June 30, 2005
In his most recent post, Nick very eloquently suggests that "Today’s media deconstructs itself...we must create videos and texts that demand to be answered by theory."
Indeed, we must, but how? And should the effort be (or must it be) a conscious one? And if it is, how easy should we make it for the theorists?
In his outline of his upcoming documentary, This Is Modern Art, Matt writes of his interest in cinematic form - "exploring it, exploiting it and making more transparent its mechanics to an audience." This is something that fascinates me too, and yet there's a sort of delicious paradox to it - how can one lay bare the mechanics of that which inherently relies on illusion? I can think of only one 'pure way,' represented in the documentary footage in Criterion's By Brackhage set in which the filmmaker shows off a work-in-progress mounted on the wall, nine seconds of animation in stasis; illusion made transparent to any who sees it. In a sense, it seems to me that such transparency implies a clearer delineation between form and content (which Sontag argued should in fact not be distinguished), and, essentially, leaves the work itself fairly...obvious. Which is sort of the point, of course, but in discussing such work, context must be introduced at a much earlier point; the media has, as Nick put it, already deconstructed itself.
I'm reminded of my own concept of publishing a script for a film never to be made, something I'd certainly love to do - but when and if I do, I imagine the question will persist in the back of my head whether or not I'm passing up a great opportunity for a lesser one. In calling attention to the format of the screenplay, I'm foregoing what that format was designed to facilitate.
Postmodernism is in many ways inherently defeatist in regards to the illusory properties of cinema - a claim that yes, this is all there is. I love it for that, but ultimately, I personally would like to turn postmodernism on its head in my work - or, should I say, to limit myself to modernism? I want to utilize these techniques to make old myths new again. I love that Nick used the term mystify in his post, because the term's magical connotations embody what attracted me to film in the first place, and what I seek to do myself; I enjoy the deception, the sleight of hand. It creates new factors in the amalgamation of form and content. One could see this as an argument for narrative; it isn't, but it does reflect my outstanding interest in narrative.
So anyway, the answers, as I see them, to my initial triad of semi-rhetorical questions would be (in reverse): no; no, but consciousness helps; and it is dependent on one's intentions.
Theory is not an end unto itself for me, but an enabler. I study theory not to be a deconstructionist, but so that I myself (via the avatar of my work) might better be deconstructed. And I hope, too, to one day give the theorists a good challenge.
I should stress that these are all just ideas, and not conclusions. And having expressed them, I now return to the early stages of building those myths.
On a vaguely related note, Paul at God In Ruins discusses the importance of mythology, and its regretable absence in modern masculine culture.
June 28, 2005
In lieu of anything more exciting, creative or personal, allow me to offer two new reviews of films that couldn't be more diametrically opposed and yet are both worth your eight, nine or ten dollars (one more so than the other, depending on who you are): The War Of The Worlds and 9 Songs.
Posted by David Lowery at 4:57 AM
June 25, 2005
When I write prose longhand, I do so in pentameter - making verses of paragraphs and stanzas of pages. It's a method my friend Tony passed on to me - it facilitates a certain fluidity and rhythm that remains after the text is unwrapped and typed up into a more traditional narrative format. And it helps keep the words coming.
In composing the short story which until recently had this space to itself, I pushed this method to a greater extent than usual, and while typing it up and finding that it needed certain changes to work as prose, I wondered if it might not be better read as it was written.
Looking at it now, I think it occupies an awkward no-man's land; I'm no poet, and it shows, and yet as written it doesn't quite fit into paragraphs the way the rest of my work does. Nonetheless, I hope it's somewhat readable. It's the first thing I've ever written that's based on a true story (something that was circulating around the news wire a few weeks ago); it's also, I think, the first fictive piece I've ever posted in its entirety online.
My friend Tony, incidentally, who introduced me to both Nick Cave and Cormac McCarthy years ago and is generally the first person to read everything I write, deserves a good old fashioned Godspeed this weekend as he heads for the trenches (so to speak). Here's hoping a good novel comes of it.
Untitled Short Story
The procession moved and the arcs of
The trees bade fair passage down the green.
When he could no longer see nor hear them, he turned and
Considered staying his ground.
He did not want to go back in there today.
The girl was waiting in the foyer when he entered.
The tiles robbed them of their tongues, and they spoke
In whispers free of secrets. She was waiting.
For the florists, she said.
Her eyes lined so heavily were
Too pretty for this place, he thought in passing, and she
Too young. A white flower blossomed against
The black of her breast and he had one himself,
The stem entwined with wire,
Twisting in his fingers. He looked at the time:
Not until eleven.
The light turned red just before
They reached it.
He pushed open the door and hit the lights and
The lights fell on the dark wood, so resplendent and
Serene in form, so gilded and majestic. Looking at their mass,
Their weight, exhausted him, and he turned back
To speak with the girl and pass time with her eyes waiting
For the flowers to arrive. But she was in the office, and
He could hear her voice on the phone and he took
A breath of air and felt a rush of despair and
Swallowed it. His suit jacket itched around the collar and
He took it off and left it hanging on the door, the flower
Blooming from the lapel half hidden by folds of cloth.
None wept now.
The procession moved, seeming to them
Less immense than it should.
The father, the son,
The engine’s hum.
The bird’s song.
That they would all be quiet!
For just a second. For
Just one second that
They would all be silent.
A Weston, he reminded himself, and
A Nicholas Poplar.
The latter like the one sent out that morning
He cared for neither. Give me
A stone slab and a furnace. No
Waste of wood or earth.
The thought of consummation, of
Immolation, conflagration, transubstantiation
Comforted him on mornings like these, when
He felt close to toppling under the weight of this
Wood and that bone.
Hell, he thought.
I’ll even look forward to it.
A Weston and a Nicholas, he thought. And
The Nicholas goes out open at eleven, yes, and
Then the day is halfway through.
Yesterday none had spoke
For fear of what might overtake the words.
Now there was nothing left to mitigate with silence.
What there was now was capacious and
Impenetrable, he thought. Like
Teeth, teeth buried, sunken.
A half-formed twin parsed out through tissue and
Only now making its presence known
Through chasmal maw and desperate scream.
That is what it feels like.
Too great to be my own.
Of course, he didn’t clean out
The bin, or the grate.
Someone else did that. He’d seen
The ashes spilt,
Clouding the air, a beloved haze.
He wondered if they held their breath
Or if they coughed it up in the morning.
He’d seen the bones, the chips,
Like chalk, taken out and ground.
He remembered the day his father
Had brought a finger home.
Dry as a bone, Dad said, and they laughed. He had been five.
It was wedged in the grate, Dad said,
For who knows how long.
See the joints, he said.
They’d measured it, found it five inches long. And then
Laughing Dad had held it up to his own finger
In comparison and
In that moment he himself
Had ceased to laugh, and knew what death was.
He did not care to see the bone any longer and
He began to cry when Dad, puzzled,
Would not put it away.
He would not follow in his father’s footsteps,
He’d promised himself,
But then the years came and the schooling failed him and
The loans piled up and Dad,
Whose hands represented now so much more
Than they should,
Came to him and said Well, You Know, and
Paused there in ellipses and
Now eleven o’clock was nearly here and
The Nicholas needed to be ready for display.
The cherry trees had bloomed.
When the parcel of earth had been sought and paid for
Not one week ago,
He remembered, they had been bare.
Some one was trying to make him smile,
Some signifier bearing witness to some glory.
But it was to be in vain.
He would not find joy here.
She did not know what she asked of him,
She simply did not know.
He looked at his father,
Who did know, he knew,
And hoped he was not trying to bear
His son’s grief.
That was his own and he held it close and
Would carry it always.
And after all, he had hugged his father that morning
Or his father had hugged him.
Their first in a decade, and it was enough sharing,
Enough reciprocation, at least for one day.
But were that not so, he thought suddenly! And
He knew he must not speak.
He heard a noise in the adjoining room.
A clatter of metal on the floor,
Of glass and china,
Pitched high and sharp enough to make him cringe.
The caterer was setting up her things.
Stacks of too-small plates,
An urn for coffee or tea.
Silver trays over tiny gas burners.
She saw him looking in and smiled gently,
With what was that? Compassion?
While she doled out ladlefuls of punch into cups
In memory of some patriarch whose effigy
Now ensconced in satin and soft wood,
Stuffed full of cotton and chemicals,
Was to be rolled out at eleven?
There was a whoosh
Now, a quiet burst of air,
He could smell the plume of gas
As the blue flames licked the bottom of the pans and
He left with its scent in his nostrils,
That sound still on his ears.
That’s the way it sounded.
That’s they way it should be.
Soft verdant turf underfoot –
Would he sink? No,
It would hold.
He took hold of one handle, his son opposite him.
His brother behind his son.
His friend from his days in school,
Days spent saving dimes for cars for dates with girls,
Back when there were girls,
He was there too, behind him.
How long had he been there? And who had invited him?
He had looked around earlier, at home, and
Perhaps it was because his vision was blurred
That he could not make out
A single face
Or separate the clusters of black
Into recognizable forms.
They all shared the same white mask,
The same black form, and he had to assume
They all deserved to be there.
He took a concerted step and felt
The weight in his hand.
He felt the gold on his finger pushing against
The bronze of the handle.
Cold alchemistry, at work there,
Synergy broken by the wood before
The ore could spread its veins.
The teeth scattered throughout his chest
Ground together in dissatisfaction.
But he knew he could not carry it himself and
Looking up at his amorphous company
He knew that he was glad for it.
The florists had finally made their delivery
And a tangle of shoots and stems and glass
Now threatened the fluorescence of his space.
Some were to be used now, others later in the day –
For indeed they were on a schedule - and
When they were all done with they were to be taken out
To dry up, molder and decay.
He wished that they would grow instead.
He wished to see tendrils of green creep over the tiles,
Around his ankles.
He had a vision of the open boxes and those
Bourne by them surrounded
By advancing florae, the bricks of the wall
Hemorrhaging with earth, the steel and plaster
Overtaken with ivy. And
the bones, they would be embraced.
No approximation incorruptible.
They would rise and fall in symphony with the dirt
And the dust and the dew.
He plunged his hands into this thornless bramble
And felt the stucco on the other side and the vision faded.
He took a vase in the crook of each arm
And carried them past that undulating curtain
That masked the belly of the building.
This room was a façade, and he hated it.
This ugly, plain room with its two columns of
Empty seats aligned like pews for worship,
And four walls that by design mocked what they absorbed.
Designed to contain, to recede, to be forgotten, to alleviate,
Windowless, made to hide the sky, and perhaps
The sea, where
The Viking Pyres, their confluence of elements,
Were long foregone.
He placed the flowers on their marble pedestals.
They flanked an empty space, sentries
They cast out their ceremonial veil, redolent with
Violet and Azure,
For the time being there only to soothe,
Not to mask.
He stood between them and looked at the chairs
And saw their occupants, who day in and out
If only you knew, he thought, with no answer in mind
To his rhetoric.
A door opened
It was time to fill that empty space and put
The flowers to work.
He left the curtain shifting softly
In his passing and passed
The Weston and noted now
That it must be ready by three.
He winced and shut his eyes againt the sound.
Someone had touched the winch,
Just nudged it enough to make it squeal.
Vociferous, piercing, silly,
Soon lost in birdsong.
But the same thoughts darted from head
To head and
Where they stood and
Others coughed and
All were thinking that when
The last words had been said and
All the prayers offered,
That winch would do its work and
It and its rusty jeering whine
Would get the last word in.
When the time came and
It was lowered, though,
It made no sound.
Perhaps someone had oiled it,
Had found time during the Benediction
To run for an oil can.
He thought he would have noticed until
He realized he could not even remember
The descent itself. When had it happened?
One moment floating, the next sunk,
I blinked my eye, that’s all, and
Someone ran for an oil can and now
She’s one more layer away.
Flesh, wood, soon dirt.
He could see the poplar chassis from where
He stood; but were he to take
Two steps back, it would vanish forever.
He stood thus transfixed, but
The thought occurred to him,
He toyed right then with the idea,
That he might now turn away and
Be done with it; but that same moment
Brought a fever to the space behind
His eyes, and
He stood his ground and
Made it last.
The Nicholas was rolled out, the wheels braked,
The cart masked by more flowers, the lid opened.
He let his eyes take their moment to adjust and still he never
Truly saw what was inside. He always saw the ridges
Of wax and cotton, the sheen of the makeup,
Should there be any of either,
But he never really looked.
He stepped to the back of the room, and took
One long gaze at the arrangement,
The obstruction just before the vanishing point.
Then he turned and opened
The double doors and felt his lapel and straightened
The flower’s wire.
The flowers fell, a matted clump but
He closed his eyes and before he heard their
Quiet and unremarkable contact he saw
A rain of petals, glorious, sad, beautiful, respectful,
A falling ascension. He turned away and
Turned away and soon he turning became
They and they turned and heard soon after the
Quiet sound of earth, rather than petals,
Raining on the wood. It was a good sound, rich
And heavy, and they listened to it as they nodded
Their heads and accepted
Condolences and grievances, the verses to
The rhythm, the beat; and the space between
The beats became interminable and
The sound was remapped and
Became something long and guttural
And deep. It released them as the earth closed up and
The space between them became
A pyre. They turned and
Turned and burned and
When the drumbeat ceased they heard
The birds again, and the black car,
Waiting for them; but they thought
They might rather walk.
The word came to him in whispers, passed down
The line, and by the time it reached
His ears he had already heard the murmurs and seen
Through swinging doors the passing of people
Only just arrived.
The girl in her dress was pale
When she told him, her rouge suddenly transparent and
Her lined eyes full of tears he could not
She leaned in and whispered with a voice
Heavy with secret things. She told him his mistake in
So few words that he was waiting
For her to finish while she withdrew. Was waiting
As the murmur grew louder, as it dispersed,
As the doors swung, open and close, open
Waiting, as people, rushing, to and fro,
Turned fluid before his eyes.
He still waits, wondering
Why there were tears in her pretty eyes.
The wrong one, yes, but
What did she know
That he did not?
I was so busy last week that I actually passed up James' offer to buy me a ticket to see Howl's Moving Castle with him and Amy. You have no idea how guilty I felt after that.
It was thus a matter of recompense for me tonight that Yen and I made a long-awaited (by us) return to our habit of weekend triple features.
The capper to the evening, of course, was a midnight show of George Romero's long-awaited (by just about everyone) Land Of The Dead. It was completely enjoyable, refreshingly blue and, while it wasn't as intense as one might like (the remake of Dawn Of The Dead was definitely scarier, if nowhere near as interesting), it wasn't lacking in gore. I wish it were longer and more provacative, but overall I'm not complaining - I'm just happy a studio was smart enough to give Romero the money to make this movie. It's a fine addition to his zombie canon.
Prior to that, we watched Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin. I'll be reviewing it soon (and also interviewing Araki and maybe some of the cast), but for now I'll just say that it's just about great, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's performance is breathtaking, and the film is notable for being the second-best-movie-to-achieve-emotional-closure-via-a-Sigur-Ros-song ever. I haven't seen any of Araki's previous films, and while I know they're completely different than this, I feel compelled to check them out now.
The evening was kicked off with Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs on a DVD imported from Spain. I've been waiting for this one for over a year now, and I'll be writing about it at greater length soon. Suffice to say, if you're a Winterbottom fan, it is of course a must-see. For everyone else: I suppose if I were to give it a star rating, I'd give it two out of four - but it's the kind of two star movie that's still worthwhile in it's own way. Just like (as I told Yen afterwards) Deadroom!
I'm back from Austin now, obviously. Upon waking this morning, I found myself somewhat loathe to look at a computer, and so I sat in another room with my iPod and practiced the fine art of putting pen to paper for a few good hours.
Posted by David Lowery at 3:17 AM
June 22, 2005
The bait has been taken.
1. Total number of films I own on DVD and video
I have somewhere in the just-over-200 range, in regards to DVDs. I also have a lot of VHS press screeners crammed into various nooks and crannies.
2. Last film I bought
I'm a terrible cinephile! I buy movies so infrequently that I can't even remember the last one I purchased. The reason for this might tie into a.) my preference for watching movies on the big screen and b.) my habit of spending money on other things, such as my own films. Netflix also may have something to do with it.
However, I receive a lot of movies, including the aforementioned screeners. I think the last movie I might have received as a gift was Miike's Gozu for my birthday in December. No, wait - I was given The Incredibles on my fake birthday a few months later.
3. Last film I watched.
Hustle & Flow (in theaters) and Chloe In The Afternoon (at home). I wish I could say both were good.
4. Five films that I watch a lot or that mean a lot to me
I've made this list so many times, it seems, and every time it's both different and exactly the same: Eyes Wide Shut (was in love) Buffalo 66 (fell in love) Edward Scissorhands (learning about love) 2001 (was loved) Walt Disney's Pinocchio (first film I ever saw in a theater - love at first sight)
This is minus a certain sextet, of course - the inclusion of which would simply have been redundant.
5. If you could be any character portrayed in a movie, who would it be?
I really don't like that sort of question.
And rather than tag anyone to continue this meme, I'm going to suggest that everyone reading this takes a moment to help save Public Broadcasting.
Posted by David Lowery at 8:56 AM
June 21, 2005
My schedule for the next few days is 12 hours of editing/animating/compositing/Photoshop-lassoing a day, from 9pm to 9am. I'm working at 501 Studios, which is sort of like a labyrinth/dungeon/production facility, and I'm pretty sure I'm the only one here in these narrow hours. Thus, I have ample opportunity to let my imagination scare myself with glimpses of Arbus-esque twins standing at the end of the hallway or dark haired succubi darting past the doorways.
Most terrifing of all: my iPod froze up on me, on the last second of The Smashing Pumpkins cover of 'You're All I've Got Tonight.' I'm trapped in a never ending moment of teenaged angst!
June 19, 2005
In this morning's New York Times, there's an article about Miranda July that mentions the fact that she hasn't held a day job since she was 23.
This is inspiring to me, as I too have been without a day job since I was 23. I suppose one could get syntactical and point out that the article specifically states that Ms. July hasn't had to take a day job, implying a sense of luxury I don't know that I would necessarily afford myself - but nonetheless! I can add this to my list of things that validate my meager living and keep me resolute in my decision to be employed to the greatest extent possible by my artistic whims.
I haven't linked to Miranda July's blog in the months since I saw her film, but such links have been pretty ubiquitous lately, and perhaps I was waiting for just the right moment to mention it, which may not be right now - but close enough. It's the kind of thing I often wish I had the confidence to write. Whenever I click over to it and see that it's been updated, I find myself suddenly several degrees happier than I was two seconds earlier.
June 18, 2005
I had a dream last night where an older cinematographer, who somewhat resembled and sounded like Stan Brakhage, bequeathed to me a gorgeous 16mm camera package. Midway through the dream, I remember feeling that familiar waking fear and telling some girl (I think we were at a party now) that I was worried I had in fact dreamed the whole thing. She smiled and said "No - here it is." And there it was.
I've foregone any work on any of my own projects these past few days to get this documentary stuff completed before I leave for Austin again tomorrow morning (this time for a week of picture-locking). As I often do, I've been listening to commentary tracks I'd never have time for otherwise as I work. The best are the Lord Of The Rings commentaries, since they each last for nearly four hours and there are four or five different tracks on each film, which saves me the trouble of having to change discs. It's a great help in losing track of time.
June 14, 2005
A followup to my post on Matthew Barney's Drawing Restraint 9 the other day: pretty much everything you might want to know about the film can be found here - including the entire soundtrack album by Bjork! It feels like Christmas all of a sudden.
The film itself, from what one can ascertain from the synopsis, sounds fairly astounding:
"Its core idea is the relationship between self-imposed resistance and creativity, a theme it symbolically tracks through the construction and transformation of a vast sculpture of liquid vaseline, called "The Field", which is molded, poured, bisected and reformed on the deck of the ship over the course of the film. Barriers hold form in place, and when they are removed, the film tracks the descent of form into states of sensual surrender and formal atrophy."
It only gets better from there.
The link this time is via Kottke.
Posted by David Lowery at 8:54 PM
June 13, 2005
Joe Swanberg, the director of Kissing On The Mouth, sent me a link to his latest short film, Hissy Fits - which also included, naturally, a link to his website, of which I was previously unaware. He has a handful of previous shorts up there, my favorite of which, I think, was the shortest: This Is Blue, a rhythmic little catalog of a film that reminded me of a more grown-up version of those wonderful shorts that were on Seasme Street when I was growing up.
Actually, my favorite would have been another 2002 effort entitled Wednesday Afternoon, except that I had a problem with the musical content - as incidental music, it certainly has its place, and it's not necessarily bad; but it obstructed the natural structure of the rest of the audio, which I felt was sufficient enough to work on its own. This isn't the first time I've made that call on someone's film; music is always something I'm very quick to criticize. Maybe it's just sensitivity on my part because I've had so much difficulty with music in my films in the past (I wasn't happy with my segment of Deadroom until I excised all but the last piece of bit of score). Of course, I don't mean to decry the use of scores at all; there's in immeasurable amount of amazing film music, and more often than not they are one of the most important elements to a film's success (and many of these scores are worth owning - I've quite a few in regular rotation on my stereo). To put it simply, I think there's nothing better than the perfect juxtaposition of visuals and sound, and if the appropriate sound is a piece music, as is often the case, then that's terrific. But music is also too easy a tool to take advantage of, or too handy a crutch to lean against, especially when one's options are limited.
Personally, what I plan to do in my films from now on is give greater precedence to careful sound design, in concert with (or even in place of, if suitable) a more restrained musical score (and indeed, music is too often used as glue, or to cover mistakes). The orchestration, juxtaposition and exaggeration of natural sound and/or dialogue can be made to serve the same purpose as a score. One couldn't necessarily say that this is a more pure approach, as the sound design, if properly done, will strike the same aural and emotional chords as a score; but it is definitely more subtle, and it manipulates on a more subconscious level. Two examples worth mentioning: Gary Rydstrom's work on Punch Drunk Love, which is some of the best overt sound design I've ever heard; and the use of incidental classical music from a CD player in Michael Haneke's otherwise score-free Time Of The Wolf. An example of a film that shouldn't have had a score might be Shane Carruth's Primer, which I think would be better than it already is if it had, say, the type of cold, technical sound design Walter Murch provided for THX-1138 taking the place of the music (which was actually composed by Carruth).
This certainly isn't to say that I think filmmakers should use less music, or that I'll never have one of my films scored again; it's just that these days the possibilities a lack of music offers generally excite me more than the possibility of music itself.
And as for including pop songs on soundtracks - if there's something to hold against The Graduate, that trend might be it. Certain directors do know how to make beautiful use of the technique - Scorsese, Tarantino, Wes Anderson - but they're on the low end of a pretty wide ratio.
So anyway - back to Mr. Swanberg's films. His latest, Hissy Fits, features the same deceptively blasé style of Kissing On The Mouth; except that, rather than using that style to explore intimacy, he's using it to, essentially, tell a joke. And it's a pretty good one. I'm really looking forward to his next feature, LOL, which sounds like a pretty ingenious extrapolation on current concepts of DV filmmaking; he'll be shooting it later this fall, but he already has a site up for it.
On the completely opposite side of the filmmaking spectrum (or is it?), Terrence Malick's The New World has a new trailer. It keeps looking better and better.
Adobe After Effects 5.0 Keyframe Data
Units Per Second 23.98
Source Width 17
Source Height 17
Source Pixel Aspect Ratio 1
Comp Pixel Aspect Ratio 0.9
End of Keyframe Data
* This wasn't what I meant to copy and paste into this post, but I guess I misjudged the contents of my clipboard. I think this data is equally enjoyable, however - I know it certainly held my interest when I applied to about 100 different layers in a composition this afternoon.
Posted by David Lowery at 3:42 AM
June 11, 2005
A few things concerning two of the directors I list (on my bio on this site) as being some of my heroes:
I knew Bjork was doing music for her husband Matthew Barney's new film/installation, Drawing Restraint 9, but apparently she's in it too. These first images from the film - here and here - feature both of them, as well as Barney's other great love: petroleum jelly. They suggest that Barney is continuing the rich visual style he solidified in Cremaster 3, at least in so far as the posed photography goes. The film itself, which has something to do with Japanese Whaling (which I can only imagine/hope Barney deals with symbolically) is scheduled to premiere at an exhibition in Japan this summer (alongside all his previous, less cinematic Drawing Restraint pieces), so I supposed it must be done by now. When that same exhibition comes to the states - well, it would be worth a trip to New York just for that.
Whither, however, De Lamina Lamina and Hoist?
All of this Barney news, by the way, comes from Cremaster Fanatic, which I linked to once before, prior to the New York Times article that revealed that it was, in part, a big joke (something that becomes obvious if one pays attention to the 'fan art'), an art project in itself (sort of like the 'Edited-For-TV' version of Cremaster 5 that garnered attention at galleries). Nonetheless, it is consistently updated with (real) news, and as such it's a valuable resource.
This 1977 Rolling Stone interview with George Lucas is either essential or somewhat worth reading, depending on your point of view; but of particular note are his comments on Apocalypse Now, which he was originally supposed to direct instead of Coppola. He's spoken about it before (or since, I guess I should say), but here he says:
"It was really more of man against machine than anything else. Technology against humanity, and then how humanity won. It was to have been quite a positive film."
The interesting thing about this quote is that it is, almost word-for-word, precisely how he explains, in his commentary tracks for the films, the primitive closing battles of both Phantom Menace and Return Of The Jedi; obviously, he's had these concepts on his mind for a long time. And before one shudders at the thought of Ewok warfare in place of Coppola's Dantean vision, I'd recommend viewing the experimental anti-war film that he made around the same time that he was developing the Apocalypse script with Coppola, and which is available on the THX DVD - it's a very powerful and passionate piece of work, (and was a great inspiration when I made 2nd last year); and technically speaking, it's a 'positive' film, too.
Looking at all of this in context, the political subtexts of Revenge Of The Sith are really nothing new - they're simply more overt.
And as always, it's interesting to consider the possibility of him moving on; that's one of the the things he discusses in this Hollywood Reporter interview from the other day - this time with a few more details, such as budgets and timeframes.
I can't think of another filmmaker who has ever had the luxury of being praised for progressing back to where he once was, at least in the way Lucas has.
(How did the sun come up so quickly?)
June 9, 2005
Frame 742 (out of 129600) of my upcoming autobiopic:
I wrote in an e-mail the other day that I need to stop making these prolonged allusions to things I have no intent of discussing fully, because by the time I'm ready to divulge information on the projects, they've inevitably changed into something different.
I'm posting that as a disclaimer of some sort.
I was wondering the other day what future film of mine will eventually be considered my real debut feature, and whether or not I'll agree.
That's also a disclaimer.
Also, my Batman Begins review is up.
Posted by David Lowery at 3:21 AM
June 7, 2005
I interviewed director Greg Harrison this morning about his upcoming InDiGent feature November. We had a really wonderful and wide ranging conversation about the film and filmmaking in general - but when I got home and began to transcribe it all, I realized that for some reason the first few minutes were missing from the tape. It really upset me, because these minutes contained discussions of the script and screenwriting and the nature of abstract narrative and Alain Resnais and all sorts of fascinating stuff. The rest of the interview is there, and when I get it online you'll be able to read about the production schedule and budget and miniDV aesthetics and editing and experimental effects and even how many lights were in their grip kit (three); all good material, but that those first five minutes are missing is really disappointing to me.
I saw November last week, and it was a wonderful surprise (a surprise in that I didn't know a single thing about it). It's fairly experimental - moreso than the trailer (which exaggerates its Antonioni influences) might suggest. My friend Tony mentioned that it reminded him a bit of a Carver short story - and while, as far as I know, Carver never dealt with narrative and stylistic abstractions in his prose, he was a master at peering with uncommon focus into what otherwise might be considered mundane vignettes. That's what this film does, quite well. It hits NY and LA in just over a month and rolls out from there, and I'll have my own review, and the interview, up before too long.
I'll also have my Batman Begins review up soon. Nolan's film is about what I expected; like the first Spiderman film, it's a decent and respectful treatment of a pop-culture icon with a lot of big problems; and it's basically a set-up for what I imagine will be a pretty outstanding sequel.
Filmmaker linked to two essential reads yesterday. First is Anne Thompson's story on how IFC is following Mark Cuban's example and opening a Manhattan theater which will exhibit their productions and acquisitions while simultaneously selling the DVDs in the lobby. Beating Cuban to the punch, their cinema opens on June 17, and Thompson wonders if they'll risk releasing their potential sleeper hit, Miranda July's Me And You And Everyone We Know, in this experimental fashion. Personally, I don't see it happening with that picture; but I'll bet they will do it with Von Trier's Manderlay, which they just acquired the rights to. Based on a.) the prestige/infamy associated with Von Trier and b.) domestic box office returns for Dogville, it strikes me as a good vehicle for this distribution method.
The second link is to Mark Cuban's own lengthy explanation of this trend he's pioneered. The sentence that stuck with me the most out of all of it? "We will tailor the movies we develop to fit Landmark Theaters customer base." It was a great (if still slightly trepidatious) relief to read that.
All these thoughts on distribution - these and others - have been swimming through my head, fluttering like moths to lamplight to all these various projects of mine in their various stages of completion (certainly including but definitely not limited to Deadroom). I think I'll go write something else now (I've been working on a narrative poem in between renders), and sign out with one more valuable link: documentary filmmaker/computer historian Jason Scott explaining his reasons and methods for releasing his film under a Creative Commons License. It's highly applicable to all of the people reading this who...might find it...um...applicable...etc...
June 6, 2005
Well, now that the "suspense" is over, I guess I won't be buying a G5 and Final Cut Studio until at least this time next year. Not that I'd be able to afford that setup any earlier, of course. More, as always, at the invaluable HD For Indies.
It's going to be hard to wait, though - especially after spending the weekend trying to squeeze 13 gigs of still images into an airtight and perfectly timed 55 second montage sequence; throughout the process of which I spent way too much time watching that little spinning rainbow of a 'busy' icon.
June 5, 2005
The other day, David Hudson posted a link to a terrific article by Slavov Zizek, entitled Revenge Of Global Finance. Beginning with a deconstruction of the theopolitical contradictions in the Star Wars trilogy, Sizek extends those conflicting ideologies to perspectives on economics. Although the article seems structurally incomplete to me, and I don't agree with elements of it, its content is fascinating and well worth reading.
Zizek establishes that the Star Wars universe as one with New Age ideals; and that these ideals are thrown into disarray with the advent of a Christ-like figure (Anakin Skywalker). After differentiating between an all-inclusive compassion in the Buddhist sense and separative Christian love, he then criticizes Revenge Of The Sith for not utilizing that very dichotomy (already established in the first two prequels) as sole instigation for Anakin's turn towards the Dark Side (a dramatic construct which would have perfectly mirrored Palpatine's political machinations). A worthy criticism, indeed.
A few paragraphs on, this theological talk turns towards economics, and Zizek ultimately suggests that a Christological perspective on finance is preferable to an admittedly appealing postmodern - or Buddhist - version of the same. It's at this point that I feel that the article, while conclusive, seems incomplete; and what really interests me about it overall is this notion of 'intolerant, violent Love' represented by Christianity:
The Buddhist stance is ultimately that of indifference, of quenching all passions that strive to establish differences, while the Christian love is a violent passion to introduce a difference, a gap in the order of being, to privilege and elevate some object above others. Love is violence not (only) in the vulgar sense of the Balkan proverb, "If he doesn't beat me, he doesn't love me!" The choice of love itself is already violent, as it tears an object out of its context and elevates it to the Thing.
This argument is true, but not as condemning as it sounds; after all, 'violent passion' is a bit redundant, etymologically speaking. Monogamous love of an individual is separative love; and the concept of 'true' love, or passion, is, by its nature, violent. Furthermore, the act of marriage between two people is a microcosm of the relationship Christianity (as well as Judaism and any other monotheistic religion) holds with its supreme deity (which, at least as far as the Christian creed goes, is the spiritual embodiment of that all-encompassing compassion for which Buddhism strives within the self).
This is why Christianity considers the sacrament of marriage to be an act of worship in itself; and why agnostics and atheists who marry outside the church are nonetheless (and perhaps unknowingly) illustrating the very ambiguous and dualistic ideology Zizek finds faulty in The Star Wars films. Does the fact that such contradictions are inevitable in human nature provide a bit of leeway for Anakin's muddled turn? Zizek, who argues that the the sextet is a 'political myth proper,' probably wouldn't allow it, but hey, it works for me! I wish I could say that the ambiguity was the result of great writing, rather than excuse for a lack thereof, but that hasn't stopped me from planning to see Revenge Of The Sith for a third time this week.
* When I say there's a lack of great writing, I'm referring to Anakin's dialogue; Palpatine's various monologues, ont the other hand, were so well written they were nearly shocking to hear, and they went a long way towards making up for deficits on other counts.
June 4, 2005
A quick rundown: Chuck posted an e-mail that he had every right to post; now he's being threatened with legal action if he doesn't remove it. I've got it copied and pasted, though - even if he has to take it down, it isn't necessarily going to disappear. There's plenty of room out there for documentaries about blogs - but with all matters of professional courtesy having been brushed aside, I think it's safe to say that there's only one Blogumentary.
June 3, 2005
I'm a little late with this - but I interviewed the brilliant filmmaker Don Hertzfeldt about The Animation Show and his own latest work, The Meaning Of Life. My respect for him rose even higher than it already was when I read his responses to my questions. Read it and you'll see what I mean.
Due to time constraints, the interview was conducted via e-mail; at the very end of his last correspondence to me, he wrote: if you can help it please don't correct my grammar :)
I've got my own animation rendering out at the moment - what could be the first completed shot for this documentary project I'm working on. Although the rough cut deadline is just two weeks away, things have been fairly slow so far on my end. I'm creating these shots while the doc is being edited; meaning, I can't really finalize anything, and there's a lot of material I haven't even been able start on yet. That's about to change, however. I'm heading to Austin in a few hours to see the first fifteen minutes of the film, attend a production meeting and shoot some background plates; and when I get back I suspect the ratio of deliverables to deadlines will become far more daunting.
Until then, I think I'll go to sleep.
Posted by David Lowery at 1:59 AM
June 2, 2005
Over at Digital Poetics, Nick has an interesting piece on the aesthetic qualities of the experience of watching a film online. He writes:
Who's to say that the experience of watching a film in a theater with friends and strangers in the dark is not as much a part of what makes a movie "good" than the movie itself?Watching a movie on the web lays bare its tricks, strips it of the hucksterism that has always been part of the movie experience. I can easily click to another web page if I'm bored, or it loads to slowly, or the sound is bad.
I'm very much a devotee to the cinema-going experience - the whole experience of it, the inherent (and literal) sleight of hand of it all; the big screen offers a form of enchantment, and I've written at length before about how important I think that is to all types of film. Conversely, Nick hits the nail on the head regarding the rather clinical drawbacks of online distribution. I have trouble not checking my e-mail when I'm watching a movie at home on DVD - it'd be even worse if I was actually watching it on my desktop. Of course, these faults are dependant on current technology, and technology will change as it does too - but movies need to change too.
Not all movies, of course - god forbid the cinematic experience become extinct! But the key to online content is an evolution of form. There's a reason that short film have been so popular online, and I think the key to the evolution is an increased hybrid of brevity and interactivity. I'm not suggesting that films should not be feature length (although in this context matters of length are extremely archaic), but that they must take advantage of the shortened attention span fostered by expediency of information, rather than simply catering to it. A new manner of enchanting audiences is needed.
As I discussed in the last exchange with Matt, I want to make my own films in the traditional sense; I want them to be seen in the cinema and to traverse that wonderful stream of shuttered light; but I also am quite excited about the possibilities represented in the creation of cinema designed solely for the internet. It's something I've been thinking (and writing) about a great deal these last few weeks; and if all goes well, it's something I'll be exploring in the literal sense very soon.
Turkish coffee, jug of wine, Mexican Coca Cola, French press full of tea, loaf of bread, conversation, oil lamp: one evening down.