[From Luc Moullet’s book with Emmanuel Burdeau and Jean Narboni, Notre Alpin Quotidien (2009, Capricci). See Table of Contents]

In the introduction to the collection of your articles, Piges choisies (from Griffith to Ellroy), you state that your best critical texts are the most recent ones, but that for your films the evolution has not been the same: your best period would cover the years 1976-1989, from Anatomy of a Relationship to Les Sièges de l’Alcazar.

I don’t know. Whether my critical writing is good or not is not very important, at least not as important as it is for my films. The quality of my writing has undoubtedly improved over time; for films I don’t know. Those from 1976-1989 are generally held in higher esteem. And I don’t think there has been a step forward since those years. It’s rather up to you to tell me! I don’t care that much, but well… it’s a feeling. Filmmakers whose work extends over a long period of time often experience a setback at the end of their careers.

In a text from the special issue of Cahiers on John Ford, “The Slide of the Admiral,” you suggest on the contrary that the last shot of his last film, Seven Women, is his most beautiful.

Ford is atypical; Americans generally flag at the end: Hawks, Hitchcock, Nicholas Ray, Anthony Mann, Griffith and many others. There is longevity, circumstances…

Piges choisies also reproduces your unorthodox answer to the Libération survey “Why do you film?”: “To make big bucks, to go on big trips and to meet pretty girls.”

If there is a questionnaire, there necessarily has to be a winner. I wanted to have the best answer. I received a lot of phone calls; my answer made a lot of readers laugh. I think I won. At the time—1987—I was an ascetic figure; I was almost seen as another Straub. I am still seen today as an unadulterated filmmaker who does not compromise. Jansenist, even.

It’s true that I don’t make many complacent films. In order to depress my interlocutors, I often have fun saying that I was forced to make a film to put food on the table. “Ah my poor fellow! What is it called? – Origins of a Meal.” So my reputation for integrity also has a playful side.

I think the answer would have been even funnier had it been given by Straub or Bresson. I had phoned Bresson to suggest it, but he took it badly.

My answer, moreover, corresponds to reality, or at least to certain aspects of reality. It was not for nothing, for example, that my first films always had two actresses in the lead roles. I was single, my chances were multiplied by two. I have to admit that it was a very bad calculation.

Did you put them in competition with each other?

I didn’t go that far, but two chances are better than one, or zero.

When you were writing at Cahiers, Rohmer once made this strange remark, which you also recall in Piges choisies: “Moullet, I know why you love Buñuel. It’s because you’re both slackers.”

This is the most beautiful compliment I have ever received. Rohmer put me in the same boat as Buñuel, without kissing up to him for all that, since he presented his comparison as a kind of insult. He didn’t realize the compliment he was paying me, I thought. I don’t know if he would repeat the compliment today, even if his appreciation of Buñuel has become more positive.

“Slacker” in what sense? The rejection of rhetoric, mannerism, everything that makes cinema?

A certain zero degree, once again. That’s what Rohmer meant, in a sense. Buñuel didn’t have a visual structure like Murnau or Eisenstein. He is therefore a slacker. And so am I…

Do you consider yourself a slacker?

Of course. That is, in any case, the evolution of cinema. In the silent era, everything was structured around the frame. With talkies, filmmaking became more subtle, more composite, less determined on the level of pictorial construction. The composition of a discreet whole, chiselled in the manner of Murnau’s genius, became outdated. Those who want to make films like Eisenstein today are, moreover, admen, or very retrograde directors.

You published a long, laudatory review of The Exterminating Angel in issue no. 145 of Cahiers (July 1963). When did you begin admiring Buñuel, whom many—not only Rohmer, but also Straub and others—have compared you with? Has it remained constant over all these years?

Thanks to Henri Agel, one of whose protégés I was, I wrote the first booklet entirely devoted to Buñuel, in 1957, for a Belgian publisher. I saw L’Âge d’or in 1951, and I then liked all his films, with a few rare exceptions. There are a few failures, A Woman Without Love… At one time, Buñuel was making good Mexican films and bad French films. That Is the Dawn, Death in the Garden and Fever Mounts at El Pao are disappointing. The French films had a rather showy exterior ambition, whereas Buñuel was better at dealing under the table, at smuggling. He took great delight in it. He returned to France with Belle de Jour, which I discuss in part. The Milky Way, I don’t know, I don’t understand anything about it. But he ended very strongly, The Discreet Charm and The Phantom of Liberty are among his best films. The last one, That Obscure Object of Desire, is less accomplished, but some aspects are still interesting.

Buñuel was a subject of dispute at the Cahiers. I was close to the criticism practised by Truffaut and Rivette, but I disagreed with them about Buñuel, whom they rejected for particularly ideological reasons. I am proud to have contributed to rehabilitating Buñuel in the eyes of my masters. Which is a bit ridiculous, because he was admired by just about everyone.

“Morality is a matter of tracking shots”: in what context was this catchphrase, one of the most famous in the history of criticism, born? Beyond the commentaries and reappropriations that it has encouraged—starting with Godard’s famous inversion, “Tracking shots are a matter of morality”—what does it mean to you?

I wrote this little line about Samuel Fuller, a filmmaker who has sometimes been described as a terrorist or even a fascist. I sometimes say that my films are immoral, because I have only done five or six tracking shots in my life, but of course, it is the way you make films that is important. A very good example is Robert Enrico’s The Old Gun: a film, like many, against Nazism. Romy Schneider is opposed to Nazism, but because she hams it up in every shot, we hate her. At the same time, we are for Hitler; at least he killed her! The meaning is completely reversed. There is no shortage of similar examples.

In general, more importance is perhaps accorded to content than to form. Content comes first, but it is not everything. You have to be able to render it, to make it stand out. That is the meaning of the sentence. I often tell myself that I could give my films to others to direct, that maybe they would turn out just as well. But in fact, I am certain that if that happened, I would be furious, I would find the film disgusting. I get by as a director, but directing is probably a more passive activity. The screenplay is active, and the passivity of directing consists of eliminating unwanted things. I’m a film “divestor”.

An Overcooked Steak (1960)

What might have been the starting point for a film like Origins of a Meal, which begins in Paris and then travels around the world tracing a certain food-processing economy? Did the impetus come from a political indignation? Or did you just happen to break an egg?

I’ve sometimes broken an egg, yes. It was in 1944, I don’t remember very well. Maybe in 1945. In August 1945, I broke an egg. Later, I made a film called An Overcooked Steak, which didn’t release in theatres. To expand on it, I thought I could shoot a feature film that would go in search of the origins of steak. I conducted a study on the economic circuit of steak. It was complicated to narrate. Afterwards, I found easier and more favourable foods: eggs, tuna and bananas.

The influence came from John Grierson and his film on Christmas plum pudding. It recounted everything that went behind it, and how pudding used to be made. Anyone who saw the film must have been disgusted by it for life. I also admired the work of the now-forgotten East German filmmakers Heynowski and Scheumann. Their way of precisely studying an economic or political phenomenon guided me in finding the right approach to my food problem. An even deeper source is Gualtiero Jacopetti, one of my masters with Mondo Cane: his principle was to go to every corner of the world to set picturesque scenes in parallel. Origins of a Meal does not fully embody this spirit, but Jacopetti provided one of the starting points. After the editing, I ended up with a film of almost two hours, which is my longest. This often happens with documentaries: unexpected events occur, there are surprises… I could no longer combine Steak with Origins of a Meal, especially since it was no longer the same food. So the idea was abandoned.

Other examples? What was the starting point for such singular films as La Cabale des oursins or Shipwrecked on Route D17?

La Cabale des oursins was born of a remark by the GREC secretary who, having seen Octopus de Natura, believed that Marie-Christine Questerbert had shot it in the slag heaps. I thought that the slag heaps indeed looked like roubines. I wanted to get to know them better. This allowed me to establish relationships, play slag heaps off against roubines. So I went to shoot in the Borinage and in the Nord with the help of the GREC secretary.

Shipwrecked on Route D17 began with an accident on the set of Terres noires. The crew had gotten stuck in what must have been the most deserted place in France. I had to go fetch a truck driver an hour and a half away to help us out. He was a peasant. Twenty years later, I was eating in a restaurant in Digne, and I heard customers saying that they had gotten stuck in the same place. I then imagined a peasant who would damage the road, make it impassable for a few metres in order to earn a living by helping people who are stuck, or at least to make ends meet. Similarly, in Asnières, people often get their bicycles punctured. I always thought that there was a repairman there who puts nails on the road. It needs to be checked.

As for The Smugglers, the film came from the fact that some people had spoken of me as the Douanier (“customs officer”) Rousseau of the cinema. So I chose the term smuggler to break with this brand image.

The film evokes the smugglers of Mantet. Is this true? Or is it a reference to the Lang’s Moonfleet, called The Smugglers of Moonfleet in France?

It’s a fake reference. But there were indeed smugglers in Mantet: it is located eight kilometres from the French-Spanish border, the region has always been full of smugglers. In the village of Saze, 90% of the population used to live from smuggling. Moreover, smuggling is the profession closest to filmmaking. Other directors have drawn this analogy. Martin Scorsese describes a good number of American filmmakers as smugglers. Smuggling is passing cocaine off as sugar. That is what Orson Welles did when he made Touch of Evil look like a little crime film. Or John Cassavetes with The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. Or Godard when he made King Lear look like a real Shakespeare adaptation. Or I when I made A Girl Is a Gun look like a Western. Smuggling is at the heart of cinema.

To begin with, we said that your films are consciously built on a geographical principle. But this principle is also heuristic, or encyclopaedic. Whether it’s a city like Foix or the opening of a Coca-Cola bottle for Essai d’ouverture, you proceed in the same way, by delimiting and then exhausting a place or an object. Your brother Patrice plays in Les Carabiniers, under the name of Albert Juross: the famous postcard sequence, with the enumeration of all the important places of the world that have all become fictitious properties, is not unrelated to your cinema. Everything in your work is marked out, coordinated, “saturated,” we could say. How would you describe this comic and obsessive attachment to lists, classifications, taxonomies etc.?

It is the basis of a certain mode of creation: to start from the scientific, the mathematical or the objective. Literature was originally an enumeration; I am thinking in particular of Book II of The Iliad. This way of proceeding is a break from the original poetic vagueness which cinematographic art, silent art or poetry are too often identified with. I think that with an encyclopaedia, I will have everything. It’s probably childish or primitive, but it’s a good starting point. It’s useful to know the essential, even if the spirit of a film doesn’t result just from an accumulation of material.

We had this encyclopaedic concern even at Cahiers: our principle was to see all the films of a director. That was new. In literature, no one has read all of Victor Hugo, not even he I think; he was not supposed to be reread, nor Balzac. Cinema is a more concentrated art: a director’s body of work lasts fifty or a hundred hours, even two hundred in some cases, like Ford. It’s possible to be see everything, and we felt this exhaustiveness was necessary. So Cahiers stood in contrast to the older generation of critics like Mitry, who thought it was pointless to strive to see all the films of John Ford.

Is that where the idea in Parpaillon (1993) came from, the cyclist who rides uphill, reeling off the titles of Ford’s films in chronological order and without forgetting any?

As in Anatomy of a Relationship, I wanted to combine physical and mental activity. It was a 11% slope. On one hand, there was this Fordian climber, and on the other I was playing the role of another cyclist who, while riding, recites the rather comprehensive article on Ugetsu that I had written for Cahiers. It’s an old trick when you’re riding a bike or climbing a difficult rock face or terrain, or a scree: you take the list of Ford’s films, and when you’ve finished enumerating it, you realise that this is it, you’ve climbed the hill. Effortlessly, so to speak. Hitchcock can also serve the purpose.

Do you know their filmography by heart?

Hitchcock, yes. Ford, no. I have gaps at the beginning, sorry. I haven’t seen all of Ford’s films; besides many of them are bad.

Parpaillon (1993)

La Comédie du Travail is exemplary of this encyclopaedic passion. The film seems to proceed from an extremely precise study of the ANPE’s management mechanisms, the losses and gains, the back rooms that provide false pay slips… These are things that are generally unknown. In this film, you describe a reality of unemployment that is far removed from what you read about it in the newspapers.

Reality rarely corresponds to what we read in the newspapers. Since I don’t have enough self-confidence, I take everything that is good in reality. But since I fear that the film is not good enough, I also take everything that is good in my imagination. I mix the two together. In truth, I mix two realities: visual reality and mental reality. I am aware that the two often bump against each other, and I take advantage of this.

In cinema, it is said that “the director is the one who does the job, you can make him shoot anything.” It’s partly true, but it’s also good to have a direct knowledge of reality. I admire Tavernier’s L.627, which contains an admirable documentation of how police agencies operate. For La Comédie du travail, I had a concrete knowledge of the subject and I used it. I was on the dole, I got unemployment benefits, which, among other things, enabled me to buy houses… I received welfare payments while I was on my honeymoon in Kathmandu, Nepal, and under the Everest. I had someone punch in at the welfare office for me. The problem was there even when I was not so far away, for example in the Andes. The anxiety was not about crossing a precipice or a stream, but “is he going to remember the date of punching in?”

The epilogue to La Comédie du Travail is rather cynical. On one hand, the hedonistic and anti-work mountaineer is murdered with a pickaxe; on the other hand, Françoise, the zealous ANPE employee played by Sabine Haudepin, ends up understanding the laws of the system and accepting the idea that unemployment should not be entirely curbed: a safety margin will always be needed… After having been his bête noire for a long time, she ends up being warmly felicitated by her boss, played by Michel Delahaye.

I was criticized for ending a comedy with a murder. They intervened so that I would change the ending; I had to wait two years to get the Advance on Receipts [1]. I like the principle of subversion, it’s a way of turning the problem around. You take a point of view that seems paradoxical, in this case the girl who finds work for everyone: you avoid the commonplace while highlighting the problem. I was inspired by the work of Coline Serreau, who often presents her policemen in a favourable, humane light: they seem all the more human since we know that it is only a fictionalisation of reality. You have the advantage of reality and the advantage of paradox. The result is a kind of chiselling, a very important device to mask what we are saying by pretending to present the opposite.

Your films combine a realistic appearance with a fairy-tale structure from the 18th century à la Voltaire or Montesquieu: they do not always have a moral, but they almost always have a morality. “Il était un Foix,” as we said at the beginning…

My wife is a storyteller, she tells stories for children, adults and old people. She organises a kind of one-woman show. So I am influenced. It’s true that I often look for a kind of hyper-objectivity, but it’s the hyper-objectivity of the fake that attracts me. My point of view is both objective and pataphysical. There is a struggle between mathematics and fantasy in there. An association and a struggle that can produce a delicious mix, like the one found in La Cabale des oursins. I had fun going through all the slag heaps of northern France and the Belgian Borinage. I took the best from there to offer a futuristic and, to say the least, whimsical vision of the slag heaps.

You talked about pataphysics. Parpaillon is dedicated to Alfred Jarry: is the text quoted, In Search of the Man with the Ursus Pump, authentic or apocryphal?

It’s an invention, but four seconds are actually stolen from Jarry.

A few minutes before the end of Origins of a Meal, after having so brilliantly explained the cruel mechanisms of global agribusiness, you say in the voice-over that knowledge—the knowledge you have just dispensed, in other words—is perhaps the most subtle form of exploitation. Why this sort of turnaround all of a sudden?

It was a nice line to end with. And it’s partly true. I thought that the notion of exploitation would be all the better rendered if I sold the film well, if it earned me a lot of money. That’s the justification for this last line.

In a film, you unflappably list a series of mountain huts, the names of which obviously no one except specialists in hiking and mountaineering would know. It is both incomprehensible and irresistible.

I don’t think I’ve listed them in a film. Maybe it’s in a bonus clip where I talk about the origins of a film. The mountain huts that have influenced me are the Goriz, which is in Spain, as you know, the Llanganuco in Peru, the Tiangboche in Nepal, and the Netler in Morocco. There are others.

How can one be influenced by a mountain hut?

You can see what it’s like, what happens there. Each hut has its own specificities, like a hotel or a restaurant.

You should write a guidebook.

I don’t know them all, unfortunately. I would have to hurry.

We could get the impression that you measure everything down to the millimetre, whether it’s the circulation of the money that goes into making your films, the slightest bend on a survey map, or the economy of the smallest gag… Is this feeling justified? Today you have made more than thirty films, including about ten feature films. There is undoubtedly a body of work. Has it been built through chance, commissions, impulses? Or was it pre-planned? Did you lay the groundwork, as one would be led to believe, or on the contrary, did you progress step by step? Would you say that you have a “method”?

I have navigated by sight, walked step by step, I have done the opposite of Rohmer, who organised everything and claims to have written all of his screenplays between the ages of twenty and twenty-five. That said, I also sometimes shoot scripts written a long time ago. …Au champ d’honneur was written in 1962 and shot in 1998. I must’ve thought of the screenplay as far back as in 1950, without writing it, based on my experiences at that time. Resurgences of this kind can occur, but I’ve never had a precise plan.

I may have a method, but I don’t realise it until after the fact. It can vary from one film to another. For the first one, I didn’t have a method, maybe after a few… I don’t have a personal dogma. I know what to avoid, but a system—I was about to say an ontological system, because it’s fashionable—not necessarily.

Do you have any scripts in reserve?

Yes, on the floor above and in the cellar.

If we consider the films not as a whole, but each one separately, the same impression remains: that of great control, almost absolute knowledge. What questions could we ask you that you haven’t asked yourself first? It’s not easy: you have answers to everything. In many ways, your cinema has to do with a science of effects. And yet, in one of your articles, you could speak of French cinema as a “school of chance,” while in another you describe, not without irony, a certain tendency towards “dispositivism” in contemporary cinema. Which side do you ultimately stand on? What is the place of chance or surprise in the conception and making of your films? Could you imagine yourself deciding, like Pialat for example, to violently move a scene or a shot during editing, and radically change its meaning and function?

If I could, I would gladly try. But I’m not confident enough. There is something of the peasant in me; I am fearful, I prefer to walk on the safe side. Pialat or Rivette, for their part, are champions of chance. At the same time, they have a lot of film. Especially Pialat. So he does what he wants. It’s another form of cinema. My register is more classical, closer to Rohmer. There can also be a formula for chance; certain specialists—Rivette, for example—organize things to create unforeseen situations. Same with Straub: the more organised he is, the more chance can emerge. But perhaps we shouldn’t go too far into paradox.

For my part, I have often been a producer, which encourages prudence. And even when I am not a producer, I am afraid of ruining my producers. That has never happened, but I feel a responsibility. So I try to prepare everything, if possible leaving room for a few cherries on the cake. I organise things in advance, but I wouldn’t say it has to do with a formula. I don’t like formulae; you mustn’t insult me.

My films probably lack unforeseen situations. But there are some. Sometimes, if there’s an incident, I improvise totally. I also sometimes plan random days, leave scenes unwritten. There’s a shot that makes me cry in Origins of a Meal, it’s the only one of all my films. We had arrived surreptitiously at the port because I had the intuition that on Sunday evenings, when authorized dockworkers are replaced, amazing things could happen. I showed up at the boat and I saw the children carrying 16-kilo crates of bananas, sometimes two or three, 32 or 48 kilos on their shoulders, running and screaming with joy. There was such hustle and bustle. I was very moved: the scene was all the more dramatic for these children since they seemed to be doing it with pleasure. It was a little as though, in Auschwitz, they entered the gas chambers laughing.

Origins of a Meal (1979)

Was the emotion felt during the filming or in front of the images?

Both. There was also a certain sonic ambiance, all those children screaming… I was expecting something, but not necessarily that. I find that it’s the best thing I’ve ever filmed, and it was pure chance.

Other examples of surprises from the real world? What challenges did you have to face while shooting Terres noires, The Smugglers, The Glamour of Death, Parpaillon…? Did you, for example, have to swap the planned limousine for a makeshift bicycle?

The compromise, for me, would rather be to switch from the bicycle to the limousine. I like to be faced with an obligation. So how is Moullet going to get out of it? My actresses are sometimes surprised: when I find myself in front of a wall, I laugh because I am forced to find a workaround. And I indeed find it.

On The Glamour of Death, I remember asking Aurélia Alcaïs to play a small role. The production pulled a face because the action was to take place in the rocky inlets of the Mediterranean coast and she lived in Paris. In the end, it was the script girl who got the role; she was very good physically, she could fit the role. This kind of negotiation can bring something more.

On The Smugglers, Monique Thiriet used to constantly groom her hair. She was Lady Samson, she believed that all her genius was in her hair. Having curled her hair at night, she told me in the morning that she couldn’t shoot because her hair still had the shape of her curlers. As a good producer, I didn’t want to lose a day’s work. So I told her I was going to write her a scene where she is in curlers. She didn’t believe me, but I wrote it. A girl is getting her hair done while machine-gun fire thunders all around. It’s an amazing scene, maybe the best in the film. I didn’t have the faintest idea of it two hours before shooting.

In L’Empire de Médor, my assistant played the role of a guy pulling on a dog’s leash. These long, high-performance leashes are dangerous. He didn’t have a dog, he wasn’t used to it, he fell on his face and was bleeding. We filmed just before we attended to him.

I also remember that Terres noires was built on its technical flaws, so to speak. The first cameraman was from the Neanderthal wave, he filmed seven shots a day, whereas in documentary filmmaking today, between forty and sixty shots are filmed every day. It wasn’t working at all, I wanted something much brisker. So I changed cameramen. The new one was also rather clumsy and there were quite a few “light flares”. When you don’t stick your eye to the eyecup properly, the light becomes much brighter, which causes a considerable rupture in the picture: this is called a “light flare,” and is considered a technical defect. In Land of Madness, there is a light flare of a few seconds that we were able to make up for in video afterwards.

I decided to play with that and include as many light flares as possible. Truffaut, who had partially produced Terres noires, was convinced that I had deliberately chosen all the bad takes. He wasn’t wrong. I wanted to express the uncomfortable quality that defines life in these poor lands. I enjoyed it. Later a jury awarded the film for “its qualities, its flaws, and the good use it makes of its flaws,” I think it was Marker who was the jury president.

Although built on chance, Terres noires was paradoxically influenced by Resnais in its camera movements. The tracking shots of Resnais’s films became shaky camera movements in mine, but I wanted to compose a perfect cycle using a circular movement with broken lines and straight lines that were supposed to establish a certain cosmic order. It was childish, especially since I was only twenty-two at the time. It was a bit early to try that. Besides, you won’t find this Resnais influence at all if you see the film.

Any other surprises?

I was very moved while making Parpaillon. We were at quite an altitude; the clouds were moving very fast. We were at 300 metres; I saw one that was going to come absorb us. I was able to capture that moment. Similarly, in La Comédie du travail, I was able to capture the rise of a cloud from the ground. The clouds started at an altitude of 700 metres and rose to about 1,650 metres, to the point where we were. We had to take advantage of it. We used a well-known example as reference, the famous little cloud of Red River.

I missed out on some chance happenings. We were at the top of the real Parpaillon pass. And below, at the bottom, I had hired thirty or forty extras to show a crowd, with a precise storyboard, places assigned for each extra etc. Then I saw a group of cyclists arrive, they were a hundred or a hundred and twenty in number. I didn’t know what to do with them, I had a bad reaction. My cameraman asked me, “Luc, do we film them?” I answered, no. Big mistake in my opinion, but it was a question of self-esteem. I didn’t want to because it wasn’t something I had planned. You have to watch out for amour propre. I support amour sale.

Amour sale?

This is the opposite of amour propre. Anyway, I never explain my jokes.

Your films span all runtimes and formats, you never stopped shuttling between short and feature films. You seem to be particularly flexible. How do you adapt to technological developments? For example, what is your position on digital?

The Glamour of Death was filmed in 35mm and Land of Madness in HD. Three small films made for Arte’s programme Court Circuit, plus Aérroporrr d’Orrrrly (1990), La Sept selon Jean et Luc (1990) and Nous sommes tous des cafards (1997), if I am not mistaken, were shot on video. Sometimes I don’t even remember whether I shot on film or digital.

Sometimes it takes me a few seconds to be sure.

So I don’t really worry about the question of technology. My position would rather be on the side of Sacha Guitry: 35mm or DVD, he wouldn’t have given a damn. You can spot differences between the formats, but I’m not sure they are essential. Does the viewer laugh more in front of a DVD, a Beta Num or a 35mm film? I don’t know. The difference is not obvious. He is likely to laugh more in front of a 35 mm film, because certain technical difficulties linked to digital technology can possibly inhibit laughter. For me, it’s in these terms that the question of technology arises.

There is soon likely to be an issue, because digital and magnetic media are based on plastic, the cost of which will increase in about forty years’ time with the collapse of the oil civilisation. We may have to go back to celluloid, which also depends on oil, as I showed in Origins of a Meal. The main components of celluloid are veal, pig and oil. The future of video seems to me to be in jeopardy. Celluloid seems to me to be better equipped to confront or get around the increasing scarcity of oil. Solutions may perhaps be found to continue with HD, but frankly I doubt it.

Land of Madness (2009)

What changes did the move to HD bring about for Land of Madness?

I have to be careful, because a lot of my films are based on landscape. Now, landscape is better in 35mm than in HD. HD could encourage you to forget landscape as the main material, one of my two main materials along with actors. That can be managed. Landscape crops up a little in Land of Madness, the result is not bad. We’ll see it more clearly when we move to film in a few days’ time.

Technology is a means. For me, cinema is first and foremost about actresses, actors, landscapes, situations, dialogues, laughter. Technology comes afterwards.

I have always been wary of the importance of technology from a cinematic point of view: with the differences between formats, the successive wear and tear, everything that is a technical effect is likely to disappear over time, while the performance of an actor or a gag endures. A work like Minnelli’s becomes fragile with time. It’s the case with all filmmakers who have made films in Deluxe Color or Trucolor, not to mention Ferrania or Sovcolor. The technical work of cinema is in danger of going to pieces.

Moullet & Co. inherit from both craftsmanship and the empire. To put it coarsely, how are you doing financially? Does cinema make you wealthier?

Yes, it does. Origins of a Meal cost less than 300,000 francs and brought in more than one million. In principle, cinema must be profitable. You earn money by not spending it, that is how a large part of French cinema works. Unfortunately, you don’t always manage to do this, but that is the trend. It should also be noted that the bulk of a film’s career is neither made nor decided at two o’clock in the afternoon on the first day of release, contrary to what is often said, but that the most of the earnings comes after twenty-four years. There is a law of twenty-four years, just like there is the law of two-fifths.

That is a contrarian viewpoint, to say the least. The exhibition system is not at all adapted to what you describe.

The economics of cinema is in fact close to the economics of painting, which does not necessarily mean that films, starting with mine, are pictorial. They are disseminated through events, programmes, retrospectives, small media operations, like a painter’s full-scale exhibition. Some of my films have been shown in exhibitions, coupled with the work of a painter. A Dutch painter fell in love with The Belly of America and showed it next to his paintings.

There’s too much reliance on theatrical releases. There is a certain tradition of 35mm film, the theatre is important because of the contact it offers with the audience, but that is not what brings in money. The theatrical release of one of my films can bring in 20,000 or 30,000 francs, 5,000 euros, but it is above all an act of publicity. It is what launches the film.

Now there are theatres, TV, DVD and the so-called “quarter-cinema,” a number of non-commercial screenings, festivals and conferences. Filmmakers frequently jump from one retrospective to another. I have had retrospectives—not always complete ones—in Buenos Aires as well as in Italy, Czechoslovakia and the USA. Now and then, there are new events comparable to painters’ exhibitions that get the machine running again.

In principle, a film is more or less paid off for at the start. Sometimes you spend a little more, but not so much. The film comes alive, circulating all over the world. There may be a sudden financial explosion after a quarter century. Television rights count for a lot from a commercial point of view. I remember that one of my producers wanted my film to be distributed by Bac Films, simply because he thought that Bac’s reputation would help good TV sales. An Overcooked Steak was shown on French television after twenty-eight years. Even longer than twenty-four years, that is. It was even telecast several times; it was bought again afterwards. Origins of a Meal was sold to television for twice its cost after twenty-four years. I was the producer of Nathalie Granger, which was sold to television for four times its cost after twenty-five years.

Does the law of twenty-four years also apply to other filmmakers?

It should also work for filmmakers of the same mould, Duras, Eustache, Rozier…

Straub? Biette ?

For Straub, it started earlier; his work is very commercial. He sells his film, it’s well-packaged art. He has no problem; everything is clearly defined. On the other hand, my films often appear in an ambiguous comic form: is it Gérard Oury-like? Straub-like? People are wary. The auteur label is not entirely obvious.

This analysis is very old in your case. In the long interview for Cahiers in October 1969 (issue no. 216), you had already stated that “the economic problems of cinema are no longer really on the production side, but on the distribution side.”

At the time, it was already relatively easy for me to shoot, I didn’t need a lot of resources. I am a filmmaker of lowly extraction, with grandparents or great-grandparents who were farmers. I got along with little. It’s a rather different itinerary from Visconti, for example. It’s easy for me to shoot low-budget or no-budget films, like Rohmer. From that point on, the problems are indeed related to distribution. They actually diminish with time, because I am less unknown today than I was forty or fifty years ago.

What is a no-budget film?

A film where you don’t have fun calculating a budget. I recently wrote an article on Vidor’s short film Truth and Illusion. He shot it alone, sometimes with an assistant. It’s funny: it was shot shortly before Solomon and Sheba (1959), which cost 5.5 million dollars, and is infinitely less good, quite a failure. Truth and Illusion, on the other hand, is a very personal film.

Are there any no-budget films among yours?

Not quite, but some of them have been made on a really minimal basis.

Do you pay the actors, the technicians?

I pay the actors. I pay the important technicians, suitably I believe. Less so for secondary technicians. The assistants are poorly paid. They are donkeys, you have to say it as it is. They have to mostly carry the equipment. In the beginning I was naive, I paid my editors at the union rate, when I could have found a different way out. The principle is to pay, not a lot, but to pay. I always remember Colette Descombes: her husband was astonished because he had the lead role in a film by Autant-Lara and he was paid less than she was on my film.

How do you pay yourself?

When I need money, I take it. I don’t advance money to pay myself a salary, I take money when there is money. At least that’s what I did when I produced my films myself.

For a long time, you have juggled your activity as a filmmaker with that of a producer, of both your own films and those of other filmmakers: Eustache, Duras…

In the beginning, I was forced to become a producer because I couldn’t find anyone to produce me. I always quote Renoir’s line: “At first, I paid to make films, and then I was paid to make them.” All things considered, that is my itinerary too. Once I had my own production structure, the basic fees were still high. They dropped in 1976, when the patente was replaced by professional tax. But at that time, the minimum overhead costs were close to 600 euros per year. Now, with the evolution of the legislation, it has come down to 180 euros. At the time, it was necessary to diversify, to have other productions. And since I was considered honest—I am not completely honest, but I am the least dishonest of producers—many filmmakers asked me to cover them, to oversee their films. I would step in once the film was finished or on the eve of sound mixing.

Anatomy of a Relationship (1976)

What was your involvement as a producer on Nathalie Granger?

It was relative. Marguerite came to me through an intermediary, who had recommended Moullet, technically a right-hand man. “I have 100,000 francs from Advance on Receipts, the film will cost 80,000 francs. I need a producer.” I went along, especially as I had debts on A Girl Is a Gun, which I wanted to pay off with a more commercial film.

I really liked her first film, La Musica (1967). Everything went well. Duras also had a thrifty mind. I took care of all the administration and went to the shooting thrice. Once to carry the electrical equipment; it was heavy, there were 30 kilos of cables and spotlights. I had to change trains twice, in Bécon and then in Saint-Cloud. I still have marks on my shoulders. I had come without suitcases because the cameraman, who was used to big productions, had claimed that there was nothing at all. I was relieved when Benoît Jacquot came in Duras’ car to pick me up at the Neauphle station. I would go to the shooting spot mainly to pay the crew members. There was no production really needed for this film, outside of the paperwork. However, I took care of the distribution.

There is a photo of you in a small book entitled Luc Moullet, le contrebandier (Cinémathèque française, 1993), at the screening of Nathalie Granger in Venice. You are sitting next to an actress, surprisingly dressed as a dandy, with long hair. Had you spruced yourself up?

I was with Brialy and Bronca Clair, René Clair’s wife. A friend, Béatrice, had made me a special garment, of her own taste. It’s a kind of fabric that wears out quickly. But it was very well sewn, Béatrice liked it very much.

How is the distribution of your films overseas?

It is irregular. A Girl Is a Gun was sold widely to the Third World with its title. No buyers had seen the film. I remember a potential buyer in Cannes. To prevent him from seeing the film, I had deployed a beautiful girl to divert him from the screening. He felt remorse towards me, which he logically compensated with a purchase.

When A Girl Is a Gun was seen, did some people protest, believing that they were cheated on the goods? It is said that Éric Rohmer’s Sign of the Lion (1959)—the most Parisian film imaginable—was sold in Africa on a misunderstanding: the buyer thought it was a safari film.

That is indeed what someone close to the film told me. Many buyers bought A Girl Is a Gun without showing it. But it also played to full houses, I was told, in Niamey, for example. It was sold to Italian TV with its title. When the buyer saw it, she gave it back to me saying: unusable. This kind of thing is common. I remember a friend of mine whose film, which was in fact quite successful, was released in only one Parisian theatre, the Panthéon, where it had 636 admissions, if I’m not mistaken. He sold it in Hong Kong for a good sum, because he knew the exporter: they were poker partners in Cannes. Box-office receipts are considered sacred, but these figures are even more subjective than critical opinion.

Were some films able to find an audience in special-interest groups? Anatomy of a Relationship had feminists, post-soixante huitards and leftists, interested in sexual liberation, as target audiences. L’Empire de Médor could likewise appeal to locals who felt that there was too much dog poo in Paris and demanded strict action from the city hall.

That is not foreordained. I sometimes start from facts of society; some of my films may have an ethnological side that interests people as much as it interested me. I remember screening Origins of a Meal at a school in Mantes to five hundred students from the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

Was it shown at a hotel management school?

No. I suggested it to Cuisine TV, who found it too long.

Did Origins of a Mean spark the interest of Third World militant groups, the Revolutionary Front of Ecuador or Senegalese Marxists?

No, because the film simply could not be shown there. Africa and South America don’t work on 16mm, they are two continents entirely ruled by 35mm, the commercial format. But there was no 35mm version of Origins of a Meal. We almost had a screening in Ecuador, but it was cancelled due to a technical problem. I believe that at that time the film did not yet exist in Beta SP. In France, an association was set up to distribute it, along with other films on other consumer or knowledge goods.

Resourcefulness, burlesque, social satire: so many elements that seem to bring you closer to Jean-Pierre Mocky. And yet, unless I’m mistaken, you never talk about Mocky.

After An Overcooked Steak, some people, especially the film’s opponents, said that it was Mocky-like. We have indeed quite a few similarities. The difference—it may be pretentious on my part—is that my films are better packaged than his, but that’s also what makes for their charm. Moreover, I borrow a lot of actors from him. There are two acting schools in France, the Rohmer harem and the Mocky school: Johnny Montheilhet, Dominique Zardi, Jean Abeillé… Mocky sees right away when someone can produce interesting things on screen. He has made, I believe, twenty-nine films with Abeillé. As for me, I shoot with him whenever I can, except when he refuses. For example, he found …Au champ d’honneur too morbid; I think he was in a difficult family situation at the time. I found another Abeillé, who may not be as good, but who wasn’t bad either.

Have you ever thought of getting a theatre of your own to show your films and those of others, like Mocky did with Le Brady?

No. I have to be careful, because I’m economically efficient. I will likely get swept into the commercial system. The great fear of my life has been to become another Claude Berri or another Marin Karmitz. I think I’ve managed to avoid that danger. Not that their paths are bad: Karmitz has done a lot of work with theatres, Berri too as a producer on some films, but they have both drifted away considerably from their primary vocation, which is to make films, good films. This deviation has always been my dread.

Could you have let yourself become very rich?

Let myself undertake only economic operations, yes. I don’t know if I would have necessarily become rich, but I would have probably had to stop making personal films, like them. As soon as there were offers for producing my films, I tried to no longer do it myself. I almost succeeded. My whole trick was—I shouldn’t tell you this—to hide the fact that I was a producer. Because then they would have invited me to be a co-producer, that is to say they wouldn’t have paid me, or paid me only in production shares, which is less profitable.

Brigitte and Brigitte (1966)

Did you at any time have a project for an expensive film, with stars and a well-established producer, Claude Berri for example?

I filmed with Jean-Pierre Léaud in A Girl Is a Gun, but is he a star? He is identified with Paris, with attic rooms, with home-bound characters, and I made him a Western hero. He really liked this completely atypical casting.

I did submit a project to Claude Berri actually. Since he had produced Tess based on Hardy, I pitched a new Hardy work, Desperate Remedies (1871). He didn’t follow up on it because the film didn’t fit my image. After Origins of a Meal, I had a project in the early 1980s called Vortex. It was a film based on imagination, with perhaps a little Fellinian side to it. There were references to René Daumal’s Mount Analogue. The action takes place in the Italian mountains: a few people are walking in circles around the mountains of the Brenta Dolomites, on a path high up. It is a purely conceptual world, with references to reality and alternations between concept and materiality. Cahiers published an extract from the screenplay.

Doubting that I would not be able to shoot it in French, I wrote Vortex in English. I wanted to penetrate the American market. I worked on the assumption that, over there, Oury or Moullet were more or less the same thing. I had Dustin Hoffman, Goldie Hawn and Orson Welles in mind as actors, but I didn’t get any feedback. The producers I contacted, Cottrell for example, advised me to try with Braunberger or Dauman, the traditional partners of low-budget French films. It was a somewhat hypocritical response: none of them were producers for this type of project. So I didn’t manage to enter the American market, even though I thought it could have been very favourable to me.

I have a problem: every time I pitch a film, people think it will be like the previous one. Even if I want to shoot The Ten Commandments, I am offered a budget of 600,000 euros. It’s sometimes tricky. They pin me to my original image, the “shoestring Moullet.” The label is not negative in itself; you can spend your entire life making films that are not excessively expensive. That is the case with Rohmer, for example, apart from two or three expensive films, which are in fact not his best.

Didn’t it occur to any producer to bet on you that Moullet could be another Oury or another Zidi?

Maybe I didn’t manage it well. I didn’t make a career plan. I made an inexpensive debut film, which did well, and immediately a second one, which cost about the same. I should have continued in the same vein as Brigitte and Brigitte, a satirical comedy based on the observation of reality. But I made the second film against the grain of the previous one, which is common. Bergman, Truffaut recommended this: try to do the opposite…

The two filmmakers you most often cite as your models, King Vidor and Cecil B. DeMille, are not comic filmmakers, at least not in a major way. Curiously, references to the great comic filmmakers of cinema are quite rare in your comments and articles. Few of the texts collected in Piges choisies deal explicitly with comedy.

Maybe, but for the public, we are competitors. I am more passionate about what is outside of me. I can’t imagine myself doing Fountainhead, on which I wrote a book (Yellow Now, 2009). What fascinates me is this difference, what I could never do.

That’s not entirely true actually, because King Vidor has directed three good comedies featuring Marion Davies. Davies has a bad reputation, but she is remarkable in these films. Conquering the Woman (1922) is a beautiful film. There are others too, Vidor could well hold his own in comedy. It was with crime films that he wasn’t very good. As for DeMille, you could perfectly argue that his best films, the most classical or the easiest to like, are comedies. Why Change Your Wife? (1920) or Male and Female (1919), or even Saturday Night (1922), have something timeless about them; everyone can understand them and they are funny. It is a sarcastic, bitter humour based on the observation of everyday life. DeMille as a realist or even a neorealist auteur is a more important fact than DeMille as a biblical filmmaker. His Biblical films are not as good.

What I am most passionate about—and this is normal—is what I don’t know, and what I cannot do. That lies outside of comedy. Having said that, I have written about Chaplin, about de Funès, about certain gags, about Coline Serreau. But my interest in comedy as a critic may in fact have come at a later point. When I started writing, cinema was less centred on comedies, or rather the gags were so apparent that there was no need to explain them.

Howard Hawks’ gags are very clear, even if some of them are private jokes, like the thing with cubes in Ball of Fire (1941). Gary Cooper being 190 cm tall and Barbara Stanwyck much shorter, it was always a problem. That’s the whole history of cinema, the differences in height between actors and actresses. So there are often cubes to raise characters, and sometimes objects. At one point, Hawks did the same thing as me, or I did the same thing as Hawks, more precisely: he put the cubes in the frame. Stanwyck kisses Cooper for the first time by incidentally climbing on a cube. Afterwards, she just has to bring in the cube to get kissed. It was certainly not premeditated before filming. Chance at work again!

One might also say that comedy, at least at the beginning, was not an obvious choice for you. Anyone who has seen A Girl Is a Gun must have felt how precarious its balance between Vidorian lyricism and burlesque is. There are many scenes where the viewer feels that there is no more than a sheet of cigarette paper between sublime lyricism and ridiculousness. Does this impression tally with your experience in any way? Chance or formula?

I was mistaken about myself; I thought the film would be a Western doubling as a Greek tragedy. I imagined that it was good to work within a genre. It allowed for easy distribution, I thought at the time. I thought I had shot a Western like any other, but the film is very different. I miscalculated; I didn’t play the genre card all the way. I respected certain trappings of the genre, but the spirit of the film breaks with the conventions of the Western, and this baffled many viewers. At the end of the day, it is more of a comedy, even if there was a gradual evolution in this direction during the making of the film. It was when I watched it that I realised that it was in my interest to force myself into comedy. I particularly remember the scene where the lead actress loads her gun: it made a weird little noise, everyone was laughing.

While you show up in An Overcooked Steak—in a low-angle shot, at the top of a staircase—you then waited for about fifteen years before playing the lead role in one of your films. Was it simply a question of opportunity?

Technically, I did show up a little; I played bit parts. It is convenient when someone is missing: I’m available instantly, I dress up, everything is smooth, I don’t have to pay myself. Some people have suggested that it was the influence of Hitchcock’s cameos, but it’s not obvious. I appear more on screen from Anatomy of a Relationship on, which was also in response to economic contingencies. You don’t have much money, there are two of you, you shoot, you stand in front of the camera, the budget is then necessarily smaller. I know myself; I know what I can and cannot do with myself. Well, I believe I know myself. I had some experience with acting, because I was the treasurer of the directors’ union. I was the one who collected the cheques from all the directors. They knew my face; I was quite in demand. I played in a film by Jean-François Davy, in Pollet’s L’amour c’est gai, l’amour c’est triste. I almost had a bit part in Breathless, but I was on holiday that day: it was August, I was in the mountains. I played the lead in Le Cabot (Jean-Pierre Letellier, 1972). It was a curious experience: it’s a dramatic film in which I try for twenty minutes to kill a dog. I warned the director: watch out, because I’m going to make people laugh. I don’t deserve any credit, it’s innate. The film is ultimately a bit funny, but I held out until the end.

I recently had a difficult experience, I played the lead role in a film at the Fémis called Grand Guignol, a ten-minute sequence shot with twenty-nine lines. I managed to get it reduced to twenty-two, there were a lot of movements. I rarely refuse a role, except when it is bad and unpaid. If it is unpaid and really good, I accept it. But not if it is bad and unpaid.

An Overcooked Steak (1960)

Where does your comic sense come from? How would you characterize it?

There’s a natural comedian in me. Whatever I do in life, I make people laugh with my quirky and marginal nature, without intending to. All I have to do is accentuate this quality, distort it or amplify it slightly to get a more intriguing comedy. I know how to play on my flaws, which brings me closer to the comedy of an actor like Jean Abeillé. He is my doppelgänger; my madness isn’t as far out as his, in my opinion, but that’s the main idea. For actors, there are two qualities: the women must be beautiful and the men ugly and stupid. This is the general principle in my work, to bring out these two qualities. The batty and the beautiful.

I don’t generally try to characterise myself. If I do, I risk limiting myself to the characterisation. Out of ambition and lack of modesty, I would never like to be characterised, because it diminishes me. Amour propre rears its head again… Nevertheless, I believe I like making comic films about a tragic subject above everything else. A director I like has made a comedy about witch hunts, another one about a man who killed six women, a third about a man who killed fifty million people, one about Taylorism—and that’s not funny at all—one about religion, one about unemployment, Pay Day, one about war, Shoulder Arms, one about the gold rush, which too was a massacre.

This director has served as a model for me. Comedy has more value and depth if it is set in a serious context. It’s better than “banana peel” comedy, although there is a beautiful banana peel scene in Cecil B. DeMille’s comedy Why Change Your Wife? Another indirect introduction of chance.

I had a project called Tango in Auschwitz, which I abandoned. Benigni beat me to it with Life is Beautiful and so did Jerry Lewis with his unfinished film The Day the Clown Cried.

Was it close to Life is Beautiful?

I went further. I couldn’t have made it.

In what way has the status of an auteur-actor, which you fully assumed after Anatomy of a Relationship with Ma première brasse, Essai d’ouverture etc., changed the reception and reputation of your work?

My image has changed a little. If I make a film, the producer won’t be happy if I don’t show up even for ten seconds, although I don’t show up in my adaptation of Henry James, Longstaff’s Ghost. It’s good to put yourself in the actors’ shoes, to know what their needs, desires and anxieties are. I am more “hands-on”—I don’t like this word very much, but I can’t find any other—I am better with respect to actors because I can put myself in their shoes.

Moreover, by acting, I am only going back to the earliest path of cinema, where the actor and the director were one. John Ford, Raoul Walsh and many others were actors as well as directors. Silent comedy actors were directors, officially or not. Films with Buster Keaton aren’t considered Clyde Bruckman’s films. There was automatically a fusion between the two, the actor and the filmmaker.

This important element was then lost in time because of the greater technicality of cinema at the height of the silents and later the talkies. Logistics were increasingly cumbersome and varied, and cinema experienced an influx of actors from the theatre. The tendency then resurfaced with modernity, when filmmaker-actors were in vogue, thanks to filmmakers whom you could never have imagined assuming such a role: Truffaut, Pialat, Polanski, Huston, Jodorowsky, Moretti. It has now become a general principle. Cinema has returned to its origins, just as our civilisation will return in a few decades’ time to a past stage of its evolution.

You forgot João César Monteiro, another auteur-actor who, like you, had absolutely no hesitation in taking his clothes off.

There are indeed physical similarities between us, the same slender build, although I have recently put on a few kilos which I will try to lose. The comparison has often been made. I have seen Monteiro’s films post-1990, after the award in Venice for Recollections of the Yellow House. I might have some reservations about Snow White, the editing, the sobriety…

Debates on comedy, particularly in Cahiers, have long been focused on the opposition between Chaplin and Keaton: there have been many turnarounds. What was your position then and today in this discussion?

The problem doesn’t exist for me; it’s as if we were opposing Racine to Corneille. I’ve had a particular relationship to Chaplin. As a child, they used to take me to see his films. But I refused to consider myself a child, and therefore to see and like comic films. I considered myself an adult and was shocked that I was considered a child.

What would you have preferred to see instead?

Dreyer for example. I saw Day of Wrath when it came out, I was almost ten years old; I was very impressed. I didn’t understand everything, but I understood a lot of things.

Was Day of Wrath a decisive film for your turn to cinema?

One of the decisive films, yes. There are others. I remember seeing Boudu Saved from Drowning at around the same time, and Scarface, and the films of Eisenstein. An easy cinema, you see! Even films that I would deem mediocre today had an influence on me.

I think that as a child I rejected Chaplin too much. When I became older, about fifteen or sixteen, I went back to comic cinema and accepted Chaplin. I didn’t know Keaton yet. Chaplin and Keaton are compared because they’re classified under burlesque, but there’s no single way in comic cinema or comedy. There are very different inspirations and styles. Meaning, politics and social concern are very prominent in Chaplin, while Keaton practiced a cinema of gesture and space. I was attracted to Keaton because I had read the article in La Revue du cinéma where Rohmer talked about just that. There isn’t just a single auteur of Westerns or single auteur of comedies. Chaplin’s cinema is more impure. Robert Florey would boast that he had directed some of Chaplin’s films. It is well known, however, that there is a colossal organisation at work in Chaplin. He filmed five hundred takes of a shot! That’s organisation, that’s management, that’s directing. He made the films after the fact; I get the impression that he wrote very little. Since he came from the music hall, he had the film in his head. This is common among filmmakers who started in the silent era. I incidentally looked at the découpage of The Fountainhead, it’s a fake découpage, a sort of cheat sheet. There was no découpage two weeks before the shooting of the film. Everything was decided the day before or early in the morning of the same day. When you’ve made ten, twenty or forty films, you don’t necessarily need a découpage.

Were you jealous or upset to see Monteiro sporting a beard, like you?

He surely grew it after me. I started before him, he imitated me…

Like Hitler and Chaplin…

Monteiro is better than Hitler.

And is Moullet better than Chaplin?

No. That’s the whole difference.

The beard?

The beard goes back to 1969-1970. I grew it to escape my creditors from A Girl Is a Gun. It was a way of reconnecting with my origins: I’m of Kabylian descent, Berber in any case; the beard suited my physique well. It’s an attempt to go back to my roots, which is frequent in my films, especially in the latest, Land of Madness. A friend told me that I shouldn’t try to imitate people like everyone else. Luc, be yourself, dress as you want, sport the hair you want, a beard if you want. You mustn’t try to plagiarize ordinary people. Anyway, it’s an exercise I’m not very good at.

 

(The interview took place in Paris on 6, 7, 14 and 20 February 2009.)

Footnote:

[1]  [Translator’s Note]: Advance sum given to filmmakers by the National Centre for Cinema (CNC) against the film’s prospective receipts. For more details on the CNC’s film funding, refer to Moullet’s essay “The Maoists of the Centre du cinéma.”