Archive for December, 2008

Where my thoughts come from?….I don’t know, they just appear!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on December 2, 2008 by babydylan

Here is a short history of what inspires Eugene. Alex’s inspirations are to follow soon…….hopefully. She does work an awful lot. (Eugene is cracking the whip!)

Fargo
I remember that I was home sick one day, and I started watching a video of Fargo that my sister had taped because she thought that the Peter Stormare character was Nicholas Cage (I suppose if you tilt your head, squint, and imagine Nicholas Cage with bleached hair, then they could look alike, but then you could realise they really don‘t). The music was what struck me at first, a simple violin score, which picks up into a thunderous drum beat. Then I was lost in the story. I loved there was black humour, infused in a story which was so unpredictable. And the ending…..I’ve seen the film so many times yet the ending still grabs me. Marge Gunderson’s stirring monologue about the power of money, and Jerry Lundegaarde’s desperate scream as he is arrested, the sound of which can resonate it your ears. My dad come home for lunch and watched the last fifteen minutes, laughing at scenes I hadn’t thought were particularly funny. When the picture had ended, he heaved a big sigh and said “I should have guessed that it was a Coen brother’s movie”. I said “who are they?” to which he said “the Coen brothers, they make the strangest, most off beat movies”. An obsession was born…….

 

Jim Jarmusch
I like Jim Jarmusch as a person just as much as I do his films, his deadpan, almost zen-like demeanour, his involvement with the New York underground scene of the late seventies, and the path he took to becoming a filmmaker are all something to admire. He had always been obsessed with films, but after having completed a degree in English and gone travelling he became interested in the process of actually making films, as apposed to the films themselves. There is a wealth of knowledge behind his entire body of work, not only is he obviously educated, but he is aware of so much, always wanting to really capture the mood of being an alienated outsider, always wanting to capture the unromanticised view of the old west. There are some directors who you know have gained inspiration from watching heaps and heaps of films, Jarmusch, like Paul Thomas Anderson, Todd Solondz, Roman Polanski, Robert Altman, etc. are inspired by something else.

Jim Jarmusch

Jim Jarmusch

The Shining
This is the type of film that you wish you had never seen so as you could watch it and have that same pleasure from seeing it for the first time. With the opening scene, and the shots of Danny riding his tricycle around The Overlook, Kubrick achieved the feeling of literally floating behind the object, achieving something which many had only dreamt about. Personally I’ve had dreams where I’ve been gliding towards something, and then I’ve skimmed over it had kept on flying. Kubrick’s shots are so fluid.

The first time I saw the two young girls briefly cut into a shot, I think I almost fell off my chair in fright. My sister had been standing behind me and she muttered something along the lines of, “Oh my God”. Further in, when Jack is ‘seduced’ by the lady in the bath, my other sister walked in the room to find me crying. She asked if I was okay, I replied that I wasn’t……

Next round is on Jack

Next round is on Jack

Boogie Nights and Magnolia
I’d heard about both the films long before I actually saw them. Boogie Nights because it was apparently one of the worst films my sister had seen and Magnolia because it was apparently one of the worst my cousin had seen. Boogie Nights hit me first off because of the glorious long take that starts the film. Around the same time I began to compare some long shots I had seen in other films, ones that involved actual acting and rehearsing, ie, Russian Ark, The Sixth Sense, Children of Men (sigh) and of course Magnolia, to ones where the camera is just following the actors, ie. Goodfellas, Elephant, Z. There was so much detail in Boogie Nights opening shot, and it is such a huge film, with so many characters, that Paul Thomas Anderson did well at introducing all the characters in the one shot.

The ‘Wise Up’ scene in Magnolia hit me like a sledge hammer when I first saw it. I’ve always felt that PTA dealt with real people. Sure their situations are different, be they are a porn star, a toilet supplies salesman, a TV mogul, but they are all so completely humane. Magnolia, PTA’s attempt at creating an Altmanesque picture (he went so far as to cast Henry Gibson, a Robert Altman collaborator, in one of the supporting roles) deal with a variety of characters, who are all similar because of a shared need to Wise Up, and a desire to be happy. The way PTA pans the camera across all the characters singing the same song reinforces this point.

Amber and Dirk

Amber and Dirk

Olivier Assayas
It’s inspiring to know that after years of writing on film, Olivier Assayas gained the inspiration needed to actually create films. Prior to directing, Assayas wrote for the Cahier de Cinema, whilst involving himself headlong into the underground music and film culture of Paris. A text he wrote on his interviews with Ingmar Bergman, Conversations with Ingmar Bergman, was widely acclaimed and shortly thereafter he made his debut film, Paris Awakens. Assayas has taken his obsession with music and included it in each of his films, as a way – he says – of paying homage to musicians he knew whilst growing up. Assayas’s film Clean, concerning a former successful rock star and his junkie wife, echoes John and Yoko’s and Kurt and Courtney’s relationships. Assayas and Jarmusch were always interested in the arts, but they just studied for awhile, and travelled, until they had the motivation needed to create films.

I love the thought of everything having its own path, and of someone eventually becoming a filmmaker whilst always being interested in the arts.

Olivier Assayas

Olivier Assayas

Heart Shaped Box
I hate most modern horror films because there is always some twist on the basic premise of the ghost and the haunted house. Heart Shaped Box, a debut novel by Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son) takes the old formula and makes it new. A man buys a suit off eBay that comes with a ghost. The ghost haunts his house, the man and his girlfriend leave, the ghost follows them, they work out what motivates the ghost, end of story. Hill has proved that the tired, basic premise of horror has no limitations, by tapping into what really scares the audience, and by developing and fleshing out his characters. Empire reported that Neil Jordan was working on the film, rumoured to be released circa 2009. Here’s to hoping.

Zach Braff and Richard Kelly
What I love most about both Garden State and Donnie Darko was how perfect the music was, and how precise the music and editing had been, especially in the opening scenes. The way Donnie rode his bike was so perfectly timed with Tears for Fears, and the way Zach Braff gazed into the mirror to the tune of Don’t Panic was just perfect. When your young and you think about making films you always want to instinctively include heaps of music and slow motion. Both these filmmakers were quite young, and its like they were living out a childish fantasy by having some parts of their films seem like an extended video clip, a fantasy they’ve still been able to include whilst making great, humane films. Sometimes I’m confused as to whether I want to create films, or just film lots of footage and put music over the top, every time I listen to any song I think about what footage could accompany it. The Coen Brothers, Stanley Kubrick, Darren Aronofsky, Martin Scorsese and David Lynch are all so in control of their music and editing.

Richard Kelly
Richard Kelly

 

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The films of Todd Solondz – Part One

Posted in close analysis with tags , , on December 2, 2008 by babydylan

New Hollywood, the period defined by cutting edge cinema filled with character driven storylines lasted from the late sixties to late seventies, just under a decade, was chronicled in Peter Biskund’s critically acclaimed Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, a text which delved exclusively into the films, and their filmmakers of that pivotal era. Down and Dirty Pictures, a text which Peter Biskund wrote soon after, dealt with the modern equivalent of New Hollywood, the last American New Wave, which was a period of low budget, controversial, bizarre, poignant, cutting edge films filled with memorable characters – films similar to the New Hollywood pictures – that were made from the late eighties to mid nineties. Filmmakers involved in this period would include John Sayles, with City Of Hope, Passion Fish and Lone Star, Kevin Smith with Clerks, Todd Haynes with Superstar and Poison, Jim Jarmusch with Down By Law, Night on Earth and Mystery Train, and Quentin Tarantino with Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. Of all these filmmakers, Solondz stood apart as being “the real deal”. Not only was he a genuine eccentric – he dislikes interviews and having his photo taken – but his 1996 feature Welcome to the Dollhouse was incredibly dark. It had no optimism or any sense of hope, it didn’t feature any characters who were likable, it didn’t end with any possibility of a happy ending, and the main character, the protagonist who carried the film, was inherently dislikeable. She brings many of the situations on herself. Despite all this, the film works more as a comedy than it does a drama, and like any comedy, the audience is subconsciously interested in the fate of protagonist. This is not because she has formed a connection with the audience, but rather because Solondz’s writing is filled with humanity and unpredictability. We cannot help but be interested in what is going to happen next.  This unpredictability would subsequently be a trademark of all Solondz’s work.

 

Recently a patron at work asked me to describe the Coen brothers’ latest film, Burn After Reading. I described it as being a black comedy, something which they hadn’t heard of. I told them that a black comedy was a film full of moments which you find funny, but which you quickly regret having laughed at. In saying that, black comedy is also used too easily to describe pictures that cannot be described, pictures that aren’t full of those ‘I shouldn’t find that as funny as I do’ moments. His films are indescribable because they fall between two categories, the Suburban Gothic – films that offer a supposedly ‘honest’ and ‘shocking’ portrayal of human lives, ie. American Beauty, Blue Velvet – and films which deliberately overplay the banality of Surburbia, ie. The Stepford Wives, The Truman Show, The Chumbscrubber, Donnie Darko, for comedic effect. As well as occupying the middle ground between two sub-genres, his films are hard to watch because they perfectly capture Solondz’s unique vision as a director, something which the audience cannot see in any other film. They are scathing, razor sharp indictments of the “everyman’s” attempts at normality. They are sad comedies, in which the audience is not laughing at the expense of the characters. They are their own genre.

 

I have see Welcome to the Dollhouse so many times that I cannot remember my initial reaction, however on first viewing, Peter Biskund remarked that the picture expressed an “uncompromising…personal version” with a protagonist who was “eminently un-likable”, whilst Geoff Andrew wrote it was an “honest, effective, and disturbing” look at the “anguish, cruelty, and loneliness of puberty”. All of Solondz’s films are pictures you have to watch more than once. For first time viewers, Welcome to the Dollhouse would seem to have failed as an “expose”, because the darkness of the subject matter is overdone. Yet on second viewing it becomes obvious that the darkness of the story is deliberately overt, because his films are mocking both the “unflinching” and “honest” films, and the teen comedies which include mundane teen problems, ie. dating, bullies etc. Solondz includes normal happy scenes so as the banality of Suburbia is understood, stressing the darkness of the characters and their world. This runs beneath the supposedly happy images, with Solondz mocking the characters fruitless attempts at normality.