Movie City Indie Archive for August, 2005

Why you'll hear more Hallelujah: breaking Leonard Cohen

Maclean’s Katherine Macklem has the cover story: Leonard Cohen’s music has been in a lot of movies lately, such as The Edukators and Lord of War and we’re likely to hear even more: “Take an iconic artist, mix in missing millions, hints of tantric sex, a lawsuit replete with other salacious details, and a ruptured relationship with a long-time, trusted associate, and you’ve got the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster. Except in the case of Leonard Cohen, it’s a true tale, with the bizarre twist of a Tibetan Buddhist suing a Zen Buddhist, Cohen. For the 70-year-old poet, singer and songwriter, it’s a nasty, rapidly escalating legal battle that on the one hand accuses him of conspiracy and extortion, and on the other has him accusing both his highly trusted personal manager and long-time financial adviser — the Tibetan Buddhist — of gross mismanagement of his financial affairs. The case exposes not only private details of Cohen’s finances, but also a dramatic tale of betrayal. The conflict… has left him virtually broke — he’s had to take out a mortgage on his house to pay legal costs — and facing a multimillion-dollar tax bill. But the artist, who is soon to release a new album with his collaborator — and current girlfriend — Anjani Thomas, is today remarkably calm about the potentially embarrassing conflict. Still, when he discovered last fall that his retirement funds, which he had thought amounted to more than $5 million (all figures U.S.), had been reduced to $150,000, he wasn’t so sanguine. “I was devastated,” Cohen says. “You know, God gave me a strong inner core, so I wasn’t shattered. But I was deeply concerned.” [Lots more at the link.]

London recalling: V for Vendetta bumped

Variety reports WB is shifting the new Wachowski Bros. pic to March,” citing post-production delays. Studio steered clear of addressing speculation that it might be bumping the film because of the terrorist bombings in London earlier this summer.I n the pic, V is the character who abducts the film’s heroine, played by Natalie Portman, and teaches her how to use terrorism to fight the totalitarian government gripping London.”

Market forces: newspapers respond to ad cutbacks

Over at his MCN “Digital Nation” column, Gary Dretzka surmises the future relationship between the studios and big newspapers, especially the slashing of full-page ads predicted by writers like LA Weekly’s Nikki Finke. Dretka notes that “not to be forgotten is… that the advertising in features sections—especially on Sundays—pays the freight for such slacker sections as sports, editorial, op-ed, books… local news and business (who, in this digital age, really needs 4 open pages of stock listings?).” The Chicago Sun-Times boldly answered that question earlier this summer, becoming, in early June, “the biggest daily newspaper to eliminate stock market and mutual funds listings. The traditional listings were replaced by a 2-page summary of financial data called “The Markets.” … Many newspapers, including, most recently, The New York Times, have trimmed some market listings in recent years as readers increasingly turned to the Web or cable TV for market information, and as newsprint costs [rose]. The Sun-Times is the biggest, however, to jettison individual stock quotes. Stock and mutual fund listings are moving to the papers Web site, where the markets report is… [here].” The amount of information is “far more extensive than we ever could provide in the printed Sun-Times,” Business Editor Dan Miller said.”

New reviews…

… over at Pride, Unprejudiced, including Secuestro Express, The World, Saraband, Last Days, Tropical Malady, Happily Ever After, Grizzly Man and The Aristocrats.

Withnail and Wah-Wah

From Edinburgh, Screen International’s Allan Hunter has a mouthwatering review of Wah-Wah, the writing-directing debut of the long-absent Richard E. Grant, comparing it to Jim Sheridan‘s In America, then going on to say: “In its early stages Wah-Wah seems to have strayed into Graham Greene territory as Harry turns to drink and [young son] Ralph is left on the sidelines to witness the guilt and betrayal that have torn his parents apart. It blossoms into a much warmer and more appealing piece as Grant reveals more about the characters… Ralph and a friend sneak into a screening of A Clockwork Orange, the mother returns, demanding a second chance and the whole community becomes involved in staging a production of Camelot in front of visiting royalty. Grant displays a generosity towards his characters that is almost reminiscent of Renoir in the way he insists that everyone has their reasons; their embarrassing flaws and shining hours. Even the selfish mother is never turned into a simple villain.”

Shepherding The Good

The Reeler lets on that Eric Roth’s script for The Good Shepherd, the best unproduced script I’ve ever read, is rolling: “Probably the biggest news is that Robert De Niro’s directing effort The Good Shepherd starts filming this week in Gotham. The film features Damon as Edward Wilson, a son of privilege whose life changes with his involvement in the fledgling CIA of the 1940s. Angelina Jolie co-stars, assuring that the agency’s early history will be portrayed in the sexiest way possible. Perhaps most notable is the roster rounding out the cast: William Hurt, John Turturro, Billy Crudup, Timothy Hutton and De Niro himself, among others.”

Brightly: MOMA gives a Ross McElwee retro

The veteran documentarian appears at some of the programs in September’s MoMA exhibition of his 11 films: “For the past twenty-five years, Ross McElwee has given new meaning and flair to first-person nonfiction cinema. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, McElwee studied at MIT with the legendary filmmakers Richard Leacock and Edward Pincus, from whom he learned that the verité documentarian need not be a detached recorder of events—as practitioners of direct cinema in the 1960s often claimed—but rather an engaged, even intrusive, participant in the unfolding action. The confessional mode of McElwee’s autobiographical films… is always wise and irreverent yet rarely solipsistic; ever the unreliable narrator, McElwee is aware of the strictures of self-knowledge, and of our limited ability to know the hearts and minds of others.”

Mysterious Skin Down Under: almost banned

Philippa Hawker of the Age reports that Gregg Araki’s latest was almost barredfrom Australia. While “he used directors Terrence Malick and Wong Kar-wai as reference points,” the South Australian attorney-general requested a ban, and the film’s R classification was reviewed, and upheld, with the review board praising “the film for sensitive handling of its subject matter.” Araki reviews the factors in the film’s feeling of intimacy; the setting may be “low-income Kansas and seedy motel rooms, but I wanted beautiful, ravishing surfaces, and with composition, lighting and controlling the colour palette, we could do that.”

All that useless beauty: are there too many movies?

A few late-summer musings about how movies are being written today, over at Pride, Unprejudiced.

Whirlwind of a Sexual Nature

The London Times’ Dalya Alberge reports on what happens when you have a swell script: “A-LIST actors including Ewan McGregor are taking a fraction of the fees they can command in Hollywood to star in a low-budget film by a writer and a director who have never made a feature film before…. Every actor approached by Edward Blum and Aschlin Ditta, whose careers have been limited until now to Crimewatch reconstructions and television dramas, wanted to be involved with Scenes of a Sexual Nature. They included [Oscar-nominated] Sophie Okonedo… Dame Eileen Atkins…and Adrian Lester… The story traces 7 relationships during one afternoon on Hampstead Heath, where filming was taking place yesterday. Each tale has a comic element, but a dark undertone in exploring fantasy and reality… Scenes of a Sexual Nature is believed to have a budget of �500,000 pounds, raised from private investors. The whole process, from finishing the script in June to raising the money and attracting the cast, took less than six weeks, rather than years of development.

Bloody Tuesday: Paul Greengrass' severe clear

Michael Fleming reports in Variety that “Universal is stepping up for a 9/11 movie, the second major studio film about the terrorist events.” A 40-day shoot is set for October for Paul Greengrass to make Flight 93 via Working Title. The $15 million film “will be 90 minutes long and cover the flight in real time. It begins with the takeoff and hijacking of United Airlines Flight 93 by terrorists, the discovery by passengers with cell phones that other hijacked planes had been steered into the World Trade Center… and the realization that their plane was being steered toward D.C. Pic culminates [with the] passengers… sacrificing their lives to bring the plane down…” Fleming notes that the pic is closer to his 2002 Bloody Sunday than his The Bourne Supremacy. It’ll “be partly improvised with an ensemble cast, and Greengrass will use handheld cameras and other stylized techniques to give the film a gritty feel.” He presented “a 20-page treatment that begins with a stream of consciousness summation of the tragedy [that the director] feels “changed our lives forever.” [More machinations at the link.]

Something much deeper than a diet: Herzog's still chatting

Werner Herzog: bit of a talker, eh? From a Manhattan shopper called Downtown Express, a few choice quotes. After the Internet Movie Database is described to him, Herzog notes, “It’s probably completely full of mistakes, very shallow.” Michael Moore? “Michael Moore is a very good performer and he’s vile and base and hostile and has some wonderful qualities as a performer! I like to see him on screen. He’s always good.” What kind of “cultural diet” does he have? “I don’t have any diet. The question is posed in an obscene way, as if culture for me is a consumer item and a diet that I buy and consume… I dislike your phrase. I have to say it straightaway. Culture is something different. It’s an education of mine. It is something much deeper than a diet… I’m just a good soldier. A good soldier of cinema.”

Anthony Lane has his doubts: 2046

“I am not competent to judge whether Chow [Tony Leung’s character] is really the type to make the opposite sex go weak at the knees, waist, neck, and other points of seizure,” The New Yorker’s joker writes, in the process of acing Wong Kar-Wai’s 2046, “although to my eyes he looked, with his whisker of mustache, like a no-good rat in a George Raft movie. What I will say is that nobody who has the ungallant gall to inform us, in voice-over, that ‘I became an expert ladies’ man’ is a ladies’ man at all. Ladies of every description will know him better as a creep.”

Running with scissors: Where the Truth Lies and the MPAA

The New York Daily News’ Rush & Molloy report the MPAA’s running with scissors again, taking on Atom Egoyan‘s latest. Egoyan writes that “the MPAA is concerned with “the actual number of thrusts seen.” Before shooting his actors, he recalls, “I resorted to playing with dolls, trying to figure out angles and configurations.” But in the end, he couldn’t disguise the sexual mechanics. “I needed these scenes to feel lurid and unbridled…” Having promised producer Robert Lantos an R, Egoyan has continued whacking away at the offending scenes. But one insider tells us, “The mystery of the girl’s death hinges on that scene. If he cuts any more, the audience won’t know what happened.”

A life in tabloids, a life in fertilizer: Mary McGuckian shoots again

Irish director Mary McGuckian, whose all-star version of Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey got only the most cursory release in the US, gets a second chance with Rag Tale, “a sordid world of faked photographs, bogus stories and the drug- and sex-fuelled antics of journalists on a fictional Fleet Street tabloid,” reports Allison Bray of the Irish Independent. Starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rupert Graves and Malcolm McDowell, it follows a tabloid’s misprisions over the course of a week… “It’s genuinely fictional. But I can’t help it if my actors are inspired by what goes on in real life. It’s not about people, it’s about the use and abuse of power in the media,” she said.” It was shot in 30 days in Luxembourg by “ the daughter of the Antrim-based agriculture billionaire, Alistair McGuckian. The 67-year-old businessman also recently staged the hit musical the ‘Ha’penny Bridge’ after making a fortune establishing the farming and fertiliser company, Mastock, with his brother, Paddy.”

Movie City Indie

Quote Unquotesee all »

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