Thursday, April 26, 2012

Interview: Jon Landau (Titanic 3D)

Academy Award winning producer Jon Landau recently made the trip to Australia (Oscar in hand) to launch his new film: Titanic 3D.  

Wait…New film?

Yes, at least, that’s how the exuberant Landau would have audiences experience James Cameron’s 15-year-old epic. After 60 weeks and 18 million dollars spent converting the film to 3D, Landau is confident it will impress. And he’s not just talking about the big-ticket scenes of the ship going down; it’s the drama he believes benefits beautifully from the painstakingly rendered depth. It seems a whole new generation is set to swoon over Jack and Rose falling in love on the silver screen.

Landau also reminiscences about being the mayor of Titanic town, how being James Cameron’s producer is akin to being an explorer, and of course, with Avatar 2 in production, we discuss their return to Pandora.

Published on TheVine

Saturday, April 21, 2012

ABC702: The Lady and Romantics Anonymous

Yesterday I had a very speedy review session with the lovely Linda Mottram on 702 ABC Sydney. Listen below for my reviews of The Lady and Romantics Anonymous. Actually, the latter is less a review than a random account of my chocolate-making easter (click HERE to watch the video I mention):

Also a bit of blog love for Shepard Fairey's fabulous poster(s) for The Lady.

Both films are in cinemas now.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday on My Mind: Wish You Were Here

So excited to have the Wish You Were Here team at AFTRS: with co-writer/director Kieran Darcy-Smith, co-writer/star Felicity Price and Aquarius Films producer Angie Fielder taking part in this evening's session of Friday on My Mind.
Wish You Were Here - a triumph of perseverance 
Filmmaker Keiran Darcy-Smith has been working towards a directing career for 15 years and his breakthrough film - the psychological thriller Wish You Were Here - is a triumph of perseverance.
Darcy Smith's first feature was so well received at Sundance that it immediately sold for North American release and delivered the backing for a second film.
Wish You Were Here is also the product of the personal/creative & professional partnership  between co-writer/director Darcy-Smith and co-writer/actor Felicity Price. Kieran and Felicity will be joined by producer Angie Fielder as they share their experiences of collaborative partnerships, shooting in Cambodia, and crafting an edge-of-your-seat psychological mystery.
You can also head to the AFTRS Facebook page to see an exclusive behind the scenes clip from the film! 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Movie Club: DreamWorks Animation

With Puss in Boots releasing on DVD and Blu Ray, we decided it was high time The Movie Club take a look at Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks. Yes this is the studio that brought Mother Goose into the 21st Century with the Shrek franchise (not to mention our furry spin off), made knowing kung fu even cooler than in The Matrix and even gave Woody Allen one of his best onscreen roles to date.
DreamWorks may still be in the shadow of a certain Luxo lamp, but with 23 features under its creative belt – including Marc and my fierce favourite, How to Train Your Dragon – it’s a company that continues to reach (or should that be fish?) for the stars.
Join me, ‘That Movie Guy’ Marc Fennell and Girlfriend Magazine’s Lauren Smelcher-Sams as we shine the spotlight on some of our favourite films from the animation studio that isn’t Pixar! 

Click HERE to watch my interview with Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek and Puss in Boots director Chris Miller.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday On My Mind: Elissa Down

It may be Friday the 13th, but I have the very brave/not very superstitious Elissa Down coming to chat at AFTRS Friday on My Mind. Come and join the seance/fun at 5pm!
Elissa Down's debut feature The Black Balloon - which she directed, co-wrote and co-produced - won a haul of awards in Australia and abroad including Best Director, Best Film and Best Script at the 2008 AFI awards, A Crystal Bear in Berlin,  an AWGIE for Best Original Screenplay and Best Direction in a Feature Film from the ADG to name just a few. The New York Times described the film as "a harrowing, unsentimental portrait of a middle-class Australian family". Elissa will describe the highs and lows of experiencing so much success with a debut feature and what it was like to move from award winning shorts to an award winning feature.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

NSW Writers' Centre: Talking Writing

This evening I shall endeavour to be eloquent and insightful as I join the panel for 'Talking Writing' at the NSW Writer's Centre.

Writing Criticism Now - Thursday 12 April6:30pm-8:30pm
In the latest issue of Newswrite Geordie Williamson and Angela Meyer discuss the difference between literary criticism when written for print and online. Williamson says to write a good review “you have to find a way to encode all that knowledge in relatively brief pieces using straightforward jargon-free language”
There has never been a better time to look at where critical writing is now in Australia. With more and more content produced each year, are we going to see a rise in critics? Or is it a lost art form? What is the difference between writing criticism on the page and for radio or TV? How much is an opinion worth? How do you form one and how do you get it out there? Join Mark Mordue and Alice Tynan in conversation with Ed Wright as they discuss the ins and outs of writing about other people’s work.
Join us on Thursday 12 April from 6:30pm-8:30pm for a panel discussion with free drinks and refreshments. Talking Writing is a great opportunity to meet and connect with other writers and is free to members of the NSW Writers’ Centre. Tickets are $20 for outside guests.
If you are a member please email with your name and membership number. If you are not a member and would like to attend you can purchase tickets by clicking here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Movie Club: Mirror Mirror

Pretty Woman is no longer the fairest of them all...
Everyone loves a good Snow White story, that must be why Hollywood is giving us two this year! So before you suit up with Kristen Stewart for Snow White and The Huntsman (opening June 21), it’s well worth spending some time gazing into Tarsem Singh’s Mirror Mirror.
Singh is fast becoming famous for his impossibly designed pieces of film artistry. The Cell, The Fall and the wantonly over-styled swords and sandals epic Immortals are all cases in point, but Mirror Mirror might just prove the safest place to start. Singh imbues familiar Grimm Brother’s fable with some wonderfully wry twists, including Julia Roberts getting bitchy with it.
Join me,‘That Movie Guy’ Marc Fennell and Girlfriend Magazine’s Lauren Smelcher-Sams as we step into Singh’s seriously beautiful fairytale.  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter everyone!

I just had to share this chocolatey fun (aka. what happens when you combine a master chocolatier, a boyfriend with a stop motion obsession and an embarrassing amount of man hours):

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Dangerous Method

Michael Fassbender spanking Keira Knightley, now that’s how you sell a biopic about the beginnings of psychoanalysis! Yes, while director David Cronenberg may be stepping away from his history of violence and trademark “goo” (as Jeremy Thomas calls in in our interview), his enthralling portraits of Carl Jung (Fassbender), Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and the patient who comes between them (Knightley) is not without some lashings of titillation.

Before we had Woody Allen waxing neurotic about his therapist, there was Freud and his heir apparent, Jung, pioneering the subconscious, the power of sex and propounding a revolutionary therapy: ‘the talking cure’. In fact, you almost need to check your Allen rants and In Treatment addiction at the door in order to take this fascinating piece of intellectual history on its own terms. 

And yes, that history apparently includes a bit of spanking.

It’s the beginning of the 20th century, and a desperately hysterical young Russian woman seeks help from Dr. Jung. Her body horribly contorted and with her jaw grotesquely jutting out, Knightley’s Sabina Spielrein is a far cry from her previous corseted characters. (For one her jaw is too out of joint to pout.) So when psychoanalytic treatment (the talking cure) proves successful on the sexually askew Speilrein, she not only throws herself whole-heartedly into learning the discipline, but also to bedding her therapist. However, this little tryst doesn’t sit too well with Freud, who is looking to secure his successor and is already having troubles dreaming up a shared future with Jung. It only adds fuel to the fire when Speilrein starts corresponding with Freud…

You can see why Cronenberg calls the film ‘an intellectual ménage à trois.’ And it’s one in which his actors absolutely relish. Knightley goes hell-for-leather with the body horror of Speilrein’s hysteria, in what is a boldly impressive performance. But it is Fassbender and Mortensen who are riveting together on screen; their tête à têtescrafted with more precision and power than an action sequence, and certainly more fascinating to watch. In fact their scenes thrum with such intellectual rigor and dramatic tension, it seems a crying shame that Cronenberg spends such comparatively little time with them.

The focus of A Dangerous Method is much more on Knightley’s Spielrien. Indeed her tale has been doing the rounds: originally a book by John Kerr, it was then adapted into a screenplay by Dangerous Liasons and Atonement scribe Christopher Hampton, before he refashioned it into a play called The Talking Cure, and finally back into screenplay form for Cronenberg. This largely unknown story of such a fierce mind certainly puts the known elements of Freud and Jung in sharp relief, and yet ultimately it feels like a missed opportunity. Fassbender and Mortensen are almost wasted in the roles; their class difference and pitch perfect power play relegated to subplots in favour of Spielrien’s (admittedly intriguing) adventures down the psychoanalytic rabbit hole.

Fortunately the film makes room for a stand out cameo by Vincent Cassel. The dashing Frenchman plays Otto Gross, another of Freud’s protégé’s who advocates sexual healing – literally – as a therapeutic method. Cassel is in scene-stealing form as the hedonistic proto-hippy, who underscores just how nascent and wild the ‘discipline’ was by today’s standards.

Cassel’s character is also further evidence of the film’s intricate research. Impeccably shot and designed, with period detail down to Viggo Mortensen learning Freud’s handwriting, Cronenberg and his team more than do justice to their subjects. A Dangerous Method is masterful filmmaking on all levels, but alas, it also leaves you dreaming that Fassbender and Mortensen will return to these roles in a more focused story on the fathers of psychoanalysis. 

3 ½ stars.
Published on TheVine
Australian release date: 29 March 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Interview: Jeremy Thomas (A Dangerous Method)

Jeremy Thomas might not be a name you immediately recognize, but the same can’t be said of the films he has produced. The Last Emperor, Sexy Beast and Rabbit Proof Fence are amongst a staggering filmography (so prolific Thomas himself has lost count) that also includes Wim Wenders’ Oscar nominated Pina, and of course, David Cronenberg’s latest A Dangerous Method

The son of British film director Ralph Thomas, and nephew of the Carry On comedies director Gerald Thomas, Thomas quite literally grew up in the cinema before cutting his teeth as an assistant editor. But it was Australia not England that gave Thomas his first break, producing Philippe Mora’s unforgettable and infamous (for Dennis Hopper’s boozing) bushranger biopic Mad Dog Morgan. Evidently drinking on set has changed a lot in the last 40 years…

Back in Australia to discuss A Dangerous Method (pictured), the third film in Thomas and Cronenberg’s partnership (after Naked Lunch and Crash), the softly spoken but fast talking Thomas speaks about the pleasures and problems of producing cinema. Given the film chronicles the beginnings of psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), it was fitting to talk in terms of dreams and collaborations, as well as expectations. For Thomas, reuniting with Cronenberg with a film that opts for austerity over his trademark ‘goo’ provided its own challenges. But those may well pale in comparison with Thomas’ next project: the tale of North Korea’s dearly departed leader Kim Jong-il and his kidnapping of a South Korean film director and movie star. Now there’s a story you couldn’t dream up! 


Are there any dreams we should talk about right off the bat?

I’m always dreaming. Part of being a filmmaker and a producer is dreaming… dreaming of making the story into a film and making contact with people. That’s the dream. And also movies are such difficult, slippery things – it’s like a fish in your hand – as an independent filmmaker, realising that dream onto the screen, with people seeing it, that is a dream of an end. 

Then the current film that I’m doing, about Freud and Jung, Jung and Freud, dreams are at the centre of psychoanalysis – so there is a dream about dreams!

You’re living the dream then!

If making movies is living the dream then I’ve been doing it for more than forty years, which is an incredibly long time to be able to do that. I watched my father being a dreamer before me, and I’ve even made a movie called The Dreamers. It seems privileged and light, but [making movies] has its difficulties as well as its pleasures. It’s an intensity all of its own because it has art in the equation. It is an artistic endeavor that is also business, because films are very expensive to make – so it’s not like other art, like great writers. Artists sometimes have to have a lot of money to make their art, but films are a special thing because they really need a lot of resources, [which] makes them a commercial venture as well. 

You’ve worked with some of the best filmmakers in the world Bernardo Bertolucci, Terry Gilliam, Richard Linklater, David Cronenberg, and it’s too good a pun to pass up, what’s your dangerous method?

I grew up in cinema. My dad [Ralph Thomas] was a director [so] I was infected by cinema very early on. I was shown films in the film studios [and] on the movie sets, from my earliest beginnings…I formed my taste. I saw films from around the world and I became a real cinema brat.

[I] initially wanted to be a director as a principle career – because I was an editor - but then when I came to Australia in the early 70s and I produced Mad Dog Morgan with my friend Philippe Mora who I’d just edited a film for. I was going to come here and produce and edit this film and he was going to write and direct. I came here as a neophyte, because it was impossible to believe that a 24 year old could produce a film in England, but Australia was still an open territory, there were no fixed rules, [such as] you’d needed to have apprenticed on fifty movies before you could move up. So that’s really what happened. Australia gave me the break. 

We were completely naïve. We didn’t know what it meant to cast a film with Dennis Hopper. It was a different time. Today you can’t have a drink on a film set. Then if you didn’t have a drink on a film set, it would be closed down, today if you have a drink on a film set, you’re in jail. Mad Dog Morgan was made under that old regime of that homage and worship of a tinnie. 

Looking over your filmography it struck me that you’re really interested in true stories.

A lot of the films that I’ve done have been true stories and a lot of the films that I’ve done have been novels. Because I’ve made around 60 movies – I don’t know how many movies it is exactly – 60 give or take movies – in different capacities and working in different areas.

What draws you to true stories?

I just go with my taste. I’m not following the market, period. I’ve found a little place for myself; the market is sometimes good to me, sometimes not. 

I just did this film recently about Pina Bausche, PINA with Wim [Wenders]. I do lots of films with him, I love him, I love his movies, I want to work with him. I’m drawn very much to people and artists, then there’s a fidelity, you gain some sort of enjoyment and trust, like you do good friends. You’re best friends are the mates you’ve known the longest. And also making movies is very intense on relationships, and if you have a good relationship on a film, I’ve found it good to repeat it. And that’s what I’ve done with Takashi Miike, [David] Cronenberg, principally [Bernardo] Bertolucci…I like friends and I like relationships that can develop, and when you work with directors in the way I work with them you gain a shorthand and then you trust them. Then the longer you work with them the more you trust them. 

So it’s been a 20-year relationship with you and David Cronenberg, how’s the shorthand?

It’s developed. We’re very close friends and enjoy having dinner with each other. We could have dinner with each other seven nights a week without being bored. We’ve got the same interests, and similar ideas and ideology. So we’re politically probably in sync and in sync in liking William S. Burrows and liking J.G. Ballard and liking the idea of what’s underneath these films. And I get the benefit [after] having not been to university or school, hardly, [of] having a second education through these filmmakers and the subjects that I do, and they get to make the movies.

A Dangerous Method is a film that pivots around themes of collaboration, legacy and hubris, is it too long a bow to draw to see an analogy with the filmmaking process?

I haven’t really thought about that. I am analytical and I turn things around in my mind. Everybody does it I’m sure, but everybody does it a different way. I like making films about thinkers, I’ve done films about Darwin, I’ve done films about Einstein, I’ve done films about people who are big thinkers. And big thinkers are certainly Jung and Freud and Otto Gross, who was a fascinating person (the character played by Vincent Cassell), he was actually there. 

All the characters are as close as we can get to accurate from the photographs of these people. The clothes that Otto Gross wore were identical to what he was wearing, they are all wearing identical [clothes]. [The film] is so accurate. Every little detail is accurate, even to the extent that Viggo learnt Freud’s handwriting, to be able to do it without looking against [an example], exactly. And he was writing in German. 

Auf Deutsch! I noticed that! 

We thought, ‘Let’s play around with everybody, we’ll get him writing in German.” When you make movies the way we make movies, which are being made for everybody, but for those few people we put in those extra little things. And you hope that they see that. 

I’ve tried to be involved with filmmakers who are able to layer movies in lots of clues. Some audiences don’t get it at all, and others get it completely. Everybody reads a screen in a different way. Everybody sitting in front of a screen – you can turn to your companion and say, “Did you see that? How did you not see that, it was a key plot point?” “Well, I didn’t see that.” 

So you can have an argument. It’s like [the final shot in Michael] Haneke’s Hidden. And of course it’s fantastic when you get a film filled with stuff like that. Nick Roeg - who we haven’t talked about – I did three films with him and I think he’s one of the greatest masters in the world. He’s like that; he fills the films up with clues, so much stuff. You don’t even scratch the surface and [there’s so much] underneath: visually he’s got paintings and books on the bookshelves and little objects, and you either read them or you don’t read them. 

Speaking of accuracy, I wondered about the possibilities of anachronism in A Dangerous Method. Given we’re so conversant in the ideas and language of Freud and Jung, did you worry about anachronism or how the audience would ‘read’ the film?

It has that element in it, but it would have to because their thought – which is now maybe discarded even in the age of Prozac or various other treatments for people with a mind that’s a little bit damaged – but certainly the talking cure and the ideas of dreams and the significance of dreams…

But they were mining then. They were just beginning, without machines or brain scans. They were just exploring the mind. Otto Gross thought making love to the patient was the way to cure the patient. Which we know how wrong that is, but at the time, why not? They had no idea. A woman comes in totally depressed, it’s for the doctor to make love to the patient and the patient feels better. They had no idea, but they were trying to understand that in a prudish society. And I suppose lots of things go back to sexuality and childhood, so they were dealing with that. And of course we tried to make entertainment out of that.

Did you find yourself siding with Freud or Jung? 

You feel on one side that Freud was very harsh; he came up from a very different background. You notice when they’re going on the boat to America, he’s going to one side and Jung [goes to first class]. Jung was Freud’s favourite. 

I loved [them both]. It was another great movie to work on because there was all these wonderful people to collaborate with; [screenwriter] Christopher Hampton, [cinematographer] Peter Suschitzky, all the elements were really enjoyable. The film was really enjoyable to make in terms of it was like a daily pleasure – we shot it in Vienna, in this beautiful place. We shot it on Lake Constance, which looked like Zurich at the turn of the 20th Century. 

I was interested the read the project started as a screenplay called Sabina, then it became a play called The Talking Cure. Was their any thought to refocus the story on Freud and Jung?

It has been. Sabina Spielrein was an incredible character. She was an important psychoanalyst and of course she had a tragic story. When you see the titles at the end of the film – it moves you. If you get into the movie, you think, “Wow, wow.” On the eve of the First World War, you feel the torrent of blood. 

“I feel a torrent of blood coming”, Jung says that. There are some big words in the film, there’s some big stuff going on. Underneath the story, [historically] there’s some big stuff going on, which I thought was brilliant. 

Psychoanalysis seems like it could be a tough sell, is that an exciting challenge for a producer? How did you come on board?

In the subconscious hard drive, the decision making hard drive of my brain, obviously when I read something, then I bring lots of things to it. 

A) I want to make it with David Cronenberg anyway.
B) I want to make a film about the fascinating period of these characters.
C) I’ve discovered some incredibly good, interesting stuff about their relationship and with letters proving they definitely had a relationship. We think that [Jung] took [Spielrein’s] virginity, maybe spanked her too. 

“Ok,” I think, “that will possibly make the film more attractive.” Because [after all,] people are expecting David Cronenberg. 

I was worried about [the audience expectations because], this is a film that doesn’t have any goo in it. Because other films I’ve made with David – Crash and Naked Lunch – and what he’s known for [is goo]. He’s been sort of pigeonholed like Scorsese – you expect a gangster movie where you blow people’s heads off. For Cronenberg, they want goo. Here I was delivering another Cronenberg movie: were we going to see Videodrome, were we going to see Dead Ringers, were we going to see The Fly? He’s been moving a bit in the last ten years with A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, with this film he’s even more controlled. It’s still a Cronenberg film for me. It’s still masterly and so controlled.

He’s replaced goo with amazing austerity…

So far it’s got a lot of people to enjoy it and feel emotional about it at the end. And feel, “Hey we know something about psychoanalysis now.”

The casting will surely help get people through the door. 

Yes! Beautiful Keira [Knigtley], beautiful Viggo [Mortensen], magnificent Michael Fassbender -- the star of the decade. And Vincent Cassell, one of the most beautiful men on the planet. And [they’re] all good actors. And you put them all in with [David Cronenberg], and you get Howard Shore to write the score, and you cross your fingers. And everyone works modestly, because the film is modest in price. It’s only got certain expectations. So everyone works in that economy. 

No caravans. We made it business class. It’s not first class. You’re not down the back, we’re in the middle somewhere and we work comfortably. That’s how I make films. I know my place.

Before you go, what can you tell us about your Kim Jong-il film?

I’m working on it. Of course the dynamic has changed since he died. But it’s a true story of this incredible director Shin Sang-ok, a South Korean director and his wife who was the biggest movie star in South Korea. They were both kidnapped by Kim Jong-il, because he was a big cinema fan. And that’s the story I’m telling. It’s [going to be] a film noir. 

Published on TheVine
Watch my review on The Movie Club

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Movie Club: A Dangerous Method

Over on The Movie Club Mel, Jo and I have a positively dreamy time reviewing A Dangerous Method. And yes, you get to see me swoon as I publicly declare Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender my 'future husbands'.

Australian release date: 29 March 2012
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