Like Mizoguchi, Naruse saw life as a crushing fate, and it was for him too the position of women in society that best expressed the claustrophobia and resentment we feel about our lot. Yet unlike Mizoguchi, still less like Ozu, Naruse allowed no moments of stillness, no redemption through the expanse of subsuming nature, no recognition of the rightness of order. Naruse found no quasi-religious reconciliation to the sorrow of living, and in his films showed only the confirmation of what he himself said of the human condition: “From the youngest age, I have thought that the world we live in betrays us; this thought remains with me.”

Despite this bleak view on the part of the director, however, the determined characters of the Naruse film never give up. A stubborn dedication to their own self-respect in the face of overwhelming crassness, vulgarity and exploitation from even those who should be most sensitive and protective toward the individual lends Naruse’s heroines a distinctive nobility. […] The Naruse heroine can be seen as a symbol for everyone who has ever been caught between ideals and reality, making do with something unsatisfying, as in Repast (1951) or Tsuruhachi and Tsurujiro (1938), going without because all ideals have been crushed but self-respect remains, as in Late Chrysanthemums (1954) or When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960), or retaining a determination to realize the ideal against all odds, as in Lightning (1952) or Flowing (1956). All of these approaches to coping with life’s disappointments and betrayals strike a familiar chord in viewers around the world, and therein lies Naruse’s uniqueness.

These neutral conclusions, neither sad nor happy endings which have been called “inconclusive” by some critics, would not be possible without Naruse’s uniquely subtle technique. Without the quiet style in which they are couched, many of the stories of Naruse’s films, such as the late melodramas Yearning (1965) and Scattered Clouds (1967), would be maudlin and undistinguished. But the criticism the late Shochiku studio head Shiro Kido leveled against Naruse, “His films have no ups and downs; the tone is too flat”, reveals the consistent subtlety of the director’s technique. As with the films of Ozu, the Naruse film rejects plot in favor of character. Akira Kurosawa counters Kido’s remarks with a description of Naruse’s style as “like a great river with a calm surface and a raging current in its depths.”

Audie Bock on Mikio Naruse (August 20, 1905 — July 2, 1969)

Carl Th. Dreyer behind the scenes of his final film, Gertrud (1964).

"The idea for Limite came about by chance. I was in Paris, having come over from England where I was studying, and I was passing by a newspaper stand when I saw a magazine with a photograph of a woman on the cover, with arms wrapped round her chest, handcuffed. A man’s arms. And the magazine was called Vu [no. 74, 14 August 1929]… I carried on walking and I could not get this image out of my mind. And right after that, I saw this sea of fire and a woman clinging to the remnants of a sinking ship… At night, in a hotel, I scribbled down the opening scene of the film, without knowing what I was doing.”

Brazilian director Mário Peixoto on the origins of his experimental 1931 silent film Limite.

"When a director works with a scriptwriter they must have some habits in common. Otherwise they wouldn’t get along at all. With Noda and me, we see alike about staying up late and drinking, and things like that. That is the most important thing." — Yasujiro Ozu on Kogo Noda

Lifelong friends and collaborators, Ozu wrote more than half of his films with Noda, including every picture from Late Spring in 1949 to his final film, An Autumn Afternoon, in 1962. Donald Richie detailed their working relationship in his book on Ozu:

Their method of work was always the same: to go someplace and stay up late drinking until the ideas began to come. Noda later remembered the various places they worked: “We used to sometimes work in a bar named Fledermaus in Nishi-Ginza, or we’d go down to an inn called Nakanishi in Yugawara. We locked ourselves in an inn in Chigasaki and wrote Late Spring.” Later Ozu bought a mountain house in Tateshina, and there they wrote all the films from Early Spring on. According to Noda:

One scenario usually took us from three to four months, that is, if we weren’t adapting something [as they did in the case of The Munekata Sisters, Floating Weeds, and others] but were working from scratch. That’s how long Tokyo Story took. We did it at this inn in Chigasaki. It was more a boarding house [yadoya] than an inn [ryokan]. We had this eight-tatami room which looked out on the east and south to a long garden and had good sunshine. The buds came out, then the flowers, then the fruit, and we still weren’t finished. Whenever we went for a walk we’d do the shopping. Ozu used to buy meat and make hamburgers. And we drank a lot, too. By the time we’d finish a script we’d sometimes have over a hundred big empty sake bottles—though our guests would help drink them up, too. Ozu used to number all the bottles. Then he’d count them and say: “Here we are up to number eighty already and we haven’t finished the script yet.”

There is a note of triumph in the diary at the conclusion of Tokyo Story: “Finished. 103 days; 43 bottles of sake.” Ozu not only drank more than perhaps any other major film director, he saw in this habit a source of his artistic strength. Usually Ozu’s comments in the diary that he and Noda (and anyone else who happened to be there) kept were confined to poetical remarks about the weather (in the most arcane of kanji) and an accounting of how much of which kind of alcohol he had drunk that day (he preferred scotch, but he also drank sake and relatively inexpensive Japanese whiskeys). In an entry of July 7, 1959, however, written in elegant imitation of classical forms, he observed, “If the number of cups you drink be small, there can be no masterpiece; the masterpiece arises from the number of brimming cups you quaff.” He descends from these heights in the following line: “It’s no coincidence that this film [Floating Weeds] is a masterpiece—just look in the kitchen at the row of empty bottles.”

Robert Altman: It’s true that I dreamed [3 Women], but it was not the content of the film or any emotion in it, just that it was about personality theft. I had a film cancelled on me at Warner Brothers. I needed to make a film badly, and then my wife Kathryn got very sick. We took her to the emergency hospital at four in the morning, and it seemed very serious at the time, though it all turned out fine in the end. But I returned to my house on the beach in Malibu and went to bed feeling kind of desperate, and I dreamed I was making this film. I dreamed the title, the location and that there were three women, and I knew two of the cast, Shelley Duvall and Sissy Spacek. Part of the dream was that I kept waking up and writing these things down on a notepad. And then I told two of my production people, Tommy Thompson and Bob Eggenweiler, to check out Palm Springs. When I really woke up, there was sand in the bed, because my son Matthew, who was eleven then, had joined me, and he was spending all of his time on the beach. So that’s probably where the desert location came from… I had no story at that point, just the ambience and an atmosphere.

Sissy Spacek: I remember he told us about his dream. I did little drawings, little sketches about his dream. Bob would get the seed of an idea and he would let the people he was working with become a part of that… He told me everything he knew about my character, Pinky, and then it was like he would give actors a track, a blueprint. ‘Now work within these parameters and put yourself into it.’ He didn’t need to have all the answers. He didn’t have that disease where as a director you have to know everything. There was a lot of improvisational stuff. He would give us a scene in the morning and then it would grow. It was so freeing working with him after having worked with other directors. The way he works is all very naturalistic. Everything is natural and the sets are happy and relaxed and he seemed to always be the happiest and the most relaxed. I don’t think I ever knew what the film was about. I remember Bob would say, ‘Well, if you confuse people enough in the first twenty minutes they’ll give up trying to figure out what it’s about and they’ll just go with it and enjoy it.’

Shelley Duvall: I wrote all my own monologues. Bob would say, ‘Why don’t you write a monologue just in case we can use it?’ And we’d use it. He knows I always do my homework. I had been reading Apartment Life, Redbook, Readers Digest, and Woman’s Day. It’s easy to write. Monologues just came out in 15 minutes. Well, I put a lot of myself in, but I’m not a consumer like Millie. I played her like a Lubitsch comedy—people taking themselves very seriously. It is great fun to watch, as long as it isn’t you.

"Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz was a very famous Polish writer, and he adapted the story of the devils of Loudun for Polish circumstances. But it was a problem to make that particular film, because under Communism the state felt that the subject was too religious, while paradoxically the church felt that it was anti-Catholic. I wondered what crime I had committed! A film like Mother Joan of the Angels could only have been made in Poland in that particular political framework. […] I wanted the film to be about the nature of man, the nature that resists imposed restrictions and dogmas. The most important thing is the feeling we call love. Mother Joan of the Angels is, after all, a story of love between a priest and a nun.”

Jerzy Kawalerowicz on Mother Joan of the Angels

"What I do is think about time in a very simple way. Filmmakers are never interested in time, which disturbs me because time is terribly important — it’s a dimension. Our life happens over time, and time is always short, and getting shorter and shorter. That’s why I want to show you in my films that time is passing and when something is happening it’s happening in time. I want to show the viewer that time is as important as the set, as the music, as the actors and the action." — Béla Tarr

"I wanted to testify, to tell the truth about myself and my time. This is a film about youthful dreams, about the thirst for knowledge, and about a burning desire to prove oneself. But it’s also a film about my early life, told from the viewpoint of a 50-year old man. There is thus a dialectical relation at work in the film between the young man I was in the 1940s and the older man who made the film more than 30 years later, as well as between the Alexandria of the colonial past and the Alexandria of today. Rather than being the truth about my life, the film is more the beginning of a process of settling accounts with life." — Youssef Chahine

Alexandria… Why?, Youssef Chahine’s semi-autobiographical film about an aspiring filmmaker haunted by Hollywood dreams, meanwhile, offers an Egyptian perspective on the imperializing film culture of the US. Chahine’s protagonist begins as a Victoria College student who adores Shakespeare’s plays and Hollywood movies. The film is set in the 1940s, a critical period for the protagonist and for Egypt: Allied troops were then stationed in the country and Axis forces threatened to invade Alexandria. Although Alexandria… Why? focuses on the would-be filmmaker, its subplots offer a multiperspectival study of Egyptian society, describing how different classes, ethnicities, and religions—working-class communists, aristocratic Muslim homosexuals, middle-class Egyptian Jews, petit-bourgeois Catholics—react to Egyptian-Arab nationalism. The subplots stress the diversity of Egyptian experience, but the unanimity of the reaction to European colonialism.” — Ella Shohat & Robert Stam, Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media

"From a historical perspective, Chahine’s cinema of the late 1970s and beyond helped initiate a bold cinematic examination of Arab national identity with an eye for celebrating its social and cultural heterogeneity. As noted above, it was at least two decades after Chahine made his autobiographical portrayal of a religiously and culturally diverse Alexandria that other Arab filmmakers began to depict aspects of the multireligious, multiethnic, and multiracial diversity of the Arab world and expose the current attempts to erase the remnants of such diversity. To the extent that it celebrated and reintroduced Jewish identity as an integral component of Arab national identity, Chahine’s Alexandria… Why? offered an Arab cinematic milestone in its heterogenic reexamination of Arab national identity.” — Malek Khouri, The Arab National Project in Youssef Chahine’s Cinema

"One of the things that was great for David Byrne when we did Stop Making Sense was that David really got to design the lighting for the show—and by extension for the movie. He hadn’t got to do everything he wanted to do lighting wise with the stage show because of the limitations of technology at that point. But David got a chance to work with Jordan Cronenweth who shot Blade Runner and was a great master of American cinematography, and he could do all the little tweakings and brushstrokes that he had dreamed of doing with the stage show. […] It’s great working with [Cronenweth] because he’s an absolute tight-ass perfectionist. You can’t get Jordan to back away from anything he’s doing until he’s got it perfect, and that can be exasperating because you’ve got one eye on the clock and you’re desperate to get moving. But then when you see the dailies and you see the extra level Jordan was taking it to when he was driving you nuts, you go, ‘Thank God he did it.’ He’s a painstaking artist.”

"I’d just as soon it didn’t occur to people that they’re watching a concert, but rather a band performing without the distancing factor of it being an event that happened once. That’s why there’s no audience in the film until the very end. I thought it was important if the film was to be as effective for filmgoers as it was for me watching the concert. I wanted to capture the energy and the flow and that unrelenting progression of music."

"We were minutely prepared. David had storyboarded the concert in a series of close shots. Not for the film, but for a tour. From this storyboard, I started to develop a model of the film, which by the way never stopped being modified. I worked closely with my visual advisor Sandy McLeod, who made sure I was in constant contact with the Talking Heads while they were on tour. I traveled with them myself for one week in Texas, then, before our concert, I followed all their performances on the West Coast. So on D-Day, I had a precise idea about the best camera placements. Having said that, 50 percent of the shots were conceived on the spot. […] This was the first multiple-camera situation I’d ever been in. The first night was pretty disastrous. Suddenly it was all happening, and all the preparation and planning was put up against the reality of the show. Cameras ran out of film, the band was real nervous and uptight having cameras stuck in their faces. We kept getting each other in the background of shots too much. It was a mess, but a superb camera rehearsal. The next three nights were spectacular." — Jonathan Demme on Stop Making Sense

"There are always bits of myself in my films but sometimes people don’t know that. I used to feel very distant from my films. In my earlier films, I really kept myself out of the picture. But now every film is more or less a personal experience, from dreams or from people close to me. That’s why I keep making films in certain locations. They are mostly places where I cherish my childhood memories. I keep revisiting them to try to—how do you say—reinterpret my memories. […] I think this is one of the reasons I make films: my personal memories are always interwoven with those from various other sources, reading, listening and traveling (my own travels and those of others). It was hard then to remember the real past clearly, so I made films without knowing how true they really were. This was an important detail; it was like waking the dead and giving them a new soul, making them walk once more. It is the same when writing, sometimes it is just our imagination, arising from our desire to remember, as Gabriel García Márquez wrote: ‘The memory is clear but there is no possibility that it is true.’" — Apichatpong Weerasethakul