Q. Cannes has been good to you and important for your career. But based
on the reactions last night, do you wonder if this is really the best
environment for an adventurous filmmaker?
A. Not in the short term, but it is in the long run, as long as there’s
exposure and as long as some people like the film. People asked me
today how can you have the [nerve] to do something like that, and I
said, I know that if I like it, there will be some other people who like
it. In the time of the Greeks, Seneca said, the better a piece of art,
the more rejection it will receive in its moment — that’s a social law. I
don’t know why people are so worried, like some of my distributors. I
tell them don’t worry, who cares? This is positive; you should be
Q. Did you expect such hostile reactions? “Post Tenebras Lux” actually seems much gentler than some of your earlier films.
A. Yeah, totally. Friends in Mexico who saw it didn’t think it would be
so divisive. You know, people here are tired, they’re paid to judge,
and they think they have to judge before they feel.
The other day someone asked me whose films I’m looking forward to.
And I said I care about Loznitsa [in competition with “In the Fog”],
Seidl [“Paradise: Love”] and Omirbayev [whose film “Student” is in the
Un Certain Regard section]. One thing that annoys me: why is a man like
Omirbayev not in competition? It’s not good for cinema. I understand
there have to be films with stars. But how many films are there in
competition this year about cinema, by people trying to make cinema?
Kiarostami, Seidl, Carax, probably four or five or six.
Q. To get back to “Post Tenebras Lux” let’s talk a bit about the film’s
distinctive look. It’s shot in the boxy 1:33 aspect radio and, in many
scenes, with a lens that creates a halo-like effect, with a sharp focus
at the center of the image and a blurred circle on the edges.
A. Why did I want that look? Because aesthetics are in the end are a reinterpretation of the world.
Q. Why did you use this effect only for exterior scenes?
A. It was intuitive. I feel that somehow we experience the senses more
outdoors. The outside world is where impressionism started. I was also
thinking of glass that was made before the 1950s, where they pretended
to make it perfect but the machines weren’t. It’s a little bit curved
and creates little reflections, so you look through a window and you
actually feel the glass — things look different — and there’s a
reinterpretation of reality.
The landscape where I was shooting is very particular. I did “Silent
Light” in CinemaScope because those were very flat, huge landscapes, and
here it’s surrounded by very steep mountains. I also wanted the sense
of everything being totally centered in a square format — it’s like
things are more respected if they’re composed that way.
Q. This seems in many ways a deeply personal film: your children are in
it; it was edited by your wife, Natalia López; and it was shot mostly
in a location you know well.
A. It’s the village where I live, about 80 kilometers south of Mexico
City in the state of Morelos. It’s a very personal film in the source,
in where it comes from,, and the place and many of the things that
happen are dear and close to me. But the values of the people in the
film are not mine. I don’t share the way they see life or treat people
or relate to each other.
The film was built up during a period of couple of years when I was
building my house in the countryside, where the weather is rough, with
the sun, the dust, the cold. At the same time I was walking a lot in the
mountains with my children and my dogs, which you also see in the film,
and I just wanted to share that. Some scenes — like in the sauna where
the wife has sex with other people — are there because it’s also about
desire. The film is about fantasy, but probably that scene is reality,
who knows? I wanted to show that these people, while frustrated to a
certain extent, are also capable of sometimes trespassing certain
limits, which makes them a little more special than people who don’t.
To rehearse what presumably is very familiar to you, the Cahiers du Cinéma
came up with their theory of the author in the mid fifties and they
came up with it, as Godard says, so that we could say that Hitchcock or
Ford were as great an artist as Aragon or Picasso. And the theory of the
author that the Cahiers’ critics developed was a theory of the
author, above all, at the service of a theory of the cinema which was
against writing. Classic French cinema traditionally took a great
literary text, adapted it, and the director and indeed the writer of the
screenplay were held to be at the service of this literary masterpiece.
Truffaut, Godard and the others wanted nothing to do with that.
were not interested in the writer, they were interested in the director,
they were not particularly interested in the script, they were
interested in the lighting, in the shot sequence, the performances, they
were interested the themes that repeated across films. There are two
things that you can say about it: the first thing is that the Cahiers du Cinéma
is the first theory of the author, or at the least the first theory of
the author, that I am ware of, to be produced from the position of the
audience. It is not a theory produced from the side of the author, the
side of the subject, it’s a theory of the author produced from the side
of the audience. And the second thing to say about it, it is that was
above all a way of categorising the cinema, it was above all a way of
taking a huge archive of a particularly commercial American cinema and
saying “here there are certain ways in which you can divide up the
archive. Here there are certain ways in which you can decide what it is
that it is worth seeing”. That actually the concept of the author is a
way of dividing up, of regulating this history and producing a canon
which actually we are now deeply familiar with, because it’s a canon we
all learn from, but a canon which was not, in those initial years,
So as a theory of the author it has the interesting features that it
is from the side of the audience and it is related to the archive or the
corpus. In that sense is very very different from traditional, romantic
theories of the author, though it does have most of most traditional,
romantic theories in with it. If one is coming to the cinema from
outside, if you are coming to a film set on which large numbers of
people mill around, expensive equipment is moved about and those
delicate things called actors place themselves in front of the camera,
you become fairly quickly aware of the fact that if there is not someone
orchestrating this huge assemble the whole thing is likely to fall
apart. So, in other words, if you look at a film set it seems quite
clear that there has to be someone in charge of it, and it is also
quite clear that someone is most evidently be the director. Now I should
just as a parenthesis say that actually I have a great number of doubts
about the auteur theory in its pure form. If we just take the
filmmakers whom the Cahiers were most interested in, that is,
Hitchcock and Hawks, they were interested in them as great directors who
didn’t write. But actually film history of the last thirty years has
rather altered the picture of those directors. It is true, as form as we
know, that Hitchcock never put pen to paper; on the other hand, if you
read the accounts of how Hitchcock would get some original material, get
the writer and decamp to a hotel room in which he would sit with the
writer until the script was finished, it is not at all clear that
Hitchcock did not at some level write his own scripts. And if we look at
Hawks, with a very different method of work, but if we look at the time
he spends improvising with his actors and the way that that
improvisation gets turned into the scenes that we watch, again, the
notion that Hawks isn’t originating the scripts is extremely doubtful.
So this is not the topic of my lecture but it seems to me than when one
is talking about the author in cinema that the role of the writer is
absolutely not to be underestimated. Actually, as a matter of fact, all
of the directors who came out of the Cahiers du Cinéma writing
in the fifties – we all know their names (Rohmer, Rivette, Chabrol
Godard, Truffaut), with the exception I think of Chabrol and even I am
not sure he’s an exception – they all wrote as well as directed. So
although, theoretically, they had been in favour of the director against
the writer and
although they had been absolutely determined to stress
features of the cinema which were not to do with the writing, it is
nonetheless of some importance that they actually all wrote their own
scripts. But that is, as I say, is an aside.
If we are now faced with a series of arguments against the author, a
series of arguments above all against a notion of the unified and
controlling author, the author perhaps above all of romantic theory, the
author as the individual set aside from society who finds in nature and
art a truth which she communicates and a truth to which she has
privileged access to. If we want to avoid the problems of that view of
the author we are nonetheless faced with the same arguments which makes
it difficult, particularly in the cinema, to get round the author.
Arguments both practical, as well as theoretical. And those are in some
sense the difficulties that I found myself confronting when I decided to
write the biography of Godard. And it seemed to me that the way to
avoid the problem of unified author was indeed to take my lessons from
the modernists texts which in fact had inspired both Barthes and
Foucault. Because the whole of the Parisian theory of the sixties is in
fact the kind of repetitional rerun of the modernists experiments in
art, literature and thinking of the twenties and thirties. And I took as
my model that well-known Irish writer James Joyce. And, as you know,
Joyce, well…it can be argued that Joyce did nothing but write
autobiographies. But leaving that more general question aside, we know
that Joyce had two very different stabs at writing an autobiographical
novel. The first, of which apparently there was over a thousand pages of
manuscript, he throw in the fire and small fragments of it were
retained and published after his death as “Stephen Hero”. A second
version, with which we are I assume, particularly in this room, all
familiar, “A portrait of the artist as a young man”, which was published
in 1916. In the first book, “Stephen Hero”, Joyce tries to write a
continuous narrative account of the birth of the artistic consciousness.
We don’t have the beginning and we don’t have the end, but we have a
middle section which shows us a student at the University, fifty times
cleverer than all his contemporaries, fifty times more artistically
endowed and, it has to be said, a tremendous prig. And it’s interesting
that priggishness is entirely built into the structure of “Stephen
Hero”, which is exactly written within a continuous progression towards
ever greater knowledge, and which, that ever greater knowledge is always
already at the author’s hand in order for him to pour scorn and
derision on the stupidity of his student fellows and their pathetic
aspirations, both religious and political.
In Two or Three Things
Godard offers humanity nothing less than a filmic template for bold and
in the world: an aesthetically rich and
pedagogically fertile piece of language curriculum that bears repeated
exaggeration, I'd call it a Linguistic
Declaration of Independence. Notice, if you will, how the film
miraculous potential of spoken language,
while at the same time interrogating it in what linguists refer to as a
or talk about talk fashion often through the
power of amazingly simple, wonder-provoking phrases.
For example, whenever Juliette the
bored housewife who moonlights as a prostitute addresses a person, the
camera, or thin
air with a random thought that just popped
into her head (I know how to talk; Let's talk together; Together is a
I like.) or when Robert, Juliette's husband,
engages in that remarkable see-saw dialogue with a strange woman in the
(Say words; Do you know what talking is?
Talk about something interesting.); or the pretty girl at the bar, whose
narration of the simple details of her life
startles us with its unassuming transcendence (I like to take walks,
ride my bike
for fun, go to the cinema two or three times a
month. I like books); or when Godard himself, intoning with his
philosophical voiceover, decides to interject
a thought or two because he's the auteur (filmmaker as author) and can
whenever he damn well pleases we're treated
to a model of the magical possibilities of human speech.
we become shy (and I myself still feel shy at times, depending,
naturally, on who I'm with, or the situation),
better still, let me phrase it a different
way: we say that we're shy, or inarticulate, or afraid to talk, when in
we're simply numbed by over-exposure to the
prepackaged speech of movies and television shows: talk that's fakely
fluid in the Hollywood sense. After watching
actors speak brilliantly, dashing off hilarious applause lines as if
talking naturally when, in reality, they
spent days or weeks memorizing a pre-written script by comparison, our
offerings might appear flat and boring to us.
Certainly too, in a media-saturated age such as ours, because of our
to glib, slick, oily-tongued, sonorous anchor
people and celebrities, one could easily see how a person might get the
even monstrous impression that this is how
real people should talk. Unable to achieve such a bizarre standard of
in our own speech, we clam up.
Philosopher Maxine Greene, critiquing
such indurations in the mundane, talks about the need to resist
passivity, to, partly
through reflective art encounters she says,
escape submergence in the everyday, the routine, the banal. Such
ought to include our current mass drowning,
if you will, in a sea of pop cultural and media kitsch: a filling up of
like the white cream inside a Twinkie, with a
combination of advertisements, pop cultural fluff, and the grave
of the talking heads. Might such an
inexorable assault on our cognitive and aesthetic apparatus tamp down
our capacity to
generate our own unique and creative
thoughts, disabling our ability to write (and speak) our own essays to
Godard offers us a cure to such a paralysis of language in Two or Three Things:
an extraordinary pastiche of verbal
and visual images, philosophy, and politics,
that many critics have likened to an essay on film. As essays go, of
it's worth noting that the traditional,
written kind from the celebrated classics of Montaigne (Of Experience)
and Emerson (Self Reliance) right up through today's brilliant NY Times
pieces by Paul Krugman, Bob Herbert,
and occasionally I'll grant, David Brooks
offers one of the most powerful and flexible vehicles to tell our
richly express the complexity of our
thoughts, questions, wonderings, and theories on any given topic.
One of the giants of Cuban music, pianist and composer/arranger Bebo
Valdés, died Friday in Switzerland due to complications from pneumonia,
according to his wife and manager. He was 94.
"Bebo" Valdés Amaro was born in 1918 in a village outside Havana.
Trained at conservatory, and having absorbed the sounds of Afro-Cuban
street music and American jazz in various ensembles, he became the house
pianist and arranger at the Tropicana Nightclub in 1948. The Tropicana
was the hottest venue in Havana at the time; many American entertainers
performed there, and Valdés became known as the go-to arranger in town
for studio dates, film scores and dance numbers. In 1952, he also
participated in the first Afro-Cuban descarga, or jam session, recorded in Cuba, where a group improvisation turned into the recording "Con Poco Coco."
as his career was booming, a revolutionary government took over in
Cuba, accompanied by a crackdown on the entertainment industry. In 1960,
he left Cuba to play a gig in Mexico City with his own band. He never
returned, leaving behind his wife and children. Valdés eventually wound
up in Sweden, where he remarried and pursued a quieter music career,
often playing piano for cruise ships or in choice hotels.
you are a musician and you do one thing, you should enjoy what you do,"
Valdés told NPR's Felix Contreras in 2006. "This is my profession, and
it is my hobby, and I live in love with what I do. In those years in
Stockholm, even if I wasn't successful, I did it because I liked it, and
I'll keep doing it until I die."
Meanwhile, one of his
children had matured into a piano virtuoso himself, and had co-founded
his own jazz-influenced, genre-crossing band called Irakere. When Chucho
Valdes and Irakere played a date at Carnegie Hall in 1977, Bebo Valdes
crossed the Atlantic Ocean to reunite with his son. It set into motion a
reconciliation which resulted in several collaborations, in concert and
on recordings like the Latin jazz performance film Calle 54 and the duet album Juntos Para Siempre.
in his career, Bebo Valdés enjoyed a resurgence of popularity. In 1994,
another Irakere veteran and Cuban exile, reedman Paquito D'Rivera,
convinced Valdés to record Bebo Rides Again, a disc of Cuban
classics mixed with original compositions. The album led to future
recordings, among them Grammy-winning efforts like El Arte de Sabor and Lagrimas Negras. He was also the inspiration and pianist for the animated film Chico and Rita, about Cuban musicians in the 1940s.
attention is a gift from God," he told NPR. "I did not ask for all of
this. But since it was sent to me, I accept it from the heart."
Ya se sabe que en la música cubana hay abundancia de genios y nombres
imborrables. Sin duda, entre los que hay que escribir con mayúsculas
esta el de Bebo Valdés, fallecido en Suecia a los 94 años de edad,
después de pasar los últimos años de su vida residiendo en Benalmádena
(Málaga) enfermo de Alzheimer. Bebo fue protagonista de momentos de oro
de la música cubana, además de ser precursor de las famosas descargas de
jazz afrocubano y creador de un ritmo propio, la batanga, que arrasó en
la isla en los años cincuenta. Era padre de otro pianista y compositor
genial, Chucho Valdés, quien se traslado a Málaga a cuidarle en los
últimos momentos de su vida. Hace aproximadamente dos semanas, los hijos
de de su última esposa, la sueca Rose-Marie Perhson, que falleció el
verano pasado, se llevaron a Bebo de Málaga a Estocolmo en contra de la
voluntad de Chucho, pero esa es otra historia.
El verdadero nombre de Bebo era Ramón Emilio Valdés Amaro y nació el 9
de octubre de 1918 en Quivicán, un pequeño pueblo de guajiros y tierras
rojas a 40 minutos de La Habana. Desde que nació Bebo llevaba la música
en el ADN. Antes de salir de Quivicán fundó con un amigo de la infancia
su primera banda, la Orquesta Valdés-Hernández, y desde
En los años cuarenta, estando ya en la orquesta de Julio Cueva, compuso uno de sus primeros mambos, La rareza del siglo, en momentos en que la música popular cubana se modernizaba a toda velocidad.
A partir de 1948 y hasta 1957 trabajó en Tropicana, donde acompañó e hizo arreglos para la vedete Rita Montaner. Su orquesta, Sabor de Cuba,
y la de Armando Romeu actuaban cada noche en el show del famoso cabaret
y allí compartieron escenario con grandes artistas norteamericanos,
incluido Nat King Cole, con quien llegó a grabar algún tema.
Por aquella época el jazz arrasaba en Estados Unidos y los músicos
norteamericanos viajaban a la isla para descargar con sus colegas
cubanos. Bebo participó en no pocas de aquellas legendarias jam session,
que tenían como animador principal al percusionista Guillermo Barreto.
En medio de aquel hervidero, el 8 de junio de 1952, con una banda de
veinte músicos dio a conocer en los estudios de RHC Cadena Azul su nuevo
ritmo, la batanga. Entre los tres cantantes que integraban aquella
orquesta estaba el gran Benny Moré.
A finales de los cincuenta Bebo colaboró con Lucho Gatica, en México.
En 1960, en medio de una gira decidió exiliarse en Estocolmo (Suecia),
donde se caso con Perhson y rehízo su vida. Durante más tres décadas
estuvo alejado de la música. Sólo amenizaba las veladas en el piano-bar
de un hotel de la capital sueca cuando, en 1994, lo llamó Paquito
D´Rivera y le invitó a grabar un nuevo disco, Bebo Rides Again, una colección de clásicos cubanos junto a temas originales de Valdés.
En el año 2000 fue el cineasta Fernando Trueba quien le redescubrió y
le invitó a participar en su película ‘Calle 54’. Bebo se reencontró
entonces en un escenario con su hijo Chucho y también con sus viejos
amigos Israel López Cachao y Patato Valdés. Tras terminar el documental,
Trueba grabó a los tres el disco ‘El arte del sabor’, que obtuvo el
Grammy al Mejor Album Tropical Tradicional en 2001, primero de los nueve
que obtuvo Bebo en los años siguientes gracias a su colaboración con el
Poco después triunfó nuevamente con Lágrimas negras,
un álbum de temas cubanos con alma gitana realizado con el cantaor
Diego el Cigala, con el cual obtiene otro Grammy y tres discos de
platino en España. Con Trueba hizo ocho discos y se convirtió en el
protagonista de su documental El milagro de Candeal, rodado en la favela del mismo nombre en Salvador de Bahía con Carlinhos Brown.
También hizo la música y sirvió de inspiración para ‘Chico y Rita’, la
película de animación dibujada por Javier Mariscal que fue nominada al
Oscar en 2012.
Su último disco fue Bebo y Chucho Valdés, Juntos para siempre’,
un homenaje en el que padre e hijo repasaron juntos el repertorio y los
ritmos de la música cubana que siempre tocaron juntos y que Bebo
interpretó como nadie.
Anoche, la muerte de Valdés fue recibida por Mariscal con dolor pero a
la vez con el recuerdo azul de su alegría y sobre todo de su elegancia.
“Bebo era la esencia de lo mejor de Cuba: todo en él era especial, su
forma de tocar, su manera de caminar, su risa, su elegancia para todo”.
El diseñador recordó las charlas y momentos musicales que pasaron juntos
con Trueba durante la preparación de Chico y Rita y cómo, a
través de los recuerdos de Bebo, él descubrió de nuevo Cuba. “Yo estaba
enamorado de Cuba desde pequeño, y conocía el país y sus gentes, pero
redescubrirla a través de los ojos y de la sensibilidad de Bebo fue algo
especial”, afirma. “Bebo representaba la esencia de Cuba y de lo mejor
de su música”.
El músico de Quivicán fue una de las inspiraciones del personaje protagonista de Chico y Rita,
un pianista de la época de oro de la música cubana atrapado por el amor
de una mulata y aquella Habana mágica. Mariscal, que piensa en
imágenes, asegura que Bebo tocaba como “si de pequeño hubiera metido en
una lavadora todas las partituras de Lecuona y de los mejores
compositores de la música cubana”, atrapando fragmentos deshilachados y
notas de cada uno e “incorporándolos a su espíritu”.
El contrabajista Javier Colina, que en 2007 ganó un Grammy con Valdés por Live in Vllage Vanguard,
disco que grabaron a cuatro manos durante una semana en el mítico club
de Nueva York, asegura que “aquella semana fue “la más feliz de su
vida”. “Bebo no tenía igual”, aseguró. Chucho Valdés, que se mudo a
Benalmádena a pasar junto a su padre los últimos años de su vida y se
opuso a su reciente traslado a Suecia, se despidió de su padre como el
“más grande” y con la felicidad de haber hecho antes de morir el disco Juntos para siempre.