You notice some uniformity of movies produced
in Hollywood but also in Europe?
I’m really amused lately by the point of uniformity free market has reached. Everybody wears, eats, listens to, does the same things. When you look at the productions, it’s as monotonous as communist productions could have been. It’s very surprising. We could have thought a free-enterprise system would have allowed more inventiveness.
How do you explain such a monotony?
I think the necessity of profitability doesn’t allow to take so many risks. You will invest in something you’re as sure as possible to make profit out of it, for instance by copying something which has turned out to be successful. That reduces the field of enterprises. But I think the process is way more sophisticated. I think the mechanisms of market and our being consumers work in a crazy way.
Which one do you want to tackle first? Consumerism?
Sure. As consumers, that is as participants of the market, we take less risks than the enterprise itself. We go in the same hotel rooms; we eat in the same restaurants, because it is secure. In order not to be disappointed, we renounce to be pleasantly surprised too. It seems that we are accustomed to be consumers, that means we are used to get what we paid for. And this habit works by itself and has more consequences than we figure.
What are the consequences on cinema?
It’s a very dogmatic way to relate to things. Because we want things we buy to provide what we expected. That means we want films to fit with the very idea of cinema we had before coming in the theater. Hence, we don’t allow movies to explore a very disturbing field, we only ask them to reinforce the a priori we have. Now you can watch a movie with a clock, you know precisely that at the 70th minute, the two lovers are going to split or the hero is going to face an obstacle. I read some comments on the blog of a serious journalist of a serious French magazine Télérama about Godard. It’s very interesting to see how skeptical some people can be in front of his movies, which go very far from what we think cinema must be. They see those movies as not good compare to their idea of good movies, without even wondering why on earth someone would make such things.
Do you see consequences on the movies themselves?
Yes indeed. We have to keep in mind that a movie is a speech. It’s a use of a language. And when you consider a movie as a speech, you often see someone establishing something as a dogma and deploying a whole movie to prove this establishment right. This same method in a scientific work wouldn’t be accepted. It’s very funny to see how people are tolerant with cinema, how it’s still a screen of smoke. In all those, let’s say “classical” movies, perhaps only Hitchcock’s Birds doesn’t solve the problem it raises. I mean, you still have no clue why those birds are attacking this poor woman.
The conditions of productions reinforce this dogmatic
process, don’t they?
Yes. It’s really well done. In an interview (arrêt sur images, France, 2010) the French economist Frédéric Lordon points out this “fundamental issue of capitalism and any kind of concerted actions” by asking “how this man does to imply other powers in the realization of his own desire?”. The answer provided by the production of cinema is hilarious. You have one man, rarely a woman, who brings together a bunch of people and pays them, and forces them, to stick to his plan, that is to prove his dogma right. As an economical model, production of cinema is not democratic at all. It doesn’t allow people to bring something that would contradict the whole dogmatic deployment. On the contrary, they are used as functions. I remember Hitchcock’s saying to Truffaut how he picked up actors depending on the image audience has of them. They are used as clichés to reinforce a whole cliché. In other ways, everybody is here to stick to the script and the script is made to establish a dogma. It’s a closed-circuit. But it doesn’t have to be that way. When you consider the most hitchcockian Godard’s movie Le Mépris, you can see every single element, the actors, the technicians, the sound, the editing… going against one another and contradicting themselves. In his late Film socialisme, he goes further and doesn’t even try to establish anything, only focusing on what he calls “disputes”.
The mechanisms of the market don’t help?
The problem with this capitalist market is, to my opinion, that it works as a language. That means it identifies and differentiates things like any linguistic system. This is very brutal because nothing can really fit in with an identity. Things can’t be reduced. They are made to overwhelm. And even though the market will go to the extent of covering every single niche, even though it juxtaposes plenty of niches, this identifying/differentiating process will always left so many things. It’s the same with politics; you never really fit in with a party. That’s why, I assume, Freud made up this subconscious stuff, to point out everything that is not covered by language. The mechanism is pervert, because what seems to be abundance is made of renunciations.
Could you be more specific? How doest it work with cinema?
Sure. That means for instance that dissident cinema is swallowed by the capitalist-linguistic system. What is provided in the market as dissident cinema functions like an identity like any other identities. This is very interesting because all the systems we had in our History were never able to handle or to cover everything in the society, there was always things remaining left and those things always ended by making the system to stumble. For instance, Bourgeoisie in France, those third Estate people who left their fields to make business in cities, didn’t fit in with this very division of the State between nobility, clergy and farmers and happened to make the French Revolution in order to get some room. Now this capitalist-linguist system is deterritorialized, as Deleuze and Guattari pointed out, that means even the very dissidence is recovered and used as an identity, an option of the market.
Isn’t it a good thing? Doesn’t it allow dissident cinema
Not at all. As long as it fits in with a niche of the market, this is not dissident cinema. Take Gregg Araki’s movies for instance. His speaking of sex, drugs, threesome, etc. fulfills what we expect of it as a niche, but it is still made to bring the audience, those who wouldn’t recognize themselves in other movies, to buy those ones. A dissident filmmaker would withdraw his work from the rules of the market, for instance by refusing to provide the viewers what they expect as consumers. And a dissident filmmaker might want to think about more democratic conditions of production of movies and more democratic structure of movies themselves. But the viewers have work to do too. They need to go against their habit of expecting to get what they pay for. They need to accept to be disturbed by watching movies that doesn’t look like anything.
A dissident cinema?
You have plenty of reasons not to respect and even to shock the rules. For instance politically, you can not follow any rules without turning into a conservative bigot. Artistically, you need to questions axioms and prejudices, check everything all the time and take the risk to fail. Failure is never a problem. And then, there is also something perhaps more intimate. That is... those linguistic combinations you use end up by running down. Take the word « revolution ». It used to be very loaded before being used to describe a fridge that heats things up or blinking shoes or... Until Arabian peoples raise up and reload that word. You need to give their strength to the combinations you use, words, images, depending on the language you work on… and you need to get some unused combinations. For instance Spanish people have used the word “indignados” rather than “revolted”, which was more loaded obviously… In short, I don’t think you can make cinema if it’s not dissident.