'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

18 September 2010

Brilliant Directors

My favourite living or only recently dead directors who hold a particular interest for gay fans of cinema.
Bruce Labruce 

Wonderful Canadian film-maker, writer, columnist, party boy , photographer and critic of society. As it says on the cover of one of his DVD's "The difference between pornography and art is the lighting'. Gay and celebrating sexuality in all its explicit variations, he is a great observer of life and its pain and pleasures. A sense of self deprecating humour which is endearing to his characters no matter how unprofessional or individual their appearance, which to me is a plus. A nude skinhead with a tear in his eye, an amputee in a suitcase, egos and fantasies, tributes to every iconographic film ever made and a love of his story and on the fringe lifestyles, that are both rough and on occasions sentimental. Often appearing in his own films he also has made guest appearances elsewhere with directors below. His stories are also being filmed by other independent filmmakers. The results are far from perceived perfection, but I am sure he does what he does intentionally or as he said 'one of the reasons I make movies is to rile people up and get under their skin'. Comic, crude, honest and uninhibited - refreshing. I once exchanged a few emails with the great BLAB. I was also excited to received a signed  with love copy of his book “The Reluctant Pornographer”. Another book ‘Bruce La Bruce Ride, Queer, Ride!’ is also in my collection.
My DVD’s:- Hustler White, No Skin Off My Ass, Otto; or Up With Dead People, The Raspberry Reich and the hard core version The Revolution Is My Boyfriend,  Skin Flick and the hard core version Skin Gang, Super 8-1/2. L A Zombie
Click to go to a page here for more on Gio Black Peter from the film 'Otto'
Gus van Sant
American. Appearing to be closer to the mainstream than the others here, but also often seen in credits as the producer or lending assistance to film makers such as James Boulton, Nickolas Perry and Larry Clark's 'Kids'. Known well for films like -Last Days (2005) with the remarkable Michael Pitt - Elephant (2003) - Finding Forrester (2000) - Psycho (1998) - Good Will Hunting (1997) - To Die For (1995) - Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993) -My Own Private Idaho (1991) - Drugstore Cowboy (1989). No doubt he has used his popularity, influence and finance to help further the aspirations of other like minded film makers. Many of his films have an element of peaceful contemplation, like the striking repeated walk through the corridors in Elephant. I like a film that gives me time to absorb and imagine. Frenetic editing is visceral stimulation, but I have become often immune to that far too prevalent, thoughtless excitement. It gives a false and irrelevant sense of being alive. A time for everything but not too much too often.
 However once the likes of Oliver Stone, George Lucas and others were part of the radical new wave in cinema, but with a loss of their youthful enthusiasm they have bowed to their perception of acceptability and their work is now expensive, popular and to me mundane. It fills in some hours, but is not likely to do much more for my spirit. When films become obviously over slick I am nauseated. A soaring score will not manipulate my emotions if the subject is clichéd. Hopefully Gus van Sant etc. will not head in this direction. The danger seems to be that when one takes on 'Stars' the story or creativity often appears to take second place to the public image, publicity and dos and don'ts of said star. I prefer actors or more often non-actors who take on a role without believing that their own image, perceived stature and reputation is more important. I do not need them to be my moral guardians, just actors for that is all they are. Be admired for being a good actor, but it does not bring any other responsibility. Perhaps I hope they are just successful enough to keep going, but not too popular as to start attracting big sponsors who dictate content and political preference and propaganda. eg if I see one more can of Coke I will die. I counted 37 placements of that logo in one film. It has been enough for me to never buy it. Anyway Guss has come up with ‘Milk’ and what a great film that is. He has the bigger finance but he is still being true to the ethics of rich storytelling.
  Harmony Korine

American. The dogme work 'Julien Donkey Boy' and the devastatingly grim 'Gummo' are works with impact that very few films possess. His talent has also included lyrics with Bjork from Lars von Trier's 'Dancer in the Dark', scripts and collaboration for Larry Clark's 'Kids' and 'Ken Park' and appearances in film by Gus van Sant. Adventurous and hardly optimistic, but possesses observations of life that are unfortunately real and memorable. A writer and director who will give you ample opportunity to contemplate our society and the question - are we making a good job of realising our potentia?  I think not or at least Harmony appears to want to portray his doubts for future generations. To me he seems to enjoy a voyeuristic love of the fringes and wishes to remove the sugar coating which more manipulative cinema attempts to hide behind. Writer, photographer and artist he has a lot to say although relatively quite as I write this.
 Larry Clark
American. In his many years as photographer and occasional film maker he has sought to expose the real life of adolescence. Often confronting to many in today's conservative and blinkered society his imagery is never filtered through rose coloured glasses, but confronts life and its frailties and the subcultures in which escape is found. His work such as the stunning Ken Park had aroused the ire of many, but such strong documents will find a way of getting to those who are willing to open their eyes. His works have involved the ideas and stories of Harmony Korine and collaboration with others who are venturing bravely into cinema and stories which can be engaging, but at the same time disturbing, in the mirror faced up to the reality of who we are or at least who some of us are. What he films is there and should not be ignored and from my perspective, judged. I will judge myself and leave others to their own past, needs and reasons. He had been absent for a short period of film-making but will soon be returning to the screen.
  Bavo Defurne 
Belgian. Inspired film maker whose involvement in film has been as director, actor, set design, producer. A self confessed love of beauty and an eye for imagery akin to the master works of Eisenstein, the stylised photography of Pierre and Gilles or the soft and serene intimacy of Herbert List. To date there are only short films available (a collection titled Campfire 1999) but a full length work seems to be in set for 2011 after a decade absence except for some work as producer in 2004. He has worked with Peter Greenaway on the sets of 'The Baby of Macon'. Actors in his small works are largely non-professionals and or friends although others better known in theatre or European television  have also joined the ranks. His beautiful films populated by faces worthy of any work of art have been praised deservedly at many Film Festivals. In an interview his enthusiasm and philosophical approach shines through with clarity and joy. 
 Werner Werner Fassbinder  
German. Prolific director who made 43 films in less than twenty years and died at 37 in 1982. Fassbinder also wrote at least 14 plays, 6 adaptations, 4 radio plays, 24 cinema and television films, and 12 lieder texts. He wrote 50 film scripts – thirteen of them as co-author. He was also fond of appearing in several of his own films. His movies include The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, Effi Briest, Ali-Fear Eats the Soul, Fox and His Friends, Lili Marleen, Lola, Veronika Voss, and Querelle. Credited as being responsible for moving German cinema in a new direction if not influencing world cinema. His mastery over cinema technique and at times breathtaking imagery as well as observations of life which can make you feel genuinely uncomfortable are experiences not to be missed by new generations. So celebrated are his films that you can find the majority on DVD.. He could make a memorable film in two weeks, but also had the reputation of being a difficult genius.
Francois Ozon
French. His beautifully balanced film 'Water Drops on Burning Rocks' was made from a script written by Fassbinder at the age of 19. Ozon (born 1967) has directed 31 films to date including some shorts available on DVD. Swimming Pool, Criminal Lovers, 8 Women and Sitcom are but a few which are outstanding. Like so many who really know their art he has been writer, producer, cinematographer editor and actor. In his work you can see into the eyes and soul of his characters. A sensitive artist who can clothe often darker subjects with occasional true wit and humour, heightened technical skill and actors of impressive talent.  
Todd Verow
New York based and often using a core of actors including himself as writer, director and sometimes star.
A generous man who kindly sent me DVDs I had trouble obtaining (censorship) along with a signed photograph. 
'Todd Verow is the love child of Kenneth Anger and Andy Wahole'
'Be afraid, be very afraid'
'... so edgy it almost draws blood'
My 18 Todd Verow  DVDs:- Against, Allstars, Anonymous, Between Something and Nothing, Boy with the Sun in His Eyes, Bulldog in the White House, Deleted Scenes, Frisk, Hooks to the left, Little Shots of Happiness, Nob Fill Cinema, Once and Future Queen, A Sudden Loss of Gravity, The Trouble with Perpetual Deja-Vu, V Is for Violet, Vacationland, Leave Blank, Bad Boy Street
Ventura Pons
Spanish. Not so new and not young, Pons apparently films in his home city Barcelona for which he has a great love. To date I have only come across a few of his films but each is a very pleasing experience. The 'Food of Love' is a story of first love, confusion and almost a travelogue of the beauty of Barcelona (even the shots of American houses are in Barcelona) In Caresses, set in less attractive surroundings, he traces a series of linked personalities full circle and explores relationships and isolation. Beautifully insightful and tender portraits of hidden, lonely and diverse human beings reaching out for what may or may not be attainable.  Amici/Amat and Amore Idiota are another two of his sexual explorations which seems to be the intent of his film-making.
Lars Von Trier

A few years back I became aware of and began to collect a series of dogme films that had originally been challenging to me as a viewer, but thought provoking and of great interest. The repeated viewing of these works expanded my perception of just what can be achieved by reality. Perhaps I am totally wrong, but for me they evoke the fascination of some of the early Paul Morrissey/Wahole films which on first appearance to some seem simple and nonsensical, but recent repeat viewings are revealing humanity with greater reality than I had originally estimated or remembered and certainly more than I get from rubbish so frequently shown on my television screen. A collective of film directors expressed a goal of countering 'certain tendencies' in cinema and “Dogme 95” became a rescue action with a set of rules called. It was a much needed injection of discipline and produced some masterworks.

'The Vow of Chastity'
"I swear to submit to the following set of rules drawn up and confirmed by DOGME 95:
1: Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in (if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found).
2: The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. (Music must not be used unless it occurs where the scene is being shot).
3: The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. (The film must not take place where the camera is standing; shooting must take place where the film takes place).
4: The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable. (If there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).
5: Optical work and filters are forbidden.
6: The film must not contain superficial action. (Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)
7: Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. (That is to say that the film takes place here and now.)
8: Genre movies are not acceptable.
9 The film format must be Academy 35 mm.
10: The director must not be credited.
Furthermore I swear as a director to refrain from personal taste! I am no longer an artist. I swear to refrain from creating a "work", as I regard the instant as more important than the whole. My supreme goal is to force the truth out of my characters and settings. I swear to do so by all the means available and at the cost of any good taste and any aesthetic considerations.
Thus I make my VOW OF CHASTITY."
Copenhagen, Monday 13 March 1995
On behalf of DOGME 95
Lars von Trier         Thomas Vinterber  

A quote  "I, Lars von Trier, am but a simple masturbator of the silver screen."

Other artists who have ventured away from the usual to create cinema that gives you something to explore are Nick Zedd, Constantine Giannaris, Richard Kern, Stan Brackage, Kenneth Anger, James Broughton, all of whom have brilliant collections available on DVD.

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