Archive | January 2011

Hollywood iPhone DIY?

Today’s news that Park Chan-wook has shot a whole film using the iPhone4 has me thinking. First, when reading the news I wasn’t surprised that Park Chan-wook had done this. I didn’t even shrug. As a director his career as a boundary pusher in the form has always made for compelling following. His output is also so gloriously entertaining. What’s not to like?

Sooner or later he would turn his mind to examining how to capture those images and explore technology. It’s what all cinema auteurs do. And in this example it’s something new to the directors, but already accepted by the audience. A key quote from Park: “The new technology creates strange effects because it is new and because it is a medium the audience is used to.” So true.

Secondly, here’s another thought: if it was a leading Hollywood director – say George Lucas, James Cameron, Christopher Nolan, even David Fincher – that had announced this move imagine the furore. It would have been liked a Brazilian footie player dribbling round every player in the opposition team, before teeing it up for an overhead kick from 25 yards.

When Fincher announced he was using off the shelf Apple software to edit Zodiac, the interest was immense, people thought the dream of making a film was ever closer. (Even though actually editing a film in the traditional old school sense isn’t that expensive – it’s just the equipment and materials for filming that cost. In the modern day the kit is comparatively cheap – it’s the software that has tended to be expensive.) There have been some great strides in a more DIY ethic/aesthetic to produce films (pivotal example: The Blair Witch Project). Whether that easier-to-wield tech has produced the results expected of some, is a debatable point (David Lynch’s Inland Empire seemed lost under the weight of footage and experimentation that the format allowed). But there have been successes (for Mann’s disappointing Miami Vice was the impressive Collateral). Using digital cameras, mainly Reds, is becoming the norm.

But has there been a feature recorded entirely using mobile phones? Not yet. But for a recognised, albeit cult, director to make this commitment, this is a stride forward. Whether a full scale cinema release can be captured using this method, I’m not so sure, at least with the current technology’s limitations (mainly memory). But the moves in short form films and the means for them to be digitally accessible through the web? This all really excites me. We are heading into fascinating times. Now, if only a leading Hollywood light was have a dabble. Maybe with the likes of Frank Darabont dabbling in television this may happen sooner rather than later.

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On Grand Designs

More4 last night pushed up their usual kind of scheduling: at first wouldn’t appear too inviting, but turned out to be perfect viewing for being flopped out on the sofa. For me this isn’t Come Dine With Me. It’s yet more repeats of Grand Designs.

The show is a macabre favourite of mine for wasting away an hour or so, and a compulsion I cannot resist once exposed. Anyone that has a design based dream for their own personal habitat and then pursues it to the point of obsession is always going to be fascinating: observe them overcome obstacles, learn from their mistakes, and then seeing their realisation. Always great viewing.

Then there’s the idiots, usually awash with money, who you set out wanting to see fail in some way (the more spectacular the better), usually because of their smug professional arrogance. (I want to see this because that’s the kind of bitter bastard I can be.) But eventually you warm to them, for some unspeakable reason, and are hoping they end the show content in some way, and they will learn from their massive error.

And above it all is Kevin McCloud, who plays his part as observer perfectly. He carries enthusiasm and intrigue, and sometimes offers hints of what he sees as being problems, usually the same massive error.

The second episode of the last night’s double bill was a perfect example of this. A London-based couple were spending (at the outset) three quarters of a million pounds buying and then doing up an old farmhouse, in a part of Switzerland that no-one cannot deny as being breathtakingly gorgeous. The woman of the couple was an interior designer. She had a dream, she’s seen some influence in a magazine, and was brief a team in Switzerland to get on with realising her vision, while she worked in London. No specialist manager was installed in Switzerland, just the imparting of this vision to some unfortunate but skilled carpenter.

McCloud spotted early on that this would lead to problems. “HA!” I smugly guffawed as McCloud’s fears came true. “HA!” I smugly guffawed as the lack of detailed scoping and preparation for the project presented problems the moment the woman left the country. Bitter old me laughing at people with more money than sense, supposedly experts in their field, flying in feet first. HA HA HA! It all works out though. They’re rich after all. They can afford to buffer their lack of ground up planning. What a wanton waste.

The first episode of the evening was the other side of the Grand Designs coin – someone who has an ideology-led dream, a person totally immersed in the concept of their dream home, and then executing as much of it as possible, usually at some great personal expense that isn’t just bucket loads of cash.

This guy moved his family over to France, immersing themselves in the culture and trying to build a home that will immerse them in the landscape. It was great viewing, inspiring stuff, as this gent with his little gems of knowledge and his grand dream (albeit modest by Grand Designs’ standards), learnt to build his dream home as he went along. It was great viewing, and a reminder that with a nugget or an idea, the energy (this bloke was at it for over a year, mainly by himself), and a little close support you can achieve anything. No sniggering or bastard fuelled guffawing from me. Just admiration.

By the way – you can rent that place in Switzerland out for 20k a week. Guess they’re the ones laughing now.

Mont Saint-Michel

New Year’s Day in Brittany. Spent the day mooching around famous monastery-on-island (and ex-prison of Victor Hugo) Mont Saint-Michel, walking up lots of steps, admiring domed ceilings, peering down to ground level from the very top, and eating crepes. Brilliant!

Why aren’t days out in Britain this fresh and exciting? Is it over-familiarity? Been there, done that over here. Or is that even on a free entry and “busy” day Mont Saint-Michel wasn’t heaving like somewhere similar back home like, say, York Minster? Maybe I need to widen my net for ambles and a bit of history, beyond the usual targets, if there are any. Something to research in an idle lunchtime.

As an aside, Mont Saint-Michel is a worthy UNESCO World Heritage Site, but is also looked after by France’s Centre des Monuments Nationaux, a government body which does a neat line in grouping together key monuments in the country, under a wonderful piece of branding (done by Moraprix). Guess the closest in the UK would be Visit Britain, with a sprinkle of the National Trust. With such awesome branding I had to buy the mug. It truly is that eye-catching.

Anyway, best New Year’s Day I’ve had in years. Should have more days like that throughout every year. Just need to get looking for ideas, looking for some glorious hiddens gems.