I’ve been watching (and re-watching) Eric Rohmer‘s brilliant “Moral Tales” series of films he made in the 1960’s and early 70’s recently via the gorgeous Criterion Collection boxset. A 1978 interview with Rohmer on the “La Collectionneuse” disk particularly struck me as he discussed many of the exact same issues that filmmakers and the industry talk about today, like how easy it is to make films now (back then via 16mm cameras), lack of funding, lack of exhibition possibilities, etc.
Rohmer pointed out when he made “La Collectionneuse” (his first big breakout film) that it showed on one screen in Paris and how it was impossible to produce the films that he and Godard and the other French New Wave were making at the time through the film industry so they did it independently, working with their friends, using cheap cameras, and shooting quickly. Sound familiar?
As I was sitting watched a beautiful restored version (overseen by the director himself) of a film from 1967 it made me think that today it is easier than ever to make a film and to have it seen. Whether you watch it at any of the hundreds of film festivals around the world (where you can always find good stuff), download it illegally off Bit Torrent, get a nice DVD mailed to your house, or just put the whole thing up on YouTube, who can really complain that cinema is dead or that is impossible to get work out to audiences?
Sure there’s a glut of stuff, distributors seem pickier than ever about what they acquire, and very few people can make a living off of filmmaking, but when has that ever not been the case? Even Rohmer pointed out that he taught for many years and even still had one foot in the door of academia at the time of the 1978 interview.
Probably the biggest issue facing cinema today is the domination of crappy Hollywood three-quels that keep pushing out the real art from the multiplex. But as box office receipts dropped this summer, hopefully the public and the industry will tire of this.
As actress Catherine Deneuve noted in indieWIRE recently at Cannes:
“I’ve heard that for such a long time,” she said of the death of cinema, “It’s a very slow death…since the end of the New Wave…” Concluding the thought, she added, “It is still very alive, I think.”
Long Live cinema.
[On YouTube, the opening scene of Rohmer’s “La Collectionneuse”]