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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

Pride, Unprejudiced: The Fits, DePalma

thefits02The Fits (Oscilloscope, $40 Blu, downloads)

Oh glorious subjectivity. Motion and emotion trounce text in The Fits, debut writer-director-producer Anna Rose Holmer’s patient, powerful, dreamy debut feature. Center frame is a young wonder named Royalty Hightower as an alienated eleven-year-old tomboy named Toni, who strives to become one of The Lionesses, a dance team in the West End of Cincinnati. Repetition, routine, formation (then fainting: figures that flew, falling in inexplicable mass hysteria). Toni learns by watching. Toni learns by doing. Rhythms, then routines, establish, recur. Toni’s an outsider, working inward, realizing her self, her potential, her power as the camera observes, enables, ennobles her modest, yet major journey. The dreamy, joyous The Fits is elegance and simplicity supreme. The eye-widening, ear-opening, syncopated score is by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans.


De Palma (Lionsgate, $25 blu, downloads)

My second filmmaker interview for the college newspaper was with Brian De Palma and it was a catastrophe. A teaching moment, you would dub such scorch nowadays and leave the details to memory. Let’s say I poked, and let’s say he punched. That short, sharp punch-up didn’t make me any less fascinated with the precision of his dream-like narrative progressions, his obsession with the uneasy relationship of the watcher and the subject. “Being a director is being a watcher,” De Palma tells Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow, his acolytes behind the camera of the one-man show De Palma“I think that Brian is, if not the main one, one of those few directors who you know automatically, this is what a movie feels and breathes and looks like,” Paltrow tells Filmmaker magazine, arriving at a tender morsel of critique absent from the film itself. The form of their documentary, shot across thirty hours several years ago, grew from conversations the three had had over lunches and dinners, and its pungent retellings project-by-project across the decades of De Palma’s career are the better for it. Some may be cynical about an extended conversation with a filmmaker often held in disrepute by sniffy cultural arbiters, with many thinking along the lines of Noah Cross, who, in Chinatown, observed that “Politicians, ugly buildings and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.” And if you’re the last auteurs holding to independent ideals of the film brat clique that included George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and Paul Schrader? Baumbach and Paltrow are beyond that politique with their pal auteur, content to illustrate his vivid anecdotes with appropriate images and footage as De Palma unfurls an abundant filmography in chronological order.

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“Roger Ebert claimed that the re-editing of The Brown Bunny after Cannes allowed him a difference of opinion so vast that he first called it the worst film in history and eventually gave it a thumbs up. This is both far fetched and an outright lie. The truth is, unlike the many claims that the unfinished film that showed at Cannes was 24 minutes shorter than the finished film, it was only 8 minutes shorter. The running time I filled out on the Cannes submission form was arbitrary. The running time I chose was just a number I liked. I had no idea where in the process I would actually be when I needed to stop cutting to meet the screening deadline. So whatever running time was printed in the program, I promise you, was not the actual running time. And the cuts I made to finish the film after Cannes were not many. I shortened the opening race scene once I was able to do so digitally. After rewatching the last 4 minutes of the film over and over again, somewhere within those 4 minutes, I froze the picture and just ended the film there, cutting out everything after that point, which was about 3 minutes. Originally in the salt flats scene, the motorcycle returned from the white. I removed the return portion of that shot, which seemed too literal. And I cut a scene of me putting on a sweater. That’s pretty much it. Plus the usual frame here, frame there, final tweaks. If you didn’t like the unfinished film at Cannes, you didn’t like the finished film, and vice versa. Roger Ebert made up his story and his premise because after calling my film literally the worst film ever made, he eventually realized it was not in his best interest to be stuck with that mantra. Stuck with a brutal, dismissive review of a film that other, more serious critics eventually felt differently about. He also took attention away from what he actually did at the press screening. It is outrageous that a single critic disrupted a press screening for a film chosen in main competition at such a high profile festival and even more outrageous that Ebert was ever allowed into another screening at Cannes. His ranting, moaning and eventual loud singing happened within the first 20 minutes, completely disrupting and manipulating the press screening of my film. Afterwards, at the first public screening, booing, laughing and hissing started during the open credits, even before the first scene of the film. The public, who had heard and read rumors about the Ebert incident and about me personally, heckled from frame one and never stopped. To make things weirder, I got a record-setting standing ovation from the supporters of the film who were trying to show up the distractors who had been disrupting the film. It was not the cut nor the film itself that drew blood. It was something suspicious about me. Something offensive to certain ideologues.”
~ Vincent Gallo

“I think [technology has[ its made my life faster, it’s made the ability to succeed easier. But has that made my life better? Is it better now than it was in the eighties or seventies? I don’t think we are happier. Maybe because I’m 55, I really am asking these questions… I really want to do meaningful things! This is also the time that I really want to focus on directing. I think that I will act less and less. I’ve been doing it for 52 years. It’s a long time to do one thing and I feel like there are a lot of stories that I got out of my system that I don’t need to tell anymore. I don’t need to ever do The Accused again! That is never going to happen again! You hit these milestones as an actor, and then you say, ‘Now what? Now what do I have to say?'”
~ Jodie Foster