Last Words

Last Words: Considering Contemporary Cinema

JASON WOOD
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 192
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/wood17196
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  • Book Info
    Last Words
    Book Description:

    Last Wordsfeatures extensive interviews with Christopher Nolan, Harmony Korine, Charlie Kaufmann, Nicolas Winding Refn, Wim Wenders, Michael Winterbottom, Christian Petzhold, and many others. Each interview is preceded by an overview of the director's work, and the volume's authoritative introductory essay explores the value of these directors and why they are rarely given an appropriate platform to discuss their craft.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-85069-8
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. FOREWORDS
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Andrew Kötting

    The Old Kent Road had a hold of me – motorbike on top of me – someone had driven into me – the blood spilled out from the femoral artery – I felt a warm oilglow piss all over me – I hadn’t long in this world – me and my biography –LookatmeandWoeisme– I was awash and still it came gushing out – then a policewoman tiptoed through the mire to help me – she pushed hard into me – a gore-soaked poultice – 63 stitches – picture that – picture this – picture the puss – pictures – the story begins thus

    My grandfather Albert (Gladys’s husband) took me to the husband...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    Published interviews with filmmakers are increasingly becoming a thing of the past. In a media enthralled by the notion of stardom and dictated to by commerce it has become rare to read an extended interview with a filmmaker, unless that filmmaker has made a film featuring a star that is likely to go on and make a considerable amount of money at the box office. The world of film PR is now so rigorously patrolled that even many A-list filmmakers rarely grant one-on-one interviews and when they do they are shoehorned into a twenty- or thirty-minute window; a time constraint...

  6. Lenny Abrahamson
    (pp. 5-10)

    Lenny Abrahamson started shooting shorts while studying Philosophy at Trinity College, Dublin. After a period of post-graduate study in Philosophy at Stanford University in California, he returned home to concentrate on filmmaking.

    Abrahamson’s first two features were fruitful collaborations with writer Mark O’Halloran. The first,Adam & Paul(2004), was included in the Official Selection at the 2005 Berlin Film Festival.Garage(2007) was the recipient of the CICAE Art Cinema Prize in the Director’s Fortnight at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.

    Featuring a truly remarkable performance from comic Pat Shortt as a mentally retarded attendant at a rural Irish...

  7. Clio Barnard
    (pp. 11-14)

    Clio Barnard’s work deals with the relationship between documentary and fiction, and in particular the subjectivity of recollection. In 2006 Film and Video Umbrella commissioned Barnard to makeDark Glassas part of theSingle Shottouring programme. A psychological micro-drama that moves from the sanctuary of a domestic garden to the half-remembered shadows of a house, the piece peers back into a semi-veiled interior world of fraught, ambivalent memories.

    The tactic of constructing fictional images around verbatim audio (and vice versa) was brilliantly utilised inThe Arbor(2010), Barnard’s remarkable debut feature. Playwright Andrea Dunbar wrote unflinchingly about her...

  8. Marco Bellocchio
    (pp. 15-19)

    Marco Bellocchio was born in Piacenza in 1939. In 1959 he left his Philosophy studies at the Cattolica University in Milan and enrolled at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome. During 1961/62 he made the short filmsAbbasso Lo Zio,La Colpa e La PenaandGinepro Fatto Uomobefore moving to London to attend the Slade School of Fine Arts. Exploding onto the international film scene in 1965 with his fiery debut,Fists in the Pocket, Bellocchio is rightfully considered one of Italy’s cinematic masters.

    Vincere(2009) was the first Bellocchio film for some time to receive international...

  9. Anton Corbijn
    (pp. 20-24)

    Born the son of a Protestant minister in Strijen, Holland, Anton Corbijn began his career as a photographer. Moving to London in 1979 after establishing his work with the Dutch pop magazineOOR, Corbijn’s photographs of the leading post-punk bands quickly established him as the photographer of choice for theNME. Joy Division, Depeche Mode and Captain Beefheart became three artists with whom Corbijn became closely associated.

    Moving into the burgeoning music video field, Corbijn quickly mastered the medium and given his keen eye and affiliation with music it seemed a thoroughly natural progression when Corbijn turned his hand to...

  10. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
    (pp. 25-30)

    A remarkably assured first feature from the maker of the award-winning shortsDobermann(1999) andThe Crusader(2002), writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’sThe Lives of Others(2006) paints a dark picture of life under the Communist regime in East Germany. Eschewing a purely historical approach by creating fictional characters, the film is part-thriller and part-love story, and offers a compelling tale of individuals whose lives and search for dignity are shaped by the society in which they live. The film also shows with remarkable consistency that the mechanisms which upheld the GDR ultimately led to its demise.

    Von Donnersmarck...

  11. Fernando Eimbcke
    (pp. 31-35)

    A graduate of Mexico’s highly regarded Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos, Fernando Eimbcke announced his arrival with the enormously likeable and charmingDuck Season(Temporada de Patos, 2004).

    Flama and Moko are fourteen years old and have everything ready for a perfect Sunday afternoon: a parentless apartment, videogames and money for a pizza delivery. However, a sequence of seemingly unconnected events and interruptions soon conspire against them. Set almost entirely within an apartment block on the outskirts of Mexico City and using largely inexperienced teenage actors, the film offers a salutary lesson in adolescent friendship and love. A triumph of...

  12. Michel Gondry
    (pp. 36-40)

    Noted for his incredibly inventive visual style and off-kilter view of the harsher realities of romance, the feature films of Michel Gondry are augmented by a series of equally idiosyncratic and eye-popping commercials, gallery installations and music videos. His work with Björk is particularly memorable.

    Gondry’s first feature was the disappointingHuman Nature(2001) but he bounced back withEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind(2004), a second collaboration with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. The film echoed Gondry’s work in other media with its arresting mix of state-of-the-art visual effects and more DIY aesthetic. For all the infectious energy of the...

  13. Joanna Hogg
    (pp. 41-48)

    Joanna Hogg started her career as a photographer before becoming interested in the moving image. She attended film school in the UK and, after several short films, became a prolific director of television drama. Hogg used this as a testing ground for developing her aesthetic as a filmmaker, and in particular working with actors to obtain performances of authenticity and depth.

    Unrelated(2007), Hogg’s feature debut, won critical acclaim and numerous awards, including the FIPRESCI International Critics’ Award at the London Film Festival in 2007, theGuardianFirst Film Award and theEvening StandardMost Promising Newcomer award in 2009....

  14. Tom Kalin
    (pp. 49-55)

    Tom Kalin is a New York-based filmmaker, writer, producer and activist, best known as a prominent figure in the New Queer Cinema.

    Kalin received a BFA in Painting (University of Illinois, 1984), an MFA in Photography and Video (Art Institute of Chicago, 1987), and completed the Independent Study Program (Whitney Museum, 1988). In addition to his feature films Swoon (1992) andSavage Grace(2007), Kalin has also created short films and video works screened in numerous international film festivals and included in the permanent collections of Centre George Pompidou, Paris and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

    Growing up...

  15. Charlie Kaufman
    (pp. 56-59)

    The directorial debut of acclaimed writer Charlie Kaufman, whose scripts includeBeing John Malkovich(1999) andEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind(2004),Synecdoche, New York(2008) is a work of rare ambition and scope.

    Theatre director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is mounting a new play in Schenectady, New York but turmoil reigns as his wife has left him to pursue her painting in Berlin, taking their young daughter Olive with her. Therapy brings Caden no solace and a new relationship with the alluringly candid Hazel (Samantha Morton) has also prematurely run aground. Worried about the transience of his...

  16. Gideon Koppel
    (pp. 60-65)

    Gideon Koppel grew up in Liverpool, studied mathematics and was a postgraduate student at the Slade School of Fine Art in the Experimental Media Studio. His work is exhibited in a wide variety of forms: from the film installation for fashion label Comme des Garcons to the controversial and never broadcast BBC filmOoh la la and the art of dressing upwhich explores the psychopathology of celebrity.

    Sleep Furiously(2008) became the critical discovery of the 2008 Edinburgh Film Festival, and then became one of the most critically acclaimed new British films of its year.

    The film is a...

  17. Harmony Korine
    (pp. 66-71)

    After spending much of his youth in Nashville, Tennessee, Harmony Korine moved to New York aged 18 and studied English at New York University for one semester before dropping out. During this time, in which he was living in his grandmother’s basement in Queens, he met photographer Larry Clark, and wrote the screenplay forKids(1995). A provocative tale of teenage sex, the film became one of the most provocative works of its decade.

    Korine made his directorial debut with the equally controversialGummoin 1997. Featuring the return to the screen of Linda Manz, the film is set around...

  18. Andrew Kötting
    (pp. 72-75)

    I can’t improve on the director’s own biography, which appears at the foot of this book’s preface, so won’t try.

    Despite not wishing to assert any personal familiarity with the figures in this book, Andrew Kötting is someone whose work I have long admired and a figure with whom I have become familiar over the years. He is much like his films; restless, passionate, voracious and endlessly inquisitive.

    An idiosyncratic and in many ways visionary filmmaker, my bond with Kötting and his work was further cemented when my company releasedIvul. Set in the French Pyrenees, the film is an...

  19. Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy
    (pp. 76-84)

    Over the past four years Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor have been working on a project calledCivic Life. It involves local community groups in the production of nine high-quality short films for the cinema, shot on 35mm Cinemascope and making extensive use of long takes. In 2004, their filmWho Killed Brown Owlwon the award for Best British Short Film at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. In January 2008 their latest short filmJoywon the Prix UIP Rotterdam at the International Film Festival Rotterdam.Helen(2008), the first feature of the duo, who work under the title...

  20. Ray Lawrence
    (pp. 85-90)

    Lawrence’s unique cinematic style has established him as one of the most respected dramatic directors of contemporary Australian cinema. While only producing three films in his 25-year career as a director, all of his features offer an intelligent and intense mediation around the slippery and often painful nature of human interaction and familial strife.

    Lawrence’s first feature wasBliss(1985), an adaptation of the Peter Carey novel. Co-scripted by the author himself, the film revolves around a successful advertising executive whose life is brought into sharp focus after surviving a near-death experience.

    After a lengthy hiatus from features during which...

  21. James Marsh
    (pp. 91-99)

    After graduating from Oxford University, James Marsh worked as a researcher and then a director for the BBC. Marsh’s breakthrough documentary,Troubleman(1994), chronicled the last years of Marvin Gaye and his murder at the hands of his father.The Burger and the King(1996), a documentary about Elvis Presley’s bizarre eating habits, and a documentary profile of John Cale (1998) swiftly followed.

    Wider attention came withWisconsin Death Trip(1999), a dramatized documentary about a small town in Wisconsin blighted by outbreaks of suicide, murder and insanity in the 1890s. Marsh won a BAFTA award for the film along...

  22. Christopher Nolan
    (pp. 100-103)

    I know what you’re thinking. The introduction and all those words about marginalised directors being given a voice and yet here’s an interview with the director of the rejuvenated Batman franchise. Well, this happens to be an interview from very early on in Nolan’s career when he was on the cusp of breaking through. Nolan doesn’t actually happen to give that many interviews and I think this piece is instructive in terms of it being a glimpse into the methodology of a director who brings intellect and inventiveness to big-budget projects. It also shows how his interest in the cerebral...

  23. Christian Petzold
    (pp. 104-107)

    Christian Petzold is widely regarded as one of the leading directors of contemporary German cinema. Making his feature debut with the political dramaThe State I Am In(2000), Petzold’s other works includeWolfsburg(2003) andGhosts(2005).

    Petzold’s films are marked by their interest in psychology and characters whose lives have been somehow torn loose from their moorings. One of his frequent collaborations with actor Nina Hoss,Yella(2007) brought the director’s work to wider international attention. The story of a woman attempting to escape a volatile relationship by taking a job with a financial corporation in a new...

  24. Nicolas Winding Refn
    (pp. 108-111)

    Nicolas Winding Refn was born in Copenhagen, relocating a number of times throughout his youth to New York. Expelled from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Refn’s acceptance into the Danish Film School was also curtailed when he dropped out prior to the start of term.

    Writing, directing and starring in a short made for an obscure Danish TV channel, Refn was given the opportunity of a lifetime when the short was seen by a group of producers who offered him 3.2 million kroner to turn it into a feature. That became the stylish, violent and uncompromisingPusher(1996), which...

  25. Kelly Reichardt
    (pp. 112-115)

    American landscapes and narratives of the road are the themes that run throughout the films of American filmmaker Kelly Reichardt.

    Beginning her career with a number of arresting Super-8 shorts includingThen a Year(2001) andTravis(2009), it was withOde(1999), a reinterpretation of Herman Raucher’sOde to BillyJoe that Reichardt began a lasting collaboration with musician and actor Will Oldham.

    Shot in her hometown of Dade Country, Florida, Reichardt’s debut featureRiver of Grass(1994), a sun-drenched film noir was selected by bothFilm CommentandThe Village Voiceas one of the most accomplished features...

  26. Ben Rivers
    (pp. 116-122)

    Ben Rivers studied Fine Art at Falmouth School of Art, initially in sculpture before moving into photography and Super-8mm film. After his degree, Rivers taught himself 16mm filmmaking and hand processing. His practice as a filmmaker treads a line between documentary and fiction, often following and filming people who have in some way separated themselves from society. His raw film footage provides Rivers with a starting point for creating oblique narratives imagining alternative existences in marginal worlds.Sack Barrow(2011) andSlow Action(2011) are two of his best-known shorter works.

    The recipient of the FIPRESCI International Critics Prize at...

  27. Ira Sachs
    (pp. 123-127)

    Ira Sachs was born in Memphis in 1965. His first feature,The Delta(1997), enjoyed international festival acclaim.

    WithForty Shades of Blue(2005) Sachs participated in the Screenwriter’s Lab at the Sundance Institute. Set in the world of Memphis music, it confronts many of the issues that have been central to Sachs’ work, most specifically characters who exist both inside and outside of their own environment.

    The film is the story of Laura (Dina Korzun), a young Russian woman living in Memphis with a much older music legend (played by Rip Torn), and the personal awakening she experiences in...

  28. Céline Sciamma
    (pp. 128-131)

    A coming-of-age tale set amidst the world of synchronised swimming, Céline Sciamma’s sensitive and perceptive debut,Water Lilies(2007) captures the pleasure and pain of teenage life as three fifteen-year-old girls explore their burgeoning sexuality.

    Unfolding over a languid summer in an anonymous Parisian suburb it begins with Marie’s (Pauline Acquart) hopes of making her local synchronised swimming team. An ambition founded on a sexual attraction towards the team’s popular captain, Floriane (Adèle Haenel), Marie finds herself becoming an accomplice in a series of uncomfortable assignations with Floriane’s boyfriend, François. Marie’s best friend Anne (Louise Blachére) also has François in...

  29. Peter Strickland
    (pp. 132-139)

    Reading-born writer-director Peter Strickland’s first feature filmKatalin Varga(2009) was made entirely independently over a four-year period. It went on to win many awards including a Silver Bear in Berlin and the European Film Academy’s Discovery of the Year award.

    Prior to this, Strickland made a number of short films includingBubblegum(1996) andA Metaphysical Education(2004). He also founded the Sonic Catering Band, releasing several records and performing live throughout Europe. The band also released field recordings, sound poetry and modern classical music in very limited vinyl editions.

    Berberian Sound Studio(2012) saw him return with a...

  30. Tilda Swinton
    (pp. 140-145)

    Tilda Swinton is many things but she is not a film director. As such, she stands apart from the rest of the interviewees in this book. However, from interviewing Swinton for the release of Lynne Ramsay’sWe Need To Talk About Kevin(2011) it became transparently clear that she is very much a driving force behind many of the films that she makes and that her bond with her directors goes beyond that of merely muse or hired hand.

    A striking and distinctive presence onscreen and off, Swinton’s career began with close collaborations with Derek Jarman. It was a creative...

  31. Wim Wenders
    (pp. 146-150)

    Born in Düsseldorf in 1945, Wim Wenders started taking photographs at the age of seven. He studied medicine and philosophy before settling in 1966 as a painter and engraver in Paris. In his spare time, he watched all the movies that were showing at the Cinémathèque, including many German classics. Soon after, he enrolled at the newly founded Film and Television Academy in Munich and went on to make several short films, which were influenced by the so-called ‘New American Underground’ – long scenes, uneventful and with an open narrative in the style of Warhol. His feature film debut was in...

  32. Ben Wheatley
    (pp. 151-154)

    Brighton-based filmmaker Ben Wheatley is undoubtedly one of the most singular talents to emerge in recent British cinema. Incredibly productive and able to work within the confines of a minimal budget, Wheatley’s work, made in collaboration with his partner Amy Jump, is characterised by its rippling undercurrent of menace and its distinctly off-kilter take on the British landscape.

    Wheatley’s debut,Down Terrace(2009), went largely unseen on release but has steadily grown in stature. Taking the best elements ofThe Sopranosand giving them a very British twist, the film focuses on the kind of issues faced by all families....

  33. Michael Winterbottom
    (pp. 155-160)

    Michael Winterbottom is one of the most prolific and productive directors at work anywhere in the world. If his work is characterised by anything, it is by the regularity with which it arrives; he has probably made another couple of films by the time you have read this interview, and his refusal to be pinned down by budget, subject or genre. That’s not to suggest that Winterbottom’s work is in any way slapdash or ill-thought, more that in a British filmmaking environment that can seem hostile to funding Winterbottom, and his producing partner Andrew Eaton, are able to make interesting...

  34. Back Matter
    (pp. 161-162)