: Perhaps you want to say "sign"?
[translator´s footnote: "Swansong" means: The swan
is singing best when he dies. I don´t know if the expression is used
in english. The french word for swansong is "chant du cygne".
When Miéville says she doesn´t understand
what the young man meant with "chant du cygne", Godard asks if he wanted
to say "signe" (english "sign") - its pronounced like "cygne" (swan).]
The young man procedes: I think it´s a film that isn´t
adressed to my generation. Even if I´ve a chance to know a little
bit of cinema, I don´t understand who you´re addressing. Is
this film announcing the end of a cinema like that of Alain Resnais or
Eric Rohmer, of people who builded the cinema, and that their survivors
Anne-Marie Miéville: I understand very good that the preoccuptations
of these persons are adressed to people of a higher age then you´re,
but I don´t see that this announces an end.
Jean-Michel Frodon: The question includes the idea that there´s
a modernity called Nouvelle Vague, that this modernity is exhausted, and
that your film shows the trace of this exhaustion.
Jean-Luc Godard: If this young man wants to say that we are told
to disappear [qu´on est appelé à disparaître,...],
this is certain but who tells us to disappear? You? Or we ourselves? You
can perhaps ask yourself...
Anne-Marie Miéville: ... or the children who come at the
beginning of the film?
Jean-Luc Godard: This film, Anne-Maries eleventh film, was an
urgent demand ["appel"] to go into a place where nobody has ever been before.
It was a provocation to reveal it. The Nouvelle Vague has always loved
provocations and contradictions. It´s a matter of going into a place
where nobody has ever been and this place was named in the title: "Aprés
la reconciliation" [After reconciliation]. Young people are too young to
have gone to this place, and three quarters ot the old, old dictators or
others, haven´t gone there too. It´s a place whose name doesn´t
mean "after reunions" or "after arguments", but after a reconciliation.
It´s a place where a hebrew and a palestinian haven´t gone
to for 2000 years. At the moment when one should go there, only the cinema,
that what one calls cinema, can answer to that order ["peut répondre
a cet appel-là"]. Only as an actor, I´ve been able to go there.
A question to Miéville: You´re quoting only one
philosopher, that´s Sartre. Can you explain your relation and Godard´s
relation to this philosopher?
Anne-Marie Miéville: There´s a book with the title
"La Cérémonie des adieux", whose second part consists of
a dialogue between Simone de Beauvoir and him, written when they were of
advanced age. Their discussion treats at the same time personal and political
problems, and I always thought that their language is full of ..., very
young and... Perhaps this has influenced my work.
A question to Miéville: I´d like to know what reflections
have influenced your adaption for cinema. I´ve been amazed by the
fact that the image in the film is always fixed ["l´image du film
est tout le temps figée"]
Anne-Marie Miéville: The question was to know how to film
the word [la parole] in a unique place, evading to fall back into the scheme
of shot / reverse-shot, trying to film the one who listens and the one
who speaks, or the way of the word between them. If necessary, I
make the camera move, if not, a panorama or a travelling but no zoom, beause
in effect, like Robert says (the character Godard is playing): "After approaching,
one has to retreat or the contrast" ["Quand on s´est approché,
faut s´éloigner ou le contraire"]. I´m no fan of movement
just for the movement´s sake.
But why this radical choice to make fixed images in relation to the
Jean-Luc Godard: It´s an old cliché, and Cocteau has answered
it by saying that, for filming a running horse, one certainly doesn´t
need travelling, because then, the horse would be immobile. I shouldn´t
quote this example because Robert, in the film, doesn´t like horses
(laughter). If you go to the theatre, if you see the stage with
the actors who move or who don´t move, you wouldn´t say that
it is a fixed image. It´s strange to get this reaction, especially
today, when the camera is fixed ["quand la camera reste fixe et ne fait
pas trente-six gaudrioles"]. At the time of the Nouvelle Vague, it was
practically forbidden to take the camera on the shoulder. "A bout du souffle"
was critizised fot the image that mouves, that walks in all possible regards
["pour son image qui bougeote, qui va dans tous les sens"]. Ten years later,
if one was tired of having the camera on the shoulder and put it on a support
instead ["la mettant sur un pied"], people told me it was better
before when it moved.
question: Mr Godard what are your projects?
Jean-Luc Godard: I´ve to finish a film that I started four
years ago,which is not put aside but only pushed aside on a side rail,
to give free way to an express that roles faster and easier, and which
I enter now and again. I have to go back to my wagon and finish it in some
Taped by Marie-Anne Guerin at Sarlat, november 9, 2000