Festivals & things
I’ve been traveling a bit too much, and am a bit remiss on updating matters about Coming to Terms. It was invited a month or so ago to the Jeonju festival, which I have been to 4 or 5 times now. I went to the first one, I think in 2001, and then three years later, and while there got my job at Yonsei University (not that I was looking for it, sort of fell in my lap). While in Korea 2007-2011, I went (I think) each year, with a film. From the outset it was a well-organized, well-attended festival, programming a rich assortment of work from around the world, and doing retrospectives of a kind not seen elsewhere. After the rejection of the Sundance and a few other festivals I’d sent it too, I was beginning to wonder not whether Coming to Terms was good, but whether the times had shifted so much that I was in effect living on another planet. Jeonju had a month earlier invited The Narcissus Flowers of Katsura-shima, and the delay had me wondering. As I had also submitted it to Cannes, I questioned if I should accept the Jeonju invitation, though my contact at Cannes, while liking the film himself, said my chances were slim. And I figured the non-competitive sections of Cannes may not absolutely require a g.d. glorious “world premiere.” So I said yes.
Jeonju is also a culinary high-point in Korea so I eagerly look forward to a steady diet of Korean food for 2 weeks. Love it!
So finally Coming to Terms will step out in public. I did, in the last week, get several lovely notes regarding it, one from Mark Rappaport, who I have been working on trying to get his materials back from Ray Carney of Boston University. See this for almost the latest on this matter. And the other was from Chris Fujiwara, the new – as of last year I think – director of the Edinburgh Festival.
A very quick note, to be followed by a much longer letter. I just saw Coming to Terms and I can’t tell you how impressed I am. It’s very beautiful, in a lot of different ways. I have to run out now and do some errands but I’ll write you much, much more later. You’re probably asleep (or should be) but I wanted to drop you this note just after seeing it.
OK, here goes—
First of all, I found it really affecting. Aren’t we supposed to be formalists and just, en principe, opposed to that sort of thing? I absolutely love that “alienating effect” of two people in the frame talking to each other but not facing each other. It puts the kibosh on that tired shot-reaction shot convention that is the gold standard in commercial filmmaking and that no one seems to be able to shake or even interested in shaking. I suspect that that choice will be the reason most people won’t get into the movie but I think it’s a brilliant device. If Ingmar Bergman had done it, there would be endless hosannas about how innovative it is. I tried something similar in Local Color in 1977, for comedic effect. The two women, especially Roxanne, were great. And we know how hard it is to find a decent actress “of a certain age” who hasn’t made it but is very good nonetheless. I really like how the impassive landscape bears witness without paying the slightest bit of attention to the human goings-on. It’s just there, impenetrable, impervious, neither watching nor not watching. You don’t engage in that pantheistic nonsense that has become Malick’s stock-in-trade. Oooh, isn’t it pretty?
I also like very much the nightmarish house-scapes, each of them looking like the pawns on a monopoly board, their frightening anonymity not giving a clue as to the sorrows (or pleasures) going on behind their dreary facades. At first, I was a little confused by the house-scapes and even the landscapes but once I relaxed into it, it worked very well for me. I also liked the musical accompaniment to the father’s death—the sound of flies. And the sound of rain as the background track when they all go back to Elaine’s house. I thought that the rhyming images of the curtains in Elaine’s house with the curtains of the father’s tent was very beautiful. I actually gasped.
I suspect this is a very personal film for you and has a lot of meaning in your own life. But I, for one, don’t buy the father summoning all the families he abandoned to help him kill himself. But maybe that’s just me. Somebody that cold and that selfish, who has shunned people all his life, could just as easily take 400 sleeping pills and wash it down with two bottles of bourbon. On the other hand, that he wants to implicate his two families in his actions and gives them all nightmares for the rest of their lives, makes him even more of a monster. As does that hideous poison pen letter he sends from beyond the grave. Well, I hated The Taste of Cherries in which this guy tries to inveigle strangers in his suicide. Why couldn’t he just jump off a tall building rather than try to find willing accomplices to help him do what can really only be done alone? What do I know? Palme d’Or winner at Cannes.
I think you will be surprised by the good reactions you’ll get to the film, when you actually get it out there. Unless I’m mistaken, I think this is a very new direction for you and very much worth pursuing. One little quibble—I don’t know if you can do anything about it now. The sound or rather the ambient sound drops out every now and then—and it’s a distraction. I don’t know that once you’ve made a DCP you can strip the sound and lay it in again. I think you should find a very good sound editor to enrich the background sounds. I know you feel that you’re done with the film but I think it’s too good a film to let these minor adjustments stop you from making it as good as you can.
And I highly recommend that you see Amour.
Anyway, congratulations once again. I think it’s a very, very strong piece of work and you should be very proud of it.
It’s a remarkable film, with images and transitions of great beauty and intensity. I value in it most the fact that it is a digital film, not a “film” that happened to be shot and edited digitally. You do great things with digital that could not be done on film. Above all, you show how digital makes possible a distinctive shaping of time, in a mode that is neither “virtual” nor “real,” but which has to do, I would say, with an immediate perception of time becoming an image.
One rather irritating thing is that Jeonju this year changed its regulations and required a DCP (Digital Cinema Package), a Hollywood pushed thing to make uniform standards in digital projection. A nice idea for corporations and all, but it requires a rather complicated thing of shifting to 24 fps, whatever you shot on, and prices for having it done professionally run $3-4,000 for a 90 minute piece. Any kind of reprocessing of one’s file can only hurt it, and DCP’s seem unduly complex to make (I checked on net about DIY, which is possible but seemed to complicated for me given the time I had.) I wrote the festival a serious letter saying this puts an undue burden on filmmakers, particularly those from poorer countries which Jeonju often shows. And technically in my view it sucks (Pedro Costa, with whom they did a retrospective a few years ago, is quoted in an interview I read saying DCP’s suck.) They said they will think about it and more or less agreed, but said it was too late to change this year. On searching around I did find one place which would do it for a palatable price, and I sent them my material: CreativeDCP, located in Nashville, Tenn. If you are in need of such, I suggest you drop them a line.