Bob Balaban: Altman-esque means never having to say you’re sorry. Bob did what he wanted in the face of tremendous obstacles and he really was programmed that way. I suspect as a child he was pretty stubborn all his life. What was he like as a child Kathryn, did you ever hear stories about him?
Kathryn Altman: Yeah, I can’t believe them!
BB: But to me, the whole key to Robert in everything, was that he was someone who followed his own beat and listened to his own drum. You couldn’t dissuade him from that path, and that was one of his great strengths as a filmmaker, and possibly as a human being as well. So that’s Altman-esque to me.
KA: Right off the top of my head, my synonym for Altman is having the world’s greatest sense of humor—I mean, just the world’s greatest, the best. And that’s something that shows in all his pictures in so many different ways and always comes up at some point.
BB: One of the greatest secrets of writing and directing is that people with senses of a humor really understand that there’s no difference between comedy and tragedy, it’s all mixed in there together just as in life. And most filmmakers say, this is going to be a funny movie or this is going to be a serious movie, but for Robert, I don’t think there was any dividing line between. It was life, it wasn’t serious, it wasn’t funny, it was life.
I remember my mother reading Bacall’s autobiography when I was a kid. It won a National Book Award and is one of the finest Hollywood memoirs, not only for her life with Bogart but for her life after him.
The picture on the back cover was something I looked at a lot. Man, she was so glamorous and I imaged that my mother and father were that romantic when they met. My mom was a beautiful young woman but her romance–and marriage–to my father did not last. Still, she pushed on, and was not defeated. I’ve always thought that Bacall’s book helped her out during the painful early days of her divorce.
From our pals at the ever-great site, Cinephilia and Beyond, comes Michael Chapman talking about the use of slow motion in Raging Bull:
We were pretty precise about what we wanted and we had all sorts of rules, you know, the actual boxing would all be at 24 frames, but other times it could be other… when it wasn’t just the boxing, or there’s some famous shots where it’s in 24 frames, and then you go to 48 frames while Jake walks away in the neutral corner and he’s breathing, and he comes back to 24 frames when he’s going to fight again, but it’s all in one shot, and we did… that was okay, because he wasn’t actually boxing when he went to 48 frames, and we did it with a… really just by hand, and now you can coordinate that and punch it in, but in those days you did it by listening to the sound of the camera changes — speed changing and then opening and closing the diaphragm in… in relation to the change of the speed. But guys just did it by hand; we did it two or three times and it worked out. If you don’t do it right, of course, it… you know, it gets all buggered up. We did it I think every time and it worked out all right, and then occasionally when he’s in the corner, and they’re pouring water over him, we would go to a really 96 or 120 frames and… and really be outrageous, but when they were boxing we made sure they were always 24, except I think like all rules we broke them a little bit in the end, but, anyway, we had very elaborate rules and very elaborate methodology that we worked on all the way through the movie.
In the winter of 1997 I was in L.A. on a job. I invited a woman to see a Buster Keaton movie at a place called Old Town Music Hall. She stood me up, but I went anyway and had one of the greatest nights of my life. I recently visited L.A. and went back to see another Buster movie at the Music Hall. Good to know such a place exists, you know?
[Photo Credit: Ambitus Orchestra]
In the Times, John Le Carre remembers Phillip Seymour Hoffman:
There’s probably nobody more redundant in the film world than a writer of origin hanging around the set of his movie, as I’ve learned to my cost. Alec Guinness actually did me the favor of having me shown off the set of the BBC’s TV adaptation of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” All I was wanting to do was radiate my admiration, but Alec said my glare was too intense.
Come to think of it, Philip did the same favor for a woman friend of ours one afternoon on the shoot of “A Most Wanted Man” in Hamburg that winter of 2012. She was standing in a group 30-odd yards away from him, just watching and getting cold like everybody else. But something about her bothered him, and he had her removed. It was a little eerie, a little psychic, but he was bang on target because the woman in the case is a novelist, too, and she can do intensity with the best of us. Philip didn’t know that. He just sniffed it.
In retrospect, nothing of that kind surprised me about Philip, because his intuition was luminous from the instant you met him. So was his intelligence. A lot of actors act intelligent, but Philip was the real thing: a shining, artistic polymath with an intelligence that came at you like a pair of headlights and enveloped you from the moment he grabbed your hand, put a huge arm round your neck and shoved a cheek against yours; or if the mood took him, hugged you to him like a big, pudgy schoolboy, then stood and beamed at you while he took stock of the effect.
Philip took vivid stock of everything, all the time. It was painful and exhausting work, and probably in the end his undoing. The world was too bright for him to handle. He had to screw up his eyes or be dazzled to death. Like Chatterton, he went seven times round the moon to your one, and every time he set off, you were never sure he’d come back, which is what I believe somebody said about the German poet Hölderlin: Whenever he left the room, you were afraid you’d seen the last of him. And if that sounds like wisdom after the event, it isn’t. Philip was burning himself out before your eyes. Nobody could live at his pace and stay the course, and in bursts of startling intimacy he needed you to know it.
Here’s a good interview with Richard Linklater talking about Boyhood.
I saw Boyhood yesterday and it unfolds like a movie version of a family photo album. I’ve never been a particular fan of Richard Linklater’s movies but this one is beautiful in quiet, subtle–but not precious–ways. It has a different sense of pacing from most American movies. It almost feels European in that way. It reminded me of the best parts of Malick, Altman, and, particularly, early Jonathan Demme. There are some unnerving moments but Linklater likes people. He isn’t sunny, exactly–at least not in a phony way–but has a hopeful view of the world.
The movie is long, sometimes talky, even boring at times, but not in a way that breaks the spell. It’s just that the movie is in no hurry. Oh, and it’s also funny in a dry, deadpan way.
The performances were better than convincing. I felt immersed in the characters’ lives. Ellar Coltrane, in the lead role, is special, man. (I’ve never cared for Ethan Hawke and he’s terrific here.)
I was so involved that after the first hour I forgot about how the movie was filmed. I understand why Manohla Dargis has seen it 3 times and wants to go again.
Worth your time.
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Harry and Tonto, Next Stop, Greenwich Village, Moscow on the Hudson, Down and Out in Beverly Hills. The man made some choice movies.
Twenty-five years ago today I saw the second showing of Do The Right Thing over on 8th Avenue in a theater that no longer exists. I’d just graduated high school and I went with two classmates to see Spike’s new movie on opening day. A few few years earlier we’d seen School Daze on its opening day in Times Square. On both occasions we were the only white people in the theater. I remember the cheers at the end of Do The Right Thing when a passage from Malcolm X was shown on the screen.