January 28, 2011
More on Sundance momentarily...
Posted by David Lowery at 2:31 AM
January 21, 2011
Almost on our way...
I just got off a plane from LA, where I've been all week, and Texas is almost as cold as Park City will be when I get there in about twelve hours. Twelve hours after that Pioneer will be up onscreen for the first time. I'm literally, legitimately and unironically excited!
I've been invited to share my experiences at the festival as a guest writer over at the Rooftop Films Blog. My first entry is up now, and I'll be updating as often as possible, with links to significant additions notated here.
Posted by David Lowery at 2:29 AM
January 11, 2011
Kentucker Audley at UCLA
Kentucker Audley's two most recent films are screening on Thursday, January 13th as part of the Melnitz screening series at UCLA; details can be found here.
I first wrote about Kentucker Audley's Team Picture back in 2007, in a piece that I expanded upon a year later when it was released on DVD. By that point I'd briefly met Kentucker in Virginia, as he traveled through the state shooting his sophomore feature Holy Land. A year after that, he asked me to work on his third film, Open Five. Or rather, Joe Swanberg asked me, and I said sure. I asked Joe what it was about and he told me that it was the story of some New York kids spending a weekend in Memphis, and that at the end they all looked up and saw a black girl floating in the sky over the Mississippi. I said that sounded pretty good to me.
Joe had misread the script, I soon learned; the scene actually described a girl standing on a hill, having her photo taken, and it wasn't at the end but closer to the middle. It's a lovely moment in the finished film, and one of the few that I can appreciate objectively (the other is a long shot of Jake Rabinbach taking his dog for a walk). The rest of the picture I can't rightly comment on. As much as it pleases me to see Karina Longworth and Richard Brody place it so prominently in their year-end lists, it plays for me more as a record of my summer in Memphis than as a film. I held the microphone for a lot of the production, and shot a few scenes as well, but my memory of making the film is entirely untechnical; I remember hanging out around the periphery of the frame, lounging on sofas with Joe and Kentucker and the girls. I can suspend my disbelief on the other micro-budgeted films I've worked on, but Open Five never quite allows me that luxury.
Which, if I were to guess, is exactly why such notable critics have been responding to it - it's as if the will towards extreme transparency (and not just the transparency itself) engenders something cinematic, especially when one is removed from it. And certainly, I thought highly of Team Picture, and even more so of Holy Land, which never had an actual release of any sort and wasn't even finished at the time Kentucker began making Open Five (one scene in that film shows him editing it). Holy Land an incredibly striking picture, as bold and assured as Team Picture was pleasantly ambling. It follows a young man named Cole Weintraub, playing a version of himself, as he drives from Memphis to Lynchburg, Virginia and a biblical theme park that, although it bears the name of the film, can't accurately be called titular (to say that the title refers to America itself is a little more accurate, but also a little too cute and easy for a film as prickly as this one). It's bound to the landscape, but doesn't feel so regional as Audley's other pictures.There are little tugs of timelessness throughout Cole's journey - old farms sinking into the green Southern countryside, the spontaneous emergence of roots music - but none so prominent as Audley's filmmaking itself.
Cole makes mention of wanting to write a novel, and the picture seems to be aiming for a somewhat literate, academic bent, especially when Cole drops in on a friends' creative writing class at a University. There is much discussion of theme and narrative disconnect, and it seems for a moment that the film is going to fall back on easy meta-commentary. But instead of simply coasting on its own self-awareness or, conversely, abandoning any sort of intellectual posture entirely, Audley punches straight through all of these auspices and reveals the film for what it actually is; erasing the membrane between fiction and reality without actually fracturing the narrative. He presumably breaks the fourth wall, which isn't in itself particularly unique at this point (it's novelty is that it is unexpected, and that it allows one to mentally cross-check Kiarostami and other potential influences), but what's actually audacious is that the film then keeps going. The camera cuts to black, and then we get a 'One Month Later' title card and everything continues as it was; as it turns out, no walls were broken at all. It's a galvanizing move, and it explains in a particularly overt way why Open Five works, for the people it works for: it erases any pretense of fiction, without trying to make us believe that what we're watching is real. It's a unique sort of proscenium Audley has erected; I'm happy to have been on both sides of it.
Posted by David Lowery at 11:05 PM
January 10, 2011
Sweetgrass, Mother, and others
Whenever I finish something - in this case, it was a draft of a script I'd been working on forever - I go on a luxurious spate of watching things at home. Here are some choice words on recent viewing:
- Sweetgrass (dir. Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Ilisa Barbash): It thrills me to think that, although I have never seen a bear in person, between thousands of years of evolution and a century of cinema, I can see a tiny blotch of pixels shift on a screen and instantly know in my gut that it means trouble.
- Mother (dir. Bong Joon-Ho): So that's how you do it!
- Afterschool (dir. Antonio Campos): This film gave me a lot to think about. For example, I wonder about Kubrick. I don't question my reverence for him, or that he is in fact great, but I can't remember what exactly it is that makes him so.These days I don't know where Kubrick ends and Haneke begins. I think of Kubrick and the first thing that pops into my head is a shot from Tropical Malady. I need clarity. I've got six or seven different books and a collected works DVD set that could probably provide it, but I'm holding off for some reason. A mass revisitation is in order.
- Death At A Funeral (dir. Neil LaBute): Black families are funnier than British families, but there's no pleasure this movie has to offer that can't be both enjoyed and compounded by watching the trailers for both versions of this film back to back. Contextually speaking, this is an experiment of a piece with Funny Games US and Van Sant's Psycho.
- Stagecoach: (dir. John Ford) I need to see more John Ford movies.
- Teorema (dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini): I didn't actually watch this - but the point is that I was prepared to, in ten parts on YouTube, because I was about to make an uneducated reference to it and then thought better of it and figured I'd better see it first (unfortunately, the subtitles were in Spanish). It was this same principal that got me to read Atlas Shrugged this past summer.
Posted by David Lowery at 10:32 AM
January 6, 2011
In the past week, all that was foretold came to pass; we mastered the film and QCd it; as per my habit, I made some last minute tweaks to the edit; we layed it out to HDCam twice over and took one of those tapes and shipped it off to the film traffic hub in Park City. I look forward to seeing it again in two weeks.
We've also made a Facebook page for the film, to which we've uploaded a small selection of behind-the-scenes photos. All of these are very nice, but they hammer home the fact that the film does, indeed, take place in a single room - which isn't a problem whatsoever when you're watching the film itself, but when you're trying to drum up advance word of mouth about it and pretending that a 15-minute short isn't just a drop in the bucket at a place like Sundance, the monotony of seeing the same cast and crew occupying the same small space in picture after picture might send you scrambling for a snapshot of, say, the relative thrills of a tape control room in which the final master copy was made.
In seriousness, though - I fully believe that, in spite of its physical constraints, regardless of its running time, the film lives up to its promises of epicness. That room plays mighty big on the big screen.
Posted by David Lowery at 12:54 AM