I made the most important choice in the first minutes of meeting with men and women, whom I chose later…



It is very important to me what I feel when I see the actor for the first time. In fact, one of the reasons why I choose the actor is whether I am curious about him. Moreover, when I make a film, it means for me the desire to reveal the secrets of the person I chose.



I do the auditions extremely rarely. Actually, when I assign the casting, the choice has already been made, the audition might only help me to understand how to Illuminate the face on close-ups.

I’ve been looking for the two main characters of the film “The Sheltering Sky” longer than anyone else. Maybe it’s because the author of the novel, Paul Bowles, died shortly before the shooting. He and his wife Jane Bowls (also a writer) were direct prototypes of the main characters.

And perhaps the reason was that it is extremely difficult to play writers and artists. If you make the slightest mistake – everything looks far-fetched.

All this left me the very poor choice, but I wanted to find actors who would look trustworthy in the post-war intellectual climate of North America. It was very hard to come to John Malkovich and Debre Wing.

We had a very enriching interaction from the very beginning and everything went very well. When we met, I said: “I want to remove the mask of Marlon Brando, and get the true Marlon Brando”. He was curious, and he came to Paris with great enthusiasm.


[Laughs] Sorry, this is an embarrassing question, it would take 10 hours to answer it … What does it mean “what is the difference between a man and a woman?”


I am fascinated by women who have something of a man, as well as men who have something of a woman. I have no interest in Men who are too masculine, as well as in women who are too feminine.


I have tried a lot and know that it is nothing. A too wide choice is like sitting at a table with too much food.

I adore when an actor begins to improvise, even if I’m ready to intervene to change a lot. No acting has this strong dynamic of improvisation And after all, I really like surprises. I tell my actors at the beginning of the shooting: “Please try to surprise me! Every time you succeed, you give me an unforgettable gift. ”

A lot of things has changed since I started working in the cinema in the early 60s. The main reason being the change of reality. It is accepted to think that “zombie,” a remote-controlled public without identity go to the cinema to forget the reality. Sometimes I go to the cinema to understand reality better with the help of the movie.

At first, I needed to make films that were outbursts for me. “The last tango,” in my opinion, is a cry of despair, a cry of strength.

Is it possible to learn directing? For some people, it is important to feel the tradition. Some directors come without training, without a “visual erudition”, without thinking about identifying themselves with professionals …


I remember Pasolini, with whom I worked as a director’s assistant. He was shooting “Accattone”, his first film when I first time found myself at a movie set. Knowing that he did not have a cinematographic culture, it was incredibly interesting to watch Pasolini, a poet, journalist and prose writer, inventing a new film language.

Well … (thinks) When you need a lot of time to answer, it means that you’re imagining things.

This is a problem, but it is also luck – when something that makes me happy changes. It changes every time I shoot a new film. I think accessibility changes attitudes towards cinema. It seems that someone is shooting a movie with a mobile phone only. Without any costs.



Sometimes in order to start working on a new film, I need to hear the story of someone whom I will never meet again, but who uttered a few words that aroused my curiosity.

The main fairy tale of my childhood is – all the stories of Perrot, Defoe … In the life of a girl? I do not know what to tell you … I have no children.

There is always anxiety that you are not fully understood, and then there was a change.


In the early 60s, when I made my first shootings, I was concerned to make my films expressive, and I didn’t care about the message. Becoming more mature, I felt that the message was also very important because it put me in a relationship with a great number of people. And then the opportunity to grasp what a person is experiencing while watching my film has become very important. It’s like food, which I can no longer refuse.


I think that the film director – at least in my case – always has love stories – not necessarily realized. There is always an attraction between the actor and the director. The seduction mechanism works, which is launched both by actors towards the director and by the director towards the actors. There are big sensual waves during the shooting of the film. If they are not there, then something is wrong.


My favorite activity – I don’t know for how long it will last, but it is at the moment  – is to watch a movie without having any idea what kind of movie it is.

When I’m not shooting and don’t touch something that I’ll shoot later, I’m no different than a plant …

Filmmaking is what gives me real energy and a great sense of self-identification

I was 21 when I shoot my first full-length film. Now I remember it as a dream. I was very, very young, and the fact that I could make a film seemed like a miracle. When I think of these seven weeks of filming, they have the same weight in my memory as a very important dream in a person’s life. But the film remained, I can even watch it, that’s what I do from time to time, that is, after all, this dream was not a real dream. 

Which movie is more precious to me than others? Always the last. Actually, I shot quite a few films precisely because I have been preparing for so long. And, you know, now I am in such a period.


Text: Agnessa Hovhannisyan

Photo: Alexander Krasnov


Thank you for your assistance: Alberto Di Mauro, Elena Krupenina, Tatyana Bozhko, Yevgeny Doroshenko, Alessandra Brasaglia