Only Dissolves Left Alive

Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive is one of my favorite films of 2014, partially because it revives an editing technique that has been long dead: the dissolve. 

Commonly used to suggest a passage of time, the dissolve has not aged well. It's a technique that has fallen out of style in lieu of fast paced, hard-cutting, blockbusters. In this case, Jim Jarmusch and editor Affonso Gonçalves, who has some serious chops with Beasts of the Southern Wild and Winter's Bone under his belt, use the dissolve with purpose that should be recognized. Through the use of dissolves, Jarmsuch is allows the audience to identify with vampires who lived on this planet for centuries, as well as establish the the tight, inter-twined connection between vampire lovers Adam and Eve.

The film establishes a dissolve-heavy convention early on. We first see a record spinning, which gradually dissolves to images of Adam (Tom Hiddleston) playing instruments, sprawled on his couch. These kinds of sequences are weaved throughout the film.

The strong presence of these dissolves creates a slowed pace. Since we see so many dissolves, we are also constantly hit with dissolve's basic intention, a passage of time. The audience feels like a whole lot of time has passed, so they are able to identify with these two vampires who have lived on for centuries. If you exist that long, life must start to feel like one big dissolving blur, which is what the audience is able to feel this through dissolves.

Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton, portraying Adam and Eve, are nuanced performers. Adam, a recluse vampire who writes and record music in his own private studio, says so much about his character in his reserved stature. While Eve is filled with wonder and a zest for life. This contrast in characters is seen through the locations.

The film begins with Eve walking through the exotic and culturally vibrant city of Tangier, while Adam dwells in downtrodden Detroit. Despite their polarizing differences on the surface, it's the rekindling of their relationship that's the centerpiece of the film, structured around Albert Einstein's entanglement theory. The theory states that two objects become so entangled that they can affect one another even if placed at different ends of the universe. This connection between Adam and Eve is visually represented through dissolves.

Before Eve travels to Detroit, her actions and Adam's actions mirror each other. We see both of them seek out blood. They find joy from artistic passions, whether it's Eve's books or Adam's music. But rather than cutting back and forth from Detroit to Tangier, we dissolve. And not quick dissolves, but gradual ones. Sometimes they're so gradual, that the two images are overlaid on top of each other. This kind of blurring, and melding is a unifying effect that suggests they're strong connection, transcending their physical location.

If someone went into this film and changed all these dissolves into hard cuts, it would radically alter its impact on the audience. The audience wouldn't feel this unified connection that has lasted for centuries, which is the crux of Only Lovers Left Alive. There's something romantic about a love that lasts for hundreds of years. Jarmsuch is able to achieve this effect through the dissolves.

Lost Highway at Museum of the Moving Image

A couple weeks ago, the Museum of the Moving Image hosted a special screening of David Lynch's Lost Highway, which included a Q&A with novelist/screenwriter Barry Gifford.

Gifford opened with a reading of an unpublished article that was written for Premiere magazine, discussing the collaborative process between him and David Lynch.

Dipping into a Lynch impression, hand wavering gestures and all, he recalled the the director's tonal intentions of the film, describing that feeling when you pick up slacks from the dry cleaners and reach into the pockets, "Fuzzy sandwiches."

Gifford also recalled an anecdote when he sat next to a Standford University psychology professor on a plane. In an effort to validate the script's coherency. He decided to pitch Lost Highway to her after she proclaimed to not watch TV or movies. Gifford asked the professor if it makes sense logically, she said, "Of course. It's a psychological fugue," - a condition where people temporarily lose their sense of personal identity. Often confused about who they are, they may even create new identities for themselves. It's no small no small feat to capture this identity struggle in a film, but it's a task that couldn't be more suited for Lynch.

Lost Highway is a nightmare. The sound design is such an integral part to achieving this, unnerving and piercing. The volume swells to a level that's a hair past the comfort zone. Just enough to make you feel uneasy.

Gifford talked about him and Lynch's dissatisfaction with their first draft because of there was too much humor. Through rewrites, they constructed a straighter narrative, but some of those original comedic moments still exist. The film is responsible for having the funniest, darkly comic take on tailgating.

The post-screening reception had refreshments from the recently opened Tacuba and excellent beer from SingleCut Beersmiths, an Astoria brewery.

I ate grasshoppers for the first time. The taste best described as a mixture of sunflower seeds and blades of grass. Or fuzzy sandwiches.

Consider joining the Museum of the Moving Image as a member.


Simon Swipe Tutorial

Over the summer, Hasbro hired Reel Works Productions to create an instructional video for their Simon Swipe Game.

The tutorial is now up on YouTube. Our first commentor said, "I found this amusing and cheesy at the same time." And that is exactly what we were going for.

Watch the tutorial below. 

Directed by Garret Harkawik // Cinematography by Frank Sun // Simon Swipe Game Expert is Lev Pakman