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.
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.
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.
I really enjoyed the discussion of digital vs. film from this interview with William Friedkin over at The Dissolve:
The Dissolve: It doesn’t sound like you’re especially nostalgic for celluloid.
Friedkin: Not at all. To me, it’s like old 78 rpm records vs. CDs. There’s no noise. When you listen to a CD, you’re listening to a pure sound, the way it was recorded. It’s still a recording; it isn’t the singer live in your living room, but it’s damn good. The old 78s and even the 33 1/3s and 45s always got scratched up. Eventually, they’d wear out. But they don’t know what the end tag on digital is. Nobody knows. It’s too new. But they’re beautiful. This is the best print ever made of Sorcerer.
The Dissolve: People have these endless debates about how vinyl sounds “warmer” than CDs, and then some musicians counter that what people call “warmth” is just low-end distortion. It has a certain cozy familiarity, but that doesn’t mean it’s accurate to the original recording.
Friedkin: Well, that’s how I feel about 35s. Look, there’s not going to be any more production of 35mm. There will only be the prints that still exist and are playable. Deluxe is out of business, and Technicolor is out of the 35 business. They’re done. That’s done. It was replaced by a great medium. They didn’t put junk out instead; they have improved the experience. An audience today knows when a print has got dirt and scratches. Who in the hell misses that? That wasn’t built in. It was a flaw of the process.
The Dissolve: I could give you the names of some people who miss it if you like.
Friedkin: There’s a lot of people, like Christopher Nolan—the only way to make a film is on 35? I just don’t buy that at all. He can’t release his films in 35mm. He can shoot 35mm, and then he has to transfer to digital to get it distributed. So you can be nostalgic and this and that, but it’s a waste of time.
[Photo Via: The Smithsonian]
Jim Henson died on this day in 1990. He is still missed.
[Photo Via: The Muppet Mindset]
To be sure, Maier was eccentric: a friendless, secretive spinster who spent her life caring for other people’s children. She was a hoarder and a person of uncertain origin: was she French or merely someone pretending to be French? On a tape found in one of those storage lockers, she can be heard supervising a game among her young charges where identities are being assigned. When one of the children asks who Maier will be, she responds, “I am the mystery woman.”
The real mystery, however, is what made that woman take those pictures, and on this subject the film is not much help, although no one seems too disturbed by that. Since it appeared in theaters this month, the documentary has received rave reviews, and understandably: Finding Vivian Maier tells a strange and intriguing story, and filmmakers John Maloof and Charlie Siskel deserve the praise they’ve received.
But as I watched the film, small alarms kept going off in my head, because questions are raised—or at least implied—but never satisfactorily answered.
Why does Maloof present himself as the sole discoverer of Maier’s work? If you read the stories that appeared several years ago when the pictures first surfaced, you know that at least three people, including Maloof, found the photos when the contents of Maier’s Chicago storage lockers were auctioned off. This is a major part of the story because it revolves around who owns what, who decides which of Maier’s images the public will see and in what form, who stands to profit, and ultimately who gets to tell and define her story.
Why does Finding Vivian Maier spend so much time interviewing the people, now grown, that she once tended as a nanny? Almost none of these people have much illuminating to say about her, other than that she was weird, secretive, and not always very nice. Moreover, most of the witnesses knew her not in her prime, but when she was older.