The larger saloon is really taking shape today. Having picked up where I left off, the stairs, which had to be adjusted so it was at the right angle to marry up more with my drawn on lines. Before bringing that whole section together, the mid-step and the final three steps before the balcony.
I then moved onto the other side of the piece the window, I knew this was going to be more straight forward. Reworking the wall to suggest bay-windows and the doorway, which I think works better at this scale, a more narrow doorway which should be more representative of the original set.
I finished the day by using gum-tape to seal up the cracks and reinforce the joins so it will be more flush and stronger as a piece. It will also be easier to paint – which led me to consider using a domestic primer for the first few coats before the white acrylic to finish it off ready to project onto.
Taking the time to watch The Stepford Wives (1975) tells me fire sure that it’s far superior to the 2004 comedy remake really pales in comparison, the feminist bite that I found here is watered down substantially. The original even just on the surface is darker and sinister. I’m not going to compare the too, I just don’t see the need really when the original’s packed full of ideas, which I’m going to explore. I will however start by comparing this sci-fi paranoia with Westworld (1973), the amusement park populated with android hosts who are at the beck and call of the human guests whim, be them violent, sexual or anything in between. The idea of the android being used for human pleasure was only scratching the surface of how far it could be explored. Of course in the theme park a malfunction saw the robots take over and that was that until the poorly made sequels (that no-ones ever seen). In the theme park we acknowledge early on that these are not humans, in on the illusion, waiting for it to go horribly wrong. For new visitor Peter (Richard Benjamin) he is all too aware of the possible consequences of his actions, using and abusing these hosts who at least look human. He wont kill any of them, even when the safety features are in place. The illusion is all too real for him.
It’s the illusion that photographer, wife and mother Joanna (Katharine Ross) who moves with her lawyer husband from New York for a new life in the suburban town of Stepford. On the surface you have the idyllic American dream, the big house, the kids and if your lucky the perfect wife. Well most of the other residents do. All with perfect bodies and spotless houses, funny how they all live within a few miles of each other. This gated community living the dream. Joanna however starts to see cracks in the dream, with all the spare time on her hands she finds herself starting to go mad. For me I think part of that illusion and mystery is lost due to the knowledge of the remake which gives away the plot. It was about rediscovering how Joanna came to that which made the revisit worthwhile.
Leading up to that discovery she befriends recently moved in Bobbie Markowe (Paula Prentiss) who shares the same concerns start to look at little closer at the wives of Stepford who would rather live the life of the ideal wife, keeping the house spotless, makes cakes and talk as if they were selling a household product. They are living adverts for the ideal married life… for the male anyway. Perfect in every-way for the husband to enjoy, having less to worry about at home, coming back from work to a clean house and a woman who worships him. Honestly every man does want that but ultimately that’s just a childhood fantasy. The generation depicted in the film, grew up in the 1940/50’s with stay at home mothers who only ventured out to get groceries and pick up the children. An image and ideal woman who according to Freud all men look for, their mothers, someone to compare to what is basically an impossible goal to reach. These boys who become men desire that in the women they meet. Who in-turn want the father in their husband – that’s if we are looking at a heterosexual relationship. In Stepford that ideal becomes a reality for the men who are rarely at home, either at work or the men’s club.
If in Westworld the desires of the guests; male or female are met, then in Stepford only the desires of the men are being catered for. Its a male dominated environment, that reflects reality of the time. The Women’s liberation/feminism was in full swing. Women fighting for an equal voice, to be taken seriously in a male dominated society. Looking back, how much has really changed since that time. I don’t think I am really qualified to give a definitive answer. I can say in short that there is still a way to go. The workplace has made progress, the depiction of women in film and TV has improved if only slightly. Print and digital media is also slowly catching up. Its about keeping the ideas alive and fighting for what is basically equal rights, respect and representation in society as new generations grow up.
Stepford Wives is full of fear, the fear of unknown if women were allowed to be free thinking, independent people, free to act, work and dress as they please without fear of being objectified, ignore and treated less than their male counterparts in life. The ideal, yet softened feminist for the screen. Both Bobbie and Joanna represent women who can think for themselves, have a laugh and see the town for what it is. They become fixated with the wives who they can’t really hold an intelligent conversation with. We see one wife Carol (Nanette Newman) whose clearly a recovering alcoholic malfunction, or so we are lead to believe, her reaction is more robotic, there’s nothing human about her beyond her form. Her presence is rather sinister, perfect hair and body, she has achieved the ideal that adverts and the media promote, and so have all the other wives. Joanna and Bobbie then encounter Charmaine (Tina Louise) who comes with her own marital problems. Then a few weeks later a trip away and she’s transformed into a new woman, blossoming almost, yet under the facade is another shallow obedient wife.
I’m reminded of The Simpsons episode Lisa Vs. Malibu Stacy the fictional Barbie doll complete with pull-string that allows her to talk. Playing archaic female stereotypes that are being fed to young impressionable girls. Lisa takes it upon herself to design and sell her own doll with her own independent thinking and sayings. The little girl playing the giant toy company at their own game. Only to come back with the same doll, this time wearing a hat. Showing how easy it is to sell to children and how little they really care about the impact they have in their development. The men of Stepford are the same really, taking the women they met, and improving in their desire image, having overall control over their wive. The men are once again in charge. Leaving all the women subservient, quiet and of little hassle to them.
It’s in this fictional American town there’s the illusion of hope for the men, restoring order to things so they can go about their lives not needing to progress socially, science has caught up enough to allow them to turn the clock back on the women who’ve been fighting them since the 1960’s. Feminism has no place here, its fought and won with male ingenuity and science – and because they can. It’s that easy in science fiction to solve a social problem with technology, now just wait until it malfunctions.
On reflections Stepford Wives is a very dark film, drip feeding to you the suggestion that something is wrong, socially critiquing a small town in suburban New York state. We see independent women being stripped of all they have fought for, rewinding the clock to the 1950’s. There’s no hope for any of them here in the cinematic world, filmed like a cheap TV movie the ideas are even sharper because you don’t expect to find them. Even passing the Bechdel test too with flying colours which is even rarer for it’s time. A film that looks dated on the surface with razor sharp contemporary ideas, now when is it being rereleased?
Even on one of the hottest days of the year I have been in the studio, which at times felt like an oven in my space, I think all the cardboard acts as an insulator. Anyway I decided to pull together all the parts I made a start on last time. Which were all going to start to construct this larger saloon. It was touch and go for a bit as the pieces were held by straps which until they were all fastened by more straps were wobbly at times. I persevered though and have now got a new saloon in the works.
Now its all about scaling up all of the elements and making it a strong model. I think whatever I project into the bigger the better really as it should have more presence than a tiny model. I love how this model is literally covered in the straps you can see my thinking that went into the making, its something I don’t want to hide, the illusion is on the other side.
A welcome return to the studio today, another half weekend, but this time a mix of editing and making today which makes a nice change. First I can now share the last of my documentation from last Sunday. Now due to the length of the video I have refined it to just the slow motion speed that I believe is most effective. Any further tests or final pieces would potentially be at this speed of 25%, any slower and you just lose that feeling of shock to just waiting for impact and leaning towards Peckinpah which I don’t want.
The second test video was more of an indulgence piece, which dis allow me to use the camera to explore both videos as they projected onto the model miniature. It’s a bit jerky in places but you get an more of an exploration around the model. Again its only at 25% slow motion again.
I carried on the day making a start on a new and larger model miniature of the same saloon, hoping to see how the images would look blown up. It will essentially be the same piece but almost twice as big. Using what cardboard I have, I’ve had to be creative, which always add another aesthetic to the model. I’ve already used strips of card to join larges pieces together, gum-tape will be used to reinforced and cover joins over. This will ultimately take longer to make die to the size, but shorter in a sense as I am just scaling up. I know how it looks so it will be pretty straight forward until I get get the paint out. I can’t share any images today as it’s not really in any shape to show anything. My instagram post in below though
The next stage is to just pull it all together, make and paint before projecting again.
A really quick post after a long day of waiting for my technical upgrade, now I have an younger computer to make my work from, which is already helping immensely. I’ve been able to put together the documentation with real ease, I feel I’ve been brought forward in tech time. Anyway enough boasting and down to todays test video, which has been put very quickly together, (please ignore the background noise) during the playback.
If you look at the second play as they violence’s slowed down to 25% its more effective, it’s not too brief and not overly long and too exaggerated to the point where you would pass on the piece. I’m glad I documented it from different angles, it really does work in places, distorted in others, just how I found with past tests. I hope the same can be said in the next test which I’ll share with you next time.
The main aim of this weekend was to see how the latest test videos would look when projected onto the model miniature of my saloon. As I have been saying for weeks now. With copies of the videos ready to be run through the projector, I started to set up the kit, tweaking it before documenting got underway.
I found at first that Japanese footage was far more effective, even more so when it the action continues to slow down. It didn’t matter which footage was playing, the original Unforgiven or the remake onto the saloon which shows how I could potentially project any saloon footage onto here. Anyway I played each test a number of times to allow me to record it from a few angles.
Just looking at these still I can see how I could build a larger version of this model and just increase the effect. There were places where the images doesn’t fall onto the model miniature. I could see how it works from a few angles, distorting the image enough that it doesn’t destroy it. I could be building a larger model in the future if I choose to go ahead with this footage. The effect is something I want to really pursue. I’m yet to edit together today’s documentation, which I will share with you as and when they are completed.
If I’m honest I had mixed thoughts when it came to Elstree 1976 (2015) a little known documentary about some of the extra’s from Star Wars (1977). Instead of all the docs that had gone before focusing on the stars, the director and the origins of the film that in themselves have all taken on legendary status. But what about those bit parts which in the Star Wars universe have all become remembered, anything that’s vaguely relates to the franchise is worth sharing, selling or talking about. My reservations for this doc I think came from what could really be discovered that hadn’t already been said or discussed about the history of the film.
As soon as I got started I knew this was going to be different, unique even. Thankfully made in cooperation with Lucas Film that gave this doc more authority allowing it to be more credible, instead of just talking to the extra’s, we have recreations of the film sets, the costumes are brought out if only briefly. All these elements are important in telling the Star Wars story, without them it wouldn’t be authentic to the audience, false and not worth telling. You could say the untold story is more exciting as we have only had glimpses, If you look away from the hard-core fan-base your knowledge is not so sharp beyond the credited actors in the film.
Beginning with introductions that link the extras directly to their action figures, a strong link to the film that no average person can claim to having. Through the figures that helped to provide George Lucas with his fortune and ensuring the next two installments would be possible. The idea of action figures being tied into a film had tried and failed in the past, as history of the film tells us, for Lucas holding onto the rights to the toys was a very clever move. Becoming collectibles over time, practically anything that appeared in the three films has great value (if in great condition and in the original packaging). Ten figures to ten actors faces, all playing varying parts in the franchise’s first film.
Beyond opening comments of having their own action figures they talk very little about Star Wars. We learn of their childhoods, youth and early acting careers none of them as spectacular as Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford or Carrie Fisher who all had more success. These 10 actors have stayed in obscurity more or less. David Prowse the actor behind the helmet of Darth Vader has one of the more familiar stories, an ex body builder who turned to acting after being told he’d never be successful – because of his feet. I forgot he had a small part in A Clockwork Orange (1971). To lesser known actors such as Pam Rose who was in the Cantina as Leesub Sirlin before going onto other extra parts late 1970s and early 1980’s. Whilst others have made a career out of being an extra like Derek Lyons with more than 80 credits to his name, that’s a lot for an extra.
During the main body of the film – the making of Star Wars we gained an insight to what film was like. From the tacky costumes, the 100’s of storm troopers to prosethetics and meeting the quietly spoken George Lucas who got one of them a cup of tea. How some of them ate lunch with Hamill. I learned how some of these extras took on speaking roles such as the storm trooper who waved Obi Wan, Luke Skywalker and co through, with “the droids they were looking for”. All these and more moments that are looked over in favor of the Fisher/Harrson affair, or the quotes about the awful script. What also makes this film stand apart is the gifs, that show us those blink and you’ll miss them moments in the films where the extra’s can be found. Weird at first, you soon get used to what it going on. Really bringing to life those moments that we in the audience wouldn’t care about.
All this before moving onto post Star Wars life, some it opened the doors to steady work as an extra, for others little came of it. Yet the power of that film alone, ignoring Empire and Jedi we have a film that changed so many lives for those who worked on it. Leading to the present the culture that has been created by this little b-movie science fiction film of good vs. evil- the convention circuit that some warming to it, whilst others have shied away from it. Prowse talking about honestly how he has made a career out of Star Wars and fair play to him, there’s money to be made.
I see this short documentary as a nice little insight into those much forgotten actors who brought to life the characters who are just as celebrated, Greedo, Boba Fett and all the X-Wing fighters, the list is endless really. To see the faces behind the make-up and costumes, and their lives which brought all of that to the screen. It won’t be as exciting without an all star documentary, however its something more special, shinning a light on the overlooked actors who did gave their time and effort to bring Star Wars to life.
I’ve been working from home, making the most of the sunshine, whilst working on a more violent test video – the Japanese remake of Unforgiven (1992) – Yurusarezaru Mono (2013) which is just over twice as long as the last test video. Both being the same scene I could see how they are basically the same in terms of structure yet the later one is far more violent. Maybe that is due to use of samurai swords which are more dangerous, in terms of the damage they can cause. Ultimately both the sword and gun both can and do induce fatal injuries. Cinematically they are very different visually in terms of impact creating different reactions when they have been used to inflict pain.
Looking at the most recent test video the slower rate I stretch the broken clips to I could see the impact was starting to be lost. I think at 15% you lose real impact, which applies to both, moving into self parody of the actors in the scene making the most of their death scene.
Once I play both videos I’ll know how they look and play out, the timings will show what is more effective when projected. The juxtaposition of the Japanese remake will prove interesting, as I bring the scene and it’s violence to the original setting – the Wild West. I could be moving away from Westerns to look at Samurai films. I also want to see how this same technique – if successful works on a larger model which I’ve mentioned previously – Minnie Haberdashery in The Hateful Eight (2015) which sees countless innocent people being killed and more violently.
Work on the physical model miniature is now complete. Today I took advantage of the heat and primed and painted my posts which I’m surprised have fixed in place to support the ceiling. Three coats later I called time on the model miniature. Looking at the model now, it is my first internal model, It’s minimal design reflects the saloon in Unforgiven (1992) which I’ll be projecting footage from next week at the earliest. I’m pleased with how it has turned out so far.
Looking at the test video again I am concerned the way the violence has been slowed down multiple times might come across as more like something from a Sam Peckinpah film. However thee more I think about it, the violence he captured was from various angles, to see the full extent of the violent act as the victim falls to the ground, the impact of the act is really stretched out and thrown at the audience. Still I have to see what happens before I get too concerned.
Another foreign film that I have been aware off but wasn’t in a rush to watch, waiting for a TV airing instead, which surprisingly paid off. I remember hearing good things about A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), a Iranian horror, with a rare female focus which is honestly very refreshing. You could easily say this is a feminist horror. With a female protagonist whose the titular girl who we follow. Beginning of a false footing with a quietly macho guy Arash (Arash Marandi) who we see loitering around a fence, before climbing over to rescue a cat, his cat. The opposite to what Marlon Brando would do (not rescue a cat), more likely o kick in the fence, venting his pent-up anger. Arash is not your typical male hero, if anything he’s the opposite of that in Bad City and fictional Iranian ghost town where the film’s based.
We see that Arash’s walked all over by his father (Marshall Manesh) drug dealer/Pimp Saeed (Dominic Rains) coming for more money that his heroin addicted father owes. His son is doing his best to look after him, who has clearly turned to drugs in the wake of his wife’s death. It’s unusual to see the son living at home and looking after his father on the screen. Of course this a more contemporary situation that Hollywood would never depict, instead it would be the daughter, looking after her father. It reminded me of Westerns, the unmarried daughter staying at home with her elderly father – sometimes blind or very ill and/cranky. This is the way I read the film after some time. A thread that I will pick up on later.
We’ve not even seen the titular girl, or so I thought we had when Saeed meets the first woman, Atti (Mozhan Marnò) in the film, who turns out to be one of his prostitutes who just wants her cut before we finally see the girl (Sheila Vand), dressed in a Hijab, not unusual in itself, but the lone figure in the dark scaring plays upon our inbuilt fears of the Islam and turning it on itself. The fear of the unknown figure within its environment inciting fear to other Iranians. At this point we are held at a distance, unsure of what real danger she poses. Interrupted at a forced sex act, fear is all the figure conveys at this stage.
Following the girl home to her basement flat, seeing her next as just a normal girl, whose shy and reclusive yet beautifully innocent features, how could this be the same girl under the hijab? We have an outsider who enjoys indie music on vinyl and seems to enjoy her own time. It’s the next few scenes that unveil her true identity and power as she lures Saeed to his demise at the hands of a female vampire. This I really didn’t see coming. I took the title too literally here which if anything has surprised me The lone stranger who walks the streets is the one you least suspect, a young woman, a vampire that to some extent is a lone gunfighter prowling the streets at night.
It’s a clever premise, playing on our fears of Islamic extremism and building on that in one of the countries whose dominant religion is Islam. Writing this review after such a horrific week, I feel this film is more relevant. We need to remember the power of fear and what it can do those who it’s inflicted upon. This fear has been confronted to an extent in A Girl Walks Home… instead if fearing the hijab for no reason other than that of extremism, we are actually given something to fear, the supernatural, a being who has take human form, nothing to do with Islam, merely the form of the vampire takes.
I’m reminded of Bone Tomahawk (2015) which played on similar fears, using the Native American and really going far out and giving the characters something to really fear and the audience too. Which leads me nicely back to the Western comparison which started with the role reversal placing Arash in the classic female role that falls for the stranger, the gunfighter, who ultimately tames him and they ride off into the sunset, or leaves her with her father. He falls for the strange girl, whose startled by the emotion that he brings out in her, she like any gunfighter is not used to such attention and the thoughts and feelings that they experience. Fighting against her natural urges and actions, doing what a vampire does best. Placing all this action in Iran is even braver.
A female lead, who plays on the fears of Islamic extremism in the guise of a horror. Does that make a female lead more acceptable, or get under the radar of censorship? Either way it’s playing against type completely for not just the horror genre but for cinema as a whole. Placing a woman in the protagonist role, the bad guy who has to be either killed or tamed. I couldn’t see a way to her demise happening. Could Arash have seen beyond her perceived innocence to see the truth? That’s the question we are left with, after all the violence she has caused, for good or bad she has done her bit to clean up Bad City the only way she knows how. As a gunfighter can only use his guns – using violence to bring peace to the town/city they are in.
In terms of horror it’s maybe not as scary as you hope, the ideas it explores and subvert make up for the lack of horror. When we do get it, it’s all about the build up, wondering how she will bite. Its the final attack that leaves you in awe as she rescues the damsel in distress. The moments which are slowed down create a sense of real awe and spectacle heightened by the black and white cinematography, be them horror or not. For me the real strength of the film is gender swapping of roles a Western in the guise of a horror, which for me is an added bonus. Ultimately it’s a refreshing film that takes our fears, placing them in a completely foreign country.