A friend of mine wrote a blog piece on Ingmar Bergman’s 1973 TV series “Scenes from a Marriage”. In it he writes:
It strikes me that this chapter title cuts to the very heart of the conundrum of negotiating human relationships and that it would have been a great title for the film (or maybe a great new book title for Pema Chodron). Throughout the seesaw emotional battle the husband and wife undergo in this nearly 6-hour journey, we see this issue of “sweeping things under the rug” rear it’s ugly head over and over again. The entire series, in one sense, can be seen as a slow revealing and confrontation of what is under that rug. The range of tonal notes that are played out in scene after scene establish such a believable spectrum of emotive “reality” that it feels as if we are getting the privilege of eavesdropping on an actual couple’s most intimately wonderful and ghastly moments.
Quite often when a movie comes along that’s difficult to follow it may be considered good, bad, or self-indulgent. Most times it’s a combination of these. The Tree of Life is a film that’s good but way too self-indulgent to be a great. Beyond The Black Rainbow is just bad. Upstream Color is a masterpiece that isn’t self-indulgent nor hard to follow. It’s just as simple as following Inception but it doesn’t use dialog to instruct you. Director Shane Carruth uses simple visual cues to poetically guide you through.
This is only Carruth’s second film and he already has a catalog that directors dream of. I went to see his first film, Primer, on opening night solely off the premise and was blown away. I saw Upstream Color at MoMa’s New Directors/New Films festival last week. Upstream Color drew every emotion and provoked every thought out of me that I didn’t know I needed. I try not to focus too much on the director of a film when talking about a film but when you write, direct, score, edit, shoot, AND star in a film, it’s hard not to. So when I hear comparison’s to Lynch and Cameron, I cringe. They never have and could never do what Shane has done with his two films. I’m not sure why this film has been labeled a puzzle or too confusing or too abstract. The respect he gives the audience to tell this narrative poetically is a respect I haven’t received in a long time.
Off the screen, Carruth is further into the future than any filmmaker. With Upstream Color he proved that big Hollywood money or big tech isn’t needed to make a masterpiece and release it to your audience. As a filmmaker myself and camera junkie, to see that Upstream Color was shot on the Panasonic GH2 is truly inspiring. The GH2 is known in the filmmaking community as the hacker’s budget camera that can use custom firmware. With awesome glass Carruth creates great visuals. Carruth also being the director of photographer on this is a true note to his genius. So much of the film’s emotional provocation is from the cinematography and editing. The visual parallels along with the narrative parallels were just the right combination to tell the story without giving the audience too much or too little. This is true respect for your audience. Go see it Friday.
I recently bought a laptop to edit video away from my home workstation. During my research I came across the HP Elitebook. With an SSD drive and a NVIDIA Quadro video card, it’s the way to go. It’s cheaper than a MacBook Pro and is comparable spec-wise. There are bulkier more robust laptops out there comparable to my home station that will run you upwards of $5,000 but for under $3,000 the HP is it. Check it out.
It’s so easy to bash MTV’s new show Washington Heights. How can you not when 100% of MTV programming is garbage? I live in The Heights. I’ve been hearing adjectives such as “exploitative” and “inaccurate” by people who live here. This is funny because besides a recent screening at the Paramount Room the majority of folks have not seen the show.
MTV’s Washington Heights is not the Jersey Shore or The Real World. If you were to compare it to something on MTV it would be more like “Laguna Beach” or “The Hills” in that the cast already knows each other before shooting and that there is a hint of care given to cinematography. MTV’s Washington Heights is beautifully shot and doesn’t often cut to the behind-the-scenes interviews that viewers are used to.
As a director of photography I’ve spent a lot of time scouting The Heights and am pleased to see the neighborhood photographed with care by the show’s DPs Glen Mordeci, Pedro Feria Pino, and Nelson Noel Salcedo. You may remember Pedro and Nelson from a few music videos for Audubon who appears on the show. I’ve only seen Audubon in person once at Apt. 78 and if he’s not who you’d want to represent Washington Heights I don’t know who is. Some other cast members were there that night but I don’t remember them.
The content of the show may not be entertaining for me as I’m older than the entire cast but to see my hood being broadcast to the world, I feel an interest to see how it is represented. Washington Heights is the main character of this show. It’s easy to bash the show. It’s easy to be negative. Don’t be so quick. The first two episodes air to the public tonight at 10PM on MTV.
In 2004 I went to see Primer on it’s opening day. I used to go to the movies back then and enjoyed opening nights. Primer blew me away. What didn’t blow me away was the cinematography by the writer/director. However, judging by the teaser, he stepped it up on this next film 8 years later. Can’t wait to catch this…on blu-ray.
I’m not a Christopher Nolan fan but his movie ethic is great. I didn’t like any of the Batman‘s but I do like what he’s saying here about shooting The Dark Knight Rises on film.
I recently saw a 70mm print of The Master and I realized that, other than my own films, it’s the first photochemically finished film I’ve seen in many years, and it looks the way a movie should look. To me, it’s just a superior form. In The Dark Knight Rises, we have about 430 effects shots out of 3,000, so the idea that the tail wags the dog and then you finish the film in the digital realm is illogical. We make the 430 shots fit in with the remaining 2,500 that we timed photochemically. For that reason, I’ve never done a film with more than 500 effects shots. These films have about a third or a quarter the number of CG shots of any other film on that scale. That allows me to keep working photochemically and to make the digital effects guys print out their negatives so we actually cut the effect with its background plate on film, and we can see whether it matches.
For me, it’s simply the best way to make a film, and why more people haven’t done it I could not tell you. The novelty of digital is part of it. For some filmmakers, there’s a fear of being left behind, which to me is irrational because as a director you’re not responsible for loading a camera. You can hire whoever you need to and shoot how you want to shoot, but I think, very simply, industrial economics favor change, and there’s more money in change, whether or not it’s better. But I talk to a lot of young filmmakers who want to shoot on film and see the value in it. I’ve gone out of my way to screen film prints of The Dark Knight Rises for other filmmakers, because no one prints dailies anymore—they’re not seeing the potential of film—whereas I’ve been seeing it every day I’ve been working for the past 10 years.
Read the full Nolan interview here. And if you ever wondered why Nolan’s films looked so good it’s thanks to the great DP Wally Pfister. He shot them all.
Some movies I saw in October, in order of good to bad, with Your Sister’s Sister being the best. About Cherry on down isn’t worth seeing. It seems I enjoy Emily Blunt and faux-found-footage movies. I also watched the Dark Knight Rises (5/10) blu-ray and the restored Lawrence of Arabia (9/10) blu-ray.