Saturday, September 5, 2009

Into the Weekend.

I realized that I haven't posted much on the blog lately because I'm unsure of the direction it should take. I have not felt compelled to write any reviews, partly because I didn't have time during work and partly because, in my opinion, Shawn has taken hold of the format beautifully here, here and here. Not that this is a deterrent, per se; I'm just glad to see him gradually finding a voice there, and I'm happy to give up the reigns for a while and look elsewhere.

My brain energy has been going primarily into "The Submission of Stanley Bigot," the never ending movie I've been intermittently working on for about 5 years. I'm always shoveling ideas away for it, but never really congealing them all into something usable. This huge period of incubation might be the reason that it's become one of those movies-about-everything, rather than a movie that has any kind of personality to it.

I've spent the last week or so outlining, ditching, reoutlining, and watching a ton of movies to help me change that. The movie has begun to take a shape that I like, and there have been a lot of helpful movies along the way. As we head into the weekend, I'd like to get these thoughts down and kind of wander around in the kind of movie I want "Stanley" to be.

Story Logic.

I've been watching and reading criticism on a lot of noirs this week, including Farrow's "Where Danger Lives," Siegel's "The Big Steal," Losey's "The Criminal," Hodges' "Get Carter," and most recently Preminger's "Fallen Angel." I started watching noirs to see movies about the Doomed Man, but what I found most compelling was the idea of the transient story, or the life that is lead astray. "Angel" is the best example of the group: it follows Eric Stanton as he's dropped off in Walton, unable to pay his way to San Francisco.

He's on his way somewhere, but the story takes place in the town that he is stuck before he gets there. The narrative logic is really lovely, and by the time the story gets going you hardly know what direction its going to take, partly because the whole thing feels so brief. You expect him to leave town any minute, but he keeps staying and new things keep blossoming.

The direction of the story connects events that on paper hardly make sense together: he's broke, so he goes to a diner where everyone is worried about Stella, who has disappeared. She returns, and Eric swindles his way into a near by hotel room that is already occupied by a couple of grifters running a seance show where they pretend to talk to the dead. He starts publicizing their show, and meets Clara and June Mills because their deceased father may show up at the seance. The grifters leave to San Francisco and drop completely out of the story, but Eric stays in Walton instead. Through a weird series of events, he takes June on a date, gets married to her, and what starts as a money scheme ends as a murder mystery involving the rest of the townspeople.

I really, really love this kind of logic in a story, and I've been trying to capture it with "Stanley" but it hasn't been going too well. All of my story decisions have the audacity of this kind of logic without any of the natural feel. When I put them down they feel too clever, too written. Part of the problem, I think, is the scope of the story, which was hard to pin down.

Story Scope.

I equally love two types of stories. The first kind I love is temporally contained, like Bunuel's "The Exterminating Angel," about the night of a bourgeois party. For some mystical reason, none of the party-goers can leave the music room. They are stuck. So they panic, fight for food, and basically revert to pre-socialite survival skills. Above is a picture from "Viridiana," which I think is the other side to that coin, about a nun who brings a bunch of beggars into her new home in order to save or help or feed them. Instead, a new little social structure forms in the house and they end up overrunning it.

These movies do two things for me: the first is the emergence of a new social structure. I find that endlessly entertaining and interesting, and is exactly what happens in "Stanley Bigot." The town succumbs to this sex den, and they have to negotiate the consequences. The second is the time line. I love when entire acts pass by in a single continuous sequence, or a single afternoon or night or supper or dinner party.

The second story I love is a "Jules and Jim" type, which sweeps through the characters lives, spanning the course of years. These movies might even culminate in the death of the protagonist, or at least when he or she is a much older person than when we began watching them.

I was oscillating heavily with "Stanley" between these two types of stories. The first act either took place all in one night, or swept ahead ten years after it began. People died, people were born, sometimes townspeople were having sex right away, sometimes they weren't even introduced until the beginning of act two. I think, though, that just yesterday I came up with the way to capture the feeling I want, where the story unfolds in a relatively contained time-line with long chronological sequences, but the characters continue on at a quick pace after the story concludes.

So. This wasn't very specific for the content of the story, and I apologize for that. I've completely overhauled it since I posted the outline for Sundance. I'll start posting page by page as it goes up, and as I find research materials I'll post them here, to give you an idea what I'm finding and where I'm looking.

1 comment:

emma said...

i love reading your sentences. even when they're short, or straightforward, they seem to have been written by a sentimental mad scientist. i mean sometimes they do. for me.