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Monthly Archives: July 2011

How do you rationalize what you see through the lens, when do you help, why do you do what you do?

 

True story of  four (and some of their friends on the periphery) Greg Marinovich, Joao Silva, Kevin Carter, and Ken Oosterbroek and their images. Two of those four are now dead – one shot during the last days of violent uprising in 1994, the other by his own hand after a battle with drugs, the loss of his friend, and criticism over his Pulitzer prize winning photograph caught up with him.

Most people, upon hearing gunfire, would run away and hide. Conflict photojournalists have the opposite reaction: they actually look for trouble, and when they find it, get as close as possible and stand up to get the best shot. This thirst for the shot and the seeming nonchalance to the risks entailed earned Greg Marinovich, Joao Silva, Ken Oosterbroek, and Kevin Carter the moniker of the Bang-Bang Club. Oosterbroek was killed in township violence just days before South Africa’s historic panracial elections. Carter, whose picture of a Sudanese child apparently being stalked by a vulture won him a Pulitzer Prize, killed himself shortly afterwards. Another of their posse, Gary Bernard, who had held Oosterbroek as he died, also committed suicide.

The Bang-Bang Club is a memoir of a time of rivalry, comradeship, machismo, and exhilaration experienced by a band of young South African photographers as they documented their country’s transition to democracy. We forget too easily the political and ethnic violence that wracked South Africa as apartheid died a slow, spasmodic death. Supporters of the ANC and Inkatha fought bloody battles every day. The white security forces were complicit in fomenting and enabling some of the worst violence. All the while, the Bang-Bang Club took pictures. And while they did, they were faced with the moral dilemma of how far they should go in pursuit of an image, and whether there was a point at which they should stop their shooting and try to intervene.

 

THE MOVIE: The Bang Bang Club

A movie about the group, directed by Steven Silver and starring Taylor KitschRyan Phillippe and  Malin Åkerman, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2010.

History

 

The name “The Bang Bang Club” was born out of an article published in the South African magazine Living. Originally named The Bang Bang Paparazzi, it was changed to “Club” because the members felt the word paparazzi misrepresented their work. The name comes from the culture itself; township residents spoke to the photographers about the “bang-bang” in reference to violence occurring within their communities, but more literally, “bang-bang” refers to the sound of gunfire and is a colloquial form of nomenclature used by conflict  photographers.

On April 18, 1994, during a firefight between the National Peacekeeping Force and African National Congress supporters in the Tokoza township, cross-fire killed Oosterbroek and seriously injured Marinovich. An inquest into Oosterbroek’s death began in 1995. The magistrate ruled that no party should be blamed for the death. In 1999,peacekeeper Brian Mkhize told Marinovich and Silva that he believed that the bullet that killed Oosterbroek had come from the National Peacekeeping Force.

In July 1994, Carter committed suicide.

On October 23, 2010, Silva stepped on a land mine while on patrol with US soldiers in KandaharAfghanistan and lost both legs below the knee.  This is the second time he’s been injured in a warzone, with his first injury being hit by shrapnel in the face.

Awards

Two members won Pulitzer Prizes for their photography. Greg Marinovich won the Pulitzer for Spot News Photography  in 1991 for his coverage of the killing of Lindsaye Tshabalala in 1990. Kevin Carter won the Pulitzer for Featured  Photography in 1994 for his 1993 photograph of a vulture that appeared to be stalking a starving child in southern Sudan.

 

It’s violent, it’s sad, but somewhere in-between is a group of adrenalin-junkie photographers who make their impact on the world. You respect them for what they do – because most of us can’t and we need to see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For Evan Glodell, surviving a bad breakup by making a movie wasn’t enough – he also built the camera it was shot on and the car features in its story. Dubbed the mad scientist of this year’s Sundance, he takes Septien director Michael Tully through the apocalyptic fever dream that isBellflowerPhotograph by Henny Garfunkel.

Evan Glodell must not have been immune to the universal sensation of young heartbreak, for his debut feature Bellflower jumps off the screen with the visceral pain and fury of a dude who just got his heart shredded open. Not only did Glodell write, direct, and star in this literal and metaphorical tale of young love gone up in flames, he also built the car, “Medusa,” and the working flamethrower that brings the story to a more extremely blazing life. As if that weren’t enough, Glodell hand-built the camera (the Coatwolf Model II) that he and his small crew used to shoot the movie. Not bad for someone who didn’t go to film school.

Bellflower tells the story of Woodrow (Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson), best friends who relocated from Wisconsin to Southern California in order to live a more exciting life. Infatuated with the idea of an impending apocalypse, Woodrow and Aiden prepare for the end of the world by building a flamethrower and the tank of a car that will enable them to outlive everyone else. But when Woodrow meets Milly (Jessie Wiseman), a different kind of flame is ignited. For a while, life is great. But when Milly lives up to her early promise of romantic destruction, that metaphorical apocalypse arrives. As the film progresses, Glodell ups the violent ante by bouncing between time and space, fantasy and reality, and the resulting sensation is disconcerting, immediate, and intense. Bellflower is a cinematic assault made by someone who is both young enough to tap into those primal feelings and talented enough to turn them into an emotionally involving spectacle of a motion picture.

Bellflower debuted in the NEXT Section at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was quickly snatched up for distribution by Oscilloscope Pictures (which will open the film in August). Filmmaker talked to Glodell over the phone about how this crazy production came to be just after he returned home from driving Medusa to film festivals across the country.

It seems like everyone has focused on your admittedly impressive engineering skills with regards to the car, the flamethrower, and building your own camera, so I was actually going to try to avoid that, if that’s humanly possible[laughs] We’ll see.

So how was this particular idea born? What was the point when you said to yourself, “I’m going to make a feature, and it’s going to start with this”? And was “this” all of those fiery elements — the car, the flamethrower, etc. — or was it the heartbreak? It was the heartbreak.

I was hoping you’d say that. Yes, and the flamethrower came shortly afterward. The whole story was always the main thing. It was what I spent the most time on.

So, how did your own heartbreak wind up leading to the movie? At the time I was going through the breakup I had been making a lot of short films, just shooting around the house on a camcorder with my brother or a couple friends. They were very strange, like people yelling weird monologues at themselves and destroying things. I didn’t realize it at the time because they were so abstract, but they were obviously about the things I was going through. When the relationship finally ended, I had a particularly hard time dealing with it. I wanted to die very badly because it hurt so much. I remember having my friends lock me in their garage from the outside for a couple days with just water. I thought if I was forced to freak out by myself with nothing to distract me I would eventually burn out and get over it. I’m probably being too honest here, but that’s okay with me. Anyway, flash forward a bit. I came back to reality, and it hit me right away that I should make a movie that really tries to show what that whole experience was like. I had seen other people go through it but I didn’t feel like I really ever saw a movie that captured it properly from the point of the person experiencing it. I also finally realized what a strange place the short films were coming from, and I incorporated a lot of the ideas from them into the second half of the movie.

Were you still processing the break-up when you started the film, or did you have some distance? This is a tough one. It was a couple years later that we finally started shooting. And part of this question is too complicated to answer at this point, but I did a lot of things to try to remember where I was and what I was feeling at the time I was first working on the script. But I definitely feel that the moment my primary focus in life switched from making Bellflower to working, paying rent and normal living, my life became stunted. It lasted a couple years and I hope I never make a misstep and lose focus again. Making the movie allowed me to finally move forward and grow, and move on to new ideas in my writing as well, which has been awesome.

And how did you turn your experience into a more fictional story? For me I think this happens naturally. The idea kind of comes in as a fictional story. I write what comes to me, which is usually only a couple scenes, and then I have to analyze the idea to realize where it came from and find ways to immerse myself in it. And if it keeps growing then it gets finished. I don’t have a very good memory for specifics anyway. If I tried to write something as it actually happened it would be a mess.

At what point did the backwards-footage-forecasting-the-future prologue enter the picture? Was that in the script stage, or was that something you discovered in the editing room? That came later. We initially had [another] scene that would have set up all the themes of the movie. It was kind of an exciting scene. But at one point I watched it again and was suddenly like, “It just doesn’t fit here. It’s too juvenile.”

I watched the movie again last night and became even more fascinated with your structuring of the narrative. When Woodrow is confronted with Jessie’s betrayal right near the halfway point, that’s when your bold, ambiguous narrative technique begins. What I admire about it is that it doesn’t feel like you’re rubbing it in the viewer’s face and trying to confuse us. You’re actually helping us to be firmly, viscerally lodged inside this character’s vibrating skull. Yeah, this wasn’t supposed to be a “figure-it-out” movie. The purpose was to tell a more emotional story.

Does this more freewheeling second half of the film closely reflect the shooting script? Or was that something that also developed in post-production? The second half plays out almost exactly as it was in the script, except for a few little things. Like maybe one or two scenes were flipped around, or maybe there was one that didn’t work that we took out.

You have four credited editors. Even when everyone’s on the exact same page, editing rooms can devolve into too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen. How did that work? Was it like each person picking a different section, or was one person working on it at a time when you guys were doing other things? Or were you in fact working together all along? Oh no. At first, just because I was losing my mind, [editor-co-producer] Jonathan Keevil and [d.p.-editor-co-producer] Joel Hodge were going to assemble the movie as it was in the script. I don’t want to say I’m not good at editing, but I have a very hard time handling long periods of time sitting in front of the computer. I wasn’t allowed to see anything during that time period — that was the plan. And then I came in and watched it and took notes. We did a couple rounds of that, and then it eventually got passed over to me. At that point I had to go into a room and go crazy for quite a long time. Everybody else got involved afterward, but I guess it was the same thing, where I’d end up the main editor. I would get to a part where I’m like, “Fuck, I’m stuck in this part!” Then different people would take a stab at it until we came up with a version that worked.

How many outside eyes did you get? Or do you try to keep it personal and say, this is our film, this is what we’re doing? I very, very, very much value input. It’s a huge thing to me because I’m so heavily in [the film]. So you try to show it to people who don’t know anything and hear what they’re getting out of it. And then you’re like, “Oh okay. I was trying to do this, but this is what happened.” So how do we rework it to make it do what it’s supposed to do?

When I saw Bellflower at Sundance, it felt like a genuine discovery in every way — to the point where I didn’t even know Woodrow was you. I had just gone through that potentially very bad idea of casting myself in my film, Septien. Was it a function of your production that you cast yourself in the lead role? Do you have acting aspirations to appear in other people’s work? No, I don’t. I’m open to it if things come along. But for this one, it was a really personal thing. The idea was that I would play the character, even though at the time I didn’t have enough experience directing actors. I thought I might do the best job because I understood it on a level that maybe I didn’t even understand.

[laughs] But you had trusted people there. My d.p. Jeremy Saulnier was really helpful, because I wasn’t even checking the monitor or doing anything, I was just trusting the world. So, would your buddies call you out? Or did you have a specific person to do that? If things weren’t going well, I would get help in different ways. But also I think people were careful not to damage my ego too much, or I would freak out. I could tell. And depending on what the scenes were, everybody had a different part. Joel would do it a lot. And Tyler [Dawson] would as well. And then Vince [Grashaw]. But it was an interesting thing. You could kind of tell the different people who “got” the scene, and you’d find yourself looking at them after the take to see the look on their face.

I know you shot the film over the span of a few months, but I was really struck by the performances and how natural they felt every step of the way. Even a scene that’s not performance-based, like that one take of you going into the party, getting the beer, waiting for Milly, and then walking out back — that just felt totally natural to me. It didn’t feel like anything awkward was going on production-wise.  It felt awkward when we were shooting it. It was totally silent in there — I think we had nine people [in the crowd]. Everybody had called friends to help us shoot this scene. We thought we were going to have a keg party, but the [extras] realized they had to be quiet and stuff. So people would show up and be like, “Oh, this is lame,” and leave. I think we wound up with only between eight to 12 people, total. So to get the shot we had everybody out front wearing hoodies, and then when we got out back they’d take their hoodies off and join us [again].

Did the Sundance selection really help you in concrete ways, like finding representation? Or is that my wishful thinking for your sake since nothing magical has happened in my life? [laughs]    It changed everything. We were at our lowest point. We had the movie to a place where we thought it was good, and we had had screenings with friends of friends, people who didn’t know the people in the movie, at some peoples’ houses. Everybody really liked it, and so it was time to get it into somebody’s hands in the industry who really knew how this all works. Everyone tried to get in touch with someone who knew a distributor or a producer, someone who could do the last steps of the film, to finish it and get it out there, and it went very badly. We had zero interest. We’d talk to people who would watch it and be like, “This is not good. Don’t show anybody else this.” And then a friend of a friend called. He’d seen the film at one of the screenings and he knew we were at a low point. He said, “Submit the film to Sundance.” And I was like, no way in hell. I had $300 from working a job that week. I’d been broke for most of the time period [making the film]. I had never submitted to any film festival before, but he pushed really hard. Finally I was like, “Okay, I’ll submit to Sundance.” So I went online, submitted it, and then forgot about it. Trevor [Groth] called me a month later, and was like, “You’re in.” I thought someone was playing a joke on me. I was in the car with Joel and Jed, and when I got off the phone we just started planning. At that point I didn’t even know what a film festival was. We’re going to have to drive to somewhere in Utah, show up at one theater where there was going to be one screening, and then that was going to be it? And then we’d leave? Of course, the following day my phone started ringing off the hook. Literally, off the hook. My email, everything. This was seven or eight days before the announcement came out. Someone from the festival had told someone else that a lot of people at the film festival were really excited about our movie, and that got to the appropriate industry people. And they all just swarmed me.

[laughs] By the time I got to Sundance, I already had a lawyer and had CAA repping me, repping our movie. I went from a place where no one wanted to talk to us — I don’t think I’d ever met a producer in my life — to the point now where it seems like there are a lot of people who want to meet with us and talk about producing our next projects. It was like a tornado. The added thing is that most of us are retarded when it comes to business. We couldn’t sell ourselves if our life depended on it. I was in Ventura and we were all just fucking around shooting this movie. And then all of a sudden, Hollywood attacked us.

[Laughs] That is beautiful. You’re coming out in August, and we’re getting our opening in July. We’re both really lucky that our turnarounds have been expedited from premiere to release. So how do you stay excited? Because my attention span is really short. Two days after finishing something, I’m usually embarrassed about it and never want to think about it again. Yeah, I’ve been going through a little bit of that. On this project, because it was so personal, every once in a while I’d wake up in the morning or right before I’d go to bed, and I’d think, “I should delete the movie. It’s too weird. It shouldn’t be out there.” I didn’t want everybody who sees it, who I don’t even know, to have preconceptions of me. But then I’d get over it.

As far as getting excited, I’m sure everybody is that way. We still feel like this is our big chance, the only one we’re going to get, so we’ve been freaking out about every aspect. We had to replace a song and we took too much time on it. The trailer we’re just finishing — we have two different trailers, and we’re kind of going crazy. We’re making sure we’ve tried every different thing, that we’ve got them the best they can be. But then I have these other scripts I’m working on that I need to push. And so sometimes I’ll get sidetracked and I’ll start writing, and then I’ll be like, “Wait, you should not be doing this! You have your other movie. And if that movie doesn’t come out then nobody is going to care about your script.”

Everyone wants more money for their movies. Do you want to make a big action movie and try to bring your skill set to that? Or do you prefer scrappy filmmaking where you call all the shots? Does the idea of working your way through the studio system seem fun or frighteningI guess I haven’t gotten deep enough in it to know, but that’s definitely something I’ve been thinking about. The basic goal of making this movie was to somehow find a way to make any kind of living making films. About getting bigger budgets, I have some apprehension about it. I don’t really know what that’s like. I certainly hope our shooting schedules are a little bit longer so we have time to have fun and play and try things. But I don’t want to end up with a crew of a hundred people that I don’t know. That sounds terrifying. I hope there’s a happy middle point in there. As for future movies, I’m one of those people who doesn’t have any intention of making other people’s scripts because I have ideas that come to me and those are the ones that I get engaged in. As far as how big those go, I didn’t know if anybody was going to be able to handle this movie. I thought it was probably going to be too weird. So if one of our movies happens to get really big, that would be the greatest thing in the world. But I feel like maybe that’s for the world to decide.

 

Article by Filmmaker

Anne Thompson muses on the loneliness of the long-distance filmmaker with Lost in Translation‘s Sofia Coppola, Scarlett Johansson and Ross Katz.

Sofia Coppola knows from jet lag. And she knows Tokyo, quite well — she used to fly there once a year for Milkfed, her clothing design company.

“Jet lag makes you contemplate life in a different way,” she says. “You’re far removed from all the distractions of your normal life.” Perched on a sofa in the lobby of the Chateau Marmont Hotel, she’s in navy blue (T-shirt, jeans, flip-flops) except for her toenails, which are baby pink.

Between working her clothing line, shooting her music videos and promoting her first film, The Virgin Suicides,Coppola has spent a fair amount of time in hotels. So during the past two years of travel, she found herself concocting a romantic story about a pair of culturally alienated Americans knocking about in a hotel in Tokyo. “I thought it would be funny to see Bill Murray in that context,” she recalls.

When she arrived back home in Los Feliz from promoting The Virgin Suicides, Coppola spent six months writing Lost in Translation. “It’s about misunderstandings between people and places,” she says. “It’s about things being disconnected and looking for moments of connection. There are so many moments in life when people don’t say what they mean, when they are just missing each other, waiting to run into each other in a hallway.”

She labored through the first 20 pages with support from her brother Roman, also a director (CQ), and then returned to Tokyo for further inspiration. “It helped to remember what I had liked,” she says. “I always loved the Park Hyatt. I wanted to shoot a movie in that hotel. I like the way you keep running into the same people over and over again, the camaraderie of foreigners.”

In Lost in Translation, 20ish Charlotte, whose photographer husband is on a job, keeps running into Bob, a 50ish movie star who is in town to shoot a whiskey commercial. They are both lost and vulnerable, and despite their age gap, they bond in a romantic — though not sexual — way. Coppola says she was inspired by the dynamic between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in Howard Hawks’s classic noir, The Big Sleep. “I wanted the movie’s structure to have all the different parts of a relationship condensed in a few days,” she explains. “They meet, they break up.”

Precisely observed and with a luxuriously languid pace, Lost in Translation captures the loneliness of a young wife seeking her identity, the loneliness of a married man in midlife crisis and the way two strangers can come together to supply something that is missing in each of them. As a director, Coppola takes the time to observe tiny real-life details; remarkably, in this music-video age, she lets the movie breathe.

 

Once Coppola finished her script, she and her ICM agent, Bart Walker, decided to seek financing for the film “Jim Jarmusch– style.” In this model, the filmmaker licenses distribution rights in various overseas territories individually, cobbling together enough foreign presales to make the film without the controlling influence of a single territory or U.S. domestic distributor. “I didn’t want to make something I’d have to change,” Coppola remarks. “I had an idea of what I wanted to make, and I wanted to not have a boss. It’s hard to get final cut, but it was very important to me to have the freedom to do [the film] the way I wanted.”

 

The problem with the Jarmusch method, though, is that few American filmmakers possess the international appeal to completely finance their films from foreign distributors. And typically these distributors are more comfortable financing an American indie knowing that a U.S. distributor is also on board to launch the film in North America. And then there was one other problem: Coppola’s script was only 70 pages long, causing some potential financiers to worry that the finished film would not be feature-length.

 

So, rather than shop a sparse script to the usual suspects in the U.S., the filmmakers went first to Japan, where The Virgin Suicides was a crossover hit. The film’s success there enabled the filmmakers to start in what would be their production home base on terms more advantageous than those customarily granted a U.S. indie. Theatrical distributor Tohokushinsa prebought the territory and then, with producer Ross Katz reassuring everyone that the film would time out at 90 minutes (“Something that is half a page in the script — Charlotte walks alone in Kyoto — is a four-minute sequence,” Katz would explain), the French distributor Pathe boarded the project. At this point, the team entered discussions with Focus International hoping the foreign sales company would commit to selling the rest of the world and close the gap on the $4- million budget. To convince Focus of the film’s appeal, the filmmakers closed one additional territory by selling Italian rights themselves to Mikado. Focus then committed to the remainder of the financing, and when Coppola finished her first cut, the domestic releasing arm, Focus Features, bought the U.S. rights as well.

 

From the start, Coppola had her heart set on Bill Murray for her lead. “Sofia wrote the movie for Bill,” Katz says. “She wasn’t going to make it if he didn’t do it.” But there were two problems. First, the film couldn’t afford to pay Murray anywhere near his Hollywood quote. And second, Murray is notorious for being hard to reach and pin down. “It’s almost like a challenge to get through all the obstacles when someone tells me I can’t do something,” Coppola says. “It makes me try even harder. For five months it was like a full-time job, contacting Bill Murray.”

 

A mutual friend, screenwriter Mitch Glazer, encouraged Coppola and showed Murray her treatment early on. “And he helped me with my stalking,” she says. “Bill had all these big movies that were offered to him. It was this long-shot thing: Was he going to do this little movie for no money? It would have been definitely heart-rending if he didn’t want to do it.”

Murray finally indicated that he was interested in playing the lead. Coppola got a cell phone call one night asking her to join Murray at a downtown New York restaurant where he was dining with friends. In her sole meeting with the actor, she spent five hours with Murray, connecting with him but barely discussing the film. But even though Murray said he was prepared to play the lead, the production was unable to obtain a signed contract from him before production. For an international production stitching together three foreign distributors, one U.S. sales company, a completion bond company and the French bank Natexis, not having your lead actor “signed” was yet another obstacle. But director Wes Anderson, who worked with Murray in Rushmore, told Coppola, “If he says he’s going to do it, he’ll show up.”

So, with cash flow from trusting Tohokushinsa, Coppola and Katz spent $1 million in preproduction costs without knowing for sure that Murray was going to arrive on set. “It was nerve-wracking,” Coppola says. Finally, one week before filming, she received a call from Katz, who had just greeted Murray at the airport: “The Eagle has landed!”

Any worries about Murray evaporated once shooting started. “Bill was such a good sport about it,” she recounts. “He was sweet. He said, ‘I thought if you were going to put yourself on the line, I would too.’ ” In the film he gives a devastating performance, both hilarious and tragic, that could wind up earning him an Oscar nomination.

To play her younger alter ego, Charlotte, the lonely tourist left alone by her photographer husband (Giovanni Ribisi), Coppola cast Ghost World’s Scarlett Johansson, who turned 18 during the shoot and bears a striking resemblance to her director. Coppola admits that she’s embarrassed by how much she and Johansson look alike. “It’s narcissistic. I relate to her. I liked her demeanor; she’s understated, not extroverted and hyper. There’s a part of me in that character. She’s in her early 20s, having a breakdown, like the girl Franny in Franny and Zooey. It’s a culmination of different stages of my life in that character.”

“You can see the film is very personal,” Johansson adds. “Sofia bleeds through the character — her ironic sense of humor, that feeling of being lost and disillusioned and trying to figure out what direction you want to take with your life.”

For the shoot, Coppola arrived in Tokyo loaded down with maps, blueprints, sketches, snapshots (she is an accomplished photographer) and an iPod, ready to communicate what she was looking for. “She knew the movie upside down and backward,” Katz comments. “She spilled it right from her head onto the screen.”

Those references included music like the dreamy noise-pop of the Irish band My Bloody Valentine (whose reclusive leader, Kevin Shields, wound up contributing four songs to the film’s soundtrack) as well as some of Coppola’s favorite films. Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love “has the feeling of being on the verge of something happening,” Coppola says. She admires the way director Bob Fosse reveals his personal life in All That Jazz. “I enjoy movies when they’re sincere, from personal experience. Fosse got away with his girlfriend playing his girlfriend. It’s not an all-romanticized idea of himself. It’s honest.” And though Antonioni’s L’Avventura “has no plot, it isn’t boring. I like taking your time meandering with the music. There’s so much that isn’t said in a look. I like observing things. I’m not interested in a lot of dialogue.”

 

Because the script was so spare, there was room for spontaneous maneuvering. “A lot of dialogue was added at the spur of the moment,” Johansson remembers. “She allowed us to improvise, and she’d pull some ideas, lines, deliveries, movements; silly things like, I’d come in my slippers and she’d say, ‘Oh, you should put those on.’ She was perceptive while we were rehearsing.”

 

Much of the movie was shot Dogme- style. Ironically, Coppola discovered that it was easier to “run and gun” in a foreign country, where the laissez-faire attitude of the Japanese toward location shooting made things easy. In fact, it was the Americans who asked the Japanese to supply paperwork for every extra and location. With a handheld Aaton camera, the filmmakers made impromptu forays onto subway trains and teeming Tokyo streets, where the Japanese reluctance to make eye contact was a plus. And during the shoot, Coppola’s brother Roman grabbed second-unit shots of blurry neon around the city.

 

Although there was initial pressure to shoot on less expensive video, Coppola opted, somewhat sentimentally, to shoot on film instead. Her videophile father, Francis Ford Coppola, had told her, “You might as well shoot film. It’s not going to be around very much longer,” and Coppola herself thought film would help to evoke a “fragmented, dislocated, melancholic, romantic feeling. [Lost in Translation] is the memory of an enchanted few days. Video feels more immediate, in the present.”

While cinematographer Ed Lachman filmed The Virgin Suicides with formal, locked-down, voyeuristic cameras, Lance Acord (who had shot Coppola’s first short and knew Tokyo well) photographed Lost in Translation on the run, blending off-the-cuff shots of Tokyo streets or hotel window views with intimate close-ups of the characters. Some scenes were almost entirely improvised, like one in a glass karaoke booth, where Coppola staged a party-like atmosphere with friends singing along to pop songs that she would try to clear later. She asked Murray to sing Roxy Music’s “More Than This,” setting up a delicious musical in-joke as Murray visibly reacts to having to grasp for the impossible high note that Bryan Ferry hits in the song’s opening line.

On another day, Coppola reversed the usual movie protocol of heading to an indoor “cover set” in bad weather. As a hazy rain made the city foggy and atmospheric, Coppola scrapped the interior she was shooting to grab a sequence with Charlotte walking outdoors. “In the course of 15 minutes we broke our plan and shot exteriors in the rain,” Katz says. “We shot Scarlett walking through the Shibuya with hundreds of translucent umbrellas, steam coming off the rooftops and the noodle shops. Afterward we had to deal with losing a location, but it was worth it.”

For the production, Katz blended American key crew members — a U.S. line producer, production designer, costume designer, d.p., sound recordist and a New York–based Japanese a.d. — with Japanese seconds and thirds. The a.d. translated for the Japanese crew, but some cultural differences weren’t so easily glossed over. “Respect and honor are central to Japanese culture,” Coppola notes. “We wanted to do [the movie] more Japanese-style, not walk in and say, ‘Well this is how we do it in America.’

“However, when we were at the shabu-shabu restaurant, we were only permitted to shoot till 4 p.m.,” she continues. “We went about 10 or 15 minutes over, and the owner pulled the plug — pulled the lights out. We were disrespecting the owner because we weren’t done.” Coppola finished the take in the dark (and printed it too). But as they wrapped, the film’s location manager resigned. “We had caused him to lose face with the owner,” Katz says.

In the end, Coppola had both the confidence and flexibility to immerse herself deep in a foreign culture and figure out how to blend the best of the American and Japanese styles of filmmaking. And her Tokyo filmmaking adventure made the 32-year-old director even surer about what she’s doing with her life. “I can’t imagine,” she says, “doing anything else that could be as much fun.”

 

 

Article by filmmaker

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best animated film of recent years and  highest-grossing film in Japanese history

The film tells the story of Chihiro Ogino, a sullen ten-year-old girl who, in the process of moving to a new neighborhood, becomes trapped in an alternate reality that is inhabited by spirits and monsters. After her parents are transformed into pigs by the witch Yubaba, Chihiro takes a job working in Yubaba’s bathhouse in order to find a way to free herself and her parents and escape back to the human world.

  

 

 

 

 

 

Miyazaki wrote the script after he decided the film would be based on his friend’s ten-year-old daughter, who came to visit his house each summer. At the time, Miyazaki was developing two personal projects, but they were rejected. Production of Spirited Away began in 2000. During production, Miyazaki based the film’s settings at a museum in Koganei, Tokyo. However, Miyazaki realized the film would be over three hours and decided to cut out several parts of the story for its July 27, 2001 release. Pixar director John Lasseter, a fan of Miyazaki, was approached by Walt Disney Pictures to supervise an English-language translation for the film’s North American release. Lasseter hired Kirk Wise  as director and Donald W. Ernst as producer of the adaptation.

When released, Spirited Away became the most successful film in Japanese history, grossing over $274 million worldwide, and receiving critical acclaim. The film overtook Titanic (at the time the top grossing film worldwide) in the Japanese box office to become the highest-grossing film in Japanese history. It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards, the Golden Bear at the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival (tied with Bloody Sunday) and is among the top ten in the BFI list of the 50 films you should see by the age of 14.

 

 

In 1991, the creative team of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro introduced movie-goers to their nightmarish view of a post-apocalyptic world where troglodytes inhabited the underground and a butcher relied on apartment tenants to keep his meat cabinet full. Delicatessen, a bizarre black comedy, became something of a cult hit — certainly not everyone’s fare, but those who got it, loved it. Now, four years later, Jeunet and Caro are back, and, with their latest film, The City of Lost Children, it’s apparent that they have neither moderated their approach nor mainstreamed their vision. The City of Lost Children is as visually striking and daringly offbeat as its predecessor.

In The City of Lost Children, Jeunet and Caro have presented another gloomy world where “normal” life is no more. The film is saturated with atmosphere and features some of the most imaginative set construction of the year. The picture works in part because the film makers have taken the time and effort to frame a strange land where all their quirky characters can live and operate. Jeunet and Caro’s movie is thematically and stylistically inspired by such diverse sources as Frankenstein, Dracula, Brazil, Time Bandits, and The Wizard of Oz. Like Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children is characterized by dark, twisted humor, yet this movie is more of a fantasy than a macabre comedy.

The City of Lost Children relates dreams to creativity, youth, and wonder. The capacity to escape the rational world through imagination fuels not only the desire to continue living, but the need to make something out of one’s life. In this film, we are introduced the brilliant-yet-warped mad scientist Krank (Daniel Emilfork), who is aging prematurely because he cannot dream. In an effort to stay alive, he has begun capturing children to steal their dreams. One of the toddlers abducted by Krank is little Denree (Joseph Lucien), the brother of a simpleminded circus strongman named One (Ron Perlman). One is joined in his search for his brother by Miette (Judith Vittet), the nine-year old, wise-beyond-her-years leader of an orphan gang. Together, One and Miette seek to penetrate Krank’s fortress; elude his six cloned henchmen (all played by Dominque Pinon), the deadly Miss Bismuth (Mireille Mosse), Irvin the talking brain (voice of Jean-Louis Trintignant), and the scientist himself; and rescue Denree. It proves to be a difficult task.

While much of The City of Lost Children is surreal and strange, the film’s emotional center — the relationship between One and Miette — is nurtured with care and genuine feeling. Miette sees in One and Denree the chance for the family she has never known, although there are times when her intentions towards the older, child-like man seem more romantic than sisterly. It’s to Jeunet and Caro’s credit that they are able to present the ambiguities of this relationship tenderly, without ever injecting a hint of the sordid or perverse.

Daniel Emilfork is wonderfully frightening as Krank. Bald-headed and evil-looking, he evokes memories of Max Schreck’s vampire in the classic silent film Nosferatu. Dominique Pinon, who had the lead in Delicatessen, uses his unusual face and goofy mannerisms to good comic effect in turning the clones into the Six Stooges. Judith Vittet shows great promise from one so young in her appealing portrayal of Miette, and Ron Perlman is effective as the strong, silent One.

Like Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children won’t be to everyone’s taste. In fact, even though I thoroughly enjoyed Jeunet and Caro’s previous film, it took a while for me to warm up to this effort. The first forty-five minutes are poorly-paced and it’s easy to get lost down one of the script’s many dark, maze-like alleyways. The film tends to lurch along in fits and starts until Miette becomes established as a central character. From that point on, improvement is immediate and consistent. For those who enjoy the offbeat, The City of Lost Children is worth taking the time and effort to find.

 

A Film Review by James Berardinelli

 

With his bravura hand-held camera work, intuitive sense of camera placement, and stylishly original color palette, director of photography Christopher Doyle has created some of contemporary Asian cinema’s most seductive images. Recently, he directed his own feature, Away with Words, and visited Hollywood to work with Barry Levinson and Gus Van Sant. Augusta Palmer talks with Doyle.

Known affectionately throughout Asia as the Chinese man with a skin disease, Australian Christopher Doyle’s cinematography has not only recorded, but also created the look of Chinese urban modernity. Starting with Taiwanese director Edward Yang’s That Day on the Beach and moving on later to work with Stanley Kwan and Chen Kaige, Doyle really made his mark by collaborating with Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai. He received acclaim for his bravura camera work in Days of Being Wild and continued working with the director through the trippy California dreaming of Chungking Express and the Buenos Aires nights of Happy Together. Recently, he’s taken time away from his Hong Kong base to work in the U.S. on both Gus Van Sant’s Psycho and Barry Levinson’s Liberty Heights, while Wong fans anxiously await the 2000 release of the pair’s new Beijing Summer.

Watching Doyle’s directorial debut, Away with Words, which premiered last year at Cannes, is like being part of a collective hallucination that winds through the bars and back streets of Hong Kong only to come out on an Okinawan beach. Along the way there’s plenty of great music plus a total celebration of life, liberty, and beer.

Doyle has some radical ideas about filmmaking. He has disdain for studio protocol, which ties the d.p. to a monitor, and prefers to work without a camera operator. While working on Temptress Moon, Doyle claims he had to drink enough whiskey to sink an oil tanker in order to convince Chen Kaige to fire the operator the Chinese studio system was demanding. According to Doyle, “They realized that they were going to run out of whiskey and that it was more expensive to give me whiskey than it was to pay for the operator.” And, he’s vehemently anti-film school, insisting, “The only way you can learn about film is from life, not from other films.”

Doyle and I talked over drinks at last year’s Hawaii International Film Festival. The filmmaker is a cyclone, constantly on the move. Many people might be satisfied with being one of the most sought-after cinematographers in the world. Not Doyle. He’s had gallery showings of his photos and collages and has 12 photo books out, though only the recent A Cloud in Trousers is available in the U.S. He even worked as an actor in Peter Chan’s Comrades, Almost a Love Story. He’s as intent on making some more films of his own as he is on continuing his fruitful collaboration with Wong Kar-Wai. And he’s working on a book of sex poems. Just when does he find time to pursue his legendary drinking?

Filmmaker: I wanted to ask you first about your early history. Since leaving Australia to be a merchant marine, you spent time living in Amsterdam, Israel, and India. After a brief sojourn in Hong Kong, you ended up in Taiwan, where you got involved with theater and then filmmaking in the early ’80s, right?

Christopher Doyle: Yes, between 1978 and 1980. It was this transition, and people were coming back and going into civil service, so the [Taiwanese] government was changing and there was support for the arts. We had a bit of government money for our theater group. We started making films that reflected that [change]. And I didn’t even have a visa at that time. I was illegal for six years. I couldn’t officially enter these competitions for award money – I thought the point was making the film, not getting the award. But I was getting awards! And the problem was that I had to use a friend’s name, but I would forget whose name it was. So, this became quite notorious. Over a couple of years they had these competitions every six months and all these films were getting made but nobody would turn up to take the prize. By that time I was invited to join what was then the news department of China Television, and we started to do the Taiwanese “60 Minutes.” There was one segment from the American show, and we would create the rest. From that we went on to do this thing that, officially, was propaganda. Every Wednesday at 9:30 on all three channels – they only had three – they showed the same show. We made a film, a documentary, which we called “Traveling Images.” Basically, it was going around Taiwan and just filming what we liked to film. It was very poetic; very music-based. We’d do very esoteric stuff. One week we would just do mountains, a whole thing about mountains, or the sea. So, that was my film school, basically. We did that for about a year, and it became extremely popular. I mean, I met the president three times.

I had the most wonderful experience once, when I walked into the Bank of America. At that time, not many people knew that I wasn’t yellow [Doyle was using his Chinese name in the show’s credits]. I was more behind-the-scenes, but our show was known and I had been in the papers a few times because of it. So, I walked into the bank and this girl asked if I was Du Kefeng. I said, “Why?” and she said, “Thank you for making me realize how beautiful my country is.” So, I thought, that’s it, I can get run over by a bus, I’ve done something of value.

 

Because of the show and because of our friendship – I’d interviewed him about 10 times by then – Edward [Yang] asked me to do That Day on the Beach.

 

It was a studio film, but they supported me even though I’d never shot a film before, and somehow it worked. The first day of rushes was the most terrifying thing. I was sweating like crazy because I had no idea if there was going to be anything on the screen. It really is a miracle that light goes in and image comes out.

 

Filmmaker: Is your process still so intuitive?

 

Doyle: Yes. After I’ve seen the first rushes, I never want to see rushes again anymore. I told Gus [Van Sant], “Gus, I don’t want to see rushes. I know what we did.” I don’t know how these cinematographers do it, getting up at five in the morning. A lot of cinematographers in America – I guess it’s a different mentality – are scared for their jobs. They’re terrified because it is a system where there’s a lot of unnecessary participation by people who don’t know what the fuck they’re looking at, so they’re all scared that this will get out from under their control. Whereas, my way has always been to put whatever you want to do on the negative or put it into the camera, and if you have reasonably competent people, it will come out that way.

 

So, back to That Day on the Beach: it got international acclaim and prizes, and I thought, shit, it’s my first film. I don’t know what I’m doing basically. Maybe I should go and learn. I was fortunate enough at that time to have a French-Chinese girlfriend who was going home. So, I went back to Paris with her and lived there for the next six years. I did one film there, Noir et Blanc, a student film [directed by Claire Devers] that also won the Camera d’Or that year [1986] in Cannes. Then I was on ’Round Midnight – just as an observer, an assistant, kind of an intern. I wanted to see how films were made in France, and it was a horrible experience because they’re such snobs. It took me two-and-a-half hours to get to the studio every day, and even if it was raining no one would give me a lift to the metro. I figured, this isn’t for me. And by that time, I was doing a film a year in Asia. So, up until 1991, when we [Doyle and Wong Kar-Wai] shot Days of Being Wild, I was commuting between Paris and Hong Kong. And, my wife said, “Why don’t you stay there, because I’m getting sick of all this coming and going?” And that’s what happened. So, Wong Kar-Wai destroyed my marriage!

Filmmaker: Convenient to have someone else to blame, isn’t it?

                                             Collage by Chris Doyle

Doyle: Yeah, I wish it was true. Actually, it was the best thing we did, because she did the costumes for my film. We’re much closer now that we’re divorced. We love each other too much to live together.

Filmmaker: There’s a perception that you and Wong Kar-Wai have a more collaborative relationship than you have with other directors, is that really the case?

Doyle: Yeah, we talk less. I never see him socially. I just arrive and we work. But I think in any relationship, whether it’s creative or romantic or sexual, the building of trust is the first step. I think the same thing’s happened with Gus or even especially with Barry Levinson on Liberty Heights because he didn’t know who I am, basically. I met him for five minutes, and we decided to work together.

I think that we have worked on stuff that has a certain resonance for us and for other people. And that kind of cements the relationship. And William, too. We never discuss the set. We go look at locations and we never say anything; we just feel if it’s going to work. It’s extremely intuitive. That’s why we don’t have scripts. We don’t need them, basically. We’re looking for the film all the time. The most that he [Wong] does is play some music and say, “I think we should go with this.” And then he says, “Don’t you think the avenue would look really good like this?” But we’re talking about music, we’re not talking about some reference like you would if you go for a so-called creative meeting with a commercial filmmaker. We don’t have tear sheets of what the film should look like.

Filmmaker: Is that where the playing with speed, I mean the speed at which you film things, comes from?

Doyle: What I usually say is that music is the most advanced form of art because it’s abstract and yet it evokes emotions. That’s what we, consciously or unconsciously, are going for I’m always jealous of musicians just being able to jam. Unfortunately, we can’t. But I think we’re getting close. Usually the paraphernalia, the technical aspects and the egos, and the monetary constraints of filmmaking make it more like staging an opera than a jam session.

Filmmaker: How has working on low budget Asian films affected your thinking when it comes to the Hollywood projects?

Doyle: Because of economic constraints [in Hong Kong and Taiwan], we can’t afford to “fix it in post.” We’ve never said that because we know we won’t have the money then. What we really believe, and I think it’s an aesthetic choice too, is to put as much as possible into the negative. I think that those choices are created by all the factors that govern any filmmaker, which are economic choices. What do I use, Agfa or Fuji? It’s not just an aesthetic choice. It is partly that it’s going to come in 30 percent cheaper. In the States they were shocked when I used Fuji for Psycho. I regard production ethics as very basic to the style of the film. So, when I look at a location or we think about how we’re going to make the film, I do consider how much it’s going to cost. I do consider if we can or cannot have certain equipment. And that is the positive aspect of working both in Asia and with non-Asian filmmakers for me. You get a chance to play with the toys so you can recognize their value, but you don’t take them for granted because you have to go back to the economies of our scale, where you can’t go over a couple of million dollars because you’ll never get it back in box office.

Filmmaker: I don’t get the sense that you’re planning to quit being a cinematographer and focus all your energies on directing.

Doyle: To me [directing] was just changing chairs. But, my personality and my interests suit me incredibly well to being a cinematographer. I’m not a great storyteller and I’m not a logical thinker. I’m not disciplined in the way that I could sit in front of an editing console for hours and hours and make minute decisions about how to adjust things. That’s just not my personality. I’m a bit eclectic. I run around and make a fool of myself, and I can give a director a lot more than he expected. Therefore, [cinematography] is a wonderful job for me. I can think on my feet. I like to move, so I can get the exercise I need by hand-holding the camera. I can dance with the actors – and with the actresses, also. I’d be a fool not to do it. In making my own film, I had to turn down Bertolucci and Peter Greenaway. So, I don’t think I want to do that too often because I don’t think what I’ve got to say is that important. It’s a pleasure to have something to say, and I will continue to make films as a director, but my priority is still cinematography. I am a little bit over the top most of the time, so I figure if you’re not ready for that, you’re going to be in deep shit. You’re either going to have to fire me, or sedate me, or something.

 

 

Article by Filmmaker