Ethan Dean Art

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Thursday, May 31, 2012

'The Master' trailer and 'Let There Be Light'

"The Master" trailer

John Huston's "Let There Be Light" documentary

     Ok, I'm a huge PTA fan.  That's apparent in this blog.  I'm not sure how many of my posts in the past couple months have something to do with him, but it's definitely a big number.  I've been waiting to see what his new film 'The Master' would look like for a while.  I don't want to 'analyze' the trailer, but I've certainly seen it several times and would like to talk about it.
     I also saw recently, "Let There Be Light," John Huston's WWII documentary about nueropsychosis in war veterans.  There are a couple prominent similarities between this film and PTA's 'The Master' trailer, most noticably, a few lines of dialogue and the room's where soldiers are asked about their problems.
     I know that PTA is a huge John Huston fan, and 'There Will Be Blood" was certainly a type of homage to "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre."  The fact that he took inspiration from John Huston's documentary for his next film, tells me he's on a John Huston slant nowadays.
     "The Master" is about the collision of two worlds.  The world of Navy seaman Freddy Sutton (Joaquin Pheonix), and the world of Lancaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman).  What I found interesting about the trailer is that we only see one world, the world of Freddy Sutton.  Now, I think that it is more for the sake of anticipation, which is a genius move from PTA.  In a way, he is already creating a dynamic between the characters, painting the problem early on in the process, before you even see the movie.  He's setting the stage for the arrival of Lancaster Dodd.
    A good writer, a good storyteller, knows how to set the stage.  In fact, I think that setting the stage is probably even more important than resolution.  In what way does the audience anticipate the arrival of a character?  How is the character to be perceived immediately?  It's almost like meeting a relative or close friend's fiance for the first time.  Your reputation precedes you.  Now I'm judging you.  Good luck.
     As a writer PTA has taken direct inspiration from the era prior to the understanding of PTSD in the aftermath of WWII.  As a filmmaker, he has already created a dynamic between the two most important characters in the film.  What I felt the teaser did extremely well was create the conditions necessary for a character like Lancaster Dodd to become the hero.  A man creating his own religion can appear wrong in so many different ways.  As a writer, you have to ask yourself, how do I get the audience to care for him?
     I think the film already answers that question for me.  Sutton is obviously a derelict sailor, caught up in the remains of WWII.  Lancaster Dodd is his Savior.  He is there to help him.  And in a way, the way I see the character dynamic so far, Sutton is there to help Dodd as well.  Sutton will give Dodd a purpose and proof for his religious creation.  Dodd will try to help Sutton assimilate back into society.
     I'm obviously just speculating, but I've seen this story before.  I would like to make the point that  PTA is an extroadinary filmmaker not because of the subject matter he chooses or even the stories he tells, but the level of execution of his films and his ability to entertain.  In a way, the fact that this movie has been called 'the scientology film' comes off as more of a selling point than anything else.
     I've heard there are shots in this movie that come off like 'The Shining."  I'm certain that there wil be elements of horror in the film, and I'm certain it'll be a crazy intense movie.  Can't wait to see it.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Horrible, No-Good Realization of Your Pathetic Self

Boogie Nights
     I watched Boogie Nights recently for the second time.  I saw the fim a little over a year ago, and I can say it's changed for me.  I guess I didn't appreciate the details and finesse of the storytelling when I first watched it.  This time around I really wanted to focus on extraneous storytelling elements, such as color, light, camera work,  composition, character design, etc, but found again that the story was too compelling to care for other details.  
     Paul Thomas Anderson is a writer.  He can set the stage.  Boogie Nights is a play.  The actors are shouting at the top of their lungs, their range of expression and movement is larger than life.  Why?  Because that's the story being told.  It's larger than life.  
     A movie about the porn industry in the 70's should be visually interesting, colorful, expressive, and fun.  Boogie Nights is all that.  The first hour and a half of the movie is different, but not disconnected from the last hour of the film.  We see the character of Dirk Diggler succumb to the hubris and pleasure of accolades and praise.  We see him lose control.  
    I feel the best writers understand that at its most fundamental level, storytelling is about creating a character with a strong inner need or desire for something.  Every other detail is a symptom of this need, and the story paints this problem in color, and brings it to light.  These people are pornographers, sluts, whores, not actors, nor could they possibly function in society.  They are seen as druggies, infectous, grotesque human beings, who disrespect and exploit woman.
     Paul Thomas Anderson knew where the story was heading the whole time.  Echoes of the falls ahead were heard in rumblings from characters early on in the film; the inevitability of the porn industry moving to the home video format, the constant druge use, etc.   As an audience member you're having too much fun laughing at the misadventures of the lead characters to worry too much. However, it all comes crashing down in the end.
     Quentin Tarantino thinks of Boogie Nights as Paul Thomas Anderson's masterpiece.  He sights the films playfullness and exhuberance as reasons why.  It certainly has all that, but as far this film being a masterpiece, I would disagree.  There's definitely an energy about the film.  It's conveyed in everything; the constantly moving camera, the color, the acting, the dialogue, and the overall detail of the film.  This is Anderson's second film, and he certainly delivered.  However, I felt there were moments that could have been a little tighter, a little more finessed.  He earns that ability because the film is so vast in energy and emotion.  I don't think PTA did as well at painting the problem for Diggler as well as other leads in his other movies.   Anderson does sight the scene with Diggler and his mother as one moment he should have pushed a little more.  I agree.  The magnitude of the disconnect could have been greater for Diggler, if the diagnosis of the problem had a little more importance. 
   But let's get it straight.  This is still one of my favorite movies.

Martin Scorsese Interview

Check this kind-o'-corny interview with Martin Scorsese.  Love

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Weekly Link Dump

Here's a few links that are worthy material to waste your time with.  That's assumming you do of course have the time.
     Cinematographer Style-Movie about cinematography with interviews from the industry's best
     Paul Thomas Anderson's 'The Master' film stills
     Jeff Nichols ('Take Shelter''Shotgun Stories') Interview
     2012 Cannes preview

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Criterion Cast

Check out this blog for real good info on new criterion releases as well as some extras.