By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
JULES DASSIN: The “golden age”? [Laughs.] Whatever that is -- I only know about the Greek golden age. I’m a little unhappy, though, about seeing special effects taking predominance over everything. I like films about people, not magic stuff you can do with digital tricks.
You mean you don‘t like movies starring action figures?
DASSIN: [Laughs.] There’s so much talent in Hollywood that could be put to finer use, but what the hell.
ANDRE DE TOTH: There was a lot of crap in the “golden age” too. It depends on the individuals. But even now, there‘s experience in every minute of film, and you notice it if you notice it. You can learn how a headache feels not only if I hit you over the head with a baseball bat. You have to have senses, you have to have vision, you have to have probing. And not everything and everybody goes according to your glasses.
It sounds like you’re saying two things, that understanding is important . . .
DETOTH: More than important. Understanding is everything, okay? Can I have a coffee?
[Laughs.] Sure. Some films reflect a truth about our lives -- how we love each other, how we betray each other. Do you think the culture today is less interested in such honest depictions?
BOETTICHER: I can‘t answer that in five minutes.
How about four?
BOETTICHER: [Laughs.] Well, in the first place, we’re another society right now. I became a full-fledged director in 1944 -- and society has changed. There is no society. a It‘s trash. Today it’s usually a story that has a lot of glamour, a lot of color, but the story is a bunch of lies. You don‘t give a damn about anybody. If a building blows up, so what? If the leading lady blows up, “Gee, isn’t that a shame.” You‘re supposed to care about the leading lady.
DASSIN: With cinema and television, never in the history of the world has there been such potential for doing good and raising the cultural level of people. When I say “raising the cultural level,” I mean we have people who live their lives without looking at a painting or listening to Mozart. Of course, they’re probably never told how interesting this is, or how valuable it is.
The marketers don‘t see any money in it.
DASSIN: Well, the fact is there is money in it, the idiots. Shakespeare has had a long, long run. They’re just not offering it to the mass audience.
DETOTH: People are stupider today, okay?
I‘d like to ask you about resilience. [To Boetticher] You were gored by a bull.
BOETTICHER: It just took out a chunk of my spinal column. Oh, it was a mess. I should have died, but I didn’t. And I refused to, for years.
That‘s a good thing.
BOETTICHER: Yeah. That was 1940, and the first bull I killed was in 1938. But that’s a long time ago. There‘s not many people around . . . well, there’s not any who were doing that.
But that didn‘t put an end to your bullfighting, or your career.
BOETTICHER: Hell no, just the beginning. Once you live through a thing like that, it’s like during the war -- it was always the guy next to you who was going to get killed. It was never going to be you. It just really got me started. The best years of my life started after that.
[To Dassin] Can I ask you about the blacklist?
DASSIN: Sure. It was a bad idea.
[Both laugh.] I found a quote of yours. “The American movie public never created a blacklist. It was always a fraud, an extraordinary fraud.”
DASSIN: I still believe that. We were told that Rififi, Never on Sunday, a lot of films that I made would be boycotted in the U.S. with organized pickets and so on. There was none of that. It was a sickness that got out of control, that most people were either ashamed of or indifferent to. I don‘t think they believed the people who were declared enemies of the Republic really were enemies of the Republic.
It’s wonderful that you‘re not bitter about it. At least you don’t seem to be.
DASSIN: No, I‘m not bitter. But there’s an unhappiness for so many lives destroyed and for the effect it had on movies that were made, for a long time. When you create an atmosphere of fear, it‘s bad stuff.
You had children to feed . . .
DASSIN: That’s right, that‘s right. And when you say to a guy, “Think this way,” or “Betray this friend, otherwise you won’t work.” Well, they get you right in the balls.
[To de Toth] In Poland, in 1939, you were forced to shoot propaganda footage for the Nazis.
They wanted to show themselves as humanitarians, feeding the Poles.
DE TOTH: What was so terrible was they lined up the starving people and whipped them like dogs. Then the cameras rolled, with the Nazis shouting, “Laugh! Smile!” And the people smiled, and they gave them the bread. Then they stopped the cameras. “Enough!” And the soldiers took the bread away. They showed these things all over Germany, all over the world. “Look,” they said, “we‘re not so bad.”
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