House Logo

Ucla (#110 of 2)

Talking with Alejandro Adams, Part One

Comments Comments (...)

Talking with Alejandro Adams, Part One
Talking with Alejandro Adams, Part One

When they write a history of Twitter, hopefully a footnote will be spared for Alejandro Adams, the first meaningful filmmaker to make himself known that way, at least in my book. Conventional wisdom says you should use Twitter to beg for followers, chronicle your production, spam your friends and hope they suck it up for the greater good of social networking’s future. Adams took a different tack: he got in touch with only the critics he admired and asked them to watch his work after making it very clear (through a barrage of polemics, hilariously self-aggrandizing declarations and gnostic aphorisms) he was playing on a whole other level.

The movies, fortunately, are good too. Around The Bay isn’t quite L’Enfance Nue, but it’s not that far off either: childhood has rarely been this abrasive. Canary’s a tougher watch; its sci-fi framework is deliberately difficult to follow, and its most impressive setpieces involve very realistic rooms of people all talking at the same time, making a mockery of the Altman ideal of floating in and out of one conversation to each other. Here, the cacophony is the goal in and of itself. Babnik is a whole other creature, a first leisurely and suddenly urgently twisty crime drama; the less you know, the better. And not knowing much won’t be a problem: it may be months or years before you get a chance to see this, or Adams’ other two films.

So why read this two-part e-mail exchange between me and Adams? I’ve never met him, but this is the kind of promotional collaboration/collusion I try to avoid; it’s vaguely sketchy. But he’s a fun guy to argue and correspond with, and I’m comfortable whoring for him a bit. What I’ve done here is chopped up our back-and-forth into something more or less structured; it’s out of order and distorts the actual chronology, but that seems appropriate. In part one, we mostly talk about acting; in part two, we mostly talk about visuals. Digressions abound, as do faux-aggressive taunts. Enjoy.

Orson Welles’s Macbeth (1948)

Comments Comments (...)

Orson Welles’s <em>Macbeth</em> (1948)
Orson Welles’s <em>Macbeth</em> (1948)

Me and Orson Welles, director Richard Linklater’s zippy new comedy about the 22-year-old Welles’s 1937 Broadway mounting of a Fascist-themed Julius Caesar (and featuring an uncanny performance by Christian McKay as the auteur terrible), throws the Citizen Kane filmmaker’s Shakespeare obsession into relief. Citizen Welles adapted Shakespeare for multiple mediums, often reinventing the same play several times for radio, stage, and film. Some highlights include his Broadway debut, a Haitian voodoo production of Macbeth and an audio production of The Merchant of Venice in which Welles plays the angriest Shylock you will likely ever hear. He also made several masterful Bard film adaptations, including an Expressionistic movie version of Macbeth. For many years the film was in less-than-patchwork condition. Then UCLA’s restoration team went to work.

The result screened at Walter Reade in December (even knowing the film well, I found the clarity and texture of the UCLA team’s efforts revelatory). After a series of commercial failures, culminating in the 1947 thriller The Lady from Shanghai, Welles took on 1948’s Macbeth essentially as a stylistic dare, shooting it in 23 days for cheap. He also made it with his American actors delivering their lines with Scottish accents, which Republic Pictures, horrified, overdubbed for the film’s U.S. release (Republic also murdered over 20 minutes of footage, including a 10-minute tracking shot on the night of Duncan’s murder that outshines Welles’s more celebrated three-minute track in Touch of Evil). While French writers and filmmakers as disparate as Jean Cocteau, André Bazin and Robert Bresson celebrated the film (“I love too much natural settings and natural light not to love also the fake light and the cardboard settings of Macbeth,” Bresson claimed), American critics panned it and U.S. audiences disdained it. Its release so close to Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet, which won that year’s Best Picture Oscar, didn’t help.??