|Title:||The Wild Blue Yonder|
Other Movies Seen By This Director (14)
- Aguirre: The Wrath of God
- The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans
- Cave of Forgotten Dreams
- Grizzly Man
- Into the Abyss
- Into the Inferno
- Lessons in Darkness
- Little Dieter Needs to Fly
- My Best Fiend: Klaus Kinski
- Rescue Dawn
- Wheel of Time
- The White Diamond
|10.07.05||Alamo South Lamar||This Screening is part of event: FantasticFest 2005|
After Miracle Mile, there was a bit of time spent getting into completely random discussion/debates with a few people about movies like G.I. Jane, The Doom Generation, Renny Harlin, and Joel Schumacher. I think for a casual film fan to hear these types of conversations which switch topics like once a minute but follow some minute tenuous thread of continuity that only a fanatic can recognize and follow must be really tough. I also think that, to the film geek, conversations like these are the equivalent of dogs sniffing each other's hindparts. You have a conversation like that with someone and you get an idea of their personal film ethos... you have an idea of their stance. FantasticFest seems to be a healthy breeding ground for conversations like these.
Next up was a panel on the effects used in the upcoming Chronicles of Narnia movie: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. They had a whole mini-exhibit of stuff set up in the lobby that everyone took in for a while since the panel didn't start until an hour after the second round of films started. When we seated, they also had articulated masks for the minotaur and one of the ogres. At this point I should say that I am completely outside the circle of Narnia fans. I never read the books, never got that interested in the story and therefore never paid too much attention to what's going on with the upcoming film. Basically, I only really saw the panel because of scheduling the alternative films at later times and because it would be yet another exclusive thing I could tell my friends about and make them jealous.
The panel was led by the B in KNB effects: Howard Berger. Right from the start, I got a sense that Berger had a real personal attachment to this movie and all the work he's done on it. Now, I'm not really "in the loop" and I've never had hour-long phone chats with cool directors or have any cool stories about film people telling me juicy gossip or anything so I don't really know if Berger is like this on every gig they get or if this is something special, but he did seem to exude a particular excitement and reverence when talking about the characters and how he handled them and things of that nature. The thing started with Berger running through a slideshow of production photos taken in New Zealand on set for the 7 months that they shot. He then explained a lot of how and where the different effects crews took over and how they worked together. WETA did all the initial designs but the Kong started up and Richard Taylor decided to pull back and just handle all the weaponry and armor stuff and hand the creature effects over to Berger. From there it went between Berger's team and Rhythm & Hues for the practical/digital split, all working from the base of beginning WETA stuff. He then started up another slideshow and basically broke down how each of the main characters/races were handled. He went into some depth here and I thought many times that if I was a big Narnia fan then I would really really be loving this. As it was, I was very interested in hearing how it was all done, the attention to detail the team took with the creatures and handling the actors, and in particular with the emergent behavior on set. It seemed that after a while, the cyclops would not eat lunch with the ogres, and the ogres wouldn't eat lunch with the goblins... that the cliques started to segregate much like the different apes did on the original Planet of the Apes shoot. It makes a certain amount of sense if you think about it a little bit, but it stops making sense if you think about it too long so be careful.
After that there was a Q&A session where questions were asked about what was a set versus what was location (I guess they couldn't get a stage tall enough for the initial Narnia set piece where the kids step out of the wardrobe so they had to dig down and build the set into the ground to accommodate the low ceilings), how the creature effects worked with the child actors (Berger told an interesting bit about how, for the first time the kids meet Aslan, the giant Lion who I guess is a king or something, he had his team keep the lion moving as they set up to take to continue the illusion that he was not just a hunk of fur and wires for the kids.), casting choices (Apparently, when director Andrew Adamson finally found his perfect choice to play Mr. Tumnus, the actor James McAvoy was unavailable for any sort of prep. I guess McAvoy was on a TV show or something and had full work weeks. So, because he was so gung ho to get this role, one Friday directly after he wrapped for the day, he got on a jet and spent 36 hours to fly out to LA and get into KNB's studio, got the whole body-mold/cyber-scan treatment in 6 hours, then spent the rest of the weekend flying back to England to get back just in time Monday morning to walk into work saying he had a pretty relaxing weekend), and other assorted things that I can't remember. He did say that, unlike most other gigs, in this case there was absolutely no contention between the practical guys and the digital guys. They picked up each other's slack seamlessly and smoothly, him doing stuff the digital people couldn't do and them doing stuff he couldn't do. He also mentioned that in the Minotaur head, he built in articulation of the lips and stuff even though it wasn't scripted for them to have any lines. But of course when they got on set, the director came up with an idea to have him say something or other so Berger just went over to his puppeteers and said "make him say that" and they did and the VFX crews all got real happy, saying "dude, you just saved us $150,000." I guess that was what they call a good day.
To end the presentation, they played some footage specially cut together for FantasticFest, different from the stuff shown at Comic Con. It had some temp music and some temp effects but I guess it was so new that Berger hadn't even seen it. Afterward he got up, clearly impressed, and said "that was awesome!" Because I couldn't hope to mention all the stuff they showed (if only i could've had my cell phone to take pictures with. so much would be visible in those 640x480 grainy dark shots! oh well), I'll leave the contents of the stuff that was shown as an exclusive treat for those of us who were there.
Next up came a hard choice. It was between a Turkish sci-fi comedy called GORA and the new Werner Herzog film The Wild Blue Yonder. I opted for the Herzog.
The Wild Blue Yonder is a movie that I'm convinced I'm not smart enough to understand. I've seen a few things like this, mostly shorts made up entirely of "found" footage, where I sti through it and seem to understand what I think they're doing, but also have this itch in the back of my mind that there's probably more to it and I'm probably just shallow or something. This is how i feel about Terrence Malick's work. of course, Tim League mentioned that this is the first time that Herzog's new film has been screening on this continent, so when I tell my friends about it I will have understood everything perfectly and absolutely loved it. In truth however, it had a very hypnotic effect on me and made my eyelids heavy more than once. The movie itself is a few minutes of Brad Dourif talking into the camera about how he's an alien from another world called the Wild Blue Yonder where the sky was iced over and everything was beautiful, and he came to Earth because his planet was dying out but when he got here he sort of discovered that he's not very smart. In fact, the aliens just suck. Maybe generations upon generations ago they were incredibly intelligent and important people, but nowadays they can't even succeed in building a shopping mall. The thrust of the movie however is a really loose narrative made up of various sources of documentary footage. Using a pastiche of NASA film, early flight footage, odd warehouse stuff, and lots and lots and lots of underwater photography of divers under a shelf of ice, Herzog uses Dourif's narration to tell us a story about how humans discover wormholes and take an expedition to this alien homeworld as a possible colonization spot. Nearly the entire film is blanketed by cello solos, Sardinian song, and various other "world music" types of sounds. Some of these languorous meditations go on for 5, 10 minutes before cutting to chapter breaks explaining what's happening. Personally, the most exciting parts of the film were interviews with Ph.Ds. That should tell you something.
Just because it's not exciting doesn't mean it's not interesting though... and I'm still pretty convinced that I missed something about it. There's some sort of inside information that I'm missing that will elevate this experience beyond stupification. It took me a whole other movie just to be able to form some kind of opinion on it tonight... It's really truly strange and beautiful.
Perhaps Herzog himself should've played the alien. As much as I love Brad Dourif, hearing Herzog speak always fascinates me. My favorite random quote of the moment is him saying "I don't hate the jungle. I love it" so maybe hearing his voice throughout would've kept me more engaged. Who knows...
Afterward I snuck into the last half hour of GORA. It looked entertaining but was full of Matrix gags and stuff like that. Herzog's films have a history of me not liking them at all at first but then they stick with me and haunt me until one day I wake up really liking them. I got the vibe from GORA that I would be hungry again an hour after consumption.
Notes from the journal:
-The dude towed a boat over a mountain, can't he shoot his own footage?