Thursday, June 28, 2012

Red Alert

Some notable filmmakers have used red as a visual facet in their films. Krzysztof Kieślowski's Red, Michaelangelo Antonioni's Red Desert, Zhang Yimou's Raise the Red Lantern and Igmar Berman's Cries and Whispers to name a few.
In Cries and Whispers red is prominent throughout, from the titles cards at the beginning and the slow fades to an opaque red. The story takes place primarily in a villa with red walls and red carpeting. There's red in Liv Ullman's hair and in the blood of an unhappy sister who cuts herself in acts of self-harm. The red contrasts against the women's stark white costumes and against the rigidity and decorum under which they feel they must conduct themselves. There is a death at the center of the movie. The theme of death, of quiet and hidden feelings hangs with a heavy hush over the film. But the red is always there as a visual reminder that very real and living blood is coursing just under the skin.
The film focuses on three sisters. Agnes is dying of cancer and her two other sisters, Maria and Karin, came back to stay at their family's house to sit with her and be with her until the end. The film opens to quiet, just a ticking clock can be heard. Agnes lays alone in her room and her sisters are just outside in a formal sitting room. They wear high collared white Victorian nightgowns. Liv Ullman lays like a Bodecelli, her red hair flowing down her shoulders.
The sisters, although in mourning, are also addressing the distance in their relationships and the result of living lives closed off from expressing their feelings. The only one who is more open is Agnes who is dying. After she dies she "wakes up" and she calls for her sisters to come and be with her because she is so scared. This surreal and unnerving sequence made me sit up while watching it. Although it may be a dream in the story, the naturalism in the way the sequence is staged is freighting. I love it. It reminds me of the scene in Cocteau's Orpheus where Death's Chauffeur tells Orpheus's wife that he hates the smell of burning because he had been cremated.
Agnes's reanimation forces all three sisters, for a time, to address their lives and express their feelings. And to address the relationships between themselves and the experiences they had as children with a distant mother. Bergman movies can be chilly but there is some warmth when the sisters come together.

There is a lot of feminine energy in my family, there's a lot of sisters, cousins and aunts. A Southern family, we come back together to support each other during trauma and illness. We sit together, read, clean and cook. The support and relationship between women is one of the themes that comes up in my short film Reds and Blues. The idea that women can be supportive of each other rather than competitive. To attempt to reach out rather than let things go.

 from Reds and Blues

Premiere of Cries and Whispers
I like the press and set photos from Bergman movies. I see those stoic faces looking so happy. And maybe everything is going to be alright.

Cries and Whispers, Ingmar Bergman  1972

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

  • I am currently reading Annette Insdorf's book on Krzysztof Kieślowski- Double Lives, Second Chances. In the chapter on White, she discusses the vision of Julie Delpy's character in a bridal veil. It's never explicit over who's vision it is and the sequence pops up throughout the film without explanation. The film opens with a divorce but ends with a possible reconciliation. The viewer is haunted by the brief visions of the beautiful wife with the white veil. Is it the jilted husband's memory? Is it the frustrated wife's (Delpy), who may still harbor some feelings or at least some happy memories? Is it a foreshadowing of what may happen? A fantasy? A false hope?
    Maybe it was an excuse for a close-up on Ms. Delpy...

    WhiteKrzysztof Kieślowski  1994

    Monday, June 25, 2012

    The Mean Reds: Some of the inspiration for Reds and Blues

    What does a sensitive and emotive person do when the world is not a particularly sensitive and emotive place? The sensitive person needs to get over it. And potentially make some art.
    I used to fret and immobilize myself because I felt (and was told by others), that I was too sensitive. My therapist told me to accept it and move on and we further discussed that as a filmmaker I just may be more affected. I may need to see and hear things deeply. To that end when I wrote my next short, Reds and Blues, I considered the depth of my senses, my big heart.

    Emotions that I could practically see.
    The idea of actually seeing surrealistically, your own emotions led into the visual motifs and overall themes in my film Reds and Blues.

    -Reds and Blues-
    Anna, the protagonist of the film, has an enlarged heart. She experiences spells and her heart literally glows within her chest. I wanted the film to shift with her emotions to red and blue tones. The title comes from emotional states- red for anger/fear and blue for sadness (like when you get the blues).

    I lifted the words directly out of a scene in Breakfast at Tiffany's

    Holly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?
    Paul: The "mean reds"? You mean, like the blues?
    Holly: No. The blues are because you're getting fat or it's been raining too long. You're just sad, that's all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you're afraid, and you don't know what you're afraid of. Don't you ever get that feeling?
    Paul: Sure.

    With few reservations and delight, I am unabashed to say that I love Breakfast At Tiffany's.*
    I'm a girl, I get my period, I like to eat chocolate, I like to put a pillow between my legs and watch Breakfast at Tiffany's. My mother got the movie for me when I was sixteen. The film eventually informed a lot,  like my penchant for off-kilter dinner parties. It influenced the way I dressed- you can never learn too early that a black cocktail dress is basically all you need to go out in. & there's a loopiness/elegance that practically governed my decided outward persona. I've crawled on my hands and knees looking for my heels as a beau waited at the edge of my disheveled bedroom. I've stood in my kitchen with bare feet and drank champagne before breakfast (but as Paul says in the movie, it was more often with breakfast). I've also at times pushed people away who have gotten too close and responded with a cheerful indifference. 

    Truman Capote's book and Blake Edward's film really don't have too much to do with each other. They are of two very different tones. But I believe that they are both significant and memorable in their own way. At times the film touched on some of the themes of the book. The "mean reds" sequence in the film always resonated with me. It was a counterweight to Holly Golightly's character, her life was not all Givenchy dresses and martinis. Her past bore memories of growing up poor and being a child bride. When you live in a big city like New York, LA or Chicago- you can go to amazing parties, meet amazing people, look amazing... but at times you wake up alone or feeling alone. You're lost and potentially afraid...but "you don't know what you're afraid of." That brief bleakness is what is shared with the novel.

    I've felt that Truman Capote and Audrey Hepburn both had an air of sadness about them. They had many other noted characteristics that lead to their iconicity but there was some distance in the eyes. There was a lot of upheaval in their childhoods and they may not have had enough love. Hepburn went through some rough years during World War II. She suffered from illness and malnutrition and had to literally hide from Nazis at times. Truman Capote's mother passed him on to various relatives and was outwardly vocal about not wanting to of had a baby. He has stated that as a young child he went to bed early because he was so lonely. His writing, in part, came from a search for an activity to use his mind and take up some time. A lot of his short stories and the novel Other Voices, Other Rooms focus on a child who has been sent to be cared for by relatives.

    Capote was not happy with the film adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany's, he had requested another lost soul to play Holly-Marilyn Monroe.

    *My reservation would be the insensitive portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi

    Friday, June 22, 2012

    Reds and Blues

    I am currently working on a short film called Reds and Blues. I wanted to make an emotive horror film that dealt with both the trauma of the mind as well as the body and make light of the moodier, undefined areas of the heart. The narrative is frenzied, just like a good melodrama should be. But this time my melodrama has verged into horror...

    Reds and Blues focuses on Anna, a woman with an enlarged heart. The enlarged heart affects Anna both physically and emotionally. She experiences shortness of breath and heart "spells" that leave her anxious and fatigued. Since her heart is bigger, her emotions are heightened. She feels more, loves more. Because of past experiences, she has been hurt in love and faults her own heart. Anna has chosen to have shallow relationships, ones in which she does not need to use her heart. To that end, she sleeps with her landlord Earl for a distraction and to get a break on her rent.
    She is a dental hygienist and she works for a sadistic and overbearing Dentist, Dr. Pico. He is vicious and his procedures are bloody and she often leaves work covered in blood and haunted by the patient's screams. Unfortunately her emotive heart and mind is plagued by the patient's distress and she often wakes from nightmares.

    One consolation or bright spot in her day is her conversations with her garbage man and friend, Levin. Levin tries to encourage her and tells her she needs to live, instead of hiding her heart-a big heart can be exciting.

    One night, after a long day at work, Anna is walking along some train tracks and she comes across a dazed business man. The man is zoned out, zombie-like. He bumps into Anna and stumbles away, dropping a business card. Anna picks up the card, which has a curious notation, "Emotive Reclamation- Not using your heart? We'll take it!"

    Intrigued, Anna calls the number on the business card and finds Natasha and J. Natasha and J are feminist artists who have began work on an interesting if gruesome project. They find men who would like to be heartless; lawyers, CEOs-men who feel it would be beneficial to live life heartlessly. Natasha and J have constructed a laboratory where they physically (and savagely), remove the men's hearts. Then they'll take the hearts and harvest them for their "emotive power". So Emotive Reclamation. Anna is excited to hear about their project because she has felt that she too could do without her heart. But Natasha and J are conflicted, should they take Anna's heart? Does Anna really have no use for it? The artists are careless in regard to the men they work with. But J argues that maybe Anna needs their help, encouragement. J feels that maybe as women, they should be helping her, not taking her heart. Natasha states that by doing what she asks they are helping her. The decision is up to Anna in the end. What does she do? .....


    From Set- Natasha (Katerina Papadatos), Anna (Clara Alcott/Me) & J (Sarah Weis)

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

    From the Reds and Blues Mood Board

    Images from the mood board for my short film Reds and Blues-

    From top-Alex Prager, Brazil, heart in hand, freighted girl, dentist sign, Jeremy Blake video still from Punch Drunk Love, VHS tape, Amy Adams and her red hair, Anna Karenina, dental hygienist smocks, heart monitor, Simon Grim- garbage man in Henry Fool, turquoise slip, heart in plate, colored stockings

    for full mood board please see-

    Sunday, June 17, 2012


    Ninotchka 1939

    Ninotchka. Lubitsch. Garbo. Splendid.

    Billy Wilder had a sign in his office that read, "How would Lubitsch do it?" Ernst Lubitsch had a special touch, infact it's even called "the Lubitsch touch". His films were biting and sarcastic but also emotive and charming. He never goes too far. Lubitsch's characters are smart and he assumes the same for the audience, he didn't overstate. Sentiment but not saccharin. 

    Greta Garbo stars as Ninotchka, she plays a Communist who travels to Paris. Ninotchka is sent to retrieve three wayword comrades who had been seduced by the City of Lights. They were all sent initially to retrieve Russian jewels. Ninotchka inevitably become distracted. She buys a hat, laughs at pratfalls and meets a man. Deligthful, splendid, Golden Age of Hollywood indeed. Billy Wilder worked on the script and Greta Garbo evidently laughs for the first time in her life. 

    and the quips are are pretty memorable (if a little dark at times)-

     "The last mass trials were a great success. There are going to be fewer but better Russians."

    Ninotchka- "Why do you want to carry my bags?" Porter- "That is my business."
    Ninotchka-"That's no business. That's social injustice."

    "Ninotchka, it's midnight. One half of Paris is making love to the other half."

    Friday, June 15, 2012

    Entr'acte or Awesome People Hanging Out Together circa 1924

    René Clair and Erik Satie on the set of Entr'acte

    Entr'acte is a short film that was an actual entr'acte for a ballet. A Dadaist Ballet. Directed by René Clair and scored by Erik Satie (!), the short includes cameos by Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp and Satie. René Clair was a French filmmaker who was active during the silent era through the 1960s. A director with a whimsical touch, Clair collaborated with various artists of the Parisian avante-guard. The non-narrative Entr'acte involves early fimmaking "tricks", a lot of slow-motion walking or jumping and various nonsensical vignettes. What's fun to watch is the general "lightness" that seemed to go into the production, the subjects are obviously enjoying themselves and not taking themselves or the enterprise seriously.

    -the film really "takes off" when it comes to a surreal funeral march-at about 9:15

    I like the picture of a relaxed René Clair and Satie on set. I hope that I can look as cool as Clair does when I'm directing. I try to keep things fun and relaxed. My productions are always inevitability crazy, at times absurd, to a passing eye it may as well be Dada ; )
    “This sickness, to express oneself. What is it?”
    -Jean Cocteau (The Paris Review, 1964)

    image Lillian Bassman

    Wednesday, June 13, 2012

    Oh how terribly sad!

     C is for Clara (!) who wasted away…

    I was delighted (?) to learn that Edward Gorey chose to use "Clara" as one of his subjects in his Ghastly Crumb Tinies. I guess there's something to having a particularly Victorian name. The Ghastly Crumb Tinies is sort of a picture book depicting the untimely demise of morbid tykes, one for every letter of the alphabet (Edward Gorey wrote little tomes ruminating on all sorts of life events)

    As a child I was familiar with Edward Gorey because of the Mystery! intro. His whodunit art deco cartoon was so charming. I was intrigued by the lady holding the fan and the way she tapped her nose. My brother, sister and I would mimic the fainting lady. 

    I still love the moody English dramas and cozy literary adaptations of Mystery and Masterpiece Theater. & lately the programming has been awesome with Downton Abbey and Sherlok. There's the best set dressing and propping on those shows. Working on a BBC drama is one of my "production goals". 

    Although I'm currently going on a detox (Whole Living Action Plan), it was the result of a filming related stress (doughnut heavy) diet. I am most certainly not "wasting away" ; )