All posts by Bryant

ROBERT ALTMAN on what’s on his mind these days

You can sit on the street corner and watch people die just walking past you. Some guy’s coming down the street with a cane and a shopping bag and you know this cocksucker’s not going to be alive in two years. Then you see little babies being pushed in their carts who have no idea what the quality of their lives is going to be. It’s very … I don’t even know what I’m talking about. But that’s the kind of thing that impresses me right now.

Excerpted from “The Craftsman” by Scott Foundas,

LA Weekly, June 7, 2006

Rob Zombie Gets Halloween Gig

Hold on to your wigs, keys, and inverted William Shatner masks, everyone — word has just come down that Bob Weinstein has hired Rob Zombie to defibrillate the Halloween franchise. No details on what Zombie plans to do, but the studio promises an “entirely new take” that will appeal “not only … to horror fans, but to a wider moviegoing audience as well.” Hope they plan to keep Zombie on a very short leash in that case, since his features to date have been specialty movies if ever such a thing existed. That’s not a dis, by the way. I’m very glad The Devil’s Rejects exists, and if someone has to make a new Halloween movie, it may as well be someone with a personality.

Clean

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I’m not sure when, exactly, Olivier Assayas became an eccentric – I

didn’t

catch any warning signs in Late August, Early

September; then again,

I was a bit discomfited by Irma Vep, which was as much an

essay on the filmmaking industry as it was (or was not, quite) a compelling

narrative. With 2002’s Demonlover, a weirdly moralistic screed

involving global corporate intrigue, sexually explicit anime and Internet

porn, he veered into reactionary territory, dramatizing the dehumanizing,

exploitative power of the Web in much the same way David Cronenberg

once made a scary monster out of cable television in Videodrome.

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The Adventures of Phoebe Zeitgeist

A friend was kind enough to lend me this hardcover, a 1968 first printing (on Grove Press) of The Adventures of Phoebe Zeit-geist, written by Michael O’Donoghue and drawn by Frank Springer. (Click the cover for a much larger [220 KB] image.) I have no idea how you’d find a copy of this thing (OK, it seems to go for around $70 on eBay) but I like it a lot — it’s a beautifully rendered parody of the damsel-in-distress comics genre with chapter titles like “Peril Diving,” “Abjection Overruled,” and “Impending Doom: The Early Years.” Phoebe loses her clothes in episode I, dies in Episode III (“Sorry, but that’s the way things turned out,” says the narrator, before going on to chronicle the continuing adventures of Phoebe’s corpse) and is revivified in Chapter VI by an eskimo priest (!) who means to sacrifice her. If you don’t mind squinting, you can read the whole thing as a Flickr set.

The color of Hard Candy

Being a big ol’ geek, I was immediately intrigued by the presence, right up there in the opening titles, of a screen credit for the “digital colorist” on Hard Candy, one Jean-Clement Soret. Fortunately, I get paid to be a big ol’ geek — so I got Soret on the phone and asked him to describe the digital-intermediate process. The resulting interview, which discusses a post-production workflow, is mainly of interest if you happen to be contemplating a DI on a project you’re working on. But I got Soret to talk a little about Danny Boyle’s upcoming science-fiction film, Sunshine, which already has an interesting Web site.

The flashy credit boils down to Soret having worked successfully with director David Slade on commercials and music videos and therefore willingly taking on Hard Candy‘s DI for a much smaller fee than the work would normally demand. It’s both a thank-you for that and an indicator of how important Slade thought the digital grading process was to the film’s impact. I expect to see more of this kind of recognition in the future, as the colorist becomes a higher-profile collaborator with the director and/or cinematographer on any given shoot — I’m not sure whether I’d really look forward to the era of the celebrity colorist, but I also don’t expect it to go quite that far. (I’m mixed, by the way, on the merits of Hard Candy itself — but more on that later in the week.)

The 3rd Dimension of Film Editing

I talked to Robert Hoffman, the editor of Art School Confidential, not too long ago about film editing and how technology and an increasing familiarity with tools that used to be the sole province of visual-effects guys is changing the practice of cutting films together. Hoffman told me about a technique he used on Art School that involved pulling entire visual elements out of one shot and placing them in another in order to create a perfect take that the director wasn’t able to get on set. As a specific example, he cites one scene where he pulled an actor out of one wide shot and placed him into another, creating a new context for his performance that suited the needs of the story — a seamless digital composite in service of narrative.

This didn’t shock me, exactly. Filmmakers have long been able to dive into a bag of tricks to put something on screen that would have been impossible or inconvenient to capture following the rules of “pure” cinema. (For some reason I was reminded of the “split diopter” lens that allows you to get a shot of two subjects in camera when it would be impossible to focus on both of them simultaneously with traditional optics. Brian De Palma sometimes uses it when real deep-focus cinematography is impractical.)

But it points to a kind of anything-goes future for filmmaking in which the possibility for post-production manipulation of your narrative is so great that it seems to matter less and less how much of it you can actually realize in camera and more and more how skilled a digital magician your editing or FX guru is. Hoffman mentioned that there’s a boundary beyond which this kind of manipulation of the image seems to lack propriety. When you take a performance out of its original context, are you being unfair to the actor by changing the meaning of what he’s doing up there on screen? But is this any different from what film editors have been doing for years with Eisensteinian montage, out-of-context reaction shots, and other techniques for creating new meaning by bumping two disparate elements together in the cutting room? I’m wondering what’s next.

The interview is here: http://www.studiodaily.com/filmandvideo/currentissue/6115.html

Battle in Heaven

Battle in HeavenBattle in Heaven opens with a deliberate, calculated provocation. It seems to be a very explicit fantasy sequence involving a young and rather beautiful woman performing an iconic sex act on an obviously less attractive older man. To be blunt, he’s fat, and blank-faced. The camera spins around the actors, coming to rest in the man’s place so we see this woman from his point of view — the audience is placed in the position of being on the receiving end of this sexual act, an act which seems to be not of love, exactly, but of kindness.

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