While sitting at my desk and reading upsetting news, from the Crimea to the death of Alain Resnais, I looked up from the computer screen and my glance was caught by the spine of a book: “The Politics of Memory,” by the historian Raul Hilberg. Resnais, who was born in 1922, spent wartime in occupied Paris, where he took acting classes and tried to launch a career, amid primordial efforts at filmmaking. (He also clandestinely ferried food to a Jewish journalist friend in hiding, Frédéric de Towarnicki, who later worked with Resnais as a screenwriter.) Resnais started making films after the war, a time when memory itself was, in France, an equivocal virtue—and he made memory his subject. And, from his quest to realize memory in cinema, he made one of the most original figures of style in the history of the medium.
Look at “Night and Fog,” his 1955 documentary that is—to sum it up almost obscenely—“about” the Nazi concentration camps. It was commissioned as an explicit work of commemoration, a compilation of archival footage, but Resnais also shot original footage of the sites of the concentration camps, a decade after their liberation. These images begin and end the film, and punctuate it throughout, and they have a harsh, and double, dramatic impact. By establishing the present tense of the filmmaker and the viewer alike, they set the archival images in a receding past that is in constant and ever-deeper need of active rediscovery. They also depict a present tense that is permeated by that repressed history.
The figure of style that is Resnais’s own is the tracking shot, the mysterious straight-line thrust, neither riding nor strolling, at a pace of heightened urgency, into or through a setting. It sounds trivial—the moving camera was already used by D. W. Griffith in the teens, and was brought to a high art by F. W. Murnau in the twenties, Jean Renoir and Kenji Mizoguchi in the thirties, and Max Ophuls in the forties—yet Resnais made the camera look as if its movement had only just been invented, by him, for a specific purpose: to embody the inhumanly natural flow of time.
La Dernière Clé de Marienbad, published in the special issue of Cahiers du Cinema devoted to Last Year at Marienbad, shows us the sheet created by script girl Sylvette Baudrot to keep track of all the different timelines in the film. Resnais asked to have it printed upside down. (via)
Boyhood (formerly Growing Up) is an upcoming film directed by Richard Linklater chronicling over the course of twelve years the lives of a young boy (from first grade at age 6 through 12th grade), his older sister and their divorced parents. Linklater began shooting in 2002 and has been filming more of the story intermittently since, all the way through 2013: “Every summer, I get together with the actors and we film a little bit. It’s about a kid growing up — that’s the gist of it. It’s a crazy idea, but it’s been an interesting process, I’m always looking for a different way to tell a story, and that seemed like a great way to show someone growing up.”
Ethan Hawke who plays the father shared some thoughts on the project in his June 2013 Reddit AMA;
Richard Linklater and I have made a short film every year for the last 11 years, one more to go, that follows the development of a young boy from age 6 to 18. I play the father, and it’s Tolstoy-esque in scope. I thought the BEFORE series was the most unique thing I would ever be a part of, but Rick has engaged me in something even more strange. Doing a scene with a young boy at the age of 7 when he talks about why do raccoons die, and at the age of 12 when he talks about video games, and 17 when he asks me about girls, and have it be the same actor - to watch his voice and body morph - it’s a little bit like timelapse photography of a human being. I can’t wait for people to see it.
Next year, he will graduate high school and we will finish the film. It will probably come out in 2 years.
Shot over the course of 39 days spread across more than a decade, the film allows Linklater to explore further his predilection for fluid, organically developed character-driven stories and to expand on the theme of ‘time passing’ so central to his work and already masterfully portrayed in the Before…trilogy
While Michael Apted’s Up documentary series (following the lives of 14 children since 1963 and checking in on their lives every seven years from 7 Up to last year’s 56 Up) and Steve James’ Hoop Dreams both adopted a similar approach, its use for a fiction film is unprecedented.
Whilst brainstorming, Giler and Hill also met with science-fiction author William Gibson, whose 1984 novel The Neuromancer helped usher in cyberpunk. Gibson accepted Brandywine’s offer: they would come up with a story, and he would write the script.
But Gibson was swayed by more than the promise of a paycheck. “I found a lot of things that were interesting in the original [Alien] even when it first came out,” he explained. “I thought there were germs of stories implicit in the art direction. I always wanted to know more about these guys. Like why they were wearing dirty sneakers in this funked-up spaceship. I think it influenced my prose science-fiction writing because it was the first funked-up, dirty kitchen-sink spaceship, and it made a big impression on me.”
The Blade Runner-esque idea interested Gibson, but he was quickly set right by the producers. “The impression I had,” Gibson said, “was that budget parameters argued against introducing the Aliens into something that was the equivalent of the Blade Runner set, which I admit would have been my natural impulse.”
“Alien 3 generated a stack of scripts a foot high, before there could be a movie,” Gibson said through his Twitter feed in March 2013. “That Alien 3 script was my first screenplay. Worked w/ scripts of first two as my sole model of the form.”
“Only one detail survived [from my script],” said Gibson. “In my draft, this woman has a bar code on the back of her hand. In the shooting script [and final movie], one of the guys has a shaved head and a bar code on the back of his head. I’ll always privately think that was my piece of Alien 3.”