Monday, November 17, 2008

Josef von Sternberg: Crazypants

I recently finished Fun In A Chinese Laundry, and in lieu of trying to review or make sense of this monumental memoir (which has been called "perversely inaccurate"), I shall instead share some choice quotes from the man who was capable of such insights as, "Even when human beings were thrown to the wild beasts in ancient Rome, the providers of entertainment were, no doubt, faced with the problem of not boring an audience."

On actors:

"How can the sculptor be honest with the piece of clay that considers itself more important than the hands that mold it?"

On Underworld:

"I had fooled neither the audience nor the sales force. Without a moment's hesitation they had detected a sinister artistic purpose and had recognized it for what it was -- an experiment in photographic violence and montage."

On screenplays:

"No manuscript of mine could indicate what was in my mind, as images and sound cannot be put on paper. A script, at best, for a work which I plan, can be no more than a technical instrument for the material that has to be ready in time, and I was always grateful if the players had no preconcieved notions of the task ahead, for they were invariably invalidated."

On directing in Hollywood:

"It is like trying to catch a sardine with a mile-long line that dangles a thousand hooks."

"The essential difference between my deportment and that of other directors is that I don't applaud after every scene ... It is a failing of mine; I can't applaud. If something impresses me I like to think about it, though I never think twice when someone rantipoles across my stage."

"I worked for a sum that was too much for what I did and too little for what I could do."

"To work in films may be degrading, but to seek employment in the film industry is the most degrading of all."

"When I look at films I am like a surgeon watching another operate. If the operation does not succeed and the patient dies, but it is interesting to watch, then I like it."

The function of the director inspires no one with reverence.

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