Cannes Day Four: Thelma and not Louise*
Posted on Sunday May 17, 2009, 11:22 by Damon Wise
Today is going to be quiet, film-wise, as i won't get a chance to see anything until Lars Von Trier's horror thriller Antichrist, which screens this evening and which I'm most excited about. So to fill today's blog slot, here are some excerpts from an interview I did yesterday with the very wonderful Thelma Schoonmaker, a brilliant editor who had the good fortune not only to meet Martin Scorsese back in the day, an encounter that resulted in one of the most incredible collaborations in the history of film, but to marry the late visionary British filmmaker Michael Powell, a passionate and intelligent director whose influence can still be seen today in films by directors as diverse as Scorsese, George Romero and Baz Luhrmann. Francis Ford Coppola's new film Tetro even includes a sequence based on Powell's majestic Tales Of Hoffman, made with longtime partner Emeric Pressburger, but his clearly heartfelt tribute it doesn't even come even halfway close to the original.
Thanks to ITV Global, Thelma was in town to present a digital restoration of The Red Shoes, Powell's incredible 1948 ballet drama, and I can't wait to see in it new, redder and possibly even shoesier new version. But there'll be more on that at a later date. For the purposes of this blog, I thought I'd keep things a bit more Cannes-y, and to start with, I thought I should share the news that Thelma was most bemused when I mentioned the story that broke last week about Marty making a Frank Sinatra biopic. In short, she knew nothing about it. True, Marty is friends with the Sinatra estate, has been discussing projects with them and is definitely planning something Frank-related (did you know that Telma and Marty edited the Sinatra homage that was shown at the Oscars after he died?). But on the subject of their new film, Shutter Island, she remained teasingly tight-lipped. “We're not allowed to reveal anything,” she said apologetically, “except that it's a thriller. But it's much more profound than that. It's about two federal marshals who go to an island where there's a hospital for the criminally insane. Someone's missing. That's all we're allowed to say!”
However, she was perfectly happy to discuss the production itself. “It's really been an incredible experience,” she enthused, “and it's been very intense. We did it on Cape Fear, but creating a thriller is a whole other thing. And this one has a twist at the end that's quite amazing, so what we're doing is very complicated. The acting is just sensational, as is the style and the look of it. What Marty's doing with it is just amazing. It's been very hard, and when you see it you'll see why.”
As for the concept and style Scorsese's going for, Thelma wouldn't say, but she confirmed that he went into production with some very firm ideas, including plans for a staircase scene taken directly from The Red Shoes. “Marty always has a concept for the film when he goes in,” she said, “and that often involves an editing style. For example, on Gangs Of New York we looked at Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin, in particular a sequence in which a sailor is being fed rotten food that has maggots in it, and the crew is ready to revolt. The sailor is washing the plate and says the Russian equivalent of 'Give us this day our daily bread.' He gets angry and breaks the plate. Marty said to me, 'Notice the editing here.' Because instead of doing what you would ordinarily do – which is to use the downward motion on the editing – Eisenstein uses the up motion and fractures the scene with all these fascinating jump cuts. And he said, 'That's what I want the opening sequence of Gangs Of New York to look like. I want you to use the footage you wouldn't normally use.' He often does this with his crews. We looked at a ton of movies before Shutter Island. He showed us all kinds of movies that were relevant to the subject matter or the style he wanted. So basically he decides on something, and then we learn it and try to bring it to fruition."
Sadly, Thelma was unable to divulge the titles that were screened as part of Marty's private movie club. “I can't tell you,” she smiled, “because it'll tip you off!”
*The Red Shoes DVD & Blu-ray Special edition are out on 29 June from ITV DVD
*There were, however, two Fionas and two Matthews, which made up for the Louise deficit.