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December 31, 2006

The Last One

Last year I put together a list of my ten favorite moviegoing experiences. I don't know if I can make it to ten this year, not because I haven't enjoyed going to the movies this year but because the top few entries so completely overshadow everything else. I started hopping off planes and into theaters; catching a last minute flight to Austin and making it just in time to see a screening of Joe's new film Hannah Takes The Stairs segued into going to Chicago to see Satantango, which paved the way for my subsequent trip to New York to see Inland Empire which, being a 2006 release and all, could also serve as a link to a list of top ten new films that I'm also not going to make, where it would appear not too far below the top spot occupied by Army Of Shadows (go see the return engagement at the Film Forum this week, you lucky New Yorkers!). Melville's 30-year old thriller is better than everything else that came out this year, although there were certainly other masterpieces that don't yet have the weight of history behind them - Old Joy, The Proposition, Three Times, Time To Leave, L'Enfant and Dance Party USA , among several others,

Other fragments spring to mind, floating up and down and around in this uncategorical retrospective. Children Of Men is a better film than Pan's Labyrinth, but I actually prefer the latter. I'll always associate Drawing Restraint 9 with The Holiday, not because of any perverse parallels between them but because of who I saw them with. I managed to let go of The Fountain before realizing that I didn't love it. It did my heart good to see Darren Hughes include Stranger Than Fiction on his list; I can't say that it's a great film any more than I can I say why it's somehow managed to linger with me for so long after seeing it. I guess I should see it again. Moving on to music, my favorite record of the year is of course Joanna Newsom's Ys, and as is usually the case with music, there's my favorite and then there's everything else and never the two shall meet. In that lower plane, I also really loved Bonnie Prince Billy's The Letting Go and Regina Spektor's Begin To Hope - and since The Theater Fire's album Everybody Has A Dark Side was officially released this year, it deserves a mention as well, even though it was up at the top of my list last year. As far as literature goes, the only new novel I've read is Cormac McCarthy's The Road, and as I wrote earlier in the fall, I think it's pretty great.

I've decided that I'm going to dedicate 2007 to devouring all the great Russian novels I've never read. Unrelated to that, for the most part, is my hope that, should all go well by this time next year, I'll have finished a new feature film. If all goes really well, I may have even finished two.

Posted by David Lowery at 3:47 PM | Comments (2)

December 30, 2006

The Host

Joon-ho Bong's The Host recently sweeped the Korean Film Awards, following its bow at Cannes and subsequent screenings at the Toronto and New York Film Festivals. It's poised to be the next masterpiece of arthouse popcorn - but maybe an enthusiastic festival audience is a requisite in this case, because The Host that I saw was rather dull and annoying. As a monster movie, it's uninspired; the giant fish with legs may be original in theory, but looks like something right out of Del Toro's Hellboy, and it's given nothing to do but stomp around and munch on people without discrimination or animalistic logic. As a political screed, it's just idiotic; the Iraq war subtext is slathered on so heavily that I might have gagged had it not dropped in and out of the movie at random. It seems to have been inserted into the film entirely after the fact, perhaps as intellectual bait, and while there are hints of interesting social development littered throughout, the film is mostly concerned with the entirely uninvolving family whose search for a missing daughter is at the story's core. These loving misfits are too grating a group to be endearing, too bland to be involving. The only time they (and the film itself, for that matter) held my attention were in the out-of-the-blue moments of bizzaro comedy that pop up now and then. The film shifts tones pretty frequently, actually, but it's never all over the map enough to be any fun.

Perhaps it's a case of inverted expectations, or perhaps I'm just a spoil sport, but I don't understand why critics are raving about this. I love dumb fun monster movies as much as I love thoughtful genre pieces, but I think The Host fall short on both counts. Then again, I didn't care much for Oldboy either, so maybe I just haven't developed a taste for Korean cinema that isn't slow, sparse and emotionally wrenching.

Posted by David Lowery at 3:27 AM | Comments (4)

December 29, 2006

Cleaning House

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I've been trying to get a few projects wrapped up by the new year, things which the promise of a clean slate has inspired me to buckle down and finish for once and for all. I'm runing a bit behind, as I always do. But anyway, this post is merely filler while I procrastinate to the last minute on the year-end reflections I always inevitably end up writing, even when I say I won't.

Posted by David Lowery at 4:53 AM

December 26, 2006

The Outlaw Son, pt. 1

Today is a once in a lifetime event for me. I'm turning 26 on the 26th. I'm telling you, people, I can feel the planet shaking. Last year, I celebrated my birthday by driving to Los Angeles. I don't know if I can top that.

Anyway, it's been just over a year now since we wrapped the first part of The Outlaw Son shoot. I figured that it's about time I finished letting go of it.

I label the cuts alphabetically in Final Cut Pro. Cuts 1A and 1B were my initial ideas as to the edits, and were never even finished. Cut 1C was when I finally started to figure it out. Most people who have seen the film have seen Cut 1D. Cut 1D2 is the final, locked cut of the film, exactly the way I want it, and it will be available at some point soon. But the one that I'm about to show you, for better or for worse, is Cut 1E. It's less than half the length of the other cut, but it's still the same movie, in a slightly different and more quiet and opaque way.

I don't know why it feels right to put this one out first, but it does. It can be looked at as its own film, or as a hint of a film, or however you want to look at it or not look at it.

Posted by David Lowery at 12:35 PM | Comments (13)

December 25, 2006

Merry...

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The day I stop loving Christmas is the day I accept the fact that I might too cynical for my own good. Until then, I'm happy to be a bit of a traditionalist. We had a fine old time around the family Christmas tree this evening. My brother Nathan brewed up some wassail, which made midnight Mass fly by in a lopsided fashion (he also made the hand carved wooden Santa skeleton seen above).

While waiting anxiously by the fireside to open presents and even more anxiously to give out the ones I put under the tree last week, I finished up the book I've been reading, Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita In Tehran. I thought that, as an impartation of literary merit from me to you, I would cite a particular passage that really struck me. Click below to read it. And if not, well, then, have a very Happy Holidays, and all that that entails.

* * *

In 1988, as air raids shattered what little peace there was in Tehran, Nafisi went to see a retrospective of Andrei Tarkovsky's films. They were censored by the clerics and exhibited without subtitles, and yet every screening was sold out. People traveled from all over the country to see the films, and tickets became a highly sought after. Here she is, describing the film she attended:

"The afternoon I went to see The Sacrifice was a fine winter day: not really winter, a mixture of winter and spring. Yet the most amzing feature of the day was not the heavenly weather, not even the movie itself, but the crowd in front of the movie house. It looked like a protest rally. There were intellectuals, office workers, housewives, some with their small chilren in tow, a young mullah standing uncomfortably to the side - the kind of mix of people you would never have found at any gathering outside Tehran.

Inside, the sudden burst of luminous colors on the screen brought a hushed silence over the audience. I had not been inside a movie theater for five years: all you could see in those days were old revolutionary movies from Eastern Europe, or Iranian propaganda films. I cannot honestly say what I thought of the film - the experience of sitting in a movie house, ensconced in the deep, cool leather, with a full-size screen in front of me, was too amazing. Knowing that I could not understand the words and that if I thought about the censorship I would be too angry to watch, I surrendered to the magic of colors and images.

Looking back on that time it seems to me that such rapture over Tarkovsky by an audience most of whom would not have known how to spell his name, and who would under normal circumstances have ignored or even disliked his work, arose from our intense sensory deprivation. We were thirsty for some form of beauty, even in an incomprehensible, overintellectual, abstract film with no subtitles and censored out of recognition. There was a sense of wonder at being in a public place for the first time in years without fear or anger, being in a place with a crowd of strangers that was not a demonstration, a protest rally, a breadline or a public execution.

The film itself was about war, and about its hero's vow never to speak again if his family was spared from the ravages of war. It concentrated on the hidden menace behind the seemingly calm flow of everyday life and the lush beauty of nature: the way war made itself felt by the rattle of the furniture caused by the bomber planes, and the terrible sacrifice required to confront this menace. For a brief time we experienced collectively the kind of awful beauty that can only be grasped through extreme anguish and expressed through art." (Nafisi 206)

Posted by David Lowery at 2:31 AM

December 23, 2006

The Good German Shepherd

I just got back from seeing DeNiro's The Good Shepherd, which would have been great had it had been twice as long and not featured such an egregiously miscast Angelina Jolie. I was really interested in the story of the CIA, but the film is so compressed and withdrawn that sustaining that interest was about all it could do. It's curious, though, how perfectly it dovetails with Soderbergh's The Good German, and not just in the coincidentally titular sense. That film is about the postwar effort to snatch up Nazi rocket scientists before the Soviets could get their hands on them; this one has an extended sequence dealing with exactly the same situation, and even though I don't necessarily recommend Soderbergh's film, it does have the benefit of adding a touch of illumination to DeNiro's. Nothing that a good history book couldn't do better, of course, which is a fault of The Good Shepherd as well. Still, although DeNiro's direction lifts more than a few pages from Coppola, it's a much better bit of mimicry than Soderbergh's take on Curtiz.

* * *

I can't think of the last time a monologue in a film managed to floor me the way Sarah Polley's does in Isabel Coixet's The Secret Life Of Words, which is the antithesis to the macho politicizing of Soderbergh and DeNiro's pictures. It's a quiet film, lulling even in its most devastating moments, and it contains the best line of dialogue I've heard all year. It's part of a very written exchange between Polley and Tim Robbins, near the end of the film; the same lines, delivered badly, could have been the stuff of high melodrama, but they're laid on the line so plainly and sincerely that, when Robbins says, "I'll learn to swim," I recognized something, some secret between his words that was so pure and rare that I just about lost it.

The film's soundtrack features David Byrne, Tom Waits and Antony And The Johnsons, among others; an outstanding lineup, but one that I found curiously unnecessary. Coixet's narrative is so succinct that the songs mostly function as emotional exposition, telling us what we already feel. And boy, do we feel it.

Posted by David Lowery at 11:50 PM | Comments (17)

December 22, 2006

Christmas Movies

I finished the second draft of a script the night before last. Now I've turned to another project, working on it here and there in between wrapping presents and hanging out with m family and, of course, watching Christmas movies. Most of the old classics - It's A Wonderful Life, Miracle On 34th Street, Christmas Vacation, etc. - have become as institutionalized as putting up the tree and listening to David Bowie and Bing Crosby's painful pre-duet banter. My definition of a Christmas movie, on the other hand, is any film that just feels appropriate this time of year, and thus far it's included Singin' In The Rain (at 4 A.M. last night, after which I was too happily wired to go to bed) and all of Wes Anderson's movies, The Royal Tennenbaums especially. I watched that one this afternoon, and might have to let it play again tonight. I think it's aging well, to put it mildly.

Slightly more traditional titles on my list include Batman Returns, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Fanny And Alexander and, of course, a requisite for family viewing this coming Sunday, Bad Santa. I loved the original cut so much, Billy Bob's voice-over and happy ending included, that I'm actually a little trepidatious about seeing Terry Zwigoff's new, shorter director's cut, even though I'm sure it's actually a better film. I'm worried I'll feel like I'm missing something.

I also have this inclination to watch Almodovar films. Maybe it's just a case of cinematic conditioning, seeing as how they're always released around Christmas. But they're also incredibly generous and warm and brimming with joie de'vivre. They're sad, too, but sad in a way that leaves you feeling warm inside. Just like all the best Christmas carols.

Posted by David Lowery at 12:32 AM | Comments (7)

December 21, 2006

From The Beautifully Confused Front...

James has put together a new website for GDMF, one that is nice, simple and, from the first page on, pretty much Not Safe For Work. The film itself is being professionally color corrected and mixed and all that jazz. I can't wait to see the polished version.

Also, James' video for the Theater Fire's Sound + PIcture show from last September is also available for your viewing pleasure. It features his trademark motif of venegeful women taking retribution against the men who've horribly mutliated them. I shot this video but, for the first time in all the years we've made films together, didn't edit it. Is it the end of an era? I suppose we'll find out this coming year, since James has at least one project in the works...

Posted by David Lowery at 3:49 PM

December 20, 2006

My Dad Is 100 Years Old

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Speaking of guts...

Guy Maddin is one of the filmmakers whose work taught me to appreciate short films not as formal abbreviations or calling cards whose running times were an affect of budgetary restrictions, but as pieces of cinema that, in the best of cases, were just as much features as their longer counterparts, and often more than able to stand their own against them. His 2000 epic, The Heart Of The World, is one of my favorite films, a position that, despite my infamously short attention span, has nothing to do with its six minute running time (even though, yes, its form and length are intrinsically linked). Those six minutes are not a restraint of content, but the natural extent of it - the ecstatic, gloriously hyperpobolically natural extent, in this particular case.

So, suffice to say, I was excited to see that the Film Forum was screening Maddin and Isabella Rossellini's My Dad Is 100 Years Old before the feature length documentary Bergman's Island. Even though that film's subject, Ingmar Bergman, is one of my very favorite filmmakers, the draw here was clear: I went for the Maddin.

Rossellini, who starred in Maddin' most successful feature, The Saddest Music In The World, wrote the script for this one, and deserves equal credit as collaborator, co-conspirator, raison de'tre - for the film is a memoir of her father, Roberto, in celebration of his centennial. I don't know whether it was her idea or Maddin's to portray the late director as a giant, disembodied belly, but its a marvelously grotesque touch, equal parts realistic detail and legendary heft. It'll seem perfectly natural to anyone who's seen Maddin's last picture, Cowards Bend The Knee - or, more precisely, seen the film and then listened to his commentary track, in which he reveals how intensely personal the film was to him. He has a specific way of refracting and warping biography through that small-gauge aperture of his, to create something that is simultaneously absurd and sincerely melancholy.

My Dad Is 100 Years Old is, naturally, far less opaque in its sentimentality than Cowards. Rossellini's script gradually intertwines subjective memories of her father with discourse between him and his contemporaries - Hitchcock, Selznick, Chaplin, Fellini. Rossellini plays all of them, as well as providing the deep baritone of that thundering paunch and (to a haunting effect) the flickering ghost of her mother, Ingrid.

The closing moments - in which Rossellini chides Maddin's camera for being, as her father would put it, immoral, while embracing the finally dormant form of that massive stomach, are almost profoundly moving. But I must note that, while I think this is one of the finest films of the year, my appreciation of it is severely lacking. I can only understand it as a love letter from a father to a daughter (which it is, but not exclusively), because I've yet to see any of Roberto Rosselini's films. Between this lovely memoir and all the talk around the retrospective that's been coing on at the MoMA, I'm anxious to see what I've been missing.

The film ended its run at the Film Forum yesterday, but I think it'll be showing up on the Sundance Channel before too long, and I'm sure it will arrive on DVD at some point after that. At the moment, it's also available on YouTube; his films seem to fluctuate there, going up, coming down; it's hardly the most ideal way to watch them, but they're there if you want them.

Posted by David Lowery at 4:10 AM | Comments (1)

December 19, 2006

More Suppositions On Inland Empire

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All the best reviews of Inland Empire have been by people who've seen it twice, so I don't think I'll try to categorize my thoughts at any length at this point. It's a really good film, and I'm pretty sure it's great. I have a few problems with it, but they have nothing to do with ugly DV or haphazard narratives. It certainly isn't lazy (that term being a good distillation of all my worries about the film). Maybe dream logic isn't as easy as Lynch makes it look; if it were, wouldn't someone else have made a film like this before? Or at least, made a film like this that works as well as this one does?

And it does work - even the parts I had problems with. Inland Empire makes sense on some gut level that is incredibly tactile but not quite decipherable. There are scenes I'm having trouble remembering, that remain intangible in my memory; there are others that I've probably already forgotten, and more still that I haven't stopped thinking about; and all that's there and all that isn't fits together. I've only the vaguest idea of what that plot Lynch insists is there might be - I went into the film looking for clues, determined to keep track of everything, trying to figure it out, all to little avail - but it doesn't feel aimless. It all feels just right.

That's probably the key right there, not just to Inland Empire but to its seemingly convoluted predecessors. Lynch keeps talking in interviews about how the film's form was determined by what felt right to him, what he intuitively knew made sense. So it is that, while it may be impenetrable, it never goes over its audience's heads, because it's not a piece of intellectual filmmaking.

So more, later, when it comes to Austin and I see it again. In the meantime, I'm going to go download Nina Simone's Sinner Man. If you've seen the film, you know why.

* * *

Sujewa points to a great interview with Eric Bassett, Lynch's self-distributing partner in crime.

* * *

As mentioned before, Manola Dargis' review of Inland Empire has drawn equal parts praise, condescension and confusion over the same. I personally think that it's a really great piece of florid, fluid writing, deceptively dense with allusions that elevate it above mere reactionary prose. I love how, in the first sentence of the third paragraph, she makes a direct reference to Wild At Heart and an indirect check of Dune without ever naming either title. She knows her stuff.

* * *

I sent Yen a quote from Lynch this morning, about trusting ideas and other intestinal intuitions. We'd been going back and forth over to the last three shots of Ciao, which we both loved but which had drawn a few perplexed reactions. Was it really that difficult an ending? Did we really care what people who didn't get the it thought? Even when one of those people was the film's producer? It was the right ending, we knew, but nonetheless we tore back into it this evening, halfheartedly trying out various compromises. And then, out of the blue, a new idea presented itself. We tried it out, and suddenly we had a brand new ending that felt even more right than the last one. Thank goodness for dissent! And just like that, the picture was locked and the sound files exported for mixing...

Posted by David Lowery at 10:12 PM | Comments (9)

December 16, 2006

Initial Understatements

I loved how at the ticket window, there was a sign that said "See Inland Empire 9 times and take the 10th trip for free." Or something to that effect. Given that it's a two-week engagement, you'd have to see it every day, with weekends off. I'm not quite sure it's worth all that, but I'm definitely looking forward to seeing it a second time when it opens in Texas in January and putting more of the pieces together.

Posted by David Lowery at 9:46 PM | Comments (5)

December 15, 2006

Inland Bound

I've been up for about thirty six hours now. I'm finally about to fall asleep, with the comforting view of the Manhattan skyline out the window. For better or for worse, I'll be at the IFC Center at 1:55 tomorrow...

Posted by David Lowery at 9:00 PM | Comments (1)

December 11, 2006

Oklahoma!

I've been up since seven (a rarity for me - more often, I'm up until seven) burning screener DVDs of various films and mailing them out to various friends and acquaintances (with a festival or two included for good measure), and am now trying to squeeze in a page or two of writing before heading up north to see Joanna Newsom perform in Oklahoma, a state which I frequently forget actually exists. As these things generally go, shortly after I bought tickets to that show, a whole slew of Texas dates were announced; on the other hand, for an impatient fellow like myself, tonight is always better than tomorrow. I get chills imagining a live version of Only Skin.

* * *
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She played Bridges And Ballons, The Book Of Right-On, a traditional Scottish folk song entitled Ca' The Yowes and then the entirety of Ys.

There's really no way to describe it, or to capture it in pictures, which is why I'm glad I decided to leave the flash off on my camera.

If it wasn't already sold out, I'd drive to Austin on Wednesday to see her again.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:35 PM | Comments (3)

December 9, 2006

Y Tu Mama

I saw Pan's Labyrinth for a second time yesterday, and enjoyed it even more. I'm determined to have my Guillermo Del Toro piece done sometime next week, but in the meantime, let me direct you to a source I'll certainly be referencing: Harry Tuttle's three-part vivisection of the film and its symbolism.

I also saw Almodovar's Volver, which isn't necessarily as strong as his last two or three masterpieces but certainly provides the sort of exuberant comfort that even his weakest films manage to provide. Both film, interestingly (and perhaps, as I'll get to momentarily, not coincidentally), have extremely prevalent maternal throughlines. Almodovar's is obvious, of course - the film is about a mother returning (as per the title) from the grave to put things right with her daughter, who has a child of her own. In the press notes, the director lists all the personal returns it signifies to him: to comedy, to his actresses, to his hometown of La Mancha, and ultimately

I have come back to maternity, as the origin of life and ficition. And naturally, I have come back to my mother.

Del Toro's is darker, more troublesome, less literal but no less evident: young Ofelia climbing through the yawning labial roots of a cursed tree, or the red ink that paints itself in bloody uterine splashes within the pages of her magical storybook. Such imagery corellates with - and expands upon - Ofelia's relationship with her own mother, who spends most of the film ailing from a difficult pregnancy. It's a very deliberate visual strategy; in a fantastic Q&A with The Guardian (which I'm also saving for future reference), Del Toro noted that "The idea is that this girl's idea of heaven, ultimately, is to go back into her mother's belly."

Del Toro never loves his female characters more than when they're being maternal; from the little girl taking care of her grandfather in Cronos to Mira Sorvino radiantly waiting for her pregnancy test results in Mimic. Almodovar has never not loved his female characters - more often than not his films are an overt celebration of femininity - but being a gay filmmaker, his lens generally perceives (and adores) women not as objects of desire, but nurturers. The tie that binds, in this case, might be another influence that both filmmakers have attributed a great deal to: their Catholic upbringing, and all the Marian adoration implicit to it (I wrote a little about this earlier in the year, in reference to Abel Ferrara).

Pan's Labyrinth and Volver - what an excellent double-feature for Christmas day! It's certainly a far better holiday option than, say, The Holiday. Which I've also seen. Yeah, yeah, I knew what I was getting myself into. I'm a sucker.

Posted by David Lowery at 3:40 PM | Comments (3)

December 7, 2006

The Good German

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Steven Soderbergh's approach to making The Good German has gone past the point of trivia and is fast becoming it's marketing hook. As Dave Kehr reported in the New York Times a few weeks ago, the picture is an experiment in old-fashioned filmmaking; specifically, an appropriation of the techniques used by backlot directors in the 30s and 40s, with Michael Curtiz in particular serving as Soderbergh's stylistic muse. His flattery of the Casablanca director extends from the use of similar angles, lenses and lighting all the way to the film's poster. Which, I think, is a problem; wouldn't it be better to see if audiences fall for the film, rather than predispose them to its self-imposed limitations, which are in themselves limited?

The Good German starts off waving its intentions proudly for all to see, with its shaky titles optically imposed on newsreel footage of post-war Berlin and rear-projection driving sequences and a Thomas Newman's score that beautifully apes Max Steiner's looming grandiloquence. It is so completely and resolutely antiquated that it's a bit of a shock when, not too far into the film, a fairly modern dose of sex and language and violence deflate the illusion. Soderbergh, it seems, has little interest in the film beyond the technical challenge he's set for himself. After all, the censors of the 30s and 40s as much a limitation as the bulky cameras and slow film stocks; the reason filmmakers like Curtiz are considered great is because they were able to work around these shortcomings. Soderbergh, in comparison, comes across as lazy. Once it's clear that his storytelling is not in total concert with his form, all those optical tricks and period imperfections seem rather cheap, and the film becomes as passionless as the absent chemistry between George Clooney and Cate Blanchett on which the entire plot is meant to hinge (and while Clooney may, in the retro sense, be the next best thing to Cary Grant, he ain't no Bogey). Especially disappointing to this fan of handpainted mattes was production designer Phillip Messina's note in Kehr's article that there was some digital extensions to make the backlots look more like the bombed-out Berlin.

As a thriller, The Good German is intermittently intriguing, but at this point who's going to see it for the story? I love the fact that Soderbergh keeps experimenting, and I almost always love the results; but just as much as it hurts to see audiences reject a risky film, so too is it disappointing to see a risky film only go halfway. Ultimately, it reminded me of another experiment in retrofitted filmmaking - one that, in a far more limited and clinical sense, was much more successful. I'm talking about Gus Van Sant's shot-by-shot recreation of Psycho, which as a film was poor (how do you screw up a shot-by-shot remake?) but as a text on the essence of a film's construction was pretty fascinating. I think too many people (including the film's producers) regarded it as a de facto remake of a classic, when in fact it was an academic exploration of what makes movies work, made on the studios' dime.

* * *

But back to World War II films. Only slightly less anachronistic is Clint Eastwood's Letters From Iwo Jima, which I have a feeling will be regarded as greater than it is because it's entirely in Japanese (that the extremely harrowing seppuku sequence will leave most audiences a whimpering, malleable mess certainly won't hurt its reception, either). I wish making an American film in a foreign language wasn't such a brave thing to do, but given the circumstances, Eastwood deserves to be commended. In fact, that the film was made in the first place is the one truly important thing about it; it's indicative of the compassion that makes him such an excellent filmmaker, and which allows him to spin a rushed, rushing and merely decent script (it's not hard to humanize the so-called enemy when they love America as much as Ken Watanabe's general does) into something that every now and then achieves something loftier than mere sympathy.

Posted by David Lowery at 6:37 PM

December 5, 2006

Empirical Blend

I had a dream the other night that Inland Empire was, in fact, a masterpiece. I woke up the next morning and the trailer had showed up online. That one shot of Laura Dern sobbing into that darkly lit fisheye lens was enough to hook me over any amount of (hopefully effective) awkward miniDV footage.

The man could make a patchwork assemblage of a film as sloppy as he wanted and people would still give him the benefit of nonexistant doubt simply because it has his name on it - Lynchian is both a catchphrase and a safety catch at this point. To that extent, Inland Empire could be fairly critic proof - but the dissonance within individual positive reviews (such as David Edelstein's) gives me confidence, and hope, and excitement, and a welcome degree of naivete. I want nothing more than to trust his subconscious as much as he does; after all, I always have in past.

I think my trepidation all comes down to the medium. I don't shoot on film too often, and 35mm still has so much mystery to it, so much I don't understand. But I believe I do understand digital video, and am comfortable with it, and in that comfort I'm afraid I'll find Lynch suddenly transparent.

Anyway. Enough with the expostulating - I'll see it for myself soon enough. In the meantime, the whole reason I started this post was to point out that by the end of the month, Lynch will be feeding not just one but two of my addictions: first cinema, and now coffee.

* * *

Related: David Lynch Folds Space, a terrific article by Robert Cumbow (who previously wrote a rather definitive essay on Jonathan Glazer's Birth) on the manifestation of time and space within Lynch's work. Robert uses the metaphysicial constructs within Dune as a model for Lynch's methodology; in addition to being an astute study, it's always great to see a strong reading of what is easily Lynch's most (unfairly) maligned film.

* * *

An update, if only to point to GreenCine's pointing to the poetic highs of Manola Dargis' Inland-centric prose.

Posted by David Lowery at 12:27 PM | Comments (11)

December 4, 2006

If You Can Reach One Person...

Endearingly handmade must have won out against awkwardly amateurish. After I posted that Theater Fire video last week, David Hudson linked to it on Green Cine (thanks, David!), it showed up on the awesome Ticklebooth and a few other sites, and now it's on The Daily Reel's Top Ten. Hurrah!

I still wish we'd spent as much time actually planning the video as we did shooting and compositing those effects shots, but that leads me to something we've been curious about: is it obvious enough during the tea party sequence that all the girls are the same person, or is that visual point somewhat obfuscated?

Posted by David Lowery at 12:48 PM | Comments (1)

December 3, 2006

Page Counts

Last Sunday, I decided that come hell or high water I was going to finish two new spec scripts by the end of the week, and then reward myself with some extravagant purchase of some sort. Neither hell nor high water ever impeded me, but unfortunately my brother gave me the first season of Deadwood that same day, which didn't bode well for my undivided attention.

One week later, after lots of backspacing and breaks for excellently written serialized drama, I've come out not quite on top but with twenty pages completed on one project and and forty on another, for respective totals of seventy five and, well, forty. I'm halfway there times two!

And now for another week of trying to not force it.

Posted by David Lowery at 10:27 PM | Comments (1)

December 2, 2006

Film Criticism and Films, Criticized

This is my minute contribution to Andy Horbal's Film Criticism Blog-A-Thon, which has otherwise yielded an appropriately unprecedented number of excellent contributions over the past two days.

I'm going to hopefully be writing (and/or conversing) in the near future about the lopsided game of tug-of-war I've created for myself by trying to develop some level of skill on both sides of the silver screen. It's a risky conflict of interests. For all the Godards and Truffauts and all those other cahier writers, there's a critic who makes the "descent from inviolate analysis to the humiliating trials of craft" (as David Denby wrote of Susan Sontag last year). Meanwhile, at the Berlinale two years ago, Peter Cowie suggested in a panel on film criticism that aspiring filmmakers with an eye towards stepping on as few toes as possible might consider limiting their critical writings to retrospectives.

I haven't exactly followed that advice - partially because I don't believe good criticism has to step on any toes. Which leads me to the brief admonition at hand. I don't believe a critic is beholden to any proprietry towards a filmmaker, save for the one they also their readers: write well.

And by well, I supposed I include being considerate, if not necessarily nice. I remember getting the first really negative review of Deadroom, which also happened to be our first review, period. It was derisive, it was snide, and it was frustrating, mostly because it was printed on the eve of our premiere and could have curbed attendance; but also because we couldn't dismiss it. It was the best and worst of slams, because it was pretty smart. The author presented a perspective on our film that we hadn't yet considered, didn't want to consider, but which was too well put to ignore - or to really be upset with. In other words, it engaged us, which is precisely what good criticism should do, regardless of the polarity of the piece, and regardless of who it is reading it.

And what marks bad criticism, from my filmmaker's perspective? It's any work by a writer who's forgotten that his or her form is just as much an art as mine. Which of course leads me back to the fact that I've been put in a somewhat tricky position by straying back and forth between those forms. But that's another post for another day in the not too distant future; for now, I'll just say that being a filmmaker has given me an invaluable perspective on criticism, but that the mutuality pretty much ends there.

Posted by David Lowery at 10:42 PM | Comments (4)