Sunday, July 26, 2009

Playing with BAM @ the BBC

Sometimes I just take a sip of Natty Ice and see where the buzz takes me. In this case, I found myself onstage with BUILD A MACHINE at the BBC Walpole:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Beginning Filmmaking": a film by Jay Rosenblatt

"Beginning Filmmaking" is a neat little documentary (23min in length) about a dad (Rosenblatt) who buys his five-year-old daughter (Ella) a digital video camera and attempts to teach her filmmaking over the course of a year.

Although Rosenblatt takes a text-book approach to the teaching process, Ella prefers to use the camera in a more original manner. Rosenblatt wants her to come up with a clever idea for her film and then use medium shots, extreme-close-ups and proper composition. But Ella prefers to film herself talking into the camera (like one would do with a web camera), telling stories about fairies and singing songs and doing other silly things that only kids would do.

Over the course of the film Rosenblatt grows frustrated with Ella's incorrigible "disobedience". He inadvertently plays the role of the antagonist, forcefully imposing the limited text-book approaches to filmmaking upon his daughter. He is not unlike the conventional studio-head who represses the unconventional vision of the independent filmmaker, which is an ironic role for him to play, seeing that he has been an extremely unconventional filmmaker his whole life.

In fact, this role reversal (i.e. the repressed becoming the oppressor) can be viewed as a microcosm of the general situation that occurs when a child becomes an adult and inadvertently becomes everything he/she disliked about their parents. Rosenblatt is like the Peter Pan who has grown up and become one of the narrow-minded adults without even knowing it. And, as a filmmaker, he has become everything he was rebelling against when he was a younger filmmaker trying to be original.

But perhaps this is all unavoidable. Maybe this film is a realization that the only way to teach filmmaking (or anything for that matter) is to set certain rules and it's up to the student to break them when he or she is ready. As the saying goes, one must learn the rules before they can be broken. Unprecedented originality can't exist without unoriginal precedences. Somebody NEEDS to set rules in order for an independent to be born.

Email to Vincent Gallo

Dear Vincent:

My name is Matt Burns, a writer/filmmaker from the Boston area.

Just thought I would drop you a line and say how much I like your work, especially THE BROWN BUNNY. I heard that you had an initial cut that was three hours long or something like that. Is there any way one can see that version? I imagine that it may go deeper into the character and maybe even answer some lingering questions about him.

But, yes, awesome film. To me, Bud is a portrait of the typical (Los) Angeleno: a man constantly on the move, unsuccessfully trying to outrun a past that relentlessly haunts him. Or, to speak in more general terms, I guess he is a portrait of the typical American -- a person migrating westward, running away from something...but always unsuccessfully.

The past always catches up, no matter how much we try NOT to face it. And perhaps this is one of the key issues comprising the American tragedy: instead of dealing with our problems, we try to run away from them, either by physically escaping west like Bud, or by mentally escaping to things like spectator sports and Hollywood entertainment and politics and religion etc. If Bud is any indication, the more we try to escape like this, the more we just end up torturing ourselves.

Another thing I like about the film is how there is some question as to whether Bud's perception of reality is totally reliable, as there are too may elements in the film that don't seem to add up. Like when Bud visits Daisy's mom...she's never heard of him, and doesn't even remember him living next door to her. Then there's the brown bunny, which was supposedly Daisy's, but should have probably been dead long ago (we learn from the pet store owner that bunnies only live five or six years).

Maybe the relationship between Bud and Daisy was less serious than we are lead to believe. Maybe she was just a girl he had a crush on (either recently or during his childhood). Or maybe she was just a girl he met at a party, took a liking to, but then got insulted when he found another guy having sex with her. And this makes him feel rejected and insecure. It is a blow to his ego. And such a rejection is impossible for him to shake. It follows him wherever he goes. No matter how fast he goes in that bike of his, he just can't escape these feelings that haunt him.

I guess the fact of the matter is that we can't quite trust Bud as a reliable "narrator", simply because there are too many things that don't seem to make sense in the film. He seems to be delusional and maybe even hallucinatory. He's probably lying to himself and, in turn, lying to us. Maybe he's trying to convince himself that Daisy's death wasn't his fault. Or maybe Daisy is still very much alive somewhere, but he just wants to pretend she's dead because it hurts him too much to think that she's alive and rejected him. Maybe the entire back-story of the film is just a bunch of bullshit born out of a neurotically insecure soul. Who knows???

Anyway, just thinking out loud. Really like the film. And if there's any way I can see the longer version, PLEASE let me know.


Matt Burns

The next day after sending this email I had a response in my inbox. The following is Gallo's (one-word) response:


Yes, he's an asshole, but you gotta love the guy.