“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.”
November 13, 1909 — May 24, 1986
“Smiles of a Summer Night was my best part of all, I think, to play. It was a wonderful time. So it went on from year to year. The part of the writer in Through a Glass Darkly was a portrait of Bergman himself. I had to weep, very short and very intensely, and when they did the playback it was too short. So, Ingmar said it was so good, but one more take, one more take! Anything I am playing, I draw it from within myself, from every part of my character. Being an actor means taking one aspect of yourself and projecting it—you’ve got everything within you, actually. That can be very difficult, especially to avoid compromising. I cannot do it coldly and technically.”
Chantal Akerman: You can see him excluding himself from the world in an almost autistic manner. For people like me, who started doing film because of him, it is a terrible fright. And the fact that the long evolution that Godard has been through can lead to this, almost brings me to despair. He was kind of a pioneer, an inventor who didn’t care much about anybody or anything. And that a man at this stage of his life isolates himself, should also be a lesson for us other film makers.
Woody Allen: I think he’s a brilliant innovator. I don’t always love every film he’s made. I think he’s very inventive, but sometimes his inventions are taken by other people and used better. But he’s certainly one of the innovators of cinema.
Paul Thomas Anderson: I love Godard in a very film school way. I can’t say that I’ve ever been emotionally attacked by him. Where I have been emotionally attacked by Truffaut.
Michelangelo Antonioni: Godard flings reality in our faces, and I’m struck by this. But never by Truffaut.
Ingmar Bergman: I’ve never been able to appreciate any of his films, nor even understand them. Truffaut and I used to meet on several occasions at film festivals. We had an instant understanding that extended to his films. But Godard: I find his films affected, intellectual, self-obsessed and, as cinema, without interest and frankly dull. Endless and tiresome. Godard is a desperate bore. I’ve always thought that he made films for critics. He made one here in Sweden, Masculin Féminin, so boring that my hair stood on end.
Luis Buñuel: I’ll give him two years more, he is just a fashion.
Jean-Luc Godard: I am not an auteur, well, not now anyway. We once believed we were auteurs but we weren’t. We had no idea, really. Film is over. It’s sad nobody is really exploring it. But what to do? And anyway, with mobile phones and everything, everyone is now an auteur.
Werner Herzog: Someone like Jean-Luc Godard is for me intellectual counterfeit money when compared to a good kung fu film.
Fritz Lang: I like him a great deal: he is very honest, he loves the cinema, he is just as fanatical as I was. In fact, I think he tries to continue what we started one day, the day when we began making our first films. Only his approach is different. Not the spirit.
Roman Polanski: In fact the worst thing possible is to be absolutely certain about things. Hitler, for example, must have been convinced in the certainty of his ideas and that he was right. I don’t think he did anything without believing in it, otherwise he wouldn’t have done it to start with. And I think Jean-Luc Godard believes he makes good films, but maybe they aren’t that good.
Satyajit Ray: Godard especially opened up new ways of… making points, let us say. And he shook the foundations of film grammar in a very healthy sort of way, which is excellent.
Quentin Tarantino: To me, Godard did to movies what Bob Dylan did to music: they both revolutionized their forms.
François Truffaut: You’re nothing but a piece of shit on a pedestal. […] You fostered the myth, you accentuated that side of you that was mysterious, inaccessible and temperamental, all for the slavish admiration of those around you. You need to play a role and the role needs to be a prestigious one; I’ve always had the impression that real militants are like cleaning women, doing a thankless, daily but necessary job. But you, you’re the Ursula Andress of militancy, you make a brief appearance, just enough time for the cameras to flash, you make two or three duly startling remarks and then you disappear again, trailing clouds of self-serving mystery.
Orson Welles: 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.
Wim Wenders: For me, discovering cinema was directly connected to his films. I was living in Paris at the time. When Made in USA opened, I went to the first show—it was around noon—and I sat there until midnight. I saw it six times in a row.
September 20, 1879 — January 3, 1960
With regard to the extremely moving final shot, which is possibly one of the most beautiful and remarkable moments I’ve ever captured on film in my entire career, it has a bizarre background. And it might be interesting to mention it, since Victor was such a punctual person. He was always ready to start working at 9:00 sharp. He knew his lines, and he had all his props and costumes in order. So he was very meticulous. But he also liked to be home by 5:00, when he would enjoy a glass of whiskey. And that was important too. And the day we shot the final scene, we were, for some reason I can’t recall, we were working overtime. I had to break this to Victor, and he was furious. Truly pissed off. And he said, ‘Let’s do it.’ And we set things up. He stood there and he refused to speak to me. He thought it was mean of me to not let him go home. Then suddenly, when I said ‘action,’ his faced transformed. The surly, unapproachable old man’s expression was transformed and became accessible, beatific and wise.
There was much tension in his life: his excessive self-criticism, his grumpiness, his meticulous nature, the fact that he was so very demanding in his interactions, and hard on himself as well, along with that crushing angst. Yet despite all this, these remarkable images came though. Unforgettable.
“The fact that I have been able to work with Sjöström, that I have been able to talk to him about his craft, that we could discuss the making of The Phantom Carriage, or the US production The Wind, or Ingeborg Holm, and he could tell me how he worked and thought at the time — being granted the opportunity to talk to such a master of his craft, to listen to him and absorb his words, it made me feel that I was a part of a certain development, a part of a grand tradition.”