Liberated from One's Own Subjectivity

Liberated from One's Own Subjectivity

"One of the first, knockout exercises that you can do with actors, which is used in lots of theater schools where they use masks, is putting a plain, blank, white mask on someone.The moment you take someone’s face away in that way, it’s the most electrifying impression: suddenly to find oneself knowing that that thing one lives with, and which knows is transmitting something all the time, is no longer there."

~ Peter Brook

It's Not Language that Governs the Connection Between People

Bérénice Bejo and Tahar Rahim in The Past (Photo by Carole Bethuel, Sony Pictures Classics)

Excerpts from "Oscar-Winning Filmmaker Asghar Farhadi on Making Movies in Iran," KCRW's The Business, Dec. 23, 2013:

Kim Masters: The film is almost entirely in French. How did you manage that [since you don't speak French]?  

Asghar Farhadi: I moved with my family and we lived in France for two years. I set aside a great deal of time to become acquainted with the melodies of the French language. I tried to become familiar with the daily details of life there, with the way people behave. I had numerous French friends and they were invaluable. But what helped me the most was the fact that the story I had was one that was structured on the basis of the similarities of our cultures, not the differences...

I had several people who acted as my voice. There was one of them who accompanied me constantly, who not only interpreted the words I spoke, but who shadowed me in gesture. When I would move my hands, he would also do the same thing. When I raised my voice, he too would raise his voice. Gradually I began to feel that he was my voice. He was closer to who I was. I remember the day when I said something and then I walked over to the table to pick up a cigarette, and he started interpreting and walked over to the table and picked up a cigarette...

But after a while, I discovered that it's not language that governs the connection between people to the extent that we imagine it does. When people grow close to each otherthrough their eyes, through a kind of an exchange of energythey can grasp a great deal about each other.

With Bérénice, with those children, I discussed matters of great delicacy and intricacy that even in Persian would be difficult to convey.   

Discipline of Do Easy

"D.E. is a way of doing. D.E. simply means doing whatever you do in the easiest most relaxed way you can manage, which is also the quickest and most efficient way, as you will find as you advance in D.E. You can start right now tidying up your flat, moving furniture or books, washing dishes, making tea, sorting papers. Don’t fumble, jerk, grab an object. Drop cool possessive fingers onto it, like a gentle old cop making a soft arrest."

Changing The World

"So here’s the thing about changing the world. It turns out that’s not even the question, because you don’t have a choice. You are going to change the world, because that is actually what the world is. You do not pass through this life, it passes through you. You experience it, you interpret it, you act, and then it is different. That happens constantly. You are changing the world. You always have been, and now, it becomes real on a level that it hasn’t been before."

Joss Whedon, from his commencement address during Wesleyan's181st Commencement Ceremony. 

Nothing is Original

Grant Avenue at Oak Street, April 12, 2012

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery—celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.” 

~ Jim Jarmusch, from "Jim Jarmusch's Golden Rules," MovieMake Magazine, January 22, 2004

To Be Good at Feeling

"We exist in a time where technological change is taking place so profoundly that as human beings reared on the 20th Century paradigm there is little way we could possibly keep up. Think for a second about the effect this must have on our emotions. Though Beginners weaves a simple narrative about a man and his relationship to his father, his girlfriend, his dog and his work, there is a bigger story at play. Some people draw well, some people play music well, some people make films well, but how many of us actually feel well? I'm speaking of 'well' in the sense of being able to feel with talent…to be good at feeling. To act and live within the full expression of the word and to accept all the responsibility that it entails. Perhaps, even if we have to approach this journey as beginners, this is a proposition worth considering."

~ Aaron Rose, excerpted from The Art of Feeling Well in Drawings from the Film Beginners

See also:

Mystery is the Catalyst for Imagination

"One of the things that I bought at the magic store was this: Tannen's Mystery Magic Box. The premise behind the mystery magic box was the following: 15 dollars buys you 50 dollars worth of magic. Which is a savings. Now, I bought this decades ago...I don't keep everything, but for some reason I haven't opened this box...And I started thinking, why haven't I opened it?

The price of mystery has risen a bit since 1976.And I realized that I haven't opened it because it represents something important -- to me. It represents my grandfather...[and] it represents infinite possibility. It represents hope. It represents potential. And what I love about this box, and what I realize I sort of do in whatever it is that I do, is I find myself drawn to infinite possibility, that sense of potential. And I realize that mystery is the catalyst for imagination. Now, it's not the most ground-breaking idea, but when I started to think that maybe there are times where mystery is more important than knowledge, I started getting interested in this."

~ J.J. Abrams, from "Mystery Box," TED, March 2007

See also:

How Is It That the Innocent Survive

Excerpt from "Wicked’s Gregory Maguire on What Turns a Story into a Fairy Tale":

You might say that every fairy tale at its heart is the story of growing up, of a protagonist successfully navigating the treacherous path through the woods from innocence to experience without being eaten by the wolves. For children a fairy tale is about hope. They don’t yet know if they are going to make it. They read fairy tales as being about what might happen, that they might have the strengths to make it through the woods and fight the dragons, and end up in the castle with the princess or the prince. Adults look at fairy tales differently, because, if they are adults, presumably they have made it to that safety zone of having survived their childhoods. They look back at fairy tales with a combination of nostalgia––because don’t we all love something about our childhoods anyway, including the mystery of what was going to be on the other side of childhood––and a sort of clinical curiosity. We want to know how is it that the innocent survive when they are really so clueless. We love to read about how people became who they became, how Picasso became Picasso, or how Elizabeth Taylor became Elizabeth Taylor. As adults, let’s face it, even if we have make it to adult life, we are still not sure exactly who we are. To look back at the story of a fairy tale, which is to look back at the story of a path from cluelessness to potency, can continue to give us courage.

Erik Christian Haugaard, a Danish writer who is now dead, said in a speech once, “The Fairy tale always takes the side of the weak against the mighty. There is no such thing as a fascist fairy tale. A fascist fairy tale would be an absurdity.” There is something essential about that fact. The protagonist can’t be dominating or mean or the bully of the playground. There might be new fairy tales, but there are some eternals that have to exist. If they don’t exist, what we see is not a fairy tale––it is something else. The absolute requirement of a fairy tale may be that the protagonist has to be in some way less strong and more humble than other people in the story. But as long as that is in existence than the form of a fairy tale can change infinitely and it will always be recognizable by anyone who hears the words “once upon a time.”

See also: Director Joe Wright explains the surprising five films that inspired the making of Hanna.

In Between

Sofia Coppola, speaking with Kurt Anderson about Somewhere on Studio 360 (Jan. 7, 2011):

“[The main character] is based on a bunch of different movie star actors that I’ve known or met or heard stories about and mixed them all together. He’s become famous recently and he’s doing a press conference for a movie he’s done called Berlin Agenda so you get the idea he’s done some kind of big action movie that he’s not very proud of. I never want to show him making a movie. It’s not really about the film business, but that’s the backdrop. I try to think of things that the actors would do in between films like get a head plaster cast, or sometimes they learn strange skills. You hear stories about actors having romances with their leading ladies and I thought, what happens when they have to get back together a year later for a reshoot or a press junket. Everything’s heightened when you’re doing a movie and then it’s over.”

“I like in life how so much is conveyed by the way someone gives a look or a glance. I think a lot of times in movies, people explain all their feelings, but in life you’re not always able to articulate a lot of things. And part of the fun of making films is telling the story in a visual way.”

Not Beyond Your Imagination

James Cameron, in conversation with Elvis Mitchell for a special online edition of The Treatment, recorded live at a benefit for the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“I’ve always believed in exploration. I’ve always believed in that sense of going beyond and looking where we haven’t looked. I think the film connects that way in a number of different ways. There’s one line I hate and studios love to use: Beyond your imagination. It’s not beyond your imagination. People have great imaginations. They have great dreams when they’re kids. You can fly when you’re a kid in your dreams. As you grow up, your dreams somewhat diminish and you don’t fly as much in your dreams. I wanted to go back to that childlike dream state in this movie because I think we all kind of connect at that level. And so I wanted to create essentially a lucid dream that would connect us all at some kind of unconscious level.”

*     *     *

“We were tasked with designing all these creatures and plants and everything for this movie. And every time we thought we had a great idea somebody would bring in a photograph or some bit of nature here had beat us to the idea. Ultimately, at the end of a two-year design process, we had to just admit with great humility that nature’s imagination was better than the combined imagination of the best visual artists on the planet that I had gathered to make Avatar. And it’s true.”

*     *     *

In his talk at TED 2010, James Cameron “reveals his childhood fascination with the fantastic — from reading science fiction to deep-sea diving — and how it ultimately drove the success of his blockbuster hits Aliens, The Terminator, Titanic and Avatar.”

How Much Control Did You Have?

an_education “I have an emotional attachment to the book. I think the terminology is wrong. People talk about books being turned into movies. They're not turned into movies. They sit there in bookstores and if the movie's bad, they're still in bookstores and if the movie's good, they're in bookstores but there are more copies of them. I think there are very few examples of books that are actually damaged by movies. People either don't know the movie was made or it brings readers to the books...

The most common question I think writers are asked about this is, how much control did you have? And my answer to that is, I didn't have very much control, I don't want very much control, and I don't understand how control works. Say I knew enough about directors and actors to dictate who's going to direct a movie and who's going to star in it. Well, I don't know enough about directors of photography and they can make or break a film. I don't know anything about editing and a bad editor can completely mess a film up. I don't know anything about score composers. And these are all integral parts of a movie-making process. So I'd rather give it to somebody that I trust initially and hope that they make the right decisions."

~ Nick Hornby, in conversation with KCRW’s The Business producer Matt Holzman (January 25, 2010)

Once When the Mercedes Broke Down

From Once by Wim Wenders:

Summer 1978 in Napa Valley, California. Photograph: Wim Wenders


I drove in a silver Mercedes 600
together with Akira Kurosawa, his translator,
Tom Luddy, Monique Montgomery and a few others
from San Francisco
to Napa Valley.
Francis Coppola had invited us to his mansion and his winery.
Halfway there,
the big Mercedes broke down.
We spent an hour
at a country fair nearby
where the panoramic picture
of Kurosawa and a Cajun band,
The Louisiana Playboys, was taken.
Then Les Blank came by
with his old van.
We accepted his invitation
and changed cars.
Francis was very surprised
when the boneshaker stopped at his front porch
and Kurosawa stepped out of the vehicle.

The rest of this afternoon
was beautifully quiet and peaceful.
It was hot
and we all went swimming in a pond.
Except for Kurosawa.

Everywhere, but Nowhere

“All the airports kind of feel and look the same now. Some are more beautiful, some are less beautiful, but for the most part you’re going to find a Starbucks in every airport. You’re going to get your coffee and the USA Today or New York Times in every airport. All the things that you want are there, so you can land anywhere, and you feel at home. You’re given the sense that you’re everywhere, but you’re nowhere; that you are constantly with your community, yet you have no community. There’s kind of a terrific irony to that.”

~ Jason Reitman, from “A Director Who Gives Business the Business,” by David Carr, New York Times, November 25, 2009

Most of Our Time

“I had this very particular feeling about the three levels of ordinary life. Most of your life is taken up by mundane things like getting to an appointment on time, or whether you look too fat. Meanwhile, all over the world, people are being tortured and murdered. And at the same time there’s this six-billion-year-old mystery of the world that we’re a part of. And yet we spend most of our time dealing with losing our car keys. [The Starry Messenger] is about being more concerned with your car keys than about, say, what caused the formation of galaxies.”

~ Kenneth Lonergan, from “Playwright and Director in a Single Hair Shirt,” by Patrick Healy, New York Times, November 4, 2009

Trying to Find a Location

Pitcher of Colored Light,2007

"Like the roots of a plant reaching down into the ground, filming remains hidden within a complex act, neither to be observed by the spectator nor even completely seen by the filmmaker. It is an act that begins in the filmmaker's eyes and is formed by his gestures in relation to the camera…

The filming is a search for correct contours, and is activated by a physical sense that is similar to trying to find a location that has been seen only once. Memory searches for the right direction. Drawing together details and hints, this sense is nearest to touch in its awareness of proportion. It is this quality in the filming that I compare to the roots of a plant.”

~ Robert Beavers, “La Terra Nuova,” The Searching Measure (University of California, Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, 2004)

The Purpose of Human Life

Jane Campion in conversation with Elvis Mitchell on The Treatment (September 16, 2009):

“What I was struck by when I read the story was how emotionally powerful it was for me. It wasn’t just the sadness, it seemed to tell the whole story of the yearning heart. But also this other thing elevated by Keats who — only twenty-five —dying, yet he had already realized something that seems to be, I think, contingent on us all to discover which is the purpose of human life — somehow to realize your consciousness and to value it. And I think in the way he explored it philosophically in his letters to his friends and in his poetry he was aware, he did listen, and I felt I learned such a lot from the story in that way.”

“If you read Louise Bourgeois, she talks about women and waiting. Her family mended tapestries and she was a great sewer and I like sewing, too. I collect women’s embroidery of tablecloths and things like that. I’ve got quite a big collection. I often give them as gifts because I find there’s enormous pathos for me in that a woman can spend all this time embroidering this thing that you’re never going to get the money back on, it’s got no immediate return, but it’s satisfying to them. I find it’s like the woman’s place in this world. It’s moving to me the way that they’re happy to make these beautiful things for other people to enjoy with no commercial return. None.”

True Happiness Lies Within

“When I first heard about meditation, I had zero interest in it. I wasn't even curious. It sounded like a waste of time.

What got me interested, though, was the phrase 'true happiness lies within.' At first I thought it sounded kind of mean, because it doesn't tell you where the 'within' is, or how to get there. But still it had a ring of truth. And I began to think that maybe meditation was a way to go within.”

~ David Lynch, from “Deep Thoughts by David Lynch,” Utne Reader (May/June 2007)