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Sunday, May 17, 2015
Some quotes noting the influences on Cédric Jimenez' The Connection:

Brad Brevet, Rope Of Silicon

"Described as a 'European flipside to William Friedkin's The French Connection', The Connection is much more than a marketing blurb intent on piquing the interest of hard-to-attract general audience members. This is a down-and-dirty '70s crime thriller, with all the texture of the 35mm film it was shot on. In fact, marketing blurbs with this one are easy as you'll find odes to [Michael] Mann, Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese. This isn't to say it reaches the heights of those filmmakers, but the debt Jimenez owes to his predecessors is quite clear...

"The Connection isn't without its flaws, however. While the comparisons to Mann, De Palma and Scorsese are apt, it runs into trouble when it can't live up to its influences. Outside of some of the colorful flourishes reminding me of De Palma, this is very much a Michael Mann film though it lacks in Mann's control of sound, the hammering of gunfire Mann jars you out of your seat with, and the score and soundtrack is far from what Mann would deliver. A verbal confrontation between Tany and Michel almost immediately conjures memories of the sit down between Pacino and De Niro in Mann's Heat and if you're going to bring to light those comparisons you better be operating at the highest level and as much as I found it entertaining, The Connection can't stand with the big boys.

"But this isn't to diminish this movie in any way. As a piece of period entertainment, The Connection is rock solid."

Jonathan Harris, The Upcoming

"Jimenez has done well with this high-budget piece, and it’s a sure winner in its native country. The writing is not the best, however, the acting is superb, the soundtrack is fantastic and the cinematography is at times stunning. It’s clear there’s been an influence from the likes of many cat-and-mouse crime thrillers; the work of Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, and even Quentin Tarantino is significant within The Connection, as various scenes clearly remind viewers of those from Goodfellas, The Untouchables, The Departed, and Scarface. Particular moments set in the Krypton club leave viewers almost expecting to see Tony Montana giving the famous stare."

Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

"The Connection mixes elements from other films — Heat, The Untouchables — with its own style to tell a familiar tale well. It creates a world and pulls you in only to remind you at the end that this warm, sunny fantasy is actually the cold, dark world called reality."

Frank J. Avella interviews Cédric Jimenez at EdgeBoston.com

The film's look is dazzling, stunning, yet, quite gritty. "We shot in 35mm, which is always really beautiful. There's something special with 35mm that you can never have in HD. I am very close with my DP (Laurent Tangy). And I told him, we have to adapt the aesthetic of the movie around the story and not the story around the aesthetic...the shooting had to be instinctive."

It's easy to watch the film and get a certain Scorsese/"Mean Streets" sense. Jimenez acknowledges his influences, "Of course you can see the '70s American cinema like Scorsese, Coppola, Friedkin, Brian dePalma, for sure. I also love the French gangsters cinema, too, like Verneull, Melville. And Italian cinema."

What is interesting is that he says he didn't screen any of the works of those filmmakers to prep for "The Connection," Instead he watched Alejandro Inarritu films (like "Babel") and Darren Aronofsky's work, "looking for reality and looking for something very intense and very visceral." He adds, "But in the end you have you make your own movie with your own personality."

"The Connection," which will be released here by Drafthouse Films, marks the self-taught director's third feature after getting his start as a producer a decade ago. He's currently working on an English language film with American actors but didn't want to elaborate further.

Posted by Geoff at 5:52 PM CDT
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Monday, March 30, 2015
Wikipedia says that "Soda Stereo [was] an Argentine rock band that is considered by critics to be the most important and influential Ibero-American band of all time and a Latin music legend." The band's most famous song, Persiana Americana (1986), is likewise considered to be the most famous rock song in Spanish, chanted in stadiums throughout Latin America, according to Intemperie's Laura Quiceno.

In the Intemperie article, Quiceno interviews the song's lyricist, Argentine professor Jorge Daffunchio, who tells her that one day, he'd heard on the radio that there was a contest to submit lyrics for songs for several bands, including Soda Stereo. Members of the band liked the lyrics he wrote, and invited him to write something for them, as they were lyrically stumped, and also searching for melodies. Daffunchio tells Quiceno that in a week, he wrote about ten songs, one of which was Persiana Americana, inspired by the American thrillers he loved to read at the time by writers such as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. "Ceiling fans, rooftops, heat, cigarette smoke, etc.," Daffunchio explains. And of course, the window blinds.

The next day, band member Gustavo Cerati called him and said he really liked that one, but wanted something more "romantic." So Daffunchio then "wrote a second version, and this time I thought of Dressed To Kill by Brian De Palma."

And the rest is history-- you can hear the song on YouTube.

Posted by Geoff at 11:57 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, March 31, 2015 12:16 AM CDT
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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Earlier this week, I posted a link to a New York Times video in which David Robert Mitchell narrates the opening shot of his new film, It Follows, which opens in theaters tomorrow. Today, A.V. Club's A.A. Dowd posted an interview with Mitchell in which the filmmaker discusses the film and some of its inspirations. Here's an excerpt:
AVC: There’s a lot of vintage John Carpenter in this film, especially in the music and the use of space. Was he a big influence, and were there other filmmakers whose work you studied when bringing the movie to life?

DRM: Of course, I totally love Carpenter—Halloween, and his version of The Thing is a favorite of mine. I’ve definitely watched his movies a million times. I’m a fan of his blocking and his staging and his compositions. For me, it wasn’t just about saying, “This particular shot is a Carpenter homage.” I’ve watched his stuff enough that’s probably going to come out in the filmmaking. But there’s a ton of other filmmakers that factored in, too. I also love Cronenberg, I’m a big De Palma fan—I think there’s probably a lot of De Palma in there as well. Hitchcock, too. Rear Window is my favorite movie of all time. I love Creature From The Black Lagoon. I could go on and on about all the people that I love. And then there are other elements of the movie that are not necessarily the horror elements. Some of the inspiration for that comes from a lot of different places, few of them having anything to do with horror.

AVC: Do you have rules about how you write teenage characters? One of the interesting things about It Follows is that it features kids who don’t talk in references or relate everything to something they’ve seen.

DRM: Yeah, there’s an avoidance of certain aspects of pop culture, but then I like to embrace other parts of it. It’s tricky, because I’ve only made these two films, but I have a million different scripts and a million different things that I want to make. The two that I’ve done have just been about teenagers, but I have stories about many different characters at many different stages of life.

It more has to do with my general belief that film doesn’t have to operate within the world we live in. The ground rules of the film world don’t have to be how we understand the world. And something doesn’t have to be fantasy to take some elements from fantasy. Movies are very much dreams, in a way, and you can use that to your advantage.

AVC: The time period of the movie is fascinatingly indeterminate. One of the girls has this mobile device, but otherwise we could be watching a movie set in 1990.

DRM: There are production design elements from the ’50s on up to modern day. A lot of it is from the ’70s and ’80s. That e-reader cell phone—or “shell phone”—you’re talking about is not a real device. It’s a ’60s shell compact that we turned into a cell phone e-reader. So I wanted modern things, but if you show a specific smartphone now, it dates it. It’s too real for the movie. It would bother me anyway. So we made one up. And all of that is really just to create the effect of a dream—to place it outside of time, and to make people wonder about where they are. Those are things that I think happen to us when we have a dream.

AVC: Plenty of people have read the “It” of It Follows as a metaphor for a sexually transmitted disease, but that doesn’t entirely scan, as you can’t get rid of an STD by sleeping with someone else.

DRM: [Laughs.] Right, exactly. I was totally aware of that connection when I wrote the script, but it wasn’t necessarily the driving force in terms of subtext. There are a lot of other aspects. I tend to shy away from explaining it, but I’m happy to have the conversation.

AVC: Of course, you don’t need to unpack your own film. That’s for us to do.

DRM: [Laughs.] But I would agree with you that even if you read it that way, it’s much more complicated than that.

AVC: You mentioned Brian De Palma earlier. He’s a director who builds his film around set pieces, and I feel as though the scary moments in It Follows are essentially set pieces, too. Did you write all of them into the script or were there any moments born when you were on location?

DRM: Oh, no, it’s all in the script. There are small elements that we worked out on set. But we didn’t have a ton of money, so it was about having a really solid plan and going in and doing everything in our power to get it done. There was very little time to change things once we got going.

So I worked those [set pieces] out in my head beforehand. Most of that stuff was probably in the first draft of the script. A few things changed. Some set pieces became smaller because of budget. There were a couple of really cool ideas from the first draft that would have been really fun to do, but we would have just needed a lot more money and people. I had a lot of ideas of ways you could use the rules of this monster to generate suspense and create some really interesting set pieces. And I only got to do a few of them in the film, really.


Also today, The Playlist's Drew Taylor posted about Mitchell and his film:

"This week's superb chiller It Follows (read our review) has been frequently described as a 'throwback,'" Taylor begins. "This probably has to do with the film, which concerns a teenage girl (Maika Monroe from the similarly wonderful The Guest) who is stalked by a ghoul following an untoward sexual encounter, feeling like it's from another era. The synth-heavy electronic score (check out a few cuts here) is straight out of the '80s, while other aspects feel eerie and timeless in a way that few modern day horror films do. We sat down with director David Robert Mitchell and talked about the five biggest influences on It Follows, and some are as surprising as the movie itself.

"Throughout the course of our conversation, we talked about a number of influences that come to bear on the film — from the French New Wave to the stylized camera trickery of Brian De Palma (Mitchell says he didn't tell his financiers about his intention to shoot so many extremely long takes), from the hollowed-out city of Detroit to the suburban horror of Poltergeist. But the following five influences are the most significant to Mitchell —these were the films that he first referenced and had no problem elaborating on. Some of the films' DNA is easy to spot in It Follows, while others function more as spiritual successors. But all of it enhances Mitchell's work, and it's easy to think that in a few years some young director of the next horror sensation will cite It Follows as a reference."

The five main influences on It Follows, according to the article, are Creature from the Black Lagoon, George Romero's Night of the Living Dead," John Carpenter (and Howard Hawks' The Thing from Another World), Wes Craven's Nightmare On Elm Street, and Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas.

Posted by Geoff at 10:27 PM CDT
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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

In the New York Times video linked to above, David Robert Mitchell narrates the opening shot of his new movie, It Follows:

"So this is the opening shot of the film. We’re starting with this sort of slow, kind of calm, objective shot of this middle class neighborhood. And we see this girl running in fear. We’re not really sure what it is that she’s running from, or what she’s scared of. Maybe a play on a bit of a cliché, some of this is, right down to the wardrobe is… she’s in high heels, which I’ve had some people point out, questioning, ‘does that make a lot of sense?’ And the answer is no. It’s definitely a bit of a play on the conventions of horror, all the way back to referencing women in peril, from even De Palma movies, for instance. You’ll notice throughout this sequence… we did this in… it’s in one shot. It’s playing on this idea of us being sort of colder observers of this terrible thing happening, and we’re on the outside of it."

Posted by Geoff at 11:24 PM CDT
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Saturday, February 28, 2015
In an interview with Bollywood Hungama's Joginder Tuteja, Bollywood director Sriram Raghavan, whose new film Badlapur opened last week, discusses making thrillers and, shades of yesterday's post on Big Bad Wolves directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, blending genres and inspirations. "Ek Haseena Thi could be termed as a romantic, revenge thriller or a jail drama," Raghavan tells Tuteja. "Johnny Gaddaar was a caper heist movie. Agent Vinod was a spy thriller. Now Badlapur is a psychological thriller. I like exploring this genre to the fullest." With a laugh, Raghavan continues, "Everyone I meet asks me why do I make only thrillers. My point is that even within the genre, there is so much variety. Every film requires its own kind of focus and internalization I guess."

For the new movie, the director tells Tuteja, "We, my main actors and HoDs watched several films in the zone that we were working on, ranging from Robert Bresson to Brian De Palma. I saw many world cinema thrillers. Iran's The Separation is also a thriller. I made a list of reference films for Badlapur which I shared with the gang. I made Varun [Dhawan] watch a lot of movies that he may never have heard of. He had a great time and subconsciously helped his performance."

Shades of Hitchcock promotion for Psycho, which stated that no one would be admitted into the theater once the picture begins, the poster and trailers for Badlapur simply and plainly tell viewers, with a tease, "Don't miss the beginning."

Posted by Geoff at 11:39 AM CST
Updated: Saturday, February 28, 2015 12:36 PM CST
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Friday, February 27, 2015
Back in 2013, I posted some quotes from Fantasia Film Fest co-director Mitch Davis enthusing about Big Bad Wolves as a mix of the Coen Brothers, Park Chan-wook and Brian De Palma. Later that year, Quentin Tarantino declared the film his favorite of 2013.

Today, Impact's Sam Todd posted an interview with Navot Papushado, who co-directed Big Bad Wolves with Aharon Keshales. Prior to Wolves, the pair had made a feature called Rabies (pictured here), and they more recently provided a short film for the horror anthology ABCs of Death 2.

When asked by Todd to talk about what films or filmmakers have influenced Papushado and Keshales, Papushado replies, "Rabies was not only influenced by horror films. Our favourite directors, if I had to list them, would be Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Brian De Palma, Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Polanski and William Friedkin. We realised that many of the great directors started in horror. Specifically for Rabies, we wondered what it would be like if Robert Altman directed a horror film, or something like Magnolia, where all these people are brought together by terrible circumstances. We drew inspiration from a lot of genres, horror films and just films we liked. We also took influence from recent Korean films, specifically their blending of genres, it’s dramatic, it’s horrific, it’s funny, it’s everything. We are great fans of the Coen brothers and Quentin Tarantino. Rabies was our first attempt at mixing it all up. We took everything we liked and mixed it up in one crazy film."

Near the end of the interview, Todd asks, "Which director should every aspiring filmmaker be familiar with?"

Papushado: "I’d go straight for the source: Sergio Leone, especially The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, it was the bible for me as a kid. I watch it every time I begin shooting a movie. Obviously Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, the way Spielberg uses the camera to tell a story is a masterclass, it’s the best school for moving the camera. Of course Tarantino and the Coen Brothers from recent years. I can’t not put Francis Ford Coppola and Brian De Palma. Everyone is inspired by these 70’s filmmakers because they invented everything."

Posted by Geoff at 11:20 PM CST
Updated: Friday, February 27, 2015 11:27 PM CST
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Thursday, February 26, 2015
Slit, written, edited, and directed by Colin Clark, will be released online in the coming weeks, according to the film's Facebook page. The description at the Slit website reads, in part:

"Passion and murder are in store for two party girls whose steamy sexual encounter turns bloody when a black-gloved killer follows them home.

"Taking its cue from Italian 'giallo' thrillers of the 1970's, SLIT is a contemporary horror experience that mixes together a color-saturated visual style, vivid sensuality, and shocking violence, set to a pulsating synthesizer score.

"'Giallo' - Italian for 'yellow' - refers to a genre of films inspired by pulp mystery novels published in Italy with distinctive yellow covers. 'Giallo' films of the 1960's-1970's bear a distinct, baroque cinematic style -- and are known for their vivid colors and bizarre camerawork, fetishistic close-ups, iconic black-gloved killers, and nerve-jangling scores. Practitioners of the 'giallo' arts include Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Umberto Lenzi, and Lucio Fulci.

"SLIT was envisioned as a mashup between the sizzling eroticism of early Brian De Palma (his Body Double, Dressed to Kill and Blow Out are unofficial 'giallos') and the colorful-yet-brutal cinematic overkill of Argento (Suspiria, Deep Red), accompanied by an 80's-style electronic score reminiscent of Giorgio Moroder (Cat People, Scarface), Jan Hammer, or Tangerine Dream."

There is also a trailer for the film on YouTube.

Posted by Geoff at 12:06 AM CST
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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Damián Szifrón's Wild Tales is one of the five movies Oscar-nominated this year for best foreign-language film. And according to the New York Times' Larry Rohter, "In Argentina, Wild Tales has become both the country’s all-time box office champion and a genuine social phenomenon that has made folk heroes of some characters." Rohter adds that the Spanish-language title of Szifrón's film is actually closer to "Savage Tales," and notes that "the opening credits unfurl against a backdrop of tigers, sharks, wolves and other predators in their habitats."

The film is made up of six episodes, each with a different cast and characters, in which someone goes into a vengeful rage. Building on the imagery of the opening credits, Szifrón explains to Rohter, "What differentiates us from animals is our capacity to restrain ourselves. An animal can’t, and is condemned to its instincts. In contrast, we have a fight or flee mechanism, but it comes with a very high cost. Most of us live with the frustration of having to repress oneself, but some people explode. This is a movie about those who explode, and we can all understand why they do. Any time I read about someone who has committed a supposedly irrational or barbarous act, that person doesn’t feel foreign to me." Szifrón later adds that while the six stories may be stylistically different from each other, "they are vital organs of the same body" and "to sustain itself, the movie needed all of them."

In this excerpt from the end of Rohter's article, he discusses Szifrón's influences, which include Brian De Palma:

Born in the suburbs of Buenos Aires into a Jewish immigrant family with roots in Poland and Russia, Mr. Szifrón was a cinephile as a boy. His father dealt in electronic equipment, and his son early on acquired a VHS player and a digital camera. As a result, Mr. Szifrón said, “I saw all the classics at a very early age.” He began making his own shorts at the age of 9, and before Wild Tales, he had written and directed two movies and a pair of television series that were hits in Latin America.

Wild Tales contains echoes of some of his childhood favorites, among them Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg and Brian De Palma, as well as The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. But in the end, the movie is a very personal distillation of “themes that are in the collective unconscious,” Mr. Szifrón said.

“There are a lot of different things from daily life being processed and given free rein in Wild Tales, violence and vengeance among them,” he continued. “But at its core, what stands out is this pleasure of losing control and the desire for liberation. This is a movie about the desire for freedom, and how this lack of freedom, and the rage and anguish it produces, can cause us to run off the rails.”

Godfrey Cheshire reviews the film at RogerEbert.com, and concludes that "with a confident, coolly elegant visual style somewhere between Demme and DePalma, Szifron emerges from Wild Tales an international auteur to be reckoned with."

Posted by Geoff at 5:16 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, February 21, 2015 4:21 PM CST
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Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Pictured here from left-to-right are Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, and Wes Anderson, posing last month at The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles. The Frame's John Horn interviewed Anderson recently at his suite at the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, where, according to Michelle Lanz' written introduction, "he was working on a screenplay with Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola for a planned animated film!"

Late in the interview (which can also be listened to at the Frame website), the following exchange takes place:
[John Horn] You co-wrote "Budapest" with Hugo Guinness. What advantages are there working with a writing partner and what is it like? Are you guys throwing lines out or are you doing it all electronically?

[Wes Anderson] Roman and Jason should be walking in the door in two-and-half minutes and this is how we do it: I'm just pointing to a notebook with a stack of notes and pages here...

With some incredibly neat handwriting...

Oh, I keep it very neat, yes. As you can see, this is, you know: "De Palma Sequence." It has nothing to do with De Palma. That's a person we're trying to steal from. It's actually an action sequence we're trying to write for an animated film that we have in mind. It's a kind of scene where, really what we ought to be doing is we ought to be bringing in the De Palma blu-rays and imitating them very precisely. Right now we're winging it a bit. We're going De Palma-esque but we probably just need to go De Palma.


Posted by Geoff at 11:51 PM CST
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Sunday, February 8, 2015

One of last year's best films was Alex Ross Perry's bitingly sardonic Listen Up Philip. Perry's new film, Queen Of Earth just premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival, and many are highly impressed. "A deep-dish cinephile with a pronounced affection for late 1960s/early 1970s alt-Hollywood cinema," writes Variety critic Scott Foundas, "Perry is working this time in a style that seems equally influenced by doppelganger narratives like Bergman’s Persona and Brian De Palma’s Sisters, as well as by the claustrophobic domestic terror of Repulsion and Chantal Akerman’s seminal Jeanne Dielman. (Perry himself has also cited Woody Allen’s Interiors as a key influence.)"

Perry tells Indiewire's Eric Kohn about making a smaller film this time around, and movies that inspired Queen Of Earth:

"All this came together during a Fassbinder retrospective at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. I went to a double bill of The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant and Martha. I knew that was the kind of movie I wanted to make. From there, it became this fun little maze of what other kind of movies you can fold into this — you can take a very sad, emotional drama and find yourself talking about a cheap horror movie like Carnival of Souls and realizing it's more connected to those other films than they seem.

"The common thread here is these really interesting women stories — these unique, threatening and occasionally frightening stories about the troubles of broken women. That's the driving force behind almost all of Fassbinder's films. So immersing in a retrospective gives you time to marinate in this theme of women under extreme duress. But then you look at Carnival of Souls, or Roman Polanski's Repulsion, and it takes the form of exaggerated gothic horror. Then you look at Robert Altman's Images, which straddles both lines and becomes a fascinating text of its own. In his body of work, at the time of that film and now, that one sort of sticks out as this quasi-horror experiment. Then I was also thinking of Woody Allen's Interiors, which is as quiet a drama as you can have. I wanted this movie to live in this cinematic world of broken women."

Last September, Perry tweeted an image from De Palma's Body Double in response to being tagged to post a #cinephilephoto. And he mentions De Palma in an interview with Richard Porton in the Winter 2014 issue of Cineaste. Asked by Porton how working at Kim's Video influenced his film education, Perry replies, "That overlapped with my time at NYU. I distilled it down to one point: Working at a place like that taught me not to be afraid of what I liked. Film school teaches you to be very afraid of what you like. You don't want to be the one who stands up in class and says, 'I think Sylvester Stallone is an incredible director.' You're going to look like an idiot, especially at NYU where everyone is trying to be as highbrow as possible. Working at Kim's taught me, working with people like Sean [Price Williams], to like what you like. But you have to defend what you like about these films. You could come into Kim's and say, 'I want to rent the two-tape edition of The Mother And The Whore.' Eustache is an incredible filmmaker. But you needed to defend why you were renting Staying Alive or Rocky IV. Stallone is an incredible filmmaker and even Jean Eustache respected him.

"That's a lesson you'll never be taught in an academic setting—how to equally appreciate high and low cinema. At NYU, people might see Brian De Palma as a trashy filmmaker who made pulpy movies in the Eighties. When you were working at Kim's, Brian De Palma was the master."

Posted by Geoff at 2:09 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, February 8, 2015 2:11 AM CST
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