FELLINI’S TRUTH


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I’ve never really cared for Fellini’s films. I’ve only seen the big ones: La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2. I enjoy them, but they’re never the kind of movie that get me personally excited about movies or making movies as a concept, though they seem to really light a fire for other people. Which is fine! I’m not about to dispute the talent, vivacity, and splendour on display in a Fellini film. It’s simply a matter of personal taste. The world could use a lot more peaceful disagreement, don’t you think?

Anyway, all that said, I just discovered a gem of an interview with Fellini from a 1966 issue of Playboy that has me wondering whether he might actually be one of my favourite social theorists and I’ve just never known it. (Small aside: In the introduction to the interview, he’s described as “bedaubing and bedizening his cinematic canvas with giddy abandon,” which still doesn’t make me want to watch his movies but certainly had me excited to read more about them.) I’ll let Federico take it from here:

“In 8 1/2, society’s norms and rules imprisoned Guido in his boyhood with a sense of guilt and frustration. From childhood many of us are conditioned by a similar education. Then, growing up, we find ourselves in profound conflict — a conflict created by having been taught to idealize our lives, to pursue aesthetic and ethical ideals of absolute good or evil. This imposes impossible standards and unattainable aspirations that can only impede the spontaneous growth of a normal human being, and may conceivably destroy [them]. You must have experienced this yourself. There arrives a moment in life when you discover that what you’ve been told at home, in school or in church is simply not true. You discover that it binds your authentic self, your instinct, you true growth. And this opens up a schism, creates a conflict that must eventually be resolved — or succumbed to. In all forms of neurosis there is this clash between certain forms of idealization in a moral sense a contrary aesthetic form.

It all started with the Greeks when they enshrined a classical standard of physical beauty. A man who did not correspond to that type of beauty felt himself excluded, inferior, an outsider. Then came Christianity, which established an ethical beauty. This doubled man’s problems by creating the dual possibility that he was neither beautiful as a Greek god nor holy as a Catholic one. Inevitably, you were guilty of either nonbeauty or unsaintliness, and probably both. So you lived in disgrace: Man did not love you, nor did God; thus you remained outside of life.”

And this is what he had to say about marriage in the 1960s that would (sadly) still be considered radical now:

“Marriage as an institution needs re-examining. We live with too many nonfunctioning ideologies. Modern [people need] richer relationships…The tragedy of modern [people] is that [they] need a multiplicity of individual relationships, whereas, at least in the culture in which I live, [they are] still forced into a single-mated world. Without it, [their lives] could develop into something interesting, into a higher evolution.”

Trying to do just that, Rico. It’s not without its challenges, of course. We’ll keep you posted.

This interview appears in a collected anthology of interviews with film directors in Playboy over the years, and they’re all terrifically candid, enviable conversations. I mentioned it to my dad and he said it’s because Playboy had the $$$ to hire the best writers. Makes sense! Certainly their track record with fiction is well known. Also, back in the day it seems like an interview for a magazine feature was expected to last upwards of ten hours over a few days; Lizzie‘s lucky if she can get someone on the phone for 20 minutes.  There are no pictures at all in the collection, so afterwards you can unironically tell people that you do in fact read Playboy exclusively for the articles.

I am experiencing a resurgence of confidence lately and hope to be writing all the time. Look for more here should you so desire. ❤

Until next time and I hope you’re well.

Dylan – Edmonton, AB

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WHAT I PROMISED MY WIFE


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Lizzie,

In the years to come, I vow to proudly stand beside you through the whirl and tumult, the sturm und drang, the elation, the triumph, the agony, the sheer cosmic wonder that is every human life, but yours in particular (on this I think we can all agree *pause for general affirmation/enthusiastic nodding from the assembled masses*). I’m not so naive as to think that our proverbial paths crossing when they did was any kind of accident. I wear this responsibility regally, with all the requisite ostentation associated. At the same time: I vow to take quiet shelter beneath its cloak during those times where the weight of the world and our choices within it feel altogether too much to bear.

I guess this is how I understand the parameters we are defining and re-defining today: not as some institutional burden to be debated and dissected in churches and courtrooms, but as the universe very naturally sorting itself out, a cosmic equation balancing in the form of two humble humans deciding to share their lives with one another, a whole that is definitively greater than the sum of its parts. 

I will be patient. I will be present. I will listen. I will grow and change, as you will. I will not judge, nor condescend. I will respect your choices, and I expect I will agree with the vast majority of them *pause for knowing laughter/applause*. I will respect your right to like and love whomever you choose, in whatever way you choose. I will not expect nor demand that you choose me every single day, but in my small and simple ways, I will celebrate every day that you do.

There are so many questions I expect I will never know the answers to. Confronted with the intimidating reality of a life-long maelstrom of uncertainty, imagine my relief to at least know the answers to the following: who is my best friend? Who will be the mother of my children? Who is the person for whom, regardless of whatever unexpected turns life inevitably has in store, regardless of how our relationship shifts, changes, transitions, I will always harbour unparalleled respect and love? Lizzie: it’s you. Thank you.

___________________

Until next time.

Dylan – Edmonton, AB

SONNENSCHEIN


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April was awful for everyone.

Winter dripped and dragged all through the month. We trudged on through a kind of seasonal purgatory, our heads down, not looking at one another. We were afraid to look up and not see the signs of spring we were promised, owed.

Now there is hope. People are crowding patios. Pulling their bicycles out of the garage. You always forget how astounding it is that the sun barely sets in summer. It tricks you into believing there are more hours in the day.

I read that David Byrne has an office in Manhattan that he bikes to every day. I invented a version of that for myself by taking a desk at a co-work space downtown. I created a little altar with small portraits of heroes. The people working around me are young and driven. Already I feel safer at home at the end of the day, like the spectre of work isn’t perpetually glaring down at me. I can just be. It is a good home. I am lucky.

I saw Gianfranco Rosi’s film Fire At Sea the other day, after hearing my friend Kyle talk about it at every Q&A for the last six months. I think seeing that film is helping me fall in love with making movies again. Everything about filmmaking has seemed so hard lately. Hard to convince people to care enough to make it, harder still to convince them to see it. And but here’s a man who simply finds something that interests him, that he thinks is important, and goes and films it by himself. There is something so pure and wonderful about that. There is a point at which filmmaking (or video production, that bizarre world I am often adrift in as I scramble to make $$$) becomes so mired in logistics and email that it abstracts completely and seemingly loses any connection with the original intent of what you’d hoped to capture. I think I’ve spent too much time beyond this point lately.

Yesterday, for the first time in over a year, I set up my camera with the intent of making something simple. It is not the best camera in the world. Nor am I the best camera person. But I stood there behind the lens and talked to my dear friend Ella while she told me stories. She was doing the dishes and the sun was coming through the kitchen window so that it created a slash of light on the oven behind her, and it was better than anything I could have planned or made with a 100 person crew.

Until next time:

Dylan – Edmonton, AB

DRIVE


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Two filmmakers on that too-familiar stretch of prairie highway between Edmonton and Calgary. Driving north. It is early afternoon, not late enough for the setting sun to be caught in your peripheral vision like you’re used to, coming home from camping trips in the mountains as a kid. It is not an unattractive day. The snow is melting, but it is not yet warm enough to breathe life into the withered ground so it sulks brown and bare and fallow still.

The inside of a moving vehicle is an incubator for conversation. Two people who are approaching thirty have a lot to say about themselves. Maybe they are both just starting to catch a glimpse of who they are, or who they can be. They are tired. There is a way in which exhaustion facilitates honesty, as though you lose the requisite energy to hold up your walls and everything comes rushing out. These pockets of reflection and honesty happen too infrequently. But they cannot be forced. Remember to appreciate them when they occur, and embrace their casual gravity that quietly parallels tectonic shifts.

Until next time.

Dylan – Edmonton, AB

IN CALGARY


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Drove a bunch of sexy film gear down to Calgary where some friends are making a movie. The sprawl of this city usually depresses me, but driving in this evening, it was kind of beautiful to see all the lights from the endless stream of houses creeping out towards the mountains. Just here for the weekend, then it’s back to Edmonton where I have a ton of editing to do. Staying in a suburban mansion about 15 minutes west of the city that appears to be decorated in like twelve different aesthetics. The crew has really taken over and you can’t walk five steps without tripping over a battery charger or something. The primary aesthetic is now “production office.” Seeing all this stuff…I really need to shoot something on film.

Anyway, it’s quiet. It’s been such a busy winter; it’s nice to have a few moments of peace.

Until next time.

Dylan – Calgary, AB

FOCUSED INTENT


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Time seems to be increasingly scarce. How does anyone manage to cram everything they want to do into a life. I wish I could work until two and wake up at seven-thirty feeling refreshed and satisfied every day, but it’s impossible. I have tried, and by Wednesday I’m incapable of anything short of staring into space.

As a response to the truncated, impulsive, flatulent state of modern communication, I have decided to try to sit down and write long, intentional letters to people. My way forcing myself to think something through, even if it takes shape gradually as the letter progresses. I wrote justification of this idea to my new friend Sam:

Dear Sam,

In true Canadian form, let me start by apologizing if this is an imposition. 

I just read a giant biography of John Steinbeck, maybe my favourite writer. The book includes excerpts from a lot of letters John wrote over the years. As you might imagine, these letters are a delight to read. It had me thinking a lot about a time when that kind of focused, intentional, and direct communication with someone was truly one of the only ways to learn anything about what was going on with them. Combined with the exhausting and tragic repercussions of social media re: Trump and everything, I have resolved to make a much greater effort to write directly and intently to people I want to know. Our time is very fragmented; that is at the root of my apology. No one asked to have my consciousness dumped on them. But I think that are you are someone who might appreciate this line of reasoning. You have only yourself to blame. If you hadn’t been so interesting to talk to, you might have avoided this. 

 

I am never writing enough. While these letters could be seen as a way of winding up the brain to be ready to write, they could equally be seen as yet another distraction, a way of convincing myself that I am working when I am not. Every possible situation feels like a minefield this days. And yet it is precisely those stakes which make any and all progress so rewarding. I wish I knew where to step next. Regardless, I will try to step decisively.

Tyler is keeping a record of our exchanges here.

I don’t write letters to Lizzie unless I’m travelling. In the meantime, she gets attempts at poetry.

I am really going to try and do this blog thing right as well. Post weekly updates on Friday afternoons or something. Develop a bit of routine. I really do have things to say. It is a matter of uncovering the courage and the conviction to believe they are worth saying. The dubiousness I have toward that sentiment is only amplified by the increasingly dangerous state of contemporary discourse, in which everyone believes they are entitled to an actionable opinion. In this decade people armchair quarterback their way to great acclaim seemingly every day. I think we could all benefit from taking a step back, and writing at length to our friends. It might be surprising, what we learn about each other, and ourselves.

Until next time.

Dylan – Edmonton, AB

 

 

 

 

CLEAN MANUSCRIPTS


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I have been reading this massive 1000 page biography of John Steinbeck (written by Jackson J. Benson, who is a hell of writer in his own right). Steinbeck is my favourite writer. It seems very presumptuous to say, but perhaps you have felt this way as well: there is a comfort in reading an artist’s biography, reading their letters, hearing them speak not as an artist but as a person (not that there can ever really be a separation), and feeling that the two of you might get along. One passage in particular stood out to me. A letter Steinbeck wrote to a friend.

“I want to speak particularly of your theory of clean manuscripts, and spelling as correct as a collegiate stenographer, and every nasty little comma in its place and preening of itself. ‘Manners,’ you say it is, and knowing the ‘trade’ and the ‘Printed Word.’ But I have no interest in the printed word. I would continue to write if there were no writing and no print. I put my words down for a matter of memory. They are more made to be spoken than to be read. I have the instincts of a minstrel rather than those of a scrivener.”

I often think about the relationship between filmmaking and technology this way. Rules seem very clumsy as far as defining the boundaries of art, and yet without them we find it very difficult to make sense out of anything. And so to what degree do you placate, and to what degree do you colour outside the lines and all over the page? This often seems like the only question worth thinking about. “There is no correct answer,” say the successful to the uninitiated. What can you do. Make a mark where you feel like it and hope someone else says “I would have put it there too.”

Thanks, John, for seeing.

Until next time.

Dylan – Edmonton, AB