November 15, 2002|Of
the many opportunities afforded to me by my association with FILM FREAK
CENTRAL, the ones I treasure most are interviews with favourite
filmmakers. Guillermo Del Toro, Cory McAbee, John Sayles, and now David
Cronenberg--easily the most important Canadian auteur of the last
thirty years, and one of the most vivid and innovative voices in a
horror genre otherwise moribund since the early 1980s. Cronenberg's
films are obsessed with the twisting of the flesh by machineries and
ambition, sexual perversion and insectile disassociation, and the
blurring of lines between reality and the phantasms constructed by the
Icarean aspirations of its doomed protagonists.
January 6, 2002|Guillermo
Del Toro's films resonate with the weight of archetype: They find their
thorniness down among the insects, the religious martyrs, the sexually
infertile (including the aged and the very young), and the Stygian
underside of the fairytale. It might have something to do with the
gothic fact that the director read Frankenstein at
the age of nine and fell asleep on his mother's lap while watching Wuthering
Heights. The victim of a horrific Catholic upbringing that
at one point involved bottle caps in the shoes as a means to mortify
the flesh, it's clear that the well where many of Del Toro's demons
live is deep and Byzantine.
A conversation with the last of the Hitchcock Blondes
According to Donald Spoto's 1983 biography
The Dark Side of Genius, Alfred Hitchcock's tendency to become overly enamoured with
his blonde stars reached an ugly head with Tippi Hedren during the filming of Marnie.
Revisiting the book now, several years after first reading it and resisting some of the allegations therein, I see an author whose love for Hitchcock the auteur is at war with the unpleasant details of his subject's emotional life. As Ms. Hedren so delicately put it when
I had the pleasure of chatting with her the other night: "As a man, [Hitchcock] was
found wanting." Spoto's declaration that Marnie is a
result of sloth but also unusually personal and effective as art and even
memoir illustrates, I think, the schism at which most scholars of Hitchcock at some point
arrive. When I read The Dark Side of Genius as a college freshman, it
was a gateway to understanding better exactly what was going on in Notorious,
and exactly what Hitchcock's men are always playing out.
FILM FREAK CENTRAL takes a look at David Cronenberg's body of work--with a little help from the master himself
March 9, 2003 | Offered the opportunity to visit with David Cronenberg a second time recently, I sat down with the legendary director the morning after moderating a post-screening Q&A with him at Denver's Landmark Mayan Theater (where a sell-out crowd of over 450 was enthusiastically in attendance for a sneak of Spider) to discuss his work from student films Stereo and Crimes of the Future all the way through to what is arguably his best--certainly his most mature--film, the oft-delayed Spider. Dressed in casual cool as is the director's habit, Mr. Cronenberg exudes supreme confidence; gracious in the extreme and unfailingly polite, not given to displays of false modesty or overly interested in compliments, his speech is pleasant and carefully modulated--a sort of intellectual detachment that has marked even his earliest, "tax shelter" work. It seemed clear to me that Mr. Cronenberg was not generally accustomed to talking of his earlier work on the junket circuit. Speaking only for myself, it was a wonderful break from the usual stump.-Walter Chaw
HENRY ROLLINS: UNCUT FROM NYC(2006) *1/2 (out of four)
THE HENRY ROLLINS SHOW: SEASON ONE(2006) *** (out of four)
INTERVIEWING HENRY ROLLINS (2007) Priceless
July 22, 2007|Black Flag was the first hardcore punk band in the United States, spearheading a mad Southern California scene that belched forth this idea that James Taylor was not the voice of a generation in much the same way that the cinema of the '60s rejected that of the '50s. Marked by violence and speed, the band--the brainchild of guitarist Greg Ginn--went through multiple rosters before Henry Rollins, a 20-year-old fan living his dream as a roadie for the band, replaced Dez Cadena (who lost his voice and ambition to front the group at the end of the summer of 1981) as its lead singer. Instantly the spokesman for the group, the heavily-tattooed Rollins, muscular to the point of looking like a bullet with eyes and known for performing shirtless in black shorts (as well as getting into fistfights with audience members), also demonstrated a great deal of verbal agility and improvisational ability. A tireless, stubborn autodidact, he was quick on his feet, and final shows saw the band jumping into jazz-like improvisational bursts with Rollins shouting things as they came to his mind. Think about it for a minute and it has the potential to be retarded; but Rollins, for everything he is and isn't, has an amazingly nimble mind and a pit of outrage that seems bottomless.
Riding a mental rollercoaster with one of our heroes.
October 26, 2008 | I meet Charlie Kaufman in a dark little passage beneath Denver's Hotel Monaco, both of us surveying a spread of cold-cuts and a nice salad of greens and gorgonzola on the final day of a gruelling month-long junket in support of Kaufman's new film and hyphenate debut, Synecdoche, New York. His first interview of the day following a late-night, (packed) post-screening Q&A at the University of Colorado, I confided in Kaufman that I'd been vying for a chance to speak with him for over four years now after being thwarted at a junket for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind--an experience I documented in an essay that developed a fun second life, probably got one of my local publicists fired, and doomed me to never getting offered another junket again. Mr. Kaufman asked me what it was like. I said it was like being a bug buoyed on the back of an ant colony and finally expelled not for smelling bad, but for smelling bad in the wrong way. We'd come back to this a few minutes later.
May 9, 2000 |A good editor is a Jack of all disciplines: part musician, part magician, part physician, part mathematician, this man or woman must also have a sheer love of the craft, for his or her contribution to a film is destined to be only subliminally appreciated by the masses. How do all of these admirable and diverse traits combine to produce a cohesive motion picture?
March 16, 2012 | The Massey Lectures are as much a Canadian institution as the RCMP, so it's fitting that I spotted honorary Mountie Paul Gross in the audience of Margaret Atwood's closing talk back in 2008. Landing at the anxious first crest of the financial crisis, Atwood's lectures, collected and published as the best-selling Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, were regarded as the latest in the internationally-renowned author's string of prophesies come true. (The Handmaid's Tale's dystopian vision of an American theocracy that reduces women to reproductive concubines might now be mistaken for Rick Santorum's four-year prospectus.) Yet Atwood wastes no time in announcing that debt is not in vogue so much as hardwired into human patterns of thinking. Nor does she offer financial advice, playfully following her interest in score-keeping wherever it takes her, whether to the Victorian novel, where a parent's balance sheet can make or break a marriage, or to how we think about the penance in penitentiaries.
The makers of Shaun of the Dead on building a better zombie movie
September 26, 2002 | I met up with Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright, the creative team behind the Britcom "Spaced" and now the brilliant zombie rom-com Shaun of the Dead, right before I was scheduled to host a Q&A after a free screening of the film (comprised mainly of Romero fanatics and genre geeks) at Denver's Pavilions Theater. As the movie unspooled, the four of us retired to a Planet Hollywood where they were playing, of all things, an old, unknown FIXX song from the '80s. There was something pleasantly right about that, chatting with these blokes--who had made a half-assed record collection in Shaun of the Dead into an arsenal to irritate the legions of the shambling undead--as the detritus of our glossiest, Teflon age pounded the corners of one of the most soulless prefab eateries in the world.