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Posts Tagged ‘Michel Gondry’

the-white-stripes-city-lights-video-640x470Michel Gondry, one of the most inventive and utterly unique motion picture wizards of our time, has delivered again.  In an original gesture, he went and made a video on his own for the White Stripes song “City Lights” as a gift to Third Man Records (having made a number of legendary music videos together, including the Lego classic “Fell in Love with a Girl” and the Meg White-inspired masterstroke “The Hardest Button to Button“).  Lessons to learn from his music videos in general: a hefty dose of vision; planning, then planning and practice and planning; and execution.  And throw in a few dashes of visual and sonic magic.

mondo_microbe_and_gasoline_1600x1200_86d7a1ee-2ea0-4e41-a3b3-8990a90e4185_1024x1024Gondry’s book The Be Kind Rewind Protocol is great food for thought for filmmakers and educators alike, and of course there are his movies, notably that one featuring Mos Def, Jack Black, and Danny Glover; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, his exceptional collaboration with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (and which I feel gets even better with age); The Thorn in the Heart, a documentary that grew out of a family story; an episode of Flight of the Conchords; and the mix of music videos, shorts, commercials, and odds and ends that have made up his twisting and turning career.

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songandsolitude3-1600x900-c-defaultIn an earlier post, I asked the question “What exactly is that movie?” in order to address forms of visual communication through a series of commercials.  For those who may wish to explore the wilds of avant garde filmmaking, right now at the New York Film Festival, there is a retrospective titled Luminous Intimacy: The Cinema of Nathaniel Dorsky and Jerome Hiler.  From the NYFF53 site, “For the last six decades, Nathaniel Dorsky and Jerome Hiler, partners in life and in cinema, have taken their cameras out into the world and filmed gestures, moods, atmospheres, states of being, light and darkness, movement and stillness. Hiler’s register is ecstatic and polyphonic, Dorsky’s devotional and poetic. And, simply put, they are two of the greatest filmmakers alive.”  You can also check out a recent article by film critic Manohla Dargis about their work in The New York Times.  Despite the access today’s students — and, in fact, all of us with Internet — have to the swirling miasma of videos streaming about the netverse (YouTube or otherwise), the mediascapes of avant grade or poetic or experimental cinema seem as distant as ever to the average media viewer, it would appear to me.*

MicrobeTalking about maverick moviemakers, director Michel Gondry will be appearing at the festival next week for a free talk concerning his new film Microbe and Gasoline,  a coming-of-age movie about two French teenage boys.

restlessjarman

*That said, I did have to chuckle a bit at what seemed to me to be a very inventive homage to the avant-garde work of Derek Jarman in the recently released video of New Order’s song Restlessdirected by the filmmaking collective NYSU.

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Brothers Quay at work

Brothers Quay at work

Stop Motion is one of the most accessible and productive ways in which young filmmakers can explore visual communication and storytelling.  This is clearly demonstrated in the popularity of Brickfilms (for some particularly inspiring Lego work, check out Fell in Love with a Girl directed by music video maverick and eternal kid-at-heart Michel Gondry for The White Stripes) and the continued success of such studios as Laika and Aardman.  Right now at Film Forum in New York, a surprising partnership has emerged in the realm of stop-motion: Christopher Nolan, director of mega-blockbusters including the Dark Knight trilogy and Inception, has made Quay, a short documentary about the Brothers Quay and their films, and curated a touring program showcasing their groundbreaking, influential, thematically challenging*, and technically astonishing body of work.

Still from Street of Crocodiles by Brothers Quay

Still from Street of Crocodiles by Brothers Quay

Earlier posts on this blog have highlighted the work of PES, Kirsten Lepore (see Stop Motion Restarted), Karel Zeman, Tim Burton, and other stop-motion creators, and another post presents a short documentary by one of my students, Frame-By-Frame, which provides an original, compelling introduction to stop-motion (and 2D animation, by extension).  In addition, for interested educators, The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation by Ken Priebe is an excellent resource for classroom use.

(*Or “extremely creepy,” as many of my students would say — although I have noted that for many kids today, anything in 3D animation that isn’t from the slick world of CG is almost automatically “creepy,” which is even more disturbing, I think.)

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Michel Gondry and Ellen Kuras on set of Be Kind Rewind

Michel Gondry and Ellen Kuras on set of Be Kind Rewind

The Oscars are just over an hour away, so here’s a quick post featuring some articles that appeared today.  First, cinematographer and director Ellen Kuras, who is a featured voice in Chapters 4 and 6 of Moving Images, wrote a piece about the art of cinematography in a discussion of the tricky art of collaboration and the difficulty of determining awards for everything that happens in the creation of movies.  Her work for many directors, including Michel Gondry (with brilliant photography for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Be Kind Rewindamong others), Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, and Jonathan Demme, marks her as one of the foremost pioneers in the relatively recent arrival of women into camera crews in Hollywood.  She also directed the acclaimed documentary The Betrayal (featured in Recording and Presenting Reality in Moving Images).  

Marion Dougherty and director George Roy Hill

Marion Dougherty and director George Roy Hill

Another piece in this series about people or crafts that can fall through the cracks in moviemaking awards is about the role of the casting director, written by Vickie Thomas.  In particular, it points out a story about the production process that can be quite enlightening: The unawarded, but highly respected and quite astonishing career of Marion Dougherty, whose work is featured in the documentary Casting By.  

And pretty soon we’ll see who tonight’s big winners will be…

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Orson Welles directing Too Much Johnson

Orson Welles directing Too Much Johnson

One of the most motivating and fruitful areas of inquiry for learners can be to investigate the early paths of diverse individuals as they navigate their ways into professional, creative, and adult lives.  I was very satisfied to have been able to document some compelling stories in the interviews done for Moving Imagessuch as those with Greg Butler, David Riker, and Hiro Narita.  In relation to filmmaking professionals, particularly directors, there are many books published in recent years that document perspectives about how these creators started their careers, such as Breaking In by Nicholas Jarecki, The Mind of the Modern Moviemaker by Josh Horowitz, My First Movie (1 and 2) by Stephen Lowenstein, and Moviemakers’ Master Class by Laurent Tirard.  For me, good places to start are with Doug Liman or Michel Gondry in Horowitz’s book.  And from this summer, a great early-in-the-directing-career story emerged with the discovery and restoration of Orson Welles’s film Too Much Johnson.     

Early Inspirations (photo Carl Casinghino)

Early Inspirations (photo Carl Casinghino)

The New York Times just wrapped up an excellent series in this vein: They asked a variety of creative and critical professionals about  first inspirations that may have begun them on their journey to a professional life in their artistically-oriented field of endeavor.  The series, titled First Crush, features many great short pieces, including TV critic Alessandra Stanley’s essay on the perils of keeping your children from watching television.  There is a nicely diverse selection of narratives here, and featured articles are available about television, theater, video games, dance, and more.  One of the most refreshing aspects of the article “Remembering the Spark that Ignited a Creative Fire” is that the people interviewed here are not famous celebrities (at least to our students); they are professionals who have found fulfillment and success in a career of their choice.  Of particular note for media literacy are the pieces by Katie Chironis (a game designer for Microsoft Studios) and actor Evan Handler.    

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One of the innumerable lists of best Super Bowl Commercials

Next week is the arrival of one of the key American media events of the year: the Super Bowl.  Talking with people today in the halls of virtually any school or workplace across the nation, there typically seems to be as much excitement about the commercials as the game itself among the millions of people who will be watching the event (clearly, while they are also eating: the Super Bowl has become the second-largest day of food consumption in the U.S. after Thanksgiving and ahead of all the other holidays – so the advertisers are clearly doing something right!… or wrong, depending on your perspective from a health standpoint).

So, I will be updating my extended Close-Up Interview with Kevin Goff, which is featured in Chapter 3 of Moving Images: “Sound and Image.”  Check it out along with the links to some of his finest material.

Also, in celebration of the art of creative advertising, here is a link to an article from Paste magazine that features ads from some of the most celebrated filmmakers of the past few decades (Michel Gondry, Spikes Jonze and Lee, Sofia Coppola, Wes Anderson, and others).  Soon, the juries will be out on a new slate of “Super Bowl Commercials,” which sometimes seem to be more passionate debates than about the merits of the game itself!

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