Close-Up not only speaks to us of the human need for dreams and the cinema’s enormous power of fascination; the film also introduces a damaged character, who pretends to be someone else in order to regain his own self-respect. Kiarostami is very clear on this point. ‘The main issue raised by the film is the need that people feel, whatever their material circumstances, for respect and social recognition […] Ultimately, what the film is dealing with is the difference between the “ideal self” and the “real self”; the greater the difference, the more unbalanced the person.’ To want to be someone else—a feeling that the film-maker confesses to knowing well, which undoubtedly justifies speaking of autobiographical elements in the film—has little or nothing to do with playing a game, in this context. Sabzian is a weak and pathetic character who tries to escape the frustrations of his life by making an unusual bid for integration into a society that excludes him. That is why his question (his plea, really) to Kiarostami when the director visits him in prison is simply: ‘Could you make a film about my suffering?’”

Alberto Elena, The Cinema of Abbas Kiarostami

"It was really bizarre, that Sabzian business. You know I had no interest in being photographed before this incident. But then not just Sabzian—many other people started pretending they were me! One of them actually got married while pretending he was me! My face became publicly recognizable soon after I decided to have a few photographs of me available in public to prevent these sorts of identity thefts. It is really pathetic, if you think of it. Filmmakers and filmmaking is so popular in Iran because all other forms of expression have been denied to people."

Mohsen Makhmalbaf

"Whenever I see a film, I ‘dissolve’ myself in it to such an extent that I reach the bottom. I fade out and perhaps… I get lost in it. And this has played an essential role in my life. Cinema is important to me. It’s like a prism. A good film is part of my life. With every good film I see, I feel reborn. It feels as if I made it myself, as if it were my creation. I identify with the director. I identify with the actors. I feel attuned and in harmony with the atmosphere of the film. I feel as if it’s my story. That’s how films carry me away. That’s why they’ve become my obsession. […] When it was all over, and I reentered society, I felt people’s eyes on me. Narrow-minded people who talked about everything but my enthusiasm for the movies. What I did wasn’t minor—tell the whole world about it—but that irrational act proved my love for film. I’m satisfied because I made one of my dreams come true. I was Makhmalbaf for four days. I remember Orson Welles’s advice to his students who wondered how to find the money for their films. ‘Steal it,’ he said. ‘At least you’ll fulfill your hopes.’"

Hossein Sabzian

"The original spark [for The Terrorizers] came from the Eurasian girl in the story, who at the time was just a drifter in Taipei. She didn’t have a job, came from a single-parent family. Her father was a Vietnam serviceman and her mother a bar hostess, so she comes from a very unique cultural background. In the film, I snuck in clues about her identity, like in the scenes when her mother is smoking, if you look closely you realize that she is using an army-issued cigarette lighter with a First Calvary insignia. What happened was that the Eurasian girl had a friend who told me about her interest in acting in films, so I met with her. She told me all kinds of stories about her life, like how her mother used to lock her up at home and, unable to go anywhere, she’d just stay in her room making prank phone calls. She told me that she had once called some woman and told her that she was her husband’s mistress. That story was the spark that lit the fire. It was such an explosive story. I started to think about how such a random, unrelated act could potentially create a terrible tragedy. Suddenly the whole structure of the story began to emerge.” — Edward Yang

"If the story was only about a terrorist and a couple, it’d be just about modern marriages. But Edward wanted more than that. He wanted to talk about the fear in the modern society. The fear and surreal feelings people have in the modern time. When Edward was making this film, he was a very angry man. He was angry with society and with what he had been through. He was extremely angry with the time. So the killings began in his films. We joked that he was killing more and more people with every movie. No one dies in the first film. In That Day on the Beach, only one person dies. Then in Taipei Story, a character is stabbed to death. Now, so many people die in The Terrorizers. More people die in his next film. There is a slaughter in A Brighter Summer Day. As a director Edward was very emotional when he was making the film.” — Hsiao Yeh, Screenwriter (The Terrorizers)

"Edward was a very honest director. I mean honest with his age and his time. He always expressed his views on society in his films. For example, in That Day on the Beach, we can see his doubt about marriage and love. He began to doubt things like that… When I saw The Terrorizers, it took my breath away. It was the first time I came to realize how talented Edward was. I knew from my talk with Edward that he was confused about love and everything around him. He had doubt about everything in Taiwanese society. He didn’t trust anything, anyone. Were they friends or enemies? What should a couple be like? He was in a confused state of mind. This film fully demonstrated his state of mind at that time.” — Wu Nien-jen, Screenwriter/Actor (That Day on the Beach, Yi Yi)

"I was very shocked. I felt when [Yang] came back from the U.S., he’d developed a unique eye for things. He viewed things differently from us. He studied in Taiwan until college, and left for the U.S. for ten years. When he returned, he became someone who came from a different world. Looking at where he grew up, he clearly saw the social structure of Taiwan… [The Terrorizers] seems direct, but it’s not. The underlying story tells the distorted relationships people had in the totalitarian era in Taiwan. Edward was very good at it. We understood his views on Taipei from Taipei Story. He had his viewpoint.” — Hou Hsiao-hsien

"During her last year of life, Maya, Teiji (her young third husband), Adolfas, and I saw each other at least once a week. It seems strange, but I do not remember any ‘memorable,’ ‘intellectual’ discussions together. It was all talk about what had to be done for the next event, or else about what we had seen, or our friends, or memories of Europe—and Adolfas and I used to go home all excited and not be able to sleep half the night. And then we would wake up and forget it all and another day would begin…

"Now, looking back in my memory, remembering it all in glimpses, in single frames, I see Maya’s face, always very intense, never making small talk. There was always a very special subtle laugh behind that intensity, which would come out in brief spurts. Those who didn’t see this lighter side usually were a little bit frightened by Maya. The intensity is reflected in all of Maya’s faces, in her films. The exception perhaps is one of her most frequently reproduced images: Maya as a face from Botticelli. Curiously, though, that image was filmed and ‘directed’ by Sasha Hammid, and I think it represents his dream of Maya: he threw her back to the Renaissance. All the other faces of Maya are rich with the reverberations of twentieth-century modern art." — Jonas Mekas on Maya Deren

Let’s start with the look of Songs from the Second Floor—it’s unusually visual, very rich and detailed.

I felt that film-making generally didn’t reach the level you could find in painting or literature or music. It was for one-time use only, and more and more, the movies were losing their visual power—they were concentrating on the plot only. Especially compared to the 1950s, when I was a student. It was that period when the so-called serious art movie came out, all over the world: we had the East European waves, Kurosawa, Bergman, English realism. That’s why I started wanting to be a film director myself. It wasn’t only the plot that was interesting; it was the touch, the feeling, something visually rich.

The way you use long, single-shot scenes without cuts—and don’t move the camera within them—is particularly unusual these days.

Normally when you see a film with many cuts, it’s to avoid problems, because of lack of money, patience, talent. If you don’t move the camera and don’t cut, you have to enrich the picture in deep focus—that’s what you have. I think a good theoretical writer on film is Andre Bazin—he preferred deep focus. I do too. When you look at the history of paintings, they’re in deep focus all the time, and that makes you very curious, and you become an active spectator.

Roy Andersson on the style of Songs from the Second Floor


"I know that Africa is immensely rich in cinematic potential. It is good for the future of cinema that Africa exists. Cinema was born in Africa, because the image itself was born in Africa. The instruments, yes, are European, but the creative necessity and rationale exist in our oral tradition. As I said to the children before, in order to make a film, you must only close your eyes and see the images. Open your eyes, and the film is there. I want these children to understand that Africa is a land of images, not only because images of African masks revolutionized art throughout the world but as a result, simply and paradoxically, of oral tradition. Oral tradition is a tradition of images. What is said is stronger than what is written; the word addresses itself to the imagination, not the ear. Imagination creates the image and the image creates cinema, so we are in direct lineage as cinema’s parents." — Djibril Diop Mambéty

"I know that Africa is immensely rich in cinematic potential. It is good for the future of cinema that Africa exists. Cinema was born in Africa, because the image itself was born in Africa. The instruments, yes, are European, but the creative necessity and rationale exist in our oral tradition. As I said to the children before, in order to make a film, you must only close your eyes and see the images. Open your eyes, and the film is there. I want these children to understand that Africa is a land of images, not only because images of African masks revolutionized art throughout the world but as a result, simply and paradoxically, of oral tradition. Oral tradition is a tradition of images. What is said is stronger than what is written; the word addresses itself to the imagination, not the ear. Imagination creates the image and the image creates cinema, so we are in direct lineage as cinema’s parents." — Djibril Diop Mambéty

"[Food] is one of my persistent obsessions that had its source in my childhood. I was a child who did not want to eat. My parents were desperate. They would pour fish oil, fortified wine and various other liquids into me to enhance the taste of food, and they would send me to ‘fattening’ camps and other such places. I ended up so weakened and bony that I could not stand and my mum had to push me in a wheelchair. I was not even accepted in school. Besides, a chewing mouth is quite a fitting symbol of this aggressive, all-devouring civilization." [x]

"Food is perhaps the most apt symbol of our civilization because in its insatiable aggression, our civilization consumes everything around us: nature, animals, whole ethnic groups, cultures… everything gets digested in its utilitarian maw only to be excreted as money—the excrement of our times. Just like a small child our civilization considers its excrements to be the most valuable product it managed to squeeze out, and uses it to reward its favorites." [x]

Jan Švankmajer on the recurrent theme of food in his films.


[Veronika Voss] was your fortieth film. I have the feeling many people see you as a hamster in an exercise wheel, constantly under pressure to produce. Do you see it that way, too?
Well, there are two factors here. First, I don’t work more than other people, more than someone stamping out cans in a factory, or the like. I just work all year long; I don’t take as many vacations as the others in the industry. That’s one side of it. The other side is that I really have a drive that’s hard to explain—it makes me have to do things, and I’m actually only happy when I’m doing things, and that’s my drug, if you will… When I was very small I already knew I was supposed to make many films. I can only tell you that when I shot my first take it was more fantastic than the most fantastic orgasm I ever had. That was a feeling, indescribable.
Rainer Werner FassbinderMay 31, 1945 — June 10, 1982

[Veronika Voss] was your fortieth film. I have the feeling many people see you as a hamster in an exercise wheel, constantly under pressure to produce. Do you see it that way, too?

Well, there are two factors here. First, I don’t work more than other people, more than someone stamping out cans in a factory, or the like. I just work all year long; I don’t take as many vacations as the others in the industry. That’s one side of it. The other side is that I really have a drive that’s hard to explain—it makes me have to do things, and I’m actually only happy when I’m doing things, and that’s my drug, if you will… When I was very small I already knew I was supposed to make many films. I can only tell you that when I shot my first take it was more fantastic than the most fantastic orgasm I ever had. That was a feeling, indescribable.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder
May 31, 1945 — June 10, 1982


Your approach to filmmaking is very personal, do you worry how audiences will connect to the work?
Naomi Kawase: Instead of being stopped by the fear of not being understood what is more important to me is the act of making the film and the hope that the people watching the film will understand the strong will with which I make the film. So I overcome this fear by doing it and believing that my wish to reach the audience will be fulfilled.

Your approach to filmmaking is very personal, do you worry how audiences will connect to the work?

Naomi Kawase: Instead of being stopped by the fear of not being understood what is more important to me is the act of making the film and the hope that the people watching the film will understand the strong will with which I make the film. So I overcome this fear by doing it and believing that my wish to reach the audience will be fulfilled.

The only film ever directed by author/poet/playwright/activist Jean Genet, 1950s legendary Un chant d’amour was long suppressed by censors for its explicit homosexual content. In 1964, filmmaker Jonas Mekas was arrested on obscenity charges after a screening of the film alongside Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures. Mekas recalls how he smuggled the film into the U.S. in the first place:

"The film was in 35mm and it was bulky. I was afraid that if I went from Paris to New York the film would be confiscated. Customs was very strict. Twice when I came to New York from Paris I had some Olympia publications in my pocket and they were seized. So I said, ‘If I go to New York with this, I have no chance. I have to go first to London.’ And that’s what I did. I cut the film into three pieces and put them in my raincoat pockets, and went to London. When you come from Paris, [US] Customs says, ‘Oh, Paris, hum, Paris.’ If you come from London, well that’s more conservative and you have a chance to pass through.

"I was on the plane to New York from London and I was talking with my neighbor, who happened to be the playwright [Harold] Pinter. When I told him what I had in my pockets, he said, ‘Maybe you should let me go first. You come after me.’ So I followed him and we got to Customs and they opened Pinter’s suitcase. It was full of plays, copies of the same play. They said, ‘What’s this?’ ‘Oh, it’s my play’, he said. ‘It’s opening on Broadway.’ ‘Play! On Broadway!’ The Customs man got so gaga, so excited, that he motioned his neighbors [fellow officers]. They all converged and were so yapping with excitement that I just passed through. And that’s how the film got in the country. If I had been by myself, I don’t know what would have happened. So, thanks Pinter!"


2014 Cannes Film Festival Winners
Palme d’OrWinter Sleep — dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Grand PrixThe Wonders — dir. Alice Rohrwacher
Best DirectorBennett Miller — Foxcatcher
Jury PrizeMommy — dir. Xavier DolanAdieu au Language — dir. Jean-Luc Godard
Best ScreenplayAndrey Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin for Leviathan
Best ActressJulianne Moore for Maps to the Stars
Best ActorTimothy Spall for Mr. Turner
Camera d’OrParty Girl — dir. Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger, Samuel Theis

2014 Cannes Film Festival Winners

Palme d’Or
Winter Sleep — dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Grand Prix
The Wonders — dir. Alice Rohrwacher

Best Director
Bennett Miller — Foxcatcher

Jury Prize
Mommy — dir. Xavier Dolan
Adieu au Language — dir. Jean-Luc Godard

Best Screenplay
Andrey Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin for Leviathan

Best Actress
Julianne Moore for Maps to the Stars

Best Actor
Timothy Spall for Mr. Turner

Camera d’Or
Party Girl — dir. Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger, Samuel Theis