Archive for Ed Lachman

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.

A Woolrich Gallery #2

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2010 by dcairns

Francis M Nevins, in his Woolrich study First You Dream, The You Die (title derived from a long list of unused titles left behind by Woolrich when he died), reckons UNION CITY may be the worst of all Woolrich adaptations. But I think there’s something to be said in its favour.

“Before Twin Peaks, there was UNION CITY,” said Everett McGill, who appeared in both (those are his teeth, screen right). And the comparison is useful — there’s an arch, strained, weird sense of humour bubbling away in the background of UNION CITY, and it’s not quite clear why it’s there. It doesn’t seem to be trying to actually make us laugh. Tonally there’s definitely a connection, although the effect of TP is quite different — it often IS funny, and also you care for the characters, which doesn’t happen in Marcus Reichert’s film.

Visual artist Marcus Reichert’s first feature is extremely pleasing to the eye — along with DEADLINE AT DAWN, THE WINDOW and PHANTOM LADY, it may be the most handsome of Woolrich movies. Although Reichert’s idea of coverage is sometimes eccentric — the above long take is our first introduction to star Deborah Harry, who keeps her back to us for most of the shot. A build-up to a dramatic reveal? No, the moment of revelation is thrown away.

Cinematographer Ed Lachman (STROSZEK) serves up some nice mood lighting, although some of the camera operating is notably poor, but the real visual honours go to the design, which Reichert himself supervised. Not only is the fifties setting nicely evoked (updating the story from Woolrich’s thirties depression-era), but the colour combinations are really pleasing and original.

As in Woolrich’s story, The Corpse Next Door, a temperamental husband accidentally brains the guy who’s been stealing the milk off his doorstep, and goes to pieces after stashing the body in a murphy bed in the unoccupied next door apartment. Woolrich’s story offers a rare unsympathetic protagonist, who nevertheless becomes a sacrificial lamb on the altar of gruelling suspense. It’s an odd story to adapt to feature length, because it seems almost overstretched at twenty-one pages, and the main character is almost totally inactive between the violent incident and the climax. By padding the story out with irrelevancies, Reichert diffuses what tension there might have been. Perhaps hoping to use Woolrich’s slow fuse to keep the audience engaged as he throws in side-shows and character bits, he actually dissolves the drama before our eyes.

But there’s still plenty to enjoy. As the nominal protagonist, Dennis Lipscomb creates a sweaty, anxious and petulant characterisation worth anybody’s five bucks. The character’s obsessive pettiness is well evoked by showing him in bed with Debbie Harry, yet preoccupied with rigging a Tom & Jerry style trap to catch the milk thief. This guy has problems.

The woman I can’t help but think of as Debbie Blondie gives a remarkable perf, where she doesn’t seem to be acting at all. Oh, she squints a lot, and her lips wander all over her face like confused draught excluders, but that’s part of her thing: she just seems to be behaving, rather than acting. That face is out of control: either it’s been taken over by warring aliens, or it’s just numb from cocaine and she’s trying to spasm it back into life. Pat Benatar shows up too, and for really no reason. Taylor Mead and CCH Pounder add cult appeal, and Kathryn Bigelow was script supervisor. The movie’s fifties setting may have been an influence on THE LOVELESS, her own directorial debut two years later.

Blondie member Chris Stein contributes a reasonably hideous and anachronistic score, which was the one thing I really couldn’t enjoy on any level, other than the “it’s interesting because it’s him doing it” one. But there’s something interesting going on here, and I wish Reichert could have been more prolific so as to hone it.