On directing > Present / Rhythm / Form / Realism | Alain Resnais, 1922-2014

On directing > Present / Rhythm / Form / Realism | Alain Resnais, 1922-2014

 Alain Resnais

“The present and the past coexist, but the past shouldn’t be in flashback.”

“I am never driven. Every film I’ve made has been an assignment.”

“That’s easy to answer: I never had any special appetite for filmmaking, but
you have to make a living and it is miraculous to earn a living working in film.”

“Luck, I never looked to make difficult movies on purpose. You make the films you can make.”

“I’d even say it’s a realistic film because that’s the way it happens in our heads; that was the idea.”

“So I used formal techniques to make the film more perceptive emotionally.”

“It was repugnant, but it was the only way to communicate.”

Delphine Seyrig and Alain Resnais on the set of L’année dernière à Marienbad,1961

Alain Resnais

“I never thought of becoming a director. When I was twelve, the passage from silent film to the talkies had an impact on me – I still watch silent films. I don’t think that there is any such thing as an old film; you don’t say, ‘I read an old book by Flaubert,’ or ‘I saw an old play by Moliere.'”

“When I was 12 I made some little films with my friends. I tried to make gangster films, like Fantomas, but I remember being very disappointed with them. They weren’t frightening at all. I’m sure they’d be very funny now.”

“There was a darkness, a melancholy, that people had trouble accepting. Maybe now, it would work better.”

“It’s painful, either because the people onscreen have died, or because I don’t think the direction is good. There’s always something.”

“There cannot be any communication except through form. If there is no form, you cannot create emotion in the spectator.”

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Alain Resnais at the film set of Hiroshima Mon Amour, 1958 / ph Emmanuelle Riva

“For the first time, I used a mix of black and white with color. In the editing room, I asked myself, What are you doing manipulating corpses this way?”

“My dream would be to make a movie with Stephen Sondheim. I’m proud that I got him to do the music for ‘Stavisky’.”

“They say that a director always makes the same film. I try to make, as François Truffaut said, the next film in opposition to the one that came before. I’m not sure if I succeed. To put it another way, I agree with the auteur theory, but I don’t consider myself an auteur. I’m more of an artisan, a craftsman.”

“I try hard to give rhythm to the changes of pace in a film so that the directing is full of contrast: moments when the direction is reserved and academic, and then suddenly there’s a change in tone. Here’s what I dream of: that the viewer in the movie theater says to himself, ‘yeah, okay, it’s filmed theater,’ and then suddenly changes his mind: ‘yes, but in theater you can’t do that…’ And it goes back and forth from theater to film, and sometimes over to comic strips with Blutch‘s input. I’d like to try to achieve what Raymond Queneau called in  Saint-Glinglin  ‘la brouchecoutaille,’ a sort of ratatouille, by breaking down the walls between film and theater and thus ending up totally free.”

“A viewer as opposed to a filmmaker might see a film differently. But I’m extremely comfortable with my style.”

Alain Resnais, 1922-2014

Resnais in Hans Hartung’s studio, Arcueil, 1947

Alain Resnais is interviewed by François Chalais, 1961

Alain Resnais
Alain Resnaison the set of Je T’aime, Je T’aime, 1968
Sabine Azema and Alain Resnais filming Melo, 1986
Alain Resnais directing Ellen Burstyn on the set of Providence, 1977

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