“For me, cinema has the same fascination you feel during an eclipse and you see a close-up of the sun with protuberances shooting out that are thousands of times larger than our own planet down here. It is for this reason that I am loathe to address many of the points critics raise about my films, because when everything is explained it gets boring very quickly. It is always the mysterious and those things which do not fit perfectly into a story—the inexplicable images or twists in the tale—that stick out and are memorable. Sometimes I will place a scene or shot into a film that might seem to have no place, yet this is essential to our understanding of the story being told.”
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.
“The final scene of Cobra Verde was the last day of shooting that we ever did together. He had put so much intensity into this final scene that he just fell apart afterwards. Even at the time we both sensed it, and he even said to me, ‘We can go no further. I am no more.’ He died in 1991 at his home north of San Francisco. He had just burnt himself out like a comet. Like me, Kinski was a very physical person, but in a different way. We complemented each other well because he drew everyone together. He attracted the herd magnetically and I held it together. Kinski was made for me, for my cinema. Sometimes I want to put my arm around him again, but I guess I only dream about this because I have seen this in old footage of the two of us. I do not regret a moment, not one. Maybe I do miss him. Yes, now and then I do miss him.” — Werner Herzog
“You should bear in mind that almost all my documentaries are feature films in disguise. Because I stylize, I invent, there’s a lot of fantasy in it—not for creating a fraud, but exactly the contrary, to create a deeper form of truth, which is not fact-related. Facts hardly ever give you any truth, and that’s a mistake of cinéma vérité, because they always postulate it as if facts would constitute truth. In that case, my answer is that the phone directory of Manhattan is a book of books. Because it has 4 million entries, and they are all factually correct, but it doesn’t illuminate us. You see, I do things for creating moments that illuminate you as an audience, and the same thing happens with feature films as well.”
Werner Herzog (born September 5, 1942)