Edited by Ed Halter and Barney Rosset
An essential collection of groundbreaking film writing from the legendary Evergreen Review and its cutting-edge coverage of the underground, experimental, pornographic, and political mid-century film scene.
In this collection of film writing from Evergreen Review, the legendary publication’s important contributions to film culture are available in a single volume. Featuring leading writers such as Nat Hentoff, Norman Mailer, Parker Tyler, and Amos Vogel, the book presents the films of Jean-Luc Godard, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Ousmane Sembene, Andy Warhol, and others, and offers incisive essays and interviews from the late 1950s to early 1970s. Articles explore politics, revolution, and the cinema; underground and experimental film, pornography, and censorship; and the rise of independent film against the dominance of Hollywood. A new introductory essay by critic and curator Ed Halter reveals the important role Evergreen Review and its publisher, Grove Press, played in advancing cinema during this period through innovations in production, distribution, and exhibition.
The following interview is excerpted from From the Third Eye: The Evergreen Review Film Reader, in stores now!
The “comrades” of the Dziga-Vertov group, in the words of Jean-Pierre Gorin, consist, “for the moment, of just what you see before you—we two—but sometimes we are only one.” The other, sometimes solitary member, is Jean-Luc Godard, who, through twenty-eight films (eighteen features) in the past thirteen years, has established a hard claim to being the most “important” filmmaker of the past decade.
In this writer’s opinion, Godard, in the company of D.W. Griffith, Sergei Eisenstein, and Orson Welles, is one of the four principal creators of film as an art form. He has quite literally changed not only the manner in which films are made, but the very way in which we look at the world.
This interview was conducted on Sunday evening, April 26, before Kent State, and after returning from Austin, Texas, the last stop on an eight-day tour of six major American universities. The tour was undertaken by Godard as a means to earn money for the completion of Till Victory, a film on the Al Fatah. That film has since been completed and Godard is now editing the first of a new series of four films entitled Vladimir and Rosa, the exact content of which not even his French producer can speak of with much detailed accuracy.
In the last two and a half years, working with a changing assortment of “comrades,” Godard has completed six films of varying length. Besides See You at Mao (1969) and Pravda (1969), he has finished A Movie Like the Others (1968), East Wind (1969), Struggle in Italy (1969), and Till Victory (1970).
Given the heavy political content of the interview, it seems important to note that twenty-seven-year-old Gorin was able to handle the contradiction of paying for the airfare from Boston to San Francisco of a girl we met in Cambridge, and that Godard, when prevented from taking an afternoon nap by the strange voices in an adjoining hotel room (“Listen, it sounds just like a Hitchcock movie”), reacted by slipping a piece of paper reading “Revolution till Victory” under the offending door.
Question: Why did you decide to call yourselves the Dziga-Vertov group?
Godard: There are two reasons. One is the name Dziga Vertov itself, and one is the group Dziga-Vertov. The group name is to indicate a program, to raise a flag, not to just emphasize one person. Why Dziga-Vertov? Because at the beginning of the century, he was really a Marxist moviemaker. He was a revolutionary working for the Russian revolution through the movies. He wasn’t just an artist. He was a progressive artist who joined the revolution and became a revolutionary artist through struggle. He said that the task of the Kinoki was not moviemaking—Kinoki does not mean moviemaker, it means film workers—but to produce films in the name of the World Proletarian Revolution. In that way, there was a big difference between him and those fellows Eisenstein and Pudovkin, who were not revolutionary.
Gorin: He was quite aware that movies were used by the ruling class which invented them for the rest of us; that the movie was the ideological expression of the bourgeois.
Q: Is he more than an historical example? Can those same principles be applied today? And if so, how can you apply them to the very different circumstances that exist?
Godard: First we have to realize that we are French militants dealing with the movies, working in France, and involved in the class struggle. We are in 1970 and the movies, the tool we are working with, are still in 1917.
The group Dziga-Vertov means that we are trying, even if we are only two or three, to work as a group. Not to just work together as fellows, but as a political group. Which means fighting, struggling in France. Being involved in the struggle means we must struggle through the movies. To make a film as a political group is very difficult for the moment, because we are more in the position politically of just individuals trying to go on the same road. A group means not only individuals walking side by side on the same road, but walking together politically.
Q: Is it necessary to work as a group? Could an individual, independent filmmaker make films politically?
Godard: It depends. First you have to try and be independent from the ruling class economy. You have to realize what it means to be independent. It doesn’t mean just to be a hippie on a campus. They think a place like Berkeley is a so-called liberated area, but when they go to the border of this liberated area they see that the bars on the prison remain, only they’re more invisible. You have to be independent first from the bourgeois ideology, and then you can move toward a revolutionary ideology. That means you have to try to work as a group, as an organization, to organize in order to unite. The movies are simply a way to help build unity. Making movies is just a little screw in building a new concept of politics.
Gorin: What we are trying to make are revolutionary movies that will promote revolutionary change. You will have to break all the old chains. The first notion to disappear is certainly the notion of the auteur.
Godard: The notion of an author, of independent imagination, is just a fake. But this bourgeois idea has not yet been replaced. A first step might be to simply gather people. At least then you can have a free discussion. But if you don’t go on and organize on a political basis, you have nothing more than a free discussion. Then collective creation is really no more than collective eating in a restaurant.
Q: Does it demand certain talents or certain kinds of knowledge?
Godard: Yes, but you can’t speak of kinds of knowledge or talent, only of social use of knowledge and social use of talents. Of course, to handle a gun you need a certain capacity, a certain ability. To run fast, you need to have good legs and good training. Not to be out of focus when you photograph something, you need a certain capacity. But then there is the social use of that certain capacity. That technique or that capacity does not just exist in the air like the clouds.
Q: You imply that your purpose is to break down not only an esthetic, but also the whole history of film. Then, is it more advantageous to be first a radical before becoming a filmmaker and attempting to make revolutionary films, or the other way around?
Godard: We’re an example. Both of us. I was a bourgeois filmmaker and then a progressive filmmaker and then no longer a filmmaker, but just a worker in the movies. Jean-Pierre was a student and then a militant, and then he thought he had to go to the movies for a moment, just because it was an important part of the ideological struggle which is the primary aspect of the class struggle today in France. So we joined. And he had to learn techniques a little more than I, and I had to learn political work as a duty, not as a hobby.
Q: Is it possible to take advantage of expertise? Could you, working among yourselves and knowing what kind of film you wanted to make, use someone like Raoul Coutard?
Godard: Why not? For example, at the moment we still need an editing girl or boy, not because we can’t do it, or we don’t know how to do it, but because we want someone better trained. That way it goes faster, and we have to go as fast as possible. I mean, Lenin can take a taxi because he has to go fast from one place to another and he doesn’t necessarily care if the taxi driver is a fascist. The same is true with editing. We are hesitating for the picture we have done for Al Fatah between two girls who are politically involved in a different way. They are at different stages of the revolutionary process, and we have to choose which one is best for the movie from a political point of view. One of the girls belongs to a group which has a very precise political program we agree with for the moment. The other one is much less militant, but it might be that to work on this movie could be progress for her and, because of this progress, we might have a more productive political relationship together.
Gorin: As Jean-Luc said, because there is no such thing as technique, but only a social use of technique, it is very hard to find a cameraman or an editing girl who is not overeducated, overtrained. First they must go backwards to have the possibility to criticize things.
Godard: We made a step forward when we tried to reduce all those so-called technical problems to their utmost simplicity. When you read a book on photography, whether by Hollywood photographers, whether by Kodak, it looks like building an atomic bomb, when it is not. It’s really rather simple. So we are trying to make only a few images, work with no more than two tracks, so the mixing is simple.
Gorin: In fact, ours is a very dialectic movement. In a certain way, we are going backward, but backward means that we are going against the traditional way films are made. It means fighting Hollywood films. By going backwards, we are actually progressing because we’re trying to be able to build something new.
Godard: And when we speak of Hollywood, we understand Hollywood as everybody, whether it be Newsreel, whether the Cubans, whether the Yugoslavians, whether the New York Film Festival, whether the Cannes Film Festival, whether the Cinémathèque française, whether Cahiers du cinéma. Hollywood means everything connected with films. So every time we say Hollywood, it means the imperialism of this ideological product which is a movie.
Q: Is See You at Mao the first film you attempted to make by the kind of revolutionary political process you’ve described?
Godard: The first one was called A Movie Like the Others. It was done just after the 1968 May–June events in France. But it was a complete failure. So the real first attempt, with a bit of thinking, is See You at Mao, which is still kind of bourgeois, but progressive in many aspects of its making. Like the technical simplicity of it.
For example, in Mao, the shot of the nude women can generate a real progressive discussion. Just yesterday evening in Austin, a student said there was no difference between Zabriskie Point and Mao. I said, “Okay, but after seeing Zabriskie Point, what do you do?” “Oh well,” he said, “I’m thinking more.” I said, “Okay, what are you thinking more of?” He said, “Well, I don’t know.” Conversely from Mao, he asked why instead of a woman’s body we didn’t use a man’s body? And I said, “Because we were actually discussing how to try and build an image for women’s liberation.” And then we had a real political and progressive discussion which you absolutely do not have the capacity of having with Zabriskie Point. That’s what we mean by saying that simple techniques generate progressive political ideas.
Q: Is that how you determine if another step has been taken? Is the success of each succeeding film based on the reaction from the people who view the film, on your own attitudes about the film, or on a combination of the two?
Godard: Mostly our own attitudes determine progress because, until now, there have been mainly negative aspects in our films. But the fact that those negative aspects can be transformed into positive aspects in succeeding films is because they were nevertheless achieved in a progressive way.
Gorin: Our own possibility of self-criticism was the result of producing the films. I couldn’t say anything, or only very abstract things, about films like One Plus One. La Chinoise was of no use to Jean-Luc, and of less use for me. But with See You at Mao, we had the possibility to really criticize ourselves and to say more precisely where we must go.
Q: Is Pravda a step beyond Mao?
Godard: Yes, but only because Pravda differs in the negative aspect; we made the effort to finish it, and not to quit and say it’s just garbage. But having made that psychological effort, we must also put a notice on it. This is a garbage Marxist/Leninist movie, which is a good way of titling it. At least now we know what not to do anymore. We’ve visited a house in which we’ll never go again. We thought it was a step forward but we realized, how do you say, a jump into emptiness. It was a learning process. And the first thing we learned was that it was not done by group work, but by two individuals.
Q: You continue to use the metaphor “step forward.” Does that imply that at some point there is a final step, a full-blown revolutionary film with no negative aspects?
Godard: No. Only revolution again. People think we are aiming at a model, and this model you can print and then sell as a revolutionary model. That is shit. That is what Picasso has done and it is still bourgeois.
Gorin: Precisely. What is the difference between the two conceptions? One is saying, finally, art is art, which means things are things, and they hope to stay the way they are. We are saying that art is revolutionary art, art is a sensation of movement, and movement doesn’t exist with a Greek urn. Only specific movements can exist with specific situations. That means that revolutionary art is a very wide open country, and there is not one form, but hundreds and thousands of them that, like political revolution itself, will never stop.
Q: At the very beginning it’s likely that it will be easy to gauge steps forward but, after the initial departure, how will you measure progression?
Godard: At a certain point you go from quantity to quality. Until A Movie Like the Others I was a moviemaker and an author. I was only progressing from a quantity point of view. Then I saw the job to be done, and that I had the possibility of doing this job only with the help of the masses. For me this was a major advancement. You can’t do it as an individual. You can’t do it alone, even if you are an advanced element of the good militant. Because being a good militant means being related, one way or another, with the masses.
Q: Does it then follow that other revolutionary filmmakers, or would-be revolutionary filmmakers, have very little to learn from your own experience and that, secondly, at a certain point, each separate film can only be judged in its own specific context? That it can’t even be related to the film that went before or the films that come afterward?
Gorin: No, I think that all revolutionary filmmakers have to meet at a certain point. They must confront the same problem we did. First they will be engaged, in their own way, in a war that will be quite similar to our struggle. But you have to work on general principles because each step of the revolution is trying to produce a parallel approach. There should be different types of revolutionary moviemakers, and sometimes we have to fight with them ideologically because that is one way we analyze our principles.
Godard: For example, the Newsreel people are fighting the Underground moviemakers, and both Underground and Newsreel are fighting Hollywood. This is a contradiction within the imperialistic system. And then there is Dziga-Vertov. We are fighting Hollywood, Newsreel, and the Underground. But sometimes we work on a united front with the people of Newsreel because it is important at a certain point to work with them to fight both Underground and Hollywood. For example, we took a movie made in Laos (we think it is a revisionist picture, even if they call it a Marxist picture), and brought it to the Palestinian fighters just for them to see others in another part of the world fighting against imperialism. So at that moment we were working on a united front. It is like when you make a demonstration in the street. Sometimes you must coordinate it with a group you are fighting ideologically. You do this to concentrate on the main enemy at the moment.
Q: Is one of the contradictions the distribution of the film?
Godard: Yes, one of the contradictions is between the distribution and the production. This contradiction has been established by imperialists who put distribution in command, who say, “since we have to distribute movies, we have to produce them in such a way that they can be distributed.” So we, Dziga-Vertov, have to do the exact opposite. First we have to know how to produce, how to build a picture, and, after that, we will learn how to distribute it. It means that with the very few films we have, the very little money, we must try not to distribute always the same way. The old way was to make it to sell it. To make another one to sell it. To make another one and to sell it. Now, this is over. It might mean that we will be obliged to stop making movies for economic reasons or maybe from political decisions. At a certain historical point we will know if it’s more important not to make a movie.
Q: Are there any examples of people making genuine revolutionary films, political films by political means?
Godard: Maybe, but if there are, they must be unknown, and they have to be. Maybe there are one or two in Asia, and one or two in Africa, I don’t know. In China they are probably working like that, but related to the Chinese situation. It’s easier for the Chinese because there have been twenty years of dictatorship of the masses, and now the masses are taking over the ideological superstructure. This means that they have the capacity to really begin to work on art and literature in a true, revolutionary Chinese way.
Q: How do you evaluate films like Battle of Algiers and Z?
Godard: A revolutionary film must come from class struggle or from liberation movements. These are films which only record, they are not part of the struggle. They are just films on politics, filmed with politicians. They are completely outside the activity they record; in no sense are they a product of that activity. At best, they are liberal movies.
They claim they attack when they’re just what the Chinese call a bullet wrapped in sugar. These sugar bullets are the most dangerous ones.
They advance a solution before analyzing the problem. So they put the solution before the problem. At the same moment they confuse reality with reflections. A movie is not reality, it is only a reflection. Bourgeois filmmakers focus on the reflections of reality. We are concerned with the reality of that reflection. But, at the moment, we must deal and work with only a few resources. This is a real situation. This is a ghetto situation. Our commissioned movies have been rejected by British, Italian, and French television because they were fiercely attacking them. And they feel us out the same way as the FBI. And we have not a possibility of having an Oscar or selling to CBS. We absolutely have not.
Gorin: Movies were invented about the time that the old bourgeois arts were declining. Movies were used to reinforce all the implications of the other arts. In fact, Hollywood movies are really from the same old psychopolitical form as the novel.
Godard: You have a very good example with Émile Zola. He began as a progressive writer, dealing with mine workers and the working-class situation. Then he sold more and more copies of his books. He became a real bourgeois, and then photography was invented. Then as an artist, he began to make photographs. But what kind of photographs was he making by the end of his life? Just pictures of his wife and children in the garden. In the beginning, his books were dealing with a coal workers’ strike. You see the difference? He could have at least begun again to photograph strikers. But he did not. He was shooting his lady in a garden. Just like the Impressionist painters were doing. Manet was making pictures of the railroad station. But he was absolutely not aware that there was a big strike in the station. So one thing that can really be proved is that the development of movies and the invention of the camera did not mean progress, but only different kinds of tricks to convey the same stuff already in the novel. That’s why the relationship between novels and moviemaking, the way a script is written and the way the director casts the film, why all those things are really a reinforcement of the same ruling-class ideology. The narrative line has brought the novel to death. Novelists became incapable of transforming progress into a revolutionary movement because they never analyzed where the narrative line was coming from. By whom was it invented? For whom and against whom? In a movie, there is no pure technique, there is nothing like a neutral camera or zoom. There is just social use of the zoom. The social use of the camera. There could be a social use of the 16mm camera. But when it was invented, there was no analysis of the social use of this light, portable camera. So the social use was controlled by Hollywood.
Q: Do all art forms have as much possibility as film as ideological elements in revolutionary struggle?
Godard: I think it is much more difficult for painters and sculptors, much more difficult for arts like theater and music, because there is no science of music, and absolutely no social use of music except by imperialists. Look at the Rolling Stones. A year ago they were considered the leading hippies since the Beatles. Look what happened. Those Rolling Stones did a show at Altamont and allowed a situation where people were killed. There is nothing more to say.
We think that the music in China is, for the moment, less revolutionary than theater, just because the Chinese tradition of theater is more Chinese than music. For example, the blacks here have a problem with their music because it has been stolen by the whites. So first they must recover it, and afterwards they must transform it, because now the whites have black sounds in their music. And this process is really very difficult.
Q: Is it possible in a country like the United States to work toward a revolutionary art form without having it co-opted by our sponge-like culture?
Godard: It doesn’t mean that black militants haven’t the right to play rock and roll, but when and how that music is played becomes a political decision they have to make, because of the fact that whites are using rock and roll.
Gorin: The fact that there is a main form of art doesn’t mean that the other forms of art must disappear. In fact, they can fight one against the other in a dialectical process.
Q: In this country, certain kinds of music, drugs, new life-styles and values have formed what some people want to call an alternate culture. Even if you disagree with what that alternate culture is, even if you decide that there is really very little in it that is revolutionary, can it have some political importance?
Godard: It can, but you have to determine how and when. The alternative is no more than the one I faced when I was leaving my bourgeois family. That was an alternative—to stay with the family or to leave it—so I left it. But that isn’t just an alternative, it’s another concrete situation. I became a member of another bourgeois family called show business.
Gorin: Those people, even if they don’t think of themselves politically at some point, have to act politically even if it is not clear to them in strict political terms how they are different from the ruling class which is opposing them. Those people are in a process in which they might be radicalized, they might be politicized. Eventually these so-called liberated people gathering in university areas will face the repressive structure of this society which will politicize them. Right now they are dreaming, they are walking on the edge, but this walk, for the moment, is a progressive walk. Why? Because they’re going to clash with the ruling structure. And they’ll have to face it. And they’ll have to change.
Q: But isn’t that only true for some, like the middle-class students who come out of a suburb, go to a university, and get hit by a policeman for the first time?
Godard: Yes, but when you are hit, two things can happen—either you think better after, or you become more dumb than you were. The kind of response is important. Most want to go into a street march, when to analyze and organize may be much more essential.
Gorin: And then there is always the risk of being killed—that’s an important problem. That’s why there is a great difference between us and the American universities. We have seen what can happen. Soon the same thing will happen here.
Q: How much do you think you were able to learn about the student situation in this country by touring some of the major universities, by speaking with students, especially after they had seen See You at Mao?
Godard: We have gathered a little information, but not enough to make a picture out of it. We have seen the difference between Yale, where there is a concrete problem, the Bobby Seale trial, and Austin, where there is not. And the difference between Minnesota and Madison, and comparisons like that. Some schools are more advanced for the moment because the clash is happening more often. Berkeley was the place where we got the worst reception, and this is absolutely correct. Throwing tomatoes in Berkeley was absolutely normal because they are more involved in the mass struggle than Harvard. So it was in the more progressive areas that we got a violent response.
Gorin: For instance, in Berkeley, because their situation is more advanced, two days was not enough time. In Austin, things were rather clear in only one day.
Godard: To have a real discussion with the audience would take three or four days in Berkeley.
Gorin: What I mean about Austin, eighty percent or ninety percent of the people were listening to us, but were interested in a very wrong way. They were interested in Jean-Luc. They were interested out of respect for an ex-great moviemaker. [laughter]
Godard: We saw different situations. People in Austin or in Minnesota did not say, “We have people in jail so give us the money you are making,” like the people in Berkeley. And then you have the Panthers who say, “We have people in jail,” but who don’t ask for money.
Q: Can students have a separate political identification? Do you believe they are a political class with revolutionary potential?
Godard: Let’s not speak of the students. First we must speak of the university, and what the university is in this society, and the possibility that the university may be a weak point. Is the university more unbearable than a factory or another place? This is the question that should be raised. And if the university is the prime target, this is the task and the aim for the students, because they are in the university. But you have to know whether, at a certain time, to weaken the ruling structure, you should attack on that point—attack the university as a weak point—instead of another one.
Q: Some radicals find a Marxian analysis of the American working class very difficult, because a great part of what has traditionally been identified as the working class has, in this country, been co-opted into the middle class. A factory worker here can often make enough money to live in the suburbs, to have a car and a color television set. And very often these workers are politically reactionary. Many are anti-black, most are chauvinistic about America’s involvement in Southeast Asia. As a group, they demonstrate few progressive tendencies. At one point, SDS wanted to align themselves in some fashion with the workers, but they seem to have found it virtually impossible.
Godard: Yes, but they made the same mistakes as in France. They were speaking of the working class before speaking of themselves.
In every article in the militant papers here, there are two things that puzzle me. First, they are saying, support North Vietnam, but they speak very little of what’s happening elsewhere. The articles mainly deal with inside America. If a paper is ten pages, there are nine and a half pages of America, and not even one-half page on outside—on Laos, or South America or Palestine, on France or Italy or Germany. Secondly, they are just speaking of themselves. And when they are speaking of themselves, there is no attempt to look at the economic grounds which permit them to be themselves. So when they try to make an analysis of their concrete situation, it is very difficult because it means a new kind of struggle.
Q: Could there come a point when you decide that there is no point in making more films? Might you decide to devote your energies entirely to a different kind of revolutionary activity which would not allow you to make films?
Godard: Some look to Che Guevara because he died fighting, and think they must do the same, but that is a very romantic notion.
Q: What about the problem of financing films? As more and more distribution outlets become aware, like the television stations, of the kind of films you want to make, and the reasons you want to make them, won’t most of the regular sources for finance be entirely unavailable?
Godard: This is why we may have to work just in a suburb or in a certain factory with the video tape. The only possibility might be to ask two hundred people for ten cents every week in order to deliver to them their information. Information from them to them. And this will be political work. But still we have the four pictures we are going to do for Grove Press. Grove Press has already bought two pictures in advance. What does it mean for us? It means we can control the picture except inside the States. It means, since it is more money than we have had in the last two years, that we have a capacity to think and work on the picture for six or seven months. it means we have no bread and butter problem for six months, and we have more creative possibilities. It means to pay people on the same basis that we are paid. But still we know what Grove Press is, more or less, and we know, more or less, what we are. So the first picture, Vladimir and Rosa, will deal with sexuality. We know Grove Press is interested in erotic things as well as politics and avant-garde art. And since Barney Rosset is interested in that, we have tried to work within that, and to deliver the best picture we can. But at the same time, militants will be able to learn something from the movie. And if they are angry that it’s handled by Grove Press, which is a contradiction, at least it is progressive to deliver a picture that will upset people. So if they’re really angry, that may lead to political action. That a contradiction exists is obvious, but the answer is quite clear: we are far more realistic in our approach than those who act as if the revolution had already occurred.
Q: These two films, Vladimir and Rosa and 18th Brumaire, will they be fictional films? Is your one specific goal to make a revolutionary fictional film?
Godard: With Vladimir and Rosa we’ll try to begin again with fiction, but it will be very difficult. The road leading to fiction is not yet clear—it’s still bushes and trees. We think that movies are fiction, and reality is reality. We don’t think documentaries are reality. Fiction is fiction, reality is reality, and movies are fiction. The only problem is to try to make revolutionary fiction. To have made bourgeois fiction, and to go into revolutionary fiction means a long march through many dark countries.
Q: So the film can only be a function of your own involvement as you relate to a specific political situation?
Godard: It’s like between man and woman. You can only work together when each one is the outside and the inside of the other one. If not, it’s just a bourgeois marriage. Our contract with Grove Press is a bourgeois marriage. But it is correct because this is the way people are married today.
Q: You mentioned an interesting story about proposing a film to the Greek government.
Godard: Yes, we said it was just to make people aware that Z was produced, more or less, by the CIA. Now that it has won an Oscar, no one need doubt that.
Gorin: When the Greek fascists came into power, all the French moviemakers refused to go to Greece to shoot movies when the Greek government extended invitations.
Godard: Someone told me in London that there was a possibility of getting money in Greece. So I wrote a treatment, a script, but probably it stopped at CIA’s headquarters. It was a fantastic story about a Chinese James Bond who steals the Olympic flame in order to transport it into China, to help the Chinese launch an atomic satellite. [laughter]
Q: What kind of film would you have made had you been able to go to Greece, had they given you money?
Godard: We would have asked for a million dollars, and made two or three shots of olive groves and said: “There is a spy behind the trees; if you look hard within one hour you will see him.” But they were afraid.
Q: How do you now consider your older films, especially those like La Chinoise, which are pointedly political?
Godard: They are just Hollywood films because I was a bourgeois artist. They are my dead corpses.
Q: At what exact point in time did the break from bourgeois to revolutionary filmmaking occur?
Godard: During the May–June events in France in 1968.
Q: Are there any of these earlier films that you now consider to contain any positive merit?
Godard: Perhaps Weekend and Pierrot le Fou. There are some things in Two or Three Things. Some positive things in those films. One Plus One was my last bourgeois film. I was very arrogant to make that, to think I could talk about revolution just like that—just to make images, thinking I knew what they meant.
Q: What about One A.M., One American Movie, that you shot two years ago during your last trip to this country? Will you ever complete it?
Godard: No, it is dead now. It is two years old and completely of a different period. When we shot that, I was thinking, like a bourgeois artist, that I could just go and do interviews with people like Eldridge Cleaver and Tom Hayden. But I was wrong. And Tom Hayden was wrong to allow me to do that because it was just moviemaking, not political action. When we were in Berkeley, I talked to Tom and apologized, and told him I thought he was wrong. But Cleaver was correct. We paid him a thousand dollars, and for him to take that money was correct. His was a political decision—he needed the money to escape America.
Q: Do you still maintain any relationship with people from the bourgeois days, people like Truffaut or Coutard?
Godard: No, not really. We no longer have anything to talk about. We are not fighting one another, not as persons, but they are making bourgeois garbage and I have been making revolutionary garbage.