January 10, 2010

Daybreakers (2009)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Wilson @ 7:12 pm
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Directors: Michael Spierig/Peter Spierig

98 min

Two Hollywood studio executives overheard in discussion:

A: So if we don’t come up with any new and more importantly profitable ideas, we’re both looking at a one way trip to the welfare line.
B: Hmm, well you know what the kids love these days? VAMPIRES!
A: Vampires. I like it. But how do we come up with something different? The kids are all about Twilight these days.
B: Well let’s just take someone like the main guy from Twilight and introduce him to this dystopian America of the future where 95% of the world’s population and vampires and the remaining 5% of humans are dying out. Our guy’s a sympathetic vampire, someone we can root for. He doesn’t want to feed off humans, he wants to be human.
A: I’m listening. But dystopian? Sounds expensive.
B: We can film it in Australia for half the costs and take advantage of the tax breaks and government subsidies.
A: That’s more like it. But who should we have as our lead?
B: Brad? Leo?
A: With their salary bracket? No way. We need someone less pretty but who can pass as vulnerable and doe-eyed for the female demographic. But tough enough for the dudes. Someone like…..
B: Ethan Hawke!
A: Yes, he’s done that “doesn’t make sense” sci-fi bullshit in Gattaca and he’ll only cost [taps away at calculator] a tenth of what Brad or Leo would ask for. We need some cheap rent-a-bad guys to beef up the casting. I’m thinking….
B: Sam Neill as a nefarious businessman and Willem Dafoe as a vampire-turned-human?
A: Interesting. But wait, how would Dafoe become human?
B: Don’t worry about that. Kids’ll buy anything. Just spout some pseudo-scientific tosh and make it sound semi-credible.
A: I see. But how will the human race survive? The odds are pretty stacked against it, you have to admit.
B: Well, the vampires are ravenous, so when they bite the vampires-turned-human, they too become human. And give it enough time, the whole population becomes human again. And this means we can liberally unleash blood and violence to impress the dudes who think the movie’s too pussy so far.
A: Cool. So how does it end?
B: It doesn’t. We deliberately leave a really rubbish ending to ensure the inevitable sequel or four.
A: B….you know that sports car you’ve always dreamed of? Make a deposit on it. Because we’re about to make shitloads of $$$


January 6, 2010

Henri-Georges Clouzot’s ‘Inferno’ (2009)


Directors: Serge Bromberg/Ruxandra Medrea

102 min

Henri-Georges Clouzot was without doubt one of the finest film makers France has produced. He has made at least three undisputable masterpieces; ‘Le Corbeau’ (1943 – loathed by both the Vichy government and the French resistance), ‘The Wages of Fear’ (1953) and ‘Diabolique’ (1955). In the following years, with Clouzot still at the height of his creative powers, the dynamics of film making changed in France as the older guard were usurped and replaced by the Nouvelle Vague generation. Perhaps in response to this, though Fellini’s 8 1/2 (1963) is often cited as an inspiration, Clouzot embarked upon his most ambitious film to date, ‘Inferno’.

Bromberg and Medrea’s documentary is the definitive account of this unfinished film. They began by working with the 15 hours of scenes that had been found and began to piece together what Clouzot’s vision of the film might have been. Where there were gaps in what was filmed from what was in the script, they used actors to play the parts. In addition to this, they interviewed remaining key personnel from the film to try to obtain a glimpse of how ‘Inferno’ developed as a project, how it began to be filmed and ultimately, how it was aborted, effectively ending Clouzot’s directorial career in the process.

Whilst the acting and interviews are insightful enough, what really fascinates us most is the surviving footage from the abandoned film. Clouzot proposed a radical, bold new approach to film making, with his use of colour, lighting and sound design promising much in the means of cinematic innovation. Clouzot was working with an unlimited budget, with multiple crews and more than 150 technicians, and in the grand tradition of these things, anything that could go wrong did! Clouzot fell out with his lead actor, Serge Regianni, who walked off the set. Scenes were rewritten and refilmed on the spot, with the director insisting on numerous takes unnecessary, whilst Clouzot himself later had a heart attack that stalled the project forever. What survives though gives every impression that ‘Inferno’ could have been yet another Clouzot masterpiece. The basic premise; of a husband’s jealousy of his wife, whom he suspects of having an affair, is typical of Clouzot’s misanthropic world view, but it’s how he proposed to depict this that’s truly spellbinding. The focus seemed to be dealing with the husband’s psychological state. The shift between black and white and colour would define his descent from ‘normalcy’ to delusional. Distorted sound effects, such as speech being altered, would further reflect this. Certainly more ambitious than what Clouzot had arguably attempted in his previous films, it’s this ambition that ultimately would be the film’s downfall.

This screening was shown as part of a double bill with ‘Diabolique’, probably considered the director’s greatest film, with good reason. It’s one of the great psychological thrillers; chilling from start to finish. As grim in its depiction of human nature as any of his films, it suggests a world where the living are dead and the dead return to life. The final sequence is as great as anything committed to celluloid and the impact upon Hitchcock is clear, from the warning about the revealing the ending that was used in ‘Psycho’ (1960) to the use of the film’s writers for ‘Vertigo’ (1958)

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