The Art of Ray Harryhausen: Interview Part 3 – "One Million Years, B.C."

ONE MILLION YEARS B.C.

Since Ray Harryhausen recently completed a mini-tour of California in February, here – in advance of the opening of 10,000 YEARS, B.C. – are some of Ray’s comments on his own prehistoric dinosaur epic from 40 years ago: ONE MILLION YEARS, B.C.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: After doing THE ANIMAL WORLD, you didn’t work with dinosaurs again until you made ONE MILLION YEARS, B.C. for Hammer. Before that, did you ever try to get Charles Schneer interested in making a dinosaur film?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: No, because we were always doing pictures with very tight budgets. We were able to get a better budget from Hammer for ONE MILLION YEARS, B.C.That was their 100th anniversary movie and they spent a little more money than they usually did. We went on location to the Canary Islands, shooting mostly on Lanzarote, which had many bleak and desolate landscapes that were made of pure volcanic rock. They lent themselves quite well to re-creating the landscapes of a prehistoric world.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Did you know that in America Fox released the 91-minute version of the movie on DVD rather than the more complete 100-minute UK version?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Oh really? I didn’t know that. Of course, I have no control over what the studios do, but that actually goes back to one of problems we had while we were making the film. [Producer] Michael Carreras realized the film was going to be too long and originally it ended up with a sequence where a brontosaurus attacked the Rock people in their cave. But it was decided that we already had enough animation sequences and rather than doing any more costly animation, we abandoned that entire sequence, which I quite regretted. But because the model of the brontosaurus had already been built, I used it for a few shots at the beginning of the picture, where John Richardson sees it moving behind a hill.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: According to the production log for ONE MILLION YEARS, B.C., you spent eight months in 1966 animating the film. From March 17th to April 7th you worked on the pteranodon scenes, from April 12 to the 30th on the giant turtle, from May 2nd to June 3rd the allosaurus battle, and the longest time (June 6th to July 15th) was devoted to the ceratosaurus fighting the triceratops. By contrast, it took you less than a week to film the live-action of the iguana, so you saved quite a bit of time by using a real lizard.
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Yes, that’s the reason I used the iguana, to save time. I also thought by showing a live creature at the beginning, it would make the animated ones more convincing, but it did just the opposite, because the lizard kept falling asleep and we had to substitute other lizards. When I animate my creatures they all do exactly what I want them to do. There is no talking back.
Raquel Welch in ONE MILLION YEARS, B.C.LAWRENCE FRENCH: When ONE MILLION YEARS, B.C. came out in 1966, it became a big hit, possibly because of Raquel Welch appearing half naked on screen, more than your dinosaurs.
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Yes, it turned out to be quite a success and it made Raquel Welch into a big star. It also led Charles and I to try dinosaurs once again for our next picture, THE VALLEY OF GWANGI. But it took us over two years to make GWANGI, and the people at Warner Bros who we started the picture with, were gone when it was finished. The new people at the studio had no respect for what the old people had sanctioned and GWANGI really needed a really big publicity campaign, because most people thought GWANGI was another Godzilla type of thing.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Would you have liked to animate some of the newer dinosaurs species, such as the velociraptors that were so popular in JURASSIC PARK and KING KONG?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Oh, sure. But at the time, I used the most popular ones, because one was enough for me to animate, let alone a herd of them.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: After you worked at Hammer, did you ever think about using their most famous actor, Christopher Lee as a villain in one of your movies?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: No, but I knew Christopher Lee because we lived near him when we moved to Cadogan Square. Christopher still has a flat there.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: And until he died, Boris Karloff lived right next door to Christopher Lee on Cadogan Square.
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Yes, that’s right. But when we moved to Cadogan Square, Boris Karloff had already died. Since that time we’ve moved to Ilchester.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Looking back at your sixteen feature films, you made six movies in the fifties, and six films in the sixties, but only two in the seventies. I know animation is a very laborious process, but is there any reason for a four-film difference in the seventies?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Good Lord! I never added it up that way. I don’t know how to account for that, really. I guess we were more prolific in our early days.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Of your sixteen films, all of them were produced by Charles H. Schneer after you first began to work with him in 1955, with the exception of ONE MILLION YEARS, B.C. which you did for Hammer. How were you able to maintain such a long and successful working relationship?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: By never agreeing, I suppose. We were together for a long time. Charles always had a great sympathy for fantasy. We had many disagreements, which brings up that old saying, “if two people think exactly alike, one of them is unnecessary.” So we battled out many things in the name of the film, and in the end we’d come to a compromise.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Bernard Herrmann, who scored four of your films was quite a temperamental person, so was there ever any trouble with him about scoring JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS? The reason I ask is because the initial 1963 credits list Mario Nascimbene as the composer for JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS.
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: No, Bernie was always going to write the music for JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS. Crediting Mario Nascimbene was probably just a mistake somebody in Columbia’s publicity department made.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Did you have any input about using Mario Nascimbene to score ONE MILLION YEARS, B.C. ?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: No, getting Mario Nascimbene was something I had nothing to do with. Hammer made the arrangements to use him. But I thought he did a very effective score, although his music was not in the tradition of what we usually did – but it certainly seemed to fit the picture.
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Supernal Dreams: Should Roger Corman and Christopher Lee recieve Honorary Oscars?

At next Sundays Academy Awards show, art director Robert Boyle will be awarded with an honorary Oscar. While he certainly deserves such an honor, it’s rather amazing to consider how many living genre artists have been overlooked in this area. Today, in an article in The Washington Post, Ann Hornaday argues that Roger Corman is long overdue for such an honorary Oscar. It’s a sentiment I hardily agree with, and maybe it actually could happen at next years awards show.

Roger Corman (center) directs Jane Asher and Vincent Price.

Besides Mr. Corman, I’d also say Christopher Lee should be added to the list. In fact, given the role both Roger Corman and Christopher Lee have played in the film industry over the past 40 years, that these two living masters have never even been nominated for an Oscar has to be considered nothing less than, to quote Mr. Lee, “a disgrace!” Of course, genre legends like Boris Karloff were never nominated, either. But, in reality, none of this is very surprising, especially if you look at the long list of directors who have never won Oscars. Just a glance, and you’ll see it’s actually much more of an honor to be on the list of non-winners!  Here are just a few of the great directors who have never won an Oscar as best director – a list which includes some of the greatest name in the history of the cinema:  Orson WELLES, Alfred HITCHCOCK, Howard HAWKS, Stanley KUBRICK, Jean RENOIR, Fritz LANG, Otto PREMINGER, Nicholas RAY, Arthur PENN, Ingmar BERGMAN, Douglas SIRK, Robert ALTMAN, George LUCAS, Sidney LUMET, John BOORMAN, Alain RESNAIS, Jules DASSIN, Jean Luc-GODARD, Joseph LOSEY, Michelangelo ANTONIONI, Anthony MANN, Federico FELLINI, Roger CORMAN, Roberto ROSSELLINI, Sergio LEONE, Francois TRUFFAUT and many, many others.
Continue reading “Supernal Dreams: Should Roger Corman and Christopher Lee recieve Honorary Oscars?”

JUMPER is a surrealistic surprise – Film Review


There’s a feeling that Doug Liman is constantly pursing the truth. On this film, everything outside of the teleportation had to feel completely real to him. In doing so, he demanded the most of everyone working with him.
Hayden Christensen
Given all the worn out genre retreads Hollywood turns out these days, it’s nice to report that Jumper is a real breath of fresh air. Not only is it an expert thriller, taking us across the globe—from a director who obviously knows this area extremely well, given his experience on The Bourne Identity—it also is a key science-fiction topic and one that quite amazingly has never really been explored so fully before this. That is somewhat astonishing to consider, when you realize how key this concept is in science-fiction literature. It’s certainly right up there with space travel and time travel in the human imagination. And quite curiously, 20th Century Fox seems to have led the groundwork in this area when they released The Fly almost 50 years ago, in 1958. But it’s only been in the last decade or so that advances in special effects technology have reached a point where a movie like Jumper could be made so effectively. And like any science-fiction story, there will inevitably be critics who will point out several conundrums and plot holes large enough to drive a bus through (which literally happens in the movie).
Continue reading “JUMPER is a surrealistic surprise – Film Review”

The Art of Ray Harryhausen: Interview Part 2

Ray Harryhausen’s epic s-f fantasy film, EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS saw him destroy the White House and other sacred American monuments in Washington, D.C. during those long and dreary McCarthy era-years. It has been re-issued and restored in a colorized version on Columbia DVD, just in time to remind us that our own McCarthy era will last another year, until there is a new occupant in the White House.
Ray Harryhausen will be celebrated by the Art Directors Guild at a gala tribute on Feb. 16 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where he will receive an honorary outstanding contribution to cinematic Imagery award from the Art directors guild of America.
It’s notable that previous Guild recipients of this award have all been directors. They include, Steven Spielberg, Terry Gilliam, Zhang Yimou, Clint Eastwood, Blake Edwards, Robert Wise, Frank Oz, Norman Jewison and John Lasseter.
Ray Harryhausen is the first special effects artist to receive this award, and probably the first recipient to actually have acted as an art director on all of his films, as can be attested by his storyboards, drawings and paintings on view in his book, The Art of Ray Harryhausen.
While in California, Mr. Harryhausen will be making several personal appearances in February. You can find a listing dates and locations, along with part two of my interview with Ray Harryhausen, below the fold.
RAY HARRYHAUSEN APPEARANCES

  • Friday, February 15, 2008: Hollywood Collectors Show – Burbank Airport Marriott Hotel – Burbank, California.
    Ray will be on hand to sign his books, DVD’s and art prints. Friday only.
  • Saturday, February 16, 2008
    International Ballroom, Beverly Hilton Hotel

    Ray will be in attendance to accept the Art Directors Guild’s Cinematic Imagery Award.
  • Sunday, February 17, 2008: 3 p.m.
    Every Picture Tells A Story gallery and book store
    Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, California

    Ray will be on hand to sign his books, as well as his latest limited edition art print, a fabulous pre-production drawing Ray executed showing Sinbad battling a group of terrifying Bat People, a scene that was originally planned for the The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, but was not used in the final film.
  • Sunday, February 17, 2008: 5 p.m
    American Cinematheque presents at The Aero Theater – Live commentary on Ray Harryhausen’s The 7th Voyage of Sinbad
    Any Ray Harryhausen fan in Southern California will surely want to attend this event, as it will feature a star-studded cast of Ray’s associates giving a live commentary to this screening of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. Featured effects artists will be Dennis Muren, Randy Cook and Phil Tippett, while actors from Ray’s films on hand will include, Kathyn Grant, John Philip Law (from The Golden Voyage of Sinbad), and Joan Taylor (from Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers) along with film historian Arnold Kunert.
  • Wednesday, February 20, 2008
    Rafael Theater -San Rafael, California

    Ray ventures north to where Willis O’ Brien began his stop motion experiments in San Francisco before Ray was even born in 1920, and where stop-motion animation still flourishes. He will appear for a discussion of his films and career with Matte World principal Craig Barron, Tippett Studios head, Phil Tippett and ILM’s dean of special effects, Dennis Muren, along with film historian Arnold Kunert. Ray’s books and DVDs will be available for purchase and signing.
  • Saturday, February 23, 2008: 2 p.m.
    Dark Delicacies Book Shop – Burbank, California

    Ray will on hand to sell and sign his books, his latest DVDs and various other Harryhausen items.
  • Monday, February 25, 2008: 7:30 p.m.
    Mystery and Imagination Book Shop – Glendale, Californi
    a

    Ray will be here to sign his books, DVD’s and other items.

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RAY HARRHAUSEN INTEVIEW – Part II
[NOTE: Part One of this interview ended with Harryhausen discussing his early working making stop-motion short subjects based on fairy tales.]
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Did you attempt to copy the movement of any famous actor’s for the fairy tale characters?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Yes, in The Queen of Hearts I tried to give the Queen a Bette Davis walk. When she enters the room for the first scene, if you look at it, it’s based on Bette Davis’s type of walk. Miss Davis was always a very impressive actress. I put a little bit of Marie Wilson (Satin Met a Lady, Boy Meets Girl, My Friend Irma) into the Queen as well – you may not remember her, but she was known as the dizzy blonde. And the King of Hearts was based on Leo Carrillo (History is Made at Night, Horror Island, The Cisco Kid). For King Midas, I based the genie that comes out of the coin on Conrad Veidt. He was my favorite villain after I saw him in The Thief of Bagdad. And some of Mother Hubbard’s gestures came from my aunt, who was Germanic, and whenever she got excited, she’d throw her hands up in the air and shake them, so I reproduced that for Mother Hubbard.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: You used some very nice tracking and dolly shots in the fairy tales that are actually much more prominent than the camera movements you used in your feature films.
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: I had tracking shots in One Million Years, B.C. but I usually tried to avoid pan shots and things like that in the feature films, because it would take too much time. I could do that for the fairy tales, because I was working on my own time. I had a good tracking shot of Little Red Riding Hood when she was walking through the forest and also of the wolf. For that, I built a set about ten feet long right in my garage and I used a simple track. It was just two pieces of two by four with a sled on top of it. For each frame I would slide the camera over a little bit after I animated the character.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: The detail in the fairy tales is amazing. They have lots of animated birds flying through the scenes, as well as some nice layers of mist in the background sets.
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: I used the birds because I felt it helped to enliven the scene. I thought it would be much more effective, rather than just having a static scene with nothing happening. They were also a hangover from King Kong, where the birds were flying in front of Skull Island. And I had also seen Alexander Korda’s wonderful movie, The Jungle Book, which had those jungle backgrounds, so I used pieces of glass with little mists of white paint on them, to give an added depth to the backgrounds.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Was the Guadalcanal short you made while you were in the army ever shown anywhere?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: No. It was made in my spare time at night to show how you could use stop-motion photography to do a training film. I showed it to Frank Capra, and although he was impressed with it, the army never used it. At the time, I was working with Frank Capra in the Signal Corps and our post was at Western Avenue and Sunset, so I was able to live at home and work on Guadalcanal in my spare time.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Where did you get the tanks and other models you used for the army vehicles in Guadalcanal?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: All the tanks and boats I bought at the five and dime store. Except for the steamroller, which I had to build from scratch and the bulldozer, which was made from a model kit. The palm trees I had left over from Evolution. I used one foreground painting, which is obviously a painting, but shooting in 16mm you had a difficult time carrying the focus, because the painting was so close to the camera and in the background was the table where the action took place. To get a depth of field I stopped way down to f16 on the camera lens and took 30 seconds for each frame of film that was exposed. I originally used all canned music for the soundtrack, records of Stravinsky, Max Steiner and Howard Hanson, but we couldn’t get the release for that music for the DVD, so John Morgan and Bill Stromberg have composed new music for it.
[Special Note: Stromberg and Morgan have just re-recorded the fabulous Bernard Herrmann score to Harryhausen’s Mysterious Island on their new Tribute film scores label. It’s a must have soundtrack CD for anyone who loves the combination of Harryhausen and Herrmann.]
LAWRENCE FRENCH: The earliest test on the DVD shows a cave bear fighting a woolly mammoth, made when you were only 16 years old.
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Yes, I had to learn by trial and error and through experimenting, and I did the cave bear in black and white with a camera I had borrowed from a friend. The animation was very jerky because all the armatures were made of wood. I went to the five and dime store and brought some wooden beads and used them to screw together wooden boards for the arms and legs of the animals, but they would ratchet, so you couldn’t get very smooth animation. It was shot in my backyard, in the sunlight, so it looks like time-lapse photography, because you can see the shadows moving across the scene and the wind blowing the canvas in the background. By the time I did the fairy tales I had gotten photofloods to light the sets, which I could turn off while I animated. I had a pedal that I’d step on, and the pedal would turn the lights on and off, so I could animate the shot and then shoot the frame.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: The Evolution test footage shows off your early fascination with dinosaurs to great effect.
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Well, ever since I was a small boy the dinosaur hall in the museum had been one of the most fascinating things for me. I used to make little dioramas of the La Brea Tar pits in clay, and after I had seen King Kong it was quite startling to me to realize you could make dinosaurs come to life. So I began making Evolution as an experiment in 16mm, after I had become so enraptured by prehistoric creatures. It was shot at silent speed, 16 frames per second, which was much faster than I would have preferred. But my idea was to show the evolution of the world, which was very ambitious for an amateur. But after I saw “The Rite of Spring” segment from Fantasia I abandoned Evolution because it covered the same ground I wanted to cover, and I thought, “How can I compete with Disney?” But all my early tests came in handy afterwards as a demonstration reel.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: After the Evolution test, you didn’t work with dinosaurs again until Irwin Allen’s The Animal World—and a couple shots in that were very similar to what you did in Evolution—such as the way the allosaurus leaps into the scene.
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Yes, I used some of the same angles for The Animal World, and we used two cameras to shoot the animation for that picture, but Irwin Allen didn’t use the same shot I had used in Evolution—the one where the allosaurus leaps over the camera. Instead, he used a side shot where the allosaurus leaps in from the right side of the frame.

Cavemen battle an allosaurus in ONE MILLION YEARS, B.C.

LAWRENCE FRENCH: After doing The Animal World you didn’t work with dinosaurs again until you made One Million Years, B. C. for Hammer. Before that, did you ever try to get Charles Schneer interested in making a dinosaur film?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: No, because we were always doing pictures with very tight budgets. We were able to get a better budget from Hammer for One Millions Years, B.C. That was their 100th anniversary movie and they spent a little more money than they usually did. We went on location to the Canary Islands, shooting mostly on Lanzarote, which had many bleak and desolate landscapes that were made of pure volcanic rock. They lent themselves quite well to re-creating the landscapes of a prehistoric world.
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CLOVERFIELD and its spectacular Monster

CLOVERFIELD has apparently been the recipient of a great deal of Internet hype, which I must confess, I was totally unaware of. In fact, I almost skipped seeing the film, thinking it might be just another awful fifties monster on the loose rip-off. However, on the basis of hearing that Phil Tippett’s Berkeley studio was in charge of creating the Cloverfield monster, I felt it might be worth checking out. Then, when I read Paramount’s brief synopsis on the film, I became a bit apphensive again. It states: “Five young New Yorkers throw their friend a going-away party the night that a monster the size of a skyscraper descends upon the city. Told from the point of view of their video camera, the film is a document of their attempt to survive the most surreal, horrifying event of their lives.”
Well, I hate the kind of jittery, cinema-verite camerawork that usually serves no purpose, except making you want to throw-up, so I began to have some second-doubts about seeing the film. Of course, when I finally saw the picture, to my great surprise, I was quite delighted by it. I found it to be the kind of exciting old-fashioned monster on the loose movie that not only scared you when you were 12 or 13 years old, but in fact still scared me at a somewhat more advanced age. It also was quite a lot of fun to watch.
In fact, CLOVERFIELD is really quite an impressive achievement, considering how hard it would be for anyone to tell a coherent story as if it were told and seen entirely from the POV of an amateur cameraman. Obviously, this can also be seen as a stunt, just as Hitchcock’s one continuous long take was seen as a stunt when he made ROPE (in 1948). But even granting that, I think it’s a stunt that works not only well, but succeeds spectacularly.
Continue reading “CLOVERFIELD and its spectacular Monster”

Academy names finalists for Best Visual Effects and Make-up Oscars

Given the great abundance of award worthy effects films that are released each year, one has to wonder why the Academy in all its great wisdom, continues to announce a list of seven finalists for the effects Academy Award and then insists on whittling it down to only three nominees.
Every other award category (except for make-up and sound editing) has five nominees, so to reduce the effects award to only three simply doesn’t make sense. It appears this rule is a hangover from olden days when there were often less then five films that could be considered worthy for nomination.
That was certainly the case in 1976, when the Academy’s board of governors made the startling bad judgement of giving an Oscar to KING KONG for best visual effects. That ridiculous mistake caused several prominent members of the effects branch to resign from the Academy in protest.  
In any case, today the Academy announced the list of seven finalists, which will be narrowed down to three actual nominees after a vote by the effects nominating committee on Jan 16.  
My own favorite effects film, SPIDER-MAN 3 didn’t even make the list, despite the excellence of effects work on display in creating the Sandman.  Also missing from the list are HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX and Disney’s ENCHANTED with it’s spectacular SLEEPING BEAUTY inspired live-action dragon.   
The seven effects films deemed the worthiest by the Academy this year are:
THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM (Universal)
EVAN ALMIGHTY (Universal)
THE GOLDEN COMPASS (New Line Cinema)
I AM LEGEND (Warner Bros.)
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END (Disney)
300 (Warner Bros.)
TRANSFORMERS (Paramount)
While the seven finalists for best make-up are:
THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY (Miramax)
HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX (Warner Bros.)
LA VIE EN ROSE (Picturehouse) 
NORBIT (Paramount)
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END (Disney)
SWEENEY TODD THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET (Paramount)
300 (Warner Bros.)

Supernal Dreams: Bernard Herrmann on Film Music

32 years ago today, on December 24, 1975, we lost an artist  many would agree was the the greatest film composer to ever set music to celluloid images: Bernard Herrmann.  It’s also amazing that such a distinguished composer spent so much of his time working on movies of the fantastique.  Remember, that Herrmann was composing during a time when genre films were looked down upon, and were no where near as popular as they are today.  In fact, until very late in his life, Herrmann’s brilliant output was represented by only two and one-half soundtrack records: THE EGYPTIAN (with Alfred Neuman), VERTIGO and THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD!  Thankfully, in the 32 years since his death, nearly every major score Herrmann wrote has come out in near complete form on CD, but there are still a few notable omissions, such as ENDLESS NIGHT and WHITE WITCH DOCTOR.     
However, thanks to dedicated CD producer John Morgan, conductor William Stromberg and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, two of Herrmann’s greatest fantasy films, FAHRENHEIT 451 and MYSTERIOUS ISLAND have just been faithfully re-recorded in their entirety.  Listening to these two beautiful scores again, which are both over 40 years old, it seems truly amazing to realize how modern and up to date they sound.  In fact, with a remake of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL now in the works at Fox, probably the best thing that could possibly happen with that project, is if they decided to score the film using Bernard Herrmann’s original music, the same way Martin Scorsese did so effectively with his redo of CAPE FEAR.  Herrmann’s work seems to have a unique freshness and timeless quality about it, that will make it last far longer than most of his contempories, who he so often disparaged.   
So here, as a special Christmas treat, is Bernard Herrmann talking brilliantly about his art, taken from a lecture he delivered at the George Eastman House Museum in October, 1973:  
Continue reading “Supernal Dreams: Bernard Herrmann on Film Music”

Francis Ford Coppola on YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH "A Tapestry of Illusion"

Director Francis Coppola stopped by the beautifully remodeled Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in San Francisco December 22 to answer questions from the audience after a screening of his lyrical new movie, YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH.  It is based on an allegorical novel by the Romanian philosopher, Mircea Eliade,  and Coppola shot it (quite gorgeously) on locations throughout Romania. 

youth-without-youth-coppola.jpg

Coppola’s remarks offered much insight about the picture, and what he was trying to accomplish, and since I had an initial negative reaction to the movie, I found myself  revising my opinion somewhat after hearing Coppola talk about the film for nearly an hour. I also have a feeling that YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH will gain tremendously after a second viewing, so for the moment, I will simply say it’s quite a thought provoking movie, re-calling to mind some of the more esoteric films of Alain Resnais about time and memory,  such as JE T’AIME, JE T’AIME  and LAST YEAR  AT MARIENBAD.
It’s also clearly a labor of love for Coppola, who financed the film himself, and thanked everyone who’s ever brought a bottle of Coppola Wine. “You were all executive producer’s on this movie,” he joked.  It’s also a very demanding movie, involving as it does such concepts as human consciousness, dreams, old age and the origin of language. The story also draws on many typical elements from horror films, including the transmigration of souls (THE MUMMY) and FRANKENSTEIN-like Nazi scientists who attempt to extend life with electricity.  
Continue reading “Francis Ford Coppola on YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH "A Tapestry of Illusion"”

Peter Jackson to produce THE HOBBIT for New Line and MGM

New Line Cinema announced today that they have reached a deal with Peter Jackson and MGM to make two films from  J. R. R. Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT.  
However, it must be regarded as a major disappointment that Jackson, who had earlier indicated his strong desire to direct THE HOBBIT, will not actually helm either of the planned movies.   Robert Shaye, the head of New Line Cinema, and Peter Jackson had been involved in a very public feud over the profits that were supposedly owed  Jackson from THE LORD OF THE RINGS  films, with Jackson suing New Line to get a look at their accounting of the profits. 
For his part, Robert Shaye bitterly denounced Jackson, noting he was paid millions of dollars, and saying he would never direct THE HOBBIT as long as he was in charge of New Line.  It now appears by offering Jackson the chance to executive produce the films, instead of directing them, Shaye will be keeping his word.  For his part, Jackson will get to exercise some degree of control over how THE HOBBIT is made, and be able to provide a steady stream of work for his WETA visual effects companies. 
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Supernal Dreams: Lucas and Cameron high on Digital 3-D movies

 I think digital 3-D offers an opportunity to do something as profound for today’s movie going audiences as the introduction of color and sound. This is the next big thing, and I think people are going to respond to really high quality 3-D images. Animated films and fantasy films really benefit from 3-D. You get a heightened sense of being personally present in the space of the movie. You’re drawn into it. It’s like the movie wraps around you and takes you into its reality. That’s a very exciting thing for a filmmaker.
James Cameron  

I recently attended a demonstration of Dolby’s new 3-D Digital Cinema process at the companies acoustically perfect San Francisco presentation theater.  Well, I was quite astounded by the clarity and amazing depth of the images on view.  Dolby’s technical wizards, led by John Gilbert, discussed their new system and showed clips from several 3-D movies, including BEOWULF, and previewed a clip from STAR WARS: ATTACK OF THE CLONES.  It featured the speeder chase of Anakin and Obi-wan through the skyscapers of Coruscant. The digital sets which always seemed a bit too apparent as CGI to me, now gain a much more realistic edge when seen in Dolby 3-D.  George Lucas is now working on converting all six of his STAR WARS movies into 3-D, a process made possible by a company called In Three.   Continue reading “Supernal Dreams: Lucas and Cameron high on Digital 3-D movies”