favorite shoes I don’t own.
In 1972 Andrei Tarkovsky told Leonid Kozlov about his favorite films. Tom Lasica recently talked with the critic.
I remember that wet, grey day in April 1972 very well. We were sitting by an open window and talking about various things when the conversation turned to Otar Ioseliani’s film Once Upon a Time There Lived a Singing Blackbird. “It’s a good film,” said Tarkovsky and immediately added, drawing out his words, “though it’s, well, a little bit too… too…” He fell silent with the sentence half finished, his eyes screwed up. After a moment of intense reflection, he bit his fingernails and continued decisively, “No! No, it’s a very good film!” It was at this point that I asked Tarkovsky if he would compile a list of his favorite ten or so films. He took my proposition very seriously and for a few minutes sat deep in thought with his head bent over a piece of paper. Then he began to write down a list of directors’ names - Buñuel, Mizoguchi, Bergman, Bresson, Kurosawa, Antonioni, Vigo. One more, Dreyer, followed after a pause. Next he made a list of films and put them carefully in a numbered order. The list, it seemed, was ready, but suddenly and unexpectedly Tarkovsky added another title - City Lights.
This is the final version of the list he made:
- Le Journal d’un curé de campagne
- Winter Light
- Wild Strawberries
- City Lights
- Ugetsu Monogatari
- Seven Samurai
- Woman of the Dunes (Teshigahara)
After the list had been typed and signed “16.4.72 A. Tarkovsky,” we returned to our conversation, during which he quite naturally changed the subject and started with his gentle sense of humor to talk about something of no importance. Looking back at the list today, 20 years on, it strikes me how clearly his choices characterize Tarkovsky the artist. Like the numerous top ten lists submitted by directors to various magazines over the years, Tarkovsky’s list is highly revealing. Its main feature is the severity of its choice - with the exception of City Lights, it does not contain a single silent film or any from the 30s or 40s. The reason for this is simply that Tarkovsky saw the cinema’s first 50 years as a prelude to what he considered to be real film-making. And though he rated highly both Dovzhenko and Barnet, the complete absence of Soviet films from his list is perhaps indicative of the fact that he saw real film-making as something that went on elsewhere. When considering this point, one also needs to bear in mind the polemical attitude that Tarkovsky became imbued with through his experience as a film-maker in the Soviet Union.
For Tarkovsky, the question lay not in how beautiful a film-maker’s art can be, but in the heights that Art can reach. The director of Andrei Rublov strove for the most profound spiritual tension and extreme existential self-exposure in all his work and was ready to reject anything and everything that was incompatible with this end. His list, which includes three films by Bergman, undoubtedly reflects his taste both as a director and as a viewer - but the latter is subordinate to the former. As the way he began to compile his top ten shows, this is not only a list of Tarkovsky’s favorite films, but equally one of his favorite directors. Tarkovsky’s and Bergman’s “elective affinity” was noted long time ago, well before Sacrifice. But Bresson’s film does not come top of the list by chance: Tarkovsky considered him to be a supreme creative individual. “Robert Bresson is for me an example of a real and genuine film-maker… He obeys only certain higher, objective laws of Art…. Bresson is the only person who remained himself and survived all the pressures brought by fame.”
It would seem to me that the unexpected appearance of City Lights in the list can be explained similarly. What mattered most to Tarkovsky was not so much the film’s cinematographic achievements or any philosophical points it made, but rather the comprehensive nature of Chaplin’s self-realization as a director. “Chaplin is the only person to have gone down into cinematic history without any shadow of a doubt. The films he left behind can never grow old.”
Kiko Mizuhara , Purple Magazine
Benedict Cumberbatch says of his Best Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television nomination for his role on Sherlock, “I’m so happy and honoured to be included with such great actors and perfomances. Thank you so much. Christmas has come early.”
“His presence elevated everything”… talented people praising Benedict Cumberbatch
With an actor like Benedict Cumberbatch playing him, it will be extraordinary.
Andy Serkis about Smaug
Because of the length of this post, I am placing it under a ‘read more’. All credit go to moriartysskull.
He is phenomenal. The amount of work that goes into his roles, he has a great work ethic and a genius mind, he is so inspiring. He really raised the bar for me and he had this integrity and genuineness. I feel really blessed to have worked with him. Plus he is so much fun, he’s become a good friend.
Benedict is such a good guy, he’s a really sweet person and I love that he’s getting success because he’s also a great actor.
He’s a genius. There are certain actors who have the ability to take a line of dialogue and add a ring to it that you didn’t even know you put into the dialogue, into the line. And he’s one of those really brilliant actors. Just listening to him talk…you could enjoy him reading the phone book.(…) Sequels are about your bad guy. Because your first movie is always about the becoming of [the hero] and your bad guy has to test that hero in a very significant way. And he’s an incredibly formidable presence. He’s amazing. Are you going to be scared of him? Shit yeah!
Alex Kurtzman, Star Trek writer
Sherlock” is more than just Benedict Cumberbatch’s show, but it would be nowhere near as compelling without his lead performance. The elements of Sherlock Holmes that tend to get buried underneath his cultural iconography come vividly alive in the actor’s portrayal: his intelligence as a complex quality rather than a set of magic tricks; the alienation that comes with genius; the way that alienation can manifests itself in turning to drugs (in this case, nicotine and a never-named but assumed nod to Holmes’ famous affinity for cocaine); the lack of any but the most transient intimacy; and of course the way in which all these characteristics connect organically to each other. On “Sherlock,” Holmes’ traits never feel as though they’re items ticked off a list compiled from the Conan Doyle stories in Cumberbatch’s hands. He does the near-impossible in allowing us to think of Sherlock Holmes as a real person — and for that alone, Benedict Cumberbatch deserves a salute as the greatest Holmes that ever graced the screen.
Danny Bowes, journalist
I was just so pleased to get the chance to actually do some meaty work with him, because I admire him. I think he’s brilliant. And, he’s a great, great sparring partner.
As you know from Benedict, just watching him, vocally, he’s fascinating. He’s got this deep resonate voice. He’s a fascinating face. He’s a lovely guy and just super smart. You want to see something firing in his brain, so he’s not just a blood-dripping-from-the-fangs bad guy. Benedict brings those kinds of smarts.
He’s really funny. He came to a read, and we had a couple of things that he said, ‘Hey, I could do those. Can I?’ This was the first time someone actually just kinda muscled their way into being a guest star (…) He’s a completely irresistible person.
The Simpsons exec producer Al Jean
I didn’t really know him as a stage actor. I knew what a fine screen actor he is. But there’s a physicality involved in the theatre. It’s not just about mannerisms or impersonation, which screen often is: it’s about sustaining a narrative with mind and body. When I saw him for Frankenstein, that was the only thing I wanted to know. Did he have that physical capacity? And of course he does. We met and I asked him to do a few things and he was extraordinary in the room. He’s as fit as a boxer, which you have to be for the stage. You have to have an internal fitness that allows you to carry the story so it never sags. He had this combination of the cerebral and the physical which you can see when you look back at his screen work – in Hawking, it’s there. Frankenstein was a great one for using it.
That’s why he’s now what he is: one of the leading actors in the world. He’s gone on to another division, which is movies at the moment. He’ll have a great time. He’s got experience, he’s not a young ingénue being exposed to Hollywood. He’ll make the best of it.
Benedict Cumberbatch, I can already say with a certain degree of confidence that he is gonna give an iconic film performance and one of the best sci-fi performances that I’ve ever seen. And not even having seen the movie yet, just sitting there in video village with the headphones on. So I’m really psyched.
Damon Lindelof, Star Trek producer
A marvelous young actor.
Benedict Cumberbatch isn’t a man. He’s a situation that me and most of my friends are all having.
Megan OKeefe, journalist
Benedict Cumberbatch seemed very nice, very nervous and very humble, considering how extraordinarily talented and brilliant he is.
Jamie Cullum, musician
Benedict is fantastic. He’s just so good. He’s super talented, and we are more than grateful to have him onboard. Benedict has got this intensity about him, and he’s obviously extremely intelligent and articulate. His vocal quality is something else. (…) I think it’s all going to be love — a mad amount of love.
He’s a genius. Honestly, he’s just an incredible actor. If you’ve seen his work in Sherlock, he’s just got incredible skills. I just loved his work and thought that he was perfect for what we needed. We were just very lucky.
JJ Abrams, director
We found Benedict Cumberbatch fairly early. We needed a very good actor, someone young enough to be believable as an aristocratic, an almost slightly dislikeable character who is an adolescent in terms of his views of the world, his upbringing. But we also needed someone who could hold the screen for four and half hours, in every scene. We needed someone with experience who was not only a very good actor, but also with terrific comic timing. Benedict was the ideal answer to that.
David Attwood, director (To the ends of the earth)
He’s superb. He’s such a good actor.
Ioan Gruffudd, co-star (Amazing Grace)
He has class.
Michael Apted, director (Amazing Grace)
He’s like hot chocolate; you watch him and think, “You’re actually delicious.”
Robert Sheehan, actor
The most unheralded of the supporting “Tinker” crew, Cumberbatch, is also the most mesmerizingly good. The “Atonement” star doesn’t have one standout scene in “Tinker”, he has at least three. These are powerful moments where Cumberbatch makes you feel the insane stress his character, Peter Guillam, feels assisting Gary Oldman’s George Smiley in his clandestine investigation and where he has to throw away his personal life for the greater good of his country. It’s fantastic work that will not be forgotten by the acting branch. (…) Simply, Cumberbatch is one of the few contenders this (Oscars) season that if he doesn’t get in it’s a travesty.
Gregory Elwood, journalist
It was amazing to work with Ben. He’s become a very dear friend of mine and I feel very proud of him from the far, or close distance of being a contemporary of his. He’s having such an incredible moment. I think he’s phenomenally talented. He’s one of the finest actors of our generation and it was a real privilege to work with him.
Tom Hiddleston, co-star (War Horse)
The difference between stars and just great actors is that stars can make parts into them, rather than themselves into parts; they make those people them. They never quite play it like you expect them to, so it becomes very much Benedict’s Sherlock. Look at how Sean Connery owned James Bond.
Steven Moffat, producer and writer (Sherlock)
He’s the best Sherlock on screen.
Steven Spielberg, director
When the read-through starts, however, this gonky teenager disappears, and he slips, effortlessly, into the stiff-backed, cold-eyed, Pentium 20 brain of Holmes. His delivery can still the room – even in his T-shirt, in this bright summer sunshine. Spielberg was not wrong.
Caitlin Moran, journalist
I would like to officialy declare my love for Benedict Cumberbatch. Yes, that’s right. I’m in love with him.
Paul Feig, director
Benedict Cumberbatch elicited peals of joy from the actress. ‘Oh, yes!’ she said. ‘I saw you in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I loved it!’ She meant it. She usually, very politely, manages to wriggle free from people she doesn’t care for.
About Meryl Streep’s reaction to Cumberbatch at the Golden Globes
Sexy is the world that springs to mind.
Chris Harvey, journalist
Even though I am watching him, watching me, watching him and concentrating…and we’ve been doing the scene for a while and I’m standing on a high thing with wobbly walls, trying not to fall off.. even given all of that…when it comes to the close up of Sherlock’s face when he’s playing this sad theme- he looks so forlorn and so deep in his own sorrow that I get overwhelmed with sadness and fill up. That’s good acting that is. - I tell him afterwards that he made me cry. He beams…. Pfft. Actors. –
The next day and Benedict has asked for a lesson in his trailer before going on set to film a scene where he plays Auld Lang Syne . We never managed to practice this one before as there was so much else to do. Hand positions, bowing straight, stance etc. And he only needs to be able to fake it too- it doesn’t have to be pitch perfect. But it does. Because he’s Benedict.
I am stunned as Ben picks out the tune himself- I give him a starting position and a finger (oh hush) and sit aghast as he picked out the notes He had pretty much nailed it in ten minutes having only had three proper lessons- none of which was on the tune. We’re so excited, we spontaneously high five (something which I doubt either of us would normally do) and I decide he is something of a genius.
Eos Chater, violinist and Cumberbatch’s violin teacher for Sherlock
Watching him physically train to play James (He dieted, ran the cliffs and swam in the cold sea), and also delve into the meaning of every line in rehearsals, and then plot the effect of his illness on his body and mind as it would be in each scene (shot in the wrong order), while all the while being a joy to be around was impressive to witness. To see it as one performance in the final cut was remarkable. - He is rare even amongst the acting breed. If the character description says handsome: he is. If it says Nasty: he is. Older: he is… Younger: he is. For this reason I just can’t wait to see what he will become.
Vaughan Sivell, producer and screen writer („Third Star“)
He has a sensibility and an oddness to him… and a directness and a fantastic sense of humor … in many many ways we are similar in our approach to work (…) So I respect him on a pretty fundamental level (…) He’s an actor who has the ability to play in the outer field of basic acting work (…) He is a very generous, very sensitive, very thoughtful, focused, disciplined actor and, you know, when you work with somebody like that it’s just like playing… like Ronnie Scotts with B.B. King… it’s just a question of when or if… you know when someone’s got it and he’s got it. And I’m comfortable with people who’ve got it. (…) Not everybody runs in the Olympics… Benny should be running in the Olympics. I can see an Olympic runner in him.
The thing with chemistry is, you can’t manufacture it, you can’t make it, it happens or it doesn’t happen… and I think from the moment that Benedict and I got in a room together just to rehearse, or just to read actually, it seemed to work. I’ve always been a big admirer of his work - and I hope it’s reprocicated, I think it was, and … yeah, he is really really good… if ever there was a person born to play that part it’s him… and he’s… you know, when he’s on fire it’s quite a formidable sight to see… you know, I sort of stand back and just watch him when I’m in scenes with him and go ‘Wow, he’s really really good’…
One day, Damon Lindelof texted me and said, ‘You should check out Sherlock’. And I watched Sherlock, and was completely blown away, there was this absolute undeniable feeling about it.
Certainly it was important to hear the words come out of this actor’s mouth, and so we got Benedict the pages and he sent an iPhone-taped audition to us, but it was almost a little bit of a formality.
Being on the set with him… I think everyone was bringing their absolute A-game. I think, frankly, in a way, [his] presence sort of elevated everything.
Time and again, every scene, Benedict brought a surprising, unexpected, grounded, real and often terrifying aspect to the role. So we are incredibly grateful, all of us.
JJ Abrams, director
sorry for retweeting my own post but I just love it so much… I’m just so proud of him…
Jezuz take the WHEEL…..
… take the whole danged car, i’m about to crash! …
Benedict Cumberbatch as Alexander Masters in Stuart: A Life Backwards (2007)