Felix Stalder on Thu, 23 Sep 2010 14:57:24 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Jean Luc Godard and downloads

On Tuesday September 21 2010, Heiko Recktenwald wrote:
> âCopyright really isnât feasible,â Mr. Godard said. âAn author has no
> rights. I have no rights. I have only duties

This was taken out of a long interview with the French cultural weekly Les 
Inrockuptibles (May 18th 2010), and has been translated into English here:


Jean-Luc Godard Interviewed by Jean-Marc Lalanne in LES INROCKS: "The Right 
of the Author? An Author Has Only Duties"

The filmmaker received us at his home in Switzerland for a provocative, and 
intimate, interview. Welcome to Rolle.

Rolle's not exactly the center of the world. Just a small, slightly dreary 
town on Lake Geneva, 40 kilometers from the city of Geneva. But it's also 
an Eden for multimillionaires seeking a tax-haven. For the nice taxi driver 
who takes us to the gare de GenÃve, this geography of celebrities has kept 
few secrets: "You see the house on the shore at the bottom of the hill â 
that's Michael Schumacher's. And there's where Peter Ustinov lived. Phil 
Collins is right over there..."

And what about Jean-Luc Godard? "Once, a Japanese guy got into my car," the 
driver continues, "and asked me if I knew where monsieur Godard lived. I 
told him yes, and I took him there, at which point he said: 'Wait just one 
minute,' â he took three photos, got back into the cab, and asked me to 
take him back to the gate. He's known all the way to Japan, monsieur 
Godard!" Whether or not he's the most mythic ("all the way to Japan") 
resident of the Vaud, monsieur Godard doesn't live in Rolle for the same 
reason as his neighboring celebs.

A resident of France, that's where he pays his taxes. He lives in 
Switzerland because he was born here; because he can't do without "certain 
landscapes", he'll tell us in an interview which, as always with this man, 
is greatly panoramic. For four hours, in his slightly messy, very 
functional office, right next to his work area with its half-dozen flat-
screens and its shelves filled with countless VHS tapes and DVDs from which 
he pulls his citations, we spoke about history, politics, Greece, 
intellectual property, and, of course, cinema â but also about more 
intimate things: such as his health, and his relationship to death.

âJ.-M. L


LALANNE: Why the title Film Socialisme?

GODARD: I've always had the titles in advance â they give me some 
indication of the films that I might make.

A title coming before every idea for a film is a little bit like 'setting 
the tone' in music. I have a whole list of them. Like titles in the sense 
of nobility, or titles in the sense of a bank. More like titles in the 
sense of a bank. I started out with Socialisme, but as the film started 
taking shape, it seemed less and less satisfactory. The film could just as 
well have been called Communisme or Capitalisme. But there was a funny 
coincidence: Jean-Paul Curnier [a philosopher. âJML], while reading a 
little presentational brochure I'd sent around, where the name of the 
production company Vega Film came before the title, read it as "Film 
Socialisme" and thought that was the title. He wrote me a twelve-page 
letter telling me how happy this made him. I said to myself that he must be 
right, and I decided to keep Film in front of Socialisme. It lends the word 
a little dignity.

LALANNE: Where does the idea of the cruise through the Mediterranean come 
from? Homer?

GODARD: At first I was thinking of a story that would take place in Serbia, 
but it didn't work. So I had the idea of a family in a garage, the Martin 
family. But it didn't work for a feature-length film, because then the 
people would turn into characters, and whatever took place would turn into 
a narrative. The story of a mother and her children, a film that might be 
made in France, with lines of dialogue, and 'moods'.

LALANNE: Indeed, the members of this family almost resemble characters of 
an ordinary fiction. It's been a very long time since this has taken place 
in your cinema...

GODARD: Yes, maybe... Not quite, though. The scenes get interrupted before 
anyone turns into characters. Instead, they're statues. Statues that speak. 
If one speaks of statues, it's said that "it comes from another time." And 
if one says "another time," then one takes off on a voyage; one sets off 
upon the Mediterranean. Where the cruise comes in. I'd read a book by LÃon 
Daudet, the polemicist from the beginning of the century, called Le Voyage 
de Shakespeare [1927]. The course of a boat was followed over the 
Mediterranean that carried the young Shakespeare, who still hadn't written 
anything. So all of it started coming together, little by little.

LALANNE: How did you go about arranging all this?

GODARD: There aren't any rules. The same applies to poetry, or to painting, 
or to mathematics. Especially to ancient geometry. The urge to compose 
figures, to put a circle around a square, to plot a tangent. It's 
elementary geometry. If it's elementary, there are elements. So I show the 
sea... VoilÃ, it can't really be described â it's associations. And if 
we're saying "association," we might be saying "socialism." If we're saying 
"socialism," we might be speaking about politics.

LALANNE: The HADOPI law, for example, or the matter of prosecuting 
downloads, or the property of images...

GODARD: I'm against HADOPI, of course. There's no intellectual property. 
I'm against estates, for example. That the children of an artist might 
enjoy the rights of their parents' body of work, why not, until they come 
of age. But afterward â I see no evidence that Ravel's children are getting 
their hands on the rights for the BolÃro...

LALANNE: You don't claim any rights over the images that any artists might 
be lifting from your films?

GODARD: Of course not. Besides, people are doing it, putting them up on the 
Internet, and for the most part they don't look very good... But I don't 
have the feeling that they're taking something away from me. I don't have 
the Internet. Anne-Marie [MiÃville, his partner, and a filmmaker âJML] uses 
it. But in my film, there are images that come from the Internet, like 
those images of the two cats together.

LALANNE: For you, there's no difference in status between those anonymous 
images of cats that circulate on the Internet, and the shot from John 
Ford's Cheyenne Autumn that you're also making use of in Film Socialisme?

GODARD: Statutorily, I don't see why I'd be differentiating between the 
two. If I had to plead in a court of law against charges of filching images 
for my films, I'd hire two lawyers, with two different systems. The one 
would defend the right of quotation, which barely exists for the cinema. In 
literature, you can quote extensively. In the Miller [Genius and Lust: A 
Journey Through the Major Writings of Henry Miller, 1976 âJML] by Norman 
Mailer, there's 80% Henry Miller, and 20% Norman Mailer. In the sciences, 
no scientist pays a fee to use a formula established by a conference. 
That's quotation, and cinema doesn't allow it. I read Marie Darrieussecq's 
book, Rapport de police [Rapport de police, accusations de plagiat et 
autres modes de surveillance de la fiction / Police Report: Accusations of 
Plagiarism and Other Modes of Surveillance in Fiction, 2010], and I thought 
it was very good, because she went into a historical inquiry of this issue. 
The right of the author â it's really not possible. An author has no right. 
I have no right. I have only duties. And then in my film, there's another 
type of "loan" â not quotations, but just excerpts. Like a shot, when a 
blood-sample gets taken for analysis. That would be the defense of my 
second lawyer. He'd defend, for example, my use of the shots of the trapeze 
artists that come from Les Plages d'AgnÃs. This shot isn't a quotation â 
I'm not quoting AgnÃs Varda's film: I'm benefiting from her work. I'm 
taking an excerpt, which I'm incorporating somewhere else, where it takes 
on another meaning: in this case, symbolizing peace between Israel and 
Palestine. I didn't pay for that shot. But if AgnÃs asked me for money, I 
figure it would be for a reasonable price. Which is to say, a price in 
proportion with the economy of the film, the number of spectators that it 

LALANNE: In order to metaphorically express peace in the Middle East, why 
do you prefer to sample one of AgnÃs Varda's images instead of shooting one 
on your own?

GODARD: I thought the metaphor in AgnÃs' film was excellent.

LALANNE: But it has nothing to do with that, in her film...

GODARD: No, of course not. I'm the one who builds it, by moving the image. 
I'm not thinking of harming the image. I thought it was perfect for what I 
wanted to say. If the Palestinians and the Israelis put on a circus and 
brought together a bunch of trapeze artists, things would be different in 
the Middle East. For me this image shows a perfect agreement â exactly what 
I wanted to express. So I'm taking the image, since it exists. The 
socialism of the film is the undermining of the idea of property, beginning 
with that of artworks... There shouldn't be any property over artworks. 
Beaumarchais only wanted to enjoy a portion of the receipts from Le Mariage 
du Figaro. He might say, "I'm the one who wrote Figaro." But I don't think 
he would have said, "Figaro is mine." This feeling of property over 
artworks came later on. These days, a guy attaches lighting to the Eiffel 
Tower â he gets paid for it; but if you film the Eiffel Tower, you have to 
pay this guy something on top of it.

LALANNE: Your film's going up online via FilmoTV at the same time as we'll 
be able to go see it in a theater...

GODARD: That wasn't my idea. When the film-trailers were made, which is to 
say the whole film speeded-up, I proposed putting them up on YouTube 
because it's a good way of getting things out there. Putting the film up 
online was the distributor's idea. They put money up for the film, so I'm 
doing what they request. If it was up to me, I wouldn't have released it 
this way. It took four years to make this film. In production terms, it was 
very atypical. It was shot in quarters, divided equally with Battaggia, 
Arragno, and Grivas. Each one set off and brought back images. Grivas went 
off alone to Egypt, and brought back hours of footage... A lot of time went 
into it. I think the film would have benefited from a similar relationship, 
duration-wise, to its distribution.

LALANNE: What does that mean, in concrete terms?

GODARD: I really would have liked to have a boy and a girl be involved, a 
couple who had the urge to show things, who were kind of involved with the 
cinema, the sort of young people you might meet at small festivals. They'd 
be given a copy of the film on DVD, then be asked to train as skydivers. 
After that, places would be randomly chosen on a map of France, and they'd 
parachute down into those locations. They'd have to show the film wherever 
they landed. In a cafÃ, at a hotel... they'd manage. People would pay 3 or 
4 euros to get in â no more than that. They might film this adventure, and 
sell it later on. Thanks to them, you get a sense of what it means to 
distribute a film. Afterwards, only you can make the decision, to find out 
whether or not it's able to be projected in regular theaters. But not 
before having investigated everything for a year or two. Because 
beforehand, you're just like me: you don't know what the film is, you don't 
know what might be interesting about it. You've gone a little outside the 
whole media space.

LALANNE: In the 1980s, we saw you in the press, on TV, more often...

GODARD: Yes, it bothers me now. I'm no longer looking to subvert a certain 
process of television. At the time, I believed in that, a little. I didn't 
think that it would change anything, but that it might get people 
interested in doing things differently. It interests them for three 
minutes. There are still things I'm interested in about television: 
programs about animals, history channels. I really like House, too. 
Somebody's injured, everybody gathers around him, the characters express 
themselves in hypertechnical jargon â I really like it. But I couldn't 
watch ten episodes in a row.

LALANNE: Why did you invite Alain Badiou and Patti Smith to be in your 
latest film, but ended up filming them so little?

GODARD: Patti Smith was there, so I filmed her. I don't see why I should 
have filmed her for any length of time greater than I would, say, a 

LALANNE: Why did you ask her to be involved?

GODARD: So that there would be one good American. Someone who embodies 
something other than imperialism.

LALANNE: And Alain Badiou?

GODARD: I wanted to quote a text about geometry by Hussserl, and I wanted 
someone to develop something of his own from that. It interested him.

LALANNE: Why film him in front of an empty auditorium?

GODARD: Because none of the tourists on the cruise had any interest in his 
lecture. It was announced that there would be a lecture about Husserl, and 
no-one showed up. When Badiou was brought into this empty auditorium, he 
was really happy. He said: "Finally, I get to speak in front of nobody." 
[laughs] I could have framed it closer, not for the sake of filming the 
empty auditorium, but to show that it was words in a desert, that we're in 
the desert. It made me think of Jean Genet's phrase: "You have to go 
looking for images because they're in the desert." In my cinema, there are 
never any intentions. It's not me inventing this empty auditorium. I don't 
want to say anything, I try to show, or to get feeling across, or to allow 
something else to be said after the fact. When you hear: "Today the 
assholes are sincere â they believe in Europe," what else is there to say? 
That one can't believe in Europe without being an asshole? It's a phrase 
that came to me while reading some passages from La NausÃe. In those times, 
the asshole wasn't sincere. A torturer knew he wasn't being honest. These 
days, the asshole is sincere. As for Europe, it's existed a long time; 
there's no need to make it into something other than it is. I find it hard 
to understand, say, how anyone could be a parliamentarian for it â like 
Dany [Daniel Cohn-Bendit âJML]. Isn't it odd?

LALANNE: A political party shouldn't consist of ecology?

GODARD: You know parties... Parties are always committed [to one thing]. 
Even their names, sometimes. De Gaulle was against parties. During the 
Liberation, though, he brought the parties to the Conseil de la RÃsistance 
in order to swing some weight around in front of the Americans. The 
National Front was even there. Except it wasn't the same thing as it is 
today. At the time, it was one of the Communist Party's endeavors. I don't 
really know why the other ones held onto that name afterward. A committed 

LALANNE: The second-to-last quotation in the film is: "If the law is 
unjust, justice proceeds past the law..."

GODARD: It ties back in with the right of the author. Every DVD starts off 
with a title from the FBI criminalizing copies. I went for Pascal. But you 
might take something else away from that phrase. You might think about 
Roman Polanski's arrest, for example.

LALANNE: Were you spurred on by the fact that Polanski's arrest took place 
in your country, Switzerland?

GODARD: I'm Franco-Swiss. I pass for Swiss, but I declare residence in 
France; I pay my taxes in France. In Switzerland, there are certain 
landscapes I like that I couldn't do without. And further to that, I have 
my roots here. But politically speaking, I'm shocked by lots of things. 
Same as with Polanski, Switzerland refused to submit to the United States. 
They should discuss â not accept. I hope that every filmmaker that goes to 
Cannes rallies around Polanski, and affirms that Swiss justice is not just. 
Just as they've done to support the imprisoned filmmaker Jafar Panahi. Just 
as one might say "the Iranian regime is an evil regime," they should say 
"the Swiss regime isn't good."

LALANNE: The ban on minarets?

GODARD: That's nothing... As far as Switzerland's concerned, I think of 
Qaddafi: Romandy Switzerland belongs to France; German Switzerland belongs 
to Germany; Italian Switzerland belongs to Italy; and voilÃ, no more 

LALANNE: The Greek crisis resonates strongly with your film...

GODARD: We should give thanks to Greece. It's the West that has a debt in 
relation to Greece. Philosophy, democracy, tragedy... We always forget the 
links between tragedy and democracy. Without Sophocles, no Pericles. 
Without Pericles, no Sophocles. The technological world in which we live 
owes everything to Greece. Who invented logic? Aristotle. If this and if 
that, then this. Logic. It's what the dominant powers use every day â 
ensuring that there's no contradiction whatsoever, that we stay inside of 
the same logic. Hannah Arendt put it well when she said that logic leads to 
totalitarianism. So today the whole world owes Greece money. Greece could 
ask the contemporary world for one trillion copyrights, and it would only 
be logical to turn them over to it. Post-haste.

LALANNE: The Greeks are also accused of being liars...

GODARD: It reminds me of an old syllogism I learned in school. Epaminondas 
is a liar â and yet, every Greek is a liar â thus, Epaminondas is Greek. We 
haven't advanced much farther than that.

LALANNE: Did Barack Obama's election alter your perception of American 
international politics?

GODARD: It's funny, Edwy Plenel [in the Mediapart video-interview. âCK] 
asked me the same question. Obama's election left me neither warm nor cold. 
I've been hoping for his sake that no-one would jump in to assassinate him. 
That he represents the United States â it's not exactly the same thing as 
when it was George Bush. But sometimes things are clearer when they're at 
their worst. When Chirac found himself facing Le Pen on the second leg of 
the presidential campaign, I was thinking that the left should abstain and 
not vote for Chirac. It's better to let the worst happen.

LALANNE: Why? That's dangerous...

GODARD: Because in a single instant, everyone pauses to think. Just like 
with tsunamis...

LALANNE: What are we supposed to pause and think about, with tsunamis?

GODARD: About what gets called nature, in which we take part. There are 
moments when it has to take its revenge. Meteorologists only speak a 
scientific language; they don't speak philosophically. No-one listens to 
the way in which a tree philosophizes.

LALANNE: Are you still interested in sports?

GODARD: Yes, but I regret that today football puts nothing more forward 
than a completely defensive game. Aside from Barcelona. But Barcelona can't 
play two matches in a row at the same level.

LALANNE: It depends. They won out over Arsenal.

GODARD: Yes, but not against Milan. Why can't they rally? When nothing 
comes off, you've got fewer matches.

LALANNE: This past winter, you made a very short film in homage to Eric 

GODARD: Les Films du Losange asked me to. I wanted to use the titles of his 
articles, to evoke things that I'd seen or done with him when we were young 
at the Cahiers in the 1950s. I could hardly say anything about him. You 
can't talk about people with whom you've shared very little. Of course, 
this isn't the method of Antoine de Baecque...

LALANNE: Have you read the biography by Antoine de Baecque devoted to you?

GODARD: I've flipped through it.

LALANNE: Could you care less that it exists, or are you bothered by it?

GODARD: It bothers me for Anne-Marie's sake. Because there are false things 
in it. It also bothers me that people in my family turned documents over to 
him. It's bad form. But I haven't done anything to prevent its release.

LALANNE: Did you keep in touch with Eric Rohmer?

GODARD: A tiny bit, because he was living in the same building in Paris. So 
we spoke to one another from time to time.

LALANNE: Have you seen his final films?

GODARD: Yes, on DVD. Triple Agent is a very strange film. I'm really into 
espionage, but I wouldn't have imagined that such a subject might interest 

LALANNE: Is the idea of accomplishing a body of work, one which life 
granted you the time to complete, a matter that weighs upon you?

GODARD: No. I don't believe in the body of work. There are works, they 
might be produced in individual installments, but the body of work as a 
collection, the great oeuvre, I have no interest in it. I prefer to speak 
in terms of pathways. Along my course, there are highs and there are lows, 
there are attempts... I've towed the line a lot. You know, the most 
difficult thing is to tell a friend that what he's done isn't very good. I 
can't do it. Rohmer was brave enough to tell me at the time of the Cahiers 
that my critique of Strangers on a Train was bad. Rivette could say it too. 
And we paid a lot of attention to what Rivette thought. As for FranÃois 
Truffaut, he didn't forgive me for thinking his films were worthless. He 
also suffered from not ending up finding my films as worthless as I thought 
his own were.

LALANNE: Do you really think that Truffaut's films are worthless?

GODARD: No, not worthless... Not any more than anything else... Not any 
more than Chabrol's... But that wasn't the cinema we were dreaming of.

LALANNE: Posterity, leaving a trace behind â does this concern you?

GODARD: No, not at all.

LALANNE: But has it weighed upon you even for an instant?

GODARD: Never.

LALANNE: I have a hard time believing that. You can't make Pierrot le fou 
without having the urge to create a masterpiece, to be the champion of the 
world, to take your place in history forever...

GODARD: Maybe you're right. I had to stake that claim in my early works. I 
came back down to earth pretty quickly.

LALANNE: Do you think about your death?

GODARD: Yes, inevitably. With health problems... You end up being a lot 
more introspective than you used to be. Life changes. In any case, I've 
made a break with the social life for a long time now. I'd really like to 
take tennis back up again, which I had to stop due to knee-problems. When 
you get old, childhood starts coming back. It's good. And no, I don't get 
particularly distressed about dying.

LALANNE: You seem pretty detached...

GODARD: Mais au contraire! I'm very attached! [laughs] And further on this 
topic: Anne-Marie told me the other day that if she ever ends up outliving 
me, she'd write on my tombstone: "Au contraire..."

--- http://felix.openflows.com ----------------------- books out now:
*|Deep Search.The Politics of Search Beyond Google.Studienverlag 2009
*|Mediale Kunst/Media Arts Zurich.13 Positions.Scheidegger&Spiess2008
*|Manuel Castells and the Theory of the Network Society. Polity, 2006 
*|Open Cultures and the Nature of Networks. Ed. Futura/Revolver, 2005 

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