Movie City Indie Archive for September, 2008

Silent Light (2007, ****)

Richly individualistic movies still get made. They’re out there. Rich history cannot but produce rich potential. Looking back and forward, as the British Film Institute turns 75, they asked seventy-five figures to comment on “Visions for the Future. There’s a rangy bunch of notions floating through the videos where a largely male assemblage answers two questions: What one film would you wish to share with future generations? And “What exits you about the future of the moving image?” Untethered from the necessities of finance and distribution, optimism reigns in the 150 brief videos, with contributors ranging from musician Nitin Sawnhey’s words on Pather Panchali; Ken Russell on Metropolis; Gurinder Chadha on Ozu’s Tokyo Story; Patrick Marber (Closer) on The Red Shoes; and Sir Roger Moore (Bond, James Bond) on Lawrence of Arabia. Robert Altman liked to say that he was never inspired by a good movie, only the bad ones that showed him what never to do in his own work, yet the litany of titles in like having the 400-plus titles of the Criterion Collection fall on your head: with all the crises crashing around the world in the world of film today, isn’t it amazing that this many remarkable movies have been made despite the complacency and corruption often visited upon the form? (Or, as a Romanian director once said to me, “We are just a little planet with little insects, but what beautiful insects we are.”)
Composer Michael Nyman advocates Carlos Reygadas’ amazing Silent Light, which has begun a one-week run at MoMA in Manhattan, for being “an extraordinary, transcendent meditation on love and religion.” That opening shot is embedded above, a glorious six-minute sunrise that encompasses the stars, the sky, animals and man. Seen on a proper screen, you see neither the past nor the future but an eternal present. A work of obstinacy and vision, Silent Light holds rare beauty. Here’s a condensation of Nyman’s comments: “What excites me is that filmmaking is accessible to anybody and everybody. There’s obviously the same danger that there is with very accessible music technology—synthesizers and computer programs—that you can equally come up with crap as you can come up with a masterpiece. That’s the danger. Whether it breaks down the studio system or it breaks down the hegemony of studios and big producers, conditioning the way we see images, and the way that narratives are put together and the way that specific subjects are dealt with, I think—I hope—Hollywood is in a terminal stage. Maybe this almost free cinema will be the future. Visual education on the internet, even with YouTube, I think will increase and make these Hollywood dinosaurs into what they are, relics of 19th century theater.”


Here’s a sample of Manohla Dargis’ finely wrought rave: Reygadas’ “silky camera movements and harmoniously balanced widescreen compositions still enthrall, but he now comes across as less committed to his own virtuosity and more invested in finding images — of children bathing, trees rustling, clouds passing — that offer a truer sense of the world than is found in melodramatic bloodletting.” And of the opening: “mesmerizing, transporting…. the seemingly unmoored camera traces a downward arc across a nearly pitch-black night sky dotted with starry pinpricks. Accompanied by an unsettling chorus of animal cries and screams (what’s going on in there?), the camera descends from its cosmic perch into the brightening world and then, as if parting a curtain, moves through some trees onto a clearing that effectively becomes the stage for the ensuing human drama.”

I wasn't made for fighting, Asif Mian

slapslapslap_4.jpgA striking video by Asif Mian.

WOODHANDS :: I Wasn’t Made For Fighting from .: IDEAL FRIENDS :. on Vimeo.

Deep thought: Slacker Uprising

Is free a fair price when the product’s crap? [Warning: self-hagiography ahead.]

[PR] Che officially gets Ziegfeld airing

cheberet_575.jpgSteven Soderbergh’s Epic Movie Biography Che to Premiere In Full- Length at New York’s Ziegfeld Theater And Los Angeles’ Landmark Theater in December
“Jonathan Sehring, President, IFC, revealed that Steven Soderbergh’s epic Che will premiere with limited runs in December at New York’s Ziegfeld Theater and at Los Angeles’ Landmark Theatre. Sehring also said that the December runs of the movie will be presented in its four-and-a-half-hour entirety with intermissions, although it will be presented in two parts when it opens wide in theaters in January 2009. IFC acquired the acclaimed movie recently at the Toronto International Film Festival.”

Wim Wenders returns to Room 666

Back to Room 666 from Think Tank.

The future of cinema… is there one? Twenty-six years after his Chambre 666, asking 1982 Cannes-goers like Godard, Spielberg and Fassbinder about the future, Wenders is on the other side of the camera. Plus ghosts… [Think Tank’s press release with more details is below.]

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Frank Lloyd Wright on "What's My Line?"

Diablo Cody checks in from Manifesto Nation

The only thing wrong with the rant is that it ought to be eleventy-seven times longer, as Diablo Cody cranks the HVAC at her MySpace blog: “I know my name is fake and that it annoys you. What, do you hate Queen Latifah and Rip Torn, too? Writers and entertainers have been using pseudonyms for years. Chances are, ellen_apge_50x50.jpgyou’re spewing bile under an assumed screen name yourself. I’m sorry if you think I’m like some inked-up quasi-Suicide Girl derby cunt from 2002, but I like my fake name. It’s engraved on an Oscar. Yours isn’t. Listen: I’ve been telling stories my whole life. Even when I was a phone sex operator, I was the Mark Twain of extemporaneous jerk-off fiction. I took every perspiring creep on a fucking journey. I don’t know how to do anything else… I’m in love, I just bought a house, and my boss made E.T. I kind of have to focus on reality.”

Metamorphosis, Glenn Marshall

Metamorphosis from Glenn Marshall.

A demo of the software program, Processing.

Ragtag Cinema's Critics' Series, Monday and Tuesday

Little ragtag

On Monday and Tuesday, I’ll be the first guest at Ragtag Cinema’s Critics Series in Columbia, Missouri, showing and discussing two films by Olivier Assayas, Irma Vep and Late August, Early September.


If you’re in central Missouri and haven’t seen ’em… The Columbia Missourian asked a few questions about why these films? A very good backgrounder on Assayas is at Senses of Cinema. [Below, a half-hour conversation with Assayas, David Poland and me, which I remember as being a treat, but I concede that I look unaccountably uncomfortable and glum in the parts I’ve watched.]

[Mash Mash] "No Country For McLovin"

Peter Broderick's New World of Distribution

Peter Broderick’s compiled some of his current notions about where indie distribution’s going. Part of the introduction follows; you can also download a PDF of the whole shebang here. “Welcome to the New World of Distribution. Many filmmakers are emigrating from the Old World, where they have little chance of succeeding. They are attracted by unprecedented opportunities and the freedom to shape their own destiny. Life in the New World requires them to work harder, new_world_heheh.jpgbe more tenacious, and take more risks. There are daunting challenges and no guarantees of success. But this hasn’t stopped more and more intrepid filmmakers from exploring uncharted territory and staking claims… Independents who are able to make overall deals are required to give distributors total control of the marketing and distribution of their films. The terms of these deals have gotten worse and few filmmakers end up satisfied. All is not well for companies and filmmakers in what I call the Old World of Distribution. At Film Independent’s Film Financing Conference, Mark Gill vividly described “the ways the independent film business is in trouble” in his widely read and discussed keynote. Mark listed the companies and divisions that have been shut down or are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, noted that five others are in “serious financial peril,” and said that ten independent film financiers may soon “exit the business.” Mark made a persuasive case that “the sky really is falling… because the accumulation of bad news is kind of awe-inspiring.” While he doesn’t expect that the sky will “hit the ground everywhere,” he warned “it will feel like we just survived a medieval plague. The carnage and the stench will be overwhelming.” Mark’s keynote focused on the distributors, production companies, studio specialty divisions, and foreign sales companies that dominate independent film in the Old World. Mark has many years of experience in this world. He was President of Miramax Films, then head of Warner Independent, and is now CEO of the Film Department. He sees things from the perspective of a seasoned Old World executive. I see things from the filmmaker’s perspective.

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Peter Greenaway's "I Am Overpowered," for Face Tomorrow

Like Prospero’s Books, with less money and fewer Rip Van Winkies.

Sir Ben embodies Minor Threat's Ian MacKaye


Spike Lee sez hello to HisSpace


Linked here.

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