Archive for April 2008

Chantal Akerman

Hotel Monterey (1972)

Akerman's early feature, marked by the influence of structuralist film, explores the interior of a cheap New York hotel.

Harun Farocki

The Interview (1998) (Excerpt)

"In the summer of 1996, we filmed application training courses in which one learns how to apply for a Job. School drop-outs, university graduates, people who have been retrained, the long-term unemployed, recovered drug addicts, and mid-level managers - all of them are supposed to Iearn how to market and sell themselves, a skill to which the term "self management" is applied. The self is perhaps nothing more than a metaphysical hook from which to hang a social identity. It was Kafka who Iikened being accepted for a job to entering the Kingdom of Heaven; the paths leading to both are completely uncertain. Today one speaks of getting a job with the greatest obsequiousness, but without any grand expectations." Harun Farocki

Imagination and the Art of Casting

as far back as i can remember, i have always seen my mother with a book in her hands. she generally stays within the mass market area, from romance to pop mystery to john grisham. to this day, she is always reading something. she happily passed this trait along to me. because i was also raised a star wars baby, i naturally gravitated towards science fiction. when i first started grade school, i cut my teeth on the works of arthur c. clarke, ray bradbury and c.j. cherryh. when i got to the seventh grade, i read more mature works such as frank herbert's dune (science fiction as epic saga) and george orwell's 1984 (science fiction as distopia).

in addition to reading, my obsession with film was growing. i dreamt of making my own movies. it became apparent to me that my primary interests, literature and film, weren't mutually exclusive. around the fifth or sixth grade, i read a book called hestia by c.j. cherryh. as i was reading, i imagined a film playing inside my head. this film had an unlimited budget. furthermore, i started casting actors in the roles of the different characters. for instance, i cast dennis quaid (whom i had just seen in the film "dreamscape") in the lead role.

the art of casting the novel continued to grow over the years. sometimes, a novel that i read was already adapted into a film. in this case, the art of casting became an exercise: could i hear the actors that were already cast speaking the dialogue? in a few cases (such as the mid-eighties version of orwell's "1984" starring john hurt and richard burton), i felt that the cast was spot on. in the case of "dune", i was fine with the david lynch cast when i first read it in the seventh grade. however, when i revisited it in 2000 (in preparation for the lacklustre sci-fi channel adaptation), i found that i couldn't hear the voices of the actors that were cast. so, i roamed around in my head for actors who i felt could do the job. at the time, sci-fi channel was showing reruns of j. michael straczynski's "babylon 5". i had a healthy obsession with this show. i thought, how great would it be if straczynski adapted all of the dune novels into an ongoing t.v. series? while i was rereading, i cast all of the actors from "babylon 5" in key roles of the book. and, wouldn't you know it, the casting worked.

this was a watershed moment. not only was i imagining a cast, but i also started to ask myself "what kind of media best serves the story?". this opened up entirely new avenues. the idea of being a filmmaker didn't seem so far away. in many of the documentaries on filmmaking that i've seen, professional filmmakers say that proper casting is at least 50% of making a good film. so, i was already halfway there, right?

casting the novel reached a plateau when i stumbled onto william gibson's neuromancer. gibson challenged my imagination on a level that i didn't think was possible. he is single-handedly responsible for coalescing all of my artistic interests (film, music, literature) into a cohesive whole. neuromancer tells the story of case, an ex-cyberspace hacker who hates the real world and can only feel when he is jacked into the web. he meets molly and his entire world perspective shifts. the novel starts with the following:

"the sky above the port was the colour of television tuned to a dead channel".

this was the proverbial "holy shit" moment for me. how do i visualize this? what does this mean? gibson's philosophy is that science fiction isn't a series of special effects, bells or whistles. it is a metaphor for modern life. when i first read the book, i was heavily influenced by the film "trainspotting". i cast all of the actors from "trainspotting" as the main characters. with crystal clarity, i heard ewan macgregor saying case's dialogue as though he were sitting right across from me.

around this time, i had also seen steven spielberg's "saving private ryan". other than his depiction of the normandy invasion (which is some of the best work that he has ever done), i felt that the film was overrated. however, the one thing that i was very impressed with was the cinematography. spielberg filmed it using desaturated colour. everything looked very dull and gray. i thought to myself, "this is how case sees the real world". i reread the novel with this in mind and my film version clicked into place. all of the scenes that took place in the "real" world would be gray and all of the cyberspace scenes would be in mario bava 70mm candy technicolour. furthermore, the dull and gray of the real world scenes would make the colour of the cyberspace scenes pop even more.

something else that occurred at this time was the expansion of my music horizons. i had discovered brian eno, david bowie, philip glass and aphex twin. i had also rediscovered motown, specifically marvin gaye's "what's going on". i heard music in the scenes of the "neuromancer" film going on inside my head.

to illustrate the coalescence of film, literature and music, let's look at the ending of the novel. gibson ends the book with the following line:

"and case never saw molly again."

by this point, case's emotional headspace has changed. he allowed himself to get close to molly, only to be rejected by her in the end (she leaves him a note explaining "it's not the way i'm wired"). despite this, case doesn't see the world as gray as he used to. i see case reading this note and nodding, understanding molly's decision. he then walks down the street, literally disappearing into the city. marvin gaye's "inner city blues (makes me wanna holler)" is playing as we fade out and go to the end credits. do the lyrics give literal insight into the scene? no. but, somehow, the song gives me an emotional resonance that perfectly captures the feeling of the scene.

over the years, i have probably read "neuromancer" at least four or five times. each time, i change the cast and perfect the film. (the latest cast include cillian murphy as case.) producers have tried many times to bring an adaptation of "neuromancer" to the big screen. thus far, each attempt has been unsuccessful. the latest news is that joseph kahn (director of "torque" and some of the gaudiest music videos known to mankind) is doing to direct "neuromancer" with hayden christensen starring as case. this is not the way to go. i can feel this deep in my bones.


because i have seen this film play out many times. i only need to figure out a way to get it from my imagination onto film.

it's the next logical step.

new acquisitions

i love the fact that, with the macbook pro, i can relax in a coffee shop and update to my heart's content.

this is just a quick update to let you in on my new acquisitions this week. i woke up bright and early at 8:30 this morning because:

1/ it's beautiful out.
2/ i want to take advantage of my time off as much as possible.
3/ it is new release day.

since my injury, i have not been able to go to the movies. this makes new release tuesday special, because i get the chance to catch up on all of the films that i've missed at the movies. today, i picked up "cloverfield" and "there will be blood" (thank you borders for your plethora of 40% off coupons).

after a lovely brunch downtown, i walked to wazoo and picked up the new 10th anniversary special 3-disc edition of air's "moon safari". this is one of my favourite albums and introduced me to french pop music. you might have heard air from the films of sofia coppola. they wrote/recorded the entire soundtrack for "the virgin suicides" and contributed to "lost in translation". please treat yourself and check them out.

after wazoo, i walked across the street to shaman drum books. i was just in the mood to browse and wasn't looking for anything in particular. all of a sudden, something caught my eye: bowie in berlin - a new career in a new town by thomas jerome seabrook. this book chronicles bowie's move to berlin and the recording of "low", "heroes" and "lodger". i have a very personal connection to these albums, as they significantly expanded my horizons on a deep artistic level. they also sparked my obsession with all things brian eno.

later today, i plan to update the blog with another essay, detailing what goes through my head when i read novels.


please allow me to share my undying love of the muppets with you:

comments are welcome and encouraged, so make with the clicky!