Archive for What is This Film Called Love?

Totally Illegal

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2013 by dcairns


My film CRY FOR BOBO plays another film festival, more than eleven years after it was made. Feels good that I’m about to have another movie on the festival circuit…

The fest is this one, The Totally Illegal Film Festival, curated by Scout Tafoya, who has had the brilliant idea of not only programming my short, and Mark Cousins’ charming, personal flaneur-film WHAT IS THIS FILM CALLED LOVE?, and Dan Sallitt’s delight THE UNSPEAKABLE ACT, but of reassembling the programme of the 1968 Cannes Film Festival — the one which didn’t happen due to Les Evenements.

So residents of Pennsylvania and visitors to that great state can have the pleasure of seeing what the residents of 1968 missed. I gather Scout has scouted up practically everything, save for the Menahem Golan entry, which even Menahem Golan himself couldn’t supply a copy of.

(Interesting to think of young Golan in those days as a budding arthouse director, and interesting to speculate that the festival’s cancellation may have cut short this career, leading instead to his becoming an exploitation maven and short-lived movie mogul. When Golan was co-running Cannon films, he produced Jean-Luc Godard’s KING LEAR: FEAR AND LOATHING, with a deal memo signed on a restaurant napkin — perhaps he was grateful for JLG’s intervention sending him off in this direction.)

The ’68 festival would have included Richard Lester’s PETULIA, whose commercial prospects were dunted by the resulting damage to its release schedule, along with fascinating rarities like Frank Perry’s TRILOGY, Alain Resnais’s JE T’AIME, JE T’AIME, and Miklos Jancso’s THE CONFRONTATION, plus numerous movies that have fallen out of the collective critical consciousness altogether. Should make for a fascinating time capsule.


Paper Edit

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on November 6, 2012 by dcairns

My first day in the edit was a day of hanging around. Hanging around waiting for a courier to deliver rushes from Ohio (our shoot covers two continents!) — he came, decided he couldn’t get in, didn’t try the buzzer, and left again. Hanging around as our ace editor assembles our paper edit, which he doesn’t need me for. Hanging around as he digitizes various Pathe-Natan films I’ve brought with me from Edinburgh. So far that’s been my only concrete contribution, although at least I performed my courier duties better than the professional.

The paper edit is a document created from transcripts of our various interviews. We chopped them up and assembled them into a rather long-winded and repetitious narrative — the next stage is to assemble the actual video into a matching order, before beginning to prune it down. And also adding a ton of footage that’s NOT interviews — scenes of Paris, clips from movies, newsreels and other archive material, and shots of pertinent objects in our interviewee’s homes. And also some special footage I don’t want to say too much about yet.

Listening to Mark Cousins lecture on his excellent new feature WHAT IS THIS FILM CALLED LOVE? I got a great tip. Index cards. Tomorrow I will buy myself a stack. I was always slightly dubious of the index card approach, but that was before I became a documentarist. The argument against file cards is that if you can remove a scene from your narrative and replace it five scenes later, then you might as well remove it altogether. But this project seems different, partly because it’s a true story, and a story which advances on several fronts at once, as well as jumping back and forth between the subject’s life in the early twentieth century, and his reputation in the early twenty-first. Mark says that when he had his scenes written on cards he could INSTANTLY tell what belonged where. I long for that sensation.

Optimistically, I also feel that when I can hold the film as a stack of cards, I will have a better mental grasp of it as well. Currently, it exists on various hard drives, as a series of ones and zeroes, and you can only experience a frame of it at a time. When I have my stack of cards I will be able to weigh the film in my hands. I don’t know what good that will do me, but I’m expecting some kind of perceptible benefit.

Meanwhile, my co-director Paul is in London where he’s nominated for a Grierson Award for best newcomer with his feature BARBARIC GENIUS. He’s in good company — Julian Schwanitz, a student from Edinburgh College of Art, where I teach, is up for best student film with his short KIRKCALDY MAN. Wish them both luck!

Today’s Pathe-Natan film recommendation: LES CROIX DE BOIS (WOODEN CROSSES). Available on the Eclipse set of Raymond Bernard movies, it’s maybe the darkest and strongest of all the early talkie WWI movies. All the major members of the cast and crew (including Natan) were veterans, and the film achieves both a palpable sense of authenticity (complete with de-lousing and lost limbs) and an epic scope, while ambling along in a disarmingly free-form manner. The lack of an obvious theatrical structure just makes the movie feel even more lifelike.

Screenings were arranged up and down the country for veterans. One was so distressed that he killed himself. Not an effect any of the movie-makers intended, but a terrible testimony to the impact of their work. I only recommend the film to you on the assumption that Shadowplayers are pretty resilient people.

Eclipse Series 4: Raymond Bernard (Wooden Crosses / Les Miserables) (The Criterion Collection)