Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The director and the barrel maker

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Jean Renoir

When I started out in films, you know, the director had to do almost everything himself. He practically developed the film himself; and of course it was tremendously exciting. Then all these technical preoccupations shut us up in our own little world, just as the old-time craftsmen were enclosed in the world of their particular craft. A man who made barrels, for instance, would never have thought of making tables: he had too much to learn about his own craft. Now you make a barrel with a machine, all in a few minutes, and since you can make a table just as easily, why not have a table as well? The New Wave directors know their craft; but there are a tremendous number of directors around who know absolutely nothing about the technical problems of their job. They really haven’t the first idea about photography, or about what happens when you develop a film, or about sound recording. The director simply comes along and says “I want such and such a scene,” and the technicians do it for him. So people now have their general ideas, their artistic ideas, and the artisan has given way to the artist. And this is something to regret, because great art is made by artisans and not by artists.

Jean Renoir, in an interview with Louis Marcourelles

Written by nevalalee

February 2, 2015 at 10:40 am

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