You can feel it here too… Fall is definitely in the air. NYC has cooled down. there’s a breeze in the air… cooler weather. Briskness. I like it. My fav time to be here. But it’s getting dark. Hated. By 7:24 it was dark. I was like “What?” Looked outside. Couldn’t believe it. I remember this summer working on the album with the guys, being able to go take a walk at 7 and still be seeing sunshine… I wish it could be like that all the time.
Shot music videos all day today. We’re making a series of them, aiming for one per song or more for every song on the album. Working with a bunch of different film directors and artists. This batch is with The Swan. La Princesa’s older brother, from the old days down in Miami. He’s moved up to New York recently. So that’s cool. It’s good to make that connection again. It’s a damn long life if you’re lucky. That’s one thing you learn slowly as you get older. But it’s a small world. No matter how big we think it is, because of the cosmic collective consciousness that ties us all together, invisible to the naked eye these hair thin strings, innumerable in number, connecting us all to everybody else. If you’ve met someone there’s a reason for it. Chances are you’ll meet again. Or not. I’m not one for digging for meaning. But I don’t see The Swan for eight years and out of the blue he reconnects with me through an ad we placed on Facebook and he just happens to live ten blocks from me here in New York now. La Princesa’s brother. Crazy.
Current Screening: DAYS OF HEAVEN. Another Terrence Malick film, his second one. From 1979. I’m watching them all because I liked TREE OF LIFE so much. Out of all the incredibly creative and enjoyable movies that 2011 presented, I believe that one touched me the most, as an artist. There was something about it that seemed a few steps above all the others. As if whoever made it lived a slightly higher plane than the rest of us. If I ever made a movie, I would make it like that, I kept saying as we watched it. Though Princess Little Tree got a little bored with the long shots of sunlight shining through leaves on trees or the slow motion shots of shadows and silhouettes, she too understood that what we were witnessing was something above and beyond a typical Hollywood movie.
A lot of people fidgeted and fussed about the “creation” scene. Ten minutes out of nowhere of God only knows what, featuring everything from the formation of planets to dinosaurs grazing in wetlands, and here we were supposedly watching a film about farm hicks in the early nineteen-fifties. A coming of age story. But you see, for me it was just the opposite. I mean, (she hates when I do it but God bless her, like Madelyn before her and still, she tolerates it, encourages it even) I had to stop the movie after that scene. I can’t say why people didn’t get it, or didn’t enjoy it, didn’t understand what the artist was trying to say by inserting that scene there… But for me it was as obvious a statement as anything we saw in the picture. And now that I’ve seen a few of his other works, I get it even more. I mean, take it as one of the many aspects of world experiences that split us human beings up right smack down the middle into two unequal halves. Those that got it and loved it and those that didn’t. Princee understood the “artistic nature” of the piece, but didn’t feel it was necessary or appropriate. I thought it was perfectly appropriate and regarding it being necessary or not, I’ve never looked at art in that way, through that lens of whether something is necessary or not. It’s art. It’s all unnecessary, so…
I spoke with a film director yesterday about it while on set for one of the music videos we are shooting this week and he felt the same way. But he already told me he “doesn’t like artsy fartsy stuff as he calls it. Don’t ask me why he’s working with me. And vice versa. God help us. (he referenced the graphical hyper-space scenes at the end of 2001 SPACE ODYSSEY as also boring and annoying him; and again, for me personally that’s one of the primary (and perhaps very few) reasons to watch that film.) I tried to explain to this guy that the moment that Malick introduced that scene in the movie I had to stop the move for a few minutes just to rave about it; like a child, wide eyed and mouth open… Just blown away, to tears, amazed, ravenous with admiration and envy both and everything in between. Finally. Someone reached beyond the norm and said fuck it — but did that withOUT going too far into that netherworld of what we are presently calling “independent film” which at this phase in our recorded history is way over done and sophomoric most of the time.
They overdo it for the sake of overdoing it because it’s “indie” (yes like with indie music too) so it’s all so predictable and cheesy. But Malick still managed to pull it back in and keep it within the construct of a mainstream film by the time you were finished watching it, unlike with indie films where you walk out feeling like you just got whacked over the head with the director’s intense desire to “do something that would shock people”. That shit makes me want to stab them in the chest or at the very least slap in the face with a fish. Im not sure where you are now, reading this, in time. But where we are now, the whole world has gone crazy for indie and it’s maddening if you’re artistic in any way because so much of it is shit.
See, indie just means you don’t have the backing of a major player in the industry. Which means, theoretically, that you can do whatever you want to… with your film, your music, your new book, with whatever. And in theory that poses great possibilities for us all, as it presents the possibility of something coming out of nowhere that busts the door off of conventional thinking and really innovating. But 99% of the time it means a shite film that’s boring as hell or reads like your little brother and his freinds wrote it for extra credit for school. With music, indie just means that it sounds like everyone else who call themselves indie. It’s completely lost it’s meaning. Ever since the major record labels hijacked the term with the introduction of the major label band The Strokes as an “indie rock” band, indie rock has just meant “sounds like a spin off of The Strokes or some other band who spun off them a few years later. It’s lost it’s original meaning. Half the bands that are classified as indie are on major labels, so that ain’t indie. They just want to be called indie because they think it gives them street cred. The other half the bands that call themselves indie really are, meaning that they aren’t on a real record label. They’re independent. But nine times out of ten there’s a reason for that. They’re just not that good.
The same has been applying to film lately. Last few years. We are currently being bombarded with independent film. I’m not sure if people like it, or if the people who make it just find ways of raising enough money to produce all these movies and buy distribution for their films and therefore we just happen to see a shitload of them all over the place now in our world, but either way, most of it should never see the light of day.
But not so with Terrence Malick. He’s got this independent spirit, like Woody Allen, but still manages to keep it big-studio great. Similar to what Lars Von Trier and even Scorsese have been doing. (Lars deserves his own set of thoughts in another entry at some point… ANTICHRIST being one of the most beautiful, breath taking and disturbing movies of all time. MELANCHOLIA not so much, and yet still worthy of attention. Just not great.) But Malick, he hits the ball out of the park every time. Still don’t understand why the members of the Academy gave the Best Picture Oscar to THE ARTIST, a rather forgettable film, compared to TREE.
Last night I watched THE THIN RED LINE. His 1999 magnum opus WWII. As usual it was as slow as it was beautiful. DAYS looks like it’s going to be the same. I like collecting film directors… like how we collect musicians we really enjoy. Or painters or authors. You get it under your belt. The thing I can’t quite come to terms with with Malick is how long he takes in between films. Does he lead a double life? What’s with the ten to twenty years in between movies?
Prologue: DAYS OF HEAVEN is masterful. In fact, just like last night, where I stayed up till 4am watching THIN RED LINE, here it is 3am and I have stopped the film several times in order to write about it. Good art does that. At least it should. It does and if it doesn’t then it just isn’t as good as it could be. More later, but be it said that great art, brilliant art, no matter what the medium, looks and feels like Terrence Malicks’s DAYS OF HEAVEN. It goes places in a few seconds that most films don’t go in two hours. The cinematography is as important as the plot and the acting. He paints, like all great singer/songwriters create albums that are more like movies, all great filmmakers create movies that more like paintings.