« July 2005 | Main | September 2005 »

August 31, 2005

I'm rendering out some test sequences from Deadroom at 24fps at the moment, for a reasons that will probably (but may not) end up amounting to nothing. I downloaded the Magic Bullet demo to do the conversions with; good lord, this thing is amazing! Why didn't I have this before? I also downloaded the Saphhire plug-in package the other day; After Effects keeps getting more and more fun to use (at least until these demos expire).

Classes begin in six hours; I'm finally continuing my baby steps towards that English Literature degree. I spent so much money on books today that I'm almost glad that one of the classes I was going to take filled up before I could register for it - I don't know that I want this daunting (but exciting) stack to get any taller; History Of Western Civiliaztion II requires eight books alone. That's probably nothing shocking to all you collegiate types out there, but I'm a bit rusty when it comes to academia...I've been learning on my own terms for quite a while.

So now we'll get to see if I can balance course work with editing the short essay film I'm currently working on (which, for the past four weeks, I've been saying will be done in two), completing the short I've tentatively scheduled to shoot the weekend of September 9th, getting pre-production work and rehearsals underway for The Outlaw Son, and helping James and Yen develop their upcoming projects (Yen's already has a temporary website and a shooting date). No problem...

...I say now. By noon tomorrow (I mean today), I may be singing a different tune.

Speaking of tunes, allow me to relate the following brief anecdote. While waiting to register on Monday morning, I was writing in one of the lounge areas at the university. Some girl sat down at the piano there and casually began to play Fiona Apple's Never Is A Promise, a song which, despite its slightly overwrought melodramatic style, I still have quite a soft spot for, and which I used to be able to play sort of decently. So. I thought I would walk over to tell her I appreciated her playing and to ask her if she was a fan and looking forward to the new album. And I did so, and I managed to not stammar too terribly (the way I always do when I talk to anyone I don't know, and most of the time with those I do), subconsciously transferring my nervous energy to my hands and my mobile phone. To put a stop to this fidgeting, I dropped my phone into my pocket - where it promptly fell through the hole in that pocket, down the leg of my slacks and onto the brick floor, where the battery broke off and effectively put an end to my attempts at casually laudatory small talk.

This is why I'm terrible at meeting people; that kind of thing always happens. Other folks can turn little accident like that into charming bits of improvised physical comedy, but not I. I think the only place I can ever manage to be collected in public is on film sets. Well, not really - I just wanted to say that.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:16 AM | Comments (2)

August 30, 2005

A year ago, Nick Cave said this:

"We're still kind of praying it's going to happen, because the whole thing is just a struggle. To get this film made, to get the financing in time to keep the actors happy, the whole thing. It's an Australian western, set in 1880, a fictional story about three bushranger brothers."

He was talking about The Proposition, the film he wrote, which is now finished and set for release in Australia on October 6th. There's a new website up, and there's a trailer available; but as it's encoded in Flash and approximately the size of a postage stamp, it's nearly impossible to get an impression of the film from it (without a magnifying glass, at least).

There's a bit of a thrill for me in seeing the credit 'Written By Nick Cave' in the advertisements, and the fact that it's a Western (with, perhaps, some archetypical Cain & Abel undertones) is exciting, too. Still, my fingers are somewhat cautiously crossed - I've heard mixed things about Cave's other major bit of fictional writing (his novel And The Ass Saw The Angel, which I guess I need to read now that it's back in print), and the director, Johnny Hillcoat, has helmed a lot of videos for the Bad Seeds that I don't really care for; on the other hand, the cast is superb (I'll see anything with Danny Huston or Emily Watson), and if nothing else, the soundtrack (which I'm sure we'll get in the states before the film itself) will very likely be wonderful.

Posted by David Lowery at 5:38 AM | Comments (8)

August 29, 2005

auhasardbalthazar.jpg I saw Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar last night. What an incredible film (and what an incredible transfer, Criterion)! Suffice to say, it's now my favorite Bresson picture. The multitude of bells at the end...my god. And on a purely reactionary level, it's the most intellectually stimulating example of that horrible (and true) adage about how all one has to do to move an audience is take a puppy and wring its neck.

I watched it with my mom, and while we both thought it was profound, our perspectives on its meaning were strikingly different. I saw it as a story of transcendence, she as a portrayal of a world in which god, or any other form of divinity, is entirely absent. The appearance of the sheep at the end seemed to me to be an almost obvious use of Christ imagery; to her, the slight possibility of this symbolism was refuted by the way the way they seen to mindlessly abandon the donkey on the hillside in those final moments. These disparate reactions are, from what I understand, fairly representative of the most common interpretations of the film, and I think that what ultimately makes it so beautiful is that it is completely open to - and supportive of - whatever the audience wishes to bring to it. I guess, in my case, my essential optimisim shone through in my perspective, whereas my mom - well this is, after all, the same mom who told me she preferred Nine Inch Nails' original version of Hurt to Johnny Cash's cover because Cash made the song sound too hopeful.

So how about a few words on my history with Bresson up to this point? I've been exploring all of films over the past few months, thanks to Matt's initial insistence that I see A Man Escaped back in the spring. While his work very strongly appeals to me, I've also found that I always cannot help but resist it. The films eventually win me over, to varying degrees, but I'm generally unable to embrace them wholeheartedly. I think his style (which often goes hand in hand with his thematic material) is extremely ascetic, and this is something that can be difficult to respond to. He gets under your skin, though; I'm consistently drawn to back to his films.

The asceticisim especially intrigued me in the case of Diary Of A Country Priest. The film struck me almost immediately as a direct precedent to Bergman's Winter Light (it's no coincidence - on the commentary track for the Criterion edition ofDiary DVD, Peter Cowie points out that Bergman was inspired by the Bresson picture, although it's anyone's guess as to the precise extent one influenced the other; in my reading, I've come across very few references to Bresson on Bergman's part, aside from, incidentally, his distaste for Balthazar). Both films essentially tell the same story, and both are concerned with presenting religious faith as a painful, joyless (and, indeed, passionate) phenomenon; beyond that, however, the two directors seemed to have completely different takes on this theological content, represented not just in the scripts but in their style. I began research last month for a paper that would examine these differences, and use them to elucidate the intentions that might have been behind the overall style - and style of approach - of each director. Unfortunately, I've had to set this endeavor aside for the time being, after deciding that I should be as familiar with Bresson as I am Bergman before I truly begin to compare their work, and that I might also need to read the novel on which Bresson's film is based, and perhaps some of the works of Thomas Aquinas and/or the Confessions Of St. Augustine (which I actually did start a while back) so that I might better manage to explain these two discourses on faith by contrasting them with established creed (with that in mind, Bergman's Lutheranism put yet another knot in my plans). I've realized that I simply don't have the time to dedicate to such a project at this point (as a concentrated effort, that is). So it's on the backburner; and if any of you Bresson experts have any recommendations on books about the man or his films that you feel I must read, please do recommend them, so that I can add them to my list.. In the meantime, I'm very much enjoying this ongoing game tug-of-war with his films; in the case of Au Hasard Balthazar, for the first time, he beat me outright.

Posted by David Lowery at 12:29 AM | Comments (6)

August 25, 2005

Trickling down through the AP Wire today is a great little article on John Cameron Mitchell's new film, Shortbus. There's a brief synopsis -

The film revolves around a Gertrude Stein-style salon from the early 1900s, where artists, writers, musicians and intellectuals converged to share their works and discuss new ideas in art and politics.

- as well as confirmation that the movie is actually in production, and will be hitting the festival circuit next year.

Much of the article, of course, focuses on the sexual content of the film. Unsimulated sex in cinema certainly isn't commonplace, but I don't know think that it's quite as revolutionary as it was even three years ago, when Mitchell first began work on this project. Since then, The Brown Bunny and 9 Songs and various other films with real sex have passed through American theaters and drawn their fair share of audiences (all with no trouble from censors - as opposed to the situation in Australia) . The appeal of Shortbus is not the degree to which Mitchell focuses on sexuality; it's simply the fact that the director of one of the best American debuts of the decade is finally making his sophomore effort.

And I heard rumblings somewhere that Rufus Wainwright was going to be doing music for it....

* * *

comicpage.jpg Girish Shambu's latest post features a really wonderful page of a comic book he drew on jazz theory, along with a promise of a future post about alternative comic books. Although I don't read comic books (or graphic novels, since I always favored the collected format) too frequently anymore, they played an important enough part in my development as a filmmaker (especially the b/w ones) to warrant a post of my own on the subject - but I'll save that for some other time. Girish's work did inspire me to go dig out from under my bed the few finished pages of the last comic project I attempted, seven years ago or so - adapted from a short story I had written about, coincidentally, a jazz pianist (who falls in love with a lounge singer). I drew the last panel, before abandoning the project, a few hours prior to seeing Boogie Nights. I could probably find some minute paradigmatic correlation there...

Posted by David Lowery at 2:52 PM | Comments (6)

August 23, 2005

A month or two ago, Nick and Kara were telling me about a new Theater Fire song that Curtis had written. Their description of it was really vague - I mostly recall them saying that it was 'really good' (no surprise there, given its author) and 'different.' I was hanging out with Curtis, then, about two weeks ago and told him that if I ended up making this film I was thinking about making, I'd like to use this song of his in a key scene, even though I had no idea what it was like, what it was about or what the title was.

So now that the film is going to get made, I got a copy of the song from Curtis and sure enough: I still don't know what it's called, but it's pretty much the perfect song for the film. Too perfect, perhaps, given the precision with which it might elucidate the scene I have in mind for it, but also just perfect enough that, regardless of whether it ends up in the film (or whether that scene even ends up on screen the way it's written), its sounds are sort of intrinsically linked with the pictures in my head now.

The process by which I selected this piece of music is sort of representative of how I'm going about the film in general.

Nick is going to be the cinematographer, which makes me really happy. When I asked him if he'd be willing to do it, he said he'd love to as long as I was willing to be adventurous. No question there.

* * *

Nick and Curtis and the rest of The Theater Fire played a show with Smog a few weeks ago. I'm mentioning this as a segue into linking to this nicely done video for Smog's new single, starring Chloe Sevigny with an eye patch.

Still not as good as the video I linked to yesterday, though.

* * *

After seeing Bad Guy with Yen last night, I decided that my brief love affair with the films of Kim Ki-Duk had come to an end.

Watching the pristine print of Wong Kar Wai's Days Of Being Wild, on the other hand, changed my perspective on the film entirely, and for the better; there's so much that I didn't pick up on when I saw it at home, and it's quickly gone from being one of my least favorite of Wong's work to...well, I have trouble ranking them (it's basically 2046, In The Mood For Love, and then everything else). The last shot (which was fused in my brain after Chris Doyle provided live commentary for it in Berlin) is one of the things I'll be showing Nick to give him an idea of the aesthetic I have in mind for The Outlaw Son.

Posted by David Lowery at 12:15 AM | Comments (5)

August 21, 2005

Last night, Nick gave me a copy of I Am A Bird Now by Antony & The Johnsons, which I've since been unable to turn off.* It's one of those records that is equivocal to a religious experience; rapture or what have you, or something close to it.

Here is the video (a beautiful cinematic recreation of the vintage photo of Candy Darling that is the album's cover) to the song Hope There's Someone. Watch it with your speakers up or your headphones on, and perhaps with your eyes closed so that the images, lovely as they may be, don't distract your from the sounds.

There aren't a lot of artists whose recordings leave my dying to see them perform live; but it was with great regret that I learned Antony's current tour brings him and his band nowhere near my side of the country.

* With one caveat, to be dealt with in a follow-up post; right now, though, I'm going to catch a film or two at the Asian Film Festival.

Posted by David Lowery at 3:20 PM | Comments (3)

August 19, 2005

A terrific appropriation of a pop culture motif:

vaderposse.gif

Via BoingBoing, who provide a link to a printable sheet of stickers.

Posted by David Lowery at 3:29 PM

August 18, 2005

Wonderful musical news: Extraordinary Machine is officially being released on October 4th, in (and this part may or may not be wonderful) a version completely different from the Jon Brion produced bootleg. I haven't downloaded the new singles from iTunes yet to make a comparison to the rough drafts, and I probably won't; I'll just wait to have a full length headphones experience on the morning of the first Tuesday of my favorite month.

Incidentally: one of the reasons the new Kanye West single Gold Digger is so good, aside from West's very considerable talent (although some of his stuff a little too mainstream for my tastes), is that Jon Brion produced it (along with most of the rest of the album). Even cooler: Michel Gondry plays drums on another track. Apparently, the point of origin for the collaboration was that Kanye is a Fiona Apple fan.

Posted by David Lowery at 6:36 PM

August 17, 2005

So what I'm comfortable revealing thus far is:

    1. It's sort of about a boy and a girl staying up all night.

    2. It will be shot on 16mm.

    3. It's tiny. Very tiny. Microcosmic. People will wonder why it was so hard for me to write. But:

    4. No one involved with it gets to look at the script, except for the actors. This prompted James to ask last night "how can I produce it if I haven't even read it?"

    5. As I currently envision it, it will rarely be viewed the same way twice.

    6. The script is about fifteen pages right now. The description on the TFPF page refers to it as a fifteen minute short, but I really don't know how long it'll end up being. As long as it needs to be.

    7. It'll be pretty boring. And yet so exciting.

    8. Curtis Heath will be contributing the only piece of music in the film.

    9. I don't know when I'm actually going to shoot it. Not before it gets cold.

    10. It might end up being my best film so far, but hopefully it won't hold that title for long.

    11. This all may change by the time I shoot it. The heart of the film, however, will remain the same as it has been since I first conceived it.

I was planning on making this film at some point regardless of whether I got the grant or not, but now those plans have been plucked from their orbit in my head, alongside all the other potential projects I have, and given a definite sense of gravity. So: a big thanks to the TFPF Committee and the Austin Film Society for giving me the go-ahead to make this sooner rather than later. I can't wait to get started (but I ain't gonna rush it).

Posted by David Lowery at 9:55 PM | Comments (3)

August 16, 2005

I visited the Austin Film Society site today to see if they had announced the recipients of the TFPF Grants yet. They had. I hadn't heard anything from them, so I figured that was that - but halfway down the list, there was my name and the title of my proposed film, The Outlaw Son.

So now I need to dig up that wordy project description proposal I wrote for the project and remind myself what exactly it is that I'll be shooting this fall, on (for the first time) someone else's dime (well, at least in part). I'll post more about the project itself tomorrow, but at this point, I do know that James and Yen are onboard to help me produce it (and to make up most of the crew - get ready for some night shoots, Yen!).

Kat, Lorie and Stacy got a grant for jumping off bridges, too - I saw their names on the list before my own, and it's quite exciting to be in their company.

So: I've got one short film about digital stuff en process and another one about rib cages that I'm hoping to shoot in September, and I've also been managing to crank out an average of about a shot or two per week on the stop motion animated film...and now The Outlaw Son, which, if it turns out, should top everything else. It may not turn out, though. Oh, and Drift, which isn't really requiring a lot of work on my part at the moment but is still my priorité première. Am I officially booked yet? Well, no. Of course not.

James, incidentally, gave me the greatest gift imagineable the other week: a case of miniDV tapes left over from his documentary shoot. They've been tremendously enabling.

Posted by David Lowery at 11:32 PM | Comments (8)

Over at Green Cine, David Hudson links to a brief piece on Andrew Bujalski's progress - or lack thereof - in finding distribution for his most recent film, Mutual Appreciation, and then writes "Distributors: Entertainment Weekly may be looking forward to Panic Room in the sky, but more modest outfits like this one - thing is, see, we're legion - would urge our readers to be rattled by Bujalski any day of the week instead."

This legion of modest outfits - and the constituencies that takes their suggestions to heart - is a beautiful thing indeed, and something I neglected to think about when I was writing my review of Broken Flowers the other day and trying to keep myself for launching into a full blow polemic against American audiences (I just cut the review off short instead).

I regrettably neglected to write about Bujalksi's Funny Ha Ha when I saw it a few months ago, during its small rollout across the country. It was a wonderful theatergoing experience; I remember seeing it in the afternoon, and that it was raining when I left, although perhaps I'm romanticizing the memory a bit. After all, how often does one see an extremely personal, extremely low-fi and (as a result of those first two extremes) extremely good independent film on the big screen? I almost thought I could hear the 16mm magazine whirring just off camera during all those quiet, awkward scenes. It felt like it was 1997 again.

Posted by David Lowery at 11:23 AM

August 12, 2005

The inspiration that fuels these words is being put to use elsewhere at the moment.

In the interim, read and re-read this beautiful passage from the beginning of Woolf's The Waves (and if you've a mind to, read the rest of the book too):

"I will take my anguish and lay it upon the roots under the beech trees. I will examine it and take it between my fingers. They will not find me. I shall eat nuts and peer for eggs through the brambles and my hair will be matted and I shall sleep under hedges and drink water from ditches and die there."

And then go see Last Days, because it opens wide today.

Posted by David Lowery at 4:26 AM | Comments (1)

August 8, 2005

Other great films seen during the remaining days of the Video Festival:

Mana: Beyond Belief (dir. Peter Friedman & Robert Manley)
Film As A Subversive Art: Amos Vogel And Cinema 16 (dir. Paul Cronen)
Meet Marlon Brando (dir. Albert & David Maysles)
Noel (The Obituary Project) (dir. Hope Tucker)
Wake (dir. Keun-Pyo Park)

There were a handful more that were good, and only one or two that didn't strike my fancy. I ended up missing just about every film I had planned to catch (thankfully, in most cases, because otherwise I wouldn't have seen Phantom Limb and most of the other amazing titles listed above). I did miss a lot of films that I should have seen, due to scheduling conflicts, unexpected overlaps, and forgoing the entire last day of the festival for a wedding. Still, based on what little I did see, the lineup was pretty strong this year.

* * *

I finished No Country For Old Men a while back, and then passed it on to my dad, thinking that it might provide us with a rare common point of interest (for the record, while the book is McCarthy's most accessible, I wouldn't generally recommend it as an introduction to his work). He finished it last night, and his take on it, in so many words, was this: McCarthy is suggesting that postmodernism has left our culture incapable of dealing with evil.

I agree with this reading of the text (which, true to form, eventually, expertly, transcends the noirish conventions with which it begins); while out of context it sounds a bit simpleminded - and, yes, conservative - one must take into consideration the level of evil with which McCarthy deals. As he did to a more powerful, more important degree in Blood Meridian, he's taken the stereotypical and turned it into something prototypical; it is not mere villainy he excels at creating, but a primeval sense of pure, amorphous malevolence that cannot be dealt with on any terms but its own.

While looking for other reviews of the novel, I discovered this synopsis of a screenplay he wrote, entitled Whales And Men. I wasn't terribly fond of his other screenplay, The Gardener's Son, but this outine is fascinating (and there are elements that don't sound too dissimilar to a certain script of my own). If I had more time on my hands, I'd hop in my car and take a day trip to the University of San Marcos, where the only publicly available copy exists, just to read it.

Posted by David Lowery at 11:18 PM

August 6, 2005

I had to get a physical yesterday, something I've successfully avoided ever doing until now. It wasn't that bad, though, and as a bonus I got to have blood drawn, which I've always found an enjoyable process.

While I was in the waiting room, I overheard pieces of conversations. Discussions of ailments and such. Sitting behind me was an elderly woman with a friend or caretaker who was filling out a form for her. Part of the form must have involved deceased family members, because the friend kept asking her about various relatives and when they had died and what they had died of. It took a few moments for the older woman to remember some of these things. She would drift off, or not hear the question at all. Then she would matter of factly recall that her father had died when he was sixty four, her mother when she was eighty.

"What about Jackie?" the friend asked. The old woman didn't respond. The question was repeated.

"Who?" she asked.

"Your son? Didn't you call him Jackie?"

She thought some more. I couldn't see her sitting behind me, but I could picture her thinking. I imagined her nodding her head when she finally said "Yes, John. But we called him Jackie."

The same tone of voice. Matter of fact. "He died in a car accident when he was six." She thought for a few moments more, and then added "It was a hit and run, really."

The sound of the pen writing this down. Other people talking quietly. The old woman getting up to slowly walk to the counter to ask her own question of the nurses there. Pink shirt. Looking younger than I expected. Six years old. How long ago was that? Eventually her name was called and she and her friend or caretaker left.

The morning at the doctor's office became, in retrospect, a prelude to the film I saw at the festival last night entitled The Phantom Limb, from director Jay Rosenblatt. The film is a twelve part abstract essay on death and loss, and it's the best film I've seen all year.

Sometime afterwards, I watched an hour of a feature film, and while it was quite good, I eventually had to leave. Partially because my blood sugar was dropping precipitously, but also because there just didn't really seem to be a point to seeing any other films that night.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:49 PM

August 5, 2005

Last week in the Times, on the eve of the newly rechristened Scanners Festival (nee New York Video Festival), Manohla Dargis wondered if in this age of digital cinema whether video festivals had cause for existence anymore. Both varieties show works originated on both formats, and those formats are increasingly indistinguishable. Dargis quickly dropped the debate in favor of celebrating the work being exhibited, which I think was the right choice. Still, I like the connotations of the term 'video festival.' It denotes not so much a medium but a context and style; one is more likely to come across an installation than a narrative film, and the opportunity for experimentation, on the part of the filmmakers, the programmers and the audience alike, seems far greater.

I mention this because the 18th Annual Dallas Video Festival just began. It's the oldest video festival in the country, and the best media festival of any sort in North Texas.

savisky.jpg

Tonight, the showcase was a screening at the DMA of a custom work by filmmaker/projectionist/artist Luke Savisky, whom I first became aware of when Bryan Poyser interviewed him for the Austin Chronicle a few months ago. It was one of those cases where just reading about the work made me incredibly excited; and indeed, tonight's piece was just my cup of tea.

The prelude was a bit of pure (and yet ironic) self-reflexivity. Standing at the front of the darkened auditorium, Savisky carried a 16mm projector in his arms, projecting a loop of his own face onto the faces of various audience members. A video camera was mounted to the projector, and it provided a live feed for a video projector that threw these paradoxical images on the big screen. It was simultaneously eerie, beautiful and funny.

This was accompanied by music, which, after reaching its climax, signaled the beginning of the body of the exhibition. The best description I can give of it is: imagine five or six different versions of Bill Morrison's Decasia projected simultaneously through geometrically skewed lenses. It was an hypnotic and frequently - when the abstractions blossomed into something recognizable in time with the score - transcendent visual experience. The only drawback was with the DMA's speakers - the music wasn't nearly as infusive as I imagine it was supposed to be (we ran into this problem when we screened Deadroom in the same auditorium last year). Nevertheless, it was an outstanding exhibition, and I'd strongly recommend not missing any chance you might have to see Savisky's work, which is of that wonderful sort that is never the same twice (also, he's really nice in person - a running trend with Austin filmmakers).

I'm guessing that nothing else is going to top it; but of course I'll be attending the festival for its duration, and I'm looking forward to seeing The Confederate States Of America tomorrow, as well as debating the ethical dilemma of skipping the first fifteen minutes of the annual Albert Maysles presentation on Saturday to see the Zellner Bros.' short film Flotsam/Jetsam. And of course Kat's co-producers, Lorie and Stacy, wil be presenting, respectively, a short film entitled Hoovergirl and a documentary called Rescue Me, so I'll definitely be catching them. And I'm going to give Rubber Johnny another chance, just to see how it works in a darkened theater with an audience.

When I first walked in to pick up my pass, Bart Weiss (the festival's founder/organizer) came over to say hi and asked why I don't have another film done yet. That's a good question, and I think I have a somewhat good answer (at least in regards to my feature film projects)...but mum's the word, you know.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:43 AM

August 3, 2005

I finally got around to watching Simon Pummell's film/multimedia hybrid Bodysong, which I initially wrote about with great excitement here. In retrospect, it represents not the epitome of multimedia's potential but the epitome of the possibilities of that potential.

bodysong2.jpg bodysong1.jpg

The first twenty minutes of the film are entrancing and extraordinary. They follow the course of human life, across time and culture, from conception through development in utero to birth to early childhood. Despite the occasionally Phillip Glass-ian score by Jonny Greenwood, Pummell sets his film apart from its most immediate and obvious comparison, Godrey Reggio's famous experimental trilogy on the various stages of life, by not using any digital or chemical manipulation (aside from slow motion). Nor, in the lengthy sequence on birth, does he echo too directly Brakhage's Window Water Moving Baby; the sequencing of Bodysong is straightforward, and its power comes from the sheer quantity of images juxtaposed together. The sense of progression, and the images themselves, are stunning, beautiful, and so fluid that the evolution from one stage of life to another is barely noticeable.

What I loved most about all of this was the intimacy of the footage; the close-ups, the lingering shots of faces. This is something that continues through the adolescent period, and then stops, surprisingly and disappointingly, as the film delves into sexuality (with some hardcore footage that, admirably and appropriately, is not biased towards any one sexual orientation). The footage is as copious as everything that's come before it, but there's less immediacy to much of it, less a sense of experience. And then the film takes a turn towards war and violence, and there hundreds of people depicted dead or dying and flames and riots; the footage is harrowing, but it is not involving in the same way that the early sequences were. The film has ceased to be about humans, collectively, and is now about the human collective.

Bodysong's logline is Birth / Growth / Sex / Violence / Death / Dreams. The film adheres quite strictly to that outline, which is an admirable achievement but also key to what I found disappointing about it. Although these stages of life cyclically become more inclusive (and then, towards the end, less so), I believe Pummell could have maintained the focus on the individual experience without deviating from his sequential plan. Both Death and Dreams mark a return to more intimate footage, but by then the early momentum of the film has been lost, and individual images stand out (such as the one I've posted here, of a woman weeping in an overgrown graveyard, or an exhilarating excerpt from a spacewalk), rather than form a cohesive whole.

Still, the movie is very much worth watching - especially because, afterwards, the online half of the film still awaits. The website, included on the DVD and best left for exploration after viewing the film, is a three dimensional space, through which every single shot from the film floats in a continual stream of imagery. One can navigate through this stream and click on each frame to bring up that image's background story (for example, it is revealed that a clip of a certain vintage stag film features the first onscreen appeareance of Joan Crawford). It's a veritable enyclopedia of human experience, and could be considered an even more impressive achievement than the film - if both it and the film were not two parts of the same achievement.

There are technological limitations the prevent the film and the website from truly becoming one multimedia entity, but consider the possibilities this DVD represents; imagine a film where one could, while watching it, immediately click on a shot and discover some facet of information about it, and then jump to a visual database to cross reference it with some other shot, all without ever actually leaving the film itself. In a sense, there have been steps taken towards this already with the branching feature available on DVDs; now imagine a more fluid, immersive amalgamation of that sort of interactivity and the sort featured in Bodysong. It's hard to imagine a film, as we know it, working this way - but what happens when filmmakers start making their films with this sort of interface in mind?This is the sort of thing Nick has been talking about over at Digital Poetics for quite some time; it's also something I'm hoping to explore to a certain extent with my short film The Outlaw Son.

* * *

intoyourarms.jpg You'll note, though, that I say to an extent. Here I have a confession to make; as much as this implementation of interactive technology in the developing form of cinema greatly excites me, it also leaves me somewhat cold. To wit: if given a choice, I'd rather watch Matthew Barney's Cremaster 3 in its original form than in the viewer-defined order featured on the DVD of The Order (thanks to Matt for pointing out the relevance of that particular feature, though). Or, to return to a comparison from a few paragraphs ago, I actually prefer Window Water Moving Baby to the early sequences of Bodysong. As exciting and fascinating as the absence of subjugation can be, I ultimately find myself returning to more traditional forms of narrative (keep in mind that my idea of traditional is still pretty experimental). This is not resistance, mind you; it is merely preference.

After watching Bodysong and thinking back on Pummell's comment (quoted in my earlier post) about the truth and emotion in a close-up of a human face, I realized I already had a perfect and, to me, preferable example of that phenomenon. I put in the Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds DVD and watched the video to the song Into My Arms again. The clip, directed by Jonathan Glazer (predicating his pivotal, masterful three minute shot of Nicole Kidman in Birth), is made up almost entirely of stark black and white close ups of men, women, childen, of different ages and cultures, all weeping. I don't know the backstory of how the video was made, and perhaps these people are all acting; but their tears are real, and they are drawing on something real to bring them to the surface. To have the chance to look into their eyes and wonder what it is that moves them so is one of the things I love most about film. In my own work, I want to be able to give other people that same chance.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:21 AM | Comments (1)

August 2, 2005

Time to catch up on a bit of writing.

First up: 1749 words on Saraband, including a few quoted from Bergman himself.

Posted by David Lowery at 5:42 AM

August 1, 2005

1. During SXSW, Yen and I told Kat that we'd love to help out during the shoot of her film, Jumping Off Bridges, if the opportunity arose. Resultingly, we've been on the crew call every week since the film started production; and on Friday we finally made it down to Austin to be P.A.s for a few night shoots.

2. The relatively small crew was so on top of things, so tightly knit - so perfect
(it was one of the quietest, most relaxed, friendliest and, above all else, efficient sets I've ever been on) - that there wasn't that much for us to do but observe, but that was fun enough by itself. My favorite parts were when I was close enough to the action to see the performances; and then, after each take, to watch Kat go off with the actors to talk with them privately; and then to see them come back and do another take, and see how the performances changed (they always got better and better).

3. But I did manage to stay sufficiently busy with other things, such as a.) directing traffic, b.) my old specialty, coiling cable c.) helping Lorie, the co-producer, with craft services and d.) driving one of the picture cars, which was in such bad shape that it made me feel a little better about my own vehicle. I love doing anything on a film set; nothing more than directing, of course, but the whole process is such a concerted, unified effort that there's never any doubt that every little thing helps; and thus there's great satisfaction to be had in doing a great job on the smallest task.

4. One of the actresses looked a lot like this girl I knew in high school, who was the only girl I've ever literally asked out on a date. Her name was Melissa, her favorite movie was A Clockwork Orange and her answer was no. Years of insecurity ensued, and persist in ensuing, but I wrote a good sentence about it once.

5. The best thing I learned over the weekend was that, if you have the right people working with you, there's no reason to be afraid of a company move after ten hours of night shooting. I'm sure our crew on Deadroom would have been down for it, but company moves are a moot point on soundstages.

6. It was a wonderful fifty-something hours, and I wish I'd been there for the weeks prior - but better late than never, I suppose. I'm going to do my best to figure out a way to get back to Austin next week for the final days of shooting.

7. One could, if one wished, read a good on-set interview with Kat online right here.

8. I arrived home to find a letter on my desk, the contents of which contained the words 'congratulations' and 'drift,' along with many other words of varying degrees of interest. That's the second of its sort in less than a week. More reason to get up in the morning.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:01 PM | Comments (1)