CITY ISLAND: THANK YOU TO THE CREW AND...BILLY WILDER?
For some reason that I was never clear about, a three day weekend was built into our last week of shooting. So now it's Monday, with two more shooting days to go, and I'm sitting around feeling pleasantly, utterly lost--not yet finished with the shoot, nor on the clock I've been on for the past ten weeks. Nonetheless, the two last nights coming up will put an end to that. And will also put an end to the most enjoyable filmmaking experience I've yet had.
I'm not sure who on the crew checks this blog, but if any of you are out there please accept my heartfelt thanks and gratitude for your super-professionalism and all around great attitudes. And spread that thanks to your compatriots who may not be reading this. The crew, as always, carried the movie. And the actors felt well supported and able to focus on their work.
We'll post more clips this week as we come to the end of our shooting period. And then I'm not sure what this blog will turn into. I'll be editing for the next couple of months. Perhaps I'll go back to posting music and old movie stuff as I previously did. Or it'll evolve into a history of what happens to this particular independent film. Our expectations for the movie are high, but I've been doing this awhile and know how hard the road is. Still it'll be a journey and perhaps an interesting one to share. If anyone has any ideas for the blog and where you'd like to see it go, drop me a comment.
I had a number of director heroes in my youth that made me interested in pursuing this maddening craft. Cheif among them was the great Billy Wilder. It sounds easy to say now--he is universally regarded as one of the all time greats--but in the 70's when I was growing up and watching movies on television he was in eclipse. His new films were failures--"The Front Page", "Fedora", "Buddy Buddy". And his critical reputation seemed not to be high with the Andrew Sarris/Pauline Kael's who then dominated the film crit world. But I was fascinated by his movies early on--especially his Paramount noirs, 'Lost Weekend", "Double Indemnity", "Sunset Blvd." and "Ace In the Hole" and watched them whenever they came on (usually the KTLA Channel 5 movie theater). The fact that he co-wrote all of his own films was not lost on me--he seemed to exert a control over tone and an authority over the material that even other great directors could not consistantly match. It became apparent to me that his role--as both writer and director--was the be all/end all in terms of authority over material. To create a film in your head is to direct it before you're ever on the set. I saw Wilder and Sturges and the few other writer/directors that old Hollywood produced as occupying a loftier, royally untouchable position. The writer/director remains, to me, the ultimate filmmaker. It was Wilder's example that convinced me to become a writer first and not pursue filmmaking through other channels. I'm hardly alone in this--he truly, in a sense, showed the way toward modern, auteurist filmmaking (even though the old Hollywood craftsman in him would probably have rejected this claim).
When a book called "Billy Wilder In Hollywood" was published in the late seventies, I bought it and ate it up, reading it constantly and committing large segments of it to memory. Wilder was alive--indeed he lived well into his nineties, dying only a few years ago--but though I did meet him once, I never had the interaction with him that I hoped to. (Cameron Crowe did, instead). The occassion of our meeting was after a screening of "Some Like It Hot" at a theater in Beverly Hills. He showed up to do a q&a and afterward was swarmed by admirers. I jumped in early, grabbed his hand and said something along the lines of: "You'll never know how much your work has meant to me". Wilder, in his charming and brusque German-accented manner, replied: "Put that on a tape recorder for me. I will play it over and over." Then he turned sharply away from me, effectively ending our encounter.
And now, in closing, I'll offer some Billy Wilder quotes as my way of thanking him for having played such a large role in getting me involved with this mess of a profession.
On having relationships with actresses: "I never get involved with my actress. If I have a yen, I fuck the stand-in."
On subtlety in films: "In movies everything must be made obvious." (The person he's talking to:) "But Billy: what about subtleties?" "Make the subtleties obvious also."
On France: "France is a country where the money falls apart in your hands but you can't tear the toilet paper."
A cable he wrote to his wife, after she asked him to purchase a bidet while he was abroad: "Cannot obtain bidet. Suggest you do handstands in shower."
On Marilyn Monroe's chronic tardiness: "My Aunt Minnie would always be punctual and never hold up production, but who would pay to see my Aunt Minnie?"
And finally the immortal: "A director must be a policeman, a midwife, a psychoanalyst, a sycophant and a bastard."
Below is from Michel Ciment's interview w/Wilder, shot at his beach house in Malibu, California. You get to see him fly a kite at one point...and you get a look at his longtime writing partner, I.A.L. Diamond.
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 7:13 AM