December 31, 2007
December 30, 2007
Adam and I paid a visit to one of our locations for St. Nick this afternoon. All 100 or so acres of it, along with its friendly inhabitants.
We'll be shooting here for a few days in February. I suddenly feel like I'm going to need a lot more dolly track.
Posted by David Lowery at 10:58 PM
But before I say anything about There Will Be Blood, I want to speed through the list of movies I've been catching up with this past week - The Savages, The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, Sleepaway Camp and 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days - to get to the one that I haven't yet seen, Atonement. I was going to see it on Christmas Eve, but then I saw the novel sitting on Yen's bookshelf and decided to read it instead. And what a godsend! It was one of those books that came at just the right time, whose simpatico prose pierced some membrane in my head and gave beautiful form to thoughts and feelings I feel I should have outgrown. It helped me, in its own minute way, like all great things, grow up a bit without growing older. At least, Part One did; the rest, by comparison, is all consequence, all aftermath, making (to turn the book's own meta-thematics and Woolfian allusions back on it) a great yarn of a crystallized present. But as the platform of that story is building, McEwan wraps his words around the workings of a child's mind with a precision that is by turns comforting, alarming, comforting and alarming. It's put certain things into perspective for me as I prepare to push my own form upon those same avenues.
I'll see the film on Monday, and will likely project upon it the entire time. I hope the book only makes it better.
December 26, 2007
Oh Crap, I'm Older
But I'm pushing my birthday back a few days, so I can celebrate it at the Angelika at midnight on the 29th.
I guess this is my year to become a rock and roll cliche...
Posted by David Lowery at 11:58 AM
Minute Promotional Efforts
Which to chose? Which direction to go in? And where to find a critics' quote to inspire confidence in indecisive Park Cityfolk? Meanwhile, the Slamdance page for the film is up, and I guess tickets are officially on sale, too. I need to get more excited!
December 24, 2007
It's Gonna Be A Blue Christmas
...as I wait for the sun to go down so I can venture out into the cold and film Christmas lights for St. Nick, perhaps catching glimpses of happy families celebrating behind those ornamented windows, unknowingly participating in the bitter subtext of this film.
I wish we were shooting the whole thing already.
Happy Holidays, folks. Go see Sweeney Todd!
December 22, 2007
Music To Dance And Hate Yourself To
Perhaps the most tragic moment in Margot At The Wedding is when Margot sighs and says "I never listen to music anymore." That line, to me, is more telling about her character than almost any other in the picture.
Which brings me to what I intended to be an assessment of the year in music before I realized that I didn't really get much new music this year, and what I did get never really won me over wholeheartedly. I lost some degree of patience with almost every new record I picked up, from The White Stripes to M.I.A. to Panda Bear to The Arcade Fire to Grinderman. Even former loves Radiohead and Bjork failed to make me swoon with their new offerings. From what I've read, this may in fact be a sign of clinical depression, which puts me in a bit of a Catch-22, because what am I going to listen to when I'm depressed? The answer, it turns out, is Umbrella, which I found myself listening to an awful lot, and generally not ironically.
Only two new albums have held up for me over the past few months. One is PJ Harvey's White Chalk, particularly the conjoined openers The Devil and Dear Darkness, two of the most beautiful, the most furiously fragile lullabies Polly Jean's ever composed.
The other is Of Montreal's Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? Kevin Barnes' glam rock arrangements are so magnificently layered and musically complex that it takes a spin or two to realize just how intimate and confessional these songs really are. It's a truly amazing record.
I know I'm missing out on a lot of stuff, though. Most of the music I've been listening to of late is older, or older sounding. I guess I've looking for something timeless, the kind of stuff that doesn't seem to fit into lists very well. A lot of Mahler and Gorecki. That one Jandek album. And of course, as always, Joanna Newsom, whose music has reminded me what true love feels like.
Speaking of older music, Margot At The Wedding, in spite of it lead character, ends with a truly sublime bit of soundtrack supervision: the credits roll to Karen Dalton's truly gorgeous Something On My Mind. Lest you haven't discovered this sometimes off-putting, sometimes enchanting chanteuse for yourself, allow me to share that particular number with you:
And now I've got something on my mind, and it's called going to sleep for the first time in 40 hours.
December 21, 2007
Suppositions On A Film Concerning Billy The Kid
It's been exactly a month now since Todd Haynes' I'm Not There opened; I watched it twice in the space of that first week, and wasn't sure if the residual feeling that I should see it a third time was out of deep admiration for the film or an uncertainty as to whether or not it actually worked. I haven't gone back as of yet, and seeking out such a decision within the film itself, I think, might be something of a Sisyphean task.
What strikes me as problematic about the film is that it is an impression of a character bound to the story of a life. The film runs two and a half hours, but it could have just as easily been ninety minutes, or ten, or five, and been just as successful as it is at its current running time, because its ultimate success is not in its narrative but in its dialectics: the synthesis of its contradictory personae into a more encompassing understanding of its subject.
This is the reason, I think, the segment in which Richard Gere plays an aging Billy the Kid is the one that resonates the most with me; it's the most removed from the literal life of Bob Dylan, an entirely figurative depiction of his retreat to a basement in Woodstock after his 1966 motorcycle accident. That basement becomes a sleepy, smoky little town (with the bit-too-thick name of Riddle) that seems lost in some Appalachian time warp, full of farmers and circus folk and Civil Warriors, beset upon by an encroaching highway that brings with it the threat of the public eye. The sequence has too much plot for the amount of screen time it's given, but it is beautiful and haunting, and there's a richness, a power to the imagery that runs deeper than simple metaphor. It is a hyper-realization of what the very term 'folk song' connotes, and when applied to its true subject, it reveals precisely what the rest of the sequences in the film do not (at least not as effectively): a perception of a state of being. Those other Dylans are more immediately recognizable, easier to categorize into a linear biographical mold and by such degrees diminished in importance. The Billy The Kid segment, in its essential timelessness, sticks.
Posted by David Lowery at 12:18 AM
December 20, 2007
It must say something about my mood of late that it wasn't until the sprays of arterial red splashed the screen en masse in Sweeney Todd that I felt an inkling of Christmas spirit. This seasonal constitution, normally brought on by twinkling lights or a well-timed carol, has finally reared its head. It's throat, summarily, has been slashed. I've never seen Stephen Sondheim's beloved musical and hence don't quite know what I'm missing in adaptive regards; but I do know Tim Burton, and the upper lip that's been flailing after his many middling efforts these past few years has finally been drawn up into a broad, childish grin. I loved this movie.
Burton's been after this project for over a decade, and as with all of his films, quality is commensurate with auteurial passion. And I suspect that maybe, betwixt all the Saturday afternoon Vincent Price marathons he watched as a child, he may have taken in his fare share of Rodgers & Hammerstein as well: his visualization of Sondheim's book is astonishing. His camera swoops and slides with as much musicality as the soundtrack, and the progression of his gorgeous chiaroscuros have newfound cadence and grace. And as for the songs - well, dialogue's generally seemed a nuisance to him, and replacing it almost entirely with libretto has done wonders for his directorial constitution.
This is also, perhaps, the best looking film he's ever made. Composed in concert with cinematographer Dariusz Wolski and the great production designer Dante Feretti, every frame is a perfectly realized masterpiece, suitable for framing, ready for wrapping. Much of the imagery is, I assume, augmented with digital effects, but the blend is entirely seamless - as are the makeup effects that yield many a festive, Hammer-hued geyser.
And there's something else changed, too. The outsider motif that Burton has been coasting on, that he's practically driven into the ground, blooms here into full blown misanthropy. Outsiders, it turns out, can only go so long being misunderstood and set apart before they snap in one way or another, and Burton luxuriates in his protagonists' madness with almost alarming glee: he truly, deeply empathizes with his demon barber. This is, one suspects, something he's been storing up for quite some time, and watching his baroque piety unfurl into full furious Guignol grandiloquence is about as invigorating as Christmas presents get.
December 19, 2007
Ten Whole Years?
In spite of what credibility I might lose by delving into this chapter of my past, I couldn't let the tenth anniversary of the release of Titanic slip by without minor notation. I saw the movie opening night, in the dearest of company. I bought the soundtrack. I was sixteen. I had also just a month or so prior begun my lengthy career as a projectionist, and this was the biggest movie I'd handled at that point. The print was so big and our equipment so poorly maintained that some of our platters couldn't spin fast enough to keep the movie running; in addition, the film stock itself built up so much static electricity that it would stick together as it fed into the brain, creating massive brainwraps if left unattended. And so it was that I spent many memorable hours that first weekend, nursing the print, spinning the platter by hand and feeding the film through my fingers to keep it from clinging to itself, all the way until the last show let out at four in the morning. I'd sit there in the dark and listen to the movie and and pine away for an epic love story of my own.
I kept James Horner's awful soundtrack on my iPod (for ironic purposes, I'd generally hasten to explain) until the day this past spring when I lost it at sea. Or on the beach. Or at the hotel near the beach. Close enough, in any case, to call it appropriate.
December 16, 2007
Worst Auditions Ever
Not because of the talent, who were uniformly great, but because I was on the verge of becoming deathly ill - a precipice I crossed once the final young ingenue departed at five o'clock, and all the shakes and tremors and nauseua I'd held at bay for the previous eight hours consumed me. That was well over twenty four hours ago, and now my whole body feels shellshocked, drawn and quartered and altogether deceased.
I hate auditions.
Posted by David Lowery at 8:26 PM
December 13, 2007
Now that the full lineup is officially out, I guess I can officially say that A Catalog Of Anticipations (the second part) is an official selection of Slamdance 2008. Hooray! So I'll be headed up to Park City for the first time ever in a month and change. I'm very much looking forward to all the movies and the snow and the good company - it'll undoubtedly be a swell time.
The full schedule comes out on Friday. There's probably something else I should say about it, but I forget what because I'm really sleepy at the moment. Hopefully, this will be the start of a great year of exposure for the film, both in this singular incarnation and in its full tripartite form. I can't wait for more people to get to see it.
December 11, 2007
I'm Astrally Projected
Today is a sad day. The weather outside is frosty, there are icicles making windchimes out of telephone lines and a warm and hearty film festival announcement of some sort is emminent. But today is also the day when I'm not seeing There Will Be Blood in New York at the Museum Of The Moving Image with Daniel Day Lewis and PTA in attendance. I wasn't at the screenings in California, either, and I haven't been around for any press screenings in Texas. All I can do is hope to share the experience vicariously through the friends that are going while listenening to the score repeatedly and counting the days until my birthday, which is when it's officially released.
On a less emo note, it's been an interesting week of shooting up here in Missouri. All sorts of theoretical quandries have presented themselves to me, and I'm still sorting them out. I could make a pretty good documentary about making this documentary. But I'm wrapping things up now, and will be headed back South tomorrow, making a beeline first for one of my friends' DVCAM decks and then to a FedEx for some overnight shipping...
December 6, 2007
The last time I wrote about my documentary, on October 5th, it was just about finished. Shortly thereafter it became resolutely unfinished (most of the people reading this probably already know that story). Suffice to say, I'm back up in Missouri, shooting once again. The whole city has a different color pallete than it did seven months ago, which I think is a good thing. My car was frozen solid this morning. I managed to get inside, and rolled down the window to reveal a perfect replica in solid ice directly behind it.
I love it. I've always labored under the impression that cold weather facilitates my creativity (plus it's steeling me up for Park City).
Meanwhile, back in Texas, Adam and James are working on setting up auditions for St. Nick. Which leads me to Jennifer Venditti's Billy The Kid, which opened yesterday in New York City. This is one of the few big films from this year's festival circuit I've consistently managed to miss - and now that I've seen the trailer (cut by Mr. AJ Schnack), I'm wondering if maybe I should wait (not that I will). The titular character, the way he talks and the things he says, fits to a T the image I have in my mind of the lead in St. Nick. It was bizarre.
And now the sun's down: time to venture outdoors. I hope my P2 cards don't freeze.
December 5, 2007
I dropped by Post Asylum last night to pick up all the mass storage we'll be using on St.Nick from Barak Epstein (I figure two terabytes should be enough). He was in the middle of a color correct session on Blood On The Highway, and I took a look at some of the gorier sequences in the film, which seems to be coming together quite nicely, especially with all the digital plasma spurts they're adding in. They're racing through the timing to make a few festival deadlines in the next week or so; if all goes well, the movie will fill a few midnight slots on the circuit this fall.
Which reminds me that I forgot to mention last month that this blog was quoted in Jamie Stuart's article on the Panasonic HPX500 (the camera BOTH was shot on) in the most recent issue of Filmmaker Magazine. The article can be read online here. The lesson to be learned here is: be erudite when commenting on blogs, because you never know when your words may be co-opted.
It's almost one AM and I've got a seven hour drive ahead of me at some point in the next few hours. Maybe I should take a quick nap.
Posted by David Lowery at 12:18 AM
December 4, 2007
Bonfires in Austin
Last night saw a gaggle of filmmakers tromping through the woods of East Austin at midnight, trying to find the conflagration upon which Cinematexas would be given its Viking Funeral. I love experiences like that. Getting lost with friends in the most unlikely places.
It was great to hang out with Ronnie again, too, and to see Frownland again on the big screen. That movie - it's the real deal. For a really terrific response to it, check out AFS Director Of Programming Chale Nafus' review of Sunday night's screening. An excerpt:
"FROWNLAND? I never want to see it again, not even a clip. But I will highly recommend it to most of my friends and every film-lover – not as a masochistic exercise but as a film that challenges some of the sacred tenets of humanism and potentially turns the viewer into a raving madman. Few works of art today can elicit such a radical response from our jaded culture."
And pairing Ronnie's film with Don Hertzfeldt's Everything Will Be OK was a nice coup de grace, as well: Cinematexas, I hardly knew thee, but it was nice to see you go out in style.
Posted by David Lowery at 12:26 AM
December 3, 2007
I Am Not Anemic
I try to give blood regularly. Aside from what aide my excess plasma might provide to others, I enjoy the whole procedural aspect: the needles and the tourniquets and rubber tubes, the little pinprick they give your finger and the way the drops of blood they pull bloom and descend with long waverying trails in those vials of blue liquid.
Last summer, though, those drops fell wrong. I failed the anemia test and was turned away. I remember a wave of unexpected satisfaction spreading at the news: I'd wanted to be anemic since I was fifteen. I don't know why, precisely. Part of it was probably aesthetic, since in those moody days I wanted my skin to be as blanched and transluscent as possible (to the extent that I'd put on makeup before going to school). I'm pretty sure, though, that a degree of self destructiveness was implicit in the desire: I really wanted something to be wrong with me, and anemia seemed to have my name written all over it.
Enough traces of that cloudy inclination must have held fast in my psyche, because I took my diagnosis that morning and held it fast and proud. I valued this newfound fragility, and over the following months, I began to notice other tell-tale signs: occasional dizzyness, a lighter head. One day not too long ago, I was helping out on a short film and in the middle of a take my vision suddenly faded to white and I passed out (in the last second before the camera cut, you can see the boom microphone I was holding drop into frame as my body gave out). I made little attempts to take care of myself. I tried to eat more, at least most of the time.
And then the other morning I got a call from the Red Cross asking if I'd make another donation. I made the appointment and returned to the clinic for confirmation of my condition. My blood was strong this time; I passed the test; they plucked my veins and made their withdrawal, and I left feeling fitter, healthier and somewhat disappointed.
We were supposed to shoot a scene from St. Nick this past Saturday, but I decided to call it off. We may have a budget for this movie, but it's not so large that we can afford to rent a moving van to haul a dolly package an hour into the country for a single afternoon of shooting. Ah, logistics! So we'll fold that scene into the rest of the production, which is an ever-fluctuating entity whose ever growing reality is beginning to frighten me. It's a good kind of fright; I think I should be open about it. I know what I'm doing, even though not knowing what I'm doing is becoming such an integral part of my process, but it's still scary getting other people involved in something that resides so squarely within my head. And a lot of it isn't even that resolute: it's all still ethereal, wound up in this instinct that I've at long last begun to trust.