Friday, June 06, 2008

FRIDAY SCREEN TEST: David Hudson

If you've ever spent any time at GreenCine Daily, then you know the name is misleading: it should be titled GreenCine 24/7 or GreenCine Perpetua if you want to sound smarter. The site, "joined at the hip" with GreenCine, is a constantly-updated snapshot of the movie world and the words that describe it. The ringleader is Berlin-based David Hudson, who keeps a hundred fingers on the pulse of the net's film circles and reports his findings back to GreenCine Daily. Thanks to David, every day you have an endless gateway to film information and writings, and you never doubt that he's leading you in the right direction.

EARLIEST MOVIE-WATCHING MEMORY: 'I'm guessing it'd be Mary Poppins. I don't know if I saw it during its initial run (I would have been five years old when it was released in August 1964), but I do remember that it was an event. I had some sort of tiny plastic model of Mary Poppins, umbrella aloft, that would rise and fall when you put it in a glass of water, thanks to some fizzy stuff in there. What I do remember is this: A teacher mentioned in class (kindergarten, maybe?; then again, movies would run forever back then) that the kids had to run up the stairs to the bank (or *down* the stairs *from* the bank?; hey, it's been decades) over and over again before they got it right. And it was a revelation to me, my first inkling of what it took to make a movie. They (whoever "they" were) don't just point a camera, shoot and move on. Evidently, this whole movie-making thing was hard work.'

LAST DVD YOU BOUGHT: 'Barry Lyndon. You know this strategy of sticking pick-me-ups by the cash register so that as shopaholics stand in line, they're tempted to buy on impulse? It works. There I was, in a bookstore, mind you, movies far from my mind, and there was Barry Lyndon, a Kubrick I didn't own yet, for a mere 6 euros. Snapped it up.'

IF YOU WERE A TCM GUEST PROGRAMMER, WHAT THREE MOVIES WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO BEST REPRESENT YOUR TASTES, OR A FAVORITE GENRE OR THEME: 'To really do this right, could I cheat a little? I'd prefer to go for either two or four movies rather than three. The idea would be to present a sampling of Fritz Lang in Germany and then an American Lang. If I could overstay my welcome and program four films, I'd love to present Metropolis and M; and then, The Woman in the Window and The Big Heat.'

FAVORITE GROSS-OUT MOMENT: 'The scene that immediately leaps to mind is clearly the one I need to tell you about, but it may take a little explaining. Not only because it isn't particularly gross but also because it had an impact in 1978 that it simply would not have now. What sets An Unmarried Woman in motion is the moment that Martin (Michael Murphy) breaks down and confesses to Erica (Jill Clayburgh), his wife, that he's having an affair. She is, in short, stunned. In a few moments, she's alone, leaning against a post, I believe - and vomits. So the friend I was with and I both very much liked the film - but he objected ferociously to Mazursky actually showing us the upchuck. I protested and we had an excellent argument. These days, though, characters barf at the drop of a hat - it's a screenwriter's crutch - so the *act* of vomiting as a physical expression of emotional upheaval no longer feels like a freshly revealed truth. And as for the sight of vomit itself; well, after Wild at Heart and Cronenberg's The Fly, not to mention Monty Python's Meaning of Life, An Unmarried Woman is pretty tame stuff - but still a minor landmark.'

WHAT MOVIE ARE YOU ASHAMED TO SAY YOU HAVEN'T SEEN, AND WHAT'S YOUR EXCUSE: 'There are dozens, if not hundreds. Seriously. I'll often meet people and realize that there's a misconception floating around among some Daily readers that I'm able (never mind willing) to see most if not all of the films that get mentioned on the blog. Or that, if GreenCine has the film in stock, I've seen it. No, the Daily and a few duties at the main site constitute more than a full-time job, so I'm not really at any more of an advantage, free time-wise, than anyone else. But my favorite aspect of this job is the learning. Reading, filtering, sorting and posting, I put not just wanna-see but must-see films on my mental to-get-around-to list every day. No exaggeration. Films I suddenly realize I *ought* to feel ashamed for not having seen yet. Thing is, though, I'm not so much ashamed as I am anxious - not enough hours in a day, days in a week, years in a life. High on my list right now would be *any* film by Pedro Costa. I haven't seen a single one yet.'

PICK ONE OF THE FOLLOWING FOUR MOVIES AND WRITE TWO SENTENCES ABOUT IT:
The Big Sleep -- 'The Big Sleep is the classic example of a film that flies in the face of the old adage that a terrifically entertaining, star-studded studio picture must have an airtight narrative. Or make any sense at all, really.'
The Big Red One
The Big Country
The Big Bus.

FAVORITE KIND OF MOVIE TO REVIEW: 'Premieres. I just enjoy the occasional opportunity to get word out early on a film, whether that word's positive or negative. Of course, it's not long before that early word is drowned out by louder, better positioned voices, but it's fun while it lasts.'

LAST TIME YOU WERE AT A DRIVE-IN, WHAT DID YOU SEE: 'It'd be well over 30 years, the whole family piled into the car for a double feature: Patton and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. My sister, who would have been pretty young, drifted off to sleep at some point during Patton; my father joined her not long into Butch Cassidy. But my mom and I had a blast, giggling away at every "Who *are* those guys?"'

FILM ERA OR GENRE YOU'RE A LITTLE OBSESSED WITH: 'Well, yes. I've had a thing for early to mid-20th century Modernism pretty much my whole life. When I was an English major, that was my area of emphasis; art, architecture, you name it, that's the period I'm drawn to. So even though it was Fassbinder and Herzog that got me interested in Germany in the first place, it wasn't long before I was tracking down German Expressionist films to see and books about them to read.'

LAST TIME YOU VEHEMENTLY DISAGREED WITH SOMEONE OVER FILM: 'Minus the vehemence, it happens all the time. I'm trying to think... I don't know, maybe I'm too damn civil. The only thing that comes to mind at the moment is the disappointment I felt when a friend whose opinions I regard highly mentioned that he was no fan of Rohmer. He didn't change my mind and I certainly wasn't angry - just a little saddened, I guess, to learn that this is one area of cinephilia we aren't going to be sharing.'

FAVORITE BOOK ON THE SUBJECT OF FILM: 'There are too many to choose from, but one I enjoy dipping into again and again is Geoffrey O'Brien's The Phantom Empire.'

DESCRIBE THE FREQUENCY OF YOUR FILM INTAKE: 'Very eclectic. Moviegoing happens in spurts for me. I don't plan it that way. Seems I'll be caught up in work and at some point realize that there's a whole batch of films about to leave town, and if I'm going to catch them, I'll have to catch them all at once. So I'll see a film a night for several nights in a row; and that might be it for another week or two or even more. DVDs are another story, but there's no pattern there, either. A lot of it simply has to do with the seasonal cycle of news to be followed; during Cannes, for example, when I'm trying to follow coverage of so many films at once while keeping up with the usual flow of news, I probably won't be seeing any movies myself - just pointing to people who are watching several a day. Same goes for the end of the year (all those lists to track!); but then, comes the Berlinale, and it's my turn to binge.'

THREE THINGS YOU'VE LEARNED FROM WATCHING MOVIES: 'I'm going to have to be a little cryptic - well, no, actually very cryptic - about the biggest instance in my own life of learning something from a movie. I walked into the film in a state of torment, not even realizing that what was tearing me up was the need to make a decision. When I walked out, I realized that I was facing a choice that hadn't been clear to me before. And I knew damn well which way I'd have to decide. And, sorry, but I'll have to leave it at that. I will say, though, that, as is often the case is such situations, the movie wasn't even a particularly good one!

'The other two things: Movies make you want to see more movies - but, because of the collaborative nature of their making, often in very interesting ways. If I read a book and I like it, or I'm moved or intrigued by it, I'll probably go looking for another book by the same author. Same with a painting and its artist. With movies, it might be more movies by the same director I'll want to seek out, but it might just as well be an actor's work I'll want to see more of, or a cinematographer's. Or maybe it's more the look and feel of that movie's genre or origin - noir, Iran, what have you - I'll want to seek out and sample again.

'The other thing's related: Just as movies arouse a hunger for more movies, they also arouse a hunger for more real living. They make you want to get out and do things - stay out late, eat, drink, fall in love, see new places, meet new people - even the downers. In a way, these last two impulses - see more movies; live more fully - are contradictory. Again, the old anxiety: not enough hours in a day, days in a week, years in a life.'

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