To commemorate the newly-released Criterion Designs book, I thought I’d share the making of one of my own contributions (though generally I focus this blog on my independent and non-movie related work!)
It all began with two things my brother — the director and co-writer of the picture — gave me:
1. A thumbnail sketch of the scene and personnel, how their names would appear — floated over the artwork — for the final, printed cover.
2. A beautiful illustrated dustwrapper for The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler. It had a quality he wanted to try and recapture. A strong point-of-view: the feeling of peering into a room — perhaps a murder scene — filled with glowing lamplight, playing over and interacting with objects, floor, walls, and of course the body. There was something, I think, intimate and palpable, yet heightened, about the picture. It was the key inspiration.
Despite hundreds of production photographs — taken by James Hamilton, the set photographer — I could not find pictures of actors in the exact poses I needed. So I did the posing myself.
It was straightforward work at first. From the photographs, I had perfect references for Adrien Brody’s face, wearing his dad’s sunglasses; for Jason Schwartzman’s arm in his gold Parisian hotel robe; and for Owen Wilson’s unique velvet slipper (for which I designed the tiny space-themed icons.) Drafting the characters and creating the basic structure of the scene.
There were 2 artificial light sources to help capture the Chandler atmosphere. But, unlike the somewhat plain room it depicted, I had a traincar berth to contend with. An invented traincar berth. With, on practically every surface: a crazy pattern. Or piece of animal-print luggage. Or an area of silver. Or glass. Or a body part, draped in a certain kind of cloth … I would need a fully-customized color palette. Something mixed from scratch, and tested against the photographs for fidelity. Something for every pattern. Every curtain. Every bottle of airplane liquor … (I’m trying to create a little suspense here …)
For Part 2 … which can be found here … Textures and patterns! Color and shadows!
<3 for the perfect sound track. I play it in my car when I need inspiration. It has never failed me yet.
@somewhereinmalta It is beautiful, and perfect. Have you seen the lovely interview with Richard Robbins in the Maurice Criterion/Merchant Ivory Collection DVD extras (not on YouTube)? RR said that Forster’s Maurice had been a part of him for so long that, when he came to compose the film score, it ‘almost wrote itself’. <333
PS: Thanks to a very kind person, the soundtrack is on YouTube [x]. I eventually bought it on vinyl. I was amused to see recently that someone is so proud of their Maurice soundtrack on vinyl (or maybe they’re trying to sell it) that they’ve posted a video of the album playing – AND IT SOUNDS GLORIOUS. :-)
A film geek's watching special:About Asian Films and why the hell do we not watch enough of it?
So hello everyone,I would like to address this issue because I do feel that it is a problem,even for me as a cinephile living in Asia (to be more precise Singapore).
The night before my birthday I read an ask on my favorite tumblr salesonfilm (x) What is your favorite Asian films? However what intrigued me is the response
Asian cinema is such a weak spot for me. it’s embarrassing, really, especially considering the vast size & scope of the films made all across the middle east, far east, south east asia…i have so much to learn, still.
Sadly this truth also applied to me as an Asian,who is in film school
Yes Armad I should be watching more Asian films,because I am from that region. Hey it is my home-turf. Some of the best guys are from here..Everyone is familiar with these guys
Akira Kurosawa (Yes the guy who collaborated with Toshire Mifune who is a badass)
Yazujiro Ozu (Those in film school would know you have to watch Tokyo Story for screenings and yes I loved that film-he is that chill guy who make quiet films)
Sajitay Ray (I only watched one recently-Panther Panchalit which is wonderful)
The Chinese 5th and 6th Generation filmmakers like Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige
Kenji Mizoguchi (Ugestu is wonderful and have the most beautiful shots)
For the current ones
For the Korean filmmakers recently- Boo Jung-Ho with Snow piercer (with John Hurt) and Park Chan Wook’s Stalker
Apichatpong Weersethakul (I met him during an event,I will tell you more about him)
Wong Kar Wai (I admit I loved his works so much everyone in my film school try to emulate him)
Hayao Miyasaki and Studio Ghibi (I loved his works okay?)
Yes a long list of Asian filmmakers I can name and we (I mean the cinema) just took notice of them recently. Now about Apichatpong..I managed to grab a chat with him after watching a restored version of his debut film Mysterious Object at Noon and I asked about his latest films Uncle Boommee and how the people receive it. He said to me nicely that the French loved these type of films because they are interesting and hark back to their surrealist days in the 20’s. It is a good sign that the Westerners are not drilled into their colonial past and white supremacy.
Now here is my question why I (we) are not watching more Asian films? I would look into my country as a case-study. It is like only recently we can celebrate Singapore’s film industry because of that film
Yah! We won a Palme D'Or by Cannes (I get to watch it and it was okay for me). We don’t have anything great since Mee Pok Man by Eric Khoo and plus we have a period where the local cinema became obsolete. Despite that hype
most of the time,people would rather flock into Jack Neo films if it was local and people have a love/hate relationship with him (I know some of my classmates tend to bitch about him)
He makes crappy comedies of ah-bengs (A local term for chinese gangsters) that is not global in mind. However he makes money out of it.
There are the art house directors like Boo Junfung and Anthony Chen,but there is little reception.
But hey if I am a local and goes to the cinema,if I have to choose a Hollywood Blockbuster with a well-known director or a Local film. I would patronize that Hollywood film because 90% films shown in Singapore are Hollywood. Hollywood dominated Asia’s cinema watching. I only remember more Hollywood filmmakers and European than my local cinema.
I did not realize how powerful South East Asian films are until I watched Lewat Djam Malam during Film Restoration Asia. I am extremely horrified that an old Indonesian film can be so powerful and I do not even know my region’s filmmakers. Even the young people who are going to be filmmakers are blissfully unaware that we have incredible filmmakers from here! On the otherhand Japan and Korea attempted to showcase more of its local filmmakers and I recall a news report that the Koreans are more interested in their local films. I wonder why the hell am I not interested in the films from my region
It leads me to that point..if you want people to be more aware of Asian films (westerners or not). We need to showcase more Asian films. like how Italians show off their Fellinis and Rossellinis to film festivals and cinemas. I bet people are curious what is Asia like beyond the plastic perception of Orientals. I am curious how people in my region talk about issues and create stories that are global!
If you cannot afford to watch a film in cinemas,check Criterion Collection and DVDS that distribute Asian Cinema. Yes check the Ozus and Rays. Also be prepared to go beyond the comfort zone that is why I need people to put great films in DVDS,I mean lesser know regions. Don’t keep them in vaults where they will rot. Films are supposed to be watched not kept as a museum piece.
And we need to help in the film preservation area,I am an advocate of it and I recalled a talk about the state of film archives in Asia. It was scary that people simply do not see film as a heritage and we dump the films like trash. It was sad that 60-70% of the films made in Singapore’s golden age (50’s-70’s) are gone. I would love to see the Old Malay films but I cannot because we don’t give a flip. Basically my heritage is gone forever. Sadly we do not have the finances to keep this. That is why I am glad that Scorsese created The World cinema fund. We could see more Asian films to be saved. More people watching Asian films.
Lastly education for Asian films,how are you going to spur people’s attention without educating them? We need to have more courses on Asian cinema,more books talking about it. Let them be heard. It would enrich the mind.
Cinemas need to be proud of that heritage. We need to give more funding to filmmakers,if they can win something great don’t stop in that moment. Celebrate it 24/7. Please give more funding to them,it would make such a big difference.
Film-preservation advocates,thank you for caring of Asian films. It would definitely enriched people’s lives!
Fellow watchers,instead of watching Hollywood all the time,switch up like twice a week,watch an Asian film. There are so many recommendations of it. Have discussions on the net of those watchings. I am more than happy to talk about it. I am hoping that people would say “do you watch that Filipino film,it was brilliant”
Filmmakers from my region,as a future film critic,Please do not be scared to make your stories. I know it is tough but we need these voices! Take care of your films,don’t thrash them. You never know if it could touch people’s hearts globally. Please do watch your region’s filmmakers,be aware of those names not just Ozu and Kurosawa, I cannot emphaise on film watching. I seriously do.
After much passionate thinking,I would like to end with that short by country that struck me more than Ilo Ilo. Gourmet Baby by Sandi Tan that restored my humanity of Singaporean films as a local (Alongside Boo Junfung) . It was a simple concept-a guy who loved food used his niece as his way to express his love of high-class food because no one want to do it. I understand because it is in our culture that we loved good food. But it is how it was weaved to tell something about Singaporean society which is wonderful. It is not as outlandish as Jack Neo or too arty-farty. It goes into the core of everyone. I remember I wrote this on my post for my school blog on that seminar
To me, the lesson …. is that we must be fearless in getting our voices heard, whether it is making a statement in your film or writing about a film. After all, aren’t we individuals who wish to have our perspectives heard?
In the end if you wanted Asian Cinema to thrive well,give it a chance to let that voice be heard! That is what I hope for Asian cinema to the world ,go beyond the exoticism of Asian films that it was shiny and let them be heard. Give equal attention as the Hollywood and the European films. I do believe that cinema brings worlds and I hope I would be proud of my cinematic heritage!