Saturday, November 07, 2009

On the Making of Films

Someone was filming in Harvard Square tonight. I passed through, stopped for a burger, went on to the Harvard Film Archive to see Lisandro Alonso's Liverpool, with Alonso in attendance. This proves a rather jarring juxtaposition. Alonso spoke of shooting Liverpool with a crew of 10, or 12 people, plus actors - who are mostly locals recruited to appear, playing something close to themselves. There were that many trucks parked around the side streets outside.

I know that's how most movies are made, with armies of technicians surrounding the performance and photography of the story - and I know when it works, it works. But it still feels somehow insane. I don't know what they were shooting tonight - I don't really care. I know it won't be as interesting as Alonso's film; I suspect it won't be as interesting as an imaginary film made, say, following me, in my peregrinations. Why not? That's not far from what Alonso's Fantasma is - 2 men (mainly - 3 other actors appear as well) wandering around a building, waiting for a film to start and play) - it's as good a story as any. I can imagine this film - it would follow me, though wouldn't pay much attention to me. Might linger, instead, on the people setting up the lights and reflectors for the filming in the square, or the crowds watching the kids putting on some kind of show in the pit; might spend a moment with the crew at the burger joint, then with the three guys from the film crew who came in to eat; might follow me to Newbury Comics and listen to the kids talking about comic books behind me; down the street to Starbucks, maybe watching your humble blogger for a minute, checking his phone for messages, or reading about Munchhausen, though more likely watching the big family in the corner, eating coffee cakes, the kids wandering around; or going outside with the barrista for a smoke. Finally when I leave the camera comes too, to the Archive, buy a ticket, go in sit, let the camera drift off across the crowd - and finally the house lights go down and the screen lights up and the movie plays...

I know it matters who makes a film: if I made this, it would probably be terrible - if Alonso made it, it would be intriguing, amusing, and better than anything they could be shooting outside. Though if Wes Anderson or the Coen brothers had been shooting outside - well, all that material would be put to a good use. But still. All things being equal, I would rather see more films like Alonso's - or films in the same vein - Pedro Costa, Jose Luis Guerin, there are others... Like the others, Alonso makes films about places - he goes to the places - he stays in the places, he finds people there, and works with the people, and creates films close to their lives, maybe adding a kind of plot (homecomings, often enough) to organize the material. It makes movie making into a community project - he said, last night and tonight, that the people in his films aren't sure what to make of them - but they all loved the process of making them. I like that.

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