Thursday, March 31, 2011

Great Artists on their Art: quotes from the 29th Festival international du film sur l'art (FIFA)

The 29th Festival international du film sur l'art (FIFA) ended on Sunday and I thoroughly enjoyed my first time at this unique event. It really was essential viewing not just for film-lovers but for anyone interested in the Arts.

Personally, I found many of the artists themselves quite fascinating, even when they weren't themselves able to articulate what they did and meant with their art. I understand that -- making art and talking about it academically are often two very different things. The best athletes rarely make the best coaches – contrary to the old joke "those who can't do, teach." In art, the best artists aren't always able to decipher what may for them be an unconscious act.

Still, their imagination and creativity was evident in whatever they did have to say. I didn't always agree with everything, but it was interesting nonetheless. I wrote down some of the more intriguing and inspiring quotes from artists themselves from various films at the latest edition of FIFA.

Here they are. Enjoy!

The most important quality is persistence. You really want to do, you do. The other people are doing this ten times to do good, you will do one hundred to do very good. That is life, even. And I am like that.
Luciano Pavarotti, I'm Going to be a Little Tenor: Luciano Pavarotti

I'm fascinated with the criminal mind – I always have been – so my natural emphasis was on Gilmore. When it came time to write about the people, the men who were killed, I was awfully aware if I'd been writing a novel, they wouldn't have been as nice and as wonderful as they are. I would've given them a few flaws. I grew up with Jules R---'s (Renard's?) remark that "few of the victims of war are innocent." Novelistically, it offended me that they were that perfect.
Norman Mailer, Norman Mailer The Shooting of Gary Gilmore

Even in the most tragical scene, there must be some sort of joy, some sort of lust. And if it's not there, if it's not present, the picture is just boring. And that is the most terrifying of all things. When the picture is boring, it's dead and you can go home and kill yourself.
Ingmar Bergman, Ingmar Bergman at Sixty

Memories. In the memories of those who saw me dance, have seen my work and kept something from it. The main thing is to give people something that they can keep, in their memories, in their feelings.
Alicia Alonso, Alicia Alonso – For Giselle Did Not Die

I generally try to work regularly because when people talk about inspiration, I think what is called inspiration only comes really from regular work.
Francis Bacon, Francis Bacon

I learned to feel that those things which I blamed myself so much for – to be lazy practicing, or to spend too much time in the theatre, or too much time reading books which were of no utility for me musically, and so on – I blamed myself for it very much for many years. But I came to the conclusion that that developed something which comes out probably in my music. And perhaps that is the reason why people still like to listen to me. It might be some kind of imagination which was built up by this kind of life.
Arthur Rubinstein, Arthur Rubinstein

Asian-American actors often approach the us-them thing with a sense of "Why won't they let us do this? Why won't they let us do that? What won't they cast us in these things? Why won't they write our parts for us?" And it is of course now more becoming, "Well, we just have to do this for ourselves."
B.D. Wong, Hollywood Chinese

Bragg: It's an odd life being a writer, isn't it really? Do you find ...
Pinter: It's not a bad life. Not a bad life.
Bragg: What are the advantages?
Pinter: Well, freedom, really. And one can dictate one's own ... to a certain extent – I hope I don't sound too complacent because I'm certainly not that, of any kind – but I think one can to a certain extent dictate one's own destiny. The ball is in your court, if you see what I mean. I'm not dependent on others, generally speaking – although I'm totally dependent on others in the course of an actual production, you see, although that's more of an interrelation between us that actually takes place. I'm not totally dependent because I can make myself heard. But if you understand me, generally speaking, I just feel independent, shall I put it that way.
Harold Pinter, Harold Pinter

That was one of the things with Ornette [Coleman] was the discovery part, you know, because every time we played together we discovered something that we didn't know before; and the music, it was like it was just being born for the first time. The songs and the improvising, we felt really good about what we were doing. If you listen to the really early Ornette records – The Shape of Jazz to Come, and Change of the Century, and This is Our Music – you will hear interludes and introductions and endings that were so precise, and the harmonic structure was so precise and beautiful that it's ... you play them today and they sound just as new now as they sounded then, and you want to play it over again. You know, I listen back to them now and I couldn't believe the bass notes that I was playing there. I mean, how did I do that?
Charlie Haden, Charlie Haden – Rambling Boy

The book was written in 1962 by Ken Kesey. Immediately, the rights were bought by Kirk Douglas. Yet not one studio wanted to finance the film about mental illness. And he was in Prague on a goodwill tour in 1965 or 6 and they showed him some of Czech films, among them one of mine, Loves of a Blonde. He liked it. And then in Prague, he suddenly out of the blue, he asked me, if he sent me the book and if I would read it and tell him if I'm interested to make a movie out of it. Because he realized that, "this guy must know how to make a cheap movie, for little money" – he liked the film. So I was, "Of course, of course." Well, the book never came.

About seven years later I think it was, I'm already living in America, in New York, doing nothing. Suddenly I got in the mail a book ... the same book, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" sent to me by the producers Saul Zaentz and Michael Douglas, the producer son of Kirk Douglas. When I met Michael, first of all I found out that he didn't know that his father sent me that book seven years ago. Plus, when I met Kirk he said, "You sonofabitch! I sent you a book and you even didn't have the courtesy to tell me go and shove it." And I looked at him and said, "Well Kirk, I thought the same thing about you. You fill my head with the idea to go to America and you'll send me the book. You never did." Well, what happened was that he really did send me the book but the censors in Czechozlovakia at the customs confiscated the book as subversive literature or whatever, and didn't tell him, and didn't tell me. But suddenly, the book comes back after seven years to me ...

And you know, funny thing was that all my American friends were telling me, "Listen, don't touch, don't go near this book. It's such Americana. How can you, an immigrant, understand it? You will break your neck. It will not be good for you. You will ruin your career because you can't really do it." And I said, "This is ridiculous, what you are saying. This book – for you, it's literature. But for me, it's life. I lived this book. I lived it. The Communist Party was my big nurse, telling me what I can read, what I cannot read, what I can think, what I cannot think. I know more about this book than you do because for you it's only literature." And I think I was right. I knew what the film is about.
Milos Forman, Milos Forman, années 60

Do you believe in ghosts? Excellent!  It's important for the overture. For the duration of the overture, I want you to believe in ghosts, all right?
Carlos Kleiber rehearsing Weber's Der Freischutz, Traces to Nowhere - The Conductor Carlos Kleiber

Another question they raised is the roof – should we use a tile roof? – and we are using a stone roof. I'm severely criticized. They said, "Mr. Pei, I like your design but I think you make a big mistake. You should use tile roof. This is a tradition in Suzhou." And I think, "I'm sorry, I don't know how to do a building like that." The reason is because tile roof is so strong a personality, it actually makes it impossible for you to make form out of it because the roof is absolutely so dominant. So to take the roof away is to remove a tyranny which makes it possible to innovate.
I. M. Pei, I. M. Pei: Building China Modern

Bragg: When somebody asked you to do a screenplay based on those volumes of Proust, it must have seemed impossible. So how did you set about it?
Pinter: It did seem impossible. Quite impossible. But I settled down and read Proust for three months, you know. Every day, that's all I did. And that was wonderful. Then at the end of it, it seemed totally impossible. I didn't know how to set about it really. And then this went on for some weeks, talked about things with Joe Losey and Barbara Bray, my collaborator. And I couldn't get the word ... the pen on the paper as it were. And then one day, Joe Losey said ... I said "I don't know what I'm going to do" and he said "there's only one thing you can do. Go home now, and start!" I said, "Start what? How? In what way?" you see, and he said "just start." And that's what I did.
Harold Pinter, Harold Pinter

I have an overall image of what I want to do, but it's in the working that it develops. You see, it's a very difficult problem this now, as I'm a figurative painter. You can't any longer make illustration because it's done so much better by the camera and by the cinema. So you have to really concentrate on making ... you have to ... I thought about it very clearly this morning, wrote it down and I put it in my pocket. Now I can't remember what I was going to say. Can I use it? What I thought of saying (takes paper out) I just said, "not illustration of reality but to create images which are concentration of reality and a shorthand of sensation."
Francis Bacon, Francis Bacon

Once I've learned the music mentally, the translation into physical terms for the orchestra is absolutely unconscious. And then you have to make entirely different gestures for different players. You get very sensitive people, I only have to look at those. Otherwise, some you have to pull it out of, and some you just let it emerge.
John Barbirolli, Sir John Barbirolli

I think each injury is a lesson. To save yourself, you learn something and become better – your technique, your body, your way of moving becoming more mental, more strong. But it's normal. It's kind of ... you enjoy this pain also. Yeah, I think it's kind of a drug for a dancer, this pain. It means you are doing something new for your body. You found some new muscle and it's hurting so it says "Yes, I'm alive. I'm working."
Alina Trostyanetskaya, A Wonderful Sacrifice: The Nederlands Dans Theater

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