January 5, 2003

Editing, or Not

Editing, here I come. I finished logging and capturing all the footage I'll use in S(J03); it seems like it'll be tough to get it down to 5-6 minutes. The last tape I captured was all the ironing (three white dress shirts' worth). As I mentioned before, the third shirt has such great, engaged shots, it almost doesn't make sense to use anything else. The result: I'm going to try two different editing "tones." For the ironing scenes, there'll be long, continuous takes, maybe with a few dissolves; the car and cleaners scenes will have quicker cuts, jump cuts, a slightly more dynamic feel. That's the plan, anyway. I start tomorrow (Sunday). ND/NF deadline is four days away.

Russian Ark, dir. Aleksandr Sokurov, image:guardian.co.uk Russian Ark, dir. by Aleksandr Sokurov image: guardian.co.uk

We just got home from seeing Russian Ark, the single-take epic poem of Russian history directed by Aleksandr Sokurov. It was quite stunning for a while, then normal, then stunning again at the end. The Hermitage itself is the real star. Even without the tour de force (or gimmick, depending on your cynicism) of shooting with no edits, the film's exploration of the centuries of momentous people and events witnessed by the building would be worth seeing. The insane staging (the credits list six stage managers and twenty assistants) required to pull the thing off in one 96-minute shot is just a layer of gold leaf on the film. And as the Hermitage demonstrates, everything's better with gold leaf.

The impact and resonance of the continuous Steadicam/tracking shot seems to be changing, though. I have a theory, which I'll try to expand on later, that the emergence of first-person shooter (FPS) video games is changing the meaning of the visual vocabulary for both film and games. When I play a Vice City for an hour, it's a continuous take, visually, even if it's not as bravura as Sokurov's, Welles', or Scorsese's.

Comparing the edits in classic movie musicals (3 or 4 per number) to, say, Moulin Rouge (120 per minute in some songs), it's clear that the meaning/significance of the long take has changed before. Technology is changing it once again.

Some links I'd start with: Machinima.com, turning "first person shooter" into "first person cinematographer." A broad article at Polygonweb about cinema-game influences. Game Research briefly discusses point-of-view in games and film.


greg starts editing souvenir (january 2003) image:jean
Greg editing Souvenir (January 2003) image: Jean

January 3, 2003

S(J03) Update


I'm logging and capturing footage for Souvenir (January 2003). So far, I've completed two of three tapes, for a subtotal of about 25 minutes, which takes about 10 Gigs. Oblique Strategy: Just carry on.

January 3, 2003

I Feel Safer Already

Knowing that the imperialist ambitions, quest for cultural hegemony, and utterly misplaced sense of entitlement and infallibility exhibited by their leaders are not going unnoticed. Visit FranceWatch for the latest on this grave threat to world peace and stability. [via LockhartSteele.com]

the Mole, from South Park, image:spscriptorium.com And for reports from the front lines, or from "behind enemy lines," to be exact, check out Merde in France ("Proud to be blocked by corporate firewalls across France!" Liberte, indeed.), a bilingual weblog from an ex-pat Mole (not the one at left) [via FranceWatch, bien sur]

In "Living Here, But Registered There," the Times celebrates all the "New Yorkers" with out-of-state plates. Harry is the story's cowering Officer Krupke, on a lonely crusade against these scofflaws who clog our alternate street parking and--and don't pay the $15 city tax and-- From where I'm standing (off the curb, naturally), a New Jersey plate means you don't know how to drive in the city; when you finally stop (in the crosswalk), I'll still look down at your license plate before making dismissive eye contact.

2003, it seems, will not be the year that other gang gets lauded in the press: New Yorkers who register their cars here, even though they keep them somewhere else. And you better not be in my spot when I get back.

Yinka Shonibare, 2nd Floor, Norton Christmas Project 2002, image:greg.org

Yinka Shonibare, 2nd Floor, Norton Christmas Project 2002, image:greg.org

Dollhouse, Interior views, Yinka Shonibare
for the Norton Christmas Project 2002

In lieu of Christmas cards, the art collector Peter Norton and his family began sending out specially commissioned works. [Inspired by the Nortons' example, we began commissioning artist editions--albeit at a much smaller scale--to send to family and friends as a commemmoration of various births and anniversaries.]

In 2002, the British/Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare created a toy Victorian rowhouse, outfitted with his trademark Dutch batik fabrics, a photo of his own, and, for good measure, a Fragonard in the bedroom. Shonibare exhibited a sculptural installation based on Fragonard in 2001 and was in Documenta 11 last year.

Wink, Takashi Murakami, 2000, Norton Family Christmas Project, 2000, image:Toyboxdx.com
Wink, Takashi Murakami, 2000 for the Norton Family Christmas Project 2000, image: Toyboxdx.com

For the 2000 Project, Jap-pop artist Takashi Murakami made a Wink doll, which contains a happy little CD in its base. Read about it on Alan Yen's ToyboxDX. And in 1996, Norton asked Brian Eno to publish an updated edition of Oblique Strategies, his highly sought after collection of question and idea cards, originally made in collaboration with the late Peter Schmidt. Gregory Taylor's OS site includes Norton's description of the Project and soliciting Eno's participation.

My favorite Strategy (as I attempt to write and edit in public): "Give the game away."

January 2, 2003

iBitchslap

Yeah, I love my Christmas Powerbook setup and our iPod (which we're planning to jack into our 1985 Mercedes' original stereo (which, unsurprisingly, doesn't have a factory interface for mp3 players), and as soon as Final Cut Pro3 arrives (UPS.com: 5:03 A.M. ALEXANDRIA, VA, US OUT FOR DELIVERY), I'll start crash editing S(J03).

In the mean time, should I interpret the use of Torx screws as anything other than kneejerk anti-duopolism (philips/flathead :: wintel)? We scoured NASA Goddard yesterday and couldn't find a Torx screwdriver small enough. "Designed to install youself," indeed. If your name's Greg Torx.

director Alexander Payne. image: wnyc.org, photo: Claudette Barius/New Line ProductionsA couple of weeks ago, I called About Schmidt the Thinking Person's My Fat, Greek Wedding and linked both back to the 1955 Academy Award sweeper Marty. Now, after giving it some thought, Vogue's Sarah Kerr notes an "odd coincidence" in a Slate discussion of the films of 2002: "Did you know that Payne is of Greek extraction and that in his boyhood his father owned a Greek restaurant in Omaha? Ring a bell with another movie this year?"

[Listen to Payne talking about Omaha on Studio 360.]
[MoMA's Film Department will honor Payne with its 2nd Work In Progress Award in February.]

January 1, 2003

Rollin' With My Homi

Under the brown fog of a winter dawn, A crowd flowed over Triboro Bridge, so many, I had not thought the MLA had undone so many. - apologies to T. S. Eliot
The MLA Convention was in town, "but now they're gone." (apologies to Blue Oyster Cult.) Thankfully, the Observer did the painful hanging out for you, capturing the employment angst that haunts the event.

So why do 1,000 or so fresh lit crit PhD's ("talking loudly about post-docs and Homi Bhabha") think they're not gonna get one of the dwindling number of tenure-track university departments? Is it that the jobs are dwindling? Their knowledge and skills are at odds with the market? No, this year it's the publishers. Academic publishing channels are disappearing, but universities' stubbornly rely on said publication for faculty hiring. But oddly, the publishers only want to books that sell, by celebrity thinkers, a French concept the US thankfully hasn't really embraced (Non-thinking celebrities only, please. Desole, Mr. Penn.)

According to the big names at MLA, films are a potential solution. And they don't mean hosting one panel on "The Hollywood Musical, 1970-2002". MLA Jefe Stephen Greenblatt consulted on Shakespeare in Love. And special guest star/historian (and "haute couture communist") Natalie Zemon Davis shared writing credit on Le Retour de Martin Guerre, so that's two. I see no one's taking credit for Sommersby, though. Hmm.

Well, the MLA convention itself is overflowing with ideas, analysis, papers, panels, content. It's the most microsegmented idea bazaar around. The index does sound like a pitch meeting: "Guns and Barbies," "The Bible & Toni Morrison," " Talkin' Funny III" (Sequel. Good. I see Kirstie Alley and John Travolta. Go on.), "Theorizing Beowulf: The Cognitive-Economic-Postcolonial Beowulf" (Okay...), "Cash Bar and Dinner Arranged by the Joseph Conrad Society of America" (Cash bar? He did Apocalypse Now and it's cash bar??).

Impenetrable monologues, job envy and economic disparity? Sounds like the perfect NY writers party. And the reaction of naive MLA'ers reveals it to be so:

"You get the sense that everyoneís in on some big secret that youíre not a part of," said Ms. Vlagopoulos.
"Or that theyíre all playing a practical joke on you," added Ms. Sobelle.
. Well, womyn, it's called Mafia, and you're dead.

As for publishing, well, that one's got me stumped. It's not like there's an easy-to-use, economical model for publishing that facilitates discussion and dialogue. I'd love to be proved wrong, but for all their content and desperation to get the word out, it looks like not one person blogged the MLA.

Sifting and digitizing footage for S(J03) until the batteries in my camera ran out, when I watched two DVD's back to back, XXX and Don't Look Now. At a stretch, I can say XXX is research for the Animated Musical. Nicolas Roeg's 1973 thriller, though, is a concentrated course in editing in general and intercutting in particular.

Julie Chrystie in Don't Look Now

When I cited the seduction scene in Out of Sight as inspiration for intercutting scenes 1 and 2 in Souvenir, a couple of readers suggested seeing the similar Donald Sutherland/Julie Chrystie love scene in Don't Look Now, "one of the subtlest, most affecting erotic sequences in the history of cinema." Similar? Apparently, in the Out of Sight DVD commentary,Soderbergh cops to copying this scene; frankly, I think he improved on it.

Roeg's a cinematographer-turned-director, and it shows. Venice looks awesome in the dark (blown out sunlight at the end of a long alley) and the light (endless boats crossing shimmering canals). And Roeg never met a mirror or semi-transparent surface he didn't like (or shoot); when the unsettling Scottish sisters confront Christie's grieving mother in the ladies' room, there are so many reflections you wonder where the camera was.

The love scene is unexpectedly intense (think twice before watching this one with the in-laws), and not just because I went into the movie thinking Julie Chrystie was the one in The Belle of Amherst. The intercutting is quite effective and interestingly different from Out of Sight. The differences between Roeg's and Soderbergh's scenes are both consistent and convenient. Don't Look Now: impassioned married sex between people who know each other well is intercut with the aftermath, stolid scenes of getting dressed for dinner. The sex is guaranteed, just part of the fabric of life. Out of Sight: Self-conscious flirtation between pursuer and pursued is intercut with the payoff, uncertainty banished and anticipation building to a striptease and one hot night in the sack.

Roeg packs his film with foreboding cuts; pay attention, because everything seems intentional or freighted with meaning. Handheld camerawork (a church accident and late-night chase along a canal, in particular) crops up unexpectedly and with great emotional effect. Some of the love scene cuts are a bit obvious, though; a shot of Julie Chrystie rolling over cuts to a shot of her turning around and putting on lipstick, and there's a silly pelvic thrust as Sutherland puts on his pants. Even if it feels a little heavy-handed or self-indulgent sometimes, Roeg's is an expressive style of filmmaking that's largely dropped from sight these days.

Except, of course, for the "exciting faux-documentary style of Bloody Sunday; the feverish intercutting in Adaptation, Chicago, The Hours, Solaris, even The Two Towers!" which Slate's David Edelstein points out...

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

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