November 28, 2007
Ola Podrida - Eastbound
So what I've been working on is the latest music video for Ola Podrida, the amazing Texas-by-way-of-Brooklyn band fronted by David Wingo. Every song on their Plug Nominated debut record is going to be helmed by a different director, and I was given charge of 'Eastbound' - a song that I developed a pretty close personal attachment to over the past few months. Hopefully I did it some degree of justice:
If you really want to see it, please go here to see it in full resolution streaming HD. It's worth it. And then go buy Ola Podrida's record. It's also very, very worth it.
The video was produced by myself and Barlow Jacobs, who also stars in it. Assisting in the production were a handful of the usual suspects: Clay Liford, Adam Donaghey, Toby Halbrooks and Michelle Proksell. Thanks to James, Amy and Yen for facillitating the production by putting up this wayward filmmaker and his stalwart crew.
I was going to post a notice about the AFS screening of Ronnie Bronstein's Frownland in Austin this Sunday, but shucks - it's already sold out! And now that, within the past 24 hours, it's been nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and been awarded the Best Film Not Playing At A Theater Near You award at The Gothams, I don't doubt that there'll be a standby line stretching down 6th Street from the Alamo Ritz. I'm hoping to squeeze into the back, just to sneak a peek at the 35mm print of the film as it sears its way onto the theater's brand new screen.
On the ISA front, congratulations are due as well to Aaron Katz and Brendan McFadden for Quiet City, and to Craig Zobel and Great World Of Sound, who also scored at the Gothams alongside Ronnie. I was sitting at Whole Foods with James and Yen and Adam, trying to figure out how to best transport 50 feet of dolly track without having to rent a van, when I got a text message from Michael Tully proclaiming the victories. We're still not completely sure how we're going to do it.
November 27, 2007
Posted by David Lowery at 11:41 AM
November 22, 2007
One Call Out Of Two
Air conditioning one day, snow the next. An afternoon spent inside editing and watching films. I finally got around to buying a hat.
I've been reading Henry Miller's Tropic Of Cancer and came across a passage that out of the blue hit like the prosaic equivalent of the final sequence of The New World:
With the close of day, pain rising like a mist from the earth, sorrow closing in, shuttering the endless vista of sea and sky. Two waxen hands lying listlessly on the bedspread and along the pale veins the fluted murmur of a shell repeating the legend of its birth.
Thanks comes later.
Posted by David Lowery at 5:22 PM
November 18, 2007
It's been a long, wonderful weekend of consecutive sunrises and late nights. I'm completely and happily exhausted.
All photos, with the exception of the production still, by Adam Donaghey - the best is still on its way
Also, a word to the wise: if you ever put black gaff tape over brake lights to prevent reflection, make sure you take it off again.
November 15, 2007
Sociology & Red Nail Polish
Another cold front blew in last night - just in time, too, because I'm shooting something this weeekned and God forbid I expose a frame of film in warmer climes. Dead leaves were wrested from branches and sent rustling across lawns as I walked through the TCU campus last night, giving me an acute case of collegiate nostalgia. I was on campus because I was a guest speaker at the Sociology Of The Documentary class at TCU. The class is taught by filmmaker David Redmon, who with his wife Ashley Sabin directed the Sundance hit Mardi Gras: Made In China and last year's Kamp Katrina. We met at Sidewalk earlier this year and soon realized that we're practically neighbors (a distance twenty or thirty miles in Texas is equivocal to being next door).
We showed Some Analog Lines and had a really great discussion afterwards. It made me feel legitimate for a good solid hour. I got to wax erratically about my theories on narrative and structure, and tell the sad story about why I wasn't showing any footage from my new documentary. Thankfully no one asked me why I was wearing bright red nail polish on my left hand, as I wasn't quite sure myself. David then segued into an introduction to Herzog and a chunk of Even Dwarves Started Small, and somehow, Todd Rohal's Ola Podrida video got worked into the mix too - evidence of its cultural saturation and increasing relevance in this busy, work-a-day world.
Barlow Jacobs just rolled into town after driving all night from New Orleans. There's a Steadicam sitting on the floor in the next room. We've got some knees to bloody up.
Posted by David Lowery at 10:09 AM
November 14, 2007
No Country For Old Men
No Country For Old Men is faithful to more than just the content its source text. From the first frame out, Joel and Ethan Coen attempt to approximate the prosaic essence of Cormac McCarthy's novel into cinematic terms. The title fades in and out quickly; they get the text out of the way as quickly as possible before exchanging one form for another with a hard cut to the first image of a desert at dawn. That cut defines the rhythm of the rest of the picture, punctuative and terse. I counted no more than four or five dissolves in the whole film. And the sound - the sound is exclusively diegetic. We never hear anything that we're not seeing (or at least we don't think we do); the only notes of Carter Burwell's musical score that I noticed was a brief burst of brassy tone undercutting a violent car carsh.
It's an effective approach, and on a certain level it works. But it's only in that opening scene, a succession of static images that follow the progress of the sun's ascent over the barren Texas landscape, and in its bookend at the opposite side of the film that I felt the Coens acheived something that was more than merely mimetic. In those moments, they create something with film that is on par to what McCarthy does with language. The rest of the movie, God's honest truth, I could take or leave, and since I've still got the book sitting on the shelf I'm likely to leave it. But that beginning, and especially that ending - they're going to stick.
It's an ending, though, is one that's going to anger a lot of people. It was met with confused laughter and annoyed whispers in the theater last night. I couldn't quite believe it myself; only a few seconds before that final cut to black, I was thinking about how brilliant it would be if they ended the film there. I won't talk about it here; it's not an ending that can be spoiled in the conventional sense because it does not effect the plot of the film, and while it could be described in deconstructive terms, but that would rob it of its power. I will say that, should viewers find it frustrating or irresolute, they might think back to Tommy Lee Jones' narration at the film's opening, and consider the context that sets for the story, and how the last scene resolves it.
Another thing: listening to Jones recount his dream there in that last scene crystallized even further the connection I drew between No Country and The Road when I reviewed that novel last fall:
McCarthy's embodiment of mankind's capability for - and, indeed, his inclination towards - not just violence but primal, intrinsic evil has become amorphous, has disseminated himself; has, essentially, maintained the upper hand in the mythic equation simply by remaining out there and irresolute. It is a bleak ending, leaving the good men in the world flickering against the growing darkness. One year later, with The Road, McCarthy has, in a sense, offered an answer to this open ending. This new novel takes place in the aftermath of Chigurh's manifestation; the evil of man has done nearly all it can, and in its wake death has claimed the land, the birds, the fish in the sea.
No Country For Old Men doesn't need The Road to be complete on its own terms, but considering them in conjunction elucidates each one. The Coens' film gazes into the same turpitude that the book did, but it reaches further forward, bridging the gap between the two novels on its terms. Listen to those words at the end; listen to that dream. In those moments, with its own language, the movie stands square alongside the work it was derived from.
November 13, 2007
Dear Pillow On DVD
Today marks, at long last, the release of Bryan Poyser's Dear Pillow on DVD. Made in 2004, beloved by festival audeinces around the world, nominated for an Independent Spirit award and cited by John Pierson as the best film to come out of Austin since Slacker, this smart, dirty debut feature somehow managed to slip through the distribution cracks and into that substrata of unreleased festival gems - until Heretic Films came to the rescue. They've been working with Bryan and Jake on the disc for the better part of this year, and the fruits of their labors are finally ready to be delivered unto the world (via Amazon, your local video store and, in short order, Netflix).
The feature itself has been remixed and remastered from the ground up, and it looks and sounds better than ever before. Also included are Bryan's short films, Pleasureland and Grammy's. The latter premiered at SXSW earlier this year and has been making the festival rounds ever since; it's a truly oddball bit of black comedy that gets better and better every time I see it. Pleasureland, which was made in 2001, functions on it's own as an almost Cronenbergian dive into sexual compulsion, but it's especially interesting when viewed as a predicate to Dear Pillow. Both films are about pornography. Both are about the fine line between sexuality and perversity, and take aim at the indistinct point at which pleasure and objectification run afoul of each other. One of my favorite features on the DVD is Bryan's director's statement, an essay in which he clearly outlines the general dilemma of pornography and his "ambivalent, appreciative, highly conflicting and (hopefully) honest feelings" about the medium. That uneasy mixture of confrontation and conflict is what makes his work tick: these films have the brains to match their libidnous hooks.
All of these films screened this past weekend at the Lone Star International Film Festival, where Bryan was presented with a Rising Star Award. On top of that and the DVD release party, he's celebrating his birthday tomorrow. A heck of a week by any standards!
Posted by David Lowery at 1:37 AM
November 11, 2007
Lone Star International Film Festival
The best way to have fun at a film festival, we now know, is to skip out on all the movies and panels and whatever and just sit in a hotel room, watching an edited-for-cable version of Bad Boys 2.
November 8, 2007
I Am Progressing Abominably
I just made the first expenditure from the St. Nick production account, and shortly thereafter made some calls about some auditions. We're scheduled to begin production on December 1st...to be followed by a hiatus of a month and four days, during which I'll be running hither and thither, working on other things and trying not to go bankrupt. I've had to recently break out iCal and catalog my comings and goings, just to keep track of all the things I'm doing...and yet there will still be mornings like this where I sleep until noon and wake to find the day's plans have taken off without me. So I make some coffee and sit here turning maps of New York into diagrams of human hearts.
November 5, 2007
And here we have the story of a young man with a bright future and a knot in his stomach, adored peripherally but beset from within by a voracious discontent. He was compelled to reject all good things that came his way. Good will and well wishes he turned on their heads, and through clenched teeth and twisted throat he spit lead and spurned love until that knot spread into his veins and consumed him.
Or maybe I'm just projecting. Anton Corbijn's portrait of Joy Divison frontman Ian Curtis is so clinically removed from its subject that it's up to the audience to intuit the whys behind all the monochrome whats; anyone not up for the task might end up wondering why this moping lad from Manchester warrants such consideration. Corbijn, who photographed the band during their brief reign in the late 70s, seems intent on remaining outside, looking in; that this resolute stance extends to the one avenue that might have afforded the film a bit of subjectivity - Curtis' music - grounds the film within its biopic confines. The film makes admirable leaps across time, tearing down myths with single cuts, but there are moments where I wonder if he couldn't have just lingered for a split second more. When Curtis tells his wife Deborah that he no longer loves her and she walks off down the cobblestones, blinded with tears, Corbijn cues up the refrain of 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' on the soundtrack. A predictable move, perhaps, but he could have turned it into something if he'd held on the scene, held on her and on the song and let a bit of musicality seep its way into what is otherwise a rigorous checklist of events.
Or maybe I'm just too close to the material. Control is a good film, but I feel it's arrived in theaters already bested by the 20 minutes devoted to Joy Division in 24 Hour Party People. Perhaps the truest portrait has yet to come: I'm very much looking forward to Grant Gee's upcoming documentary on the band, simply titled Joy Division, which played at Toronto alongside Corbjin's film and which sounds like a fascinating melange of Manchester culture and intimate perspectives.
I have a feeling this critique will get another spin in a year or so, when the recently announced Kurt Cobain biopic is released.
Speaking of which, I finally saw About A Son again this past weekend, and hung out with AJ as his tour through the Midwest and my own leave of absence from Texas coincided in Springfield, Missouri. I couldn't stop looking at all the trees; I haven't seen genuine fall colors in I don't know how many years. A cold front blew in the other night. It was a fine decompressant.
November 1, 2007
Dia de los Muertos
Having lost all sense of objectivity, I've been letting things rest for a while. Things have transpired, violent zigzag oscillations of highs and lows and greens and blues, and this piece keeps drifting through my stereo:
Posted by David Lowery at 11:47 AM