Jonathan Wingfield Deconstructs the Latest Cinematic Transformation From Have-Not to Have
Hobos, tramps and bums have played a much-loved, recurring role throughout the history of American cinema. From Charlie Chaplin in The Tramp to Dustin Hoffman’s Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy and Nick Nolte in Down and Out in Beverly Hills. He’s there to remind us that no matter how desperate our lives may seem at times, absolutely anyone can strike gold—as Eddie Murphy’s tailored suits and infectious grin so neatly attest in Trading Places. As for One Man’s Loss, our bum inevitably stumbles upon good fortune and reveals himself to be hot in every sense of the word. By the time the credits roll on this feelgood short, he’s got the girl and the shoe is on the other foot. Literally.
One Man’s Loss premiered at Festival de Cannes 2013 and was directed by British filmmaker Phil Sansom, who has previously directed the shorts The Black Hole and Archaeology, and music videos for Magnetic Man and Robbie Williams.
Jonathan Wingfield is Editor-in-Chief of System magazine,
Our New Open Call For Experimental Films Launches With Evan Prosofsky's Directorial Debut
Artificial waves crash and swimsuit-clad patrons frolic in the strange suburban utopia of World Waterpark in Alberta, Canada, in cinematographer Evan Prosofsky’s first directorial effort, launching an open call for submissions to our new Shorts on Sundays series via the NOWNESS Vimeo channel. The aquatic playground cast as the uncanny protagonist in Waterpark is located inside the West Edmonton Mall, North America’s largest shopping destination. “I never seemed to adjust to the absurdity,” says the director of shooting in his hometown’s famous fantasyland. “Even as a kid, I just couldn’t believe we had flamingos, submarines, roller coasters, and pirate ships in our mall.” The increasingly sought-after cinematographer became known as the lensman behind several of last year’s most shared music videos, including Grimes’ “Oblivion,” Bat for Lashes’ “All Your Gold” and Grizzly Bear’s “Yet Again.” Sound features prominently in Waterpark, too, with the soundtrack composed by Prosofsky’s friend Alex Zhang Hungtai, aka Dirty Beaches, infusing the innocent family environment with a seductive, contemplative undertone. “[Evan] told me of his experience there as a child,” says the Taiwanese-born Canadian musician of the effort. “That helped me understand his perspective, and I liked how neutral and non-judgmental it was.” Shot over a span of three years, the labor of love hints at the anxiety that lays dormant behind an otherwise glossy North American leisure culture. “Once I was in there,” Prosofsky recalls of shooting in plain view. “No one paid me the slightest bit of attention.” We asked Emily Kai Bock to share her thoughts on her collaborator's uncommon vision and process.
Waterpark is an early glimpse into the way Evan has structured his life around the craft of cinematography—being a typical teen working at the West Edmonton mall, but using his money and time off to go to the expense of documenting the space for hours on 16mm. It's rare to find that kind of devotion and love for the craft with a cinematographer. I've led him into many situations on several videos where his equipment could have been confiscated or ruined by the conditions. When we were shooting Grizzly Bear's "Yet Again" I remember watching him as he read the manual for a HydroFlex underwater housing before dropping it into a swimming pool with his own 35mm camera inside. The camera was safe, but it demonstrated that getting the shot was more valuable to him then his own equipment. His knowledge has provided an unwavering buoyancy through our sink-or-swim shoots.
Visit the NOWNESS Vimeo page for more information on how to submit to our Shorts on Sundays open call.
The Hollywood Actor and Artist Pens an Exclusive Essay on His Latest Hitchcock-Inspired Work
As James Franco continues his multidisciplinary approach to creativity with his collaboration with Scottish artist Douglas Gordon, Psycho Nacirema, at London’s Pace Gallery, he takes us through why he looked to the Hitchcock classic in today’s short. The American A-lister has also penned an exclusive piece for NOWNESS, delving into the inspirations behind his twisted, cinematic installation.
Film into Art in Psycho Nacirema
Psycho Nacirema is a show that builds on projects and conversations that I have shared with Douglas Gordon. I’ve known Douglas for over six years; we first met in Avignon where he was having a retrospective. I was exposed to the wide range of his work. As someone who worked professionally in the film business, what struck me most was his appropriation of film and film forms into his work. He has undoubtedly been influenced by Hollywood and avant-garde film throughout his career, but this influence has not (yet) resulted in conventional narrative features. Instead he has used the influence to create structurally and conceptually dense work of various forms: film, video, photography, performance, music, sculpture, text, etc. Seeing all of this blew me away, it showed me that film, the world I was immersed in, could be used for results other than traditional narrative films.
For the past century, film and television have dominated popular culture. Moving pictures are what we turn to, more often than not, to reflect ourselves to ourselves. They have defined us, at least they have defined Americans, for better or worse, because of the power and pervasiveness of their images. Thus, partially influenced by my exposure to Douglas’s work (as well as the work of Cindy Sherman, Paul McCarthy, Richard Prince, Dan Colen, Nate Lowman, Isaac Julien, Mike Kelley, Chris Burden, Jeff Koons), I was drawn to the idea of using film as a source for other kinds of work. Using film as a starting point would provide me with a common base that many people could relate to. In addition, film and television techniques and procedures of production, distribution and interpretation have woven themselves into our everyday lives, so I also saw potential for a more meta kind of work to derive from the meditation on the practice of filmmaking.
I had worked with Douglas and several other artists on Rebel at MoCA in LA, a large collaborative show based on the Nicholas Ray film, Rebel Without a Cause. That project used the film as a starting place from which to branch off into many different kinds of projects based on different aspects of the film. Douglas worked on scenes that had been intended for the original film but were never shot because they were too violent. Douglas reinterpreted them with Dennis Hopper’s (a cast member in the original film) son, Henry Hopper and made an incredible video/sculpture/installation called “Henry Rebel.” With Psycho Nacirema, I wanted to build on the ideas that were explored in Rebel.
I am interested in performance and reality, and the differences and similarities between the two. I feel we are all performers in the sense that our personalities and the way we live our lives are the result of choices and the ways we choose to react to our circumstances. Of course things are acted upon us, but the way we react always defines character. What we do in life is just a more sophisticated, open ended and subtle version of decisions that actors make when performing in front of a camera. The show explores all this by breaking down barriers between these two spheres, performance and reality.
The show also isolates and makes discrete all the different aspects of film, which in a narrative film come together to make a tight and inextricable web: I speak of set construction, backdrop painting, acting, film and video themselves, music. All of these things are made discrete so that they can once again stand on their own as pieces. So, the set is a sculpture, a video is a sculpture, paintings become performances, etc. Once each aspect is made discrete then they are all brought together in the big installation so that one is immersed.
I love that Douglas comes from the art world, but looks to the film world for inspiration, while I come from the film world and look to the art world. We meet in the middle of both, have fun, and then cross over to the opposite sides.