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Harmony Korine’s first monograph reads like a grand montage of a primed spirit. To date, he has created art of several mediums for renowned galleries, published fiction books, attempted a tap-dance revolution, written and directed films and music videos, and recorded banjo music—all with an unflappable belief in a “unified aesthetic.”

In 192 pages, his output reads as a materialization of trust, his faith anchored in pure instinct and expression. The absence of self-constraint lies in Korine’s “Mistakist” art, where typos, misinterpretation, and lack of instruction transform into a modern-day romanticism born from his grandmother’s basement. Don’t think, plan, or worry too much.

Harmony Korine’s studio in Nashville, Tennessee. Image courtesy of Gagosian Gallery.

Through stirring texts and imagery, the eponymous catalogue commemorates his art and film retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, tracing Korine’s influences and his ability to fly beyond them. The culture of the south, African-American art, Buster Keaton, and the photography of Ralph Eugene Meatyard greet him down the hallucinatory path of his own personal myths.

The Takeaway

Followers of Korine’s filmography will see the development of his junkyard iconography through vivid stills, character descriptions for Kids, prototypes for Trash Humpers, and wardrobe polaroids of Solomon and the child-rabbit from Gummo. His uninhibited association of ideas is mapped out in excerpts of the unorthodox script for Julien-donkey boy, stories from high school, early sketch notes, and his acceptance letter to dogme95. The paintings, video installations, sculptures, and photographs are a tremor of tones and surfaces that answer to an ethos demanding its own release. Harmony Korine has and always will be the master of intuition by eschewing mastery itself. He writes, “i need to go where i am most useful!” Let’s take note. MM

A version of this article appears in MovieMaker’s Fall 2019 Complete Guide to Making Movies issue, on newsstands October 30, 2018. BLOCKBUSTER, the latest exhibition by Korine, runs from September 11 to October 20, 2018 at Gagosian New York on Madison Avenue. 

The post <b>Book Review:</b> Harmony Korine’s First Monograph Explores Multi-Disciplinary Practices Ahead of <i>BLOCKBUSTER</i> Exhibit appeared first on MovieMaker Magazine.

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Returning for the sixth time, Beyond Fest continues to build on its reputation as the home to all of Los Angeles’s genre wants and needs.

With possibly their most impressive lineup yet, Beyond Fest returns for a 2018 fest that includes some of the most hotly anticipated horror titles hitting theaters soon, as well as a selection of hard-hitting crimes thrillers from the likes of Gaspar Noe (whose Climax opens the festival), Steve McQueen (with the West Coast premiere of his festival hit Widows) and S. Craig Zahler. In addition, Beyond Fest continues its commitment to revival screenings of genre classics, featuring everything from Bubba Ho Tep (2002) to The Monster Squad (1987) to Django (1966) to The Fly (1986).

Whether you want to see the newest prestige pictures, the freshest piece of nasty grindhouse violence or whatever Luca Guadagnino’s version of Suspiria turns out to be, Beyond Fest 2018 has got you covered. Here is a selection of five of the most essential screenings to catch at this year’s Beyond Fest.

The post <b>2018 Beyond Fest Preview</b>: Five Screenings to Catch at Los Angeles’ Expertly Programmed Genre Festival appeared first on MovieMaker Magazine.

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Cool, cocky and complex, Ethan Hawke sits down with me at a breakfast table in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn for a spirited conversation about his unique quarter-century-plus trajectory in the film world.

Hawke is about as articulate, clear-minded and amiable a movie star as you’ll ever interview, constantly downplaying his prodigious accomplishments with modesty and grace, straight-talking about how he got where he is today, thankful for his good fortune, acutely cognizant of his missteps.

It’s a propitious time for Hawke to take a space station-like view of his career. As we head into the New Year, Hawke’s creative engine is firing on all cylinders. His latest directorial effort, Blaze, is premiering at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. He has starring roles in three new movies: Vincent D’Onofrio’s The Kid, Jesse Peretz’s Juliet, Naked (also premiering at Sundance) and Robert Budreau’s Stockholm. And if all that isn’t enough, he’s also developing his next feature film, an adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ soulful, surreal play Camino Real.

This is the second time Ethan Hawke and I have crossed paths. The first time was way back at the debut of his career, not long after the 1989 release of Peter Weir’s sleeper hit, Dead Poets Society. Hawke’s portrayal of the shy, introspective prep school student “Todd Anderson” launched his acting career. On his way to the 1990 Cannes Film Festival, Hawke slept over a couple of nights in my home outside Avignon, France, invited over (unbeknownst to me) by my endearing, mischievous pal, Seymour Cassel, the journeyman actor who worked on several films with the legendary John Cassavetes.

I kick things off by asking if Hawke remembers his stay at my place.

“Sure, it was my first time in France,” he says. “I was traveling with Robert Sean Leonard and Josh Hamilton. Bringing us full circle, Josh stars in my new movie, Blaze.”

Juliet, Naked Starring Rose Byrne and Ethan Hawke

That long-ago morning, Seymour and I picked up three scruffy young men with backpacks in the main square of Avignon. A gaggle of French teenagers, mostly girls, had surrounded them, asking for autographs. Released under the title, Le cercle des poètes disparus, Dead Poets Society had been a box-office smash in France.

“It was early in the morning when we got to the Avignon train station,” Hawke remembers. “We walked up to the town’s main square, singing Streets of Laredo all the way. It was so cool. They flew Robert and I over for Cannes, so we came a month early. Nowadays I fly in for festivals and fly out almost the same day. We were so excited about free tickets to France that we traded in our first class seats for coach so we could bring along our pal, Josh. We were carefree and had the best time.”

I remember getting the young actors settled in at my place where they refused to sleep in beds but rather proudly unwrapped their sleeping bags on my living room floor. That afternoon there was a line of teenage girls outside my place, clamoring to see their big screen idols. I don’t know how those teens found out where I lived, but I suspect it was Seymour. Nevertheless, there they were, waiting in front of my gate. Ethan, Robert and Josh asked me if they could go out “to talk” with them. They bemoaned my stern command that the front gate would stay locked. What happened next was a scene out of some sappy prison camp movie. Zoom in for the close-up on three rakish young men in blue jeans and T-shirts passing out handshakes, kisses, and autographs through the gate’s bars.

“You protected us from scandal,” says Ethan, 47 years old now, with the same boyish charm.

How could I ever have imagined what amazing things that happy-go-lucky 20-year-old actor was going to accomplish over the next two and a half decades? There would be scores of starring roles in over 50 films, both big-budget Hollywood productions such as Gattaca (1997), Training Day (2001) and The Magnificent Seven (2016) as well as indie jewels, most notably Hawke’s significant work with Richard Linklater on The Newton Boys (1998), Waking Life (2001), Fast Food Nation (2006), the widely-acclaimed Boyhood (2014), and the remarkable Before trilogy with Julie Delpy: Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013).

Not satisfied with just being a highly sought-after movie actor, Hawke branched out into theater roles with his Broadway debut in The Seagull in 1992, expanding his repertoire over the years with outstanding performances in works by Shakespeare, Brecht, Stoppard, Rabe and Shepard. In 2001, Hawke directed his first narrative film, Chelsea Walls, followed by The Hottest State (2006), and then made the poignant 2014 documentary, Seymour: An Introduction, about piano teacher Seymour Bernstein. His new movie, Blaze, is inspired by the outlaw country musician, Blaze Foley.

This too-quick overview of Hawke’s impressive productivity since I first met him doesn’t even include his pair of well-regarded novels, The Hottest State (1996), and Ash Wednesday (2002) nor his award-winning children’s book, Rules for a Knight, (2015). And there are just too many Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations to list here.

The post <b>The Glory of <i>Blaze:</i></b> Ethan Hawke on His Restless Spirit, Coming Full Circle and His New Country Music Movie appeared first on MovieMaker Magazine.

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Whether you’re a moviemaker, critic, or devoted film collector, lovers of cinema can all agree: A Criterion Collection release is a stamp of cultural importance.

How can the arthouse distributor’s releases be used as tools to help independents hone their craft? Criterion Crash Course, our series focusing on new Criterion titles, considers every aspect of Blu-ray/DVD packages, from the film itself to its special features, as weapons in a moviemaking arsenal. Explore the moviemaking lessons from these packages—gifts that keep on giving.

The Tree of Life

Starting with the beginning of time and stretching all the way to the death of the universe, Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life often doesn’t get enough credit for how small and intimate it is. Malick’s is a film of small moments—of boys rolling down hills, chasing their mother through their house with a lizard, picking weeds in the lawn, and throwing rocks through windows.

Criterion’s new special edition of the 2011 film features a widely publicized new cut with nearly 50 minutes of new footage, only expanding upon the film’s focus on these small moments. This new cut makes The Tree of Life feel both bigger and smaller, allowing the structure to breathe, building new arcs that extend out of old ones, and reshaping the roles of some key characters. The film is edited as one big montage, which allows these new scenes and shots to be woven with ease into footage viewers have already seen. Every single character is strengthened and every theme present in the original cut is elaborated and expanded upon.

The new cut of The Tree of Life adds a segment with Sean Penn’s grown-up Jack O’Brien to the beginning of the film, which plays like Malick’s Knight of Cups in miniature, combining the free-wheeling decadence of that L.A.-set party movie with some of the indelible 16mm and video experimentation of his 2017 romance Song to Song. The breadth of childhood in the back half of The Tree of Life, on the other hand, expands even more, here, than in Malick’s original cut. Scenes centered on the specificity and repetition of swimming, running, wrestling, playing clash with moments of interpersonal relations and awe-inducing glimpses of nature. A 15-minute segment in which Mr. O’Brien (Brad Pitt) goes on a trip in Malick’s original cut is expanded to nearly 40 minutes in the new version. By the time he returns, it’s as if he’s lived an entire lifetime: A storm has devastated half of the town, we’re introduced to a neighboring boy whose father abuses him and, in one poignant moment, Jack has told his mother, “I wish I was little again.”

The Tree of Life remains as overwhelming an audiovisual experience as ever, regardless of what version you choose to watch. Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography swoops close to and past the family, crafting an energetic and lively environment. Douglas Trumbull’s visual effects astound in the 20-minute creation scene, in which practical effects (featuring chemicals and dye) are used to re-creature the Big Bang and the subsequent formation of the universe. Perhaps strongest of all is the film’s sound design, for which Eric Adahal is given credit. Reaching from such grand scale cosmic events to the most minute and indistinguishable of moments, it is the film’s lush and bold array of sounds that really sells the landscape that Malick seeks to evoke.

Lessons in Sound Design

The original 2011 Blu-Ray release of The Tree of Life featured a notice to play the disc as loud as possible in order to achieve the optimal experience. Indeed, sound design has always been a crucial element to the film’s overall success.

From start to finish, Malick’s film is a wall of music, featuring pieces such as John Tavner’s ‘Funeral Canticle’, Zbigniew Presiner’s ‘Lacrimosa’ and even Bach’s ‘Toccata and Fugue in D Minor’. As expanded upon in one of the disc’s special features, each of these pieces is carefully chosen to accentuate the tone of the scenes as well as the thematic weight behind them.

Layered in with these pieces are the constant sounds of trickling streams and crashing waves, crickets chirping in the night sky, dogs barking and, of course, Malick’s famed use of voiceover. Each character gets a chance to expand upon the joys they are experience, express their existential angst and spill their innermost thoughts and emotions. The whispers clash with the booming pieces of music. “Where were you?” Chastain’s mother questions. A version of the creation of the universe follows, accompanied by the overwhelmingly powerful and beamingly loud ‘Lacrimosa’ by Zbigniew Presiner. Malick sound design is as balanced as his storytelling, with each piece of music, foley, voiceover and dialogue carefully chosen as to accentuate what he means to express.

The new cut of The Tree of Life is a fascinating study in how sound design can be used to shape story and meaning. The final scenes inside the boys’ childhood home (and the journey to the next home) are reshaped in this new cut. There is new footage on the end of this scene that shows Hunter McCracken’s Jack making his way to his new home and new school. The piece that accompanies this scene, ‘Domine Jesu Christe’ by Berlioz, is shifted so that the most tender, emotionally cathartic portion, as well as the Mother’s voice over in which she beckons her son to “do good to them,” now accompanies the destination rather than the journey. The catharsis no longer belongs with the moment where Jack and his family leave their old home but, rather, when they reach their new one.

A dying plesiosaur licks its wounds in The Tree of Life. Image courtesy of The Criterion Collection

Special Features

In addition to the two different cuts, The Tree of Life contains a selection of featurettes and interviews, providing a mix of theoretical content and production-based content.

Carried over from the original release is a 30-minute Making of documentary, featuring various snippets of interviews with Chastain and Pitt, effects artists Trumbull and Glass, composer Desplat and many others. In addition to this, there are full interviews with Jessica Chastain and Visual Effects artist Dan Glass. Chastain goes in depth on the fascinating production as well as Malick’s unusual process. Especially enlightening are her comments on the voiceover process, of which Malick recorded from over 30 sessions. Chastain would read from a big stack of lines in quiet whispers, wherever she could – even at a Guitar Center in Southern California. Altogether Malick amassed over 20 hours of lines to choose from. There are about five minutes of total voice over from Chastain in the film.

Elsewhere, there is a fascinating interview with critic Alex Ross on the soundtrack to the film. He details how the music crosses a wide stylistic spectrum, giving a sense of someone with an “omnivorous musical taste and finding unexpected ways to bring music in.” The Tree of Life has a huge soundtrack and opens with John Tavner’s ‘Funeral Canticle’, a piece written in memoriam of his father. This begins a pattern of requiem/memorial music, including the aforementioned ‘Lacrimosa’ from Requiem for my Friend, written by Presiner in honor of Krystztof Kieslwoski, as well as Berlioz’s ‘Requiem,’ which closes the film. These pieces give an elegiac memorial quality, far from anguish and at more of a remove, expressing what Ross calls “mourning within memory.” In addition, Malick’s choice of a composer like Mahler suggests a kinship, thanks to Mahler’s obsessive concern “with faith, death and whatever transcendent world can follow.”

The universe is born, thanks to practical effects from Douglas Trumbull and Dan Glass. Image Courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

There is also a wonderful analysis of Lubezki’s cinematography courtesy of Benjamin Bin, titled Natural Cubism, featuring a fascinating collection of interviews with Lubezki, Erik Brown, Jack Fisk and others. Lastly, there is Matt Zoller Seitz and Serena Bramble’s video essay All Things Shining from a larger piece on Malick’s entire career. One of the most fascinating portion of this concerns how Malick uses the voiceover to paint grand thematic gestures. Jack is the overall narrator, the storyteller. Overall, there is no polished narrative shape to this narration with the voiceover instead being linked by theme and image association. The creation of the universe is a large segment of the film, yet it comes from a mother’s questioning of God’s place in her life, delivered in voiceover. Later in the film, Penn’s character asks of God to guide him “to the end of time,” giving us an auditory cue to where the last 10 minutes of the film may take us.

The Takeaway

The Tree of Life is, love it or hate it, one of the most audacious achievements of the century, and this new Criterion Collection release gives fans of all kinds something to chew on. The film remains an incredible sensory experience, especially with the wonderful 4K remaster and 5.1 audio tracks. In diving into the release, it’s tough not to be drawn in to the film’s impeccable sonic landscape. The supplements gathered and created by Criterion only further emphasize just how thoroughly thought through the sound design is – from soundtrack to sound effects to dialogue. If you’re attempting to swing for the fences and work out some grand themes that may be tough to grasp, perhaps you can start with sound, the unsung hero of what is often reduced to simply a visual medium. MM

The Tree of Life was released by The Criterion Collection on Blu-ray and DVD September 11, 2018. All images courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

The post <b>Criterion Crash Course</b>: Moviemaking Lessons from Criterion’s <i>The Tree of Life</i> appeared first on MovieMaker Magazine.

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I knew that jumping into the warped mind of director Panos Cosmatos to make Mandy was going to be an experience out of the ordinary.

A conventional revenge story at first glance, the film explores love and loss at its core, and breaks genre boundaries by way of a visceral acid trip of sorts as we follow Red (Nicolas Cage) as he avenges the death of Mandy, (Andrea Riseborough), his one true love. Mandy’s production presented many complicated hurdles, which were intensified since I arrived on the project only a few weeks before principal photography began. Cage broke his ankle on the set of another film, which delayed the production and ultimately rendered the original cinematographer unavailable. Panos and I knew each other through mutual friends, and although we had never worked together, this gave me a jumpstart into the film, as well as his mind, as I had an idea of what to expect from the process.

Rattled Cage: Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) has nothing to lose but his mind in Panos Cosmatos’ revenge chiller-thriller, Mandy. Image courtesy of RLJE Films

Panos had a clear idea of what he wanted to achieve, and our conversation began with a specific list of visual references ranging from Black Rain to Fist of the North Star, as well as a carefully curated playlist of music ranging from Van Halen, to Electric Wizard, to Ennio Morricone that he had shared with the film’s composer, the late Johann Johannsson. Our goal was to create a look that would take the viewer back to the prime years of ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s action movies—paying homage to the ways in which each of those eras was influenced by the films of Panos’ father, George Cosmatos—and then augment them into the realm of expressionism. 

Early in the process we agreed that the film needed to be shot on anamorphic lenses, with no room for handheld aesthetics. We opted for Primo Anamorphic lenses—which, by the pure nature of their size and weight, eliminated any chance of the camera ever being rigged onto my shoulder. Ultimately we ended up with a generous Alexa Mini package supplied to us by Panavision. 

Another equally important task was to create as much of the film’s imagery in camera as humanly possible. Our locations played a crucial role in this part of the process, so Panos and production designer Hubert Pouille spent a lot of time together designing and building sets within these environments. One of our more challenging days involved filming in a quonset hut—a lightweight, metal barn of sorts—redesigned as the chemist’s lab. (Naturally, in the case of a film like Mandy, this scene also involved a real tiger.) 

Rock Bottom: DP Benjamin Loeb lensed Mandy‘s wild climax at the foot of 100M rock walls. Photograph by Gaëtan Chekaiban

My gaffer Dirk van Rampelbergh installed 15 DMG SL1 LED fixtures in the ceiling all controlled through DMX (a Digital Multiplex that synchs lighting units together to create or control sequences), which was covered by a thick frosted plexiglass roof for added diffusion within the set-build. Our tight shooting schedule forced us to keep the lighting design, as much as possible, a part of the set in order to move faster on the shooting day. Panos loves adding flares to the scenes, so we always had a small dedo light available to help push in a flare from our key side, along with a small LED tube which we often fixed to the front of the lens.

My camera assistant Myriam Amouri and I tested every possible color filter combination we could get our hands on to make a cocktail of filtration specifically for each location. We ended up with a mix of coral, chocolate, and tobacco filters, as well as our pure red color, which became a very important tool throughout the film itself, and, of course, our trusted ND grads (graduated neutral density filters) that could never be far enough into the frame. This was always a fun conversation for Panos and me, as we considered how heavy we could go, and how far into the frame the grads could be.

One of the more memorable behind-the-scenes struggles befell our hard working SFX team, who were in charge of a long list of things including blood (of which there was never enough) and smoke. We often had incredibly long stretches of tubes on either side of our frames in the forest in hopes that the wind would carry the smoke into the right areas, as well as a few propane smokers as a backup when the tubs did not perform their duties well enough. 

Another key element in a revenge movie is the act of revenge itself, and in Mandy, that act involves complex elements… like, say, a chainsaw fight. This specific sequence was one that had been integral in the early concept package for the film. Panos chose a location at the bottom of a massive quarry, where we were surrounded by 100m rock walls and shot for three days—only one of which was allocated to the fight itself. I knew multiple camera angles were needed, and since the budget and crew size didn’t allow for cherry pickers and cranes to lift our lighting units into the air, we opted to build our lighting plan from the ground up. This included a range of work lamps that were safe to be on camera, as well as industrial lights we placed tactically around the quarry to illuminate any areas we needed. Lastly, we used rows of string lights, nine-lights, and blondes to grant the slightest bit of texture to the rock walls around. My key grip, Temoudjine Janssens, and I designed a very simple layout of dolly tracks so we could follow the action easily to give us range from one position. These fighting sequences were also the only ones in the film shot on two cameras to make sure we could get through the sequences within the shot amount of nighttime we had during the Belgian summer months.

Our cast and crew endured some difficult days off the beaten path, from rainy smoke-filled forests, to deep underground bunkers and caves. And even though Nicolas Cage is the one actually going through Mandy’s on-screen trip, we couldn’t help but feel like we were tripping along with him.

Tech Box

Camera

Arri Alexa Mini and XT

Lenses

Primo Anamorphic, Primo Spherical, Angénieux 50-500, AWZ2

Lighting

A very mixed package, but lots of SkyPanels and LiteMats

Color Grading

Peter Bernaers

MM

Mandy opens in theaters September 14, 2018, courtesy of RLJE Films. This article appears in MovieMaker’Summer 2018 issue. Featured image: Chain of Command: Loeb, Cosmatos, (R) and crew plot each shot of Mandy‘s quarry-bound chainsaw fight sequence. Photograph by Gaëtan Chekaiban. 

The post <b>Eye Piece:</b> How <i>Mandy</i> DP Benjamin Loeb Custom-Lit a Quarry, Custom-Fit a Chemistry Lab Set, and Shot a Chainsaw Fight and an Actual Tiger appeared first on MovieMaker Magazine.

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French writer Nelly Arcane’s debut novel, Putain, put her on the map as a respected writer documenting her experiences as a sex worker. The truth, however, wasn’t always in Putain (or her three follow-up novels, for that matter).

As Arcan revealed more and more throughout the course of her tragically short life, her stories were only snippets of reality woven into a grander cloth of fiction. The character was always a manifestation of Nelly, the writer, lost in her own story.

Writer/director Anne Émond is no stranger to the personas Arcan created for herself. A longtime fan, she knew from the day Arcan took her life she would one day write a film about her. But as she discovered throughout her predestined writing process, adapting a subject’s inherently chaotic biography can be a tumultuous task. Despite the challenge, Émond found a solution into creating one tragically scattered figure into four different characters unto themselves.

Check out this exclusive clip, then read Émond’s discussion with MovieMaker on her adaptation process, throwing away the first draft, and editing Nelly’s four characters into one cohesive narrative.  

Grant Vance, MovieMaker Magazine: I’m especially interested in the adaption process for Nelly compared to the original novels. How did you adapt the blend of fiction and nonfiction?

Anne Émond: I’ve always been very interested in Nelly Arcan. I read all of her books, and I knew since the day she died that I would write a film about her. But I didn’t know how and when. A very well known producer in Montréal finally called me like four or five years ago to write about her. I didn’t know what to do, so the first thing I did was reread all the books and meet as many people who knew her that would agree to meet with me. I spent maybe a year and a half and wrote a very conventional biopic. After 18 months of work I remember drinking a beer in a small cafe and reading the first version. I cried at the end because it was so bad. All the facts were true, but the film was a lie.

So I started all over again. One of the things that [Nelly’s friends and colleagues] would tell me about when I met them was how big of a liar she was. It was a nightmare for a screenwriter. Everyone I met would describe to me a completely different woman. So I wrote in many characters—many sides of her in the same film. I would say maybe a third of the film is what people told me about her, a third of the film is from her book. She was not a documentarian—it wasn’t a diary that she wrote. The other third of the film was from my imagination, and what I thought she was. I also read works from different artists I admired that made me think of Arcan, like Virginia Wolfe, Amy Winehouse, Marilyn Monroe. You can recognize a ghosts of their lives in Nelly.

MM: I’ve always been a fan of unreliable narrators. What was your technique for directing the four different, partially-fictional characters in Nelly with your lead, Mylène Mackay?

AE: It was a tough shoot. All of those characters are depressed—it’s a despair film, in a way. There are many characters who are the same woman but all of them are sad and struggle through life. The first big decision was to cast Mylène Mackay who’s brilliant in this film. We shot five different “characters,” and the first two weeks we shot the the sex worker Nelly. The next two weeks we shot the lover with the long brown hair. We had time to put Mackay in different characters. It wasn’t as schizophrenic as the film is, because we were block shooting.

Mackay understood everything I wanted to do, so it was easy to work with her. It was a tough film for the mood, but shooting it was easy. The only people I had to direct or guide were the other actors in the film. 

MM: Every character has their own unique visual look to themselves. Can you talk about your collaboration with your production team designing these distinct looks?

AE: We had a lot of different inspirations, from Marilyn Monroe films to old images of Virginia Woolf. The production designer, the DP, and I would work together on all of those ambiances. It was quite sacred. 

I had the production designer go through like 200 to 300 photographs by character to set the mood and the colors of each and the costume during preproduction. It was really well documented. My coworkers understood everything that we wanted to do with the film. We tried to have a color palette for ever character. The tough part was after everything, like the last maybe 20 minutes of the film where she jumps from the window. It’s not that precise. What all of those characters already have in common is this desperation. Everything that she likes eventually will kill her. It’s four characters, but it’s just four sides of the same woman at the end.

MM: Touching on the idea of seemingly multiple films in one cohesive feature, is there anything you found in the editing room that wasn’t scripted?

AE: We changed everything in the editing room. We cut a lot of things, as usual. But almost nothing was written this way. Nothing tells you what time it is or what day it is. We also took very good care not to name the date or title of the novel. I wanted to make a film that everyone could understand. If you don’t know this writer you can watch this film and be moved by this woman. That’s why we didn’t give a lot of biographical elements. We were completely free in the editing room. We tried many different structures and music.

MM: What’s your advice for future filmmakers, particularly filmmakers working on projects grounded in feminism like Nelly?

AE: Watch films. I’m shooting a film right now with teenagers and I really love them—it is around five teenagers. I realized they don’t watch film at all. It’s not that they just don’t watch the classics like Bergman. It’s okay if they don’t watch Tarkovsky at 15-years-old. But they just don’t watch film. They are actors, and it makes me feel very old. It takes time and energy to watch a film. You get something from that. MM

Nelly opens in theaters September 7, 2018 in New York City and September 14, 2018 in Los Angeles. All photos courtesy of Cinema Libre Studios. 

The post <b>Exclusive:</b> French Moviemaker Anne Émond on Adapting the Different Characters Crafted by Notorious Writer <i>Nelly</i> (Video) appeared first on MovieMaker Magazine.

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If one common denominator of Nicole Holofcener’s films is her fumbling protagonists’ neurotic tendencies, her approach to moviemaking is a rejection of those characters’ hopeless self-absorption.

Fittingly, Holofcener grew up on the sets of Woody Allen’s films, working in various capacities—first as an extra, later as an apprentice editor. Her 1996 feature debut as a writer-director, Walking and Talking, introduced her trademark wit and realism devoid of contrived melodrama. It also formed the basis of her longstanding working relationship with Catherine Keener, with whom she would go on to collaborate with on four other projects. 

Based on Ted Thompson’s novel of the same name, Holofcener’s latest (sans Keener), The Land of Steady Habits, follows Anders Hill (Ben Mendelsohn), a man who, without notice, elects to retire from his cushy trading job and leave his wife and their beautiful home. Arguably her first feature with a male protagonist (a bit of a moot point, as her films are largely ensemble pieces), Holofcener breathes new life into the classic mid-life crisis tale with her sensitive portrait of the emptiness of privileged life. Like all of her previous works, The Land of Steady Habits radiates empathy for her characters most of all when they’re fucking up. 

So you don’t have to fuck up, Holofcener has shared 15 of her moviemaking secrets, extolling the virtues of a selfless relationship with your cast and crew, and other key ingredients to running a smooth show.

Nicole Holofcener works with her DP Alar Kivilo on the set of The Land of Steady Habits. Photo Courtesy of Alison Rosa.

As told to Caleb Hammond.

1. When the crew is just standing there watching you rehearse or direct, they may look like they’re judging your abilities. In actuality, they’re thinking about their own jobs. 

 2. Welcome the unit still photographers and let them know they belong. They’re the bastard cousins on film sets and often feel out of place. They have to be where you don’t want them to be, but if you want nice pics, be nice and let them be there.

 3. Give department heads permission to tell you while the camera is rolling if something is screwed up. It’s not helpful for someone to tell you after a very long take that the cup was in the wrong hand, or the hair didn’t match, or an extra walked through the shot.

4. Let your actors know that if you’re not giving them direction, it doesn’t mean they’re doing badly and you’ve given up on them. It just means they’re doing great… or that you’ve run out of ideas.

5. Watch out for getting caught up in a performance if it’s not serving the story in the right way. For instance, watching an actor sob may be impressive, but only if the character is supposed to be sobbing. Same goes with funny.

6. I love a handheld monitor. It lets you see the actors’ faces and the image at the same time and allows you to stay the hell away from video village. You can also give direction without having to navigate the path to get to them, or yell across the room. No one should ever yell directions from a great distance, unless they’ve worked with that person a lot and are comfortable shouting shit to each other.

7. Learn to admit freely when you don’t know something. Better they think you’re stupid than make a bad decision.

8. Everyone is more nervous and insecure than you think.

9. Good actors are giving you a gift, and the crew is there to help your story come to life, so be nice and be grateful. Be flexible and collaborative. Treat everyone with respect and kindness.

10. Hire actors and crews based on their talent and experience, but also their personal references. I’ll track down directors and ask what someone is like to work with. I want to work with nice, fun people. Life is short, and it’s only a movie.

11. Wear layers.

12. Pace yourself with the candy.

13. Have a lot of different sneakers so your feet don’t hurt.

14. Wear a fanny pack if you lose everything like me. MM

This article appears in MovieMaker’Summer 2018 issueThe Land of Steady Habits opens September 14, 2018, courtesy of Neftlix. Featured image photograph courtesy of Alison Rosa.

The post <b>Things I’ve Learned as a Moviemaker</b>: Nicole Holofcener appeared first on MovieMaker Magazine.

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Papillon‘s arresting looks are no matter of judicial negligence. German cinematographer Hagen Bogdanski’s breakout film, the 2006 Stasi drama The Lives of Others (directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck), was an exquisite portrait of paranoia and deception during a shadowy period of recent German history. It received the Oscar for best foreign film in an upset win over Pan’s Labyrinth.

Since then, the veteran DP, whose prolific cinematic career has been divided between television and film, went on to finish very different kinds of movies, including The Young Victoria, Emily Blunt’s first major role Case 39, Madonna’s monarchy drama W.E., the medieval epic The Physician, and the Mel Gibson dark comedy The Beaver.

Bogdanski new film, Papillon, is the second film adaptation based on the 1960’s memoirs of French convict Henri Charrière. Directed by Danish filmmaker Michael Noer, the prison-buddy drama co-stars Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek in roles originated by Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman in the 1973 film, which was perhaps not a classic but a hit at the box office.

Following is a wide-ranging interview with the prolific cinematographer that included questions about his career, why he had no trepidation undertaking Papillon, the challenges of filming on location, and more.

Papillon cinematographer Hagen Bogdanski

Paula Schwartz, MovieMaker Magazine (MM): How did you go about becoming a cinematographer? I read you worked your way up the ranks. What advice would you give aspiring cinematographers in pursuing their career?

Hagen Bogdanski (HB): Traditional film schools in Germany rejected me. So I studied art and photography while making my living as a professional photographer. During this time, I set out to create my own network of directors and producers, and started to land work as a cameraman. Then, within a few years, I started shooting a couple of no-budget features. Some directed by people going to the film school I was rejected from. Eventually, enough of those made it to the European festival circuit to get my name out there.

Try to pursue the necessary education, and then do as much networking as possible. Especially with directors and producers. Your short-term goal should be to eventually make your way to the festival circuit. The first step is really going to be finding as many aspiring directors as possible.

MM: What turns you on about a film project?

HB: Script, script and script: it’s the most important part of filmmaking. Of course, it’s also important to look at who’s directing it, and what the shoot will entail. But the script really is the most important thing. I need a script that has a strong emotional core, because working with actors is really the most exciting thing about working on a film for me, and if you don’t have a story that will allow for strong emotional beats, you’re just not going to get that from the actors.

MM: This is the second movie adaptation based on the 1960s memoirs of French convict Henri Charrière. Did you have any trepidation signing on to a film that would be scrutinized and compared to the 1973 movie, which was perhaps not a classic but had big wattage stars and was very successful at the box office?

HB: No, never. The original movie is quite aged in almost every way (acting, cinematography, set, etc.). Our films our connected because they’re both based on the same novel, but otherwise, I think they’re drastically different. Between the art direction, costumes, Michael Noer’s staging, and Charlie and Rami’s performance, the movie goes beyond comparisons to the original. I have complete faith in all these craftsmen, so I never had the fear of people comparing it to the original.

MM: What sort of conversations did you and the director have about what your cinematic approach would be to making the film? 

HB: [Michael Noer] comes from a documentary background. We were always talking about making things look as naturalistic as possible, from the lighting to the makeup to the costume. In a way, it was a question of how far we should commit to this look. Should we shoot entirely on handheld cameras (which we did, for all but 90 percent of the film). Should we shoot actors’ rehearsals? We both knew the kind of look the film should have, so it was really just a question of degrees.

MM: Cinematographer Fred J. Koenekamp  filmed The 1973 Papillon in Panavision. Probably nobody can afford to shoot like that anymore. I’m assuming you shot digitally although you get really vivid color saturation. What cameras and lenses did you use?

HB: We shot digitally on reflex cameras, mainly Arriflex HT and Arriflex mini. We shot digitally, but in the standard widescreen format. These cameras were great because of their weight and easy maneuverability. I also love the look of these cameras, because it gets something very close to the look of film.

MM: The movie opens with a close up of Henri’s (Hunnam) face in black and white showing the ravages of one year in solitary prison confinement. It’s a very powerful scene to open with. How did you achieve that look?

HB: It wasn’t actually shot in black and white. We achieved that monochromatic look using art-direction and lighting. We shot that scene in a warehouse and painted the walls to make the entire setting look as monochromatic as possible, but we still wanted some flesh tones to come through. Prisoners were forced to live in a black hole for nearly a year in this cell. It’s an unbelievable form of torture, but it’s true; it killed something close to 98 percent of people who were subjected to it. Of course, that whole set piece was a really interesting one for us to film around, because a situation like that would naturally send someone’s fantasies spinning and push them to the brink of madness, which was very interesting to capture.

MM: According to the production notes you shot in Montenegro, Serbia and the Mediterranean island of Malta with no additional CGI. What advantages and challenges did location shooting present?

HB: Like all location shoots, weather basically controlled everything. The terrain posed other issues; for example, we built the prison on a mountain with no existing roads, so we had to build roads to get to and from the stage. But really, weather was the ongoing issue. You need to constantly adapt to the continuity issues presented, whether it be rain, fog or sunshine. At the same time, it’s also a positive, because intense weather can add tremendous texture to scenes.

MM: There are many water scenes, which are pretty spectacular. Which was the most difficult scene to shoot and how did you achieve it?

HB: The most difficult parts of the shoot were the small sailboat scenes. We shot them in a tank in Malta, which gives things a very old-school movie look that can look very fake if you do it wrong. Also, if we shot it from the wrong perspective, you would see a bunch of modern ships that were sailing along the Mediterranean which, unless you remove them using CGI, would completely ruin the authenticity. This required us to wait for the horizon to be empty while nervously looking at our schedule. There were one or two shots where we just had to CG out the ships in the background.

Charlie Hunnam (C) stars as Henri “Papillon” Charriére in director Michael Noer’s Papillon. Photograph by Jose Haro, courtesy of Bleecker Street

MM: The depravation and horror these men experience in the penal system has as its backdrop this beautiful scenery of ocean and wild landscapes. Did you and the director have concerns and discussions about not making the location shots look too beautiful?

HB: The director and I did have this discussion, because we didn’t want the movie to look too beautiful (that area is actually even more beautiful when you’re there in person). We didn’t want to take away from the hostility and harshness of the story. Still, we did want something that could counter the ugly prison world; you focus on the bleakness for too long and it takes a toll on the audience.

MM: There’s constant movement in Papillon. What was your reaction to the improvisation and how did it impact your work and the final cinematography?

HB: In a normal world, the director works with the actors, first in private rehearsals and then on set. This was followed by intense blocking work, then they set up lighting and cameras. And then they set up stand-ins for rehearsal, and then they do another rehearsal with the principal cast. That’s the traditional way of doing things. We stripped the process so that we would do a director’s rehearsal, and then bring in the camera and shoot. This meant that the technicians and focus pullers never really knew exactly what was going to happen. That was a basic principle of shooting throughout the movie.

MM: Your breakout film The Lives of Others is set right before the Wall came down. Since you were in your early twenties when the Wall came down in 1989, was this an intensely personal film for you to shoot? What are your memories of that period and how did that inform how you shot any of the scenes?

HB: Most of my memories of East Germany were of it being a very dark place in winter, where the street lamps didn’t shine very brightly and the coals they used for heating would always create a hazy smog over the city. This was definitely something I tried to recreate in the film, giving it a very dark, colorless look. I reduced the amount of cars you see on the street to make the city look empty. MM

Papillion opened in theaters August 24, 2018, courtesy of Bleecker Street. Featured image photograph courtesy of Bleecker Street. 

The post <b>Captivating Looks:</b> Cinematographer Hagen Bogdanski on Updating the Prison-Buddy Drama <i>Papillon</i> appeared first on MovieMaker Magazine.

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Whether you’re a moviemaker, critic, or devoted film collector, lovers of cinema can all agree: A Criterion Collection release is a stamp of cultural importance.

How can the arthouse distributor’s releases be used as tools to help independents hone their craft? Criterion Crash Course, our series focusing on new Criterion titles, considers every aspect of Blu-ray/DVD packages, from the film itself to its special features, as weapons in a moviemaking arsenal. Explore the moviemaking lessons from these packages—gifts that keep on giving.

The Tree of Life

Starting with the beginning of time and stretching all the way to the death of the universe, Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life often doesn’t get enough credit for how small and intimate it is. Malick’s is a film of small moments—of boys rolling down hills, chasing their mother through their house with a lizard, picking weeds in the lawn, and throwing rocks through windows.

Criterion’s new special edition of the 2011 film features a widely publicized new cut with nearly 50 minutes of new footage, only expanding upon the film’s focus on these small moments. This new cut makes The Tree of Life feel both bigger and smaller, allowing the structure to breathe, building new arcs that extend out of old ones, and reshaping the roles of some key characters. The film is edited as one big montage, which allows these new scenes and shots to be woven with ease into footage viewers have already seen. Every single character is strengthened and every theme present in the original cut is elaborated and expanded upon.

The new cut of The Tree of Life adds a segment with Sean Penn’s grown-up Jack O’Brien to the beginning of the film, which plays like Malick’s Knight of Cups in miniature, combining the free-wheeling decadence of that L.A.-set party movie with some of the indelible 16mm and video experimentation of his 2017 romance Song to Song. The breadth of childhood in the back half of The Tree of Life, on the other hand, expands even more, here, than in Malick’s original cut. Scenes centered on the specificity and repetition of swimming, running, wrestling, playing clash with moments of interpersonal relations and awe-inducing glimpses of nature. A 15-minute segment in which Mr. O’Brien (Brad Pitt) goes on a trip in Malick’s original cut is expanded to nearly 40 minutes in the new version. By the time he returns, it’s as if he’s lived an entire lifetime: A storm has devastated half of the town, we’re introduced to a neighboring boy whose father abuses him and, in one poignant moment, Jack has told his mother, “I wish I was little again.”

The Tree of Life remains as overwhelming an audiovisual experience as ever, regardless of what version you choose to watch. Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography swoops close to and past the family, crafting an energetic and lively environment. Douglas Trumbull’s visual effects astound in the 20-minute creation scene, in which practical effects (featuring chemicals and dye) are used to re-creature the Big Bang and the subsequent formation of the universe. Perhaps strongest of all is the film’s sound design, for which Eric Adahal is given credit. Reaching from such grand scale cosmic events to the most minute and indistinguishable of moments, it is the film’s lush and bold array of sounds that really sells the landscape that Malick seeks to evoke.

Lessons in Sound Design

The original 2011 Blu-Ray release of The Tree of Life featured a notice to play the disc as loud as possible in order to achieve the optimal experience. Indeed, sound design has always been a crucial element to the film’s overall success.

From start to finish, Malick’s film is a wall of music, featuring pieces such as John Tavner’s ‘Funeral Canticle’, Zbigniew Presiner’s ‘Lacrimosa’ and even Bach’s ‘Toccata and Fugue in D Minor’. As expanded upon in one of the disc’s special features, each of these pieces is carefully chosen to accentuate the tone of the scenes as well as the thematic weight behind them.

Layered in with these pieces are the constant sounds of trickling streams and crashing waves, crickets chirping in the night sky, dogs barking and, of course, Malick’s famed use of voiceover. Each character gets a chance to expand upon the joys they are experience, express their existential angst and spill their innermost thoughts and emotions. The whispers clash with the booming pieces of music. “Where were you?” Chastain’s mother questions. A version of the creation of the universe follows, accompanied by the overwhelmingly powerful and beamingly loud ‘Lacrimosa’ by Zbigniew Presiner. Malick sound design is as balanced as his storytelling, with each piece of music, foley, voiceover and dialogue carefully chosen as to accentuate what he means to express.

The new cut of The Tree of Life is a fascinating study in how sound design can be used to shape story and meaning. The final scenes inside the boys’ childhood home (and the journey to the next home) are reshaped in this new cut. There is new footage on the end of this scene that shows Hunter McCracken’s Jack making his way to his new home and new school. The piece that accompanies this scene, ‘Domine Jesu Christe’ by Berlioz, is shifted so that the most tender, emotionally cathartic portion, as well as the Mother’s voice over in which she beckons her son to “do good to them,” now accompanies the destination rather than the journey. The catharsis no longer belongs with the moment where Jack and his family leave their old home but, rather, when they reach their new one.

A dying plesiosaur licks its wounds in The Tree of Life. Image courtesy of The Criterion Collection

Special Features

In addition to the two different cuts, The Tree of Life contains a selection of featurettes and interviews, providing a mix of theoretical content and production-based content.

Carried over from the original release is a 30-minute Making of documentary, featuring various snippets of interviews with Chastain and Pitt, effects artists Trumbull and Glass, composer Desplat and many others. In addition to this, there are full interviews with Jessica Chastain and Visual Effects artist Dan Glass. Chastain goes in depth on the fascinating production as well as Malick’s unusual process. Especially enlightening are her comments on the voiceover process, of which Malick recorded from over 30 sessions. Chastain would read from a big stack of lines in quiet whispers, wherever she could – even at a Guitar Center in Southern California. Altogether Malick amassed over 20 hours of lines to choose from. There are about five minutes of total voice over from Chastain in the film.

Elsewhere, there is a fascinating interview with critic Alex Ross on the soundtrack to the film. He details how the music crosses a wide stylistic spectrum, giving a sense of someone with an “omnivorous musical taste and finding unexpected ways to bring music in.” The Tree of Life has a huge soundtrack and opens with John Tavner’s ‘Funeral Canticle’, a piece written in memoriam of his father. This begins a pattern of requiem/memorial music, including the aforementioned ‘Lacrimosa’ from Requiem for my Friend, written by Presiner in honor of Krystztof Kieslwoski, as well as Berlioz’s ‘Requiem,’ which closes the film. These pieces give an elegiac memorial quality, far from anguish and at more of a remove, expressing what Ross calls “mourning within memory.” In addition, Malick’s choice of a composer like Mahler suggests a kinship, thanks to Mahler’s obsessive concern “with faith, death and whatever transcendent world can follow.”

The universe is born, thanks to practical effects from Douglas Trumbull and Dan Glass. Image Courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

There is also a wonderful analysis of Lubezki’s cinematography courtesy of Benjamin Bin, titled Natural Cubism, featuring a fascinating collection of interviews with Lubezki, Erik Brown, Jack Fisk and others. Lastly, there is Matt Zoller Seitz and Serena Bramble’s video essay All Things Shining from a larger piece on Malick’s entire career. One of the most fascinating portion of this concerns how Malick uses the voiceover to paint grand thematic gestures. Jack is the overall narrator, the storyteller. Overall, there is no polished narrative shape to this narration with the voiceover instead being linked by theme and image association. The creation of the universe is a large segment of the film, yet it comes from a mother’s questioning of God’s place in her life, delivered in voiceover. Later in the film, Penn’s character asks of God to guide him “to the end of time,” giving us an auditory cue to where the last 10 minutes of the film may take us.

The Takeaway

The Tree of Life is, love it or hate it, one of the most audacious achievements of the century, and this new Criterion Collection release gives fans of all kinds something to chew on. The film remains an incredible sensory experience, especially with the wonderful 4K remaster and 5.1 audio tracks. In diving into the release, it’s tough not to be drawn in to the film’s impeccable sonic landscape. The supplements gathered and created by Criterion only further emphasize just how thoroughly thought through the sound design is – from soundtrack to sound effects to dialogue. If you’re attempting to swing for the fences and work out some grand themes that may be tough to grasp, perhaps you can start with sound, the unsung hero of what is often reduced to simply a visual medium. MM

The Tree of Life was released by The Criterion Collection on Blu-ray and DVD September 11, 2018. All images courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

The post <b>Criterion Crash Course</b>: Moviemaking Lessons from Criterion’s <i>The Tree of Life</i> appeared first on MovieMaker Magazine.

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Papillon‘s arresting looks are no matter of judicial negligence. German cinematographer Hagen Bogdanski’s breakout film, the 2006 Stasi drama The Lives of Others (directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck), was an exquisite portrait of paranoia and deception during a shadowy period of recent German history. It received the Oscar for best foreign film in an upset win over Pan’s Labyrinth.

Since then, the veteran DP, whose prolific cinematic career has been divided between television and film, went on to finish very different kinds of movies, including The Young Victoria, Emily Blunt’s first major role Case 39, Madonna’s monarchy drama W.E., the medieval epic The Physician, and the Mel Gibson dark comedy The Beaver.

Bogdanski new film, Papillon, is the second film adaptation based on the 1960’s memoirs of French convict Henri Charrière. Directed by Danish filmmaker Michael Noer, the prison-buddy drama co-stars Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek in roles originated by Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman in the 1973 film, which was perhaps not a classic but a hit at the box office.

Following is a wide-ranging interview with the prolific cinematographer that included questions about his career, why he had no trepidation undertaking Papillon, the challenges of filming on location, and more.

Papillon cinematographer Hagen Bogdanski

Paula Schwartz, MovieMaker Magazine (MM): How did you go about becoming a cinematographer? I read you worked your way up the ranks. What advice would you give aspiring cinematographers in pursuing their career?

Hagen Bogdanski (HB): Traditional film schools in Germany rejected me. So I studied art and photography while making my living as a professional photographer. During this time, I set out to create my own network of directors and producers, and started to land work as a cameraman. Then, within a few years, I started shooting a couple of no-budget features. Some directed by people going to the film school I was rejected from. Eventually, enough of those made it to the European festival circuit to get my name out there.

Try to pursue the necessary education, and then do as much networking as possible. Especially with directors and producers. Your short-term goal should be to eventually make your way to the festival circuit. The first step is really going to be finding as many aspiring directors as possible.

MM: What turns you on about a film project?

HB: Script, script and script: it’s the most important part of filmmaking. Of course, it’s also important to look at who’s directing it, and what the shoot will entail. But the script really is the most important thing. I need a script that has a strong emotional core, because working with actors is really the most exciting thing about working on a film for me, and if you don’t have a story that will allow for strong emotional beats, you’re just not going to get that from the actors.

MM: This is the second movie adaptation based on the 1960s memoirs of French convict Henri Charrière. Did you have any trepidation signing on to a film that would be scrutinized and compared to the 1973 movie, which was perhaps not a classic but had big wattage stars and was very successful at the box office?

HB: No, never. The original movie is quite aged in almost every way (acting, cinematography, set, etc.). Our films our connected because they’re both based on the same novel, but otherwise, I think they’re drastically different. Between the art direction, costumes, Michael Noer’s staging, and Charlie and Rami’s performance, the movie goes beyond comparisons to the original. I have complete faith in all these craftsmen, so I never had the fear of people comparing it to the original.

MM: What sort of conversations did you and the director have about what your cinematic approach would be to making the film? 

HB: [Michael Noer] comes from a documentary background. We were always talking about making things look as naturalistic as possible, from the lighting to the makeup to the costume. In a way, it was a question of how far we should commit to this look. Should we shoot entirely on handheld cameras (which we did, for all but 90 percent of the film). Should we shoot actors’ rehearsals? We both knew the kind of look the film should have, so it was really just a question of degrees.

MM: Cinematographer Fred J. Koenekamp  filmed The 1973 Papillon in Panavision. Probably nobody can afford to shoot like that anymore. I’m assuming you shot digitally although you get really vivid color saturation. What cameras and lenses did you use?

HB: We shot digitally on reflex cameras, mainly Arriflex HT and Arriflex mini. We shot digitally, but in the standard widescreen format. These cameras were great because of their weight and easy maneuverability. I also love the look of these cameras, because it gets something very close to the look of film.

MM: The movie opens with a close up of Henri’s (Hunnam) face in black and white showing the ravages of one year in solitary prison confinement. It’s a very powerful scene to open with. How did you achieve that look?

HB: It wasn’t actually shot in black and white. We achieved that monochromatic look using art-direction and lighting. We shot that scene in a warehouse and painted the walls to make the entire setting look as monochromatic as possible, but we still wanted some flesh tones to come through. Prisoners were forced to live in a black hole for nearly a year in this cell. It’s an unbelievable form of torture, but it’s true; it killed something close to 98 percent of people who were subjected to it. Of course, that whole set piece was a really interesting one for us to film around, because a situation like that would naturally send someone’s fantasies spinning and push them to the brink of madness, which was very interesting to capture.

MM: According to the production notes you shot in Montenegro, Serbia and the Mediterranean island of Malta with no additional CGI. What advantages and challenges did location shooting present?

HB: Like all location shoots, weather basically controlled everything. The terrain posed other issues; for example, we built the prison on a mountain with no existing roads, so we had to build roads to get to and from the stage. But really, weather was the ongoing issue. You need to constantly adapt to the continuity issues presented, whether it be rain, fog or sunshine. At the same time, it’s also a positive, because intense weather can add tremendous texture to scenes.

MM: There are many water scenes, which are pretty spectacular. Which was the most difficult scene to shoot and how did you achieve it?

HB: The most difficult parts of the shoot were the small sailboat scenes. We shot them in a tank in Malta, which gives things a very old-school movie look that can look very fake if you do it wrong. Also, if we shot it from the wrong perspective, you would see a bunch of modern ships that were sailing along the Mediterranean which, unless you remove them using CGI, would completely ruin the authenticity. This required us to wait for the horizon to be empty while nervously looking at our schedule. There were one or two shots where we just had to CG out the ships in the background.

Charlie Hunnam (C) stars as Henri “Papillon” Charriére in director Michael Noer’s Papillon. Photograph by Jose Haro, courtesy of Bleecker Street

MM: The depravation and horror these men experience in the penal system has as its backdrop this beautiful scenery of ocean and wild landscapes. Did you and the director have concerns and discussions about not making the location shots look too beautiful?

HB: The director and I did have this discussion, because we didn’t want the movie to look too beautiful (that area is actually even more beautiful when you’re there in person). We didn’t want to take away from the hostility and harshness of the story. Still, we did want something that could counter the ugly prison world; you focus on the bleakness for too long and it takes a toll on the audience.

MM: There’s constant movement in Papillon. What was your reaction to the improvisation and how did it impact your work and the final cinematography?

HB: In a normal world, the director works with the actors, first in private rehearsals and then on set. This was followed by intense blocking work, then they set up lighting and cameras. And then they set up stand-ins for rehearsal, and then they do another rehearsal with the principal cast. That’s the traditional way of doing things. We stripped the process so that we would do a director’s rehearsal, and then bring in the camera and shoot. This meant that the technicians and focus pullers never really knew exactly what was going to happen. That was a basic principle of shooting throughout the movie.

MM: Your breakout film The Lives of Others is set right before the Wall came down. Since you were in your early twenties when the Wall came down in 1989, was this an intensely personal film for you to shoot? What are your memories of that period and how did that inform how you shot any of the scenes?

HB: Most of my memories of East Germany were of it being a very dark place in winter, where the street lamps didn’t shine very brightly and the coals they used for heating would always create a hazy smog over the city. This was definitely something I tried to recreate in the film, giving it a very dark, colorless look. I reduced the amount of cars you see on the street to make the city look empty. MM

Papillion opened in theaters August 24, 2018, courtesy of Bleecker Street. Featured image photograph courtesy of Bleecker Street. 

The post <b>Captivating Looks:</b> Cinematographer Hagen Bogdanski on Updating the Prison-Buddy Drama <i>Papillon</i> appeared first on MovieMaker Magazine.

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