Andrei Tarkovsky Reveals His Favorite Filmmakers: Bresson, Antonioni, Fellini, and Others

The films of Andrei Tarkovsky, even more so than those of most revered auteurs, cre­ate a real­i­ty of their own. Watch­ing them, you might even believe that Tarkovsky him­self lived in his own real­i­ty as well, one made only of the sub­lime and the tran­scen­dent, impos­si­bly far from the mun­dan­i­ty of every­day life and com­mer­cial enter­tain­ment. Per­haps he did, to an extent, but the direc­tor of Andrei Rublev, Solaris, and Stalk­er cer­tain­ly did­n’t become and exist as a film­mak­er in iso­la­tion. He had pre­de­ces­sors in cin­e­ma who inspired him as well as col­leagues he admired, and in the clip above from the 1983 doc­u­men­tary Voy­age in Time, shot in Italy dur­ing pre-pro­duc­tion of his film Nos­tal­ghia, he reveals who they are.

“If you had to talk to today’s and yes­ter­day’s great direc­tors,” screen­writer Toni­no Guer­ra asks Tarkovsky, “for what rea­sons would you thank each of them for what you feel they gave you?” Promis­ing he won’t take long to answer the ques­tion, Tarkovsky begins with Sovi­et mon­tage pio­neer Alexan­der Dovzhenko, sin­gling out his 1930 film Earth. He then con­tin­ues on to Robert Bres­son, who “has always aston­ished and attract­ed me with his ascetics. It seems to me that he is the only direc­tor in the world that has achieved absolute sim­plic­i­ty in cin­e­ma. As it was achieved in music by Bach, art by Leonar­do. Tol­stoy achieved it as a writer.” Sim­plic­i­ty, as it emerges over the course of the con­ver­sa­tion, may well rank as Tarkovsky’s most esteemed artis­tic virtue. If that sounds iron­ic, giv­en how aes­thet­i­cal­ly com­plex Tarkovsky’s own work can seem, he also prais­es Fed­eri­co Felli­ni for the same qual­i­ty.

“I like Felli­ni for his kind­ness, for his love of peo­ple,” he says, “for his, let’s say, sim­plic­i­ty and inti­mate into­na­tion.” He describes a Felli­ni pic­ture he calls Pale Moon Tales (by which he may have meant La Dolce Vita) as “astound­ing in its sim­plic­i­ty, ele­gance, and won­der­ful noble­ness of pic­ture and act­ing.” To Michelan­ge­lo Anto­nioni, anoth­er Ital­ian but one pos­sessed of a strik­ing­ly dif­fer­ent sen­si­bil­i­ty, he cred­its his real­iza­tion that “the mean­ing of action in cin­e­ma is rather con­di­tion­al. There’s prac­ti­cal­ly no action going on in Anto­nioni films, and this is the mean­ing of ‘action” in Anto­nioni films” — or at least in the “Anto­nioni films that I like the most.” Tarkovsky does­n’t neglect French cin­e­ma, nam­ing Jean Vigo, whom he remem­bers “with ten­der­ness and thank­ful­ness” as “the father of mod­ern French cin­e­ma,” the film­mak­er who “found­ed the French movie, and nobody has gone far­ther than him.”

Final­ly, Tarkovsky ends his list as he began it, by pay­ing trib­ute to one of his Sovi­et coun­try­men. Sergei Para­janov, he says, has not just a para­dox­i­cal and poet­ic way of think­ing — words many a crit­ic has sure­ly applied to Tarkovsky him­self — but an “abil­i­ty of lov­ing the beau­ty” and the “skill of being com­plete­ly free inside his own cre­ation.” Para­janov, whom we recent­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture, had in the 1970s endured the per­se­cu­tion of the Sovi­et author­i­ties. Nobody cham­pi­oned the cause of his lib­er­a­tion as stren­u­ous­ly as Tarkovsky, who wrote that, “artis­ti­cal­ly, there are few peo­ple in the entire world who could replace Para­janov.” Now both of these irre­place­able auteurs are gone (as are all the oth­ers named here), but in their cin­e­ma will open the path of artis­tic lib­er­a­tion for gen­er­a­tions of film­mak­ers to come.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Andrei Tarkovsky Cre­ates a List of His 10 Favorite Films (1972)

Andrei Tarkovsky Calls Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey a “Pho­ny” Film “With Only Pre­ten­sions to Truth”

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Advice to Young Film­mak­ers: Sac­ri­fice Your­self for Cin­e­ma

A Poet in Cin­e­ma: Andrei Tarkovsky Reveals the Director’s Deep Thoughts on Film­mak­ing and Life

Free Online: Watch the Films of Andrei Tarkovsky, Arguably the Most Respect­ed Film­mak­er of All Time

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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    Pale Moon Tales is a film by Ken­ji Mizoguchi (anoth­er of Tarkovsky’s favourites) com­mon­ly known as Uget­su. Tarkovsky was prob­a­bly talk­ing about him when he talked about sim­plic­i­ty, and the tran­scrip­tion must be wrong, because he was very fond of Felli­ni and would nev­er mis­take the name of his films. Also, Tarkovsky’s favourite film­mak­er is Bergman, stat­ing in a now famous quote: “I only care about two point of views: Bres­son’s and Bergman’s”.

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