May 29, 2008
I want to live in a world where a video this gorgeous and innocent doesn't need to be referred to as Not Safe For Work. Hence, I encourage everyone to watch it at work!
It's the new Sigur Ros single, Gobbledigook, directed by Arni & Kinski and photographed by Chris Doyle.
Sigur Ros sounds new again!
Posted by David Lowery at 10:39 PM
I was typing up something of a CV for St. Nick the other day and got hung up on the part where I was talking about the filmmakers whose work has influenced and inspired me. I couldn't think of who to include; I mean, yeah, Malick would be up there, but do I really need to mention that? It's not just rote - it's just not interesting.
And I find that these days I'm more influenced by films I haven't seen. Had you called upon me six months ago and asked, I would have cited the work of Pedro Costa, James Benning (particularly 11x14 and Thirteen Lakes) and the opening shot of Silent Light as being big influences on what I was going for with this new picture. There were others, too. I hadn't seen any of those films at the time, but something about the way they were described and critically assessed excited me. What they seemed to represent excited me. In reading about them, I was able to extrapolate, to cull what appealed to me and imagine it through the lens of my own personal perspective. I could make it mine without ever having seen it.
I've done this for years, actually. When I was thirteen, I checked out some authoritarian little volume on Godard from the library read the entire thing, and took what I could from his work (which at the time wasn't much) without seeing a single frame of it. It shames me somewhat to think that it would take another ten years and the advent of Netflix for me to actually catch up with all those films. And by this point, too, I've seen some of Costa's films (thanks, Darren!) and Silent Light, and they exist for me now now wholly separate from whatever imaginary vision I conjured in my head and recapitulated, in some generation yet even further removed, within my own work.
On a vaguely related note, when I first started planning St. Nick last summer, I told people that it was going to be a cross between a Malick film and Ernest Scared Stupid. I wasn't joking. The idea that inspired the comparison was greatly reduced by the time I got around to making the movie, but it's still there. As is the Britney Spears-inspired scene, which is one of the best moments in the entire movie.
May 28, 2008
I Hammer In The Morning
Just when I thought I'd about run out of steam on writing reviews, I've got a new reason to keep the habit. A week or two ago, Michael Tully invited me to join the small stable of writers at the fledgling film site Hammer To Nail. Now, my first piece is already up - a review of the Zellner Brothers' Goliath. This, I can see by the link, is the 71st review filed on the site, which means there's lots of good reading over there if you've a mind to do it. The site, from what I understand, is still in beta mode, but will be blossoming into elegantly designed splendor later this summer.
I also see that I made it through the whole review without comparing the Zellners to Aki Kaurismaki. Way back when I started a post about the film at Sundance that I'd ultimately never finish, that was how I kicked it off. "Imagine a pessimistic version of a Kaurismaki film," or something like that. Oh well. Analogies are the crutches of criticism.
Posted by David Lowery at 12:46 PM
May 26, 2008
I think Carlos Reygadas' Battle In Heaven is a highly imperfect film, but my opinion of it is almost conversely related to the impact it's had on me and the amount of time I've spent mulling over its qualities and deficincies. Its fusion of sex and faith, of the sacred and the profane, compounded by Reygadas' kinetic appropriation of Tarkovsky's style, is hard to shake; that it is ultimately unsatisfying may well be one of its best qualities, even if it keeps it from reaching the heights it at least seems to aspire towards.
Throughout the first five or ten minutes of Silent Light, Reygadas new film, I prepared myself for more of the same. And then, suddenly, it caught me in its steady pace and, by the time it was over, I was thoroughly shaken. I'll have to write more about it later; for now, here's the trailer, which in its bombast calls to mind Reygadas anecdote about how watching his Apple screensaver while listening to Sigur Ros inspired him to make the film.
I can't wait to see it on the big screen; this and Mr. Lonely are the most emotional experiences I've had watching a movie in a recent memory.
May 25, 2008
Time for a third back-up.
Just shy of eight hundred gigs in transit.
May 24, 2008
No More Cuts To Black
I showed the first cut to Yen and James and Clay last night; it was the first time I'd watched it all the way through, too, and I was surprised to see that it was a lot more complete than I thought it was going to be. All the things I thought would be problematic weren't. The most exciting thing I realized was that I didn't need any of the cuts to black that I'd inserted regularly throughout the film. I added them a few weeks ago, when I was feeling a bit lost and aimless in the middle portion of the movie. It felt like it was both an epiphany and a compromise; I didn't want them, but they allowed me to keep the delineation straight in my head, to get a grasp on the pace, and I figured audiences would need them for the same reason (a similar half-panic inspired me to put numerical chapter headings in the original cut of The Outlaw Son). As it turns out, they're completely unecessary. Which is a relief. Out they go, and with a few more trims and some preliminary sound work, the rough cut will be in ship shape form.
It's really good. Better than I thought it would be. It makes me trust myself again.
James and I tried to come up with some loglines for the film this evening, and we've pretty much settled on The adventures of a brother and sister trying to survive on their own in the rural Texas. Actually, we're mulling over whether it should be rural Texas or rural South. The former is more accurate, but the latter is more evocative. Thoughts?
May 22, 2008
I Want To Make A Superhero Movie! Well, Not Really. But Maybe.
So in spite of what I wrote here, I never actually managed to see Iron Man until tonight. Boy howdy is it good! Between this and Elf, I almost want to add John Favreau to my list of favorite directors, right along side Denis and Tarr. But while I'm on the subject of awesome mainstream movies, I'm wondering if I was perhaps too harsh in my pan of the new Indiana Jones move. I stand by what I said, but I didn't mean to sound as hostile as I did. The film isn't completely awful; the first half is actually pretty good (and, lest I be labeled a hypocrite, I must note that it has some great effects work, no question about it, the sort that's completely invisible and all the more mind boggling for it), but then it goes so far downhill so fast that it winds up negating everything else that happened prior. It is, ultimately, entirely inconsequential (to me), and its especially hard to care much about when the originals are still there, as good as ever. But what do I know - I'm the guy who liked War Of The Worlds.
May 21, 2008
Definitely Long Enough
And as soon as I had that shot of the trains, I went home and dropped it into the cut, and went to bed with the satisfaction of having finished the first cut of the film. Here's what the whole thing looks like in the timeline:
Looking at it all scrunched up like that sort of gives you an idea as to the pacing. The total running time is one hour and forty seven minutes long, not counting the end-credits sequence that I've left out for the time being. I figure I've got plenty of room for trimming.
May 20, 2008
The Silver Spoon Of Cinema
For the past few months, I've been meaning to get this insert shot of the sun rising over a train yard; that I'm loathe to get up at sunrise was my main reason for not shooting it, but as I was pulling an all-nighter last night, I figured it was high time I got it out of the way. So at 4:30am I shook the delirium from my head and drove out to where I'd planned on getting the shot; a massive overpass in Fort Worth that looks out onto miles and miles of Union Pacific rail.
I parked my car in the nearest parking lot and, camera in hand, trecked through the grass towards the concrete swell. I paused for a moment, looking at the path before me, and it was then that I came to a newfound understanding: overpasses are not designed for pedestrians. There was no shoulder, and scarcely more than a foot of curb beneath the guardrail. I could walk on it, but one misstep and I'd be creamed - not to mention that my entire endeavors's legal standing suddenly seemed highly questionable.
On the other hand, I really wanted this shot (and, after all, getting stopped by the cops would be sort of old hat). Compelled by some iota of whatever it is that drives other filmmakers to climb live volcanoes or run through the hills with guerillas for the sake of their art, I set out on this narrow embankment as the morning commute roared past. Just don't look back, I told myself. Just get the shot and everything will be fine. For there's something about a movie camera that imparts some veil of invulnerability - some sense that the worst that could happen can't be all that bad; that the ends not only justify the means, but damn near venerate them.
By the time I got to the mid-point of the overpass and was pointing my camera over the rail down at the train yard, I'd begun to consider the fact that what I was doing was also probably a federal offense. Oh well. Had I been injured or arrested or had my camera confiscated or some combination of the above, perhaps I'd learn some lesson and cease taking unnecessary risks for the sake of thirty seconds of film. But as it was, I got those thirty seconds and got out clean, and this strange sense of entitlement, this imaginary get-out-of-jail-free card which my craft has bestowed upon me, remains intact.
The Trend Continues!
From Baz Luhrman's Australia:
May 19, 2008
An Accumulation of Scenes
I started writing this nearly two weeks ago; I wanted to write some long, rambling stream-of-conscious piece about the editing of this film. I never made much headway on it, but since its about to become drastically dated, I might as well get this iteration of it out of the way.
As I edit, I think often of Claire Denis - not out of a need for answers or influence, or even for inspiration, but rather for the comfort of knowing that some of the more difficult parts of this path I'm taking are already well-worn. I can think of Beau Travail and L'Intrus, just as I can think of Syndromes And A Century and The New World and any of Harmony Korine's films, and find in them some sort of camaraderie or kinship - not with the filmmakers, but with the films themselves. When I think of them, I distill them to one or two broad strokes - an image, or a camera move, or a sound or a song - and can rest easy on the gentle support of these proxies and all they represent. To that end, thinking about Vendredi Soir and Trouble Every Day has sent me on a Tindersticks kick; Tiny Tears (Petite Chiennes) from Nenette et Boni has been running back and forth from one ear to the other for three days now without wearing out its welcome. I played it in my head while helping to shoot another film the other night, and this imaginary soundtrack to the scene in question brought tears to my eyes. I was listening to it this morning, walking through the rain with no hat and a hole in my shoe: sad music and sleeting rain, and me drenched in both. I felt a brief flutter of nostalgia for the days when I could unironically embody the cliche I so perfectly reflected on this early stroll; I wanted to revel in a loneliness I couldn't quite muster. I love this song and songs like it because they ebb and flow in such perfect harmony with my own musical instincts; I know where they're going; it's the sort of song that on good days I think I could write. And I do, but when I sit down at the piano to play whatever I've come up with, I can't can't make my hands hit the keys in correspondence with the notes in my head. Beat by beat, line by line, my lofty compositions hit the low ceiling of my talent and remain fluttering about within those narrow confines. I think musically, and edit musically, but I can't take those predilections and turn them into actual music. But I don't learn from my mistakes, nor do I grow from them; there's some amnesia at work, for I still I sit down at the piano and fancy myself a songwriter, and the other day when a friend asked me over breakfast if I was planning on scoring St. Nick myself, I couldn't help but take the question as an admission that I could in fact do it, and stammered out an answer that wasn't quite the declination it should have been.
What the music will be and who's going to do it is something I suppose I must start thinking about. My Bressonian resistance to score has given way to ideas for music made up of whale songs and banjos and drones comprised of wind and crickets. There are places where there needs to be music - places where there already is music - and when there's not there needs to be a musicality to the sound, the imperativeness and absence of which is keeping me from showing the rough cut to anyone at this point. It's eighty minutes long now, that cut, and I've just begun the third act; the pieces are starting to fall into place of their own accord, finding their own natural order and forcing the exclusion of anything that doesn't belong in the narrative. Scenes are falling by the wayside left and right: the angry neighbor; the girl in the cupboard; the band-aid; I very nearly jettisoned Dougnut, the beloved skeleton dog, and might still yet if need be. Anything that doesn't work I cut; those few faulty bits I'm still attached to will turn desiccate in time and fall away; so too will any remaining tendons of story, of set-up and consequence. The film I have in mind is an accumulation of scenes, none more important than any other. The story rises up in the negative space between them.
And so there is a scene where the Boy builds a booby-trap, and another where he shoplifts, and originally that was the order they occurred in. But if by reversing that order - if by putting the trap after the theft, does it become implicit that the Boy feels guilt for breaking the law, transfers that moral culpability into paranoia and responds to that by creating impediments and barriers?
May 18, 2008
Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull
Someday I'm going to make some sort of thrilling, down and dirty genre picture with no CGI, and on that merit alone I think I can pretty much guarantee that it'll be more exciting than this pandering and inexcusably shoddy excuse for 'old fashioned entertainment.' But let's forget about my hubris for a moment. I'll take all the flying saucers and psychic Soviets and 50s kitsch you can throw at me, just as I'll take beating hearts being plucked from chests and Judeo-Christian pop-mysticism and cherish them fondly; all I ask for is a bit of verisimilitude to ground my suspension of disbelief. That, and a script that can at least justify its length with smarts. Alas, a green screen is easier to erect than a set, and an in-joke is safer than true wit. Remind me when I make my hypothetical film that it's okay to trade in nostalgia, but not to cash in on it entirely.
Posted by David Lowery at 4:50 PM
May 16, 2008
I was at JFK the day before yesterday and ran in to Sam, the producer of The Pleasure Of Being Robbed. "Where are you headed?" he asked. "Not where you're headed," I said. Twenty hours later, I imagine he was living it up in Cannes. I, meanwhile, was still one the same plane I boarded in New York, deliriously pushing through the final leg of what turned out to be an almost comically distended flight back to Texas. I'll be here for about three weeks, and then I'm off again. Within that interim, hopefully, I'll have a few minutes to write something of note here....
Oh, and I just got Tom Waits tickets! I've never seen him live before. I can't wait.
Posted by David Lowery at 12:12 PM
May 12, 2008
The Last Month
It's been a good one.
May 5, 2008
Five Stars from Film Threat
Don R. Lewis just reviewed Catalog for Film Threat. At the risk of being self-aggrandizing, I won't pull any quotes here. Needless to say, I'm touched. Thanks Don!
May 4, 2008
...one audience member told me after the second screening that she'd seen my film the day before and had dreamed about it that night. And someone else saw it whose response meant more to me than pretty much any reaction I've had. So all in all, Maryland was a great film festival, even though I spent most of it holed up in the hotel room trying to decide what version of the Bosque Brown scene to put in the movie.
On the train ride back to New York this afternoon, the train was stalled for over an hour. Word got around that someone got killed in the tracks.
Posted by David Lowery at 11:28 PM
May 3, 2008
The Baltimore CityPaper seems to have reviewed every single movie screening at the Maryland Film Festival. And while they make a big factual error in their brief appraisal of my film (does my sister really look twentysomething?), they also give me a nice pullquote: "Disturbing for a variety of reasons." That works for me. So does John Waters' presence at my screening this evening.
Oh, and Benny Safdie's short The Acquaintances Of A Lonely John got into Cannes, too! Amazing!
May 1, 2008
The Lowery/Safdie Special at The Maryland Film FestivalOne festival I am going to, through strange channels of convenience, is the Maryland Film Festival, where Catalog is continuing its string of festival appearances alongside Benny Safdie's The Aquaintances Of A Lonely John. Our films have developed a strong bond since first playing together at Slamdance; it'll be great to see the kinship continue in yet another city. We're in Shorts Block Three, and we're screening on Friday, May 2 at 5:30pm and the following Sunday at 11:00am. Also in this block is Andy Betzer's wonderful Small Apartment.
I'm hitching an Amtrak to Baltimore tomorrow afternoon. James is flying in with Merrrily, Merrily and a lot other friends will be there too. It'll be a nice weekend of hanging out, watching films (I'm especially excited to finally have the chance to see Ramin Baharani's Chop Shop) and pretending I don't need to go back to the hotel room and get as much cut on St. Nick as humanly possible.
Posted by David Lowery at 12:17 AM