Sunday, October 14, 2007

Arthouse gossip and film related miscellany

Some interesting gossip. Anne Wiazemsky, who played the role of Marie in Robert Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar, has revealed in her just published memoir that during the course of shooting the film Bresson became obsessed with her - "at first, he would content himself by holding my arm, or stroking my cheek. But then came the disagreeable moment when he would try to kiss me ... I would push him away and he wouldn't insist, but he looked so unhappy that I always felt guilty."

She says similar things happened on the sets of Pasolini's Teorema too! Hard to believe such forbiddingly hyper-intellectual directors falling for someone as catatonic as her. (In Teorema she appropriately plays a girl who goes into coma.) Indeed it would have been laughably easy to dismiss had another intellectual director par excellence Jean-Luc Godard himself had not fallen for her in real life. They remained married for twenty years!

Anyway, some other interesting film related links. Review of a biography of Otto Preminger, director of Laura, Anatomy of a Murder and other classics. This reminds me I have to compile my list of five favourite films about courtroom drama. Anatomy of a Murder would be somewhere on the top. Another review in the LA Times talks about the contribution of Salavador Dali to cinema.


Also an old essay on Pasolini in The Nation which is pretty good. Has this interesting if a bit bizarre quote by him:

"Young males are traumatized by the duty permissiveness imposes on them--that is to say, the duty always and freely to make love. At the same time they are traumatized by the disappointment which their "sceptre" has produced in women, who formerly either were unfamiliar with it or made it the subject of myths while accepting it supinely. Besides, the education for, and initiation into, society which formerly took place in a platonically homosexual ambiance is now because of precocious couplings heterosexual from the onset of puberty. But the woman is still not in a position--given the legacy of thousands of years--to make a free pedagogic contribution: she still tends to favor codification. And this today can only be a codification more conformist than ever, as is desired by bourgeois power, whereas the old self-education, between men and men or between women and women, obeyed popular rules (whose sublime archetype remains Athenian democracy). Consumerism has therefore finally humiliated the woman by creating for her another intimidating myth. The young males who walk along the street laying a hand on the woman's shoulder with a protective air, or romantically clasping her hand, either make one laugh or cause a pang. Nothing is more insincere than the relationship to which that consumerist couple gives concrete expression."

"Daft, of course," that's what the reviewer says to this.

And this comment by Susan Sontag from the blurb of Pasolini's Selected Poems:

"Of Pasolini's multiple incessant genius, only one facet, that of the film-maker, is well-known abroad. That of the poet, novelist, the structuralist critic, the cultural and political journalist inter alia - these remain to be discovered. Pasolini seems to me indisputably the most remarkable figure to have emerged in the Italian arts and letters since the Second World War. Whatever he did, once he did it, had the quality of seeming necessary. His poetry is an important part of his passionate, proud, historically vulnerable body of work, a work in and with history; and of the tragic itinerary of his sensibility."


Puccinio said...

I wouldn't be too surprised at what Ms. Wizaemsky is saying. If you read up about film-making as well as study film history you often find directors behaving very oddly to actors and actresses that freak them out. But most of the time directors(especially those with a personality like Bresson or John Ford and the worst offender Stanley Kubrick) know what they are doing when they freak them out that way.

Film directing is a complex function and while many think that the director is supposed to tell them how to act step-by-step, it's actually about helping the actors find the right rhythm for the performance and directors have their own way of doing that. And even then since each human being is different they can't use the same method as they did for one.

John Ford, the greatest director of American Cinema(which automatically puts him in the top 3) had a famous mean streak and would generally do whatever it takes to get an actor to do the part to the point of public humiliation. Like for his film, ''The Informer'' for the main scene he actually tricked the actor playing it into getting drunk on set.

You find stories like that. But the thing is ultimately directors have to know human beings and to know what makes certain people tick and at all times you need to be on the same wavelength as your actor. Kubrick in his later movies forgot that, which is why in ''The Shining'' where he has a very good actress like Shelley Duvall he behaves like an ass and ends up shooting the movie. The same with his final film ''Eyes Wide Shut'' he didn't know what to do with Tom Cruise.

In ''Spartacus'' people often praise the performances of Olivier and Charles Laughton. But both actors who hated each other refused directions and did their own thing. Kubrick complained about this later on but actually since the characters they played hated each other that actually helped their performance.

Bresson used his own style of acting which served wonderfully for his form and subject matter but then he worked with non-actors and usually the kind of people without star quality. Wiazemsky along with Dominique Sanda were the only two cast members of a Bresson film to have a successful film career, so I guess they were more difficult for him.

But then I don't know Bresson's work ethic. Each director works differently. That is no two sets of two auteur director will have the same atmosphere even if they have the same equipment and same crew.

Otto Preminger(by the way is that bio by Chris Fujiwara, he's a very great critic) also had similar conditions. He'd be a bastard to some of his actors and a complete gent to others. Fritz Lang was democractic in his absolute contempt for each and every member of the cast and crew('cept of course for himself).

But not all directors act like that, some like Jean Renoir or Orson Welles could work with their actors without resorting to such theatrics, that's possibly because of their own theatre background.

Basically it's about making the actor comfortable for a role. Not normal comfortable, that is place him in an atmosphere where playing the part is natural, almost second skin to him.

Alok said...

I understand if it is an actor-centric film in which the actor has to mine emotions from within... some kind of emotional disturbance from outside may help that. But I don't think she is that kind of actress or Bresson was interested in that kind of performance. In fact all three Bresson, Pasolini, Godard (she was in La Chinoise too) are as far removed from psychological cinema and psychological realism as cinema can possibly be, so there is absolutely no scope for emotional expressiveness that method or any serious conventional acting is known for.

On the other hand anecdotes about say Peter Lorre being thrown off the stairs makes a lot of sense even if it may not necessarily be true because it is that kind of performance that is the mainstay of the film.