Archive for The Graduate

Questions, questions

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on June 24, 2017 by dcairns

I am in Bologna, after a long but remarkably stress-free trip. Plans to dine with one set of friends immediately derailed though and I ended up sharing zuppa inglese with Jonathan Rosenbaum, a rare kind of double pleasure in terms of nourishment and fascinating company. I attempted to defend some of my favourite white elephant artists. Then I wandered to the Piazza Maggiore to see THE GRADUATE but arrived so late that I would have had to stand at the back all through it — to spare my feet, I just watched the opening and headed back to the pensione.

Today sees the official start of Il Cinema Ritrovato so should give me more to report…

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Adrift

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , on October 19, 2016 by dcairns

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I was lecturing today upon the art of visualisation — getting from words on a page to images on a screen. I wanted to show the first talking scene from THE GRADUATE but I also thought “What the hell?” and showed the whole title sequence.

It brought back to me my first impressions of seeing the film as a teenager: how the opening shot immediately made me feel that I was in… not safe hands, but purposeful hands. Here’s Dustin Hoffman as a kind of disembodied head. The filmmaker definitely has something on his mind. It turns out Mike Nichols signature image for the film was “He’s out of his depth.” Hence all those shots of Dustin Hoffman poolside, or filmed through glass, or otherwise framed in a way to suggest drowning. Here he is, shot as if bobbing in a sea of white upholstery.

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Then we get the shot Tarantino stole for JACKIE BROWN’s title sequence. As blatant thefts go, it can be excused somewhat on the basis that it’s not just a nice shot repeated, but the shot is apt in both cases. Our main character is a passenger. Dustin Hoffman is literally a passenger, Pam Grier is a stewardess, but still, she does not control where the plane is going. By shooting both characters on a kind of conveyor belt, the directors suggest that these people are trapped in a rut, being led along by life, passive. But this is going to change.

Nichols goes one better and cuts to Hoffman’s suitcase, on its own conveyor. Dustin is like his suitcase, and inanimate object trundling along on a preordained path.

For the first time, I noticed the sign. I’m obsessed with writing onscreen but I had not become so when I first saw this movie. It’s a great line to put up front in what is, in effect, a romantic comedy in disguise ~

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Just back from Ricky Callan’s funeral. When the music in the pub switched to Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence, I figured that the day had come full circle and it was time to wander home. Cheers, Ricky.

Collaboration

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 18, 2016 by dcairns

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Yesterday — two contrasting screenings of THE NORTHLEACH HORROR, one with a disparate program of shorts, one with Steve Barker’s kinetic, political zombie theme park movie THE REZORT, which was a total blast. Steve’s audience was my kind of audience.

Spent most of today with the makers of HAROLD AND LILLIAN: A HOLLYWOOD LOVE STORY, an utterly charming documentary about a creative collaboration between two members of movie professions who never normally get films made about them: Harold Michelson was a storyboard artist who worked with Hitchcock on THE BIRDS and MARNIE, with Mike Nichols (he designed the shot where Anne Bancroft’s legs frame Dustin Hoffman) and many, many others, while his wife Lillian ran a research library based variously at the AFI, Zoetrope and Paramount. Two amazing and lovely filmmakers, profiled in detail in a film that is both heartwarming and heartbreaking (certain organs break easier when they’ve been warmed).

With the film’s director Daniel Raim and his co-producer and co-editor Jennifer Raim (another great husband-and-wife team) I strolled the city on a sightseeing tour and then dropped in on THE LOVERS AND THE DESPOT, yet another film about a creative partnership, in this case the story of South Korean director Shin Sang -ok and his ex-wife, movie star Choi Eun-Hee, who were reunited when they were both kidnapped by Kim Jong-il and forced to make movies to raise the prestige of the North Korean film industry. A compelling and crazy story, beautifully told.

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The perfect blendship.

My editor friend Timo Langer has a copy of Kim’s book on film-making, On The Art of the Cinema — it’s not exactly a manual, more a set of dictats, vague-sounding aesthetic principles about how “each element of a film should be in balance” — the kind of things you can image a not-very-bright studio exec coming out with if asked to pontificate on a panel. It’s sort of like Bresson’s Notes on Cinematography as written by a dilettante blowhard. Or like Hamlet’s notes to the players, translated from the original Korean. Very boring to read, since it’s all just gassy generalisations, but a great talking point to have on your bookshelf. I covet it madly.