Saturday, February 4, 2012

A couple of DVDs and their commentaries


Two independent features, Acne and Swoon

Several years ago, I saw a movie called Acne. A spoof of a 1950s horror movie. It might have been better if the auteur hadn't set out to make a horror movie with no violence. Horror movies necessarily have to contain horror.

I listened to the commentary on the DVD. It was the director and a couple of the actors.

What they said in the commentary should be a warning to anyone who wants to direct.

At one point, the director said that when the time came to direct this, his first movie, he suddenly realized that he had no idea how to direct a movie.

"The key is organization," one of the actors said sardonically.

The movie cost $38 thousand if I remember correctly. It took four years to film. Apparently this was because the director kept filming and filming and filming on every scene in the movie. He didn't know when to stop. They were on location filming a scene. They kept filming re-takes and coverage and then more retakes. The special effects guys who did the latex make-up finally lied to him and told him they were out of latex just so they could go home.

No one was paid. One person died during the years it took to film it.

One scene was filmed in a convenience store. The place closed at 10 p.m. and the film crew moved in to start filming. It was a simple scene, a minute or two long. Some youth go into the store and get food that contributes to their acne.

For some reason, this scene took all night to film. They started at ten p.m. and didn't leave until after the sun came up. The store owner, who had been up all night, went to the director to be paid. The director handed him twenty dollars.

"Is that all this was worth?"

The director gave him the rest of his money, about a hundred dollars. He laughed in the commentary that they had probably eaten more than that much merchandise during the filming.

And the worse thing. They had a scene. A "funny" scene. There's 12-year-old kid. The director used to babysit him. In the scene, two teenagers are standing over him and each vomits on him. And they shot re-take after re-take.

In another scene, the camera was rolling.

"Start talking!" the director yelled.

"What am I supposed to say?"

"I don't know. Just start talking!"

That footage was left out of the film.

They also noted that one of the actors had paid for the surplus military uniforms in the movie but had never been paid for them.

I wonder what the movie would have cost if the director had used his time more wisely.

I had also watched the movie Swoon, about the Leopold and Loeb case. The film was part of the new gay cinema, made in 1992. The two scrawny teenage thrill killers, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, were played by a couple of thirtyish actors, one stereotypically gay, the other a healthy, strapping stereotypical hetrosexual.

According to the commentary, the director, on at least one night of filming, had the opposite problem the Acne director had.

They were filming a scene. I think it took place right after the murder. The director got tired and wanted to go.

"You didn't get what you needed, did you?" the cinematographer said.

"No."

"Well go back and get it!"

He went back and filmed until he got the footage he needed.

They talked about the child actor who played murder victim Bobby Frank, the fourteen-year-old whom Leopold and Loeb lured into their car and killed. He would be 102-years-old if they hadn't gotten to him.

The director was trying to be very sensitive not wanting to traumatize the poor boy. He's was hit over the head, dragged over the front seat of a car into the back seat and beaten and choked to death. The director wanted to be very gentle with him. But the kid didn't care. He was having fun! He wanted more blood! The kid's mother stood around waiting. She didn't care either. This sort of stuff is traumatic for the adults, but kids love it.

Maybe the kid in Acne liked being puked on. If he did, they didn't say so in the commentary.

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