National filmmaking legend speaks his mind

Many see multihyphenate Alain Tanner as the dean of Swiss cinema, but in fact Tanner rejects the label.

In fact, he doesn’t even care to be called “Swiss.”

“I am just a human being, with feet, a head and two hands,” Tanner tells Variety. “I was born here and so much the better.”

He takes a dim view of today’s mainstream Swiss cinema, which has become associated with commercial German-language Swiss movies.

“At the moment, when you hear of young filmmakers on the German side singing songs of glory because they had 10% of the market share last year, that makes me sick because those films are bad, so I do not care what share you make on the market.

“You either make good or bad films.”

He knows he played a central role in getting Swiss cinema off the ground.

“We started in the early ’60s, a group of filmmakers fighting like tigers in German-speaking Switzerland and in French-speaking Switzerland to make it possible to make films in this country,” he says. “It was a long fight and in the end we managed to get films made.”

Now, though, at 78, the helmer of “Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000″ and “Charles Dead or Alive” is retired, saying filmmaking is too hard at his age.

“I would still enjoy making films were it not for the problem of what comes before, financing and all that, and what comes after — distributing,” he says.

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