076-087 THEO ANGELOPOULOS / ULYSSES' GAZE




[...THE FIRST SCENE / THAT STORY I TOLD YOU OF MY FATHER INFLUENCED MY WORK– THE VERY FIRST SCENE OF MY FIRST MOVIE, IT COMES BACK TO MY FATHER. I TOLD IT TO YOU YESTERDAY, BUT I CAN’T REALLY REPEAT IT NOW IN THE SAME WAY. IT WAS BETTER YESTERDAY, THE FIRST TIME, IT WAS SPONTANEOUS. YOU KNOW THE FIRST TAKE IS ALWAYS THE BEST. WHEN I WAS WORKING WITH MARCELLO MASTROIANNI FOR THE BEEKEEPER, HE WOULD TELL ME, ‘I DON’T WANT TO READ A SCENARIO, TELL ME THE STORY. I AM A CHILD, I WANT TO ENTER INSIDE IT’. SO EVERY TIME I WOULD TELL HIM THE SCENE & THEN HE WOULD GO BACK TO HIS CABIN, HE WOULD STAY 15 MINUTES, HE WOULD COME OUT, & THEN WE WOULD SHOOT & THE FIRST SCENE WAS ALWAYS THE BEST. SO THAT’S WHY I SAY THE FIRST SCENE IS ALWAYS THE BEST ONE, BECAUSE THE TRUE EMOTION EXISTS IN IT. SOMETIMES IT CAN ALSO PERSIST IN THE SECOND & THE THIRD TAKE, BUT THERE IS SOMETHING UNDEFINED THAT DISAPPEARS WHEN YOU REPEAT IT. IF THIS REPETITION HAPPENS MUCH LATER, YES, YOU CAN MAYBE FIND THAT FEELING AGAIN, BUT IF YOU REPEAT IT STRAIGHT AWAY THERE IS SOMETHING, EVEN IF IT IS JUST A VERY SMALL SOMETHING, SOMEHOW IT IS JUST NOT THERE ANYMORE.
SOMETIMES, AFTER YOU HAVE SHOT THE FIRST TAKE, IT FEELS SO COMPLETE THAT YOU FEEL YOU CANNOT TOUCH IT ANYMORE BECAUSE OTHERWISE YOU WILL DESTROY SOMETHING, EITHER WITH AN ACTOR OR WITH THE AMBIENCE. IF THE ACTOR IS ALONE IT’S EASIER, BUT IF THE SCENE INVOLVES MANY PEOPLE, THE CENTRE HAS TO BE UNIQUE. I DISCOVERED THIS WHEN I WAS SHOOTING RECONSTRUCTION, MY FIRST MOVIE. THE FILM FINISHES WITH A LONG TAKE SEQUENCE SHOT, WITH A FIXED CAMERA IN FRONT OF THE YARD OF A HOUSE. CERTAINLY YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THIS MOVIE, BUT I WILL GIVE YOU A FRENCH EDITION OF IT… WE DIDN’T HAVE ANY MONEY BACK THEN. MY CAMERA MAN ASKED ME HOW LONG THE SCENE WOULD TAKE AS HE NEEDED TO PUT THE FILM IN THE CAMERA. I SAID TO HIM, ‘I DON’T KNOW, BUT LET ME SEE’. I CLOSED MY EYES & TRIED TO IMAGINE THE SCENE, CALLING EACH ACTOR, & WHEN I FINISHED I LOOKED AT MY WATCH, IT WAS 4 MINUTES & A FEW SECONDS, SO THAT’S WHAT I TOLD OUR CAMERA MAN— ‘IT WILL BE 4 MINUTES & A FEW SECONDS’. THEN WE SHOT IT, & IT WAS 4 MINUTES 11 SECONDS. SO, LE TEMPS C’EST UNE HISTOIRE INTERIEUR.

DESTROYING A MOMENT / THAT’S A PROBLEM IN FRENCH CINEMA, IT’S IN FRENCH IDENTITY— TO SPEAK TOO MUCH ABOUT EVERYTHING. THE ITALIANS SPEAK, THE GREEKS SPEAK AS WELL, BUT THE FRENCH EXAGGERATE, THEY SPEAK TOO MUCH, THEY SAY EVERYTHING. WHEN YOU SAY TOO MUCH, YOU KILL THE IMAGE.

[...]

ULYSSES’ GAZE / I CHOSE TO MAKE A FILM IN THE BALKANS. AS YOU MAY KNOW, THE BEGINNING OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR HAPPENED IN THE BALKANS & DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR IT WAS the BALKANS WHO RESISTED MORE THAN ANY OTHER COUNTRY IN EUROPE, BESIDES RUSSIA. THEN THE YUGOSLAVIAN WAR HAPPENED, THE COUNTRY TEARING ITS OWN BODY APART. I WANTED TO MAKE A FILM THAT WAS A VOYAGE THROUGH THE BALKANS DURING THE WAR & WITH THE WAR ALSO AS A SUBJECT. THE REAL SUBJECT OF THE FILM, OF COURSE, IS NOT THE WAR, BUT THE STORY OF A MAN THAT TRIES TO RECONSTITUTE HIS LOST GAZE. HE TRIES TO FIND one OF THE EARLIEST MOVIES, A SHORT MOVIE SHOT DURING THE TURN OF THE CENTURY, BY THE MANAKI BROTHERS, THAT WAS LOST OR MAYBE NEVER EVEN DEVELOPED. A LOST GAZE IS A PARABLE ABOUT A FILMMAKER, A DIRECTOR THAT LOOKS AT THE WORLD. TRYING TO FIND YOUR LOST GAZE IS ABOUT TRYING TO FIND SOMETHING ESSENTIAL THAT HAS BEEN LOST— THE PRESENT & THE FUTURE OF THE WORLD.
THAT’S WHAT WE LIVED DURING THE LOCATION SCOUTING, WE LIVED THE WAR. WE NEEDED GUTS TO GO THROUGH ALL THESE DIFFERENT GROUPS OF PEOPLE, ALL THESE DIFFERENT NATIONALITIES, DIFFERENT ETHNICITIES— SERBS, CROATS— TO SCOUT THE LOCATIONS TO SEE & UNDERSTAND WHAT WAS HAPPENING. YOU KNOW THAT TAKING A RISK TO MAKE SOMETHING THAT IS DANGEROUS IS VERY EXCITING. I REMEMBER ONCE, I HAD TO GO SEE A LOCATION BUT THERE WAS A GROUP OF SERBS, REALLY TALL PEOPLE, & THEY WOULDN’T LET US PASS, SO I HAD TO GO & SEE THE LEADER OF THE MOB, & EXPLAIN TO HIM THAT IT WAS REALLY IMPORTANT TO MAKE A MOVIE ON THE LOCATION. THE FACT THAT I WAS A FILMMAKER HAD SOMEHOW CONVINCED HIM & HE GAVE ME AN ARMED MAN, NOT TO PROTECT ME BUT TO FOLLOW ME. I HAVE HAD AN EXTRAORDINARY VISIT TO THE PLACE & I HAVE SEEN THINGS I CAN NEVER FORGET, UNIQUE THINGS, THINGS THAT YOU WILL NEVER SEE AGAIN. AFTER THIS VOYAGE, THE IDEA FOR THE FILM, ULYSSES’ GAZE, HAD CRYSTALLISED & IT HAD TO BE MADE. THERE WAS ANOTHER CONFLICT, ANOTHER PROVOCATION FOR THIS FILM. WHEN I WAS SHOOTING THE SUSPENDED STEP OF THE STORK, IN THE SMALL TOWN OF FLORINA, THE BISHOP OF THE TOWN HAD EXCOMMUNICATED US BECAUSE HE THOUGHT WE WERE AN ENVOY OF SATAN, THE DEVIL. MASTROIANNI & JEANNE MOREAU WERE WITH US, IT WAS AN UNFORGETTABLE STORY. I DECIDED TO SHOOT THERE, IN FLORINA, WITH THE PEOPLE OF THE TOWN, NEARLY HALF OF THE POPULATION, & THIS TIME THE BISHOP DIDN’T INTERVENE, HE LET US SHOOT & SO IT WAS OUR FIRST SMALL VICTORY. BUT SOMETHING VERY SAD HAPPENED, THE DEATH OF GIAN MARIA VOLONTÉ. WE WERE GOING FROM ZAGREB TO SKOPJE BY PLANE, & FROM SKOPJE TO FLORINA BY BUS, & DURING THE WHOLE TRIP, GIAN MARIA WAS AT THE BACK OF THE BUS & HE SANG LA MARSEILLAISE ALL NIGHT LONG, DRUNK, THROUGHOUT OUR VOYAGE. WHEN WE ARRIVED & STARTED TO WORK, HE WAS WALKING AROUND DAZED, IN THE HALL OF THE HOTEL IN FLORINA, & HE CAME TOWARDS ME & STARTED TELLING ME SILENTLY, ‘THEO, THEO, C’EST LA RIVE GAUCHE Là, N’EST-CE PAS, C’EST LA RIVE GAUCHE?’... & HE CONTINUED TO WALK DAZED. THE NEXT MORNING I WAS WOKEN BY THE HOUSEMAID WHO BROUGHT ME TO GIAN MARIA VOLONTÉ’S ROOM & HE WAS DEAD, NAKED, IN HIS BATHROOM WITH A PILLOW UNDER HIS HEAD. HE WAS SLEEPING NAKED, IN THE BATHROOM. WE HAD HIS FUNERAL IN THAT TINY CHURCH IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FOREST NEAR FLORINA, WITH THE ENTIRE POPULATION OF THE TOWN. THE CHURCH WAS SO SMALL THAT ONLY ONE PERSON AT A TIME COULD COME IN, & SO PEOPLE WERE COMING, ONE BY ONE, AFTER THE OTHER, & DURING ALL THIS TIME, MOZART’S REQUIEM WAS PLAYING. IT WAS AN EXTRAORDINARY, UNIQUE, MOMENT, & SO IT WAS THE END OF OUR TRIP DURING THE BALKANS AT WAR. THERE ARE SO MANY STORIES BEHIND THIS MOVIE, BUT I CANNOT TELL YOU ALL OF THEM AT THE SAME TIME...]


/ EXCERPT FROM A TEXT BASED ON A CONVERSATION BETWEEN THEO ANGELOPOULOS & MONIKA BIELSKYTE









STILL SHOTS, RUSHES, & BEHIND-THE-SCENES IMAGES FROM ULYSSES' GAZE
PORTRAITS & STUDIO IMAGES PHOTOGRAPHED BY MONIKA BIELSKYTE

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