index page Senses of Cinema

"I Had To Do It In My Life
As Well As In The Film":
An Interview with Zoë Lund

By Nicole Brenez and Agathe Dreyfus

Translated by Brad Stevens

Nicole Brenez is a critic, teacher and programmer. Agathe Dreyfus researches the history of experimental film. This interview first appeared in Balthazar no. 5 (Spring 2002), pp. 50-57, and is reprinted with permission.

Introduction by Agathe Dreyfus

I'm not going to introduce Zoë Lund – the following interview is far more explicit, funny and revealing than anything I could say – but simply provide some context. Our first interview was conducted by Nicole Brenez and myself on July 30th 1996 at New York's Anthology Film Archive. The first half of it was published in Admiranda/Restricted no. 11/12 (1996), and is currently available in an English translation on Robert Lund's website at What follows is the second half of that 1996 interview. I offer many thanks to Sébastien Clerget, without whom this interview could not have taken place, and also to Jeff Perkins, who filmed a good part of it. Later, we conducted another interview (again in New York), accompanied by Clerget; this second interview, just as good, will appear in French in a future issue of Balthazar.

In transcribing this interview, which was conducted in French, we were eager to preserve the oral style. Later, I worked with Zoë, correcting errors and misunderstandings. We were therefore able to establish a text for publication approved by Lund herself.

We already knew Zoë as an actress (Ms .45, 1981) and screenwriter (Bad Lieutenant, 1992), and I had discovered by chance in the collections of the Anthology Film Archive the rushes of Edouard (aka Yves) de Laurot (the filmmaker with whom she had once lived and whom she often referred to as her husband, though they were never actually married), which I considered magnificent. De Laurot completed films include Black Liberation (aka Silent Revolution, 1967) and Listen America! (1969). I would like to acknowledge the help of Kristin Jones, who worked at the Archive, and also thank Jonas Mekas who, in memory of his friendship with de Laurot, opened the doors of the anthology to Zoë so that these powerful images might one day be reborn ...

Following our encounter, Nicole Brenez organized, on 6 February 1997, an evening dedicated to de Laurot at the Cinémathèque Française. This was a very emotional event, and Zoë came specially to Paris to present the screening.

Zoë then moved to Paris. She died suddenly in 1999, leaving behind many pages of screenplays and novels. Zoë had been very proud to share these things with us. I sensed at the time, and feel again today, that she had never before talked so deeply about her work, but also about her life – or, more precisely, her numerous lives.

Nicole Brenez/Agathe Dreyfus: Did you know that Martin Scorsese said in Cahiers du cinéma that Bad Lieutenant was one of the most beautiful American films of recent years? (1)

Zoë Lund: No, no, I didn't know about that. But thanks ...

B/D: Did you participate in the editing of Bad Lieutenant?

ZL: Yes. I went to Los Angeles for a week to see how it was progressing, and we talked a lot about the use of 'real time'.

B/D: You said that you wrote the screenplay alone ...

Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant
Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant

ZL: It was sad, because I thought that Abel and I were going to write it together, but I wrote every word of that screenplay. To begin with, Abel told me about a story he had read on the front page of the Daily News concerning a cop who caught the people that raped a nun. It was a little story that didn't have much to do with Bad Lieutenant. But it gave him the idea of doing something about a Nun who is raped. So I wrote this story involving Jesus Christ, which became Bad Lieutenant. And Abel had the courage, the balls to do it. I was so proud of him for that: bravo! He's a very good director, but he didn't write a word. We were together often over the course of three years ... Oh, I was so tired afterwards. But I wrote the whole thing in, I think, two-and-a-half weeks or something like that – the entire screenplay. I wrote the first draft in practically a single night. Yet I wasn't truly 'inspired', in the sense that I think of inspiration as something you must wait for, but I was inspired in a different sense, and scenes such as the Nun's confession, which I wrote in this way, were absolutely spontaneous. Also, I made use of all my talents and my experience as an actress. This nun was a kind of saint, and I wrote all that as if I were inside the head of a saint, acting out everything, as if it were some kind of profound improvisation. Journalists constantly ask me, "How can you be an actress and a writer at the same time – isn't there a contradiction?" For me, there is no problem. I don't think about it in that manner. For me, writing and acting are connected in a very complex way. And I think that music (I composed when I was very young) is also connected to this. When I write, I imagine everything that takes place from start to finish, as if there were musical notes on the page, like a score.

B/D: You see it as a whole?

ZL: Yes, as if it were already done and I could hear the music. The structure comes with the music, it contains the politics. But you know, I could also claim the opposite. When someone sees the result, they are not conscious of one or the other.

B/D: So everything is structured?

ZL: Right. It's how I work and there's no problem. When people ask how I can be an actress and a writer, I want to say, "Oh, I'm having an attack! I have such a headache all the time, trying to work out whether I'm an actress or a writer!" One day, I was having dinner with Abel Ferrara and Madonna and some other people. It was around the time of Snake Eyes (aka Dangerous Game, 1993), and Gillo Pontecorvo, who is a good friend of mine, asked me what I thought of the film. I said that I thought it was a bourgeois mess, a stupid story, a story about people who have no connection with real life, so they're always asking, "Is this a film or is it reality? I really don't know at all, is it the beginning of the film or the end that's the reality?" Oh my God! It's so annoying, so stupid. There are real problems in life ... But we find young directors everywhere who cannot escape this problem of film and reality. I really don't understand why, but it's almost become a genre. There are dozens of films which deal with this stupid shit, and my God, I have never, never in my life, confused a film with reality! It's an American sickness, but also a French sickness. I've met many French people who are fascinated by this question. I don't understand how Abel can make Bad Lieutenant, which deals with the most important questions in life, literally the most important, and then make a movie which presents the anguish of a director who has no idea if he's in a film or in bed!

B/D: How can you reconcile this position – you've said that you led the life of a militant anarchist – with the profoundly religious concerns of Bad Lieutenant?

ZL: I don't think there's a contradiction. Edouard [de Laurot] used to say that, by presenting a character who is engaged in a battle which is both personal and social, a challenge which is both existential and social is posed to the viewer. For me, the story of Jesus Christ is the perfect distillation of the revolutionary myth. It's truly the story of a revolutionary. If one turns it into a modern narrative, this character might be the protagonist of Bad Lieutenant, who is essentially a revolutionary in the sense that he gambles absolutely blindly, gratuitously, absurdly, just as in a revolution.

B/D: Would you say that revolution is bound to fail?

ZL: That's not a practical question. The question is, are you working for the revolution or not? We have to do it, that's all. Even if Christ himself didn't 'succeed'. He's dead, the Jews are always oppressed by the Romans. And He must have known nothing would change that. But He did what He had to do.

B/D: That's an accomplishment.

ZL: Yeah, exactly, but what he did wasn't a 'success'. When Christ asked, "Father, why hast thou forsaken me?", it's the equivalent of the moment when LT is at the bus station at the end of the film; the bus pulls out with his money and the two rapists. Harvey (Keitel) grimaces and screams. That's when he realizes, "Oh shit, I've really done it now! My God, now there's no going back. Oh shit!" Then he walks out to his car, drives downtown for the meeting with his bookie, and bang! He's dead. And there's a sign over him which reads 'It All Happens Here'.

B/D: The sign was there by chance?

ZL: Pure chance. But we immediately realized that it was something remarkable. Precisely: 'It All Happens Here'. That's what the film's about, and it's there that it becomes the story of a modern Christ. I was very glad that people understood this. I was really very moved. It's like in the film's 'Vampire Speech': "You have to give and give crazy, because a gift that makes sense ain't worth it. They'll never know why you did it. They'll just forget about you tomorrow. But you have to do it". I think that, in a very profound way, I felt I had to film this, write it, it didn't matter what, but I had to tell this story. But I had to do it in my life as well as in the film – and I never confused the two.

B/D: Have you seen Pasolini's Il Vangelo secondo Matteo (The Gospel According to Matthew, 1964)?

ZL: Oh, obviously I love that film! There's a little game I play where I try to find young men in the street who have the same kinds of faces as the people in that film. There's a lot of them around. The streets are full of Christs here in New York. Sometimes I say to people, "Ah, I must show you this film..." As if I could initiate them into Pasolini! But it's interesting, these faces are everywhere here, I see them on the corner of every street: "Hey, there's Jesus Christ!" Just walk a couple of blocks with me and we'll find a guy with exactly the same face. I guarantee you'll say the same thing: "Jesus! It's you!" He has many incarnations, his avatars are everywhere! It's so funny, because I treat it as a game. But I love that film, and I also love La Battaglia di Algeri (The Battle of Algiers, Gillo Pontecorvo, 1965). It's a good film. On the other hand, I find most 'new' films really disgusting. In America, we can only make 'political' films about victims, not about warriors. Missing (Costa-Gavras, 1981) is a good example: the hero is an American in Latin America who draws cartoons for children. He doesn't fight. The fascists kill this poor guy, whose only crime was drawing cartoons for kids. By contrast, the violent revolutionaries kill without encountering any problems. I don't have the stomach for that. I'd rather see something like Independence Day (Roland Emmerich, 1996), where it's just boom, boom, bang, bang! That's preferable to those pretentious liberal films which reek of guilty conscience, that only exist to help people sleep easier at night.

Oh, I met Godard, when I was maybe 17, something like that. He had just made Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1980), and I provoked him by calling him a sheep and telling him he must do better. But I said this very gently. It was at Cannes, in a room full of journalists, and I didn't have a press card – all the women were saying to me, "Oh ... you don't have a press card!" They were ready to throw me out ... out the window! Finally, Godard said "No, no! She must stay. I invite her to stay. She's right, she's right! I have become a sheep." He was really nice, I liked him a lot.

B/D: Did you talk to him after the press conference?

ZL: No, only during the press conference. We're not friends, though I sometimes run into him. But it was a good encounter. There were small items written about that in every magazine in the world. It was incredible: 'Godard and a Little Girl ...'. But of course, nobody knew my name, because I was travelling under another name that year, in France and also in Cannes. (2)

B/D: Between Ms .45 and Bad Lieutenant, did you remain in contact with Ferrara?

ZL: Between those films? Oh yes, I wrote some screenplays for him to direct, but nothing came of them. Now we're talking of collaborating on a couple of projects, but nothing's certain. Ed Pressman (producer of Bad Lieutenant) is going to produce New Rose Hotel, adapted from William Gibson's short story. It's a science fiction film about two hustlers. It's set in 2030 or something like that. It's a thriller about genes and chromosomes. Christopher Walken is being considered for one of the leads.

B/D: And the other project?

ZL: It's a screenplay called Last Night of Summer, which is also for Abel. It's from a novel by Erskine Caldwell. It's set in a suburb of New Orleans, during the summers of the '50s and '60s. Those two periods, the '50s and '60s, were very interesting. There are two connecting threads. Caldwell's novel deals only with the '50s, but my screenplay moves the story on into the '60s. It should be a good film. But New Rose Hotel is the one that's most likely to be made. (3)

B/D: That's good news.

ZL: Yeah, very good news. There's also a film I'm writing for Monika Treut, The Virility Factor, based on the novel Les hommes protégés [The Protected Men] by Robert Merle, who wrote Le jour du dauphin [The Day of the Dolphin, filmed by Mike Nichols in 1973]. I discovered this novel in the original French, and changed it completely, creating new characters and so forth. But I understand that Monika's ready to shoot it, or is even in pre-production. She's disappeared for some reason – I don't know why, since she had talked about perhaps casting me in it. I'm sure I'll need to rewrite certain scenes during the shoot, as always. I don't know why she hasn't got back in touch with me. Perhaps she's had problems. The screenplay was very good. It relates to today's AIDS virus; Merle predicted all that ... It's incredible. He wrote the book around 1975. That's brilliant! It will be very interesting, I hope it can be made.

I'm also working on another project entitled Free Will and Testament, which is a very political film, very, very politically extreme, but with a lot of irony and black humour, extremely erotic and full of humanity, with very striking characters. It's very political in the sense that it expresses a moral and political code. I began writing this screenplay with Edouard. I want him to have the credit, and I want this to be made – it's truly my masterpiece, Free Will and Testament. [See script extract] I couldn't begin to explain what it's all about, but ...

B/D: You've finished writing it?

ZL: Oh yes, it's finished. The screenplay is certainly finished. I have to find a producer. It's so political. The film portrays an incestuous relationship between an individual of the Left and an individual of the Right, two exceptional people. There's a kind of love between them, but at the end of the film they have to kill each other. And there are very close family ties. Everyone (except for one character) dies at the end. That's something which can't be escaped. The story is very ...

B/D: Mythic?

ZL: Yes, mythic, very mythic. Anyway, it's about a woman and a man who meet in the middle of a lake. They begin falling in love as they drown, and they will eventually prefer to die together rather than live apart. That's the central myth of Free Will and Testament. The film's about militant political action: the assassination of a fascist, a woman, here in New York, who is vice president of a Latin American country. Her name is Bianca. She rides down 125th Street from Harlem all the way to the Rockefeller Center, where she is to speak in public. There's a line of cars following her, and at each block we leave the present and go into flashback. And we return to the present without a loss of continuity. There's incredible suspense on the street. The flashbacks give us important information about the characters, and thus help to justify their actions. They all die, except one. Everyone must make a decision – we might say an existential decision, one that relates to the concept of free will. Something that's shocking for the characters, but also for the viewer. But just after this 'act', we understand why this was their destiny, because there's a sense of justice, a sense that it could not have happened any other way. There are some very funny characters who add another dimension to the story. All the characters are absolutely fascinating, even the fascists, all of them – they're like a big incestuous family, connected in a very close way that they cannot escape. But they escape at the end, at the cost of their lives ... After all, it's my masterpiece, so I must explain it all.

B/D: And you'll direct this yourself?

ZL: I'd love to do that. Really love to do it myself. I owe it to Edouard to do it myself. It would be a crime to give it to someone else. As the saying goes: I owe it to his memory. When I have the opportunity to make my own big film, I'll gather together all my friends, all my colleagues, the people who have always been faithful to me. We'll make such a formidable group, so talented, so skilled, but also so full of heart, which is very important. I'd love to do it tomorrow. I'm quite ready. You know that Edouard taught me how to direct, how to shoot a film, how to edit. Of course, he also taught me a lot about writing and acting. Everything relating to filmmaking was approached very seriously during the time we were together. We had some 35mm equipment, a camera with a really good lens. We also had an enormous mobile unit, like a mobile home, as well as our own small but efficient film company, with a lot of volunteers who learnt enough to make careers for themselves in film.

Zoë Lund and Edouard de Laurot
Zoë Lund and Edouard de Laurot

I've already started working on the completion of an erotic film that Edouard began many years ago. The 35mm film rolls relating to this project were stored at the Anthology. The idea now is to provide us [Zoë and Julius Ziz] with a little money for the other projects, but it should be a good film in its own right. The original footage was all about one of Edouard's sexual fetishes. Every week or so he would find, with the help of his girlfriend at the time, women (and occasionally men) who were prepared to have their bodies painted on camera. In later years, I also did this with him. The body painting was extraordinary. It was fascinating, because we would talk for hours and hours with the girls. We discussed politics – it was a real political education. A reactionary girl would leave our studio at dawn, converted into a revolutionary. We spoke of the most intimate things. The girls confessed things they would never have shared with anyone else. We had the great honour of hearing all this, though we never really understood why ... And at night we would all be filmed nude, obviously. Anyway, hours of body painting footage has been found in Edouard's archives from the '60s and '70s, footage that contains many very nostalgic items. This footage shows political characters. It's very funny and, of course, very erotic. Edouard was like a magnet for so many different kinds of people – his friends, but also people he discovered in the street absolutely by chance. He needed to create this sexual chronicle for extremely deep reasons – it was very erotic and creative. At first I was jealous, but eventually I understood how valuable this experience was. It changed the lives of some people, literally. We heard incredible stories and lived many very moving moments. It was truly a unique and important experience. I am now editing this footage together with a '60s musical backing. My husband, Robert (Lund) is busy improvising, he's a musician. We have what should be a very sexy film which will satisfy people who want to see it for erotic reasons and people who want to see it for historical or political reasons. I just hope we can find people who are healthy enough to like both sex and politics!

B/D: It's also an important episode in the history of painting.

ZL: That too, because body painting is a genuine art form, and now it's very fashionable. At that time, in the '60s, this was pioneering stuff. There were these tiny groups of hippies who practiced it, but for most people it was nothing. Now it's really mainstream. But at last we have begun assembling this chronicle, and hopefully that'll provide us with some money for the other projects. From the historical viewpoint, these films are incredible. In terms of telling the existential story of the '60s, for example.

B/D: The sound has been recorded?

ZL: Yes, but it's not all joined together. There are magnetic tapes everywhere. There are some papers which to some extent indicate how the sound should be matched to the image.

B/D: Yes, it's wonderful that you're reconstructing this, because of the author, but also because of the entire œuvre.

ZL: Right, exactly. There are unfinished films here. There are also finished films, for example, two films that won prizes everywhere: Listen America and Silent Revolution – I never liked that title, it should be called Black Liberation. There are also documentary images from the '60s. Incredible! And there are things that I'm not even sure where they came from; images of Edouard and other people in Argentina, in Arizona, in Africa. There are many images of Paris in 1968, with Edouard filming from the rooftops. It's incredible.

B/D: I found one image ... against a brick wall, in negative. It's a black woman seen from behind, so that at first she appears to be a child. Suddenly, she turns around and approaches the camera, lifts up her hair, which proves to be a wig, and throws it at the camera.

ZL: Ah, yes! That's a remarkable image. I know what this is, because it's part of a whole series of images Edouard filmed. He used one or two of them in Black Liberation, but there's a whole series of them in the archives. The woman was wearing a blonde wig. There are also images showing a woman with a child in her arms, a Madonna. She bends down gently towards the child, and we see that she has a rifle strapped to her back. She's Vietnamese. This image is typical of Edouard. It's a very strong metaphor, very powerful and very concise. In a way, this thing with the child, so tender and so ferocious ... He was really... he was an exceptional person. Something should be written about him. I should do it. The texts he wrote should also be collected.

B/D: What did he write about?

ZL: The theory of film and politics. His ideas were very, very advanced, artistically and politically revolutionary. His dialectical ideas also underpinned the metaphors in his films, but he was quite different from Eisenstein. He was extremely critical of 'social realism'. He had a theory: "The political force of a film, its true content, cannot be taken in by spectators a priori, only a posteriori." One should present 'proleptic' characters who challenge the viewer. When viewers leave the cinema, they should take this challenge with them. Edouard wrote many extremely lucid articles on this.

B/D: Were they published in Film Culture?

B/D: Film Culture, Cineaste, and other magazines. (4) There are some little affectations which are outdated, and some repetitions from text to text. I would have to edit them, adding brief notes here and there, but they are virtually ready for publication. It would make a useful book for universities, for students, for everyone. It's written in very concrete language, very lucid, easy to understand. We could illustrate it with archival images, from the actual films and of himself. I have some very, very good photos of Edouard taken in my home. And there are images of Edouard in Jonas Mekas' film chronicles. I saw them in Portugal, at a festival to which Jonas and myself had been invited. I especially recall an image of Edouard where be plays at being chained in a forest, almost nude. Wearing only tiny briefs, he races around in the forest like that with Jonas and others. He runs towards the camera with the chains! He had an incredible body. I think I'll put a picture of Edouard in chains on the cover of the book!

B/D: The first theorist in briefs!

ZL: Exactly! But there you are, that was Edouard's idea of dialectics!

B/D: He put his body into his theory! Much stronger than Jean Genet.

ZL: Yeah, there are a lot of images of Jean Genet in his archives. And also in Black Liberation, which shows Genet in negative, as a black man. That's typical of Edouard. He was never bothered by stupid restrictions ... He collaborated with Jimmy Baldwin [author of Go Tell It On the Mountain] around this time. Jimmy had fallen in love with him, but Edouard could not share this love since he was heterosexual. But they were very good friends. In the early '80s, near the end of their lives, they met again at Hampshire College, where Jimmy was a professor. I showed Black Liberation to the students, then spoke and answered questions. The film was very confronting, but while the students' reactions disgusted me, Jimmy danced for joy! Finally he spotted Edouard in the shadows, so we all went back to his place. Jimmy knew that Edouard had made a film like this, but he'd never seen it until that night. He realized that Edouard was truly a fine director. They talked and drank all night. By the end, they were completely drunk and talking about their unconsummated love. Edouard said, "Jimmy, you 'inseminated' me with your black soul." And that resolved all the difficulties in their relationship. It was, in a sense, the consummation of their story. Two years later, Jimmy was dead. And eight years later, Edouard too. They were truly very happy at that moment. In one sense it was a tragedy, because, one famous night, Jimmy had almost raped Edouard. But they remained friends in spite of everything.

He shared a similar passion with Pasolini. Edouard was very attractive to women, but he also had loves that were unconsummated, yet still very significant, with men. He had relationships like that with some remarkable and famous gay men. Pasolini was among those loves. The very night Pasolini died, he was to have met Edouard on a beach near the place where he was killed, but the meeting was cancelled. Edouard was in a house on the beach, and Pasolini was nearby. Edouard was so near to Pasolini when he was killed. Incredible ... Edouard was in the process of writing something that evening at the beach house. They cancelled their meeting because Edouard had work to do, and Pasolini had to attend to something else. They talked for the last time on the telephone. And Edouard always said that Pasolini seemed strange, the way he said "I must see someone." Edouard sensed a kind of foreboding in his voice, something very sad, as if it were already too late, as if Pasolini knew he had a date with destiny. Edouard had said "Okay, tomorrow", and Pasolini replied, "Yes, tomorrow, perhaps tomorrow" ("Si, domani, forze domani").

B/D: And since he always filmed so much, did he take any shots of Pasolini?

ZL: Of Pasolini, I don't know. But they were writing something very important together, the core of an idea for a film called La Prométhée ('The Female Prometheus'). They had written Promethea's Plea in Self-Defense, a five page story which can be read independently of any film. At the same time, it's a kind of thematic synopsis for a film. It's the story of a female revolutionary in Latin America who makes illegal radio broadcasts giving coded orders to guerillas. She also recites poems and tells very beautiful stories. But she does all this while pretending to be a man, which is to say she alters her voice electronically, so that she sounds like a man rather than a woman. She manages to keep this a secret for close to a year. It's very mysterious. And this mysterious character starts to become very powerful. So the members of the central committee announce that they would like to meet this person known only as Prométhée (Prometheus). So, when the time comes, she stands up and identifies herself. But she's a woman! There are a dozen committee members, and they're all men. Two or three are annoyed by the fact that Prométhée is a woman, but the majority simply think she's lying and is probably an imposter. In front of everyone, she demonstrates the way in which she changes her voice for the radio. So of course she's Prométhée. "No", she says, "I'm Promethea (Prométhée-A)!". The committee members don't change their opinion, and disapprove of what she's doing. The truth is that they're jealous of her power, jealous of this woman who is a revolutionary leader, especially since she has been passing as a man. So they put her on trial. She must defend herself as both a woman and the woman. Edouard and Pasolini wrote that she would put in a 'plea in self-defense' (which was also considered as a title). It's a very important document, an existential piece based on a feminist character. But not at all a standard, bourgeois feminism; on the contrary, it's a critique of that kind of feminism, from a viewpoint that's at once intimate and worldly. Most women today, as oppressed people, seek petty revenge instead of fighting a revolutionary struggle. "A woman has the right to change her mind" – that's their revenge, and it's atrocious, it's about accepting inferiority, that's all. Promethea has the courage to say that women are still truly inferior to men. Women must become complete human beings, and they can achieve that if they become revolutionary. They will be liberated in struggle. We cannot 'liberate women' without liberating everyone.

Plea in Self-Defense is a very personal story, the story of Edouard's life. After Pasolini's death, Edouard began filming a variation on this material under the title La Prométhée-A with Nuria Espert, the Spanish actress who was in Fernando Arrabal's Viva la Muerte (1970). But it was never finished, and the edited sequences are in the Anthology's archives. The film is about the radio broadcasts and the trial, but it also shows Promethea visiting New York where she meets an old American revolutionary from the '60s who has gotten a little lost in the '70s. Together, this couple plan militant political action. The film is a kind of thriller. Promethea later became a character in my screenplay Free Will and Testament. She isn't one of the central characters, only a secondary character, but the essentials of her story and her political viewpoint are there. So, long live Promethea! The central metaphor of La Prométhée-A is essential to the story of Free Will and Testament. But La Prométhée-A still lives in the Archives, and we really must find those scenes with Espert. They're in colour, in 35 mm. I have twenty pages of Plea in Self-Defense in my archives. I'd love to publish it, perhaps as part of the collection of essays and other writings by Edouard. The book should also contain the screenplays, even the small things. I would edit the intriguing, unfinished fragments ... This book must really be done. During his final years, Edouard wrote a kind of autobiography. There are chapters which deal with hundreds of the most important events in his life, but written in the third person, like a work of fiction. He showed me a few passages, so I know this exists. It must be found, and I think I know where it might be. These final writings absolutely must be preserved and published. The events he recounts are incredibly striking, funny, even tragic. Obviously, they reflect his own life, which was so incredible. It's the story of the 20th Century! He was everywhere at the right time.

B/D: In fact, it's an anthology!

ZL: Yes, exactly, and of great interest to many different people, not just students of cinema. It must be done!

B/D: If you edit it, the Cinémathèque Française will publish a French translation.

ZL: Yes. After all, Edouard was French. He was French-Polish. He was born in Varsovia. His father was French, his mother Polish. He went to the Sorbonne, where he studied with [Jean-Paul] Sartre and [Simone de] Beauvoir. They became good friends. Edouard did an English translation of Sartre's Le diable et le bon dieu (Lucifer and the Lord). He tried to stage it in Los Angeles with his friend, Charles Laughton. He studied at the Sorbonne, where he became a Doctor of Philosophy, then he studied at Cambridge, where he became a Doctor of English Literature.

B/D: Ah, yes, he was an amazing man.

ZL: When I was president of the jury at the Portugal Film Festival [in 1994], Jonas Mekas was also invited. We spent two very intense weeks together there, because it was only a few months after Edouard's death. We talked about him a lot, and cried together. Edouard and Jonas had a very complicated relationship, very intense. They fought a lot, but they shared an exceptionally strong friendship. Edouard was Polish and Jonas was Lithuanian, and they were like brothers. Since I was Edouard's 'wife', I was like Jonas' sister-in-law. All in the family.

Brad Stevens thanks Nicole Brenez, Robert Lund and Adrian Martin for their assistance with the translation.
© Nicole Brenez and Agathe Dreyfus 2002


  1. Scorsese's remarks on Bad Lieutenant appear in the English language version of the special Cahiers du cinéma issue devoted to him: Projections no. 7 (1997), pp. 93-4.

  2. Zoë lived and worked under many names. In the years with de Laurot, for instance, she was known to her neighbours as Vanessa Lancaster. In Europe (as Italian press clippings of the time attest) she was often Tamara Tamarind. This was most likely the name she was using in Cannes in 1980. (Thanks to Robert Lund for this information.)

  3. In the event, Ferrara's New Rose Hotel (1998) did feature Christopher Walken but was not based on Lund's script.

  4. De Laurot's essays include these three published in 1971-2 issues of Cineaste: "The Public as Vanguard of the People: A Woman's Liberation and the Avatars of Madame Prometheus" (vol. 4, no. 4); "Production as the Praxis of Revolutionary Film: The Concrete Stages of Realization: Part 1" (vol. 4, no. 2); and "Composing as the Praxis of Revolution: The Third World and the U.S.A.: The Concrete Stages of the Realization: Part 2" (vol. 4 no. 3). A critique of this work by Chuck Kleinhans and Julia Lesage, "The Fallacy of Prolepsis: A Critique of Yves de Laurot's Cinema Engagé", appeared in Cineaste vol. 5 no. 4 (winter 1972-3), pp. 25-34. (Thanks to Richard Porton of Cineaste for this information.)

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