"I had insecurities and fears like everybody does, and I got over it. But I was interested in the parts of me that struggled with those things."
Happy Birthday Philip Seymour Hoffman (23rd July 1967 - 2nd February 2014)
I attended the first day of his miniature film festival at the annual Larmer Tree Festival yesterday when I spotted him having a chat outside the event’s screening room. I had a fit. For those tragic minds who remain oblivious to the work of Mark Kermode, with Roger Ebert no longer with us, Kermode is my favorite living film critic. I discovered him in early 2011, and since then, his books, podcasts, and YouTube videos have underscored three years worth of filmmaking, traveling, writing, and other cinematic endeavors. His writing is certainly an acquired taste; his reviews are quite often hideously wrong (his dismissal of Saving Private Ryan and David Fincher’s remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo led to a turbulent falling out between the two of his. He remains unaware of this, but I know my scars); his ego is often so titanic as to make James Cameron’s blockbuster of the same name look in scale like Gus Van Sant’s Elephant; yet the man remains my hero. His knowledge of both the mechanics of cinema and its history borders on the encyclopedic, and unlike a poor few I’ve come to know in my life, Kermode has the childlike enthusiasm to bring that knowledge to vigorous life. He is the greatest evidence of what a substantial meaning cinema can have to a single human life, and through his writings and rants, he goes a significant distance to channeling that meaning into me.
So I inched my way rather awkwardly toward him and said:
“Sir? Sir, I don’t mean to bother you…”
He turned to me and beamed. I was stunned. It was a face that suggested that to bother him even slightly would be more biblical and achievement than the parting of the Red Sea. And at that moment, years of gathering what I’d say to him — Is Benjamin Button really all that bad? What do you really think of Brian De Palma? How can someone so intelligent be so thoroughly wrong so much of the time? Can I come work for you? I’ll shine your shoes if necessary — suddenly wiped clean from my mind. I had nothing. After years, I finally stood before Mark Kermode in all his French-hating majesty, and I had been stripped of the ability to conjure a single original thought. So I regurgitated what I had told Philip Seymour Hoffman at Sundance:
“… but If I didn’t come over here and shake your hand, I’d never forgive myself.”
He took my hand in his, grasped it firmly, and said 5 words that I will never forget as long as I live.
“Well then, consider yourself forgiven.”
I don’t think any of you can truly understand the catharsis those words brought me. I’m not even certain he can. It was as if the tension of years of failure and scarring suddenly melted from my shoulders. My greatest success and fumbles have all been cushioned by the words of Mark Kermode, so to my contained view, he’s seen all of them. To hear him utter words of forgiveness felt like exactly that; forgiveness. Forgiveness for some of the truly awful and self-aggrandizing things that I’ve done as well as for all the opportunities I’ve missed because of such. After that encounter, I felt strangely awake. It was brilliant.
We exchanged a few brief quips before I finally found it in myself to leave the poor man alone. Even if I had bothered him, it didn’t matter to me. Kermode knows my name, and unlike Hoffman, he presented himself as being just as lively and razor-sharp as I had imagined him over the years. Our brief contact was followed by an evening of Kermode’s favorite films, all presented by the legend himself. That will continue until Sunday, culminating in a book signing that afternoon. Part of me wonders if I jumped the gun by meeting him right on the first day. After all, what can I say to him during the book signing that doesn’t now make me look like a star-struck loon?
Anyhow, back to Larmer Tree for me. I have films to watch and music to hear. However, as wonderful as both of those things have been and will be, I’ll be spending all of the time during wondering: when I finish Birds of Paradise, will it manage to reach Mark’s vision? What will he make of it? Will he recognize the name attached to it? Most likely not. Oh well. Patience, I suppose. He’ll recognize the name soon enough.
"Somebody said I’m ‘the king of venereal horror,’ to which I always say: Well, it’s a very small kingdom, but it’s mine.” — David Cronenberg
Anonymous said: Please can I get a 15 words or less on Birds of Paradise. Really intrigued over here, Spencer
It’s going to do for the 21st century what Vertigo did for the 20th century.
Inspired by a conversation with Blondell-gazette, I did this thing.
What can I say, I’m a color geek.
It’s raggedy, dreadfully uneven, and even rather ripe in places, but even in its most unpolished form, it’s some of the best and most satisfying writing I have ever produced.
And it’s a good goddamn thing, too, as I’ve dreamt of Dane Dehaan twice this week (relax - no homoeroticism to be found. Not explicitly, anyhow). The script has more or less enveloped my life at this point, and if I’m going to create something good enough to hook him for this role, that’s the way it has to be.
"It would be the best of all, you know, if once in one of my pictures, only one human being had got something out of it for his life, for his daily life or for his future. I would be happy. That is the whole reason. If people use my pictures, it doesn’t matter if they are angry or aggressive or critical, but just that they are emotionally involved with my pictures. That is the only thing that is important to me."
July 14, 1918 — July 30, 2007