Archive for the ‘Off-topic’ Category

Rest in Peace, Edward Yang

Sunday, July 1st, 2007

Via the Filmmaker Magazine blog, I’ve just learned that writer-director Edward Yang has died of complications from colon cancer. He was 59 years old.

In 2006 I started to catch up with Yang’s films. The first one I saw was 1991’s A Brighter Summer Day. The film is not available commercially anywhere in the world, but I had managed to secure a 2-DVD bootleg of the 237 minute epic. I was laid up in bed, sick, with nothing else to do, so I figured a four-hour movie would be a good way to pass the time.

It’s a stunning film, but when it was over — well before it was over, actually — the devastating impact the film had on me was buoyed by my thrill at discovering a filmmaker so in control of the medium.

Still, even that film did not prepare me for Yi Yi, which I caught up with late last year after Criterion released it on DVD. As I mentioned in my year-end posting, the experience of watching Yi Yi at home last winter was the best moviegoing experience I had all last year.

One of the reasons I would never want to be a full-time movie reviewer or critic is my inability to put into words experiences like seeing Yi Yi. Peter Bowen’s post over at Filmmaker quotes A.O. Scott’s review of it in the Times, and that gives a hint of what I myself felt:

As I watched the final credits of Yi Yi through bleary eyes, I struggled to identify the overpowering feeling that was making me tear up. Was it grief? Joy? Mirth? Yes, I decided, it was all of these. But mostly, it was gratitude.

There’s something so exciting about discovering the work of a new artist whose work you hold close to your heart: There’s the thrill of going through the back-catalog, hoping that there are more treasures to discover. And, if that artist is still alive, still working, there’s the eager anticipation of looking forward to their new work, which is a kind of joy in its own right.

Today, when I heard the news of Yang’s death on June 29th, I — and all of his fans — lost the chance to feel that latter kind of joy. All that’s left for us is the chance to appreciate the work Yang created while he was here.

It may take years before I can see all of his films — none besides Yi Yi are available on DVD — but however long it takes, I’ll be thankful they remain to be seen. Yes, “gratitude” is the right word.

Thank you, Edward Yang. Rest in peace.

***

If, like me, you’re coming late to Edward Yang’s work here are some ways to learn more:

Online Resources:

    Edward Yang: IMDB entry

    Edward Yang: Senses of Cinema biography — this includes several links to interviews, essays, etc.

    Edward Yang: Wikipedia entry

    Edward Yang: AP Obituary

    Added 7.3.07:

    Edward Yang: NYT Obituary [Manohla Dargis]

    Edward Yang reflections on GreenCine

    Jonathan Rosenbaum reviews of Edward Yang films

Books:

    Edward Yang

DVD:

    Yi Yi is the only film of Yang’s to be commercially released on DVD, either in the USA or (to the best of my knowledge) abroad. Bootleg DVDs for at least some of Yang’s other films are known to be available on the internet.

Flyover

Friday, June 29th, 2007

I just learned about an interesting new blog called FlyOver. From the site:

FlyOver is a blog about art in the American Outback — the people and places usually given less attention by those hopping from coast to coast. It’s a way for arts journalists and artists outside the major American urban areas to celebrate, discuss, critique and share what they do. While it was established to continue a conversation begun at USC Annenberg’s 2007 NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater, we hope it will ultimately grow to serve a larger community of journalists, artists and institutions involved in the arts in America.

No, it may not cover issues related to filmmaking (at least not yet), but its attention to art and artmaking outside of the traditional hubs of the so-called “art world” is welcome.

Open Thread: Superstitions

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

I’m back from Knoxville, where I just spent the last month prepping and then shooting a new project. I’m way too close to things to say much about it — what it is, how it went, and so on — right now. As it gets closer to completion I will talk more about it, no doubt.

Aside from not having any distance on the thing, the fact is that I’m just generally reluctant to talk about works-in-progress. This probably seems like an odd trait for a “film blogger” to have. If so, hey, guilty as charged. That fact remains that the only thing I like less than talking about a film I’ve just shot (but not edited) is a film I’m in the process of writing. I don’t have a problem talking about the project with collaborators — that would be counter-productive (and very frustrating for others, I’m sure). Mainly, it’s just a reluctance for me to attempt to define a creative project for others before it has defined itself to me.

The reluctance is also based in superstition. It seems like every time I say something semi-definitively about a film I’m making (especially during production) I’m eating my words within minutes. (A recent example: “I’m glad we’ve now decided which camera we’re renting and we can move onto other things!”)

On the flip side, I have certain rituals that I need to do before writing a project. And there are lucky objects: a brand of pens, old t-shirts, baseball caps.

I know I’m not alone. A lot of artists (filmmakers, writers, choreographers, etc.) that I’ve known are superstitious people — practically as superstitious as baseball players. The cinematographer of a couple of films I made always wore the same t-shirt on the first day of filming. It was a promotional film from a successfuly 90s indie comedy (which shall remain nameless). He loathed the film, actually, but he wore the t-shirt because he figured it would remind him that no matter what, we could make something better.

But enough about me. What about you? Drop a comment if you have superstitions when writing, prepping, filming, or finishing a project — or if you know a good story about someone that does.

We Now Resume Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

This is, I think, the longest delay between posts at Self-Reliant Film. Between the events at Virgina Tech and the preparation for a project of mine, well, what can I say? My attention has been elsewhere. Anyway, it’s good to get back to the blog. Thanks, again, to all of you that privately emailed or publicly commented with words of support.

On an unrelated(?) note, I just remembered that today marks the 15th anniversary of the “premiere” of my first film, a film called “Pure”, which I made with a Super-8 film camera graciously loaned by Chris Cagle. The film screened for about twenty people in the living room of my friend Wade Guyton, who lived in the house next door to Chris.

I remember that the evening ended with various people singing along to the Xanadu soundtrack. Yesterday, my friend Alan sent me a link to this. Plus ça change, plus c’est la méme chose.

Tragedy at Virginia Tech: What You Can Do, How You Can Help

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

A number of you have emailed me privately to ask how, if at all, you can be of help regarding the tragic events of the past week. Thanks for asking.

Here are some ideas:

* If you are as concerned and offended as I am about decision of the various news outlets to share the killer’s self-taped images and/or manifesto, let them know your thoughts about it.

* If you have no connection whatsoever to the events of the past week I request that you pause, for at least 24 hours, reading any news stories on the event, especially from news outlets that have featured the killer’s vanity kit. Instead, use that time — even if it’s 5 minutes — to do something positive in the world.

* If you feel compelled to read the news, I encourage you to visit The Roanoke Times, whose in-depth and respectful coverage has been a source of pride for many of us in the area.

* If you are able to do so, I encourage you to donate to one of the many memorial funds set up to honor the victims.

* Finally, if you are a film professional, in the coming weeks I will be looking for internships and summer work for my 26 filmmaking students. It’s vital, to me, to help them find meaningful summer activity, which will move them forward in their career goals and get their minds off of the terrible recent events.

Please contact me directly if you can offer an internship or, even better, paid summer work: pharrill AT selfreliantfilm DOT com