KINO-JOURNAL OF THE AMAZED SPECTATOR: SKYPE CONVERSATION WITH GUY MADDIN 23-09-2015
(AN INTRODUCTION AND AN ENDING)
ANAGLYPHIC 3D PICTURES © Edgar Pêra Production Bando À Parte
GUY MADDIN: Hi Edgar!
EDGAR PÊRA: Hi Guy!
GUY MADDIN: How are you doing?
EP: Fine…I´m not seeing you…
GUY MADDIN: Not seeing yet. Hang on a second. I´m not a pretty picture this morning anyway. You´re starting to see me now.
EP: Almost. Alright.
GUY MADDIN: Let me fix my hair (smiles). Ok.
EP: Actually, what I´m gonna do with these skype images is projecting them on a cinema theater or in a laptop. Or in book. I´ll re-shoot it because the movie will be in 3D.
GUY MADDIN: Oh really?
EP: Yeah. I´ve been doing 3D movies for the last five years.
GUY MADDIN: Wow! That´s exciting.
EP: I do diaries also. Not only for features. My most controversial 3D moment was at Cannes where I had this trilogy with Godard and Peter Greenaway, called 3X3D – and there´s my film in between these two …
GUY MADDIN: Fantastic. Congratulations. I did some experiments in super 8 back&white 3D film. Some constructed with a rudimentary 3D device using two cameras, or two lenses on the same camera. It was intriguing, the grain was hilariously distracting. You know, that was like people existed in a three dimensional blizzard of grey. I don´t know.
EDGAR PÊRA: Well, do you remember what was the first film you ever saw?
GUY MADDIN: The first film I ever saw…yeah, I think it was…I can’t remember who the director was but it was called Fourteen Hours. And I believe it started Richard Basehart, the american actor who’s also in La Strada. I think is him you know since I was only two or three when I saw it. He played a guy who is destroyed to the point of being suicidal. He climbs out on a window edge for about fourteen hours and eventually he gets taught back in. And I watched this movie with my parents, just this whole kind of suicidal threat from start to finish of the movie is what my early recollection of it is. Suicide happened to play later in my life huge narrative roles, there were some lives taken in my family. My mother used suicide threats as a form of raising her children. If we didn’t do something she was going to remove herself. I don’t know, I wonder if we all learned from that movie because damned of that guy if he hadn’t get his way after standing out on a window edge for fourteen hours. It worked!
E.P.: Well I think there’s some kind of imprinting with the first film we see. I find always interesting that there’s always some kind of influence in the life or work of people. What kind of amazement did you ever seen in these moving images?
GUY MADDIN: You mean when I was really young?
E.P.: Yes, what kind of amazement did you have when you went to the first cinema theater ?
GUY MADDIN: Yeah, there was a theater down the street for me where my parents would send me to get me out of the house. So, also very early I saw a movie that stayed with me for the longest time. In a matter of fact, I spent a lot of time as an adult trying to figure out what the movie was because it just amazed me. And I believe it was Maria Montez Arabian Nights. There was a character in it that couldn’t be killed because he kept is heart in a tower that was impossible to reach. And there was also a guy who could rotate his head endlessly. It was very magical to me. But some did manage to climb this very tick impossible to embrace rope by stealing a hock of someone’s hand, using it to dig into the rope and climb it to the top of this tower. And he dug the hook into this heart that was beating underneath a bell jar, and he killed him by piercing his heart to the top of the tower. It was all shot in pretty beautiful forties technicolor, or probably some cheap ass version of it. That was a pretty early wonder and all the better because even as a young child I could tell it was fake. It was so faky and it was as fake as my… oh my grandmother was real but when she sat on the foot of my bed and told a bedtime story I knew the story was not really happening. She could simultaneously absorve me into the story but still be there as my grandmother.
And so, it’s not important for me a movie that’s literally true. You know, you get drown into it, that’s the nature of narrative. Long before movies existed, long before the written word existed there were campfires stories that were, I’m sure, very arresting. So the fact that this movie was 100% artificial and that I even felt that I could have done a better job making this fake paper mache heart, even as a five year old, it didn’t robbed the movie of its wonders and its powers. It’s all putted together beautifully. Plus with editing, and music and everything, the enchantments were as inescapable as the most gloppy quicksand, I was lost in that movie. Strangely, I don’t recall Maria Montez in it but I’m pretty sure that she was. I wasn’t very iconographic yet as a kid, otherwise I would have been all over Maria Montez I’m sure. But Jack Smith already had that territory to himself. (smiles)
EP.: So, you didn’t need to have some kind of belief in reality. Because you didn’t have to be realistic to enjoy cinema.
GUY MADDIN: Far from it. As a matter of fact, I think I almost intentionally avoided realistic films. As a kid, I was a real movie maniac and I went to movies by myself all the time. Especially if they had titles that implied some kind of fantasy or horror. I went to see all the Universal horror films, also the Roger Corman, Vincent Price movies. I even went to films without knowing what they were about. I went to see a movie once that was called the boy who stood ten feet tall and I thought it was about a giant boy. I watched this movie all the way through and kept waiting for the boy to grow to a giant, and he didn’t. It was just a metaphor. He stood tall and acted like a man. I was like: “what a rip off!” This kid doesn’t grow. It was so naturalist, it was all family melodrama or something. I’m sure kids who watch Lord of the rings and stuff expect to be enchanted and taken away in the same way I was. But, of course, special effects have gotten so called better. I personally liked as a kid knowing kind of how they were made, just the way I’m sure kids in previous centuries liked looking at puppet theaters and knowing, at some moment, that they were just puppets operated by people, and then shifting way from that realization for as long as they felt they wanted to get into the story. I like movies that show the grandmother, whether that means a paper mache heart that’s beating lamely or whatever. Don’t get me wrong, I like realist/naturalist stories too because I´m a grown up. But the ones that really thrill me are the ones that constantly remind me…..Excuse me, hang on, let me adjust my laptop.
EP: I also have to… just put the 3D camera there… in front of the laptop so I can have an image of you.
GUY MADDIN: Oh ok. I love it! the tripod it’s almost like 3D. I ducked when the tripod came.
EP: I really enjoy our different sense of framing when we shoot in 3D. For me it’s a challenge. It’s almost like super 8 in a way because you have to think differently.
GUY MADDIN: What are the shots you have to avoid? I guess extreme close ups are tough, ah?
EP: That depends on the lenses you are using because you can use macro, you can adapt different lenses. But generally it’s like 60cm. It’s like this.
GUY MADDIN: Yeah. No closer.
EP: Then you have to change the lenses.
GUY MADDIN: Because you have to make camera cross his eyes. Sort of the way you and I do when someone gets close.
55 minutes later…
EP: Have you seen any 3D movies recently?
GUY MADDIN: Very few. I saw without much enjoyment Tim Burton´s “Alice in wonderland”, or Alice or whatever it´s called. But I just didn´t like the script. Actually I didn´t much…Oh man… I should only criticize dead directors. I´m sure Tim Burton doesn´t care what I think. And the movie was the fourth highest grossing movie of all time or something like that. So a lot of people loved it but it just didn´t do much for me. But I have seen a lot of IMAX 3D movies, I take my granddaughters to see hipsydiving things and stuff like that.And I´m a long standing fan of 3D. Not so much fifties 3D horror movies which kind of gave me an headache because the technology was headache inducing….but old stereo view-masters, those things that came out in the forties. I inherited from my older brother an old suitcase full of the old ones, the pre plastic ones made of some sort of ceramic, hundreds of view masters. That 3D really enchanted me. I looked at them very recently about a month ago, there were little fictional tableaux with movie stars that would get together and pose in 3D tableaux to tell a story. Four or five of these wheels full of these stereo images. And sometimes it would be little models made of Captain Nemo, you know, Julio Verne stories. Those were unbelievable enchanting because they were so tiny to look at to the naked eye. And then when held up to the view master they opened up a really enchanting world that was confined in an artificial but gorgeous…
EP: Yeah, like going to a cinema theater in a virtual reality a bit. Maybe static images are really the best way to present 3D because you have time to look from different angles.
GUY MADDIN: I agree they´re really beautiful. Of course you´re overwhelmed by 3D when it´s working really well in nature photographs. I´m not sure what you make.
EP: Actually I did two static movies in 3D, one just about flowers and nature an the other about Auschwitz.
GUY MADDIN: Oh really? Wow.
EP: And it was a bit polemical because it´s the same that happened, I think, with colors. When they said at the beginning that colors in cinema didn’t respecting reality, it should be used only in fantasy films, it happens the same now with 3D.. Shooting a concentration camp in 3D is like an offense for them. I read it somewhere that the film was “astonishingly offensive”.
GUY MADDIN: I understand, it doesn´t surprise me that some people would think that because 3D is long been considered a gimmick. And to bring a gimmick into Auschwitz… but it´s not a gimmick, it´s another way of imprinting something.
EP: It´s another way of seeing, sure.
GUY MADDIN: It´s not like you´re doing a William Castle movie of Auschwitz you know, with a buzzard inserted in the seat beneath the viewers to frighten them at certain moment. No, I think It´s all about what you do with your vocabulary. So it may not be offensive.
EP: When I red about that you re-shot in 16m your film projected it in a refrigerator, I said: “Oh! already love this guy!” Because I love to project images in every kind of stuff in guitars, stairs, ceilings, theaters…whatever.
GUY MADDIN: I saw a pinhole video last night, which looked really cool, and then I was just thinking because there´s a certain really organic unpredictability I guess, about pinhole photography. But pinhole 3D might be really interesting.
EP: What do you think about unpredictability in your movies?
GUY MADDIN: I need it. I don´t have a very good imagination to just think of something and then deliver that something and expect it to be good. I need a certain amount of unpredictability on the set to create. Happy accidents have been my most loyal collaborators for years. And I just take them, I expect it to show up. I need it to enrich my output, which would be otherwise pretty grim. I worried when I switched to digital photography that would be no happy accidents but I figured a way to do it.
EP: Yes, I think so, it there can be “digital happy accidents”…. I interviewed Laura Mulvey and she has this concept of “cinema of uncertainty”. She told me that she found this concept of uncertainty while trying to fight faith. For her, intellectuals should avoid faith and should try to live in an uncertain territory. It´s what you do anyway.
GUY MADDIN: Gosh! I´m so sorry I think I have to go.
EP: It was great to talk to you.
GUY MADDIN: Thank you so much.
EP: I´ll tell you when I´ll have finished the film.
GUY MADDIN: Ok. Well, best of luck, break your leg, merde, the whole thing. And I´m honoured that you were interested in talking to me.
EP: My pleasure, many many thanks!!!
GUY MADDIN: Ok, take care.
EP: Take care, bye!
GUY MADDIN: Bye!
(TO BE CONTINUED)