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April 29, 2008

The Guatemalan Handshake

guatemalanhandshake.jpg You'll hear it said that Todd Rohal's The Guatemalan Handshake is a special film. Special in a short-bus sort of way. This is true in as much as its humor is so sweetly juvenile, its wisdom so innocent and naive, its predilections alternatively charming and confounding. Here is a film that operates on the same logic that compelled Benjamin Franklin to recommend the turkey, rather than the eagle, as a symbol for the newly formed United States; it holds no illusions about itself, and its idea of majesty is decidedly against the grain.

And yet majestic it is, and big and gorgeous and every bit deserving of the widescreen 35mm frame to which its been inscribed. That same format is how it should be seen, which is why it's a crying shame that the the first time I saw The Guatemalan Handshake was on an airplane, on my laptop, on a screener DVD that Todd Rohal had given me. Any circumstances are the right ones for a film good enough to transport you away from them entirely, but even so I felt that I was missing out: this film was meant to be seen on the biggest screen possible, looking all glorious. Sadly, I never had the chance to see it in this manner, but the next best thing is the new DVD from Benten films.

Like Benten's Quiet City / Dance Party USA release, this is a 2-disc affair that, to the best of its abilities, offers audiences an inclusive experience similar to the traveling picture show Rohal took on the road last year. There's the movie, of course, lovingly transfered and beautifully presented; then there are the six short films made by various cast and crew members, and Rohal's beloved music video for Ola Podrida's Lost And Found, and the behind the scenes documentaries and slideshows. It's a lot to take in; me, I'm still stuck on the packaging, designed by James Braithwaite, and the essay by David Gordon Green, which is better than any review I could ever write.

And the film itself. Watching it again the other day, I realized that there are moments from it so ingrained in my memory that I'd forgotten they were actually part of this film. I didn't even remember watching them; I just remembered them, like I'd come into some memories that weren't my own. It's been a joy to pull them out of the ether and put them back in their rightful place.

Other things to make you think about getting this disc:

A final note: if you order the DVD through Todd's website, you'll get a third disc of his short films, and a 35mm film strip from one of the original exhibition prints. Enough said.

Posted by David Lowery at 11:14 AM | Comments (2)


It's a little past midnight on a cold, rainy Brooklyn night, and I just bought the new Portishead album. I haven't listened to it yet. I'm waiting until I can turn out the lights and put in my headphones and span time.

* * *

Speaking of spanning time, this article on the affects of nonlinear editing technology on Terence Malick's filmmaking new issue of Reverse Shot is well worth your consideration. There was a point where I'd never mention such a piece without using it a springboard for some discussion of my own. These days, though, I feel like I've run big words and ideas to spend them on.

I need to read more.

Posted by David Lowery at 12:17 AM

April 26, 2008

Edwardian Script

A Catalog Of Anticipations generally looks amazing on the big screen - except for its titles, which, rendered in Edwardian Script, look cheap and aliased, no matter how many bits I squeezed into it. I think I first developed a fixation on this calligraphic typeface when Jonathan Glazer used it in Birth. Its regal elegance, its rigid grace bespoke a certain timelessness that I was seeking out, both in my own work and that of others; and while it maintained the simplicity of a sans serif font, it wasn't bound by the almost trite modernity that I so frequently associate with such glyphs.

Catalog needed the font, and it worked too for The Outlaw Son (although the titles in the short version that most people have seen are in Helvetica), and for this site. But seeing it on the big screen recently, looking like so many pixels forced into artificial curves, left me feeling like our romance had run its course. I designed the initial St. Nick webpage with another favorite of mine, Helvetica Neue Ultralight, but now I'm finding myself moving back towards regular Light, or even just plain old Helvetica. And what's more: when I think about the actual title of St. Nick and how it'll be presented on film, visions of serifs dance through my head.

Okay, that render is done.

Posted by David Lowery at 10:38 PM | Comments (2)

One More Week Until Iron Man!

In lieu of other things I've been meaning to write about, I just want to say that I'm super hyped about Iron Man. Thursday at midnight! It's gonna be awesome. I'm so ready to have a good time that it'd have to be almost impossibly bad for me not to love it.

Posted by David Lowery at 6:27 PM

April 25, 2008

The Pleasure Of Being Selected For Director's Fortnight

If Josh Safdie's hand were in front of me right now, I would give it a congratulatory shake; his exquisite debut feature The Pleasure Of Being Robbed (which I reviewed for Spout way back when) has been selected as the closing night film of the Director's Fortnight at Cannes! It doesn't happen often in this workaday world, but sometimes things just work out the way they're supposed to, and amazing films that deserve recognition actually get it. Bravo!

Posted by David Lowery at 10:24 AM | Comments (1)

April 23, 2008

"...a subtle, striking portrait of a media-saturated age."

Short films don't generally get a lot of press at film festivals, so it's nice to see that James' Merrily, Merrily got a great review from Keith Uhlich over at The House Next Door, in his Sarasota Film Festival wrap-up. How satisfying to see that someone got it, and got it so well! Keith also offers his take on Mike Brune's The Adventure. Both films will be screening together again at the Maryland Film Festival...

Posted by David Lowery at 10:58 AM

April 22, 2008

Marfa Film Festival


Another festival I'm heartbroken to say I won't be attending is the first ever Marfa Film Festival. I've only been to this little town once before, but it was an unforgettable experience, and I can't think of a more magical place to spend a weekend watching movies. The amazing Robin Lambaria has put together a really outstanding program for this inaugural year of the festival. What could top an outdoor screening of There Will Be Blood on the set of There Will Be Blood? Try watching Night Of The Hunter or The Innocents under the stars, or Dennis Hopper's rarely seen The Last Movie with Hopper in attendance? There are new films, too, like Chris Eska's August Evening (which I've yet to see in its feature length incarnation) and the insane documentary Audience Of One. And A Catalog Of Anticipations is screening there, too, which reminds me that I need to ship them a DigiBeta. Ah, print traffic. Hardly something to complain about.

Once again...next year.

Posted by David Lowery at 10:20 AM | Comments (1)

April 21, 2008

The Independent Film Festival of Boston

iffboston.jpg The Independent Film Festival of Boston starts this week. A Catalog Of Anticipations doesn't screen until next Sunday and Monday (tickets here - hey, it's the first title in the catalog!) but there are hundreds of other amazing films to hold you over until then. Off the top of my head, I'd strongly recommend Blood Car, Ballast, At The Death House Door, Glory At Sea, Goliath, Medicine For Melancholy and the absolutely amazing Mr. Lonely, whose esteemed director is interviewed by Mr. Michael Tully in the brand new issue of Filmmaker. Oh, and Frownland is screening, too.

A big thanks to Adam Roffman & co. for showing my movie. I wish I could be there to hang out with them over the next week. Next year, I keep telling myself (in regards to this, and Sarasota and a handful of others). Next year.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:10 AM

April 20, 2008

The Prophet I Raise Up Out Of This Boy Will Burn Your Eyes Clean

It feels good to get gone.


I hit the sixty minute mark in St. Nick the other night. The scenes are finally starting to flow. I realized at some point the other day that those 30, 40, 45 minutes I've been working on only comprised the first act of the story, and I decided to just move on and return later with the perspective that the full narrative will provide. Now I'm working on my favorite scene - one we made up on the spot on one of the very last days - and I just want to keep watching it over and over again. We tried to get a lot of scenes in single master shots that were never quite as perfect as they needed to be to work without coverage, but here is a shot-reverse-shot scene that is so perfect it doesn't even need the reverse.

I was talking to Ronnie Bronstein last night about working in static master-shots, and how I often have a lot of trouble getting them right. He pointed out the biggest problem I'm having with them is probably that they're in English. Touché!

Posted by David Lowery at 12:10 AM | Comments (2)

April 15, 2008


It's getting too warm here in Texas. Time to head out.

Posted by David Lowery at 12:08 AM | Comments (1)

April 11, 2008

Monday! TFPF Workshop! Poyser! Lowery! Footage! Be There!

I broke down and showed about 45 extremely rough minutes of St. Nick to a friend this evening. He didn't think it was boring, which was about all I needed to know.

If you, gentle reader, are wondering when you too might see some footage from this film, I have an answer for you. As you may recall, the film was partially financed by a grant from the Austin Film Society and the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund. The TFPF Grant Applications are open, and just like he did last year, Bryan Poyser is traveling across this great state, giving workshops on how to best apply. He'll be in Dallas next Monday at 7PM, at the KERA studios, and I'll be joining him to talk about how I personally went about the application process. And because it was made with TFPF money, we'll be showing a little bit (just a little bit) of St. Nick.

Here are the exact details. The TFPF is hands-down the most valuable resource to Texas Filmmakers, so come on out and learn more about it!

Posted by David Lowery at 1:24 AM | Comments (2)

April 9, 2008

Blood And Taxes

I'm back in DFW after a brief stint of horrible, awful freelance reality TV work, and I'm spending this rainy afternoon doing my taxes (which I have no way of paying, but whatever) and watching There Will Be Blood. It's rather refreshing.

Two notes on the DVD. The minute vignetting caused by the vintage lenses used on the production is far more noticeable on television than it was in the theater, resulting in a much more evocative image. Also, the historical material, juxtaposed with corresponding clips from the film (many of which are outtakes), is as good a supplement as one might hope for; as with the extra features included on Punch Drunk Love these addendums don't pull the curtain back on the film itself, but they provide a unique insight into the production that behind-the-scenes documentaries rarely approximate. It's fascinating stuff.

Posted by David Lowery at 6:20 PM | Comments (1)

April 8, 2008

St. Nick Pick-Ups


We began our day of St. Nick pick-ups in a police station that Adam miraculously managed to gain permission for us to shoot in (this, despite our lack of production insurance). A few hours later found me encountering the police once again, this time from the back of the squad car I was corralled into after having been run off the road by a fleet of flashing lights and drawn firerams. The coppers had stopped us on suspicion of murder (seriously), and while I was pretty sure we'd get off on that count, I was all set to go to jail for an unpaid parking ticket. But either they didn't check my record or I don't have a warrant out after all, because they let us go with a gracious apology. I think they were just glad that we weren't the child killers they thought we were.

The second to last thing we shot that night was a scene we'd already bagged once. It was perfect the first time, but for various reasons we had to return to it, and I decided to try and save myself the trouble of reapproximating the initial version by approaching it in a completely different way. I don't know if it worked. Everyone did a great job, but something felt wrong about it. What initially took us forty five minutes to shoot now pushed three hours; what was intimate and warm was now cold. It drained me, shooting it, and by the time we got to the very last scene, ticking past midnight, my heart just wasn't in it. I've been in this position more than once, recently, and it ain't fun. Maybe it'll be fine when I look at it and cut it in (distance works wonders) or maybe I'll decide that the movie just doesn't really need that scene.


Regardless, we wrapped around one and everyone said hurried goodbyes and went home, exhausted. And that's how I ended up sleeping through the next morning. And that's how we finished shooting the movie. For now. Never say never, y'all.

Oh, and I'm super proud of the shot above because I built it from scratch. It cost thirteen bucks.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:45 AM | Comments (1)

April 7, 2008

Sleeping Through Awards

I made a half-awake decision to sleep really late this morning. So of course, sometime after noon my mobile started buzzing with a bunch of incoming text messages that all basically said the same thing:


Apparently, Catalog won a Special Jury Prize at AFI Dallas. The text above was from Clay Liford, who I must thank for getting me into the festival in the first place (he gave James and Sarah, the programmers, a screener in my stead). Thanks, Clay! This one's for you!

I had a decent enough reason for wanting to sleep late, which I'll get into in a subsequent post...

Posted by David Lowery at 1:25 AM | Comments (3)

April 4, 2008

A Little Girl Who Doesn't Exist (and other short films at the Sarasota Film Festival)

Well, today sees the kickoff the 10th Annual Sarasota Film Festival. It may be small fries amidst all the Bergman/Ullman masterpieces, but should you need a more minor does of introspection, you can catch A Catalog Of Anticipations on the big screen this weekend - in it's (by this point rarely seen) full triptych form! Tom and Holly have programmed it Shorts Block 7, which has the subtitle 'Learning Experiences; that's just about as appropriate a category for this film as one might hope for. Also look for a film in this block from good friend Benny Safdie, who's work has previously been shown alongside Catalog at Slamdance.

It's first screening is on April 6, and will be followed later in the day by Shorts Block 6, in which you can catch Mike Brune's amazing film The Adventure. Mike (who you may have seen as the lead in Alex Orr's delightful Blood Car), has somehow made a film that can only be described as European. 1960s European, to be exact. I don't know quite how he did it, but the grace and apparent ease with which he's executed this - his debut film! - puts me and lot of other filmmakers I know to shame.

Then comes Shorts Block 8, which features the festival premiere of James M. Johnston's Merrily, Merrily. To which I say thank goodness, and it's about damn time. This is James' best film, and the first which I think is just about perfect. I cut most of it, and technically co-wrote the story, but this is his work through and through. It's not an easy film to program, and maybe it's tough to appreciate, but I'd stand by every choice that makes it so unwieldy. Here, once again, is the trailer:

James will be in Sarasota to present the film at its second screening; I unfortunately will have to bow out this year, but I believe we'll both be at the Maryland Film Festival in May, where Catalog and Merrily will screen side by side once more.

Posted by David Lowery at 12:45 AM

April 1, 2008

Turn That Frown Upside Down

Okay, I think the archive problems are fixed. Noted here for posterity.

I feel like I've been coming off very curmudgeonly as of late, and this upsets me. I'll also note for posterity that I'm always smiling; whether it's on the inside or the outside is beside the point.

UPDATE: Whoa, did I just write that? Talk about emo.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:55 AM