Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Movie Moment, uh, Moment

A few days ago a friend asked me how I come up with ideas for my weekly Movie Moment piece. To be honest, I wasn't sure how to answer him. There's no one method I use for choosing great moments, although if there was a foolproof way I'd probably use it, since sometimes it takes quite a bit of thought to come up with a good one.

Naturally, there are certain movies I definitely want to do. For example, it was only a matter of time before I'd write something about BELLE DE JOUR. But at the same time I don't want to simply go down my top 100 list checking off titles. I highly doubt I'll ever write about CITIZEN KANE, or CASABLANCA, or even TAXI DRIVER, since those movies have been picked apart so many times that I doubt I could find anything fresh or interesting to say about them.

In addition, when I do choose a beloved and acclaimed movie, I don't always like to choose the scenes that everyone knows are awesome. Take NASHVILLE, which I wrote about a few months ago. As anyone who has seen it can attest, NASHVILLE is full of obviously great scenes, scenes which have seared themselves into the memories of those who love the movie. But rather than picking one of the myriad excellent musical numbers or even Sueleen's shamefaced impromptu strip tease, I opted for a quieter dialogue scene, one that I thought embodied Robert Altman's greatness as well as any of the bigger stuff.

As with any movie lover, I have my favorite filmmakers, and I would like to write something about each of them while I have the chance. But because I love their work so much, I prefer to spotlight great but unheralded works of theirs rather than the classics we all know and love. When I decided it was time to take on Kubrick, I selected as my subject not 2001 or DR. STRANGELOVE, but LOLITA, a lesser Kubrick in the eyes of many. Despite the public consensus, I'm a big fan of the film, and I wanted to shed some light on it, perhaps motivating a reader to return to it with a new perspective.

When it comes to actually writing the articles, it's usually harder than it would seem. I almost always re-watch the movie I'm writing about, or if I've seen it recently enough or a sufficient number of times, I'll certainly re-watch the scene in question a few times and take notes. More often than not I'll formulate a basic theme for the piece before I even watch the movie, so I can better approach the scene from that angle. And then I just type up the piece. Most of the time I'll write it in two or three sittings, depending on how good my initial attempt is. On a few occasions (like NASHVILLE) the first sitting will flow out of me easily, and I'll end up going more or less with what I initially wrote.

But this is the exception rather than the rule. Rarer still is something like LA BELLE NOISEUSE, which felt almost TOO easy. I wanted to write something about Rivette sooner or later, but I when I recently saw NOISEUSE again on the big screen, I wasn't watching it with the intention of writing about it. It wasn't until the scene I got to the face-sketching scene that I was taken by how simply perfect it was, and I knew I had to write about it. I wrote down exactly one note (the line "you get stuck inside of what you're searching for") and when I got home I typed out the piece in less than 45 minutes. Sometimes I wish it was that easy every time.

Finally, in our conversation the other night, my friend also stated that, much as he's enjoyed the Moments I've chosen thusfar, none of them are scenes he personally would have chosen. But of course they aren't- we all have different tastes in movies, and different stuff that catches our eye. Most of the examples he cited could be described as "cool semi-random stuff," which while it's cool isn't really something that lingers in my memory (maybe this explains why AUDITION is by far my favorite Miike film, since it actually integrates the cool shit into the story so it doesn't feel random at all). This is not to say I won't write something in the future about something along those lines- I just haven't yet. Really, the only thing that separates a great scene that I'll write up and one that I won't is that I have to be at least pretty sure I can write a page or so about it without resorting to "remember when that happened that was awesome" over and over again.

Hope you all enjoy the Movie Moments so far, and I also hope the Moments to come continue to be up to snuff.

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