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Training the memory

RELATED STORIES

Jean-Luc Godard
Jean-Claude Carrière Film-maker
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Alors quand nous étions au Palais de Tokyo, nous avons accueilli un certain nombre de personnes, en particulier le Centre Audiovisuel Simone de Beauvoir, qui était dirigé par des femmes et Delphine Seyrig, et qui cherchait vainement un endroit, nous avions quelques locaux disponibles donc nous les avons hébergées pendant plusieurs années. A condition bien entendu qu’elles permettent aux étudiants de venir voir leur travail et un centre audio-visuel, c’était pour nous merveilleux.  Jean-Luc Godard, lui même qui cherchait un endroit pour monter, nous l’avons hébergé, nous l’avons pris à condition que de temps en temps il accueille quelques étudiants, surtout les étudiants en montage, pour venir voir son travail. Ça s’est plus ou moins bien passé car il était un professeur totalement imprévisible, très désespérant et très décourageant pour les étudiants, tantôt il les mettait à la porte, tantôt il détruisait totalement leur travail, mais j’ai quand même gardé de son passage à la FEMIS un très bon souvenir.  A l’époque nous travaillions ensemble, nous avions travaillé ensemble sur deux films, donc nous-nous connaissions assez bien, et avec lui c’est l’imprévisible qui est intéressant, c’est-à-dire comment à l’intérieur d’un métier qu’il connaît parfaitement… on oublie souvent de dire que Godard c’est un des meilleur, sinon le meilleur technicien parmi les metteurs en scène d’expression française. Même si on n’aime pas ses films, et même si on a du mal à rentrer dedans, on peut toujours les regarder du point de vue technique, on peut les regarder par exemple pour le cadrage.  Jean-Luc est un remarquable cadreur, ce que n’était pas Truffaut par exemple. Un cadreur implacable. Quand on voulait à la FEMIS démontrer aux étudiants qui venaient d’entrer et qui étaient tout fiers d’avoir réussi le plus difficile des concours, leurs démontrer qu’ils ne savaient rien, ce qui est le travail de la première année, on passait au étudiants son Prénom Carmen de Godard,  et on disséquait la bande son, pour leurs montrer à quelle degré de complexité et de subtilité on pouvait parvenir dans une bande son, au point que le travail ne s’entend plus, la bande son devient unique, mais si on la décortique on se rend compte de tous les niveaux dans un film, qui en plus est un film musical. Je dis cela à propos de Jean-Luc parce que il ne faut pas le prendre pour un amateur, absolument pas, c’est quelqu'un qui connaît très bien son boulot et qui dans la vie a une attitude déconcertante y compris quelques fois pour lui-même. Il est capable de se tirer dans le pied. Il a fait plusieurs fois, de détruire une scène qu’il avait lui même imaginé. On n’a jamais très bien su  pourquoi. Je crois que son rapport avec le cinéma, c’est un rapport passionné au sens le plus fort du mot, capable quelques fois de le conduire jusqu’à la mort. Il a fait des tentatives de suicide, on le sait maintenant, il l’a dit. Mais que cette flamme là… qu’il a su allumer, détecter en lui assez tôt et qu’il a préservé jusqu’à maintenant, elle est unique.

So, when we were at the Tokyo Palace, we welcomed some people... in particular the Audiovisual Center Simone de Beauvoir, managed by some women and Delphine Seyrig, they were looking for a place, and since we had a few rooms we took them on for a few years. They had to let our students come to see their work... and an audiovisual centre, that was a wonderful tool for us. Jean-Luc Godard, was also looking for a place to do some editing so we took him in on the condition that he would welcome some of our students - in particular those doing editing - to see his work. It went more or less well, because he is somewhat unpredictable... very upsetting and very discouraging for students, as he sometimes would throw them out, he would destroy students’ work... but in the end I still have some good memories from his time at the FEMIS. At the time we were working together, so we knew each other quite well, and what is interesting with him is that he is unpredictable, and it is interesting to see how, doing a job he knows so well... because we often forget to say that Godard is one of the best, if not the best technician amongst the French film-makers. Even if you don’t like his films, even if you can’t get around them, you can always look at them from the technical point of view, and you can look, for instance, at framing. Jean-Luc is amazing at framing, which was not the case with Truffaut for instance. A relentless framer. When we wanted to show students, who had passed the most difficult entrance exam, that, in fact, they didn’t know anything, which is the purpose of the first year, we would show to sound students Prénom Carmen, and we would analyse the sound to show them what a very high level of complication and subtlety you could achieve in sound... even though you don’t notice any more all that hard work, but if you look closely at it, you can find all the levels in that film which is a musical. I say that about Godard because no one should mistake him for an amateur. Absolutely not, he is someone who knows his job very well... even though in his life he behaves in a disconcerting way, including towards himself. He is able to shoot himself in the foot.  He did it a few times, destroying a scene he had imagined. We have never really found out why. I think his relationship with film-making is so highly passionate, and that passion can sometimes lead to death. We now know he has attempted suicide a few times, he said it. But that fire... that he was able to start, that he found in himself early enough, and that he has so far preserved, it is unique.

French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière began his association with films aged 24 when he was selected by Jacques Tati to write for him. This early experience led to further contact with other film-makers, including Luis Buñuel with whom Carrière collaborated for many years. He has written screenplays for films including 'Belle de Jour', 'The Discreet Charms of the Bourgeoisie', 'Tin Drum' and 'Danton'.

Listeners: Andrzej Wolski

Film director and documentary maker, Andrzej Wolski has made around 40 films since 1982 for French television, the BBC, TVP and other TV networks. He specializes in portraits and in historical films. Films that he has directed or written the screenplay for include Kultura, which he co-directed with Agnieszka Holland, and KOR which presents the history of the Worker’s Defence Committee as told by its members. Andrzej Wolski has received many awards for his work, including the UNESCO Grand Prix at the Festival du Film d’Art.

Tags: FEMIS, Prenom Carmen, Jean-Luc Godard

Duration: 3 minutes, 10 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2010

Date story went live: 18 October 2010