CONTENTS Page 4 5-8
Editorial Magician – The Astonishing Life & Work of Orson Welles Looks at the remarkable genius of Welles on the eve of his centenary, the enigma of his career as a Hollywood star, a Hollywood director, and a crucially important independent filmmaker.
Love & Mercy In the 1960s, Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson struggles with emerging psychosis he attempts to craft his avant-garde Pop masterpiece. In the 1980s, he is broken, confused and under the constant watch of a shady therapist.
The First Film Leeds born filmmaker David Nicolas Wilkinson’s thirty years quest to prove that the world’s film industry started in Leeds, Yorkshire, England in 1888.
Art House Ambiance Picturehouse Central MbM reports on London’s first art-house multiplex occupying a prime site at Trocadero, Piccadilly.
Film Fest Follower Karlovy Vary MbM recommends films screening at the Czech Republic’s major film festival.
Russian Rushes MbM surveys the highlights of the Moscow International Film Festival.
Behind the Camera Examines the greatest cinematographers and their bonding with particular directors.
Extras DVD OF THE MONTH – STILL ALICE
Love & Mercy
PHOTO CREDITS: Sony Releasing 1,9,11,12,32. British Film Institute 5,7,8. Guerilla Films 2,13,15,16. Toby King Picturehouse Central 19. El Film.Com 26.
Acknowledgements We would like to thank the following for their invaluable help. Vikki Luya at Sony Releasing Jill Reading at B.F.I. David Nicolas Wilkinson & Lisa Richards at Guerilla Films Toby King & Daniel Andre & staff at Picturehouse Central
EDITORIAL Temperatures have been rising amongst the film world with some very juicy press releases: the unearthing of over 11,000 film reviews which were written by Harold McCarthy, described as “the most influential film critic in England” He worked as a freelance film reviewer providing the independent cinemas around the UK with information sheets to help them make booking decisions Watching on average one film every day, McCarthy built up the archive single-handily, helped by a secretary and his wife, handling the clerical work. Covering the years 1933 – 1965, the archive consists of duplicated typescripts on A4 proforma sheets listing categories such as Studio, Title, Type, Length, Release Date of Trade Show, Rating Certificate, Director, Recording type, Cast, Entertainment Value, Suitability, and Story. It was purchased by the bookseller Ed Maggs and has since been acquired by the Bodlian Library, Oxford. While on the subject of discovery, one of this month’s featured reviews is a documentary that questions the invention of motion pictures and Thomas Edison and the Lumiere Brothers claim to be the first. David Nicholas Wilkinson’s The First Film offers evidence that Louis Le Prince recorded the very first moving image on his invention of a single lens camera in 1888 in Leeds, Yorkshire. Contrasting this with the present, is our occasional feature Art-House Ambiance which visits the first multiplex art-house cinema: the sevenscreen cinema, Picturehouse Central, is at London’s Trocadero, Piccadilly, and MbM was invited to tour this very exciting venue which is still a work in progress. Our cover is Paul Dano, star of the forthcoming biopic on the founder of the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson. It is MbM’s main feature review. Behind the Camera chooses the top five cinematographers and the influence they have had on raising the bar of their art and their close collaboration with a particular director. Plus all the regular features are here for our devoted readers. Enjoy the read
Brian Mills Magazine Editor
Paul Ridler Magazine Designer
MAGICIAN: THE ASTONISHING LIFE AND WORK OF ORSON WELLES Directed by Chuck Workman. With Orson Welles, Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, Walter Murch, Steven Spielberg, Jeanne Moreau, Simon Callow and Richard Linklater. I always liked Hollywood very much, it just wasn't reciprocated. In the year which celebrates Orson Welles's centenary, comes forth this fascinating documentary on the cinematic genius; the first of many tributes to him. It opens with the familiar close-up of lips whispering the word...rosebud. Though many of the archival clips are familiar, there is plenty of material which is new both about the man and his films. He seemed to be constantly battling the studios to make his films his way and stopping productions because he had run out of money. One of the many anecdotes is the time he needed $50,000 immediately and rang Harry Cohn of Columbia to send him the money and promised him a masterpiece, though it did not pan out, like many of his projects, as he planned. The time when costumes did not arrive and he substituted the scene by filming it in a Turkish Bath and shrouded it in steam. Shortage of money was always irritating and often meant delaying filming or even halting production completely: the list of unfinished films: Hearts of Age, Don Quixote, The Dreamers, The Deep, Moby Dick, The Merchant of Venice, The Other Side of the Wind (this is now being completed by Orson's friend Peter Bogdanovich). One version of a film that seems to be lost forever is The Trial, starring Anthony Perkins and Jeanne Moreau. The www.moviesbymills.com
completed film that Welles handed to the studio was not to their liking and it was destroyed. The version that was theatrically shown and is available today was not the version Welles intended. The Magnificent Ambersons, a two-hour version, with an ending that totally explained everything, was not released and has not been seen today. Overall the film is a jigsaw puzzle of juxtapositions which really never matches the picture on the cover of the box because there are pieces missing. It results with that irritating feeling of questioning the facts that often seem to be contradictory. Is it the truth being told or a lie? Are we, like the subject that is being examined, being tricked by a very clever subterfuge? After all Welles was a master of trickery, and the scenes from F For Fake reinforced this. I felt that it was not only the films which Orson Welles made which were lost or never completed, but people who were there on the screen but were treated as though they were invisible, because they were either not credited or did not appear in the programme notes. Why? Intrigued to see that Julie Taymor was one of the interviewers, but there was no explanation of why she was in the film, unlike Bogdanovich, Callow, Linklater etc who had been either a friend, his biographer, or a devotee who was inspired to make Me and Orson Welles, about Welles legendary theatre production of Julius Caesar. So we are never told what connection Julie Taymor, a film director in her own right, who made the original tribute to The Beatles, Across the Universe, which was grossly underestimated, had with Welles except from being a great admirer of his. If this was the purpose of director Chuck Workman in making a film about one of the greatest filmmakers ever in a sleightof-hand style then he has succeeded handsomely because I don't know how he did it - and I applaud his mastery...but then...maybe I am giving the director far too much credit for his aesthetical genius? One thing I can assure you is that Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles was 94 minutes well spent. Proof again of the magical illusion of movies - which have been tricking us for over a hundred years and as the great man said: This is the biggest electric train set a boy ever had.
Orson Welles in Citizen Kane
Joseph Cotton and Agnes Moorehead in The Magnificent Ambersons
Orson Welles in Lady From Shanghai
Orson Welles in F For Fake 8
LOVE & MERCY
Directed by Bill Pohlad Starring: John Cusack. Paul Dano. Elisabeth Banks. Paul Giamatti. Sometimes you hear a voice that wants to express itself. Every once in a while, once in a blue moon, your soul comes out to play. You know, it can’t be rushed. It’s like a kiss, its nature. This is the story of Brian Wilson leader of The Beach Boys, the group that emerged during the sixties to rival the popularity of The Beatles. Among their hits: Do You Wanna Dance, Then I Kissed Her, California Dreaming, Wouldn’t It Be Nice, God Only Knows, Good Vibrations. Wilson is played by two actors, Paul Dano during the sixties and John Cusack in the eighties. The film is not just about music but about survival, compassion and love. Dano’s Wilson is creating a new sound. He hears complex harmonies which no one else can hear. Higher octaves on the upbeat and the bridge. How does that work? Two bass lines in two different keys? He is asked. It works in my head. The film beautifully depicts the frailty of a man inspired by music but troubled in his mind. It skilfully switches from one timeline to another – sixties to eighties and vice versa. Cusack’s Wilson is a broken, confused man under the 24-hour watch of a shady therapist Dr Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). His saving grace is a woman whom he falls in love with Melinda Ledbetter (Elisabeth Banks). As their relationship grows, she observes Brian’s crippling subservience to the abusive psychotherapist with growing alarm and ultimately she must act. In a film which is dominantly male, Elisabeth Banks is outstanding and matches the performances of her co-stars. The ‘80s story of Brian’s mental breakdown and his subservience to Landy is virtually told from Melinda’s perspective. She sees the superficial coating of ‘niceness’ of the controlling and quite
evil psychotherapist that Brian has come to totally rely on. Melinda’s love for Brian is the intervention of hope in his life and the dominating influence that Landy fears will destroy his power over the singer. Elisabeth Banks is excellent as Melinda and symbolises our appreciation for what Brian Wilson achieved and in understanding him. It is a stand-out performance in a career which has seen her successfully create strong roles in the Hunger Games and Pitch Perfect franchises. Paul Dano comes out the stronger of the two Brian’s. He captures the creative era of the group perfectly: the enthusiasm, belief, passion of someone who is trying to compose the music that he hears in his head, while allowing us a glimpse of the impending psychosis. The scenes in the recording studio are the core of the film because this is where they made their classic album Pet Sounds, the one that influenced The Beatles to make the Sergeant Pepper’s album. Also Dano gets to sing, and for many their greatest hit, Good Vibrations, which was Brian Wilson’s hymn to the hippie sixties and to his interest in extra sensory perception. For Dano, proof again what a talent he is, he just keeps getting better and better. He will soon be seen in Sorrentino’s Youth. Paul Giamatti, in scenes that often are film noir in their ambiance, is the ‘man you love to hate’. In an unflattering wig, a freakish ego, a condescending manner, is not the sort of person you would want to meet in the daylight, let alone in the dark. John Cusack performs well as the older Wilson, but really is overshadowed by Banks. Overall Love & Mercy is a fine film bio of Brian Wilson and his invaluable contribution to the music scene. It will hopefully have viewers seeking out their albums and get their feet tapping again and they really will not need to stand in the ultimate sandbox covering the entire floor to do that. *Love & Mercy is the title of a song written by Brian Wilson and the opening track of his solo album Brian Wilson, released in July 1988.
Paul Dano in Love & Mercy
Mark Linett and Paul Dano in Love & Mercy
Paul Giamatti, John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks in Love & Mercy
Elizabeth Banks and John Cusack in Love & Mercy 12
THE FIRST FILM Produced, Directed and Presented by David Nicholas Wilkinson Featuring: Mark Harvey, Mark Rance, Stephen Herbert, Daniel Martin, Tony Earnshaw, Adrian Wootton, Tony North, Jacques Pfend, Tony Pierce-Roberts BSC, Laurie Snyder, Carol S Ward, Louise A Handley, Quentin Dowse, Tony North, Liz Rymer. Louis Le Prince predated everything that Edison and the Lumiere Brothers tried to do. He never received the acclaim he deserved. He came to Leeds in 1860. Some aspects of photography inspired people to capture motion. Le Prince wrote “I am nearer and nearer to it every day and now shall not leave it alone until I am done”. Just weeks before he was to demonstrate his invention in public for the very first time, he stepped on the Dijon to Paris train and was never seen or heard of again. No body was ever found, so legally no one could fight his claim that he invented a camera that recorded the very first moving image. So why haven’t we heard about Louis Le Prince until now? This enthralling documentary attempts to explain why. 45 years ago, when David Wilkinson was a pupil at Benton Park School, Rawdon, Leeds, he was told that film was invented in the city. Like many others, he did not believe it. But it was later, when he began to learn more about Le Prince, a French man who came to Leeds and started experimenting with cinematography. In October 1888 he recorded the very first moving images on a single lens camera in the city, seven years earlier than Edison. Convinced that the birthplace of the moving image was the city of his birth, Wilkinson tried to convince the filmmaking world of this fact. On visits to Hollywood, New York, Paris and the Cannes Film Festival he has told the www.moviesbymills.com
tale of Le Prince and his Leeds invention but it has been met with disbelief. The typical response was ‘well if that is the case I would know about it.’ Wilkinson believed that this was a story that must be told and teamed-up with fellow film professionals who shared his vision. My vision for the documentary was a quest, via a thorough investigation of the evidence, to discover the truth – was Le Prince robbed of the recognition he deserved because of his untimely disappearance? It became noticeable to others that I should be the person to present the investigation – after all I was the one who kept telling everyone that film was invented in Leeds and needed proof to back up my claims. The film takes on a new life when it transforms itself into a docu/thriller, moving your derriere from the back of your seat to the edge. Searching for answers to his mysterious disappearance: Was it suicide? Was the patent of his invention stolen? Was he murdered? Le Prince was depressed because of increasing debt due to outgoing expenditure with his invention. The competition was intense: because in Paris and New York the race was on to be the first to make actual moving pictures, the Lumiere Brothers and Thomas Edison were at the top of the pile. There was therefore the conspiracy theory that the patent for Le Prince’s single lens camera was stolen. But it was the third possibility of murder that proved the most interesting, if unlikely solution to the mystery. Quentin Dowse, retired from the Humberside Police in 2004 was asked by Wilkinson to investigate the case of Le Prince, but said being as no corpse has ever been found, there was really nothing to investigate. Louise Snyder is the great, great granddaughter of Louis Aimee Augustine and Sarah Elizabeth Whitney Le Prince. She is the keeper of the family archives and this sequence proved to be captivating as she showed Wilkinson the family records. It is very difficult to maintain interest in a subject when there are series of on camera interviews, and they are inclined to overstay their welcome as they often do here, but if the film gets more people to question the original founder and inventor of film then it is a job well done. The First Film is generally released in the UK on 3RD July.
ART-HOUSE AMBIANCE PICTUREHOUSE CENTRAL PICCADILLY Roll out the red carpet for the first art-house multiplex in London's West End. Regular readers of MbM Magazine will know our stance on multiplex cinemas: programming essentially for the general public, showing mainstream films and blockbusters in a choice of twelve or more screens. We champion art-house cinemas because we cater for discerning cinemagoers, so we welcome a cinema that offers a choice of seven screens and a diverse range of programming: independent, classic, foreign language, art-house films, and quality blockbuster. Central will also screen film festivals with London and Sundance already confirmed. These will as always attract the talent that attend these glittering events and films that one would not otherwise see. So what of the cinema itself? It is located on Great Windmill Street and the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue. The colonnade that links Coventry Street has been regenerated. The walkway is being transformed into a corridor. The walls and floors are retiled and new lighting fixtures installed with an old-fashioned marquee presiding over the glazed entrance. www.moviesbymills.com
Inside you are greeted by a grand staircase and illustrations from artist Patrick Vale decorating the wall to the right, his artwork documents the history of cinema from camera obscura to Jurassic Park. The ground floor cafe bar does not just cater for cinemagoers but
is a place to pop in for a coffee, glass of wine or artisan pastry. You will notice an old-school style readograph with the day's films listed for easy viewing. The restaurant and bar, overlooking the neon lights of Shaftesbury Avenue has a huge selection of cocktails and spirits. The second floor is home to two screens and the main entrance to the Members' bar. Screen 1 is Picturehouse's showpiece: a luxurious auditorium, excellent rake of 160 reclining seats, beautifully upholstered. The piece de resistance is the magnificent Italian curtain. This auditorium will host film premieres, Q & As. It has 70mm film and digital 4K DCP video projection capabilities plus a Dolby Atmos. Watching a film in this screen will be an unrivalled experience.
Continuing up the escalators is a gallery of compulsive viewing and very well planned, as is the whole concept of the building. Once visited be prepared to stay much longer than the running time of the film you came to see. Crowning the building is a roof terrace which was still being built at the time of my calling. Once completed it will look down on Haymarket with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament on the horizon. Picturehouse Central opened on Friday 19th June. 18
Screen 1 auditorium.
Staircase from foyer leading to bar/restaurant.
FILMFEST FOLLOWER KARLOVY VARY JULY 3 - 11 Highlighting the following films: ABOVE AND BELOW Directed by Nicolas Steiner Documentary From Mars to Earth and underneath. A rough and rhythmic roller coaster ride seating 5 survivors in their daily hustle through an apocalyptic world.
A BLAST Directed by Syllas Tzoumerkis Starring: Angeliki Papoulia Running away on the highway, Maria is alone in her roaring SUV. Behind her fire and a case full of money. In front: the vastness of the motorway.
ANTONIA Directed by Ferdinando Cito Filomarino Starring: Linda Caridi. Filippi Dini. A journey through the last ten years in the brief life of Italian poet Antonia Pozzi.
THE ECSTASY OF WILKO JOHNSON Directed by Julian Temple Documentary Featuring Wilko Johnson. Roger Daltry.
FIDELIO: ALICE'S JOURNEY Directed by Lucir Borleter Starring: Ariane Labed. Melvil Poupaud. 30 year old Aliceâ€™s occupation is rather unusual for a woman: she works as an engineer on a freighter.
GOODNIGHT MOMMY Directed by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala. Starring: Susanne Wurst. Elias Schwartz. In the heat of the summer countryside between woods, lies a lonesome house in the cornfields. 9 year-old boy twins are waiting the return of their mother from hospital. 20
THE LESSON Directed by Kristina Grozeva. Starring: Margita Gosheva. Ivan Barnev. An honest, hard-working schoolteacher in a small Bulgarian town is driven to desperate measures to avoid financial ruin.
THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN Directed by Anca Damian Starring: Christophe Miossec. Jean-Marc Barr. The biography of Adam Jacek Winafz wanders through nearly half a century of history.
THE REAPER Directed by Zvonimir Jurec. Starring: Ivo Gregurevic. Three stories that take place in one night gradually form a bleak picture of Ivoâ€™s life.
THE SUMMER OF SANGAILE Directed by Alante Kavaite. Starring: Julija Steponityte. 17 years old Sangaile is fascinated in stunt planes. She meets a girl her age at a summer aeronautical show and allows her to share her most intimate secret.
SWORN VIRGIN Directed by Laura Bispuri Starring: Alba Rohawallier. Emily Ferratello. Hana, still a girl, escapes form her destiny of being a wife and servant which is imposed on the women in the inhospitable mountains of Albania.
THOSE WHO FALL HAVE WINGS Directed by Peter Brunner. Starring: Jana McKinnon. Renata Hild. Time stands still for young and asthmatic Kati, but she has to bid her farewell to move on.
VINCENT Directed by Thomas Salvador. Starring: Thomas Salvador. Vimala Pons. Vincent is a quiet unassuming man who happens to have superhuman powers when he is exposed to water. Then he meets a girl.
RUSSIAN RUSHES Highlighting the Moscow International Film Festival 19th - 26th June
WOLF TOTEM Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud Starring: Shaofeng Feng. Shawn Dou. This film opened the festival with the director in attendance. Annaud is no stranger to making films about the relationship between man and animals, and Wolf Totem likens itself to his film Bear.
A young Beijing student is sent to live among nomadic herdsmen of Mongolia. He is enchanted by the almost mystical link between the herdsmen and the wolves and captures one animal in an attempt to tame it. But their relationship is threatened when the authorities decide to eliminate wolves. One of the festivals strongest opening films in years that is very likely to garner an armful of awards.
MOSCOW NEVER SLEEPS Directed by Johnny Oâ€™Reilly Starring: Evgenia Agenorova. Rustam Akhmadeyev. A multi-layered narrative drama that dives into the volatile intersections of contemporary Moscow and the intimate lives of five people over the course of one day: An ENTREPRENEUR whose business empire come under siege by powerful bureaucrats, a TEENAGE GIRL, mired in the misery of a broken home, a YOUNG MAN forced to choose between his girlfriend and his grandmother, a beautiful SINGER torn apart by the pursuit of two men, and an ailing FILM STAR who gets embroiled in a bizarre kidnapping.
THE PEARL BUTTON Directed by Patricio Guzman Documentary The ocean contains the history of all humanity. The sea holds all the voices of the earth and those that come from outer space. Water receives impetus from the stars and transmits it to living creatures. Water, the longest border in Chile, also holds the secret of two mysterious buttons which were found on its ocean floor. Chile, with its 2,670 miles of coastline and the largest archipelago in the world, presents a supernatural landscape. In it are volcanos, mountains and glaciers. In it are the voices of the Patagonian Indigenous people, the first English sailors and also those of its political prisoners. Some say that water has memory. This film shows it also has a voice.
SAROYANLAND Directed by Lusin Dink. Featuring: NorikyanArtur. Osin Cilingir. William Saroyan, a famous writer who was born in Fresno, California, in an exiled Armenian family. This docu-drama follows him as hetravels to the birthplace of his Armenian ancestors in Bitlis, Turkey, discovering the homeland of his forefathers and rediscovering himself. The film aims to understand the authorâ€™s unique attitude to belonging. Saroyan, novelist, playwright, short story writer. Among his most well-known works: The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze, The Human Comedy, The Bicycle Rider of Beverly Hills, The Time of your Life, Here Comes There Goes You Know Who.
GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF Documentary Directed by Alex Gibney Based on the book of the same name by Pulitzer-Prize winner Lawrence Wright. It features interviews with former followers including ‘Crash’ director Paul Haggis. It also delivers a candid portrait of its eccentric founder L. Ron Hubbard, his self-help system entitled dianetics, and the church’s rise to power and fortune, with the help of tax breaks and Hollywood A-listers like John Travolta and Tom Cruise.
MY LOVE DON’T CROSS THAT RIVER Documentary Directed by Moyoung Jin Beautifully photographed in a breathtakingly mountain village in South Korea, the film follows a husband and wife as the ‘100 year-old lovebirds.’ Joyful, playful and so visibly in love, they have lived a fairy-tale romance through their 76 years of marriage. But when the husband falls ill, the thought of his death becomes almost unbearable for the wife.
KNIGHT OF CUPS Directed by Terrence Malick Starring: Christian Bale. Natalie Portman. Cate Blanchett. Rick is a slave to the Hollywood system, addicted to success but simultaneously despairs at the emptiness of his life. He is at home in a world of illusions but seeks real life, like the tarot card of the title. Rick is really bored and needs outside stimulation but the Knight of Cups is also artsy, a romantic and an adventurer. Terrence Malick brilliantly captures the ambiance and contrasts of the story which he obviously knows so well.
EISENSTEIN IN GUANAJUATO Directed by Peter Greenaway Starring: Elmer Back. Luis Alberti. In 1931 the Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein travels to direct his film Que viva Mexico. There he encounters a new culture and its dealings with death; he also discovers another revolution â€“ and his own body. Peter Greenaway depicts Eisenstein as an eccentric artist who travels to Mexico filled with the hubris of being an internationally celebrated star director. Once there, he gets into difficulties with his American financier, the novelist Upton Sinclair. At the same time he begins, in the simultaneously joyful and threatening foreign land, to re-evaluate his homeland and the Stalinist regime. And, in so doing, he undergoes the transition from a conceptual filmmaker into an artist fascinated by the human condition. Under his gaze, the signs, impressions, religious and pagan symbols of Mexican culture assemble themselves anew.
YOU CANâ€™T SAVE YOURSELF ALONE Directed by Sergio Castellitto Starring: Riccardo Scamarcio. Jasmine Trinca.
Anna Galiena. Gaetano and Delia, a separated couple, meet for dinner to discuss the terms of the holiday break of their children. They try to pick up the pieces of their broken love, recalling all the faults and the mistakes which led them to where they are now. Even though they are trying to start new lives, the wounds are still fresh. Still, at the end of the encounter, a new dawn gives way to new hope for Delia and Gaetano.
Shaofeng Feng and wolf in Wolf Totem.
Christian Bale and Natalie Portman in Knight of Cups. 26
Behind the Camera The Masters of the Visual Art of Film
Some of the greatest films that we love are those which are visually beautiful and are stored in our memory bank of cinematic treasures. This visual art has been the work of the cinematographer who has worked closely with the film’s director to interpret what he sees. The two of them form a bond, the stronger the tie the more likely it will be that they will work together again….and again. The following DPs are ones which MbM considers to be the best and why.
EMMANUEL LUBEZKI Mexican born Emmanuel Lubezki has worked on over 36 films from Vengeance is Mine in 1983 to his current film Weightless. His stunningly beautiful imagery can first be seen in Alfonso Cuaron Orozco’ A Little Princess. The scene when Sara is sitting with her Indian friend on the head of a huge Buddha. Another, is when Sara opens the window and stretches out her arms to the falling snowflakes. Lubezki worked again with the fellow Mexican in Gravity and formed a collaboration with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, another Mexican, in Anna, one of the short films that made up the omnibus tribute to cinema To Each His Own. Seven years later Inarritu directed Birdman and Lubezki was his DP. But it has been the cinematographer’s collaboration with Terrence Malick that has produced the screen’s greatest gallery of visual magic. It started with The New World in 2005. Look at the battle scenes they are almost dreamlike and we find ourselves seeing things outside of the frame that would not normally be of interest but it gives the scenes originality. Terry came to me and said “I would love to try this, and if we fail. I will never use it. I would never put anything in a movie that would humiliate you or makes you feel uncomfortable, but let’s just try to go to the edge of the abyss, because that’s where the best images are.” Once he said that and allowed me that freedom to fail, I was free of all those rules and regulations that were imposed by going to film school and reading all those manuals. Six years later they teamed up again for The Tree of Life. A story of a Texas family, the mother representing grace, full of love and kindness, and the father symbolises nature that is built on survival. The language of film is further and further away from the language of theatre and is closer to music. It’s abstract but still narrative. Everything feels less rehearsed. It’s more experimental than classical. There is a sense of play and a duality of emotions particularly of their eldest son who seems moody and oppressive yet sensitive as he reflects the contrasting personalities of his parents. The light streaming through the windows. The mother walking into the light. The image of a butterfly settling on her outstretched hand. The camera needed to capture that sense of freedom and joy and life you have when you’re young. But it was very, very difficult, and it required a great camera operator and an incredible focus puller and another person helping me expose as I moved through the rooms. If I hadn’t done “Y Tu Mama Tambien”, I would have been terrified about the difference in exposure between interior and exterior, about the direction of the lighting at certain moments, the overexposure from the windows. It took me a long time to get to that point where I could
accept that. I had to be a more mature cinematographer so I could be less mature in my work. For some To The Wonder was perhaps a little difficult to understand but it had the vision of a poet both in Malick’s direction and Lubezki’s cinematography. It was, for Malick revisiting the places he knows and loves just as Woody Allen has done in his movies. The theme was generally trying to find one’s path in life: a man torn between two loves. There are some incredible images: shooting at sunset at the ‘golden hour’. Waiting and waiting to capture the ideal moment. Shots embracing the beauty of nature. There was a reason why selected scenes were shot on 65mm. There is a moment where you fall in love where light feels enhanced, where things look bigger than what they are. You experience life in a much more powerful way. And Lubezki captured that moment with a bigger negative, with more resolution, helping you to feel what the character was going through in that moment. Working with Terry has changed my life. I’m a different parent, I’m a different husband, and I’m a different friend. I see nature in a different way since I started working with Terry. I have much more respect for things that I wasn’t aware of as much. He is one of the most important teachers in my life. And I’m a much better cinematographer in helping directors in a much more comprehensive way.
JORGEN PERSSON Swedish born, Jorgen Persson came to aesthetical prominence in 1967 with the exquisite and enchanting Elvira Madigan, directed by Bo Widerberg. It was inspired by a famous ballad and centres on a circus performer Elvira Madigan and an army officer Sixten Sparre. They have fallen in love and elope, leaving their lives behind; Elvira from the family circus and Sixten from the army, his wife and children. Suddenly the outside world seems meaningless to them. But as summer turns to winter and without food and money, the tragedy of the young lovers’ situation becomes apparent. The cinematography is amazing: it is like watching a moving Renoir. I will never forget seeing it at the Paris Pullman, South Kensington and coming out into the foyer, my eyes still bathed in its images and blurting out to the manager that is was the most beautiful film I had ever seen. It was Jorgen Persson’s second film under Bo Widerberg’s direction which extended to another four films. Study any shot of the film and you will want to frame it. Elvira practising her tightrope walking on a rope stolen from a clothesline or picking wild berries to satisfy her hunger. And the memorable closing of the film as she runs with hands outstretched to catch a butterfly and the freezing of that image. Two years later, Widerberg made Adalen 31. Shot again by Persson capturing the same beautiful visual vignettes as Elvira Madigan. The story was about an industrial strike and riot that changed the course of Swedish political life. It is seen through the eyes of an adolescent boy whose father dies in the events. The magnificent cinematography contrasts with the violence we are seeing and consequently emphasises the irony of the situation. Though Persson has made six films with another great Swedish director, Bille August, it is his cinematic accomplishments with Widerberg that are the most memorable.
GORDON WILLIS Enjoyed a twin collaboration with two of the finest creative talents in movies: Frances Ford Coppola and Woody Allen. For Coppola he shot what many critics consider to be the greatest masterpiece of all-time – The Godfather. His use of shooting in half-light gave him the nickname of ‘prince of darkness’. It created the sinister mood for the machinations that led to the bloody killings ordered by Vito Corleone to wipe-out 28
rival families. There are times when you have to strain your eyes to focus on what was happening, it created tension, anxiety, sweaty palms. Shadows often masked faces. Willis made two more films with Coppola completing the trilogy of The Godfather. From 1977 to 1985, he was Woody Allen’s cinematographer. Darkness again was used in Annie Hall and he told Woody that it didn’t matter if you don’t see anything, they will still think it’s funny. He learnt from Gordon Willis that a person who is speaking doesn’t have to be on camera. In The Purple Rose of Cairo, we have a story within a film, a protagonist who has to choose between fantasy and reality. Willis beautifully recreated the nostalgic sequence of the night on the town. There were always times when Willis would try to get the actors to walk out of frame and then get them back on again. And of course Allen would have them talking out of shot. As we have seen from looking at other films and their cinematographers, we store memorable visuals and one that is instantly recallable is the scene with Woody and Diane Keaton in Manhattan by the bridge; a ravishing moment captured by Willis at dawn, and this image was used on the poster. The way a director and cameraman work together depends a lot on who the cinematographer is, but often it is similar. Woody Allen would normally work by coming in with the cameraman and no actors. And they would look around and decide where they would come and play the scene in that area. The cameraman would do a general lighting job. The actors would be brought on and Woody would show them where they should stand and how he would want them to move. Then the cameraman would get a little more specific. And then they would shoot. In Zelig there were other things to consider between Allen and Willis. They used old lenses from the 1920s, old cameras and old sound equipment. It was filmed in exactly the kind of lighting they used at the time. They made flicker-mattes, so that the film would have flickering light like the old films. They put scratches on the negative. Gordon Willis was able to see what kind of lighting they used in the original newsreel and match the lighting appropriately in the studio against the blue screen. Allen considered Gordon Willis a genius.
NESTOR ALMENDROS Barcelona born Nestor moved to join his father in Cuba when he was eighteen and it was there in Havana that he began writing film reviews and formed a cine club. He went on to study in Rome and then started making his first short film in 1950. As a cinematographer, Almendros worked with French director Eric Rohmer on seven on his films: The Collector, My Night at Maud’s, Claire’s Knee, Chloe in the Afternoon, The Marquis of O, Perceval, and Pauline at the Beach. While with Francois Truffaut, it was The Wild Child, Bed & Board, Anne and Muriel, The Story of Adele H, The Man Who Loved Women, The Green Room, Love on the Run, The Last Metro, and Confidentially Yours. But the greatest transformation of all happened to him in 1978 when for the first and only time he was Terrence Malick’s cinematographer – the film – Days of Heaven. When Almendros was approached by producers Harold and Bert Schneider to do the film, Nestor asked to see Malick’s Badlands. After he saw it, he realized at once that he was the kind of director with whom he would be able to collaborate successfully. He learned later that Malick liked his work on Truffaut’s The Wild Child, he felt that, though it was in black and white, it had something in common with Days of Heaven in that they are both period pieces. On the strength on that, Malick wanted to work with him.
The collaboration was perfect and was helped by the fact that Nestor discovered that Terry knew a lot about photography, which is often not the case with most directors; many know nothing about the visual and technical aspects of a film. Terry has an exceptional visual sense and equally of paintings too. He allowed Nestor to do what he wanted which was to use hardly any studio lighting. The filming schedule was changed to suit the weather and Nestor’s job too was to simplify the photography. Like Truffaut, Malick followed the trend of eliminating colours. Exposing against the sun for the shade produces a burned-out sky, white and colourless. As measured on Almendros’s exposure, he set the lens stop halfway between the luminosity of the sky and that of the faces. In this way the features of the actors were delicately visible and a little underexposed, and the sky was a bit, but not totally overexposed. Because union regulations did not allow Almendros to operate the camera, he and Terry would rehearse the movements both of the camera and of the actors in the viewfinder; and after a series of tryouts the camera operators knew exactly what was wanted. The style of the movie was outlined in such a way that each member of the crew had to follow the guidelines, the most basic of which was to remain as close to reality as possible. For the last days of filming Nestor was replaced by Haskell Wexler because he had already agreed to do Truffaut’s next film The Man Who Loved Women, and Malick had agreed to the filming schedule expecting Truffaut’s film to be postponed a little, but instead it was going to commence on time. Wexler was a friend of Nestor’s and he asked him to replace him for the last days shooting and he agreed. Nestor worked for fifty-three days and Haskell for nineteen. He shot the scenes in the city after Richard Gere’s death, as well as isolated shots in unfinished sequences; he also did the exterior sequences in the snow. Days of Heaven was the first film to use the Panaglide prototype: a Panavision version of the Steadicam process. The operator wears a plastic metallic harness from which an arm sticks out with various hinges and springs, and on the end of this hangs the camera. The operator moves the camera by hand, but the weight is mostly on his body. The suspension system lets the camera move freely, climb stairs, even run; the operator’s movements are not transmitted to the camera, which literally glides through the air. Some shots and sequences would not have been possible without the Panaglide. For example, when Bill (Richard Gere) is in the river and convinces Abby (Brooke Adams) to accept the marriage proposal of the boss (Sam Shepard). It would have been impossible to put tracks under the water to do a dolly shot, and besides, the actors were improvising and were wandering aimlessly, with the water up to their knees. The camera never lost them for a minute. In the sequence where the wheat fields are on fire, the camera could get right in among the flames and follow the progress of the fire with dizzying, dramatic movements. It was these scenes that attracted the attention and praise of the public and the critics. As a general rule, nature’s most beautiful light occurs at extreme moments when filming seems impossible, when the Kodak manuals advise against it. At Malick’s insistence certain parts of the film were made at what he calls the ‘magic hour,’ that is, the time between sunset and nightfall. From the point of view of luminosity, this period lasts about twenty minutes, so that calling it a ‘magic hour’ is an optimistic euphemism. The light really was very beautiful, but they had little time to film scenes of long duration. For those few minutes the light is truly magical, because no one knows where it is coming from. The sun is not to be seen, but the sky can be bright, and the blue of the atmosphere undergoes strange mutations. This system of working at the magic hour was not totally new to Almendros because he had used it for short isolated vignettes in The Collection and More. But had never used it for long sequences as in Days of Heaven. There are few films like this that use so many different exteriors, so full of opportunities for a cinematographer. 30
EXTRAS DVD OF THE MONTH
STILL ALICE Directed by Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland. Starring: Julianne Moore. Kristin Thomas. Alec Baldwin. Kate Beckinsale.
FILM **** A film that looks at Early-onset Alzheimerâ€™s Disease. The victim is Alice Howland, a happily married linguistics professor. She suddenly finds herself forgetting words and when she tells her husband of her concern, he dismisses it as nothing to worry about as it happens to everyone. But the diagnosis is anything but that. She has to tell her three grown-up children and face the inevitable fear as this degenerative neurological ailment slowly progresses to the conclusion that they all dread.
EXTRAS None at the time of this review. Full review in the March issue of Movies by Mills.
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