I am pleased to be able to share the poster for my upcoming show at Earsham Street Gallery, If your in the area between 8th March and 3rd April take a look at some great work in this show.
The penultimate Akira Kurosawa film of the Film Four season, which I have been enjoying, showing mainly his samurai films, here his adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth which is translated to the time of the Japanese warriors for Throne of Blood/Kumonosu-jô (1957). I have seen a few versions of the tragedy now, the only one that I really understand thanks to my education at high school. The language is lost on me, remembering only the plot that will stay forever with me.
This version is very different from anything I have seen before, casting once more Toshirô Mifune in the role of Macbeth/Taketoki Washizu a perfect piece of casting once more from the director. I am becoming more and more familiar with the landscape of Kurosawa’s films which see brave men put everything on the line for honour and respect. The transition from Scotland to Japan saw a lot of the plot being changed, holding onto the key points which make Macbeth, Macbeth, I only wish they kept the drunk guard. Still with a short running time and a lot to get trough it had to be reduced. Including one witch, removing the famous opening lines around the cauldron.
The classic play for me is still there and that is what makes Shakespeare an everlasting presence in the contemporary world. Demonstrating how flexible the material is to other cultures, especially for a director who responds to works from other countries so well. Taking it from off the stage onto the vast open landscape, whilst also making the theatrical incredibly cinematic on terms of interior shots. It’s great to see this come to live in another time and place. It still as dark and harrowing as it would be in Scotland with samurai overtones. I can’t wait for the last instalment of the season now.
- Throne of Blood (1957) (kurosawainreview.blogspot.co.uk)
- Throne of Blood (1957) #190 (criterionreflections.blogspot.co.uk)
- Kurosawa # Throne of Blood (Japan 1957) (itpworld.wordpress.com)
- What I Watched Last Night: Throne of Blood (1957) (moviequibble.wordpress.com)
- Throne of Blood (1957) (arneylon.wordpress.com)
- Through the cobwebs to the Castle: Throne of Blood (1957) (saffronatstudy.wordpress.com)
I’ve returned to the light project for a while, feeling that it was getting neglected. Having sourced more focused footage in saloons I got to work selecting clips for the montage. I hopefully have enough to keep me going from the swing doors and back out again, as the action travels around the space. As the work is be made for a specific space (more details coming soon), the violence has been toned down for now. That really shouldn’t hinder the work itself. I then got to work tweaking the lighting for the clips that needed it. Next time I will start to change the ratio of the clips to wide-screen so they are more uniform in appearance and cinematic for projection and presentation purposes. I will also be arranging the clips into an order that makes sense, this will take time for a flow to work. My last attempt was a gunfight which failed due to a lack of material. Here I have plenty to work with so that wont happen.
I’ll be taking a short break from this work and Have You Seen to focus on Dimming the Lights for a few days. I still was able to get the second coat of the saloon completed, it’s all down to finishing touches now really, adding the signage and painting the wood-work that would then complete this model. It’s really coming together now with the second coat. I was surprised at how the paint has taken to the underside of the balcony which had a shiny surface from packaging, I decided to use the card as it is of good quality. I didn’t want to sand down the surface from smooth to rough. Instead I went ahead and primed it, not once but twice, leaving a cracked white surface, still able to see the design clearly. When I added the colour the work was paying off. It just shows what you can do if you put your mind to it.
The last update for a few days as I return to Dimming the Lights for a time. I finally worked on the last sequence which took a few tests to work out how to achieve the action. Starting off working out the wire element which wrapped around the figures, so that I could move them for each frame of action.
The first attempt was not very successful due to the length, that was before I wrapped the wire around a wooden block acting as a weight to hold the figure down.
Just doubling the length of the wire really improved matters for me, able to wrap some of the wire around the block gave me freedom to move the figures in the model environment.The next stage was to see if the wire could be photo-shopped out, erasing the wire completely, leaving just the figure in each position. So I took a photograph from which I then edited, it worked, but not effectively. Having wrapped the wire around the figure created a distorted image in the edit. A new approach was needed.
I realised that I had to be more subtle with the wire, where I placed it, remembering that the base the figures are fixed to is essentially cardboard, which I went on to pierce, this really improved the look of the image I took on camera and in the edit. I knew I would always have problems positioning the models for each motion, as the wire was thin and any adjustment would have an effect of the model and the wire.
I decided I could do this, setting out the models, this time the apartment block, diner and train station, complete with figures and car ready to move into view of the camera. It was going smoothly until It was time for the action shots, which I knew would be trouble to work with, hampered by the street-light that now blocked my view, I could hardly remove, continuity reasons, the positions of the CCTV cameras I had decided on also restricted where I could take photographs.
So after all of that I have decided to leave out the beating up of a buy, instead I have only the suggestion which maybe more powerful and believable. I am reminded of directors who with small budgets who couldn’t afford big special effects used instead suggestion. For my piece I have a man standing infront of the violence, making sure no one who passes by can see what is going on in the alley-way, that should be enough.
I never really knew what this film was about, even from the trailer and the write-up on the back of the DVD, something I guess we all wonder if we come into contact with patients on psychiatric wards. We wonder what is troubling them, to have caused them to be on these wards, wondering if they are still there in some way or another. Whilst others just sit there in a catatonic state, something we wish never on others.
For Dr. Malcolm Sayer (Robin Williams ) new to a psychiatric who with little experience with patients finds it hard at first, coming from a research background he soon finds a problem to solve, with the arrival of one catatonic patient who sits still if not for her glasses and to catch a ball. It seems there is hope yet for these people trapped by their condition. With the help of nurse Eleanor Costello (Julie Kavner) he finds a connection between all the patients who all suffered from an encephalitis epidemic years ago. Even going over old research and new which leads to a new drug aimed at patients with Parkinsons disease, with that train of thought to see the catatonic patients at the other end of the spectrum. Dr Sayer wants to try out this new wonder drug, still in trial stages to see the effects and benefits on his own.
At first only able to trial the drug on one patient, the boy we met at the start of the film, a piece of great casting as a young Robert De Niro as then a healthy young boy Leonard Lowe who we see slowly slip into the catatonic state we now find him in. Throughout there is a sense of real hope as we see the journey that Lowe takes, first just another person lost to his condition. The change is dramatic once the dosage is right, what was once a docile and lost person reawakens to the world, now a man thirty years later, with so much change in the world around him, we share his experiences. Once again we are given a riveting and thoughtful performance by De Niro who could have done a caricature, which would be disrespectful. He rises up to be a functioning person, always held back by the drug which liberated him.
I always wondered if he’d had his medication to ensure the effects never wore off, not wanting him to fall back into this horrible state that traps him forever-more. The joy that he finds is shared with the other catatonic’s who also are awakened for a brief spell. The comedy in the film is dealt with sensitively and only happens when the patients are fully awake, yet I always wondered is this going to last forever, how would they cope in the outside world.
It’s a sensitive film that shows that there is hope for those who sit in the corner of the psychiatric ward, just left and sadly ignored, seen as outcast in a room of troubled people. The mood of the film is matched by the lightest of soundtracks by Randy Newman who lifts it up from the heavy subject matter. Along with the main performances, for Williams and Kavner who are both understated in the shadow of De Niro who looses himself in a role not many would touch.
I started off my day painting the first coat of the saloon, making up a completely different colour than I expected, which is a good thing. Surprising me with the outcome. I can see the windows in a different shade now as before. I have enough paint left over than I have covered it up for next time to get started with on my return. Before turning to the woodwork which should be a lighter colour this time to balance it out.
Even though this model is taking a back-seat at the moment, I am still making time for it, I enjoy working on a few things at once, long may that continue.
Only the car crash was animated today. For a while I had forgotten how it happened. Looking back at a photograph I took last year for reference. Having to physically run through what I wanted to happen. It came in at a decent length in terms of frames captured. However I think so editing will take place, with two car crashes in this scene, the second felt a bit too easy in terms of impact, when the blue car hits the yellow car (in the animation) it feels too easy, just tapping over with ease. So that maybe edited out.
So left to complete or to start looking at beating up scene, which will take up most of my day next time, bringing in Photoshop to remove the wires which will hold the figures in place for each frame. I hope I can pull it off, my skills with the software are limited to patching up really so this will be a challenge for me.
Then I can start to bring all the frames together and see what I have got in the editing process.
The last time I saw Frank Sinatra in action left me unimpressed in Von Ryan’s Express (1965). That was then, seeing him now in the political thriller The Manchurian Candidate (1962) my mind has changed on the acting ability of Sinatra. Of course Express was a war adventure which wasn’t as taxing on the old talents, even up against Trevor Howard.
This earlier film sees him in a completely different light as Major Bennett Marco who we saw previously on the battle fields of the Korean war, where him and his fellow men are captured and brainwashed by a communist group. The sequence we see is radical for it’s time, starting out as a WI meeting which slowly fades away to reveal the reality of the treatment, surrounded by generals who decide the future of these vulnerable men.
We see years later the effect of this “forgotten” time has on a few of the men who are back in the states, suffering from nightmares, Something is about to happen but what?
A brave film that takes on communism head on, seeing how the threat of communism has on America, going right into the very heart of the government. A first it’s unclear what is going to happen, with all the main characters fully fleshed out, it’s the waiting game to see who slips firsts. I thought it would be Sinatra’s character unable to function as he suffers more and more. Whilst Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) cannot get away from his controlling mother Mrs. Eleanor Shaw Iselin (Angela Lansbury) and senators wife of John Yerkes Iselin (James Gregory) no more than a bumbling puppet of hers to do as she pleases. Whilst it takes me sometime to trust Marco’s girlfriend Eugenie Rose Chaney (Janet Leigh) who provides me with doubt until people start to fall down dead.
We know who it is carrying out the shootings, but who is giving the orders. Centring around Shaw who has just moved to New York to make a life on his own away from his mother, who never leaves him for long. The race to find out what’s going on take a leap when a game of solitaire causes one of the men to take leave of his senses. Everything starts to fall into place now, it’s a race to stop it going any further, letting communism into the heart of the White House.
Released just over 50 years ago, it has lost it’s edge, but only slightly, thanks to some great acting, I am seeing Sinatra in a new light, along with Lansbury whose previous political role in State of the Union (1948). Every is on top form here as the Cold War was entering its 2nd decade. To consider the biggest threat eating into the heart of the enemy like a virus, looking at other communist nations that just usual Russian threat that can become formulaic at times makes for a strong thriller.
- “The Machurian Candidate” a Photo Study (richeyrich.wordpress.com)
- Another Look: THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962) film (fromdundeesdesk.blogspot.co.uk)
- The Manchurian Candidate: (1962/2004) versions compared (shacknoir.blogspot.co.uk)
- Manchurian Candidate 1962 vs 2004 (cindybruchman.wordpress.com)
- Review: The Manchurian Candidate (1962) (m00ch.wordpress.com)
After a slightly shorter break from the work I have returned and completed two more sequences, one being the longest yet, as I reworked a storyboard to have more action, moving back and forth to capture all the action as it unfolds.
The second of the day was more straight forward, adding more of a narrative to the “follow that car” sequence, considering what the figures would say and interacting more with each other. The more I put into these sequences, the more I think I’ll be re-working the first pieces. I could also have a balance of short and longer sequences. Its a week or so before I have to make any decisions. I usually just carry on, but seeing how films sometimes work, re-shooting a scene until it’s right. I may have to do the same.