Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Letter That Ended A Friendship Cont.....

Anyway regarding the letter itself. It is typical Godard: rambling, sometimes bordering on incoherent, strident, compelling, brazen and  utterly shameless. He calls Truffaut a liar, harshly critiques Day for Night,infers that Truffaut is a hypocrite for dating the film's female lead Jacqueline Bissett (whereas in the film the director, played by Truffaut himself, remained above the fray in regard to the on-set flirtations and trysts amongst the cast and crew) and then, almost as an afterthought, proceeds to ask Truffaut to use his clout within the French Film Industry to help finance/co-produce his new project :

Godard to Truffaut (May 1973)

  Yesterday I saw La Nuit americaine. Probably no one else will call you a liar, so I will. Its no more an insult than 'fascist', it's a criticism, and it's the absence of criticism that I complain of in the films of Chabrol, Ferreri, Verneuil, Delannoy, Renoir, etc. You say: films are trains that pass in the night, but who takes the train, in what class, and who is driving it with an 'informer' from the management standing at his side? Directors like those I mention make film-trains as well. And if you aren't referring to the Trans-Europ, then maybe it's a local train or else the one from Munich to Dachau, whose station naturally we aren't shown in Lelouch's film-train. Liar, because the shot of you and Jacqueline Bisset (sic) the other evening at Chez Francis is not in your film, and one can't help wondering why the director is the only one who dosen't screw in La Nuit americaine. At the moment I'm filming something that will be called Un Simple Film, it will show in a simplistic manner (in your manner, in Verneuil's and Chabrol's etc.) those who also make films, and just how these 'whos' make them. How your trainee continuity-girl numbers each shot, how the guy from Eclair carries his equipment, how the old man from Publidecor paints Maria Schneider's backside in Last Tango, how Rassam's switchboard operator telephones and how Malle's accountant balances the books, and in each case we'll be comparing the sound with image, the sound of the boom with the sound of  Deneuve that it records, Leaud's number on the sequence of images with the social security number of the unpaid trainee, the sex life of the old guy from Publidecor with that of Brando, the accountant's own day-to-day budget with the budget of La Grosse Bouffe, etc. Because of the problems of Malle and Rassam who produce expensive movies (like you), the money that was reserved for me has been swallowed up by the Ferreri (that's what I mean, no one prevents you from taking the train, but you prevent others) and I'm stuck. The film costs about 20 million and is produced by Anouchka and TVAB films (the company owned by Gorin and me). Could you enter into co-production with with us for 10 million? For 5 million? Considering La Nuit americaine, you ought to help me, so that the public dosen't get the idea we all amke films like you. You aren't a liar, like Pompidou, like me, you speak your own truth. In exchange, if you like, I can sign over my rights to La Chinoise, La Gai Savoir and Masculin-Feminin.
  If you want to talk it over, fine,

Though certain of Godard's criticisms did, in retrospect, have some validity, Truffaut was understandably enraged and responded a few weeks later with a six page verbal flurry of long pent-up rage against his old-friend, detailing not just his anger over this latest incident but his previously repressed irritation at what he clearly regarded as a littany of rude, insensitive behaviour by Godard towards not only him but a variety of other individuals of varying prominence, primary amongst which seemed to be Godard's perceived lack of concern and callousness towards Janine Bazin, the widowed wife of their great mentor, the trailblazing film critic and theorist and co-founder of Cahiers du Cinema, Andre Bazin, who had died of leukemia in 1958, one day after Truffaut started shooting The 400 Blows. Bazin had been a surrogate father to Truffaut, managing to get him released from prison after he had deserted from the Army during the war in Indochina, and giving him his start in film criticism-so Godard's attitude towards Janine, who had fallen on hard times, was particularly galling. As Truffaut reveals in this remarkable letter, which I have reproduced here in full, the gradual breakdown in their freindship can be traced to a dispute over money in the fateful year of 1968, and to Truffaut's belief that Godard's new found role as political provocateur, and his retreat into purely political filmmaking was mere posturing, aimed at cultivating a mystique. However, in the subtext of Truffaut's numerous and rambling complaints in this regard there is perhaps also a hint of class resentment, as he the working/lower-middle class Parisien, who had experienced real hardship and upheaval in his formative years, can see through the conceit of Godard's supposed radicalism-Godard being the scion (on his mother's side) of an illustrious Franco-Swiss Protestant family, though he seemed to have rejected many of the values of his upbringing and like Truffaut had dabbled in delinquency in his youth.    

To Jean-Luc Godard                                                                                           (May-June 1973)

  Jean-Luc. So you won't be obliged to read this unplesant letter right to the end, I'm starting with the essential point: I will not co-produce your film.
  Secondly, I'm sending back to you the letter you wrote to Jean-Pierre Leaud: I read it and I think it's obnoxious. And because of that letter I feel the time has come to tell you, at length, that in my opinion you've been acting like a shit.
  As regards Jean-Pierre, who's been so badly treated since the business with Marie and more recently in his work, I think it's obnoxious of you to kick him when he's down, obnoxious to extort money by intimidation from someone who is fifteen years younger than you are and whom you used to pay less than a million when he was the lead in films that were earning you thirty times as much.
  Yes, Jean-Pierre has changed since Les 400 Coups, but I can tell you that it was in Masculin-Feminin that I noticed for the first time how he could be filled with anxiety rather than pleasure at the notion of finding himself in front of a camera. the film was good and he was good in the film, but that first scene in the cafe, was a painful experience for anyone looking at him with affection and not with an entomologist's eye.
  I never expressed the slightest reservation about you to Jean-Pierre, who admired you so much, but I know that you were bad-mouthing me behind my back, in the way that a guy might say to a kid, 'And your father, is he still pissed out of his mind?'.
  Jean-Pierre is not the only one to have changed in 14 years and if A bout de souffle and Tout va bien were to be screened one after the other, we'd all be dismayed and saddened to see how cynical and unadventurous the latter is by comparison.
  I don't give a shit what you think of La nuit americaine,what I find deplorable on your part is the fact that, even now, you continue to go and see such films, films whose subject-matter you know in advance will not correspond to either your conception of the cinema or your conception of life. Would Jean-Edern Hallier write to Daninos to take issue with him on his latest book?
  You've changed your way of life, your way of thinking, yet, even so, you continue to waste hour after hour ruining your eyesight at the cinema. Why? In the hope of finding something that will be fuel your contempt for the rest of us, that will reinforce all your new prejudices?
  Now it's my turn to call you a liar. At the beginning of Tout va bien there is the phrase: 'To make a film one needs stars.' A lie. Everyone knows how determined you were to get J. Fonda who was beginning to lose interest, when all your backers were telling you to take just anyone. You brought together those two stars of yours the way Clouzot used to do: since it's their good fortune to be working with me, they ought to be content with a tenth of their normal salary, etc. Karmitz and Bernard Paul need stars but not you , so it's a lie. And then we read in the newspapers: he had stars 'imposed' on him....Another lie, concerning your new film: you don't mention the very substantial subsidy you solicited, and obtained, from the state, and which ought to have been enough even if Ferreri, as you absurdly accuse him, spent the money that was 'reserved' for you. So, he thinks he can get away with anything, this wop who wants to take the bread out of our mouths, this immigrant worker, have him deported, via Cannes!
  That's always been one of your gifts, setting yourself up as the eternal victim, like Cayatte, like Boisset, like Michel Drach, the victim of Pompidou, of Marcelin, of the censors and the distributors with their eager little scissors, whereas in reality you've always contrived to have things work out in just the way you want them to and when you want them to and above all you've contrived to uphold you're pure incorruptible image, even if it should be to the detriment of someone as defenceless as, for example Janine Bazin. Six months after the Kjelman business, Janine had two of her programmes cancelled, an act of vengeance that was very cunningly deferred. Since Kjelman would not have contemplated talking about the cinema and politics without interviewing you, your role in this affair-and a role is what it was-consisted yet again in promoting your won subversive image, which explains the well-chosen little comment. The comment is made: either it's kept in and it's sufficiently sharp for no-one to suspect you've gone soft or else it's cut out and everyone is over the moon: yes, decidedly, they say, Godard is Godard, he'll never change, etc.
  Everything goes off like clockwork, the programme is cancelled and you remain on your pedestal. No one happens to notice that the comment is just another of your lies. If Pompidou is, as you claim, the 'director' of France, then it's the Communist Party and the unions that you abuse-by means (means too subtle for the 'masses') of periphrasis, antiphrasis and derision-in Tout va bien, a film originally intended for the widest possible public. 
  If I withdrew from the debate on Fahrenheit 451, at the same period, it was in an attempt to Janine, not out of solidarity with you, which is why I didn't return your telephone call. 
  The fact remains that Janine was in Hospital last month, she was knocked down by a car while making her last programme, she had to have an operation on her knee (she's had a limp since adolescence, etc.), so there she finds herself in hospital without any work and without any money and naturally without any word from Godard who will only step down from his pedestal to amuse Rassam every so often. And I can tell you: the more you love the masses, the more I love Jean-Pierre Leaud, Janine Bazin, Patricia Finaly (and she's just out of a nursing home and has had to pester the Cinematheque over and over again for her six months' back salary) and Helen Scott whom you meet in an airport and cut dead, why, because she's an American or because she's a friend of mine? The behaviour of a shit, as when you agree to go to Geneva or London or Milan and you don't go, to startle people, to astonish them, like Sinatra, like Brando, you're nothing but a piece of shit on a pedestal.
  For a while, following May 68, no more was heard of you or else it was all very mysterious: it seems he's working in a factory, he's formed a group, etc., and then, one Saturday, there's an announcement that you're going to speak on the radio with Monod. I stay in the office to listen to it, in a sense just to know what you've been doing; you're voice trembles, you seem very nervous, you declare that you're going to make a film called La Mort de mon frere, about a black worker who was ill and had been left to die in the basement of a TV factory and, listening to you, and despite the fact that you're voice is trembling, I know: 1. that the story isn't true or at any rate it didn't quite happen like that; 2. that you would never  make such a film. And I say to myself: what if the poor guy has a family and his family is now going to live in the hope of the film being made? There wasn't a part for Montand in that film or Jane Fonda, but for 1/4 of an hour you gave the the impression of 'doing the right thing', like Messmer when he gives the vote to nineteen year olds. Phony. Poseur. You've always been a poseur, as when you sent a telegram to De Gaulle about his prostate, when you called Braunberger a filthy jew over the telephone, when you said that Chauvet was corrupt (because he was the last and only one to resist you), a poseur when you lump together Renoir and Verneuil as though they were the same thing, a poseur even now when you claim you're going to show the truth about the cinema, those who work in the background who are badly paid, etc.
  When you had a location, a garage or shop set up by your crew, and then you would arrive and say 'I don't have any ideas today, we won't shoot' and the crew would have to take it all back down again, did it never occur to you that the workers might feel completely useless and rejected, like the sound crew that spent a whole day in Pinewood waiting in vain for Brando?
  Now, why am I telling you all this now instead of three, five or ten years ago?
  For six years, like everyone else, I saw how you were suffering on account of (or for) Anna and everything that was odious about you we forgave because of that suffering.
  I knew you had seduced Liliane Dreyfus (ex-David) by telling her 'Francois dosen't love you anymore, he's in love with Marie Dubois who's in his new film', and I found that pitiful but touching, yes, why not, even touching! I knew you had gone to see Braunberger and said to him, 'Let me make the sketch that Rouch is supposed to shoot' and I found that.....shall we say, pathetic. I was strolling along the Champs-Elysee with you and you said to me, ' It seems Bebert et l'Omnibus isn't doing well, serve it right' and I said 'oh come on now.....'
  In Rome, I quarrelled with Moravia because he suggested that I film Le Mepris; I had gone there with Jeanne to present Jules et Jim, your latest film wasn't doing too well and Moravia was hoping to change horses in midstream.
  It was also out of solidarity with you that I had a row with Melville who couldn't forgive you for having helped him make Leon Morin pretre and waslooking to do you down. You meanwhile deliberately humiliated Jeanne and, to please Anna (after the business of Eva) you made a ludicrous attempt to blackmail Marie-France Pisier (Hossein, Yugoslavia....over and over again....'the wedding ring'), etc. You cast Catherine Ribeiro, whom I had sent you in Les Carabiniers, and then threw yourself on her the way Chaplin throws himself on his secretary in The Great Dictator (It wasn't I who made this comparison) - I list all of that just to remind you not to forget anything in this film of yours that's going to be telling the truth about cinema and sex. Instead of showing X-'s arse and Anne Wiazemsky's pretty hands on the window pane, you might try it the other way round now you know that not only all men but all women are equal, including actresses. With every shot of X-in Week-End it was as though you were tipping a wink at your pals: this whore wants to make a film with me, take a good look how I treat her: there are whores and there are poetic young women.
  I'm telling you all this because, as I have to admit, even though one could still detect, in certain statements you made, that selfsame posturing, now slightly tinged with bitterness, I really thought you had changed, at least that's what I thought until I read the letter you addressed to Jean-Pierre Leaud. If you had sealed it, I would have given it to him without reading it and I would have regretted it, perhaps you wanted to give me the opportunity not to deliver it to him...?
  Today you're unassailable, everyone thinks you're unassailable, you're no longer the long-suffering swain, like everyone else you think you're better than everyone else and you know you think you're better than everyone else, you regard yourself as a repository of truth on life, politics, commitment, the cinema and love, it's all an open book to you and anyone who has a different opinion from you is a creep, even if the opinion you hold in June is not the same one you hold in April. In 1973, your prestige is intact, which is to say, when you walk into an office, everyone studies your face to see if you are in a good mood or whether it would be better to stay put in one's own little corner; on occasion you're prepared to laugh or smile ; you call people tu now instead of vous, but the intimidation is still there, as well as the easy insult and the terrorism (that gift of yours for the backhanded compliment). What I mean is that I need have no worries on your account, in Paris there are still enough wealthy young men, with a chip on their shoulder because they had their first car at 18, who will be delighted to pay their dues by anouncing: 'I'm the producer of Godard's next film.'
  When you wrote to me at the end of 68, demanding 8 or 900 thousand francs which in fact I didn't owe you (even Dussart was shocked!) and you added, 'In any case, we've nothing more to say to each other', I took it in its absolutely literal sense: I sent you the dough and apart from a couple of moments when we softened (you when I was unhappy in love, me when you were in hospital), I've felt nothing but contempt for you ever since-as when I saw the the scene in Vent d'est showing how to make a molotov cocktail and, a year later, you got cold feet the first time you were asked to distribute La Cause du peuple in the street...
  The notion that all men are equal is theoretical with you, it isn't deeply felt, which is why you have never succeeded in loving anyone or in helping anyone, other than by shoving a few banknotes at them, it isn't deeply felt, which is why you have never succeeded in loving anyone or in helping anyone other than by shoving a few banknotes at them. Someone, maybe Cavanna, once wrote: 'one should despise money, especially small change' and I've never forgotten how you used to get rid of centimes by slipping them down the backs of chairs in cafes. By contrast you with you, I've never said a negative word about you, partly because you were being attacked stupidly and for mostly the wrong reasons, partly because I've always hated feuds between writers or painters, dubious scores being settled by means of open letters to the press, and finally because I've always felt you were both jealous and envious, even when things were going well for you-you're hyper-competetive, I'm almost not at all-and there was also on my part a certain admiration, I find it easy to admire, as you know, and a real desire to remain friends with you ever since you were upset by that remark I made to Claire Fischer about the way our relationship had changed after the army (for me) and Jamaica (for you). There are many things I don't state outright because I'm never completely sure that the contrary isn't just as true, but, if I now state outright that you are a shit, it's because, when I see Janine Bazin in hospital and read your letter to Jean-Pierre, there can no longer be any room for doubt. I'm not raving, I don't say that you are to blame for Janine being in hospital, but the fact that she is out of work,after ten years in television, is directly linkedto you and you don't give a shit. Here you are, in 1973, as fond as ever of making grand gestures and spectacular announcements, as arrogant and dogmatic as ever, secure on your pedestal, indifferent to others, incapable of simply and unselfishly giving up a few hours of your time to help someone. Between your interest in the masses and your own narcissism there's no room for anything or anyone else or anyone else. After all, those who called you a genius, no matter what you did, all belonged to that famous trendy left that runs the gamut from Susan Sontag to Bertolucci via Richard Roud, Alain Jouffroy, Boursellier and Cournot, and even if you sought to appear impervious to flattery, because of them you began to ape the world's great men, de Gaulle, Malraux, Clouzot, Langlois, you fostered the myth, you accentuated that was mysterious, inaccessible and temperamental (as Scott would say), all for the slavish admiration of those around you. You need to play a role and the role needs to be a prestigious one; I've always had the impression that real militants are like cleaning women, doing a thankless, daily but necessary job. But you, you're the Ursula Andress of militancy, you make a brief appearance, just enough time for the cameras to flash, you make two or three duly startling remarks and then you disapear agin, trailing clouds of self-serving mystery. Opposed to you are the small men, from Bazin to Edmond Maire and taking in Sartre, Bunuel, Queneau, Mendes-France, Rohmer and Audiberti, who ask others how they're getting on, who help them fill in out a social security form, who reply to their letters-what they have in common is the capacity to think of others rather than themselves and above all to be more interested in what they do than in what they are in and waht they appear to be.
  Now, anything that can be written can also be said, which is why I conclude as you did: if you want to talk it over, fine,

'If I had, like you, failed to keep the promises of my ordination, I would prefer it to have been for a woman's love rather than for waht you call your intellectual development'. Le Journal d'un cure de campagne.         



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home