Meeting P.T. Anderson Update (31/8/15)

The tests are over, I have rediscovered Paul Thomas Anderson and grown to appreciate his work and find new things out about the director through his work. It’s also been a fun journey, being able to play with his films to produce something new and even a possible new strand to my practice which before I have stayed away from.

The last tests are pretty straight forward really, having sourced more footage from his most recent film Inherent Vice (2014) than I could really use. I have done it before where I find a scene which I believe could be manipulated before realising that there is nothing I can add that would benefit the scene. The first of today’s final three was a where I always begin, the first meeting of the main characters, here we have Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) and Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston), removing the dialogue to leave real tension between the two. I think here on the rare occasion it works because more so as it’s no longer two males, its male and female making it more overtly sexual, there’s more vulnerability to it.

The second test is probably the funniest of the three as I play with the speed of delivery of dialogue. (I’m realising I have a thing about dialogue in film, I may consider taking this the whole way through a film one day). I have also played with repetition in places where I felt it could work, always cautious of how much is too much. It also adds to the Doc’s state of mind in the film.

The last one is a two-channel film, reworking the phone conversations between Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) and Lt. Det. Christian F. “Bigfoot” Bjornsen (Josh Brolin) which I felt had to be exploited, I think because there is more of them it works, you are constantly darting between each channel.

I’ll be leaving the final 6 tests on for a few weeks before I decide which ones should remain as pieces and discarding the rest. It’s been an opportunity to produce a lot of work fast which is something I don’t really have chance to do now I am working full time. I may work with other directors films in future to see what else I can produce.



To the Wonder (2012)

To the Wonder (2012)I’ve looked out for the most recent of Terrence Malicks films To the Wonder (2012) which I’ve been looking forward to. If only just to see where he’s going with his work. After Tree of Life (2011) which I admit took a second look before I could even start to understand an otherwise vague and sweeping film with wind and dinosaurs. Now seeing it for so much more. I’m thinking that won’t really be needed with this outing which I could take or leave at the end of the day.

So why do I feel this disappointed by a Malick the arty director who points his camera at anything but the actors, which usually pays off for him when you look back at his work. Instead there is more a focus on a couple who we find discovering each other, madly in love and you feel it too. With French dialogue, we are in the land of love, or is that too literal, is Malick losing his touch as he gets older. When there is dialogue it is still nearly un-audible as usual, you really have to pay attention if you want to understand what the film about. On the surface it’s about two people who want to be together, all before the complications of a relationship kick in. When the honeymoon period is over reality begins to set in, when Neil (Ben Affleck) brings back Marina (Olga Kurylenko) and her daughter. At first they like it, the open and vast country that in small-town America. The daughter Tatiana (Tatiana Chiline) can’t properly adjust, becoming homesick. It’s time to go home, conveniently when her green-card has expired. Leaving them both vulnerable.

Throw into the mix for what appears for no particular reason Father Quintana (Javier Bardem) who looks like he’s having a crisis of faith. Trying to reconnect, rediscover his faith, or I don’t know what really, mostly wondering around his church and those in-need. That’s not to say that Javier Bardem doesn’t play a bad part, he really fits the faith questioning man of the cloth. Unlike Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams the other girl in the, I really just don’t care about them. As much as we are supposed to invest time into them, they are just another on-screen couple. I care more about Olga Kurylenko who’s heart is really played with. She takes the leap to fall for a foreign guy, move in with him, eventually marry him only discover it’s not all they hope it would be.

However the revelation, the moment reality hitting home is not really there, unless you count her moment with the carpenter (Charles Baker). I don’t think he’s really the catalyst in the relationship. Maybe its the time away when the distance should have made them stronger worked the other way. At the end of the day it’s not too clear, maybe that’s the point, I’m just confused. That doesn’t take away the usual breath-taking shots of the open country, nature which saves this film from being un-watchable. Maybe a revisit is needed, at this stage it’s too early to say, I felt there was so much more this film could be as it we watch on as this relationship builds up before it collapses down.

Meeting P.T. Anderson Update (30/8/15)

I’ve been spending the weekend gathering footage from the last film directed by Paul Thomas Andersonwhich happens to be the most recent to – Inherent Vice (2014) which still I’m struggling to enjoy on the same level as his others. I laughed in all the right places, saw his visual motifs and style. Again I went into this film believing there wasn’t much there to work with in future tests. I have once more surprised myself at how much I want to work with, even if just for fun. I’m thinking tomorrow will be the first day that new videos will be released. There will be the usual techniques applied and new ones attempted.

On another note I had a crit-group today, rounding off the members show at my studio. When it came to my work I got a really positive response. My piece 53 cards which is literally just the 53 postcards from the video Do You Understand (2015) which if anything works better than the video which is an interesting thought. I was asked to recite the piece, starting at the beginning and working my way down the line, literally just saying the lines the cards represent, even backing up on myself to get it right at least one. It became a performance really which I have shied away from as I like to stay behind the camera. It also became a piece of fan work too really, like most of my work, responding to work already produced that has a fan-following. However it’s that agency to display the scene from a film in a new form and then re-present it to an audience does it become a work in itself. I began to think of other lines that over the years I have memorized in whole or in part. These two could be performances, there was nothing rehearsed really beyond knowing the lines, ad-libbing. I can only work with scenes I am familiar with or the whole performance would be false and un-natural. It needs to be a much deeper relationship to the film in order to have any real meaning. I could then do voices where I felt there were needed too. Of course all of this will come in time, a piece or collection of performances that will be looked at in further detail probably next year now. Also a chance to travel and perform… me perform who have thought it.

Robocop (1987)

robocop (1987)I probably started the wrong way around when it comes to Paul Verhoeven and his work, for most people he begins with Robocop (1987) a film that really is a key piece of modern cinema, that blends sci-fi and blockbuster, allowing two audiences can get a hell of a lot out of the otherwise ultra-violent film that can be seen to go to far. Violence I have learnt is really only effective when cranked up with some discussion behind it. You really do see what happens when a round of bullets comes your way. It’s over the top and caricatures that shows probably more than we see in reality, heightened to grab out attention, to see what violence really could do to an individual wreak havoc on society. Something that is sadly becoming more of a reality on the streets of America. Gun violence is sadly seen to be more prevalent.

You could say that Robocop is quite prophetic in its vision of a bleak violent future that holds the city of Detroit in fear. The police force are ready to strike at the lack of real defense against the criminals that run wild. With Clarence J. Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) a known cop-killer on the loose, the cities most wanted man adding another cop to his every week. Whilst up above in corporate 1980’s America a new weapon in the name of public safety is being unveiled to a select few, a clunky two legged gun totting robot is still needing some adjustments before being rolled out. Violence to fight violence, there is no middle ground, enough fire-power and no room for maneuvering when it comes to law enforcement. Another method is soon proposed that can bring together man and machine.

On the streets we meet newly transfer Alex J. Murphy (Peter Weller) wide eyed, eager and not afraid to fight crime. Once he’s met his new partner Officer Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen) who had recently lost her last partner to Boddicker. They meet once more when the hungry new transfer is in pursuit, ready to make arrest. Aware that he’s out-numbered, he’s facing the very man whose killed many of his profession before. There’s a sense of revenge in the air, mixed with wanting to be a hero. Which backfires incredibly badly for him, shot to pieces and left for a dead, another cop killed on duty.

We leave the standard third person point of view to become Murphy as he is brought into hospital where they fail to revive him, its curtains for the once eager cop. Before wake up in the future behind the lens of a camera, our perception’s altered as we become the centre of attention. Discussion of technology, entering another world of great change and the unknown what is to come. Of course we all know, this is the transformation, the meeting of man and machine and the law into one being, a being that has three directive purpose to serve the public, to protect the innocent and uphold the law. A walking machine that at first has people in awe at the spectacle that is bringing down the crime-rate in Detroit single-handedly. His presence alone puts fear in the criminal and hope into the victim.

Whilst up above in the corporation that created him a war is brewing between Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) and his technology rival Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer), things get dirty and quick as the plot thickens. Living in a world of luxury of indulgence mixed with copious amounts of power that looms ahead for either of them. It’s all hammy and dangerously fun when you look at his today, as they fight for the top job, it has to end badly for one of them with another twist that show just how corrupt this corporation can be.

Robocop is not only a walking talking prototype but also a pawn in a game that allows progress to move forward. Without considering the consequences of the coming together of so machine with man. Incredible to look at even today the costume has become iconic, the clunky design that packs quite a lot of fire-power too. We can easily forget that a man is inside all of that circuitry and armour that allows the law to be enforced without emotion of human memory. Which really is what Murphy is missing as the machine becomes more self-aware, his biology fights the technology to regain his independence his humanity which as we see uses as the real weapon as the film comes to it’s conclusion.

It becomes overblown, literally as the Robocop understands more about himself, his purposes and situation and future position in life and society. Boddicker is another pawn of the corporation that uses him to bring down, its becomes human against human when the machines ultimately fail, humanity is far stronger than any machine that we can produce. So how do we fight crime then?  that’s the real question of this film how do you enforce the law and lengths do you go to. This is why Robocop stands the test of time more so today than ever before.

Making Revisions Update (25/8/15)

I’m not actually starting physical work on this piece yet. Last night however allowed me to really think through the loose plot of this piece, whatever form it takes. I’m thinking an animation  at the moment or a series of photographs that depict a successful town raid that sees the townspeople not return after a Native American raid.

Of course this is playing with the cliché’s that built up the image we have on-screen today. Even using very politically incorrect play set figures to depict it. It has a few battle sequences, a lot of figures and at the moment Army figures and of course some models to build. It’s a western that begins in the 1880’s and ends after WW1 in this early draft. There’s even a scene in Washington. I’m considering how these defeats against the US would effect the country over time.

In reality at this time there was a lot of upheaval and Indian Wars being fought across the country, followed by force relocation to reservations which I do acknowledge over the pieces duration. I also want to look at low-fi special effects, even if I draw them on the frames if animated.  This piece could see me through the Winter and further if it goes down the animated route, can’t wait to be begin my very own revisionist Western


Breathing Fog – Two Queens Members Show (2015)

Breathing Fog - Version 2

Exhibiting alongside studio members and associates.

Bhav Bhella, Sam Boulton, Hannah Dickinson, Anoushka Goodwin, Daniel Goodwin, Hattie Grace Rea, Les Hayden, Alice Hicken, James Hisset, Daniel Sean Kelly, Madeline Kerslake, Tim Neath, Sam Read, Mita Solanky, Jack Squires, Diana Strandin, Tom Van Herrewege, Hamish Walker, Alex Wallis, Louise Wick, Ellis Wills-Wilson.

The show will run from 22nd – 30th August 2015. Open everyday 12-6pm with a preview on 22nd 6-9pm.

Meeting P.T. Anderson Update (22/7/15)

I’ve taken a break from actually producing new test videos, giving myself time to reflect at what I have achieved, now over 30 videos have been produced, about half of them remain and new ones have been produced today. Looking at Punch Drunk Love (2002) which I have only just realised today has touches of what is to come in Paul Thomas Anderson‘s next film There Will Be Blood (2007). Here however he is really screwing around with a genre that I usually make a point of avoiding, the romantic comedy. It maybe a guy thing that I can’t get into the mushy plots. Or they are just not my taste.

It’s also the only film that I will go out of my way and enjoy of Adam Sandler an actor who I avoid, his latest film Pixels (2015) I was put off by many things. Mostly he’s too immature for me to really enjoy. His latest film in production, a comedy Western which has made news due to Native American actors walking out of the set is another reason. However in Punch Drunk Love that image of the man-child is absent, instead we have a flawed man (Barry Egan) who is overpowered by his seven sisters, creating psychotic at times man who you can’t help but watch. As he falls for a girl Lena Leonard (Emily Watson) whilst also trying to stop a company make money out him, that is not afraid to fight back with.

So onto tests and only three of them that I could really produce with mixed results as the film is near perfect as Anderson’s films are. The first is making use of the brief phone calls that Barry gets at work which I have overlapped and re-cut whilst at he is at work. I think it work as the audio is seen to be playing on his mind as he starts to crumble under constant barrage of phone calls.

The second is a stand dialogue speeding up exercise which here becomes an interrogation as Barry and Lena drive home in what is an out of this world driving sequence as the exterior becomes an urban blur. I’m not too sure if it works, the discussion is too short and there is moments for gestures in between the dialogue which may let it down.

And thirdly what I think is successful is that moment of embrace in Hawaii, which I have re-cut by altering the speed of the scene, making it feel more dreamlike. I have left the soundtrack as it just adds to the piece.

Next time I will be moving on to his last film Inherent Vice (2014) which I have found to be much in the same vein as The Big Lebowski (1998) but struggling to really embrace it as I have the others. Maybe as I source found footage I will grow to love it as I did with Boogie Nights (1997).

The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)A classic western I have been meaning to see for quite sometime, part of Richard Slotkin’s lecture series on the genre which I first picked up during the last few months at art-school. It really started to broaden my mind as to what the genre was about, the history and starting to pull apart the myth. I’ve just about seen all the films on the list and this was one of the last ones still up there I couldn’t listen until I caught The Ox-Bow Incident (1943). You could say this was well overdue essential viewing for me.

Running at just over 70 minutes you can’t expect too much from the film. There’s not a lot of action on the screen. Beginning with a drunken Gil Carter (Henry Fonda) drowning his sorrows, all he has hoped for is gone, a drifter venting at the wrong time when there is more important things at hand. We see a town consumed by the news of a rancher who apparently has been killed by rustlers. Its angers the men of the ghost town that becomes more populated as the news spreads and a posse forms. All against the wishes of the oldest member of the town Arthur Davis (Harry Davenport) who is fighting a losing battle against the young men who after this emotive news allows the anger they feel grows. It has to be legal, to find the men who have left.

There’s an internal fight to do things right from the start, I couldn’t help but think ahead to 12 Angry Men (1957) as one man tries to convince the majority to change their minds. Reasonable doubts is something that doesn’t really exist in the west, or this film, its all black and white. Literally as it is here allowing you to hopefully see the greys in between what we see. The audience is left shouting at the screen as the men and single woman Jenny Grier (Jane Darwell) who is more man than woman, a mean match to any of the men who she rides with. Making Darwells part all the more engaging, more used to seeing a softer woman on-screen, the mother figure. All that is lost here as she is more masculine than some of the men.

Figures such as the Major Tetley (Frank Conroy) is a throwback to the confederacy, a man of principle and ashamed of his son, a coward unlike himself. Living on past glories to sustain himself. Influencing  Jack Palance‘s Captain Quincey Whitmore in Chato’s Land (1972) wearing his uniform once more with pride as he hunts for the infamous Chato (Charles Bronson). It’s all about having one more chance at glory, to have a victory after the surrender. Also we have the preacher portrayed as an old and feeble, a judge fat and loud who gives into the demands of the posse who will leave at any time.

Once they leave the town, around 30 riders leave the back-lot for the sound-stage where the real drama and suspicion unfolds as the close in on the men they believe to have killed the much-loved rancher. A group of three men led by Donald Martin (Dana Andrews) who wants only to support his family. Is that not honorable enough? They are back into a corner as nooses are already being tied, horses positioned under a hanging tree. With little chance of interrogating they are fighting a losing battle reason against assumption.

The people’s trial before lynching takes place in the comfort of the sound studio which maybe a budgetary constraint with such a big cast, that makes the scenes all the more claustrophobic as these three men innocent or not are. I do have my doubts about Juan Martínez (Anthony Quinn) a Mexican with a colourful past. Our own prejudices are tested on-screen, is one of the group guilty and are they covering for one another. How can they with the sincerity of Martin who pleads to for reason, a fair trial, all the things they aren’t getting out there around their camp for their last night of life.

It’s a western of words and few actions which speak louder than any firing of a gun. Loud ones confused and angry deafening out those of quiet reason. You want to shout at the screen along with Fonda one of the few to stand up and speak his own mind as the night goes on. Teaching us not to be led by our assumptions and to not forget the systems in place by society to ensure we are all treated fairly. It could easily be applied to a racial killing today, as people easily turn against innocent muslims when act of terrorism’s committed. It’s easy to do when you’re blinded by anger and hate which can consume you, leaving you later on with guilt and remorse as the consequences of that night dawn upon them. The act of lynching is seen from below, probably a mechanism to get around censorship at the time, working better for dramatic purposes we know they are up there, would seeing them make it any better for us, even a boot off the top of the screen? The lack of bodies allows the audiences imagination to run wild, what have this posse done, how could they let it happen so fast. We all know why it did.

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Marnie (1964) Revisited

Marnie (1964)I first watched Marnie (1964) when I first discovered Alfred Hitchcock devouring them nearly on a nightly basis, wanting to watch them all with eagerness. When it came to Marnie however I felt somewhat let down by it all, it wasn’t the standard thriller, the wrong man on the run from the police, it was something different, Something with the master of suspense was trying after the huge success of Psycho (1960) which he would never come close to topping or really meeting. He came close to that with The Birds (1962) which has the effect of staying with you, nature turning on humanity, a villain who can’t be locked away by the police as we usually found. The journey was one not only of making others around you believe your story, but to convince them to run as-well, to understand the enemy to quell or restore order.

I have also been troubled by a provocative statement by film critic Robin Wood

If you don’t like Marnie, you don’t like the movies of Alfred Hitchcock and if you don’t love Marnie you don’t love cinema.”

Quite a statement right? I think he was trying to make a point which I am only just understanding beyond the flippancy of its power. He understands the film on another level, something the average film-lover or goer might not get. He wants us to enjoy and read the film on another level a level is may well have been intended for. Now some films aren’t meant to be read on another level, they are what they are. Some have hidden depths, some simply make you laugh, other grab your attention. Others such as this really do take some time and real attention to understand them. Something I am starting to get with Marnie. I’m not saying its all clicked, that would be presumptuous of me.

We started with Vertigo (1958) to understand the director, the man, Hitch who idolizes the blonde, his desire to make them as he desires. Controlling them sexually, lost in the image and the idea of them. 5 years later we aren’t trying to make-over a woman in another image, we want to understand Marnie Edgar (Tippi Hedren) who we meet as a leaving after another robbery at work. Making herself over from one image to another. Creating and living in multiple guises to hide from the men she hurt financially. It was only 4 years earlier that Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) stole from her boss to help her lover out. There is no lover here as yet, wanting only to support her lifestyle and her mother. A figure that recurs in many of Hitchcock’s films, a parent who never loses complete control over the destiny and of their off-spring, always there to guide them in ways the child is never aware of.

It’s well-known now that Tippi Hedren was the last of most actress to suffer under Hitch’s films, controlling her options, obsessing over her to the point she wanted to leave during the making of The Birds torturing her in many ways. It becomes more clear in Marnie the object of his affections, the damage of the previous film’s used to the actresses/models advantage. Playing the part of a psychologically damaged woman who hates the affections of a man. Something which Mark Rutland (Sean Connery) is curious about, he is the on-screen Hitchcock able to carry out his own investigation into her mental state.

There is more than an insatiable fear of male affections as we discover early on, the sight of red, induces her and the audience to have flashes of red. Overwhelming her for some unknown reason, the psychological becomes cinematic in its experience, the flash of red before her and our eyes. A fear of thunderstorms leaves her in a child-like state, vulnerable to Mark who makes his move and wants to know more about this beautiful and fragile woman who has come to work for him.

Psychology has left the confines of the psychologist and is has becomes something for the laymen to investigate, making Spellbound (1945) look tame in comparison. Reaching out more into the public realm. We have a psychological thriller, not just one that uses it to induce the thrills and suspense, its taken to another level that we can all start to consider, that is if we allow ourselves. Which is where this film can and does lose its appeal to the main-stream, when you get too technical and book-smart you can leave your audience behind. You have to be careful how you do it to keep them on-board.

So with Mark acting as a psychologist and lover he also becomes part-time private investigator who finds out about her past, a past which he is eager to understand and hopefully break her from this awful mindset that has allowed her to take on job after job to fund her lifestyle. You could even suggest that he raped her, something which is easy to infer on the face of it. Overpowering her on their honeymoon cruise, she’s stripped of her clothes and forced upon, which implies rape. She also lies there and does allow it to happen. I’m not condoning rape for a second, more understanding the construction of the scene, the character is overcome by the force of her husband and allows him to make love to her. Making her passive and a victim, or more a victim of her state of mind. We don’t actually know what happened after those few moments. Waking up the next morning in separate beds. Her mental state could have made the rape possible and then left not to be mentioned again.

I am beginning to see this film in a new light now, which you can see in the text above, there are layers to this film beyond the ideas of psychology being discussed. The special effects are by now looking tired and out of date, something which he never moved much away from. We do however have some interesting high angle shots throughout the film, looking down upon Marnie a fragile  woman who needs to be healed to function, to love and be loved not just by men but her mother. They say that your childhood shapes your adulthood, this is very much an extreme, something which audiences back at the time of release may not have been able to accept. Now its common place, these principles of psychoanalysis are a part of western culture. You could say Marnie was ahead of its time, let down by dates special effects and heavy dialogue. There is still very much a classic Hitchcock in terms of style, nothing is left to chance, he is trying new things out and they pay off such the robbery whilst the cleaner share half the shot. When you comparing to Psycho it does pale, as he is trying something new after all the audience wanted was to be wowed and scared once more. This was a step to far for the director one which is now overlooked in the mainstream, repeating viewings and patience are needed to understand and appreciate the film and the woman or women of Hitchcock.

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