Doodlebug, one of his early short films:
Don’t wobble when you reach the top. This new doc might well strike a chord for the audience, especially those desperately eager to establish ‘why’ and ‘how’ do you go about walking the wire across the 1970’s construction site of the Twin Towers. This was one of the most defining stunts every accomplished by a French climber.
Synopsis: August 7, 1974. A young French man named Philippe Petit stepped out on a wire suspended between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. He danced on this wire for an hour with no safety net before he was arrested for what has become to be known as the “artistic crime of the century”.
“Man on Wire” is the perfect example of matching doc director to doc subject. French tightrope walker and juggler Philippe Petit became world-famous when he walked between the two World Trade Center towers, then under construction, on August 7, 1974 — a completely illegal if fantastic act that involved complex preparation and shook up New York City’s police department. (He had to cross back and forth several times to avoid the cops.) Petit had already achieved artistic notoriety for his feats at famous sites like Notre Dame in Paris, but to traverse the air space between what were then the world’s two tallest buildings? It’s not only his unbeatable skill, though, that makes Petit an ideal subject for a doc: He is a ball of fire, a fascinating egomaniac who engages you completely with his energy and confidence. Petit has written several books, including To Reach the Clouds, which recounts the feat in downtown Manhattan.
The full interview with British director James Marsh.
Like many future filmmakers, British-born Christopher Nolan began making amateur movies at an early age, playing around with a Super 8mm camera that belonged to his father. When his family relocated to Chicago for three years during his formative years, this child of a British father and American mother traded tips on movie making with pals Roko and Adrian Belic (who in 1998 premiered their documentary “Genghis Blues”). While an undergraduate at University College in London, Nolan saw his short “Tarantella” air in the USA on PBS in 1989. By the mid-90s, he had hooked up with Jeremy Theobold who appeared in the shorts “Larceny” and “Doodlebug”. Theobold would go on to produce and star in Nolan’s feature directorial debut, “Following” (1998). Serving as director, co-producer, co-editor and cinematographer, he inverted some of the conventions of the film noir to recount the tale of a blocked writer (Theobold) who spends his days stalking strangers in the hopes of jump-starting his imagination. Then, one of his “victims” turns the tables and invites the scribe to join in a series of petty thefts. Juggling time via flashbacks and flash forwards, Nolan established a key signature of his work in which chronology takes a back seat to character. Critics found much that was admirable in Nolan’s first feature, although most felt it was a marginal achievement, at best.
Nolan took a giant leap forward with his second film, “Memento” (2000), working from an unpublished short story by his brother Jonathan. An intriguing skewering of the conventions of film noir, “Memento” centers on a man with “anterograde amnesia”, a condition that does not allow him to form new memories, who is seeking the man who raped and murdered his wife. While the heart of the piece was a conventional revenge drama, the story unfolded in an intriguing manner — backwards, with bits of additional information added each time. Fascinating and complex, “Memento” earned great acclaim when it opened in Europe in fall 2000 and at its US premiere at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival where Nolan picked up the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. The film also earned him numerous citations from critics’ groups. Despite the fact that the idea for the story originated with his brother’s fiction, Nolan’s screenplay was deemed an original for the purposes of Academy Award consideration, in part because the film had premiered in both Great Britain and the USA before the short story was published in the March 2001 issue of Esquire. Capitalizing on his success, Nolan directed the English-language remake of the 1997 Norwegian crime thriller “Insomnia” (2002), starring three previous Academy Award winners, Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank . The critical response to the film was mixed: while some labeled the thriller as an early Oscar contender and heaped praise on Williams’ smart, controlled performance, others found the film a lackluster sophomore follow-up to the bravura efforts of “Memento.”
Nevertheless, Warner Brothers, which produced “Insomnia,” was still confident enough in Nolan’s talents to tap him to direct its long-aborning effort to revive the all-but-defunt “Batman” franchise after various other incarnations failed to make it into production. Teaming with screenwriter and comic book author David S. Goyer, who’d previously translated the “Blade” character from comics to film, Nolan took the film series 180 degrees from its increasingly gaudy and campy direction, envisioning “Batman Begins” (2005) as a pitch-black, deadly serious psychological exploration of the origins of the legendary comic book superhero. Taking direct inspiration from many sequences from the post-“Dark Knight Returns” era of the comics, Nolan’s film traced Bruce Wayne’s journey from orphaned millionaire to intensely skilled crimefighter, taking pains to craft both a Gotham City and an outer world that was as realistic as its pulpy source material would allow and eschewing over-the-top theatrics and computer-generated special effects in favor of nuanced acting and old-fashioned stunt work. Nolan and Goyer’s take attracted an all-star cast, including Michael Caine as Wayne’s faithful aide Alfred; Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon, Gotham’s sole uncorrupt cop; Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, the provider of Batman’s technology; and Liam Neeson as the mysterious, machiavellian Henri Ducard; but the true discovery of the film was Christian Bale in a star-making turn as the titular superhero. Though the film lacked some of the darkly manic pop inspiration that characterized the Tim Burton films, “Batman Begins'” soberer take was a breath of fresh air for loyal fans of the comic books and moviegoers turned off by Joel Schumacher’s more recent camp efforts, and the film proved to be both a critical and commercial success. Nolan was set to return to the franchise for “The Dark Knight” (scheduled for release in 2008) reteaming with Goyer on story chores (with a script by Nolan’s brother Jonathan) and helming again, this time with Heath Ledger in the role of the iconic villain The Joker.
July 30, 1971 in England
* Job Titles:
Director, Screenwriter, Director of photography, Producer, Editor
* Brother: Jonathan Nolan. wrote short story upon which “Memento” (2000) was based
* University College, London, England, English
* 1989 Made short “Tarantella” which received airing on PBS in USA
* 1996 Short film “Larceny” screened at the Cambridge Film Festival; Jeremy Theobald made acting debut
* 1998 Feature directorial debut, “Following”; Theobald starred and served as one of the producers
* 2000 Helmed second feature, the acclaimed thriller “Memento”, adapted from a story by his brother
* 2002 Directed the English-language remake of “Insomnia”
* 2005 Directed and co-wrote the fifth Caped Crusader installment “Batman Begins” which starred Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman
* 2006 Directed Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale in “The Prestige,” about rival magicians working in early-20th-century London
* Began making short films at age seven
* Collaborated with Theobald on the short “Doodlebug”
* Spent three years of his youth living in Chicago; made early films with Roko and Adrian Belic (the future Oscar nominees for the documentary “Genghis Blues”)
I was lucky enough to met this legendary documentary filmmaker last year at a dinner. Albert captures the fragility of people’s lives. His stories are tales of great courage. Two of America’s foremost non-fiction filmmakers, Albert Maysles and his brother David (1932-1987) are recognized as pioneers of “direct cinema,” the distinctly American version of French “cinema verité.” They earned their distinguished reputations by being the first to make non-fiction feature films – films in which the drama of human life unfolds as is, without scripts, sets, or narration.
“80 percent of success is just showing up” — Woody Allen
In anything you do, people want to know they can count on you. They want to know that those whom they buy from, and associate with, will be there for the long haul. One of the best ways to prove you are the real deal is to always be present. Out of sight is out of mind. People need to know they can count on you. Staying connected, remaining in-touch and ready to respond is a challenge. That is increasingly important in a widely connected, but increasingly impersonal world.
In 1991, Francis Ford Coppola said:
“To me the great hope is that now these little video recorders are around and people who normally wouldn’t make movies are going to be making them. And suddenly, one day some little fat girl in Ohio is going to be the new Mozart and make a beautiful film with her father’s camcorder and for once, the so-called professionalism about movies will be destroyed, forever, and it will really become an art form.”
This quote should make any self-respecting film buff smile.
“The hardest thing in the world is to be good and clear when creating anything. It’s the hardest thing in the world. It’s really easy to be obscure and elliptical and so fucking hard to be good and clear. It breaks people. Because you don’t often get encouragement to do that, to be good and clear.”
This quote came from a great interview with Believer magazine. His version of the 1970’s sci-fi epic Solaris is stunning/complex/sparse. I laugh when I think that might actually be his ordainment movie.