Coming Home


This movie, wow.

Slight spoilers ahead, be warned.

It’s kind of a Romantic Comedy, set in the backdrop of the Vietnam War.

The Fonda-Voigt couple (smoldering chemistry) has so many obstacles to overcome. I mean, their first meeting is when they collide and she gets soiled by his urine-filled colostomy bag.

Many more obstacles follow: she’s married and she still loves her husband. He carries around the darkness of the war.

Oh, and, having been wounded in combat, he’s mostly in a wheelchair and can feel nothing from the waist down.

Their lovemaking scene is spectacular.

There is a spare simplicity about Ashby’s films. This one might be my favorite. He had a damn good run throughout the 70’s, but I think what this has, that perhaps Harold and Maude and Being There didn’t (don’t get me wrong, they’re damn good, too), was a phenomenal screenplay by Waldo Salt (Midnight Cowboy).

Great ending, too. Everyone, in their own way, comes home.

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Watching “Gandhi” again


Gandhi ★★★★½

Attenborough’s film is an epic that follows in the footsteps of David Lean’s great films. Like them, “Gandhi” requires quite a bit of suspension of disbelief. So, in Lawrence of Arabia, we are to believe that Anthony Quinn is Bedouin, and that Omar Sharif is a Russian in Doctor Zhivago. Here, we are required to believe that it’s normal that Indians speak English to each other. If you cast aside that aspect of the film, there are many things to appreciate in it.

My favorite sequence is the one on the train. Gandhi discovers “the real India” by looking out the window of trains moving through the Indian countryside. The score by Ravi Shankar is every bit as bright and beautiful as his work for Ray on Pather Panchali. And there is brilliant writing in the scene. A 3-hour movie with this kind of subject needs to have some levity. Here, it’s in the form of a fish-out-of-water moment, where an Anglican priest is asked to “move closer to God” by sitting on the roof of the moving train. There’s a lot of physical humor in the scene. It’s a delight.

Another favorite moment is when Gandhi is released from jail. But he needs to borrow taxi fare from his jailer. Exquisite.

When watching the film, I keep asking myself how they did it. How on earth did they manage the epic feat of this film. In the bonus content of the DVD, it is revealed that without the help of Indira Gandhi, the film never would have gotten made. That’s a humbling thought. A lot of ducks had to line up for it to come together. Without the help of the Prime Minister herself, the movie does not happen. It’s a maddening thought, and also, thank goodness for her help. It’s wonderful that the film exists.

Kingsley. Talk about a breakout performance.

The film swept the Oscars that year, most notably snubbing another great film, Tootsie.

Very enjoyable to revisit this film, which I believe TCM decided to show in commemoration for MLK Day in the US.

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Orson Welles – His Last Interview (1985)


“I had a lot of options open. Everybody does. Anybody who has enough sense to make a movie can make a lot of other things, and I should have left right away because I saw right at the beginning that, like Vegas, the odds are against the player, and are by the nature of moviemaking. What’s wrong with Hollywood is that it’s just another marketplace, and the marketplace is always the enemy of the artist.” … “I’d rather be remembered as a good guy than a difficult genius.” -Orson Welles

This interview, from Entertainment Tonight I believe, really speaks to me.  He has so much clarity about himself, his mistakes, and his regrets.  It’s both inspiring and cautionary.

Full Welles Interview

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Low Budget Filmmaking Case Study: Brick (2005)


Brick was Rian Johnson’s debut feature film.

It took accolades at Sundance in 2005 and was picked up for distribution by Focus Features.

This film kickstarted Johnson’s career.

A USC grad, Johnson had been doing a lot of odd jobs: editing two horror features, Disney Channel promos, and working as the AV tech at a school for handicapped kids.

Meanwhile, he was doing everything he could to get Brick off the ground.

His agent spent a year sending it out. Everyone loved the script, and no one wanted to make it. But their rejections were encouraging: “We can’t wait to see it.”

Along the way, one star came aboard and it looked like they’d get $3M needed to make it. Then that star dropped out, and the money vanished.

It would be a six year wait.

The $3 million film was actually made for $450,000. How? It’s what Johnson calls the deep, dark secret: any film made at that budget meant that people were not getting paid, or were getting much less than what they normally would make. Neither he nor his producer were paid.

They shot 35mm, which is very impressive, and it shows. The film looks gorgeous.

Their schedule was 20 days.

And they caught a big break with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He was a child star, but he had not yet had much success as an adult in movies. They caught him at a time in his career when he was available and hungry.

They spent three months rehearsing. That time was instrumental to the success of the film.

The film ultimately sold for $2M. All of the investors were paid back and made money, which is rare in independent film.

(Note: These facts above come from an interview of Johnson by Jeff Goldsmith of the Q&A podcast, copyright Unlikely Films, 2012.)

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Grateful for Tonight’s Showing of Un deux trois quatre

Un deux trois quatre on France 3 tonight

Un deux trois quatre on France 3 tonight

Tonight, a film I made will be shown on a French television network, France 3. My film, Un deux trois quatre, will be on at just past midnight (00:35). It screens in a series with three other films in a theme of shorts called AMOUR, ETC.

One of the challenges of making films is getting them seen. We had the good fortune to sell this one to France Television. I am grateful to my producer Julien Monestiez for making it happen. I am also glad that France 3’s programmer, Aurélie Chesné, chose to include it in their lineup.

As filmmakers, we are only in control of what we make. After it’s finished, if people don’t feel moved to champion our work, then it doesn’t get seen. I’ve had films like this. I felt they deserved bigger audiences, but that connect just didn’t happen.

I feel a strong sense of gratitude because I know that this film is a tough sell. At 18 minutes, it’s longer than most short films. It’s a visual film, with at times, very little dialogue. There are no explosions or car chases. In fact, my hope was to make a quiet film, one where the viewer has to lean in to pick up on all the details. Despite these potential challenges, France 3 jumped on board, and are presenting it tonight. It makes me happy. And it gives me hope and courage to stay in the game and keep making my movies.

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Projection à Paris le 19 juin à 17h45 au Grand Action


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Anecdote from the making of Heaven’s Gate

May 11, 2014 at the Grand Action in Paris, Isabelle Huppert and Vilmos Zsigmond came to present Heaven’s Gate.

Pierre Filmon, the moderator, asked, “What was the hardest and easiest part of making this movie?”

Vilmos had this to say:

There was a day that was very tough for Isabelle, because she had to be in the water.  It was Montana, and the water was very cold.

By the time that scene was shot, it was lunchtime.

Much to his surprise, Michael Cimino had organized a small, private lunch, in a secluded spot, under some trees.

It was just the three of them: Cimino, Vilmos, and Isabelle.

Vilmos turned to Isabelle, with a glimmer in his eye and said, “It was chicken, wasn’t it?”

His words were wistful.

She smiled back at him.

She said it was.

Then Vilmos confided that this was the best shooting day he can recall in his entire career.  Having this lunch together under that tree.

He added that it was longer than one hour, and they got a little behind that day.

But it was wonderful.

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