August 07, 2006
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
The day before yesterday, we finally caught up with a 35mm print of Hou Hsiao-Hsien's Three Times; we watched the DVD a few months ago, but my impression of it was somewhat indistinct. The silver screen cut through that haziness, as it always does, as I expected it to, and I loved the film; but I didn't expect it to make me feel as ecstatic as I did. I felt like I was high. During the first segment, I couldn't stop smiling; I almost laughed out loud. A little bit of it might have been what A.O. Scott was talking about when he said that watching the film was like falling in love; part of it might just have been that Shu Qui smile; part of it might just have been my mood; but my critical side will attribute this near-rapture to the langorous harmony of Hou's imagery and his musical choices, especially in that first segment. The sustained recurrences of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and Rain And Tears aren't diegetic cues - but they play out as if they were, even when they bind multiple scenes together. Their rhythm informs the picture, as songs in film often do, but they aren't limited to setting a pace or mood or easing a transition or providing commentary; they serve, essentially, as proxies for the characters themselves, whose memories of each other are anchored by songs heard on jukeboxes or mentioned in letters. It's how they think of each other. And they can't get them - the songs, or each other - out of their heads.
Harry Nilsson's on the stereo and a summer storm is brewing outside; it's been building all day and I'm waiting for it to break. It rained yesterday too, but I slept through it; it was after we wrapped shooting Yen's short film, running on the usual one-hour-of-sleep-rush that fuels just about all of our filmmaking endeavours. Frank Mosley and Arianne Martin made up our cast and in one of the best moments of improvisation I've seen in a long time, they didn't break character when some crazy homeless street preacher blessed us from across the street. His prayers must have worked, because the shoot went off without a hitch, and, after logging the footage late last night, I think the film will turn out really well; it could very likely be completely heartbreaking, especially if you're a sucker for the old wringing a puppy's neck cliche. Which I am.
I've been sitting here writing this while the final cut of GDMF prints off my computer; it just finished, and so I've got to rush it to the festival offices. I think they were getting worried that we'd never actually hand it over to them.
And now I'm back, and those pinstripes of gray on the horizon finally swept my way. Driving under an underpass, I saw a motorcyclist leaning against the concrete, waiting for the storm to pass. He didn't even have to try to remind me of Bud Clay in The Brown Bunny, which we also watched the night before last. I hadn't seen it since it left theaters, and it was even better than I remembered it being. I remember having trouble with the flashbacks the first time I saw it, and not minding them the second time; this time, perhaps because I'd downplayed them in my memory of the film, they caught me off guard and affected me the way I think they were intended to.
Vincent Gallo is the sort of person whose sensational, self-promulgated legend makes him (easy to love but) difficult to take seriously sometimes; I think this film, though, is as sincere as sincere gets, and about as original too.
I've been listening to Gallo's album When sometimes lately. That's pretty sincere and lovely, too.
I love the sound of windshield wipers.
Posted by David Lowery at August 7, 2006 02:45 PM
Another great read, David - I'll keep my eyes open for "Three Times" - and another great read from you here: http://daily.greencine.com/archives/002259.html. Made want to sit down with Star Wars again (for the Xth time).
Posted by: Karsten at August 8, 2006 06:13 AM
Oh yeah - I'd forgotten all about that! That's material for a new post, coming right up...
Posted by: Ghostboy at August 8, 2006 12:31 PM