Liv Ullmann

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“When I decide to portray a part, I can never completely hide who I am, what I am. At the point of identification, the audience encounters a person, not a role, not an actress. A face to face. It’s what I know about women. It’s what I have experienced, what I’ve seen. That’s what I want to share with you.”

Liv Ullmann
Born December 16, 1938

A Roger Ebert quote from his review of Gus Van Sant’s Elephant

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.

Olivier Assayas on Robert Bresson

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The truth of my feelings about the cinema of Robert Bresson is very simple. When walking out of a screening of Pickpocket as a young man, with close friends who hadn’t understood a thing about the film, who had missed what seemed so incredibly obvious to me, I felt, deeply, that it had let me see into the inner beauty of cinema in a way that would someday allow me to make films myself.

There are a lot of filmmakers I admire: Bergman, Fassbinder, Cassavetes, Visconti, Mizoguchi, Rohmer, Scorsese, Dreyer, Rossellini, Pasolini, Renoir, Tarkovsky, just to mention the few that most naturally come to mind.

But Bresson is, for me, in a category of his own. He is what keeps me faithful to what cinema can achieve. In moments of discouragement, he reminds me how great films can be…

And I don’t think I would be making films if not for him, or certainly not the same films.

The Sacrifice

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“Erland going up and down the ladder like a firefighter, grumbling that he had never in his life had to work out as much as during the shooting of Tarkovsky’s film and complaining that he would soon have the biceps of King Kong. Kerstin Eriksdotter suggested that we rename the film The Ladder. ‘Why not? The Ladder sound rather good,’ Andrei agreed, adding: ‘Gogol asked for a ladder before he died.’”

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“For a long time, Sven Nykvist was puzzled by Andrei’s constant peering through the lens. It even bothered him, until Andrei explained to him that only after looking through the viewfinder of the camera was he able to visualise the mise-en-scène .”