Saturday, March 21, 2015

One A.M.


"Pennebaker continued on his path of Rock music films and McMillen imported Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Grand Meauln, which had done well in France but was a disaster in America. He also bought the US rights to Godard’s A Movie Like Any Other; we showed it at Lincoln Center and half the audience walked out. He then set up the deal with PBS for Jean-Luc to make 1-AM (one American Movie) with us as producers.

Pennebaker and I filmed and Godard directed us in his first US feature film. We hired the actors he wanted, we traveled with him to the West Coast, we had great fun filming whatever he wanted, wherever... There were no arguments and he seemed delighted with the results. But when he sat down to edit with his associate and adviser on Marxist doctrine, Jean-Pierre Gorrin (the political mentor of the “Group Dziga Vertov” and co-director of Tout-va Bien), there was a lengthy silence which culminated in his announcing that the film had political flaws that could not be overcome... and left. Leaving our company holding the bag, and broke.

When Godard walked out without completing the film we were about $500,000 in debt and the Bank of Boston closed in; we went broke (Chapter 11 is the polite term). McMillen still claims that he was “pushed out” by us, which caused the disaster...

My “friend” Jean Luc Godard wrote later that if you want to learn about the Primary process, don’t look at Primary, read Theodore White’s book; if you want to understand the American legal system don’t look at The Chair, look at The Anatomy of a Murder, the Hollywood movie directed by Otto Preminger. Godard was making La Chinoise, a veiled defence of Mao Tse-Tung’s “cultural revolution”. He was guided in his Marxist principals by his friend, his “Expert on Marxism” Jean-Pierre Gorrin, a fellow member of the Dziga Vertov group. Jean Luc even used my name in a film, Le Grand Escroc: Jean Seberg plays a mindless American girl who always caries a little 16mm. camera and films every thing around her -- mindlessly... her name is Ricky Leacock, the “mindless” filmmaker. This was not the view of Henri Langlois, creator and head of the Cinematheque, who introduced Primary as “perhaps the most important documentary since the brothers Lumiere....” After that screening, a monk in robes came up and said to us “you have invented a new form. Now, you must invent a new grammar!” Right on! The best advice I ever got and we’re still at it.

In my opinion, Godard is not mindless; he is an obscurantist; far more dangerous but very popular among modern academics who think they are “intellectuals”; who revel in obscurantism often citing Heisenberg’s “Indeterminacy Principal” in support of the not knowing anything. That principal addresses problems of investigating subatomic particles and has nothing to do with the bickering of filmmakers. French and other intellectuals of today love obscurantism. As Marxists, whenever we didn’t understand something some one would invoke the principal of the “unity of opposites” or the “dialectic”. - Richard Leacock

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