I think if most critics knew how much it hurts the people that made the things that they are writing about, they would second guess the way they write these things.
It's devastating. I know people who have never recovered from it honestly – a year, decades of being hurt by [film reviews]. It's very personal… It is devastating when you are being institutionally told that your personal expression was bad, and that's something that people carry with them, literally, their entire lives and I get why. It fucking sucks.
Our last one was ‘For Your Consideration' back in 2006. Our fake documentaries — Chris
[Christopher Guest] always hated the term ‘mockumentary' because we're not mocking, it's more affectionate than that — but they were getting a little cookie-cutter in terms of story. Everything was kind of the same, except we just changed the subject. At a certain point, that becomes predictable. In the interim, so many television shows have picked up that form and just destroyed it.
At that point
[after Tomorrow Never Dies], people in the industry couldn't really tell the difference between whether I was Chinese or Japanese or Korean or if I even spoke English. They would talk very loudly and very slow. I didn't work for almost two years, until Crouching Tiger, simply because I could not agree with the stereotypical roles that were put forward to me.
Why do so many Iranian films feature children? It's partly because all Iranian children seem born actors, but also because portrayals of relationships between the sexes are only permissible before puberty.
Why does a white straight man in Texas care so much about trans rights? Why he is obsessed with that when it's not going to affect his life at all? It's the same thing with why a 50-year-old lady in Punjab thinks my film is going to somehow hamper her life when she's never going to have to encounter a trans person in her whole life... It's just a fear of the unknown, and the fact that trans people just by their very existence are a threat to the patriarchal system, which works in binaries.
‘Possession' is only the type of film you can do when you are young. [Zulawski ] is a director that makes you sink into his world of darkness and his demons. It is okay when you are young, because you are excited to go there. His movies are very special, but they totally focus on women, as if they are lilies. It was quite an amazing film to do, but I got bruised, inside out. It was exciting to do. It was no bones broken, but it was like, ‘How or why did I do that?' I don't think any other actress ever did two films with him.
The works of Shakespeare live in a world of wonderment, poetry, fairy tale, the language of beauty and eloquence. The performer uses a skillset that amplifies that. There is an air and a grace to it that a good English actor has to understand. In America, in an Arthur Miller play, you might get a guy who's just a guy: guy from Pennsylvania, guy from New York — just a guy, a human. American actors had this connection with real life. The accent and the cadence of the words in America allows for a really interesting flow of thoughts.
I remember when I saw “Straw Dogs” by Sam Peckinpah, I walked out in the middle of the movie during the rape scene… It took me 10 years to rewatch the movie on VHS. Adrenaline fixes your memory. If you go to a party, you will not remember how pleasant it was the night after. You were drunk, you were wasted. You don't remember that. You remember the physical fight you had with someone who slapped you in the face. You remember that vividly. Violence generates adrenaline, and adrenaline fixes the memory. When people see a movie that contains moments of simulated violence, you'll have an adrenaline rush, and those memories are much more printed in your memory. Women sometimes have more problems with the murder scene than the rape scene. Most men are not shocked by the murder scene.
I don't like everything. I like historical movies, but I am not a costume drama fan. Another genre I have no respect for is the biopic. They are just big excuses for actors to win Oscars. It's a corrupted cinema. Even the most interesting person – if you are telling their life from beginning to end, it's going to be a fucking boring movie. If you do this, you have to do a comic book version of their whole life.
A reporter last night said: “I just want to ask about the ending of Knock at the Cabin ; I'm going to do this bit later.” And I go: “By later, do you mean not this lifetime, because even that's not long enough for me.” And they were like: “Hahaha.” And I go: “Were you there last night at the screening? Did you see how young everyone was in the audience? A bunch of them came up to me before and said: ‘I just watched Signs last night. I just watched The Sixth Sense a month ago.' I have a new generation that's discovering my movies. Don't talk about the endings.”
I don't think they should carry on, actually. I'm in it and I loved my episodes, but it's very different now. When ‘The Crown' started it was a historic drama, and now it's crashed into the present. But that's up to them.
I'm not making a movie to assault anybody. I'm going on this little thought-voyage, and some things are disturbing me, some things are confusing me, some things are delighting me unexpectedly, and here it is. Maybe you will come on this trip with me. Maybe you will feel the same, and maybe you won't... It's kind of like the human body. When you open them up, they're just crammed with stuff. It's beautiful and laughable and ridiculous. And that's us, you know?
Note: Colonialism in the Americas
I thought [‘The Fabelmans' ] was awful. The writing so heavy-handed and the whole thing so artificial. Bleh... By making a blonde-Aryan-antisemite the pseudo hero of his high school movie the young Fabelman disarms enemies & wins a pseudo friend. Is this an acknowledgment of the superficial triteness of the director's career as an entertainer?
I first read about it in late August and I was shocked that that was the first I was hearing of it. So many superficial aspects of ‘Tár' seemed to align with my own personal life. But once I saw it I was no longer concerned, I was offended: I was offended as a woman, I was offended as a conductor, I was offended as a lesbian.
Note: My favourite series of 2022
Slow Horses, We Own This City, The Resort, Pachinko, Black Bird, Night Sky, Sprung, A Friend of the Family, Station Eleven.
And I just discovered Adventure Time (2010-2018).
The Office is so inappropriate now. The writers who I'm still in touch with now, we always talk about how so much of that show we probably couldn't make now. Tastes have changed, and honestly, what offends people has changed so much now. I think that actually is one of the reasons the show is popular, because people feel like there's something kind of fearless about it or taboo that it talks about on the show...
Actually, most of the characters on that show would be cancelled by now.
In 1962, while in New York to present Jules and Jim, I noticed that every journalist asked me the same question: ‘Why do the critics of Cahiers du Cinéma take Hitchcock so seriously? He's rich and successful, but his movies have no substance'.
I wanted to see myself as a scientist who was put on a deserted island and asked to go west. That meant that I should only go with my own compass and then go the route I was shown, because otherwise it would have no significance...
I like rules and borders. I also like when I have my back to a wall. I have to find something completely new to say.
There's a moment in your career as an actor that you really can't choose your roles. You are just grateful that you're having a job, and ‘Narcos: Mexico' is a great show. But in my case, it's a little hard because the way they put the story of my country, I don't agree at all. There's a lot of truth and that's amazing, but there's a lot of lies, too.
I think my country doesn't need more narco culture and making these guys heroes.
For 70 years, the Sight & Sound poll has been a reliable if somewhat incremental measure of critical consensus and priorities. Films moved up the list, others moved down; but it took time. The sudden appearance of ‘Jeanne Dielman' in the number one slot undermines the S&S poll's credibility. It feels off, as if someone had put their thumb on the scale. Which I suspect they did.
Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman is an inarguably political choice, made by radical Marxist feminists, not humanist critics in a thriving popular culture. Citizen Kane, former S&S poll champ for the previous four decades, conveyed the excitement of watching movies. The phenomenon of Kane is incomparable. It rallies enthusiasm across nations and generations.
Clearly, Jeanne Dielman and Bicycle Thieves are both ‘movement' films. The influence of the women's movement was crucial for Chantal Akerman; Vittorio De Sica's films of the late 1940s are exemplary of neorealism, pioneering the use of non-professional actors and location shooting, and committed to depicting the social problems of post-World War II Italy.
The Greatest Films of All Time critics' poll
No, I never consciously place symbolism in my writing. That would be a self-conscious exercise and self-consciousness is defeating to any creative act. Better to let the subconscious do the work for you, and get out of the way. The best symbolism is always unsuspected and natural.
I'm not sure it's a good idea for a working novelist to concern himself too much with the technical aspects of the matter [symbolism]. Generally, the best symbols in a novel are those you become aware of only after you finish the work.
the great writers of classics consciously, intentionally planned and placed symbols in their writing
(Joyce, Dante) more than others (Homer) but it is impossible to think of any significant work of narrative art without a symbolic dimension of some sort.
Man is a symbol-making and -using animal. Language itself is a symbolic form of communication. The great writers all used symbols as a means of controlling the form of their fiction. Some place it there subconsciously, discovered it and then developed it. Others started out consciously aware and in some instances shaped the fiction to the symbols.
Note: In my honest opinion, I like metaphor, not just for the sake of it but rather the experience of discovering it. As audience, realization of metaphor usually makes films better (though not always).
In a dark alley on the way out of Goethe Institute, the young me realized that the ending of Germany, Pale Mother (1980) could turn the whole film to be metaphoric letter to the whole generation of German youth. (Though it's quite obvious now for the old me.) At a crowded bus stop after FilmVirus screening, the young me discovered that three strangers in Vive L'Amour (1994) could be interpreted as a dysfunctional family of two parents and their estranged son living in Taipei without souls. Those experiences made those films great for me, and maybe only me, not anyone else.
On the contrary, this experience is the reason I didn't much appreciate Hiroshi Teshigahara's Woman in the Dunes (1964) film, since I already had this realization of its metaphors in Kôbô Abe's book and those metaphors were not translated well enough for me as movie.
In another example, I was once invited to be a commentator for student-films screening. There were some films that when I told the filmmakers what their films would mean if they were intended to be metaphors, and they were amazed how different those films were, compared to their actual attitudes. This is problem when you create narratives but not realize that they could be interpreted as somethings against your opinions.
And as filmmaker, films should stand firmly on their feet, with or without metaphor. There were some times when I finished my films and found some new metaphors that I might unconsciously put in the films. Then they made me surprised and grateful that I might learn something more about my own self.
Be it narcissistic, art appreciation could be very individualistic and personal. So feel free to dig into the ground (I'm looking at you, Woman in the Dunes). What you might find maybe just a drop of water to other people, but it could be a big fountain for yourselves.
Marlon Brando had such an enormous influence on the psychology of men in America. If you look at the “great” generation of American actors like Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro, Robert Duvall, Gene Hackman, Al Pacino, Morgan Freeman, Meryl Streep, that's all the post-Brando generation. All of them wanted to become actors because of Marlon Brando. He so rewrote the idea of what it was, what it could be. It was like what Bob Dylan did in the culture. It just rewrote the game.
It's the worst thing ever when you open a script and read the words ‘strong female lead'. That makes me roll my eyes. I'm already out. I'm bored. Those roles are written as incredibly stoic, you spend the whole time acting tough and saying tough things...
Write me like a guy and I'll do the ‘girl' stuff. Just write me as you would a man: fallible and complex and difficult and shady. And we are still having to remind people to not hold women to a certain ideal.
In the diaspora, the Africa we tend to hear about is this fantasy place. Because it's hard to tell a child about slavery – it's so dire and so awful that you kind of have to balance it with something. So we get this fairy-tale version of Africa. ‘We were kings and queens, and we walked around and ate perfect food, and everyone was free.' It becomes kind of like Wakanda.
We never worried about any of this stuff with the ‘Naked Gun' or ‘Scary Movie' films. We could be as offensive as we like. We went where the laughs were. We never thought that we were offending anyone, but if we were offending people we knew we were on the right track. As time went on, it got to be the '90s and the 2000s and it did change… When we do screenings of ‘Airplane!' we get the question if we could do ‘Airplane!' today. The first thing I could think of is sure, just without the jokes.
I think Stanley Kubrick said that the only original contribution to film, different from all the other arts, because it comprises only… it combines all the other arts, really, but the only thing that's originally film is editing. It's the editing process.
I said, ‘Mr. Farhadi, I want to tell you that the idea and the plot of my documentary are mine,' He answered, ‘O.K.' And I asked him, ‘So you agree?' He said, ‘O.K.'
I don't want a contract. I don't want money. I just want you to acknowledge that this day occurred. So we will take a picture of us in front of the whiteboard as we start writing the script together. Then, when the film comes out, and you don't acknowledge me, and you just forget who I was, I will show you this picture. At least you will know that there was a moment when this happened.
When I did things like [Miracleman] and Watchmen, they were critiques of the superhero genre. They were trying to show that any attempt to realize these figures in any kind of realistic context will always be grotesque and nightmarish. But that doesn't seem to be the message that people took from this. They seemed to think, uh, yeah, dark, depressing superheroes are, like, cool. The creation of Rorschach [a masked vigilante who is one of Watchmen's main characters]—I was thinking, well, everybody will understand that this is satirical. I'm making this guy a mumbling psychopath who clearly smells, who lives on cold baked beans, who has no friends because of his abhorrent personality. I hadn't realized that so many people in the audience would find such a figure admirable.
America has always been a great melting pot but there are few things that have been created here and then given back to the world. [and cinema is one of those few things.]
This is a shoot-the-messenger situation. I'm just telling you what I see, as a guy who has been in this business for 25 years. I don't know that the market is going to be able to support art-house films the way that it did in the past...
I've got four kids, so I can identify Gen Z's habits pretty accurately. They don't have the same emotional connection to watching things in a theater.
It's simply because we have such a great collection and variety of supernatural folklore that the rest of the world has never seen before. Last time I checked – I was making a list of ghosts and mythological creatures coming from Indonesia – we have 44 distinct ones. In Southeast Asia, we have such a rich tradition of ghost stories. We love telling our kids these stories! When I was a kid, if my mother did not tell me a scary story, I wouldn't be able to fall asleep. [ laughs ] So that's our culture. Because we have such a wide and unique library of horror, our movies feel fresh, especially from the perspective of a Western audience.
I love evil Godzilla, but he's everything. He's an all-purpose monster. He takes care of business, always takes care of business, but he's fought everybody, and he's respected the world around. This character has fought so many different kinds of monsters, it's unreal. I like him as evil, up to no good, but that's changing. He has a son -- it's unbelievable, he got really silly in the '70s, but that's cool.
That was a little unfair because it wasn't called ‘Tim Burton's Nightmare
Before Christmas' until three weeks before the film came out. And I would have been fine with that, if that's what I signed up for.
I mean, Tim is a genius—or he certainly was in his most creative years. I always thought his story was perfect, and he designed the main characters. But it was really me and my team of people who brought that to life.
When I look at these big, spectacular films — I'm looking at you, Marvel and DC — it doesn't matter how old the characters are, they all act like they're in college. They have relationships, but they really don't. They never hang up their spurs because of their kids. The things that really ground us and give us power, love, and a purpose? Those characters don't experience it, and I think that's not the way to make movies.
Jean Vigo's L'Atalante (1934) was a bridge between the surrealism of 1920s French cinema and the poetic realism of the 1930s...
Vigo was kinder and more forgiving than the Surrealists, however, and less morbid than the poetic realists.