Tag Archives: Touch Of Evil

Almost There!

The end is in sight, the edit on PLASTIC is almost over. The blog postings have been sparse of late to say the least, please bear with me dear readers; normal service will be resumed shortly.

I was thinking the other night, as I sat glassy eyed staring at Final Cut Pro wondering how the hell to solve a problem I had, that this play, at 40 minutes long, has pretty much been like editing half a feature. A short feature all the same but Woody Allen managed some good stuff in 80 minutes, ZELIG was less. I’m getting right into editing but will be happy to hand the baton to someone else for the upcoming short I’m making. A rest is as good as a change they say….

So all this editing has got me thinking about great editing in movies. I’m reading the Walter Murch book THE CONVERSATIONS just now and the man is inspiring. He demonstrates that there can be far reaching intentions in an edit, that the practice goes way beyond the mere splicing of film. Now that may be obvious to most of us but how many can name 10 editors that have won an Oscar? Walter Murch of course has cut many fine pictures. The directors cut of TOUCH OF EVIL for instance (what an honour that must have been) or APOCALYPSE NOW.

So great editing in pictures, pictures I remember being particularly well edited….. First up has to be:

Thelma Schoonmaker was tremendous on this film and of course, won an Oscar for her efforts. This clip isn’t the best, being youtube, but it gives a sense of the kinetic cutting that lends so much weight to the scene.

My second example is:

I love this film for so many reasons but none more than the editing. The Soviets were at the top of their game in the 20’s and the impact of that cinematic revolution can still be felt today. Dziga Vertov made MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA in 1929 and it still stuns me to this day. The way he marries cuts perfectly to the pace within the frame, which is often very fast, is breathtaking.

If you haven’t seen this film, please do. The small clip below doesn’t begin to do it justice but it gives you a taste of what could be…… enjoy.


I’ve been away

The usual cinematic musings have been on the coolest of back burners due to an unprecedented amount of time spent hanging about theatre types at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I’ve been working with the 30 Bird production company on their fantastic show PLASTIC, which they asked me to film.

Theatre doesn’t get a lot of press on the blog, not surprising considering it’s cinematic allegiances but I have to say folks, if you’re in Edinburgh just now and are looking for something to go see, don’t go watching the usual ridiculous amount of comedy on offer, you can get that any time, get yourself down to the Pleasance Undergrand and check out what is a very unique visual experience. Mehrdad Seyf has created a piece which lingers in your consciousness long after you leave the space, which is not the norm for a fringe show. A special mention should go to my ex flatmate and good friend Claire Hicks who has produced the show, god that girl works hard. (She drinks tea in nightclubs you know)

Check a review HERE.

I can’t let the post pass without mentioning at least one flick. During some rare and much needed free time I took in the 1992 Robert Altman film THE PLAYER starring Tim Robbins as Griffin Mill, a hot shot Hollywood producer and features cameo appearances from…. well just about everyone. During the making of documentary, it’s revealed that had all the stars been paid their normal fee for appearing in a film, the picture would have cost in excess of $100m in salaries alone.

I make no apology for the size of the movie poster, it is HUGE though, there can be no doubt about that. I particularly like what this poster does, it actually tells you something about the picture. The strip of celluloid fashioned into a noose captures the nature of the film. Hollywood has no soul and no moral. No matter how powerful you may think you are, there’s constantly someone behind you looking to take your place by giving you enough rope to hang yourself.

The way that Altman uses cameo appearances from the likes of John Cusack, Angelica Huston, Jeff Goldblum and Burt Reynolds as themselves, casually seen dining in the restaurants that Griffin frequents, is a clever authentication of Griffin’s world. Richard E. Grant also turns up (with Dean Stockwell as his agent) playing a ridiculously overplayed but highly believable scriptwriter who’s trying to get his film made. The shallow nature of Hollywood is portrayed perfectly as initially, he’ll not allow his self proclaimed work of art to be altered in any way but later on in the picture, we find out he’s sold his soul to progress himself by allowing the studio to butcher his work.

The film is full of these little comments on the “system” of Hollywood.

The main premise of the film however is Griffin’s obsession to find a disgruntled writer who, in an effort to repay him for ignoring his (or her) work, sends him increasingly threatening, anonymous notes. This series of hostile correspondence unnerves the normally callous executive so much that he decides to seek out the perpetrator.

This element of the film, although the main focus, is probably the weakest. The comments and observations of the selfish movie merry-go-round are far more engaging and interesting than the search for the poison pen. There’s so much going on in this picture however, that you forgive this weakness in appreciation of what it actually accomplishes.

THE PLAYER could have easily been used in a recent essay I wrote on postmodernism in film. The first 8 minutes is one of the strongest examples of homage in cinema. (Gus Van Sant’s version of PSYCHO maybe takes that prize) Not only does Altman use the same one shot opening that Orson Welles used in TOUCH OF EVIL, he actually has the characters reference the film in conversation during the shot.

I’ve uploaded the full scene onto youtube for your enjoyment. Just for the record, he apparently used take 3.