R.I.P. Harry Dean Stanton

Paris Texas - Harry Dean Stanton

I saw the news that Harry Dean Stanton (HDS) passed away two days ago. I never know what to say, if anything, when a public figure passes away. Usually nothing. It’s sad, of course. But something struck me in my core when I read that HDS passed because he always brought something special to films that I’ve seen him in.

I’m most familiar with HDS from his appearances in David Lynch’s films. The lovably angry owner of the Fat Trout Trailer Park in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and Season 3, the assistant duping people for cash in Inland Empire, the blindly in love boyfriend of Lula’s mother in Wild at Heart, and the surprise reveal of being Alvin Straight’s brother in The Straight Story.

It’s time to finally watch Paris, Texas. Rest in peace, Harry Dean Stanton.

What I Enjoyed, August 2017

My foray into foreign cinema continues with films by Godard, Wai, Bergman, and more.

August was a nice month. I got some work done, traveled to Maine for my brother’s wedding, and watched a lot of wonderful films from new-to-me directors.

Films

Persona

I’ve been thinking about Persona since watching it. It’s such an impactful film. It is such a subtle and beautiful film. I really am looking forward to watching the other films directed by Ingmar Bergman.

Tokyo Story

Tokyo Story Funeral Still

Subtle, poignant, and honest. I love the camera placement and its general lack of movement. The shots are beautifully composed, and I deeply appreciate the patience the film shows by lingering on them.

A great example of a slice-of-life film. There’s no villain or even main character. There’s little drama. It is life. And it is family. And it is something that I haven’t seen in many other films. A keen observation on family, life, death, and aging. It’s a quiet film, and the world needs more of them.

The use of non-over-the-shoulder dialogue feels like a revelation. That and the lack of camera movement. There’s a lot for me to learn from Tokyo Story.

While my immediate impression is that Tokyo Story didn’t move me as much as other films, I very much enjoyed it, and I am looking forward to exploring Ozu’s other films.

Valhalla Rising

Valhalla Rising Sword Still

Wonderful visuals and great sound design. A prime example of “show, don’t tell.” Essentially Nicolas Winding Refn’s Stalker.

In the Mood for Love

You notice things if you pay attention.

I’m at a lack for words following In the Mood for Love. It’s so subtle and quiet and masterful. It may be my favorite film that I’ve watched this year. The colors. The freaking colors. This movie oozes style, and it strikes the notes that complement the style. I really can’t wait to rewatch this film.

I love the setting. I love the apartments. I love the use of the clock as the establishing for Mrs. Chan’s office. I love how Mrs. Chan helps mediate her boss’s affair with his mistress. I love how the faces of the husband and wife are never shown. I love where the film goes at the end–totally unexpected and what feels right. I love the performances. I love the rain.

I feel like a broken record when I describe films as true cinema and quiet films, but this is honestly one of the best examples. It shows so much restraint that it makes my heart hurt, and it never once feels manipulative. It’s a truly beautiful film.

Breathless

Stylish, self-aware, and seemingly satirical, Breathless isn’t like any other film I’ve ever seen. The pacing is a bit off, with the first third being great, the middle being a bit of a drag, and the end picking up the pace a little bit.

NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE

The way this film is edited makes it feel like stream of consciousness, which I like a lot. Solid performances. Superb music. Also, the wacky story really works for me. I love the way this movie looks–so many shots were instantly iconic to me.

This is my first Godard, and I’m sold. I’m looking forward to watching more of his films. I felt very inspired watching this film.

Sunset Boulevard

My kind of film. The black and white is so dreamy. And Norma’s performance is wonderfully over the top.

I didn’t know what to expect going into it, which was for the better. The beginning had me hooked, and I really like where it goes. I was bracing myself for a rough ending, but it totally blew me away. There wasn’t a moment where I wasn’t engrossed in the world and what was happening.

Betty, Norma, and Joe are such different characters, all at different stages of their life and career in Hollywood. Betty, the hungry person working her way up from the bottom. Joe, a bit of a down on his luck but experienced screenwriting. And Norma, a star that has faded over the decades. The three of them all work together so well to keep the picture moving.

The shots are so solid. And the black and white looks fantastic. It totally sets the mood. Everything about Sunset Boulevard is solid.

Between this and 8 1/2, I think I like films about making films. Filmmaking in itself has this dream-like quality and often the takes on it are even dreamier, where I get lost in it.

Books

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

I was pretty much instantly in love with Infinite Jest when I started reading it, but its allure has slowly started to fade. It feels so masturbatory in the writing and story structure that I’m having trouble getting past page 100. There’s a lot of book left, and I’m still enjoying it, so I’m going to keep making my way through Infinite Jest. Here’s to hoping it’s worth it.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

I started running again in preparation for a 5k in September, so I read through What I Talk About When I Talk About Running a 4th time. It’s one of my favorite memoir-style style books, and I find it very motivating and inspiring.

TV Shows

Twin Peaks: The Return

Twin Peaks The Return - Diane in the Red Room

With two episodes left and 16 episodes in, Twin Peaks: The Return is really starting to pay off. That’s not to say that I haven’t been enjoying the episodes leading up to the finale of the final two episodes, but I’ve been waiting for it all to come together. I can’t wait for the finale this coming weekend.

One of My Favorite Videos: David Lynch on Where Great Ideas Come From

You don’t make the fish, you catch the fish.

This video by The Atlantic is one that I seriously rewatch every month. It inspires me deeply. The way that David Lynch describes creativity as a type of fishing really resonates with me.

Breathless (1960) Cigarette Toss Supercut

A supercut of every time Michel tosses his cigarette in Breathless.

I watched Godard’s Breathless yesterday, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Something fascinates me about the way Michel lights and tosses his cigarettes in Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (À bout de souffle). It’s as if each cigarette tossed out of frame enters another dimension and never stops moving.

The song is “Poursuite” from the Breathless soundtrack by Martial Solal.

The typeface is Jean-Luc by Atelier Carvalho Bernau, http://carvalho-bernau.com.

Gnome’s Day Out

An experimental short film about a gnome and their adventure out of their home.

My friend Zach lent me his Sony PD150 for a little bit, so I made a very short film about a gnome who leaves their home to see what’s going on out in the world.

Gnome’s Day Out is an experiment. It was fun to use an older camera that records to a tape deck. I like the image quality. Making this film has me reflecting on how the rapid pace at which technology changes means that so many cameras get left behind with no real use. I think that’s a bit of a shame, as they all have their own visual qualities. While the advancement of technology brings some positives, I wish that there was less of a focus on the specs of any given camera.

The music used in Gnome’s Day Out is “I Allegro con brio” and “II Andante con moto”, composed by Ludwig van Beethoven and performed by Lambis Vassiliadis. They are part of the public domain. Listen to them here.