This second part of my interview with director Dave McKean was done at the same time as yesterday’s long talk on The Gospel of Us. Since the interview was being conducted via email I sent of a long list of questions concerning Gospel and I threw in some other questions as well. The way the interview was conducted was Part 1 was Gospel, Part 2 was film related questions and part 3 was just some random questions I just wanted to know. I threw them in simply because I had McKean’s ear and it was stuff I wanted to know. I figured that the worst that could happen was he could choose not to answer them.
In moving the interview over to Unseen I realized that there was a point where the interview was effectively over. We had covered everything I wanted to cover concerning the film and everything after that ceased to be relevant- basically all my additional questions.
As you can see most of it doesn’t really belong in the discussion of The Gospel. It actually belongs in what should be a long discussion of film in general and his other pursuits. It's a discussion that Mr. McKean and I don’t have time to do at this time. Hopefully that interview, particularly concerning film, will happen down the line.
Keep in mind when you read the following excerpt that the questions were thrown together kind of randomly in the hope that the answers would spark or lead to something else (actually they are kind of cringe inducing pat questions which I apologize for)…with the last few questions just stuff I wanted to know.
I probably should just have kept the Q&A off line, but I think that the answers might spark something for someone somewhere so I’m putting it out there.
UF: I was talking to a friend about how you got people to send you their iPhone footage and they said that makes your film one of the few truly found footage films. How do you feel about that designation? Do you have any thoughts on the rapidly growing genre?
DM: The digital revolution has changed the landscape so much already. Many of these new pathways are stepping stones to a much more powerful new medium, I'm certainly interested in these possibilities. I'm interested in creating something specifically to make the most of these new media strengths, I'm not so keen on just adapting one thing (a book or a film) onto another platform just for the sake of being new or making more money.
UF: How do you feel about other films that portray the Passion? Do you have any feeling for any religious films?
DM: Many of them are great, it remains an extraordinarily powerful story. King of Kings and Ben Hur (both silent) are very strong. Pasolini's Gospel According to St. Matthew is one of the most powerful tellings of Christ's life, the sense of place and the faces of his largely amateur cast are still seared into my memory. The Last Temptation, both the book and the film are wonderful, and the final act is simply brilliant. A perfect lesson in how to re-imagine the story - keeping its power but adding a deeply moving new idea to the story in the form of a new psychological reading of Jesus' motives. I know he's a social leper at the moment, but I thought Mel Gibson's film was fantastic, especially the language. to hear the original dialects was really strong, and the telling of the story was powerful. The Romans were a bit pantomimic, but I didn't get an anti-Semitic message from the film. In the end it was the establishment against the individual. Jesus of Montreal is great, I'm also particularly fond of the Christ scenes in Jodorowsky's Holy Mountain.
UF: Gospel is certainly an inspiring film, to that end what films inspire you? What films do you turn to get an emotional uplift? Artistic uplift?
DM: So many, across all eras and styles. I like films for their look, their scripts, their acting, their music, almost anything. I do get very inspired by silent films, only because it's so wonderful to see the language of film being created. I also get very excited by contemporary films that are using digital tools to tell stories in interesting ways. They get inside our minds and show what we are thinking. This feels like a new silent era.
UF: Cinematically whose work inspires you? I know you like many classic films, but are there any newer filmmakers who are doing things that make you sit up and take notice?
DM: Again, so many. In terms of contemporary filmmakers, I like the Kaufman group, that's Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman himself, I'll always go and see the new Sokurov, Quay Brothers, Svankmajer. I like Innaritu and Cuarón. And I remain a devoted Woody Allen fan despite slim pickings since Deconstructing Harry.
UF: Do you have any films that you think people should see but which no one seems to know anything about?
DM: I was very excited to discover the films of Konstantin Lopushansky, especially Dead Man's Letters and The Ugly Swans.
UF: Is there anything you can say about the stalled project that you mentioned in the commentary track of Gospel?
DM: Luna limps onwards, we are about 2/3rds through the animation and I hope to start the music soon. We will finish next year.
UF: When I met you in New York when you were signing in Borders Book in connection with the Broadway show Lestat you talked about doing an animated cat film, what ever happened to it?
DM: That was Varjak Paw, adapted from the book I illustrated for SF Said. We did four drafts of the screenplay and got it to a very strong place, Sony jumped on board, developed it with us for a month or so and then promptly dropped it. It's currently dead as is my interest in ever working in Hollywood.
UF: What did you think of Lestat? (Yes I saw it, yes I liked it, even though it was bit of a mess)
DM:Actually I thought it was awful. So many talented people contributed to it, and Bernie Taupin was so committed to getting it done, but it was misconceived and poorly directed. It needed a creative at the centre who could take our visual ideas and turn them into theatre, and it needed a writer to extract a simple powerful narrative from maybe just a part of one book. It had neither.
UF: Lastly you mentioned that you had scored the rough cut with some of your favorite pieces of music, could I ask what they are? You mentioned the composers, I'm curious what the pieces are (I am extremely interested in music's use with image since I find the more and more what works in many movies are the music and image moments away from the narrative).
DM: I had a piece from Tabula Rasa by Arvo Pärt, a couple of sequences from Philip Glass Violin Concerto. A piece from one of Karaindrou's scores for Angelopoulos' films. Michael made a CD of mood music at the very beginning of the process, and it also included Pärt, Glass as well as Peter Gabriel, John Williams, Lisa Gerrard and the Manic Street Preachers. These also influenced the final score
Again thank you to Dave McKean for his time and his photographs.
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