Director’s Journal: Day 11

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Wednesday, Day 11.

The scenes slated for today’s shoot have worried me for a while.  We haven’t had much time to rehearse, particularly with Mohannad and Adam.  I arrive at Kareem’s home at 8am, and we set up the first shot.  The performances feel a bit awkward, but I feel the relentless pressure to move forward, knowing full well that if I get stuck on this scene, which is not one of my favorites anyway, the later scenes will be rushed, and I’ll be kicking myself.  This is one of the lessons learned so far; in the future, schedule more reasonable days.

Eventually we get a take that I am satisfied with, and we move on to scenes that I am more comfortable with.  A great deal of time and effort is given to the careful staging of every shot in this film.  Since the camera doesn’t move, the entrance and exit of actors in and out of each frame up has to be precise, and the focus needs to be planned carefully, since there is no follow focus.  This approach is based somewhat on Yasujiro Ozu’s philosophy toward film.  Ozu’s practice revolved around minimal movements, strict and careful planning of choreography and placement of objects in shots, and transitional sequences linking scenes together that indicate an ellipsis of time.  In the year leading up to the making of Triumph67 I discovered the films of Ozu, and my thinking about film hasn’t been the same, since.  My discovery of Ozu led me to the films of Bresson, Dreyer, Lubitsch, and more contemporary film makers, including the films of Wim Wenders, whose work I had loved for several years, ever since Paris Texas and Wings of Desire.   But to me, nobody did it like Ozu.  So steady in his conviction of characters in space and pacing.  So universal in themes of family and the transiency of life and its cycles.

Recently I had dinner with by brother who was meeting a friend of his who is currently in a PhD program in LA for film studies.  He described Ozu being to white rice, as Kurosawa is to red wine.  I love Kurosawa.  From Ikaru to Rhapsody in August.  But Ozu reminds me of my grandparents.

When Ozu’s mother died, shortly before he died himself after completing his final masterpiece, An Autumn Afternoon, he in his diary: “Spring has arrived. Cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Here I am agonizing over An Autumn Afternoon. Like torn rags, the cherry blossoms display a forlorn expression – sake tastes bitter as gall.” I worry that being stuck on Ozu often leaves me spending too much time on the details of objects in the foreground and background.  I can’t help myself.  Once you unlock the mystery behind Ozu, it is almost impossible not to see opportunities in every situation, and wonder, What Would Ozu Do?

The scenes in the upstairs are shot in the middle of the day, but thick cardboard is placed on the outside windows to give the illusion of night.  I ask the gaffer to make Adam’s room look blue, trying to emulate the look that Ozu achieved in An Autumn Afternoon with his lead actress when she retreated to her bedroom.  After 45 minutes, the room is blue, and we shoot the scene.  I get into a snit over what props to use in one of the final scenes of the evening with one of the producers.  The argument is over a tee shirt that says, ‘London.’  I am convinced that it looks like it came from Target, but after a while, I decide to back down.

It’s been a good days work.  When I go home, it is late, and it seems my Lisa has forgiven me for being so absent.  She herself seems a bit absent, but who can blame her, it is well past 2am, and she is fast asleep.  I try to talk to her through her sleep for a minute, but abandon the effort when there is no response.  What Would Ozu Do?  Poor chap.  He couldn’t help me there.  He died single.

avatarBy Dan on
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