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Monday
Jul232012

CRISPIN GLOVER ON WERNER HERZOG

A chat with Hollywood iconoclast Crispin Glover turned into a breathless account of one man's admiration for his idol, German 'bad boy' auteur Werner Herzog.


Having just wrapped his tour of Australia, many of those who viewed his one-man show/screening sessions will be intrigued by the world-view of a certain Crispin Hellion Glover. To say that he is ‘idiosyncratic’, ‘eccentric’, even ‘slightly loopy’, is an understatement.

But he is also a passionate artist and advocate of free artistic expression, a standpoint that has not only put him occasionally offside with Hollywood power-players (he bailed on Back to the Future II over issues of ‘character integrity’ with Robert Zemeckis) but also seen him align himself with other unique talents in global cinema. One such influence was the great Werner Herzog (pictured, right).

Given the opportunity to interview Glover prior to his arrival in Perth for the first leg of his performance trip, I raised our shared passion for the films of Werner Herzog. Specifically, I posed the question “Herzog has said that ‘Dreams and nightmares do not follow the rules of political correctness. Is that also relevant to your films?” In particular, I commented upon the similarities his films What Is It? and It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE share with the German director’s Even Dwarfs Started Small.

It was as if Glover’s subconscious floodgates had been opened with this most innocuous of questions. In full, here is his response (the remainder of the interview can be read at SBS Film):  

“I had toured with my Big Slide Show (a one hour dramatic narration of eight different books he has authored - Ed.) and a rough cut of the film. Norm Hill had organized my show in Seattle. I spoke with him about my interest in Herzog’s work. I had also met Herzog in 1990 at the Venice Film Festival because the publicist for the film he was there with was the same publicist for a Jersey Skolimowski film I had acted in that was only released in Poland and France (30 Door Key, aka Ferryduke, 1991 – Ed.) I had told the publicist how much I admired Herzog’s films and he arranged a dinner that was just me and Herzog and the publicist and a woman the publicist knew. Herzog was very easy to talk to and it was a great dinner. Years later Norm Hill was producing the DVD of Herzog’s films for Anchor Bay and he invited me to do a number of commentaries for the DVDs with himself and Herzog and I chose to do Fata Morgana and Even Dwarfs Started Small because those two had influence on What is it? in different ways. It is something I am very proud of in my career to have done. Years later in 2005, when I premiered What is it? at Sundance, coincidentally Herzog was premiering Grizzly Man and I went and saw his premiere and he came and saw What is it? and was incredibly supportive and has been very kind. I am very grateful to him for that. I am also very grateful to David Lynch who, years before I made What is it?, had agreed to executive produce It Is Mine (the as-yet-unproduced final film in Glover’s trilogies - Ed). This ended up leading to me making What is It? I have seen Herzog at various functions and at my house and even at the airport over the years and it always a great pleasure to speak with him and get tidbits of insight in to how he thinks about filmmaking.

As soon as I got my driver’s license when I was 16 in 1980 I attended screenings at revival theatres that were quite popular in LA before VHS competition cleared many of them away. Many of these revival theatres no longer exist such as, one of my favourites, the beautiful Fox Venice with a wide cinemascope screen on Lincoln Blvd. The films I saw that played in these venues tended to question culturally accepted truths with performances that underscored these concepts. Films played such as Ken Russel’s The Devils, Roman Polanski’s Repulsion and Chinatown, Frederico Fellini’s 8 1/2 and Cassanova, John Cassavete’s A Woman Under the Influence, Orson Wells’ F is for Fake and Citizen Kane, Billy Wilder’s The Apartment and Sunset Blvd, John Waters’ Pink Flamingos and Desperate Living, Todd Browning’s Freaks, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and Clockwork Orange and Dr. Strangelove, Werner Herzog’s Aguirre Wrath of God, Even Dwarves Started Small and Fata Morgana. I was a regular attendee of David Lynch’s Eraserhead (pictured, above) at midnight on Fridays at the Nuart. I studied actors giving performances like Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces and Easy Rider, Timothy Carey in Marlon Brando’s One Eyed Jacks and Elia Kazan’s East of Eden, Charles Laughton in The Hunchaback of Notre Dame Brad Dourif in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Wise Blood, Peter Lorre in M Emil Jannings in The Last Laugh and Klaus Kinski in Aguirre Wrath of God. These films and performances characterized the atmosphere of cinema and acting I believed I was stepping into as a young actor. 

By 1982, at age 18, I began to act in feature films. At this time I believed contemporary film’s main purpose was to question suspect things in our culture. I enthusiastically supported the idea of questioning our culture. To help support the idea, I also questioned the film industry’s and media’s messages.  Sometimes I have felt scorned and isolated; other times I felt accepted and admired. Then, at one point, in the midst of my career, I realized that the types of films the industry was financing and distributing had changed almost diametrically from the types of films I had watched when I was 18".

Monday
Jul232012

THE 61st MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

A buff's paradise awaits those willing to brave the bracing early-August cold of the southern capital. SCREEN-SPACE takes a brief glimpse at this year's MIFF ahead of the extensive daily coverage we will offer for the duration of the event, which begins August 2 and wraps up August 19.

The 2012 edition of the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF), centred at the iconic Forum Theatre (pictured, above) on busy Flinders Street but taking place at 8 venues citywide, may very well pride itself on an expansive programme of global cinematic delights, but takes its status as an Australian institution ver seriously. The decision to allot the two most prestigious slots – the opening and closing night sessions – to highly-anticipated Aussie pics is a fervently nationalistic nod and a gesture that honours 61 years of happy co-reliance between MIFF and the local industry.

Kicking off the Festival will be Wayne Blair’s Cannes hit The Sapphires, further priming the marketplace for what many are predicting will be the year’s biggest film when it goes wide on August 9; an 11 strong contingent of cast and crew notables (among them stars Deborah Mailman and Jessica Mauboy) will attend. The always-debauched closing night revelry will by fired-up by PJ Hogan’s Mental, which sees him reunited with Muriel’s Wedding muse Toni Collette.

Other indicators that MIFF remains focussed on Australian content include 11 local works that make up this year’s Australian Showcase, including the world premieres of Boyd Hickin’s Save Your Legs, Luke Walker’s Lasseter’s Bones, Alan Rosenthals’s The First Fagin and Jeffery Walker’s made-for-TV crime drama Jack Irish – Bad Debts, starring Guy Pearce; a selection of works from indigenous artists (amongst them Tiffany Parker’s Scar and Leah Purcell’s She, Say) presented by Blackfella Films; Ian Darling’s stirring profile of one of great musical poets, Paul Kelly: Stories of Me; and, 27 locally-produced shorts across 8 divergent strands dedicated to the short-film form.

International cinema has been afforded a vast platform at MIFF 2012. The strands that offer an insight into the state of global filmmaking are:
Telescopes: Visions from the EU – A selection of 12 films that will be judged by representatives from the Film Critics Circle of Australia and awarded the Telescope Award; they include, Oslo, 31. August (Norway), The Red and the Black (France), The Legend of Kaspar Hauser (Italy; below), Palaces of Pity (Portugal) and L (Greece; pictured, right);
Through The Labyrinth: Latin American Cinema – Screening will be the Sundance-honoured Las Acacias, drug-running drama Miss Bala and two searing portraits of the volatile student politics movement, Celina Murga’s documentary Normal School and Santiago Mitre’s feature The Student.
Facing North: Swedish Cinema in Focus – A two-tiered examination of Swedish film. Criminal Record looks at five films from the region that have helped defined the Crime Film, including 1938s A Woman’s Face, 1976s The Man on the Roof and 2010s Easy Money. In the contemporary strand, Fijona Jonuzi’s Pure and Patrick Edlund’s Flicker are highlights.
And Asian cinema is prominently featured in two programming initiatives - Accent on Asia, a 20 film strong overview of Eastern film culture, including classic Takashi Miike works and the developing cult-hit, Vulgaria (pictured, left); and, Street Level Visions, a celebration of independent produced Chinese documentary makers.


 
Retrospective events this year include 70s New Hollywood Comedy, a revisiting of some comedy classics from the period, including works by Hal Ashby (Harold and Maude), Woody Allen (Take the Money and Run), Mike Nichols (The Fortune), Carl Reiner (Where’s Poppa) and Albert Brooks (Modern Romance); 5 archival prints, supplied by the Cinematheque Francais, will lead a celebration of the impressionistic French filmmaking master Jean Epstein; and, The Last Romantic, a selection of Leo Carax’s most divisive works  (Bad Blood, 1986; Pola X, 1999) designed to put his latest, Holy Motors (screening at MIFF) into a career context.

The reputation that MIFF has cultivated amongst the international cinephiles has always ensured the roster of global talent is a highlight of the event. Amongst the 33 notaries scheduled to attend in 2012 are acclaimed UK historian/critic Adrian Wotton, who will present the Charles Dickens on Film screenings and lectures; a return visit by script analysis expert Wendall Thomas, who will hold four masterclasses dealing with the intricacies of script writing; and, key talent such as directors Benh Zeitlin (Beast of the Southern Wild), Bobcat Goldthwait (God Bless America), Ben Lewin (The Sessions), Lee Hirsch (Bully) and Axel Petersen (Avalon).

To get your MIFF 2012 experience started, here is a selection of SCREEN-SPACE reviews and interviews. Please bookmark this page and check back regularly as we aim to provide coverage leading up to the August 2 opening night and then every day from the event, which we will be attending in full:
Golden Slumbers
: Interview with director Davy Chou.
The Sapphires
: Directed by Wayne Blair, starring Deborah Mailman and Chris O'Dowd.
Bully
: Directed by Lee Hirsch; interview with Lee Hirsch.
Maniac: Directed by Franck Khalfoun, starring Elijah Wood.
Killer Joe: Directed by William Friedkin, starring Matthew McConnaughey, Emile Hirsch.
Postcards from the Zoo: Directed by Edwin, starring Ladya Cheryl, Nicholas Saputra.
Side by Side: Directed by Chris Kenneally, featuring Keanu Reeves.
¡Vivan las Antipodas!: Directed by Victor Kossakovsky.
Safety Not Guaranteed: Directed by Colin Trevorrow, starring Audrey Plaza, Mark Duplass.
The Imposter: Directed by Bart Layton.
A Monster in Paris: Directed by Bibo Bergeron.
Bestiaire: Directed by Denis Côté.

Friday
Jul062012

CHOU'S SLUMBER AWAKENS AUDIENCES TO CAMBODIAN CLASSICS

Paris-based filmmaker Davy Chou was born into a cinematic heritage that largely exists today in the memories of aging artisans. His grandfather was Van Chann, one of the leading film producers from Cambodia’s golden age of cinema, which ran from 1960 through to its demise at the hands of the Khmer Rouge in the 1975. When the brutal rebel forces stormed Phnom Penh, theatres were destroyed, actors and filmmakers were slaughtered in the hundreds and a vast film history was systematically destroyed. In his film Golden Slumbers, Chou recounts the time when Cambodian cinema was the pulse of a proud and progressive nation. Softly-spoken but passionate and forthright, the young director spoke with SCREEN-SPACE when in Sydney for the film’s Sydney Film Festival premiere; it screens this week as part of Perth’s Revelations Film Festival.  

What is your earliest recollection of seeing Cambodian cinema?

One day I went to my aunt’s house, with my mum, and my aunt was very excited because she had just received a VHS from the US with all Cambodian films. Everybody was very excited as we wanted to know if it was the film of my grandfather because for 35 years we hadn’t seen any of the films with my grandfather. Unfortunately, it wasn’t those films, it was two other films. We watched the first film and it was very strange; I couldn’t speak Khmer and it was in black and white with this kind of redubbed voices from the 1990. But there was a trailer between the two films and it was a trailer for a film of my grandfather.

Golden Slumbers is a beautiful looking film, shot with incredible artistry. It is not that common amongst low-budget documentaries that the finished product is so polished.

We did everything we could to raise one’s imagination of the films; that was the main purpose of my film. I didn’t want to show the old films because I wanted to be faithful to Cambodia as it was when I arrived there, where the old films are not shown anymore. So even if the films had not existed for 40 years, I wanted to make (the memory) of them seem very vivid and real, and I did that with my use of sound and image and really concentrating on things like cinematography. At the end, I wanted the audience to have felt that they had seen the films even if I had nothing to show. (pictured, right, Chou with the film's Yvon Hem, Dy Saveth, Ly You Sreang and Ly Bun Yim)

You were born and bred in France and did not visit Canbodia until your mid 20s. Recount for us what the experience of reconnecting with your genealogical homeland was like.

I was naive in thinking it wasn’t going to change my life when, of course, it did. I didn’t know the culture, I didn’t speak the language but I had this strong desire to learn all that I could, mostly to honour and understand my parent’s heritage. Also, I had this film project and I thought I had to know the country, even just a little. But by the end of my time there, I felt very much part of the people and the culture, which was unusual because I was still a Westerner, born in France, as you say. I met a lot of family there and also formed relationships with the four main characters in the film, who all became like aunts and uncles. When I can back to France I had not expected to have been changed so much.

Did the impetus for Golden Slumbers come from that visit or had you begun the pre-production process? Was that trip essential in terms of research, for example?

Of course, I needed to make the research there because there is nothing outside of there. But even in Cambodia, on my first trip in 2008, I couldn’t find films there. I went to the markets, I went to the Bophana Centre, which is the archive building in Phnom Penh; nothing. Then one guy, a French guy working in the archive, said to me, “You know this website, right?” and I said “Which website”. And he showed me this amazing blog, written in French by a Cambodian who moved to France after the Khmer Rouge, and he had on this blog the entire filmography of Cambodian cinema. It was all there – by year, casting, music. From that website, I was able to access the surviving films, around 25 or 30 films, I think, all of very bad quality. That was in France, but back in Cambodia the biggest resource I had was just talking to the people. And not just the people who made the films but also the population who remember the films. (pictured, above, Chou preparing to film actress Dy Saveth)

I understand that the population was integral in helping you locate the old theatres sites you visit in the film.

I had to talk to the population just to find the buildings that were once the theatres, because now, as you see in the film, they have all been turned into restaurants and pool halls and so on. The filmmakers couldn’t help me with that, because they only knew of the three main theatres (where films were premiered). But it was the population who took me around, pointing out “This was a theatre” and “This was a theatre.”It was a reconstruction of a memory in a very collective process, because everybody brought one story that helped us imagine that the past was once like this. It had been so destroyed that, at the beginning, it was very hard to understand.

How important was the national cinema to the people of Cambodia in the pre-Khmer Rouge period?

They say that before 1960 there were films showing in Phnom Penh, Indian films and Chinese films, but the most popular form of entertainment was traditional theatre. But when Cambodian films came out, they became very popular, very quickly. It had to do with a love of their own culture; they were very proud to see Cambodian actors in big theatres. But I have to say that the political context was very important as well. With communism starting in 1960 and ended in 1975, people always talk about the same period for films, from 1972 to especially 1975, when the nation was in the middle of a civil war and the Khmer Rouge were getting closer and closer to Phnom Penh. It was very dangerous and people from Phnom Penh couldn’t go outside the city limits, so movies were the only form of entertainment for them. And many of the big movie fans I spoke to were teenagers then, so you can understand, their lives seen through the context of war, why film was so important and so unforgettable for them. One of the cinephiles, at the end (of the film), says he forgot the face of his parents but not the faces of the actors. That is because of this special feeling that, for him, cinema was everything, I guess.

Western cultures like Australia and the US and your homeland of France have very clear chronological histories of their film culture’s development that each generation draws upon. Yet Cambodia is missing a huge chunk of its history. How is that impacting the young Cambodian filmmakers of today?

First of all, there are not too many filmmakers in Cambodia. There is no film school, no one teaching film at the moment, but I think, well, I hope that is going to change. I know some young filmmakers there, and they have heard of the great years of Cambodian cinema, mostly from their parents, but they don’t have access to the films and there are no books, so.... But I think it is a bridge to build again. That is not really the purpose of my film, but if it can help in that way, that would be good and interesting. The link that has been broken between the old generation and this new one should not have been broken. Should a new film school open, so much has changed in filmmaking since that great time, many might think the surviving filmmakers should not be teachers, that techniques have changed too much. But I think a place should be found for them because they are the keepers of the film history of their country. 

Golden Slumbers has found tremendous favour with critics and audiences since you completed the film in 2010. That is a long journey for you. Did you have any notion that it would be so embraced in so many different cultures?

It is hard for me to imagine a time before Golden Slumbers (laughs)! I never imagined the film would have had this sort of impact or been this successful. Before I made the film, I would tell people I was making a documentary about Cambodian cinema and they would say “Ok....” (laughs). But, in the end, they realise it is a very universal theme. Everybody loves cinema, every country has a cinema, so the experience of imagining what it would be like if that cinema was lost...well, that gets people interested.

Golden Slumbers will screen at MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL on Friday 10th August at 6.30pm and Tuesday 14th August at 4.30pm.

Thursday
Jul052012

AVANT-GARDE MASTER TO BE HONOURED AT REVELATIONS

A selection of the late Jeff Keen's brilliantly bizarre film work screens at Perth's Revelations Film Festival - the first retrospective since the underground icon passed away last month.

Jeffrey John Spencer Keen was an avant-garde visionary who chose a career of questioning and challenging artistry at a time when it was particularly difficult to do so. A contemporary of such unique talents as Andy Warhol and George and Mike Kuchar, Keen passed away on June 21 at the age of 88.

Based for most of his life with his wife and muse Jackie (pictured, right in 1968's Meatdaze) in the artistic hub that was Brighton, the insatiably prolific Keen officially made 70 films, though it is believed the number could be well over 100. A celebrated painter, poet and sculptor who masterfully expressed an idiosyncratic view of society, his films exhibited a “lo-fi, DIY aesthetic, fascination with popular culture, sexual openness, and playful approach to personae”, commented UK’s The Independent newspaper. Recognizable techniques included crude but mesmerizing animation, collage overlapping, use of archival footage, friends and family non-actors, even the deliberate scratching of the film surface; his stock of choice was Super 8.    

The Revelations Film Festival, beginning this week in Perth, will offer the first retrospective appraisal of Keen’s work since his passing. Although the event was programmed several months prior to Keen’s death and has toured the world since it was curated by his daughter Stella Starr in 2010, it will be the first such gathering that allows both fans and newcomers to assess his films with the knowledge the artist’s work is complete. The program consists of short-films Wail (1960), Flik Flak (1964-65, below), Marvo Movie (1967), White Dust (1972), The Dreams and Past Crimes of the Archduke (1979-84), Omozap + Omozap 2 (1991), Artwar (1993), Plasticator (1990s) and Joy Thru Film (2000). Revelation’s program describes the works as “a visually rich, rapid paced, often loud and lurid, celebration of all that is cinema.”

“I grew up in Brighton, amongst quite a vibrant artistic community” says Jack Sargeant, Program Director of Revelations, “and he was someone whose work and life we were all aware of. His role in the underground film community is very important, it can’t be underestimated.”

On screening the retrospective so soon after Keen’s passing, Sargeant says, “Of course, there will be a poignancy in the air, but his films were full of life and excitement and he was such a brave, kind person. I think that is how best to remember someone like Jeff Keen.” With Stella Starr honouring her agreement to attend the Revelations screenings, Sargeant is aware the mood may be sombre. “There’s always that tension between the poignancy and the celebration, though (our intent) will be that the event becomes a celebration of his work.”

Jeff Keen Retrospective takes place on Saturday July 14th at the Astor Theatre, Mt Lawley.

Jeff Keen Interview from Canyon/Inkbox on Vimeo.


 

Tuesday
Jun262012

STANTON DELIVERS AUSTRALIA'S BEST BAD ACTOR TO BUSHLAND FEST 

Director Stuart Stanton will premiere his charming comedy Charlie Bonnet at this years's Dungog Film Festival, attending the much-anticipated event with cast members Peter Stanley, Mat Jones and Di Joselle, composer Brian Canham, director of photography Joel Frances and partner and co-producer Karen Elgar. Five days out from the screening, he talks to SCREEN-SPACE about his funny ode to blind ambition.

Where did the inspiration for Charlie Bonnet come from? Is he an inner-city wanna-be actor archetype with which you are familiar?

The inspiration for Charlie Bonnet came from years of doing short films and corporate productions where I had to watch many, many showreels. What I found was that there are some actors whose unswerving belief that they will be 'the next big thing' doesn't quite match their ability. I know that sounds a bit mean but it is the truth. I always found watching showreels of bad actors to be awkward; I felt embarrassed for them but at the same time I was greatly inspired by their passion and commitment to their art and what they believed in. Tragedy and comedy.

There is an ‘everyman’ quality about the character that goes a long way to making Charlie relatable. He’s not that pretentious actor/wanker type.

I think Charlie is someone everyone can connect with - a person who loves what they do so much but is completely oblivious to how bad they are at it. We all know someone like that: the karaoke addict whose voice can strip paint from walls or the Guitar Hero guru who thinks they should front their own band. Maybe it's also something we secretly fear about ourselves. But you know, it doesn't matter at all, these people love doing what they do and we love them for their dedication. It takes real guts to do that. Besides, we're Aussies and we love the underdog!

One of my favourite films is Peter Sellers in The Party; is Charlie that sort of clueless, talentless buffoon, devoid of self-awareness?

It's a very good comparison. You can draw similarities for sure. Charlie Bonnet is definitely a talentless awkward man who for the most part is oblivious to his actions, but that's what makes him loveable. Just like Peter Sellers in The Party, he's always trying to impress and no matter what he does the world and everything in it is just against him. He never gives up and he's always pushing forward no matter how challenging the problems thrown at him are.  

How do you convince an actor to roll the dice on his career by playing a "bad actor"? Tell me how you and Peter Stanley (pictured, below) went about creating 'Charlie Bonnet'? 

I've known Pete for a while, since film school. We always talk about funny characters and situations. There was no convincing, I just said “I'm writing a film for you, you're a bad actor (laughs).” He's great at awkward comedy and physical comedy. I could trust him completely, his comedic timing and delivery is flawless. Without this it would have been a very awkwardly unfunny film. But seriously he loved the character of Charlie Bonnet, he was on board from the get go.

Tell me about your creative relationship with Eddie Baroo and Peter? Was the 'Charlie Bonnet' concept the result of many long afternoons together at the local?

I knew Eddie from a film shoot years ago. We met once, then reconnected on Facebook. I said, “Hey mate, wanna be in a comedy feature film?” He said, “Send me the script.” I did, and he loved it. After that, yeah, our first meeting was actually at a pub and we all got on like a house on fire. I've never a met a man like Eddie, such a genuine guy with an awesome sense of humour. You can meet him for 20 minutes and it’s like you've known each other for a life time and could trust him with your life. Also, Eddie co-wrote his sequence in the film with Pete and I. Without giving too much away, it definitely showcases Eddie's 'unique' sense of humour. But yeah, between Pete and I, lots of writing involved beer and late nights. We would send over script changes and ideas back and forth at 4 in the morning, it was great. The best writing is done between 12am and 4am. And on set between takes!  

Describe the production process on a low-budget film like this one. Was it the stop-start, day-by-day shooting schedule that is the norm with tightly-budgeted Aussie films?

The production process was simple: shoot when we can. If it was once a week we would, or maybe two days in a row. It was shot completely over a year; the largest gap of time we took was about 3 weeks between shoots. It was simply work around crew availability, locations and money - which came straight out of my back pocket (laughs). I was lucky to have access to specialty equipment through Brian Walker at Pro Cam Services - he helped with car mounts, jimmy-jibs, lighting you name it. I owe a lot to Brian, he's a really good man. (pictured, the director, at right, with DP Joel Frances on-set)

What does a Festival screening like the one you'll experience at Dungog mean for a film like Charlie Bonnet? From my experience, the James Theatre will be at capacity - around 650 patrons. How does that make you feel?

It means a lot. I mean we haven't even had a cast and crew screening yet. This is hot out of the edit suite! As I'm writing this we are outputting the file for Dungog. Having a packed house will be great, being a comedy I'm hoping for 90 minutes of infectious laughing! We can hope :) As far as how I feel? A little nervous, but quite confident. Outsiders who have seen the film so far have all given quite a positive response so it is encouraging. Ultimately though, we made Charlie Bonnet for the laughs. It's is a silly fun film and as long as people have a good time, a lot of laughs and walk out feeling good, we've done our job.