Friday, February 25, 2011

Darren Aronofsky

Darren Aronofsky is the reason why I have a beard. I was first introduced to his work in high school, when I stumbled across Requiem for a Dream (2000). I was blown away by the no-nonsense approach to telling a story and quickly began investigating the bonus features on the disc. I was fascinated by the young director who, in the commentary, remarked that he would refrain from shaving until finishing production on his film. I have come to realize, since then, that some of my favorite directors have or have had beards. It's something that I have associated with all great directors, which is the simple reason why I have a beard.

I had a chance to catch an advance screening of Black Swan (2010) several months ago. I wasn't able to get in, but I did catch a peak of Darren Aronofsky just as he was about to enter. I was disappointed, until several weeks ago, when I had another opportunity to see the filmmaker in person. I had the pleasure of attending another screening of Black Swan, which was followed by a discussion with, Darren Aronofsky, the cinematographer, Matthew Libatique and the editor, Andrew Weisblum. Their discussion was followed by a screening of Pi (1998), from a brand new print of the film which looked spectacular.

I love listening to Darren Aronofsky talk and have arguably listened to every interview he has given. There was a comment from someone in the audience praising his work on The Fountain (2006), which is my favorite film of his. The discussion, however, mainly centered around Black Swan, including the performance of Natalie Portman. There was a question towards Matthew Libatique, asking if he has a "love affair" with Super 16mm, to which he replied that he loves shooting on film, period. I can't tell you how happy that makes me, as someone who prefers the look of film over digital, not to mention when a filmmaker and cinematographer take risks and shoot on a lower film stock. The evening concluded with the moderator asking Darren Aronofsky if he was in fact working on The Wolverine (2012), to which he laughed and joked, refusing to answer, as expected.

The entire audience rushed to Darren Aronofsky afterwards, demanding autographs and squeezing in on him. I don't really care for bothering such filmmakers, but I did want a simple acknowledgement. I went outside and stumbled upon Matthew Libatique, who left with the rest of us. I thanked him for coming, and he continued on and stood outside with everybody else, chatting about film. I did notice, however, that Darren Aronofsky was sitting in his car. I stood there, hoping to see him once more, and then, his chauffeur drove off right beside us. I immediately waved at him, hoping for a polite gesture back, and that's exactly what I received. Darren Aronofsky smiled and waved back. That's really everything for me, an aspiring filmmaker, who loves and appreciates his style.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Christopher Nolan discusses his best film, Memento

I remember watching Memento (2000) for the first time and having a unique experience. The entire film was backwards; however, I had to no trouble following its narrative. I felt like I was piecing together a puzzle, and felt like I was a part of the film and its structure. This had never happened before, and after watching the film, the name of its director was imprinted into my memory... Christopher Nolan.

Christopher Nolan is one of the most talented filmmakers working today, in terms of a visionary director who is a master at crafting a film. In honor of the tenth anniversary Blu-ray release of Memento, Christopher Nolan visited the Egyptian Theatre for a discussion with Guillermo del Toro.

Guillermo del Toro mentioned that he "kind of hates" him because Memento was only Christopher Nolan's second feature film. The film is a remarkable achievement for a beginning filmmaker, considering Following is a much smaller film in terms of... everything. Christopher Nolan mentioned that Ridley Scott was a significant influence on his career, most notably Inception (2010). The screenplay for Inception was written a year or two after Memento was finished, and the unconventional narrative structure was still fresh in his mind.

Christopher Nolan discussed the importance of editing process, and mentioned that they filmed a whole bunch of shots not knowing what to do with them, primarily shots of Leonardo's wife. The editor went in and put in some shots of her in the last sequence, which match cuts serves as match cuts with Leonard. This helped up the emotional impact of the story, and created an layer within the film that would later be explored in depth in Inception. In addition, the screenplay didn't have an emotional center and was written as a very "cold" story. In his opinion, Guy Pierce (who he was reluctant to cast because he was much younger than he had imagined) was the one who brought the emotional center of the story to the character.

There were some difficulties in finding a distributor, as many studios did not feel like there was an audience for this film. Christopher Nolan also said that Quentin Tarantino was an influence on him because he inspired him to read crime novels and stories, which became the basis for his film. In his opinion, the film holds up ten years later because he was inspired by novels and stories rather than films, which is why he feels films like Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994) are more "retro."

There was also some discussion about "Memento Mori," the original short story his brother, Jonathan Nolan, was writing prior to the making of the film. The film, however, was filmed and edited before the story was finished. Christopher Nolan discussed the reason why, claiming that he was able to make the story of the film subjective before his brother.

I have always wanted to see Christopher Nolan in person, especially after seeing Memento for the first time. There's something humble and honest about him, even though he has the entire Batman franchise sitting on his shoulders. There's no question that he has come a long way in the past ten years, and become one of the most in demand filmmakers working today. I was blown away by Memento years ago, and his name has stuck ever since. Christopher Nolan is one of the few filmmakers whose name we can mention today and audiences will immediately trust his work... and that's admirable.