April 9, 2018

Young stills

 






Godard is afoot: Six days ago this page was published for Godard's new picture LE LIVRE D'IMAGE ("Sortie 2018") on the Casa Azul Films website. Of interest--besides the two stills presumably from Godard's latest (reproduced above and already unlike anything you see in a motion picture these days): the film is listed as a co-production of "Ecran Noir / Mitra Farahani, Paris". Farahani is the director of the very fine documentary FIFI HOWLS FROM HAPPINESS (2013) , about Iranian painter Bahman Mohassess (a unique film in the history of cinema for the fact that its subject dies just off camera during the filming). Other Godard-related films listed on the Casa Azul website as in production: LE LAC, directed by Godard's cinematographer and technical man Fabrice Aragno, and À VENDREDI ROBINSON directed by Farahani herself. The latter I know nothing about about save for observing that the still published on the website shows what appears to be Godard standing on the stairs of his Rolle home from a Martin Balsam angle, the same stairs where several pivotal moments of ADIEU AU LANGAGE take place....



  

March 25, 2018

Saturday
April 7th, 2018
8pm





KINO SLANG


at the 


Echo Park Film Center
1200 N. Alvarado St.
Los Angeles, CA. 90026


presents 



LOVE'S BERRY
(Aleksandr Dovzhenko, 1926)


TIME IN THE SUN
(Marie Seton, Sergei Eisenstein, 1940)
16mm print


CERRO PELADO
(Santiago Álvarez, 1966)




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LOVE'S BERRY a.k.a. FRUITS OF LOVE (Ягодка любви. U.S.S.R. 1926. Dir. & Script Aleksandr Dovzhenko. Photography: Daniil Demutsky, I. Rona. With N. Krushelnitsky, M. Chardynina-Barskaya, Dmitry Kapka. 26 minutes)

The comic misadventures of a dandified barber trying to dispose of his illegitimate child, who is always returned to him. 



TIME IN THE SUN (Mexico / U.S.S.R. / U.S.A. 1940. Dir. Marie Seton, Sergei Eisenstein, Grigory Aleksandrov. 55 min. 16MM PRINT!

Eisenstein’s unfinished Que Viva Mexico!, one of cinema’s most celebrated lost masterpieces, exists in several unofficial abridgments and reconstructions. This 1940 version was assembled by Eisenstein biographer Mary Seton, who said it was based on a rough outline provided by Eisenstein himself. The director had come to America in 1930 hoping to make a film in Hollywood. When those plans were dashed, he undertook, with financing from novelist Upton Sinclair, a mammoth cinematic portrait of Mexico’s rich history, peoples, and traditions. Based on the eternal cycles of birth and death, and inspired by the epic murals of Diego Riviera and other Mexican artists, Que Viva Mexico! was to be structured in six parts, moving in history from pre-Columbian times to contemporary Day of the Dead celebrations. Eisenstein reportedly shot some 50 hours of footage; with expenses and misunderstandings mounting, Sinclair shut down the production. Eisenstein returned to the USSR and never again had access to the footage; Sinclair, the legal owner, parceled it out to various film projects, including Seton’s, over the years. Many believe Que Viva Mexico! might have been Eisenstein’s surpassing achievement, if only it had been finished. (Pacific Cinémathèque Pacifique) 16mm print courtesy of MoMA.


CERRO PELADO (Cuba. 1966. Dir. Santiago Álvarez. Photography: ICAIC. Music: Juan Blano. Sound: Raúl Préz Ureta, Idalberto Galvez. Editing: Norma Torrado. 36 min.) 

"Cerro Pelado" is the name of the ship we see carrying a Cuban sports delegation to the Tenth Central American and Caribbean Games in 1966. While on their way to San Juan, Puerto Rico—a "'freely associated' Yanqui Colony" as a title card says—an aggressive, illegal act of U.S. interventionism attempts to halt Cuban entry and participation. The ship and activities we see become the theory and practice of Revolutionary Cuban resistance, tenacity, life, and liberty. Their eventual landing at the games is generally triumphant. While Alvarez's camera and editing register shock and sympathy at the poverty, illiteracy and signs of colonialism the Cubans see in Puerto Rico, the film explodes with Revolutionary pride in having overcome such conditions. With commentary almost nilthe film speaks entirely through montage and music. "My style is the style of hatred for imperialism," director Santiago Álvarez has said.  


Program total running time: 2 hours
Doors: 7:30pm, Film starts at 8pm 
$5 suggested donation. 









 























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"Kino Slang" is a regular series of cinema screenings begun last May programmed by Andy Rector at the Echo Park Film Center in Los Angeles. It continues the silent alarms and naked dawns of this eleven-year-old blog.


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March 23, 2018

Jean Narboni on THE NAKED KISS


The Naked Kiss is, I believe, my favorite Samuel Fuller film because it was very high risk, beyond the conventional limits of vulnerability. Bresson used to say "entre la croûte et le chef-d'oeuvre il n'y a qu'un pas". ("Between a daub and a masterpiece, there's just one step") This would be a good description of how one feels watching this film. Fuller made it at the end of his most productive period (1964). It really is sublime, but it could very easily be perceived as ridiculous. The sensational first sequence, which is famous and quite striking, is very different from the rest of the film. It leaves room for another tempo -- Fuller was a very musical director and built the rhythm of his films using a highly musical instinct --where the tone is more downbeat. So you really have two different atmospheres. This first moment, a moment of trauma, and the rest of the movie. When you think of it, this story is very much like a fairy tale. But one that turns into a nightmare, a negative fairy tale. The young woman lives in misery, meets a delightful man who will save her... but it takes a horrifying turn. And like in all fairy tales, it has a point of enigma: the naked kiss. This moment is frightening and very troubling. It enunciates a catastrophe. The sublime then spills over into the grotesque.

And in the middle of the film there is a very special moment, a very vulnerable central sequence showing the handicapped children singing. Here too, it's so dramatic it could almost be ridiculous. But it shows a world that is out of tune, discordant. We're between utopia and nightmare. What's really special about this film is that Fuller shows the former prostitute's point of view within this particular story, and on this small town, and he takes her side. The way I see it, this film could be well summed up by Rossellini's phrase about Chaplin's A King in New York: "It is the film of a free man."





From Jean Narboni's presentation of THE NAKED KISS
January 13th, 2018 at the Cinémathèque française. 
Transcription and translation by Ariane Gaudeaux. 
























March 14, 2018

MAYBE WE CAN GET IT WEAVED — No. 3

A series of posts paying homage to Jerry Lewis, his world and the world through him.





Jerry Lewis, Which Way to the Front? (1970)
By Serge Daney



1. There's something in Which Way to the Front? that was already at work in Lewis’s previous films and that finally realizes itself here, hence this particularly strident and not very enjoyable movie where none of the previous tenderness remains. Clearly, Joseph Levitch is turning a corner, and today he's closer than ever to the impossible dream (to be one, to gather oneself up and/or to choose oneself, never to split again). He hasn’t chosen once and for all to be the definite all too human victim, which films like The Nutty Professor or The Ladies' Man ultimately valorized, instead he prefers—and this choice should surprise no one—to be the strong man, the self-made man, Jerry Lewis the producer. The era of this splitting, the mechanisms of which were so easy and exhilarating to play with and to dismantle, is definitely fading away. The desert is growing. And while it’s true that Lewis still treats us (and himself) to a few funny faces , it’s not so much to reassure his audience since—and this has not been noticed enough—these cries, faces, and gurglings (borborygmes) occur only twice in the film: at the beginning, and as a response to the word Rejected.


2. Rejected by what? By a system (the army) which has no need for prestigious  names, but for bodies, cannon fodder (chair à pâté) to make war. This is the decisive novelty of Which Way to the Front? in the lewisian problem; the Lewis of this latest movie is reduced to a word, a brand , a Name. As if ‘to accept oneself’, a known lewisian theme, meant: to renounce one’s body and be only one’s name, what one’s name promises, if it promises anything. And ‘Byers’ stands for ’Buyers’ (a plural which indicates that the splitting, although no longer visible, still survives somewhere; the waxen and tragic mask of Lewis in the first shots are there to prove it). Besides, Byers is a third of the Name and—insignificant himself as a body—he merely inherits from this Name a fortune so colossal that he cannot manage it (and squanders it). In his previous films, Lewis in the end has us (women, powerful people, the public) see him as a Body, a subject, an interiority, an intimacy, etc.. Here, there’s nothing like that: he only learns to behave according to the rules of a game which are no longer his. Since, strictly speaking, he no longer has a body (this body being ‘played’ by the trio Byers III = the three ‘Byers’ = Hackle, Bland, Love), he isn’t going to repeat his mistake (of reporting to the army medical examination, to offer his body and thus lose all possibility of language), and since he is only his Name, he is going to act out the meaning of that Name: a buyer, he is going to buy.


3. From then on, the fiction progresses through a rather strong logic. (Let’s mention, without spending too much time on it, that the analogy Lewis/film-making and Byers/war-making functions throughout the movie. The only elements of war selected and shown are the ones that evoke the making of a film: making garments, choice and purchase of props, learning one’s role, rehearsals, etc., without even mentioning Byers’s use of documentary films which he projects on board his yacht.) A fiction rather unbelievable, implausible, but an incredibility which is a new style for Lewis: no longer the meticulous and ‘realist’ arrangement of a situation which slowly turns to madness with the irruption of Lewis-the actor, but rather an implausibility (or discontinuity, we should say) equally distributed among all the elements of the fiction (for example, the very presence of a Black man in a German uniform is not an issue). Not only does Lewis seem unconcerned with the articulations of his story (no longer prevented, but bypassed, avoided, ignored), but it’s the very principle of diegesis that he seems to leave to chance, the question: how (and by what right) does one move from one thing to another? He asked himself this question with force in all his previous films because the question was then but a particular case of another passage, the passage from one instance to an other within a split personality (hence the bravura moments like the seen transformation of Love back to Kelp at the end of The Nutty Professor). But this splitting is no longer the explicit subject of Which Way to the Front?, nor the motor of its fiction.





4. Why such an apparent loosening? Because Lewis-Byers has taken his role seriously. What is wanted of him? Only what he can give: his Name, and/thus the Money that his Name promises, the possibility to exchange, infinite for him (hence shots of foreign currencies and women loaded aboard his yacht). The story no longer progresses linearly in a homogeneous space, but only through one of these generic equivalents: language, money.  No Lewis film has played so much with language, words and word play; no Lewis film has so openly talked about money and the power it confers (we should spend more time looking at all the dimensions of ‘Jewishness’ at last affirmed in the movie in two opposite senses: Byers’s physical appearance/Name of the decorated German solider: Levitch). No film has gone to such lengths to point out their complicity: Speech is gold.


5. It is thus thanks to the transformative power of words that Lewis-Byers clears himself a path to and through the Front. It is (as a master of language, archives at hand) by both naming and paying that he can secure collaborators (the Japanese who also appeared in Blue Gardenia, then Love, Hackle and Bland to whom he gives a check after calling their name). It is indeed by speaking the same language that General Buck (his sentences are merely repeated back to him) is duped (Buck = Dollar). In the kingdom of words, no resistance is possible or even thinkable, no instruction or password will hold up. But get the Name wrong and the crude reality of war irrupts (Anzio rather than Naples). And there’s no escaping this reality, that of the Body, this body that Lewis seems to have definitely lost and against which the film is targeted (and to which it is dedicated). Kesserling is defeated precisely because he’s only a body (hence the difficulty for Byers-Kesserling to face his role: whisky and beer before the military council, the blitz of a woman in heat). Hitler is defeated, at the end of a magnificent scene, because again he’s only a mere Body, hence the dance, the reference to Eva, to cooking, the conspicuous masochism, etc.. If  Byers–Kesserling–Lewis–Levitch can mime these mad bodies (in an unbearably bleak manner), it is so as to destroy them (but for how long?). Now he has won, which is to say what he has lost is unspeakable [1]: his Word is gold: (Deutsch) Mark My Words.




_______________________________________________

[1] The drama of the subject in the Verb is that it faces the proof of its lack of being.


Cahiers du cinéma
March-April 1971, no. 228.
Reprinted in
La maison cinéma et le monde:
1. Le temps des Cahiers 1962-1981,
pp. 118-120, POL, Paris, 2001.
Translation by Laurent Kretzschmar, Andy Rector, Sonja Bertucci.




















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Which Way to the Front? (1970) will screen this Friday, March 16th, 2018 at 8pm at The Bijou Theater (California Institute of the Arts) preceded by Charlie Chaplin's short The Bond (1918) and an excerpt of Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988-98, Jean-Luc Godard), as part of the Kino Slang Cine-Club. For more information, see here.


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MAYBE WE CAN GET IT WEAVED — No. 2



MAYBE WE CAN GET IT WEAVED — No. 1




March 6, 2018

Friday
March 16th, 2018 
8pm




KINO SLANG​
CINE-CLUB

at


THE BIJOU THEATER

California Institute of the Arts
24700 McBean Parkway
Valencia, CA.
91355


presents



THE BOND

(Charlie Chaplin, 1918)


an excerpt of

HISTOIRE(S) DU CINÉMA
(Jean-Luc Godard, 1988-98)


WHICH WAY TO THE FRONT?

(Jerry Lewis, 1970)




 







Program total running time: 2 hours 
There will be no introductions 
Doors open at 7:30pm, Film starts at 8pm
Free parking on the Calarts Campus 

Note: the change of venue to CalArts is only temporary. Kino Slang will return to its regular programming at the Echo Park Film Center in April. 


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THE BOND (Charlie Chaplin, 1918. 11 minutes)

The tramp wanders onto a blackboard where the bonds of life—friendship, love, marriage, liberty—are treated, ending in war bonds.



HISTOIRE(S) DU CINÉMA (Jean-Luc Godard, 1998. 20-minute excerpt of chapter 1A, "Toutes les histoires" ["All the Stories"]). 

This 20-minute excerpt of Godard's (Hi)stories of Cinema (more "a history through cinema" wrote Serge Daney) begins with the intonation "...WHILE THE GERMANS WERE TAKING THE FRENCH FROM BEHIND..." (referring to the Nazi invasion of France in May, 1940) and what follows like a deluge is Godard's reflection and projection of World War II and its creation and destruction by cinema ("the only history that projects"), using shards of films, popular songs, paintings, newsreels, graphics, etc.. There are hundreds of relationships per minute here of the simple, brutal sort—real black-and-white SS soldiers consuming a turquoise glade by Monet—while macroscopic ideas are expounded in microscopic montage, for example: the conclusion that montage was murdered by the talking picture, and that this victory served "the two industrial brothers, America and Germany, RCA and Tobis", particularly Hitler, imperialism, and the soft fascism of the dominance of "commentary".




WHICH WAY TO THE FRONT? (Jerry Lewis, 1970. 96 minutes) 

"Which Way to the Front? with fully anachronistic sets and clothing occurs during the time of World War II. Its hero is the wealthiest man in the world, an American business tycoon. When he receives his draft notice we expect him to evade it, as he so easily can. But Jerry Lewis’ satire has the biting truth of logic: he is proud to serve, henceforth the film has the wonder of logic unfolding happily along its own course, totally uninhibited by considerations of historical fact or normal criteria of sense." (Tag Gallagher)



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The Kino Slang Cine-Club is a regular series of cinema screenings programmed by Andy Rector continuing the cinematographic and historical excavations, proceedings by montage and association, silent alarms and naked dawns of this eleven-year-old blog.









February 16, 2018

MAYBE WE CAN GET IT WEAVED — No. 2



The August Clown

Interview with Jerry Lewis
by Serge Daney and Serge Toubiana 
(1980)



To meet Jerry Lewis—even sick, even bitter, even in the gilt of the hotel Interconti-Mental—is a very moving thing. The Jekyll side and the Hyde side camp together on his barely aged face. Here is a clown "who makes funny faces" (as if to reassure us he's actually Jerry Lewis) and a man who, at the age of 54, doesn't yet know if he'll follow the usual path of the great comedians, the path to the tragic.



CAHIERS: We haven't seen you on French screens for six or seven years. And in France there are many Jerry Lewis fans, even among film critics, us for example. I just read that you once told Benayoun that comedy is always about a man in trouble. The question is: have you had trouble?


JERRY LEWIS: Yes? Me? No. It's comedy that's a man in trouble. Are you sitting in front of the idiot you've seen on the screen now? O.K. Don't confuse the two characters. (Pause) I didn't want to make movies anymore. I'd hoped that would change. I didn't want my work in the same theaters as DEEP THROAT. And this has changed. We are in the process of putting porno films back where they should be.


CAHIERS: But your audience wasn't the same as the porno film audience...


JERRY LEWIS: My audience would've been forced to go see them. Not necessarily forced, but that's what ended up happening. I was very happy to pull back and wait. I didn't stay at home doing nothing.


CAHIERS: What makes you think it's changing now?


JERRY LEWIS: There is no reason for the trend not to reverse and stay there. In the current state of things, there's a lot of housekeeping to do. And everyone is responsible, even those who have nothing to do with it. Cinema is one of the greatest cultures that man has ever had.





CAHIERS: But when you work in television, are you unhappy? Even when you do your show?


JERRY LEWIS: I don't like television.


CAHIERS: Because one can't work properly?


JERRY LEWIS: They don't believe in perfection. Is it good? No, but it's ready now. That's how they work. I cannot work like that.


CAHIERS: But by making movies can you achieve perfection?


JERRY LEWIS: Yes. Of course, we never reach perfection. But the cinema gives you a better chance of approaching it. You make a film, it's forever. Now on television everything is on tape and we erase it. Cinema is a universal means of communication. I communicate better with people in foreign countries than with other people.


CAHIERS: We've wondered here if a clown character would work on television?


JERRY LEWIS: I don't believe so. Television... the simple view of television... Look at this box (he points out a sumptuous tv set in the room and opens it). To communicate, you need concentration. Listen, Absorb. Maintain a thought. Look at this set. It's off. Yet I see a table, a couch, a statue with bare breasts. My training was a darkened theater where there's concentration, larger than life. That (vengeful gesture towards tv), is smaller than life. Just this information, unconsciously and psychologically, makes you look at tiny characters, dwarves. Remember when you were a child and you tried to measure with your fingers the distance between two stars? It's la meme chose. For me. If I go to the cinema... WAW!, it takes me, and there is a place for me, for you and you and you. We can all communicate between each other; that's why when we're in a cinema and the movie is bad, it's really bad. For me it's, (hateful gesture), it's about news and sports. Because in sports there is nothing to communicate but who wins and who loses. If you watch a football match and a player scores a goal... (he applauds) The image of a little man is fine, it doesn't have to be larger than life. But if you want to touch people, their hearts and minds, you can't be distracted. You've all seen that in Hollywood (he holds his hand out while looking the other way): "Hello! Nice to see you..." Bullshit. Distraction. And I say let's take these people and put them in a dark empty room with just a little light on them and they will shake hands and yes, they will meet!





CAHIERS: Do you believe that producers, the people who have the money, believe as much in comedy as they did before?


JERRY LEWIS: To do a good job? No. This is the system: Is it good? No, but it's ready now. THE GIRL THAT ATE DENVER makes money! She is twenty-five feet tall and she can eat three planes at a time. Rrrrah! If it makes money, they will make the film: there should be more people like Sam Goldwyn who did THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES without knowing in advance if it was going to make money, and that's a film rich in meaning, in communication. There are some, there's George Roy Hill who wanted to do and did THE STING. What a film!


CAHIERS: We know very little about your other film THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED and we'd like you to tell us a bit more about it. What's the relation between the theme of the clown in a comic film and a serious film, or is there, I believe, a reflection on the social meaning of the clown...?


JERRY LEWIS: I don't know if there's a social meaning to the clown... It's easier for me to communicate that way, that's all. I am a clown. Even if I don't wear clown makeup all the time. We can be sure it's always the comic, the clown, the one who makes us laugh, who is the first to communicate, without even the people realizing the communication, sometimes without the clown knowing it himself. In France, I'm told that I do things that I did not know. Yet I'm the author, I know what I wrote. I remember a French journalist who wrote that since I was showing a big woman in one of my films, I had a hairy fat woman in my childhood. Baloney! Unless you want to take me by the hand and bring me to doctor Freud... The meaning of the clown in the world today? It's that the clown doesn't take himself seriously and that the world does. Much too seriously, but not enough. People don't know what matters most. They agree, too much importance. The world is vast. We don't stay on it for very long and we must stop making a garbage heap of it. One of the great recipes for that is to make people laugh. If we'd made Idi Amin laugh more, he would have had less time to hate.


CAHIERS: In the movie made about him, he laughs a lot... but like an ogre.


JERRY LEWIS: Yes. Good film. Good director. A propaganda film of course... Same thing with Hitler. Hitler walked very straight when there were cameras around; when there were no cameras, he walked like a cripple*.


CAHIERS: Is THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED a funny film?


JERRY LEWIS: It's a serious film. Completely.


CAHIERS: So this time you didn't want to make the people laugh but to make them think or to move them...


JERRY LEWIS: ...to remember. They must remember. If they do not remember, they will be condemned to repeat it. One of my sons asked me about HOLOCAUST, if it really existed. Every five years we must say to our children: yes, it existed. Many people don't want to remember, because it's painful. But they do not see the danger of it happening again.


CAHIERS: What do you think of HOLOCAUST (1978, Marvin J. Chomsky)?


JERRY LEWIS: I think they made a huge effort. But I had the feeling they were scared. Of what? I don't know. At first they had great courage and then halfway, they made a compromise. It's a very difficult story to tell. And then they gave too much importance to dialogue, to words. There is much more to show. The audience does not want to hear things, it wants to see. I don't remember what I saw more than what I heard. Did they show HOLOCAUST here? Has it been successful? At least we're sure that it will be shown on television, that people will see it. But for different reasons. They will show it to make money, to make profits. There is a whole neo-nazi movement in the United States. Maybe if they see HOLOCAUST two or three times, we'll get rid of them. What scares me is not that, it's how stupid people are.







CAHIERS: Can you tell us the theme of THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED?


JERRY LEWIS: The theme is simple. There were clowns who accompanied the children into the gas chambers. I researched it for three and a half years. Everywhere, from Dachau to Auschwitz. I lived with a family in Heidelberg for a week. The man had been a researcher for Hitler. Hitler wanted to know everything about everything. His biggest fear was the children. He was terrorized by the children. He could not lie to them and the children, it was them he remembered. He believed that the minds of adults could be shaped, but not those of the children. He was afraid they would grow up, that they would remember and escape him. Of the twenty million people who were killed (I never speak about six million Jews, even if, as a Jew, I am more sensitive to the fact that six million of my people were killed -- because there were many more victims, the Poles, etc.) three quarters were children, from six to eighteen years old. The story is, fundamentally, this fear of children. The children cry, make noise, something the adults don't do. So they go find this clown in a circus, an old German clown, Helmut, and they promise to save his life if he keeps the children quiet. And at the end, he goes with them into the gas chamber. It's not a funny movie. It was very difficult. It took two or three years of my life. But when I finish it, I think I can be proud of it. That said, I'll be happy to return to my idiot role, after that. You know, I play the role of a man of seventy-five; I lost forty-four pounds, I looked like that (makes his hand straight, like a stick). I asked the tailor to make my prison clothes two-times too big for me. Pouah!


CAHIERS: What happened to the film?


JERRY LEWIS: It's still in Sweden. Now all the legal problems are in order, we got rid of the gangster, a French producer who lives here; I was told he had a heart attack, not fatal unfortunately. As soon as I finish this tour and I'm back--I have to play again in Las Vegas and prepare my new film--I'll go to Stockholm and spend three months to finish it. I hope to have it finished for Cannes next year.


CAHIERS: On French television not long ago we saw A KING IN NEW YORK by Chaplin. It was surprising to see how, as he aged, Chaplin became bitter. Most comedians judge others and society more and more as they age, and are morally more and more demanding. Their films become tougher. Do you think this could apply to you?


JERRY LEWIS: If they do to me what they did to Chaplin, yes. I don't think it's as inevitable as all that. There is nothing that I should be bitter about. Chaplin had many reasons to be bitter. Sometimes this hardness is just the expression of a job less well done. The artist realizes it and tries to force things. But Chaplin, they broke his heart. They were unfair to him. Today, can anyone tell me if Chaplin was a communist? And if he had been, what does that have to do with his work? As long as his work makes people happy... There are certainly people doing good work today who may be communists, but I don't care, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone . The last time I was in Paris, I did a series of interviews and I didn't know that one of the journalists I was speaking to was a communist. So what? I was initially worried and then I wondered why: they were good people, they printed what I said, which is not always the case... Nobody comes and explains to me what a communist is. My children asked me this question, I answered: I'll tell you, I'm going to Europe to find out. But I agree with you about A KING IN NEW YORK. What a film!


CAHIERS: And the relations between the king and the child are very strange, not at all sentimental.


JERRY LEWIS: Yes, but if it had been sentimental, it would've still been reproached. I find that soft and sentimental people do not realize when they are sentimental, and that people who are sentimental want you to be, they get angry because you remind them that they are sentimental themselves. How dare you be sentimental when it is so easy for you and so difficult for me to admit! But in the time I spent with Chaplin, he never mentioned A KING IN NEW YORK. He talked about everything except this movie. Interesting... I myself have never spoken to him about it. We have rather talked about the MODERN TIMES and THE GREAT DICTATOR, MONSIEUR VERDOUX, LIMELIGHT... It wouldn't immediately come to mind if you asked me what films he made. It's thanks to Chaplin that we have the cinema. He made it walk. It was nice of the Academy Awards to wait until he was almost dead to award him. Another ten minutes and they would've missed him! Like with Stan Laurel. I think I'm going to write them a letter: don't do this to me**, give me now what you'll give to me when I'm eighty-four, give it to me immediately, while I'm still young enough to dance up that scene without shame.


CAHIERS: In this regard, is having been recognized by French critics a good or bad thing in the United States?


JERRY LEWIS: Wonderful. The best thing that's happened to me in my life. It gives me the opportunity to tell American critics what I think of them. The American critics think that the French are stupid because they like what I do. That's why when I want to feel better, I leave America and come here. It's not the American public; they have always been wonderful to me. But in France, I have both, the critics and the public. I have been fighting with American critics all my life, because they are liars, they do not watch films. There is a critic who wrote about a piece of film that I'd eliminated from the final cut... But he had read the pressbook (we didn't have time to correct it) and he criticized what he read inside it. And besides, he liked this scene whereas if I'd removed it, it's precisely because it was bad! The bastard. All critics are not like that, almost all of them... Without the French critics, the French public, my French friends, I might've dropped everything a long time ago. Because they end up taking from you, driving you crazy. I go to Paris as often as I can. I walk down the street and it stimulates me, it's good for my creativity. I want to come to France and work here, make a film. I think it would be good for me.


CAHIERS: One last question: what do you think of the new generation of American filmmakers?


JERRY LEWIS: I like them. But you have to watch them. Spielberg is a good filmmaker. But we should've never let him make 1941 (1979). He's not a comic filmmaker. When you have success in a field, you mustn't change. The man who's very good at repairing the phone, should he also be a brain surgeon? No. If you don't watch the young filmmakers, they'll be eaten alive by the money-men. Spielberg, Lucas, Bogdanovich, Randy Kleiser, they were all my students. They risk disappearing either because they cannot master their success, or because the money-men will steal their talent, turn it on their heads, and not know what to do with it. It's like wine, if you open it too early, it's vinegar. We can't speed up the creative process. We don't do in a year what takes twenty-five years to grow. Hemingway did not begin by writing THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA. We learn from what we've done, not from what others tell us. And we are our best judges. Because we know what we did. When we're young we get our heads together, we figure out that what we do is good. But great works come from big mistakes, not great successes. I don't like it, but that's how it is. And the young American filmmakers you're talking about, they've learned their craft but haven't learned patience. We are all impatient in a way, but if you are too impatient, you won't last long. Then there are those who make mistakes, can't stand it and slink away.







Cahiers du Cinéma
May 1980, No. 311
(Translation: Andy Rector)





*This conviction of Lewis' is thoroughly demonstrated in his film ten years prior, WHICH WAY TO THE FRONT? (1970), where his character, the billionaire Brendan Byers, must masquerade as the Nazi General Erich Kesselring (brother and lover to Hitler) and perfect the General's spastic limp via rehearsals before an an act of historical sabotage is set in motion (cf. the pealing off and on of roles inside fascism and resistance to it in TO BE OR NOT TO BE [Lubitsch, 1942]). In the same vein, it's worth remembering the categorization of Hitler as "a failed thespian" by both Hanns Eisler (in his conversations with Hans Bunge, 1958-1962) and by Charlie Chaplin (through his famously reported laughter during a screening of TRIUMPH OF THE WILL). -A.R.

**Jerry Lewis was given an honorary Oscar at the exact same age as Chaplin, age 83, beating his prediction by one year. -A.R.



*


MAYBE WE CAN GET IT WEAVED — No. 1  "Twelve Memoranda for Jerry Lewising" by Murray Pomerance  is here.  

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