A brilliant post from twentyfourframesasecond
There are few directors I admire as much as Martin Scorsese, but Sidney Lumet is definitely one of them. So it was a case of cinephile nirvana when I came across a priceless gem of an artifact last weekend at the limited-engagement Scorsese Exhibition at The Deutsche Kinemathek: a letter from Lumet to Scorsese.
Dated April 23rd, 1980, it is a response to the manifesto Scorsese had authored on the abysmal state of archival film elements held by various studios and the dire need for urgent action on the film preservation front. The very legacy of cinema is at stake here, he had argued a few weeks prior in a call-to-arms letter to hundreds of his colleagues, a veritable list of filmmaking legends, including Losey, Spielberg, Fassbinder, Coppola, Kurosawa, Wenders, and Powell among many others. The original letter was presented at the exhibition, along with a slew of supportive responses he had received, all signing a petition and offering their help. “Every year the blue of the sea fades in colour, while the blood spewing out of Robert Shaw’s mouth gets more red”, read Spielberg’s response in reference to the state of the negative for Jaws.
I was stunned when I got to Lumet’s letter. To put things in context, at this point in his career, Sidney Lumet is already a bonafide legend. It has been 23 years since 12 Angry Men, he has 26 feature films under his belt, including indisputable masterpieces like The Hill, Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico and Network, alongside other groundbreaking films like The Pawnbroker, Fail Safe, and The Offence. Yet he is the one filmmaker who takes this call to action to heart most, with the energy and enthusiasm of an idealistic kid (which, in many ways he remained until his dying day). Instead of patting Marty on the back and passively offering support, he expands on his manifesto, bringing into focus the poor manufacturing standards of the raw negative film of the era produced by Kodak (complacency that comes with industrial monopoly is the likely cause, Lumet hypothesizes), and suggests a concerted effort at a boycott of Kodak stock until the issue is taken seriously.
But what he does next is truly astonishing: proposing an industry-wide conference to seriously discuss using video technology for both image acquisition and projection. “Something I know is possible”, Lumet says. This is 1980. Video capture technology is still in its infancy, with the Hollywood establishment, of which Lumet should be a part (at this point he was already a three-time Academy Award nominee), only regarding it with a mixture of disdain and apathy. This is even before a seemingly indestructible, post-Apocalypse Now Francis Ford Coppola was laughed at and scorned for daring to dream of “electronic cinema” as he dubbed it in 1982.
It would take another twenty years before Hollywood started catching up with Lumet. “I could cut below the line costs minimally 50% on video tapes”. He was, throughout his unparalleled career, a consummate professional who loved and thought sacred the field he always considered himself lucky to be in. He just wanted to make movies, and we are so immeasurably blessed that he did.
Go on and celebrate the great man’s life and legacy. Put on Serpico, turn off the lights, and lose yourself. And when the film is finished, click here (http://www.movingimagesource.us/dialogues/mp3/567), listen to a wonderful Q&A on the making of a classic, and let Lumet charm you with his warmth and infinite passion. What are you waiting for?
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Any film that succeeds in touching on deep themes through perfect comedy is bound to build a lasting connection with audiences. In his DVD commentary for Groundhog Day (1993) Harold Ramis recalls some of the feedback he received on the film and plenty of fun tibits from it’s production.
Bill Murray called it ‘probably the best work I’ve done’ and, 20 years after its release, Groundhog Day can still take your breath away. Its original screenwriter Danny Rubin and admirers such as director David O Russell explain its lasting appeal.
How did you come up with the idea for “Groundhog Day?”
There’s so many parts to answering that question. I think the big idea, if there is a — the big think or the accidental happenstance was when I was trying to solve a story problem. If a person could live forever, if a person was immortal, how would they change over time? I was curious about whether one lifetime was enough for somebody. There are some people, those arrested development type men who can’t really outlive their — out grow their adolescence and I thought, well, maybe one lifetime isn’t enough. Maybe you need more. So, I was just thinking through if a person could live long enough, how would they change and that seemed like a cumbersome experiment because of having to deal with changing history. So, I was trying to solve the problem how you can have a person be immortal without having history change from underneath him so that the movie would not — the story of the movie would not have to deal with the French Revolution and with the future and things like that.
And then, to solve that, I remembered an idea I had had about a year or two before that about a guy repeating the same day and I realized that having a person repeat the same day turns an eternity into a circle and that’s when all the dramatic possibilities came and the comedic possibilities and all the resonances with repetition. So, that was the idea like that. I was actually getting ready to read one of Anne Rice’s novels about vampires and I was sort of thinking about why I thought that was interesting and the most interesting thing to me was that it was a different class of people. They were just like people except some of the rules were different and the most interesting one being that they were immoral and that’s what got me thinking about immortality. There, that’s all of it. —Big Think Interview With Danny Rubin
Screenwriter Danny Rubin, also a professor of screenwriting at Harvard, graciously agreed to come to Red River Theatres for Q & A following a screening of his beloved comedy/romance Groundhog Day. Coincidentally, Rubin’s Kindle Edition e-book on the screenplay How to Write Groundhog Day was released by Amazon.com the day before this appearance.
In his book, How to Write Groundhog Day, the man who wrote the legendary movie shares the story behind the film and his secrets for aspiring screenwriters. Here, his Top 10 rules for writers.
When I talk about recreating the spirit of that world, the music is as important as the dialogue and the behavior. From 1947 on, music scored what was happening in the streets, the back rooms. And it affected, sometimes, the behavior of the people, because this music was playing in the streets. Jukeboxes were brought out during the summer. Windows were open, and you could hear what everybody else was listening to. It expresses the excitement of the time. Simply, it’s the way I saw life. The way I experienced life. - Martin Scorsese.