Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gondry's Hammertime...

Saw gifted man-child Michel Gondry speak at the Hammer Museum last night. I could feel his head exploding. He had all my sympathies.

The interviewer was horrible. Gondry had things to say. He found a way to say them, but he had to fight the worst of LA's empty-headed vibes all the way. It was fascinating to watch him take over the room and convert the bland energy into something both shockingly real and vividly imaginary. He commented on how Americans are taught to perform 'professionally' at a young age. How we have to be supremely confident about our jobs, how there is no room for questioning or doubt. So, here is a man who never thought he'd be a filmmaker, who finds himself behind a camera, not knowing anything, but trusting his gut, his imagination, and his total lack of confidence to guide him through.

He also called attention to the power of the single take, the mounting tension and amazement that accumulates with each uninterrupted frame. He showed a couple examples. This one, Gary Jules' "Mad World," is a tad sappy, but on a big screen, coupled with the mood I was in, plus Gondry's note that the non-actor children only had to rehearse these moves twice to achieve a perfect take, really had old man Gazpachot as misty as a mountaintop.

I truly lament the passing of the music video as a viable outlet for visual experimentation.

What else... OK, I'll share some other things Gondry said. I'm always paraphrasing his words here. The memory ain't what it used to be...

0) I'm not going to talk until you fill all the seats. I heard backstage that they turned away over a thousand people, and I see (counts) eight empty seats. I'm feeling very guilty so let's find some people to fill those seats. This always happens. I go to a screening, I am so nervous. and the best seats in the house are empty, they have these papers stuck to them with names of people who are probably out at a bar somewhere.

1) I was always mystified by the difference between film and video. I remember on Monty Python when they would be shooting indoors on this sharp video, and then the minute they go outside it becomes this murky film world. It's almost like video pushes out at you and film is like a layer of velvet.

2) I never smoke pot. Pot makes you think you've accomplished things when really you never left your head. This is something Bjork and I agree on - pot is the worst. Look, I meet all of these people with ideas, and they are great, but they don't do them. You have to be strong and do. I hate this hippy idea of just being open to everything and letting it flow. No, sometimes you have to have a closed mind. You have to be prepared to fight. You have to declare your independence.

3) Sometimes you have to realize that everybodies advice is terrible. I work with crafts people and they are great. But craft is very conservative. It wants to do something a certain way, any other way is wrong. Why is it wrong? The usual answer is "don't you think they've tried it? Do you think you're so great that you're coming up with something new?" And that can shut down the conversation. But of course, we know that people can have new ideas, and I can show you a million examples where trying something that was "wrong" was "Right".

4) I would say that about 60% of what we call reality is only going on in our heads.

5) The Oscars teach us what are the most basic cinematic actions that many people are capable of responding to. It's a recipe book for what not to do. Typically an actor wins for a very controlled performance in which he or she plays someone the audience knows - "He was just like so and so..." I insist on chaos with my actors. I always hide their props or change something around on them because I think that when people are actually fumbling and awkward, this is the best.

6) Here's a good American fact that is totally true. An American can go to France, steal a french person's idea, come home and register the idea with the pattent people and then for the next six months he can sue the french person when they try to execute their idea.

7) I asked if I could use 90% of the budget to buy 32 Ludwig drum kits. I felt really good about that. And they let me!


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