Saturday, March 12, 2011

Beginning this post on a somber and serious note, I am really quite disturbed with what is going on in Japan. It really was kind of inevitable, they've been predicting another big earthquake on the scale of the 1923 Kanto quake for 30 years now. It looks just like a Toho film, except it's real. The chilling footage looks right out of Shinji Higuchi's Sinking of Japan. The whole nuclear power plant business was hauntingly predicated by Tetsuro Tamba's Dr. Nishiyama in a sequence in Prophecies of Nostradamus and the city of Sendai, which is thrashed by Legion in Gamera 2, was hit hardest it seems. It was pretty haunting to see the same airfield that Gamera and Legion duked it out on awash in tsunami waves. Thankfully, unlike in Deathquake/Magnitude 7.9, Tokyo was quite well prepared and the damage to the city and loss of life in general has been surprisingly minimal. Yet it is quite disheartening to see this country whose artists and culture has given me so much inspiration over the years (I sometimes jokingly call myself "Japanese trained" as a filmmaker) in Katrina-like shambles, with millions without power and food starting to dwindle until the rescue parties reach everybody. My prayers are with the people of Japan and I will be donating when I can. It's gotten to the point where I'm just so sick of all the world's violence and chaos I've just been meditating and praying for peace every single night. Here's a good fundraiser via the Japan Society of New York.

As far as business goes, preparations for Alison in Wonderland have continued as usual for the last few days. I'm kind of exhausted and haven't slept much keeping up with the Japan earthquake, but I've been trying to distract myself with work and a little alcohol. Undertaking the slow and tedious but very necessary process of making a shooting script and shot list for it and also building a new piked head as well as mounting the existing ones so they can stand up right. Four months till it shoots, it's getting down to the wire now.

I also have just finished work on a new draft of The Witch's Castle, my gritty crime drama pet project based on the Shanda Sharer murder, that runs about 118 pages. I'm pretty happy with it though I have my uncertainties about it as well. I worry it may not be cohesive enough in its current form but it is certainly the best version yet. I hope to get if off the ground the moment Alison in Wonderland is lock stock and barrel. This new script has more exposition and focuses on why it happened as opposed to just how. It's more of a drama now, a character study on those with dysfunctional lives. The influences that I've tapped are many from trashy stuff like John Waters and Harmony Korine's Gummo (a movie I really like) to gritty horror movies like DePalma's work, Last House on the Left, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and I Spit on Your Grave to Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures and The Lovely Bones to Stanley Kubrick and the documentary quality of Kinji Fukasaku's yakuza movies to that nice slice of life Americana quality the old educational shorts have. I tried to stay pretty true to the crime itself while also maintaining my own sensibility and interpretation. I want to film it in a style sort of like "American neorealism", there will some long takes in the film, the tone will be starker, there will be my first split-screen sequence since Little Red Riding Hood and the musical score will be more minimalistic with a heavy use of ambient noise and sampled and distorted public domain library music. The color scheme of the cinematography will be muted and muddy, I have considered shooting the movie in black and white in fact. I'll probably film most of it in New England, but I'd love to shoot a few scenes actually in Madison, Indiana, where it all happened, especially at the real Witches Castle, but I wonder if I'll be allowed to?

I have taken some liberties with the story like I've said. The names have all been changed so to avoid litigation (Toni Lawrence and Hope Rippey are both of out prison and it won't be too long before Loveless and Tackett are out too), I have tried to really delve into the psychology of the Melinda Loveless and Laurie Tackett characters (called Christina McKinney and Lauren Hardt here) and probe their unbalanced minds like Peter Jackson did with the young murderesses in Heavenly Creatures. Christina McKinney is a character a lot like Clockwork Orange's Alex. She's an utterly despicable sociopath, but she is bizarrely likable, you can see how seductive she is and she has her reasons for being the way she is. Lauren Hardt is obsessed with the macabre, very emotionally disturbed and desperate to rebel against her domineering, fundamentalist Christian mother who is losing her control over her and her part in Sharon's murder is really just an unleashing of years of pent up rage. In one of the biggest and more controversial changes, I have chosen to combine Hope Rippey and Toni Lawrence into one character, Karen Shepherd, though a lot of the old Hope Rippey character's actions have been given to Christina. In real life, Toni Lawrence was date raped about a year before Shanda's murder and I think had that not happened she wouldn't have been there. For Karen, that is fleshed out considerably. She is a prime example of the pack mentality and how, when the chips are down and people are at their worst, "the best", as W.B. Yeats would say, "lack all conviction". Sort of like how Kinji Fukasaku treated the yakuza thugs in his movies, I have an odd degree of sympathy for the murderers of Shanda Sharer which is kind of manifest here. They all had their own unchanneled rage at the world and sadly it was allowed to grow until a poor young girl had to bear the brunt of it. I have written the script fairly objectively and tried to show it from all sides. The Shanda Sharer character, called Sharon Summer here, has been given more of an emphasis and her dysfunctional family life is given some airtime to give it all more of a tragic air. The story of The Witch's Castle is about the tragic side of human existence. I think people will like Alison in Wonderland, not so sure how this one will go over.

I considered working on Coup D'Etat and Horror Colony as well, but I'll save those for when Alison is in post-production. All my time and resources need to go toward that if I want it in the can by fall.


venoms5 said...

I watched THE LAST WAR (1961) again and some scenes in that one echo the terrible situation over their.

J.L. Carrozza said...

Yeah I know. Been thinking about Toho disaster movies a lot in the last few days. It's been chilling. Those oil refinery explosions in Chiba look like the work of any Teruyoshi Nakano FX directed movie (he managed to put a scene like that either via stock footage or not in almost every FX picture he worked on) but are real. Have you seen PROPHECIES OF NOSTRADAMUS? That's a good one. I like it and DEATHQUAKE better than SUBMERSION OF JAPAN. There's a scene where Tetsuro Tamba goes on and on about how Japan is foolish to build nuclear reactors with all the earthquake prone areas and volcanoes. They should have listened to old Nishiyama-san, goddamn it.

And I think Mito, Kinji Fukasaku's hometown, was trashed pretty badly as well.

venoms5 said...

Yeah, I've got the full 2 1/2 hour version subtitled. A buddy of mine has a few different versions of it. Not sure if he's going to "release" it or not. He gave me a copy on divix, which I haven't watched yet. I've wanted to watch it for years and avoided the cut to shreds US version. I've had a terribly chaotic last few days and am only just now getting my shit together to type or watch anything. THE FINAL WAR, the B/W film from 1960 (I think it was) is one I'd like to see considering it's rarity.

J.L. Carrozza said...

FINAL WAR is a toughie. Apparently its footage was mined for INVASION OF THE NEPTUNE MEN (almost certain myself, since both films are B&W and the Japanese studios had their stock footage habit). It was considered a lost film but isn't thankfully, Toei does have it in their archives. It has been aired on Japanese TV multiple times so maybe a copy will pop up in the grey market ala HALF HUMAN and NOSTRADAMUS.

Here's hoping the earthquake did minimal to no damage to Japan's film history. The reason so few prewar Japanese films exist is because the Kanto quake, US firebombings and Japanese army's "win the war at all cost" mentality (they had a lot of film cans and prints melted down for the metal in them) pretty much destroyed almost everything. We'd have KING KONG IN EDO on DVD probably.

I think you'll like NOSTRADAMUS. It was written and apparently largely co-directed by Yoshimitsu Banno (SMOG MONSTER) so it's just brimming with apocalyptic, environmentalist insanity.

venoms5 said...

I'm actually interested in seeing Tsuburaya's propaganda war pictures that is if they still exist. It's amazing how realistic the effects are in those movies. I think he even did the effects in the Sinatra war picture, NONE BUT THE BRAVE(?)I think was the name. I guess if the government is funding your movie, it better look as real as possible.

J.L. Carrozza said...

Toho has released a lot of those on DVD, albeit unsubtitled so rough sledding. THE BATTLE OF PEARL HARBOR AND MALAY COAST which apparently General MacArthur seized and Frank Capra used in his documentaries is on DVD. The attack scene is on YouTube. It's very impressive indeed.

Tsuburaya's FX style in general was better complimented by black and white. Once he switched to color the seams became more visible, I think. His work on war films, actually, was really his strongest ebb and what he was allegedly most proud of. Most of the post-war ones are out on DVD in Japan.

Speaking of Toho war movies, have you seen Kihachi Okamoto's BATTLE OF OKINAWA? I freakin' love that movie. It's like the Nihon CROSS OF IRON, a total militaristic bloodbath. Clint Eastwood had to have seen it before he did LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA.

venoms5 said...

My friend subbed some of those for Paul Allen I believe. I recall there were some of the war pictures. I could ask if he still has the masters for them.