Three films by French directors turned this year’s L’Étrange Festival into something even richer and stranger than usual.
Every year L’Étrange Festival delights us with oddest and weirdest productions from all over the world. What is quite unusual, though very heart-warming, is that the three films that stood out this year (at least in the eyes of your humble reviewer) were the work of French directors. Three films permeated with literature. Three treasure islands. Three voyages celebrating the mysteries of the sea, but in ways that could not be more dissimilar. Xavier Gens’ Cold Skin is a Hollywood-ish adaptation of a novel by Sanchez Piñol; Bertrand Mandico’s Wild Boys is a neo-feminist tale that gives free rein to the director’s wildest fantasies; and F.J. Ossang’s 9 Fingers is a 21st century reassertion of the surrealist manifesto.
Seen at Fantasia International Film Festival 2017, Montreal (Canada) Format: Cinema Release date: 27 September 2017 (France) Distributor: Océan Films Distribution Director: Géla Babluani Writers: Géla Babluani Cast: George Babluani, Vincent Rottiers, Charlotte Van Bervesseles, Benoît Magimel
On the release of his tense new thriller, the French-Georgian director best known for 13 (Tzameti) talks about unlikely bungled burglaries, fragile criminals and the prisons we build for ourselves.
Over 10 years ago, French-Georgian director Géla Babluani made a memorable directorial debut with 13 (Tzameti), a stylised black and white tale of greed, desperation and dangerous games. He is back with a taut crime thriller that recombines the main ingredients of his debut, namely money and suicide, into a mature, tense study of human nature punctuated by flashes of absurdist dark humour. Set in the grim port city of Le Havre, the story revolves around three friends who break into a politician’s mansion to steal a suitcase full of money. But from the moment they enter the house, things go wildly off plan. As the characters are faced with a situation they could not have foreseen, each decision they make leads them inexorably down an increasingly perilous path.
Format: Cinema Director: Ryan Prows Writers: Ryan Prows, Tim Cairo, Jake Gibson, Shaye Ogbonna, Maxwell Michael Towson Cast: Nicki Micheaux, Ricardo Adam Zarate, Jon Oswald, Mark Burnham, Santana Dempsey
A highlight at this year’s Fantasia Festival, this fun, warm and brutal chronicle of LA’s underbelly comes to Horror Channel FrightFest on 28 August 2017.
The 2017 edition of the Fantasia Festival was rich in beautifully crafted, unusual gems, and Lowlife ranked high among them, deservedly drawing a warmly enthusiastic response from the Montreal crowd. Category-defying, genre-mixing and cliché-blasting, its intricate narrative follows the interconnected stories of a luchador, a pregnant drug addict, a motel owner with a past, an ex-con with an unfortunate facial tattoo, and a chicken shack organ-trafficker in the midst of LA. Fresh, funny, violent, sordid, unsentimental and heart-breaking, it tells about the brutality of life on the margins and redefines heroism with a light touch and a lot of soul.
The Australian filmmaker talks about working with Nick Cave, directorial tactics and his favourite song from the new Bad Seeds album.
For one night only, on 8 September 2016, Andrew Dominik’s beautifully moving and sad documentary will give audiences around the world a special opportunity to hear songs from Skeleton Tree, the latest album from Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, and see a glimpse of how it got made. The project originally started off purely as a promotional film to support the album release, but ultimately turned into something bigger, much bolder and undeniably richer, mainly driven by the emotional trauma Nick Cave found himself in after the death of his 15-year-old son Arthur in July 2015.
Like Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s recent documentary 20,000 Days on Earth, which offered an intriguing and highly original look at Cave’s life, One More Time with Feeling is anything but a standard take on the great artist and his irresistibly captivating music. From experimenting with mixing 2D and 3D black-and-white cinematography, to the shrewd staging of the songs, and Cave’s magnetising voiceover, Dominik (Killing Them Softly) manages to not only capture the artist at work but encourages him to gradually open up about his emotions and the sheer bewilderment and haunting grief that surrounds him and his family since the terrible ‘accident’ (a word that Cave himself doesn’t use easily). The result is illuminating and as deeply affecting as the music itself: fragile, fragmented, powerful and utterly poignant to its hauntingly dark core.
Pamela Jahn talked to Andrew Dominik at the Venice Film Festival earlier this week, where the film had its world premiere.
Pamela Jahn: The original brief for this documentary was quite different to the final film. How did it come about?
Andrew Dominik: Basically, the original idea was to just do some sort of live event that would be shown in a bunch of theatres, but Nick didn’t want to do it, maybe because he thought it was too much pressure, and so they decided to make a film instead. And he originally just asked me if I’d shoot the songs from the record, like a performance or something. But that would have only added up to 35 minutes, so we had to put other stuff into this, and what that other stuff would be we didn’t really know. It all happened quite organically. I knew obviously that the film had to deal with the trauma, because that was really the only thing that was happening, or that was the thing that was under everything. It was just a question of how directly we would deal with it, because as a friend, you don’t want to go too much into it, but as a filmmaker you’ve got to try to get to the subject matter at hand, and I kind of felt that that’s what he wanted me to do, that that’s my job, and so that’s what I did. And then the film took shape little by little. I came up with the idea of the voiceover, because Nick’s life is this swirl of activity, but at the centre of that he disappears into whatever goes on inside him, and I felt like we needed that to be expressed. But I didn’t want it to be polished. Nick is always controlling and I wanted to get in the way of that, so he could reveal himself.
Did you have any arguments?
Yes, all the time.
Nick doesn’t like to wait around, and he didn’t. For example, when we were going [to the studio] to shoot overdubs, he wouldn’t tell me when exactly he’s going in to do a take, because they’re trying to fool themselves that they are not working. It’s more like, they’re going to do something that happens to be recorded. Because he doesn’t want to deliver anything, he just wants something to happen. But you can imagine from an organisational point of you that’s a fucking nightmare, when the guys are not even going to tell you when it’s happening. And especially with 3D, everything is difficult. Even if you just want to change a lens, it takes an hour. So all I wanted from him was some indication about what’s going to happen during the day, and he wouldn’t give it to me.
At some point early on in the film Nick asks you, ‘Is this some sort of directorial tactic?’ – Was that true, did you actually have a tactic when it came to directing him?
I do believe in difficulty, I believe in making things difficult for people, because they reveal themselves when you do that. But it’s not malicious or deliberate. I don’t try to manipulate people but I am naturally manipulative, depending on the person. You have to basically adapt yourself to every person that you deal with. Nick, for example, is very suspicious, he’s not trusting necessarily, and he’s a very impatient person and he sees all sides of things. He’s actually a relief to deal with because he’s really bright and he understands what you’re doing structurally. But at the same time, Nick is anxious because he wants to get to the studio to start working on the record, and he’s got to wait around because we’re fucking working out this camera in the car, so at that point you mentioned there, he was serious. He thought I was trying to slow him down to provoke a reaction from him, although I wasn’t.
The title is part of a song from the new album. Whose idea was that?
It was my idea. It’s just a superstition really. I looked at all the music documentaries and all the ones that were good, the title was an action: Don’t Look Back, Shut Up and Play the Hits. So we just went through the songs and this one seemed to make sense.
How do you perceive Nick Cave has changed since what happened?
He’s like Nick, but more so. He says himself that he’s a lot more compassionate. I think he always was compassionate, but he used to be a very armed person, he was never afraid of making things difficult for other people and I think he’s a lot less like that now. And he’s a very ambivalent person, but I am not sure that’s changed, but he’s certainly much more patient with people than he used to be.
It’s said in the film that women are more 3D. Do you agree?
Yes. There is much more depth to women than men. And also, when you are dealing with actresses, they have a lot more speed. If they were like a bike, men have got three speeds and women have got like 15 speeds.
Was it clear from the beginning that Nick’s wife Susie would talk to you as well, and be in the film?
No, and it took a little bit of convincing. But I thought, his family is his life, I mean he goes on tour but at the end of the day he’s a family man, and every time you talk to Nick half of what he says is about Susie and the kids. So it didn’t really seem possible to make a film about Nick without including Susie. Also because what happened didn’t only affect Nick and it didn’t just affect Susie and Earl, it affected everyone. So to not hear from them would have been weird, I think, because it happened to them.
Which track from the new album is your favourite?
I think I like Jesus Alone the most, the first one. Because it’s real, I mean, they’re actually recording it as we shoot it, and the other songs are performed. So purely the one I think I captured the best was that one, probably. But I do like them all really, because ultimately they all mean different things to me.
Interview by Pamela Jahn
Skeleton Tree is released worldwide on 9 September 2016.
One of the Montreal festival’s favourite directors talks about manga adaptations, teen films and not making a science fiction movie.
It was with a standing ovation that Takashi Miike was greeted by a very enthusiastic Montreal crowd as he introduced As the Gods Will, one of the two films he had playing at this year’s Fantasia festival, the second being science-fiction action epic Terraformars. A violent death-game fantasy, As the Gods Will sees high school children confronted with a series of traditional toys with lethal powers; if the children lose the game, their heads explode into thousands of little red balls. The survivors are then taken to a mysterious white cube that floats above the city, where another set of challenges awaits them, the aim of that cruel testing unclear. Adapted from a manga, it is another hyper-kinetic, over-active, playfully delirious film from the prolific Miike, quirkier than Battle Royale and deadlier than Alice in Wonderland.
Virginie Sélavy talked to Takashi Miike at Fantasia about manga adaptations, teen films and not making a science fiction movie.
Virginie Sélavy: Both Terraformars and As the Gods Will are adapted from manga, which is also the case with a number of your previous films. What do you particularly like about turning manga into live action films?
Takashi Miike: If I told my producer, ‘imagine that on Mars there are a lot of cockroaches and I want to make a film where people fight with cockroaches on Mars’, the producer would ask me if I’m alright in the head. Or if I said I wanted to make a film with a daruma doll playing games with children and making their heads explode, people would be asking if I’m insane. Now producers avoid all risks in film, but in the world of manga they can take more liberties with those things. There are a lot of young people competing and the editors take more risks. That’s what people making films want to do, but they can’t right now. So adapting a manga is good because we can prove that we can have a hit with it, and afterwards I can make other kinds of films, so there’s a natural continuity.
A few of your recent films are also violent stories set in high school, Crows Zero, Lesson of Evil, For Love’s Sake. Do you particularly like school settings and teenage stories?
When you make a teenage film you have to have a whole class, so you need a lot of actors aged from 15 to 20, and actually there are a lot of different kinds of actors who fit the bill. There are actors who have played since they were children, and there are also models, but we cannot have a class made up just of beautiful-looking people. So there are a lot of different types of actors that we can use and it gives us a lot of possibilities because there are many imperfections. Even if they don’t play like professional actors there’s something that can be created. Those imperfections are very interesting because it’s like making a documentary film about being young. That’s my interest in those types of films and I enjoy doing this.
The contrast between the cuteness of the toys and their deadliness is startling and very effective. Was that an aspect that attracted you to this particular story?
As a writer or a producer it is a world that you cannot make with adults. It’s not adults fighting, it’s basically children. If they were at university they would not fight like this. There is something that is very childish, that is not balanced yet, about the way they fight, and those children fight with very old traditional Japanese games that are actually quite cruel. So this is something that can be connected, and that’s why I was attracted by this.
You’ve worked in many different genres, in fact you’ve even created your own hybrids (yakuza vampire film in Yakuza Apocalypse for instance) but science fiction is not really a genre that you’ve done much work in, especially on this grand scale. What interested you in the Terraformars story?
For me, Terraformars is not a science fiction movie. For me, in a science fiction movie there is something that is logical and scientific, and the science is the key to the problem, it is what you use to solve the problem. But Terraformars is more like fantasy. And also we can imagine that it is a fight between two schools, and it’s about which school is more powerful than the other. It’s like being inside the imagination of children, and while they’re creating this fantasy we try to find out how people can survive, and what will come after. So it’s a world that is strange and mysterious, but it’s not science fiction.
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Peter Stormare, Michael Chiklis, Kerry Bishé
USA, Canada 2016
Secretary director Steven Shainberg talks about female leads, arachnophobia and Peter Dinklage on the occasion of his latest film, which marks his first foray into genre.
It has been 14 years since Steven Shainberg’s brilliant indie breakout hit Secretary and 10 since his last directorial effort, Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus. Always following his own individual path, Shainberg returns with a horror/SF tale that feels like a cross between X-Files and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, starring Noomi Rapace as Renee, an arachnophobic single mum kidnapped by a group of sinister strangers with mysterious aims.
Rupture premiered at Fantasia in Montreal in July 2016 where Virginie Sélavy met Steven Shainberg to talk about his interest in female leads, his adoration for Peter Dinklage, and the spider metaphor.
Virginie Sélavy: It’s been 10 years since Fur, why has it taken so long for you to make another film?
Steven Shainberg: It’s all about money. I had my children, whom I adore and try and spend as much time with as I can possibly can, but the answer is, it has been impossible to get my other movies made. In the time that it took me to get Rupture made I’ve had seven other movies projects. Some of them are cast partially, two of them got very close to getting made, and every single time the money was not there. That’s the reason it’s been that long.
This is your first foray into horror and SF. What led you to make a genre film?
It is a genre film in certain ways, but in other ways it’s exactly the same movie as the other seven movies that I haven’t made and the movies that I have made, in that it’s the story of a person who is confronted with an unusual situation and has to discover who they are. For whatever reason, all the things I’m interested in are always about that kind of personal discovery within yourself, about who you really are and identity. When I started, I had this idea for this movie and I started talking to this producer about it. Originally it wasn’t a movie I thought I’d be interested to make, and then as I started working on the story and as we developed the screenplay I realised, ‘this is that movie, I’m making that movie again’. And I thought it would be interesting to see if that kind of story could be told in a different context. It is a movie about somebody who has to confront their fear in order to transform into who they really are. That’s the story of Secretary and that’s the story of Fur. And that’s the story of the other movies as well. So in that sense it is really no different.
In the films you’ve made, self-discovery also comes through pain, is that fair to say?
There’s pain, which is also part of self-discovery and change, and there’s confusion, and fear. Those I think are the doors through which we have to pass in order to get anywhere and in order to have any kind of truth about ourselves. And girls are more fun to look at than boys.
Yes, you clearly like female characters.
When Kieslowski made Red, White and Blue, he was asked why all his heroes are women, and I think his answer was something along the line of ‘they’re great to look at’. And you do have to look through the lens at them for a long time, and then you have to be in the cutting room with them for a long time, and then you have to go out into the world with them for a long time, and I think I’m inclined to love them, and adore them, so that’s what leads me in that direction. But then, most of the movies I’m trying to get made have very strong male characters and I think to some extent that’s a desire to change that. But that’s pretty much been my inclination.
Do you have to be in love with your main character?
You have to be in love with all your characters for sure, even the ones that are horrible, at least understand them and want to connect with them in some way. But the protagonist of the movie, yes, you got to love that person. That’s what’s hard about making a movie. I’ll just give you an example. I have a movie that the rather fabulous Peter Dinklage is going to play the lead in and I totally adore him. So because of that feeling that I have for him it’s exciting to think that we can make that movie. He’s a guy.
Despite the similarities between Secretary and Rupture the big difference is that in Secretary there is some kind of resolution, whereas Rupture is open-ended – it seems made for a sequel.
From your mouth to God’s ears. There were various endings for this movie, the intention and the hope were that the movie would make a shitload of money and that we would get to make another one. That’s why the ending is open-ended. Because this tells a very simple first-beat story of Renee becoming part of them. And the thing that happens between her and them, and then between her, them and her kid and then the world, is not part of this movie. It’s supposed to be part of other movies. So that’s the reason.
Why did you decide to focus on a single mum? Did that have special significance for you?
This is the reason why they take her when they take her. She’s primed for the ‘rupture’. This means that there are periods in your life when you are vulnerable and when you’re more fragile and you’re not as strong as you might have been a couple of years ago or you will be in the future. But at that moment some real change can occur for you. And that’s why she’s a person who is saying to her friend on the phone and to her kid, ‘I’m going sky-diving’. Who goes sky-diving for the first time? It’s a person who is looking for a new feeling, they are looking for something in themselves that they can release, for a kind of transformation. So she has this fragile relationship with her ex-husband who is insensitive to her, and she’s vulnerable and she’s tender and she’s looking for a change and that’s the moment when things can happen for you.
You always seem interested in marginalised characters, people who are different for one reason or another.
Yeah. The thing is, problems are what’s interesting. The movie has to have somebody in a problem, and I’m not drawn to the ordinary guy who is angst-ridden about his suburban life unless he’s nuts and really on the edge. I guess I grew up as an unusual person in various ways and so I feel connected. My wife says, ‘you’re much more Peter Dinklage than Bradley Cooper’, [laughs] and it’s true! I would rather cast Peter Dinklage than Bradley Cooper!
The actors are all terrific. How did you cast the film?
It’s one of the ironies of low-budget filmmaking that for most supporting parts you can’t afford another big name. And my translation of that is, ‘oh, we get to cast people who are great and right for the movie’. If Renee goes to that facility and all those people are faces that you know, people you recognize, you will not be scared because you know who they are. But if you don’t know who they are it’s much more unnerving. So we had to cast certain people out of Toronto because of our Toronto deal, but we could also bring some people. So for instance we brought Lesley Manville, who from my point of view is one of the greatest actresses of the world. I never thought she would do it, but she was free, in between two movies, so it was amazing to have her, I love her. And the same thing was true with Michael Chiklis and Kerry Bishé and everybody else, and certainly with Peter Stormare. It needed to be a group that had a certain coherent internal vibe. And the criterion was, is this a person who feels like they’ve ‘ruptured’ in their own lives? That’s what Andrew Lazar the producer and I would assess during casting. ‘That guy is awesome but he’s wrong for the movie. He hasn’t ruptured yet.’ [laughs] I’ve ruptured many times… [laughs]
What inspired that idea of transformation coming out of terror?
It’s something I understand, what you have to move through and be capable of working with in your life in order to arrive at something new for yourself. The spiders in the film are merely a metaphor, and we all have those things crawling all over us all of the time. Most of the time most people can’t transcend that. One of the things that I like about the movie is that everyone else is saying, ‘what do you want from me?’, all the people who are in the facility, and they never answer the question, except to say, ‘it’s entirely up to you’. And that’s the truth, it’s entirely up to you.
What’s great is that you never know if they’re good or bad guys, their ultimate aim is never made clear.
That’s absolutely true. That’s the experience we have in our own lives with people who are working on us. Whoever is saying to you or to me, ‘this is where you’re failing’, or ‘this is your problem’, or ‘you need to…’, or ‘how come you can’t ?’, ‘what’s stopping you?’, we’re suspicious of them. We don’t know if they’re good or bad. They might be loving and gentle but they might be insisting that we do something hard. Or they might be threatening and suggesting that we might be doing something easy and good for us. So we are confused about it. Our experience of it is confusion.
And this goes with the fact that in the movie you show two people transform, the two most beautiful women in the cast, and the transformation looks disturbingly ugly, so you have this contrast between beauty and monstrosity.
Yes, but that’s also about one of the things that we are terrified of: if we make that transformation we will become something horrible to ourselves and to others. Or not necessarily something horrible, but something unknown, and unknown and horrible are right next to each other. You can’t have them transform into something beautiful and lovely because that’s not how we experience the fear of transformation, that’s not how we experience the challenge of all these things. We’re afraid that there’s something ugly in us. Otherwise we wouldn’t be afraid of it. If it was just something beautiful that was going to be revealed it’d be very easy. We’re ashamed and terrified and disinclined. This is precisely the metaphor of the movie and how it operates throughout the whole film. And that’s what made me want to make it. Yes, it’s a genre movie, but it’s really a movie about spiritual existence.
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Stacy Martin, Liam Cunningham
UK, France, Hungary 2015
The actor-turned-director talks about Scott Walker, politics in cinema and the dilemma of having a high standard in filmmaking.
Loosely based on the short story of the same name by Jean-Paul Sartre, Brady Corbet’s directorial debut The Childhood of a Leader might be best described as the sum of its parts: historical psychodrama, arthouse horror and period mystery all come together in this demanding but strangely compelling film, which draws its study of the rise of fascism out of an unruly young boy’s tantrums and power struggles as he moves with his parents from the United States to France at the end of World War I. Set against the background of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, the 27-year-old American actor-turned-director has crafted a film that is every minute as relentlessly rich and mesmerising as the striking, full-volume orchestral score by the great Scott Walker that accompanies it.
Pamela Jahn caught up with Brady Corbet at the Venice Film Festival in September 2015 to talk about Scott Walker, poetic films about politics and the dilemma of having a high standard in filmmaking.
Pamela Jahn: Your film has been one of the most eagerly awaited debut features to come out this year – no pressure then?
Brady Corbet: I knew that it would be a love it or hate it movie. To tell you the truth, the divided reactions that I experienced were more in the process of putting the film together, because when you are making a movie like this, where there is no exact road map of what it is supposed to be, people get very nervous and shaky, because they are frightened of what the reaction is going to be. And it was hard for myself to anticipate how the audience would take it, but to my surprise, the reactions have all been pretty good. People have been very patient and receptive to it and I am feeling a lot more relaxed now. Also, the film is inherently a little bit of punk, because you open with classical instrumentation but it’s like they’re playing ACDC…
It is also a very loud film.
Yes, I like things really fucking loud and Scott Walker does, too, so it was sort of a request that everything is at maximum volume (laughs).
It’s an impressive film not only from a technical point of view but also in terms of its narrative and production value, especially given that, I believe, it was made for very little money?
I’ve been given instructions to not ever say the budget out loud, but you are right, it wasn’t much and a lot less than what I think it looks like, too. The first person who really made the movie seem possible, in both a physical and creative sense, was our production designer Jean-Vincent Puzos. He designed Amour for Michael Haneke, but he’s also designed video installations for Philippe Parreno or blockbusters for Roland Emmerich, so he’s worked with a 6000-dollar budget right up to a 49-million dollar budget, and I mean 49-million dollars just for his department, not the film. He really had the solution for every problem that arose and he realised that, because of the way we set out to make this movie, we were going to be extremely specific about what we were seeing and what we were not seeing, and that helped a lot. And frankly, the film was so unconventional in its structure: a UK, Hungarian, French and Belgium co-production with an American director and a Norwegian producer and writer… basically the movie was the fucking Paris Peace Conference, at least it was about as effective. The amount of miscommunication was just shocking, on a daily basis. We had contracts that had to be translated into three different languages, the closing of the finances, which usually takes three or four weeks, took like four or five months.
Where did the idea for the story come from?
Part of the idea was to talk about how everybody is responsible for the events that define the twentieth century, that there is a certain sense of culpability, and that partly goes back to Margaret MacMillan’s book Paris 1919, where she gives a very sober account of the events of the Peace Conference. Her book is infinitely more complex and academic and more intelligent and well-rounded than any movie on the subject could ever be, but we didn’t really set out to make a political film anyway, we set out to make a poetic film about politics. It’s interesting though, because historically speaking there already are a lot of poetic film about politics, everything from The Conformist to Saló, not just on the subject of fascism, but those are the ones that spring to mind right now. But weirdly, when we were trying to raise soft money for the project, we were told poetry and fantasy do not belong with history, and I found that really bizarre, because the thing is that history is always only a version of history anyway, it’s always a bit of fiction. And therefore there is a reason why a new book on Napoleon comes out every nine or ten years, and you wonder, what more could you have possibly learned in the last nine years to make it a new definitive account of the events, that the last guy who wrote a book on him didn’t know? It’s always a point of view. So, the fact that we were dealing with history, in a sense, never disturbed us from borrowing from a number of different events and sources and to sort of merge them into something that was original and cinematic.
Looking at your film on some level it almost feels like it could have been made in the 70s, though with a contemporary twist. Do you sometimes feel like you would have preferred to make films back then?
Not really, and I definitely don’t resent my era at all, because I am only 27, and so I think we are going to see a lot of amazing things over the course of the next 30, 40, 50 years… depending how long the universe decides to keep me around. But something that bugs me is that I see probably 200 movies in a year and I come out of my year talking about only five of them. There is a lot of content around these days, and images and films are more disposable than ever, and mediocrity is… it takes an awful lot to make a very good film, and it doesn’t happen very often any more. And of course I can only speak for myself and what I see, but I feel like something happened in the 90s, where a lack of ambition became really celebrated for some reason. It partly happened because of the digital revolution, I think, which first was genuinely exciting but now you are almost expected to do something anti-cinematic, just because you can. And the only reason that frustrates me is that somehow that very low standard in filmmaking has made it very difficult to have a very, very high standard. So I am not resentful of my era, I think right now I am just a little tired. Because you work so hard on something, and although you don’t need it to be accepted by everyone, you want to make sure that it doesn’t just go to the graveyard either, so you work even harder.
How tricky was it to get Scot Walker involved?
A lot less tricky than it was to raise money for the film, for sure. First, I didn’t think he would say yes, but we thought we would really try, because we thought it would be so appropriate given that he has written so many lyrics on the subject of tyranny in the twentieth century, and it’s a recurring theme in a lot of his music. Also because of the architecture of his avant-garde pop songs… and they really are pop songs in the way that it’s very easy to listen to them over and over again, despite them being abrasive and challenging. There is some kind of souterrainian [is this the right word?] melody in his music that keeps you coming back for more. I find everything about Scott Walker deeply inspiring but especially for this project. So we wrote a lot of letters, it was the same letter but we sent it to a lot of different sources, to make sure he would get it. And he did, and three days later he said yes. And I got this email which said, ‘Dear Brady’, and I kind of thought, oh, this is really nice that he made the effort to write this rejection letter himself. I was the most excited I’d ever been to get rejected. But then he said, ‘Great, I really look forward to working together’, and I was just really amazed. I mean I was 23 or 24-years-old at that point and I couldn’t really believe it. And as you know, it took years to finally get the film together, but he’s used to working on projects for a long time and so it all worked out in the end.
Viewers with untrained ears might watch Belgian directing team Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s dazzling neo-gialloThe Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears (2013) and wonder why Ben Power (Blanck Mass, Fuck Buttons) would be so bold as to want to re-score it. The heady mix of slick psychedelia, early synth and ambient grooves are a perfect fit and certain signature pieces are used repeatedly throughout. However, not one of the compositions was originally scored for the Cattet and Forzani film. Instead they lifted their music straight from the 1970s giallo films that inspire them.
The directors have said they like to assemble their soundtracks as they write their script, embedding the fusion of audio and visual into the early stages of the development process. So it was no doubt an unusual experience to watch their film with Power’s retrofitted score laid over it. Thankfully and unsurprisingly, the new music comes with the Belgian duo’s approval. It features contributions from Stockholm’s Roll The Dice, London’s Helm, Moon Gangs, Phil Julian, Glasgow’s Konx-Om-Pax, and New York’s C. Spencer Yeh, as well as Mr Blanck Mass himself. Each artist was assigned a scene and given the freedom to score it how they wished. Furthermore they were doing this without prior knowledge of what was planned by anyone else. Their combined efforts have come together to form a brooding cinematic morass of electronica. In particular, Helm’s ‘Silencer II’ is a hyper-tense 11-minute epic of suppressed emotion and pent up frustration whereas Moon Gangs’ ‘The Apartment’ or a couple of the C. Spencer Yeh tracks are far less brutal – allowing your fast-beating heart and fragile mind a chance to relax. Note that the shrill attack of Phil Julian’s ‘End Credits’ makes sure there’s a shot of adrenalin for anyone flagging when the film fades to black.
The re-score of The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears is put out by Death Waltz Records. It’s a double vinyl release, housed inside a 425gsm reverse board jacket and comes in two versions. There’s the ‘exclusive splatter combo’ as Death Waltz’s Spencer Hickman describes it – limited to 500 only worldwide. Not entirely sure what exact colours that means, but it will not be black – that’s reserved for the regular shop version of it.
The East End Film Festival are showing The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears with the brand new score on 10 July at Red Gallery. After the screening there will be DJ sets from Blanck Mass and friends, including Spencer Hickman spinning some rare giallo records of his own.
For more infos about the event and to buy tickets visit the EEFF website.
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Viilbjørk Mallin Agger, Ghita Nørby
Argentina, USA, Netherlands 2014
With its painterly rendering of times past (aptly framed in a vintage 4:3 ratio), and reliance on the uniqueness of its characters instead of a dense script, Lisandro Alonso’s Jauja is an austere affair. Set in 1882, the sparse narrative follows a Danish army captain (Viggo Mortensen) on his journey through the desolate expanses of Patagonia in search of his eloped daughter (Mallin Agger). Few words are spoken as faces full of aspiration, anger and despair gaze out across the intensely beautiful landscape; a harsh, elusive landscape in a world that appears to be as magical as it is threatening. Elaborately choreographed, hauntingly scored and channelling the transcendental work of Jodorowsky, Tarkovsky and Kubrick, Jauja is very much a film that demands your attention from the outset, and pays dividends as it reaches its mysterious, otherworldly conclusion.
Pamela Jahn spoke with leading actor Viggo Mortensen, who also co-produced the film, at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2014, where Jauja premiered in the Un Certain Regard section.
Pamela Jahn: In addition to taking the lead in Jauja, you also acted as a producer and co-composed its original score. What made you want to get involved in the film on so many different levels?
Viggo Mortensen: On a purely personal level, the project seemed very appealing from the start, because I am doing a movie in Danish – finally. But I am also speaking Spanish with an accent like my father’s, whereas the Danish sounds more like my grandfather’s, more old-fashioned, which was fun. And those landscapes you see in the film, I know them from when I was a boy in Argentina. That’s where I learned to ride horses and so on, which was a bit strange but intriguing at the time, because it brought back lots of memories: the place, the smell, the landscape, the weather – all this was very familiar. But the real challenge was that I am playing a man who is in a place that feels very strange to him and he doesn’t like it very much. He’s looking forward to going back to Denmark soon, but then his daughter goes missing and he sets out to find her.
Did you know Lisandro Alonso’s work before you got on board?
I had seen all but one of his films before we started working together on this project, and the one film that I liked in particular was Los Muertos. There is something in that story in terms of the visual poetry and his use of time, the simplicity of his shot selection… all that reminded me of Tarkovsky’s movies, which I like a lot. Not just him, but it was that specific director that I thought of when I watched Lisandro’s films. And I really liked the idea that he initially proposed together with Fabian [Casas, screenwriter], which we then worked on together to get the Danish elements of it correct, and to make sure it’s specific. If you want something existential and universal too, you need to be specific and detailed, you need to give it weight. As an actor, the more specific you are, the more you can make a leap. And personally, I like to tell stories that at least have a chance to be really interesting movies, whether they are big budget or low budget. That doesn’t really matter to me, because the relationship with the camera, with the director and the crew is always the same. It’s the same job to prepare, the same job to shoot, it takes the same time and, in the end, you have to promote it, so you might as well do something you like. Something you want to go see in the cinema yourself. That’s more or less how I guide myself: I am looking for projects that I can still learn from and that I might want to see myself. It doesn’t always work, of course, but at least you have a good blueprint.
You mentioned the landscape, which looks somewhat artificial but breathtakingly beautiful at the same time. Did you get involved in the ‘look’ of the film, too?
I am a photographer myself and I could see that we were using certain lights that we didn’t need to use, but that was Lisandro’s idea, because he wanted to shoot it in this old-school, artificial way, almost like they did in old Westerns. There is something really appealing about that. But what I liked about it the most was that [the cinematographer] Timo Salminen, who is originally from Finland and had never been to Argentina, had more of a Nordic look at the landscape, which fits in well with the characters – it’s very different to the way an Argentine photographer would have shot it. But it’s not just the lighting, it’s the framing also. So you have two different angles, really: the look is sometimes hard and strange, which could be the father’s point of view, who never really accepts being in this landscape; for him it’s just a job and he regrets even being there. But it’s also at times incredibly beautiful, and that’s more like the daughter’s point of view, because she loves it there.
How did you approach your character? Who is Gunnar Dinesen and what is he to you?
There are things in the film that I suggested we should do when I was reading the book. I am someone who, until recently, has lived in the woods and who is very happy being and living in wild places. Part of the reason why I was comfortable doing this movie with Lisandro was because there were certain elements, even from a different character’s point of view, that I am familiar with, although my character is actually quite clumsy. Dinesen is a surveyor and scientist, very northern European, very rational, everything has to have a logical explanation. But then he is also a guy who wears a sword and boots with heels and furs while walking through rocks, which is ridiculous – a bit like Don Quixote. Don Quixote is also both serious and specific. And in that way my character is very determined – like if you are going to do a job, you might as well do it correctly, and in a timely fashion. And if someone says, ‘Well, we’re having tea at 4.30pm on Tuesday’, you say, ‘Well, I’ll be there’. But it’s Argentina, so whoever you were going to meet might turn up on Wednesday, or maybe he doesn’t.
The film has a very dreamy feel to it, much like a mind’s landscape, a travel through space and time.
Exactly, and that’s the beauty about it. Lisandro makes these leaps, which most directors would not be able to make, but he makes you feel that they are organic. Suddenly it’s dark, suddenly there is an electric guitar, suddenly there is a cave… and somehow he makes that work, he makes you believe it because he grounds it in details, in real behaviour. Like my character, who is always trying to find a logic within everything. His evolution lies in the very fact that, by the end of the film, he is asking that question: ‘What makes a life function and move forward?’ And he says: ‘I don’t know’, and smiles. He accepts that he cannot control it. It’s almost a relief for him to realise that you cannot understand everything. And at the end of this movie, it’s the same for you. You don’t know if it was all just a dream, and if so, whose dream? The dream of a young girl in Denmark today? Or, the dream of some strange captain? Or, it could be very much the dream of a dog or of a wooden soldier. But luckily, it doesn’t matter.
What’s your guess? Whose dream is it for you?
Often I tend to think that it’s the girl’s dream, but I don’t know. And again, it doesn’t matter. If you pick one option, then you are stuck in a linear thinking, just like Dinesen. So even though I lean towards that, next time I watch the film, it’s different and it makes me smile. It’s a rare movie in the sense that it reveals more layers, more humour every time you look at it. For example, Dinesen is a spectator, he is constantly trying to make sense of what the hell is going on. He’s not really in love with the landscape, he’s just practical. And he gets lost, so by the end, he doesn’t know what else to do, he just keeps going. But is he still looking for his daughter? Probably. Whatever it is, he keeps looking.
But he finds ‘Jauja’.
And that’s interesting because Jauja is not a place, it’s more than that, it’s an idea. It’s an impossible idea or feeling of contentment, satisfaction, tranquillity. It could be anything and, trust me, in Spanish it’s a weird word too. It’s a word that comes from the Arabic and in the old Arabic it meant something like a doorway or a passageway, like a transition.
That idea of transition is also intensified by the music, which is very peculiar. How did you get involved with the score?
If you know Lisandro, you know that he doesn’t usually use music in his films, but suddenly you hear this electric guitar and organs and piano notes and you are like, wow. But it’s not like, wow, that’s wrong – it’s great. It’s another one of these jumps he takes, but it comes from an organic, sincere place that’s not saying ‘look at me’ as a director. It’s not pretentious. He said to me: ‘I want this transition, where one time in space is going to start twisting things a bit for the character and for the audience. And I think I want to try and use music in that moment when you go to sleep that night under the stars, so if you have any ideas then let me know’.’ And I said: ‘Well, there is that guitar player I know who I have also worked with. Some of it is very harsh but some of it is more lyrical.’ So I sent him some pieces and he chose those two, which you hear in the film. And that moment of music works really well, I think, because of the way it pushes you into another space. Do you think your involvement as a producer and actor will help the film find a bigger audience?
I hope so. I do think it is a big jump for Lisandro creatively, in terms of narrative through line, and photography – on a lot of levels. It’s a more sophisticated type of filmmaking. I did it because I liked it, but the reason why I got involved as a producer is because I wanted to help him get a bigger audience because he really deserves it.
Cast: Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Allen Danzinger, Paul A. Partain, Gunnar Hansen
During the pre-production of ‘Leatherface’, a horror film script by Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel, the production manager, Ron Bozman, was away in Houston playing poker, and he pitched the idea around the table. One of the players suggested an alternative name – The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (TCM). A classic was born.
2014 sees the 40th anniversary of its release. The title alone is a work of art, but it’s the way the film transcended traditional notions of the genre and threw us headlong into a terrifying nihilistic attack on the American dream that secured its longevity.
The story is simple. Five hippie kids (Sally Hardesty, Franklin Hardesty, Kirk, Pam and Jerry) visiting their grandfather’s long forgotten, dilapidated house in rural Texas are terrorised by a grave-robbing family of cannibals (Old Man, Hitchhiker, Leatherface and Grandpa).
The 40th anniversary restoration of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is released in the UK on Blu-ray by Second Sight on 17 November 2014. The two-disc limited edition Steelbook Blu-ray is packed with new bonus features, including a new audio commentary by Tobe Hooper.
Watching the ‘making of’ documentary The Shocking Truth I was amazed by the accidental way in which the armadillo spinning in the road in the opening moments ended up in TCM. The script version doesn’t mention it. Instead, it has the rotting carcass of a dog baking in the hot sun before the camper van zooms by. There is also no mention of the grave-robbing or the freeze-frame flash of the camera showing us the gruesome sculptures Hitchhiker left behind. Intrigued, I decided to explore some of the key moments of the screenplay to see how what Hooper and Henkel (H&H) wrote on the page shaped the film.
H&H’s first draft of ‘Leatherface’ was a whopping 160 pages. This was reduced to 103 by the time it went into production. Roughly speaking one page of script equals one minute of screen time. TCM is a short film, clocking in at only 83 minutes. The main reason for this is that only half of the first 40 pages actually ended up on the screen: much pointless, hippy dippy dialogue about the zodiac and unnecessary exposition were thankfully dropped.
When academic Carol J. Glover dared to watch TCM in 1985 she wrote in the introduction of her book Men, Women and Chainsaws: ‘It jolted me into questioning for the first time the notion of the “male gaze” and its assumption of masculine.’ This is best illustrated by the way our hero, Sally Hardesty, is introduced in the script. First she is an archetype – ‘a beautiful blond girl’. Just another one of the five stereotypical young Americans in a camper van driving through Texas. Even wheelchair-bound Franklin is simply described as: ‘a young man in a wheelchair’. The only hint of his weight is the ‘sagging ramp to the ground’ when he exits the camper van for a pee.
When they leave the confines of the vehicle to wander around the cemetery she is quite definitely singled out on the page for her sex appeal. H&H wrote:
Sally is braless and her breasts bounce enticingly beneath the thin fabric of her t-shirt.
This exact image plays out on screen. With this shot, Hooper is able to make the camera, and therefore the audience, become the wandering eyes of the lusting rednecks in the graveyard.
Out on the highway we are introduced to Hitchhiker. This Charles Manson caricature is clearly a product of casting, because on the page H&H described him with curly carrot-coloured hair. His role in the screenplay is to point out the post-industrial wastelands that the city (represented by Sally and her friends) had left him and his family through the economic destruction of this rural community.
This exploration of the socio-political climate for horrific ends continues what The Night of the Living Dead (1968) and The Last House on the Left (1972) had started. For decades the horror genre explored evil fantasy monsters or ghosts in far off places like Eastern Europe. But with America stuck in a war it couldn’t win, the liberal dream stabbed to death at Altamont and serial killers now becoming pop celebrities. George A. Romero and Wes Craven’s films invited audiences to look at the dark reality of their country. For Hooper, appalled by the atrocities of the Vietnam War, ‘man was the real monster’.
The initial appearance of Leatherface is as fleeting as it is shocking on the page. With the whirring ‘motor noise’ still rattling in the background the hapless Kirk wanders into the house. Our only worry at this stage is that the owners may catch him trespassing. He bounds inside, but trips up. As he gets to his feet H&H write themselves into the modern horror history books with the line:
Kirk catches a fleeting glimpse of a horrible leathery mask covering the face.
The first genuinely new horror icon of the post-war period is born. A couple of hammer blows later and Kirk is dead. This visceral moment ends abruptly and attention immediately switches to Pam. Naturally, she goes into the house to look for her man. H&H revel in spoiling us with terrifically gruesome scene descriptions that resurrect the spirit of Ed Gein’s domesticity. They tease out the gory details over three pages from this understated starting point:
As her eyes adjust she sees that the furniture is constructed of a combination of bone, metal, wood and some sort of thin leathery substance.
Each piece of the macabre decor magnifies Pam’s fear and trepidation. It’s uncomfortable because you’re watching and waiting to see someone die. On the page it’s a much slower, more gruelling experience as you pick your way through each piece of human bric-a-brac. There’s far more here than the camera has time to look at, but you get the sense they’re in the room nevertheless. When the killer finally reappears H&H reveal precisely what Leatherface looks like using Pam’s POV.
It is a close fitting hood rather than a mask, covering the entire head and slit to accommodate the ears. The face of the hood is human, but shrivelled and leathery. There is a throat piece which is tucked below the collar. Over his clothing the masked figure wears a black heavy apron.
Later, on the same page, they condense the description to christen him Leatherface at the very moment when he stuns Pam with a hammer. The formula is speeded up for Jerry’s more efficient death. The surprise of the first murder and the subsequent suspense in the run-up to the next two elevate the drama in the TCM screenplay above the purely exploitative graphic violence of Last House on the Left. This is because Hooper’s direction never lingers on the violent act. Like Craven he shocks you, but he’s never interested in the blood spilled by Leatherface. Although the screenplay revels in the blood lust of our killer, none of it made it on screen.
For example, we see:
With a squeal the masked figure lifts Pam high in the air and rushes her across the room. She feels a smooth warm prick and she is free, high in the air impaled on the brutal steel of a meat hook. Pam kicks weakly. Her eyes roll in their sockets, she tries to scream…
But we don’t see:
…but her throat fills with blood and she chokes and gags. Leatherface moves swiftly. He strips Kirk’s body of its remaining flesh, lifts it from the meat hook and lays it on a huge butchers block. Blood pours from Pam’s mouth. Her hands flutter weakly; her eyes have rolled back in her head and show only white. Leatherface draws the starter rope of a gasoline powered chain saw and it coughs then roars. Pam twitches faintly. She coughs and spews a bloody mist clouding the air. The chain saw changes pitch as it bites into Kirk’s flesh.
No doubt budget and time would have had an impact on Hooper’s directorial decisions. Certainly the introduction of the chainsaw is held back a little bit longer.
It’s night when Sally and Franklin decide to look for their missing friends. Up until this point, Franklin is her only antagonist in the film. His disability isn’t enough for H&H’s idea of drama. Instead they give us a pig-headed brother who resents having to leech off his sister and doesn’t mind letting her know with his constant whining. It’s not always clear on the page how annoying Franklin is being, but his performance never fails to show it. This may have had more to do with how Hooper treated his actors during the shoot. At SXSW in March 2014 Hooper said: ‘I would separate the actors and not let them socialize. Franklin, I would advise him and he went with it … to not change his clothes to get as sweaty as possible, to never have lunch with anybody else.’
At this crucial point in the film the screenplay is explicit about how tense Sally is becoming about their missing friends and how much of a burden a needy, wheelchair-bound brother is in this situation. She fights with Franklin for the flashlight and the right to search for everyone on her own. His role as Sally’s antagonist is never clearer than at this point:
Franklin guesses her intentions and is reluctant and deliberately stupid.
Here’s where Franklin begins to honk the horn and they discover the van keys are missing. They no longer have the choice of heading back to the gas station for help. Sally has to go looking for their missing friends. But her brother, ever the burden, goes after her and for the first time his disability actively becomes a problem for both of them.
Sally… I’m going too.
Sally moves rapidly away; she does not respond to Franklin.
Franklin is close behind, labouring desperately to keep up. His chair wobbles awkwardly and he has difficulty in steering.
Sally…. I can’t keep up.
Still Sally does not respond and Franklin begins to drop behind. She enters the forest; Franklin is desperate.
Rather than make you wait until they reach the house, H&H use the cloak of darkness to deliver a new, loud, visceral surprise. They wrote:
[Sally and Franklin] whirl to face the noise and see a massive, hulking figure roar down upon them wielding a chain saw. The ugly steel fangs of the saw flash in the moonlight and the waving beam of the flashlight.
It’s the first time Leatherface is paired with his signature weapon. In the script this is page 73 out of 103. Admittedly, it’s only around 50 minutes in on screen. Franklin is dispatched in seconds and Sally runs away screaming.
By killing Franklin, H&H invented ‘the final girl’ phenomenon.
Sally escapes to the Old Man’s service station via the house and through a forest. In the screenplay there is some traffic on the road that swerves around Sally as she ‘screams and pleads’ for them to stop. None of this made it into the film. I would argue that the presence of others at this stage would have severely weakened the end sequence.
Safe inside, and the threat of Leatherface seemingly gone, she soon discovers that her saviour is also part of the murderous clan.
The Old Man is carrying a gunny sack; his behaviour is strangely ominous. Sally senses something is amiss and looks more closely at him.
In the script the graveyard crimes from the opening segment of the film are used by the Old Man to chastise the Hitchhiker as they bring Sally into the house.
I told you to stay away from that graveyard.
Whereas on screen this line changes to:
I told you. I told you never leave your brother alone.
So what would appear to be big, important changes at the start of the film barely get another mention by the end of the film.
Decanted to the house she meets Grandpa, and in a satire of the nuclear family, Leatherface plays the role of matriarch.
The mask is distinctly different from the one he wore earlier. It is the tanned facial skin of an elderly woman.
On screen you see Leatherface has lipstick and pale blue eye shadow on. It’s a macabre sitcom scene in the making. The screenplay goes on to paint a clearer picture of the absurdism at play here:
Behind the mask Leatherface is smiling broadly; there is a flash of filed teeth. He is excited and pleased with himself; he approaches wiping his hands on his apron.
H&H try to get Leatherface to interact. The words on the page are not lines for any actor to learn verbatim, they are just gobbledygook. His first line of dialogue reads:
LEATHERFACE ’A ab e y ob er ewe ober’
Rather than make him a fully fledged member of the family, each time he speaks, it gives the Old Man more reason to shout at him. It is during these exchanges that the film, more than the screenplay, expose this sadistic, mindless killer as no more than a simple child behind closed door.
James Rose’s book about TCM (Devil’s Advocates series, Auteur Press) describes this scene as a warning about how far people are prepared to go if you cut them off socially and economically.
On the page we can read a list of horrors that Sally can see in the room. Whereas on screen Hooper chooses to show the horror etched into Sally’s face as she, bound to a chair and gagged, takes in the room. He saves the revelation of the bone ornaments and mobiles for a wider shot when the family bring Grandpa into the room.
The humiliation and torture of Sally is written blow for blow by H&H. Starting with a clever reversal of expectation, they describe Leatherface approaching her with a knife. You think that he is going to slaughter her like a cow, but no, not yet:
Hitchhiker turns her palm up and quickly and expertly cuts deep into the tip of her index finger. Leatherface lifts her hand and with Hitchhiker’s assistance they force it into the Grandfather’s mouth.
Her will to survive is tested over 14 pages of script (pages 86-100 or 64-78 minutes). The moment she sees her opportunity she runs for it. However, H&H don’t let her get out without an obstacle or two. Blood pouring down her face, they write, she trips over the washtub and crashes through a window in a shower of glass.
When she reaches the highway the real world makes a surprise appearance in the shape of a cattle truck and a pick-up. Sally escapes in the back of the latter.
It’s a swift, and surprisingly neat end to such a lengthy, torturous ordeal. In just two minutes of screen time Sally leaps through a window, outruns the family, Leatherface is fatally wounded by his chain saw, and she is in the back of a pick up being driven away from this nightmare experience. This compares to over four pages of screenplay. Stylistically, the script deviates from how it has been presented so far. H&H begin directing the camera. This simulates how frantic the situation has become. Like a cap that has been let off, the film and all the tension are being released.
The Driver leaves the road and runs into a field.
Leatherface recovers the saw, sees Sally and the Driver running in nearly the opposite directions and squeals in terror, rage and pain and flailing the saw wildly in the air and now hobbling and bleeding profusely, he charges after Sally.
A battered, old pick up approaches beyond Sally
It has become traditional to linger on the victim’s success as the credits roll, but H&H’s finale is about the monster that’s left behind. That iconic silhouette is no accident.
Leatherface stands in the center of the highway squealing in maniac rage and wielding the chain saw with savage, idiot fury.
In conclusion H&H’s story is a simple one – five young people leave the city and become isolated from the real world as they knew it; and then from themselves. One by one they are killed until there is only one left. It was a novel idea at the time, but now it is a tired formula used by almost every slasher film. Regardless, this 1974 original still rises above all its competition because of its clarity.
On the page H&H lavish the reader with lots of extra scenes and gory details of the kills that are unmistakeable horror tropes. However, Tobe Hooper decided much of it held the story up and just weren’t necessary. More importantly, he decided to leave the bloodshed to our imagination and that choice gave the film its power. As a result the perceived feeling of many viewers, after watching TCM, is that it is a much more graphic film experience than it really is. Proving suggestion rather than details is what our eyes and ears need when we’re watching a movie. Hooper no doubt had this all in hand when he started shooting TCM, and the screenplay acted as both a road map and footnotes for his vision.