- May 3rd, 2013
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Archive for the ‘film’ Category
I am pleased to announce that the World Premiere of our feature film, DUST, is set for May 24, 2013 at the Screen Festival in Barcelona, Spain.
Full information on the screening and location HERE.
I met the amazing artists Dora Budor and Maja Cule when they acted as production designers on DUST, the film that Casey Spooner and I wrote and directed last month. The production team asked for submissions, and from the ether came a link to the work of these psychic sisters. Dora and Maja bust open portholes to alternate realities – fantastic other-worlds that they construct using generic and readymade objects (bananas, sponges, chairs, printed consumer fabrics). These temporary realities are meant to exist only long enough to be documented, then they are summarily destroyed. Fun, wildly creative, and serious like a Peek Frean – these ladies are worth checking out.
I really want to see their upcoming show in Salzburg where Maja will be giving Segway tours of an underground cave system and Dora will create a “spa” that will use vibrating cell phones as a spin on hot stone treatments. Their installations are so mind-boggling that at first I assumed they were drawings, the hyper colors and skewed perspectives confuse me in such a delightfully new way. I really want to hang one in my house.
This is a video fashion story I directed with Jason Cacioppo at Subvoyant for XOJANE.com, the new venture from Jane Pratt (Sassy, Jane magazines). We shot in February at Cinemagic Stages in Soho on the RED EPIC camera through Offhollywood, who also handled the amazing color correct with the colorist Milan Boncich. Jane has a gimmick on her site that shows what’s on her phone, and her thank you note from last night went up on the site earlier today!
Saturday I co-directed a fashion video with Jason Cacioppo for JanePratt.com, which launches in April. We shot at Cine Magic stages in Soho. Through Offhollywood we had the opportunity to shoot with the RED EPIC camera. Eric Nicholson was the fashion director and stylist, we had a great model named Dani and of course we worked down to the wire to get our face-in-fish tank shot at the very end.
I was cued in to Bollywood for the first time by the compilation Bombay the Hard Way, which has mostly beat-heavy instrumental soundtrack music remixed and rewired by Dan the Automator and DJ Shadow. The tracks, and the film stills on the packaging, piqued my curiosity and I started buying more comps like Bollywood Breaks, Doob-Doob-a-Rama and others.
Bollywood is . . . bizarre. Although the films are often reminiscent of American movies and music videos, it is always something new and strange. About six years ago I really tried to get into the movies. I got a list of suggestions from a friend, went to the Indian video stores in the East Village and on Lexington Avenue and bought videotapes for two or three dollars each.
For the most part, I was bored silly. The low production value, the incomprehensible story, the interminable length, and the screeching female vocals can tire this gentleman’s nerves quickly. I did find a number of cool production numbers and discovered the sex symbol Hrithik Roshan. Best of all, I discovered Disco Dancer. This movie rocked me – it is the only one I watched all three hours of.
Inspired in parts by Saturday Night Fever and . . . I don’t know what else, it includes the sensational song “Jimmy Adja,” now famous in its reinvented form as imagined by M.I.A. To my ears there was no reason to remake it, I particularly miss the final crying sounds, which are not reproduced by the international hipster singer. There is also a gloriously insane rendition of “Video Killed the Radio Star” and some phenomenally retarded dancing. My favorite plot point is when Jimmy’s rivals try to kill him by electrifying his guitar to shock him to death — you gotta see what happens for yourself.
Most people probably got their first taste with Ghost World, which opens with the fantastic nightclub number from Gumnaam. The film itself is a pulpy, color-drenched reimagining of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, with chases through palaces, peeking through palm fronds and the like.
I recently discovered the absolutely amazing blog Music from the Third Floor, which features MP3 downloads of entire soundtracks, synopses of the films and critiques of the music, and, most importantly, links to musical numbers on YouTube. This is yet another reason why YouTube is revolutionary and amazing. Some may decry the lack of hunting, gathering and compiling that was once done only by die-hard enthusiasts, but I celebrate the instant click-through availability (until copyright holders step in) of these amazing pop artifacts.
I discovered Cinema Treasures when I was doing research into the ultimately demolished movie theater that used to be on Broadway and Marcy Avenues in Williamsburg. It is also the place where I learned that my favorite New York City screen, the Astor Plaza, was to be closed (it is now the Nokia Theater, a live entertainment venue.) The Astor was in Times Square and had a screen as big or bigger than the Ziegfeld, which is, I think, the only truly grand movie theater left in New York. Certainly the only one I know of, outside of the Imax experience, with a really big silver screen.
The comments section is pretty amazing; people share all kinds of information and gossip about a property’s history and what is happening to during uncertain periods. Someone even include complete lists of what movies played at the Astor Plaza from its opening in 1974 through to its closing in 2004. I am so happy to have seen KILL BILL 1 there, that was mind-boggling, but the last thing I saw there was, sadly, YOU GOT SERVED, for which my review is three words long: “I got bored.” (Actually, I wrote a very long personal review to record my thoughts on that movie, which was so convoluted and sloppily written, directed and assembled as to be marginally avant-garde in its total disregard for logic, coherence or consistency.)
Long live the grand movie palace!
I always associate sneering with Elvis, but I think it was generally a part of the Fifties culture. When I think of the Fifties, the first things that come to mind are poodle skirts and doo-wop, a black and white world of housewives and Leave it to Beaver blandness.
Of course, the other side of that coin was Lenny Bruce, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, the Olympia press, greasers and beatniks – the cultural resistance. Even though Elvis and Marilyn are pop cliches now, sometimes when I am able to see the vibrant, electric thing they brought to the culture and made them crack through so powerfully.
Watching Marilyn in Niagara the other night, I was surprised to see her sneering (not as much as I thought, I realized, when I went back to photograph the frames, but still, it is there). Of course, she is playing a femme fatale in a pulpy noir, but there was something about it that spoke to me of the rebel Fifties. Sneering in contempt for the conformity of a fear-baiting mainstream that created or supported the blacklist mentality of McCarthy. Popping the conservative bubble — especially with that molten sexuality, pulsating off the screen in those ridiculous hallucinatory mid-century Technicolors.
That was a movie star.
The great film director passed away on April 2nd. I watched the great Thieves’ Highway last night, a noirish drama set in the world of wildcat produce truckers in the 1940s. This guy Rick comes home, maybe from the war? He’s got presents from around the world for his fiancee, who is a bit bitchy, his mom, and his dad — who has lost his legs! Turns out his dad is a trucker who was taken by this San Francisco produce trader who never paid him and may have taken his legs in a faked accident.
Kid wants revenge, makes dad tell him where the truck is, who has it. Some crusty geezer has it, also has a line in on a crop of apples, golden delicious, first of the season, big money. Two other crafty buffoons want in, they have a newer truck, geezer thinks they will roll him. Everyone is sleazy, except our Rick, he’s honest. I liked him for that, I could root for him. But it was also unnerving, he kept making the wrong decision, kept assuming other people were operating from a moral place. Ha!
It was a world of petty thieves and murderers, everyone scamming everyone on every rung of the market, every plug in the system: orchard, trucker, buyer. Everyone’s getting taken, just by how much and by who. Life is cheap for them, easy come, easy go. The guy he is going to get revenge on – it is a little weird here. Rick has a great crop, why not just make really good money and get even some other way? But he decides he wants to deal with shady, and his tires get slashed, a hooker is hired to hoodwink him, they try to steal his crop. The geezer partner, in a very dramatic scene, is burnt alive when his truck flies off the highway. Awful stuff, best shot is the apples coming down the hill.
The film has an awkward ending. He busts up the evil guy and then the police come in and say, “If things are wrong, call the police, don’t take matters into your own hands.” Then Rick goes and finds the prostitute and they drive off together in his truck to get married! Thankfully I watched the DVD extras with an interview with Dassin, as this hokum proved to be the idea of Daryl Zanuck, the studio head. What are you going to do? They even shot it while Dassin was out of town. But “There’s good work in it,” Dassin says, and he is right.
My favorite line was the hooker that is hired to get Rick off the streets so the villainous produce dealer can steal his load of golden delicious apples while he is passed out after driving 40 hours straight. He tells the hooker she has a face like cut glass.
“How do you feel inside when you look like glass?”
I really like all I’ve seen of Dassin. He was blacklisted so this was his last Hollywood film before moving to France where he made the London-set underworld masterpiece Night and the City, starring the also recently deceased Richard Widmark, and Rififi, which has a classic, nearly silent jewel heist scene. Other greats are Brute Force, a prison drama with hot Burt Lancaster and The Naked City, famous for the location shooting in New York with a climax on the Williamsburg bridge, back when it had a pedestrian walkway along the top. All are available in Criterion editions.
Happy Birthday to Tennessee Williams, who would have been 97 today. Over the past year I’ve developed a new acquaintance and appreciation for T.W.’s work, which started when I picked up a first edition copy of his Memoirs in an Athens, Georgia thrift store last year. The book is rambling, gossipy fun, although he doesn’t speak much about the process of his work, wanting the plays (fiction, poetry, and screenplay) to speak for themselves.
He wrote it during a difficult patch in his career; he was being pummeled by the critics for his later output, not unlike Edward Albee, who managed to survive a period of critical denigration to find great success in recent years. Albee maintains that he has never done anything any different, he just keeps writing plays that interest him and sometimes they catch fire with the critics and other times they most certainly do not, but that is not who he writes for. Bless him. Tennessee seemed tortured by the turn in his critical standing.
Last summer we borrowed a Tennessee Williams DVD box set and watched all the juicy classics. I had never seen Cat on a Hot Tin Roof all the way through due to a prejudice I developed in high school when I learned that the “Sodomy!” line had been cut, an adolescent boycott held far past reason. I even went through a period of exploring the films of Elizabeth Taylor in the 1990s and still didn’t bother watching it! My loss. Sweet Bird of Youth was a pulpy surprise and kicked off a Geraldine Page festival, and Night of the Iguana was twisted fun, although not as lurid as Baby Doll! Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, not to my taste. I had only seen A Streetcar Named Desire in high school, and had no appreciation then for the great filmmaking or the strength of the drama. As a suburban 17-year-old, I did not truly understand real estate, financial ruin or being fallen in the eyes of society. I didn’t even appreciate how explosive Marlon Brando is in that film: virile and volcanic. Some legends are deserved.
I love how adult Tennessee’s plays are, the dark and steamy parts are exciting, but what propels them are the machinations that drive the characters: jealousy, greed, fear, loss, lust, ambition, desperation. These are not pretty human emotions or conditions, and he attacks them head on. It is amazing to start listing the classics – how many playwrights write that many major works? And how lucky that many of the films were made with actors who had explored and mastered the parts on stage first, or were just phenomenal beings born to be celluloid creatures.