Sunday, September 26, 2010

A couple new things.

First, here's an interview with me on Black Sunshine: Conversations with T.F. Mou by Brian Bankston of the nice cult film blog Cool Ass Cinema. It's very long and I talk about a lot of things, from my beginnings with Little Red Riding Hood and Dream House to my personal relationship with T.F. Mou and the trials and to some degree suffering that was making Black Sunshine. I reveal a lot of backstory from Dave Luce's antics to Mou's films and his influence on Hong Kong cinema.

Here's a music video I directed that shows off the film's finale which gets a little bit Koyaanisqatsi. I wanted that Bach piece in the movie for the end where Mou and I get more philosophical and down to Earth. The final message of the movie is a little like the "just tend the garden" revelation in Voltaire's Candide. You know, in spite of all the horrors in the world, all you can really do and ultimately the most effective method of fighting it is just to enjoy the gift of life. Pei-yei Tsai is a pianist friend of mine from Taiwan who I know through my uncle and I called upon her when I wanted an original recording of Jesus Bleibet Meine Freude.

The whole Instrumentality sequence in End of Evangelion was also an influence which you can see here I think. The music video was shot in the upstairs piano room at Boston University and the moving shots where done with an office chair and skateboard. Also, the tranquil city footage is from a variety of sources. Some it was shot early in 2010 when I was living in Cambridge for Black Sunshine. There's a little bit of footage I shot for Life in a Day as well and a good half of it is from the stock footage I shot for the old Alice in Wonderland back in 2008. I went around Boston and got around 45 minutes of shots of all over the city intended for a big, bombastic opening credit sequence. When the project blew up in my face I was left with a tape filled with stock footage of the city. I used a fair share of it in Black Sunshine.

The YouTube clips of Black Sunshine should be up in a week or two. Also, the script for 'Would You Like To Take a Survey?' is done. I'm happy with it, it's twisted, amusing stuff I think. The normal method of parodying something is to take something serious and make it light and airy. This takes a light and airy running joke on Animaniacs and turns it into a heavy, suspenseful slasher film like scenario which in of itself is the joke.

I'm not gonna talk about it too much. I want it to be a surprise, but it's personal in its own way and involves a girl in the city being stalked by a grotesquely dressed, ghoul-like businessman with a high pitched braying voice (picture J. Gordon Levitt, Herk Harvey in Carnival of Souls and Spongebob Squarepants all rolled together) who really, really wants a her to take his survey and just won't take no for an answer. Nor will he take "Get the fuck away from me", "I'm calling the police" or a pepper-spraying to the eyes.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Myself introducing Black Sunshine: Conversations with T.F. Mou. I had this taped and it will precede the movie on DVD.
So the premiere was a smashing success. The film was well received by all, including T.F. Mou himself. I finished T.F. Mou's sketch and presented it to him in a nice frame and also gave him a poster. Before the showing and furiously rushing back to get everything in order, I had dinner with T.F. and his wife Linda. One confusion on the subject on Man Behind the Sun has been the title. It's mostly called Men Behind the Sun on video and DVD and by fans in the West, though the English title card under the Chinese Hei Tai Yang Qisanyi (Black Sun 731) has always said Man Behind the Sun. I always assumed it was an "Engrish" faux pas which so common with English stuff in Chinese and Japanese media. Linda, who is from the US and speaks perfect English, explained to me that the movie is supposed to be called Man Behind the Sun and that she came up with the title herself. It is Man instead of Men to give it a more "humanistic" sound, as atrocities like Unit 731 are hardly specific to the Japanese and are a travesty plaguing all of humanity.
T.F. Mou and I at the premiere.
I joked that Lost Souls feels almost like a prototype version of Man Behind the Sun in many ways. Both films have documentary openings and play it lighter for the first act before their really bad trips kick in, have a second act dominated by grotesque torture sequences and have more action based finales (the illegal immigrants escape the human traffickers and the Japanese retreat from 731). He said a lot of Lost Souls' more action and exploitation-based elements were the result of him trying to please Shaw Brothers. It seemed like Run Run Shaw was not bothered that much by the explicitness of that film. After all, he greenlit films like Kuei Chih Hung's Bamboo House of Dolls and The Killer Snakes on a regular basis, a flamboyant exploitation film can be sold, it was the film's political edge that annoyed him far more. Mou went to the same school as Sun Chung (Avenging Eagle, Sexy Killer, Human Skin Lanterns) and Kuei Chih Hung, I told him that I thought it was amusing that all three filmmakers went to the same film school in Taiwan and all had such a reputation for making violent movies. I talked about how I think Dr. Shiro Ishii was afflicted with sociopathy to which T.F. and Linda were less sure. Linda told me that she thinks George W. Bush is a war criminal to which I wholeheartedly agreed. I then added what I've thought for a while, that the Afghan and especially Iraq wars, instead of stop terrorism, have basically created 100 Osama Bin Ladens. Those boys who were maimed in the explosions, who lost their family members in the crossfire between the US soldiers and insurgents, etc, will grow up to be very angry young men and don't be surprised if you see them on the next planes that fly into which ever landmark they choose.
T.F. autographs a poster.
The premiere itself was fun, though I was pretty exhausted so couldn't enjoy it as much as I wanted. I brought the swords from Little Red Riding Hood along as grotesque ornaments to which T.F. Mou said "Are you planning on killing me in there?". I guess Chinese people are still freaked out by katanas for obvious reasons though ironically most of them are now made in China including the Kill Bill replicas I used in Red. I introduced the film at beginning, stressing how its mix of cult cinema, politics and history is very personal to my sensibility and how I see T.F. Mou as a misunderstood figure, something of the Asian Voltaire of his day. This dude Max from England showed up with a virtual storehouse of Man Behind the Sun memorabilia, all of which T.F. Mou autographed. I asked T.F. how accurate the film was to his life and experiences and he said there was almost no misinformation, it was about 99% accurate from what he could tell and contained tidbits he had even forgotten about, which made my night. He indeed secretely directed the porno flick Trilogy of Lust for Julie Lee, he was introduced to Lee, who once was the favorite whipping girl of Hong Kong's tabloids but hasn't been seen in years, by a mutual producer friend. I said I always knew he made it since it visually it looks a lot like Lost Souls and his friend probably was quick to think of him since it was Hong Kong's first hardcore pornographic film I believe and Mou had reputation for taboo trailblazing.

The venue, the screening room at the Coolidge Corner theater in Brookline, the film looked nice on their sizable screen.
I have been resting for the last week as I am still kind of exhausted. I really had to haul ass to finish the film in time. As I somewhat rushed the end of it to completion, the film has a few technical glitches I need to iron out but there will clips on YouTube and airtime on PACTV in a few weeks. I will begin work on the DVD and pre-production work for Alison soon. The special features will be unvieled by my next, forthcoming website update.

My next official project however will be a short film made this Winter or Spring entitled Would You Like to Take a Survey?. I am writing the script right now and it should be around 10-15 minutes long. It's based on a stupid running gag that nonetheless I have never forgotten in Animaniacs but done in that ironic serious tone and slasher flick style. Carnival of Souls will be another big influence and it will have my trademark sick sense of humor running through it hard. It's basically going to be made to warm me up for Alison and test out that film's planned infrastructure and shooting style. I've always been enthused by the concept of stylistically "mixing stocks" and I want to stylistically mix HD with a DSLR camera, HDV with a camcorder and DV together with Alison to keep costs down while making things more visceral and this short will be a perfect oppurtunity to test that out.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Black Sunshine: Conversations with T.F. Mou is complete in it's current version though it has a few minor problems left I'm going to touch up before it hits DVD. It is just under 96 minutes long, which is just over my 95 minute off the top of my head guess. Premiere is today, T.F. Mou is in town right now.

Art by Robert "Kung Fu Bob" O'Brien with design input from myself.