"If I think about the future of cinema as art, I shiver" (Y. Ozu, 1959)

FUTURE OF CINEMA IF YOU WANT TO KNOW/Crossfire feat. Andrzej Zulawski

Monday, 26 October 2015 14:43

Lorenzo Esposito


Here’s a paradox. On the one hand there is Witold Gombrowicz, widely considered a unique example of pure literature for his visionary talent in creating images and bringing them to life. On the other hand there is Andrzej Zulawski, who is reputed visionary, too, but quite extravagant as an artist; yet suddenly he turns into a “classic” when adapting Cosmos (perhaps Gombrowicz 's most cinematic novel) into a screenplay: a film that speaks a language which is irremediably lost, not spoken by anyone anymore.


FUTURE OF CINEMA IF YOU WANT TO KNOW/CROSSFIRE FEAT. ANDRZEJ ZULAWSKIBoth Zulawski e Gombrowicz read this paradox ironically, kind of suggesting that there is something wrong with this world; yet, as Renoir reminded us, “le drame dans ce monde, c’est que chacun à ses raisons”. So it goes that a detail out of place, an invisible crack in the wall can start a book or a film, they can be its raison d’etre.


What does it mean to speak a dead language? What does it mean that Zulawski is a classic? And what is a classic? Let’s just say that there is a secret community of filmmakers who still thinks that reality is not what we see but what images could make real (every issue of this magazine tells about these filmmakers).


Zulawski, as much as Gombrowicz, is not afraid of a detail becoming an obsession; he is aware that images might poison us or become our mad love, our blue note. Yes, cinema is not dead, it has just disappeared. Best thing to do, if you wanna find it, is not to trust anyone, especially not to trust big ideas (and even more than that: never trust questions posed by a film critic). Reality is unreality.





The best comment I’ve heard about Cosmos was coming from a woman who said – after the screening in Locarno - that your film was so much filled up with vibrant life and energy that after seeing it she was craving for a fuck…



Good for her, or sad.



Several people think that acting in your film is kind of hysterical and emotional, whereas I personally think that it is very organized and controlled, pointing out to the sort of meaningful chaos of the universe, of life itself. It seems to me that your film speaks the language of cinema itself, a language that nobody speaks anymore...



Feel flattered, being generally sad about the current state of cinema.



I remember something that Jerzy Skolimowski once said about Thirty Door Key (from Gombrowicz’s Ferdydurke): that Gombrowicz was kind of lost in translation when it comes to cinema, that it was close to impossible to render his language into a cinematic language. Do you think that Cosmos is kind of easier to translate into cinema? (Gombrowicz thought that Cosmos and Pornography were his only novels which could have made it into a film, and that Cosmos could eventually become a noir/polar or some sort of creep show…)



I’ve never seen Jerzy’s attempt, and dont think I’ll ever do.



Gombrowicz likes to disconnect and destabilize language (and therefore, the world). What I find interesting in your film is that you work the other way round, you begin from this disconnection of language (therefore, of the world) to go toward a sort of reconstruction, an attempt of building something. Yet in the end the two movements of disconnection-reconnection belong to the same maelstrom…



“The world” destabilized Gombowicz, and he viciously fought it.



Cosmos, like Ferdydurke, is filled with faces: faces expressing the impossibility of portraying a face; faces who are afraid of being recognized as adult faces... It is as if, for both Gombrowicz and yourself, the secret of being free would be being aware of the fact that you can never get to know a face, that you can never be identified. Is it cinema like a face? Can we really believe in images? Because when you think you are watching an image, that is in fact just the case that you are watching an insect or a sign on the wall bearing so many - maybe contradictory - meanings…



Cinema is not a face, it’s the face in a mirror.



Gombrowicz thought that reality is an obsession generated from chaos, and that just one small, apparently meaningless detail could indeed generate an entire universe. If so, then you have to go back to chaos in order to understand reality. Can cinema do the same?



Reality is unreality.



What is the relation between words and images?



What comes first, the hen or the egg ?




I think that Cosmos is so far the best movie adapted from Gombrowicz because there is no mannerism in recreating the typical Gombrowicz. Cosmos is a film against the style as much as Gombrowicz’s novels are against it, too.




Cosmos, the film, is as much against Gombrowicz as it is his.




Generally I don’t care about screenplays and I simply think that the way you have adapted the historical background of Cosmos is very clever. Yet I’m curious to ask you about some explicit references you make: Pasolini, Max Ophuls, Sartre, Tolstoj, Besson/Bresson, Chaplin…




I do absolutely care about screenplays: they are half of the backbone.




There is one film I thought about while watching and re-watching Cosmos, which is La règle du jeu by Jean Renoir. Here every single alteration of language generates something that we can call anarchy…




I’ve passed my crucial exam at the Paris IDHEC about La règle du jeu.




Berg. What is the equivalent of Berg in cinema? Does it exist such a thing as a Berg-Image?




It was Berg in the book, it is Beurk in the film. In French, a sound of disgust and futility.




Can you talk about the last thirty amazing minutes of Cosmos? Here we access your cosmology: running in repetition, walking in a visionary state, appear and disappear, erotic obsession, life and death, love and fear, until a sort of implosion…




Hopefully so.




And the ending credits? Of course that’s not a “making of” or just a mere selection of outtakes…





That is a third - or fourth - ending. Cinema as the solution. Read "salvation".



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