Friday, August 3, 2007

My Cousin Bob

So more international filmmaking, but try to top this.

My brainiac cousin Bob is an expert on glacial ice. He has spent an entire year in Greenland and two, six month stretches in Antartica. He currently lives in England where he is a researcher at Cambridge. This fall he will be an Associate Professor at Dartmouth (show off). He is off to Greenland again tomorrow and on all of his journeys he takes a camera and shoots film (video.) Talk about brutal conditions- Antartica, 24 hours of sun, reflecting snow. How do you get exposure?

He is also part of a documentary on the melting of the Greenland ice sheet- it's just 7 minutes long in this form, take a look, no Al Gore, but better. Visit his blog at

Of course he got his big break in film as a p.a. on Victimless Crimes-where he also played a cab driver and got a line. So take that Ivy League.


Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Flight of the Conchords

International week continues.

I am a huge fan of the HBO series Flight of the Conchords. Not only is it funny, and often it is very funny, but I really like what they do with the form of TV. Twice in each episode they break into a song and the ensuing low tech music video reminds me of Ernie Kovacs and early David Letterman.

They use their limitations- a low budget- as their strengths. In the most recent episode one video was shot as they rode bikes through the lower east side of Manhattan. Before that they did a dream sequence where "David Bowie" flew in to the room with his guide wires very visible.

There is a plot to every episode, but the real charm is their banter and their songs. I am not doing them justice here so take a look for yourself. This clip features Murray the band manager.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007


It was purely coincidental that yesterday's post was about foreign films and then two masters Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni passed away.

Every time I see a student film with a character called "death" I think of Bergman (here on the left.) Yesterday I saw several times the scene from The Seventh Seal where the white knight- Max Von Sydow- plays chess with Death. It is a great film, but honestly hard to watch. I am glad I saw it 20 years ago, it helped inform me, but I am not racing out to see it again soon.

This morning I learned of Antonioni's death and I was very saddened. Regular readers know of my fondness for Blow Up. I learned a lot about what film could be seeing that movie.

Both filmmakers challenged their audience. It was not always easy or fun to see their films, but they helped shape cinema and for that they should be celebrated.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Foreign Films

The last few films I have Netflixed have been foreign and most of the next ones are international as well. This, I think, says more about my lack of getting to the cinema when the films are released and the ease of home video distribution than about my taste in films.

I watch subtitled films differently than English language films. (On IFC a couple of weeks ago I saw a great film called The Ticket and it was subtitled even though it was largely in English because of the Scottish dialect.) To me power of the images and the emotion of the film comes through differently when not bogged down by the specifics of what the actors are saying.

Jim and I have edited a couple of foreign language films. The first was Serbian, the filmmaker returned to her devastated home country and toured Novi Sad, Belgrade and the small farm community where she grew up. While watching the dailies and having no idea what the people were saying, it was pretty easy to identify the powerful scenes. In addition to images of destruction two scenes that jump out at me are of an old man with only one eye and a handful of teeth telling us that this is their (Serbians) cycle of war and destruction. This scene was contrasted by a young woman in a church in Belgrade repairing a mosaic. She was as full of hope as the man was full of doom and gloom. Even though we didn't know what they were saying, you could tell from the images that it was important and should be in the film.

We also edited a film called The Music of Morocco and the Cycles of Life. In this case we made English, Arabic and French versions; and much like the Serbian film the important images and scenes were easily identified. From an editorial standpoint we just looked for scenes we liked and had the director talk us into the correct cutting points. In an odd way I learned a lot about cinema- the power of images- by editing a film in a foreign language. I hope to have that opportunity again.