It seems to me that dominant cinema seems to require an empathy or a sympathy between the film and the audience which is basically to do with the manipulation of the emotions and it seems to me again -- and this is a very subjective position -- that most cinema seems to trivialise the emotions, sentimentalising or romanticising them.
Many quite popular films are filled with violence. I think the difference between those and my films is that I show the cause and effect of violent activity. It's not a Donald Duck situation where he get a brick in the back of the head and gets up and walks away in the next frame. Mine have violence which keeps Donald Duck in the hospital for six months and creates a trauma which he will remember for the rest of his life.
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Cinema doesn't connect with the body as artists have in two thousand years of painting, using the nude as the central figure which the ideas seem to circulate around. I think it is important to somehow push or stretch or emphasize, in as many ways as I can, the sheer bulk, shape, heaviness, the juices, the actual structure of the body. Cinema basically examines a personality first and the body afterward.
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I think that every artist dreams of renewing the forms which came before, but I think very few can be considered to have achieved that. We are all dwarves standing upon the shoulders of the giants who preceded us, and I think we must never forget that. After all, even iconoclasts only exist with respect to that which they destroy.
I was born on the 5th April 1942. On Good Friday. Round about crucifixion time. Archbishop Ussher, a man for dates, who calculated that the world began on September 27th 4004 BC, says the crucifixion took place at three o'clock in the afternoon on Good Friday in the year 33 AD. I was right on time.
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I made a very bad mistake; I miscounted these scraps of information on the record as 92, and in continual homage to this man who had been so influential to me, I began creating or constructing my own films on this so-called "magic" number of 92 ... but when I eventually made a film about John Cage and met him, I explained this to him, and he found it very amusing because there are only 90 stories on the two sides of the record, and I'd based three years of my filmic career on this mathematical error!
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Human relationships are patterned and cross-patterned and restricted and limited and delimited and caged and freed again by the elaborate conventions, rules and games which we call civilisation. They're often absurd and farcical, and sometimes they're tragic, yet we acknowledge that they are necessary.
I have a very, very secret drive to become a dilettante, without the pejorative overtones or the obligation to produce myself. There's so much to examine, so much to contemplate. I have enormous enthusiasm when I start a new project but then there's the meetings and the counter-meetings, the rehearsals, the struggles. You have to keep pushing and pushing and pushing to get your dreams realised.
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There is no obligation for the author of a film to believe in, or to sympathise with, the moral behaviour of his characters. Nor is he necessarily to be accredited with the same opinions as his characters. Nor is it necessary or obligatory for him to believe in the tenet of his construction - all of which is a disclaimer to the notion that the author of Drowning by Numbers believes that all men are weak, enfeebled, loutish, boorish and generally inadequate and incompetent as partners for women. But it's a thought.
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An American critic wrote that she would rather be forced to read the New York telephone directory three times than watch the film A Zed and Two Noughts, a third of which was a homage to Vermeer. Conceivably, if you are a list-enthusiast like me, the New York telephone directory might be fascinating, demographically, geographically, historically, typographically, cartographically; but I am sure no compliment was intended.
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We have to move away from the concept of screening in cinemas. This can be achieved with the new technologies. I enjoy my films and the fact that I can include you in them as well. Cinema is only a small part of a much greater phenomenon. We transcend the barriers of culture. DVDs' image quality and longevity provide us with new prospects. They are a powerful medium. I think they were invented especially for me.
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Film is such an extraordinary rich medium which can handle so many different modes of operation, combining together in the same place all these extraordinary disciplines which may be executed in their own right - music, writing, picture making of all kinds, and I often feel that some filmmakers make films with one eye closed and two hands tied behind their backs.
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My favourite film-maker west of the English Channel is not English - but to me doesn't seem American either - David Lynch - a curious American-European film-maker. He has - against odds - achieved what we want to achieve here. He takes great risks with a strong personal voice and adequate funds and space to exercise it. I thought Blue Velvet was a masterpiece.
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I always think that if you deal with extremely emotional, even melodramatic, subject matter, as I constantly do, the best way to handle those situations is at a sufficient remove. It's like a doctor and a nurse and a casualty situation. You can't help the patient and you can't help yourself by emoting. And I don't think cinema is intended for therapy, so I object also to that huge, massive manipulation which is perpetrated on the public.
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My audience is comprised of three categories. The first category contains the people who decide after the first five minutes that they've made a mistake and leave. The second category is the people who give the film a chance and leave annoyed after 40 minutes. The third category includes the people that watch the whole film and return to see it again. If I'm able to persuade 33% of the audience to stay, then I can say that I've succeeded.
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What initially attracted me to The Seventh Seal was that it had values and characteristics which I was familiar with in other art forms, most notably, the European novel and certain forms on English drama, and indeed, in relation to my rather academic interest in history -- not "history" in the normal sense, but history as a form of entertainment . It might be a very unfashionable view but I believe that history is an amazing bank or reserve area of plots, characterisations, extraordinary events, etc.
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I loved Latin -- the grammar, the difficult tenses, the history -- but for some reason I was very bad at it, shamefully and blushingly bad at it. ... In moments of stress the embarrassment of how bad I was at Latin -- a subject I loved -- really hit me. It was like being laughed at by someone you desperately loved.
On the other hand, I view the whole matter from a cosmic perspective. I don't take a position. I believe that there are no more positions to take, no certainties, no facts. Many people find this confusing about my films; they say I am hiding out behind irony. But from a cosmic viewpoint, it is eternally unimportant whether one lives or not.
I acknowledge Mike Leigh and Ken Loach. They are prostlytizers of English socialism preaching to the converted and telling us what we already know. Cinema is best served away from documentary neo-realism. I come from a tradition of post-post-Italian neo-realism in England, where we've produced the best television in the world. But to paraphrase Truffaut, the English have no visual imagination.
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As you probably know, I'm often accused of intellectual exhibitionism and all forms of elitism. Although I can understand this point of view, it's a rather wasted argument because, if we regard areas of information as being elite and therefore somehow not usable, it means our centre-ground of activity becomes very, very impoverished.
Tulse Luper, who without too many confessions, in a sense, is a fictive version of me. I have to say he has far more exciting adventures, and certainly a lot of them sexual, than ever I've experienced. But in a sense, what you do with an alter ego, you give them all sorts of permissions and licences which you know you'll never be able to embrace in your real life.