Dede Allen, 1923-2010.

Dede Allen, 1923-2010. (photo)

Posted by on

Dede Allen, who died over the weekend of a stroke at the age of 86, thought of herself as a “gut editor.” In a quote from Mark Harris’s book “Pictures at a Revolution,” about the Academy Award nominees for Best Picture in 1967, Allen succinctly explained her technique. “Intellect and taste count,” she said, “but I cut with my feelings.” The movie Allen cut in 1967 (with her feelings as well as her intelligence and a great deal of innovation) was “Bonnie and Clyde,” and though her work was inexplicably unrewarded by the Academy, it was one of the primary reasons the film became an important and influential movie. The sequence where Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow meet their bloody end remains one of the most justly famous scenes in cinematic history. Some of its shock value has been lost in 40-plus years and many have imitated its techniques (particularly its blend of shots of different frame rates to elongate its eruption of violence), few have matched its power or its bloody beauty:

From the moment Clyde steps out of his car to the overhead shot of the two lifeless bodies is about one minute and three seconds. In that time, there are 60 cuts, a particularly impressive number when you consider that Allen assembled the sequence long before digital editing, piecing together actual segments of celluloid, a few frames at a time. After a long, successful career as an editor and a period as an executive for Warner Brothers, Allen learned to edit on an Avid, and used it on Curtis Hanson’s “Wonder Boys” (that time, she got an Oscar nomination). While no one would dispute computers make editing easier, Allen didn’t necessarily find them superior.

04192010_TheHustler.jpgIn a 2000 interview for Movie Picture Editors Guild Magazine, she told Mia Goldman that the classic techniques had their advantages. “The greatest disadvantage [to digital editing] I can think of is that you don’t screen your material as much as you used to.” she said. “I’d do a lot of memorizing and somehow the availability of the exact pieces that I had memorized made the process seem, ironically, more immediate.”

According to the Los Angeles Times’ obituary for Allen, she got her start in the movie business as a messenger at Columbia Pictures. Though she dreamed of being a director, she worked her way up as a cutter in the special effects department. She eventually began editing commercials then graduated to feature films as the cutter on films like Robert Wise’s “Odds Against Tomorrow” (1959) and Robert Rossen’s “The Hustler” (1961). Soon came “Bonnie and Clyde” which, according to the Times, marked the first time in history an editor received sole credit for their contribution to a film.

Her filmography also includes Sidney Lumet’s “Serpico” (1973) and “Dog Day Afternoon” (1975) and Warren Beatty’s “Reds” (1981); she received Oscar nominations for Best Editing for the last two. Though she’s now best remembered for “Bonnie and Clyde,” her most underrated work might have come in two classic, genre-defining comedies: George Roy Hill’s “Slap Shot” (1977) and John Hughes’s “The Breakfast Club” (1985). Every American teenager since then has watched the latter; most of them have studied and then imitated the famous dance sequence, brilliantly edited by Allen to Karla DeVito’s song “We Are Not Alone”:

Here’s a classic scene from “Slap Shot.” The biggest laugh in the clip isn’t the fighting, or the dialogue — it’s a single, sudden jump cut from the brawl to the aftermath (look for it at the 1:40 mark):

In the interview with Goldman, Allen was asked what advice she had for editors. She said, “I would give the same advice I gave in the old days which is learn where the scene is.” In the flash of glances between lovers in the split-second before their death, or the angry glare of a ref to a hockey goon, in dozens of movies, hundreds of scenes, thousands of cuts, Allen always found it.

[Photos: Dede Allen during the production of “Reds,” Paramount Pictures, 1981; “The Hustler,” 20th Century Fox, 1961]


Bourne to Run

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Bourne Movies

Catch The Bourne Ultimatum this month on IFC.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

You know his name, as the Super Bowl teaser for the upcoming summer blockbuster Jason Bourne reminded us. In this era of franchise films, that seems to be more than enough to get another entry in the now 15-year-old series greenlit. And gosh darn it if we aren’t into it. Before you catch The Bourne Ultimatum on IFC, here are some surprising facts about the Bourne movies that you may not know. And unlike Jason Bourne, try not to forget them.

10. Matt Damon was a long shot to play Jason Bourne.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Coming off of Good Will Hunting and The Legend of Bagger Vance, early ’00s Matt Damon didn’t exactly scream “ripped killing machine.” In fact, Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe and even Sylvester Stallone were all offered the part before it fell into the hands of the Boston boy made good. It was his enthusiasm for director Doug Liman’s more frenetic vision that ultimately helped land him the part.

9. Love interest Marie was almost played by Sarah Polley.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Damon wasn’t the only casting surprise. Franka Potente, of Run Lola Run fame, wasn’t the filmmaker’s first choice for the role or Marie in The Bourne Identity. In fact, Liman wanted his Go star Sarah Polley for the part, but she turned it down in favor of making indie movies back in Canada. A quick rewrite changed the character from American Marie Purcell to European Marie Helena Kreutz, and the rest is movie history.

8. Director Doug Liman was obsessed with the Bourne books.

Universal Picutres

Universal Pictures

Liman had long been a fan of the Bourne book series. When Warner Bros.’ rights to the books lapsed in the late ’90s, Liman flew himself to author Robert Ludlum’s Montana home, mere days after earning his pilot’s license. The author was so impressed with his passion for the material, he sold the rights on the spot.

7. Liman’s father actually worked for the NSA.

Universal Picutres

Universal Pictures

Part of Liman’s fasciation with the Bourne series was that his own father played the same spy craft games portrayed in the books while working for the NSA. In fact, many of the Treadstone details were taken from his father’s own exploits, and Chris Cooper’s character, Alex Conklin, was based on Oliver Stone, whom Arthur Liman famously cross examined as chief counsel of the Iran-Contra hearings.

6. Tony Gilroy threw the novel’s story out while writing The Bourne Identity.

Universal Picutres

Universal Picutres

Despite being based on a hit book, screenwriter Tony Gilroy, coming off of The Devil’s Advocate, had no idea how to adapt it into a movie. He said the book was more concerned with people “running to airports” than character, and would need a complete rewrite. Director Doug Liman agreed, and Gilroy claims to have condensed the original novel into the first five minutes. Getting that out of the way, he then wrote his own story, based on a man who wakes up one day not remembering anything but how to kill.

5. Damon walked like a boxer to get into character.

Universal Picutres

Universal Picutres

Damon had never played a character like Bourne before, and was searching for a way to capture his physicality. Doug Liman told him to walk like a boxer to give Jason Bourne an edge. Damon took that to heart, training for six months in boxing, marital arts and firearms.

4. Damon broke an actor’s nose.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Damon’s training for the films is legendary, but mistakes still happen. While filming a scene for The Bourne Ultimatum, Damon hit actor Tim Griffin so hard, he shattered his nose. Apparently, the space the scene was filmed in was smaller than originally intended, throwing Damon off just enough to exert a real beat down.

3. James Bond visited The Bourne Legacy set.

Eon Productions

Eon Productions

Actor Daniel Craig stopped by the set of The Bourne Legacy to visit his wife, actress Rachel Weisz, who was starring in the movie. While having James Bond on a Bourne set must have been exciting, The Bourne Legacy was the only Bourne movie to not actually feature Jason Bourne, meaning our bets on who would kick whose ass would have to wait for another day.

2. The Bourne Identity was nearly a bomb (in the box office sense).

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

As reshoots began to pile up, and an all-out war between the studio and director Doug Liman spilled into the press, expectations were that The Bourne Identity was going to flop. Matt Damon told GQ that, “the word on Bourne was that it was supposed to be a turkey…It’s very rare that a movie comes out a year late, has four rounds of reshoots, and it’s good.”

1. Matt Damon wasn’t the first actor to play Bourne.

Warner Brothers Television

Warner Brothers Television

Aired on ABC in 1988, the TV movie adaptation of The Bourne Identity, while not exactly critically acclaimed, was a more faithful version of Ludlum’s book. Richard Chamberlain, of The Thorn Birds fame, played a much less ass-kicking spy, while “Charlie’s Angel” Jaclyn Smith played love interest Marie. If you like your Bourne movies heavy with poorly lit ’80s melodrama, this might just be the adaptation for you. Otherwise, you should catch The Bourne Ultimatum when it airs this month on IFC.

Why “Donnie Darko” had to be set in the ’80s.

Why “Donnie Darko” had to be set in the ’80s. (photo)

Posted by on

While we’re on the subject of ’80s movies: the other day a twentysomething friend confessed he’d never seen “Donnie Darko,” which I found flabbergasting. Despite (or because of?) its well-known trajectory from Sundance failure to midnight hit to DVD staple, “Donnie Darko” is the closest thing to “The Breakfast Club” the Naughts had to offer.

For all its wormholes and freaky rabbits, “Donnie Darko” is about subjects that are very simple and tangible — teen angst, suburban malaise and navigating the high-school hierarchy. It takes them on in ways that are direct and honest, placing them in stark contrast to the particularly wish-fulfillment-type teen movies of the ’90s, a time when someone with no discernible personality like Freddie Prinze Jr. was somehow our national go-to guy for checking in with high schools.

Most of these movies are pretty straight-up wretched, failing as reality or comedy: archetypal representative “She’s All That” was bad enough, but try watching something like “Drive Me Crazy,” in which future “Entourage” star Adrien Grenier pretends to be an “alternative” bad-ass.

03312010_drive.jpg“Donnie Darko” connected with so many people not just as the weird, cultish item it is — or as a pretty terrific movie, which it is as well — but as one of the rare honest films about teen angst. And that’s a big part of why Richard Kelly had to set it during the 1980s. It was the last frame of reference for teen movies that at least attempted to be emotionally honest. He grew up then as well, which helps.

Critics fixated on the cheapest shots the movie takes from its ’80s setting: Patrick Swayze playing the sleazy self-help guru, the Dukakis references. And yet none of that stuff matters. What matters is watching teenagers who might quite possibly be fixating on John Hughes act out their own emotional problems at a time when that was just starting to be a part of the on-screen conversation — and then would shortly thereafter go away and die for a while.

Here’s the dinner scene, in which the conversation goes from politics to “want to tell mom and dad why you stopped taking your medication?” to adorable underage profanity:

[Photos: “Donnie Darko,” 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2001; “Drive Me Crazy,” 20th Century Fox, 1999]

A clockwork gray.

A clockwork gray. (photo)

Posted by on

As The Playlist points out, the first poster for the upcoming remake of British noir classic “Brighton Rock” pays reverent homage to that iconic, dorm-room staple one-sheet for “A Clockwork Orange.”

Sam Riley’s thug has the same hat, ditto the thrust-upwards knife. What’s different are the colors — the lurid orange, white and black combo are swapped out for dismal gray — and the facial expression. Malcolm McDowell was grinning, while Riley is definitely scowling. (It’s even more interesting to contrast it with this poster design, whose out-of-nowhere naked woman ups the surrealism.

“A Clockwork Orange” has a fanatical following among college students, who dearly treasure the film’s easily embraced mixture of jet-black humor and gleeful violence. Many probably take the latter at face value a bit too much, but that’s why it’s a staple.

“A Clockwork Orange” doesn’t so much celebrate the poetry of violence — the way, say, John Woo builds aesthetic raptures out of bullets and blood — as render it an oddly comic spectacle. There’s a significant gap between that and the lyrically “serious” violence of something like the once-decried, now-feted slow-motion deaths in “Bonnie and Clyde,” which softens the kick of the violence.

03172010_underworld.jpgThe grayscale, po-faced seriousness proposed by the “Brighton Rock” poster is a new development. Rare these days is the blockbuster or action film not color-corrected to death one way or another — think of the blurry gray of “Sherlock Holmes,” the lurid overcranking of orange in “Crank,” the collected saturation hues of Tony Scott movies, the blues of “Underworld.” (It’s not a stretch to suggest part of “Iron Man”‘s appeal was its unfussy, workmanlike and natural colors.)

A corollary of this new aesthetic is a relative lack of joy in violence — often shown slightly amped up, slowing down only for the money shots and/or spurts of blood, resulting in a dull trudge than a spectacular ride where the violence of a film like “Clockwork Orange” remains intact, but without the ambiguous feeling of glee that makes it interesting or engaging. It’s colorless, and not just in its palette.

[Photos: “A Clockwork Orange,” Warner Bros., 1971; “Underworld: Evolution,” Screen Gems, 2006]

Powered by ZergNet