Movie City Indie Archive for June, 2006

Never bore anyone!: Schlöndorff remembers Wilder

Volker Schlöndorff has a lengthy and entertaining memoir of Billy Wilder in the LA Times. “It was Wilder’s First Commandment: Never bore anyone! Billy 2375000.JPGNeither in front of the camera nor behind it, neither in the screening nor drawing room, not on the phone nor in a restaurant… Rather than acting out a scene himself to indicate what he was looking for, he used ironic exaggeration. It is my hope to someday achieve his seemingly carefree levity. For as different as our personalities and films may be, he has always been my role model… Comedies, he said, are like Swiss clockwork: Just as one gear wheel locks into another, each rejoinder drives the next; the straight line must be delivered clearly before the punch line, then a short pause for laughter, followed by another punch line to redouble the laughter and to keep it going. Nothing is worse than sporadic laughter — swivel204.jpgonly roaring, continuous laughter brings down the house… [W]e were friends for 25 years, until his death in 2002. We often discussed films, and he was always full of stories, tricks, rules, answers. He had rules for every situation in life, in a script and on the set: how something should be done, and what should not be done under any circumstances. What shoes you should buy and where. What you should eat. What cut you should never make, and what camera angle you should never use (worm’s-eye view or from a chandelier). What an actor cannot express without looking stupid (a sudden realization). What is indecent to show (a close-up of a person who has just learned of a friend’s or relative’s death)… [H]e took me to Lubitsch’s grave to show me that his secretary really had been buried at the master’s feet — “in case he needs to dictate something to her.” Of three hours of Schlöndorff’s assembled footage of Wilder’s lessons in life and film, the Berliner retorted: “”What this shows us is that you should never give an interview on a swivel chair. Also, you shouldn’t talk so much with your hands if you have a mouth. And above all never use a back-scratcher during an interview! It just does not look dignified.” [It’s a long piece, worth reading in full.]

What would Francis Coppola do?: Ava Lowery on CNN

On CNN’s “BlogBuzz,” the newsreader adopts a patronizing tone toward 15-year-old Alabaman Ava Lowery, whose short, WWJD?, ties quotations about faith and the singing of “Jesus Loves Me” to images of bloodied and broken Iraqi children. “So why do you think you’re getting death threats?” Lowery replies, “Um, I’m giving people the benefit of the doubt, hoping that they don’t know I’m a 15 year old, but regardless—” “Well, why should your age matter, Ava,” the grown-up interjects sternly, “if you feel that you’ve studied the issue?” “I do think it’s pretty sad that people are sending me these threats. I think that some people are just outraged that I’m out there telling the truth…” blogger32307_34.jpg“You know, when you talk about the truth, and I’ve watched both of the clips that we have, but I want to play some of one in particular, the WWJD? clip…” A small part of Lowery’s short plays, and when it’s over, the theory-of-montage-unaware newsreader shakes her head with what seems genuine anger. “Ava, taking a Christian hymn and putting it to pictures of suffering Iraqi children, what is it that you’re hoping to accomplish? Because, the, the, the, the disparity between the two, almost comes across as flip…” Is the child anti-troops? “But you say you’re not anti-troops? You’re anti-war, but you’re not, you support the troops…” After Lowery says that members of her family are in the military, the grown-up persists, “Have you gotten any reaction from troops who are overseas or family members who have people who are overseas?” She also tries to associate Lowery with adults whom she does not name (DailyKos): “You know, because these bloggers played your clips, y’know, on the jumbo screen at their big annual convention, uh, I mean, in some ways, do you feel that, that you are being used by them?” Lowery drawls, “In a way, I’m also using them, so I guess it’s a fair trade.” (At least she wasn’t asked if she was a friend of George Soros.) flip4587.jpgTo me the great hope is that now these little video recorders are around and people who normally wouldn’t make movies are going to be making them. And suddenly, one day some little fat girl in Ohio is going to be the new Mozart and make a beautiful film with her father’s camcorder and for once, the so-called professionalism about movies will be destroyed, forever, and it will really become an art form. (Francis Ford Coppola, 1991) [The QuickTime of the interview is here; more on Lowery here; This is her site, Peace Takes Courage, and her extended run of animations is here.]

Snakes in the house

snake2358.jpgNew Line has launched their Snakes On A Plane website. Some downloads, a little video, a click to the “Fan Site of the Week.” (They’re taking their sweet time.) An info-heavy “send me updates” is the second cleverest feature; my favorite is the animation of bags on an unseen conveyor belt that all have contraband, swooping through an X-ray machine.

Call for David Lynch… Call for David Lynch… Calling David Lynch…

Mr. David Lynch is offering wallpapers and also ringtones (for $3.99) at his paysite; davidringtones21-4.jpgthe “Dumbland” theme is aggravating enough that we might just bite. I Like To Kill Deer or the falsetto My Teeth Are Bleeding! might give the wrong impression, tho. They’re all web originals, with the media original trying one more medium: for presumable © reasons, we’re not getting any archive stuff, so you’ll have to channel your own Hopper to get a Heineken? Fuck that shit! Pabst Blue Ribbon! teeth3570.jpghello-how-are-you going. Wonder if Lynch has experimented with inventing his own vibrate settings. [Samples at the link; Check out the animated advertisement here.]

There Will Be Livestock: More PTA pix


Paul Thomas Anderson continues to crypto-blog his production snaps from There Will Be Blood at Little Boston News, but the direct link to the dated photographs has changed to this.

Batshit's good shit: Ron Rosenbaum on Tony Scott

dominodomino235.jpg I see nothing wrong with (and bits fantastic about) Ron Rosenbaum‘s daunting appreciation of the art of Tony Scott over at New York Observer: “I was talking to a woman I know about my Tony Scott Disorder Theory. That in his last two films, Man on Fire and the sadly neglected (though profoundly insane) Domino, Tony Scott has done what his brother Ridley Scott had done with Blade Runner: given us the most hallucinatory accurate visual embodiment of the disordered madness of early 21st-century life. The cinematic equivalent of “the pyrotechnic insanitarium” we inhabit… I was going on about the way certain films and certain filmmakers (and their cinematographers) had indelibly changed the way we see the world and ourselves, just through the cumulative effect of the never-before-seen look of their work… Terrence Malick’s Badlands, Peter Brook’s King Lear, Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull, Blade RunnerErrol MorrisThe Thin Blue Line and, most recently, David Gordon Green’s George Washington and All the Real Girls. (If you haven’t seen the last two, especially the former, you’ve missed something inexplicably powerful and almost mystically beautiful.)” blueness40126.jpgRosenbaum breaks his further appreciation into two parts, “The Redness of Red” and “The Greenness of Green.” … “[T]he redness of red” is a common buzz-phrase in the philosophy of mind, when the perennial unanswerable question is asked and analyzed: How do you know that what you see as red, your “redness of red,” is the same as my redness of red? Couldn’t my redness of red look like your blueness of blue? How can we know? … I still love Blade Runner, but it will never have the vision-changing impact it had when I first saw it. Then, it was a sudden glimpse of the implicit future; now that it’s been incorporated into everyone’s vision, it seems more a nostalgic, almost antiquated futurism. Sometimes we’re not even aware of the way films change the way we see things—or, as in the case of Tony Scott’s Domino, manonfire1.jpgwhich practically nobody saw (but which I want everybody to see), the way a film captures, purely with its look, the way we look. Holds a mirror up to our distorted nature… [W]hat Scott has been doing in his last two films—Man on Fire starred Denzel Washington in what I thought was a beautiful, melancholy take on a hired bodyguard in Mexico City, who loses, avenges and then regains the child he’s supposed to protect—just hasn’t gotten the respect it deserves… What is he doing? … I wouldn’t claim that he’s the only one who does it, or that every technique is his invention, or that it doesn’t partake of techniques pioneered in avant-garde TV commercials or Brazilian cinema (or that he didn’t cop a plot device from Point Break in Domino). But I would say he’s taken it to another level. Synthesized its incoherencies, taken them to the max. He’s made films that—more than just about any mainstream films I’ve seen recently—have embedded violence and violation together in its very molecular matrix.” At this point, the absence of a copy editor seems apparent in a giddy fashion: Scott’s “films seem not to be made from film stock, celluloid—rather, a creepily cellular green slime-mold emulsion, electro-slime, poison neon green. The green of Love Canal. The colors themselves are a violation, almost an emotion. The motion itself is an act of violence 24 frames a second. All the images are as if from an illuminated manuscript of Satanic verses… Domino may not have been a commercial success, but it will be a cultural referent longer than many movies that make more money. It’s our flyblown, electro-slime “Wasteland.” Our Dreamland Burning.” Please read more at the link. Martin A. Grove‘s marathon banter with Scott about its visual style—”It’s funny, my life began as a painter and I still think and function like a painter”—is here.

The Road to Antonioni and The Passenger

In a long piece at Time Out London, Mark Peploe recalls the production of The Passenger as being “one hell of a ride”: “The many journeys that were involved in the writing and filming are so inextricably linked with my past passenger1.jpgand subsequent life that viewing the film again recently after so many years felt like unrolling an antique carpet and discovering a coded diary in its intricate patterns… It was while he was preparing Blow-Up that I first met Michelangelo Antonioni and his screenwriter Tonino Guerra. It was at a party in a basement… I think both my sisters and I and most of the other guests had been gathered up as specimens for their research into ’60s London – though my interest was to meet the director of L’Avventura, a road movie that had transformed my view of what the cinema could be about… I felt documentaries were too vulnerable to the vagaries of chance. I was determined to get into feature films, and one way to start was by writing screenplays. Predictably, perhaps, my first attempt was a Western… remained with Zabriskie Point pyro58484.jpgto witness the filming of the last spectacular scene, which took days to prepare. Sixteen cameras in concealed concrete bunkers surrounded a large villa in the desert outside Phoenix while it was slowly filled with dynamite and nitro-glycerine. No models for Antonioni – and no room for error. A man came panting down the hill. The high speed cameras were rolling – so fast they only had seconds to run. Antonioni pressed the plunger. The silent moment in which nothing happened made a perfect frame for the incredible eruption that followed, a pyromaniac’s dream, which Antonioni later edited into one of his most extraordinary sequences.” [Eventually, he does get around to talking about The Passenger, with many names and events dropped along the way.]

I am a blog addict: Caveh Zahedi likes this review

zahedi789p745.jpgFilmmaker Caveh Zahedi cites Steven Shaviro‘s review of I Am A Sex Addict as one of his favorites, and this paragraph is pretty damn good: “We have a kind of cliche sense that confessional honesty needs to be delivered in a tone of wrenching anguish. One of the most noteworthy things about I Am A Sex Addict is the way that it demolishes this cliche. Has there ever been a film that is so raw in its self-revelations, and at the same time, not only so wry in the telling, but so highly mediated? The point, I think, is that there is no contradiction here, hyper235.jpgno opposition between truth and artifice. We live in a hypermediated world, and the media are part of the reality of that world. Godard said somewhere that film is not an image of reality, but rather the reality of that image. And that’s precisely what’s happening in Zahedi’s film. His relation with the video camera is as much a part of his subjectivity as any of the obsessions that he recounts and reenacts onscreen. The story of how he made the film, and of the divergence between the actresses on screen and the real people they portray, cannot be disentangled from the story of his addiction and how he overcame it.”

The nerd and the madman: Chris Doyle on Lady in the Water

Ben Walters of Time Out catches up with Heineken poster boy Chris Doyle on the eve of his new pic with Manoj Shyamalan: “I think what we are doing in Asia is more fun, I think partly because we are finally reaping the rewards of our labours, and secondly because we do live and work like this. When I work in the West I realise how much more valid what we are doing in the East is to me personally – there is something more gut-felt, much more intimate and intense to what we are doing in Asia. bflies500x215067.jpgWe are all friends, we do live in a certain way, we do hop on the plane to each others’ screenings, and we are used to hearing a number of languages every day. So I think that the films do reflect the more cosmopolitan aspect of the way in which many of us, especially the middle class of Asia, live.” Was it a very different dynamic working on Lady in the Water? “There is a lot more money in Philadelphia! There are similarities because it was an exercise in tolerance or patience and trying to step back further than usual to accommodate this new experience, which happened to be Fruit Chan in one case and M Night Shyamalan in another. It is a bigger playpen and there are more expensive toys. We worked well as a team because we are opposites. I won’t use the words ‘nerd’ and ‘madman’ but if you want to it’s up to you…”

Homage masala: Satyajit Ray lives!

At, Subhash K. Jha reports that Sacred Evil, a new Indian film, is as homage-heavy as anything Quentin T. might make, but the art referenced is weightier. 14219070_sacred_evvvvil.jpg“Not too many people have noticed that Abhiyaan Rajhans and Abhigyan Jha‘s [supernatural thriller] Sacred Evil is strewn with references to and actors from Satyajit Ray‘s films. Not only do we see the Ray regular Soumitra Chatterjee in a cameo, the lady who escorts the film’s protagonist to Soumitra’s office is the heroine of Satyajit Ray’s Kanchenjunga. “That’s right. My affinity to Ray’s cinema goes back a long time. My film contains not only homage to Ray but also to my other idol Ismail Merchant,” Rajhans says. “I was assisting Ismail in a film called Gaachh (The Tree) which was based on the life of Soumitra when I met Ivan Kozelka, the cinematographer of Sacred Evil. Ismail thought very highly of him. And I decided that the day I make my first film Ivan will shoot it for me… Ismail had shot his first film Householder in English and in Calcutta… I obviously chose to do the same. Householder was a black and white film, there is an entire portion of Sacred Evil in which colours have been washed out, leaving only a single colour bright, a red, a yellow or a green but mostly it looks black and white… Ismail’s hero was Ray. And my favourite childhood author was Ray. I read [his novel] ‘Sonar Kella’ 99 times… I believe Ray was a far better writer than a director. That’s not to say he is a lesser director than anyone else. The world is yet to discover the sci-fi and thrillers of Ray. I had the good luck to visit Ray’s personal library while shooting Gaachh and I wasn’t surprised to find his shelves loaded with Isaac Asimov, Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe and O. Henry…

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Bruce Robinson: We are required to listen to the wrong voices

in the upcoming UK-themed edition of Chicago-based slick StopSmiling, majordomo JC Gabel takes a flight to Blighty to the rural farm of undersung screenwriter, novelist and ranteur Bruce Robinson. The 12-page takeout includes pics of Robinson’s toc_cover_26_4.jpgworkspaces, and lots of the same sort of blunt flights of fancy and disfavor as in his scripts for Withnail & I and an adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson‘s “Rum Diaries” he’s slated to direct (for the first time since 1992’s producer-mangled Jennifer 8) with Johnny Depp. The piece is not online, but concludes with greater than a solid page, in 10-point type, of the 59-year-old writer on the world today, of which this is only a modest swatch of articulation: “This war on terror is preposterous and will create ten terrorists for every one it kills. It’s Orwellian in scope, Truly Orwellian, and the preserve of maniacs… Criticize Bush, Rumsfeld, et al, ‘Oh you’re anti-American, are you?’ No, Mr. Bush, I am not anti-American, I am anti-you. It’s an obscene con, a trick, manipulated to try and put dissent on the side of the ‘terrorists.’ Obscene. I’m not on the side of bin fucking Laden, or any other of these peculiar murderers. And I am not anti-American. I adore America… [But not] the American of snatch-squads and secret prison camps. It is the America of the Constitution of the United States. I think the Constitution of the United States ranks among the greatest documents ever written, it stands next to the Magna Cara, which I also have a profound fondness for. What I’m anti is these men, who by their deceit would seem to deny the content of these documents, constituting the best form of government human beings have ever invented—democracy. I am not on the side of the terrorists… Nobody tells us about the tragedy of Iraq. We’re blinded in a blizzard of lies. pinterbean1324.jpgThe truth is too shameful to tell. When our greatest living writer, Harold Pinter, won the greatest literary prize on Earth, the Nobel Prize, it didn’t even make BBC TV news. Any British slut who’d come third in the Eurovision song contest would have been all over the news. But not Pinter. Why? Because Pinter tells the truth and they’re terrified of hearing it. From the moment we open our eyes in the morning to closing them at night, we are bludgeoned with propaganda. I beg your pardon, spin. We are required to listen to the wrong voices. To get at their oil, we dehumanize people who invented writing 6,000 years before Shakespeare. Iraq invented language, algebra, astronomy and our propaganda converts them into screeching ragheads in their own streets…halli2357.jpg I much admire Bob Geldof et al for the effort—Band Aid, Live Aid, whatever—but they’re piss in the ocean, cynically used as photo-ops for the politicians. Rock stars can’t change Africa. Exxon, Halliburton, BP and Shell can. Cut to the guy in the new car ad, with the blonde in a miniskirt next to him on an empty road—driving into the eternal good life. But beyond the horizon are those starving kids with flies around their eyes.” [More on Mr. B. from his publisher, Bloomsbury.]

Wassup Friday?

clark12350.jpg90 degrees and humid in Chicago; even more advance screenings plus an enjoyable photo shoot and conversation with Larry Clark about Wassup Rockers, baby photography and such. The pistols stayed at home. More on that later, natch. [Image from “Tulsa” © Larry Clark.]

Fires were started: Is POV NSG for docs?

Doing some research before talking to the director of Who Killed The Electric Car?, I discovered that I had been contaminated by “docu-ganda” and was sternly advised to keep my brain open while witnessing such chuff, docco270.jpgor at least the Christian Science Monitor’s staff writer, Daniel B. Wood would caution us to be verrrrry skeptical: “In An Inconvenient Truth… former Vice President Al Gore asserts that global warming may soon eliminate one of the world’s great natural vistas: the snows of Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro.” In “Who Killed the Electric Car? celebrities such as Mel Gibson and Ed Begley Jr. lament the “murder” of General Motor’s EV1 electric car and the loss of California’s “most radical smog-fighting mandate since the catalytic converter.” (Slanting his case with an understated sneer at “celebrities” by the end of the first graf, Mr. Wood fails to footnote that celebrities were among the few consumers who could lease the cars, as they could yell louder than most if they were denied the chance.) “All deliver on the promise to tell an “untold” story, but is theirs the full story? Or even the true story? Don’t count on it, say media experts.” Ah! Media Experts! From the carrels of academe and public relations, curry their contributions! “The days when “documentary” reliably meant “inform the audience” – rather than “influence the audience” – are no more. The makers of such films today see their cinematic contributions as an antidote to media consolidation that, they say, restricts topics and voices to the bland and the commercial. humphrey jennings fires were started23e50.jpgAs such, they feel little or no obligation to heed documentary-film traditions like point-by-point rebuttal or formal reality checks. “We need to clarify that this new wave of ‘documentaries’ are not, in fact, documentaries,” says Christopher Ian Bennett of New School Media, a communications and public-relations firm in Vancouver. “They fail to meet the Oxford Dictionary definition, in that they editorialize, and opine far too much. They are entertaining…. But they can be dangerous if viewers take everything they are saying as the whole truth.” [Mr. Bennett is also a principal at Gryphon Television, whose site asserts “An evolving financial world needs new financial media… Gryphon Television is where Main Street and Wall Street connect; “New School Media” apparently lacks a website. An egregious bit of what somewhat resembles bought-and-paid-for pr hagiography makes amusing reading. An excellent timeline of the development of documentary form is here. The essential, complete Oxford English Dictionary does not contain Mr. Bennett’s definition for documentary, but rather, “of the nature of or consisting in documents; affording evidence, evidential; relating to teacher or instruction.” It’s in the same volume with drudgery, “The occupation of a drudge; mean or servile labour; wearismone toil; dull or distasteful work.” Hey, somebody’s gotta draw a paycheck for condescending to the intelligence of readers (and viewers).]

Indie no more: AIVF throws it in

The Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers, a longtime indie voice and publisher of The Independent has sent out a letter announcing they’re done as of June 28. 0605cover.gif “In February AIVF launched an emergency fundraising appeal with an announcement to members that the organization faced an uncertain future. We are sorry to report that we have not reached the fundraising targets necessary for a turnaround and continuation of operations. However, long-term supporters in the independent community are organizing later this month to assess whether a core group of champions can take over hands-on management of the Independent while also reinventing and relaunching AIVF as a membership organization. We are also actively exploring other options for continuing publication of the Independent through other like-minded organizations.” [More of the release is below; here’s the website.]

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Truffaut/Hitchcock from beyond the grave

EDIT 16 FEBRUARY 2011: FilmDetail has linked to the original postings of the Truffaut-Hitchcock recordings on one page here. These raw materials been a lot of fun to listen to on the train or the bus over the past four years; they’re clear but weren’t recorded for broadcast. Translator Helen G. Scott does a very good job of quickly capturing the odd and often naive questions Truffaut asks. Over time, Hitchcock’s drawl begins to souond like he’s doing an impersonation of Peter Bogdanovich impersonating him.

The links began in March 2006, and Anne Thompson points to Andrew R. Horbal pointing to the online posting of tapes from the classic Hitchcock-Truffaut interviews: “From now until I run out, If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger… will [bring] our visitors the interview recordings that made up the bulk of… ‘Hitchcock/Truffaut.’ In Part One…

hitchcocktruffautsm.jpgHitchcock speaks with palpable fatigue about his childhood, his early interest in theater, his work as a commercial artist and his gradual involvement in the medium upon which he would soon make an everlasting impact. Truffaut valiantly attempts to understand his answers (even in translation), while he and Helen Scott laugh way too hard at Hitchcock’s half-hearted jokes. While the general atmosphere is never what anyone with a pulse would call electric, these recordings are nonetheless engrossing…” Seven selections are up; the provenance was undisclosed, but proprietor Ron Sutpen illuminates: “The excerpts I’m posting come from a series broadcast over Radio France in 2004 (though I obtained them from another source). They amount to about 12 of the 50+ hours of interview material, and the only work I do on them (apart from writing the introductory remarks on the blog) is editing out the recorded introductions, which are in French and (by way of guess) probably don’t illuminate all that much.”

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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