Childhood has a lot in common with great cinema in that when you’re small, everything is new, lending everything intensity, fantasy, and vividness. A truly great movie is not just a story, it’s an experience. You get to grab Cary Grant’s hand as he saves you from going over the cliff and then you kiss him. You jump into Dick Van Dyke’s watercolors and cavort with Mary Poppins and a couple of penguins. And yet onscreen kids are often phony, unbearably grown-up and off-putting, and few movies truly capture what it’s like to be a kid. Below are some exceptions.
Yesterday was the Master of Suspense’s birthday. In his honor, I’ve assembled a few scenes from his less discussed works.
One of my pet peeves is stories that don’t take location into account. Think about it: cities are as distinctive as people. The pace, the climate, the geography, the architecture, all of these things give each city something akin to a personality and this, in turn, means that they affect people differently. Sometimes in an extreme way (Jerusalem Syndrome, for instance); sometimes more subtly. New York City for instance is very intrusive. Even though it’s undoubtedly true that you can become very isolated and lonely here, as soon as you walk out the door, something’s apt to happen. There’s such a constant assault on the senses that, for good or for ill, your plans are apt to change in a way that wouldn’t happen in, say, L.A. This is not to say that L.A. doesn’t exert a psychological force in people’s lives; the effect is just entirely different. A city, in other words, can be as much of a character as the flesh and blood ones.
There’s something I have to confess. I’m easily distractible and if I write on a computer I find myself checking my email, googling facts that I think will support my thesis but that really only end up hooking me in to read others’ blog posts, and clicking on links. I even have to hide my iPhone so I won’t get sucked into a game of Words With Friends. In short, the only way I get any writing done is to step away from the gadgets. And the only way I can generate ideas when I’m stuck is to write them out. I can’t help it. I think with my hands. My brain only works in conjunction with pen and paper, partly because I love to touch. The messier my notes, the happier my muse. There’s nothing I love more than notebooks and there’s nothing more interesting to me than other artists’ notebooks. It’s like getting a peek into their brains. For inspiration’s sake, here is a compendium of other artists’ notebooks.
When I was in film school, my advisor, Vojtech Jasny, encouraged us to carry a camera and shoot something every day so that we could “train our eye.” That’s one of the great things about film; it borrows from so many genres that it gives us an excuse to consume art in all its forms. In order to be a complete filmmaker you have to appreciate photography, painting, sculpture, music, hell, even dance. All art forms feed each other, of course, but film has a little bit of everything.