Monday, 31 January 2011

(An)Other Irish Cinema: Rouzbeh Rashidi

 

Here's the second part of our look at the 3 filmmakers who make up (An)Other Irish Cinema....

 

Rouzbeh Rashidi (born in Tehran, 1980) is an Iranian independent filmmaker. He has been making films since 2000 when he founded the Experimental Film Society in Tehran. Since then, he has worked completely apart from any mainstream conceptions of filmmaking. He strives to escape the stereotypes of conventional storytelling and instead roots his cinematic style in a poetic interaction of image and sound. He intentionally rejects scriptwriting, or any other form of written pre-planning.


His films are inspired by and constructed around images, locations, characters and their immediate situations. The stylistic elements that make up his distinctively personal film language include the use of natural light, non-professional actors, slow paced rhythms, abstract plots, static shots and minimal dialogue. He employs a wide range of different formats and devices to make his films, including video, Super-8mm, webcam and mobile phone cameras. His consistently low-budget work is entirely self-funded and made with complete creative freedom.

Rouzbeh Rashidi has directed and produced forty short films. Since 2008, he has focused on feature projects, making six full length films:
Light & Quiet (2008), Only Human (2009), Bipedality (2010), Reminiscences of Yearning (2011), Zoetrope (2011) and Closure of Catharsis (2011).

Rashidi's films have been screened in film festivals nationally and internationally in Iran, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, UAE, USA, Hungary, India, Italy, Greece, France, England and Brazil.

He moved to Ireland in 2004 and currently lives and works in Dublin.
Affiliations : Experimental Film Society, (An)Other Irish Cinema, Remodernist Film

 

For more information, please visit www.rouzbehrashidi.com

Sunday, 30 January 2011

(An)Other Irish Cinema: Donal Foreman

On Friday, Drifting Clouds Cinema Group will present the short films of (An)Other Irish Cinema, which is infact 3 cinemas: the cinema of Rouzbeh Rashidi, Donal Foreman and Maximillian Le Cain. I'm going to be posting some background info on each of the filmmakers in the run-up to the screening. And first up, is Donal Foreman....

Donal Foreman (born in Dublin, 1985) has been making films since he was 11. From his very first films, he has explored different forms of improvisatory and collaborative filmmaking methods in an effort to find a filmmaking process that is transformative, fun and not simply a means to an end. The seven fiction shorts that he has written, directed and edited since 2006 are all collaborations with the cinematographer Piers McGrail and a range of actors and non-actors. Each film is created through a mixture of script, rehearsal and improvisation. They share a concern with notions of togetherness, solitude, memory and escape, paying close attention to the sensual minutiae of human behaviour, relationships and interaction with urban spaces - as well as the textural and expressive qualities of light, colour and sound.

He is a graduate of the National Film School at IADT and an alumnus of the Berlinale Talent Campus. As a freelance film critic, he has written for several international publications including Cahiers du Cinema. He is also one of the four organisers and programmers of Dublin's Experimental Film Club.

His website is ww.donalforeman.com


Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The Great Acting Blog: "Drifting Clouds"

Check out the video, it's the trailer for (An)Other Irish Cinema.

 

I've long been skeptical of the notion that the actor should not have control over his work and his life. I hold the opinion that the actor is an artist in the same way a filmmaker or a playwright is (or a painter), and, as such, should look to define an aesthetic and develop that aesthetic by constructing a body of work over a lifetime. The actor should take responsibility for his work, and seek out the culture he wants to participate in, and if he cannot find that culture, he should strive to create it.

It was with this point of view I founded my film club, Drifting Clouds Cinema Group a little less than a year ago. The object of the group is to spread the word about films I love, and organise nights out at the movies. I'm the type of person who always nags my friends to go and see a new masterpiece I've discovered, and Drifting Clouds gives me the platform to take that one step further, and actually become a disseminator of cinema culture, and therefore, help to create the very culture I want to participate in as an actor.

It was through Drifting Clouds I met Dublin based filmmaker Rouzbeh Rashidi, and we have since completed our first collaboration, a feature film called Closure Of Carthasis (which you'll be hearing a lot more about) and we plan to collaborate again in the future. And it was through Rouzbeh I was offered the chance to screen the short films of (An)Other Irish Cinema.

(An)Other Irish Cinema is actually three cinemas, in addition to Rouzbeh Rashidi, there is Donal Forman and Maximilian Le Cain. As their website informs us, they are resolutely independent filmmakers based in Ireland, and have each built up extensive filmographies, working in complete creative freedom. Having already screened their short film program in Ireland, Italy and Brazil, I became very excited by the prospect of presenting the work by three filmmakers each with his own distinct and compelling vision, and yet united by a shared love of cinema, which is clearly present in the finished films.

Interestingly, Rashidi, Forman and Le Cain state on their website that by creating (An)Other Irish Cinema, they “propose the possibility of an/other filmmaking culture in Ireland”. Well, Drifting Clouds, based in London, is proud to participate in the creation of this culture by presenting the work of (An)Other Irish Cinema.

 

Drifting Clouds Cinema Group will present (An)Other Irish Cinema on February 4th at Monty's Bar And Lounge, Brick Lane. Entry is free and the program starts at 7pm.

If you would like to learn more about (An)Other Irish Cinema, please visit their website:

www.www.anotheririshcinema.blogspot.com

Trailer for (An)Other Irish Cinema

 

(AN)OTHER IRISH CINEMA
———————————
Drifting Clouds Cinema Group
———————————
Friday, February 4th, 7 pm

@ Monty's Bar, 149 Brick Lane, London. February 2011

What is ‘(An)Other Irish Cinema’ ?
‘(An)Other Irish Cinema’ is actually three ‘other’ Irish cinemas …

It is the work of three resolutely independent filmmakers based in Ireland who have built up prolific filmographies over the past decade in complete creative freedom, taking full advantage of the liberty for experimentation that low-and-no budget production offers. Although the visions audiences discover in the films of Donal Foreman, Rouzbeh Rashidi and Maximilian Le Cain are very different, they are linked by the use of exploratory, non-script-based approaches to filmmaking and by a keen awareness of the cinema histories that have explored the medium’s possibilities far beyond the accepted rules of the multiplex.

Foreman, Rashidi and Le Cain formed ‘(An)Other Irish Cinema’ as a platform for joint screenings, to showcase their work and, in so doing, to propose the possibility of an/other filmmaking culture in Ireland.

(An)Other Irish Cinema will be getting its London premiere with a 90 minute programme of films hosted by the Drifting Clouds Cinema Group, which "supports and promotes diversity and independence in our film culture by spreading the word about the films we love and organising nights out at the movies".

anotheririshcinema.blogspot.com/​

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Great Acting Blog: "Gobbledegook?"

“But I think actors are always having to achieve the problem before they can express overcoming the problem” - Colin Firth.

I like Colin Firth, he's alright. I've been a fan of his since I first noticed his work in The English Patient back in mid-90s. Unlike many actors who treat the production as merely a showcase for their “talent”, Firth seems simply to play the scene as well as he can and not worry about anything else, always excluding the non-essential. He also seems to be committed to the form (cinema), and is a good example of an actor who's kept his head down and striven to be the best actor he can be, quietly building a substantial body of work in the process. We don't associate him with the very silly cacophony that can sometimes accompany star actors. Firth has grown over the years, while many of his apparently more glamorous colleagues have diminished. When Firth performs, you know you're going to get something honest and true, his work warms us. Although I have not yet seen the King's Speech, I did recently watch A Single Man and absolutely loved Firth's performance in it,  it's a very good example of what I'm talking about.
However, when I read the above quote, I thought it was gobbledegook at first, the sort of actorly waffle which encourages the modern fashion of denigrating acting and actors, as evidenced by the widespread use of the derogatory term “luvvie”. But then I re-read it, and thought a little bit more about it, and soon realised that Firth's theory of acting here, is not dissimilar to my own.
In Firth's case,  he was referring  to making his stammer authentic for his character in the King's Speech. Firth's “problem” then, is the technical challenge of perfecting the stammer, and “achieving the problem” means mastering the stammer technically as an actor, and “express overcoming the problem” means what the actor actually does  when trying to overcome the character's problem as per the script, or put another way, portraying the character's struggle to deal with his speech, literally what we, the audience, see unfolding in the finished film. So Firth cannot strive to banish the stammer until he has given himself a stammer.
Another example would be Charles Laughton in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, who famously insisted that his fake hump be made of real weight, so that he had to literally carry the burden through the scenes, as Quasimodo would've done. And in performances where the challenge for the actor is not necessarily externally technical, ie – cosmetics or physical adjustments are not required,  then the actor still needs to give himself a problem to solve, concurrent to the character's problem. Recently I played a scene where the other guy had a gun pointed at my head and my character had to talk his way out of it, so I gave myself the problem of convincing the other actor he's making a terrible mistake.
I posted Firth's words on various social media sights a few days ago, and got a range of responses, from people mocking Firth through to others who interpreted his words into their own technical language.
What do you think?

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Drifting Clouds presents (An)Other Irish Cinema

Friends,

I hope you are all well, and that 2011 has begun as you would've liked.

I am absolutely delighted to confirm Drifting Clouds' presentation of (An)Other Irish Cinema's spectacular short film program.
...
The screening will take place at:

Montys Bar And Lounge, 149 Brick Lane, London E1 6SB.
Friday 4th February.
Films start at 7pm. (program lasts 90 mins)
Free of charge.

I'm very excited about sharing these truly exquisite short films by 3 very talented filmmakers with you, and hope as many of you get to see them as possible. It's the first time they're being shown in London, after screenings in Ireland, Italy and Brazil.


I'm also delighted to say the filmmakers, Rouzbeh Rashidi, Donal Foreman and Maximilian Le Cain, will be flying in from Ireland to attend the screening. I recently worked with Rouzbeh on his new feature film, a terrific experience. Julian Simon will also be DJ-ing his Sound of Film set, so it should be a cracker of a night all round.

Below is some background info about (An)Other Irish Cinema and a link to their website.


Take care, and hopefully I will see you soon.

Kind Regards,

James

PS - If you've already sent me a personal message that you're coming, there's no need to respond to this invite aswell. Cheers.

About ‘(An)Other Irish Cinema’

‘(An)Other Irish Cinema’ is actually three ‘other’ Irish cinemas…

It is the work of three resolutely independent filmmakers based in Ireland who have built up prolific filmographies over the past decade in complete creative freedom, taking full advantage of the liberty for experimentation that low-and-no budget production offers. Although the visions audiences discover in the films of Donal Foreman, Rouzbeh Rashidi andMaximilian Le Cain are very different, they are linked by the use of exploratory, non-script-based approaches to filmmaking and by a keen awareness of the cinema histories that have explored the medium's possibilities far beyond the accepted rules of the multiplex.

Foreman, Rashidi and Le Cain formed ‘(An)Other Irish Cinema’ as a platform for joint screenings, to showcase their work and, in so doing, to propose the possibility of an/other filmmaking culture in Ireland.


For further details, visit: gspot.com



Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The Great Acting Blog: "Their Law Trailer Shoot"

This week, I shot my scene for the trailer of Their Law, a tightly scripted crime-thriller feature film being produced by Sean J Vincent and Andre Renner, about deception and corruption within the underworld and the government. It's a zero sum game, the stakes are high, either you win or you die, and it's a lot of fun for actors to play. My character is Cooper Junior  who has a nervous-pleading disposition, largely because he feels his father and crime boss, Mr Cooper, keeps him in the shadow of Luke, the film's protagonist (played by Sean).
During the course of the film, Luke becomes the enemy of the Coopers, and during the scene in question, Junior is sat in his car waiting for the return of two henchmen, who have been dispatched to Luke's flat to whack him. Luke, however, whacks them, and it is he who slides into the back seat of Junior's car, and points his gun at Junior's head, before ordering him, not so politely, to tell his dad he's coming for him.
Junior is a fiddly character to play, and especially fiddly in this scene, because he's vulnerable and on the defensive, namely he has a gun pointed at his head and he's being verbally threatened. Like many actors, I find it much more natural to play characters  who are on the attack, who are seeking to dominate in the scene. I think it's much more difficult to consciously display our vulnerable side, largely due to the fact that we spend so much of our lives striving to conceal our weaknesses, and so to play a character like Junior is counter-intuitive. 
How to overcome this? Well, as always, I employ my trusty technique of giving myself something concretely doable to do, or put another way, I give myself an action. It's a technique I love because it's so simple, there's no bullshit involved, and it never fails me, always holding up under pressure. The important point about the action you choose for yourself is that it is away from the fiction of the script, and something you can actually accomplish. So, in this scene, I decided I was going to try and convince Sean that he's making a terrible mistake. And, there are different ways of executing the action; by pleading, by imploring, laying down the law, berating, and so on, and I set about doing them. Did I succeed in convincing Sean he's making a terrible mistake? Well, if I told you that the second part of the scene involved me writhing in agony with blood splattered on my face* after Sean has shot me in the foot,  you might be able to make up your own mind.


* The blood was brilliantly squirted onto my face by Production Co-ordinator, Ian Deerlove, who was lying upside down on the passenger side of the car, and using a blood filled syringe. Remarkably, he nailed the squirt in one take.

The Great Acting Blog: "Their Law Trailer Shoot"

This week, I shot my scene for the trailer of Their Law, a tightly scripted crime-thriller feature film being produced by Sean J Vincent and Andre Renner, about deception and corruption within the underworld and the government. It's a zero sum game, the stakes are high, either you win or you die, and it's a lot of fun for actors to play. My character is Cooper Junior  who has a nervous-pleading disposition, largely because he feels his father and crime boss, Mr Cooper, keeps him in the shadow of Luke, the film's protagonist (played by Sean).
During the course of the film, Luke becomes the enemy of the Coopers, and during the scene in question, Junior is sat in his car waiting for the return of two henchmen, who have been dispatched to Luke's flat to whack him. Luke, however, whacks them, and it is he who slides into the back seat of Junior's car, and points his gun at Junior's head, before ordering him, not so politely, to tell his dad he's coming for him.
Junior is a fiddly character to play, and especially fiddly in this scene, because he's vulnerable and on the defensive, namely he has a gun pointed at his head and he's being verbally threatened. Like many actors, I find it much more natural to play characters  who are on the attack, who are seeking to dominate in the scene. I think it's much more difficult to consciously display our vulnerable side, largely due to the fact that we spend so much of our lives striving to conceal our weaknesses, and so to play a character like Junior is counter-intuitive. 
How to overcome this? Well, as always, I employ my trusty technique of giving myself something concretely doable to do, or put another way, I give myself an action. It's a technique I love because it's so simple, there's no bullshit involved, and it never fails me, always holding up under pressure. The important point about the action you choose for yourself is that it is away from the fiction of the script, and something you can actually accomplish. So, in this scene, I decided I was going to try and convince Sean that he's making a terrible mistake. And, there are different ways of executing the action; by pleading, by imploring, laying down the law, berating, and so on, and I set about doing them. Did I succeed in convincing Sean he's making a terrible mistake? Well, if I told you that the second part of the scene involved me writhing in agony with blood splattered on my face* after Sean has shot me in the foot,  you might be able to make up your own mind.


* The blood was brilliantly squirted onto my face by Production Co-ordinator, Ian Deerlove, who was lying upside down on the passenger side of the car, and using a blood filled syringe. Remarkably, he nailed the squirt in one take.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Marco Ferreri's Dillinger Is Dead

Marco Ferreri's Dillinger Is Dead is a brilliant film starring Michel Piccoli about a man pottering around his house when he finds an old gun among some papers and sets about refurbishing it, among other things, during a long night at home. Here's an essay by Michael Jaoshua Rowin....

 

Dillinger Is Dead:
Apocalypse Now

By Michael Joshua Rowin


More than a decade after his death in 1997, the moment is right for the rediscovery of the work of Marco Ferreri. “I think he’s modern. More than modern, in fact,” frequent collaborator Marcello Mastroianni once remarked, encapsulating how far ahead of his time the controversial and innovative director was. Though he enjoyed a prolific and successful career in Europe, turning out thirty-three films over nearly four decades, Ferreri’s idiosyncratic vision was so aesthetically and philosophically radical that he never made the name for himself among American audiences that his Italian art cinema contemporaries—Michelangelo Antonioni, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Federico Fellini—did from the late fifties to the midseventies, the heyday of intellectual European imports. As unhesitatingly aggressive in his attacks on left-wing complacency as on right-wing repression, Ferreri pushed and challenged his audience instead of conforming to what was stylistically palatable or ideologically trendy. But times often catch up with forward-thinking artists ignored or misunderstood in their own eras, and the long-overdue appearance in the United States of Ferreri’s 1969 masterpiece Dillinger Is Dead—finally released, to great acclaim, in 2009—seems to have marked that moment for one of postwar Italian cinema’s great subversives.

Ferreri returned to his native country in the early sixties, and continued his collaboration with Azcona in a run of films mocking sexism, marriage, and male vanity, including The Conjugal Bed (1963), about a middle-aged man who marries a virgin for purposes of sexual conquest, only to cast her aside once she becomes pregnant; The Ape Woman (1964), a parable of sexual exploitation in which a hirsute woman is made into a freak show attraction by her spouse; and The Harem (1967), in which traditional gender roles are reversed when a woman keeps a rotating cast of lovers. Ferreri’s uncompromising vision repeatedly pitted him against prudish censors and timorous producers. Foreign censors forced changes to The Ape Woman, for instance, turning its bleak ending of death and further exploitation into an ill-fitting happy one. And believing it would ruin star Mastroianni, producer Carlo Ponti originally intended to prevent Breakup (a.k.a. The Man with the Balloons, 1965)—about a childish playboy who tests balloons to see how much air they can take before bursting—from seeing the light of day, before whittling it down to a twenty-five-minute short.

Since Glauco lashes out at his sheltered, alienated existence through the sexual conquest and murder of the women with whom he lives, does his escape represent a misogynist fantasy? Certainly, none of Dillinger’s major female characters are portrayed in a favorable light. Pallenberg is a pampered trophy wife who spends her time in bed and takes pills to fall asleep, preferring to drift off into an artificially produced slumber rather than take part in reality. Girardot’s maid does hardly any actual work, instead engaging in narcissistic daydreams, admiring herself in the mirror while wearing diaphanous tights and kissing posters of pop idols to whom she proclaims her love. The women who appear on Glauco’s television are also vain, superficial, and exemplary of society’s poisonous consumerism.

Much of Glauco’s strange and disturbing behavior can thus be interpreted as an extreme reaction against the weak, vain, and materialistic femininity—and “feminized” culture—surrounding him, an irony considering he displays his self-sufficiency through deft culinary skills. Like Luis Buñuel, Ferreri frequently caricatures decorous, food-based rituals as a way of mocking bourgeois propriety, a motif most notoriously explored in his La grande bouffe (1973), where the piggish male characters gorge themselves to death. But in the highly symbolic psychodrama of Dillinger, it’s significant that Glauco’s preparation of a gourmet meal intertwines with his discovery and restoration of a phallic object synonymous with masculine power: a gun that may have been wielded by the infamous American bank robber John Dillinger. When Glauco finds the weapon, wrapped in some old Italian newspapers announcing the bandit’s violent death, Ferreri inserts black-and-white footage of a cocky Dillinger, a man attacking a car with a machine gun, a dead body splayed out on concrete, and a crowd gathered around a crime scene. Glauco’s imagination has been sparked by this unearthed treasure, and as he disassembles, cleans, and restores the gun to its original deadly efficiency, so does the gun restore his masculine assertiveness, independence, and rebellion. (In an interesting coincidence, Dillinger received its American theatrical release the same year Michael Mann’s Public Enemies revived for the big screen the romantic myth of Dillinger as macho outlaw.)

On the surface, Dillinger seems to revel in unabashed misogyny, yet the film’s satiric, absurdist, and oblique tone suggests otherwise. Ferreri once candidly stated that he considered himself 50 percent misogynist and 50 percent feminist—and one can see both attitudes at play in his masterpiece. While Glauco’s uxoricide can be viewed as a dispensing with the bourgeois institution of marriage rather than an act of misogyny, more important are the methods by which Ferreri prevents viewers from identifying with his protagonist. Instead of using a straightforward score, for instance, Ferreri employs catchy, upbeat pop tunes to comment on Glauco’s desires and longings: a cover of Stevie Wonder’s soulful “Travelin’ Man” and various other radio-friendly songs, in both English and Italian, play on his transistor as he cooks and fixes his gun, thereby associating his flight from constricting modern life with lyrical platitudes (“I love freedom / No one’s going to take it away from me”; “Tomorrow is another day / And your sorrow might just fade away”; “I finally found my baby”) rather than he-man bravado, and so calling into question whether Glauco stands up to modern alienation or merely manifests its childish symptoms.

Ferreri further keeps his audience at arm’s length by making Glauco a cryptic character whose state of mind can be only vaguely guessed. Since Glauco mostly expresses himself in sudden, enigmatic outbursts, we cannot simply live vicariously through his outrageous emancipation but must piece together from inconclusive evidence the motives and meanings of his unraveling. Piccoli’s controlled performance contributes greatly to the disorienting divide between what we see of Glauco and what we imagine of him. In a 2007 interview with Cahiers du cinéma, the actor described how Ferreri’s hands-off direction forced him to come up with his own ideas for the lead role in Dillinger: “Ferreri didn’t direct me for a second during the shoot; he would simply give spatial indications. It was up to me to play this solitary person, this solitude, this eternal child or this childlike rebirth of ‘mature’ man, between despair, suicide, simple insomnia, dream.”

Famous for his acclaimed work with Godard and Buñuel, Piccoli met Ferreri for the first time while trying out for Dillinger; Ferreri hired him immediately, and five more collaborations between the Italian director and the French actor would follow in the next decade. Watch­ing Dillinger, one can see why: Ferreri refuses a psychological portrait of his protagonist, and Piccoli’s reading of Glauco—something not quite cerebral, yet not quite animal—faithfully imparts the mystifying quality of the character’s hallucinatory actions. Glauco remains impenetrable (just why does he paint the gun red with white polka dots?), even as the objects and images within his orbit (the hippyish young men and women who appear on his television screen; the toy snake with which he teases his sleeping wife; the Futurismo ­rivisitato painting—by postmodern artist and close Ferreri friend Mario Schifano—he nods to just before committing his murderous deed) reflect an interior state of anxiety and confusion. “The old alienation is no longer possible,” as Glauco’s colleague pronounced in his opening speech, and in its place Glauco enters an irrational fugue state resistant to deciphering.

Glauco is either sincerely attempting to become “absorbed” by the unfolding images, much like moviegoers experience the illusionary adventures of illusionary characters, or he is ridiculing such attempts. In any event, Ferreri indicts the traditional mode of spectatorship as failed, an obsolescence represented by Glauco’s mock suicide—not only is his bourgeois past made an ungraspable chimera but cinema’s ability to capture and replay moments of pleasure for all eternity leaves the viewer unfulfilled. When, at the conclusion of Dillinger, Glauco dives into the sea, boards a Tahiti-bound boat, and is quickly taken on as the vessel’s chef (the entire scenario recalls the sand-and-surf locales of the home movie footage), we can’t simply accept such an escapist fantasy and wish it for ourselves. “I can’t believe it . . . ,” Glauco remarks at his good fortune, and indeed the resolution of his story feels more like a parody of a Hollywood ending than one enacted in earnest. Rather than a surge of triumphant heroism, we’re left with a sense of unease as Ferreri dissolves the film’s final shot into searing blood red, a harbinger both of the eschatological event that will be the setting of his next film, The Seed of Man (1969), and of the scorched and desolate environments of much of his later work.

To where, then, is Glauco really journeying at the close of Dillinger? Ferreri discouraged readings of his films’ settings as apocalyptic or post­apocalyptic: “We have already moved imperceptibly into an ‘elsewhere.’ That is, inside a reality that merely survives itself or that is already obsolete,” he once stated about contemporary society. Investigating a world unmoored from traditional values—a world continually confounded by rapid, unprecedented changes in technology and morality—Ferreri fashions Glauco’s reality as a distorted reflection of our own. This is the elsewhere that makes Dillinger Is Dead so unsettling, for even if Glauco remains a distant antihero whose behavior seems far beyond the bounds of reason, certainly the insulated purgatory he inhabits is all too recognizable. However much Ferreri undermines the realistic prospect of his film’s ending, he still evokes the desire for a positive, constructive elsewhere against the one he has so troublingly held up as a mirror of our lives.

Michael Joshua Rowin writes for Reverse Shot, Cineaste, and Stop Smiling, among other publications. He lives in New York City.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Fassbinder's Katzelmacher

Austere, fragmented, and minimalist, Katzelmacher captures the inert lives of a group of aimless, financially struggling apartment dwellers on an anonymous residential city street. The film opens to an implicit shot of one of the residents, Erich (Hans Hirschmüller), parked alongside a grocery store, biding idle time in his car as his lover Marie (Hanna Schygulla) closes shop for the evening. It is an insightful glimpse of interminable silence and existential waiting that defines the lives of the residents as they attempt to escape from the inertia of their daily existence through anonymous sexual encounters, alcohol consumption, rumor mongering and, on occasion, lapses of domestic violence. Erich's friend (and occasional, enabling accomplice to his ill-conceived, money-making schemes), Paul (Rudolf Waldemar Brem), continues to rendezvous with his possessive and literally clinging lover, Helga (Lilith Ungerer), despite her increasingly desperate
attempts to pressure him into commitment and marriage. In another household, a stern and independent woman, Elizabeth (Irm Hermann), struggles to salvage her failing relationship with her abusive, indolent lodger, Peter (Peter Moland) who treats her contemptuously, but refuses to vacate the apartment. A young, aspiring actress, Rosy (Elga Sorbas), resorts to prostitution in order to make ends meet, and even exacts payment from her devoted lover, Franz (Harry Baer), who accedes to her financial demands with the unrealized hope of eliciting an affirmation of mutual affection from her. A bored and sexually frustrated neighbor, Gunda (Doris Mattes), waiting for her absent lover to return, occupies her time by indulging in idle gossip with other tenants in front of the apartment building - a familiar neighborhood routine that is disrupted when a reticent, inscrutable immigrant worker named Yorgos (Rainer Werner Fassbinder) becomes a lodger in Elizabeth's
apartment.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder creates a spare, atypically muted, and relevant portrait of alienation, ennui, and xenophobia in Katzelmacher. The film was adapted from the first play written by Fassbinder - a companion feature to Jean-Marie Straub's reductive, ten minute stage adaptation of Ferdinand Bruckner's three-act play, Sickness of Youth (1926) for the underground Action Theater, a theater ensemble later re-organized as the Anti-Theater under Fassbinder's oversight. Profoundly influenced by the radicalism of Bertolt Brecht's epic theater, a creative ideology to deconstruct traditional stage convention and redefine dramatic arts as a medium for social change, Fassbinder distills the narrative into a disjunctive assembly of deliberately formalized, episodic long takes, primarily in medium shot, that retains observational distance and critical objectivity: the constant seating re-arrangement at a local bar as the neighbors play a card game; Rosy's
dissociated musical performance; the incongruous introduction of piano accompaniment as people promenade down the street; the repeated incidents of unprovoked violence. By presenting the pervasive and insidious nature of estrangement and dispossession, Katzelmacher serves as a brutal and compelling reflection of socially tolerated inhumanity and marginalization.

Austere, fragmented, and minimalist, Katzelmacher captures the inert lives of a group of aimless, financially struggling apartment dwellers on an anonymous residential city street. The film opens to an implicit shot of one of the residents, Erich (Hans Hirschmüller), parked alongside a grocery store, biding idle time in his car as his lover Marie (Hanna Schygulla) closes shop for the evening. It is an insightful glimpse of interminable silence and existential waiting that defines the lives of the residents as they attempt to escape from the inertia of their daily existence through anonymous sexual encounters, alcohol consumption, rumor mongering and, on occasion, lapses of domestic violence. Erich's friend (and occasional, enabling accomplice to his ill-conceived, money-making schemes), Paul (Rudolf Waldemar Brem), continues to rendezvous with his possessive and literally clinging lover, Helga (Lilith Ungerer), despite her increasingly desperate
attempts to pressure him into commitment and marriage. In another household, a stern and independent woman, Elizabeth (Irm Hermann), struggles to salvage her failing relationship with her abusive, indolent lodger, Peter (Peter Moland) who treats her contemptuously, but refuses to vacate the apartment. A young, aspiring actress, Rosy (Elga Sorbas), resorts to prostitution in order to make ends meet, and even exacts payment from her devoted lover, Franz (Harry Baer), who accedes to her financial demands with the unrealized hope of eliciting an affirmation of mutual affection from her. A bored and sexually frustrated neighbor, Gunda (Doris Mattes), waiting for her absent lover to return, occupies her time by indulging in idle gossip with other tenants in front of the apartment building - a familiar neighborhood routine that is disrupted when a reticent, inscrutable immigrant worker named Yorgos (Rainer Werner Fassbinder) becomes a lodger in Elizabeth's
apartment.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder creates a spare, atypically muted, and relevant portrait of alienation, ennui, and xenophobia in Katzelmacher. The film was adapted from the first play written by Fassbinder - a companion feature to Jean-Marie Straub's reductive, ten minute stage adaptation of Ferdinand Bruckner's three-act play, Sickness of Youth (1926) for the underground Action Theater, a theater ensemble later re-organized as the Anti-Theater under Fassbinder's oversight. Profoundly influenced by the radicalism of Bertolt Brecht's epic theater, a creative ideology to deconstruct traditional stage convention and redefine dramatic arts as a medium for social change, Fassbinder distills the narrative into a disjunctive assembly of deliberately formalized, episodic long takes, primarily in medium shot, that retains observational distance and critical objectivity: the constant seating re-arrangement at a local bar as the neighbors play a card game; Rosy's
dissociated musical performance; the incongruous introduction of piano accompaniment as people promenade down the street; the repeated incidents of unprovoked violence. By presenting the pervasive and insidious nature of estrangement and dispossession, Katzelmacher serves as a brutal and compelling reflection of socially tolerated inhumanity and marginalization.
Austere, fragmented, and minimalist, Katzelmacher captures the inert lives of a group of aimless, financially struggling apartment dwellers on an anonymous residential city street. The film opens to an implicit shot of one of the residents, Erich (Hans Hirschmüller), parked alongside a grocery store, biding idle time in his car as his lover Marie (Hanna Schygulla) closes shop for the evening. It is an insightful glimpse of interminable silence and existential waiting that defines the lives of the residents as they attempt to escape from the inertia of their daily existence through anonymous sexual encounters, alcohol consumption, rumor mongering and, on occasion, lapses of domestic violence. Erich's friend (and occasional, enabling accomplice to his ill-conceived, money-making schemes), Paul (Rudolf Waldemar Brem), continues to rendezvous with his possessive and literally clinging lover, Helga (Lilith Ungerer), despite her increasingly desperate
attempts to pressure him into commitment and marriage. In another household, a stern and independent woman, Elizabeth (Irm Hermann), struggles to salvage her failing relationship with her abusive, indolent lodger, Peter (Peter Moland) who treats her contemptuously, but refuses to vacate the apartment. A young, aspiring actress, Rosy (Elga Sorbas), resorts to prostitution in order to make ends meet, and even exacts payment from her devoted lover, Franz (Harry Baer), who accedes to her financial demands with the unrealized hope of eliciting an affirmation of mutual affection from her. A bored and sexually frustrated neighbor, Gunda (Doris Mattes), waiting for her absent lover to return, occupies her time by indulging in idle gossip with other tenants in front of the apartment building - a familiar neighborhood routine that is disrupted when a reticent, inscrutable immigrant worker named Yorgos (Rainer Werner Fassbinder) becomes a lodger in Elizabeth's
apartment.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder creates a spare, atypically muted, and relevant portrait of alienation, ennui, and xenophobia in Katzelmacher. The film was adapted from the first play written by Fassbinder - a companion feature to Jean-Marie Straub's reductive, ten minute stage adaptation of Ferdinand Bruckner's three-act play, Sickness of Youth (1926) for the underground Action Theater, a theater ensemble later re-organized as the Anti-Theater under Fassbinder's oversight. Profoundly influenced by the radicalism of Bertolt Brecht's epic theater, a creative ideology to deconstruct traditional stage convention and redefine dramatic arts as a medium for social change, Fassbinder distills the narrative into a disjunctive assembly of deliberately formalized, episodic long takes, primarily in medium shot, that retains observational distance and critical objectivity: the constant seating re-arrangement at a local bar as the neighbors play a card game; Rosy's
dissociated musical performance; the incongruous introduction of piano accompaniment as people promenade down the street; the repeated incidents of unprovoked violence. By presenting the pervasive and insidious nature of estrangement and dispossession, Katzelmacher serves as a brutal and compelling reflection of socially tolerated inhumanity and marginalization.

Fassbinder's Katzelmacher

The following article comes via www.filmref.com

Austere, fragmented, and minimalist, Katzelmacher captures the inert lives of a group of aimless, financially struggling apartment dwellers on an anonymous residential city street. The film opens to an implicit shot of one of the residents, Erich (Hans Hirschmüller), parked alongside a grocery store, biding idle time in his car as his lover Marie (Hanna Schygulla) closes shop for the evening. It is an insightful glimpse of interminable silence and existential waiting that defines the lives of the residents as they attempt to escape from the inertia of their daily existence through anonymous sexual encounters, alcohol consumption, rumor mongering and, on occasion, lapses of domestic violence. Erich's friend (and occasional, enabling accomplice to his ill-conceived, money-making schemes), Paul (Rudolf Waldemar Brem), continues to rendezvous with his possessive and literally clinging lover, Helga (Lilith Ungerer), despite her increasingly desperate attempts to pressure him into commitment and marriage. In another household, a stern and independent woman, Elizabeth (Irm Hermann), struggles to salvage her failing relationship with her abusive, indolent lodger, Peter (Peter Moland) who treats her contemptuously, but refuses to vacate the apartment. A young, aspiring actress, Rosy (Elga Sorbas), resorts to prostitution in order to make ends meet, and even exacts payment from her devoted lover, Franz (Harry Baer), who accedes to her financial demands with the unrealized hope of eliciting an affirmation of mutual affection from her. A bored and sexually frustrated neighbor, Gunda (Doris Mattes), waiting for her absent lover to return, occupies her time by indulging in idle gossip with other tenants in front of the apartment building - a familiar neighborhood routine that is disrupted when a reticent, inscrutable immigrant worker named Yorgos (Rainer Werner Fassbinder) becomes a lodger in Elizabeth's apartment.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder creates a spare, atypically muted, and relevant portrait of alienation, ennui, and xenophobia in Katzelmacher. The film was adapted from the first play written by Fassbinder - a companion feature to Jean-Marie Straub's reductive, ten minute stage adaptation of Ferdinand Bruckner's three-act play, Sickness of Youth (1926) for the underground Action Theater, a theater ensemble later re-organized as the Anti-Theater under Fassbinder's oversight. Profoundly influenced by the radicalism of Bertolt Brecht's epic theater, a creative ideology to deconstruct traditional stage convention and redefine dramatic arts as a medium for social change, Fassbinder distills the narrative into a disjunctive assembly of deliberately formalized, episodic long takes, primarily in medium shot, that retains observational distance and critical objectivity: the constant seating re-arrangement at a local bar as the neighbors play a card game; Rosy's dissociated musical performance; the incongruous introduction of piano accompaniment as people promenade down the street; the repeated incidents of unprovoked violence. By presenting the pervasive and insidious nature of estrangement and dispossession, Katzelmacher serves as a brutal and compelling reflection of socially tolerated inhumanity and marginalization.

© Acquarello 2002. All rights reserved.


Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The Great Acting Blog: "The Context And It's Work"

 

An actor should always allow the context within which the scene takes place to do it's work, that is, he need only play the actions asked of him by that particular scene, and need not worry about what has taken place in preceding scenes. One reason for this is it helps the actor give a simple, precise and true performance, but also, it leads to better storytelling, which is, therefore, better for the audience. The alternative is to explain the meaning of the scene to the audience through characterization, which is the acting equivalent of exposition; we've all scene those serial killer movies where the guy walks in the door wearing a smile which says: “hi, I'm you're new daddy, but I'm also a mass murderer”, or there's the kind of actor who makes the character wear “a certain kind of sunglasses” even when no sunglasses are mentioned in the script, either way, this kind of acting makes tragedy seem less tragic, and comedy less comic. It's far more provocative and captivating to simply play the scene (or, infact, the moment), without explanations, and let the audience join the dots.


A brilliant example of allowing the context to do it's work, can be scene in Luis Bunuel's The Diary Of Chambermaid. Michel Piccoli plays a hen-pecked member of the landed gentry, and starved of sex by his domineering wife, who only seems to care about money. To overcome his frustration, Piccoli tries to seduce the new chambermaid, played by a very beautiful Jeanne Moreau. Despite several wholehearted passes at Moreau, it becomes apparent that she is little more than a coquette, so Piccoli turns his attention to the second incoming chambermaid, who is gamely played by Muni.


It is the scene where Piccoli seduces Muni that we see the context at work. Muni plays Marianne, a middle aged washer woman, barrel-shaped, sad and downbeat, she looks as though she's never been touched by a man, in short then, the very opposite of Jeanne Moreau. Piccoli approaches her in all seriousness with the intention of seduction, and we guess at this even as he walks towards her, although Piccoli does not indicate it. Initially, Muni rebukes Piccoli when he says that she must've “got upto mischief” as a young girl with a defensive “I've worked all my life”, and she's gobsmacked when Piccoli describes her, without passion, as “a little minx”. Finally, she weeps after Piccoli arranges to meet her in his room later that night, as though she had waited decades for God to send her a man. But the irony is of course, that Piccoli is even more desperate, but he plays the scene seriously, as though he is fully in control, like a consummate lover embarking on yet another illicit affair. Of course, we know that this isn't true, and that the affair is much more important to Piccoli because of what has happened in preceding scenes, and so it is as a pair of desparados that the two of them disappear into a barn to make love. Bunuel's scene is gently mocking and ironic, but made more effective because of it's context, and because Piccoli (and screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere) allow that context to do it's work, they never try to explain the scene in order to make sure “we get it.”


 


Saturday, 1 January 2011

Michel Piccoli In Cahiers Du Cinema

 

Last week I published a post which attempted to understand the nature of Michel Piccoli's talent, and, to a certain extent, that post was successful. However, I still felt that I hadn't really done justice to Piccoli and have decided, in an effort to make good my shortfall, to publish an interviews with Piccoli from Cahiers Du Cinema. Here, Piccoli articulates his thoughts on art and craft, with a rigour and depth I can only aspire to. Piccoli talks about many of the great names of European cinema, including Jean-Luc Godard, Luis Bunuel and Robert Bresson.

The Actor and the Secret: Interview with Michel Piccoli

Translated by Sally Shafto

AN IMAGINARY MADNESS

 

 

few years ago in an interview I tried to say that I would like to act like Munch paints. Perhaps that seems intellectual and very pretentious. When you look at his paintings from a distance, you see clearly what he depicted, a tree, someone who screams. But when you come closer, you find, close up, an apparent disorder, an untidy mess. In stepping back, the disorder disappears, but the frenzy remains. This work of painters impresses me very much. How do they manage to invent their painting from close up? For me, it’s like a mirage. I do not experience this need with painters who are straightaway violent or aggressive like Picasso. But with secretive painters, like Munch [...].

 

When I act, I am rather far away from the film’s crew, in the camera but distant from everyone; same thing in the theatre. Nevertheless, the acting must be very precise; the focus is sharp; the sounds of the text are audible, as clear as they can be. At the same time, I like very much to improvise in acting, like a painter adding a stroke here or there -then something faint or completely dark becomes visible, where we don’t see the inner workings.

I like to work in disorder and with the disorder of my partner, and also with the disorder that can exist in the director’s imaginary or that of the writer, to have this kaleidoscope in me and to try make something of it immediately comprehensible. Or rather often, I enjoy being very comprehensible, and I introduce a lost moment, a blank, and an empty space in order to take off again in the construction that has been asked of me [...]. To interrupt a sentence, to change key. I like to be very sure of what I am going to do and thanks to that, to allow myself shortcuts.

To this idea of disorder that I practice should be added: imagination. It’s a matter of remaining on hold in the disorder that can exist when you think or say something. It would be the opposite of an automatic mechanism, of an expertise or of a professionalism. In fact, I like constantly to do exercises. There are musicians who practice all the time but we actors are not able to do that. We don’t have an instrument, except if you say we are our own instrument, and yet [...] I always try to continue searching and working for the moment where you have to deliver. The Italian comic actor Toto was a role model for me. He was more than an actor; he was in his imagination, entirely. It is said that he never learned his text: when he had something long to say, he took off in a delirium, a logorrhea whose end his partners would await. It wasn’t ham-acting or disregard for his fellow actors. He was inventing, writing as he acted what he had to play. I would like very much to be able to do that.

ATTENTIVE LISTENING, DISCRETION/MODESTY/PROPRIETY

 

 

It often happens that I listen to the way my partner speaks and respond accordingly. Sometimes I act alone; sometimes I am extremely attentive to my partner, in order to juggle with what s/he contributes. An attentive listening can suffice to act. I have even explored this possibility to the nth degree, in a sort of improvisation based uniquely on listening to my partner and the director, because deliberately as an exercise I hadn’t read the script beforehand. I don’t remember the title of the film [...]. I was fortunate to be more on the watch for the director, in the theatre or in the cinema, than of myself or of the character I play, and even of my partner. Listening, entering into the secret, has always been my way keeping my bearings - in order to be the best marionette that they had imagined. I have never been self-sufficient, unlike many actors. I like extremely discreet actors, who thus open up the imagination. To be really immodest, you would have to let loose in way that you would never dare in real life; I can’t stand actors who let go unenthusiastically or modestly.

Take Louis Jouvet for example. He had a kind of discreet madness. You sensed in him an elsewhere, a “presence elsewhere,” and an acting style almost of a marionette. He never tried anything by emotion, by laughing or crying, he was instead a “monolithic secretive” actor. In the theatre, he was undoubtedly very attentive to his fellow actors; he would give the impression of always painstakingly maintaining a distance for listening - this is in fact an excellent definition of what in French we call “pudeur,” which in English translates variously as modesty/decency/propriety. This is why I like so often English actors or the great Americans originally from England.

The best example is Buster Keaton. In what he does, in what he shows, always this impassive face which is not concerned by what is happening, a kind of solitude in the middle of disorder. It’s better, when one is an actor, to be modest than to be an extrovert and a “ciccione” as the Italians say, “a lyric poet unto oneself.” Even if of course there are some great lyric actors, like Vittorio Gassman, for example, especially when he was on stage.

Keaton, Chaplin: great self-control. They were capable of performing athletic pirouettes, circus stunts, but nothing showed. There is someone else who is a reference for me in this kind of work: Robert Mitchum. He recorded songs [...]. I think that he was a great practical joker, perhaps also a great alcoholic, but that didn’t stop him from being extremely discreet. He had a physical presence incredibly moving, and totally discreet. He was there, that’s all. Like Keaton.

FARCE

 

 

This métier necessitates farce. If you are bewitched by your own personality, bewitched by yourself, by the public or by the camera - the actor is inevitably immodest - but possesses a great awareness of the comic. I rather like the Italian expression “io faccio l’attore.” The Italians don’t say “I am an actor”; they say ”io faccio l’attore.” I would like to follow this idea to its logical end, to act like a marionette.

I used to dream of meeting Robert Bresson by chance, that he would not recognize me and would employ me like one of his “models.” It’s an actor’s wish and a double farce. First of all, a joke on me: to remove all my professionalism, as Godard often would say: to be no longer a professional of the profession - and a joke too on Bresson. Then I will have been doubly, triply, quaduply actor. Bresson approaches me and says: “I am Robert Bresson, I must make a film, would you accept that I write something for you,” I don’t know how he used to do it, and then like that! I would have played at once the actor who is no longer an actor. I would have very much liked to have fun watching this man who wanted “models,” non-actors, who, it seems, made an enormous amount of takes until he obtained the emotional annihilation of the actor, and I am sure that I would have managed, during our time together, to fool him. It’s an exercise I would have greatly loved to have done.

There is a crazy producer whose name escapes me at the moment who was supposed to do a film with Bresson towards the end of his life, with Alain Cuny and me. Bresson would have agreed. I knew Cuny pretty well; he was another extravagant, gigantic character as few actors have been. I would have so much liked to be between Bresson and Cuny, a perfect situation!

That’s where I would like to go. Still I got there, by chance. Otar Iosseliani, for his last film, Jardins en automne, proposed that I play an old woman. Iosseliani works generally with non-actors; he finds that actors, as he says, “produce clichés.” I think that he isn’t wrong, but that it is precisely a substantial part of an actor’s job to not fall into cliché. I acted thus with non professionals, and it was another exercise, first to dress me up as an old woman and to insert me in this work of marionette of Iosseliani. We tried wigs, dresses, etc.; I told him: above all no lipstick, no bust. It’s an actor’s work [...].

I went to the see the film in the editing; I saw a little bit, and noticed something very disturbing. It concerns the personal life, but it is important here. With age I resemble more and more my mother, and thus disguised as a woman, it’s outrageous: I see my own mother performing in the film of Iosseliani. Then, it all gets complicated, don’t you think? At the same time, it is part of the game. Why wouldn’t I, after all, resemble my mother? And is it thus that I do not mistake my mother for a marionette and continue to breathe life into her?

To meet Bresson in the street was one of my fantasies, but I had another even earlier. One of the first films that I saw when I was a kid was The Invisible Man [...]. There, I go too far, yes, I am going to propose to Iosseliani: “Wouldn’t you like to do a film on the invisible man, with me in the leading role?” But in word, I like very much to believe that I am the most invisible when I am acting. It is perhaps for this reason that people say that I do strange things - do I do them to hide myself, or am I myself really strange? To ask an actor to speak about himself and about his métier is a kind of analysis, wouldn’t you agree?

LA MORT EN CE JARDIN/DEATH IN THE GARDEN
Luis Buñuel, 1956

 

 

[First appearance of Father Lizzardi (Piccoli) in white suite and a priest’s collar, among the adventurers reunited in a dive. The performance is conveyed in the way of filling out the suit (stiff and straight), and in multiple and diverse hand tricks, starting with a close up on a watch and including the kiss on the hand that Piccoli receives from Charles Vanel.]

Often I have noticed that in the characters, I play the director of the film. The directors delegate their secret to me. With Buñuel, it is extremely interesting. Before (Death in the Garden I saw him in Paris - he came to see me in a play by André de Richaud, a writer whom he admired, and I introduced them. I invited him to see this play because at the time I was beginning to understand what I wanted to do in the cinema: I wanted Buñuel to see me, so that we could work together.

One day I was given an appointment in a production company; this was before the advent of casting directors; at that time you saw directly the filmmaker or his assistant. It was for the role of a priest, “forty-five years old, and pudgy,” for Buñuel’s next film [...]. And given my appearance at that time, it was going to be difficult, but I wanted to have some fun. But it was he who had the last laugh. I sent a telegram directly to Buñuel: “Ready for the role of the priest. Let me know your answer, please.” And the next morning, he sends a telegram to the production company: “Piccoli the priest.” I was amazed [...]. I arrive in Mexico; he meets me at the airport and straightaway he says: “I am very happy to see you: you are absolutely not the character.” It was pretty fantastic! That a man like Buñuel gives me like that the possibility to enter into his world of madness and modesty, under the guise of a kind of farce. I quickly understood that this man both, wildly extravagant and exceedingly rigorous, was going to be my model, both physically and temperamentally. I began the film like that, and it suited him perfectly. Perhaps I stole a little from him and that’s what I kept for the following films, from Diary of a Chambermaid up until The Phantom of Liberty. Other than that, he never said to the actors: you need to be sensitive, there, you are going to move me or, there, pay attention, it’s the moment of “deep meaning” as the Americans say [...]. With Buñuel it was, you enter there, you sit down there, and then afterwards you leave, that’s all.

It is also important that the first role that he gave me was precisely that of a priest. Buñuel came from a family belonging to the upper middle class in Spain, very religious. He abandoned this faith to go towards Surrealism, but without any eccentricity. You could think that the Surrealists and the Dadaists were outlandish, but it wasn’t at all the case - they were on the contrary extremely hard-working, inquiring, mocking, and revolutionary. Buñuel always observed this moral code, and even with regard to religion. Simon of the Desert is one of the most beautiful things that exist in the cinema. To manage to struggle and at the same time to try to find what could be the best manner of being rigorous with regard to religious belief is extraordinary.

Those who had the opportunity to work with Buñuel know that they belong to a family: we are cousins. Julien Bertheau, Fernando Rey, Pierre Clémenti, Francisco Rabal, Claude Piéplu [...]. Ferreri created a similar bond. We, his actors, were all friends and interchangeable - between Ugo Tognazzi, Marcello Mastroianni and me, he used to hesitate, if one wasn’t available, he took another [...]. We were all pranksters, mocking of the talent and intelligence of Ferreri, and at the same time impressed by the surgical acuity of his topics as by his manner of being attentive. Another formidable lesson: Ferreri, at the moment of saying “Action!” used to not look. He would shut his eyes and listen.

LE MÉPRIS/CONTEMPT
Jean-Luc Godard, 1963

 

 

[Fritz Lang at the end of the scene inside the Casa Malaparte with Palance, Bardot, and Piccoli says: “Suffering is necessary.” Picccoli goes from window to window walking around in circles and containing his anger: each time he is ready to explode, he is calmed by regarding the Mediterranean through the bay windows.]

In this house, in this immense room where we filmed, you cannot help but stop in front of the rocks and in front of the sea, as if to take a breath, whatever one’s state of mind. In fact, there is a great intimacy between this space and the state that I act and the acting itself; to create rupture, or at certain moments of the performance, moments of unconsciousness, or of extension of a feeling. A look into infinity through a window: that space offered me that

My character is trapped, surrounded by his wife whom he is in process of losing, by the moneyman to whom he doesn’t want to sell himself, and by Fritz Lang [...] who was there all time like an untouchable guru and a bit of a joker. Simply, there, the spectator of the suffering of my character, and that of Godard.

The music is tremendous, as is the manner in which it is placed; it too is a respiration. It gives the impression that it emanates from the suffering of the characters. It is the first time that I am so aware of this, even if it may seem pretentious to say so, of the conjugation between my score and that of Delerue; it was the same mood, the same secret.

There is my character who comes and goes into the room and in a sort of anger and the character of Jack Palance, who goes directly off screen towards the window and delivers a punch, the exact opposite of what I do. It seems to me that it was during this take that Godard pretended to regret, when Palance wasn’t listening, that he hadn’t broken the window pane and fallen [...]. Palance was completely lost on this shoot. Brigitte, on the other hand, although completely intimidated was very docile. The wise man in all that was Fritz Lang.

Contempt is a completely autobiographical work by Godard, autobiographical of this moment in his life. He describes a moment of distress, of self-examination with regard to love, literature, cinema, money. I think that it was a profound moment of anxiety in Godard’s life. But he is such a discreet man that I have a little difficulty in speaking of him, as I also do of Buñuel or of Oliviera. These makers of fantastic images have an extraordinary discretion.

Godard summoned me, as is said, to announce that he was going to shoot Moravia’s Contempt. He wanted to give me the book, but I had already read it - so he simply offered me the principal role, and nothing more was said other than “We’ll see each other again in a month.” When I see him again and he has decided on the other actors, he went with me to pick out my suit. I didn’t know him, Godard, outside of his films; but I saw that my suits would be similar to his own, and the hat was his hat. So I am playing Godard? I stand in for him; he takes me as his puppet. Something which I like a lot with Godard is the way in which he speaks about cinema and money. It is after all an obsession we all have: how do Luc Besson, Philippe Garrel manage? Godard is a scientist of cinema. I think that he has an enormous awareness of what money is; I think that there are many artists who can be the financiers of their oeuvre, whether it is with a lot or a little money. It’s the case with Garrel, certainly. It is another aspect of an artist’s upkeep. That’s why I like so much these people. Godard has a discipline of money; those intent on spreading malicious rumors say that he is cunning with money. But it’s an imperative life skill. Either one earns a little, and it’s enough, like the poet René Char in his early years. Or you really need a lot.

MAX ET LES FERRAILLEURS/MAX AND THE JUNKMEN
Claude Sautet, 1971

 

 

[In a café, Max reveals to the prostitute Lily (Romy Schneider) that he is a policeman. Piccoli holds completely still, while Lily collapses, but his very pronounced stiffness is contradicted by the complex interaction of looks which are successively disconnected, vacant, out of synch, tearful, then severe when finally Max departs.]

It’s a beautiful scene. I wonder, moreover, if it is not for me Sautet’s most beautiful film. The character has a dual career for which he needs an exemplary “uniform”: policeman and judge, because he thinks of himself as a judge. He is wearing pants and a jacket, which is in fact a cassock. And when he begins to no longer have a uniform at the end of the scene, when he looks at her and is on the verge of crying, hesitating between embracing her or killing himself, he controls himself to the breaking point [...]. How I managed, I don’t know. It was thanks to Sautet and to Romy Schneider. How to go in the blink of eye from complete self-control to a brush with total meltdown? There you have everything I like.

In holding still, you have to do a lot to give the impression that you are doing nothing. You have to know how to strike a balance and quickly change gears. It’s acrobatics, like aerial stunt pilots - I say that because I have a passion for small planes and I have learned how to stall in midair: you cut the engine, the plane goes into a nose-dive and you learn how to recover. Perhaps I stall all the time while acting, I let go into the void and then I recover the energy of feeling or of emotion.

With Sautet, the idea was a little different. There is a bit of psychology in this statufication. To simplify, you could say: the good thing about being unhappy is that it forces you to self-restraint. That’s no longer said. You mustn’t saddle one’s fellow with your problems, but it is in spending time with another and in saying nothing that s/he can calm you of your pains. Here is what perhaps I practice as an actor; it is probable that I like to calm myself before the distress, or the grotesqueness or the madness of the characters I play.

I am wearing a very white foundation and there is undoubtedly a little make up on the eyelashes. An actor’s coquetry: I find that it is very good to put some mascara on the eyelashes, even for a man, it opens the eye, and the gaze becomes more forceful. But that has nothing to do with the balance between different feelings. This balance for me is completely in the mind. The tear is mental, yes, whereas people think I am going to really cry. But it’s also true that the mental can sometimes make you cry.

LA GRANDE BOUFFE/BLOW-OUT
Marco Ferreri, 1973

 

 

[Piccoli at the barre: weighed down by the orgy, he performs slow exercises, while whistling the film’s music, then lightly touches the costumes hung next to the barre, rubs his hands together, before rapidly hiding his face in the crook of his arm.]

It’s fantastic, the films where directors take their time; this scene has an imaginary dimension just by its length. All that is related thus in a single shot, physical and mental states, nostalgia, habits and needs, is extremely delicate and mysterious. The opposite of an anything-goes attitude, whereas at the time Ferreri was considered a political danger, a mental danger, a sexual danger [...]. Blow-Out showed gestures and conditions of reunion of characters who never existed; you never heard about four men who got together to kill themselves in eating! We had fun in being the grotesque puppets of grief, in order to die in climaxing; to die with an animality, not to die of mental despair. To play to die.

Ugo, Marcello and I were close friends and of course we had read the script, but as soon as the shoot began, nobody looked at it again! We were inventing incessantly, while remaining very attentive to Ferreri, but he too was paying attention to our pranks. The take-off on Marlon Brando, for example, was suggested by Ugo; it wasn’t in the script. Ferreri had a very deep imagination, a constant anti-psychological streak. He was a man of freedom of creation and he understood that we entered into his game with a lot of pleasure.

For this scene, he certainly didn’t direct me very much. I must have imagined how this solitary being could be the master of his pain; and the final gesture, the psychological point is very certainly my invention - the take was supposed to be longer; Ferreri cut precisely on this gesture.

At the time ofBlow-Out I was already well integrated into the troop. But the manner in which I met Ferreri is strange. I was shooting La chamade/Heartbeat with Alain Cavalier - he’s another whom I like enormously, and as we say, his evolution is extraordinary. Ferreri came by to have me read a few pages from Dillinger is Dead and to offer me straightaway the role, while at the time we didn’t know each other [...].

Dillinger is the story of man who coming home late, finds a pistol, and instead of committing suicide as is expected, kills his wife, eats, makes love with the maid, roams around the house like lonely child and suddenly jumps into the sea and goes to live on a boat. I am in all the film, continuously. The film was shot in 1969, after the revolution, and it’s a question of the desperation of man who has “made it” who no longer knows where to go. It caused a scandal, so much ferocity on the condition of the “parvenus,” as we said at the time. Too violent, too dangerous.

Ferreri didn’t direct me for a second during the shoot; he would simply give spatial indications. It was up to me to play this solitary person, this solitude, this eternal child or this childlike rebirth of “mature” man, between despair, suicide, simple insomnia, dream. There is another character who comes close fairly close to this, a similar state of solitude and of potential violence; it’s the male character in Agnès Varda’s Les Créatures/The Creatures. Or yet again, it is perhaps close to what Godard used to say to me for Contempt, that I should be “ a character from Rio Bravo acting in a Resnais film,” somehow perfectly split between the physical and the intellectual.

Finally, I have played many loners who were both cerebral and physical. If I had the energy for it, I would write my two lives, psychoanalyze myself via the psychoanalysis of the characters whom I’ve played. That could explain why I went in this direction, why different directors employed me in an ultimately similar way [...]. An introspection of myself and of the characters with whom I had a feast, to talk in a culinary way.

ADIEU BONAPARTE
Youssef Chahine, 1985

 

 

[Short scene at the foot of the pyramids; while a writer of Bonaparte comes up with a well-known expression, Cafarelli, played by Piccoli, gets carried away: “ [...] when I will be destroyed by their majesty, I will describe my euphoria!”]

I was very much at ease to do a historical film, “in costume.” It was exciting that it was made by an Egyptian showing how Bonaparte’s army could moreover have brought benefits to this country, history seen from the other side. It is also a farce, as is often the case with Chahine. It was very intelligent on his part. I juggled between the epic moments of the character - triumphant, on horseback, in a magnificent military uniform - but at the same time a secretive man undoubtedly inwardly in love with a young boy. The equilibrium between the outward panache and the private discretion pleased me inordinately. How all that came to be, I will be unable to explain to you [...]. I see now my manner for varying the rhythm of a phrase, to quickly turn to anger just after having smiled, going from hot to cold.

I like to break my performance, above all in the theatre. In the cinema, it’s more difficult but in the theatre it pleases me a lot. To act in the clearest, the most “correct” way, and then suddenly everything changes dramatically [...]. Sometimes in acting, I think of an emotion, an emotion in the actor’s bag of tricks, tears in my eyes. Of course it all happens more quickly than that [...]. Then I turn towards the audience and I look at them to see if they have understood an emotion that could exist. Once I treated myself to a diversion [...]. I was performing in a small theatre-in-the-round. I don’t know what came over me; I had a long passage of dialogue. I deserted my partner to whom I should have responded, swung around towards the first spectator I saw, and I continued the text while looking at him, in acting with him. The spectator looked at me, shrinking back into his seat, a little bit afraid [...]. Still, I don’t think that it was a bad joke. Instead of addressing everyone, I chose one and performed with him.”

PARTY
Manoel de Oliveira, 1996

 

 

[First dialogue with Leonore Silveira, in the garden of the garden-party. Piccoli as an old, bombastic don juan is behind her, between big smiles and enthusiasms.]

“This film was overlooked more or less [...]. I would like to see it again. My acting is a little overdone, don’t you think? Perhaps in the overall film, it isn’t noticeable, but here in this scene I find that I find it overacted. It seems to me that it could have more sober and delicate.

Laughter is wonderful. It breaks the solemnity, the pretension - because this character is an incredible snob. Laughter is a joke, sometimes not very polite. I am laughing about what the other one is saying, not necessarily about me. Or if not; it’s a mockery of the character himself.

I am told that I often use laughter [...]. I am not aware of it. Laughter breaks the psychology, like a simple injection of a smile, also unexpected, sometimes. It is a way of being ironic with oneself: I make fun of myself as an actor. Laughter allows you to play on both sides of the fence simultaneously, to smash all at once the solemnity of the character and of the actor.

Above all, I would like laughter to be like a “stroke” in my paintings: not a moment of expressionist performance, a spectacular break, but something linked to an overall sentiment. Which doesn’t remove anything of this function, to undo the solemn. Since I am catalogued usually as an intellectual actor, something that I detest; it’s a constant battle! That’s how I am described: an intellectual who does bizarre things.

I am going to play King Lear soon. He was another great loner. I would like, if it’s possible, to show him conscious of playing with his madness, and not simply showing a character in profound distress. But a character who plays with his grief. “O, matter and impertinency mix’d! Reason in madness!” A tragic orgasm [...]. That’s why people say: He does such strange things! But you are frightening! I am a monstrous actor; that’s a real delight for me, of course. But I try so much to not play monstrosity but rather the secret of tragedy, the secret of desperation. Perhaps after all I am a sad clown.

I don’t know yet if this King Lear is going to laugh, but I hope so. With his daughter at the end, for example, when he says to her “I am old now and stupid,” I have the desire to say it laughing [...] as if a kind of mockery.”

Remarks recorded by Cyril Béghin, Paris, 9 November 2005

New Logo

Delighted to announce that Drifting Clouds now has it's own logo, designed by the remarkable Pouya Ahmadi (visit www.pouyaahmadi.com for portfolio). I hope you like it, we do. It gives Drifting Clouds a clear identity as we plan for the (An)Other Irish Cinema screening.

I wish you all the best for 2011.