“Hollywood is the reason I make the films I do. Because I hate it. And I would never go there or waste my time watching their films because… well, I am a lousy film-maker, this I admit. But I refuse to make shit. Bad films I can make. Shit, no.”
Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking soundbites to support it. “Wouldn’t you say,” she asked, ‘that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?” No, I said, I wouldn’t say that. “But what about ‘The Basketball Diaries’?” she asked. “Doesn’t that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machinegun?”
The obscure 1995 Leonardo DiCaprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office and it’s unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.
The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. “Events like this,” I said, “if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. Kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn’t have messed with me. I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.”
In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, “The NBC Nightly News” and other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of “explaining” them.
The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.
Andy Warhol,Dracula, 1981, Polacolor 2 print. Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine. Gift of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., The Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program
Fun fact: in 1974, Andy Warhol produced a film called Blood for Dracula. Art and film come together in an amazing way with this production.
Excerpts from Andrei Tarkovsky’s last letter to his father, famous Russian poet Arseny Tarkovsky.
I am really saddened to hear that you feel I supposedly chose the role of an “exile” and am all but getting ready to abandon my Russia… I don’t know who finds it convenient to present in this manner the difficult situation I have found myself in “thanks” to many years of persecution by the authorities at the Goskino and, in particular, its chairman — Yermash. […]
I am certain everything will end well, I shall complete my work here and return very soon to Moscow with Anna Semyonovna and Andrei and Lara to hug you and all those dear to us even if in Moscow I shall remain (for sure) unemployed. This is nothing new to me.
I am sure the government will not refuse my humble and natural request. (In case the unbelievable happens, there will be an awful scandal. God forbid, this is what I want to avoid, you can surely understand.) I am not a dissident but an artist who contributed his part to the treasure-box of the glory of the Soviet cinema. And not the worst part either, I suspect… (In “Sovietskiy film” one talentless critic — instructed by the authorities — belatedly called me “a great director”). And I earned more money (hard currency) for my country than most.
That’s why I cannot understand the unjust and inhuman treatment I receive. I have remained a Soviet artist and I shall remain one, no matter what the guilty ones are saying, those who are trying to force me out abroad.
Many many kisses from me, wish you health and strength.
Hope to see you again soon.
Your son — unhappy and tormented Andrei Tarkovsky.
Andrei would die three years later in 1986 in Paris and three years after that, Arseni died in 1989 in Moscow, having never seen each other before Andrei died.
“I became an actress way into my 30s because I thought that I had to find my own way, and that’s why I worked so much in modeling, until I realized that the differences between acting and modeling weren’t that great. I always say that modeling is a little bit like being a silent actress. I still think that what is important is not to look pretty but to express emotions. And I do believe, quoting Diana Vreeland, the great guru of fashion, that there is no beauty without emotion. So once I realized that my job as a model was to emote in front of the camera, I thought, well now I just have to add words and I can do films. But also my success as a model made me more confident about becoming an actress because just in case I failed I thought well, you know, if I failed as an actress, I can do another job. When I was young it was difficult to imagine entering a world where my parents succeeded so much and I could have risked failing. It would have felt much harder.”
Peter Bogdanovich: I’ve never seen Dietrich as she was in Touch of Evil—she transcends everything and becomes almost a mythical figure.
Orson Welles: The whole character, you know, was written after the picture started. We were well along before I even thought it up. Then I phoned Marlene and said I had a couple days’ work for her and she’d have to have dark hair because, I told her, “I liked you as a brunette in Golden Earrings.” She didn’t ask to read the script. She just said, “Well, I’ll go over to Paramount—I think that wig is still there—and then I’ll go to Metro for a dress…” The front office didn’t even know she was in the picture. You should have seen them in the projection room during the first rushes: “Hey! Isn’t that Dietrich?” and I said, “Yes.” They said, “We haven’t got her in the budget.” And I said, “No. Won’t cost you anything as long as you don’t give her billing.” They decided they wanted to and paid her to be in it. But it was up to them.
Bogdanovich: Well, it was actually a digression as far as the plot is concerned.
Welles: Yeah, but it helped it enormously. Look what that does for the film—that scene when those two suddenly encounter each other. And when she sees him floating in the bay—it makes the picture, you know.
Bogdanovich: That’s what I think. Where did the pianola come from? It seems like a remembrance of The Blue Angel.
Welles: Honestly, I wasn’t thinking of that. I’ve never seen The Blue Angel. I just think we found a pianola among the props. I think all that Dietrich part of it is as good as anything I’ve ever done in movies. When I think of that opening in New York without even a press showing… Really, Marlene was extraordinary in that. She really was the Super-Marlene. Everything she has ever been was in that little house for about four minutes there.
Peter Bogdanovich: I think we’d better have your thoughts on Godard.
Orson Welles: Well, since you’re so very firm about it. He’s the definitive influence if not really the first film artist of this last decade, and his gifts as a director are enormous. I just can’t take him very seriously as a thinker—and that’s where we seem to differ, because he does. His message is what he cares about these days, and, like most movie messages, it could be written on the head of a pin. But what’s so admirable about him is his marvelous contempt for the machinery of movies and even movies themselves—a kind of anarchistic, nihilistic contempt for the medium—which, when he’s at his best and most vigorous, is very exciting.
“To me, when cinematography is at its best, it is very close to the state of dreaming. You know, in any other art you can’t create a situation that is as close to dreaming. Think only of the time gap. You can make things as long as you want, exactly as in a dream. You can make things as short as you want, exactly as in a dream. As a director, a creator of the picture, you are like a dreamer. You can make what you want. You can construct everything. I think that is one of the most fascinating things that exists.”