Archive for Robert Redford

Sacred Spaces

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2014 by dcairns

Cathedrals Of Culture still 1 _Glawogger_Library_01_

Bologna — have relocated to the city centre, and am averaging five screenings a day. Met Kristin Thompson, David Bordwell, Jonathan Rosenbaum and Kevin Brownlow. Life is good!

Report from Edinburgh:

CATHEDRALS OF CULTURE is subtitled A 3D FILM PROJECT ABOUT ARCHITECTURE or something, a weirdly prissy title (is a “film project” different from/better than a “film”) and what it is, is a series of half hour portraits of important buildings by an international group of filmmakers. Since there are six half hour pieces, it’s quite long, and like all compendium films it’s a mixed bag, but none of the films are boring and there is one real stand-out.

Rather unfortunately, several of the filmmakers have had the same idea, writing a voice-over for the buildings so they can narrate their own stories. It’s a cute idea, done once. Michael Glawogger breaks the pattern by assembling a collage of Russian literary extracts; Redford uses a series of audio interviews, new and archival. Dispensing with talk altogether might have been a welcome innovation for somebody.

Despite this being Wim Wenders’ second work in 3D, after PINA, he continually tracks forward through the Berlin Philharmonic (a genuinely grand, innovative and consistently surprising structure), which weirdly cancels out the effect of being in a 3D movie. Forward tracking shots look like 3D already. Lateral ones, diagonal ones, and indeed stationary ones are more suited to exploiting the stereoscopic effect. Still, the space is stunning and about half of Wenders shots do it justice.

Cathedrals Of Culture still 3 _Redford_Institute_01_

Robert Redford struggles to find enough angles on the Salk Institute, which offers only one real vista, a challenge to legendary cinematographer Ed Lachman’s inventiveness. Margreth Olin has the benefit of dance performances to shoot at the Oslo Opera House, but her constant freeze frames and shifts into black and white mar rather than enhance the experience.

Michael Glawogger’s camera drifts through a vast library, recalling Resnais, and finding a few striking effects with the curving aisles of books and flickering fluorescent lights. But visits to the Pompidou Centre and other noble institutions risk being purely celebratory, a difficult attitude to sustain with interest for three hours.

The filmmaker who understands 3D best here is Michael Madsen (not the actor), perhaps because he’s also a cinematographer. His portrait of a Finnish prison manages to surprise with every fresh angle, the bleak but beautiful whiteness of the structure perfectly captured in crisp, calm frames which nevertheless brim with unspoken tension. By choosing the least overtly “cultural” building, Madsen also avoids preciousness, a slight concern elsewhere. The voice-over, recorded by the prison’s psychologist, adopts the viewpoint of various sections of the institution: the perimeter wall, the chapel, the cottage for conjugal visits, and most disturbingly, the isolation wing.

In Hazard

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on January 3, 2014 by dcairns

-all-is-lost

In Telluride, I had two contrasting experiences of Robert Redford — one was seeing him in an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour programmed by Pierre Rissient — the barely-formed Redford on display was subtly out-of-whack, not yet blandly handsome, but actually odd-looking, with tiny slitty eyes — but he gave an excellent performance — the other encounter was actually brushing shoulders with the Great Man himself at a brunch in the mountains. Suddenly seeing him up close was startling — the distractingly youthful hair and the post-handsome famous heaped incongruously underneath it.

But in ALL IS LOST, the oddities of Redford’s appearance totally work, and he looks spectacular, rugged and rumpled and defiant. He’s the only actor onscreen apart from one stray body part I shouldn’t spoil for you, he’s the only voice we hear apart from a very brief snatch of radio talk in a foreign language and a song in the end credits, but he barely speaks during the whole movie — I guess about a dozen words, max. He doesn’t even have a character name: the credits, which are full of quirky details and worth staying for, helpfully let us know that he’s called “Our Man.”

Our Man is on a yacht somewhere off Sumatra (odd, how you spend ages not hearing about Sumatra and then two references come along in 24hrs — Mark Gatiss’s episode of Sherlock the previous night referenced The Giant Rat of Sumatra, that favourite unwritten Holmes adventure) which gets punctured by a huge floating metal container full of sneakers (oddly, the title of a 1992 Redford film). The rest of the film is Our Man fighting leaks, electrical short-outs, inclement weather (forgive the understatement) and possibly an angry God. By being so minimalist — J.C. Chandor, who made the acclaimed MARGIN CALL, doesn’t even use music for the first long chunk of the action — the movie positively invites allegorical readings of this kind, but smartly holds off on tips which might lead us one way or another. Is Our Man a symbol of America, masculinity, mankind — is the film about mortality, and is ALL really LOST?

all-is-lost-robert-redford

The Arri Alexa Raw is unforgiving at close range and we become intimate with every crack and blemish in the ancient mariner’s once blank and beamish face — and that landscape, nudged around from within by the subtle thoughts and concerns animating the actor’s mind, becomes an engrossing spectacle as fascinating as the blue depths full of gleaming fish that arc beneath his ruptured vessel.

Just as the debate around AMERICAN HUSTLE and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET takes the unproductive form of “Which is the better Scorsese film, the one by Scorsese or the other one?”, ALL IS LOST gets paired with GRAVITY, and different people find each film more thrilling. I was definitely more excited by the thrill-ride of GRAVITY, but I did get a visceral, tactile response to ALL IS LOST (the film sports plenty of visual effects, which I couldn’t tell from reality, but there’s plenty of real ocean too — whereas essentially nothing in GRAVITY is photographically real except the actors’ faces, and there’s room for doubt with those) — as the storm whipped up, I felt the need to put on the jumper I’d just taken off because I was too warm. Now, it could be that some wily cinema manager has the air conditioning timed to the film’s plotline, but I prefer the more psychological explanation in this case — and that Skywalker sound, with every raindrop distinct, really does get under your skin.

Euphoria #43: Don’t ever hit your mother with a shovel…

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , on February 9, 2008 by dcairns

Warm and mellow-making movie moments, chosen by YOU, the Shadowplayers

My Mum, Sheila Cairns, picked this Bacharachian bachanal from BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, pointing out that she couldn’t imagine why Katherine Ross would be interested in Robert Redford anyway, with Paul Newman around.

It’s a beautiful scene (faint shades of JULES ET JIM?), and George Roy Hill deserves more credit as, at the very least, a second-tier commercial filmmaker (he was among the first to assimilate the influence of the Nouvelle Vague, for one thing). I reviewed a book about him once and, I can only say, he deserves a better book. The first edition must have been pretty good, but somewhere between then and the revised updated version, something pretty bad must have happened to the author (maybe just TIME?) and all the life and precision had gone out of his writing. And since Hill, at his best, had a lot of both qualities, he definitely deserves a better book.

Hmm, this sequence maybe could use some better GAGS (the “prequel” BUTCH AND SUNDANCE: THE EARLY DAYS has plenty) but GRH makes up for that by finding pretty and surprising and playful ways of filming stuff.

I just wish they’d tweaked it in the edit so that the snatching of the apple from the tree branch coincided with the word “did” in the lyrics. Wouldn’t that be nicer, musically?

But it’s great that they get away with the song. Of course, it’s not as extreme in its anachronism as Ennio Morricone’s surf guitar masterpieces, but its very airy and confident and sweet and is pretty clearly a modern popular song with nothing but tone to justify its presence (the lyrics run defiantly counter to the action). It did lead to a lot of inferior imitations, which rather deface movies like THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE and THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN (not a particularly strong contender at the best of times).

I think it’s funny that my Mum would choose this scene as she has a morbid fear of cows.

Go West

*

Otherstuff: screenwriter William Goldman still prefers his original title, THE SUNDANCE KID AND BUTCH CASSIDY (they changed it when Newman, the big star, wanted to play Butch).

He’s CRAZY.

BCATSK is obviously much nicer than TSKABC, as you can see for yourselves just by singing each title in turn. You see? You SEE?

And: my folks just recently watched NORTH BY NORTHWEST together again, on the exact anniversary of the day they first saw it, on their first date together, on the film’s first release.

And: the Donald Westlake novel I’m reading, Drowned Hopes, lifts Hitchcock’s original idea for the climax of NBNW — a man climbs into the nostril of the Mount Rushmore Lincoln, it’s dusty in there, and he sneezes. I’m going to forgive Westlake this little plagiarism, as it happens in the perfect place in the novel and anyway, Hitchcock never actually used it (the Mount Rushmore people objected).

the man in Lincoln's nose

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