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Budget/equipment vs knack/eye
  • I don't know how many of you saw the movie Pusher. I just did, even though it's an old one, from 1996. It was directed and written by color-blind director 26 year old Nicolas Winding Refn. I can't say how blown away I was yesterday after watching it. There are 2 more movies in the Pusher trilogy, second one being ok and third one being very good. First one is excellent tho.

    Apparently the movie reached cult status, so much so that it received a typical modern aspiring filmmaker treatment - remake.

    The remake basically copies the original movie scene by scene. For someone like me who just saw the original, watching the remake was a painful experience, since I just watched the original and remember every scene. The original has tremendous pace, rhythm, and it's gripping, can't think of more appropriate word than that. On the other hand, the same exact scenes and basically identical lines of dialogue in 2012 remake are just mind-numbing. The 2012 version is obviously budgeted. Cameras are better. Colors nice and vivid. The original was shot in chronological order entirely using hand-held cameras. The remake had jib shots and slides.

    The original had significant amount of grain, noise, blown high-lights, heavily underexposed shots, over-saturated shots, they even broke the 180 rule at one point. The remake was done "by the books".

    Yet the remake sucks all balls possible while the original is one of the best movies I saw in a long time, despite being "old". I didn't see it before so it's new to me :)

    So with that in mind, and with all GH4 drama going around the internet, I find myself thinking......how big of a budget does it take to compensate for dullness or general boring style of storytelling?

  • 15 Replies sorted by
  • Spot on with Pusher analysis. 1st and 3rd very good. Remake was shit. As we all know, unfortunately, a lot of big budget movies suck. Sometimes they're good. Big budget will only add some nice photography and sound and marketing to a boring story. Last 15-20 years have been relatively weak vs. better films of the 70s/80s IMO. Pusher was a breathe of fresh air. Refn's movie 'Drive' was damn good too. Was lucky to see it in theater.

  • I haven't seen these films, but I know what you're talking about. I think allot of it has to do with studio movies being weighted down by bureaucracy. Every single job and sub-job being dictated by, and designated to a union worker... or you get fined. Lots of wrenches thrown into the system just so you'll have to pay someone to pull them out. There's kind of energy you can feel in the final product when the camera is in the directors hands/control without interference...

  • The Pusher films are great and Refn is a great filmmaker. He has a very certain style, if you watch his latest films (Bronson, Valhalla Rising, Drive and Only God Forgives) the grittiness of Pusher is gone and instead he uses clear color contrasts, little dialog and long sequences. The almost Dogme style of the Pusher films are mostly because of Budget. Refn made Pusher himself with a very small budget. I think that is what forced the film to be very gritty. But if you see his latest work he certainly have a "knackeye" for the cinematic and beautiful.

  • +1 for Pusher love. For all 3, despite 2nd film of trilogy, feat Mikelsen, loosing a bit of gas.

    In my view and despite Drive (a temporarily "threat" of resurrection) NW Refn career goes the way many do, increase of budget, decrease of interest. Being Only God Forgives absolutely unwatchable, just my opinion ,-)

  • Had to comment on this... agreed Only God Forgive's that script must have been ten pages max lol.

    I have not seen the original Pusher but I did see the remake, was watching the remake more for it's use of hand held and because they shot red one mx, a style I will be employing on my next film. The color and cinematography of the remake was great, I can totally see how the original would be the better film though.

    However, I wanted to add that I don't think the remake had that big of a budget either, much more than Refn's original but nothing close to Hollywood budgets I would guess.

    But this is all old news, a great story and characters trumps technology any day of the week. That's why I find funny when people freak out about 4k, 6k, aliasing, all that... at the end of the day story is king. I shot a feature in 2008 with a HVX200 in 720p! And that mofo got a 35mm blowup and theatrical release. I would have killed for even a GH1 back then lol. So IMHO better tech does not better a filmmaker make.

  • ...agreed Only God Forgive's that script must have been ten pages max lol.

    Dialog does not equal a script. Dialog is not a story. Most writers have their characters saying words for no other reason than consuming time. They talk and talk and say nothing at all. Meanwhile someone like Cameron will write a three hundred and fifty page treatment for a feature length videogame cut scene.

  • @BurnetRhoades did you like it, OGF?

    Dialog does not equal a script

    Unless it's Before Midnight :P sure it doesn't. Recently I felt like that when watching The Counselor, dialogs seemed from another film, from completely different characters (like out of a H. Miller's ecstatic drunk hangover), almost like when you're watching someone faraway and you imagine things that person could be saying. Didn't know what to make of that, guess I enjoyed the schizophrenia... of the dialogs as a concept.

    PS
    Now that I think of it, (The Counselor dialogs) are a bit like a carbon copy Goddard, Bergman or even Buñuel, but with a mainstream wrapper

  • @maxr OGF isn't my favorite NWR film, but I totally enjoyed the experience. The samurai-western story was easy enough to see and follow, and it's as solid as any other samurai or western tale of revenge, guilt and redemption, underneath the art film and fever dream visuals that were consistent with what I might expect from the director of Valhalla Rising and Bronson.

    Drive was the first time I took notice of NWR and based on how much I loved it I went digging into his influences and earlier films. I think all within about the same week I saw VR and Bronson and the films that most influenced NWR by Kenneth Anger.

    Once you see Scorpio Rising, Lucifer Rising and Kustom Kar Kommandos his visual style and experimentation with visuals disjointed from literal narrative becomes fairly clear and while Drive is still a fantastic, beautiful film and the Kenneth Anger influence is all over it, it's likely his most conventional and commercial project. Come to find out that was totally intentional because it was originally designed as the first of an anti-hero franchise vehicle and I'd like to see him return to this world with Ryan Gosling.

    What I like about his films that I've seen, apart from Drive, is he isn't afraid of being lyrical with his visuals. Most audiences simply cannot handle films where what they see isn't supposed to be taken literally. They don't see the difference between fact and truth, or that their can be a difference.

  • @BurnetRhoades very fair points, my friend, very fair

    It is very difficult to reach common ground when our "taste/like" is mixed with whatever position we take and in my case I admit with no shame it is always mixed up. It figures it's also something that we develop through the years and heavily based in our life's experiences, tinted by our passion and influenced by our metier. That should not stop us learning from opposite direction and making the reach some kinf of a common ground of agreement one of the main goals. =)

    That said - and my butcher knifes sharpened - I admit I liked Bronson, mostly because Hardy's great job and how we are presented with this guy's story (like Bana's Chopper). In Drive also enjoyed colour palette and compression of light, tension and density of ambient and characters. But again, with a enormously bigger budget and maturity I would expect a fucking Apocalypse Now of blinding lyrickness from NWR, oh father of Pushers!!!... not close to B cam.

    For instance, I like some of Malick's work, some is technically perfect, but technique it's not everything and despite The Thin Red Line being one of my favourite "war movies" and in which lyric and real go hand by hand in a superbly balanced union; most of Malick work has the tendency of using actors in most utilitarian (leechy) way and falling into a lyric eye popping emptyness exercise which however you put it seems and smells of an egotrippin empty soul to me. Not everybody is a Kubrick or a Welles. I know, I'm just a lazy cockroach, but it's what I think.

    BTW there are a ton of (international, not just hollybood) reverenced directors, DPs, actors and fine artists I'll personally throw in a spaceship directed to nearest blackhole... with a timebomb and a hungry bunch of zombies.

    Don't know the Kenneth Anger dude, put him in list to check ,-) • Again if you like something I don't I totally respect that and hopefully my stupid and very opinionated limited comments are not read as a personal attack to anybody, 'cause they're absolutely not. =)

  • Nope, not thinking it's an attack at all. I know there are a lot of folks who don't even like Drive and who can't get passed the breakdown of the 4th Wall in Bronson or who can't understand why anyone would ever watch a film about such a person. There's plenty of films out there for everyone.

    Three of my favorite films from last year are all fairly polarizing (Only God Forgives, The Lords of Salem and Maniac) and I'm perfectly happy sitting at the "pro" pole. I have no interest in changing anyone's mind because you like what you like and don't what you don't. I often do feel compelled to speak up whenever I see subjectivity masquerade as anything but, though I know I'm not immune to the same sort of judgment at times.

    Whenever I'm tempted to say something sucks I try to ask myself, "does it really suck or did I just not like it?"

  • Cool =)

    Whenever I'm tempted to say something sucks I try to ask myself, "does it really suck or did I just not like it?"

    I just don't see that there is such a clear separation... not even in science. I mean, how many need to agree on an opinion, 'cause in the end it will always be "just" matter of opinions, so that ONE can say it sucked or wonderful? This trendy "philoshophy" (not saying you're onto it) of you're a hater, you're this, you're that because you get involved with something is supposed to get you involved... how many great people must have been criticized and yet they managed... in time.

    That could be a start of somethin': a film that only 1 person in the world likes... and it's not its director :P

  • Oh, I see a clear distinction. I'm not one that buys into all things being relative and while I believe all have a right to an opinion and the right to express whatever opinion they have I don't for a second believe all opinions are equal or equally valid. If they're all equal then they're all irrelevant and a waste of time for all parties involved.

    But I do believe haters gonna hate ;)

  • I never talked anything about "all things being relative", please don't need to be serious but at least a minimum of accuracy, je je. I mentioned subjectivity, trends, involment and, if anything questioned the way of measurement on how certain cultural values are passed on. I totally agree that many things are better left alone, probably not even worth the fingertips' wear =) But that has nothing to do with objectifying (putting in words) a subjective assessment.

    By making the separation between a subjective opinion creating a personal involvement/relation (I like it) and a subjective opinion expressed within a value - individual or collective - (it's wonderful), it seems to me you're the one relativizing the background issue into a simple language jigsaw.

    For me all things have a value, not to be confused with usefulness. Now focusing on kultur, if it has a value, primarily it would be for yourself; you might find pleasing [^1] certain grading, or appreciate that angle shot where the cleavage made a beautiful slide to sin, or the sound design, or the actor making love to the 4th wall, or the pace the story unfolds, etc. What value has gazing a fucking Picasso if not for yourself FIRST??? Then, later on the story, as it's being usufructed from many souls - and here would be another big question about who decides (agents) and how (affects) what goes in the museum/cinemateque? - the thing, painting, film, sculpture, performance... anything culturally related, gains a very different status, a stability which comes of general recognition and wider value range, yes also money money.

    [^1]
    I have a very clear idea of the value I give to a storyteller... not talking about cinema now, but before written words even existed... as entertaining as it might be if there's no transmission is worthless as it defeats the very purpose of it's existence.

    Ok, now for a little contradiction and the cherry on top of this pile of offtopicness, a chinese proverb, one has to learn how to love these guys 'cause they gonna own our sorry asses pretty soon :P

    Everybody knows the usefulness of the useful but few know the usefulness of the useless

  • "Dialog does not equal a script. Dialog is not a story." In general I agree. In fact, I'm one of those minorities who thinks stage directions should carry the story. Visual story telling right? At the same time, there are talky movies like 12 ANGRY MEN that are dialog driven. Also, an aspiring writer with sights on Hollywood is wise to contain his story within dialog blocks because many studio readers essentially skip stage directions once they have a handle on the story direction. That might be a their shortcoming, but either way, the writer suffers the consequences.

  • Also, an aspiring writer with sights on Hollywood is wise to contain his story within dialog blocks because many studio readers essentially skip stage directions once they have a handle on the story direction. That might be a their shortcoming, but either way, the writer suffers the consequences...

    That's actually one of the worst rubs for unknown writers hacking out spec scripts trying to make it. They must tailor their scripts for the taste of the gatekeepers, ie the readers, but here's the thing, those studio readers are basically entry level jobs. On the one hand they have great influence over whether or not your script ever gets seen by anyone that can actually change your life. On the other hand they're reading all those scripts because their time is less valuable than that person who could change your life. They're who you must "save the cat" for.