Elena Oumano, Ph.D., book author, music journalist, lecturer

Film Forum:
35 Top Filmmakers Talk
About Their Work

Jean-Luc Godard, from “Profiles”
It had been ten years since anyone really heard from the “saint of cinema,” the “motor that drives all other filmmakers,” the ideologue who startled us with Breathless and continued to push our understanding of “what is cinema?” with every film he made. The closest I thought I would get to him was by proxy: in Rome I met a man who claimed to be part of Godard’s twice-weekly poker game somewhere in Africa, where it was rumored he was spending half his time. I asked if they ever talked about film. “Never,” my informant said. Another cul-de-sac. I gave up.

But during the summer of 1980, I happened to be in a small town in southern France where Godard was appearing for two days to talk about Every Man for Himself, his first commercial film since 70’s Chinoise. I spotted Godard sitting in an outdoor café with friends and approached him for an interview. “Sure, how about here, tomorrow at nine?” He said.

Godard on “The Actor”
In the United States, the system is so corrupted, the actors are stars and they cannot act.

“The star” is a cultural problem. The star represents something that belongs to the people.

They are happy to see that in closeup: they can criticize it. That is something in film that has always astonished me. The spectator pays ten francs to see a film. Alain Delon or Barbra Streisand earn in one day or one hour what it takes people one year or even more to earn, but they don’t mind that at all, whereas in a factory or office they do mind that others earn more than them. But there are moments even with Alain Delon and myself. There are parts of Alain Delon I detest, and these parts are mine, and I cannot blame him for these parts, as if he was some kind of a king that he represents. But as long as he does no harm, he furnishes an hour or more of doing something that I don’t feel like doing. It’s okay.

In my films I often had to use people such as Marguerite Duras, who could speak their own truths while being in my fiction, and their truth supports my fiction because without them, my fiction collapses.

It’s impossible to work with actors who are stars because they are like presidents or chiefs or governments and they are afraid to lose their place, to try something else. Maybe in a country like Poland; the way they work, you can have someone starring in one picture and then in the next picture they can be an extra and there is no hard feeling about it. Polish actors are very good this way and you have a feeling you can work with them…in Russia too.

If you’re working with someone unknown, you should at least have a common relation to what’s in between the image or the camera, but since the camera is unknown, you have too much unknown. If he doesn’t know me, it’s a problem, and if he does know me, he knows me too much and that’s too little also, because then it’s corrupted by the way it’s coded or symbolized.

I wish I could work more now with actors. I’m more able to bring something of the story, but you need to work more, and they should bring more, and they don’t know what to bring. They are waiting for genius, and they don’t know what to bring. You have to train, and to train means sometimes to run, to swim, to go to another country just for fun and to talk to the people so you can study. That’s training, and actors don’t train in life. They pretend to imitate it and sometimes it’s very poor, so I just try to make them look natural, but it’s such hard work that sometimes it’s too difficult. I prepare, but somewhere else and not with the actors. I attempt to make it spontaneous. It was good earlier, but not now, after twenty years of making films.

Martin Scorsese on “Structure and Rhythm”
An old friend of mine said the other day that many of today’s films don’t seem to have resolutions, don’t make a point, don’t take a stand. Maybe that’s one of the problems, why I don’t find them interesting. When they do take a stand, it’s a very obvious one: “Thank you very much, we know that, see you next week, lunch Tuesday.” You know, such messages as “War is bad.” Yes, I know, the war is bad. “Racial integration.” Yeah, I know, you’re right. We know all these things. “Let’s be fair.” Okay. “Extra-marital affairs. No good, not fair.” Yes, but it’s so complicated, as is everything.

Each thing has its own reasons. So, either they are simplistic or it comes to the point where, partially I think, some of it is hopelessness. How can you make a resolution to something that is totally hopeless? Who has the fucking answers? So, what you can do is show people going through an attitude change but basically remaining the same person. People who change like Saint Paul, who went from being the biggest persecutor of Christians to the man who organized the Catholic Church. I mean, there’s something wrong there. The man is off the deep end. But there are people who change a little bit. But they’re basically the same person. It doesn’t mean they’re going to be saints the next minute. Raging Bull, the Jake LaMotta film, is basically like that. It’s about a guy who goes through life, battering and being battered, back and forth.

Selected Works

nonfiction book
From "Cinematic Rhythm & Structure": Cinema’s ability to defy ordinary limits of time and space means that a film’s structure can be as complex as an architectural space with various angles of entry and points of view, hidden rooms, and twisting, turning passageways. Some films are labyrinths in which the viewer searches for resolution, a way out, while other films are like big empty rooms in which everything is visible.
magazine article
I was there myself in '69, hired to oversee ticket-taking, and since there were no fences, I wound up backstage, eating grapes, drinking champagne punch, and dipping my pinkie into a vial of Orange Sunshine with one of the acts and his entourage. It would be more accurate to say that I dream Woodstock whenever I think about it, rather than remember it. http://www.villagevoice.com/2008-06-03/music/you-weren-t-there-then-so-go-there-now/
Great cinema seduces us with details, and Melville's a masterful image maker, prone to deeply shadowed, ravaged faces and urban landscapes, barren hotel rooms and dazzling nightclubs. His damaged but honorable thieves, uniformed in trench coats, fedoras, and cigarettes, are betrayed by interchangeable femme fatales sporting cat's-eye maquillage, pencil skirts, and stiletto heels as they act out their unvarying role: agent of fate in the protagonist's inevitable destruction. http://www.villagevoice.com/2008-07-29/film/six-decades-of-french-noir-come-to-film-forum./
Every dawn, as sunlight glinting off the top spire of the Empire State Building streams through the skylight positioned just over Flash Rosenberg’s bed, she springs up, eager for the fun of doing Flash work. She’s an award-winning filmmaker, a 2011 Guggenheim fellow in film and video, a performer in storytelling venues like Monologues and Madness and The Moth and a poet with Brevitas, and her audio snapshots—“Flash Moments”—were a daily public radio feature.
Magazine article
Magazine Articles
Free speech, cultural sovereignty, and human rights clash in reggae dancehall homophobia debate
Music Writing
Insights from an insider into Caribbean and African culture and music.
Nonfiction
From Altman to Godard to Scorsese, Oumano interviewed the world’s greatest auteur filmmakers on the primary issues of filmmaking then edited their responses into a revolutionary "you are there" symposium format.
Authored by a popular psychologist and New York City talk show host and ghosted by Oumano, this title addresses relationship issues faced by men and women in the African-American community.