Sunday, May 28, 2006

And a word about customs officials...

Amongst the other news of the week is the long-awaited arrival of a Libec tripod, which I ordered ages ago and has been held up for reasons unknown at customs. I don't know whether HM Customs were checking the legs of the tripod for heroin or illegal immigrants, but it has now arrived (sans drugs, Chinese cockle pickers and Vietnamese boat people) and is indeed a thing of beauty.

Due to the horrendous hours I've been putting in of late, I wasn't able to get it back to my flat and out of the box until about 0300 one morning last week, so there I was, in the dead of night in my kitchen, practicing very slow pans.

Ah, little boys and their train sets...

Post Cannes

I've just returned from Cannes, where I was meeting a few people to get Folie on their radars. They're all interested, and all that remains for us to do is shoot the bugger.

In a case of serendipity twice over, the Irish Pavilion were giving away free copies of the current issue (#110) of Film Ireland, which carries a good review of my book on Tarkovsky.

I also discovered that I was appearing in a film screening there, namely Jonathan Stack's Secrets of the Code, a feature length doc about the ideas behind the Da Vinci Code. Yours truly is the first person to appear in the film, saying (while walking down a street in Islington of all places - the interview was shot back in January) that one of the main reasons the book was so popular is that the theme of the Sacred Feminine has struck a chord in people, and the film proceeds to be basically a party political broadcast on behalf of Mary Magdalene. Other people in the film include Elaine Pagels, Richard Leigh, Timothy Freke, a rather cool Kabbala teacher whose name escapes me, John and Caitlin Matthews, Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince and one or two rather scary fundamentalists. Susan Sarandon narrates. It's a good film.

So, in addition to my Folie a Deux related meetings, I was also able to flash the Tarkovsky review around, and also wave the Secrets of the Code flyer in people's faces saying, 'I'm in a film screening here!' And not only that, but a film by a double Oscar-nominee. Which was a first.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Off to Cannes in the morning, and I've just realised I don't have a bag. Consequently, all my stuff is in carrier bags in my bedroom. Absolutely typical of the chaos that prevails when you make a film. I'll have to borrow a suitcase with wheels on from my mother or sister, one of whom will also draw the short straw and take me to the airport in the morning.

There are two types of being busy: one where you achieve things, and the other, where your blood pressure goes up and you don't seem to get very much done at all, except heighten the likelihood of keeling over and being rushed to the nearest hospital. Or preferrably, pub. It is the latter sort of being busy that has been rearing its ugly head today - and over the last few weeks in fact.

[DOP from Porlock enters the room - blog writing suspended while we go to the pub.]

OK, I didn't mean to end the post there, as I have just had to go out to the pub with a DOP who is interested in lighting Folie. So, now I'm back, and all my carrier bags are bulging with T shirts and the one or two pairs of trousers that still fit me. (After a recent 4 stone weight loss, almost everything I have in my cupboard resembles a circus tent.) Friday is the big day for meetings, but, to be honest, I rather hope that's it, and I can spend the next few days soaking up the sun and doing as little as possible, as I badly need a rest. Trouble is, 'rest' and 'Cannes' are not easy bedfellows. So, I will probably get home next week even more burnt out than I am at the moment.

Oh well, balls to it. We're making a film. It fucks your life up. Get used to it. To keep myself going at times like this, I have to remind myself what the fuck I think I'm trying to do, and I recall something a woman from Gorky (not that Gorky is in itself is important, it's just that that's where I remember her being from) once wrote to Tarkovsky. She'd seen Mirror, and wrote that the film made her feel that, for the first time in her life, she was no longer alone.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Personal Mountains

I remember once reading an anecdote that, during the shooting of Full Metal Jacket, Stanley was so tired from working round the clock that he could never remember what they were supposed to be shooting next. Or to quote Bresson again, 'You will not know till much later if your film is worth the mountain range of efforts it is costing you.' I seem to be constantly behind at the moment, and the exhaustion and frustration are really kicking in. I feel like I'm climbing the mountain range of efforts Bresson talked about. Or the twin peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro, to quote Graham Chapman.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Official Film Site

A site for Folie is now up here. It will of course be expanded over time, eventually having clips from the film etc.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Gospel According to Abbas... to say nothing of Lars

The Gospel of Judas has been much in the news of late, as they've just published the text of this lost Gnostic gospel, which paints Judas in a good light. I've just read it, as I'm currently writing a book on Gnosticism, which is due for publication later in the year. Non-canonical gospels appeal to me greatly, as I think I must have been a heretic in a previous life; I certainly feel like one in this life.

In order to make Folie as good a film as we can, therefore, we need to proceed in a mainly non-orthodox way. We don't have the money to do things normally, for a start, but it's one of those stories that doesn't need much money, as the drive and production value of the story are in the characters, their emotions and the extraordinary situation they find themselves in (and believe me, it is extraordinary. And based on a true story, as I think I've said elsewhere on this blog.) All the actors who are so far on board are very keen on the semi-improvised nature of the film, and we are all relishing the prospect of having this freedom, as we may not have it on the next film any of us do.

To keep the old inner man bright eyed and bushy tailed, I've been watching films by and about Abbas Kiarostami and Lars von Trier. Lars has been one of my favourite directors ever since Europa, and the fact that he could then abandon his style totally and start again from scratch with The Kingdom and Breaking the Waves only makes me love him even the more. My love for him, however, does not quite extend to seeing his johnson, which is on show in The Humiliated, a feature-length doc about the making of The Idiots. I admire him for directing naked from the waist down, but please, Lars, we don't do things like that in Old Blighty! (except in certain parts of Dorset, so I hear). Put it away! But the film is great as it shows him taking ludicrous risks, and, of course, it worked brilliantly.

I've also been watching Kiarostami's 10 on Ten, in which the great man holds forth on his theories of filmmaking. While I don't agree with him on certain things - the notion of what truth is, for instance; I'm much more in agreement with Werner Herzog on this one - he does say some great things. One of the statements I had to go and copy down is this:

I don’t believe a film is to be understood. Do we understand a piece of music? Do we understand a painting? Or the exact meaning of a poem? It’s ambiguity that attracts us to a work, not understanding the subject or the story. However, human beings are standing between heaven and hell because of their existential ambiguity, and art displays this ambiguity. Pascal said that you cannot show a single event in somebody’s life and claim to have said everything about him. The secret department of the soul prevents this, and this is what becomes the plinth, the basis for the art of cinema.

The film also shows him shooting A Taste of Cherry with a crew of about 4 or 5. He's very much against doing things the Hollywood way, but stresses the importance of looking at why American films work. It's a paradox I like. Like the idea of Judas being a good man, and Christ's favourite disciple (after, presumably, Mary Margadelene!). Many people, it seems, can't handle that life itself is one big paradox, and it's up to us as storytellers to remind them. Whether they want to be reminded or not.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Life's Rich Pageant

I can't believe I haven't posted here for two weeks. A lot has happened: I've now got the camera, the small but perfectly formed Sony A1, and am picking up more kit this week - an audio mixer and a tripod. That will just leave a Fig Rig or camera stabiliser and flight case on the shopping list.

We have also been casting the part of Cleo, the female lead. We selected a shortlist of 15 or so actors to see, and spent last Thursday and Friday seeing them all. We are recalling 4 on 10 May. It'll be a tough decision to make - I only hope a gut feeling is involved! I've always ignored gut feelings at my peril, so let's hope the old inner man is in some kind of shape to help select the right person for the job!

The next draft of the script is also in the air, if not actually being worked on at the moment. The general consensus seems to be to pare it right down, and cut any speeches where the two characters exhibit anything like self-pity or self-loathing. They're probably beyond that by the time we see them in the film. I hope I can say the same about myself by the time we come to shoot it.