Weekend Reel Reads: Kaurismäki, Gilliam and The Elusive Ideal Star Wars Viewing Order

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by Steve Greene
April 8, 2012 1:17 PM
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Weekend Reel Reads is a regular feature that gathers lengthier stories related to the world of film criticism you may have missed during the week. If there's anything you think would be ideal for future installments, please let us know at critic@indiewire.com.

Director Terry Gilliam. Cannes Film Festival
Terry Gilliam Gets Real About the Making of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"

In anticipation of a new iPad app featuring behind-the-scenes footage from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” Vulture spoke with co-director Terry Gilliam about the film. The interview touches on a series of other essential Gilliam talking points, including his comedic stylings, his infamously elusive Don Quixote project and his love of comic books. Known for his own box office failures, Gilliam concludes the interview by talking about Andrew Stanton, post-John Carter, providing an interesting anecdote about empathy and relief.

Did you see "The Hunger Games"? Everybody in the Capitol looked like they were wearing shoes on their heads.

I haven’t seen it yet. Do they really have upturned shoes for helmets?

Not really. But the costumes are definitely “Gilliam-esque.”

The thing is, "Brazil" is everywhere. Even "Wall-E" with the song: doot doot doot, doot do-do do doot. Because "Brazil" is the one thing that I’ve ever been involved with that is continually taught at film school. And so I guess anybody who is learning anything about filmmaking has "Brazil" stuck in their head somewhere. I don’t think the general public has a thing for it, but all film people seem to think it’s “an important film.” [Laughs.]

Seven rounds with Aki Kaurismäki:

In "Le Havre," Aki Kaurismäki had one of the best-reviewed films of the year. But after reading this profile of the director from The Guardian’s Simon Hattenstone, it’s hard not to get the impression that cinema might be one of the farthest things from Kaurismäki’s mind. He has some fascinating quotes about the people of Finland, his homeland, and the nature of authority in its many forms. Hattenstone gives a brief overview of Kaurismäki’s filmography, but devotes a majority of the piece to capturing what kind of a man can give rise to bleakly comic looks at suicidal Scandinavians. While it’s impossible to get a sense of the director’s sincerity from a 1,700-word piece, if this conversation is indicative of how Kaurismäki has spent his adulthood (not to mention his decades-long filmmaking career), there’s always plenty more to be written about him.

What would he say defines the Finnish character? "Melancholy," he says instantly. Why does Finland have such a high suicide rate? "Lack of light. Light in every way. The sunshine. Now it is proven medically that people need vitamin D. It is always dark, and when it is dark, it is also dark in the mind." Does this worry him? He glugs back another glass. "I more or less know I will kill myself, but not yet." What would make him do it? "Misery." I am beginning to feel protective of him. You are too much of a romantic, I protest. "Yeah, yeah. So I don't shoot myself in my head, I shoot myself in my heart."

Would George Lucas approve of the Star Wars Machete Order?:

"Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back."

Now that the final feature-length Star Wars film has been released and in the public's consciousness for two-thirds of a decade (assuming "Phantom Menace" was the last one to be made, although one can never be too certain), the question now becomes this: What is the best way for the uninitiated to experience the "Star Wars" universe? A web developer named Rod Hilton devised what he called the Machete Order, beginning with the original releases, using only the second two prequels as a mid-trilogy flashback, then closing with “Return of the Jedi.” David Pallant, a writer for Den of Geek, adopted this method and absorbed the five films in this newly devised order. The resultant storytelling arc, in Pallant’s estimation, is a satisfying solution to the problem of origin story confusion and unnecessary Anakin baggage.

I decided to give it a go to see if the Machete Order could resuscitate this once great franchise for me. For five consecutive mornings I pulled shut the blinds, sat down on the sofa with my pet tortoise, Monty, and let the iconic titles roll. I must say to a large extent it has allowed me to overcome my differences with the saga, and appreciate the web of storytelling that George Lucas had spun throughout it. In fact, by the end of Episode VI, (the fifth and final film I watched), Return Of The Jedi, I was a firm believer that this was story that George Lucas had been trying to tell.

"Diner": An Oral History:

Thirty years after the film was first released, Baltimore Magazine’s Evan Serpick interviewed some of the key players behind the 1982 film "Diner." While this oral history isn’t comprehensive (Kevin Bacon, Paul Reiser and Steve Guttenberg are the only cast members featured), fans will find plenty to latch onto and those who haven’t seen the film get enough anecdotes to play along. Stories from writer/director Barry Levinson and executive producer Mark Johnson also add to the understanding of the film’s pre-production process, including casting and location scouting. The most fascinating item is Johnson’s tale of how then-New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael ended up helping make the film the success it ultimately became.

[Barry] Levinson
After we made it, they looked at it and had a heart attack. It wasn’t a coming-of-age movie like they thought it was.
I remember meeting with a studio executive after he saw the movie and he said, “You have a lot to learn about editing.” I said “I’m sure I do, give me an example.” He brought up the roast beef sandwich scene. “Well you’re going on and on with, ‘Are you gonna eat the sandwich, not eat the sandwich,’ just cut it and get on with the story.” I said, “Well, that is the story.”
It’s a way to talk about friendship. A lot of time you see movies and people are talking about, “How long have we been friends?” Friends don’t talk about being friends. From the nature of their conversation, you know they’re friends. That was the point. We talk about problems with girlfriends in abstract ways, we get off the point, we get into arguments that are not essential to what the argument is really about. We’re always messy. That, really was the point of "
Diner."

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