Archive for Tom Luddy

Natan News

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2013 by dcairns


Time I collected all our NATAN news together — or all the news that’s ready to print.

The movie just played two dates at the Cambridge Film Festival. Here’s a Podcast interview with me.  And last weekend it was on in Penicuik town hall. This Sunday it screens there again, part of the Penicuik Festival of Scottish Films (it’s an Irish production, but I’m Scottish and we shot our studio scenes in Edinburgh).

On October 10th (my birthday!), the film screens at Dallas Video Fest at the famous Alamo Drafthouse — I hope to do a Q&A via Skype.

The French premier is on October 17th at the Lumiere Festival in Lyon. This is VERY exciting. Lyon has an amazing line-up and it’s astonishing to be in such company. And we can’t wait to see the French reaction to a couple of Celts blundering in and rewriting their film history.

Before that, however, Pordenone Festival of Silent Film are stretching a point and showing our talking documentary on the 12th. David Robinson, Chaplin biographer and former director if Edinburgh International Film festival, programs this one and it seems like another amazing cinephile treat.

Since Telluride, much has happened or is happening that we can’t go public with yet. But —

I’ve written liner notes for a forthcoming Arrow Blu-ray of Philip Kaufman’s INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. I was excited to realize that Tom Luddy, director of Telluride is IN the film, playing a pod person, so I thought I’d find him at the Fest and ask him about that. I located him at the amazing mountain brunch, and he immediately said “Oh, Phil’s here somewhere.” so I got to drink bloody marys (with freshly-grated horse radish) with Philip Kaufman and ask him about his movie.


Phil K and I. Altitude sickness can be fun!

Later, I slipped him a DVD of NATAN and he was kind enough to say he liked it. We asked if we could quote him and he sent us this astonishing testimonial —

“David Cairns and Paul Duane have brilliantly explored the archives and shadows and have unearthed a man, airbrushed out of History, virtually unknown to the present, who was one of the most important figures in the history of French cinema. Natan was a nonpareil entertainer responsible in great part for the survival of modern French cinema; yet he was vilified, hounded, and brutally destroyed. In resurrecting him, they have also unearthed the most startling show-biz story ever told: a tale of ambition, fun and shady business that turns into a remarkable horror story: a morality tale without morality. Natan is an extraordinary film!”

My eyeballs popped out ping-pong-fashion when I read that, I can tell you. I’m also very fond of this piece from Boulder Jewish News, which ties the film to the recent debate re Ben Urwand’s book The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler. Pointing to Natan’s downfall, Stan Kreis suggests that Hollywood execs must have felt that their own wealth and power was imperfectly secure, accounting for their general reluctance to make themselves heard on political issues and particularly on Nazism before the war (and they largely avoided using the J Word even during the war). Kreis is right to assume Natan’s story was known — it received a little coverage in the American trade press, but owing to Natan’s business dealings in America (he distributed Disney’s cartoons in France, for instance), Hollywood bosses would have known a good deal more than was publicized in The Film Daily. The fact that French papers covered Natan’s trial with headlines about “the Jew Tannenzaft, known as Natan,” for instance…

One more great response to the film: at Edinburgh, Ehsan Khoshbakt filmed an interview with me, and it’s now edited and up at Fandor along with his smart and flattering critical observations.

Telluride Survival Guide

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 8, 2013 by dcairns

telluride 066

Telluride is such a lovely festival, located in the most spectacularly beautiful place I’ve ever been — as Ferris Bueller says, “If you have the means, I highly recommend it.”

Such a place shouldn’t really require a survival guide, and indeed it doesn’t — it’s Cannes that you have to watch out for — Cannes wants you dead — but I thought that in the guise of such a guide I could get away with waxing lyrical about my six days of cinematic bliss —

telluride 048

The weather guide for the place told us it’d be warm, but that it could be cold at night. That’s true as far as it goes, as was my friend and editor Timo’s description of “proper shorts weather,” but you had best bring an umbrella too, or acquire one (the Festival’s own official umbrella is $30 but the design is beautiful). We had thunderstorms every day but one, I think, and corruscating hail that bounced down the street after you like Rover from The Prisoner only 80,000 times faster. None of this spoiled the pleasure, indeed the distant rumbles from the mountains added a touch of Tolkein. I was in La Pierre waiting for a screening and so missed the week’s most acclaimed meteorological event — a rainbow across the mountains bisected by a lightning bolt — but I certainly saw plenty of raw-nature-as-backdrop. I didn’t go trekking because I fear bears. It’s the cuddly killers you have to watch out for in this life.

The hell of every film fest is that as you see one movie you’re probably missing four more. You just have to relax, target things you fancy that might not get a release, but mix it up with things everybody’s excited about, and see live stuff that’ll never come back too.

Godfrey Reggio, no less, described Telluride as like an ocean liner — you walk up, then down, and meet the same people three or four times a day. Although sometimes you miss them because you’re in films when they’re out and about, and vice versa.

The festival feeds its guests once a day, and well. A spectacular brunch in the mountains, a picnic in the park (“It was no more a picnic than he was a man,” as Welles says in LADY FROM SHANGHAI — what I mean is that this is a huge outdoor banquet with marquees and movie stars and people congratulating you on your film (which you had best get used to if you go with one), parties at fabulous houses. Go to any of these you get invited to, each is memorable and unmissable.

telluride 084

If, like me, you have a certain level of vertigo, journeying from your hotel to the town, or from the town to the Chuck Jones Theater, may prove emotionally taxing. You are dangled on a wire in a little booth seating six, and trundled through the sky above the treetops. The ominous drone of the machinery occasionally varies as the contraption pauses for no discernible reason (a delay caused by someone having difficulty dismounting at the other end, apparently).

telluride 057

In daylight the view is so incredible it serves to distract nicely: I likened the resulting combination of beauty and terror to having Halle Berry come at you with an axe. At night the gondolas are pitch black, though the starscapes, fuzzed by perspex, still add awe. I recommend Diazepam if you think you may need it, but don’t hide on the floor: the scenery is your best tonic/distraction/sedative.

The gondolas are also the best place to practice your pitch. Tell people about your film and they will go. I couldn’t believe this at first, and missed many chances to persuade people to attend. By the end I had it down cold and managed to nearly pack our cinema for a last-minute bonus screening at 9am on a Monday morning. Telluride is a word-of-mouth film festival — there’s been very little press about our film, but people seemed to hear about it alright.

Leave the brunch early to avoid a huge wait. But stay and enjoy it and you can find yourself chatting to interesting people in line. It’s win-win, like so much at Telluride.

See the smaller films: MUSIDORA: THE TENTH MUSE by Patrick Cazals studied the life and work of Feuillade’s great star, revealing much I hadn’t known: did you know Musidora directed several films? Now I want to see them, as they look very good, and as star she is always compelling. I left with even more respect for her acting, which magnetically pulls focus from her co-stars without any visible effort, and runs the gamut from startling naturalism to savage pantomime. This ran alongside NATAN at the bonus screening and made a perfect mate for it (almost too perfect: it uses all the same techniques, only better — apart from not having a papier mache main character). Cazals has made docs on figures as diverse as Paradjanov and Mamoulian, which I now crave to see.

Coppola was in attendance with RUMBLE FISH, subject of a new doc (LOCATIONS: SEARCHING FOR RUSTY JAMES) — Paul Duane approached him at a party to voice his admiration: “He didn’t look very interested, but the acoustics weren’t good at that party, so while I was telling him that RUMBLE FISH had always been a great cult film in Ireland, he was probably hearing ‘Blah blah blah I’m a boring cunt.'”

Festival co-founder Tom Luddy informed us that Chris Marker actually shot background plates for RUMBLE FISH — some of that time-lapse stuff — which raised our eyebrows. Also that Marker’s last major work was on Second Life. He wasn’t interested in spending time restoring his earlier films as he was too excited by new media. “I can’t waste time on that — the tools I need are finally here!”

Be sociable! I regret not telling Coppola what a big cult item RUMBLE FISH always was in Scotland, but I had great chats with Philip Kaufman, John Ptak, Patrick Cazals, and formed the kind of intense friendships with fellow filmmakers that festivals are really good for. I want to see Esther Julie-Anne, Battiste Fenwick and Dario Naldi again soon. Dario takes a good picture —

telluride 047