You have to make this film. What did he bring? At this stage, we were lost. We had to find a new structure. Schrader had worked on it for six weeks, to help us out. I found the idea interesting. In the novel, there was a complete obsession with the female sex.
It was a new approach to the subject, basing it on sexuality. I said okay. An unjust and inexplicable defeat. So Schrader cut the whole first part of the novel. I was happy with the Copacabana and the Debonair Social Club, one of those masculine sanctuaries where men can be alone and do their business quietly together. Something like Scala in Hollywood, where people in the business go to negotiate contracts. Was it you or Schrader who lessened the domestic violence portrayed in the hook? It was me. There was also the scene where his wife climbs up on the fender of his car to keep him from starting it.
This violence came too early. I was happy with just the table overturned and a couple of swear words. With Schrader gone, there was only you. You were the only one left to harness yourself to the task? Do the same thing now, but this time just use two or three characters. Physically, I was also in terrible shape. I spent four days in the hospital hovering between life and death. I was lucky, I survived, the crisis passed. My suicide period was over.
Bobby came to see me. We spoke very openly. We were talking about ourselves, but I suddenly understood the character. It was obvious. What I had just gone through, Jake had known before me. We each lived it our own way. The Catholic background, the guilt feelings, the hope for redemption. When I got out of the hospital, we left for San Martin, an island in the Caribbean where there are no films and no television.
We were on the same wavelength, and now we were talking the same language. In ten days, we wrote a hundred-page script. On the last page, I added a quotation from the Gospel of St. John, the exchange between Nicodemus and Christ. Jesus told the High Priest that it was necessary to be reborn of the spirit before one could enter the Kingdom of God. He became more opaque, just like his feeling of being guilty, his certainty that God was punishing hint for the bad that he hail done, especially for the unpunished murder of the bookmaker, all of which became more diffuse.
I was right, no? If you had inherited this guilt from birth, what chance would you have had to escape? The film caused some very gut-level reactions: why devote a film to such a disgusting human being? However, what the hatred for fake translates into is the fear of knowing that you too are a sinner and that you are waiting to be struck by lightning at any moment.
Ah, fear! What torture! You know his tactic in the ring. He could take more than anybody because he had an abnormally hard skull. Punch and get punched until the adversary got tired out. Raging Rail is the story of a man who is facing a wall. The Kefauver Commission? Why did he spit it out? Pulls him up again toward what? To live with a strip-teaser? Yeah, so what? Are you better than a strip-teaser? Who are yon to cast the first stone? Who are you to condemn her?
Yes, and that can go a long ways. I felt that this character was the bringer of hope. It was for this hope that I made the film. Jake, I think, understood that. The criminal and the saint—these are the two contradictory postulations that you like to bring together in one individual. During our last meeting, in Rome, you said that the most primitive consciousness is closer to the Spirit than any other. He lives like an animal, but he is capable of conceiving something else. And I shouted the same thing to Bobby.
But everything I wanted to say is there. Will French Catholics understand me? And especially not success! In sports as in show business, there are those who construct a career and those who follow a vocation. The metaphor was already clear in New York, New York. I think I know what you mean. You intervene in person in the final sapience, when Jake is getting ready to go on stage.
You remind him of the demands of show business. This ending was in the script right from the beginning. And you know why? Take a twenty minute break. Have fun. I completely immerse myself in a film. On the set of Raging Bull , I was so much taken by the character that I often forgot my marks.
The man with his face to the wall in the cell is me. All of us are in that prison with our face to the wall, no? Yes, sure. What is it that confers a sort of grace on him at that moment?
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A redemption maybe, but also, above all, a vital start, a reconquering of the self. It was a catharsis. How do you accept who you are? Finish it now. Suicide is the simplest. In the book, the character of the priest is central. We could have remade Boys Town. You have to accept him the way he is. Too bad! Thanks for coming. Thanks and goodbye. I heard so much nonsense, if you only knew! Father Joseph? Oh, yeah. I only kept him for Webster Hall. It became the Ritz, one of the temples of New York disco. And then you see him again in the home movies.
The whole parish knew him, they all went to him for confession. Like the priest in a small Sicilian village. Webster Hall is pure nostalgia. There was dancing and fighting between rival clans. The costumes, the lighting, everything was perfect. The iconography of Mean Streets keeps popping up: the home movies, the holy pictures ami the statue of St. It was in Knocking , and the statue, too, I think.
Jake shot them in 16mm. He must have been rich. In Mean Streets , I only had 8mm, the format that less rich families had to use. We had some problems with this because the original negatives were very dark and were often only three or four feet long! The Technicolor expert did great work, desaturating the colors, even putting color on the perforations, like in the scene of the wedding on the terrace in the Bronx.
It was so hot they had to hold the reception on the roof. The funniest thing is that the day of the shooting I was sick and I let my father play director, and you can imagine the chaos! Why not narrate the lives of these people in big blocks, clearly distinct from each other? Like that conversation that started in a little Latin Quarter hotel in that we renew from year to year in different places.
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No words to say what happens in the cell. Not even religious words. The link is striking. Two tracks accidentally overlapped and bang! The sound connected the two eras. After Jake has beaten them up, her and Joey, he finds her packing her suitcase. That came at the end of the shooting.
After everything that had happened, any dialogue seemed meaningless. We tried everything, but no response worked. There are no words for such a situation. Then, at Webster Hall, you have this blonde Irish woman sit at a table where there are only brunettes, no doubt Italian. Under this fetishistic look, Vickie seems only a mental image. And how! Look at those snakes that keep surrounding and entwining her!
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Even Salvy, the fake judge. Like J. Where else to go? I had the feeling that if the audience identified with them at that instant, they would identify with them all the way to the end. It seems to echo the one with the golf ball which comes before they make love. Each time that you see Jake and Vickie in an intimate moment, their relationship is coming apart a little more. The first time is the only satisfying one. At that time, the sets were always breaking down.
And also because there are similarities between the two films. That was a sign of fate, no? The first one, in Cleveland in , uses reaction shots, and even some long shots from the top of the stands, as in certain contemporary films of the match. It makes you think of Capra and of Meet John Doe during the riot scene.
After that, the framing and the lighting become more and more unreal. The last fight with Robinson, for example, is choreographed in a completely abstract space, like the numbers of The Last Waltz that you shot in the MGM studios. The first match is the only one in which we used the reactions of the audience.
The last meeting with Robinson is completely abstract. There are wide angle and foggy shots because at this stage no one is worrying about the punches which landed so well. The ring is twice as big as it was in reality. To do it in such a way that you are more and more implicated in what is going on in this miserable ring. Before shooting, I went to two boxing matches, five-round matches between unknown boxers.
The first evening, even though I was far away from the ring, I saw the sponge red with blood, and the film started to take form. The next time, I was much closer, and I saw the blood dripping from the ropes. From what point of view should it be filmed? I hesitated for a long time. That was shown during the intermission, between the two films on the main program, and I still remember how impatient and angry we were that we had to suffer through 15 rounds at a stretch.
With the exception of the match against Dauthille, where we were outside the ropes, I was in the ring the whole time with the camera, just as attentive to the physical reality of the punches and the panting as I was to the psychological dimension of the encounter. The real violence is inside. This vision became a mental projection. Between the highly emotional scenes, in and out of the ring, you allow yourself some breaks, like the discussions between Jake and Joey, that are filmed in a very simple manner.
Suddenly, you look at these crazy people with a certain serenity, a certain distance. After Paul Schrader gave us the overall structure, Bobby and I kept condensing and simplifying. The masturbation scene, for example. I also cut the press conference, which you can see an extract of in the trailer. Is there a good reason for printing all this film?
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Why move the camera? Is it really necessary? If I could, I would be happy to shoot it all in one take three hours long. I made this film for myself, no? Films are the most important thing in my life. You still have to find reasons to manipulate this tool which has been given to us. Yes, the scene between Joey and Jake in the kitchen is very simple. Just like the one with the television set. I wanted to take a break to try to understand what was happening in their heads, the absurdity of that implacable logic.
Was I too easy? Not explicit enough? Too explanatory? In reality, I just did what I thought was right. What can I do about it? What really interests me is hope. Vickie, his brother, his house, his children, his championship belt.
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Before, we saw him undergo a terrible punishment from Dauthuille. He let himself be massacred, then, in the last seconds, he had a surge of pride and demolished his opponent. After which, he meets Robinson. What does he see there? As I told you, everything happens in his head.
Then the posing for the photographers at the swimming pool in Miami, and you see everything that he has to lose. Vickie, the kids, the Cadillac, the nightclub. When we find him in the strip-tease joint, he has changed. He has survived. How did the idea of quoting from On the Waterfront come to you? Is it an indirect comment on fake? Jake often quoted it on the stage. Against his advice, I decided on Kazan. Just like when I was making Mean Streets , I was convinced that this would be my last film, the end of my career.
So I had a good time. I saw On the Waterfront when I was 12 years old and never forgot it. Bobby and I explored all kinds of different ways of saying the lines. We did at least twenty takes. The most interesting one, the one we used, is also the simplest, the least expressive. Bobby would have liked us to use three different takes in a row, but the most monotonous one was the best. I thought of the end of Taxi Driver : on the screen, the reading of a letter moves me even more because the face and the voice betray no emotion.
The coat-stand in the dressing room is an homage to Ermanno Olmi, a reference to the death of the hero in Il posto that stunned me. As the film continues, what words are incapable of saying becomes clearer, retrospectively, in the light of the parable of the blind man and the Pharisees that you put at the end.
The parents are afraid because the whole thing is political. Do you understand that this man is a sinner and that you must not go near him? Like Haig Manoogian, to whom the film is dedicated. The stages of this prelude are formally delineated by a dry, time-marking B major scale on the harp, the eternal sadness of the two violas meanwhile persisting in the distance. Out of the debris emerges a quietly exhausted recapitulatory epilogue.
After half an hour, the symphony has succeeded only in moving the elements of its opening section up a semitone, producing the effect of an unanswered question. Kancheli contemplates not merely the evils of the Soviet world but those of the human condition at large. To him, our machine-driven, theory-ridden culture is a perilously deluded nightmare: a life without Christmas.
He received a state stipend for his studies at the Tblisi Conservatory and, in , won a prize at the All-Union Young Composers Competition. Its second movement, however, displays the familiar Kancheli style already formed in most of its elements: chordal thinking, slow minim melodies, abrupt modulations and arpeggio-clusters, voice-like flute chorales and unharmonised high register violins.
As such, the First makes an effective prelude to the cycle without being very striking or inventive in itself. Not that Kancheli quotes these pieces directly. Aside from this, the Second is a further logical step in his stylistic development. While not as concentrated or convincing as his later symphonies, it is very lively and will certainly interest those familiar with the latter.
With its simplified musical means and clearer design, the Third is a marked advance over its predecessor. Few Kancheli scores lack a piano, which he usually employs for its bell-like sonorities. His Fourth Symphony replaces the piano with actual bells — those of an imagined Renaissance city with many churches.
As the earliest example of the modern self-determining artist, Michelangelo experienced incessant clashes with the authorities and regularly provoked the betrayal of jealous rivals. Like Shostakovich, he spent much of his time evading the demands and petty vengeances of his employers. Like Shostakovich, he would pretend to be working on one project whilst secretly finishing another.
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Like Shostakovich, he was held under financial and moral blackmail, cheated and informed on. And like Shostakovich, he was bitter and pessimistic in old age. These, though, are by no means apparent from the music itself. The rest is less concrete. Like most Soviet composers, Kancheli regularly wrote for the cinema around 30 soundtracks in all. During this residency, Kancheli worked with Georgian folk musicians, which may account for his choice of Gamlet Gonashvili for the Third Symphony. But how can this be reconciled with a symphony dedicated to the adult Michelangelo?
And the laws and proprieties and financial worries, and the police state. If conditions had been different, love would have been different too. For Kancheli, as for Shostakovich, love is confronted by power as childhood is confronted by adulthood. Here, the background influence is no longer the Georgian folk tradition, but instead the soundtracks and dramatic structures of modern cinema.
Indeed, the desolate waltz here might have been penned by Nino Rota and would not seem out of place in the soundtrack to The Godfather. Formerly cryptic modulations now feel right; not a note seems wasted. Not that this is anything but a fleeting handicap, since this section is enormously powerful in its expression of tragic grief, forecasting the catastrophic catharsis of the Sixth Symphony. The Seventh , which followed his next work, Bright Sorrow , is a letdown. None of its myriad themes is memorable and its layout is chaotic, the impression being of a formula played out.
The last Kancheli score to be animated with real conviction is Bright Sorrow — and even this lacks the spark of positivity or, in the last resort, of anger. At heart, the issue is a spiritual one.