Charles Thomas Samuels [“S”] interviewed Michelangelo Antonioni [“A”] in Rome in 1969. I finally figured out the occasional non-sequiturish statements in the transcript were originally photo captions.
S: In an interview I had with him, John Updike said something that fascinated me: “Being an artist is dangerous because it allows one to turn one’s pain too quickly to profit.”
A: I couldn’t use that phrase today-“being an artist”-as if that were something exceptional. And if somebody transmutes his pain into profit, very good. I find that the most wonderful way to kill pain.
S: Why do you say “today”? Could you have used the phrase “being an artist” in some other period?
A: Yes, of course. I think that during the Renaissance everything was influenced by art. Now the world is so much more important than art that I can no longer imagine a future artistic function.
S: But today what is the function?
A: I don’t know.
S: You don’t know?
A: Do you?
A: Then tell me.
S: You want me to tell you what the function of art is! No, you tell me what you think of Francois Truffaut.
A: I think his films are like a river, lovely to see, to bathe in, extraordinarily refreshing and pleasant. Then the water flows and is gone. Very little of the pleasant feeling remains because I soon feel dirty again and need another bath.