Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I'm afraid I skimped yesterday so here's your weekly update a day late.

The recompilation of materials for Conversations with T.F. Mou is coming together nicely. Scanning some pictures of the Chiangs today from some library books to use in the early scenes about Taiwan. Most of the movie files have been recreated, will do more today. The interview footage is all recaptured. I'm editing the narration and doing a slug track using my voice to use in the rough cut.

The film may be more than 70 minutes long like originally planned. I did a rough estimate of runtime keeping everything within a certain, more liberal cap and got 85 minutes. But I'll probably do a fair share of tightening to the final cut.And here is a rare still from Mou's unreleased by IVL Shaw Brothers crime epc Bank Busters. I regret that I can't use any footage from it as Mou says it's easily his favorite of his Shaw Brothers works. Of his Shaw work, only this film and Lost Souls would he speak much of.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Well, as of today I've begun recompiling the film's materials, right now I'm recapturing all the footage.

The hard drive is completely deadsville. I haven't even gotten it back yet.

Should be a few weeks until it's back to where it was. Luckily I have the first eight minutes on my laptop's native hard drive to sort of "reconstruct" from.

I have also gotten a membership at the Boston Public Library. Been scouring their materials, books and archives for useable T.F. Mou stuff. Gotten some Nanking material and scathing reviews of Lost Souls and Men Behind the Sun from Variety. Both reviews, though by different reviewers, accuse the films of the exact same thing: using historical tragedy as an excuse for exploitation. For your weekly gift, nothing last week as I was very busy, here comes a tid bit of a reprinted article written in the 1970s from Jay Leyda's Dianying about Mou's early work in Taiwan. The whole thing will be in the film.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

As my hard drive was having (most likely useless) repair attempted upon it, I've been hard at work on polishing up some scripts. Alison in Wonderland was revised a bit yet again and The Witch's Castle is undergoing revisions. As I read and revise it, I'm thinking more about how I'm gonna do it visually and I'll probably shoot select scenes in Super 16mm (the one's that need a more "organic" and gritty look) and the rest on the Red. Alison, like Little Red Riding Hood, will be in "simulated" 2.35:1 scope, and Witch's Castle will be 1.85:1.

Also doing Coup D'Etat and Horror Colony as screenplays right now, pretty happy with what I'm doing with those right now. Coup D'Etat is a much more meaningful story now, in the old days, it was a total Quentin Tarantino ripoff script (the most cloyingly awful kind of script) but now, while still having some of the same elements and such, has more meaning and drive. There are still some fetishistic in-jokes, like itching powder getting rubbed on sex toys and an awful street called Police Street lined entirely with whorehouses, drugs and other urban chaos, but it all exists to serve and spice up the plot. Nothing is truly gratuitous if it serves a purpose on your work. The main character, Ellen, now has an angry drive as her father was a left-wing anarchist who tried to blow up Congress. She resents her father for uprooting her life through his rash actions but also idolizes him and follows in his footsteps. The script is heavily critical of Bush Administration-era America. I will never let anyone forget how far America fell. The ending is one thing I've never really talked about much, but it's going to look like a mixture between Battle Royale, The Wild Bunch. If... with Malcolm McDowell, the DePalma/Stone/Pacino Scarface and Michael Mann's Heat with Ellen and her newly anarchistic schoolmates fighting the swat team in a blazing gun battle.

Horror Colony is another kettle of rotting fish all together. The original concept I conceived of was a very anarchic, fantasy-based Little Red Riding Hood/Troma film kind of trashfest with an incredibly racist depicting of the Native Americans, zero historical relevance and very low production values. I wanted to do it as a feature film with the Ryan and Neil crowd helping out but I then mentally abandoned the idea for a time. Recently, however, I saw the PBS miniseries We Shall Remain which very vividly depicts the true story of King Phillip's War, the terrible conflict that broke out between the English colonists and the Wampanoag Indians in the 1670s. I suddenly realized that if anything, Horror Colony would work better done with decent production values. So, in perhaps an idea simultaneously more and less controversial, I have mixed the idea of flesh eating zombies rising from the dead in Plymouth Colony with the real history of King Phillip's War and some of the real life people like Governor Josiah Winslow and Chief Metacomet (King Phillip). There's still some the anarchic humor (like a scene where a zombie, actually called a ghoul here, is killed by being beaten to death with a chamber pot) but the whole script is a strange but fulfilling mixture of horror, history and myth, like a mixture between Werner Herzog's Heart of Glass, Peter Jackson's Dead Alive and a Hammer flick. It's an effect like Tarantino's vision of World War II in Inglorious Basterds.

I am also, for bigger news considering filming a sequence from Alison in Wonderland as sort of a "screen test" to show investors (and put on YouTube to stir enthusiasm). This sequence, in all likelihood the Mad Hatter scene, will be shot sometime next spring and probably released to YouTube as a standalone short entitled A Mad Tea Party. It will be altered slightly so it can work as a standalone short film and will be refilmed with higher production values in the principal photography. It's looking unlikely at this point that the full movie will be funded and shot by the end of next summer, probably will not be happening until summer of 2011, with all honesty. It's a huge undertaking and will need more time to get together, especially with just myself as the real driving force, but at least we'll have Conversations with T.F. Mou for 2010.

I also turn 23 tomorrow. 23 years of joy, love, hate, despair, madness, etc. I finally feel like more or less an adult, as I now live completely on my own and am working on my first feature film and all. It's been a strange ride there, though.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Some awful news and some better news for this week's update.

The awful news is that the hard drive which I was editing Conversations with T.F. Mou on and also contained all the materials for my Two Shorts Films DVD project is gonzo. Yes, it just died almost spontaneously. The last three weeks of work on the cut, along with a great many things are now gone if I can't get it all retrieved today.

The better news is that, in the long winded scheme of things this changes little to nothing. All the materials are on other computers and/or physical form and just need to be recompiled. The interview's still on tape, the DVDs can all be reconverted and the picture materials were saved on my other computer as well, etc. So I'll just have to start again. Thankfully, as well, I transferred all of my stuff for the Two Short Films to my desktop to be encoded to MPEG-2 form, so that's all still intact.

Honestly, I was going to postpone the film anyways as it was taking longer than I thought it would, but Conversations with T.F. Mou will not be hitting DVD until March of 2010 instead. There will still be a second pressing of Two Short Films by J.L. Carrozza by Christmas, however. I'm going to do a slight redesign of the cover, add a few special features (including an Easter egg, probably the infamous Kojiro Abe-era Agony and the Ecstasy of the Puppets trailer) and of course create menus in the motif of the footage in the promo and on the current disc of the spooling 8mm film reels.

For our picture gift this week, here's a photo from the Nanking Massacre. If I didn't know it was from a historical atrocity I'd say it could be a rather hauntingly beautiful image, which, objectively, it kind of is. The cross-shaped telephone in the center-right of the image, looking like a crucifix, combined with the bodies littered around it, gives this image a Grunwald-like, plains of Golgotha look. It really looks like a vintage painting of tragedy. Someday people will think of World War II like how we view the Crusades, Black Death and Inquisition today.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Been doodling a bit, making some illustrations I'm gonna throw up on my website today, here are some visions of future films I'd like to make.
A fetishistic mental image I have for Horror Colony, my planned balls-to-wall zombie period epic. A young female denizen of Plymouth Colony in the midst of a zombie attack.
Ellen, the protagonist of Coup D'Etat, rebelling hardcore against her Christian school's establishment.A strong mental image I have for the Godzilla film I'd like to do, Godzilla: Retribution. Godzilla triumphantly roars into the smoky night sky as Tokyo burns in his wake. Very 9/11, you know.My personal vision for Roald Dahl's The BFG. I don't know why nobody's ever done this as a live action film. Dahl is hard to adapt, since his ghoulishness, wittiness and childishness, like Dickens meets the Brothers Grimm, is difficult to translate to screen. I have plans to do my film a fair share more seriously than the book. My approach will be like Spike Jonez' upcoming Where the Wild Things Are.
Two of favorite images of Neon Genesis Evangelion, pilot Asuka Langley and what the Eva units look like stripped of their armour. I like the concept that under the Megazord-like armor lies a living creature that looks like a fearsome demon straight from the deepest pits of hell.

Doing some revisions for Alison in Wonderland and will have another T.F. Mou update next Tuesday, until then, adios.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

This week's update on Conversations with T.F. Mou goes like this:

Been cutting, hard. About eight minutes into the edit, no idea how long it will be. The final cut, however, will NOT exceed 70 minutes. What I may do is have a lot of deleted/extended scenes on DVD as a special feature since some cool tidbits may have to be omitted for time constraints. Speaking of special features, I may very well put The Magic Forest on the DVD as a special feature but dubbed into Japanese under the title Maho no Mori. I actually think the movie would play far better in Japanese, it would almost seem like a Miyazaki film on some bad PCP. Rush's Tom Sawyer, even if that song embodies drug use to me (I used to listen to it while high, honestly, that's how it got into the film), will also, of course, be deleted since Geddy Lee didn't see any royalty check at any time. It will be probably be an Easter egg, actually and could go on the second pressing of Two Shorts Films instead. I want to put an Easter egg on the new menus of the next pressing of that disc.

As far as more specifics on the progress, been digging up archive footage on archive.org like crazy particularly regarding Taiwan (or Formosa as it was called) in the early days.

As for our present today, here we have a picture from one of T.F. Mou's Men Behind the Sun photo albums. He had five and I only borrowed two, he had pictures showing how he did the autospy scene that I really wish I had borrowed too (he dissected a sedated live pig for the shots of the kid's heart being removed).

One of the more harrowing scenes in the film, the frostbite scene, was done not with prosthetics but with real cadaver arms. That scene has always creeped the fuck out of me. Sometimes plays in my "mind's eye" while I try go to sleep on bad nights. The camerawork is very subtle, the woman's facial expressions are so anguished and the depiction is so cold and matter of fact it has a visceral power simply through its visuals almost ala a silent director like Eisenstein or Murnau. I have pictures of the two female stage hands wrangling the mutilated corpse arms but you're going to have to wait until the actual movie comes out to see those. The frostbite victim was played by Mou's own niece because he had trouble finding a girl who would do a scene like that.
Here she is being put into makeup before she is filmed cinematically no hands at the hands of the 731 staff.