Monday, May 14, 2018

The Drunk Projectionist, Episode 7

This is the first — and likely only — podcast episode of The Drunk Projectionist featuring a movie I’ve never seen. Which is weird, I know. But I can explain.

In 2012, I was a finalist in a national radio competition. If selected, I’d spend a year in North Dakota covering the oil boom, an appealing project for an ambitious journalist. If I lost, I told myself, I’d travel to the San Francisco Silent Film Festival to watch Napoléon.

Oui, Napoléon.

The 1927 black-and-white silent, directed by France’s Abel Gance, rarely screened in the U.S., complete with musical accompaniment by a full orchestra, was being shown for four nights only at Paramount Theatre in Oakland, California. And I missed it. So the good news is I was one of the winner’s of the national radio competition and made this. The bad news: No Napoléon.

It’s six years later. And I still haven’t seen it. Because I’m waiting to watch Napoléon with a live orchestra and a giant screen. However, I did hear George Mourier, film restoration expert, speak about Napoléon at the 2016 San Francisco Silent Film Festival. It turns out Mourier is working on a new restoration ... so I interviewed him for Episode 7 of the The Drunk Projectionist podcast about the mystery and magnificence of the movie.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Drunk Projectionist, Episode 6

Death comes to us all. Even kings. After a hunting trip in August 1715, Louis XIV — the longest serving monarch in French history — complains about a pain in his left leg. A doctor recommends "camphoric spirit dressings and donkey milk baths."

Bad advice.

Soon, gangrene develops and yet, the doctors do nothing. Day by day, death crawls up his leg and the king moans in pain. In The Death of Louis XIV, Albert Serra recreates these final days. As birds chirp in the distance, we watch the king, played by the legendary Jean-Pierre Leaud (The 400 Blows, Antoine and Colette, Irma Vep) suffer. The final portrays lonely, agonizingly painful moments full of bad medical advice, hucksters begging for money court hangers-on demanding attention and Louis XIV's demise.

The Death of Louis XIV, an Official Selection of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, represents Serra's third appearance at the prestigious festival. Two of his earlier works — Honor of the Knights and Birdsong — were featured at Cannes' Directors' Fortnight.

In this episode, we hear the opinionated and entertaining director discuss the The Death of Louis XIV's origin as an art installation at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (1:58), on Louis XIV's agony (2:58), on pre-filmmaking discussions with collaborators (4:00), on going against the cliche (8:40), on how to get five "magical" minutes every day when shooting (12:12), on working with Jean-Pierre Leaud (13:10), on the intelligence of actors (17:15), on silent film star Harry Langdon (19:25), on working with non-professional actors (20:50), on the roughness of Andy Warhol's films (22:30), on why he doesn't look at shots from inside the camera (26:00), on capturing "magic" when shooting (29:15), on the most important scene in The Death of Louis XIV (33:33), on expressing silence in a film with subtle sounds (36:44), on the king realizing his death is imminent (40:10), on the relationship between truth and beauty (42:50).

Friday, November 24, 2017

Black Gold Boom streaming online

Black Gold Boom, a documentary film I produced and directed, is now available for streaming. The film originally aired on PBS stations in 2015 and 2016.

The Drunk Projectionist, Episode 5

Critic Terrence Rafferty of GQ called Killer of Sheep "one of the most striking debuts in movie history." In this episode of my film podcast, I interview Charles Burnett, writer/director of this important film.

In November, Burnett was awarded a Oscar.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Reuters: The Trial of Jeronimo Yanez

In June 2017, Reuters hired me to cover the trial of Jeronimo Yanez, the Minnesota police officer who shot and killed a black motorist, Philando Castile, during a traffic stop.

Selected stories are below.

Minnesota patrolman acquitted in traffic-stop slaying of black motorist

Jurors in manslaughter trial of Minnesota cop review videos

Minnesota cop's fatal shooting of black motorist not justified: prosecutor

Minnesota policeman feared for his life in fatal traffic stop: lawyer

More here.

Photo by Todd Melby

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Drunk Projectionist, Episode 4

The Drunk Projectionist is my film podcast. In Episode 4, I interview Frederick Wiseman. As a law professor in the 1960s, Wiseman took his classes on tours of the State Prison for the Criminally Insane in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.

When he quit teaching to pursue filmmaking, Wiseman got permission to take a camera and microphone inside Bridgewater. He spent weeks there documenting the lives of prisoners, guards and psychiatrists. The result is "Titicut Follies," a film that is widely considered essential viewing for documentary film lovers. Listen and subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Drunk Projectionist, Episode 2

Not many documentary films win Academy Awards. Fewer still are archived at the U.S. Library of Congress. Barbara Kopple's Harlan County USA has been awarded both distinctions. And it wasn't easy. While recording coal miner's on a picket line, she and the workers were attacked. She frequently ran out of film and had to beg her father to send more. And her life was threatened. Listen to learn more and subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher and elsewhere.