30/05/2008 13:18

Talking to Pedja Protic

an interview

-How many movies are going to be presented in your selection? (name some of the titles especially important to you)

It was difficult to choose 14 movies for the selection. First, it was important to know of what quality the copies are, and our friends from Yugoslav Film Archive helped us there. Instead of magnificent, and in my opinion, the best ever “The City Lights” we have “The Circus”. I thought Chaplin should have the honor of being the first one to be shown. I’m glad that many will have a chance to see “Touch of Evil” by Orson Welles who is a special kind of Shakespeare in the film art. The movies that evoke personal memories and that I gladly remember and return to are “The Wages of Fear”, an exciting movie from my childhood, “Stolen Kisses” and Felini are an introduction to the youth, and then comes all the seriousness of life in “Brief encounter” and “Sunset Boulevard”. If I see it in this way, then Woody Allen’s “Deconstructing Harry” kicked me to maturity. It’s fantastic… do you know it?

-What is the criterion that guided you in the selection of the movies?

First, it was chronological because the history of film, as well of other arts, is marked by periods and schools. I consider the German expressionism and American melodrama to have the key role for the creation of most of the movies from the selection. Then, selections by authors, social character, the country of origin, language, technique, and so on follow. Although the choice is much wider than this selection, all the criteria depend on a single fact, and that is – the audience. Although there is no Murnau or Fritz Lang, we have Hitchcock, Wilder, and Kurosawa; there is also “The Tin Drum”, and this is what people like to watch, no mater how sad of tense it is.

-For how long have you been a collector of the works of the film art? What are the conditions for making such a “hobby” active?

I’ve been a collector for twenty years, a half of my life. Like many offers of the modern age, first it seemed expensive, but soon you realize that it isn’t so expensive, then it gets cheaper, and it becomes reasonable to spend money on it. However, the lack of time for watching movies is what bothers me the most, and I can never accept that. The most active thing in this hobby is the promotion of the collected movies, in the Art Clinics, or, here, in the Festival, and that means watching the movies again, translations and subtitles, talks about directors, writers, actors, the history of time, anecdotes from the sets, etc. In this way, the hobby keeps changing, and this is what makes it active.

-Which movie, from your private collection, is the most important to you? And why? Did it come to the list for the selection?

At the moment the most important film is Alexander Sokurov’s “Father and Son”. It is not in the selection, but the closes one to it is “Brief Encounter”. I wouldn’t like to talk about it now, but lately, I’ve been drawn by the movies where the characters are good people. I like “hanging out” with good people, like Henry Fonda in “The Grapes of Wrath” and the brave sheriff who is waiting for the noon.

-Which of the rarities of your collection are the most important to you? And why?

Jim Jarmusch’s “Night of Earth”, Kjubrik’s “Odysseus”, Felini’s “Eight and a Half”, Visconti’s "Death in Venice", Bertolucci’s “The Twentieth Century”, Hitchcock, Chaplin, Tarkowsky, Fassbinder, Venders, Ozu etc. those are the authors I’ve learned from, and I still do. I like to see some of the movies again, I have my reruns, and I hate television. In my opinion, interrupting a movie because of commercials is rude and primitive, and it is done on all television channels.

-Since some of the classics of the world cinematography are going to be shown within your selection in the festival, do you think that the movies will be familiar to the majority of the festival audience? Generally, how great is the interest for the world classics today, in the time of hyper production of Hollywood blockbusters and “commercial” movies?

There will be surprises, especially among young viewers. Primarily, because it represents education and because we live in an isolated country; we’ve been under a lot of pressure about the wholeness of the country, about bank credits, only sometimes entertaining ourselves with fair offers. This is why I am happy when ten or twenty people come to my “school’ to see Jeanne Moreau, Mastroianni, or Liv Ulman and Jozefson, Marlena, and Gary Cooper.

People who esteem themselves and their free time visit museums, galleries, cinemas, and there they discover, learn, and admire others, and through others, they admire themselves. Believe me, if cinemas die, these movies will die last.

Blockbusters mostly repeat already told stories, so it is a pure consumption for entertainment and prestige. I wouldn’t like to talk about it any more, it’s not worth it, because the film effect is short, but efficient, I mean, artistically short, but materially efficient. Hence, its place in history is modest. The last acceptable blockbuster is “Die Hard”, but its continuation is utterly weak. Yet, it doesn’t mean that it should be buried. It’s pathos.

-As an admirer and a move expert, how would you characterize contemporary world and domestic cinematography?

I’m dedicated to old movies. There are a lot of titles I’ve missed, forgot, or I didn’t know they were made at all, so that’s why I know little about the works of contemporary cinematography. I’ve seen only few titles from the last Fest, on the monitor… (laughter) I’m glad that the recovery of national cinematographies of our neighbours have some excellent works, above all, movies by György Pálfi and Béla Tarr from Hungary; I recommend Mundju and Pintilije from Romania, and from ex Yugoslav republics, I like Bosnian movies most. They are sincere, such as “All for Free” by Antonij Nuic, who wrote the screenplay and directed it.

Serbian cinematography is still divided between money and art, between clans; while some earn by old recipes, other wait some money to make a next step to make a work of art. Optimism for Serbian cinematography is the presence of Goran Markovic; I find him a great artist and I think he’s a good man who can contribute a lot to for our society to be free and cultural in the European team.

-When watching the introductions of the movies that have been confirmed so far (and they can be seen on our web site), are there any movies that especially drew your attention, and which ones?

“Oasis”, “Peppermint candy”, the Iraqi one, with ostriches, Nosferatu – Phantom der Nacht, some music movies, some low-budget ones, yes, there are some…

-Which selections of the festival program, among the 14 existing, do you find especially interesting, and why?

Zika Pavlovic, above all. Those are the best movies of the Serbian cinematography. “Povratak” (The Return) was unavailable for a long time, and “Budjenje pacova” (Awakening of the Rats) and “Kad budem mrtav i beo” (When I Am Dead and White) are the world movies. “Oasis” by Korean director Lee Chang-dong was recommended to me by a close friend, a film expert, so I’d like to see other Lee’s movies. I really appreciate the expansion of Iranian cinematography, started by Kijarostami and Panahi, and because Miajd Majid is going to be the guest of the festival, we have a chance to learn something, as filmmakers or chronicle-makers, but as audience as well.

Apart from the two competition selections and following program units and retrospectives, Cinema City has already become a big festival; there is only left to hope that the little town of Novi Sad, despite its philosophy, is going to win over the envy and shyness, release itself from prejudices, and fill the cinemas of the film city from 14th to 21st of June. After all, thirty years ago, 12 cinemas worked in Novi Sad, and there were half as many people, so there are reasons for the optimism, and there are movies! What remains is money and weather, and you never know with them.

(Used illustration: The front page of Pedja’s catalogue from 1990, by Zoran Janjetov Janja )