Incongruously placed in the corner of the Fargo-Moorhead Visitors Center, past leaflets advertising such local treats as the Rookery Rock Winery and the Buffalo River Pumpkin Patch, is a rusted-yellow Yard Shark wood chipper. Visitors come from all over America to don a bomber hat, grab the kindly provided fake leg - complete with authentic white wool sock - and reenact the most famous body-disposal scene in Hollywood history.
Such is the enduring legacy of the Coen brothers' Fargo, which cemented them as America's foremost re-inventors of the crime drama. In 2006, ten years after it's release and two Oscars later, Fargo was inducted into the US National Film Registry, one of just five films in the registry to have been awarded a place on the first year they were eligible - an honour shared withGoodfellas, Raging Bull, Toy Story and Do the Right Thing. Now, ten years later, Fargo is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
Read more at the 405 here
"There is no more film, there is no more television - there is cinema. And it can be everywhere, and anywhere, and it can do anything."
Francis Ford Coppola isn't the director he used to be. Following his swan-dive from grace with the execrable Jack, tepid-to-terrible reactions to each film that followed dimmed expectations of a return to form. For better or worse, it seems as though the legendary maverick who restaged Vietnam, and determined the course of American crime drama, is lost. 'For worse', you're likely thinking to yourself. Well, you might be more sheepish in the future, when the supposedly diminished Coppola reinvents cinema.
Read more here at The 405
Writer-Director Jeff Nichols releases his inner Spielberg in Midnight Special, a sci-fi twist on his reliably compelling Southern Gothic myths
Before the advent of digital cameras, the time limit of a take was set by the length of the film in a reel. Now that cameras can run the clock in excess of any celluloid reel, standard feature length films without cuts are possible. However, only a handful of releases have ever attempted such a feat. The process is certainly a gamble and it takes a confident or foolish director to eschew the all-important coverage that might save a sequence in the edit. Editing is more than simply a safety net, but, when falling through a single-shot shoot, the filmmakers might wish they had one.
Mistakes aside, a filmmaker's purposive narrative, meaning and style will most often change dramatically in the editing suite. Despite what originally might have seemed settled in the script and on the set, the keen focus with hindsight in the editing process has a way of turning what initially seemed prescient into the myopic. To go forward without the benefit of an editor requires that the puzzles that might present themselves in post-production are solved before you call action. Fortune favours the bold, though, and sometimes a limitation is a blessing. Certain films show that the create a distinct experience. While Hitchcock's Rope and Iñárritu's Birdman are masterpieces of single-shot fakery, they're to be disqualified for the advantages of hidden cuts and digital stitching. The focus here is on those audacious films that attempt to never require splicing of any kind.
This week sees the UK cinema release of German actor-director Sebastian Schipper's film Victoria. A two-hour thriller constructed as a single take, Schipper's daring gambit is just the latest in a short but remarkable line of single-shot feature films. Victoriasees the eponymous lonely soul, played by Laia Costa, meet her first friends since moving to Berlin, subsequently careening from nightclub flirting to armed robbery in the course of one relentlessly heady night. The film was plotted but not scripted or blocked, which meant improvisation from both cast and crew during each take. The production spent three months preparing and rehearsing, fastidiously working out the logistics, even down to how small issues like the opening of a door might derail an entire night's work. The hard graft paid off, three takes was all it took and the last one was a keeper.
Read more at The 405 here
A PTSD-afflicted soldier on leave, but desperate to return to warfare, is granted his wish during a bodyguard job for a politically connected family in Alice Winocour's paranoid thriller.
Disorder is yet another addition to a long, tired line of spartan thrillers featuring troubled, quiet men of violence. Leavened by great acting and spectacular sound design, though, it packs enough suspense to be more engaging its peers.
Read more here
I've written a piece for The 405 about Hank Corwin's editing of The Big Short. It's on his use of footage in which actors are unaware they're the focus of the camera, and how this relates to authenticity in acting.
Read it here
Vaudeville was the nest that birthed cinema, as Edison and the Lumiere brothers moved from kinetoscopes to audience projections in vaudeville houses. In return, film and television would dethrone staged variety entertainment, turning Orpheum theatres into RKO cinemas, and push it from the dominant form of mass entertainment in the early 20th century into kitsch eccentricity. In this context, The Show of Shows acts as cinema’s mea culpa. The film is a discreetly structured montage of late 19th- to mid-20th century archived footage of vaudeville, fairground and circus performances, scored with original music from Sigur Ros and composer Hilmar Orn Hilmarrson. Introduced first to performers backstage during construction, preparation and rehearsal, we then join the audiences funnelling into the tents to watch an assembled variety show medley, arranged into innominate thematic sections. Tumbling, lion-taming, blind-boxing, burlesque striptease and other antiquated arts are brought back from the dead via the mass medium that helped kill them.
Read the whole review here at The Flaneur
An analysis of Iranian cinema and it's relationship to poetry, looking particularly at the connections between Mohsen Makhmalbaf's A Moment of Innocence and Rumi's poetry on the nature of reality and human perception
When film critics outside of Iran reacted to the new wave of Iranian cinema produced after the 1979 Islamic revolution, they often attributed the distinctive poetic realism of Iranian cinema, expressed through codified imagery and allegorical stories, to the requirement to circumvent the varying censorship regulations of the post-1979 Islamic theocracy. Gilles Jacob, director of the Cannes Film Festival:
"...artistic revolution often takes place in those countries weighed down by restrictions, where artists are not free. Art is often born from constraint. On the other hand, when liberty is rediscovered, there is sometimes a diminution in quality because choice becomes immense, posing new problems."
From the Iranian perspective, however, the foreign critics had arrived late and their lack of long-term historical perspective resulted in an exaggerated concentration on the effects of the state censorship. Although the effect of censorship and state control on shaping Iranian cinema is not to be ignored, the forces of poetic and cultural heritage largely formed the Iranian cinematic identity and contextualising Iranian cinema as 'art born from constraint' is to paint an art-form that organically evolved from a poetic inheritance as myopic.
The Passion of Joan of Arc is a remarkable classic of the silent era by the Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer, depicting the trial and execution of Joan of Arc at the hands of the English. The film is frequently listed today as one of the greatest ever made, but has suffered numerous spates of bad luck in its lifetime and come perilously close to the dustbin of history.
Dreyer's version was the eighth attempt to film the story of Joan of Arc, but was far from a simple retread of the well-known story. Dreyer believed that the key to a film depicting the dreadful fate of Joan of Arc was to be found in humanising the deified through realism, immersive dimensionality in composition and an honest conveyance of emotion. As Dreyer himself explains:
“All of these pictures express the character of the person they show and the spirit of that time. In order to give the truth, I dispensed with ‘beautification’. My actors were not allowed to touch make-up and powder puffs and, from the first to the last scene, everything was shot in the right order.”
Still Prefer Paper
Getting from Barton Fink's blank page to Jack Torrance's minimalist masterpiece, one blog post at a time
Art & Design
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