Jean-Luc Godard Speaks with Daniel Cohn-Bendit: A Smile That Dismisses the Universe
COHN-BENDIT: These screens, this equipment, these videos, these books… you’re really gonna get rid of everything?
GODARD: But it’s not getting rid of things — it’s all just a bygone era. Anne-Marie [Miéville] did it before I did. It’s over — you can barely create anything. The cinema is a small society that was formed a hundred years ago, in which there were all these human connections, money relationships, relationships having to do with women — and that’s gone. The history of the cinema isn’t one of films, just like how the history of painting isn’t one of canvases. The cinema barely existed. I personally attempted to turn it into something else. But these days, I’m on my last legs.
COHN-BENDIT: That’s not true — there’s an incredible energy in your film. What amazed me is that you portray so many different layers — you’re on the Mediterranean, and then you show social strata…
GODARD: The production went very smoothly. But afterward, you stumble into distribution, circulation, and it’s a whole other story. I wanted to distribute my film across the same amount of time that the production took — meaning across four years…
COHN-BENDIT: You put four years into this?
GODARD: Yes; I told them: it’s going to take four years to make it — actually, no, I didn’t tell them that. And I wanted to distribute it like this: you take a boy and a girl, or two or three small groups, you give them video copies, you drop them out of an airplane by parachute, they have a map of France, they don’t know where they’re going to land, and you let them sort things out, go into cafés, show it a few hundred times… Then you look at what’s happening — they get the lay of the land, they find out what people think about the film. In the second year, you show it in a few screening rooms at small festivals. Afterwards, you no longer need to release it — you’ll have recouped everything, especially since the producers have put in so little — 300,000 euros — but this will have taken four years. In lieu of that, it’s being distributed into a world for which it wasn’t produced…
COHN-BENDIT: But the film’s going to Cannes?
GODARD: “They” sent it to Cannes.
COHN-BENDIT: You’re not going? In Berlin, everyone was waiting for you the entire night — you were supposed to received the Prix du film européen.
GODARD: But I said no.
COHN-BENDIT: They said you said yes.
GODARD: But I never said yes.
COHN-BENDIT: I knew that you wouldn’t show up, and I wrote them telling them so. Wenders put together a beautiful text…
GODARD: But I responded to him, to Wim — to tell him I wasn’t coming. That’s all there was to it. There was a strong feeling, with Anne-Marie, that there’s no more need for a big to-do. How do you drum up a small audience, so as to earn a living? Before ’68, my audience in Paris was 100,000 people.
COHN-BENDIT: For A bout de souffle — way more than that!
GODARD: But ten years after A bout de souffle, it was a lot lower. It was always fixed at 100,000 tickets sold, because this was the same number of people who attended the burial of Pierre Overney. [footnote: “Maoist militant killed by a Renault security guard on February 25th, 1972.”]. We told ourselves: we’ll always find them, the audience. The problem is, that there’s no longer 100,000 in Paris — there’s that many in the entire world. At most you can reach 10% of them. I try to do something, but I can no longer get caught up in everything, URSSAF [Unions de Recouvrement des Cotisations de Sécurité Sociale et d’Allocations Familiales, or “the Organizations for the payment of social security and family benefit contributions”], the royalty payments..
COHN-BENDIT: You don’t want to, or you’re no longer able?
GODARD: I’m no longer able.
COHN-BENDIT: Because you’ve had enough?
GODARD: No, because the rules have changed. There was a screening of Film Socialisme this past March 22nd. You weren’t there.
COHN-BENDIT: You should have let me know…
GODARD: Well, we wrote you, but it got lost in the shuffle. You were in the middle of arguing with Cécile Duflot [national secretary of the Green Party in France]. I spoke with Anne-Marie about this yesterday — I told her: I’m a little worried to see Dany. I don’t know why he really wants to see me. We see one another from time to time. It was always me who went to see you, from the time of Nanterre on…
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