Interview with Jacques Rivette 2007
This is a translation of part of an interview with Jacques Rivette on the Les Inrocks site which is dated March 20 2007. (The complete interview in French )
Interviewer: Were the cells of cinephiles in the 50s, and notably that of Cahiers, similar to secret societies?
Rivette: The secret society, that's always the other people. . .It wasn't an accident if there were conflicts with other groups, other magazines, such as Positif, , ,But yes, of course. . .
Interviewer: The story of the cinephilia of the 50s, a foundation, nearly mythological, seen from today, has something of the novelistic about it, almost as if out of Balzac. Did you live this, at that time?
Rivette: We were all very surprised by what took place, by what they called the New Wave. No one from among us, whether it was François (Truffaut), Jean-Luc (Godard), Chabrol or Rohmer anticipated that it would take that dimension. Above all, this verified, after the fact, the appropriateness of what we all thought and what François wrote in his famous article, "A Certain Tendency of French Cinema", which nevertheless was an absolute rupture. Cahiers was thus pointed to by the institutions of criticism and film.
Interviewer: Can you tell us about your encounter with the Cahiers group?
Rivette: The great difference with the Positif critics, for example, was that we all wanted to make films. When I met François, Jean-Luc and the others on my arrival from Rouen, we would meet each other at the Cinémathèque française on the Avenue Messine where we went just about every night. Already, what differentiated us from other cinephiles, even if we were all snot-nosed kids (I was 21 and François 17), was that we wanted to make films. We had no idea at all how, I, for one, knew absolutely no one. François had just been released from military prison thanks to André Bazin and we fell in together right off because we wanted to become filmmakers. i was enrolled in the College of Arts but I did not have the least intention of pursuing these studies, it was just to be able to benefit from the advantages of the status of student.
Interviewer: Does the desire to make films date from your adolescence in Rouen?
Rivette: I retell this often (laughs). The guilty party is Jean Cocteau. The determining factor was the release of La Belle et la Bête, and, most of all, the publication of his diary of the shoot. I had read a lot of Cocteau, whom I liked a lot. At that time, I didn't much know what I wanted to do later on, and when i read this diary -- when he recounted the work with the crew, all the problems that he met up with, his skin disease, Jean Marais' wound, and so on -- I immediately knew that this was what I wanted to do. I told myself that cinema was a place where things happened, where one debated with people, where one invented and tried things, whether they worked or not. . .
Interviewer: You brought to Cahiers the relish for interviews and the idea of going over to the film set. . .
Rivette: That was most of all an excuse to see what happened on a film set. I went over to the one for Ophuls' Madame de..., I stayed there two or three days in a corner, i watched Ophuls work, Danielle Darrieux, but in the end I did not write anything. When it comes to the interviews, that came from the great vogue, at that time, of very long radio interviews with writers: Gide, Léataud and others. And there was Claudel, who edited the text of these interviews for Gallimard, and who, in principle, corrected nothing. I was leafing through this book when it just came out, and François and I said to each other, "This is what we should be doing!" And that is why we went with our tape recorder to see Jacques Becker.