"Sufficient time is rarely taken to study light. It is as important as the lines the actors speak, or the direction given to them. It is an integral part of the story and that is why such close coordination is needed between director and cinematographer. Light is a treasure chest: once properly understood, it can bring another dimension to the medium… As I worked with Ingmar, I learned how to express in light the words in the script, and make it reflect the nuances of the drama. Light became a passion which has dominated my life."
December 3, 1922 — September 20, 2006
I don’t recall seeing this promotional photo of Leonard Nimoy as Spock before, much less on the cover of an issue of New Zealand Listener.
(If you want to buy it, it’s just $500 on eBay.)
Clint Eastwood: “Just keep grinding, until the talent, the hard work, the effort to learn, and the good luck all come together at one time. And when they do, well, then you’re alright.” The Man With No Name (1977) is an excellent documentary on Clint Eastwood, with presenter, the writer and broadcaster Iain Johnstone getting great value from directors Sergio Leone and Don Seigel, actor Richard Burton and the critic Dilys Powell. [Paul J. Gallagher]
Interview with Sergio Leone (1987) By Marlaine Glicksman.
I had never thought of making a western even as I was making it. I think that my films are westerns only in their exterior aspects. Within them are some of my truths, which happily, I see, belong to lots of parts of the world. Not just America. My discussion is one that has gone all the way from Fistful of Dollars through Once Upon a Time in America. But if you look closely at all these films, you find in them the same meanings, the same humor, the same point of view, and, also, the same pains. Of course, there was also the myth of the western films. But my films are borrowed not from the story of the West in America but from the story of cinema. So it is clear that the vehicle of the western was a very interesting vehicle for me to contraband some of my ideas. Probably the greatest writer of westerns himself was Homer. His character were never all good or all bad. They’re half and half, these characters, as all human beings are. And I am searching as Diogenes did with his lantern for all of these wonderful human beings. I haven’t found them yet. —Sergio Leone
Stanley Kubrick while filming Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Sergio Leone and cast on the set of Duck, You Sucker (1971)
Martin Scorsese and cast on the set of The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Star Trek poster by Jim Steranko
Akira Kurosawa and Martin Scorsese (as Vincent van Gogh) during the making of Dreams. —kurosawa-akira
Amazing footage. Akira Kurosawa direct Ran in 5-hour epic B-roll.
Chris Marker’s documentary is an epic — a portrait of Kurosawa during the making of his most ambitious and expensive picture. You see the Sensei director in front of JCBs, great earth-moving machines… You see massive sets, hundreds of extras, the Plains of Gotenba…
Ours (Kurosawa: The Last Emperor, 1999), though it has a rather grand title, is more about the personal. There’s a selection of directors who talk about Kurosawa’s influence on their work: John Woo, Bernardo Bertolucci, Francis Coppola, Paul Verhoeven, Arturo Ripstein, Andrei Konchalovsky. Plus the inimitable Mike Hodges, who was young Kurosawa’s fencing teacher in turn-of-the-century Japan. And there are sections on TORA TORA TORA, the film he didn’t make; on the making of AME AGARU (one of his last screenplays) by his former collaborators; and on MADADAYO — his last film, the story of an intensely tedious and sentimental old schoolteacher. Paul Verhoeven does a mini-lecture about RASHOMON, Ms. Nogami shows how they did the final “Arrows” scene in THRONE OF BLOOD, the actors talk about SEVEN SAMURAI and RAN, Nakadai-san discusses the creation of his character in YOJIMBO, there’s IKIRU, KAGEMUSHA, RED BEARD, RAN… I realize there’s a preponderance of samurai and period films, but that’s the way it is. I would have liked to include THE BAD SLEEP WELL and more of the early films, and a scene from SANSHIRO SUGATA. —Alex Cox
A magnificent lesson from the Master, Akira Kurosawa on screenwriting:
“With a good script a good director can produce a masterpiece; with the same script a mediocre director can make a passable film. But with a bad script even a good director can’t possibly make a good film. For truly cinematic expression, the camera and the microphone must be able to cross both fire and water. That is what makes a real movie. The script must be something that has the power to do this.”
“In order to write scripts, you must first study the great novels and dramas of the world. You must consider why they are great. Where does the emotion come from that you feel as you read them? What degree of passion did the author have to have, what level of meticulousness did he have to command, in order to portray the characters and events as he did? You must read thoroughly, to the point where you can grasp all these things. You must also see the great films. You must read the great screenplays and study the film theories of the great directors. If your goal is to become a film director, you must master screenwriting.”
“A good structure for a screenplay is that of the symphony, with its three or four movements and differing tempos. Or one can use the Noh play with its three-part structure: jo (introduction), ha (destruction) and kyu (haste). If you devote yourself fully to Noh and gain something good from this, it will emerge naturally in your films. The Noh is a truly unique art form that exists nowhere else in the world. I think the Kabuki, which imitates it, is a sterile flower. But in a screenplay, I think the symphonic structure is the easiest for the people of today to understand.”
“Something that you should take particular notice of is the fact that the best scripts have very few explanatory passages. Adding explanation to the descriptive passages of a screenplay is the most dangerous trap you can fall into. It’s easy to explain the psychological state of a character at a particular moment, but it’s very difficult to describe it through the delicate nuances of action and dialogue. Yet it is not impossible. A great deal about this can be learned from the study of the great plays, and I believe the “hard-boiled” detective novels can also be very instructive.”
“I began writing scripts with two other people around 1940. Up until then I wrote alone, and found that I had no difficulties. But in writing alone there is a danger that your interpretation of another human being will suffer from one-sidedness. If you write with two other people about that human being, you get at least three different viewpoints on him, and you can discuss the points on which you disagree. Also, the director has a natural tendency to nudge the hero and the plot along into a pattern that is the easiest one for him to direct. By writing with about two other people, you can avoid this danger also.”
“I‘ve forgotten who it was that said creation is memory. My own experiences and the various things I have read remain in my memory and become the basis upon which I create something new. I couldn’t do it out of nothing. For this reason, since the time I was a young man I have always kept a notebook handy when I read a book. I write down my reactions and what particularly moves me. I have stacks and stacks of these college notebooks, and when I go off to write a script, these are what I read. Somewhere they always provide me with a point of breakthourgh. Even for single lines of dialogue I have taken hints from these notebooks. So what I want to say is, don’t read books while lying down in bed.”
“A novel and a screenplay are entirely different things. The freedom for psychological description one has in writing a novel is particularly difficult to adapt to a screenplay without using narration.”
“Characters in a film have their own existence. The filmmaker has no freedom. If he insists on his authority and is allowed to manipulate his characters like puppets, the film loses its vitality.”
“At some point in the writing of every script I feel like giving the whole thing up. From my many experiences of writing screenplays, however, I have learned something: If I hold fast in the face of this blankness and despair, adopting the tactic of Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect, who glared at the wall that stood in his way until his legs became useless, a path will open up.”
“Those who say an assistant director’s job doesn’t allow him any free time for writing are just cowards. Perhaps you can write only one page a day, but if you do it every day, at the end of the year you’ll have 365 pages of script. I began in this spirit, with a target of one page a day. There was nothing I could do about the nights I had to work till dawn, but when I had time to sleep, even after crawling into bed I would turn out two or three pages. Oddly enough, when I put my mind to writing, it came more easily than I had thought it would, and I wrote quite a few scripts.”
For further reading:
- 6 Filmmaking Tips From Akira Kurosawa
- Kurosawa on Kurosawa
- Kurosawa: Some Random Notes on Filmmaking
- Kurosawa, Tarkovsky and Solaris
I always thought that it was great when people told me that my films are impossible to put in a drawer. So I’d say: ‘Oh, thank you’, and they’d respond: ‘No, that’s terrible. You would be doing yourself a big favour if you worked in a genre.’ And then they’d tell me I should work in science fiction, a genre I don’t find much of a connection with for some reason, even though it has so much potential. To some extent, science fiction and horror seem so close together as an element of fantasy. But I still like my horror films scary yet slightly allegorical to a degree where I’m not sure whether I can figure out the allegory. If I can’t figure it out, that’s even better. But it has to be rooted in something that we all feel, whether we believe in saucers or vampires or not. We all feel those things but they are dressed up in the horror genre garb. I like that. -Guy Maddin
Cat Stevens relaxing backstage with Jimi Hendrix.
Leonard Nimoy directs William Shatner during the filming of Star Trek III.
Original cover painting by Frank Miller (pencils) and Bill Sienkiewicz (everything else) from the Lone Wolf and Cub Deluxe Edition, published by First Publishing, 1988.
Lady Snowblood (1973)