Movie City Indie Archive for September, 2005

Tilda Swinton: I would run a cinema

Tilda Swinton gets interior with The Herald’s Miles Fielder: “In a spacious, somewhat empty suite in Edinburgh’s swanky Caledonian Hotel, Tilda Swinton is sitting on a large golden sofa. Clad in denim and with her long, red hair falling down around her shoulders, she’s leaning forwards, elbows on knees, hands grappling the air as she searches for the right words to describe something that’s very important to her. But the Scottish actress isn’t talking to me about her new film, Thumbsucker
Instead, she is intent on describing her home
… “We have no television, but we do have the tiniest, tiniest, tiniest screening room in our house. We got some seats, sadly, from an old cinema that was knocked down to make an Ikea, or whatever. Anyway… I’m having a really beautiful time at the moment, because my children have become interested in cinema. So, I have a laboratory experiment going, to feed them films… They love Jacques Tati… It’s a great delight to feel them begin to sense what cinema is. If my ship came in… I would run a cinema. That’s what I really want to do.”

How much riper could a country be for pissed-off music?: Schama on Scorsese's Dylan

Of the yards of verbiage unfurled over Scorsese’s PBS-BBC-DVD Dylan doc, next to Larry Gross’ celebration, there’s a lot worth the deciphering in Simon Schama‘s history in the Guardian, including: “Hermeneutics 101: the artist makes the world, but then again the world makes the artist, and heigh-ho round and round we go. Though Dylan insists that he just kinda happened along at the right time, he’s right to acknowledge the hungriness of America – and Britain – for his wry take on, inter alia, injustice, hypocrisy and thermonuclear angst. So while [Irish folksinger Liam] Clancy, in a nice aside, says that “lightning strikes every once in a while in a different place, no one knows why”, it’s not that hard to figure that a country on the brink of nuclear war might well turn jitters into musical fury. At the height of the Cuban missile crisis, Roger Cohen remembers singing at the Gaslight with Dylan, “You’re going to miss me when I’m gone,” and thinking, “Wait a minute, there isn’t going to be anybody left to miss us!” Then followed in succession: the assassination of the president, the violent resistance to the civil rights movement, and a deluded, unwinnable war which mowed down an entire generation. How much riper could a country possibly be for pissed-off music?”

Ingmar Bergman, with this woman who keeps cows and horses

On the occasion of Saraband, the Guardian’s Geoffrey Macnab surveys the generation after Ingmar Bergman to suss his lasting impact. Michael Winterbottom: “When I was 24 or 25, around the time of his 70th birthday, I made two documentaries about him… I watched all his films – which then numbered almost 50. I had written him a letter asking if we could make a documentary based on his book. When I met him, he said one of the reasons he had agreed to see me was that in Christmas in Sweden, there is a tradition of farcical comedy and one of the characters in it is called Mr Winterbottom. I was told you had to be extremely punctual – that that was an issue. So I was…” [He’s impressed by Bergman’s simplicity, too.] bergman_1.jpg Liv Ullmann on the man on the island: “When shooting on Saraband was over, Bergman said goodbye and went to his island. That was two years ago. He lives there absolutely completely alone… We made Scenes From a Marriage 30 years ago in a stable he had made into a studio. Now, he has made that into a cinema. He gets all the films sent there. He sits there with this woman who keeps cows and horses showing her films. Every new film. He knows everything that is being made.” Thomas Vinterberg : “Some of those close-ups of those beautiful Swedish actresses have just stayed with me. He created female characters you fell in love with instantly and exposed their burning inner life in a way I have not seen before or since… After I made Festen, I called him. He was very, very lively, speaking from his island. I was expecting to hear from a more bitter man. He said he would do no more work and now he would find the time to sit in a corner in his house and read some of those marvellous books he never got to read. He told me Festen was a masterpiece, which I was very happy about, but he talked about how silly and stupid Dogme was… I tried to explain why Dogme wasn’t silly, but I very quickly gave in. He wasn’t going to change his opinion, no matter what I said. I’ve only talked to him on one occasion. It was so uplifting. If I can feel like he does at that age, life isn’t that bad.” Alexander Payne : “I am woefully underexposed to Bergman.” James Schamus: “Look at Scenes From a Marriage and then look at Love Streams.” Also: Sally Potter, Terrence Davies, Stephen Wooley, and Olivier Assayas, who makes a modest case for Saraband as ” some otherworldly masterpiece.”

Smartie: Noah Baumbach on one impulse behind The Squid and the Whale

In New York, Noah Baumbach says that after 30, he wanted to make “more emotional movies that were less about being clever…. Intellectuals are depicted so negatively now, it’s nice to show that they can be human beings, too—to make emotional movies about intellectuals rather than analytic movies about intellectuals.”

B. Ruby polishes Brokeback Mountain: Cinema history thereafter has to arrange itself around it

“Every once in a while a film comes along that changes our perceptions so much that cinema history thereafter has to arrange itself around it,” B. Ruby Rich asserts in the Guardian: “Think of Thelma and Louise or Chungking Express, Blow-Up or Orlando—all big films that taught us to look and think and swagger differently. Brokeback Mountain is just such a film. Even for audiences educated by a decade of the New Queer Cinema phenomenon… it’s a shift in scope and tenor so profound as to signal a new era… Quite simply, despite the long careers of Derek Jarman, Gus Van Sant, John Waters, Gregg Araki, Todd Haynes, Patricia Rozema, or Ulrike Ottinger, there has never been a film by a brand-name director, packed with A-list Hollywood stars at the peak of their careers, that has taken an established conventional genre by the horns and wrestled it into a tale of homosexual love emotionally positioned to ensnare a general audience. With Brokeback Mountain, all bets are off… With utter audacity, renowned director Ang Lee, aided and abetted by legendary novelist-screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana and master storyteller Annie Proulx, have taken on the most sacred of all American genres, the western, and queered it… It’s a great love story, pure and simple. And simultaneously the story of a great love that’s broken and warped in the torture chamber of a society’s intolerance and threats, an individual’s fear and repression. In the end, Brokeback Mountain is a grand romantic tragedy, joining the ranks of great literature as much as great cinema.” [Extensive choruses at the link.]

Nathan Lee loved it: The Weeping Meadow and drowned worlds

In the New York Sun, Nathan Lee has little patience for Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow, but does manage to work in Katrina, 9/11 and Donnie Darko. “Theo Angelopoulos has announced that his new film is the first part of a trilogy that will attempt a “poetic summing up of the century that just ended.” Those are some mighty big words, and he’s backed them up with a mighty big movie. Just shy of three hours long, Meadow is an epic meditation on Greek history from 1919-49… Mostly what it’s about are thick slabs of cinematography: elaborately orchestrated long shots that unravel the landscape with sinuous self-importance… An early shot introducing us to the characters’ coastal village manages a dozen neat feats of telescoping distance, shifting scale, metamorphic point of view. So that’s what an animated Bruegel looks like…
weeping meadow 1.jpg
But if this is poetry, it hasn’t learned the modernist lessons of concision and concentration. The movie isn’t poorly written; it’s barely written at all. Halfway through the story, the village is wiped out by flood…. It’s a very pretty calamity. This sequence would be impressive in any context. In the wake of Katrina, however, such images penetrate the imagination from unexpected angles, posing unexpected questions. The mind can’t help but struggle to connect them meaningfully to events outside the theater… Mr. Angelopoulos’s ostentatious style invites (but doesn’t reward) the most demanding engagement from its viewer….There is, moreover, a recent and illuminating precedent for the uncanny correspondence of film images to real world disaster. The first movie I saw after September 11 was Donnie Darko” a moody pastiche of sci-fi, satire, and 1980s suburban period piece. Five minutes into the story, a jet engine falls from the sky… The hypersensitive narrative that followed perfectly reflected the mood of New York in those days: tortured introspection, melancholy vertigo, a sense of reality slipping off the rails… The flood images of The Weeping Meadow embrace the viewer in nothing but their own virtuosity.”

Rushing un-spun: Control Room figure joins Al Jazeera

Josh Rushing, one of the central figures in Jehane Noujaim‘s documentary Control Room, for his considered responses as a U.S. Marine Captain who served in the United States Central Command media office during the invasion of Iraq, quit the Marines after being told he couldn’t talk about the movie; now he’s got a new job, at Al Jazeera International‘s 24-hour English language network.
“Josh’s outspoken and conscientious nature in this sensitive role, his conflicts with the Pentagon and his subsequent resignation from the Marines,” the network P.R.s, “as well his regular appearances as a fresh, non-partisan, critical voice in broadcast and print media have made him among the most recognisable young media voices today. Al Jazeera International, headquartered in Doha -Qatar, aims to broadcast globally at the end of the 1st quarter of 2006, from broadcasting centres in Doha, Kuala Lumpur, London, and Washington D.C.” Rushing will be based in DC, as part of one of news bureaus around the world. More press release: “‘In a time when American media has become so nationalised, I’m excited about joining an organisation that truly wants to be a source of global information,” Josh said. “I witnessed during the war how the U.S. media was co-opted by the U.S. government’s messaging. I am proud to be part of a news network that believes in the power of the un-spun truth.”

Vlad to know you: Coppola in Romania, datorită

Variety reports Francis Coppola, at 66, after 8 years of mulling Megalopolis, is making a low-budget, self-financed version of Romanian author Mircea Eliade‘s “Youth Without Youth.”
It was reported in July in Romania, but who reads Atac? Most provocative somewhat discernible pharse? It’s the story of an “asistenta medicala o bruneta si agent secret o blonda”! Variety says the current cast is Tim Roth, Alexandra Maria Lara, Bruno Ganz, Marcel Iures, and involves a post-World War II fugitive criss-crossing Romania, Switzerland, Malta and India. Tim Robbins was originally involved: “Pentru rolul principal, al batranului Dominic Matei, regizorul l-a ales pe actorul American Tim Robbins, sotul actritei Susan Sarandon, dar pentru cateva personaje secundare a acceptat o distributie autohtona. In urma cu cateva zile, au inceput castingurile, in Romania, o asistenta medicala bruneta si o blonda agent secret. Una dintre actritele care s-a inscris deja la probe pentru rolul brunetei este Daniela Nane. In varsta de 66 de ani, regizorul Francis Ford Coppola a avut in minte acest proiect de film inca de la vizita sa de acum sase luni in Romania.”

Tartan's cultural hand grenades

Ohmynews talks to Tartan prexy Tony Borg about Korean cinema and Tartan’s output: “I know I’m biased but Oldboy and A Tale of Two Sisters are my favorite films. You can’t get much better in terms of unbelievable bodies of work that represent the new wave of Korean cinema. If you can’t appreciate either of these films and their styles, I don’t think you can appreciate film in general.
Our owner, Hamish McAlpine, likes to refer to films that we release as “cultural hand grenades.” We want to entertain people but we also want to push their buttons, so that even if they don’t like the film they still have to talk about it the next day. Those kinds of films are being made all over the world and that’s why we look not only to Asia but also Europe, Mexico and all parts of the world.”

Why does Mr. S. Run Mildly Amok?: Dargis on Soderbergh on Fassbinder

While Fassbinder gets one of the sexiest jokes in Michael Winterbottom’s A Cock and Bull Story, Steven Soderbergh confesses closer kinship to Manohla Dargis in the Times: “I liked that he was prolific,” Mr. Soderbergh said of the uncompromising bad boy of New German Cinema. “I liked the subject matter. I envied his ability to really be a part of the worlds that he portrayed. He was in it in a way that I could never be. And, I don’t know, just the bluntness of his movies or most of them, I really like. I was watching a lot of them and had some of them with me when I was in Ohio, not to ape anything in specific, just for the feeling.” Later, when [he] leaves for his next [interview] and mentions that he is about to make his next two films, The Good German and Che, almost back to back, this interviewer jokes that he is a madman. “I’m just like Fassbinder,” [he] says in his pleasant deadpan, “but without the drugs and the whores.”

A History of blog: Cronenberg posts

Now why would it be that David Cronenberg and the weird neologism “blog” might fit together? Entries at the website, including video diaries like this brief tape-measured bit about a sex scene in the movie, which won’t make sense if you haven’t seen it, show why.

Slow food for thought: super slo-mo movies

At Epic Empire, a selection of low gravity and super-slow motion videos, collected by Dr. David G. Alciatore, “depicting everyday events [in] a collection of over 180 super-slow motion video clips [including] water balloons popping, animal trap crushing a pen and an egg, Bouncing Rubber Yo-Yo Ball, Ear Flick, milling block of aluminum, stomach punches, pen twirled in hand, stomach punches, computer hard-drive track seeking demonstration, mouth squirting water, face slaps, toy truck destruction, light bulb drop, egg crushed by a hammer, egg dropped on mouse trap, and Jello cube drop.”

Go, indie, go!: Mike MIlls

The SF Bay Guardian reports that Thumbsucker daddy Mike Mills is “working on a documentary on the development of antidepressants in Japan and another feature (and, word has it, dating… Miranda July), the 39-year-old Mills is moving away from his past in graphic design and videomaking – he designed album covers for, famously, Sonic Youth, the Beastie Boys, and Cibbo Matto and directed videos for Ornette Coleman, Frank Black, and the Blues Explosion.” And he gives a shout for indie filmmaking: “That’s the good thing about film – it’s really just a big pirate ship, and it’s like saying, ‘How do you become a good pirate?’ Well, any fucking way that you want. Just find your way to do it. I would put a huge vote in for doing it yourself and not believing things made at home and made for cheap or things made on video and without movie stars aren’t worth doing. That’s a total contradiction, coming from someone who has a film with Keanu Reeves in it, you know. But that’s what I believe.”

Edet Belzberg, aboveground: filmmaker gets MacArthur Fellowship

Edet Belzberg, director of the wrenching Children Underground is a 2005 MacArthur Fellow.
The 35-year-old Belzberg, the Foundation writes, “is a documentary filmmaker whose films are distinguished by her choice of subjects, in-depth treatment of time and place, and elegant storytelling. In Belzberg’s signature film, Children Underground, she follows and films a group of homeless children living in a train station in Bucharest, Romania. Raw, graceful, and insightful, [her film] personalizes the often dangerous and always chaotic and uncertain world of youngsters casually abandoned by their families and the larger society…” [Photo: MacArthur Foundation]

Classic Sony behavior: where all the back doors are

LA Times’ Patrick Goldstein big-pictures Sony Pix Classics bigs Tom Bernard and Michael Barker: “Although rivals complain that the duo are abrasive and needlessly unpleasant in competitive situations, Bernard argues that their bad rep comes from a refusal to socialize with the competition. “In social settings… people share a lot of information which can sometimes lose you a movie.” … The partners have fought ferociously to keep their autonomy. “You have to remain outside the studio, because they’ll always try to get you to conform to their ways of doing business,” says Bernard. “We look at each movie individually. We have 22 movies this year, we might have 10 next year. We’re not trying to feed an international distribution pipeline, which is what other specialty divisions seem set up to do.” Barker and Bernard’s festival exploits are legendary. Bernard was ejected from a sold-out Roger & Me premiere here by a fire marshal who found him sitting in the aisle without a ticket. He promptly sneaked in again, explaining, “You just have to know where all the back doors are.”

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