Foreword: Lessons of Refusal

The lessons of cinema can only be given by a filmmaker who has never received them. Otherwise, he will only repeat the recommendations that he has collected from his masters, he will model his films after those movies and a film stuck in a sterile formula does not advance.

We see every day that American professors are repeating the old recipes and have never been able to write themselves a work worthy of emulation. It tramples the cinema, makes it stand still, which is the opposite of what we live. The same thing applies to literature, if we simply apply the poetic rules, for example we can write about our lives but never write a single poem.

By receiving the lessons of Kiarostami one must accept that we will never make the same movies as him. They refuse to be copied. Each of his films has a new part which belongs only to the director, who would immediately become banal if we imitate him. In other words, a film professor, if he is a filmmaker himself, can tell his students “how to,” but he should never tell them “what to do.”

What to do? That is for them to discover.

That said Abbas Kiarostami is the example, also a cineaste who using a very simple basis sometimes close to documentary, even a report, knew how to trace a personal journey which has surprised us for thirty years. He knows well the other work of what we call the great masters of cinema, but he did not imitate. At times it even feels as if he is trying to move away from them. In each of his films he gives the impression that he just discovered something.

What you should learn from his example, what to imitate, is precisely this rejection of any imitation. We must try to perceive, through the specific lessons he gives us, what is the force that helped him through all kinds of difficulties, to be able to renew his self constantly, with technical and limited financial resources. What we must take from him are these lessons of boldness but also the lessons of refusal and the first refusal to copy one’s self. Do not constantly deepen your brow, achieve, reach, and surprise yourself, explore deeper, the more secrets, the more possibilities of expression: The true lesson is there. It is for us to receive, understand and use his example so that we can find ourselves and our individuality, that necessary singularity, which will speak to all.

Jean-Claude Carrière

May 12, 2013