Category:making movies

March 31, 2004


From the Stanley Kubrick project at the Deutsches Filmmuseum, From the painstakingly organized files of Mr Stanley E. Kubrick:
Stanley Kubrick filled his St Albans estate with over 400 fileboxes (specially manufactured to his own design) of notes, photographs, correspondence, drafts, props, and much, much more. The first authorized exhibition drawn from the estate opens today at the Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt. In fact, Christiane Kubrick and Jan Harlan are speaking in the cafe at 2030h, less than 5 hrs from now.

[Seeing as how you missed that, though, you can pre-order the exhibition catalog in English from the museum. It's a more in-depth collection of essays by filmmakers and historians, different from The Stanley Kubrick Archives due any day now from Taschen.]

Journalist Jon Ronson writes in the Guardian about what he found in his repeated vists to the archive, including an exhaustive day-by-day timeline of the goings-on in Napoleon's court; Kubrick's favorite font; a sniper's severed head, and a reference to "A Bill Murray Line!" [Also, a link to Kubrick's script for Napoleon, deemed authentic by Ronson.]

From a 1975 telex correspondence with a Warner Bros. publicity man re Barry Lyndon:

[Publicity man:] "Received additional material. Is there any material with humour or zaniness that you could send?"

Kubrick replies, clearly through gritted teeth: "The style of the picture is reflected by the stills you have already received. The film is based on William Makepeace Thackeray's novel which, though it has irony and wit, could not be well described as zany."

[via TMN. And my post title came from a 1977 French animated short I found on IMDb.]

In the last couple of weeks, I've decided to shoot a fourth short film, which may be part of the Souvenir Series, or may not. We'll see. It was not in the original outline of the series, and it's out of the order I'd planned to shoot them, but the opportunity and idea presented themselves so clearly, I've decided to at least get it shot, then see where to take it.

Long story short, it's a reconceiving of the baptism/massacre sequence from Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather. The scene is a classic, not only of storytelling and dramatic contrast, but of editing as well.

While it has the immediate feel of intercutting--jumping back and forth between simultaneous events--as this Yale film analysis site where you can watch (most of) the sequence points out, it's unlikely that all the other mafia dons in NYC were actually assassinated at the same instant. They call it montage.

Frankly, I always thought they were concurrent events. The baptism scene provides a sense of linear time that is utterly absent from, say, Jennifer Beals' rehearsal/welding scenes in Flashdance. (Gimme a break, she was on The Daily Show last night.)

Anyway, Seeing as how the baby in that scene was a weeks-old Sofia Coppola, and seeing as how I have a weeks-old baby myself now, and seeing as how I'm gonna be hanging out with the Coppolas tonight at a MoMA Film Department benefit, I thought I'd better start shooting.

I'm co-chairman of this gig tonight at MoMA, An Evening With Sofia Coppola. I was going to write my speech, but in the spirit of the director, I'm going totally improv. Then I'm going to kiss every ass I can.

In the mean time, Sofia will show clips of and discuss her work with Elvis Mitchell. Look for pics and a making-of doc later.

Related: More from An Evening With Sofia Coppola

Gaston Biraben's Captive, image: filmlinc.comI saw Captive, the debut feature from Gaston Biraben, at New Directors/New Films last night; it's a subtly powerful movie that gripped the sellout audience at MoMA Gramercy.

Captive is a fictionalized telling of real events, a surreal, politically charged story of, "You're adopted...And then some." A 15-year old Buenos Aires girl's life is turned upsidedown when she learns her real parents were among The Disappeared, the tens of thousands of Argentines kidnapped, tortured and killed by the country's military dictatorship in the 70's. On top of dealing with a new family of strangers, the girl has to confront the chilling circumstances of her birth and her adoptive parents' possible complicity in the systematic crimes of the junta.

By keeping a restrained, naturalistic focus on a the experience of one girl, the film tackles the third rail of the Argentine psyche--accountability for The Disappeared--with tremendous skill, and without devolving into political agitprop. Biraben coaxed a highly effective, intuitive performance from his star, Barbara Lombardo, which holds the film together.

Almost the entire audience stayed for the Q&A. Sensing, perhaps, Captive's potential for making great political waves, many questions were about where the film has shown and what was the reaction. It turns out ND/NF is one of the first screenings for Captive, so the impact is still to come. [The film was also at Palm Springs and San Sebastian, where it won the Horizontes award for Latin American films.]

This all serves as setup for the improbably story of Biraben's getting the film made in the first place, and how he scored a cameo that elicited surprised howls of recognition from the New York audience. I spoke with Gaston and his co-producer/editor Tammis Chandler after the Q&A.

Both in today's NY Times:

  • Slate's Bryan Curtis interviews Kevin Smith in advance of the Jersey Girls release. Jersey Girls makes Kevin Smith sound like the perfect spokesmodel for, but Smith's best comments are about Mel Gibson, "fellow Catholic." [Damn, that's one big tent.]

  • Tony Scott's got a very astute read/review of Dogville, Lars "Von" Trier's new movie. Scott makes some keen references to both Mayberry and South Park, while skewering the reactionary anti-anti-Americanism of reviews like Variety's.

  • Jessica Winter interviews LVT's cinematographer, Anthony Dod Mantle, in the Voice. [Stay tuned for my own Dogville post later this week.]

  • Souvenirs from the earth for Mix, image:
    Don't tell the Whitney Biennial folks. That trademarked slogan comes from a series of video loops designed for your giant flatscreen TV that are "100% narrative free with strong visual aesthetics" called Souvenirs from the earth [Ahem. A series called Souvenir? I hope you kept the number of that trademark lawyer...]

    You can buy their DVD for $50 from Dynomighty, on east 10th st, or, like Alain Ducasse did for Mix, you can commission a custom version. They're also planning "complete never seen night programmes to TV stations, financed by sponsors from the luxury industry."

    Goodlooking execution? Yes. Growth market? Definitely. But new idea? Not at all. The duo's dsytopian main mission sounds familiar: "Our main mission is to collect pictures of life on earth today, in case humans would need them later..." It's the glass-half-full, luxury industry-chasing version of "Life out of balance," the subtitle/translation of Godfrey Reggio's 100% narrative free classic Koyaanisqatsi.

    [Coincidentally, the last time I saw Koyaanisqatsi, it was wall candy on a flatscreen for a party in a bigtime art collector's Central Park West apartment. It had a bigger audience than anything else, and at $25, it was easily the cheapest work there, by a factor of several thousand.]

    Morgan Stanley architecture signage video,
    And on the custom corporate front, I'm reminded of the wraparound montage for the LED facade of 745 Seventh Avenue, produced in 2001 by branding consultancy The Mint Group for Morgan Stanley. This Times Square video "took the next level," and communicated Morgan Stanley's unique ability in the financial services industry to "connect investors, ideas and capital." Of course, in one weekend after Sept. 11, before ever occupying it, MS sold the building to Lehman Brothers, who stepped right into this unique, branded video skin without batting an eye.

    Another wall candy video option: "Want to throw a great party? Put this on!"FunviewTV's 20-scene DVD includes a fish tank, a fireplace, falling snow, falling leaves, disco lights, and a microwaving pizza.

    And just to loop the Whitney back in: there's new-to-you Biennial star Eve Sussman's debut video show in 1997. The artist labored for nearly a month to construct a 3-story scaffold/ramp in an airshaft, and then trained video cameras on the pigeon nests hidden within. Wall sized projections of oblivious pigeons filled the gallery. Congratulations, Eve, on your overnight success.

    March 13, 2004

    Chad's Dads

    Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's Abouna, image:sundancechannel.comChadian filmmaker Mahamat-Saleh Haroun talks to David Kehr about Abouna, his second feature and only the third film to be made in his native country. There is no commercial cinema in Chad, yet films--and particularly US films--have a powerful influence on the imaginations of young people living in impoverished isolation.

    An ardent admirer and student of foreign directors like Abbas Kiarostami, Hou-Hsiao Hsien, Kitano Takeshi, and Clint Eastwood, Haroun is an uncommon internationalist in the nascent African filmmaking industry. He's undaunted by such bright lights, however: "Our films are a little like candles, no? They illuminate only a small space, small groups of particular people. But those people can be everywhere, all over the planet.''

    In an interview with Neil Young at the Edinburgh Festival, Haroun spoke at more length about his process and working with non-professional actors. When asked about autobiographical influences on his film, Haroun readily agreed, "Creation sometimes is just a question of memory."

    Abouna screened last year in New Directors/New Films, and will be on Sundance Channel starting Sunday night as part of the Voices from Africa program. One African film, Apolline Traore's Koundani, from Burkina Faso is in this year's New Directors/New Films.

    When I first saw the trailer for Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, I was fascinated, then confused. It looked like Fritz Lang's Metropolis, but it had... Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow? It's some weird studio stunt, I figured. But I was wrong.

    Turns out Sky Captain is the culmination of one man's nearly impossible-to-believe vision. Kerry Conran worked for four years, alone, to produce the six minutes of seamlessly melded CG and live action footage that ultimately led to his making a $70 million independent film:

    Conran walked into [producer Jon] Avnet's office in a plain black T-shirt, looking a little apprehensive. He had agreed to watch the original six-minute short with me and Avnet, and it was clear he wasn't looking forward to it.

    It opens with a black-and-white version of the film's signature shot, a zeppelin docking at the Empire State. I had seen this sequence in one form or another perhaps a dozen times in the last three days. I can't begin to guess how many times Conran has seen it: airship and skyscraper, two antique promises of progress meeting to announce our final liberation from earthly concerns. The short was rudimentary compared with what I'd seen, to be sure. And Conran grimaced throughout. But I was stunned when I considered the painstaking labor with no promise of reward, or even end, in sight. And I thought of all the computers in just this building, each one thousands of times as powerful as a Mac IIci, in the hands of eager, young, lettuce-munching dreamers, and I wondered what worlds they were constructing in their spare time between snowflakes. On the screen, Sky Captain flies to the rescue. I happen to know from Kevin that it's Kerry himself behind the goggles. Naturally, he's masked.

    The short ended. Conran blinked a little and smiled. ''Wow,'' he said. ''That was embarrassing.''

    Vincent Gallo's Package, via[via Gawker] It'll cost you, but this may be the closest you'll get to a hummer from Chloe Sevigny. Director/actor/antagonist Vincent Gallo is selling his meticulously assembled and tuned film production package on ebay.

    According to the sale, Gallo designed and assembled and fine-tuned the package after Buffalo 66 and has shot 60,000 feet of film with it for Brown Bunny. According to Gallo,

    The package would have to include everything needed to make the film: 2 cameras, a high quality and comprehensive lens collection, mobile yet sufficient lighting, sound equipment that could integrate with the cameras so as to avoid slating, a mic assortment that would never need backup, and a ton of extras that would meet the needs of his flexible and spontaneous production style, and last but not least, an extremely secure transportation case system.
    The package also includes, remarkably, an "Angenieux zoom [lens] which was purchased from the Stanley Kubrick estate. It is the famous super long throw lens that Kubrick had made for Barry Lyndon. No other like it exists."[12/04 update: actually, according to Ed diGiulio, who made the lens, they developed a prototype for Kubrick, but also built and sold several others as the Cine-Pro T9 24-480mm zoom lens.]

    If the film's credits are accurate, you can use this package to make a movie all by yourself. There are a couple of sound people listed, but otherwise it's all Gallo, Gallo Gallo Gallo. No sign that he's going to free his indentured tech servants as part of the deal.

    Unlike critical response to Brown Bunny, Gallo's ebay feedback is universally positive. He trades a lot of high-end audio equipment and pays very quickly. In 2001, Gallo dealt with an ebayer named Ian McKellen. We don't know if that transaction involved a hummer, but Vincent did thank Ian for going "the extra mile.

    March 4, 2004

    My Architecture

    [via Archinect] In Metropolis Magazine, David D'Arcy looks at an onanistic genre of film (as if there were any other kind): "the making of the building" documentary. These now-de rigueur films share a common dramatic arc: "The process is depicted as tough but triumphant, the architect is 'visionary,' the trustees who funded his work 'courageous,' and the public overwhelmingly grateful for the new building."

    "I've come to think of them not as films but home movies, institutional metaphors for the family trip to the Grand Canyon. The family just happens to be your hometownís civic elite," D'Arcy concludes. But like most home movies, "it's hard to watch them for too long if youíre not a close relative." Good stuff.

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    Since 2001 here at, 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.

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