Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ingmar Bergman

Wednesday marks the one year anniversary of Ingmar Bergman's death. He spent his last days living alone on the Swedish island of Fårö.

"It sounds like a lonely life on the island of Faro?"

"I'm never lonely...sometimes I go days without speaking to a soul."

Paul Schrader, director:
Ingmar Bergman, more than any other director, showed that it was possible for a film director to be an introspective and serious artist in the commercial cinema. Bergman paved the road; the rest of us just road down it.

David Mamet, playwright and director: When I was young the World Theatre, in Chicago, staged an all-day Ingmar Bergman Festival. I went at ten o'clock in the morning, and stayed all day. When I left the theater it was still light, but my soul was dark, and I did not sleep for years afterwards.


Friday, July 25, 2008

David Gordon Green and the old "One, two."

David Gordon Green directs Dermot Mulroney in 2004's Undertow.

After August 6th weekend, add David Gordon Green to the list of directors who have cracked the "machine-good-for-us, we-good-for-machine" Hollywood code. If (or should we say when?) the Apatow clan's Pineapple Express is a success, Green may well be joining the ranks of Spielberg, The Coens, and George Clooney in the tiniest niche of Hollywood: Those who make what they want, when they want, because they've been feeding the hungry beast what it wants..........truckloads of money.

This isn't to say Green has sacrificed his artistic integrity. The boy has worked hard. He's already written-and-directed four very low-budget, beautifully crafted films about the South. His disarming debut, (George Washington) was accomplished at 24 with a budget of 40,000 and has since received the coveted Criterion treatment. A
t a mere 33 years old, it's quite a resumé.

Green has a voice of his own, rare in these days of Iron Man and 45 Will Ferell movies a year. There's a hyper-realism to his films. People look the way people look, say the things people say. Upon watching these films, the first guess concerning his next project wouldn't necessarily be stoner-comedy. But watch a few interviews with the man himself and you'll see where David Gordon Green is coming from.

By his long supply of college t-shirts, dirty old baseball caps, and laid-back attitude, you infer that he's an average American college kid from the South. B
ut why, after so much critical acclaim and artistic success, jump on the Apatow Express now? Surely, he's "better than that?" A true modern-day Cinephile in the league of Quentin Tarantino, Green has no pretensions and his tastes don't stop at foreign philosophical cinema (though he's well-versed in that, too). When asked to show a series of films that inspired him alongside his own week-long retrospective at BAM's Cinematek, he featured 1989's Tango and Cash. Green jokes, "In terms of people who are going to retrospectives and are kind of digging back into movies of the past, I don't know if 'Tango & Cash' is one people are primed for. I mean, I know me and my buddies will be there."

Green has mentioned his interest in several projects with a much bigger scope (a meditative, 3-hour sci-fi epic in the vein of Tarkovsky). In an interview with Filmmaker magazine in 2004, Green was already plotting the moves to find these budgets,
"It’s the financial pressure we don’t want, and it’s the creative freedom we insist upon. It’s hard. I’m at a point in my career where I’m trying to be somewhat strategic in the next move or two so that I can open doors and create opportunities like that, yet at the same time trying to work within the aspect of the industry that I love."

One has to wonder what Green would do with a massive budget, a major studio behind him, and his own script in hand. He admits,
"(I know) how difficult it is to bring my approach to a production where people are looking over your shoulder. It makes it really hard for me to work in a way that I want to work, where my crew is inspired to work....I don't like being told I can't move a light...There’s a lot more of a structured, systematic, mechanical discipline in larger-budget projects."

A big budget,
and artistic freedom? In that case, riding with the Apatow clan might be the wisest way into the machine, as one would imagine nobody is breathing down their necks. With millions in opening weekends and DVD sales, nobody's sweating Seth Rogen for going a few thousand over budget.

Whatever happens, it will be interesting to see if Green gets a rhythm going in the "One for you, one for me" style of Clooney or Spielberg, or if he'll retreat back to the bible belt with a few thousand dollars and a few friends. Either way, I know I'll be watching.


Back in the Saddle Again...

Remember that Aerosmith song? No? Well, it was bad. Here's what's good. We haven't updated in a good long while. We're busy men and we aren't just all about film. Here's some music the Short List folks are checking out these days:

Crystal Castles: So hip it hurts. Hurts so good.
Black Kids: So hip it hurts, not always so good, but it's fun nonetheless.
Fleet Foxes: Some nice, truly inspired melodies and lyrics, the gaps between which are filled with mood-spinning, backwoods America, it's sunny out but we're in a dark barn type stuff. The whole "we're down-homey and of the Earth" got tired in the sixties and then again a few months ago but Robin Pecknold's ear is just unique enough that the harmonies will grab you and hang on for an album's worth.
The New
Beck album: It's good. Huh...weird.
Dwight Yoakam: ...shutup. I know I'm alone on this one. Mix the guilty pleasure of Alan Jackson's crap-pop with the reality and depth of Willie Nelson. Anyway, it sounds good live.
Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac: ...pre-Lindsey and Stevie, it was a hardcore white boy blues band. Green, a schizophrenic, made Eric Clapton sound like the dork he was/is.
Public Enemy: The whole catalog, really. I mean, those guys had a lot to say.
Forest Fire: Maybe not the whole album, but "Fortune Teller" reminds us of the good ol' Violent Femmes days.

"He has the sweetest tone I ever heard; he was the only one who gave me the cold sweats." -B.B. King on Peter Green