terça-feira, 20 de janeiro de 2009
Pedro Costa interviewed
by Kenichi Eguchi
April 2, 2008
Shibuya Image Forum
The internationally acclaimed, Portuguese film director, Pedro Costa was back in Japan with his new film Colossal Youth (Juventude em Marcha). He continues to make independent films with the people in the poor ghetto neighborhood of Fontainhas (mainly immigrants from Cabo Verde) outside Lisbon, which area he situated both his two previous films Bones (Ossos) and In Vanda's Room (No quarto da Vanda). In Colossal Youth, he follows Ventura who wanders the deserted and half demolished town like a half ghost after the residents have been moved to a spiffy project the city prepared for them. The director has a calm air and speaks quite casually about his work.
What are your plans for this trip?
I went to Osaka for a screening and to speak to an audience. And still have some interviews and another screening at a strange sound thing. I think it is In Vanda's Room with DJ's at some strange festival, with some strange sounds at a club somewhere.
How do you feel your film being shown in a club instead of a cinema?
Why not? (laughs) As long as people come.
After Colossal Youth, what are you working on now?
Well, now I am editing a film I made, actually, a little bit here. The last time I was here, I was with Jeanne Balibar, the French actress. She came to play and sing here, so I shot her at some concerts, and we are editing now.
Was there anything between Tarrafal (short film after Vanda's Room) and Colossal Youth?
Yes, I made two films. Tarrafal, and I made another one for a Korean production, for Cheongju Film Festival. Every year they make 3 short films so I made one last year.
Can we start from the question of why you decided to make Colossal Youth continuing with what you've done with your two films prior to that?
Well, after I made In Vanda's Room, there was a strange situation for the people there. They were suddenly being removed to this housing complex, these social houses, social projects and plus that, my desire to, it's started as an old idea to make a film about the foundation of the place, the Fontainhas neighborhood; about the first men there, the first shack, the first barrack, and making something around that. This all came about, because they were moving to a new place. They were a bit lost. They were feeling a bit lost. So we filmed the right, ideal moment to do this project.
Is this new area they moved to far from Fontainhas?
No, it's not very far. But the city council did everything possible to make the access difficult. It's not very far but they have to take two buses. It's really on top of a hill. No, it's not really a hill, but it used to be a dump before, so they built houses there. Of course, they had no buses. No transportation. So they made special buses but it's not really easy to get there. It's not far, but it's tricky (laugh).
That was done on purpose?
On purpose, yes, but that's the history of mankind. (laugh) People who've had these kinds of difficulties will always have these difficulties. If it's not money, it's transportation. If it's not transportation, it's something else. Nothing is easy for the people in Fontainhas.
Then, Fontainhas is completely gone, demolished now?
Yes, last time I was there, it was last week, actually. They are starting to build the foundations for a sort of speedway and an enormous shopping mall. So it took a long time for them to start building, or to start doing something on that place because it has been a jungle for 4, 5 years.
Does this film complete the string of common subjects you have been following on Fontainhas?
No, not really. Because, of course I have three films. Well, I made three, and three is a magic number. (laugh)
And people say it´s a trilogy.
What if I make a fourth film? What would you call that? A quatrology? (laugh) I don't even know the name. No, actually, I've already made two films. Tarrafal and the other one so, we'll continue and I want to actually. I already have a project with the same guy, Ventura. Probably, Ventura and some young guys from the neighborhood. Well, children almost. It's not yet totally solid in my head, but I will do it.
So, after Colossal Youth, were you asked to do these short films, because you had chosen the subjects, or did you have ideas to eventually make them into feature length films?
Well, I made Tarrafal, 3, 4 months after editing Colossal Youth was finished. I got a call first from this foundation in Lisbon, saying they were planning on producing and financing some short films for what they call an omnibus. 6 films, 6 directors, all gathered under the same title, the State of the World. So they asked me if I wanted to be a part of it. I knew at least three of the directors. I'm close friends with them. One was Wang Bing, one was Apichatpong Weerasethaku from Thailand and the other was Chantal Ackerman. And I said yes, I like them and yes, the State of the World, we'll do the state of Fontainhas, so you already know what I will make, and they said sure, and then I got this call from Cheongju, Korea. And they thought of me for another short film. So we began with the short film on the state of the world, and went a little bit more with things we had started with the other short film.
Do they connect?
Sure, actually they do, we started with this small idea for one of them, and the other short we got some more ideas and we thought, oh, this could be a feature. And actually, now, I have this idea of bringing the short films, plus, making some more things, and doing it together as a feature film.
So it's a complete film, yet it's also a study?
Yes, it's a little bit like all the work we do. They are in some way finished but every film is a beginning of a new one, so yes, they are connected, it's the same people, it's the same place, it's the same memory, it's almost the same script. Because our script is that memory. A memory of the place, a memory of the people. So it's very easy that a film can show us the secret key to open the next one.
Before, I asked you why you started filming. But again, why do you continue to follow these people?
Well, I don't really ask that question myself. But a lot of people do ask me, and the only answer I have is, why not? (laugh) Of course, this is not enough. (sigh) Because I have no desire really to move anywhere else to make films. Unless somebody asked me to do something completely different. But now, I feel we've made this road together now. Three pictures and the shorts. It is beginning to have this, stupid perhaps, responsibility to be there with them. Especially now, because it is a moment where big changes are coming from all sides in their lives. They feel they are losing something. And I feel that I should try to help them see what it is that they are losing. Try to make that uncertain feeling into a film. And so, you could say they are essays. Essays on, a sort of research of what they are losing, what they expect from the future, the probable horizon for them, and for me also, because it's the work that I do.
And you must also share those memories by now.
I begin to share. Well, even if I can't be like them, from a completely different background. I'm not from their social class. I'm not “black”. But we have this common past now, yes. Well, ten years, something like that is already something, I'm also engaged in a lot of other things with them. I mean, I belong to the association there.
Well yes, everything is. But yes, there are 2 meeting points there. There are a lot of meeting points in the neighborhood. Every street corner, and there's the café, the bar and then there's the association place. So people talk a lot, about everything. Politics. Just about simple daily life problems. Housing problems, problems with schools, problems with drugs and all sorts of things. And sometimes I feel I have to do some things also. I try to organize this sort of cinematheque, videotheque for the young kids. Because I have communications I try to ask all the DVD editors to get me whatever, not only cartoons or films, like Chaplin films, Buster Keaton or whatever. It's quite important because it's a tough job. They start seeing films with guns and stuff very early so if you try to show them some Chaplin films, it probably changes something when they encounter something they are not used to. And all sorts of things. I'm of course, there, if there's a marriage and I will be there filming the marriage.
After Vanda's room, although you work in a similar vein or approach, the structure is different. What was your intention?
In Vanda's Room was a project that was almost done alone. The shooting, the production and sometimes I had a friend helping me with the sound. Sometimes I had a friend helping me with small things which we call production, which just involves a car. And with this one, we actually got a little more money, here and there, in Switzerland and Germany. So before we started Colossal Youth, we had this small budget and were allowed to have a small crew. We were four, so I managed to put one year, with almost 2 years of shooting with four guys and plus, we could pay the actors for all the shooting, and that changed a lot because it creates a normal film crew schedule and routine, so we tried to keep a very disciplined schedule, from Monday to Saturday. And Sunday we didn't shoot. This went on for a year and a half, so it's very different. But I wanted to try and see if we could do it. Because when you do a film, it's generally five, six or seven weeks at the most. We had the ambition to do it for a year and a half, and that changes a lot of things and we were not in the same state of mind. You don't see the end so near. What you talk about, what you live during this long period is not the same as when you're doing a shoot in five weeks. In five weeks, you talk about everything except the film. You talk about girls, cars and money (laugh) like in every shooting and you just hope it's over soon. When you spend a year and half with the film, you are just there and life is much more together. You have lots of other things. You have people who are born, people who die (laugh) and seasons change. So the film becomes, really, almost organic. You don't really think about the film. Or you think about the film and life at the same time. So it's good. It's because it brings down the importance of cinema (suspiciously). The balance is more correct, I think. In what you live, that a film should not be the main thing in your life. Perhaps it's one of the things. It's your work. It's like the guy in the office, or the guy who makes food, or the guy who makes shoes. They do it everyday, from 9-7. It should be the same thing. Photography too. This idea that you're making film, that you?fre making art, is a special moment or aspect, or a thing for the special kind of people, was never for me. It's like the idea of trying to make it all your life, because I like it, it's what I chose, and make it day to day, everyday. Just very simple, very simple, but very tough and very boring sometimes. (laugh) Sometimes it takes a lot of work. Taking a photograph can be very boring and making a film is not always wonderful. If you think there's always a wonderful moment and you meet beautiful people, no it's not. It's not! (laugh) It could be tough, a tough job. But, it's also a privilege to do it, because, it's something that I chose. I wanted to do it, and I can do it well. And with this small budget crew and in this place where people are very generous. We can do it on a very daily basis. We're not doing art. Even if the actor, the film you see is something mystic or beautiful or good.
The audience who see your film, see them as art films. But how do you see your audience?
When we make this kind of film (pause/laugh) we have so much confidence in our audience, we trust the audience so much, that at the same time, we don't care about them at all. It's very ambiguous. We don't think about them. And at the same time, we do things for them, of course, because it's very human. They are very human films. We don't talk about possible strange worlds. They do not talk about things that do not exist. They do not tell stories. They don't tell fantasy stories. I think what we are talking about is something that can touch people here, in Africa, in Argentina. It's about human beings. So we just expect they are just as responsible. If they can't hear about the film, they should be responsible, or as responsible as when we did the film.Because I assure you, we did the best we could. Especially them, they did the best they could. And so I hope the audience will do the best they can. (laugh). The audience should be also very responsible. It's very difficult to see a film. It's so difficult to see a film as to make one. As to take a photograph or work in banking. It's difficult as making a film. It's very difficult to go see something. But if you're not capable of seeing something, you should go away. So I have the highest respect for the audience. At the same time, I don't know who they are. I don't really think about them.
The point of view of this film is Ventura? How did you find him?
He is the force behind the film. With no Ventura, there would have been no film.
Did you have the image of Ventura before you met him?
Well, he existed. He was there. That's the funny part. He was always around that place when I shot the other films. So I cast him in the morning, at night, and he was a strange mysterious guy that I saw sometimes that said, good morning, when I arrived to shoot. Sort of like, hello, and another day, difficult, and say, yes, good luck, see you tonight. This kind of thing. Very gentle, very mysterious. Very dangerous. Dangerous in a sort of?... He's a very tall guy. You know. Very big guy, yes. A man. Really a man. So yes, after two films, when I thought of doing something that could tell a bit of the story of the past about the neighborhood. Some kind of past. The first man, the first shack, the barrack, and how it all started. I thought immediately about him. And so I asked around a little bit and then approached him afterwards. I asked him. When did he come? What is his story? I wanted to know a little bit about the secrets before; the magic. People told me, yes, he was one of the first ones who came. He was 19 years old. He was a very beautiful teenager, this black colossal guy. Always with a knife in his pocket. A lady's man. (laugh) Very tough, very energetic, a sort of young immigrant that would come to work in Lisbon. And then, this was in '71 and then 3 years later, 73 or 74, I think he had this accident; this working accident. He fell from this building he was working. He fell and he was destroyed. His head was not the same after that. His hands lost a bit of movement. He's not totally handicapped, but he was not well, he couldn?ft work anymore, not in construction. It was a tough job. So he became a wanderer who just walked the neighborhood. But I thought this could be the ideal guy who could tell the story about this place. Because he has two sides. He has this pioneer side, this immigrant that comes with nothing, with just some coins, a knife and energy. The pioneering side and the tragic side. It's the tragedy that he is always a part of this immigrant history. I mean, the very dark story, the lonely story, the suffering and the delirious thing in his head.
Is he a victim?
Yes, of course, he is a victim of injustice in our world. They all are. It's totally there, here. Of course they are victims. But I thought I should give him a voice or image or a place in the film because we could show this double side. He could be this attractive, very fascinating man, but at the same time, the sad part of it, almost like, there?fs this side in Ventura, it's lost, things are lost before they become lost, for us, for them. We have no chance. It's been always like that. We had no chance. We thought we could make it. We had dreams of making it, but like I said, everything is very hard for them. Unemployment, police, housing problems or money problems. It's what comes after that, in the head, because it's so difficult.
Is the character Ventura we see in the film, fabricated between you and Ventura?
Yes. It's made by what I think about him and what he probably thinks about me also. So yes, it's probably something between me and them, me and him. I always say that the film is made around the difference that is in the middle of me and him. How should I explain it, it's very simple. Ventura says, when we are shooting everyday, when we were shooting for a year and a half, or two years, which is a long time, it is work. It's tough. It's sometimes difficult. We fight, or I try to do something and he can't, and he tries to do something, and I don't understand, like any working relationship. And he used to say something very simple, sometimes when he was a bit more angry. This is a film but do not for one second think that you can understand me, that you can know what I am, that you can even get inside of me. Just because you have a camera, doesn't mean you can! And this is very true. You can never understand, you can never be with the other. It could be a man and a man, or a man and a woman. You can never be that. You cannot have this fusion. So I think it's better to think that there is a space, that there is a difference, a distance between two human beings. And this is good. This is what creates possibilities. It's possible for us to live together because there is a space here. And this space thinks and works. It's the space that makes you think, that makes you work. So I think the film was made around that. He said, don't think your camera has a magical power, that you can capture all my sufferings, all my past years. Let?fs simply do the film. Let's keep on going. So that calmed me down a little bit. I like to work with people like this because they tell you things like this. An actor would never say this to you. An actor would never say, don't film me like that because you cannot understand me. The actor always says the opposite. I want to try more. I want to express more. I want to reveal more. I like to work with them because they don't reveal enough. They keep things inside. They keep secrets. They keep a mystery. I think that there is a mystery that will never be revealed and that's very good. That's the magic of it. To feel that something has escaped.
As a film director, do you try to go in further?
In this film, we got to places. There was a real collaboration between me and him, for instance, creating something. But creating in a very daily, simple thing. We start with an object. And I said, yes, you could be like that, and play with that, then it's this way of doing something, which is already strange. His movements are strange, his timing is strange. He's thinking about something when he does this and I say, then you should say something, and then he says it in a way I do not expect, so this is a good collaboration. Again, it escapes your direction. I like people that escape my direction. Because I don't think I have that much imagination. (laugh) I depend a lot on the imagination and the collaboration of the other person.
So when you give directions, or when you discuss things, do you ask them, as a director, if it is better to ask the actor/person to do something, than to think a certain way and move with the thought. Which brings out the better result for you?
There's a lot of them, or there's a lot of people in the film. It's very collective, although Ventura is the center of that universe. Well, the story of the film, one of the stories of the film is that he has a lot of children. (laugh) That was a way for us to create a never ending story if he has 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 children, then the film will never end, and there will always be another child coming. We could go on filming forever. (laugh) But it's really a collective thing. With every one of them. What I asked of them was to bring me.., it's almost like accepting cinema, like a letter, like writing a letter to someone. So I said, imagine that you are going to write a letter, read a letter, so you think about to whom you want to address the letter. And that's going to be your part in the film. You will write something for somebody. Take cinema as this message, this medium, and that's what they did. One of them wanted to talk about the mother that she had rejected him a little bit. He wanted to address his mother he hadn't seen for 15 years. So we did two things with him. Just around that. The other was about her child, the other was about the father and the other was about something else. And so we started with that. And they go very deep inside of them, of course, because they are very tough things that they want to say. Very problematic things. So then, we start working. We start at the table like that, and they want to say this, this, this and this, and then I say, okay, let's concentrate just on this. Don't go in other directions, on other roads. Let's keep on this road, so let's take a week rehearsing this scene, then let's start filming this scene for a week or more. We have no deadlines. The only luxury we have is time. We have time to do things.
But having more people on set for this film doesn't get in the way?
More people, but we were four, so it's not really much. We are four here now, so... It was me, a friend of mine with the camera, with mirrors, because we used natural light. So we built this very poor mirror thing. Another friend who did sound and another guy helped us with everything else. So it's not a lot of people. It can be done with four. It's also a film that needs this kind of intimacy. The films have a bit of secret and it's the secret between us, when they come to a talk show or somewhere where there are no secrets anymore. While we were doing it, it was very amongst us.
Would Vandas Room have worked with more people?
No, probably not, because the film is what it is. No, that film needed that kind of network. Vanda's Room was growing off an almost very unconscious or irresponsible desire I had of making something alone against... Because I had done films with 50, 60 people, with this whole street filled with trucks.
Cave of Lava was like that?
Yes, and all the others. Cables everywhere, and police would stop everyone. Assistants saying silence. I was so tired of that that I needed something where cinema could be invisible. The guy with the camera. Like photography. I feel very close to photography because it?'s something you can do, even the world in the streets. Cinema is beginning to be not possible, it's so many stuff, and preparation, and sometimes stupid preparation. Because you see shooting going on, and they would shooting in a corner and would occupy three blocks in American films. It's like a military operation. So cinema lost this very simple way of believing in the streets. That's terrible I think, because if you see it in the film after Colossal Youth. Nothing is like that. You see the films today. The majority of films done today, especially the American films, you see sounds, images, but they are not of this world. It's okay, but I prefer to be in this world. Because, my tradition is still in what I'm telling you about. A very simple image of what exists. That should be cinema. It is the only chance to survive. To keep cinema in the streets, in the small shops, and small houses, with small people.
How do you see the extras in the films, pretending to be bystanders in the background?
We don't have extras in our films because every one of them is already an extra. I mean, they stand in for a lot of people. Ventura is not standing alone by himself. He's standing in for a lot of people. He's there for his friends, for every Ventura who has been a Ventura. Actually, this kind of film is so rewarding for me, because when I show the film, finally when I put the sound and edit it and everything is complete, and the final print comes back from the lab, I do the screening. The first screening of the film is for them, and a lot of people come, of course, and it's amazing. Everything is the same, but first screenings are a bit like what you imagine what films were like in the beginning, and all the people are there, and they are shouting, saying, that's my friend, and my cousin, and they comment. They say, oh yes, you are right, what people used to do in film theaters. (laugh) Stop, stop, oh, no, no, no, yeh, yeh, yeh. They talk. It's very alive. And after the screening, I always like to have a sort of Q&A with them. Well it's not a Q&A because they are friends, but I want to have all the comments I can have from them, and for this film, what I felt, I think, I wasn't wrong. They were very proud of the film. Not artistically. That is something else. The artistic qualities of the film are for us. But just the fact that Ventura stands tall in the film. They were very proud of that. What they said was very funny. “But Ventura, I see you every day in the bar, in the street, and you are always this guy, you're nothing, you're just hanging out, we've known you for years, and you're just a guy like that, but then in the film, you're so tall, so bright. So when they say that, I have the feeling, like you're standing for us, representing us, standing in this beautiful way. And they say thank you. First to Ventura, and not to me, but this is very rewarding. So this is why it's so rewarding for me, more than before. More than the other films I made. I feel so complete. I feel useful. This is a bit stupid. We know that a film, photography or painting is not that useful. It's not going to change anything, but somewhere in the back of your mind, you always have a dream that somebody will see this thing and perhaps it will touch this person. So, I feel more with this film than the others I made.
When you have people talk in your film, this guy says you have different gods speaking. Like a vehicle for the gods.
I never thought that way. (laugh) That is very interesting. You talk about that. Yes, I think we are going back. The way we are doing films. And that's very good for me. We don't think, and we are not thinking like other people, going forward, like let's think of something different, let's think of something original, let's get some more effects. This idea of more and more, that is always in films. Again, the American films are full of that. You have to go beyond something. You make a dinosaur and then you have dinosaurs plus, prehistoric dinosaurs and then warriors. There has to be development. More and more. I think we are going back, back to the origin. Telling a story, or the origin of how it starts. And who do you tell the story. Actually, we go back because it's always about memory. That's our script. It's always about memory, their memory, so we have to go back back back. And somewhere perhaps, we are going somewhere, to very ancient places we are speaking, almost like you say, I'm not sure, but I think it's becoming more simple, we need almost nothing to make a film. It's a very comfortable feeling. Again, there's this kind of freedom to what you could do. I'm very jealous of photography. It's one of the great art forms. I really respect photography, because there's a freedom there. Nobody can steal photography from you. If you have film, it's very easy to be stolen of film. Film is, just like that (clapping his hand). You have the wrong idea, or somebody says, why don't you make something... And it's minutes away. So I'm beginning to have this very nice feeling. I need people to make films. I could not make a film just with images of landscapes. I don?'t think I could do that. But that's my problem. I need people to show us a space, or people to design the space of the film. I have to be inside. Just a girl, boy, a man or almost nothing. As this film, we have no props, I don't think. We bought a card deck for them to play cards with because they didn't have one at the moment. (laugh) And nothing else. It's almost like Ozu. If you are Ozu, a film is four guys drinking at a table. It's amazing.
Can we go further into how you deal with space, about this small universe, this limited space you created?
Well, in this film, it was difficult, but at the same time, that was challenging was, they were moving from one place to another in the real universe. They left one universe, the old place, the old houses, the old streets, and it also means light, and so many things. Space, time. If you are in a certain space, you are in a certain time, they move to this completely different white space, where they are forced to live there forever. And this happens more or less in the beginning of the film. The film started. And they were moving. And I started to move with them. I think it was a very good thing for the film because my idea, my observation of that space was the same as theirs, their time. They looked at the space and I looked at the same space in time. They were the actor and I was the director and we both looked at our set (laugh) in the same way. And the same way was as problematic. For them, how are we going to live here? For me, how was I going to shoot this? It's all white. It's very difficult for me on video. It's everything you should not do. Complete white surfaces. They are black. So it's difficult to have light, to treat light. So we had this common ground, problem, and it was very useful for the film because it was a criticism about the space, as it was their criticism about the space at the same time. It is not cosy. It's not like it used to be, especially. I did not make this space. This was made for me. It's very important for these guys, all of them. 90% of them are cycle immigrants, all over the universe, they are builders, they build tables, houses. People have to build things because they have no money, almost from scraps. And for the first time, everything was brought to them. They had houses made by strangers. Who made this? The people who made this do not know me, so I do not want this kind of house. It's good. There's water, locks, toilets, it's functional, it's perfect, but something is not quite right. And what's not right is that they they realized the space they had built was gone forever, and they will not have the chance of building anything again. That's a very complex idea but I think they understood that. We are becoming a part of society. Really marginal part, we are still poor, we are still down and under, but we are inside society now. They have locks, and we have a shot of a guy opening a door. They never opened doors, at least before. And I do not remember a key. Never. An idea of a key was nonexistent. In Fontainhas, the public space and private space was undetermined. Like you see from this room, a room could be square, and a street could be very mysterious, as well as a house, a corridor, so the old space was very interesting, like a village. It's exactly like the old system of an old African village, maybe an old Japanese village, from the way the space was built. And now they have other problems, they have city problems where they still can't identifiy. They are lost. And I was lost too, during the shooting of the film. So I had to deal with a lot of problems, but at the same time, it was useful for the film.
So in your later short films, you deal with what they had gone through, like Tarrafal?
Yes. What was interesting in that film Tarrafal was, small things we had to do. And they were already moving here, and I arrived and got a phone call from this foundation that wanted to fund the film. For 15 minutes. So let's do something. Let's think of something. So it started, let's think of something, me, Ventura, and this other guy. And one or two days later, they said please, let's not make a film here again. So let's make it somewhere else. I said, but yes, this is where you live now. But yes, we made Colossal Youth about that, this small film we can do it somewhere else. And I understood that they were all a bit fed up already with that place. But where was my problem? Everything we imagine has to do with you, so it would have to do with your space also. So they said, okay, it's very simple, let's just cross the speedway. There's a speedway all around the place. Let's go down and let's go somewhere around there, and we went just across the speedway, and spent two or three weeks there, in this kind of small woods, with small trees, two rocks, and everything was done there, it was this no man's land, like a forest. And I understood that they even lost their space, so if we make films, that's going to be difficult because they have also to invent a new space they like. Within the film. Because in real life, they are forced to live there. In the film, they would probably like to invent a new space. And that new space would be a strange space. A very simple space or a very natural space, under a tree or something. So it's beginning to be like you say, to be like god speaking, like in heaven.
Where does myth enter?
It's already there. It has always been there. We don't think about it. I don't think about that, but it's there, of course, at least. I mean, we need to take myth back to human beings. Myth was taken from us. And we have to get it back to us. I mean, myth was stolen by money and bosses, and it was born, simple people thought of things, and thought of ways of telling things in some very wonderful ways, and that was myth, legend but there was a connection with people that told the story, simply because they told it to young guys, their children, from grandfather to son, and that was the origin of myth and origin of community. And one day, I think it was stolen when another class was born, a social class, because one day on this planet, there were only human beings working on the land and making things, and one day a guy thought, oh, I can make money from them. And mythology became something that we could say was the voice of the gods. But now the gods were commanding and ordering things. They were not generous. They were bosses. So I feel that there are not enough mythologies in the world. Common people lost mythology. Or mythology is made, probably, in the SONY building here, or their brothers in Los Angeles. Things like those places that fabricate mythology today. And video games.Absolutely. They are around us somewhere. (laugh) In high places. So we have to bring it down. It's like using Panasonic. I use Panasonic. It's okay, it's a good machine. It's a good tool. But I will not do what it tells me to do. What they are telling me to do is to move it very fast, to turn it around and use it quickly, and I'm trying to use it very slowly. Take time, so you have to be against everything you're told to do, but yes, we have to reinstall, bring back some mythology, or at least to the common people, and I still know some common people, they exist and they art not so hidden and not so weak. I have a lot of confidence in them. I'm trying to help them.
So you're also helping them to maintain history/myth through coming generations as well, for their story to remain.
It's not easy. It's work. It needs time. It needs patience. A lot of headaches. But you've seen Tarrafal. We didn't know what to do with this 15 minute film. And suddenly, there was this idea of doing something about very simple problems, a problem about this guy being expelled from Portugal, which is happening in Europe. I don't know if it's happening here. You want to get rid of, perhaps Koreans or Chinese. But in Europe, it is the Africans and Ukrainians. Like, enough of them and gangsters. So I have this young guy who came to the association who got this letter from the foreign office saying you have 20 days to pack. He was completely in panic, and I said, let's make something around this. He said, I don't know if I have the head to that, the mindset to make a film, when I'm so worried, and let's try to do it. And the first idea we had was, let's try to make it in 15 minutes, what can I do, could I go around? It's a beautiful idea. I could go around the neighborhood like it was my last day, saying goodbye to my friends and family. I think it was a marvelous idea. 15 minutes. It would be a very nice long film. Let's just make something shorter. Let's say goodbye to your mother, because his mother is a part of his life. So we sat his mother down, and himself, and they started talking and we sat there for a week, everyday, and on the third day, they got to something, the mother thought about the story, you see again folktales and mythology, the story she remembered from her childhood, the devil had his way of passing an evil message. The devil appeared in the village and passed this message. You had to pass the message to somebody else unless otherwise you die. It is common. It probably exists here in another form. So, but what was wonderful was that she connected this evil message to this letter, and that didn't come from me. It was a simple association. It was an evil letter from the foreign office. The evil message. So there it is, a folktale mixing with a very concrete political social problem, made in a very simple way, as this guy saying goodbye to her mother. And that's what we did and I thought it was wonderful. You're talking about today, what is something important and at the same time, you're going back to everything that composes her, their culture. So again, it is really rewarding and it's a collective work where the idea associated, sometimes very nicely associated, actually, can become very solid. Very solid. A small 15 minute film can be very solid for me. And it has everything a film should have. Very human, it's very important in some way, it's very serious, there's something very serious, and especially they say what must be said. I'm not putting words in their mouth and I'm imagining things. I'm just there to guide them. Don't go too far that way, or don't go there lest we lose ourselves. I'm just an outsider. I'm just a spectator. But more than a director. I'm the first audience they have. I'm just there to say, yes, I think it will be nicer that way. Of course, I can be wrong but I still have that power.And then the artistic point of view of your camera positions? What choices do you make with your camera positions?It's not very instinctive. Now it comes with time, comes with... It takes a long time to find a position. It takes time to find the right words. I'm always saying this because it depends, my films depend again on them, human beings, human beings in space, it's not like composing a beautiful frame. It's important to be balanced. If it's beautiful, great. It's important to have some balance, but a long time to achieve. When we start the scene, it is just two guys on the pavement, I move around a little bit. I have 1, 2, 3 weeks to find my place. It can be just moving 3 inches. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it is a bit far from what it is supposed to be. Here to here, and I didn't see it before. But I have to see it. He's doing something and the other guy will be acting some other way, so probably I will go like this, but here to here, it takes me one month.
When you look back on it, what do you think you were looking for, although the positions may be vary. What, all in all, were you looking for?
Why do you ask me this questions? (laugh) I'm not Chaplin. (sigh) I don't know. The truth? It's very difficult. Ask him. There's no best way in the world to see something. The only place, the only point in space you can see something, no, when you feel that all your force is inside the frame, it really comes together, you have the microsecond, you think, you have the same place.I also tend to choose, to find, I would like to think that I am finding a place where fragility is something very important. Because I am working a lot in fixed shots. I'm not moving the camera a lot, because we don't have a lot of means. Sometimes I can do some small movements but otherwise I like to keep it simple. This idea that the shot is fixed and it doesn't move, I really don't think it exists. When you think of the films of Ozu, for me, is the biggest. Ozu for me is the guy who trembles a lot. Not only film people are trembling but Ryu Chishu or the girls are trembling. They just do this, and the whole film trembles. That's just my thing, so it moves, it's not fixed, it moves, so there's this really fragile place where your trembling eyes meet. And that frames your frame and it should be fragile, should be human. All the greatest filmmakers and photographers and painters tremble a little bit with this fragility. It's almost a nervous thing. It's not that steady. Actually, when it's steady, it's bad.
Did you feel that way with the Straub-Huillets?
In the Straub-Huillet films, I feel their life, the way they work. It's all about that. Not losing the idea that, with them, it's even more difficult with the rooms, with people like that, they even find the fragility in empty spaces, something I cannot do. In those rooms, you see something, there's no one, but you're moved to tears because someone was there. That's very difficult. It's like the end of Tokyo Story. You see the father and the mother in the beginning and they go visit their daughter in Tokyo. You see the house, and you see the father and mother, and you see their place in space, and at the end of the film, you see the same place but there's only the father. And there's no mother, but there's the space of the mother. And that's so difficult. Capturing the place of the human being in space, what he had left, an echo of his voice, his presence in the shot. That's amazing. That's a wonderful thing, a film. (laugh) It could be.
Well, I look forward to your next film.
If the gods and money help me. Because you need a little bit of money.
How about the difference between video and film?
I use video as I was making film. I don't think there is a difference. If, you are serious. With video, it's stupid to shoot the ocean, the mountains, or nature. It will not be good. There's no definition. All the leaves, are better still in 35, even in photography, in film film not digital. Not yet. Otherwise, I will face a wall, for me it's a good tool, the way we do it, we do it as we have a big 35 camera, the same approach, the same idea, the same attitude, and that's expensive so we have more time. I prefer to have more time, especially with them, because they cannot be rushed. It would be stupid to work with these people and say, come on, come on. Because they don't know how to do certain things, and they have to find a way.
But to work for a period of a year and a half, you need a budget.
I do need a budget. Basically, to pay people. Everybody gets the same. Me, the sound, my friend, Ventura, everybody. Every month. Like in a factory. So basically, that's the money. The rest is tape. The sound is recorded digital. We have no tapes anymore for sound. Even with cameras, I will start with HD, cards, memories, so basically the budget is for people eating and this kind of thing, and post-production, which is an expensive thing, of course, but normally I make some phone calls. I made this so do you want to help me see this? A little bit from here and there, and I can do the sound mix. That's what is still expensive.
What the budget for your short film Tarrafal, for example?
Oh, not much. In Euro, it was 15,000 Euro. It was small. It was just for us. Of course, there's post-production afterwards. And it was supposed to be done in 3, 4 days. I just took the money and we managed to be there for one month. But nowadays, all of them are so used to it that one guy can hold the mirror or hold the mike. And in the short film they act and once they are out of the frame they are holding the microphone.