“Punch-Drunk Love" is a film, but it is also something else: It creates for itself a new space to exist, in between cinema and painting. It is literally a moving painting, because of Jeremy Blake’s color-field interludes and also because of the way these interventions into the film space seem to haunt the non-painted imagery. But it is also in the same class as a Rothko or Newman or Kandinsky, in that it visualizes the invisible and the intangible, in a way that transcends narrative and forces us to engage with its space and its presence within our space. It is a moving painting — it’s a painting that moves the viewer.”—Karina Longworth - Salon.com
Ever since its release in 1951, a steady stream of eager producers, directors, screenwriters and actors have unsuccessfully attempted to bring J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye to the big screen, all falling at the first hurdle when confronted with Salinger’s resolute refusal to sell the rights to his novel. The letter below, written in 1957 in response to an enquiry from a Mr. Herbert (and currently for sale here), is a perfect example of the opposition faced and provides an entertaining glimpse at the author’s reasoning.
"Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion is starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion… love actually is all around."
I’m obsessed with finding the connection between the film’s that influence filmmakers and their films. Lately, I’ve been checking out the filmographies of Truffaut, Bergman and Goddard to name a few and in watching their work I’m experiencing film in a whole new way. It may sound silly, but with the old stuff I feel like I’m solving some sort of cinematic mystery the moment I make a connection.
For example, I recently watched Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf, a gothic horror, the film paints a portrait of an artist, his love and the demons that haunt him. The couple in love, the eccentrically off neighbors, and all the sensual and sexual imagery - it screamed Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. I was alsorecently surprised by the opening of 400 Blows, a scene where Woody Allen definitely drew inspiration to create the intro scene in Manhattan, a longtime favorite of mine.
Anyway, an article in The Independent shares the movies that mattered most to some of today’s great directors including Martin Scorsese, Lars von Trier, Danny Boyle and Mira Nair to name a few. I can’t wait to watch some of these.
“What I try to do when I write is to reveal myself to myself and then in the work. I mean, I think that’s my job, and I’m kind of not sure that anyone has anything else to say other than, this is who I am. Because that’s what you know, and I write about that a lot, and I come up against that a lot when I’m writing. It’s like, well, this is what I know, and I know it through me.”
There we were at Roald Dahl’s elegant 19th century family estate in the village of Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire, London. It was brisk for mid-October, while, ironically, it was raining back in L.A. But sitting in Dahl’s house, in a quaint and bucolic setting, talking Fantastic Mr. Fox (opening Nov. 13 from Fox Searchlight) with director Wes Anderson, Dahl’s widow, Felicity (Liccy), and Bill Murray (who plays Badger, the lawyer), it all captured the proper mood. We could better appreciate how Anderson basically channeled the spirit of the late author while writing his script with Noah Baumbach. Stop-motion animation is a very slow and painstaking craft. But, given that Mr. Fox is about being true to your inner critter, this witty film (with a voice cast that includes George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Murray, Michael Gambon and Willem Dafoe) is tailor made for such an organic technique.
Q: Why Fantastic Mr. Fox?
Anderson: Mr. Fox is actually the first book I ever owned. It was bought at our school book fair. Actually, my mother bought it for my older brother and she put a little name plate in it, and I crossed it out and put my name in it. I was around six, but I loved the character of Mr. Fox. I loved digging. The whole idea of him tunneling under and connecting these farms [was fascinating].
Q: Why did you entrust this property with Wes?
Dahl: I think there’s a big risk when you take a small book and enlarge it to make a film, and that has to be [put] in the hands of somebody who really understands the essence of the book. I don’t know why but I instinctively knew that Wes had that.
Q: Do you think he’s a kindred spirit of Roald?
Dahl: Yes, I think what influenced me most was his passion for the book. And I thought anybody who loved this book so much and who’s quite obviously already a great director [should make this movie].
Q: How were you influenced by being in Dahl’s world here in Great Missenden?
Anderson: Writing here went from adapting the book to being about Dahl and his whole world and personality. And that was in the writing of it and figuring out who this character was and the spirit of the movie. But then as we designed the movie more and more, one object at a time from this house, [it became a part of it].
Q: And what about going through Dahl’s manuscripts?
Anderson: The ending that we had in the movie came from the original manuscripts. In the first draft, it ended differently. It has a supermarket, including Dahl’s illustrations of the supermarket and pushing the shopping cart.
Q: And, Bill, what was it like doing the voice sessions on location in a Connecticut farm with George and Jason?
Murray: First of all, we had just the best time there. We all had our own little room — each character. We had great meals. And we drank and laughed and told stories all night long. And then we’d wake up in the morning and say, “OK, now we have to record something.” And we had this entire farm to work with, so we’d do a scene that takes place in a basement and we’d go find a basement. And if we had a scene that took place in a kind of barn, we’d find it. And usually when you make these animated films, you never see anyone. We all became this group together and it was just great hearing each other.
Q: Were there any interesting happy accidents?
Anderson: There’s a scene near the end of the movie where they see this wolf. And while we were shooting that, George Clooney and Wally [Wolodarsky] were at the edge of some woods, and across up on a hilltop they’re looking at a wolf. So Bill said, “OK, I’ll be the wolf.” He went to the top of the hill, played the wolf, but he played it dramatically. And you could feel them really reacting to him. And there was a real elegance to the way Bill was playing it, and we gave that to the animators [in London] and they animated it based on Bill doing this part. And it came out of something that happened live and you can’t do that in a studio.
Q: Why did you choose stop-motion?
Anderson: I always wanted to do it in stop-motion. I like the fact that it’s hand-crafted and I wanted to be able to show that in the movie. I had done a little in The Life Aquatic. But I didn’t know what the process was going to be like and I ended up wanting to be more involved with the movie in a moment by moment way than I had expected. I wanted it to be funny and energetic and spontaneous. It has fur and that prevents it from being too pristine — it just can’t be.
Q: Would you like to work in stop-motion again?
Anderson: I would like to continue working with stop-motion, but I don’t know if I want to do a whole movie anytime soon. At the same time, I’m tempted to. I really enjoyed it. It took us a long time to figure out how we were going to do it — what our process was going to be [with me being based in Paris]. But we figured out a process that really suited me. Even though it’s endless and it takes over your whole life, I feel it is something that I can use now as part of my arsenal.