“No dialogue No special effects In All is Lost I can not cheat …”
On the occasion of All is Lost , we met the ultimate star, Robert Redford. While he has just received a César of Honor, return on an interview like no other.
ROBERT REDFORD DEEPLY TOUCHED BY HIS CAESAR OF HONOR
Hello. We have not met before?
It’s fun, you remind me someone …
You in younger?
Sorry, it was not very good. It’s just that, when I was a teenager, I wanted to be like you, to be the Robert Redford of the Three Days of Condor (Sydney Pollack, 1975) . I even bought a jacket that looked like the one you wore in the movie.
The tweed blazer with elbow patches? Very seventies …
Precisely that one yes. And it was while wearing it that I understood that everyone could not be Robert Redford.
I am very serious. In fact, this is one of the first questions I asked myself at the end of the screening of All Is Lost : why do you? Why did Chandor ask you to play this role? While reading the summary, I was convinced that the film would be a Jeremiah Johnson (Pollack, 1972) on the water.
Which is not the case. Journalists often draw parallels but, in my opinion, this is a false track, even if they are actually two survivals and that the moral could be that when everything seems lost, some refuse to stop. Johnson fights the Indians, the cold, the loneliness, but he is standing up against all this. He perseveres. Same for the hero of All Is Lost, which continues, perhaps because he does not know how to do otherwise. Other than that …
ROBERT REDFORD, GORGEOUS IN THE STORM OF ALL IS LOST [REVIEW]
The film made me think more of People Like Others (1981) , in which you questioned the instinct of life and death among “ordinary people”. A bit like here, no?
It did not strike me, but it’s true that there is something about it in JC’s film and that the anonymity of the hero reinforces this existentialist dimension. However, honestly, I did not think for a single second of the films I made during filming. On the contrary, I very clearly had the impression of making a clean slate, to start from scratch.
That’s what I meant with my question: I had the feeling that Chandor never tried to play with your mythology.
Explain that to me.
When you see your movie Quiz Show (1995) , we immediately link to The Men of the President (Alan J. Pakula, 1976) , two films that criticize the American myth. In The Man Whispering Horses (1998) , it is the liberal and green Redford who finds himself behind and in front of the camera. Here, on the other hand, you seem to keep nothing of your filmography. If I have to caricature, I would say that I have the impression that with Russell Crowe the film would have been almost identical.
Hmmm … I see. I always bring Robert Redford in each of my films, but that’s it. I have always thought that critics have not noticed how much I have been trying to interpret different roles. You were talking about Jeremiah Johnson , after which I shot Vote McKay ( Michael Ritchie , 1972). But we can not find two more opposite characters. Then I played in Our Most Beautiful Years (Pollack, 1973) before making Gatsby the Magnificent ( Jack Clayton , 1974). Do you see a connection between all this?
A certain idea of the 70s counter-culture, a committed lyricism and a certain class …
Maybe. In any case, it is the work of critics to put order in there. In my head, it has never been so clear. What I knew at the time was that I suffered from being restricted to certain roles and judged solely on my physique. That’s what pushed me to try new things, to blur the slopes. When I go to see a movie with Clint Eastwood , I know exactly what to expect. This is not a reproach, but I know what his character will look like. For my part, I have always looked for different things in the movies I did.
What were you looking for in All Is lost ?
The purity. No dialogues. No special effects. I immediately liked the idea of removing all filters, not being able to cheat and being in direct contact with the viewer.
Play in the pure state?
A little. When I started my career, I was fascinated by two forms of acting: mime and improvisation. I felt that the basis of this job was to convey emotions without verbalizing anything. For me, it was a supreme form of art. To tell the story by the body and the action. All Is Lost allowed me to come back to that. No longer having the safety net of speech scared me at first, but what a pleasure!
You seem exalted when you talk about it …
When JC offered me the role – he made me a PowerPoint presentation of the film -, I interrupted him after ten minutes to tell him that I accepted. Instinctively, it seemed obvious to me. Then I did not ask him anything, I did not impose anything on the set. It scared me but it also really exalted me. Perhaps because, as you said, I felt like coming back to the roots of my job.
After being away from the screens for a long time, you come back as a leading man, and alone. Better: you finally shoot with an award-winning director at Sundance. It’s like closing the loop.
That’s not my fault. Award-winning filmmakers at Sundance never offered me anything, JC was the first to offer me a role. But it’s true that with All Is Lost , I feel like putting things in their place. I was an actor first, then I became famous very quickly. From then on, the choice was simple: either I repeated myself doing the same thing again and again, with the same roles, or I changed direction. I needed to know what to do with this success.
It was a burden?
That’s a big word, but yes, you have to be wary of the dark side of celebrity. I immediately tried to find out how to use it for more human, more creative purposes. I founded Sundance, I tried to bring out new talents, I launched a TV channel, I campaigned for the environment … Yet recently, I realized that I’m was away from the heart of my job.
Who is …
Play! In the most literal sense of the term. And it was at this moment that JC arrived with this film which, in its minimalism, resembled a laying bare.
All Is Lost is strangely elusive. You never know if it should be seen as a political allegory, a study of character or a pure survival.
The allegorical part, I leave that to the public and the critics. If I have to see a metaphor in this film, I would simply say that it evokes our existential loneliness. More and more people are lonely, feeling that political systems are losing interest in them. They are facing famine, ecological disaster, anguish of the future. Perhaps the fight that my character leads for his survival is a reflection of the fight that people give for their daily survival.
Here, it is the Redford 70s, liberal and committed who resurfaces …
I just hope we will perceive the subtlety of the film. I need subtlety and our time is sorely lacking, especially in art. Agree with me that contemporary movies, especially blockbusters, are not very nuanced. Here we go. You who asked me what brings my films together, which can give meaning to my filmography, it is perhaps that: the subtlety or, in any case, the recognition of the complexity of reality. Basically, all my films talk about America, but not America praised by slogans after the Second World War, not America’s winners.
This time, it’s your turn to explain to me …
I have very vivid memories of my childhood. I lived with my parents in the Van Nuys working-class suburb of Los Angeles, and the stories told me at the time praised the greatness of my country. I grew up in a world repainted with patriotic colors: red, white, blue. What we were trying to get into the skull at the time was that the important thing was not about winning or losing but about the way we played the game. very quickly understood that all this was only lies: what counted in the United States was indeed to overcome. That’s why I wanted to interpret or stage stories about hypocrisy, illusions, lies. My country refuses to face its complexity and prefers to rock simple and schematic stories.
But how does All Is Lost fit into this?
From an economic point of view, it’s almost an aberration. An independent film without special effects and with only one actor … Its minimalist side makes it almost a manifesto for a pure cinema. And then it’s a work that claims a lot from the viewer. Today, it is rare to see a project on a human scale that has such an ambition.
Basically, it’s your big return to some form of artistic integrity. I do not know. I would not describe it like that, but yes, you may be right. This film allowed me to reconnect with something deep.