Sunday, October 31, 2010

Memo from Bresson #3

"Accustom the public to divining the whole of which they are given only a part. Make people diviners. Make them desire it."

Journal of Lost Months

Girls and Cigarettes #3

Memo from Bresson #2

"The most ordinary word, when put into place, suddenly acquires brilliance. That is the brilliance with which your images must shine."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Faulkner by Cartier-Bresson

This is a photograph that Cartier-Bresson took of William Faulkner.

I'm not sure if you realise but a distant galaxy actually exploded at the moment that the shutter was depressed and these two men merged into a single searing, blinding point of light and were never heard from again... True story.

Memo from Bresson #1

"Your camera catches not only physical movements that are inapprehensible by pencil, brush or pen, but also certain states of soul recognizable by indices which it alone can reveal."

Instant Novel #4


A photographer I love, Rachael Cassells, did a series some years back called 'Seven Year Lament' that shot using a lot of dim tungsten and sodium vapour. I assume she was shooting on daylight film as the tungsten creates a very beautiful, tobacco stained amber that seems to define the world of her characters.

above images, Rachael Cassells, from 'Seven Year Lament'

You rarely see this quality of light in cinema, and I often use these images as a reference for 'Galore', a feature drama I've been developing with undulations of success over recent years.

But, recently, I caught, after much anticipation, Andrea Arnold's 'Fishtank' which floored me. I loved just about everything about it. But I particularly loved the fact that one of the film's pivotal scenes used exactly this quality of light to reveal the young heroine dancing for her mother's boyfriend. It is pretty fucking sublime if you ask me. Of course, the scene, and the film, goes pear-shaped, but we're just talking about the light, here, ok?

This was Rachael Cassells' quality of light, looking every bit as intense and beautiful as I hoped and imagined. It's made me even more resolute to use this approach in 'Galore'.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Stillness and bliss

We're nearing the end of making 'murundak'. I've blogged about it before. It's a feature documentary that follows a group of singers known as the Black Arm Band who are singing up songs of Aboriginal resistance, and taking these songs and stories out to as many audiences as they can. It's been so complex to tell the many layers of this story - character, history, songs, contemporary context - that it has been hard to do too much else in the last year or so... but, included below, is a small reminder of the moments of stillness and bliss you get along the way.

This rushes outtake was filmed at around this time last year. We had finished shooting some observational material for 'murundak' and wandered our way toward an abandoned rail bridge to get an elevated shot of the area around Nitmiluk. The quiet and stillness began to slowly fill with the dense sound of wings and cries and, as we climbed higher, we saw the sky darkening with the nightly migration of flying foxes from down river. I've looked at this shot numerous times - an anchor point for the kind of awe you should get every now and then when faced with both the natural world and the moving image - while editing and, even now, it creates a sense of intense calm for me.

Excuse the mutterings and discussions behind the camera and focus on the skyline.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ebbs and flows

Most often immersed at work, I have become quite shit at seeing films at the cinema as much as I want to. I take some classes at the film school every now and then and we show everything on DVD, never on film. I don't know of any cinema clubs or geekfests that are showing anything but digital versions of all the rare finds. The accessibility of beautiful old bits of film on DVD or over the web is a beautiful thing, but I definitely miss the tactility of spooling something up. It is the tactility that an artist like Tacita Dean employs in her projected 16mm. It's a sculptural, aural addition to the film itself to experience, at the edge of consciousness, a small humming machine, clicking and whirring in the corner, or behind a pane of glass, with light that ebbs, or dissipates towards the edges depending on the intensity of the globe...

A few years back, a friend and I - while working at an organisation with a large film archive - collected as many flickers and chinagraph sworls, countdowns and light pulses from the beginnings of 16mm reels, as we could get our hands on. Below are a few of my favourites... (and I note the irony of having these as a low res digital file)

This weekend past, we used this archive as a basis for making some interstitial film sequences for an event called 'Seven Songs' which brought together artists like John Cale, Sinead O'Connor and Meshell Ndegeocello with some of the artists of the Black Arm Band to perform a suite of seven songs each. These seven songs - which in the end were covered from artists as diverse as L7 and Bob Marley - were made up of:

First song
A song to covet
A song to share
A song by Leonard Cohen
Two songs of their own
A song to leave behind

The idea of covering a song doesn't really have an equivalent in cinema. But, for our interstitial films, we brought in scenes - thinking of them as quotes, or covers - to play in between songs. Along with the flickering lights, ebbs and flows, countdowns, we screened scenes from Millenium Mambo, Simple Men, Mirror, Last Life in the Universe, Beau Travail, I Don't Want to Sleep Alone, La Haine, Samson and Delilah. It was a small, good thing. Nothing flashy or showy, but kinda like playing your friends a song from your favourite album. They were, it's true, a bit overshadowed by the stadium filling performances of Cale, O'Connor et al.

There have been projects like Gus Van Sant's 'Psycho' I suppose, or maybe Hal Hartley's 'Flirt' ('covering' his own film in three ways) and maybe projects like Asian Dub Foundation's rescoring of 'La Haine' or a live performance of 'The Tracker' soundtrack by Archie Roach; but it does seem like a missed opportunity to not have an understanding that we can 'cover' film in the same way that implies a love of the original work and not plagiarism. To 'cover' something in the film world is seen as stealing, as plagiarism, not as love or tribute or dedication. I wonder how this can be shifted? I wonder what you'd have to do to ensure an audience your 'borrowing' or 'recreating' is not outright theft. Even the disdain heaped on American remakes (witness the grudging nods of consent and approval for 'Let Me In') is a good sign of this ingrained belief that once something is rendered into an image it is forever complete... it can't be remade or remixed or rejigged in new ways for new audiences or new viewing experiences.