When describing this month’s film, I cited Scorsese’s Italianamerican as an influence (see my previous post). Another source of inspiration, from another of my favorite directors, is the recent The Thorn in the Heart by Michel Gondry. The film was quietly released last year in only a few theaters with little to no promotion. Given the personal nature of it, and its low budget aesthetic, I guess it didn’t seem like a good fit for a filmmaker who lately seems more interested in breaking into the Hollywood mainstream. It has now found a home on DVD from Oscilloscope (the Beastie Boys-affiliated label) and on is available on Netflix Instant view.
The Thorn in the Heart is a documentary Gondry made about his own family, namely his aunt Suzette. Suzette had been a school teacher for almost 40 years in various parts of France. Gondry takes her on a tour of her former work sites as she recalls stories from them and meets former colleagues and students. Interwoven are brief scenes that display Gondry’s knack for DIY filmmaking such as stop-motion animation, and sequences involving model trains (side note: in my opinion, it is this approach to film that Michel needs to make a return to, and stop focusing on the big-budget, star drive vehicles like Green Hornet). Also touched upon are personal familial stories, especially the relationship between Suzette and her son Jean-Yves.
In 1974, Martin Scorsese made a short documentary called Italianamerican. In it he interviews his parents about his family history, their parents’ migration from Sicily and life on New York’s Lower East Side. Shot a year after Mean Streets, Italianamerican revisits the same neighborhood to tell a more personal (and less violent) story. It touches upon many of the same themes, namely Italian American culture.
In his early career, Scorsese often followed his features with smaller-scale productions, such as short films and documentaries. As in the case of Mean Streets/Italianamerican, many of these films relate thematically, or explore similar ideas. Though not seen as often as his major works, they are no less interesting. The Film Forum produced a new 35mm print of Italianamerican a few years ago, but otherwise the only way to view it at home is via an out-of-print VHS tape. Someone has taken the liberty of uploading it to YouTube, so I am embedding that here (parts 2-5 are below).
Here’s a video that’s been making the rounds the past few days. A filmmaker named Jamie Stuart put together a short film that he shot during last weekend’s blizzard. It’s called “Idiot With a Tripod” in homage to Dziga Vertov’s “Man With a Movie Camera”, a city symphony from 1929.
The film was shot on (surprise!) a Canon 7D. It’s pretty remarkable how Stuart was able to get such great images and turn around a quality video so quickly. Yet another testament to DSLR filmmaking.
One of the big stories around the clip is how Roger Ebert said it deserves an Oscar for best live-action short subject. I don’t know about that, but it’s definitely worth a view. Anyone else find it interesting that Stuart chose to score it with a piece of music Trent Reznor wrote for the Social Network?
Full disclosure: I, in no way, intend on using this site to post movie reviews. There are simply too many sites out there already giving their half-formed, barely legible opinions and I don’t want Less Talking, More Shooting to stray from its initial goal. That being said, I will occasionally mention films that I think warrant some attention.
This weekend I saw Tiny Furniture on the only screen it is currently being shown (one of the advantages to living in New York City). It is the story of a girl moving back into her mother’s TriBeCa loft after graduating from college. It has a unique comedic voice and sparse, ambling narrative. It is directed by, and stars, Lena Dunham, a 24-year old filmmaker who is currently developing a pilot for HBO with Judd Apatow. One of the things worth noting about Tiny Furniture is that it was shot entirely on a Canon 7D HDSLR camera.
Despite my previous work, and this month’s video, I don’t work exclusively in Super 8 film. A few months back I picked up a Canon T2i and most of the videos you’ll see on this site will be shot on that. If you’re unfamiliar with the world of filmmaking and cinematography, there has been a great deal of attention lately on the use of consumer DSLR cameras for video-related purposes. There are groups dedicated to their use on Vimeo, blogs about them, and even some talent who work almost exclusively with them. These cameras have been used on commercial, TV and music video shoots, but aside from popping up in some Second Units, not many features have been shot with them. Tiny Furniture is by no means the first, but it is the first film shot on an HDSLR that has received a great deal of attention. In terms of cinematography, the results are impressive, but show some limits.
Jamie Harley is a video artist that works with found footage and retro visuals set to lo-fi music. This footage is further manipulated and edited to interesting results. One of his earlier works is this video for Memory Tapes’ Bicycle:
Harley’s work is reminiscent of the pastiche work of Bruce Conner. See another example after the jump.