Archive for Eugene Ford

Cronenberg and Cosmopolis

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 9, 2010 by babydylan

Post-Modern author Don DeLillo has written three novels since his magnum optus Underworld was released to critical acclaim in 1997, The Body Artist (2001) Cosmopolis (2003) and Falling Man (2007).

Although applauded by critics, director David Cronenberg’s last two features, A History of Violence (2005) and Eastern Promises (2007) have been a departure from his previous work. Neither were Science Fiction or Horror films, neither were written by Cronenberg and, depending on who you talk too, they are his most accessible and straight forward pictures.

Since Cosmopolis’s release, and since audiences and critics alike noticed the shift in his work, rumours began circulating that Cronenberg’s next feature would be an adaptation of DeLillo’s book, a project that has been in and out of development since early last year and since the release of A History of Violence and Eastern Promises.

Considering his later films, it is understandable what may have drawn Cronenberg to this materiel. His films have evolved from focusing on the disintegration of the human body through sex, disease and violence, through to a focus on the break down and reconstruction of the individual and their minds (his frank depiction of sex is comparable to the style of filmmaker Catherine Brellait). His protagonists have a conflicted, mysterious, unreadable quality and despite feeling like we know them, Tom Stall in A History Of Violence and Nikolai in Eastern Promises remain as mysterious as the actions of his characters in his previous films. Eric Packer, the protagonist of Cosmopolis, is similar to Stall and Nikolai, and will be as equally charismatic and mysterious if portrayed properly on screen.

Throughout the course of one day, Packer, a lonely, shy, conflicted 28 year old multi-billionaire asset manager drives around the streets of Manhattan in his limousine on a quest to get a haircut. The city is at a standstill, his limo interrupted at several points by the funeral of a slain rapper, a presidential visit and a protest. He speaks to his friends, his assistant, and his wife, who he keeps on accidentally seeing at different points on his journey. Outside two unseen enemies plot to attack him. When Packer’s fortune is stolen he makes sure that it has all been taken, so as his burden of wealth and his responsibility can be alleviated. He arrives home happier than he has ever been, only to have the second enemy waiting there to kill him.

Instead of feeling excited about the adaptation because I love Cosmopolis (like other adaptations I have written on) I am more curious to see it complete the loose trilogy that began with A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. The subject matter of all three will be similar, each focusing on a strong male protagonist who seems well rounded and easily understood but inside is vulnerable, conflicted and mysterious. The moments of change, the sequences when audience realises the protagonists aren’t so complete, have always been finely captured with Cronenberg’s direction. Seeing the style grow and the moments become more realised, will be something to look forward too.

Hi! How Are You? Daniel Johnston in Edinburgh

Posted in Reviews with tags , on February 28, 2010 by babydylan

In the weeks leading up to seeing Daniel Johnston perform at Queens Hall, I’d been kidding myself into believing that the show might be one of those ‘too good to be true fantasy gigs’ where your hoping/wishing/praying that it’s just going to be you and the artist and no one in between. The man who sold me the ticket muttered that only a very very small handful of people were excited about seeing “this guy” perform and that I was obviously one of them. It was at least two months before the show, and the second day I had been in Edinburgh and word of his forthcoming performance had obviously not caught on, judging by the giant stack of tickets behind the counter.

However something obviously changed, when we showed up we were confronted with a queue longer than any I had seen for a show – it stretched from the entrance of Queens Hall far down the street – full of hipsters wearing plaid, skinny jeans and the token ‘Hi How Are You? T’shirts and asking each other questions such as “Do I look like a Daniel Johnston fan” and “How long have you been a fan? I loved him before ’The Devil and Daniel Johnston’ came out”. Surely tonight wouldn’t become a competition of who has the most indy cred, the hipsters version of a pissing contest.

Thankfully the bravado died down once everyone was inside and seated, it was a sit down gig, and as the support act The Wave Pictures came out everyone settled down in a nervous anticipation. My game of ‘Spot the person not wearing the black framed glasses’ ceased, at least momentarily.

Lead vocalist David Tattersall sounded as though he’d swallowed Jeff Buckley and Lou Reed for breakfast, his pure smooth vocals delivered lines that bounced around the walls of the auditorium to finally hit you in the stomach (without of course causing any pain). Instead of the impatience that one can feel during a support act, most were left wanting more and if not that, at least The Wave Pictures cd.

In contrast, 2nd support act Laura Marling spent too long giggling and laughing about how ‘hopeless’ and ‘silly’ she was on stage, and of how she needed to ‘brush up on her stage banter’. Once past that however, she delivered strong ballads that although haunting, did little to win over those who hadn’t heard of her before that night (going by the response of myself and some guys I overheard in the toilets).

Daniel Johnston’s entrance onto the stage was a contrast to the hyper, overstated way he’s approached his music and art, as chronicled in The Devil and Daniel Johnston (the doco mentioned before that was probably a large contributor to the amount of people there). His strolled on with his guitar, some sheets of music and a bottle of water. A giant, greying grizzly bear of a man who reminds you of your adorable uncle who still lives in your grandparents basement. It took all my willpower to not run up and hug him. He waited for the applause to die down (it takes awhile), he arranged his music, he picked up his guitar and sang.

Later that night, me and a friend would tentatively describe the show as being one of the best worst live gigs we’ve ever been too. His guitar playing was harsh and violent, chords were frequently miss played and his voice cracked on more than one occasion, but that’s just being critical. However the mood was amazing, respect just seemed to radiate from the crowd, and as our applause grew after each song so to did the power of his voice. I had the feeling of, ‘oh mercy I must treasure every moment of this’ because I wasn’t sure If I would ever see him live again. Its as though everything came together, imperfections included, to create something awesome.

And this was just when he was by himself, after five or six songs he was joined by a guitarist, and then after another handful of tracks by The Wave Pictures, who stayed with him for the remainder of the set. It was with their support that Johnston belted out his infamous Beatles covers, tracks that worked surprisingly well in winning over the audience and doing justice to the original songs. Come Together was as highlight, as the chorus picked up his voice became smoother, proving that the trademark ‘tremor’ of his voice could become stronger once Johnston was joined by a good light show, great sound and an appreciative audience.

A few days after the show I learnt from a friend that Johnston was headlining at Melbourne’s laneway festival in late January. Ironic I thought, considering that I’d grabbed the ticket to the Edinburgh show because I was convinced I’d never have the opportunity to see him live again, and that after the show I left in a feverish excitement, convinced that no show could match the ’once in a lifetime’ quality of this one. At the time I thought it was implausible that he would travel across the pond and come to Aus. Obviously I was wrong. And If I chose to read too much into it (which I will do, because I am Eugene) and if hypothetically the exchange and everything else hadn’t happened and I was still back home, I would have been able to see him perform anyway. Too an obsessed little fan boy, this is a comforting thought,

Postscript: It took me ages to write this, so much so that since starting it Johnston has played his shows in Melbourne. What was everyone else’s take on it? those who went.

The Academy and Taxi to the Dark Side

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 8, 2010 by babydylan

 

In 2003 Michael Moore won a Best Documentary Academy Award for Bowling for Columbine, a year and a half after September 11 and the invasion of Afghanistan and no less than a month before George Bush’s first proposed assault on Iraq. The public at that time were being kept in the dark, trusting their president and being lead to believe in the shaky link between the September 11 attacks and the upcoming invasion of Iraq.

Michael Moore wasn’t being kept in the dark, after a standing ovation and accepting his award, he preceded to rant about being living in “fictitious times, where a fictitious president can win a fictitious election” and that they were all “against this war“ and that George Bush should be ashamed. The initial cheers rapidly turned to boos as most of the crowd tried to drown him out, and as the music came on he left the stage saying “if the Pope and the Dixie Chicks are against you then your time is up Mr Bush”.

In 2008 Alex Gibney won the Best Documentary Academy Award for Taxi to the Dark Side, a film about a taxi driver from Afghanistan who was arrested on suspicion of being involved in terrorism, sent to Bagram Prison, and tortured until he died, five days later. The crux of the picture is about prisoner abuse at Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo, and the policies behind the treatment of prisoners. To the solders involved, there were no clear laws as to what they were and were not allowed to do, their instructions involved ‘getting results’ and to the officials in charge the Geneva Convention was ignored, with the abuse apparently justifiable if it results in information, but only if the information is of equal value to the brutality of the abuse being delivered, but only if the tactics are approved by an official, an official who has to first see the information delivered, information which can only come after endless torture…. Etc Etc and so on and so forth. Basically, the officials speak in circles, blame is deflected from one to the other, with no one taking responsibility until it becomes clear (from the interviews gathered) that the torture may in fact be encouraged by those in charge. The film ends with Bush finally signing a declaration that states that the U.S. Military have to abide by a section of the Geneva Convention which guarantees safe treatment of prisoners, yet hidden in that same declaration is a safe passage for Bush and other politicians. All of them are immune from being tried for war crimes.

What happened in the five years between when Michael Moore was boo’d off stage for criticising Bush, to when Taxi to the Dark Side actually won the Oscar for best documentary? How is it that a film can win approval by the Academy when it is so scathing, so critical, so honest, so judgemental, so shocking and so hateful of Bush, when five years before no one on the same stage could be speak badly of the man?

Obviously in that five years his approval rating has plummeted, but its remarkable how much has been released that concerns Bush and the conflict. Feature Films such as Redacted, W, In the Valley of Elah, Rendition, Stop-Loss, and The Hurt Locker. Documentary’s such as The Road to Guantanamo, The President vs David Hicks, The Soundtrack to War and Fahrenheit 9/11 (which coincidently is Americas highest grossing Documentary). Television shows such as Generation Kill (based upon a book by the same name) and a comic book called The Pride of Baghdad.

Its going to be interesting to learn about previous war based films, and what is similar or different about this conflict and the way it has transposed into cinema. The profoundly negative opinion on this war will be a new and interesting factor.

Paul Thomas Anderson: New Film to be ‘The Master’.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 3, 2010 by babydylan

Paul Thomas Anderson is a rare director with the ability of continually improving on his work whilst making films that are individually amazing and flawless. Hard Eight his 1996 feature, was an intense character study concerning the supposedly benevolent character Sydney (Phillip Baker Hall) a professional gambler who is unwillingly drawn into the personal lives of both John and Jimmy (John C. Reilly and Samuel L. Jackson respectively) two other professional gamblers. It’s miniscule budget and studio interference lead to a film different that what PTA originally hoped for and so to appreciate it or at least understand its significance next to the amazing Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love and There Will be Blood – you have to look deeper to view the picture Hard Eight was intended to be.

Subsequently PTA demanded total control over his remaining films, as he is acknowledging of Hard Eight’s flaws and considers it to be different than his other work (to be honest, it is tedious and less entertaining). This includes a final cut of his pictures as well as input into its marketing and promotion (both the trailers and posters for Magnolia were cut and designed by PTA). If total control had not been possible, as his films are studio pictures and not complete independents, then he continually specifies to the thought police in control just how different the film will be from a normal classic Hollywood picture. Whilst making Boogie Nights, PTA continually retold his producers that the pictures glorious opening shot was going to be the one long take, without any cuts (in case they didn’t understand).

However, as respect for him grew PTA was largely left to his own devices – it was now trusted that his finished work will be quality – making films that satisfied his own creativity whilst being popular with the mainstream audience (to an extent). Punch-Drunk Love was an offbeat love story cut in with trippy, surrealist moving paintings by ‘outsider’ artist Jeremy Blake, and with a strong, believable performance by Adam Sandler (proving before Reign Over Me that he was a great actor).

There Will Be Blood was a departure. A period drama focused on the one character Daniel Plainview, with a grinding score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and understated direction that made film less self-referential than previous work (at times you forget your watching a film), his trademark long takes are there, but are less noticeable. Some of PTA’s regular collaborators were also not used: composer Michael Penn, and actors Phillip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy and Phillip Baker Hall. Finally, the picture was his most widely praised, with proper acknowledgement by the Academy. The film was nominated for best picture and PTA for best director, whilst Daniel Day Lewis won best actor for his intense, amazing and strangely heartbreaking performance as Daniel Plainview.

Considering PTA’s reputation for continually improving on his work, questions soon arose as to the nature of his next film. How could he possibly top what is considered by many to be a perfect film, and one of the best not only of 2007, but of the last decade?

In December of last year Newsinfilm published rumours of Anderson’s next film, a thinly disguised biopic on the founder of Scientology – Dianetics – L. Ron Hubbard. Tentatively called ‘The Master’, the film, said to be set in 1952, is about a charismatic master of ceremonies who decides to start his own religion, with the pictures focus being on the relationship between the master and one of his original followers, who begins to doubt the religion as its popularity grows.

The key word there is Doubt, for in 2008, Phillip Seymour Hoffman won praise for his performance as the priest Brendan Flynn in highly acclaimed film of the same title. Possibly due to his performance, or maybe because he’s a regular PTA collaborator (of course with the exception of There Will Be Blood), Seymour Hoffman is rumoured to be cast as the Hubbard-Esq master of ceremonies.

Those involved in the film have quickly denied any similarities between the picture and Scientology, defending it as an attack on all organised religion, as opposed to just the one.

However the film is coincidently set in the same decade as when Dianetics (Scientology’s original book) was first published, and Seymour Hoffman does resemble L. Ron Hubbard. Also, Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan, two artists from New York who were both friends with PTA, committed suicide during the making of There Will Be Blood. According to friends and family, both artists were under attack from Scientologists since deciding to leave the church, leading to constant bombardment from other believers and in some cases, attempts to ruin both Blake’s and Duncan’s credibility (it is not proven that their suicides was a direct consequence of the Scientology believers, but it is commonly accepted).

Coincidently, I was taking notes on an article I was wanting to write about Blake and Duncan when I saw the news bulletin about PTA’s next film. Like Boogie Nights, The Master maybe a broad satire whilst still being an indirect biopic on the one person (like with the Dirk Diggler/John Holmes character). Either way, it’ll be interesting see its reaction against the success of There Will Be Blood.

The Road, has new direction….

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on November 2, 2009 by babydylan

If the second recently released trailer for The Road has told Babydylan one thing, its that the film is looking to be thee most important picture of 2009, if not for the past ten years. In contrast to the first, the second trailer convinces me that the picture has retained the original message so eloquently written about in the book (although I’d thought that for awhile, not only because ‘DissolvedPet’ pipped up and told me that The Road is suspected to be “pretty fucking brutal”). Hopefully this film will walk the same line as previous documentaries, ala The Inconvenient Truth, and give those in denial about Global Warming a firm kick up the bum. In fact I can imagine the irony of the film being more succesful than docos at conveying the message (it being a ‘work of fiction’ and all). Anyway, heres the trailer….tell us what you think!

Terrence Malick is not the Messiah! He’s just an amazing filmmaker!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 30, 2009 by babydylan

World War Two film The Thin Red Line exploded onto the scene with a resounding bang, standing out as a stark contrast to another 1998 war drama, Saving Private Ryan. As opposed to it being a confronting portrayal of the horrors of war, with extra schmaltz thrown in (as Ryan was), The Thin Red Line was deeply philosophical, its focus being the devastation of nature. The picture seemed to come from nowhere, details of its production were kept tight lipped. The most anyone could say prior to its release was that it was based upon a James Jones novel, it had an amazing ensemble cast and was the third feature in almost twenty years for filmmaker Terrence Malick, whose previous films Badlands and Days of Heaven are considered masterpieces of New Hollywood.

Rumours began to circulate about Malick’s twenty year hiatus from filmmaking. Who was this guy? Where had he been? And what had he been doing in that time? One rumour suggested that he had been running a second hand book shop in small town America, another was that he became a farmer, or that he was a cobbler operating in Paris. The most likely rumour was that he was teaching English in an American University under the alias of Joey Joe Joe Shabadoo Jr. The New World (Malick’s fourth feature) followed in 2005, and it was considered by some to be a companion piece to The Thin Red Line. Both were period dramas, involved nature being plundered by outsiders, both had a running internal monologue comprised of the thoughts of the characters in the films, and were representative of a filmmaker who was completely in control of his craft.

If the twenty year hiatus wasn’t enough, the perfection of the two films caused us to ask more questions about the man who made them. Who was he, this strange man who had disappeared from Hollywood, but had emerged years later with an ultimate control over filmmaking? And if this wasn’t enough, rumours began to circulate about the secrecy surrounding his projects. Malick’s contracts stipulate that no current photos of him are aloud to be taken, and that he is to give no interviews. Even the documentaries about his films don’t feature any interviews with the man himself, or any footage of him directing, it’s just interviews with his cast and crew. Colin Farrel, who worked with Malick in The New World, has done nothing to quell these rumours of his elusive reputation, in fact in an interview given to a magazine, he seemed to encourage them. “I don’t even remember making The New World. I just remember showing to meet Terrence for an interview, and when I walked into his office there was this shining flash of light…..and I passed out. And I woke up 7 months later and there was this completed film that had me in its cast. Weird.” * When Malick agreed to give a rare public appearance for a Q and A at the Rome film festival, fans were excited thinking it might be the only opportunity to glimpse the man, even capture footage of him. Yet as the following clip demonstrates (taken by an audience member on his phone) this couldn’t happen. We can hear Malick’s voice, but we can’t actually see him. How frustrating is that!

All this weird stuff combined, coupled with the sheer perfection of his films, caused many to speculate whether Terrence Malick was God himself. That maybe God had wandered down from Heaven and began a career as a filmmaker. If you go on IMDb, and look at Malick’s message board, every second post begins with “So Malick, is he like……God?” No he’s not God, nor is he a culmination of other filmmakers who have all pooled their talents and worked under the same alias (as I also heard on the rumour mill). He’s just a normal dude who started off as a normal filmmaker, but quickly tired of the Hollywood system and turned his back on it, deciding instead to operate under his own steam. After looking long and hard, I found two current pictures of the man. The one on the right looks like it was taken without him expecting it, the one on the left was taken at a film festival, on someone’s phone.

terrence_malick__photos[1]

Also, the following clip is from Malick’s debut Badlands, in which he makes a cameo as a door to door salesman, which suggests that at one point he wasn‘t as preoccupied with secrecy as he is now.

Peter Biskund, in the book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, portrays Malick as a shy, introverted, normal guy, with weaknesses and eccentricities. “A burly young man, barrel-chested and bearded, Malick looked a little like Peter Boyle with hair**. He was shy and introverted, said very little. Malick came from Texas. His father was an executive with Phillips Petroleum, and he had two younger brothers, Chris and Larry. Larry went to Spain to study guitar with Segovia, a taskmaster of legendary proportions. In the summer of 1968, Terry learned that his brother had broken both his own hands, apparently distraught over his studies. Terry’s father asked him to go over to Spain to help Larry. Terry refused. The father went himself, and returned with Larry’s body. He had apparently committed suicide. Terry, as the eldest son, had inherited the birthright. He was the one who went to Harvard and became a Rhodes scholar, and now when his younger brother needed him most, he hadn’t been there. He always bore a heavy burden of guilt.” Further on, Biskund goes into detail about Malick’s unusual directing style on the Days of Heaven shoot ( including the “meticulous and indecisive” editing of the picture which took place over two years, and eventually made the plot “incomprehensible”, saved of course by the voice over), and the studio inteference Malick experienced during production on both Badlands and Days of Heaven.

Malick’s hiatus from filmmaking is more easily understood when we read the stories surrounding the making of his films, the production delays, the studio’s barging in on the editing, the budget cuts, the uncooperative crew. He disappeared from Hollywood for twenty years, fed up with all the red tape and the bullshit, but like all good directors found himself drawn back to it because of the stories still waiting to be told.

*I made this up, in case you couldn’t tell.

*The dad from Everyone Loves Raymond.

A short Trailer for ‘The Ghost’

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 24, 2009 by babydylan

As I said in my previous post, I will be keeping everyone updated on Polanki’s new film ‘The Ghost’ as it develops. In all his awesomeness, Polanski has released a very short (“very very fucking short”, Alex says) trailer that gets me (as well as the entire film viewing community) salivating with excitement. Ewan McGregor plays a ghost writer for Britain’s former Prime Minister, played by Pierce Brosnan. Nothing more needs to be said……….

As I said, its very short….but still guaranteed to be amazing. Kaching!