Movie City Indie Archive for June, 2005

Fingered: When Toback met Jacques

In LA Weekly, James Toback interviews Jacques Audiard about The Beat My Heart Skipped, his remake of Toback’s Fingers. Audiard: When I approached the idea of remaking “Fingers,” there was a literal sense in which it appealed to me—the themes of inheritance, of being somebody’s son, of creating your own identity. But there’s also a sense in which the film belongs to certain cinematic territory—the American films of the 1970s—that nourished my own filmmaking… I’m wondering if today, in the American independent cinema, there is territory that has the same qualities as those films of the ’70s—that energy, that independence of spirit and also that view of society? Could there be a new form of filmmaking in America—a New Wave or a New New Wave? Is that still possible today? I don’t think so. I think that the independent movement today is a glorified audition to be co-opted by corporate benediction. It really started with Paramount and my dear, late friend Don Simpson—this idea that the poster is the movie, the concept is the movie. That thinking has had—and I say this with due respect to Don, whom I loved—a devastating effect. It created a world in which every movie must be viewed in terms of how it will be marketed and what the distribution concept will be…. [To get a film] distributed and to get any attention is extremely hard—the seduction, the idea of directing a $100 million movie, is too strong for most young filmmakers to resist. I don’t think the power of conglomerate corporate distribution stops movies of originality from being made altogether, but what it does is stop careers of real originality from being noticed and developed… We’re now in a corporate culture where the idea of money and a materialistic notion of life are so widely taken for granted that you’re considered naive if you don’t genuflect beneath it. Whereas, in the ’70s it was the reverse. It was the idea of subverting those values that, if you had any self-respect, you took for granted. That was your price of admission.”

A clean young man: editing Ebert

At Poynter Online, former Ebert colleague Gregory E. Favre snacks on the past: “[Ebert} was one of the easiest people to deal with in the newsroom. Maybe it was because his copy was always clean and crisp and on time. And unlike a number of critics, he not only didn’t mind doing interview pieces and profiles, he excelled in them. I also don’t want to forget this terrific perk of being the Sun Times managing editor: Every once in a while, Roger would invite me to join him for a screening of a new film. First thing would be a stop at the popcorn shop�to purchase a bag of caramel corn, even though I am sure the new slim Roger who walks 10,000 steps each day doesn’t do that anymore.�Then we went to the private screening room above the beautiful Chicago Theater with those big seats and no one talking during the movie. Just Roger and Gene taking silent notes. Now that’s a movie lover’s dream come true.” [More such post-Walk of Stars talk at the link.]

Domino teary: what new line's next

The Guardian’s Aida Edemariam embroiders the death earlier this week of the subject of New Line’s Richard Kelly-penned, Keira Knightley-starring, Tony Scott biopic of bounty-hunter Domino Harvey: “They’ve already had to re-shoot the ending once. They may have to do it again-not to mention reconsider such cod-profound, Hollywood-judgment lines as “There’s only one conclusion to every story. We all fall down.” On Monday night the makers of Domino, a new film starring Keira Knightley scheduled for release in the autumn, must have been somewhat discomfited to find that the 35-year-old inspiration for their $30m action flick – about a beautiful, public school-educated English girl turned gun-toting LA bounty hunter – had provided one last plot twist: she was found dead in her bath in West Hollywood, suspected drowned after a drug overdose.” [More sorry at the link.]

Team America goes Calcutta: David Rockwell and Pantaloons

The design firm of ace set-meister David Rockwell (who did the itty-bitty puppet sets of Team America), the Rockwell Group, is going to town in India. Reports Subhro Saha in Calcutta’s Telegraph, “The Kodak Theatre in Hollywood… America’s largest retail complex, Meadowlands Xanadu in New Jersey… and now, retail and entertainment space in Calcutta. The New York-based Rockwell Group is set to rock the city with its unique “storytelling style”. Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd has tied up with the US design and architecture major for its upcoming Central in south Calcutta, as well as another 300,000-sq-ft-plus mall that will be independent of the Pantaloons brand… A 3-member Rockwell team is on a reconnoitre tour of the country. It studied the city’s retail racks on Tuesday, meeting some prominent players in the industry as well. “At this point, they are here primarily to understand the way Indian consumers shop, eat and celebrate, so that our malls can emote local sentiments,” said Kishore Biyani, managing director, Pantaloon Retail. “Our style of articulating a brand through storytelling is an entirely new concept. We use architecture as the DNA to grow the brand, delving deep into our scenic design competence, since architecture and movies have such a wonderful chemistry,” said Mark Patricof, president and CEO of the Rockwell Group… The new mall in Calcutta, funded by Kshitij and designed by Rockwell, will “enable ordinary people to buy what only the rich could afford”, promised Biyani.

Greetings from Asbury Park: remembering Jersey shores

Filmmaker Christina Eliopoulos is putting her money where her home is, documenting the epic shifts in her Asbury, NJ, hometown: “Eliopoulos has tracked down images of Asbury Park in newsreels from the 20s, several works by Thomas Edison, and a number of early commercial films including The Suburbanite, a popular film about the perils of moving into suburbia that was filmed in 1911. She is using 16-mm film for the project rather than video, even though it costs her $400 just to open a can of film.“Film is the best medium I know that can combine historic, scholarly and personal perspective… We’re talking about a town that had a huge reputation and was mythic in a way… Film does that justice, and I don’t think video does. Film is an imagistic medium, video is not. Video to me feels like a voyeuristic kind of tool. Film feels like it lives beyond the frame. … When you shoot something in film, it’s almost like you can see through it; you sort of feel you are looking into it. Video has a kind of flatness. It’s purely an artistic choice.”

Mad Hot music rights: in the clearance

A case study of how doc makers have to struggle to get music cleared, even in the smallest measures: There’s a scene where a woman’s cell phone rings and she has the “Rocky” theme ringtone. I noticed that you even cleared that! I would have thought that could be an example of fair use. “I thought so too. It’s only 6 seconds! But our lawyer said we needed to clear it. So I called Sprint, which owns the ringtone master rights, and they gave it to me for free because they saw it as product placement. But then I called EMI, which owns the publishing rights and they asked for $10,000. I said no way—even the classics weren’t getting that much. Luckily, we were able to get it for less.” [See the writer’s follow-up post, too.]

Slump dump: Manitoba loves movies

And they’ve got a good reason: “Pat Marshall, spokeswoman for Cineplex Galaxy LP, said she figures the weather drives Manitobans to the movies. “Winnipeggers are used to extremes,” said the former ‘Pegger, who now lives in Toronto. “If it’s super hot in summer, they need a break with air conditioning. If it’s super cold in winter, they need some heat.”

Sundancer's New Heroes role

Robert Redford talks to MSNBC about “The New Heroes,” his collaboration withJeff Skoll, co-founder of eBay and head of the Skoll Foundation: “What we do at Sundance, at the nonprofit suit at Sundance focusing on independent film, is to raise the voices of independent people around the world, to increase diversity, as some areas might be shrinking. For me, the idea of using film—I mean, Jeffrey is a social entrepreneur. And he’s bringing the idea forward of social economics and social responsibility and putting it in a form. The role that I would play would be to do what I do. I’m more on the art end or the content end. That is to use film in a way other than just something as restrictive as just straight-out entertainment. Saying, is there a way that we can take these people, who need to be celebrated, their voices need to be heard, and who can be so inspiring to other people when they see the courage and the commitment that they exhibit around—from an impoverished position, sometimes against incredible odds of corporate greed and corruption? But that’s the reason that I’m involved, because it ties to a lot of things I’ve tried to do over 30 years in my work and particularly in the environment to raise awareness about what’s at stake. That’s my role in this.”

Bolllywood rebound? How indie is it?

“The last six months have been an unusually happy phase for Bollywood with a wide variety of unconventional films managing to attract both crowds and critical accolades, writes Saibal Chatterjee for the Hindustan Times, running down a list of recent releases. “The fact that [unconventional movies] have held their own in the marketplace is clear proof that the Hindi moviegoer is indeed beginning to change. Ruin-of-the-mill [sic] potboilers no longer hold him in thrall. His demands have metamorphosed. But has Hindi cinema reached a point from where it can make the long-waited leap to the next level?” Along with noting that “the peripatetic Shekhar Kapur is poised to begin work on a sequel to Elizabeth,” Chatterjee asks, “But where, pray, is the promised indigenous film that can wrest a place alongside the best, biggest, and most successful international films?”

Model behavior: Bresson's Pickpocket

The Age talks a bit with filmmaker Babette Mangolte about her documentary, The Models of Pickpocket, about three non-actors who appeared in Robert Bresson‘s 1959 movie.
“Is it possible to confuse a film with real life? At the beginning of her engrossing documentary… we see Babette Mangolte, a cinematographer who has directed several films, … provoked to ask the question when she meets an elderly man at a party. He looks familiar, and she thinks he may have been one of her university teachers. “Perhaps you saw me at the cinema,” he says. Decades earlier, he tells her, he had appeared in… Pickpocket…. This is the beginning of a search for Mangolte: having met Pierre Leymarie, now the director of a genetic research laboratory, who played a character more than 40 years earlier in a compelling, austere masterpiece, her curiosity is piqued…” [More at the link.]


LA Times’ Claudia Eller reports who the new Miramax chief might be, someone who once worked for Steve Wooley‘s Palace Pictures, which produced The Crying Game: “Walt Disney Co. is expected to soon name Daniel Battsek, who runs the British arm of its international movie operation, as the new head of Miramax Film Corp., three executives familiar with the situation said.”

Napoleon's army: I'll take Idaho

Pocatello-Blackfoot-Idaho Falls Newschannel 6 KPVI rolls text and footage, reporting an influx of tourists to Preston, Idaho: “Since January of this year, Preston has already seen over 10,000 Dynamite fans who are not only adding thousands of dollars to the local economy, but some are even moving to the small town.” [More factoids and claims at the link.]

I'll draw Manhattan: indie animators in NYC

New York City is seeing new opps for indie animators, writes Joe Strike in Animation World Magazine: “New York may never become an animation mecca to rival Los Angeles, but its homegrown cartoon industry has [had] a sustained growth spurt… Established companies, recent startups and a growing pool of freelance talent are all benefiting from an increased demand for animation. Lowcost desktop technology, new distribution platforms, New York-based ad agencies and cable channels have all contributed to the boom.” [Anecdotal evidence at the link.]

Broken windows: if this is Monday, it must be Variety

Variety’s Ian Mohr examines a few shards of broken windows in this week’s version of where the industry is headed: “One studio honcho admits that when he and his colleagues see a pay-per-view boxing match earn $55 million to $100 million in one evening, they start talking about simultaneous bigscreen and PPV launches” but ““A movie like ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ can run eight or nine or 10 weeks in release,” says one studio subsid exec. “The time that’s allowed for these films to reach the windows increases value. If you collapse the windows, can you still do that?” [More from Markcubantoddwagnermagnolia2929landmarkhdnet and some other guys at the link.]

Everyone in this atrium of the Park City Marriott has had sex, right?: Miranda July

The limits of representing teen sex in movies is the subject of a Sunday takeout by the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram’s Christopher Kelly, who discusses Mysterious Skin and talks to Miranda July about the squeam and the ish of Me and You and Everyone We Know: “When I watch a movie [about teen-age sexuality], if it’s done right, then it brings up all kinds of things… Not just the discomfort but also the thrill of it, when you’re just beginning to be sexual.” … July agrees that it’s puzzling that adult moviegoers wouldn’t be more open to… frank portraits of teen-age sexuality. “Everyone in this atrium has had sex, right?” she says, pointing at the dozens of people shuffling through the Park City Marriot, during an interview at the Sundance Film Festival. “That was an amazing thing [for them] at one point.” … “There’s certain things you can’t have children say,” she explains. “The girls weren’t even allowed to read the signs that are placed in the windows. We had to change the word ‘nipples’ to ‘nickels.’ ” In other words: The impulse to “protect” kids has become so all-consuming in American society that we’ve projected them straight into a fantasy world that bears no resemblance to the one teen-agers actually live in.”

Movie City Indie

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon