|Title:||Perfume: A Story of a Murderer|
Other Movies Seen By This Director (1)
- The International
|10.20.06||Paramount||This Screening is part of event: Austin Film Festival 2006|
So the persons who told me that this movie was good neglected to mention that it was two hours forty minutes long. Whatever. Tom Tykwer's succeeds in making a magical epic creepy fairy tale drama that does everything film can do and a bit more.
Maybe it's just the perfume angle but I couldn't help but be reminded (for the second time recently) of the Tom Robbins book Jitterbug Perfume, where the realm of smell is treated with such gravity and power capable enough to control the world. More than that though, the movie's frosted with fantastical elements that give it a whimsy and sense of controlled reality; the difference being this world is pretty dark. Lots of death going on and it's treated very seriously. Luckily enough though, it's usually accompanied by incredibly gorgeous women being nude... so it constantly puts your emotion (well, my emotion at least) in that gray zone between horror and eroticism, without ever really being a horror movie.
A big yay for hot naked chicks, even if they are dead.
Seriously, the two redheads in this film are beautiful in a way that's incategorible. Both women are the kind of beauty that a part of every man would like to kill just to be able to smell them all over. You may not admit it, but I know you do.
but it's also about perfume, which I find kind of a slyly mysterious subject anyway. Like you might not think a movie about perfume would be interesting at all, but think about it for a bit. How did it start? how did they make it? All that old-timey crap... I dunno, I find it interesting. Distilling base oils and whatnot, so it had that going for it as well. But mostly I loved that the movie is really dark even though it sort of shouldn't be. Like, you'd think it's just some chick flick and not a story about a pervert murderer with a really good nose, you know? So I was really taken with this one. Loved it.
The next day: All about panels today. I'm seeing Return of the Living Dead tonight and there's no good 7pm slot so I'm only seeing panels today AFF-wise. Since panels aren't movies, let's share some notes in this entry for the entire Saturday of the fest.
First up was David Milch's panel which was called showcase or up close and personal or something else that means the same thing: excuse to hear him talk. Milch has probably the most interesting and exterior process of writing that I've heard of, and his personality (a mix between lit teacher and street brawler) makes any sort of anecdote or point that escapes from his lips a treat. A self-admitted sociopath, Milch sat down to talk about his career (or whatever) this morning to an excited crowd. Right when it got going, Ian McShane walked in and sat in the front row. Someone somewhere whispered loudly "it's AL!"
To skip forward a bit, McShane was looking for Milch after the third panel of the day and I had a little interchange with him:
Mr. McShane (heretofore known as Ian since I'm such huge pals with him now): (to an elderly paramount usher) ...I don't see him, I guess he's not down there.
Me (yeah you know it): Are you looking for Mr. Milch?
Ian (looking fiercely right at me): Yeah
Me (pointing with confidence): He's right down there in front on the side.
Ian (having attained peace by knowing me): thanks.
To second-degree this tangent, just now as I sat down in the Driskill lobby to write these notes down, Milch and McShane walked by talking about something. Milch suddenly turns around and introduces himself to this guy on a wheelchair (coincidentally the same guy in the wheelchair who got wheeled out of the way at the Pan's Labrynth screening), saying that he saw him at an earlier panel and wanted to say hi. They talk for a bit and Milch says he'd definitely do an interview with him and starts to sit down. Apparently (as I found out three minutes later), he had an interview with Danny Trejo lined up so he couldn't just then, so Milch says he has to catch a plane in an hour so he gives him his phone number and says to call for that interview. So this proves that a) Milch is kind to the handicapped and b) maybe karma isn't just a name of a bar here in town).
Anyway, the hour spent listening to Milch was great. He talked about NYPD Blue (and hating David Caruso), his writing method, deadwood, airline urination, his new show John From Cincinnati (the star of which was in attendance, along with Susannah Grant and a someone that looked just like Sheryl Lee... and maybe other celebs too who knows), the Hayes code and how it influenced classic Hollywood westerns, teaching, Saint Paul and his pitch for an HBO Rome show, deadwood's future, how words are electricity, and a pretty sweet acid story involving shooting a shotgun at a cop car.
He's not a fast talker but he uses plenty of big words like "exigeses" and "penumbra" and is seemingly full of these obscure quotes that are both short and profound ("facts become articles of commerce") and like a paragraph long. I listen to this guy talk and have no problem believing that he writes every word of every episode of Deadwood. Yet he's funny and self-deprecating as well. Plus he's full of these little sayings that I now want to start using in everyday life, like "that's why they make chocolate and vanilla" instead of the decidedly low-brow, borderline porn saying of "different strokes for different folks." Ice cream comparisons are much cooler.
So some little nuggests of info, listed willy nilly:
-He describes the thematic question of NYPD Blue as "the illusion of law versus the reality of order."
-The two 2-hour tele-movies that will end Deadwood is "the fiction that we're embracing today." He wanted to continue the show much longer, but didn't want to get into the specifics of why that's not happening.
-His new show, which is supposed to be like a surfer noir, is also about quantum mechanics. He brought up this idea with islands; about how you think islands are separate but it's really only the water that makes you think that. They are connected with the same earth; the water just gives an illusion of separateness (he somehow related this to all of mankind, something about watching a boxing match and the sound a crowd makes on the first site of blood)
-He was various forms of alcoholic, heroin addict, and freon nut for 20 years, only being 8 years sober right now. That puts him loaded up his entire teaching career and much of NYPD, which I find interesting.
-His house has a drawer with like 30 broken phones because if his wife isn't home to answer the phone, he'd rather smash it than answer it. Actually that's why he writes the way he does; he can't stand to put his hands on anything like a keyboard or anything because the second he comes into contact with any sort of order, he freaks out. He said that he once spent a year writing the same 12 pages word-for-word every morning. Crazy.
So yeah, interesting guy. He spoke more during the third panel of the day but more on that later.
The second panel I attended today was with Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, and David Wain AKA Stella slash 3 parts of the 11-member group The State, creatively responsible for Wet Hot American Summer, The Baxter, and the upcoming film The Ten.
These guys are funny, but you knew that. Since they showed a bunch of Stella shorts last night, MIB came out sporting an Alamo t-shirt (Huzzah). The other two wore significantly less cool shirts of different kind. They played a 15-minute clip reel quickly chronicling their history with clips of theier beginnings in the New Group at NYU, The State on MTV's show You Wrote It, You Watch It (or whatever it's called), The State's own show, The CBS State special, Stella stand-up in NYC, Stella Shorts, Wet Hot American Summer, The Baxter, and Stella on Comedy Central. Yeah... the Stella short they showed most of is a short called Dickfish which is... pretty funny but still fitting with the usual amount of dildo-humor that seems to go on with most Stella stuff.
From there, the moderator asked the typical history questions, they went through a detailed account of how they came together and blah blah blah. Lots of interesting stuff, lots of funny stuff. Lots and lots of questions from the audience (like 50 minutes' worth... by the end it was people scrambling to ask anything... they got the dreaded "what do you order at starbucks?"), lots of funny stuff in the interplay between the three guys.
Let's see, some of the more interesting bits that I thought to note:
-They related a hilariously horrible story about being in a meeting with an incredibly racist CBS executive (named John Pike) who referred to all black people as being from Cracktown and watching late-night comedy because they didn't have to be up in the morning and all this horrible stuff and them mentioning it to this reporter who was doing a big piece on them at the time (apparently that piece is up at the-state.com), hence their short stay at CBS.
-Someone asked if they liked working for VH1 on those "I love the __s" shows and Showalter said he really sucked at them because he'd feel like a fraud, like he doesn't miss the slinky at all. He doesn't care about the slinky, it's stupid. He then explained how that show works and gave an example of how he sucks at it and how Ian Black's great at it. He said he was looking at this list of topics he had to talk about and spent a half hour trying to come up with a joke about how he thinks Nick Nolte's mugshot looks, and he's coming up with really wacky bad stuff like a mix between james brown and a vacuum cleaner (I don't actually remember his joke, that was mine) and he's talking to MIB on the phone and he just asks, for the hell of it, what he'd say and Michael Ian Black says "...bad. It looked really really bad." and there you go.
-Someone asked for their comedic inspirations and David Wain answered by saying Tati. But he said it in a snobbish French way and it was pretty clear that this AFF audience here on a freakin screenwriting conference about MOVIES didn't know who the hell he was talking about (sigh). So Showalter says "have you seen Mon Oncle?" also pronounced very french (mon onk) and he gets laughs, so he says "Or Le Weekend?" to more laughs. Then he's like "i'm serious, go to the video store and ask if they have Tati's Mon Oncle" to even more laughs. I guess he was saying it "funny" but... it also made me sad.
-They also gave us an update on their projects. Wain's movie The Ten looks really funny and Micahel Ian Black has also written and directed a movie, the title of which is certain to change to some undetermined new better thing so he couldn't tell us. He did tell us the political reasons why neither Showalter or Wain would be in it though, which were candidly interesting (he set up with a company that blamed Wain for his earlier movie not getting into Sundance because Wet Hot American Summer did), which was funny because I ran into this guy Fernando who works at the Alamo - hilarious guy - and he told me that he ran into David Wain at a party last night at Ruth's Chris steakhouse. At first he said Wain was a dick and I asked really? and he said "well, I was pretty drunk. I don't remember what I said to him, but he made fun of me." hilarious.
All in all, I wish Perfume wasn't playing last night so I could've gone over to the Alamo and saw them talk more with their Stella shorts, I wish Return of the Living Dead wasn't playing tonight so I could've gone over to Emo's and saw the two Michaels' stand-up, but oh well... Since I still don't have the power to control time I'll have to do with seeing these funny funny man-people here on this panel and hearing all sorts of interesting talk about The State and Stella and all that. Oh, on that clip reel it was great to hear the State intro song again... man i used to love that song every week.
OK, so the last panel of the day (and the glorious end to this note) was called "Creating Classic Characters" with a panel made up of David Milch, Shane Black, Sydney Pollack, and some moderator guy. They moved this to the paramount because it's such a superstar panel that pretty much everyone with a badge showed up. I guess the topic of these kinds of panels is really just an excuse to get the celebs talking to each other but come on... creating classic characters? oh well... so right off the bat the moderator asks how Milch came up with Sipowicz (his dad), how Shane Black came up with Riggs and Murtaugh (western heros), and how Pollack... well.. something about Out of Africa. Sydney was quick to say that, as a director who's never sat down at a blank page and created any sort of character at all, he didn't really belong here. Buut then he talked anyway (thankfully) and then Milch rang in saying that Pollack saying that was just his particular lie that he tells himself to allow his particular style to happen and they were off and running. It was actually a really great mix of personalities. Most of the time, Black peered out at the audience with a grimace on his face like a hung over demon looking for prey. Milch did a lot of talking that sounded like a lit professor, Black would always be sharp and quick and funny, and although Pollack was silent much of the time, he did speak up occasionally, always with something worth hearing. Talking about Tootsie, Pollack said he turned it down the first few times because he thought it was a one-joke movie... so the way it eventually worked out is that he, Dustin Hoffman, and the writer all sat in a room for a week to really work it all out, and Pollack, not being comfortable hanging a whole movie on just character, needed some sort of spine, so he saw that as his job in that situation... to find the spine. To that Shane adds "yeah, but for you aspiring screenwriters out there, this is Sydney Pollack we're talking about. Normally, you have to find the spine before you give it to him. It sort of is your job!"
That's actually how the whole thing went. Pollack would say something inciteful on the director's end, Black would communicate solid notes and lessons directly to the screenwriters out there, and Milch would come in with much more complicated reference-filled notes that end up being really profound... if you can follow them. But then he'd interject a story like how he hated Caruso so much on NYPD that one time he was yelling at him and he had a heart attack, but he hated the guy so much that he didn't want to give him the satisfaction so he pretended like he was fine until the argument ended, then went over to a friend and calmly said "ok, now I need to go to the hospital."
A fairly major point that everyone talked about was the use of dialogue and what makes dialogue great. THey kind of each sited a single line that holds tremendous dramatic power that really defines the entire movie for you... talking about what's great is not the line itself but the character and his vocabulary and the situation and how appropriate everything is to the world that's protrayed on screen. So Whether it's some eloquent Shakespearean verbage in the midst of King Lear, or Marlon Brando's blunted frustration in On The Waterfront, they're both great because they fit.
Later on, to answer a question about how he wrote the female character in Long Kiss Goodnight, Shane Black told a story about how when he was young his mom had some troubles, borderline suicidal type stuff... so growing up, they always had to be on eggshells because they knew that if they upset her, she might hurt herself. So, on this subconsciouss level, in the movie when someone finally yells at this girl and tells her to calm down (or whatever), what happens directly after that is a guy with a shotgun comes through the door and all hell breaks loose. So, he said "sometimes you don't realize it while you're writing, but all that stuff still comes through. Anyway, there you go." And David Milch launches into this dissertation on how, really, all great dialogue and everything we speak in normal life is the culmination of our entire past projected onto the present. And that works both for in movies and right now... and he proceeds to dissect Shane's story while he listens on and ends up with a really complicated but completely correct deconstruction of his story and how it all added up to the words "anyway, there you go." Milch: "and THAT's dialogue."
After a second, everyone started to clap. Including Black and Pollack.
So that was interesting. I mean, it was also really funny... it wasn't all that kind of heady stuff... it was actually a really great panel.