Vice magazine recently interviewed one of my all time favourite filmakers Adam Curtis. I love that in his stories he makes totally original and creative connections and parallels, like no other journalist. It helps that he’s funny too.
VICE: So, as you see it, there is a basic failure in the way news has been reporting on the modern planet. Is there something inherently difficult about this?
Adam Curtis: Well, yes, what I’m talking about is three things: finance, computers and management theory. They shape people’s lives these days, yet they are absolutely unstoryfiable – you cannot turn them into a story. No one’s really found a way to describe this odd world we live in. I mean, I live in Holborn and every day I go to the BBC I see these waves of people going into offices and I know they’re going to spend their time in front of their computers being told, “If you like this then you’ll like that,” and being managed by all these systems. No one’s really found a way of describing that world to those people. And that’s what journalism should be doing. It really should.
Can you give me an example of how it’s failed?
There was this enormous financial crisis in 2008, which I’m sure we haven’t seen the end of. I don’t understand it. I don’t believe I’ve been told what has really happened because all I’ve heard are stories full of jargon about “collateralised obligations”. So I just feel lost. I’m lost in a world built from the jargon and terminology of the system of thinking that actually gave us the crisis in the first place, which is economics.
And this has neutered the abilities of journalists to explain the world to us?
Yes. I think it’s a real phenomenon of our time. The way power works has shifted into areas that journalism hasn’t found a way of explaining. It hasn’t found a way of pulling back and showing it to you in ways that haven’t been captured by the mindset of the people who are inside that thing. We did it with politics very well from the 1960s onwards. Starting with the New Journalism of the early 60s, which you would call immersionist journalism, people got in and found ways of describing what was going on in politics in a way that the politicians couldn’t capture.
How do you mean?
Well, you could pull back as if in a helicopter and look at them and go, “Look, they’re like that.” People sort of did the same with science, so you can pull back and still see it in a social context. But now it’s almost like we’re inside the machine and we can’t pull out and see it. I think news is really stuck.
OK, so when did this all start happening?
The early 90s. I’m quite interested in researching this at the moment. It’s partly due to the rise of 24-hour news in the 80s and it’s partly down to one married couple, Ted Turner and Jane Fonda. Jane Fonda is responsible for the VHS revolution through her workout videos and Ted Turner invented 24-hour news [with CNN]. Turner’s big idea was that he would get rid of those posh BBC reporters, who spent two weeks putting together pieces on what’s happening in Cyprus or wherever. He would get rid of that because it was boring and he was absolutely right. He exchanged it for this sense of immediacy, that stuff just happens. And that’s the thing of our time, stuff happens – it just does. No one has a sense of what’s coming these days, no one has a sense of the future. Turner openly said that what he wanted to shift news away from is the idea of packaged analysis and move it towards a sense of immediate experience. CNN did this very well at the beginning, then the Cold War came to an end and it all got a bit complicated.
You’ve talked before about how the end of the Cold War destroyed news narratives to such a point that everything got confused.
All the institutions that grew up within the Cold War, like the spies and the security agencies and the politicians, they suddenly didn’t know what was going on. So you get a simplification of the world, which comes from this lack of comprehension. You get these two-dimensional villains like Saddam Hussein or Colonel Gaddafi, these dark forces. And the journalists begin to describe the world as being full of rogue states, sadistic dictators, drug smugglers, paedophiles and human traffickers. You get this simplified but frightening world where all these shadowy figures just make things happen. That takes you through the 90s and then what happens is September 11, which seems to prove that all of that is absolutely true, and that there really are dark forces out there. And that’s why the VICE generation are apocalyptic and frightened. They have a vision of a dark, shadowy world which they can’t quite explain.
So how does the way the news is reported reflect my generation?
Well, the great wonder of our time is also a disease of our time: the desire to experience things for ourselves. It’s just the thing at the moment, what we don’t want is to be told stuff. We don’t like elites any longer because we’re all like each other. We want to know it ourselves, we want to feel it. It’s partly due to the rise of individualism. But what we get to is what I call the “duchess paradox”, where everyone is now a duchess in society. The real problem with that is that if you’re all duchesses then what’s the point of being a duchess? Everyone’s a celebrity now. Everyone wants to be a celebrity, they want to be treated like celebrities. They want to go to spas, they want to get married in big, posh houses. People will pay for VIP tickets to concerts. It’s extraordinary. Everyone is desperately searching for where it’s at. The point is there is nowhere it’s at – “it” simply just doesn’t exist. It’s the great tragedy for that generation: they just want to experience something.
There’s a compilation of his scarce interviews over the past few years here.
A Disney short film by John Kahrs
Wired: Director John Kahrs told Cartoon Brew that the origin of Paperman “really came out of working so much with Glen [Keane] on Tangled.” After looking at the work of Keane — a classic Disney animator who worked on The Little Mermaid, Beauty and The Beast and Aladdin, among many other projects — Kahrs found himself with a new appreciation for traditional animation and drawing techniques. “I thought, Why do we have to leave these drawings behind? Why can’t we bring them back up to the front of the image again? Is there a way that CG can kinda carry along the hand drawn line in a way that we haven’t done before?”
The answer was yes. It just required a technology that no one had actually created yet.
I love the look of this film, but I can’t help but think that it could have been better with some mild subversion. The dude should have been arrested for littering, only to be saved by a splinter cell of psychotic murderous paper planes that fly in and slice up the cops with heaps of papercuts.
Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f/0.7
Wiki: Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f/0.7 is one of the largest aperture lenses in the history of photography. The lens was designed and made specifically for the NASA Apollo lunar program to capture the dark side of the moon in 1966.
This clip from Stanley Kubrick: A life in Pictures explains how Kubrick used the lens, you can watch it in full here.
PhotoJournal: According to Marco Cavina (who wrote an extensive article about the Planar) the mastermind behind this lens was Dr. Erhard Glatzel, chief optical designer at Zeiss in Oberkochen. For his extremely complex calculations he used an IBM 7090, a giant supercomputer which back in the sixties filled an entire room and cost almost three million dollars. He made 4 prototypes of this lens before the final version was created. But not even Glatzel invented the design – it was based on a double-Gauss type calculation from the end of the 19th century. It got revived briefly in the late twenties and thirties (the latter by Kodak), but it was not until the first shots of the dark side of the moon were made by NASA (which was dissatisfied with the performance of the Angenieux 100mm/f1) that this lens got comissioned for production in Oberkochen.
There were supposedly only 10 copies ever made and six of them were sold to NASA. Stanley Kubrick, the legendary director and producer, soon found out about this amazing lens and pulled some strings to get it, fixing and adapting it for his Mitchell BNC camera to shoot his new movie called Barry Lyndon, a period drama starring Ryan O’Neal.
Ed DiGiuilio, the former president of Cinema Products Corporation, who was at the time also responsible for adapting the 20x Angenieux zoom 24-480mm for Kubrick’s artistic narration in »A Clockwork Orange«, remembers in an article from American Cinematographer that he suggested filming Barry Lyndon’s castle scenes with regular Superspeeds (who were at least 2 stops slower) and additional fill lights. Kubrick was not fond of the idea, because he wanted to »preserve the real feel and natural patina of those old castles«. He mounted the Planar 50mm/f0.7, lit up a bunch of triple-wicked candles (with flames that are three times larger and melt three times faster) and push-developed the whole film one stop to 200ASA to get the Rembrandt-esque feel he was after. The filming also had its directorial challenges – the slowness of the actors in the scenes is partly due to the requirements of not leaving the extremely shallow depth of focus.
Hopefully this is a return to form for Michel Gondry. It’s a shame Be Kind Rewind, The Green Hornet and The We & The I were all pretty much unwatchable… I’ve just discovered that in 2009 he made a small personal doco about Gondry family matriarch, his aunt Suzette Gondry, and her relationship with her son, Jean-Yves. Check out The Thorn in the Heart here.
There’s no subtitles for this one but you get the message… here’s the trailer for Mood Indigo.
I’m pretty sure I heard this song in another film trailer… maybe Silver Linings Playbook, not sure.
For some reason it sounds a bit like a Bunnings ad and now I feel like buying a drill.
The trailer just dropped for the Coen brothers’ new film Inside Llewyn Davis. No Roger Deakins this time, but I’m still loving the muted palette. Carey Mulligan is always good and it seems that this Oscar Isaac chap is on the rise, Good work. I love that every film these guys make is a complete departure from everything they’ve done in the past.
Jarmusch @ 60
By David Hudson
Jim Jarmusch is 60 today, and chances are, he’s in post-production on his vampire movie, Only Lovers Left Alive, which’ll be featuring Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt and Anton Yelchin. Shooting wrapped in Germany last fall.
Any quick roundup of appreciation of Jarmusch’s work has to begin with Jonathan Rosenbaum, a friend of the filmmaker who, after all, wrote the book on Dead Man (1995). In 2004, JR opened a piece for the Guardian on Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) with this: “It’s an enduring paradox of Jim Jarmusch’s work as a writer-director that, even though his films may initially come across as a triumph of style over content, in the end it turns out to be a victory of content over style. Maybe it’s the ultimate paradox of minimalism: the less your work does and is, the more these things matter.”