Archive for Natan

Copyriot in Cell Block 6

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , on March 28, 2015 by dcairns

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One day before the screening of LET US PREY, the spectacularly bloody horror film Fiona and I co-wrote, at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (a lovely fest: fond memories of seeing my other blockbusters NATAN and, er, CLOUD ATLAS there), the movie leaks all over the internet like a geriatric dog passed out on a modem. Prompting thoughts about cyber-piracy and what to do about it.

The producers of LET US PREY were actually pretty careful about piracy, as they were duty-bound to be — not only do they stand to lose money if the film is available free, the various participants, cast and crew, who deferred parts of their salaries to get the film off the ground, will lose out on the money they’re owed. Profit points mean nothing if there’s no profit. So, for instance, Fiona and I don’t even have a legit copy of the film we can use to show off our achievements, chop up for a showreel, or screen for prospective employers or agents. I was able to get a link to an online screener to show one interested party, after a little back-and-forth. So they’re being pretty diligent, and rightly so.

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But the film is out on DVD and Blu-ray in Germany, and with an English language audio option. Basically, that meant inevitably it would be pirated, and those who are so keen to see it they just can’t wait now have the chance to grab it from a torrent site at zero cost. I can’t say I blame them for choosing the fast, free option.

I’m not a distributor or publisher of DVDs, but it seems to me that if I were, I would tackle piracy by coordinating the film’s release so it comes out everywhere at the same time. Of course, I have no idea how difficult this would be in practice, but it seems like it ought to be possible. That way, honest film buffs are not punished for their honesty by being forced to wait for a release in their country, of to pay extra to buy the thing from abroad. I mean, *I* haven’t bought the German DVD, despite it’s really bitchin’ cover art, and I co-wrote the bloody thing.

Instead of doing this, movie companies petition for harsher penalties and probably impractical policing of the web. And circulate bogus statistics about how much money they’re losing, statistics which assume that everyone who downloads a piece of video or audio illegally would pay to do so if the free version were removed. Which is clearly ridiculous. I mean, one of the joys of the virtual wild west raging online is that you can grab far more stuff than you could ever afford to buy. But I’m sure billions are indeed being lost. This is to some extent an inevitable result of technology, of moving the industry to a place where all its product is composed of little ones and zeroes, digital information which can be copied exactly with relative ease. So why doesn’t the industry do something itself to minimise the loss?

If a film opens everywhere at once, you can maximise publicity on the internet instead of co-ordinating a series of campaigns for different territories at far greater cost. You can allow people to buy the film as soon as they hear about it and are enthused, and before they have a chance to read a lot of negative reviews. You remove one of the advantages of illegal downloading, its ability to deliver the film ahead of the official release date in your territory. Your other advantages, the nice packaging and reliable quality and extras, start to gain ground in this environment.

This will in no way solve the problem, but it doesn’t look like anything will, totally. We should concentrate on more serious internet crime ahead of movie-ripping. But this ought to save quite a lot of money.

The attitude of the industry at present strikes me as equivalent to a small-town pensioner complaining of the days when one could leave one’s door open all day without getting robbed — while leaving its door open.

Sitcom The IT Crowd adroitly mocked the industry’s bathetic response to piracy.

Meanwhile, whether you are watching LET US PREY legally or illegally, I hope it gives you some kind of sick pleasure, And watch out for the bit with the fingernail. Ewww.

New York a Go-Go

Posted in FILM, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , on February 2, 2015 by dcairns

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Since NATAN, the film Paul Duane and I made, is an unconventional length (not a short, but very short for a feature), the New York Jewish Film Festival wisely double-billed it with HOW TO BREAK INTO YIDDISH VAUDEVILLE, which is completely unlike it in every way but somehow complimented it sweetly. I don’t think you’d want another heavy subject to go with NATAN, so Jack Feldstein’s “neon animation” about a midwestern gentile who’s taught himself Yiddish and is carrying on the proud tradition of yiddisher vaudeville, was a perfect aperitif. It’s witty, quirky and poignant, since all the old stagers who taught Shane Baker their routines are now no longer with us.

Due to the predicted snowpocalypse, our flight the day before was cancelled so we flew into NYC on the day of the screening and were whisked to the venue only a couple of hours before the show started. Managed to stay awake for both screenings though I think my performance at the first q&a was probably a bit livelier/more coherent that at the second, which must have been around 3am UK time.

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Returned to the Walter Reade Theater the following evening to see Hilla Medalia’s THE GO-GO BOYS: THE INSIDE STORY OF CANNON FILMS, which was hilarious, insightful and educational. It also connected up with my life and work in surprising ways. Let me enumerate:

1) I was just becoming conscious of film as a business in my teens when Cannon had their heyday, ultimately buying up EMI’s film production arm and the ABC cinema chain (which owned half the mainstream cinemas in the UK). I saw several of the BBC documentaries and news reports quoted in the documentary when they first aired, regarding the ebullient producers with a certain horror at the time. Now, even their trashiest productions seems relatively benign and the films they made while seeking to class up their reputation form a rather startling array. Cassavetes’ LOVE STREAMS, Zefferelli’s OTELLO, Godard’s KING LEAR: FEAR AND LOATHING, Mailer’s TOUGH GUYS DON’T DANCE, Ruiz’s TREASURE ISLAND, Polanski’s PIRATES… What were they thinking? But I’m glad those movies exist, and if the only production companies around were sane, they wouldn’t.

2) There’s a very weird connection with NATAN. When Golan & Globus overextended themselves, the white knight riding to their rescue and bailing them out was Giancarlo Parretti. This new alliance created a wedge between money-raising Globus and money-spending Golan, who left seeking independence. Parretti and Globus then tried to buy MGM, with money that turned out not to exist. Parretti had been laundering money for the Mafia, and went to jail. What boggled my mind was the film’s description of Parretti as the head of Pathe, which creates uncanny parallels with the story of Bernard Natan (also jailed for fraud). But what THE GO-GO BOYS doesn’t make quite clear is that Parretti never actually owned Pathe, although he planned to, and renamed Cannon “Pathe Communications” in anticipation of this.

3) Menahem Golan directed the one entry in the ’68 Cannes Film Festival (the festival that never happened) which Scout Tafoya and myself were unable to track down for our retrospective series The ’68 Comeback Special (here and here). TEVYE AND HIS SEVEN DAUGHTERS is based on the same stories that inspired FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. Having failed to source a copy via legitimate means or by the Dark Internet, I suggested Scout try Golan himself, which he did. The veteran filmmaker did not have a copy of his own film. (He’s dead now.)

Well, in THE GO-GO BOYS there’s a few seconds from the film, proving that it does at least still exist, at least in the German version. Someday, we shall complete The ’68 Comeback Special. Shalom!

Ants in Your Plants of 1941

Posted in FILM, weather with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 27, 2015 by dcairns

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Today I was supposed to be in New York but flight got pushed back. Something to do with a slight snowfall. Daniel Riccuito of The Chiseler reports that the sky is basically solid snowflakes, drifting UPWARDS. Which sounds fine — the ground will be cleared in no time. It’s just the sky you have to worry about. Walk in a crouch, New York, and you’ll be alright. But I can see how an atmosphere composed entirely of frozen water would make air traffic problematic.

So I go tomorrow, arriving at the Walter Reade Theater hopefully just in time for the 3,15 screening of NATAN as part of the New York Jewish Film Festival. I will be lugging my luggage, tired and wired, but hopefully coherent enough for a cogent Q&A. And then another screening 8.45 the same day. Hope to see you there, weather permitting.

Meanwhile, there is time to tell you about SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS, on Blu-Ray from the Criterion Collection. I made a video essay for this, aided by editor Stephen Horne and graphic designer Danny Carr who gets a special shout-out here for an amazing 40s-style animated title sequence, sampled above. Since the Coen Brothers swiped one title from John L. Sullivan’s fictional filmography (O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?) I wanted to grab another. It was this or HEY-HEY IN THE HAY LOFT. The conversations then came to be about what a title for such a film might consist of. Danny surpassed all expectations by combining the pull-back-thru-lettering device of THE PALM BEACH STORY with the animated characters of THE LADY EVE, all in a convincing early forties style despite working with computer rather than cel animation. I’m blown away by his work.

The piece also features an interview with Bill Forsyth, a fan of the film who explains how it influenced him. This was folded into my script after I wrote it, much as I did with Richard Lester’s interview for my A HARD DAY’S NIGHT piece. One of these days I’ll manage to do the interview first and then write the VO around it, like a sane person.

You can pre-order this magnificent product here —

Sullivan’s Travels [Blu-ray]

I’m really chuffed with how it turned out!

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