Tag Archives: The Elephant Man

Space Operatic: An Interview with Stephen van Vuuren by Kent Hill

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I applaud anyone who makes their way on this crusade, some might say foolish crusade, to make a film. It can be a long, arduous, laborious. And thinking on that word laborious, now consider making a film that has to be stitched together using over 7 million photographs with animation techniques pioneered by Walt Disney on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. No CGI. And I know that sounds sacrilegious in this day and age where a film without CGI is like a day without sunshine.

However, the film that Stephen van Vuuren has, albeit laboriously, constructed In Saturn’s Rings, is a unique master-work that is as beautiful and immersive on the small screen I watched it on as I can imagine it being played in its large format form.

Sparked by Cassini‘s arrival at Saturn in 2004 and the media’s lack of coverage, van Vuuren produced two films. Photos from space missions — including images of Saturn taken by Cassini — were included. But van Vuuren was not satisfied with the results so he did not release them.

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While listening to the Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber one day in 2006, van Vuuren conceived the idea of creating moving images of Saturn based on a pan-and-scan 2.5-D effect. The technique involves creating a 3-D perspective using still photographs.

After discussion with audiences at IMAX conferences, van Vuuren decided the film title Outside In (the title of the short version) was not a good match for the film’s sensibility. The Giant Film Cinema Association had been publicising the film and surveys it conducted supported this. It was during a discussion in 2012 about the film’s climax where he was describing Earth “in Saturn’s rings” that van Vuuren realized he had found his new title.

Although narration had originally been removed in 2009, by 2014 van Vuuren realized that a sparse narration was necessary for the film. This amounted to 5 pages and about 1200 words in total. After listening to many voice actors one stood out and he asked LeVar Burton (Star Trek: The Next Generation) to be the narrator for the film.

The culmination of these elements, plus a lot of hard work, has resulted in something that is essentially more than a film. Like Kubrick’s 2001 which inspired him, van Vuuren has crafted an experience of what it may by like to drift through the far reaches of space to the planet that has always been the physical embodiment of his childhood fantasies. And I for one am grateful he stuck to his guns and made a movie that, even though it’s not a tale from a galaxy far, far away, it is the universe at its most wondrous…

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PTS Presents the Raymond Benson Auteur Series: DAVID LYNCH Volume 1

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Podcasting Them Softly is incredibly excited to continue our Raymond Benson Auteur Series with our first of a two part chat about the works of David Lynch. Frank, Tim, and Raymond discuss Lynch’s early works continued through his features ERASERHEAD, THE ELEPHANT MAN, DUNE, BLUE VELVET, and the first two seasons of TWIN PEAKS. The three of them will be back soon covering Lynch’s filmography from WILD AT HEART to TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN. For those local listeners, please check Raymond’s website for upcoming book signing appearances for Raymond’s new novel, THE SECRETS OF CHICORY LANE.

“I hate to admit this but I don’t understand this situation at all.” An appreciation of David Lynch’s impenetrable entertainment, Twin Peaks and all- by Josh Hains 

These days, when I watch anything David Lynch has filmed, be it Blue Velvet, Wild At Heart, Inland Empire, or even his flawed yet hypnotic and deliciously crazy adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune, I check my brain in at the door. I let my mind become invaded by the alluring sights and sounds that populate his stunning body of work, letting them burn themselves into the deepest parts of my soul. I don’t over think what I’m watching, and I don’t allow myself to obsess over such cerebral, intentionally puzzling works. Above all else, the images tend to stay with me like dirt under my fingernails, or a ghost lurking in an old house.

The point of Lynch’s life’s work is breaking convention, trying truly new things with the form, narratively or visually, that most people in the movie or television businesses will never think of in their lifetime. Ever. Taking cinematic standards we’ve become comfortable with and breaking them like a sledgehammer against concrete, dismantling what’s considered safe, easy, and profitable, his works always risky, provocative, difficult, and confounding. I find just about everything he’s made confounding to varying degrees, and just like any great puzzle, the necessary pieces to solving any given mystery in any of his works are always right there in plain sight, staring me right in the face, taunting me. I’m reminded of a quote from Christopher Nolan’s brilliant puzzler The Prestige: “Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled.” Except that I don’t want to be fooled, at least not entirely.

I have a tendency to want to know what pieces go where and watch them all slowly fit together, though an equal part of me doesn’t want to completely kill the mystery, doesn’t mind the ambiguity and relishes in being challenged on such deeply psychological levels. The first time I saw his Mulholland Drive, I disliked it because I couldn’t make heads or tails of what I’d just witnessed. Nothing I’d seen made any amount of sense, or could easily be summed up in a quick sentence. It was impenetrable, and I hated it. A couple years ago I learned that the impenetrable, confusing, ambiguous nature of everything that is Lynch, is the point. Whether or not I can solve the puzzle of Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway, or Twin Peaks, isn’t the point of those and most of David Lynch’s filmography. That’s never been the point. You’ll only drive yourself mad trying to solve something you aren’t meant to solve, or find yourself underwhelmed and ungrateful if you do somehow manage to decipher the code that solves the mystery and don’t like the results. The point is the journey, and just like any grand adventure, everything he’s made has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s not the destination that matters, but how we get there, and though the journeys Lynch takes us on between those points on the map is different from what we’re used to, in the end it’s actually a really good thing.

All great art should be more than just disturbing to the comfortable and comfortable to the disturbed. It should be challenging. It should make us think deeper than we’ve ever thought before and inite us to continue to think deeper. It should make us look at the art and ask why, make us take a deeper look inside ourselves and ponder why we didn’t think if it ourselves, and what we can do to be more creative and open minded. It should open a wide assortment of doors to all kinds of endless creative potentials and ideas, and challenge us to tackle subjects we’ve been too afraid and comfortable to explore. Twin Peaks: The Return, is this year’s prime example of taking the standards we’ve become so accustomed to, and breaking them for 18 episodes straight. 

I haven’t been able to wrap my mind around most of what happened this season on Twin Peaks, and though repeated viewings of Twin Peaks when the Blu-Ray arrives some months from now will surely unlock a few secrets and tie up some loose ends I didn’t immediately comprehend, I doubt I will ever be able to fully understand everything that happened over the course of The Return. I also don’t fully understand what the hell happens in Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway, or Inland Empire, but that’s quite alright with me. I’m not supposed to understand the plots, I’m supposed to be swept up in everything else that’s going on. The acting, the symbolism, the trippy nightmarish images, the sudden graphic violence, the sensuous love stories, thunderous pulsating scores, the sublime aura of it all. Like I said before, it’s not the destintion that matters, but how you got there, and how I got there was a magnificent achievement. 

My biggest takeaways from Twin Peaks: The Return, as of right now because I’m still processing what I watched, are that David Lynch is perhaps the foremost essential artist of our times, and a truly brilliant one at that, willing to break rules and conventions for the sake of experimentation and trying to provide more sophisticated entertainment to us all. My other takeaway is that though the battle between good and evil in fiction or our reality never truly ends, as long as the world is occupied by Dale Cooper’s, the light stands a chance of winning.