Movie City Indie Archive for June, 2005

No, honestly, please, dear God, don't, I beg you, please, Don't Look Now

Yes, the producer of Hard Rain, Paulie and The Patriot, Mark Gordon, is remaking Don’t Look Now, reports the Reporter’s Gregg Kilday. When the new guys came on board at Paramount, they started rifling the library. Says Gordon’s senior vp Josh McLaughlin, “I’ve always been a big fan of Don’t Look Now and we thought it was a movie that could be updated. We owe a lot to [the screenwriter] who… hit the ground running with the movie’s ideas of death and life and looking for something just beyond life.” The original film, Gordon added, “was very much of its time, with a lot of atmospherics that wouldn’t necessarily work today. But it has a great idea and a wonderful backdrop and setting. We hope to take the feeling of the story, continue to set it in Venice and make it contemporary.” (Okay, where’s that claw hammer when you need it most?)

Herzog: I hated it, it just looked like kitsch

Werner Herzog tells some tales about telling 3 tales this summer to the Christian Science Monitor’s David Sterritt: “It’s one of the most amazing nature shots ever: a single drop of water clinging to a leaf, refracting the upside-down image of a nearby waterfall. It’s also one of the most bogus nature shots ever.
The drop isn’t water, it’s glycerin (which refracts light better) and the image was painstakingly concocted, not spontaneously caught [by a] cinematographer working with filmmaker Werner Herzog in Guyana on “The White Diamond,” one of 3 documentaries by Mr. Herzog being released in the US this summer…. It’s obvious that Herzog loved the shot, fabricated or not, or he wouldn’t have included it in his documentary. Right? Wrong. “I hated it… It just looked like kitsch… and I knew I didn’t want it in my film. And yet I knew it had to be in the film. I knew if I created the proper context, that would [override] the kitsch and make [the shot] great.”

I am not God, but…: Antonioni

Actor Peter Bowles revisits his time on the set of Blow-Up: “When I came to my first close-up with Antonioni, we went through one take, then another take, then another take. He’d say, “Cut. Now Peter, that was good. But it was not so good as take five. Although it was better than take seven. So, we go again.”He wanted me to use an upward inflection on my line, which didn’t make any sense to me at all, but I was trying to do it. I have never had such close coaching from any other director, and many actors wouldn’t stand for it. Finally, on take 13: “Cut. Print. Good. Peter, come with me.” So he took me off set and said to me, “Peter, I understand. You wish to show the world what a fine actor you are.” He got that right. “When you work with other directors you give them your performance and they film it. Not with me, Peter. You see I have chosen you for how you look. I have chosen all your clothes. If I move my camera 6 inches, I would ask you to do that line in a different way.” Upon this, he put his arms around me and held me close to him and said, “Peter, believe in me. Trust me. I am not God, but I am Michelangelo Antonioni.”

A pocketful of Posel: remembering an arthouse pioneer

In the Philadelphia Inquirer, Carrie Rickey celebrates a Philly “art-cinema force” upon his passing: Ramon L. Posel, the film showman and real estate developer who cultivated community at his Ritz Theaters and shopping malls across the region, died yesterday… He was 77. A tenacious man with the physical presence of Russell Crowe, the intellectual force of William Rehnquist, and a pompadour that looked good only on him and Ronald Reagan, Mr. Posel gave the impression that he could outmuscle any comer. When naysayers told him he’d lose his shirt trying to bring quality retail to North Philadelphia or quality movies to Center City, he persevered, turning a forlorn parcel into the bustling Station Center at 2900 N. Broad St., and the Ritz Five into a local chain that Sony Pictures executive Tom Bernard ranks as “one of the best in the country.” [Much more of a full life at the link.]

Confessions of an ex-Woody Allen fan

Notes from an ex-Woody fan in the Forward, by Andrew Heinz, author of “Jews and the American Soul: Human Nature in the Twentieth Century”: An ex-fan never gives up hope. That’s what makes him, or her, different from a fair-weather fan, who loves for a time and easily moves on… My theory about Allen’s fate has two premises: First, an artist cannot write beyond his personal maturity; and second, an artist cannot always tell where his true talent lies… The other conspicuous problem of Allen’s private world—his long-lived preoccupation with teenage girls—is not one that I, as a loyal ex-fan, want to dredge up. Suffice to say that he produced some of his best work while involved with a talented contemporary, Mia Farrow, and some of his worst while living with the post-adolescent Soon-Yi Previn. But aside from the artistic consequences of an artist’s maturities and immaturities, there is another important question: Does Allen understand the nature of his own talent?” [Heinze briskly (and insightfully) runs down the list of bad and good at the link, with an emphasis on Broadway Danny Rose.]

Stalking Terry

Terrence Malick apparently lives down Austin way; the American-Statesman’s Chris Garcia does a bit of the old semi-stalk: “There he was only 2 years ago at Jo’s coffeehouse on South Congress Avenue, perched in the shade with a yellow legal pad and cell phone, wearing a tropical-print shirt and a Panama hat. Only thing missing was a mai tai to complete the picture. Malick appeared to be doing light business, and in fact he was. Actor Benicio Del Toro was in town to meet with Malick about “Che,” the Che Guevara biographical feature they were developing that Malick would co-write and direct and Del Toro would star in.” [More tracking at the link.]

Hacking Netflix

“Hacking Netflix” turns out to be a surprisingly comprehensive news and commentary page, devoted to all things NetFlix, with a close eye on biz issues.

Baby, it's cold inside: Are the movies dying?

While ticking off the factors that make him believe that theatrical exhibition is basically already dead, The Boston Globe’s Ty Burr has a few misguided notions of his own, suggesting that the one-man movie festival is part of the future: “Cheap, high-quality 3-D and live concert feeds are suddenly within an exhibitor’s reach, and so is the as-yet-unexplored notion of theatrical movies on demand. Think about it: Since you can theoretically download any film to a digital projector’s server, why not program your own night at the movies, invite your friends, and split the proceeds with the theater owner? Pull your favorite classic out of mothballs, screen that underrated horror film, arrange a weeklong festival the way Amazon puts up user guides.”

Wasn't that a line from The Conversation?: Harvey's new guy asks

Derailed director Mikael Håfström gets a neat intro in the Guardian, plus a chance to extol The Conversation: “At a corner table in a busy London bar, cradling a strong black coffee and blinking in the light like a mole just emerged from the undergrowth, sits Harvey Weinstein’s new favourite director. You may not know his name—nor does anyone in the room appear to recognise his amiable, bearded face—but if the cigar-chomping founder of Miramax has his way, Mikael Håfström will soon become the most famous Swedish director since Ingmar Bergman.” … When he started out as a writer and director of cop dramas for Swedish television in the early 1990s he would “steal loads of stuff” from Coppola’s leanly compelling dialogue. “I could always identify a real cinephile,” he admits with a guilty gulp of coffee, “when he would come up to me after seeing my show and say ‘Wasn’t that a line from The Conversation?’ “

Avant and avast: is LA more indie than NY?

The Guardian’s John Patterson argues the case for Los Angeles being more “indie” than NYC: “I come fresh from reading David E James’ majestic new book, ‘The Most Typical Avant-Garde: History and Geography of Minor Cinemas in Los Angeles,’ which upsets many previously held notions of the primacy of [Manhattan’s] East Village as ground zero for radical film-making, and establishes LA – home of Machine Hollywood, satanic TV production, and the San Fernando flesh-factories – as a major and pioneering locale for dissident film-making of every stripe. James, a professor at USC… [makes the case] —what he refers to as his “extravagant claims”, though they are anything but… that LA may even have the edge on Manhattan in terms of iconoclastic cinema.” There’s more from Patterson at the link, including comparisons to Thom Andersen’s magnificent, masterful essay, Los Angeles Plays Itself.

Foxed: Eucalyptus set sits, still not paid for

“They’ve had the set for Eucalyptus in their back paddock for more than 5 months,” writes the Sydney Morning Herald’s Christine Sams, “but Sylvia and Athol Preston haven’t been paid a cent by the American film company that owns it. The Prestons, who live in the small village of Gleniffer near Bellingen in northern NSW, were set to play host to [the picture when the] $20 million film project was suddenly cancelled in February… American executives from Fox Searchlight films said the set would remain in northern NSW until the film was ready to be made… Mrs Preston [says] she has no idea how long the set will remain on her property… “We’ve had no word since the afternoon it was called off, we’ve had no contact whatsoever… So we’re as in the dark as anybody else actually, to be quite honest.” Mrs. Preston’s largest concern? Their “farm stock are unable to graze on that patch of land.”

Thai star: "murdered in the most sadistic and photogenic fashion"

Bangkok Post’s Kong Rithdee has the lovely lede of the weekend talking to a leading Thai stuntman: “Kawee Sirikhanaerat has long learned to accept the inevitable: In every single film he appears in, his character is destined to suffer a brutal death, usually being murdered in the most sadistic and photogenic fashion. One of his dearest memories was in Lara Croft Tomb Raider 2, in which he plays a disposable baddy who’s crushed to death by a giant Doric pillar in an aquatic city. “The earth splits and the roof crumbles,” he says. “It’s quite a death, isn’t it?” [More at the link.]

Ratings game: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

They really do make this stuff up as they go along, like Joey Nickels in Annie Hall: “This film is rated ‘PG’ for quirky situations, action and mild language.” “This film is rated ‘PG’ because Tim Burton stepped on the set”? What are they saying?

Wu woo and bagel blockers: self-promoting Saving Face

254.jpg Writer-director Alice Wu is chronicling the release of her tart, comic debut, Saving Face, to friends on her email list: “A friend of mine who will remain nameless (Jeff Yang) exhorts me to continue my weekly emails but pepper them with personal anecdotes, because that—he feels—is doubtlessly the way to pull in the masses. Earnestness is out—Sizzle and f’shizzle are in. So here, in my effort to give it up like a cheap whore, I say to you:
“On Tuesday, during my shift at the Park Slope Food Coop, I was stocking the bagels when I got totally called out by a lady in her 80s. I had been surreptitiously (and rudely) trying to answer a call from my producer, and simultaneously slam bagels into the bin at warp speed, when I got a tap on my shoulder. The Squad Leader—heavy-jowled, morose—pointed to a very irate old woman. “This lady has filed a formal complaint against you.” The lady busted out: “She was totally BLOCKING THE BAGELS! She kept stocking the plain ones, and NONE OF US COULD GET THROUGH TO THE POPPYSEED!” Boy, she was pissed. I apologized weakly and hung my head. “Sorry, I never take calls at the co-op, this one was just kinda important.” She glared… a few more moments, then left grumbling. Once she’d gone, the Squad Leader asked, “So what was so important?” I started to explain about the film, and the challenges of trying to get the word out for these smaller pictures, getting people to the theater, blah blah blah. “I’ll go support the film”, piped up a random woman who had stuck around after the public shaming. “Me too,” said the woman next to her. “You should put something in the Coop Gazette” said the Squad Leader. So there you have it. My shame is the film’s gain. I guess that’s what makes this country great. Everyone gets a second chance, even if they block the bagels. (Though if you see an old lady outside the theater protesting my film (or really, me)—perhaps with a big X through my face and the words “BAGEL BLOCKER” in angry letters below, steer clear. She means business.)…
As always,

p.s. Another funny thing: I was having coffee in Soho yesterday when a woman came over and asked, “Are you Alice Wu? I was eavesdropping on your conversation, and I just wanted you to know that I loved your movie.” Turns out she’s Laura Flanders from Air America Radio! She asked if I’d go on her show tomorrow eve (Saturday) for the last half hour while she’s interviewing Sarah Jones (super-celebrated smartypants award-winning one-woman show monologist), so we can all talk about the issues. So I have to go now so I can read up on the issues. (If anyone has hints on what they are, please send them.)”

Where credit is due: Marlon Brando

On June 30, Christie’s in New York auctions the bric and the brackish from Marlon Brando’s estate, including this pile of plastic among the 330 lots, described thusly�: “A collection of bank and credit cards D4537589r.jpg for personal and business accounts, comprising: two American Express cards, one gold, one platinum, both in the name of Marlon Brando Jr., one signed on the reverse by Brando in blue ballpoint pen; one Bank Of America platinum card in the name of Marlon Brando; two Wells Fargo cards, one platinum in the name of Marlon Brando, one gold business card in the name of Marlon Brando/Penny Poke Farms; Wells Fargo platinum card in the name of Frangi Pani; and a Pacific Bell calling card in the name of Larry Duran.” That prompts a swell vision of Brando on a sunny Sunday afternoon, motoring down Mullholland to the Beverly Flats, wafting into a shiny storefront in a muumuu to buy Frango mints, bearing a Wells Fargo platinum card signed “Frangi Pani.” Or, as Brando memorably asked in The Formula, “Milk Dud?” [More photographs of the leavings appear on the bid forms of each lot at the site.]

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