Yellow (Stillwater Diary)

Fall 2014, Stone Ridge, NY

Fall 2014, Stone Ridge, NY*

I’m not adverse to changing leaves, their colors are beautiful, the light through them is luminous, but as they’re shed they redefine the skyline, as it slips from green to yellow to bare, dark sticks.

The infinite blue sky of fall as backdrop for yellow leaves always makes me think of the colors in one version of Andy Warhol’s cow wallpaper (which isn’t the version on the wall of the staircase leading up from the education center at MoMA).  Outside in the clear light, the crisp air, I also think “un dia muy precioso.”

But too many sources are predicting (threatening?) a winter like last year’s, deep cold and snow, and I’m not ready for the big fade to white.

Fall 2014, Stone Ridge, NY

Fall 2014, Stone Ridge, NY

Fall 2014, Stone Ridge, NY

Fall 2014, Stone Ridge, NY

Fall 2014, Stone Ridge, NY

Fall 2014, Stone Ridge, NY

*In the bottom left photo, the double black spec over the sycamore (that’s one from the right) is an adult eagle.

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L.M. Kit Carson 1941–2014

Kit and Hunter Carson, Houston, TX, 12/3/83

Kit and Hunter Carson, Houston, TX, 12/3/83

Hunter’s sneakers and sweatshirt were crimson, Kit’s scarf, a more subdued shade of red, but his slicker was blazing yellow.  We were in Houston, preparing to shoot the scenes in Wim Wenders’ “Paris, Texas” of Jane (Nastassja Kinski) arriving at and driving through the bank.  (Her car was red too).

I heard earlier this week that Kit had just died.  My extreme sadness included a strange component–a feeling that eight-year-old Hunter had lost his father.  Although I’ve seen Hunter since his miraculous performance in “Paris, Texas,” know he’s an adult with three small daughters, and a writer and filmmaker, the child he was is forever imprinted on me.

Kit’s career, fueled by his great instincts and huge talent, included work on several of the most important films in independent cinema, shaping the medium.  He was the co-writer (with director Jim McBride) of the very funny “David Holtzman’s Diary,” which critiqued cinéma vérité.  His documentary “The American Dreamer,” chronicled the chaos involved in the making of Dennis Hopper’s “The Last Movie.”  Kit breathed life into Sam Shephard’s unfinished script for “Paris, Texas.”  On set daily, both in Texas and Los Angeles, he was smart, funny, energetic and always interestingly dressed, whereas most of us looked like we’d slept in our clothes.  And Kit aided a young, inexperienced  director and two actors, in front of a camera for the first time, make a short and then expand it into a feature, “Bottle Rocket,” launching the careers of Wes Anderson and Luke and Owen Wilson.

Kit Carson and Wim Wenders on the set of "Paris, Texas," Los Angeles, 11/83

Kit Carson and Wim Wenders on the set of “Paris, Texas,” Los Angeles, 11/83

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Portrait of the Artist as a Young Jerk

Alex Ross Perry, NYC, 10/8/14

Alex Ross Perry, NYC, 10/8/14

Philip Lewis Friedman (Jason Schwartzman), an ascendant young novelist, is a furious collection of bad traits.  The protagonist of writer and director Alex Ross Perry’s third feature, the very funny “Listen Up Philip,” is dismissive toward (and jealous of) his photographer girlfriend, Ashley Kane (Elizabeth Moss), arrogant, critical, rude, selfish, angry and impatient (particularly enraged by slow foot traffic in New York, with which I totally–and sheepishly–identify).

His jangly physicality is emphasized by DP Sean Price Williams’ handheld photography and claustrophobic tight shots.  I’m not often drawn to Schwartzman’s performances but here his natural sweetness cuts through Philip’s bilious demeanor just enough to make the character not only watchable but riveting.  And I rarely have patience for prolonged voice-over but the well-written paragraphs, as delivered by narrator Eric Bogosian, fit and enhance the literary atmosphere.

Meeting with his editor shortly before the publication date of his second novel, Philip, although highly ambitious, indulges in a bit of self-sabotage and declares that he won’t be available to do press.  He does, however, express interest in meeting a famous older writer, Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce)–think Philip Roth–who has sent him a laudatory letter.

Philip and Zimmerman are two versions of the same raging artist id–Melanie (Krysten Ritter), the latter’s mistreated daughter calls Philip “a younger surrogate to handle the forlorn moping”–and the men become friends and confidants.  Zimmerman’s offer to let Philip use his secluded upstate New York retreat for the summer, as a place to write without distractions, is readily accepted.  Ashley’s sadness at being easily abandoned registers with Philip as an irritant.

Zimmerman arranges for Philip to teach creative writing for the fall semester at a nearby liberal arts college.  He dislikes teaching, the students and other faculty members (including Yvette, a lovely French writer with whom he has an unsuccessful romance ) and returns to the apartment he shared with Ashley in Brooklyn, hoping to resume their relationship.  She throws him out and the sustained close-up on her face, as she experiences sadness, relief and strength, is beautiful and moving.

The men stay mired in their muck of self-absorption and self-regard and bitterness.  And for Philip, add a lack of self-awareness (“forever remaining a mystery, even to himself”). The three women absorb the body blows, shake free of the pain, and move on.

At the 52nd New York Film Festival’s press conference for “Listen Up Philip,” Perry cited both Maurice Pialat’s “We Won’t Grown Old Together,” a brutal dissection of a crumbling relationship, and Woody Allen’s “Husbands and Wives” as influences.  Asked if Philip is his alter ego, Perry said that while he shared “small similarities” with Philip he also identified with Ashley, adding that Philip Roth’s influence was 100%.

Alex Ross Perry–and Sean Price Williams–famously worked at Kim’s Video.  During our shoot, I told Alex that when I photographed director  Craig Zobel “(Compliance”), he said that he was very happy to have made his third feature because that was the number required to get a dedicated section at Kim’s.  Alex, the insider, replied, “We could give someone their own section if they’d made fewer films, if we wanted to.”

“Listen Up Philip” will open Friday, October at the IFC Center and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.  Alex Ross Perry and Jason Schwartzman will attend select shows on October 17 and October 18.  A national release will follow.

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Is Paris Exploding?

Volker Schlöndorff, NYC, 10/14/14

Volker Schlöndorff, NYC, 10/14/14

Before dawn in Paris on August 25, 1944, a German aristocrat, General Dietrich von Choltitz (Niels Arestrup), prepares to execute an order from Hitler (enraged  by the destruction of Berlin), to replace beauty with rubble in the City of Light, to greet the advancing Allied forces with total devastation.  Von Choltitz’s men have set explosive on 33 bridges (which “will cause the Seine to burst its banks”) and on Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Opera, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Les Invalides, the stations–all the glorious landmarks, represented by chess pieces on von Choltitz’s map.

Like a phantom, a Swedish diplomat, Consul Raoul Nordling (André Dussollier), appears in the elegant blue and gold suite at the grand Hotel Meurice, where the Nazis are headquartered.  Soft-spoken and eloquent, well-dressed in a black three-piece suit, and masquerading behind the neutrality of his country, Nordling begins a conversation, challenging von Choltitz, suffering from war-fatique and asthma, to defy the “absurd order” or be held responsible by history.

The tense (fictionalized) battle in Academy Award-winning director Volker Schlöndorff’s new film, “Diplomacy,” between the diplomat and the general, thrillingly fought by two of the world’s most extraordinary actors, deals with much more than the fate of Paris (which of course is obvious), delving into issues of war (how acceptable are civilian casualties, act of war or war crime, whether combatants are terrorists or patriots), which 70 years later are tragically still relevant.

“Diplomacy” will open on Wednesday, October 15 at Film Forum for a two-week run, with Volker Schlöndorff in person at the 7:00 pm show on October 15 and October 16.  A national release will follow.

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Barks and Recreation

Ryder6-1©robinholland

Our sweet Ryder is a noisy dog, the barkiest of our four Labradors, particularly vocal when we’re in the country.  If he sniffs something, he says something.

Ryder likes to swim, sleep and of course retrieve–sticks, his orange plastic dummy and balls, pretty much in that order.  He also enjoys literally chewing the scenery–ferns, fledgling pine trees and invasive Japanese stiltgrass.

Today he’s six.  Happy birthday, beloved PiePie.

SR 0814_070_©robinholland

IMG_0109_©robinholland

IMG_7646_©robinholland

Ryder6-2©robinholland

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NYFF52: The Films that Bookend the Career of a Master

Alain Resnais, NYC, 12/12/80

Alain Resnais, NYC, 12/12/80

Before the NYFF52 press screening of “Hiroshima Mon Amour” I turned to tell Nora Lee who always sits behind me for the unobstructed view of the screen–I slouch (“in the sports car like in the cinema,” as a Godard heroine said)–that I was really excited, having never seen Alain Resnais’ first feature (and first masterpiece).  She said it was a first for her too and that now she could cross it off her bucket list.  And that’s the type of people we are–while others have sky diving, driving on the salt flats, swimming with sharks, we have dark rooms filled and glowing with masterpieces of world cinema.

In Cahiers du Cinema 97, July 1959, Jaquette Rivette (in a conversation that included other immortals, Rohmer and Godard), said, “Resnais’ great obsession, if I may use that word, is the sense of the splitting of primary unity–the world is broken up, fragmented into a series of tiny pieces, and it has to be put back together again like a jigsaw…”

“Hiroshima Mon Amour” fills the screen with black and white shots of atrocity, mutilated bodies and a ruined city (“iron made vulnerable as flesh”), before framing on two beautiful bodies, entwined in a hotel room bed, heard talking (in startling voice-over) about Hiroshima, where they are.  It is August 1957.   The world has been split into before the bomb and after; the lovers, a French woman, an actress (Emmanuelle Riva), and a Japanese man, an architect (Eiji Okada), unnamed, simply he/Hiroshima and she/Nevers, are split too, into before and after their chance meeting and love affair.

She leaves him in the morning.  But that afternoon, with her return to France imminent (the film she was working on has been completed), he finds her on the set and they spend the day and night, wandering through the city, coming together and splitting apart, talking about their happy lives with spouses and children, and her lost, reviled love for a German soldier at 16, during the war, and 14 years later, their monumental love, that’s being lost as it’s happening.

To create “Hiroshima Mon Amour,” which Eric Rohmer, in the same Cahiers du Cinema conversation, called, “a film about which you can say everything,” Resnais worked with Marguerite Duras, writer (screenplay and dialogue); Sacha Vierny, cinematographer; Georges Delerue, music; and Anatole Dauman, producer.

Alain Resnais died in March at 91.  His final film, the quick and clever, and ultimately joyous “Life of Riley,” completed in 2013, is  included in the Main Slate.  Based on Alan Ackybourn’s play, “Relatively Speaking,” it uses highly stylized sets (with cut-outs of flowers and bushes and flowing fabric) and paintings of the locations (as well as actual footage of the English countryside) as establishing shots.  Close-ups of the actors on cross-hatched background, make them seem like superheroes in comic strips.

A group of friends with a long history are rehearsing a play for an amateur theater production when they find out that George, another member of their circle, is terminally ill.  The news upsets the emotional balance within and among the couples.  The nimble cast including Resnais regulars, the always wonderful Sabine Azéma (his wife) and the equally fine André Dussollier, moves briskly though the plot complications and emotional melt-downs caused by George (much talked about but unseen throughout). His situation and behavior (both during rehearsals and the women’s visits to help with the housekeeping), shake up the relationships, until lost equilibrium is restored to the couples. The great director’s career ends with a story of renewed love.

“Hiroshima Mon Amour,” unseen theatrically for decades, will screen in a gorgeous new 4K  restoration on Friday, October 10, 6:00 pm, at the Walter Reade Theater and will open on Friday, October 17 in New York at Film Forum and at Film Society’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, and in Los Angeles.

“Life of Riley,” will screen on Friday, October 10, 9:00 pm, at the Walter Reade Theater and on Saturday, October 11, 2:00 pm, at the Francesca Beale Theater in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and will open on Friday, October 24 in New York at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, followed by a release to select cities.

“Alain Resnais: Time, Memory and Imagination,” the French Institute/Alliance Français’ new CinéSalon series, continues through October 28.

Sabine Azéma, NYC, 10/2/87

Sabine Azéma, NYC, 10/2/87

 

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NYFF52: Special Events (A Semi-Sequel)

John Boorman

John Boorman

“Hope and Glory,” John Boorman’s most personal film, a revisiting of his childhood in World War II London during the blitz, had its U.S. premiere at the  New York Film Festival in 1987.  His latest (and reportedly his last), “Queen and Country,” Film Comment presents, a Special Event of NYFF52, screens on Tuesday, October 7 at 9:15 pm.

The great (and versatile) director’s new film catches up with his alter ego, Bill Rohan (Callum Turner), now 18 and beginning his mandatory service in the British army.  It’s 1952 and Bill’s coming of age–coinciding with the decline of the empire–is a series of firsts: cigarette (inadvertently strawberry-flavored), love (unrequited), independence.

I photographed John Boorman for the first time when he was in New York for NYFF25. We shot in the early evening in a suite at the Sherry Netherland.  As we were getting started, a producer arrived in a whirl with an early edition of the next day’s New York Times (hard to remember the pre-internet world when news wasn’t 24/7) and read aloud Janet Maslin’s rave review of “Hope and Glory.”

John Boorman, Sherry Netherland, NYC, 10/8/87

John Boorman, Sherry Netherland, NYC, 10/8/87

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