To make a good film, the story is most important. The camerawork doesn’t matter, says Răzvan Vasilescu. He has appeared in seminal works of the Romanian new wave such as Stuff and Dough and California Dreamin’ (Endless). Tomorrow, as a member of the Main Jury, he will decide which among the 11 films in the International Competition of Feature Films will win Art Film Fest’s grand prize—the Blue Angel.
Do actors and directors judge films differently as members of festival juries?
I don’t think there’s a major difference between us. We all expect the same: good acting and good directing. Or at least those are my criteria for judging films.
How do you recognize good acting?
You can just feel it. It’s the same feeling as when you meet a stunning girl. You’re speechless, you can’t take your eyes off her, and you just sigh, “Well I’ll be!” But when a dog-faced fatty comes along, no one gives her a second glance.
So in your eyes, good films are like stunning girls?
In their own way. The difference is that sleeping with films isn’t really my bag.
What about preparing for a good performance—is it anything like preparing for a date with a beautiful woman?
When I prepare for a role, I usually study the texts for the two, three months I have. And I think about what my character could and should be like. But a good role is actor-proof. It plays itself.
What makes a good role?
A good script. For me, the script and the story it tells are very, very important. Just like a play is the most important thing in a theatre production. After all, why do they keep performing plays by Chekhov, Shakespeare, Pirandello and so many other long-dead playwrights over and over, with such success? They’ve got good stories.
Where do you act better, onstage or onscreen?
I’m not ashamed to say that in front of an audience I’m a terrible actor. I’m shy. It’s most apparent at auditions. Even when I know the script forward and back, I don’t feel confident in front of people.
How does a shy person become an actor?
Quite naturally. In fact, precisely because he is shy. I don’t think it’s so he can prove himself and show that he can get over stage fright. More so he can be a tough guy, pick up the hottest girls, so he can kill… When an actor has a good script, he can spit in politicians’ faces and tell them off: “You bastards, you’ve got all the dough and we’ve got nothing!” But afterwards, when he meets a politician in real life, he lowers his head and shakes the man’s hand with a smile: “Hello Sir, how you’re doing, thank you for everything.”
Are the lives you live in front of the camera ones you’d like to live in reality?
No, certainly not. It’s about love.
Do you watch films differently from your average viewer?
I think that, due to his trade, a film professional sees more than the average viewer. He sees the difference between genuine actors and those who just go to and fro across the screen. For example I’ve never seen an African actor who was truly good. The way they perform is as if they were constantly in some National Geographic documentary. I don’t hold it against them, but good actors have a European style. Perhaps today some have more of an Asian style. I reckon it’s predetermined by the history of our culture.
Who plays the most important role in making a good film?
Every role is equally important. And as I’ve already said, the screenwriter is very, very important. Only at Cannes, when you’re after an award, is the producer most important—especially one with deep pockets.