Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sodankylä morning discussion: Alain Bergala with Peter von Bagh

Alain Bergala, 12 June 2014. Photo: Annina Mannila
The discussion was conducted in French. The School, Sodankylä, The Midnight Sun Film Festival, 12 June 2014

The résumé from The Midnight Sun Film Festival site:

"”Listening to him, we realize what cinema is really about, what it is in cinema that needs to be saved.” This is how Peter von Bagh summarises the relevance of French director, critic, film educator and Cahiers du Cinéma veteran Alain Bergala in the field of cinema."

"“The first film that made an impression on me was Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments and particularly the scene where they cross the Red Sea. Later I heard that many men of my generation experienced the same Big Bang when witnessing that scene”, says Bergala and adds that many films can be seen as generational experiences, although the phenomenon is not as prevalent during the era of television."

"“As a kid I went to see films by myself and didn’t talk about them with anyone. The films ran wild in my mind for a long time and left indelible marks”, Bergala reflects. Later he was deeply involved in film societies. “Film societies taught a lot about how films can be discussed with people – how this world can be shared with others.”"

"Bergala’s family was poor and there was no ready-set direction for him to take in life. Fortunately a primary school teacher urged his parents to send him to study further instead of making him work. Still, the gates of heaven did not open up for Bergala until he was in university. “My literature studies were not very demanding, so finally I was able to dedicate my time to watching films with people who were interested in the same kind of cinema that I was into.” According to Bergala he watched about 700 films a year. At times he drove as far as 200 kilometres away just to see a film recommended by Cahiers du Cinéma."

"Jean-Luc Godard is an important person to Bergala both as a friend and as a colleague. “In Cahiers du Cinéma, Godard was just another writer and he wasn’t given much space in the magazine. Rivette, Truffaut and Rohmer were the major critics of Cahiers du Cinéma.” Bergala recalls that Godard had a unique style from the beginning. “He is not able to link things together. If Godard orders a steak and fries, the waitress won’t understand him, because his discourse lacks linear logic.” According to Bergala the relevance of Godard lies precisely in his distinctive way of perceiving the world. “Godard is all about form. In each of his films he conveys something relevant about the era they were made in. Other people lag years behind Godard.”"

"“Godard has done things no one else has had the courage to do ever since. He wrote articles in interview-form without ever having met the director in question. We can only guess as to why Bazin allowed those articles to be published in the magazine.” Bergala calls special attention to Godard’s Histoire(s) du Cinéma (1998), on which the director worked on constantly for 15 years. “If all films were suddenly destroyed, we would still have this summary of what cinema might have been”, Bergala surmises."

"As a film educator Bergala is concerned about the current generation, who live in the world of the internet. “There is a constant flicker and throb, but one has to learn how to get sustenance from the constantly moving mass.” Bergala’s book on the subject, The Aesthetics of Film, has just been published in Finnish."

"And which film would the director take with him on a desert island? The answer is short and concise: “Jean Luc-Godard’s Le Mépris (1963)”."
(The résumé from The Midnight Sun Film Festival site).

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