Sunday, May 31, 2015

Nightcap 5/31/15 Open Roads starts Thursday, Random thoughts and Randi's links

Open Roads, the Lincoln Center's annual look at New Italian cinema starts Thursday As in the last few years there are some real gems here, not to mention a few films that may not be the be all and end all, but really damn interesting.

Our coverage will begin on Wednesday and it’s going to be a bit smaller than in years past. As we head into the festival I have five films already written up, I have another waiting to be watched and few more possibilities hanging around the edges (I’m waiting for someone to make a decision about my getting access to the films.) The reson our coverage is smaller is that the fall out from Tribeca and some projects that occurred right after simply ate up too much of my time.

As I’ve learned in years past pretty much anything that screens as part of the festival is worth seeing. I’ll try any film they run because I’ve never really run across a truly bad film. Yes there have been some I haven’t liked but none I hated to the point of wonder why they were running it.

Of the few that I’ve seen I recommend N-CAPACE a highly original look at loss and growing up. I also liked ICE FOREST a thriller set in the Alps which fels like a Hollywood production, to the point I was reacsting it in my head with American actors. There are others but that should get you started.

My advice is pick something and go. For a list of films, more information and tickets go here.
The problem with some of the smaller distributors is that despite their best effort to change things up- or seem to youstill know going into a film what the film is going to be

For example Drafthouse is releasing a film called THE INVITATION. They are marketing it as a psychological drama where they want you to think that the main character is imagining all of the danger he sees, but it’s coming from a releasing house that specializes in exploitation films, especially horror. The result was watching the film I knew instantly who the bad guys were and that the danger was real and much worse than anyone imagined.

(A brief capsule review will appear in our BAMcinema Fest piece and a full review is to appear next February or March when the film hits theaters)
Once again I’m pondering whether or not one should give a documentary a pass if it’s on an important subject but it bobbles how it tells the story. The immediate reason for the pondering is Amy Berg’s latest film PROPHET’S PREY which I saw at a press screening for BAMcinema Fest. The question is not whether it’s a good film or a bad film, it’s a good film, rather it’s a question of how much I should take the film to task for its presentation, which isn’t as clear as it could and should be. The film sits on this fine line where I’m willing to accept its flaws and wanting to shake it for not being better

I have a while before I can post the still being written review-its to be timed with the regular theatrical release- but I was wondering where do you put the line that separates the point at which you accept a film without question and then get annoyed because it could have been better.
The next couple weeks I going to be mostly festival coverage. After some book reviews the next two says we’ll have the aforementioned Open Roads coverage. This will lead right into Human Rights Watch coverage next week. Additionally look for a bunch of new release coverage via new and repost reviews.
And now Randi's links

The graphic tale of the MAD MAXROAD FURY FX
Why the loss of the old Penn Station saved much of the rest of NYC
From threats of closing on opening night to the Tony- The story of THE WIZ
In space no one can hear your office supplies
Which Python are you?
God Bless America
Talking to George Clinton

Dr Kildare's Victory (1942)

Stick a fork in it boys and girls the Kildare series is done.

The longest entry in the series is the least with the plot not kicking in for twenty minutes. It does act as a kind of sent up for the Dr Gillespie series, but as a Kildare series entry its rather weak.

The main thrust of the film has the repercussions of an intern taking in a patient from outside of Blair generals it's designated area. The hospital who's territory the patient was in gets angry.

Lots of sound and fury and shuffling of the cast signifying nothing. Everyone is running about and plot lines are thrown up and followed but it all feels halfhearted. Somewhere along the line some one decided if they had a lot of things going on it would cover that they don't have much of a plot or anything for Kildare to do.

For me this was a major disappointment. I started going through the Warner Archive DVDs not long after I got them and I tore through them. I loved the series and all of the characters. When I hit the previous film in the series, DR KILDARE'S WEDDING DAY I stopped when it was done. I needed to pause after the events of that film, and I needed to pause because the series seemed done at that point. Weeks passed before I picked up the last film...

...sadly it wasnt worth the wait. I should have left the series with the last one.

This isn't a bad film, its just not up to the previous entries. Its seems to exist more to fill a quota the to tell a story. I don't need to see this one again....and if I hadn't spent the last eight days writing up the films I would never have mentioned this one here at Unseen.

DO buy the Warner set, and do watch all the other films, however you may  wnt to skip this one.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Festivals that won't allow reviews - A question for the filmmakers

I have to throw this question out to all of the filmmakers who crisscross Unseen and see how you feel about this-

As you know I try to provide coverage of as many films and festivals as I can. If I don’t provide coverage it’s usually a matter of not being able to fit in watching a film or doing a piece. I know that small films and festivals need publicity, often any publicity.

I know that films use the festivals to get the word out on their existence. But recently I’ve been asked by a couple of festivals not to run reviews of the films playing. Ideally these festival PR people want me to go and cover events (difficult when they are not nearby) but not to go into detail on the films I see in press screenings or on screeners supplied by them. I've been I could write them up if I went to the screenings, otherwise no.

Tangentially there have been a couple of smaller festivals where the PR people have been helpful in offering to get me material for the festival but have said to me "I can't help you getting access to the films"

If you're a filmmaker and a festival tells me they don't want the films screened reviewed what should I do?

Likewise how do you suggest I do end runs around unhelpful PR people who won't help me get to films and filmmakers?

Dr Kildare's Wedding Day (1941)

As the big day approaches the hospital prepares for the wedding of Dr Kildare to nurse Mary Lamont.  With the hospital all in a tizzy Dr Gillespie takes on the case of great conductor who is losing his hearing.

One of the more serious entries in the series is also one of the darkest. This is not a happy film since it marks the departure of Lorraine Day (nurse Lamont) from the series in dramatic and heartbreaking fashion. A pall hangs over the proceedings and you can feel it from the opening even if you don't know where it's all heading.

More a Gillespie movie than a Kildare one Kildare is barely in it for most of the first half of the film, And even in the second which has tragedy strike, Kildare is only in the scenes where he's really required. I completely understand why this is, to follow Kildare would have made the film almost unbearably dark.The darkness is not what the film is about, its more about over coming problems the conductor hearing and Kildare's loss.

This is a solid entry in the series, and worth seeing especially if you've been following along with the series, but I'm not sure you'll want to revisit the sadness a second or third time.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Sunset Edge Take 2

This is a do over.  I don't do do overs but I'm doing one here.

Two days ago I reviewed this film and I talked a great deal about the advertsing and how it mislead audiences into expecting somethis film isn't (the review is here). I got an email from Isil Bagdadi from CAVU Pictures which is distributing the film saying that I was not being fair to the film focusing on the tag line instead of the film itself. I explained my position and a few more emails went back and forth and I decided that while I have no problem with my original review, Ms Bagdadi was right as well. To that end I decided to do a second review of the film that focuses on the film itself.

SUNSET EDGE is a small scale gem of a film.

This is a lovely coming of age story about four friends hanging out in an abandoned trailer park. The film then gains a bit of shading with a secondary story about a young man going through his deceased father’s possessions. (It’s this last part that gives rise to the misnomer of this being a Hitchcock style thriller).

The two things that stand out about the film are its lyric beauty and it’s sense of reality.

Shot by Karim Lopez SUNSET EDGE is one of the most hypnotic and dream like films of the year. The film is a visual tone poem where light and shadow play in your eye creating a hypnotic reality that burns itself into your subconscious. Even now a week or more since I saw the film I can recall images and tracking shots as if they were my own memories. I wish I could see the world like this.

Watching the film I was hard pressed to accept that half the film wasn’t a documentary. The portion of the film where the four friends are hanging out in the trailer park feels more like fact than fiction. The film has the feel of how I remember a lazy Sunday afternoon with friends when I was growing up. We came together wandered off and then wandered back. The dialog doesn’t have the feel of being written so much as spoken in the moment. I freely admit that part of the reason that it all sounds and feel real is that Haley McKnight as Haley is very close to a long ago friend I knew when I was a bit older than these kids. Watch her up on the screen I had flash back to a time many years ago.

This is a sweet little film that deserves to be seen. This is the sort of film that Unseen Films was created to highlight, small little gems that don’t have an advocate, which need a voice shouting in the wilderness about them. Sunset Edge is not a big flashy production but it’s a more real film that will move you and stay with you longer than the big sugar coated films churned out by the big studios. Make an effort to see it when the film plays in a theater near you (or when it eventually hits VOD)

People vs Dr Kildare (1941)

When Kildare and Lamont run across a car accident, uncertain about when the ambulance will come Kildare is forced to operate in the field. When the patient, a star in the ice show,  end up with a paralyzed leg she sues Kildare, the hospital and subpoenas pretty much everyone in the cast.

After the bump in the series that was DR KILDARE"S CRISIS the series gets back on track with a great entry that's part medical drama, part soap opera part mystery and part star gazing exercise. What cause the girl to be paralyzed is at the heart of the film, clearly it wasn't Kildare, but the quest is what keeps you hanging on edge.

The unexpected joy of the film is watching all of the stars, future and past who criss cross the film. Tom Conway as the defense attorney, Bonita Granville is the skater, Red Skelton is an orderly, and Dwight Frye shows up as the foreman of the jury. Its a blast to see the star power added to an already stellar cast of regulars.

I really liked this film a great deal. I'm certain that the film will stand on it's own, but if you're a fan of the series and have been watching them all along the film turns into an even bigger ball of fun. One of my most favorites of the whole series.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Dr Kildare's Crisis (1940)

Sixth film in the MGM series has Dr Kildare reconsidering marrying nurse Lamont. It seems her brother is showing signs of epilepsy and if they get married it might prove disastrous for their children.

Okay entry in the series is more soap than anything else. This is the first time in the series where it really feels like it's just passing time. I'm sure that had I not been going through the series in a relatively short amount of time this may have played better, but as something in the middle of a series its a weak link. This isn't to say it's a bad film,rather its just not up to some of the other films in the series, Even on its own terms its worth seeing.

The plot line concerning the fear of epilepsy now seems quaint. While its now seem ludicrous you have to remember that in 1940 people feared genetic diseases.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sunset Edge (2015)

The story of four kids drifting around an abandon and decaying trailer park mixes with the story of young man haunted by discoveries made in the wake of his father's passing.

Great looking film with a great young cast is saddled with promotional material that promises much more than it delivers, Actually what it promises is something other than what the film is. The press material and poster talks about Hitchcock and horror and what you really have is a moody coming of age story. I kept waiting for some grand thriller to kick in and it never did, this is really just a drama that plays out in some intriguing ways.

I should point out, and long time readers of Unseen will know, that I have run across any number of teen angst films. Film festivals like Tribeca are full of them and sometimes they work and some times they crash and burn. The one's that work either do something different or make it feel like we're sitting with the characters just hanging out. SUNSET EDGE has that feeling of just hanging out with these kids on a lazy afternoon. Gorgeously shot the film puts us into the head space and mind space of these kids. We are in the trailer park hanging with these kids.

Some where about a half hour in and we get the story of a young man dealing with the death of his father and the discoveries he makes when going  through his things. I suspect that this is where the Hitchcock references come from. While the sequences do generate some suspense they are not even close to Hitchcockian in their construction. Frankly I think referring to the film that way does it a disservice since you'll be waiting for something that never really comes.

For me this is a moody little coming of age story. Its got a great feel to it. To be certain the film is very deliberately constructed and paced which will require patience from the audience. (Selling it as a thriller isn't going to get the right audience into the theater) but if one is going to go with it one is very likely going to be richly rewarded.

I for one am looking forward to what director Daniel Peddle and his cinematographer Karim Lopez do next.

Dr Kildare Goes Home (1940)

Its not rue that when we treat someone for appendicitis they die of gall stones, when we treat someone for appendicitis they die of appendicitis- hospital switch board operator to her friend.

Fifth film in the MGM series has Kildare moving from intern to full fledged doctor. Not long after Doctor Gillespie gives his speech about being a doctor Kildare learns that his father is wearing out due to over work.  Even helping his dad there is too much to do so Kildare and Gillespie have to come up with an idea to help him. The idea is to set up a clinic in Kildare's home town however not everyone wants the clinic to succeed.

Good, if slightly by the numbers story is like the entire series very enjoyable. That the film over comes its well traveled nature is thanks to the large cast of characters which the writers and director manage to juggle with the greatest of ease. Its the series ability to juggle the multiple characters and make them all well rounded that is a highlight with the series. No one is ever of a type and the series is better for it.

A solid entry in the series.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Unfreedom (2015)

Raj Amit's UNFREEDOM tells the dual stories of religious fundamentalists kidnapping a scholar for execution in New York while at the same time a lesbian in India decides to skip out on her upcoming marriage and flee into the arms of her lover.

Banned in India,  the film has become the center of a firestorm on questions of censorship. Having seen the film I'm not really surprised that the film has been banned, though some of what I've read has said they are more upset with the portrayal of the religious fanaticism rather than the nudity and the gang rape of young women by men including police officials.

I'm really not sure what to say about the film. While I reached out to the PR people connected to the film to be sure I could see it knowing its an important film for what it is trying to do, now that I've seen it I'm very mixed on the film that resulted.

In many ways more two thematically related short films rather than a unified whole the film. The films, while fine on there own terms, are lessened in many ways, though mainly because the film very much has a chip on its shoulder. Its clear that Raj Amit wants not so much to tell his story as get his point of view across.  The two stories being told are very much calls for tolerance and understanding and a damning indictment of religious intolerance, something the film never lets you forget. Everything is ordered to make a point - and it does that in spades- to the point I stopped caring.

Yes, the film is shocking, the violence, in particular the rapes that conclude the film, are nasty pieces of work, both in what they show but also in the matter of fact nature with which they are carried out. I'm not going to argue that it's too much, there are too many stories about gang rapes coming out of India however I am questioning whether the violence is there because it needs to be there or because it's just an exclamation point  on Amit's damning indictment.  I don't know if we are being poked in the eye because it's necessary or because its the only way to make us look.

I suppose the question wouldn't come up if the dramas were more compelling. While not bad, the stories are in many ways variations on tales that we've seen before in films and American TV shows.

Don't get me wrong the film isn't bad, but it just isn't quite good enough to stand without being propped up by needing to use the "Banned in India" line as the first thing in the PR material.

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Dr Kildare's Strange Case (1940)

Fourth time out has Kildare battling with a brain surgeon, Dr Lane, for the affection of nurse Mary Lamont. The trouble is that Dr Lane has been losing a large number of his patients, so many that he's being called The Undertakers Friend. Thinks get complicated when a man is brought in with head injuries. He insists that Friday is the day. After the operation his mania increases and the hospital big wigs think the operation may have gone wrong. (The film carries over from the previous film, The Secret of Dr Kildare, with Kildare offered a job in an institute funded by Lionel Atwill's Paul Messenger for curing his daughter.)

Solid entry in the series cuts way back on the cast of characters (many are given token appearances) and plot complications for a straight forward, rather serious tale of Kildare trying to help a friend and rival, as well as trying to sort out his future. One of the things I like about the film is that for the first time the films really start to feel as though they are all connected. We have the questions about the Messenger institute, we have characters meeting each other with the notion that they had been referenced to each other outside the films.  I like that the Lamont/Kildare romance is moving along in a realistic manner.

I'm not sure how the film will play out for someone coming into the film without seeing the previous films, but as someone who is going through the films in order via the Warner Archive collection its a great deal of fun. High art? Hell no, but it does make me want to pull out the next DVD and keep going through the series.

On a technical end watch the scenes where Kildare and Gillespie have lunch and watch as the  glasses of milk keep refilling.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Rambling on about MAD MAX ROAD FURY

I consider MAD MAX ROAD FURY three things:

1. One of the Best Films of 2015. I've seen several hundred films so far this year and this is one of the ones that leaps to the top of the pile.

2. This is one of the greatest action films ever made. This film just starts and goes. It pauses for a bit here and there so you can breath, and there is just enough in the way of characters and character arcs that you care about the people and worry about them when things happen (characters die and get torn up). Additionally most of the film was done without computer enhancement. This wasn't done in computers like a realistic cartoon, the things that happen involve real people and objects with real weight.

3. This is one of the greatest films I've ever seen. Put it with 7 SAMURAI, WAR AND PEACE, BIRTH OF  A NATION, RED CLIFF, BURMESE HARP, LORD OF THE RINGS, and a couple of others. Its a visceral game changer that forces you stand up and take notice. While I could argue that all it does is amp up MAD MAX 2 ROAD WARRIOR with more, it's that MORE that raises the bar and elevates the film. There is a real world in this film. There is a sense of more at stake than just a tanker of  gas and handful of survivors. There is a weight to everything, including a greater cost if they lose
This film is George Miller's Masterpiece film and the one's that came before it merely the doodles that led to this.

That said the film has it's flaws.

The pacing of the slower sequences seem too slow, especially toward the end. This is of course due to the fact that the film gear shifting from 290 mph to 35 is jarring. After the first break which is expertly handled, the later ones don't quite work as well.

The film also kind of  could be knocked-slightly- for just starting and going. We know very little which is fine, but much of the dialog is obliterated by engines and crashing machinery. We don't need to know much of that but at the same time it would have been nice to have it as shading.

There are also one or two minor things, but they aren't really worth mentioning them.
The plot of the film has the long wandering Max being captured and dragged off to a tyrannically run settlement. Max is important because he is a universal donor so his blood and organs are important. When the lord's wives are carried off by a character played by Charlize Theron, Max is taken along as a living blood bag. Soon everyone is giving chase and Max is fighting to get and then remain free. Its a two hour chase and it's amazing.

What I find interesting is that the film is probably the most reduced down that you can get and still really care about the characters. Certainly plot wise you can't get much simpler and sustain 120 minutes of pure motion.

This is what the movies have been shooting for for the last century plus. This is cinema in it's purest form. I would love to go back and show this film to say Georges Melies or Douglas Fairbanks or Yakima Canutt  any one else who made "Oh WOW" movie magic in the first fifty years of cinema and see what their reaction would be. I so want to show them this and tell them you're dreams made this possible. I'm sure it would rock them to their core because they haven't been prepared for it, but at  the same time I want to blow their minds.
There has been a great deal of talk the films deeper meanings and agenda. People  talk about whether the film is feminist or not. There has been talk about the film's politics or its social message and view. And I'm sure that all of that is in there but at the same time does it matter?

I'm not being a snob here, I'm simply asking why are these people focusing on such a small part of this huge machine? Why are people pulling the film apart when no one has time to even figure out what the hell this thing is as a complete film?

For some people whether the film is feminist or not will determine if the film is good or not. Likewise it's politics. The film has been out for ten days as I write this and I how the hell can you really argue your point when I doubt you've seen it have seen it more than once. How the hell did you get past the spectacle to even consider the deeper meanings of anything? I'm not even going to try and consider pulling the thing apart until five or six more viewings. I have to finish taking in the pretty pictures before I look under the paint and see how it's been made.

I have no doubt that I'll way in on the feminism and the politics, but for me it doesn't matter if the film matches my agenda, it just entertains the hell out of me which is all I care about.
While you could probably argue the film doesn't invent the wheel, I mean Miller doodled this with ROAD WARRIOR, but what he does with the wheel, how he dresses it up and puts it to use is as glorious a thing as you're likely to see until the next genius comes along and tries to top this.

Go see this film on the big screen while you can

Walking on Sunshine (2014)

Taylor has a perfect summer romance in Italy and finds the guy of her dreams. Only she walks away. Another summer and she returns to Italy for her sisters wedding- only to discover her sister fiance is her old summer love.

Musical romantic comedy set to some of the poppiest hits of the 1980's is sweet, charming, well acted, displays some killer musical numbers and has charm to burn. If you can take it on it's own terms this film will make you smile and bounce you around the room.


And as you can see that's a big but, the film is so by the numbers and so close in feel to MAMA MIA that there are zero surprises and you can write it in your head from start to finish almost the instant that the film starts.  Its not fatal to the film, but it takes what should have been an out of the park home run of a juke box musical and makes it a respectable double (maybe triple). And the problem isn't the plot, its the set up- why did it have to be set in a beach community that looks similar to the Island in MAMA MIA? Okay- they could have gotten away with it had they not had three women at the center of the film (and the lost love plot). Its too close to other things not to stand on its own.

Understand that I'm picking on it because this should have been freaking great not very good.

On the other hand if you can take this on it's own terms this is neat little film. As I said the performances are wonderful and the musical numbers are spectacular. They really went to town with them and they really lift things up to such a degree you'll find yourself smiling despite knowing you really shouldn't..

For me the film works best in some of the smaller numbers. For example It Must Have Been Love is heartbreaking. I also liked that not all of the women are fashion models, some of them actually have body types that are more normal.

I like this film a great deal. Its one I can easily recommend with the caveat that you have seen it before, perhaps not better, but still...

The film hits VOD (iTunes, Xbox, GooglePlay, Amazon InstantDirecTV, Comcast, Cox, Dish, Verizon) on Friday and is perfect for a night when you want to feel good but don't want to think.

The Secret of Dr Kildare (1939)

Return with us now to Blair Hospital where Dr Kildare and Dr Gillespie practice medicine...

This time out the plate is full as Kildare and Gillespie get involved with the case of a socialite who has a case of hysterical blindness. Meanwhile both of Kidare's fathers (Gillespie and Kildare's father) are showing signs of wear and tear.

The joy of the series is not the plots it's the characters and their interplay. Watching Kildare, Gillespie and the the others all crack-wise and care for each other. As Leonard Maltin said his write up on the series this is probably the series with the largest cast of regular characters. Even three films in I can't argue since not only do we get Kildare and Gillespie, but Mary Lamont, the nurses, the other interns, the telephone operator, the Nat Pendleton ambulance driver, Kildare's parents and a few others. What sets them apart from other series is that from the beginning they are all well rounded. Yes to be certain there is a touch of cliche, but each character has something beyond that sets them apart.  Also wonderful are the characters and patients that come and go.

This third film in the series is really good. As with many of the films it's a bit soapy and convoluted but at the same time it moves like the wind. At the same time the film's flaw is that it sets in motion so many plot threads it can't keep them all in the air, and several of them seem rushed.  Its not bad but but it kind of makes you wish it ran longer than it's 84 minutes

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Nightcap 5/24/15- Things at BAM and elsewhere, The next two months, Randi's links

Lil Bub in one of my recently rediscovered pictures from Tribeca2013

This Memorial Day I have to fill some gaps and fix some mea culpas- Largely owing to the fact that I haven’t been mentioning some events that are happening

The Brooklyn Film Festival starts Friday and runs through June 7. This is one the great small festivals I’ve ever attended. This small little gem of a festival has a wonderful collection of great films you won’t see anywhere else. I love it to death and you should look over its selections (The can be found here) I am not going t be getting there this year owing to scheduling conflicts make a quick drop in or two near impossible.

BAM’s Film Africa has one more day left and It has some great stuff you should check out

Friday also the start of the second part of BAM’s look at wide screen black and white films BLACK AND WHITE SCOPE and it’s a gem. They are running a bunch of films I’m going to try and see finally o the big screen including.ANDRE RUBELEV, LA DOLCE VITA, JULES AND JIM and just about every damn movie. Seiously this is one you must get to.

I’m going to get back on the BAM band wagon and get more info up as things progress. We will be covering a good chunk of the BAMcimena Fest and hopefully their 80’s inde program as well.

I’ve been better with the Film Society of Lincoln Center I have much of June scheduled with their Open Roads sItalian Cinema series, Human Rights Watch and New York Asian Film Festival all slated to go.

I should also point out that in June BAM will have have some great concert films for FREE at their FAB Flicks

However I should point out their TITANUS CHRONICLE OF ITALIAN CINEMA series is running currently and it’s a look back at Italian film where Open Roads is a look at now.
As we head into June and July things are going to get very busy at Unseen Films.

The next seven days as we finish up may we'll also be finishing up the Dr Kildare films. We'll also be running some reviews of some new releases.

After that we're going to head to Lincoln Center for their OPEN ROADS Italian series. That will lead immediately into The Human Rights Watch Film Festival. A week respite into other things will lead us into BAMcinema Fest which will lead straight on to our annual overdose of New York Asian Film Festival and Japan Cuts If all goes well that will lead directly into Fantasia.

I'm worried about having films to review but the festivals keep me bumping things down the road.
Thanks to the small bunch of you who have commented about Unseen's changing appearance. As I write this we're working on changing things up a little bit more. The current set up is purely functional but not quite what we want. If you don't like what we're doing do let us know.
And Now Randi's Links
The world's most remote Film Festival
The Elephant Man
The Spartans took London
The real face of Shakespeare
Preserving the entombed at Pompeii

Calling Dr Kildare (193-)

Second of the Dr Kildare series has Gillespie sending his protégé to a satellite clinic related to the Hospital in the hope of teaching him to deal with the emotional side of a patient’s ills. Not long after being there Kildare is dragged away from the clinic by Red in order to help a friend who had been cut. Actually Nick has been shot and is wanted for murder. Kildare treats the young man and then is talked out of taking him to the hospital by the boys sister. Kildare is smitten and finds himself getting deeper in trouble as he tries to prove Nick isn’t guilty….and he’s suspended yet again from the hospital.

While not quite as outstanding as the first film, Calling Dr Kildare is still a solid program picture. It’s enjoyable time with some good characters.

The reason the film isn’t quite up to the previous film is that the plot, while engaging, is a bit well-worn from other films and film series. How many times have we encountered our hero, being it detective or doctor or some other type of character who has a similar situation where they help a supposed bad guy? It’s a staple of mystery and crime films so seeing it here isn’t anything new. I do suspect that the plot isn’t quite as gripping as in other films is that the film isn’t a crime film and the bright settings of the hospital works a tad counter to the darkness of the plot. It doesn’t kill things, but it makes what should have been a very good film just a good one.

Worth a look.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival 2015 Block One: The Chicken andDear Lastan

I went to the opening block of films at The Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival Thursday night. Good friend of Unseen Joe Bendel has been trying to get me to go for over a year. He said there was no excuse for me not going this year since he had given me more than enough warning. He was right, I had no excuse, and having been I’ll definitely go to more next year.

The evening started when I met Joe at the bar that’s attached to the Tribeca Cinemas. We hung out, talked, had a drink and Joe had some of the food they put out for everyone to enjoy.
Zlatko Filpovic introduces the evenings program

I have to say it’s been a while since I was last at the Tribeca Cinemas but they have renovated them nicely. The new décor is lovely and the seats quite comfortable. To be honest one of the reasons I didn’t want to get a lot of tickets for the fest was the Cinema seats used to be a bit rough, but they replaced the old theater seats and all is right with the world.

The evening began with the short THE CHICKEN. Set in 1993 in Sarajevo the film tells the story when a young girl’s dad sends her a live chicken from the front line instead of cake. What happens is pure chaos as the young girl decides to set the bird free instead of having it for dinner. Creating more tension and terror than most full on horror films this is a great little film. It’s a killer slice of life of life during war time. If the film has any flaw its that the little girl is a tad too naive about what her actions are- I mean they live under the watchful eye of snipers. It would have worked in a longer film but here its slightly unbelievable (especially since she knows what her mother going out means.)

The feature was the documentary DEAR LASTAN which was about the advice columns supposedly written by Lastan a comic character in children’s magazine Modra Lasta, once the second bestselling magazine in Yugoslavia.

The film charts the course of the advice column from its creation on to today. Along the way we get to hear from some of the people who were Lastan and other people who work at the magazine. We watch how the advice column went from questions about unrequited love among grade schoolers and how to survive 5th grade to frank questions of sex, parental abuse and social problems. The frank honesty and slight humorous responses made the magazine a must read for the Yugoslavian youth for the decades before the internet.

This is a really good little film. Once the film gets beyond the specifics of Yugoslavia you realize how many of the problems really are universal the film becomes utterly fascinating. Watching the film I got jealous, how great would it have been if there had been someone like Lastan in the US? How much better adjusted we all would have been? Then again if someone tried to do it in say Weekly Reader or Highlights parents groups would have had their heads explode.

If the film has any flaw it isn’t the film’s fault, its simply that because the film isn’t in English only the speaking voices are subtitled so all of the letters and magazine pages remain untranslated. I know that had I been able to read the printed material more would have been gained. On the other hand just being able to see this film was an absolute treat
Zlatko invites director Irene Skoric to the stage

I should mention that after the film there was a very brief Q&A with director Irena Škorić and her DP. There were only big two points discussed. The first was that Mondra Lasta is still being published, but only with a print run of around 30,000 copies. The other was that the film came about when the director was asked what she wanted to do next, and she said something on Lastan but that was impossible because his identity was secret more closely guarded than some national security ones, only to be told instantly that the person she was talking with knew the guy who was the first person to write as Lastan.

I want to thank the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival for bringing this film to the US. I’m looking forward to next year to see what other treats show up.

Young Dr Kildare (1938)

I would call it a purchase after a drunken binge but I don’t drink. Actually what happened as I was purchasing a whole bunch of movies from the Warner Archive and decided to toss the Dr Kildare collection into the mix. I had always heard the series was good and the chance to get all of the films for a relatively small amount of money I said what the hell and used the last of my Christmas money for it.

Hunkering down over a few nights in snowy January I was pleasantly surprised to find the films actually quite good. Even good enough that I’m planning on revisiting the films again down the road.

Over the next few days I’m going to take a look at all of the films in the series.

Young Dr Kildare opens with Kildare returning home after graduating and passing all of his tests. Everyone thinks --- is going to join his dad in the family practice, but he is uncertain that’s what he wants. With a heavy heart he tells his mom and dad that he’s going to New York to intern at the city’s biggest and most prestigious hospital.

At the hospital Kildare crashes head long into Dr Gillespie (Lionel Barrymore) the chief diagnostician. Unafraid and willing to spar with the old man Gillespie begins to take a shine to Kildare. During Kildare’s rounds through the hospital he is assigned to ride the ambulance on various calls. During one he is called to a suicide, however the woman isn’t dead and Kildare revives her. Back at the hospital the young woman, an heiress, is thought to be psychopathic, however Kildare, based on his observations feels otherwise. While he battles to do the right thing for the girl the forces in the hospital martial against him.

While not the first film to feature Max Brand’s character its clear why this film spawned a long running series. Say what you will about the MGM touch at making films, they managed to cast some great roles perfectly to the point that even if the film hadn’t ended with announcement of more films, You’d suspect that the public would be writing letters for more stories. When I ended the first film the first night I was ready to keep going through the series despite the fact that I finished up well after midnight on a school night.

I really liked the film a great deal.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Opening Night of The Unseen Cinema of HR Giger: The Collaborations of HR Giger

I went to the opening night of the HR Giger Film Festival entitled The Unseen Cinema of HR Giger and it was an interesting evening. If you didn't realize the impact that Giger had on the world of art and popular culture you'd probably be surprised to see people in suits mixed with biker types mixed with women with blue hair mixed with normal people mixed with film writers.  It was a diverse group which was a real tribute and a perfect reason why the Museum of Modern Art needs to get some Giger pieces (more on that in a minute)
Copyright Sebastian Klimek. Posted Courtesy of Leslie Barany

After some introductions Debby Harry and Chris Stein to introduce the evening and talk about their relationship with Giger.
Copyright Sebastian Klimek. Posted courtesy Leslie Baranay

They talked about meeting him accidentally when they went to a gallery by their house to see Giger's art and found him just back with an Oscar in his hand. They then lured him back to their apartment- where he never let go of his Oscar- they quickly became friends.
Copyright Sebastian Klimek. Posted courtesy Leslie Barany

The pair then talked about working with Giger doing the art and promotional films for Harry's first solo album Kookoo. They explained how Debbie didn't like the feeling of having a full life mask cast so it had to be done in pieces leading to casts that were a millimeter off, which drove Giger crazy. They also talked about what it was like in his house and the weird railway that was in the yard, his hesitation to speak in English at first, and how the full size Alien in his living room "scared the shit out of him" when ever he's run into it late at night.
Copyright Sebastian Klimek. Posted Leslie Barany

It was great, but brief talk that lasted 10  or 15 minutes before they headed off- but not before pleading that letter be written to the Museum of Modern Art to have them get some of Giger's pieces in their collection and on display. Chris Stein's eloquent words should abe a call to arms since as he explained Giger has impacted everything in his wake. The plea rightly got a round of applause.
Copyright Leslie Barany

After the talk the program began. First up was a long Star Wars crawl-like warning about the use of images (All of the stills below were supplied to me by Leslie Barany and are copyright by him). It ended with a great pan down to the first alien ship and a killer copyright "C" by Giger.

The first film screened was A NEW FACE OF DEBBIE HARRY and ir showed Harry and Chris Stein working with Giger to shoot music videos for two songs on Harry's Kookoo album. We watch as Giger makes various life masks of Harry, creates the sets for the videos and then shoots them. He also explains how some of the art was repurposed.

 For me who had always loved the art from the album  it was really cool because I got to see how the art was created. On the other hand the film is very uneven with some really cool sections attached to some really dull ones. yes it's a great making of, but unless you're a super fan it can be monotonous.
The film was followed by the two videos we saw being shot in the film. As a film record of Giger's work they are important but, like many videos from the period they have dated badly and are rather dull. (though after seeing the making of film you understand why the shots are as they are- in some another inch or two and you'd be looking into Giger's back yard)

The Second film screened was TAGTRAUM from  JJ Wittmer.

The film charts a painting project between HR Giger, C. Sandoz and W. Wegmueller, This is a wickedly cool film that gets better and better as it goes on as huge white canvases that make up the project are filled with images that are created by one artist and modified by the others.

I loved this film a great deal because it's artists creating wondrous things.

After this clip

We went to the third and longest film SWISSMADE 2069

This one is a head scratcher and had everyone around me twisting in their seats. The film is a weird film that's like some avant garde science fiction films where the world is apartment blocks mashed up with a kind of proto-Jodorowsky sensibility before Jodorowsky hit with EL TOPO.

The film has weird alien with a camera for a face (Giger designed it) wandering around as people tell him about the society which is controlled by a group mind computer and consists of people between 7 and 41. It's a world where Switzerland is a small island on a giant lake.

How is it?

Long and rambling. Its very much of a type that you're either going to love or hate. I could have used less repetition of what society is since it gets old really fast. The other stuff doesn't and it was interesting to see Giger play a role as --er--- a scientist (?). I'm not sure it, like most of the film is never explained.

When the film ended, everyone applauded. It was a good collection of films, which while entertaining for me is probably best described for fans only. Still the chance to see Giger at work was amazing. (if you're going to see one of the films in the collection shoot for TAGTRAUM because its just really cool.)

The festival concludes tomorrow with two more screening one at 3 and the other at 5. For more information go the the series page here. If you're a fan of the artist you must go.

Cosima Spender and Valerio Bonelli talk about their film PALIO at Tribeca 2015

Cosima Spender

A couple weeks back Hubert and I sat down with director Cosima Spender and her husband and editor Valerio Bonelli to talk about their film PALIO . PALIO tells the story of the centuries old Sienese horse race that is held in the city's main square. Its 90 seconds of  excitement preceeded by three days of rituals. The filmis one of the most breathtaking things you’ll ever see. Trust me, when it's done you'll feel who needs CGI car chases or giant robots when you can have PALIO’s horses  in a life or death race where the losing jockey can end up beaten half to death? PALIO is one of my favorite films of the year and you must see it. (My review is here. Hubert's review at Ruby Hornet is here)

When Hubert and I saw the film we were both blown away. We both wanted to know more about the race and how it was made. When the chance to do an interview with Cosima came up we jumped. The interview was one of the coolest things I did at Tribeca this year. I’m in heaven whenever I can talk to someone who is well versed and deeply passionate about a subject and as both Cosima and her husband are about the Palio and its history. They also know and love film as Hubert and I found out after the interview when we were comparing notes on the various films at Tribeca. I could have talked with them for several more hours. (Cosima and Valeria if you are reading this and want to do another extended interview let me know I will be happy to sit down with you again)

While I understand that publishing the interview now, with the film still on the festival circuit is not ideal, you may not understand some of the references, I somehow think the passion with which they speak and the subjects that we cover will make you want to see the film and keep it on your radar. You need to be aware that this film is coming because you really do want to see it. And when the film finally gets its wide release you can come back and revisit this interview and get even more out of it.

I want to thank Hubert for  helping do the interview and in editing the transcript. And I have to thank Cosima and Valerio for taking the time to talk to us about their really kick ass movie.

STEVE: How did you get interested in doing The Palio?

COSIMA: I was born outside Siena. I grew up there. My mother was half-Armenian/half-American and my father was English. They still live there. I went to the public schools there. I grew up in the countryside outside Siena and then I went to Siena proper to go to school when I was 14. So all my friends were deeply Sienese. They were members of districts. I felt very much an outsider because I wasn't born and raised inside the district. I never really understood it until I wanted to do this as my graduation film from film school, but I was young and inexperienced. I needed a big production behind me to tackle it. It’s a beast of a subject. It’s gargantuan, so I didn't do it as my graduation film

Then I made lots of films for the BBC and here and there. And then after my last film, on my grandfather who was this Armenian painter, I was going "what’s going to be my next project?" I have two children so I can't-- I used to do a lot of films in Africa and around the world but because my life has to be more stable I started to look on my doorstep on a subject. I always wanted to make a film about it and that's how I said "it's time to do Palio."

I started researching. There had been a film that had cinematic release made about ten years ago  called the LAST VICTORY which really focused on the districts. I said let’s make a film about the jockeys because no one really looks at the jockeys. I find the whole love hate relationship interesting because I come from anthropology so the whole relationship between the jockeys and the citizens and the city---they need them and they love them if they win but if they lose they are meat to be butchered. I've always been fascinated by this relationship.

STEVE: In the film you see them beating the jockeys, has anyone been killed?

COSIMA: No, no but beaten up a lot. And between the districts it comes from this medieval tradition called Pungna. I went to dinner in one of the districts when I was doing my research and the young men come in and kind of punch each other as a kind of greeting-play fighting. There is a lot of tradition, the fighting is in the DNA. The beating up, its Italy, It’s passionate. You have to express your emotions otherwise you might get cancer or something.

HUBERT: It’s true. When the one guy wins there is a kind of gladiatorial look to him, the great conquering-hero look on camera with everyone around him. There is that sense of battle.

COSIMA: Yea there is the sense of battle--it is battle. Its origins are in battle. Traditionally in medieval times the districts were headed by the captains who were like soldiers of fortune or mercenaries who lead the battle.

The whole of the Palio, if you want to get anthropological, was meant to commemorate the Battle of Monteperti in 1260 when the  Sienese with few men managed to beat the Florentines who were a big army. Dante writes how the local river was red because there was so much blood shed. The origins of it were this medieval battle ground and it was a way to sublimate the peoples nature which was very violent--take this emotion and turn it into this game, so they wouldn't go around killing each other. “Let’s find a way to try and put people's aggression and passion into a game which will distract the  Sienese”--who are by nature fiery- that’s the origin.

But I didn't want to get anthropological in the film. It had to be entertaining because it’s all so entertaining. You can enjoy the aesthetic spectacle or you can enjoy it as an anthropologist or you can enjoy it as a tourist. There are many levels to enjoy the Palio.

STEVE: When you're watching the film it’s so exciting, like a car race. Hubert turned to me at the end and said "I didn't think it would be that exciting to the end"

COSIMA: That's because Valerio is my editor and he does fiction films.

HUBERT: Its feels like a narrative feature

VALERIO: It’s BEN HUR in a way

COSIMA: I didn't go about it with a team of people who make documentaries for television- which is how documentaries have gone since the 80's. We always wanted to make it cinematic. Stuart Bentley, the cinematographer comes from cinema, wants to do cinema. He came from the same film school as us-The National Film School. The National Film School is a good school. It really teaches you the craft of filmmaking. Valeria cut PHILOMENA and  action films. He did a couple of really bad action films, no offense....

VALERIO: No problem. It was a good stomping ground for me for the races. The races are televised...

COSIMA: They are soo boring

VALERIO: They are so boring, because it's all wide shots. She really went straight on in. She was the first person ever allowed to have a zoom- really long lens, telephoto lens right at the starting line so they could get this at least close up. That’s what makes it exciting- It’s LIKE IN THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY- the standoff moment between jockeys that makes the whole film I think.

COSIMA: We always though Sergio Leone between the ropes. THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY. That moment before he shoots, the eye line, the close ups. We really looked at references which came from narratives rather than documentaries.

STEVE: Which explains the Ennio Morricone music.

VALERIO: And it’s a way to condense as well. Sometimes it can last.... In the July Palio that year, before the start, they went out something like seven times and it lasted 45 minutes.There was 45 minutes in and out . Sometimes it's boring, but if you're  Sienese...(editor note: the race starts when one of the jockeys outside of a starting corral crosses a line and signals the start of the race. Before that, the jockeys inside the corral try to gain an advantageous starting position. It's like a chess match. If the jockeys are too aggressive in the corral, all of the horses must vacate their spots, exit the corral, and repeat this line-up process again) .

COSIMA: It’s boring if you don't know what’s going on-but if you know....

By the time we have the second race in August, we were thinking can people take another race after July- we have to condense and get to the first race earlier and not actually indulge in his victory. We had a lot of amazing shots we had to cut because it felt too much like a finale and it was only the July Palio.

Or the music...we had incredible epic music there which we took off in the mix and just put a simple guitar that our composer had scored-otherwise it felt like the climax of the film coming too soon.

What I love about the August Palio is you're like the  Sienese, you don't need much explanation, you can just sit there and enjoy it and know what the intrigue and looks mean. The July Palio was training you to really look at it as an insider, even more than most insiders because unless you were born or grew up in Siena you just don't understand it.

STEVE: Since you were born there that helped you place the cameras?

COSIMA: I'd been to the Palio since I was a child. My father used to take me into the square on his shoulders. I have seen the Palio many times. I researched it in the previous year. I bought my self a little ticket to go just in front of the ropes so I knew where I wanted to be because already in my research there was a very good angle I could get- in fact in my research there was an even better angle, it was lower but it was a tiny seat. We rented a room with a window. But again a lot of red tape because your lens can not come out of the window for safety reasons because it might drop. You're not going to see the Palio like that.

So I knew where to put the camera. We had a plan of the city and we really really thought about it. We had five cameras on the first race...

But four days before the race there are a lot of rituals so you know that every day at 6 o'clock the jockeys are coming down the street. It’s like theater. There's a natural choreography that’s always been there since medieval times. All the citizens, every year, the same time walking down the street. And we'd just sit there so we'd get the jockeys coming out or them looking at the muffled chaos--it not chaotic to them. We'd just sit in the square and we knew they would come out...

VALERIO: Because they would do six rehearsals.

COSIMA: Yea, 6 rehearsals, 2 a day for 3 days before. And we'd condense all of that. You don't get a sense of that because we had to condense heading into the first race otherwise you were so worn out as a viewer. So you don't get a sense of those four days which exhausted you-by the time you got to the Palio you’ve been drunk for three days running-you stayed up until 2 and woke up to get to the trial at 9am. The  Sienese are mad by the time of the Palio-they are espresso'd up, hung over--passion and emotions-it’s all really raw.

And the race is over in 90 seconds. It’s really weird.

Then you go up to the cathedral-and if you win you keep on partying and if you lose it kind of deflates like a kind of balloon--there’s a sense of desolation. If you go around the city go around to the district that won it’s a big party time, drumming and everyone's drunk and singing-they go around parading ,showing off to the districts going "we won, you're just losers. We're the best!" The other districts are all quiet like someone died. The shops are closed. It’s pretty weird.

STEVE: What do they do with the food if they lose?

COSIMA: I don't know, I never thought of that. I guess they have to buy food in case they I think it’s just wine. The winner put tables out --now I remember because I went around--

Even then we have these great shots of the districts partying, but you can't put it all in- and it’s not about the districts but about the jockeys.

The  Sienese when I showed them the film were like “It’s not about us! It’s about the jockeys-those mercenaries!” They were like “where are we?!”And I was like “you’re not as interesting as them.”

But they have simple tables and everyone is standing and drinking out of these big vats of local wine and there is no eating.

HUBERT: You could repurpose the wine for misery drinking.

COSIMA: No, if you lose there is no wine. You just go home and go to bed. It’s this weird come down.

STEVE: I wanted to ask you are horses killed in the race? You see them crash---

COSIMA: But you see them get up. You know there are far more horses dying in the Grand National than in the Palio even though it looks so wild. There are some horses that might get injured but they don't necessarily die, they could race again but they go on holiday It’s like [the horse] Guess, who you saw in the first race. He's retired because his ankle was damaged so he's in a field having a good time, eating.

Some horses die, and it’s really sad. We have a very difficult contract with the city of Siena which is guarding the tradition. They are very aware of animal rights and they were paranoid about us showing too much. We were not allowed contractually and it was difficult because I was like, “I'm not making a propaganda film. I had to have final cut” but we had to respect a bit

We were lucky because no horses were injured on those two Palios

One jockey got seriously beaten up but we were contractually not allowed to show the beating. We got away with the archive [footage of the jockeys being beaten] because it was qualified by the mayor and it was archive- but that summer there was a very bad beating and we could not show that. It was frustrating as a director, as a filmmaker but on the other hand the film we wanted to tell was the jockey.

You can't do everything in life- you can't make a film about the districts and the animals and this and that- but the story we wanted to tell was about the jockeys.

VALERIO: In the Grand National 15 horses die every year, In the Palio there have been 3 horse that died in 20 years. They take care of the horses. They have vet visits very month and a real kind of care that really surprised me.

STEVE: If the horses win they can't race again?

VALERIO: They can

COSIMA: They can depending on the strategy.

VALERIO: It depends on the age. That white horse in the film was old. He won the Palio at the end of his career.

COSIMA: It was always going to be his last race because he was 9 or 10 years old. To start they have to be 6.

VALERIO: They used to have to be a thoroughbred...

COSIMA: Now half because they are too fast and they have delicate ankles. Half-thoroughbred means they have thicker ankles. They are carefully measured. There are protocols.

VALERIO: The vets are very strict in selecting the right horse physically because the track has 90 degree turns

COSIMA: Downhill...

VALERIA: Downhill. They have foam padding. In the 70's they literally had mattresses from beds and that was dangerous.

COSIMA: And at that time they were wearing caps-tin caps and when the jockey fell it became like a knife. One jockey's nose was cut off by the visor of his tin cap.

VALERIO: And they didn't change it because they were like "This is the way we've done it since 1470. We have to keep going like that"

COSIMA: They care more about the horses than the jockeys

STEVE: They don't beat the horses when they lose.

VALERIO: The horses are pure they are the only things that can't be corrupted.
Cosima Spender and Valerio Bonelli

Thursday, May 21, 2015

LADIES OF THE HOUSE: The John Wildman and Justina Walford Interview Part 3

This is the third and final part of my interview with John Wildman and Justina Walford about their film LADIES OF THE HOUSE.

If  you missed either of the previous parts Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.

Steve: How much did you take into account if of the actors would go, "Let's do it this way, let's do it that way."

John: Well, here's the thing. You know I started out as an actor. I feel beyond comfortable talking to actors about acting. But if you you had four or five people in the scene, each of them would reach that peak performance that you wanted at different times. One of the things I found interesting in directing was balancing each one and trying to orchestrate each one to get there in a different way.

Giving a little hint to one person or giving more of a direct stage direction to another person or having emotional talk with some...everybody who needed something else different. And that was a fascinating process to learn what everybody needed to get there.

But there weren't very specific conversations because of that, because everybody's process was different. Some, had a big need to have a full back history discussion. You know and, um, I saw this, it's somebody...It was like the Louis CK routine where he's talking to his daughter and it's like, "Why?" And he answers it and she goes, "Why?"

And he answers that and she goes, "Why?" And it keeps going. And there were some conversations with a couple of our actors where it was like that.

And you go, "Jesus, how, you know, how much further back do we have to go in your character to get to do this?" All right. And then there were time where in the moment of a scene, an emotional scene, like you know uh one of the actors would go, "I'm just not, I just don't get it. I'm just not there. That doesn't make sense to me."

I think there's one scene in particular, I took three different tacts and it was like, "Well, I'm gonna see if this works on you." And we do that, and we shoot. It is like, "No." And then we talk to, you know, to one of the actresses, again I'd say, "OK, well let's talk about this."

And we'd have this other discussion, and then we shoot it again. They're like, "No, not quite." And then we would do something else. And it was all in an effort of getting that person in the right head space to do that. And yes, you know, those discussions sometimes you know, then took a direction of, "Well, wouldn't we do this instead?"

And you know, and a couple times, we absolutely applied that and it works.

Justina:  I come from theater, so, so theater is a a different process actually even in in pre-production. So for me when I would have a play, I would cast, and then we spend two or three months rewriting together. So actors are actually part of my rewriting process when I do theater.

So it's, it's interesting because I saw that in film actors just go, "I guess this is the Bible." And that's good, because most of the time that it should be the Bible. I think that if we had all the budget in the world, it would be like, uh, we would have like a month long retreat where the actors and the editors and everyone just hung out and talked about it and rewrote the script together.

I thought that will be the most amazing process. No one ever can afford that.

John: Conversations happen before you start shooting, and then a day or two before, or the morning before, or or what have you.

But more often than not, it's happening on the set as you're blocking, and as lighting is being set following that initial blocking. The discussions are really happening there, that you're then applying to you know, pull off that scene.

We shot the film in 18 days. So you're shooting a lot of pages every single day. And in this case we were also combating the deadly Texas heat. I mean, we shot night shoots the entire film, and shot in a studio, and it still was unforgivably hot.

So you're shooting scenes, and in the back of you're mind you're thinking I need to get this scene done, because I need to get these actors off this set and into an air-conditioned room, so then we can set up the next scene, and they won't collapse on you.

So you're not in a perfect situation on a film like this, where you're shooting one scene a day, and you're you know, and you're really, you know, like you know, you know having these these summit meetings of how you can perfectly execute this this one scene or this one moment. You're like going, "You know, I've got nine of these, and that's before lunch."

And as you're watching, you know you're on these headphones watching a monitor and you're going, "Oh, OK great, I got it." Let's do one more just to make sure, but I got it and we can move on. And and you and everything is moving that quickly.

Steve: Did you do a lot of takes, or you just did like you know one, two, onto the next?

John: We do not do a lot of them. I think the most takes we did on one shot was like maybe six. More often than not we were in a happy place of like three or four takes, we weren't doing one take wonders anything.  I certainly did not have the confidence that I was gonna nail it on the first one, and then I was gonna be secure in that.

So there was, there was always an insurance take. And what's also interesting and you say you're fine, a lot of amazing moments that you utilize in the editing process are not even in your filming.

You know, you know people are relaxing or they're just at the beginning of of of a take, or they're just at the end of a take, and sometimes that's where where you find these like little moments that you can work in that you know are are brilliant, and they are very, very happy you know, accidents.

So that's another thing is that you know, you, you adapt to knowing that everything's on the table. Everything could be used at any time. And if you're an actor, then you go "well then I'm not gonna stray to far from what I'm doing performance wise", because who knows what they're gonna capture on camera and you're not able to use it.

And as a director you have your eye on every specific moment, but you're also very, very aware of everything in the background, and everything beforehand or whatever. You should just take it all in and go, "That might be useful. That might be useful. That you know, that works, and this take I'm good. Let's move on."

Steve: Are you in the film? Because if you are I didn't see it.

Justina: Wrong. He's actually in it. He has a Hitchcockian  moment.

John: Yeah.  I'm in the, uh, Crystal's notebooks of her victims if you look closely you can see I make I make it cameo as one of those victims.

Justina: And I, I wrote Lin for myself, but something that I've learned is that you can't be very direct with a spouse if you want to be cast. So, so Farah got Lin.

John: Yeah, so Farah got Lin.

Steve: Are you in the next one?

John: She is, she actually is in my short.

Justina: You're now my manager.

John: Yeah. [laughs] Justina actually plays in the short film I did and I am also in the short film I did. And in fact, that project, one of the, um, one of the goals of it as the experiment was to see how well the shooting process would work if I was actually acting as well.

And, uh, and it turned to off famously. So, so likely either or both of us could make appearances in the next project or the next project after that, yeah.

Steve: Is this going to be, uh, the next one's going to be "Ladies of the House Bounty Hunters?"


Justina: Yes, yes, I, I would like that, too. But I haven't finished the script, so I shouldn't say, but "Ladies of the House Bounty Hunters."

John: [laughs] The next one, the next couple will not be a sequel. Um, but you know, you never know. You know, we could always come back to that world, but, um, but no, we, we have a few ideas, scripts that have already been done that we are anxious to, uh, to take a shot at first.

Steve: Genre?

John: Genre, yes.

Justina: Yeah, I think, I think we've found a home.

John: You know, my thought on getting the chance to make films, is that it's, it's so difficult to get financing, on these for film makers working on the level and the kind of budget that we're doing and what have you, so, the idea is if you do get that money, if you do get someone  who has faith in you, you know, it's a financed film, then, don't just make your version of some film. Don't just go, "Well, this is my romantic comedy" or "This is my message," or...

Go make a film that when you talk about it, when I tell you about it and you go, "I can't wait to see that. I've never seen anything like that," like you're describing it. Make that kind of film because who knows if you're going to get another shot at it. Every chance you get, every opportunity, just seize that and make something that at least nobody can say, "Oh, it's another one of those. Oh, you know. Yeah, it's another cannibal lesbian movie. It's like the fifth one we've seen this year."

Justina: Although actually, as...I was writing this morning. And I actually, as I'm like writing like a tree and like my first, my first skeleton of it, at some point I'm like, "And then they eat the guy...Oh, I already did that once."

Steve: How long does it take to write...

Justina: How lon-, oh, you know, LADIES OF THE HOUSE took quite a bit because we had rewriting and doing table reads and rewriting. I'm the kind of person that when I worked at the theater, I wrote a play like in a weekend, like. So, I'd be writing the first draft usually in about three days. Um, but the rewriting is actually the...

John: Justina can churn them out. When she, when she locks into something, then she becomes very maniacal and jealous over time and, and she's just like nonstop falling asleep with the laptop on her lap. And, and you know, and then waking up and writing more, you know, every moment.

Then I will come in and add my portion to it afterwards. When we tag team, sometimes we can get into rhythm and work very, very quickly. But the time, the extended time, does come in the rewriting process and, and the development process.

Justina: Like the fights and, you know, that type. We need time to fight...

John: Yes. [laughs]

Steve: I can't see you guys fighting.

Justina: Oh!

John: Only on creative stuff.

Justina: I, yeah, I once locked myself in the bathroom. I'm not that kind of person, but there's one time where  I locked myself in the bathroom or the bedroom. So it must have been before I went to New York, where we had a bathroom and a bedroom that had doors. And I just said, "I'm not talking to you."

But I think it's because you said something about how you were Scorsese and I was a newbie or something. So...

John: This makes me sound terrible.

Justina: ...I had, I had to a right.

John: This is...this is, this is a terrible way to present our story...

Justina: ...something about... [laughs] Something about the writing, something about the first draft I did, like...

John:  You know, again  in real life, as I make the quote signs, we never, hardly ever, argue,  but creatively we do. Colors of wardrobes, ... arguments that would, would go to like two in the morning ...

Justina: Our fight, our writing fight is actually"the wizard did it". The wizard-did-it fights are where I'll say, "That doesn't make any sense. Why would that character do that?" and, and he will look at me like, "Well, because it's cool.Because it looks cool, it's going to look cool when I direct it. That's why it's in there."

I'm like, "Well, a character doesn't care about being cool, blah, blah, blah, blah," and basically then we both scream, "The wizard did it," and we, we table it until later.

John: , Justina is unforgiving when it comes to suspension of disbeliefs.

Steve: At the risk of getting punched in the nose or getting your drink thrown at me...

Justina: [laughs]

Steve: I'm going to side with him on one thing. Raymond Chandler...Do you mind if I call up Raymond Chandler on you? They were doing a movie based on a Chandler novel, it was um, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, uh, murder, um...


Steve: No, uh, (remembering) BIG SLEEP. At some point in the book one of the characters is shot and when they were adapting the book they didn't know who shot him,  They were trying to figure out who it was when they were doing this script, and they called Chandler up and he goes, he goes, "Why did it happen? Because, because I needed it to happen to make the story go."

Justina: [laughs]

Steve:  That was his story. You had, out of left field. It doesn't have to make sense if it was a good story.

Justina: That is true. However, when you're low budget and you, and you can only do it once...

Steve: Oh, no, no, Only once.

Justina: No more than once!

John: [laughs]

Justina: Now, now, now that's going to be added to our conversation, like this is your Raymond Chandler moment.

John: Yeah, we'll, we'll be talking about this now.

Justina: This is your Chandler moment.

John: Thank, you, Steve. Thank you.

Justina: You get one unexplainable gunshot.

John: We do go through that debate on things where you create a world...Oftentimes with genre films you're creating a world, and you have your own rules and regulations in that world.

And sometimes those rules and regulations stretch the imagination or, you know beg that kind of,  thing. But, as much as possible, you want to at least go, "Well, it's because of this," then you go, "Well, science doesn't really bear that out," and we go, "The science in this movie does!"

You know, you at least have to do that, and Justina is very fiercely protective of that. I'm a little but looser on it because, again, I am looking at it as a movie viewer, as a film fan, like, going, "I'll forgive that."You know, oftentimes, you can do some, some wild stuff and I go, "Alright, I'm fine with that. I'm enjoying the movie. I'm fine with that."

Justina: I think it is...The reason I'm fierce, is before I write the script,  I have an Excel spreadsheet, thats, color coordinated. It has,every beat that has to happen and every emotional thing.

And the reason  is I know that when I make this exceptionally detailed chart of an emotional arc and and character development, and I use "Dungeons and Dragons" alignments to, like, you know, decide how a character reacts to things, I know that as we go down development lane, it disintegrates...

I think it's actually just a way productions work is that, you know, your budget, some things fall away, and then you're shooting and you lose the whole days footage because, you know, lighting didn't work out... It falls away so that by the time you get to the end result, you really only have. this much to work with at the end of the day or the end of the film, and that's why it feels so...

And now that we've done our first film I feel even more protective of it, of, like, no, we have to have everything at the start because we're going to lose half of it and...

John: Right, right.

Steve: Well, I would think if you, if you...If you at least build a strong backbone for the film for everything to hang off, you can do a moment. You know, the one, the one Raymond Chandler moment where, you know, where you can go outside of it as long as it's not too far outside of, you know...

John: Or...You know, and a big lesson we learned on this film also, there's a moment in, in the film where someone escapes, in a situation, and, and because of the way it's set up some people in the audiences go, "Well, he could not have, you know, done that because of this," and you go, "Well, actually, if you think about it, no, that is, that is set up to be, uh, you know, a, a very reasonable thing of how that happened."

And there's an immediate explanation, but, visually, because of the way it's presented, some people are still confused by that even after we explain it. You go, "Well, this person is here. This happened here. That's how that was, that was OK."

And so even when you take great pains to make sure that everything has an explanation or everything has a reasonable science behind it the optics also need to fall in line with that.

Justina: Right.

John: James Brooks talking to Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson, while they were editing together, BOTTLE ROCKET and, apparently there was, there was a shot of  being poured in a cup, and James Brooks told told Wes Anderson  and Owen Wilson, "There better be poison in that coffee. Otherwise, I don't see why you're showing me that damn coffee cup." You know?

And it's, it's that kind of thing where you go, "Everything has to be there for a reason," because, as an audience member, you're going, "Why am I, why am I looking at that?" or, you know, "Why didn't I see that?"

Justina: Until, until you become iconic and then everyone will put whatever meaning onto it that you want.

John: Yeah, we've got, we've got several films before that happens.

Justina: Yeah. That, that'll be exciting.

John: Yeah.

Justina: I just read a whole thing about...

Steve: I always thought that all youneed is a big enough and you're iconic. That's all. You know, that's all. Give THE LADIES a little bit of time, OK, to get some traction.

Justina: Yeah, that's right.

John: Yeah, cult classic.

Justina: Cult classic.

Steve: [laughs] Hopefully that's this.

Do you have something planned where you go much darker?'Cause you balance the humor and the lightness, a lightness and a darkness. Is there a point where you would just throw all the lightness away and just go balls to the wall hard?

Because I'm sitting, I'm watching the film, and that was the one thing where I'm going like, "If this didn't have the humor, if this was played straight I'd walk..." If you did wash out the color, the color scheme and stuff, and you did this straight this would be almost unbearable at times.

Would you want to do something like that?

John: Well, I mean, I...I think the situation would dictate that. Justina and I have a specific sense of humor,  each of us do, that just kinds of comes out of our pores.

So  it would take an effort in what we write, let alone what we, what we shoot, to excise that. Now, in some specific instances, yes, I think, you know, there are moments of dread, there are moments of relentless terror, that, you would want to do that, and I would want to do that, but there would be specific moments.

I don't know what the idea would be where we would just put an audience through that, you know, just keep hammering at them.

Justina: In drama writing when you go into a dark place or a sad, or a very sad place. And you create characters that will react in a human way, at some point, the character needs a joke. The character will say a joke.

But even as a writer,writing the dark scenes I get too  depressed or too scared and I need a joke. So I think I couldn't help but put something in there that would I would say in that, at that moment if I were in that moment.

John: Yeah, I think a couple of the, a couple of the likely suspects that will become our next film, are  filled with characters that entertain, and, you know, and some are badasses, some are cruel, uh, you know, terrible characters and some are cocky bullshit artists.

They're personalities that we want to see on screen, and they're personalities where parts of them come out of both of us in, different characters. And that, that's why I think it, it's natural for us to write either a funny thing that comes out of somebody's mouth or write a situation that has an absurdist humor to it because that's inherent in us.

We have a friend, who is also a filmmaker and  she doesn't have this about her, and, and we kind of, we kind of chuckle to ourselves sometimes. When we're visiting her or vice versa or seeing her at a film festival, you know, we're always amused when we have conversations with this woman because she does not see the humor in that way.

And so when she talks her projects or the themes, you know, our natural inclination is to make a quip or say something, and it'll either go completely over her head or there will be a complete lack of appreciation for the funny that we've just made, because she is deadly serious about what she's talking about. And we talk about it afterwards where we go, "Holy crap! I was just kidding!" You know? [laughs] And, but, but that's the thing is, you know, for us, it's just a natural thing.

Justina: Yeah.

I feel like just we're bombarded with serious horror and, and, like...

Was it THE BUTCHER that we saw? That I was like, I was just like, "I can't. I can't keep watching," 'cause it was just like, it's just like butcher scene after butcher scene after butcher scene.

Steve: I didn't like it.

Justina: I can't, i can't keep going with it because I'm kind of like, "Can I take a break for just one, one scene?" [laughs]

John: You're an audience member. We can place you or you can be placed in a terrible, terrible, unforgiving world. But, at least for me, I want some kind of hope. Now, I may be thwarted, but I want some kind of hope that I can get out of this thing, you know, because, otherwise, yeah, you're signing... You go, "OK, so let me understand. So I'm signing up for two hours of unrelenting misery and unforgiving torture and, terrible things, and I'm going to pay you for this. What's going on here?" You know, I don't know how many people want to take that.

Justina: Well...I wouldn't mind if they're like MARTYRS. Like, I guess that kind of underlines I kind of would enjoy.

Steve: 'Cause to me, MARTYRS to me is I different...I hate movies where it's essentially torture porn, but there's a point at which MARTYRS flips and you suddenly go, "There's a point to this!"

Justina: Yes.

John: Exactly, there's your difference.

Justina: That I could get into, yeah.

John: There's your difference where you go, "OK, all of this does have a rhyme or reason." I think that is your clear difference. Even FRONTIER(S) which is just a batshit crazy movie, [laughs] even that one, you have moments where it's a terrible, horrible, horrible thing that's happened, but it's so absurdly gross and so absurdly terrible that, that there's almost a humor to it.

Steve: Oh, yeah.

John: You know, INSIDE is, is like that where you go, "Really?" Like, you know, you go, "You had to do that?!" You know? And, and, again, you know, it's, it's a, a monstrous, destructive, overwhelmingly bad thing, but it's so monstrous and so destructive and so overwhelming that there's actually a humor to it. You go, "Oh for heaven's sakes! Well, what are we going to do now?"

Steve: Yeah, it's like, "Alright,"...The ridiculousness of over the top, you know, where are you going with it? [laughs]

John: So, you know, again we've got lots of ideas, we got a lot of stuff that,we want to follow this one up with and like I said, LADIES is a very good introduction into what is in Justina's head and what is in my head. But that's just the introduction, you know, so...

Steve: And I'm still talking to you!


Justina: Just stay in public places.

Steve: Yeah, that's just where I'm going. When we were setting this up I was  was like, "Where,  am I going to meet them and what's going to happen? Will I ever be seen again?"

Justina: [laughs]

Steve: Oh no.

John: That's right. Keep it public places. Keep people around.