Friday, February 19, 2010

Beijing Explosion

So, for a couple of years now, I've been developing the film Fatherland with Beijing based collaborator Chris O'Young whose screenplay it is. I've mentioned this project before. The film is set between the austere Beijing home of a recently returned Australian Chinese man and the backalley clubs of the burgeoning punk and hardcore scene in Beijing. Chris is amazing at capturing the deep emotional tension of family but we have spent a lot of time trying to get a real sense of the atmospheres, faces and settings in and around this movement and the clubs, streets and houses that are its backdrop. There is nothing as horrible as when a film sucks all the life out of an intense and energetic movement. So, for a while a few years back, we were listening to internationally known bands like Hang on the Box and Subs trying to get a sense of the scene as it was evolving but it was difficult to know what the good oil was. But, just recently I came across the photos of Matthew Niederhauser, a Beijing based photographer who has, in the last couple of years, taken some incredible photos and portraits in clubs like D-22, Mao Live House and Yugong Yishan. He has now compiled these photos into the book Sound Kapital. It looks damned fine. I like gifts.

This is Niederhauser's site.

Here are some of the aforementioned pics.

Hedgehog. photography by Matthew Niederhauser.
Joyride. photograph by Matthew Niederhauser.

Girl Kill Girl. photography by Matthew Niederhauser.
Subs. photograph by Matthew Niederhauser.

Guai Li. photograph by Matthew Niederhauser.

live at D-22. photograph by Matthew Niederhauser.

Dement. photograph by Matthew Niederhauser.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Over at his blog, compadre Glendyn Ivin linked through to this kinda lovely short, Nuit Blanche. Hyper-stylised and brimming with every imaginable kind of artifice and trickery there is still, amid the chaos, a beautiful and very real moment of connection between the two onscreen lovers. One of the pleasures of watching this short for me, though, was the resonance in my mind, as the short played out, of another film from my viewing past, Christoffer Boe's 2003 film Reconstruction.

Of course, this happens frequently. You watch a film and become immersed in it or are transported by it, while at the same time, feeling the shivers of pleasure of a past experience, real or onscreen. And, in this case, as I watched, in Nuit Blanche, the slow motion track in on the lovers, surrounded by splintering glass, imagining in that moment that their fleeting love would destroy everything around them, I was reminded of sitting alone in a darkened room in Roseville, escaping for a couple of hours from a film workshop, stealing a viewing of the low budget Reconstruction in the projection room, and being completely surprised by this film about which I had heard or seen nothing.

The film features one of my favourite Danish actors, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, as Alex, a man who imagines a romantic connection with a woman that then appears to dissolve the world around him - his real lover no longer recognising him, his apartment disappearing, his friends and family, now strangers, disturbed by his insistence that they know each other. Although a simple premise - that the moment of falling in love changes the world around us - this film so beautifully unravels this idea into a world that uses the deftest touches of cinematic and literary trickery without ever betraying the very fragile emotions at it's heart. As it turns out, the screenplay was written by Boe and Mogens Rukov (about who I've written in the past) and was the first film produced out of Nordisk Film's 'Director's Cut' financing scheme which also turned out Jacob Thuesen's great drama Accused. I forgot how much I loved this film and now I need to see it again. Urgently.
"It is a film, it is all a construction. But even so, it hurts."
From Reconstruction

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Happiness #3

Apichatpong asks: "Are we drunk on something?"


The opening shot of Millenium Mambo.

The final shot of Chop Shop.

Just about every moment of Isaki Lacuesta's La Leyenda del Tiempo.

Any and every page of Barry Lopez' Desert Notes.

The final passages of the Raymond Carver short story Bicycles, Muscles, Cigarettes.

The opening chords of 'U-Mass' by Pixies.

The fact that a bigrecordcompany allowed me to use the opening chords to 'U-Mass' by Pixies in one of my little flicks.

The final resound of Skull by Sebadoh.

The Tim Rogers lyrics: 'you woke me up just to check that I'm alive, we talk to each other as if we're five'.

The sound of just about any g-funk track coming from a passing car.

The thought of my old '82 Urvan - the red curtains and brown vinyl seats, the dodgy wiring and switch ignition - wherever it has ended up in the world.

The madness, humanity and audacity of Danish screenwriters.

This scene.

This movie.

This fragment of Eduardo Galeano's writing:
The Function of Art / 1
Diego had never seen the sea. His father, Santiago Kovadloff, took him to discover it.
They went south.
The ocean lay beyond high sand dunes, waiting.
When the child and his father finally reached the dunes after much walking, the ocean exploded before their eyes. And so immense was the sea and its sparkle that the child was struck dumb by the beauty of it.
and when he finally managed to speak, trembling, stuttering, he asked his father: "Help me to see!"*
The mix tapes a friend of mine gives to me at my birthday, year after year.

The fact that only recently have his mix tapes become mix CDs.

The single annual email a long lost friend sends to me that arrives on the morning of my birthday every year without fail.

The handful of pubs and bars that surround my studio that are full of good folks and cheap booze.

The thought of all the unmade and unwatched films, unwritten and unread books and unrecorded and unheard records.

The memory of the mayhem that comes with shared listening sessions of The Shape of Punk to Come by Refused.

This fragment of writing from Walter Benjamin's 'One Way Street':
I had arrived in Riga to visit a woman friend. Her house, the town, the language were unfamiliar to me. Nobody was expecting me, nobody knew me. For two hours I walked the streets in solitude. Never again have I seen them so. From every gate a flame darted, each cornerstone sprayed sparks, and ever streetcar came towards me like a fire-engine. For she might have stepped out of the gateway, around the corner, been sitting in the streetcar. But of the two of us I had to be, at any price, the first to see the other. For had she touched me with the match of her eyes, I should have gone up like a magazine.**
This photo.

The absent-minded habit my 4 year old nephew has of running his hand across the stubble on my chin when he is talking to me.

The stretch of road from the Hume Highway through the rainforests of the Burrawang pass down to Jamberoo and on to the coast.

The view walking down Rucker's Hill at dusk.

The memory of an abandoned week long trek through the Alpujarras that came to a halt in a small village that was almost impossible to leave.

And this Buoy Archive I made when I first fell in love with T.

*From 'El Libro de Los Abrazos' - Eduardo Galeano
**From 'One Way Street' - Walter Benjamin

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Happiness #2

Apichatpong asks: "Are we drunk on something?"

My response is to watch a video of the collision of two major cultural artifacts:

Busta Rhymes

Apart from being mashup genius, this just makes me very happy.

It's humbling to want to be making films and then see, on a daily basis, the ease with which a seemingly endless supply of mashups and mashdowns appear on the web.

More happiness. ("one-and-a-two and a chicka-chicka-boom")

More happiness.

And so it goes. Der Untergang. Miley Cyrus. Spongebob. Christian Bale. The Shining. Ad infinitum.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Happiness #1

"To “happily accept” is something I question. Why are we happy? Are we drunk on something? Or are we getting used to this and becoming so numb that we don’t question things anymore?"

Among Them

"As filmmakers, what we strive for is not to be above or beyond our characters, not to dominate our characters, and not to show them as role models or images. We try to preserve in them a dark side, and really be with them and among them."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

You Know You Got Soul

A bit battered and broken, we're back in the edit suite working on the feature doc after the madness of a music video shoot along the New South Wales coast line around Nambucca Heads. After flying into Sydney at dawn on the Monday, picking up our gear, lighting rig and generators, we drove up the coast arriving at dusk for a last minute lighting recce. Then, Tuesday was spent furiously driving from rainforest to clifftop, township to dusty road to hillside to wheatfield, locking in a dozen locations, a vintage car, hilltop farmhouse, movement, schedule and shotlisting, all from first looks at the environment and surrounds for a dawn shoot the next day. Then, over the following two days, in our usual fashion, we had a sweaty DIY hoe-down with T directing action, art directing and production managing, me directing shots, data wrangling, gaffing and gripping and Katie Milwright lighting, shooting and doing everything else in between. Huge thanks to Emma Donovan and her manager Vicky Gordon for their patience, to all the local mob around Nambucca who acted in scenes, loaned houses, cars and backyards.

This is our first soul clip. Although I was always a little indie punk kid, I have the hugest, weakest, secret soft spot for soul music and so it was a beautiful thing to be able to make a clip with Emma Donovan who has one of the best soul voices in the country. It was also a nice reminder to spend more time on the screenplay I have been dribbling over; a black comedy about a hopeless, dope addled, single dad whose one escape from his three sons who are, variously, a teenage Nazi, adultering apprentice baker and horny, hyper competitive nerd, is his nightly spot as a soul DJ on the local community radio station.

And, so: with all that downloaded into the strange, silent abyss of the online blog, here are some screen shots from the 5Dmk2 rushes lensed by Ms Katie Milwright. I'm particularly digging on the first shot - from a scene in a phone booth on the remote Scotts Head beach - which reminds me of an old favourite image by Rachael Cassells: