Jacques Rivette on being attentive

“I guess I like a lot of directors. Or at least I try to. I try to stay attentive to all the greats and also the less-than-greats. Which I do, more or less. I see a lot of movies, and I don’t stay away from anything. For me, the film has to be incredibly bad to make me want to pack up and leave. And the fact that I see so many films really seems to amaze certain people. Many filmmakers pretend that they never see anything, which has always seemed odd to me. Everyone accepts the fact that novelists read novels, that painters go to exhibitions and inevitably draw on the work of the great artists who came before them, that musicians listen to old music in addition to new music… so why do people think it’s strange that filmmakers – or people who have the ambition to become filmmakers – should see movies?

When you see the films of certain young directors, you get the impression that film history begins for them around 1980. Their films would probably be better if they’d seen a few more films, which runs counter to this idiotic theory that you run the risk of being influenced if you see too much. Actually, it’s when you see too little that you run the risk of being influenced. If you see a lot, you can choose the films you want to be influenced by. Sometimes the choice isn’t conscious, but there are some things in life that are far more powerful than we are, and that affect us profoundly. If I’m influenced by Hitchcock, Rossellini or Renoir without realizing it, so much the better. If I do something sub-Hitchcock, I’m already very happy. Cocteau used to say: ‘Imitate, and what is personal will eventually come despite yourself.’ You can always try.”

— Jacques Rivette (via)