I had a chance to meet the young actor Brady Corbet during this year’s Miami International Film Festival (Actor Brady Corbet praises 35mm ahead of rare screening of ‘Au Hasard Balthazar’ at MIFF). We stayed in touch, which made it easy to get him to answer some questions about his new movie Simon Killer, a stylized thriller that relies on a meek protagonist who seems lost in a downward spiral of heartache after breaking up with a girlfriend.
The suspense relies a lot on Corbet’s subtle performance of a repressed, unstable young man who corners himself with his own lies about the world around him. Director Antonio Campos adds a languorous style that highlights the performance with some rather inventive use of camera tricks that transition several scenes. There’s also a hip soundtrack that includes a cover of Miike Snow’s “Animal” you probably never heard. Then there is a brilliantly staged scene at a disco featuring the opening of LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrself Clean” that captures the titular character’s fearsome instability.
I sent Corbet an email to ask for a chat. He was in Paris, so we did it via email. The resulting Q&A can be read on the blog “Cultist” from the “Miami New Times.” Jump through the logo for the blog to read it:
Simon Killer runs 101 minutes and is unrated (Corbet says it would have probably received an NC-17 rating should it have been submitted to the MPAA). It opens at the Miami Beach Cinematheque this Friday, May 17, which provided a DVD screener for the purposes of this story. The film also opens in South Florida at the Cosford Cinema, in the University of Miami Coral Gables campus, the same day.The film is also playing nationwide and on demand; visit the movie’s website for screening dates (this is a hotlink).
April 29, 2013
When Peter Murphy talks about his experience with music, a small part of him fears he is over-intellectualizing. Over the course of our 45-minute chat he occasionally seems to have the tiniest inkling he might be stating things that might go over the heads of readers or may be misunderstood. Toward the end of our conversation, after a rare laugh he says, “It might go over people’s heads, but so what? They’ll get it later, like a hundred years later.”
I spoke with Murphy last Sunday afternoon, as he rode on a tour bus toward the first date of his Mr. Moonlight Tour, which features a set list comprised of only Bauhaus music. After talking about the start and end of the pioneering Gothic rock band and lots in between … much of which you will find noted in my in-depth article on his decision to tour with solely Bauhaus music in the “Crossfade” music blog from the “Miami New Times (jump through the logo below):”
Up-date: the interview was so long, it was broken up into two parts. Here’s is part 2 (that’s a hotlink).
Our conversation also included the subjective experience of art, specifically music. It came from a mutual appreciation of Brian Eno’s 1974 solo album Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy). Bauhaus famously recorded a quite literal cover of that album’s “Third Uncle” during a BBC session, which they released as a single and also used as the opener on its 1982 album the Sky’s Gone Out.
“Those lyrics, they take you with them. Don’t they?” Murphy says of the songs on Eno’s second solo album. “They’re not didactic. They’re not literal in that sense. They open up the creative imagination within the listeners. So it isn’t actually selfish. In a way, the audience is the reason. For music there has to be the listener. Otherwise, the singer or the musician doesn’t matter. It’s a shared experience in a very natural way. That’s not an over-arching idea. But that is art.”
He agrees that some of David Bowie’s most interesting songs come from a decoupage technique popularized by William Burroughs but pioneered by the Dadaists from the turn of the 20th century. “They leave the creativity to the listener, as well,” Murphy notes, who transitioned from solitary poetry composition to Bauhaus frontman in late 1978 when guitarist Daniel Ash introduced him to brothers David J (bass) and Kevin Haskins (drums).
The A-side of the “Third Uncle” track was Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust.” Murphy notes something very interesting happens when he inhabits that song live, which he plans on playing on this tour. “Songs evoke very personal associations,” he says. “So I have my own experience with Bowie. You could have called me a Bowie fan or whatever, but when I met him I realized it was me creating my own inner world with that music. I was Ziggy Stardust. He’s just some bloke creating some theatrical thing, doing his own thing. It’s not him really. It is, but it’s beyond. It’s me really, hence the idea of doing ‘Ziggy Stardust.’ He just wrote it. We did our version, and we did it how it’s supposed to be done in our minds, and it was brilliant.” He pauses for a chuckle. “That was not a statement against him at all. It’s just the ultimate Bowie fan casualty that was sold. So I still become Ziggy Stardust in that three minutes, that seminal character in music culture, and I’m it.”
Watch the official video:
There was so much more we went over. It was a revelatory conversation. Bauhaus worked from a very primal pool of creativity, relying on their chemistry as musicians. He indulged me in an explanation of how they came up with the brilliant collage track that closes the Sky’s Gone Out: “Exquisite Corpse.” He said it comes from a surrealist game for children. Using a folded piece of paper a group sets out to draw a body but only a small bit of the end of the last drawing is visible to the next illustrator. The result is one exquisite corpse.
The band did something similar during the recording of the song that closes the album on a brilliantly abstract note. After programming a rhythm track, Murphy explained, “We each went in, and we gave ourselves a minute each to write whatever we wanted individually without any of the other members, and then the next person would play from the last five seconds, hearing the last five seconds of the previous person and continue, and then we’d all come in and gathered … and that was the result. So the title, ‘Exquisite Corpse,’ is exquisite. It’s the exercise in letting itself create its own venture.” You can hear the result right here:
Considering, backwards effects, the coughing, the snoring section and other bits, it will certainly make for a difficult, odd song to perform live, so I would not expect to hear it on the tour (did Bauhaus even ever perform this genius little oddity live?).
Only one day until the show (I had tons to transcribe and illness to battle) in Miami at Grand Central. Tuesday, April 30. Doors: 8 p.m. Tickets cost $26 / $60 (VIP) – VIP ticket includes a 7 p.m. pre-show, access to soundcheck, meet-and-greet with Murphy, exclusive edition T-shirt and a signed poster. All ages. There will also be a second post on the Crossfade music blog tomorrow morning, so be sure to check back there tomorrow.
Update 2: Show happened! To read my review click on the picture below by “Miami New Times” photographer Ian Witlen:
For those outside Miami, the tour will proceed as follows across the U.S., into Mexico, then Europe and back to North America:
Wed, May 1 – Tampa FL @ Orpheum Theater
Thu, May 2 – Atlanta GA @ Terminal West
Fri, May 3 – Charlotte NC @ Tremont Music Hall
Sat, May 4 – Washington DC @ U-Music Hall
Sun, May 5 – Boston MA @ Paradise Rock Club
Tue, May 7 – New York City NY @ Webster Hall
Thu, May 9 – Philadelphia PA @ Trocadero
Fri, May 10 – Toronto ON @ Lee’s Palace
Sat, May 11 – Buffalo NY @ Town Ballroom
Sun, May 12 – Pittsburgh PA @ Mr Smalls
Mon, May 13 – Detroit MI @ Magic Stick
Wed, May 15 – Indianapolis IN @ Deluxe at Old National Centre
Thu, May 16 – Chicago IL @ House of Blues
Sun, May 19 – Mexico City, MX @ Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli (to include Peter Murphy solo material, as well!)
Wed, May 22 – Bochum, DE @ Christuskirche
Thu, May 23 – Karlsruhe, DE @ Substage
Fri, May 24 – Zurich, CH @ Komplex Klub
Sun, May 26 – Rome, IT @ Orion
Mon, May 27 – Milan, IT @ Magazzini Generali
Wed, May 29 – Madrid, ES @ Sala Arena
Thu, May 30 – Lisbon, PT @ Coliseum
Sat, June 1 – Barcelona, ES @ Bikini Barcelona
Mon, June 3 – Brussels, BE @ AB
Wed, June 5 – Paris, FR @ Trabendo
Thu, June 6 – Eindhoven, NL @ Effenaar
Fri, June 7 – Hamburg, DE @ Knust
Sat, June 8 – Copenhagen, DK @ Loppen
Mon, June 10 – Stockholm, SE @ Debaser Medis
Wed, June 12 – Helsinki, FI @ Tavastia
Fri, June 14 – Nottingham, UK @ Rescue Rooms
Sat, June 15 – Glasgow, UK @ Oran Mor
Mon, June 17 – Birmingham, UK @ Academy 2
Tue, June 18 – Bristol, UK @ Academy
Wed, June 19 – London, UK @ Islington Academy
NORTH AMERICA II
Sat, July 13 – Phoenix AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
Sun, July 14 – El Paso TX @ Tricky Falls
Tue, July 16 – Denver CO @ Summit Music Hall
Wed, July 17 – Salt Lake City UT @ Urban Lounge
Thu, July 18 – Boise ID @ Visual Arts Collective
Fri, July 19 – Seattle WA @ Showbox Theater
Sat, July 20 – Vancouver BC @ TBA
Sun, July 21 – Portland OR @ Hawthorne Theater
Tue, July 23 – San Francisco CA @ Fillmore Theater
Wed, July 24 – Las Vegas @ LVCS
Sat, July 27 – Los Angeles CA @ Henry Fonda Theatre
Fri, July 28 – San Diego CA @ Belly-up
The last weekend of the Miami International Film Festival ended on a much stronger note than it began. I caught up with a strange, gruesome film that was not without merit. I saw a brave choice for the award bestowed by the Miami Future Cinema Critics. I attended a second career tribute ceremony to another important director who had his start on the world cinema stage thanks to MIFF. After a closing night and awards party on Saturday night, I rushed out for one last day of screenings with daylight savings suddenly in effect. The pair of marine life-themed films were by turns powerful and poetic.
As this post goes up, so does my report for the “Miami New Times” on the festival’s tribute to Spanish director Fernando Trueba, Friday night. You can read that portion of my weekend by jumping through the publication’s logo for its arts and culture blog “Cultist”:
The following weekend began with the intimate but creepy home viewing of a film that had been recommended to me by both my colleague at “the Miami Herald,” Rene Rodriguez and the festival’s director, Jaie Laplante. Mexican director Sebastian Hofmann explores some twisted subject matter both thematically and viscerally in his feature debut, Halley. Shot in Mexico City, the film follows a security guard aching to quit his job at a local gym where everyone from body building professionals to obese elderly types work on their various physiques. The guard, Alberto (Alberto Trujillo), seems quite ill, as revealed early in the film. He tends to huge, festering wounds on his body that never seem to heal and even plucks maggots burrowing just below his skin.
The debut feature by Hofmann dwells on a man trying to deal with the fact he is a living corpse. He allows the camera to linger for long moments, as Alberto tries to keep everything as neat as possible in his apartment, including polishing his silverware and dusting every nook of a model train. He also allows the camera to hover on some of the most grotesque wounds the viewer might care to have to stare at on the big screen.
The film gives no explanation for Alberto’s disease, only focuses on his drive to carry on despite his rotting body. By not concerning himself with exposition as much as juxtapositions with society moving along with ignorant non-concern, save for a sympathetic and solitary morgue worker (Hugo Albores), the film elevates its concept beyond cruel, indulgent gore to social statement. I heard from someone who grew up in Mexico City that walking past a collapsing man in the subway with nary a reaction is commonplace, lest you believe the director is exaggerating.
Hofmann wants to work beyond pure horror for horror’s sake and rattle the complacency out of the viewer. Instead of trivializing the zombie medium, he is working it back to its social origins and the shell-shocked, post-Vietnam world of the creators behind such watershed zombie movies by George Romero. Forget Warm Bodies, this might be the most human zombie movie ever created.
Beijing Flickers and awards night
As publicized by MIFF, the awards broke down as such, which were announced at a ceremony in Downtown Miami’s historic Freedom Tower:
KNIGHT IBERO-AMERICAN COMPETITION AWARDS
Knight Grand Jury Prize: So Much Water (Tanta agua), produced by CTRL Z FILMS, Uruguay, by Ana Guevara and Leticia Jorge (Uruguay/Mexico/Netherlands), will receive $15,000 awarded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
If the film’s sales agent, Alpha Violet of France sells the film to a US distributor within 30 days, that US distributor will also receive $15,000. If not, the additional $15,000 will be added to CTRL Z FILMS’ prize.
Grand Jury Best Performance: The cast of A Gun in Each Hand (Una pistola en cada mano), by Cèsc Gay (Spain)
$5,000 awarded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Grand Jury Best Director: Ana Piterbarg of Everybody Has a Plan (Todos tenemos un plan)(Spain/Argentina /Germany)
$5,000 awarded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
JORDAN ALEXANDER RESSLER SCREENWRITING AWARD
Ana Guevara and Leticia Jorge for So Much Water (Tanta agua) by Ana Guevara andLeticia Jorge (Uruguay/Mexico/Netherlands)
$5,000 USD cash prize awarded by the Jordan Alexander Ressler Charitable Fund
KNIGHT DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Knight Grand Jury Prize:
$10,000 awarded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
LEXUS IBERO-AMERICAN OPERA PRIMA COMPETITION (tie):
Solo, by Guillermo Rocamora (Uruguay / Argentina / Netherlands / France)
$2,500 USD cash prize sponsored by Lexus, official automotive sponsor of MIFF
The Swimming Pool (La piscina), by Carlos Machado Quintela (Cuba/Venezuela)
A $2,500 USD cash prize sponsored by Lexus, official automotive sponsor of MIFF
Special recognition by the jury goes to Villegas, by Gonzalo Tobal (Argentina/Netherlands/France)
UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI SHORTS COMPETITION:
Best Short Film: “Anna and Jerome”, by Mélanie Delloye (France)
$2,500 USD cash prize awarded by the University of Miami
MIAMI FUTURE CINEMA CRITICS AWARD:
Beijing Flickers (You-Zhong), by Zhang Yuan (China)
LEXUS AUDIENCE AWARD
There were two grand winners of this year’s Lexus Audience Award voted on by festivalgoers throughout the Festival:
7 Boxes (7 cajas) by Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schémbori (Paraguay)
Gideon’s Army, by Dawn Porter (USA).
* * *
Of these winners, the only one I saw during the festival was Beijing Flickers, a movie about a ragtag group of social misfits in Beijing who become friends over their shortcomings. I applaud the group of young critics who wanted to pass the award to something else beyond a too-easy nominee like, the Oscar-nominated No, which remains a fine film, as well. I had a great time mentoring Justin James of the group (read more about the program here, an article by Miami Art Zine writer Michelle Solomon).
I was supposed to catch After Lucia later that night, but it had sold out. I will be placed in contact with that film’s director, so I do not miss it. So far it has not secured U.S. distribution.
Blackfish and Leviathan
Sunday was the true last day of the festival and included a pair of movies I had heard good things about. Blackfish trains its lens on killer whales in captivity and the cover-up of tragedies involved in maintaining their display at aquariums for entertainment. Several former trainers recount their own naiveté and firsthand encounters with tragic or near tragic interactions with the animals at sea parks, as the film builds to the most current incident: the death of Dawn Brancheau in 2010 at Sea World Orlando.
The film introduces these men and women as they freely admit their own ignorance to the dangers of these animals, even though they were hired to swim with them. None have any education in marine biology. As the viewer learns more about the animals in the film, you have to wonder whether anyone who knows more about these whales than these trainers would ever enter a tiny pool with these beasts, which can weigh upwards of four tons.
No working trainer would comment in the film, much less Sea World or its spokesperson. Those who do comment are the ex-trainers who sometimes speak tearfully of the tragedies that changed their minds about their former jobs. Then there is the testimony of a man who actually hunted whales for captivity in the 1970s. He also breaks down in tears over the horrors he and his crew committed to capture young whales and rip them from their families. A spokesperson for OSHA, the worker’s rights group who sued Sea World in order to keep trainers safe, offers the most sober testimony against the logic of placing trainers in the water with these whales.
Balance is hard to find as no one currently working with whales comes on camera to speak in favor of these shows. But the silence of the opposing voice, depicted in a single intertitle at the end that states Sea World refused repeated requests to be interviewed for this documentary, speaks volumes. As this is a co-production with CNN, one hopes the story will spread beyond the film festival.
Though some science feels missing, the film makes a strong case against the display of these wild animals for entertainment purposes. It’s easy to not look behind the bliss in the smiles and laughter of a crowd enjoying orca shows, but at what cost to not only these beasts, but to the men and women who risk their lives to “play” with them? As one talking head in the film notes, one can only hope that at some point in the future these shows will disappear as a sign of our former barbarism.
My last day at the festival ended with another marine life documentary of a very different sort: Leviathan. It featured little bias in its depiction of a giant shipping vessel, as its narrative was allowed to flow as wild as the ocean waves that surrounded the ship’s hull. There were no voice overs or interviews. The only narrative conceit was establishing the film with quotations from the Book of Job 41, which clearly inspired the film’s title (read it here).
Beyond the biblical reference, directors Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel seem to say something rather ambivalent about harvesting the ocean’s sea life, though using breathtaking imagery. With specially designed cameras that hang from masts and roll around on the ship’s deck, the images captured by these cameras are born from the same randomness as the nature that created life in the primordial pool of the ocean. The human factor comes in the selection of edits and how they are strung together. Its associative cuts came slow and languorous. They sometimes feel harsh, from exterior to interior changes in setting, or almost imperceptibly smooth, from the ship’s deck to below the waves.
The key is to hold long shots so as not to manipulate the scenes too much and allow the viewer to engage on a level that can feel as entrancing as the ebb and flow of the ocean itself. Some viewers might find themselves a bit seasick with not only the motions but also the close-ups of the bloody prepping of the dead or dying fish. The directors allow their mobile cameras to roll around the ship’s deck with fish carcasses, giving you the POV of the lamentable critters, as you stare into the gray eyes of the bloated corpses.
In a cinematic world that rewards concrete narratives, some may be frustrated by Leviathan, but if you arrive with an open mind and a curiosity for some of the most unique views of a fishing crew in action, you may find yourself properly riveted. The filmmakers do not make it easy, though. At one point they place a camera in the ship’s mess hall where one fisherman gradually dozes off to a TV showing “The Deadliest Catch.” The camera lingers only on his face as his eyes gradually close to a voice over fishing for drama on the Discovery Channel’s “reality” show. There’s a cut to a couple of commercials and a return to the drama, but by then the fisherman has checked out. It’s a witty little statement against the stagey quality of so-called reality TV and the superficiality of narratives. Leviathan is about the visceral, and you can practically smell the grotesque oozing off the screen.
There were some walkouts during the screening and others seemed glad to leave when the credits rolled. Still, a handful could not seem to get enough and remained to the very last of the film’s 87 minutes, when, after the credits and dedications, a night scene of a barely visible flock of gulls over the dark waves gave a reprise of the film’s listless quality.
With that, the festival ended on a high note for this viewer. Some of these films will return to South Florida, and I shall provide a head’s up on this blog, as they see release in South Florida and distribution to other part of the US or the world. Thanks to MIFF for inviting me to attend the festival and experience these screenings on them, not to mention the chance to meet several great filmmakers, some of whom expressed an interest to return to this blog for individual profiles.
Day 8 of the Miami International Film Festival was probably one of the most reverent days as far as centerpiece events at the festival. It involved a tribute to Fernando Trueba, a Spanish director who burst onto the world cinema stage with an Oscar-winning film that debuted at MIFF in 1994, Belle Epoque. Above, you will find the original video tribute by local artists Buzzeye and Gabo that opened the night at the Olympia Theater without an announcement.
I shall not go into details of last night right now, as I am saving them for a piece scheduled to appear in “Cultist,” the art and culture blog of “Miami New Times,” on Monday. Suffice it to say that the video above was not the only surprise of the night.
Trueba’s new film, the Artist and the Model, had its US debut that night. It has already picked up distribution by the Cohen Media Group, who was represented at the screening by the distributor’s founder. The more I reflect on the film, the more I like it, as it stands as a beautiful testament to art, its process and how it transcends the mortal beings who create it.
For now, more film. In this week’s “Miami New Times” more reviews appeared in print, including one by this writer. Here’s a link to the capsule reviews, some films will have their final screenings this weekend, as the festival draws to a close (jump through the “New Times” logo for reviews on Venus and Serena, Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury, Pietà, the Crash Reel and Vinyl Days):
Today, on the agenda are the following two films (I also hope to catch up on some home-viewing):
6:45 PM: BEIJING FLICKERS (YOU-ZHONG)
9:45 PM: AFTER LUCIA (DESPUÉS DE LUCIA)
I am also playing mentor to one of the film festival’s “future cinema critics,” Justin James. He reviewed Beijing Flickers, among others in this blog post. As for After Lucia, the Herald’s critic warned me that I’d be having problems with him if I don’t like it. He can thank himself for raising my expectations. We shall see. The trailer looks powerful:
Day 7 of the Miami International Film Festival included some very interesting meetings with a couple of smart filmmakers and discussions with some rather brilliant film watchers after a screening of one the festival’s more daring films: Post Tenebras Lux.
The afternoon began with a lovely lunch with none other than Whit Stillman, a man whose work in independent cinema in the 1990s heyday of my movie-going remains unforgettable. I plan to have an article about our conversation on this blog where he and I both reconsider Damsels in Distress together, and talk a lot about my somewhat negative review (‘Damsels in Distress:’ Stillman dumbs it down after almost a generation in hiding).
The man came across self-effacing and very open to criticism, despite feeling a bit heartbroken that the film did not play as long as he had hoped in theaters. He seems quite invigorated to be working again and shared some great ideas for follow-up films in confidence. So you will just have to wait and see, but I, for one, am looking forward to what this director has to offer.
He is at MIFF as part of the jury for the Knight Ibero-American Competition. Stillman said he is not allowed to comment on his job at MIFF as the jury continues to screen films in what may be the festival’s most important competition. But we still had a lot to talk about over lunch and coffee. Part of our conversation will be revealed in what will surely be one of the more interesting articles on this blog.
The only screening I could fit in yesterday was Post Tenebras Lux (Latin for “After the darkness, light,” a term lifted out of the Book of Job) at the intimate O Cinema, which is playing host to some of the more challenging films of the festival in its “Visions” category. The fourth film by Mexican director Carlos Reygadas demands a relaxed, open mind well aware of the boundaries of cinema and in search of something fresh. The cinephile with a distinguished taste looking for something new in the forms of narrative structure and framing will leave a film like this invigorated. Those looking for something traditional will only feel disappointed. I heard a lot of grumbles about the length of the film, as many never felt engaged by it. One person scrawled “This is the worst movie ever!!” on O Cinema’s chalkboard “Everybody’s a Critic” wall.
In my opinion: the film oozed a vibrant vital energy in search of an impactful delivery of a social message many will not be happy to hear. Reygadas, who also wrote the screenplay, juxtaposes vignettes of a small town in the lush forest landscape of Mexico, possibly Valle de Bravo, bookended by a rugby match in the UK. Consider the Jungian principal of synchronicity, and the narrative conceit should feel easier to accept, as both settings will illuminate the other in an incongruent but impactful manner. For the most part, the film follows an upper-class family that remains as humanly flawed as the rest of town’s denizens in the lower classes, yet social constructs result in an impenetrable division that comes to a head in a violent encounter as banal and distant as Reygadas dares conceive.
The film opens with an evocative if startling exterior scene at dusk. A little girl stomps through a muddy meadow as a pack of dogs run back and forth around her, harassing a herd of cows, some of which attempt to breed. The child, who must be about 3 years of age, is monosyllabic, uttering words like “doggie,” “Cow” and what will be soon be revealed as the names of her immediate family. She sloshes around, fascinated by the mushy ground, as the dogs zip around her and nip at the agitated cows. The sky looms dark with gray clouds pregnant with rain and rumbling electricity. The opening scene carries on long enough in what seems a single take to turn from dusk to pitch black and only the sound of animals and the child’s startlingly playful voice resonate from a darkness broken up by flashes of lightning.
The next scene is not even worth spoiling. Suffice it to say a presence of evil is revealed in the family’s home, which takes its time to establish itself, so it might echo and illuminate the following scenes that range from violence to animals, subjugation of men and the environment and degradation of love. This is not any easy film to experience. It shouldn’t be so it might have the impact of a slap in the face to what Reygadas may just consider an ignorant, complacent society.
Despite many grand landscapes, Reygadas subverts many of the images by the use of a lens that refracts the edges of the image leading to a doubling or sometimes quadrupling of the frame’s edge, creating an invisible if suffocating boarder around the people he has focused his camera on. Post Tenebras Lux is a darkly poetic wake-up call about people who have lost their humanity and could very well continue to lose it should they allow themselves to succumb to complacent entitlement.
It was the first transcendent film of the festival (you have to break down and recreate the rules of cinema for such experiences) and led to some great conversations with friends I found in the audience. Later that night, I met with the subject of the following two articles I wrote:
- Actor Brady Corbet praises 35mm ahead of rare screening of ‘Au Hasard Balthazar’ at MIFF
- Actor Brady Corbet on Francophiles, Old-School Filmmaking, and Au Hasard Balthazar
Brady Corbet was relaxing in an indoor cabana at Niki Beach for one of the festival’s after parties. We drew him away with chit-chat about film, including Post Tenebras Lux, which, despite a bias he admitted to having (he considers the director a friend), he still loved. Robert Bresson is a clear influence in the film, so his appreciation makes sense. Corbet will host a very special one-night only screening of the Bresson classic Au Hasard Balthazar tonight as part of MIFF (get tickets; this text is a hyperlink).
He also offered a rather banal reason for why his new film Simon Killer did not appear in the festival line up: the studio, IFC Films, may have grown tired of pushing the release date further back for festival appearances. However, a little bird told me it is scheduled to appear at a local art house in South Florida. Stay tuned to this blog for the official announcement and hopefully an interview with Corbet.
As much as I would like to see a 35mm print of Au Hasard Balthazar, tonight, I will cover the tribute to Spanish director Fernando Trueba for the “Miami New Times,” which will include a one-night only screening of his new film, the Artist and the Model. Expect pictures and a narrative of the night’s events on that publication’s “Cultist” blog on Monday (weekend means time for a break for some writers). If you want to go tonight for this tribute to one of the festival’s more consistent contributors, visit this link for tickets.
Meanwhile, Post Tenebras Lux will screen on more night, Sunday, for those looking to catch a bold, daring film at MIFF (click here for tickets).
March 7, 2013
Yesterday, the “Miami New Times” arts and culture blog “Cultist” published an interview I performed with actor Brady Corbet. He is at the Miami International Film Festival to introduce Robert Bresson’s masterpiece Au Hasard Balthazar in 35mm during a one-night only screening this Friday (buy tickets).
For that article we spoke about the merits of this 1966 film, its importance in the world of cinema and his own personal experience with the movie. You can read that article here:
We spent the other half of the interview discussing the merits of watching and making movies in 35mm. Based on other posts written on this blog, a reader will notice a concern and interest I have in the format (here are two particular in-depth posts about it: ‘Side By Side’ presents close examination of digital’s quiet conquest over film; To accept the death of celluloid). Corbet revealed an equal, if not deeper concern than I about the state of 35mm, and I found it wonderful to know a filmmaker as young as he (24) not only shows concern about it, but is also taking steps to keep the format alive.
When the leaders at MIFF asked him to host a screening, he agreed to do so only if it were a 35mm film print. “I said, ‘Well, here’s ten films I’d be happy to screen, but I want to make sure that it’s a print. I don’t want to screen a DCP [Digital Cinema Package],’” he recalls and explains: “First of all, DCPs are very unreliable. They’re fussy, and there’s frequently drop outs. There’s all sorts of problems with them, and second of all, there’s a majesty about celluloid that at this point is impossible to replicate.”
He considers the idea to replace film cameras with digital rather premature, noting that the image capable with the highest quality digital camera has yet to match what can be achieved with 35mm. “I saw Leos Carax speak after a screening of Holy Motors this year, and he said this very funny thing in regards to the digital movement. He said, ‘I feel like we were prescribed an antidote or a medicine for something that we weren’t sick for yet,’ and so for me, unfortunately, I think that eventually, maybe in five years or 10 years, I don’t know, it will be impossible to tell the difference, but right now you still can.”
Corbet will not go as far as calling all digital filmmaking inferior to 35mm. He says there are certain master filmmakers who understand the various capabilities of either format and some that know how to work in either one when the occasion calls for it. For instance, he gives passes to both Lars von Trier and Michael Haneke (whose movies he has acted in) because they know what it is like to work on film. “I think those two guys have been making some of the best movies of our generation, clearly. But it’s an interesting thing. for them it’s probably very exciting because when they started their careers, Lars got to make his first five or six projects on film, and then I understand how freeing and exciting it must have been for him to shoot Breaking the Waves digitally. I’m sure it sort of re-invigorated his interest in the medium. So, as far as they’re concerned, I think they can do whatever the hell they want.”
However, when it comes to a current generation beginning to craft work with digital translation, a lot of the creative process gets lost, as many mechanics are taken for granted. “I think it’s a strange thing for this next generation of filmmakers to grow up on digital without having to learn the analog, for lack of a better word. I feel like you should have the experience of working with something tangible first and understand that deeply and then make a choice.”
Corbet knows firsthand what it’s like to shoot a film on 35mm. His first short film, which played at the Miami International Film Festival in 2008, was shot and projected in 35. He is disappointed that most people will now only have a chance to see it online:
“The transfers that have existed online, there’s a lot of problems,” he notes. “They’re either too bright or too contrasty. When you get into the process of exporting it or the output or whatever, when the contrast goes that black, then suddenly you don’t get that milkiness or that nuance that 35mm has naturally. So it’s kinda hard to tell on a computer, but you could tell when it was projected. And Darius Khondji shot that film, so it’s very striking visually. I mean, I was 18 or 19 years old when I made it, so it’s sort of like looking at baby pictures now. But there’s still something to it I think. I haven’t seen it in a while.”
Corbet has also shot in digital, most recently regarding a much-liked music video for Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes. “I always knew people will be watching the video on computers,” he says. “It’s a very modern video, so we shot that on the Alexa, and I’m very happy with the look of it. It’s very appropriate for the content, very suitable. That was shot by Jody Lee Lipes who shot Martha Marcy May Marlene and other things that we worked on together. I basically wish—my hope for 35mm is that simply it remains an option.”
Corbet does recognize that digital technology has unique aspects in certain lighting environs that makes 35mm obsolete. He brings up Simon Killer, a film he co-wrote with its director Antonio Campos and which he plays the titular role. “I think there are plenty of occasions when digital technology is more appropriate,” he says. “For example, a film we have coming out in a couple of months, called Simon Killer was shot on the Alexa, and we couldn’t have really shot the movie on any other format because the Alexa and its sensitivity to light sees more than human eyes see. You can shoot in really negative lighting circumstances and you still have a viewable image. That film we shot without any film lights. We shot it with augmented practicals and available light, so we could have never made that movie for the price we made it for and made it look as good as it looks without that technology.”
It’s an uphill battle for 35, and Corbet recognizes this. When producers and studio heads or even your own collaborators on the films, like actors and actresses, want to see that day’s takes before the end of the day, it cannot be done with 35. “The problem is also that it’s an issue of immediacy too,” he notes. “They want to see dailies shot all day, and they want to review it at 7 p.m., as soon as you’ve wrapped up photography for the day … People are just getting less and less patient.”
He notes that impatience has a detrimental effect on the creative process. “I believe that sometimes affects the content in a really negative way because you’re rushing things and sometimes it’s nice to sit with something for a little while, and imperfections are a nice thing too. They give an image life.”
Going back to the screening tomorrow night, Corbet has hopes that the film print will look quite nice. “I have a feeling that the print that we have of Au Hasard Balthazar is probably going to look pretty pristine because I imagine it’s a print that Rialto did of the last release of it, so I think that they’re new prints.”
Au Hasard Balthazar will screen Friday, March 8, at 7:15 p.m. with an introduction by actor/director Brady Corbet as part of the Miami International Film Festival (buy tickets to the event here; this is a hyperlink).
Note: This was to be a post on Day 6 of the Miami International Film Festival and Dark Blood, but a meeting at the “Miami New Times” dragged long into the night, and I missed the screening. Day 7 it’s back to an intimate venue: O Cinema for a film with less hype following it than Dark Blood but much critical acclaim: Post Tenebras Lux (click here for tickets).
March 6, 2013
This morning most of my Miami International Film Festival coverage will be found on the “Miami New Times” blog “Cultist.” As I noted yesterday, Day 5 at MIFF was an assignment to check out the Oscar-nominated No at the Olympia Theater. I expected to be impressed, but not as impressed as I wound up. This film clearly stands as one of the great cinematic moments of 2012, now finally premiering in Miami in 2013. The key to the film’s brilliance lies in the inspired choice of cinematography meant to blend with television video of the late-1980s period it covers. The smaller academy 4:3 ratio also makes for an appropriate experience, though a little bizarre for the giant Olympia, which, for the first time there at this year’s festival, I noticed the venue packed up to the nosebleed section.
My response to No has appeared in the “Miami New Times” this morning. So, as not to carry on and steal the thunder of the piece, jump over by clicking through the “Cultist” logo below to see why I think it’s so brilliant:
Earlier this very morning, my interview with actor Brady Corbet also appeared in the same blog. He is at MIFF not for his new film Simon Killer (for reasons I have yet to pry from MIFF’s leaders’ lips, but I shall!), but to introduce Robert Bresson’s masterpiece Au Hasard Balthazar… on 35mm. I was eager to speak to this kid, who is close to half my age, about his noble effort to not only keep classics like this film in the consciousness of filmgoers but also champion the 35mm format. You can read that article by clicking on the titular donkey in the still image below:
Half of our conversation was on the merits of 35mm alone, including what role the format plays as far as creativity as well as the picture quality. You can expect that Q&A to appear shortly, if not on “Cultist,” then in this blog.
As for tonight’s screening, it will be a major one: Dark Blood, otherwise known as the lost River Phoenix film (buy tickets). Director George Sluizer never finished the film in 1993 due to Phoenix’s death more than halfway through filming. However, the work continued to haunt the director, and he only recently put together a film from what he had filmed after many trials and tribulations, including stealing the master prints from a film lab before they were slated for destruction. The respected “Village Voice” critic Scott Foundas eschews the romanticism about the film’s world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival last month, calling it a “lemon,” so I’m keeping my expectations low.