Three Blind Mice

Australia. My country lives in its hulking shadow and it fills us Kiwi’s with a disproportionate amount of resentment. I’ve never been, so I can’t pass judgement, but I just about murdered the dozen or so people overseas who took my accent to be Aussie. That said, I must confess I just bought a six pack of VB. Only ‘cause it was on special though.

That just about sums up the Kiwi/Aussie relationship, we love to hate them, but when it comes to the crunch we get all ANZAC and go to war together. Brothers-in-arms and all that. They’re okay really aye? Anyway, this post is meant to be about cinema, something I think the Aussies have been doing better than us lately.

By pure happenstance I stumbled across Three Blind Mice, an Australian picture directed by bad-boy Matthew Newton (familiar to Kiwi audiences as ‘Mr Asia’ in the most recent series of Underbelly). The film sounded like an Australian version of The Last Detail, a picture I’m greatly fond of. It follows three young Navy men the night before they were to be shipped to the Gulf. Cue revelry and regret as the trio come to terms with their past actions and their future horizons.

It’s an indie film and one that doesn’t aim beyond its means. Newton does a great job performance wise (he’s largely got a great cast to thank for that) and to my great joy allows scenes to play out casually. Despite the impending time-pressure of the gents’ departure some conversations last minutes longer than they would in any conventional film and yet Three Blind Mice still manages to cram a heap of stuff into 100 minutes.

I’m into films that take place over a short time span. Even better when it’s just the course of a night like Linklater’s Before Sunrise, Paul Thomas Andersons Magnolia or Mike Nichols’ Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf. These movies are massively eventful, packed full of great dialogue and work as a well rounded whole due to the arc of their timeframe. Three Blind Mice is in the same vein. It’s full of quiet, sometimes painful revelations that add layers to the storyline in the most simple way. The end result is the feeling that we’ve survived the night ourselves and taken an equally emotional journey.

As one review of Three Blind Mice states “This is the kind of Australian cinema we should get excited about.” Well in my opinion this is the type of cinema we should be excited about full stop. These things must be dead easy to fund and there must be screeds of young filmmakers who could make films like this in a cinch if they were given half a chance. I know I always say it but we need to derail mainstream cinema because it is killing the small films like this one. Three Blind Mice is a rare picture; realistic, funny, well acted, and with something meaningful to say.

Here’s a link to a Guardian article about Newton.

Notes on Notes on Cinematography

Last year Sight and Sound polled a multitude of film Critics on what were the seminal film texts. Before getting the issue I had guessed that Andre Bazin would almost certainly rank toward the top, as would Andrew Sarris. Sure enough the most commonly picked texts were Bazin’s dual ‘What is Cinema?’ texts, Sarris’ ‘The American Cinema’, David Thomson’s mammoth achievement ‘A Biographical Dictionary of Film’, as well as Francois Truffaut’s ‘Hitchcock’, a transcription of the French directors interviews with the British master.

However there was another book at the top and it was one that surprised me greatly. It was Robert Bresson’s ‘Notes on Cinematography’, a collection of notes, ideas and general thoughts on cinema that culminate in somewhat of a manifesto in many ways. I remember reading excerpts from it at University, most notably Bresson’s quotes on actors, whom he referred to as ‘models’. They were peculiar, often ambiguous notes that made a great deal more sense once I was familiar with Bresson’s cinema.

Bresson is a master, a director I admire greatly. He was uncompromising and his films never strike a false note in my opinion. Bresson’s style was rigid in its simplicity and his films are deft, careful creations. Like many film directors work I am often most drawn to my first encounter with it. In my case A Man Escaped is my favourite of his pictures. A terse escape movie it boasts a superb climax and creates tension through its quietness.

Today, not for any reason in particular I dusted off ‘Notes on Cinematography’ and devoted my full attention to it. It is a truly fantastic read which is much like Bresson’s films in its care, precision of statement, and truthfulness. It is endlessly quotable and any number of its truisms could form a manifesto for any idealistic young director.

Here is some food for thought…

Shooting. Put oneself into a state of intense ignorance and curiosity, and yet see things in advance.

Let it be the intimate union of the images that charges them with emotion.

What no human eye is capable of catching, no pencil, brush, pen of pinning down, your camera catches without knowing what it is, and pins its down with a machine’s scrupulous indifference.

My movie is born first in my head, dies on paper; is resuscitated by the living persons and real objects I use, which are killed on film but, placed in a certain order and projected onto a screen, come to life again like flowers in water.

Each statement is so simple and possesses a clarity that renders it nothing short of a revelation.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Having now read it, it appears obvious why it is a critical favourite. It justifies and encourages everything about cinema that is ideal. Perhaps then it is idealistic, but show me a single manifesto that isn’t.

This is a great collection of writing by a great film director and at a meagre 75 pages it can be read very quickly. Furthermore, it’s the type of book that you can pick up and read from any page. Each sentence is stimulating and I’m hell bent on committing them to memory. Read it today if you can, and if you can’t go watch A Man Escaped.

I Listen to Music!

Hey. Have you guys heard of music?

Well not only have I heard of music, I can actually confirm that I have heard music.

And now, through the power of the infonet you can see what music I have heard. And when I heard it. How bout that?

Lastfm is a rad program that you can download. Once installed the audioscrobbler takes note of all the music you listen to, not only on your computer but even on your ipod! It then gives you charts and stats and the like showing you what you have listened to.

I’m posting this because I recently signed up for a new lastfm account which you can follow here. I got a new one after my girlfriends sister plugged in her ipod one time making ‘Sex on Fire’ my favourite song by a whopping 300 plays.

Lately, as you can see, I’ve been pumping my fist to ‘Tao of the Dead’ by …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of the Dead (check out the cover!) and ‘Age of Adz’ by Sufjan Stevens whose show in Wellington last week was one of the best I’ve ever been to.

So now you can see that I’m a cool guy that knows about music as well as movies. Next I’m gonna check out books. I might even read one. Maybe.

I Film great bands!

My good friend Brandon Sayring is a bona fide cool guy and he runs an impressive new musical venue in my hometown Whanganui. It’s called The ARC Theatre (in honour of well known Whanganui musical figurehead Al Cameron) and lately some pretty radical bands have been playing there.

Here are some clips I shot at the Halloween grand opening show which was a pretty incredible spectacle. Using The ARC Theatre’s Vimeo channel I’ll upload more musical marvels, so keep an eye on it if you like what you see!

I DRINK YOUR BLOOD!

OL’ FOUR EYES!

OCELOT!

To come! The spooky sounds of HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL and the glitch banging beats of ITTERATA!

My Xmas Wishlist

Friends! After an appallingly meagre output this year I probably don’t deserve a present. However, with a new computer in tow I endeavor to improve my blog batting average.

Truth be told, I’ve barely watched any movies of late, although like just about everyone else I did see The Social Network (Verdict: Superb). The reason I’ve been avoiding my first love is because I’ve been indulging my second; Television. And how about that show Deadwood? Good grief, what a stellar effort in just about every way. And HBO canned it! Travesty. I almost can’t fault the damn thing, except that her indoors has shifted her obsession from Eric Northman to Seth Bullock. What I wouldn’t give to have a wingman like Charlie Utter.

Now that I have filled my HBO quota for the time being I’m about to end my movie drought by watching Bob Rafelson’s The King of Marvin Gardens. And lo and behold it’s available in the most exciting Criterion collection release of recent times.

Can you believe this? All these pictures, including Jack Nicholson’s previously unreleased directorial debut Drive, He Said all in the same set with screeds of extras. Only Criterion could have done this and released it just in time for Xmas. So it should be fairly obvious what I’d like to see under the tree with my name on it.

When I do get this set (and I will get it so help me God) expect to see the odd post detailing my progress through the set. In the meantime go and watch Deadwood if you haven’t already. You’ll be growing a moustache in no time.

Jesus.

Jesus, I haven’t posted anything since March. And now I’m going on holiday for two months. Shameful shit. I’m sorry reader. I’ll be back with the vengeance of a cat o’ nine tails, so help me God.

I’ll post like 200 travel snaps, how does that sound? I’ll stand by some castles and maybe some bridges. A picture of me looking tired at the airport. Some clouds and the wing of the plane. You’ll go nuts, believe me. In the mean time read my friends blogs. Those diligent bastards.

I know! Re-watch The Wire and then when I get back we can talk about how much stuff we missed the first time round. We can talk about Randy and that scene, you know the one I mean.

If they have the internet in Europe (still not sure if they do) I may even post something. Maybe a picture of me and Terence Stamp. Love that guy.

Anyways, see you when the Delorean hits 88.