Friday, December 21, 2007

Jacques Rivette: March 2007

I've translated into English the following excerpts from the greater part of an interview with Jacques Rivette, conducted by Jean-Marc Lalanne and Jean-Baptiste Morain for the March 20th, 2007 edition of French culture-weekly Les Inrockuptibles. The occasion: the release of Rivette's latest film (and by all accounts another masterpiece) Ne touchez pas la hache (Don't-Touch-the-Axe, 2007). Thanks to the tip-off from jdcopp's excellent My Gleanings blog, which is essential regular-reading for les cinéphiles. The interview appears in full (and in French) here.

Jacques Rivette on the set of Ne touchez pas la hache [Don't-Touch-the-Axe, 2007], in 2006. Photo by Moune Jamet for Pierre Grise Distribution.



LALANNE/MORAIN: Is the reception that your films receive something that still burns you up? Were you hurt by the bad reception for Histoire de Marie et Julien [Story of Marie and Julien, 2003]?

RIVETTE: You always wish there were more of a response. But often it comes five, ten years down the road. As it turns out, for Marie et Julien, I'm starting to get a sense these days of some change of heart. But films today have a completely different life with DVD, which I think is the greatest. First of all because that's practically the only way I watch films anymore.

LALANNE/MORAIN: Which films have you seen recently on DVD?

RIVETTE: I've been really disappointed by the new films I've seen. I'm pretty appalled by the current American cinema, after having thought so highly of it. Scorsese has disappointed me a lot. I think that Coppola is a much more interesting filmmaker. When you see One from the Heart [Francis Ford Coppola, 1982] again, you're really struck by a very strong desire for cinema. I'm often struck today by the way in which filmmakers build this image of what their cinema is, and then are no longer willing to let go of it. Even filmmakers that I've liked a lot, like Clint Eastwood, have disappointed me. I couldn't bring myself to go see his two latest films. [Flags of Our Fathers (2006) and Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)]


LALANNE/MORAIN: L'Amour fou [Mad Love, 1969 — which I've previously written about here] is a rather overwhelming film about the complexity, the instability of a couple's connections. But that question disappeared in your cinema, up until the two most recent films, Histoire de Marie et Julien and Ne touchez pas la hache where it becomes totally central again. Again we find the same, very naked pain, tied to love.

RIVETTE: (A long silence.) Yes. (Laughs.) But no, I'll respond. I shot L'Amour fou telling [Georges de] Beauregard, the producer, that I was going to make a film about jealousy, which wasn't entirely true. We shot it in five weeks, under very tight conditions. The film was marked by what I was discovering at the time in the theater, namely the performances of Marc'O, and his actors... Jean Eustache was doing the editing on Les Idoles [The Idols, Marc'O, 1968; starring Bulle Ogier, Pierre Clémenti, Jean-Pierre Kalfon, and Michèle Moretti] but also for the documentary on Jean Renoir, Jean Renoir, le patron [Jean Renoir: The Boss, Jacques Rivette, 1967], that I made in '67 for the Cinéastes de notre temps [Filmmakers of Our Time] series. I remember long discussions that we had on the question of true and false. It followed that the basic principle of the cinema should be reality, and what's more, truth. What I was opposed to was the idea that there were no truth other than fiction. In a certain way, L'Amour fou is a fiction-film relative to the sense that it proposed the truth-film: La Maman et la putain [The Mama and the Whore, Jean Eustache, 1973 — a.k.a. "The Mother and the Whore"]. The film is a direct autobiography, all the characters on-screen were literally people I knew from the period. Jean was writing with the will to be utterly faithful to the biographical material, to find the most exact equivalence to it. In Une sale histoire [A Dirty Story, Jean Eustache, 1977] this very volition becomes the film's subject.

LALANNE/MORAIN: In Out 1 [1971], that 12-hour-long cult-film, you added to Marc'O's troupe two slightly younger individuals, invented by two of your associates in the New Wave: Jean-Pierre Léaud and Juliet Berto. It's really a great film about the '68 youth-culture without ever coming right out and saying so...

RIVETTE: Yes, I shot two years after '68 and, without ever making reference to the events, the characters never stop referring to what happened two years prior. As for Jean-Pierre's and Juliet's characters, they absolutely do not comprehend the world in which they're evolving. But around them, the secret society of the Thirteen ([Michel] Lonsdale, Ogier, Bernadette Lafont) never stops commenting upon what's happened. For me, it's clear, the film speaks of '68, or rather the immediate post-'68.

LALANNE/MORAIN: You were the only filmmaker of the New Wave to establish a bridge with the New York avant-garde of the '60s, and Warhol in particular...

RIVETTE: In the '60s, I kept going to the Cinémathèque. Which François [Truffaut], for example, no longer did. It's there that I discovered the New York avant-garde films. I remember discovering The Chelsea Girls [Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey, 1966], which impressed me a great deal.

LALANNE/MORAIN: Did you meet Warhol?

RIVETTE: Once, at La Coupole, early in the '70s. I was meeting up with Bulle and we were in the same group of people. But he was very hemmed-in; spoke little; looked like a sphinx.

LALANNE/MORAIN: You shot Merry-Go-Round (1978), with Joe Dallessandro, thinking of Warhol?

RIVETTE: I found him magnificent in [Paul] Morrissey's trilogy, Flesh (1968), Heat (1972), and Trash (1970). But the idea was Maria Schneider's, who really wanted him to be her partner, because she had met him in Rome, I think... The shoot was very difficult. Maria wasn't doing very well; was in a physical state that didn't make work very easy; she was sleeping all the time or not at all; — without going overboard, I felt like Billy Wilder waiting for Marilyn [Monroe] to get ready without ever being certain that she'd actually show up. Very quickly, Joe understood that he'd get nothing out of this film. The relation with the production was very tense, we had a lot of illness crop up at the onset of the shoot. But he had a kindness to him, and an impeccable seriousness. Total respect for Joe Dallessandro.

LALANNE/MORAIN: After that film, you went on to Le Pont du Nord [1981], which takes a hard look at the end of the '70s and the squashing of the utopias of '68.

RIVETTE: We shot that film in November of '80. At the time, we thought that Giscard had every chance to win a second term. You don't remember the end of the Giscard years with any certainty, but it really wasn't anything to pin a medal to. Ministers were committing suicide, were getting killed leaving their homes, all followed by a series of scandals, there was the affaire des diamants, of "sniffer planes" for locating oil despoits... Giscard's last year in power was delirious. Le Pont du Nord is a slightly polemical film about this deep malaise, this asphyxiated feeling that belonged to the France of the late '70s. But the film was released a few months after François Mitterand's victory. It was therefore already out-of-date, historically.

LALANNE/MORAIN: The passing of the baton between an individual contemporary to '68 such as Bulle Ogier and a succeeding generation that has no memory of the events, embodied by Pascale Ogier and her punk petit soldat silhouette, is tremendous...

RIVETTE: The idea was to refer to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Passing from the Parisian quartiers outward to the peripheral areas, within those zones that are slightly uncertain, but without ever leaving Paris. We also wanted to show everything that was in the process of being transformed, under construction.

LALANNE/MORAIN: Does the current presidential race interest you?

RIVETTE: It's amusing. If you can't laugh at it, then what will you ever laugh at. No, frankly, I don't have any big thing to say about it.

LALANNE/MORAIN: At what point your films took account of the political mutations inside of France has already been discussed somewhat. What do you think of the films that were speaking more directly about politics, the utopias of collective cinema around the time of '68, Jean-Luc Godard's Dziga-Vertov group?

RIVETTE: The films that you're speaking of were collective in the same way that the regime in Peking was a democracy!

LALANNE/MORAIN: In your connection with improvisation, you've always put into place a collective practice, whereby the actor takes part in the direction...

RIVETTE: In certain films, that's true. None of my films were built according to the same rules of the game, even if I'd resorted several times to a large degree of improvisation, where the actors in part had to invent what they were doing, what they were saying, and sometimes contributing all the way up to the story of the movie. Sometimes this got very risky, but each time in a different way. I've often taken the risk of keeping my mouth shut on my films, but never the same way twice. But in any case, I think that cinema is always collective, even in Bresson.

LALANNE/MORAIN: That's not what Anne Wiazemsky wrote in her recent novel [Jeune fille]...

RIVETTE: I've read that too, I really liked it. Still, we see that the shoot is somewhat collective. Sometimes, the donkey just would not respect what it was that Bresson wanted... (Laughs.)

LALANNE/MORAIN: Why do the credits of your films always indicate: "direction: Jacques Rivette" ["mise en scène: Jacques Rivette"] rather than "a film by"?

RIVETTE: I detest the formulation "a film by". A film is always at least fifteen people. I don't like "réalisation" very much either, which seems to me very portentous, maybe because its root is "reality." Mise en scène is a rapport with the actors, and the communal work is set with the first shot. What's important for me in a film is that it be alive, that it be imbued with presence, which is basically the same thing. And that this presence, inscribed within the film, possesses a form of magic. There's something profoundly mysterious in this. It's an alchemy that one procures, or does not. Early in the shoot, anything's still possible, but once you've made two or three steps, already you have to follow the course that the film has taken. But that's what's interesting. It's a collective work, but one wherein there's a secret, too. For that matter, the actor has his secrets as well — of which the director is the spectator.

LALANNE/MORAIN: Then is the cinema, for you, a collective work between people who have secrets?

RIVETTE: Yes. It's a little closer to that. And I think that the story of a film always ends when you talk about it.

Jacques Rivette and Emmanuelle Béart in San Sebastian, 2003.


Two pieces of business:

(1) The new Godard interview filmed a few weeks ago by the Arte channel for TV and Internet, hosted at the Cahiers du cinéma site: here. Broken up into three parts, totaling something like 45 minutes. (Note: no English subtitles.) Streaming Windows Media format, so Mac users make sure you've downloaded the Flip4Mac plug-in — the clips will open and load in Quicktime.

(2) David Bordwell gets down to brass tacks on the matter of aspect ratios, specifically with regard to the NEARLY COMPLETELY 1.37/1.33:1 OEUVRE OF GODARD, WITH THE EXCEPTIONS OF THE SCOPE FILMS, WEEKEND, TOUT VA BIEN, AND SAUVE QUI PEUT (LA VIE). And he does it here, and cites my own citation elsewhere on the Net of a must-read/-asborb/-fully-solipsize image-essay published by Godard in the Cahiers in 2004, titled "Formats".

Nouvelle Vague = 1.37/1.33:1

For Ever Mozart = 1.37/1.33:1

Eloge de l'amour = 1.37/1.33.1

— no if's, and's, or but's.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

On Dangerous Ground

Ida Lupino is Mary Malden, blind, living in isolation on an upstate pasture. Robert Ryan is Jim Wilson, a hot-blooded cop sent up north by his captain to accompany a posse on the hunt for a local murderer.

"Wouldn't you be lonely, if you lived in a place like this?"

"Yes, I guess I would."

"The city can be lonely, too. Sometimes, people who are never alone are the loneliest. Don't you think so?"

"I don't know, I've never thought it out."

"I think you have. Sometime or other most lonely people try to figure it out — about loneliness."

"And you think I'm one of them?"

" — May I touch your hand?"


Bride of Frankenstein by James Whale, 1935:

Saboteur by Alfred Hitchcock, 1942:

On Dangerous Ground by Nicholas Ray, 1952:


In a Dangerous Zone: 2

On Dangerous Ground by Nicholas Ray, 1952:

Old Joy by Kelly Reichardt, 2005:

On Dangerous Ground by Nicholas Ray, 1952:


Monday, December 17, 2007

In a Lonely Place

In a Dangerous Zone: 1

Opening lines:

Bogart as screenwriter Dixon Steele in his convertible, red light, Los Angeles. Car pulls up alongside. Beautiful presumably-platinum-blonde-in-a-beret, hunched in the passenger seat of another convertible, this one driven by a putz.

"Dix Steele! How are you? Don't'chu remember me?"

"No, I'm sorry, I can't say that I do."

"Well you wrote the last picture I did — at Columbia."

"Well, I make it a point never to see pictures I write."

The woman's doughy-cheeked driver — her man — butts in:

"You — stop bothering my wife!"

She huffs/puffs.

Dix: "Oh. You should'n'a done it, honey. No matter how much money that pig's got."

The dough-cheeked pig lover: "You pull over't'the curb!"

Dix: "' 'Ey what's wrong with right here — ?"

The doughy-cheeked pig lover speeds off as Bogart opens his car door split-second ready-like.

In a Lonely Place by Nicholas Ray, 1950:


Dix's agent, to the girl at the coat-check:

"Honey let me have that book I left you for Mr. Steele to pick up will ya."

Coat-check girl, nearly through with the four- to five-hundred page hardcover:

"Oh, I'm almost finished with it..."

Agent, turning to Dix: "All you've got to say is 'I like it,' and you go on salary tomorrow...!"

Dix: "Then I like it."

In a Lonely Place by Nicholas Ray, 1950:


Dix's agent to Dix, after Dix attacks the snot-snouted producer who insults his soused "thespian" pal:

"You will read that book tonight?"

"Yes yes yes."

"Well I'll drop by, and wake you up in the morning, around 10."

"Make it about 11."

In a Lonely Place by Nicholas Ray, 1950:


Dix to the waiter:

"There's no sacrifice too great for a chance at immortality."


In a Lonely Place by Nicholas Ray, 1950:


Chop out the cuts-on-motion.

Continuity flows from sound, and silence; not cuts.


The cops make a show at the place. One of them, Brub, played by Frank Lovejoy, resembles Joe Swanberg.

Gloria Grahame, Laurel Gray, walks in indignant —

Captain: "Considering that you've never met Mr. Steele, you've paid quite a bit of attention to him."

Laurel: "Mm-hm. I have at that."

Captain: "Do you usually give such attention to your neighbors?"

Laurel: "No."

Captain: "Were you interested in Mr. Steele because he's a celebrity?"

Laurel: "No, not at all. I noticed him because he looked interesting. I like his face."

In a Lonely Place by Nicholas Ray, 1950:


Ray's close-ups have got no frippery. They're powerful and dislocating. One moment, Bogart lurches forward, mummification setting in already, processes of immortality underway. In another, Grahame, bisexual Nick Ray's then-wife, is synergized with an electrical switch.

In a Lonely Place by Nicholas Ray, 1950:


Bogart: in a zone of death.

In a Lonely Place by Nicholas Ray, 1950:

Some of my friends live in the same place; maybe it's not Beverly Hills, but it's the same place, it's Silverlake, it's Los Feliz, West Hollywood. The rooms are a mess, the Merry Maids exist but never show up. Ever since my first drive up Mulholland — a visit to the house of the man then known as Terence Trent D'Arby — a real sarcophagus on display at the bottom of a staircase on floor one — then looking out through the amateur telescope set up on the third-floor patio, open-air, in small pastiche of Babylon's gardens... focusing on Hollywood's night-twinkles, fallen stars — — I knew that land was a zone of death.

In 1950, Nicholas Ray films his third film about being Nicholas Ray.

"Well, what do you think?"

"Well, I'm glad you're not a genius. He's a sick man, Brub."

"No, he isn't!"

"There's something wrong with him."

"He's always been like that, he's an exciting guy!"

"Look when I took Abnormal Psychology — "

"Every time we disagree you throw that college stuff in my face. I didn't go to college but I know Dix better than you do; there's nothing the matter with his mind, except that it's superior!"

"Well he's exciting because he isn't quite normal!"

"Maybe us cops could use some of that brand of abnormality. I learned more about this case in five minutes from him than I did from all the photographs, tire-prints, and investigations — "

"All right, but I still like the way you are! — Attractive, and average!"


"Average!": An Origin of American '50s:

In a Lonely Place by Nicholas Ray, 1950:

Strangers on a Train by Alfred Hitchcock, 1951:

In a Lonely Place by Nicholas Ray, 1950:


In a Lonely Place by Nicholas Ray, 1950:

"I was born when she kissed me.

"I died when she left me.

"I lived a few weeks while she loved me."


Saturday, December 08, 2007

They Live by Night

The woods of Arcady are dead.

It's possible, like this,
At last, to sense the simple things:
Slave razoring bark;
Patron hemorrhaging.

— At night's end
We mouth rote words
Beneath the sere leaves;
Wind alone undoes us

Here, in the new hospice of youth.

L'horizon ne nous approche pas
Le soleil ne se diffuse pas
Les rayons sont faibles et longs

Qui vient à la maison des fébriles?
Qui se souvient les trésors des villes?
Je sais de quoi —

Je ne lutte plus
Je ne lutte pas...

They Live by Night by Nicholas Ray, 1948:

Au hasard Balthazar [Aimlessly, Balthazar] by Robert Bresson, 1966:

They Live by Night by Nicholas Ray, 1948:

Au hasard Balthazar [Aimlessly, Balthazar] by Robert Bresson, 1966:


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

If you see only ONE American movie this year...

— make it Don Siegel's The Big Steal (1949)*.

The Big Steal by Don Siegel, 1949:

*PTA's There Will Be Blood and FFC's Youth Without Youth will go wide closer to January 1.


Big post ready to drop very, very soon; watch this space. Have been holding back until the editing+'s finished. In the meantime, someone's drawn a moustache over the photo of Walter Murch's moustache — it was probably me...

"And this slap is a gift, / Because your cheeks have lost their luster..."


Monday, November 19, 2007

The Road to Antonioni Leads to the Palazzo di Miramax

Big thing soon. Right now:

"[Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly] is often, like the memoir, very funny and in many passages has a kind of Gallic elegance, as if it were telling the story of a paralyzed Tintin with a script written by Françoise Sagan."
—from "Don't Call Him a Filmmaker — at Least Not at First!!!" by Randy Kennedy in The New York Times, November 18, 2007.


Sunday, November 04, 2007


A Recent Throughline

"...[D]oes anyone here know [Scott Eyman's] Ford bio? I find it hard to read because of his rather appalling lack of appreciation of many Ford movies, especially late Ford movies like Donovan's Reef [1963], Cheyenne Autumn [1964], and 7 Women [1966]. Eyman is simply not the guy to deal with directors in the later periods of their careers, and I'm not surprised he would take this kind of attitude. Give him a Laura [Otto Preminger, 1944] or a Stagecoach [John Ford, 1939] and he'll appreciate it, kind of in the old, familiar way.

"Preminger's ambitious 60s films deserve discerning viewers, and I know they have many here so won't press the point. I personally agree that Hurry Sundown [1967] (for example) has a lot of merit and is consistent with most of the things I like about Preminger. And far from being one of his worst, I believe The Cardinal [1963] is his greatest movie.

"But more to the point than one's preference of individual films, I have no patience with "critics" who cannot stick with an artist as he evolves throughout his career. Of course, a director can miss and a late phase of his/her work can be troubled for any number of reasons, but it's rarely the case there is nothing interesting or of value in even lesser works of someone great. And more often, critics reproach directors for not making the same films they admired before, as if an artist should not be free to move in a new direction, to simplify, or conversely, to become more elaborate. [...]

"It seems to me that with all the things one could write about in cinema, if one were to write a book, shouldn't it be about someone or something one is especially sympathetic to? That doesn't mean you need to like every film equally, but I just don't see someone as a sympathetic critic for a director if they take the narrowest kind of view of "decline" and "failure" and such things, and are basically ready to give up on a director when that director does not simply repeat the exact same kinds of things he or she did that once enjoyed a wide consensus as being successful.

"Rather, I'll take someone's view of a film as a failure, less than the best work of that director, if I think their overall view of the director is sympathetic, if they enjoy seeing the director venture on into new territory in different phases of their career, challenge their own aesthetic in different ways, evolve in the ways an artist must. And I do think every critic does their most penetrating work on the films they love and not the ones that they dislike or casually dismiss. By the same token, they'll have the deepest sense of the director and not just some sense of that director's most readily appreciable virtues and easy to see stylistic qualities. [...]

"A certain kind of critic does especially like to jump on late periods of directors, and there is an undercurrent at times [...] of "This artist has become weak, diminished, but I, the critic, remain strong and powerful..." I'd really rather someone err on the side of sympathy, especially with someone who has had the kind of career that has earned it."
—Blake Lucas, at a_film_by

Orson Welles on Parkinson, 1974
(Thanks to B. Kite for the tip) —

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Jonathan Rosenbaum interviewed by Mara Tapp on the CAN TV special Unseen Orson Welles: A Conversation with Jonathan Rosenbaum, October 2007 (excerpt; the complete 1h 10m interview can be viewed at Google Video here
thanks to Andy Rector for the tip) —

"I think this [i.e., certain critics' insensitivity toward evolving shifts in concern and aesthetic in a great director's later- and even mid-period works -CK] originates with the snobbish attitude "serious" critics of a previous generation had towards film. They cobbled together knee-jerk notions of a director's "best" (almost invariably one or two early films) and then insisted on an ironclad "decline" narrative, with no if's and's or but's.

"As is obvious all sorts of factors come into play with any filmmaker's career [...]. All the usual blather about Welles's "decline" doesn't get in the way of the fact that he not only made great films besides
Citizen Kane [1941], they were great VERY DIFFERENT films. Touch of Evil [1958] and F for Fake [1974] are easily the equal to Kane and for my money in both cases superior. But you'll still get blank stares over that."
—David Ehrenstein, at a_film_by

Trailer for F for Fake by Orson Welles (1974) —

"Back in 1968, Jean-Pierre Gorin suggested the idea to Jean-Luc Godard of creating a political cinema in the tradition of the early Vertov, that of Man with a Movie Camera [Chelovek s kino-apparatom, Dziga Vertov, 1929] — a machine of war against old notions of political filmmaking and their propagandist connotations. This resulted in a series of films that today, rid of the false hope that an increasingly Marxist left wing had placed in them, demonstrate a rare beauty and vitality, closer to Griffith and Vertov than to the militant cinema of their day. Gorin eventually settled in San Diego, California, where he began to teach filmmaking and made three great films: Poto and Cabengo [1979], Routine Pleasures [1987], and My Crasy Life [1995]. Last night, a capacity crowd gathered at the Filmmuseum to listen to his improvised lecture on Vertov and got more than their money’s worth. A summary in four points:

"1. There are no genres in cinema, only multiple polarities (fiction, documentary, diary, experimental, essay) between which every film finds its own balance and invents its own machine.

"2. Any film worthy of the name is a machine, with its functions, its dysfunctions, its own operations. The interest of a film does not lie in its message or in its story in the literary sense, but in the operations it executes, in the articulations it keeps making and unmaking between form and meaning.

"3. What sets the essay apart is its ability to unveil its own operation and articulations, more so than its subject or contents. This way, the image attains a special status in the essay:
“it doesn’t pass but it revisits itself, resisting its own temporal nature, its own passing,” as Gorin writes in the catalogue that accompanies the retrospective. He also states that the essay is a form of energy, the energy of the termite, of an insect always busy digging and breaking through barriers, “an energy that constantly redefines the practice of framing, editing, mixing, freeing these from their habitual allegiance to genres.”

"4. Based on the kinds of operations they execute, films can be divided into two broad categories: those that tend toward unity (of message, of form) and those that try to divide, to propagate division and a dialectic — of the image, of ideas, procedures, and operations."

—from Un journal de Vienne [A Vienna Diary], 26 October 2007, by Cyril Neyrat (translation by Tom Mes) at Cahiers du cinéma

Letter to Jane: An Investigation About a Still by Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin, 1972:

Excerpts from an interview by Robert Phillip Kolker with Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin, 1973:

GORIN: [...] One of the questions about Jane had to do with this: You are coming to France to make Tout va bien [Everything's Going Fine, 1972] with us; you just made Klute [Alan J. Pakula, 1971]; after Tout va bien you are going to make another Klute; and maybe you are going to Hanoi. Along with many filmmakers and people in the media, we wonder if in order to go to Hanoi you have to make Klute. Maybe to make Klute is the wrong way to go to Hanoi. That's one of the problems we are trying to settle in Letter to Jane. [...]

KOLKER: You criticize the expression on Jane Fonda's face. What would you rather have her do?

GODARD: I'm not the director in Hanoi. We can only direct her in Paris. We asked Jane to come to France in order to act in something staged by us, which was titled Tout va bien. Two months later, the North Vietnamese asked her to come and play in something they staged, which was entitled "Victory over America." In Letter to Jane, there are two pictures, the old Jane Fonda and the new Jane Fonda. We have to see the differences between the old and the new because we are interested in differences. This is an aesthetic, this is a movie dealing with aesthetics understood as a category of politics. We prefer to speak of aesthetics and no longer of politics. We are only interested in knowing about a kind of expression. If I were in Vietnam, looking at a dead Vietnamese child, I would have exactly the same expression, as would Nixon and John Wayne. [...]

GORIN: [...] You have spent one hour looking at a film about a still you would normally look at for two seconds. I think we could have spent ten hours on this still. Looking for two seconds at the still there are a million things happening. The media, information, is something very effective. It leads you to be the way you are in your life, the way I am in my life. I live in a world where I'm subjected to a thousand sounds and images a second. I want to see how this works. That's the question raised by Letter to Jane. I could have spent the time doing a film on an ad.

GODARD: A one-dollar bill.

Le Mépris [Contempt] by Jean-Luc Godard, 1963:

"Besides Disney, Lionsgate, MGM and (most recently) Paramount now offer a limited number of film titles on iTunes. But the offerings seem mainly to point up what's missing. The iTunes "staff favorites" on Sunday night included Paramount's 1962 John Wayne romp, "Hatari"."
—from "Facing Competition, iTunes Revs Up Its Film Section" by David M. Halbfinger, in The New York Times, October 23, 2007

Hatari! by Howard Hawks, 1962:

Jean-Luc Godard's Ten Best Films of 1962 (from 1962) —

10. Ride the High Country by Sam Peckinpah
9. Une grosse tête [A Big Head] by Claude de Givray
8. Sweet Bird of Youth by Richard Brooks
7. Chronicle of Flaming Years [Povest plamennykh let] by Aleksandr Dovzhenko and Yuliya Solntseva
6. Vivre sa vie, film en douze tableaux [To Live One's Life: A Film in Twelve Tableaux] by Jean-Luc Godard
5. Le Signe du Lion [The Sign of Leo] by Eric Rohmer
4. Jules et Jim [Jules and Jim] by François Truffaut
3. Through a Glass Darkly [Såsom i en spegel] by Ingmar Bergman
2. Vanina Vanini by Roberto Rossellini
1. Hatari! by Howard Hawks

Donovan's Reef by John Ford, 1963:

"Slight events partake of epiphany; accord is inevitable; meanwhile, Donovan's Reef unravels like necessary ritual. Mythicizing lighting transforms all — emphasizing depth, extending shadows, endowing persons (and occasionally a prop) with consecrating illumination while darkening surroundings, so that actions assume sacerdotal significance. Donovan's Reef is close to a cinematic experience of pure form (particularly its last third), moving stubbornly twixt chaos and (repressive) order toward harmony, inexhaustibly gifted with visual beauty (dynamic form). Idealistic and artificial, Donovan's Reef is a love affair with a best of all possible worlds. [...]

Donovan's Reef is of the suitelike, operatic Ford. [...]

"To some,
Donovan's Reef showed signs of dotage. Ford once got set up to shoot a scene only to be reminded, when he called for action, that the dialogue had not been written yet. Back stateside, crews readied studio retakes, only to have Ford walk in, yell, "Finished. Pau!" and walk out. On the islands, so many old friends and children were present, that the affairs took on airs of a last reunion rather than of a film production. Indeed, Donovan's Reef is a picture whose claims to greatness seem recognizable only to the initiate, and by no means even to many of them. The comedy seems often terribly broad, the children overly indulged in, and, as may happen while watching a movie, the presence of two or three weak and relatively inane sequences tends to elongate and devalue the entire movie. Lastly, there are those who find the scene of Wayne spanking Elizabeth Allen to be inexcusably offensive.

"Yet flawed as it is, and perhaps
too deceptively shallow, Donovan's Reef ranks with Ford's sublimest work for at least 89 of its 109 minutes. It combines and advances upon thematic and articulative figures from The Hurricane [1937] (nature as mysterious transcendent), The Fugitive [1947] (theocratic labyrinth, expressionism), Wagon Master [1950] (moral grace, use of music), The Sun Shines Bright [1953] (social analysis, racism), and Mogambo [1953] (man and nature). Donovan's Reef is the reverse of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance [1962]: tragedy / comedy; black-and-white / color; man comes west to establish order and kills liberty / woman comes east to steal and discovers liberty; continent / island; repression / anarchy; pessimism / optimism; long shots and scenes / fast paced; verbal / pictorial; looking / acting; death / birth....

"Perhaps, as Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet once observed, the operative comparison is with Jean Renoir's
The Golden Coach [1953]. Both have somewhat similar pictorial styles, ethereal musical movements and gestures, and a commedia-dell'arte-like stylization of stereotypes and situations. Both are symbolic in anthropology and politics; both are materialist, Brechtian-like critiques of reality and society."
—from John Ford: The Man and His Films by Tag Gallagher. Newly revised, full-color edition, 659 pages, available as free PDF download here. (This is the best book ever written about John Ford.)