Paul Thomas Anderson dominated the New York Film Festival this weekend. His seventh feature length effort, “Inherent Vice” screened on Saturday (read our review), a press conference followed (read a recap here and watch the video) and then the filmmaker joined NYFF committee selection head Kent Jones on Sunday for a 90 minute conversation about his recent influences, music videos he likes, films he thinks you ought to know and much more (most of the talk is recapped here).
Naturally, the conversation turned to film formats, film stocks and what PTA often referred to over the course of the weekend as “nerd talk.” Anderson said that the filmmakers that have banded together to save Kodak film stock are doing valiant work, but that it’s “still a temporary reprieve. The death notice—there’s a sign on your back that’s saying you’re still gonna get executed— [is still there],” adding, “[And so] more needs to be done [about the potential extinction of the film format].”
During the discussion, PTA and Jones discussed all the filmmakers who continue to work with celluloid, including Quentin Tarantino, who is shooting “The Hateful Eight” on 70mm, J.J. Abrams, shooting “Star Wars: Episode 7” on 35mm and of course Christopher Nolan, who has yet to shoot a film digitally. “Christopher Nolan is at the front lines of all of this, I have to say,” Anderson said about the struggle to keep celluloid viable for filmmakers. “He’s made a beautiful film, if anybody gets out to see ‘Interstellar’ when it comes out.” Jones then quipped sarcastically that he thinks people just may just go check out the movie, which lead to a lot of uproarious laughter. “I’m just trying to put in the good word, he’s a decent filmmaker; you probably haven’t heard about this one.” Anderson joked. “Support this filmmaker.”
“But don’t fuck around, go see it in IMAX,” PTA said turning serious. “Brave the line. Do it, bite the bullet,” he stressed.
“Quentin’s much more vocal about it though,” Anderson said of his friend. “He wants to tar and feather people. It’s turned into one of his movies. ‘I’ll cut your fucking ear off.’” Jones noted some filmmakers like David Fincher feel totally different and he could “see film disappear tomorrow” and it wouldn’t make a difference. “He’s got a great articulate argument for people on the other side,” Jones said.
“I stay out of it,” Anderson said sheepishly followed by a laugh. “I know I throw my hat into the ring for what I like, but I find it difficult getting on anybody because it’s their bag,” Anderson said of individual taste. “If it’s your bag, and you’re into it…” he said sounding not unlike his laid-back “Inherent Vice” protagonist. “I wouldn’t tell you what to do, and you don’t tell me what to do.”
There was much more from the NYFF conversation, so here are some additional highlights.
Anderson on Digital Vs. Celluloid
“I haven’t done that yet [shooting digitally]. I suppose that’s all well and good for people. I happen to think that…it looks different. Our audience is really attuned [to the look of digital]. I think that it [looks] worse. I would hate to think that there won’t be more artists like Robby Müller out there knowing the art of movie lighting.”
The Art & Skill Level Required To Be A DP Shooting On Film
“To be a good movie lighter —to be skillful at it, to be great at it— is a life long job. The great ones who are out there, Roger Deakins, Robbie Muellers—the list is long. Any of these guys, through time, are masters of what they do. [They’re] so skillful, and that skill was required from them, because they were shooting on film. I don’t want to say anything bad here, but the skill level has been diminished. If you shoot on video, you don’t need to put any lights up, because [the digital cameras can shoot in super low light]. I would hate to think that that’s going to be lost, that that job will go away. But I’m not pessimistic about it. “
Asked about the technique of filmmakers adding in grain, flicker and techniques like that to their digitially shot film.
“That’s fucking cheating. “
More film vs. digital
“There really is a movement among filmmakers right now —where they’re desperately encouraging filmmakers who are coming up, filmmakers who are around and producing stuff right now— that if you have a choice, please shoot film. There is no financial incentive to shoot digitally if you’re at a certain budget level. Obviously, it’s much easier for younger filmmakers to sort of pick up a camera and create some stuff.”
The influence of music videos
“Music videos were a huge thing too and it planted music together for me, and probably for a lot of people of my generation. [It] probably ended up making music a more important product. Someone like David Fincher wrote the vocabulary for the music video.” [Check out our feature on Fincher’s music videos right here].
His favorite music in movies moments and his love for Jonathan Demme films.
“Obviously ‘Something Wild’ would be one for sure. Oh god, when we get on [the subject of] music and movies we could do that for a while. Wes [Anderson] is doing great [with] that too. Jonathan Demme has always had this sort of sweet spot for me, the way he kind of mixes things up with different background cues. There might be something moving from talk radio to blossoming out [into the fabric of the film]; minor things like that that were so eclectic but never felt like you were watching just the best of someone’s record collection. That can be a bit nauseating and not exactly right. ‘Here’s my mixtape and here’s my movie afterwards.’ ”
“To that end, that reminds me of Carter Burwell‘s score for ‘Raising Arizona,’ you remember that yodeling? I remember seeing ‘Raising Arizona’: it took like 15 minutes before the title came on, and my head spun around. Is the movie going to happen? I’d never seen anything like it and haven’t really since. But that was a huge thing, seeing ‘Raising Arizona.’”
Working With Jonny Greenwood
“[Jonny’s] particularly inspiring to work with as a musician [and] as a person. [It’s] hard to figure out exactly what to say other than it’s a joy. He’s constantly on my mind in a good way. [He’s] kind of one with technique and style, and he’s got good instincts. He’ll pick up the guitar sometimes, which is nice and the movie called for it. It was a great thing just hearing him play around. One thing in particular was towards the end, he had a piece [of music] that he had [lying around] for a number of years and he finally found a home for it [in ‘Inherent Vice’].”
“Inherent Vice” opens on December 12th in limited release.