Wednesday, March 01, 2006

David Lowery's Short Films



I’ve been reading David’s blog regularly for over a year but only recently did I mosey on over to watch—and enjoy—his short films. Especially for someone so young, they’re remarkably wide-ranging in subject and style. Among others, there’s an “illegal music video”, a film about a pregnant woman (make that two films—a motif becomes visible!), and an ode to film-loving. Maybe my favorite of the shorts I’ve seen is Some Analog Lines, a first-person essay film about filmmaking. It is publicly unexhibited as of yet, but I’ll link to it when it becomes available.

Among the films viewable on his site is the 20-minute Still. It is instructive to watch it and then hear David’s commentary because he has such strong mixed feelings about it. (He is too hard on himself and the film!) We watch the movie the way it turned out and then, to the accompaniment of his unsparing critique, imagine a glimpse of an alternate film.

A great moment from Still: A man and a woman ring their neighbors’ doorbell. No one answers, though they could’ve sworn someone was home. They turn around and leave. As they do, the camera pans upward on the exterior of the house and our eyes get ready—conditioned by a hundred movies—to search the windows for someone watching them leave. But the pan is (purposely) interrupted by a straight cut before that can happen: The man and woman are now in bed. She looks over at him. Cut to a close-up of her caressing hand. Cut to a longer shot of them far apart in bed; she’s not touching him at all. Cut once again to an intimate moment.

The first time I saw this I was startled by what I thought—me of little faith!—was a continuity error. But it’s a nice example of using the formal means of cinema in the midst of a small moment to make meaning by posing (silent) questions: Are these close-ups flash-forwards? Or might they be quick flashes of “subjective cinema” in that we are seeing her “wishes” preceding “reality”? Such little moments that one comes upon and uncovers in the interstices of a movie have been occupying me a lot lately.

On a related note, here’s wishing the best to filmmaker-critic-blogger extraordinaire Matt Zoller Seitz on his feature film "Home".

48 Comments:

Blogger girish said...

Quiet Bubble makes an early dash out the starting gate in the Altman blog-a-thon.

March 01, 2006 2:35 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Dave Kehr on the demise of Wellspring.

March 01, 2006 2:36 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Adrian Martin's letter and reply on Munich. [via Greencine]

March 01, 2006 2:38 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Heather the pianist on pastiche.

March 01, 2006 2:40 PM  
Blogger girish said...

The Pop View on Lee Siegel on Jon Stewart.

March 01, 2006 2:40 PM  
Blogger girish said...

And here's Flickhead on MZS's Home.

March 01, 2006 2:59 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Doug on Oscar shorts.

March 01, 2006 4:53 PM  
Blogger girish said...

If David happens to be reading, a couple of questions:
(1) How do you finance your films? (eg STILL, which sounds like it was a large-ish production; or THE OUTLAW SON).
(2) Do you do storyboards? If so, do you end up deviating from them?
Just curious.

March 01, 2006 5:17 PM  
Blogger David Lowery said...

I can't tell you how bizarre it is to see a recognizable screen-grab at the top of someone's blog - and then to realize that the reason you recognize it is because you made it. Thanks for the consideration, Girish, and I'm glad you liked my work.

In answer to your questions,

1.The Outlaw Son was financed by a monetary grant from the Austin Film Society and a film stock grant from Kodak (although I've spent some of my own money on it as well).

Prior to that, I've financed for all my films myself - but none of them have been too pricy. Most of the shorts on my website were no-budget - literally. Even the features were pretty inexpensive, relatively speaking. Still was the most costly, and was paid for through savings, donations and, that old standby, credit cards.

2.) Still was the only film I've storyboarded. It was my first time shooting on film, and I wanted to make sure I was prepared. Otherwise, depending on the project, I might make a vague shot list for the benefit of the crew, but more often I just follow the images in my head and leave lots of room for spontaneous inspiration. Which sometimes pays off nicely and sometimes is disastrous, depending on my state of mind.

March 01, 2006 11:44 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Oh you're welcome, David. It was my pleasure.
I'm just sorry it took me this long, esp. since they were right there on the web.
Thanks for answering, and my best with The Outlaw Son.

March 02, 2006 7:03 AM  
Blogger girish said...

The reliably astonishing Eric on Edith Massey.
Which reminds me of the time I walked into a Vietnamese mom-and-pop video store soon after I moved to the States in the late 1980s and asked the proprietress, "Do you have Female Trouble?"
I swear she was ready to deck me.

March 02, 2006 7:08 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Michael Guillen, despite his very recent debut, has been blogging up a storm.

March 02, 2006 7:12 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Recent discovery, through Mubarak: Adam Lemke.

March 02, 2006 7:13 AM  
Blogger girish said...

MZS offers some warm-up hors d'oeuvres for the Altman blog-a-thon.

March 02, 2006 7:17 AM  
Anonymous girish said...

Nice: Michael begins mp3-blogging, and writes about one of my most-revisited records of recent years, Neko's Blacklisted.
(Michael--I went through a phase when I put "I Wish I Was The Moon" on every mix I made for months.)

March 02, 2006 8:50 AM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Girish, "I Wish I Was the Moon" is such an amazing song. It's hard for me to pick favorites off that album; depending on my mood, they change -- it might be "Tightly" one day, "Deep Red Bells" the next. Last night while I was typing up that post, it was "I Missed the Point." And now my new favorite (though different album) is "Star Witness."

I owe you two thanks, by the way: one, for recommending box.net -- it's incredibly easy to use, and I'm glad I went with them instead of other file hosts I was looking at; and two, for giving me the idea of putting up an MP3 after you did it here on your own site.

March 02, 2006 12:55 PM  
Anonymous girish said...

You're most welcome, Michael. I'm looking forward to being turned on to new discoveries via your mp3's.

The snow's been coming down all day, and the ride home's going to be a boatload of fun. (As I look out the window, cars are sliding around like helpless little pucks all over the place.)

March 02, 2006 4:08 PM  
Anonymous Darren said...

It's 73 degrees here, and the sun is shining. Life in East Tennessee does have its perks. ;)

This kind of a strange pairing, but two of my favorite female voices are Neko Case's and Gillian Welch's, and what I most love about them is their ability to make any song sound like it's a hundred years old. Gillian channels Appalachian folk singers (which is odd considering she's from L.A.), and Neko sounds like she could've been Patsy Cline's mother.

March 02, 2006 5:54 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Darren, East Tennessee sounds nice and toasty right now. I actually love snow and the austere look of the snow-covered landscape, but it's most fun when you're indoors. Hot chai, a book in your lap or a movie on the telly, large and furry dog curled up at your feet--these are the optimal accompaniments for a snow-day.
But driving in the shit is like taking your life in your hands. I passed three or four accidents on the way home, ambulances and sirens sounding all the way.

March 02, 2006 6:37 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Voice writer Nick Sylvester just got suspended.

March 02, 2006 6:51 PM  
Blogger girish said...

As ever, James Quandt at Cinemtheque Ontario in Toronto leads the way.
The new season, starting in a couple of weeks, features the following retrospectives:

--Dardennes, including five of their docs from the 80s, plus their first two fiction features (from before LA PROMESSE).
--The films of Cristi Puiu (of MR. LAZARESCU)
--Sam Peckinpah (a dozen films)
--Elem Klimov
--Luc Moullet
--Francoise Dorleac (including Varda's great documentary about The Young Girls Of Rochefort).
--New Argentine Cinema
--An evening of conversation with Werner Herzog
--THREE TIMES, CHRONICLE OF ANNA MAGDALENA BACH, LOS MUERTOS, EUREKA

All crammed into six weeks.

March 02, 2006 7:15 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Altman Blog-A-Thon: Mark Asch at Bill Roundtree on McCabe & Mrs. Miller.

March 02, 2006 9:16 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Nilblogette on Larry Cohen.

March 02, 2006 9:18 PM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

Girish -- You're going to kick yourself if you don't get my screen quiz this week.

March 02, 2006 9:40 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Filmbrain, I may well be kicking myself next week. At first I thought it was Alice Houri in the pool at the beginning of Nenette et Boni, but it's not on DVD, but I played the opening of my VHS tape and it's not that. And your alt-text ("lemonade"?) has me flummoxed too...

March 02, 2006 9:55 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Latest addiction: Sasha's New Yorker columns.
I've read these in the magazine but they sure are worth revisiting.

March 02, 2006 10:09 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Brian on the San Francisco International Asian American filmfest. (And chase down some of those links if you can--they go to interesting places.)

March 02, 2006 10:17 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

The list of films at the cinematheque makes moving to Toronto tempting. is one reason why I am planning to move back to the more affordable Denver.

March 02, 2006 11:16 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Peter, For many years I considered moving across the border for the same reason but the tenured job has proved hard to walk away from.

March 03, 2006 6:38 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Now I know why Ben's place has been quiet for a few days: he's been carefully preparing to pop the cork on not one but five Altmans for the blog-a-thon.

March 03, 2006 6:45 AM  
Blogger girish said...

If you happen to find Altman blog-a-thon posts, feel free to either post the links here or at MZS's place.
I'm shooting for tomorrow, perhaps even Sunday.

March 03, 2006 7:18 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Part 3 of Dennis' Altman tribute.

March 03, 2006 7:58 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Peter on Vincent & Theo.

March 03, 2006 8:17 AM  
Blogger That Little Round-Headed Boy said...

Girish — A blog on POPEYE is up at roundheadedboy.blogspot.com.

March 03, 2006 8:35 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you, Little Round-Headed one.

March 03, 2006 10:54 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Altman: The Listening Ear.

March 03, 2006 6:00 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Ben asks: "...your vote for the most unlikely fodder for and/or reference in a pop song."

March 03, 2006 6:04 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Filmbrain on Altman's Health.
(Haven't seen it but I just rummaged in my VHS closet and found my copy, taped off cable eons ago.)

March 03, 2006 6:08 PM  
Blogger girish said...

The subject of this post weighs in with Part One of a series.

March 04, 2006 11:51 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Altman Post #2 at The Listening Ear: McCabe & Mrs. Miller.

March 04, 2006 12:22 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Filmbrain: "Girish -- You're going to kick yourself if you don't get my screen quiz this week."
Okay, Filmbrain, I just did. :-)

March 04, 2006 4:19 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Brian Darr draws up an imaginary slate of Altman Oscar nominees.

March 04, 2006 9:21 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

The jealous, competitive me says, "Now do my films!"

(Especially if you like Some Analog Lines, I should send you think also not-yet-public link to Firelight...)

March 04, 2006 10:56 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

wow. girished twice in the same comments section. I'm honored.

March 04, 2006 10:57 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Matt--Send me your films! I'd love to see 'em!
Brian--You're on fire, my man.

March 04, 2006 11:00 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

Am I the only one in the room who has seen The James Dean Story, Countdown and That Cold Day in the Park? I'd love to see The Delinquents were that available. I read that Altman thought that Tom Laughlin, the future Billy Jack, was a pain back then. Of course I love any J.D. movie with Richard Bakalyan.

March 05, 2006 12:23 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

I have a VHS copy of Countdown that I bought from a video store that went out of business last year. I'm thinking of watching it tomorrow morning, though my "aspect-ratio-purism" instincts might kick in and prevent it. Is it worth a look, Peter?

March 05, 2006 1:09 AM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

It's been over thirty years since I saw Countdown but I recall some use of overlapping dialogue. Early performance by Altman ensemble member Michael Murphy. I know what you mean by aspect ration purism, but sometimes it's better than not seeing a movie at all. Think of it like seeing the print of a painting you may never see in real life.

March 05, 2006 7:35 AM  

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