At The New Yorker, Richard Brody compares the emergence of the groundbreaking Paris Review Interviews to the talks with directors that began appearing in Cahiers du Cinéma around the same time, in 1954.
The stakes there and then were even higher, in that the literary world didn’t contest the artistic centrality of authors to literature, whereas the world of movies resisted the politique des auteurs, the interest of the young Cahiers critics in directors as the key artists — the auteurs, or authors — of their movies.
Brody observes that “portable” recording devices (which weighed about nine pounds then) made these conversations possible, and wonders about the effect of technology on our “expectations for information and aesthetics” generally.
“Magnetic tape implied both duration and (as Glenn Gould famously proved) the possibility of editing, thus, of recording as a kind of art form independent of the preservation of an event,” he says. Moreover, “the habit of recording makes the prominent ever more accustomed to the sound of their own voice.”
These days, thanks to You Tube and its kin, we can even see our favorite authors and filmmakers, including dead ones, discussing their work on old talk shows.
Some of the most maddening (but also entertaining, and not in the way intended) of the exhumed clips are the “arty” interview biodramas like the one these segments (above and below) featuring Patricia Highsmith are taken from. Dig the swelling music and weirdly composed shots, and the part where Tom Ripley turns the TV off on his creator.
Flaubert, by the way, would have disapproved of all these artist-chatterboxes. So would Henry James have — at least in theory. But secretly, in the privacy of his own study, James would have scoured the Internet, noting every last unfortunate shawl and too-wide tie, not to mention every liaison and sexual indiscretion, when not hitting reload on publishing comment threads at Gawker.