Babette Mangolte

I met Michael Snow and Stan Brakhage the second day after I arrived, you know. I had never seen or heard of Brakhage. For me, it was a revolution, because I was well educated in film, but American-style experimental film was known to me in the abstract, and I had seen practically nothing. I had seen a film then that Noël Burch had found and was distributing called Echoes of Silence. It was a beautiful film, three hours long. It goes forever and it was in black and white, very grainy, and I saw that film and I thought…it was not New Wave. It was really a new concept of cinema.

When the cinematography school told me I would have no chance to get a job, I said, “It’s irrelevant.” My mom was a feminist in the ’20s. She taught me to be on my own, to be independent, to do what I wanted to do. I did not believe it would be difficult. It was difficult. In ’66, I almost starved for a year and a half, and the only way I did not starve was because I could not find a job in camera, but I found a job in editing.

The experimental film scene was very much misogynistic as well. I don’t know if you have read what little attention was given to the films of Joyce Wieland, who was the wife of Michael Snow. Michael was the “genius” and she was not. If you look at the films they’re wonderful, but very different. Michael was very proud of the films too, so it was not coming from him. It was coming from the general environment. I think both Chantal Akerman and I shared that. We wanted to find a language, which was the language of women.

What interested me in film was the image-making aspect of it. So, I went to school in cinematography. I was really convinced that image was what I wanted to do, and I think it came from the fact that I lived in a small town my whole life, but my mother was very interested in painting, so she would bring us to Paris for two weeks. So, we’re going to the Louvre and to the museums and to see shows. In the evening we were seeing theater. Painting is basically what led me. I think the image was key.

In the ’60s when I started to see everything I could see, you could see pretty much everything which was still available from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, and therefore I had an education which was really large and vast in different cinema. That’s probably the reason I did not fall for the New Wave. It’s really the love of the movies that made me want to become a cameraperson, definitely. I was really a film buff.